Last October I began translating Hippolytus of Rome’s Commentary on Daniel from Greek to English. One year later the translation has been completed and published. It is a fascinating and inspiring commentary, covering issues like the persecution of Christians, prophecy and the date of Jesus’ birth. It is also the oldest Christian commentary that survives; it was written most likely between 202 and 211 AD. This is the first complete English translation.
I am posting it here for free. I would rather have the translation available for everyone than risk having it sit unused and unknown in a few dozen libraries. I am sure Hippolytus would agree. For those interested you can make a donation or purchase a printed copy. Printed copies are available at Amazon.com and at Createspace.com (where I get a significantly higher royalty than on Amazon). The free PDF is formatted to fit the 5.5×8.5 inch book, which is why its text does not fill the whole pdf page.
I spent the past several months researching two appendixes for the translation. As some of you are aware, Hippolytus, according to some manuscripts of the Commentary on Daniel, says that Jesus was born on December 25th. The accuracy of this statement is disputed by scholars, some of whom think that Hippolytus originally did not give this date. In the first appendix I exhaustively (I hope) investigate all of the evidence (internal evidence, manuscript evidence, and ancient testimonies) regarding this disputed passage. The second appendix is a short investigation into Clement of Alexandria’s claims about Jesus’ birth. These two appendixes are available with the printed edition. I will post the appendixes online for free at a later time.
Below I have posted the introduction:
We the faithful stand fast unto death.
~Hippolytus Commentary on Daniel 2.19.4
Hippolytus’ Commentary on Daniel is the oldest surviving Christian commentary on Scripture. It was composed by Hippolytus of Rome most likely between 202 and 211 AD, a time of great persecution. This is the first complete English translation.
Hippolytus seems to have undertaken this commentary to comfort his fellow Christians, who, like Daniel and his three companions, suffered for their faith. For Hippolytus, suffering was not something to fear, but something to be gladly embraced. In his commentary he beseeches Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, “Tell me, you three boys, remember me, I entreat you, that I also may obtain the same lot of martyrdom with you.” His request was fulfilled; Hippolytus suffered martyrdom in 235 AD after being exiled to Sardinia.
Hippolytus also tries to provide assurance about what is expected in the end times when Christ returns. While interpreting the visions in the book of Daniel, he makes some prophetic predictions of his own; for example, when interpreting the dream of Nebuchadnezzar he says that after the empire of the Romans, “democracies are shown.”
Additionally Hippolytus gives information on Peter’s and Paul’s deaths, Paul’s encounter with a lion, a short conversation between Judas and Jesus, the birthday of Christ (which he claims is December 25th), and he also provides insight into early Christian eschatology and allegory as well as canonical issues involving apocryphal parts of the book of Daniel. Of course there are many other pertinent issues present in Hippolytus’ Commentary on Daniel which cannot be discussed here, but these are now easily investigated in English.
To translate this text I read through the Greek text of Marcel Richard’s GCS series Kommentar zu Daniel four times and made a rigid and literal translation. Afterwards I went through and softened up the translation to better accord with English grammar and style. The text will still strike many as quite rigid, but this could not easily be avoided unless I reworked the whole volume. Words that are in italics are not present in the Greek but are usually implied and are added for clarity.
Scripture quotations are cited in the footnotes as accurately as possible, however Hippolytus does sometimes mix several verses together and the verse numberings of the Greek translation of the Old Testament can be slightly different from the Hebrew, so there are occasional differences between the citations and our English Bibles. Hippolytus also includes Susannah, the Song of the Three Children, and Bel and the Dragon as part of the canonical text of the book of Daniel. These are cited as separate works in the footnotes. Gaps in the Greek text are shown with an ellipsis and a footnote that simply says, “Lacuna.”
The Greek text is quoted in the footnotes when I thought the text was particularly interesting. Some passages are ambiguous and I attempted to preserve this in the translation; at times I cite the Greek text when the translation was also difficult. Hippolytus cites some verses frequently, but occasionally with differences in the Greek wording, which I attempted to preserve in the translation. Underlined subtitles are not part of the original text but are placed as a guide for the reader.
At the end of the translation I have included an extensive appendix about the authenticity of Hippolytus’ claim that Jesus was born on December 25th and one smaller appendix about Clement of Alexandria’s dating of Jesus’ birth.
As an amateur, working alone with few resources and limited time, I have done my best, but there is no doubt that I have made mistakes. I believe, however, that most of my errors are likely editorial mistakes of English spelling, grammar, and formatting and citation errors; I have given all my effort to ensure that the translation itself is faithful.
This translation will eventually be freely available on my website www.chronicon.net and I have kept the copyright. If you have enjoyed this translation please consider making a donation at my website to help me publish more translations.
I want to thank Roger Pearse and Professor Kathrin Bracht for their encouragement and helpfulness and I also thank my friend Arlo and my father, both of whom made many editorial corrections. I also am deeply and forever thankful for my patient wife and my little daughter for her cheery and glad smiles.
This work is dedicated to my loving Grandfather and Grandmother Coffman, whose love for scholarship, history, God, and His Church I have inherited.
I love you both.
Thomas Coffman Schmidt
For neither is a mere place able to be a called the Church,
nor a house which is built with stone and clay, nor a man
himself able to call himself the Church. For a house is
destroyed and a man dies. And so, what is the Church?
The community of Saints participating in truth.
~Hippolytus Commentary on Daniel 1.18.5-6