SONG OF THE THREE HOLY CHILDREN, THE:
Greek insertion in the Book of Daniel after iii. 23, the only one of the additions to Daniel that really add to the text of the book. The title given above is inexact: under it are included two distinct pieces, namely, (1) the Prayer of Azarias, and (2) the Song or Hymn of the Three. In the collection of odes or canticles given in Codex Alexandrinus and two other manuscripts (printed in Swete, "The Old Testament in Greek," vol. iii.) the titles of the pieces are respectively: "Prayer of Azariah" and "Hymn of Our Fathers." The two compositions shared in the fortunes of the other Apocryphal writings: attacked and defended by early Christian writers, they have been adopted as canonical (or deuterocanonical) by Catholics and rejected by Protestants. The older Jewish books do not quote them, but show acquaintance with part of their material: in the Midrash (Lev. R. xxxiii. 6) there is a long conversation between Nebuchadnezzar and "the three" which, while it makes no reference to these writings (though the king cites copiously from the Old Testament), illustrates the disposition to expand the narrative of the Book of Daniel (comp. 'Ab. Zarah 3a; Sanh. 93a; Ta'an. 18b; Pes. 118a; see Ball in Wace, "Apocrypha").
In the poetical parts (the prayer and the song) the two recensions, that of the Septuagint and that of Theodotion, are nearly identical: they differ slightly in the order of verses; and Theodotion simplifies by omitting a few lines. In the prose narrative introducing the poems the Septuagint is the fuller and doubtless the older; Theodotion is superior in literary form. The two pieces are here singularly inappropriate. The prayer is a national petition acknowledging past sins, professing present obedience, and imploring mercy. The song is a doxology calling on all God's creatures to praise Him; and its expressions are taken from the canonical Psalter (see especially Ps. cxlviii.). These are not the natural utterances of men in a fiery furnace, nor do they contain any reference to the existing situation, except in verse 88 (Swete; A. V. 66), in which "the three" are called on to join in the praise; but this verse is an addition by the compiler, who has inserted the two poems (composed before his time), and has adapted the second to the situation. In the prose part (verse 49, Swete; A. V. 26) the fourth person of Dan. iii. 25 is accounted for by the statement that the angel of the Lord descended, pushed aside the flame, and cooled the furnace—an inartistic insertion; the Hebrew, with finer feeling, leaves the reader to infer the descent of the angel. There is no sufficient ground for supposing that any part of these pieces belonged to the original text of Daniel. The motive of the addition was the natural desire to expand a popular story. The material was, doubtless, derived from current legends; thus, the cooling of the furnace is mentioned in Pes. 118a. The date of the prayer is suggested in verse 38 (15), where it is said that at that time there was no prophet, leader, or sacrifice—perhaps between 168 and 165