Daniel’s prophecy claims that the visions recorded in the book were given by God to a person named Daniel who lived in the sixth century BC, disclosing God’s knowledge of the future. This article evaluates the evidence from other ancient documents, compares Daniel’s prophecy to known ancient history and analyses the language in which Daniel was written.
See Daniel Fraud Summary for a summary of this article.
There is a great gulf between the claims of Daniel’s prophecy and the liberal understanding of the book.
The book of Daniel claims that the visions recorded in the book were given by God (2:29ff.; 4:24; cf. 31ff.; 5:24-30; 9:21-22; chapters 7-12) to a person named Daniel (7:1, 28; 8:1, 9:2; 10:2; 12:5), who was a contemporary of Nebuchadnezzar (605-562), Belshazzar (556-539) and Cyrus (539-530) (2:1; 5:1; 10:1 etc.). Daniel therefore lived in the sixth century BC. The book claims the prophecies as proof of God’s knowledge of the future. The book further presents its stories as real events that occurred during and shortly after the Babylonian captivity in which God’s power was demonstrated.
Most liberal or critical scholars believe:
Writer: That Daniel (or at least the second half of Daniel’s prophecy) was written by an unknown writer, using Daniel as his pseudonym (false name);
167 BC: That Daniel was completed after Antiochus IV Epiphanes (a king from the Seleucid branch of the Greek Empire) desecrated the altar of the temple of Jerusalem around 167 BC, and that Daniel was written in reaction to the events of that time.
Prophecies: That its prophecies are, by and large, interpretations of past history.
Stories: That the stories in the book are parables or moral fables, perhaps with a historical core.
Confirmation from Encyclopædia
Few Christians are aware of the fact that this view is widely held in academic circles. The following is quoted here as proof that this is the view in academic circles (critical scholars):
Daniel’s prophecy presents a collection of popular stories about Daniel, a loyal Jew, and the record of visions granted to him, with the Babylonian Exile of the 6th century BCE as their background. The book, however, was written in a later time of national crisis—when the Jews were suffering severe persecution under Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175–164/163 BCE). (Encyclopædia Britannica)
The Book of Daniel was written during the persecutions of Israel by the Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes. (Jewish Encyclopedia)
This explains why university trained preachers so seldom preach from Daniel. They have been taught that this book is pious fraud.
If Daniel Falls, the Bible Falls.
Daniel mentions the Mede-Persian and Greek* Empires by name and provides clear predictions of individual Greek kings up to Antiochus IV Epiphanes in the second century BC. This bolsters belief in the supernatural character of Daniel’s prophecy and in the unique predictive capability of God; the only uncreated Being, Who is therefore not subject to the constraints of time or space (Isaiah 46:9-10). Daniel’s prophecy is an amazing testimony about how God rules the universe. It demonstrates God’s complete control and comprehension over time and nations.
(*Daniel refers to the Macedonian Empire as the Greek kingdom. This article therefore also refers to it as the Greek kingdom. They did speak Greek!)
If this book was written at the time of Antiochus IV for the purpose of strengthening the morale of the Jews of that time—under a false name—creating the impression that the author was Daniel, a super-Jew of the sixth century BC, then the book is a fraud.
Jesus referred to Daniel as a prophet and put the fulfillment of some of its prophecies in the future (Matt. 24:15–16; Mark 13:14; Luke 21:20). If the book of Daniel is a fraud, then Christ was mistaken concerning it. Then we should also doubt His other statements.
Due to the interwoven nature of the Scriptures an attack on any one book of the Bible is an attack upon all books of the Bible. Although written by many different authors of many different vocations in varied historical settings over a period spanning over a thousand years, the Holy Spirit guided the message of the Bible into an integrated whole. If Daniel is a fraudulent piece of literature, then the reliability of other books in the canon of Scripture may legitimately be questioned.
This applies particularly the book of Revelation, because Daniel is the foundation on which the book of Revelation has been built. For instance, the “time, times and dividing of a time” (Dan 7:25) is central to many of the visions in Revelation (11:1, 2; 12:6, 14; 13:5). Further examples are listed in the section titled “No Controversy”.
It is therefore important that every Christian be aware of the convincing evidence that Daniel’s prophecy was really written in the sixth century BC, and also understands that the scientific method, used in academic circles, cannot accept the supernatural as a founding principle. The purpose of this document is consequently to provide evidence that Daniel was written in the sixth century BC, and therefore contain real prophecy.
This is an important concept to grasp in the context. Critical scholars believe that they are able to accurately date the finalization of the book of Daniel, for instance, as stated by the New Jerusalem Bible:
The book ‘Daniel’ must therefore have been written during the persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes and before his death, even before the success of the Maccabaean [Hasmonean] revolt; that is to say between 167 and 164.
Antiochus Epiphanes IV desecrated the temple in 167 BC and tried to destroy the Jewish religion, but the Jewish rebels (the Maccabees) were able to drive Antiochus’s forces out of Israel by 164BC.
The first 35 verses of Daniel 11 closely resemble the history of the Greek kings up to and including Antiochus IV, such as the desecration of the sanctuary in 167 BC (11:31). Critical scholars therefore conclude that Daniel was written after the historical events of the first 35 verses. But the remainder of Daniel 11 and 12, which apparently continue the history of the same king, do not agree with known history. In particular, although it continues until the end of the current world history, there is no mention of the success of the Maccabean (Jewish) revolt. Critics therefore conclude that the remainder of Daniel 11 and Daniel 12 is the author’s own but incorrect predictions, and that Daniel was written before the success of the Maccabean revolt in 164 BC. They consequently date the writing of the book to shortly after 167 BC.
The first category of evidence is called “external”, namely what other documents say or not say about Daniel’s prophecy:
Part of the Bible
For those that accept that the Bible was put together under the inspiration of God it would be an unpleasant surprise to find a book written under a false name, falsely claiming divine foreknowledge and miracles, being accepted as Holy Scripture.
History of the Maccabean Date Hypothesis
To appreciate this point an overview of the history of the Maccabean Date Hypothesis is required. (This is the hypothesis that the Book of Daniel was written while the Jews were suffering persecution under Antiochus IV Epiphanes between 167 and 164 BC):
The first person that proposed the Maccabean date hypothesis was the third-century AD philosopher Porphyrius of Tyre in his work entitled “Against Christians”. Porphyry’s goal was to discredit Daniel because its remarkably accurate predictions prove the existence of a God that knows the future. He contended that the remarkably accurate “predictions” contained in Daniel (esp. ch. 11) were the result of a pious fraud, perpetrated by some zealous propagandist of the Maccabean movement, who wished to encourage a spirit of heroism among the Jewish patriots resisting Antiochus IV.
Porphyry was more or less dismissed by Christian scholarship until the time of the enlightenment and scientific revolution in the eighteenth century, when naturalism and rationalism had an upsurge, and when all supernatural elements in Scripture came under suspicion. A series of authors revived Porphyry’s theory. They all agreed with Porphyry that such long-range prophecies are impossible. In 1890 Klaus Koch wrote a powerful book denouncing the exilic date of writing (sixth century BC), and proclaiming the Maccabean theory. Immediately following him, in 1900, came SR Driver’s commentary on Daniel, supporting the same theory. Since then, the majority of scholars generally accept the Maccabean date theory without much question.
Sources prior to Porphyry
We will now review the sources prior to Porphyry.
The book of First Maccabees was written before 100 BC. It cites history from the book of Daniel as actual historical events.
First Maccabees was written most likely near 166 BC and no later than 100 BC. It cites history from the book of Daniel as actual historical events:
Ananias, Azarias, and Misael, by believing were saved out of the flame. Daniel for his innocency was delivered from the mouth of lions. (1 Mac. 2:51-60)
In the Qumran community, within a generation of two after the Maccabean revolt, the book of Daniel was popular, and Daniel regarded as a prophet.
The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) are a collection of 972 documents discovered between 1946 and 1956 on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea at Khirbet Qumran. These are the oldest known surviving copies of biblical and extra-biblical documents. These manuscripts have been dated with paleography, which is the study of ancient style of writing, alphabetic characters and layout, to various ranges between 408 BC and 318 AD.
The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) includes an extensive collection of manuscripts of the biblical book of Daniel — from every chapter of Daniel except one. The DSS also includes other works that discusses and references the book of Daniel, including references to “the book of Daniel, the Prophet” and the “Anointed of the Spirit, of whom Daniel spoke” (Dan. 9:25-26). Some of the documents (Items 4QDan(c) and 4QDan(e)) were copied (not written for the first time) between 150 and 100 BC. The book of Daniel was evidently popular at Qumran, and Daniel was regarded as a prophet.
Daniel was translated from the Hebrew and Aramaic into Greek in the translation now known as the Septuagint or the LXX.
The translation of Daniel into Greek was only widespread perhaps by c.40AD, but living much closer to the events in view than us today, these translators accepted Daniel as inspired.
The first century AD Jewish historian Josephus accepted the book of Daniel as an authoritative portion of the inspired Hebrew Scriptures.
Josephus mentions that Daniel’s prophecy regarding Alexander the Great were shown to the Greek general as he came toward Jerusalem in the 4th century BC, and that the illustrious commander was so impressed that he spared the holy city (Antiquities Xl, VIII, 3-5). The truth of this story is disputed, but it highlights Josephus’s view and therefore the Jewish view at the time, namely that Daniel was the author of the work and that it was completed long before the time of Alexander (332 BC), and therefore long before the Maccabees. Living much closer to the Maccabean era than us, Josephus knows nothing of a Maccabean origin for Daniel or any alternative author than the biblical Daniel.
Josephus also wrote that no books were added to the Old Testament after the time of the Persian ruler Artaxerxes (464-424 B.C.) (Josephus, Against Apion 1.8).
Josephus interpreted the desolation of the temple by Antiochus IV Epiphanes as the fulfillment of prophecies made by Daniel “according to Daniel’s vision and what he wrote many years before they came to pass” (Antiquities X.Xl.7).
Jesus believed Daniel was a real person that predicted future events.
So, when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ of which the prophet Daniel spoke, standing in the holy place…then those who are in Judea must take to the hills. (Matthew 24:15-16 cf. also Mark 13:14; Luke 21:20).
Jesus therefore believes that Daniel was an actual person named Daniel. Jesus also believed that Daniel was a prophet, and interpreted the “abomination of desolation” as a future event. The endorsement of Daniel and his book by Jesus settles the matter for those who place their faith in Christ.
Jesus is Daniel ‘s Son of man.
In the New Testament Jesus refers to Himself more than 80 times as “the Son of man”. There can be no doubt that Christ claimed Himself as fulfillment of Daniel 7:13-14:
… one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him (7:13). And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed (Dan 7:14).
The reference in Daniel 7 to the Son of man coming with the clouds is in the context of judgment. Consistent with this Jesus said that He, as the Son of man, will come with the clouds of heaven (Mat 26:64) to judge (Mat 16:27; 25:31-32). This means that Jesus accepted Daniel as truth.
The author of the letter to the Hebrews accepted Daniel as factual.
In Hebrews 11:33, 34 we read:
prophets who…stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire …
Here we have a reference to Daniel chapter 6 with his encounter in the lions’ den and to Daniel 3 where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego are thrown into the blazing furnace in Nebuchadnezzar’s reign.
John accepted Daniel as factual.
Many key concepts in the book of Revelation originate from the book of Daniel, which at least means that the author of Revelation (John) accepted the book of Daniel as an authoritative portion of the inspired Hebrew Scriptures:
Beast: In Revelation 13 a beast comes out of the sea. It was “like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion”. These are the same beasts (lion, bear, leopard and non-descript beast) that also come out of the sea in Daniel 7. Both the beast in Revelation 13 and the beasts in Daniel 7 have seven heads and ten horns.
Evil king: The beast from the sea (Rev. 13) corresponds to the evil king of Daniel—both blaspheme God, persecute the saints, pretend to be God and work for a “time, times and half a time”.
Times: The time, times and half a time (Dan. 7:25; 12:7), and alternative expressions of it (1260 days and 42 months), is found five times in Revelation (11:2, 3; 12: 6, 14; 13:6).
Oath: The oath in Revelation 10 continues the oath in Daniel 12. Both are made in the context of a book, with the emphasis on whether the book is sealed or open, in both the supernatural being is above water, in both he lifts up his hand to heaven and swears by “Him who lives forever and ever”, and in both he swears about time, namely when the end will be.
Son of man: Daniel prophesied about the Son of man that will come on the clouds of heaven to receive the eternal kingdom (7:13). Jesus said He is the Son of man. John, the Revelator, saw the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven to reap the earth (Rev. 14:14-16).
Not Enough Time
From the initial writing of an inspired book hundreds of years followed of copying, distribution, reading and discussions before it found a place in the hearts of the people as part of the Scriptures. The earliest sources discussed above, namely the book of First Maccabees, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint, dated at latest to 100 BC, do not allow nearly enough time for this process if Daniel was written in 165 BC.
The time required for a book to become generally accepted as part of the Bible, followed by translation into Greek, is much more than the 200 years from 165 BC to 40 AD.
If Daniel was known in the Maccabean period to be written under a false name, falsely presenting history as prophecy and falsely claiming miracles, with an incorrect view of the history after 164 BC, and containing many historical errors (as the critics propose), then it is even more unlikely that it became accepted as inspired Scripture—while other such books were consistently rejected—within a generation of two by a community that were eyewitnesses of the Maccabean revolt. People first had to forget about its origins before it could slowly start to become accepted as inspired.
To this should be added the major new theological concepts in Daniel, such as that people will arise from death (12:2, 13), and the other concepts discussed below. These new concepts would also have prolonged the time required before the book was accepted as inspired.
External evidence for a second century authorship
The next three points are also classified as external evidence, but it is external evidence which critics offer to argue for a second century authorship. Responses to these arguments are provided, and the reader is urged to evaluate this evidence against the evidence above for a sixth century authorship.
In the Writings
In English Bible, in the Latin Vulgate and in the Greek Septuagint we find the book of Daniel among the books of the Major Prophets. But in the Hebrew canon, which is divided into the Law (Pentateuch), the Prophets and the Writings (Kethubim), Daniel is included among the Writings, not in the Prophets.
A famous critic (Driver) once wrote:
…there are strong reasons for thinking that the threefold division represents three stages in the collection and canonization of the sacred books of the O.T.,–the Pent. being canonized first, then the ‘Prophets’ and lastly the Kethubim.
Critics propose that the collection of the ‘Prophets’ was completed by 200 BC, and conclude that if the Book of Daniel existed at the time it would have been included with the writings of the other prophets. Since it is found amongst the Writings, they conclude that Daniel must have been written after the collection of prophetic books had been closed; therefore after 200 BC.
Daniel was among the prophets.
However, Daniel was listed among the prophets at the time of Christ:
Daniel was listed among the prophets in the Greek Septuagint translation (hence its position in our English Bibles through the medium of the Latin Vulgate).
Daniel was regarded as a prophet in the New Testament and at Qumran. Melito, bishop of Sardis (A.D.70), listed Daniel among the prophets. Origen (d. A.D. 254) listed Daniel before Ezekiel and the twelve prophets.
The first century AD Jewish historian Josephus mentioned the three divisions of the Hebrew canon, but included only four books in the Writings, rather than the thirteen assigned to it by the Masoretes of the late first millennium AD.
The Masorites were later.
The current Hebrew canon was concluded by the Masoretic six or seven centuries after Flavius Josephus. It therefore has no bearing whatever on the date of Daniel’s composition. Driver’s fundamental assumption, that the Jewish threefold division represents three stages in the collection and canonization, is flawed.
The Masoretes may have been influenced in this reassignment by the consideration that Daniel served in a foreign court throughout his entire career and did not prophesy directly to the people of Israel. He was not a prophet in the strict Hebraic sense of the word. For the Jews a prophet was somebody that received messages from God and spoke to the nation, such as Isaiah or Jeremiah.
Jesus Ben Sirach, writing in 200-170 BC, mentions all the Prophets, even the Minor Prophets, and many famous men, but he does not mention Daniel. This is taken to mean that Sirach was unaware of Daniel; hence, Daniel was written after 170 BC.
Critics also point out that Ben Sirach expressly said that he has never found a man who resembled Joseph. They conclude that he could not have made this statement if he knew of Daniel, since both Daniel and Joseph rose to be prime minister by virtue of their ability to interpret dreams.
Dozens of other “famous men” are not listed by Ben Sirach, for instance Moses, Joshua, Solomon, Samuel, Job, Sampson and Ezra. Certainly this does not mean that these leaders were unknown to Jesus Ben Sirach.
As for one “not being like Joseph,” it should be noted that, unlike Joseph, Daniel did NOT save the entirety of Israel from extinction and did not do anything to raise the Jews as a whole to prominence. Far too much emphasis is placed on the fact that both received dreams as a prophetic tool; the differences between these two tend to be ignored.
Daniel was sealed up.
But it is also possible that Sirach really did not know about Daniel. Daniel was told to conceal the words and to seal up the book until the end of time (12:4). A few verses later he was again told:
Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time … none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand (12:9-10)
From this it may be concluded that the book was not made publicly available very soon. And even when it was made available, it was not understood. It is possible that the book of Daniel only became (partly) understood and fully accepted as part of Scripture when the oppressive reign of Antiochus IV fulfilled its prophecies of an evil king, which is after the time of Ben Sirach.
The Person Daniel
Very soon after arrival in Babylon Daniel achieved a high rank in the Babylonian Empire (Dan 2:48). After the Persian conquest, he was immediately elevated to a role second only to the king (Dan 6:3). But although many archaeological records are available from both empires, none mentions Daniel. There is also no mention of him in the Jewish (or other) literature before the Maccabean period (from 164 BC). For Critics this is strong circumstantial evidence that Daniel never existed and that the book was of later authorship.
Only a limited number of prominent government officials are mentioned in archaeological records. Further, Ezekiel, who, like Daniel, lived in the 6th century BC, mentions a Daniel who is, like the Daniel of our book, righteous and wise, comparable to Noah and Job (14:14, 20; 28:3). Since he mentions this Daniel without qualification, it must have been a well-known person, and there is no other famous Daniel.
Ezekiel and Daniel
Critics argue that in 591 and 586 BC—when Ezekiel wrote those passages—our Daniel had barely begun his career. However:
Quoting God: Ezekiel is simply quoting God, and God exists outside time.
Same character: The brief descriptions of Daniel in Ezekiel are consistent with the data in the book of Daniel. Both describe Daniel as righteous and extremely wise.
After Daniel 2: The events of Daniel 2, when the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts, and, on Daniel’s request, also appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego over the administration of the province of Babylon, occurred in the 2nd year of Nebuchadnezzar (2:1). This would be around 604 BC. Daniel would have been the highest-placed and most recognized of the Jews of the Exile and well known by all Jews 14 to 20 years later, when Ezekiel wrote his book.
Who else?: Ezekiel uses the name “Daniel” without qualification, implying a well-known personality. No satisfactory explanation exists for the use of the name Daniel by the prophet Ezekiel other than the Daniel in our book. Critics propose that Ezekiel here appeals to a pagan hero who was closely associated to Baal and Annath and did not believe in the God of Israel. This is hardly a respectable supposition.
The testimony of Ezekiel is that Daniel was a real person.
The next category of evidence is called “internal”. This means that the text of Daniel is compared with circumstances and events in the second and sixth centuries BC to determine whether it betrays the time in which it was written.
Critics maintain that Daniel contains numerous historical inaccuracies when dealing with 6th century BC Babylonian history, and that those mistakes would not have been made by an important official in the employ of King Nebuchadnezzar. This section deals with such alleged inaccuracies.
Belshazzar promised Daniel to be 3rd ruler in the kingdom (5:16). Why could Belshazzar not promise him the #2 position? Because Belshazzar himself was #2 while his father was still alive.
Scholars had to conclude:
Of all the non-Babylonian records dealing with the situation at the close of the Neo-Babylonian Empire the fifth chapter of Daniel ranks next to cuneiform literature in accuracy so far as outstanding events are concerned. The Scriptural account may be interpreted as excelling because it employs the name Belshazzar, because it attributes royal power to Belshazzar, and because it recognizes that a dual rulership existed in the kingdom. Babylonian cuneiform documents of the sixth century BC furnish clear-cut evidence of the correctness of these three basic historical nuclei contained in the Biblical narrative dealing with the fall of Babylon.
The total information found in all available chronologically-fixed documents later than the sixth century BC … could not have provided the necessary material for the historical framework of the fifth chapter of Daniel.’ (R. P. Dougherty, Nabonidus and Belshazzar (New Haven: Yale, 1929), pp. 199f.)
Daniel states that Belshazzar was king the night that Babylon fell (5:30), but the two famous Greek historians of the fifth and fourth centuries BC (Herodotus and Xenophon) did not mention Belshazzar when they described the fall of Babylon. Annals in the Greek language are absolutely silent concerning Belshazzar. This situation goes right down to Josephus in the first century AD. Secular sources have, since ancient times, stated that Nabonidus was the last king of Babylon.
The name “Belshazzar” was not rediscovered until the Nabonidus Chronicle was published in 1882. With it Daniel was proven correct. It verified Belshazzar’s existence, as well as his co-regency during the absence of his father. The Nabonidus Chronicle states that Nabonidus (Belshazzar’s father) lived in Arabia during the last ten years of the Babylonian Empire, and that he left the kingship to Belshazzar during that period. (Hasel, pg. 155; New World Encyclopedia);
Nabonidus “entrusted the ‘camp’ to his eldest son [‘Belshazzar] …entrusted the kingship to him (Hasel, pg. 155; New World Encyclopedia) and himself … he turned towards Tema in the West.”
“when the third year was about to begin- he [Nabonidus] entrusted the army to his oldest son, his first born, the troops in the country he ordered under his command. He let everything go, entrusted the kingship to him.”
One tablet from the 12th year of Nabonidus calls for oaths in the names of both Nabonidus and Belshazzar. These are fairly strong evidence that Belshazzar was indeed the coregent in his father’s absence, and was in Babylon when it fell in 539 BC.
The very mention of Belshazzar by Daniel is proof of an early date for Daniel. Since the name of Belshazzar had been forgotten by the time of Herodotus (ca 450 B.C.), at least so far as the Greek historians were concerned, how would a second century author know of Nabonidus leaving Belshazzar in charge? The only conclusion that one can reach, other than some other information which has been lost to us today, is that the author was indeed alive during the events of 539 BC.
Sixth Century Knowledge
Various other instances of precision with respect to the sixth century argue that the writer was an eye-witness of that ancient culture:
Asphenaz is mentioned in the first chapter of Daniel as master of the Eunuchs. The following statement has been found on monuments of ancient Babylon which are now in the Berlin Museum: “Ashpenaz, master of eunuchs in the time of Nebuchadnezzar”.
Daniel is very detailed and, as confirmed by archaeological records, correct in his categories of wise men (cf. 2:2, 27).
The prophet describes the practice of Belshazzar’s wives eating with the men on festive occasions (5:1-4). This was the custom in ancient Babylon and Persia (Herodotus, History, V.18), but not in the period of the Greeks in the second century BC.
Daniel lists the Medes first in the phrase “law of the Medes and Persians” (5:28; 6:8, 12, 15). In later history, due to Persia’s ascendancy, it became “Persians and Medes” (cf. Esth. 1:19).
Daniel locates the city of Shushan in the province of Elam (8:2), whereas boundaries changes in the Persian period located Shushan in the province of Susiana.
It is commonly agreed that Daniel correctly represents Nebuchadnezzar’s building prowess – and his corresponding braggadocio. The East India House inscriptions in London has six columns of Babylonian writing bragging about building operations which Nebuchadnezzar carried on in enlarging the beautifying Babylon. Pfeiffer admits: “We shall presumably never know how our author learned that the new Babylon was the creation of Nebuchadnezzar (4:30) … and that Belshazzar … was functioning as king when Cyrus took Babylon in 538 (ch. 5).”
Internal evidence for a second century authorship
The following points are also internal evidence, but it is evidence which critics offer to argue for a second century authorship. However, in many instances this evidence rather supports a sixth century authorship:
Later More Detailed
Daniel’s prophecies get more & more detailed all the way to 168-164 BC, as an analysis of the visions in Daniel 7, 8 and 10 to 12 will show. Daniel 7 and 8 say comparatively little about the earlier kingdoms and kings, but much about the little horn. The same applies to Daniel 11. In the beginning of chapter 11 many kings are described in a single verse, but later many verses describe a single king. About 8 verses describe Antiochus III, followed by more than 20 verses describing the evil king of Daniel 11.
However, the detail provided with respect to the evil king does not prove that the book was written in the time of the evil king. The purpose of the prophecies is to identify and describe this evil king. The only purpose for describing the preceding kings and kingdoms is to provide information to identify the evil king.
Driver, the famous critic mentioned above, once eloquently stated:
The verdict of the language of Daniel is thus clear. The Persian words presuppose a period after the Persian Empire had been well established: the Greek words demand, the Hebrew supports, and the Aramaic permits, a date after the conquest of Palestine by Alexander the Great (BC 332).
According to Driver’s statement the strongest linguistic support for a late date is the Greek words in Daniel. This refers to the names of three musical instruments in chapter 3 of Daniel, which appear to be Aramaic transliterations of their Greek names (Dan. 3:5, 7, 10, 15). Critics assert that these Greek words were not known in Babylon in the sixth century BC because Greek cultural influence upon other nations did not reach its zenith until after Alexander the Great (about 330 BC).
However, there are only three Greek words in the entire book – and all three refer to musical instruments (Kitharos, Psanterin, and Sumphonyah). The book of Daniel would have been saturated with Greek terms if it were written as late as 167 BC in Palestine, where Greek-speaking (Hellenistic) governments had control of the entire region for more than 160 years. The LXX (Greek translation of the OT) was begun c.260 BC, which illustrates the influence of Greek.
Furthermore, the Greek kitharis appears in the Aramaic Homer (eighth century BC at the latest) [Dyer.Dan3, 430; MillS.Dan, 29]. Greek words also appear in the Elephantine Papyri dated to the fifth century BC. The names of musical instruments would circulate beyond national boundaries with these instruments themselves, just as foreign musical terms have made their way into English, like the Italian piano and viola.
Driver’s second strongest linguistic evidence for a late date of composition is the Persian words in the text of Daniel. He noted, for instance, that “the mention of ‘satraps’ under Nebuchadnezzar (3:2, 3, 27) is alone a remarkable anachronism”. There are nineteen or fewer such Persian words.
The visions contained in the last four chapters of Daniel were received after Persian authority has been established over Babylonia (9:1; 10:1). The story of Daniel in the lions’ den (chapter 6) plays out in the same period. Daniel himself served as a very senior official in the Persian government (6:3, 28). The book of Daniel was therefore composed in its final form during the Persian period. There is no particular reason why Daniel should not have used in his language those Persian terms which had found currency in the Aramaic spoken in Babylon in the Persian period. At least twelve of the nineteen Persian loan words are technical terms used within government—just the sort of terminology which Daniel, in his administrative position under Persians, would have quickly acquired.
Further, of these Persian words, six are not found later than 330 BC, and all of them are what are called “Old Persian” words – which gave way to Middle Persian ca. 300 BC. [Baldwin, Joyce G. Daniel, Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1978] The Persian expressions in the book would seem to be rather strong evidence for an early time of composition.
The primary languages in Daniel are Aramaic and Hebrew. The first chapter of Daniel is written in Hebrew, but in the middle of 2:4 the Chaldeans (Babylonian wise men) start to speak in Aramaic:
Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will give the interpretation.” (Daniel 2:4)
From this point onward, the book of Daniel continues in Aramaic until the end of chapter 7 and then resumes in Hebrew in 8:1 and continues in Hebrew for the remainder of the book.
It is said that the mere fact of Aramaic in the text indicates a late date, but Aramaic was the lingua franca (common language) spoken by the heterogeneous populations of the Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian Empires, especially in the realms of government and commerce. Aramaic was not the common language in the Maccabean period (166 BC), but rather Greek.
It is also said that the Aramaic of Daniel is a Western Aramaic dialect, of the type spoken in and about Palestine, not the Eastern dialect spoken in Babylon. However, “recent discoveries of fifth-century Aramaic documents” have shown quite conclusively that Daniel was written in a form of Imperial Aramaic, an official or literary dialect which had currency in all parts of the Near East (Archer, Gleason. A Survey of the Old Testament Introduction. Chicago: Moody Press, 1974, 397]. Driver eventually withdrew his conclusions on this point and admitted that the Aramaic belonged to an earlier period.
The Genesis Apocryphon that was discovered in Qumran Cave 1, from the third or second century BC, puts the verb first in sentence clauses. This was the normal practice of Western Aramaic used in Palestine during the Maccabean period (Archer). But, exactly like the eastern Aramaic as used in Babylonian, the Aramaic of Daniel shows a marked tendency for the verb to be referred till a later position in the clause. On the basis of the word order alone, it is safe to conclude that Daniel could not have been composed in Palestine. (Archer, Gleason. “Daniel” The Expositors Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985.)
It has been conceded by many scholars that the Aramaic of Daniel is much closer to the Elephantine Papyri, which has been dated to the 5th and 4th centuries BC.
The relatively later form of the spelling of some Aramaic terms does not indicate a Maccabean era composition. Copies were made by hand, and the copiers would have updated the spelling as the spelling changed. For instance, Nebuchadrezzar is spelled Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel, which is the way the king’s name was spelled at a later time, under Greek influence.
It is also said that the Hebrew is more like 2nd century BC Hebrew than 6th century BC Hebrew, but it is very hard for anyone to show that Hebrew is earlier or later. Thousands of years can go by in Hebrew and nothing really changes.
For more information on the language in Daniel and many other aspects, please refer to the Tektonics website.
Both the book of Revelation and the book of Daniel are classified as apocalyptic. This term is a transliteration of the first Greek word in the book of Revelation (Apokalypsis), meaning ‘a revealing’.
Characteristics of apocalyptic literature include:
- Extensive use of symbols or signs;
- Visions that are recorded exactly as they were seen. (limited human design)
- Focus on the end time;
- Shows God’s people trampled in the short term, but victorious in the end;
Daniel is a prime example of apocalyptic literature. This writing style was quite common in Israel from the 2nd century BC to the 2nd century AD. These writings are often attributed to a famous historical hero in order to give them credibility. Critics argue that since most works of apocalyptic date from the second century BC onwards, Daniel should be dated then too.
But the style of the many other apocalyptic writings may have been inspired by the book of Daniel, which means that the other works would be later than the book of Daniel. Furthermore, some other OT passages, e.g. Isaiah 25-27 and Zechariah 9ff. have apocalyptic features yet can hardly be dated as late as the second century.
New Theological Concepts
According to the New World Encyclopedia the book Daniel was an important influence on later apocalyptic writing and attitudes in both Judaism and Christianity.
In the view of the critics the Bible has developed over a long period of time through small changes, similar to the concept of the evolution of life on earth. They argue that some of the concepts in Daniel have only developed much later than the sixth century BC.
Daniel’s prophecy is the only book in the Old Testament in which angels are given names (Gabriel in 8:16 and 9:21 and Michael in 10:13, 10:21, and 12:1). Elsewhere names for angels only appear in the Apocrypha and the New Testament.
In the sixth century BC Jews believed that all persons went to Sheol after death. Critics claim that the concepts of heaven and hell, which are found in Daniel (Dn12:2), was introduced centuries later by the Greeks, and that it did not appear in Israel until the time of the Maccabean revolt.
Other concepts that are new in Daniel, compared to the rest of the Old Testament, are the last judgment, the resurrection of the dead (Dn12:2), and the everlasting kingdom. These concepts may be new compared with the Old Testament, but they are completely consistent with the New Testament, which verifies that it was inspired by God.
JEHOIAKIM’S THIRD YEAR
Daniel 1:1 states that Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of Judah and siege of Jerusalem took place in the third year of Jehoiakim, whereas Jeremiah 25:9 announced the coming of the Chaldeans only in Jehoiakim’s fourth year. Jeremiah 46:2 furthermore dates the first year of Nebuchadnezzar also in Jehoiakim’s fourth year.
Different dating systems
This is not an error in Daniel. To the contrary, it supports an early date. The authors used different dating systems:
Jeremiah—a Palestinian—naturally used the Palestinian dating system, whereby the calendar year in which a new king acceded to the throne was reckoned as the first year of his reign (which, in the case of Jehoiakim, would have been 608 BC). His fourth year would therefore be 605 BC.
Daniel, used the Babylonian system, whereby the first year of a new king begins at the commencement of the next calendar year. Thus, by the Babylonian reckoning, Jehoiakim’s first year was 607; therefore Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion in 605 was Jehoiakim’s third year. (Harrison, R.K. Introduction to the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1969, pg. 1112)
Supports a sixth century authorship
This apparent error therefore actually supports a Babylonian sixth century authorship. If Daniel’s prophecy was written by some Jew in the second century, he would have made his work to appear as Scriptural as possible, and refer to historical sources, such as Jeremiah. Why would he contradict Jeremiah—whom his readers knew well?
JEHOIAKIM’S THIRD OR ELEVENTH YEAR?
2 Chronicles 36:5-8 reports a siege by Nebuchadnezzar in Jehoiakim eleventh year as king, when Jehoiakim was carried off to Babylon. This was in 599 BC.
2 Kings 24:1 also implies a siege:
During Jehoiakim’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded the land, and Jehoiakim became his vassal for three years. But then he changed his mind and rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar.
The invasion in Kings is not the same as the one in Chronicles because in Chronicles Jehoiakim was carried away, while in Kings he remained as vassal king after the invasion. For the same reason it is also clear that the siege in Chronicles was at least three years later than the invasion in Kings, and that the three years that Jehoiakim was vassal king for the Babylonians were before 599 BC.
Reconstruction of History
With the assistance of secular history the events can be reconstructed:
Jehoiakim had been put on the throne by the Egyptian Pharaoh Neco (2 Kings 23:34). In the year 605 Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptian army. The Egyptians retreated to Egypt and “The king of Egypt did not come out of his land again, for the king of Babylon had taken all that belonged to the king of Egypt from the brook of Egypt to the river Euphrates“ (2 Kings 24:7). He therefore also took control of the king of Judah. On this expedition Nebuchadnezzar probably besieged Jerusalem, took hostages and looted treasures from the temple. Among the hostages were Daniel, Shadrach, Mishach and Abendgo; descendants of the Royal family.
When Nebuchadnezzar returned to Palestine in 601, his army was defeated by the Egyptians. It is consequently possible that the Egyptians returned to Palestine in 602 and that Jehoiakim at that time rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. He therefore could have been a vassal to the Babylonians from 605 to 602.
The Chronicles-siege was a few years later in 599 BC, when Jehoiakim was carried off to Babylon.
There was actually a third siege, namely the siege in 2 Kings 24:10 and following. By that time Jehoiakim was already dead (v6). After this siege Nebuchadnezzar led the entire Jerusalem into exile (v14).
A siege in 605 is therefore quite possible.
Belshazzar is represented by Daniel as the son of Nebuchadnezzar (5:2, 11, 13, 18, 22), but he was the son of Nabodinus. Critics propose that, during the long period of oral tradition, the unimportant kings of Babylon were forgotten, and the last king, who was vanquished by Cyrus, have been taken by the second century writer as the successor of the well-known Nebuchadnezzar. (JE)
However, by ancient usage, the term ‘son’ was also used for a successor in the same office, whether or not there was a blood relationship. Archer, Gleason. A Survey of the Old Testament Introduction. Chicago: Moody Press, 1974, 391-2 lists examples. The terms ‘father’ and ‘son’ are used figuratively in the Old Testament. Elisha, for instance, called Elijah ‘my father’ (2 Kings 2:12).
Nabodinus was not related to Nebuchadnezzar, but Herodotus reports that Nebucadnezzar’s wife was the “mother” of Nabodinus [Town.Dan – Towner, W. Sibley. Daniel. Atlanta: John Knox, 1984, 70]. Oriental monarchs who were usurpers commonly tried to legitimate their claim to the throne by marrying their predecessor’s wife or daughter. A literal blood relationship is therefore also possible.
Darius the Mede
Persian records identify Cyrus as king of Persia when Babylon was captured, after he conquered the Medes eleven years earlier in 550 BC. These records also identify a Gubaru (Greek: Gobryas), a Persian, as the governor of the province of Babylon after the Babylonian Empire was defeated.
Apart from the book of Daniel, only Josephus refers to Darius the Mede. Critics therefore regard Darius the Mede as a fictional character, or at the very best a confusion of Cyrus’ third son with the same name – who was not a Mede, but a Persian. They propose that this mistake by the second century writer was the result of predictions in Isaiah and Jeremiah that the Medes will conquer Babylon (Jeremiah 51:11; Is. 13:17; 21:2; Jer. 51:28). They therefore propose that the author of Daniel’s prophecy, contrary to historical evidence, inserted a separate Median empire between the Babylonian and Persian empires, and created the fictitious figure of Darius the Mede to fit this schema.
The fact that this mighty king Darius is not mentioned by non-biblical sources is perhaps the best support the critics have for historical inaccuracies in the book of Daniel. But:
Firstly, it would have been a very unlikely mistake for a second century author to insert a Median Empire. Such an author must have been of the most educated class and could hardly be expected NOT to be aware of the actual history. Ezra 4:5-6 has a listing of the Persian kings, and as Josephus’ work indicates, there were many histories in circulation at the time of the Maccabees which would include information on the Persian Empire. We know some of these histories today: Herodotus, Xenophon, Berosus, and even the OT outside of Daniel’s prophecy (Is. 45:1, 2 Chron. 36.20-3). These it clear that Cyrus was the conqueror who took Babylon, and who freed the Jews and other peoples to return to their homes. If he did make such an mistake, it would have been pretty obvious to his contemporaries.
Secondly, it is adequately clear that the book of Daniel always represents the Medes and the Persians as a single empire. The “Writing on the Wall” was interpreted as “your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians” (5:28). This explicitly indicates a dual monarchy. (See also 6:8, 12, 15, 8:20). Daniel never mentions a war, after the defeat of Babylon, between the Medes and the Persians, through which Cyrus became king. The author therefore did not think of Darius as king of a separate Median empire. His rule must have coincided with that of Cyrus. Darius was either another name of Cyrus, or he ruled only in the province of Babylon.
Thirdly, Daniel’s prophecy never describes Darius as king of the Medes, only as king of the Chaldeans (Dan 5:30-1, 9:1), which would be limited to the province of Babylon. Darius has also been “made king” and he “received” the kingdom when Babylon was defeated (5:31). These indicate that Darius was a subordinate ruler.
A separate article has been published on this website (The search for Darius the Mede) in which it is argued that Darius was the throne name for Ugbaru. Ugbaru was the general whose troops conquered Babylon for Cyrus. He was made regional governor by Cyrus over the province of Babylon. He appointed his own supervisors over his dominion, holding the power of life and death over them, but unexpectedly died three weeks after Babylon was captured. It is possible that he is not mentioned as Darius in other literature because he ruled only for a very short time.
Daniel uses the term “Chaldeans” for both the ethnic race from which Nebuchadnezzar came (5:30) and as a specialized term for wise men (2:2, 4, etc.). Apparently Nebuchadnezzar reserved the positions of wise men for people from his race. In this way “Chaldeans” over time became a synonym for “wise men”. Critics maintain that the word only attracted this additional specialized meaning much later than the sixth century, but Herodutus (vol. 1, sec 181-183) already in the fifth century BC refers to the priests of Bel as Chaldeans. It is therefore not impossible that this term had this meaning in the middle of the sixth century, when Daniel wrote.
Daniel predicts the Greek Empire by name. Most liberal and conservative scholars agree that the prophecies in the first 35 verses of Daniel 11 closely resemble the history of the fragmented Greek empire. This includes a minutely accurate portrayal of the Seleucid-Ptolemaic wars, which seems to culminate in the reign of the Greek king Antiochus IV. According to Daniel itself these prophecies were received more than 300 years in advance of these events. However, critical scholarship does not accept that it is possible to predict events centuries in the future so accurately:
We need to assume that the vision [of Daniel 8] as a whole is a prophecy after the fact. Why? Because human beings are unable accurately predict future events centuries in advance [Towner, Daniel, Interpreter’s Bible, John Knox: 1984, p. 115, cited in [DLIOT:332]]
Critics therefore need a solution for Daniel. They must show that Daniel was written during or after the time of Antiochus IV. This they do by arguing that Daniel contains many errors with respect to the sixth century and by pointing to other indications (such as the language), arguing that Daniel was actually written in the second century. (These arguments have been addressed above.)
Written prior to the Maccabean revolt in 164 BC
But shifting the date of writing to the time of Antiochus does not solve the problem for the critics. Since the death of Antiochus IV does not agree with the death of the evil king as described in the latter portion of Daniel 11, and because Daniel does not mention the Maccabean revolt or the success of that revolt, they have to conclude that Daniel was written before the death of Antiochus IV and before the success of the Maccabean revolt in 164 BC, and that in the latter portion of Daniel 11 the author ventured his own predictions of the future, but got it hopelessly wrong.
Furthermore, the copies of Daniel and the undisputed references to the book of Daniel in other writings dated in 100 BC or earlier also oblige critics to date the writing of the book to no later than 100 BC.
Daniel’s prophecy predicted events after the Maccabean revolt.
Therefore, if it can be shown that Daniel predicts events after the time of Antiochus, and after 100 BC, the credibility of the prophecies in Daniel is confirmed. Then the attempt of the critics to push the date of writing forward avails nothing because the supernatural inspiration of Daniel is verified. Then the fundamental assumption of the critics, on which their entire theory is based, namely that accurate long term predictions are impossible, is shown to be false.
Three line of evidence will now be presented to show that Daniel does predict events after the time of Antiochus, and after 100 BC:
Firstly, the article Daniel’s evil little horn has shown that the evil king comes out of the Roman Empire. Daniel therefore predicts that Rome would become an empire that would dominate the known world. In the time of Antiochus Rome was a growing threat, but it did not yet dominate. To predict, in 165 BC, when critics claim Daniel’s prophecy was written, that Rome would one day dominate, and further that it would not be followed by another empire, but be subdivided into various independent kingdoms, of which the predicted evil king would be the most powerful, is accurate long term prophecy, which verifies the supernatural character of the book.
Secondly, in another article published on this website (Daniel 9 Interpretations Overview), it has been shown that Daniel 9 predicts the appearance and the killing of Jesus as the Messiah in the first century AD. This also supports the proposal that Daniel contains accurate long term prophecies, as copies of Daniel (Dead Sea Scrolls) have been available to the Qumran sect before the crucifixion.
Add to this the fact that the Jews expected a Messiah that would lead the nation to world dominance. But Daniel’s prophecy predicts that the Messiah will be killed (Dan 9), only to receive the eternal kingdom at the end of the current world history (7:13). It is unlikely that an uninspired second century BC author, writing under a false name, falsely predicting the future, would represent their national hero thus. The suffering Messiah underscores the divine inspiration of the book of Daniel.
Antiochus IV does not fit the profile.
Thirdly, Daniel 11:2-19 correlates well with the history until the death of Antiochus III in verse 19 and there are many similarities between Antiochus and the predicted evil king. However, as shown in Does Antiochus IV fit the profile?, Antiochus IV does not fulfill all aspects of Daniel’s predicted evil king. Antiochus IV is a type of the predicted evil king, but for the complete fulfillment we must search for a later and world-wide powerful evil king.
These three predictions of events after 164 BC verify Daniel’s prophecy as supernatural inspiration. We can safely conclude that the references to Antiochus IV in Daniel are also supernaturally inspired.
God is in control.
Daniel is an amazing book. The symbolic, precise and succinct representation of future empires presents God as in control of time. The miracles in Daniel, such as the three Jews that came unscathed out of a sevenfold intensified fire without even the smell of fire on them, or a hair on their bodies scorched (Daniel 3), speak of a God that is in absolute and complete control. Through Daniel a Force that is infinite in time and space, has burst into our microscopic existence.
We are small.
But it reminds us how small we are, drifting around on a particle of dust in a minute galaxy, swirling around in a universe of infinite size, not knowing from where we came or where we are going. In the immense infiniteness of time we exist for a fraction of a second.
Jesus came as a servant.
If Jesus came with the same ambitions as Israel, presenting Himself as a warrior, ready to defend and fight for the supremacy of Israel, Israel would have gladly accepted Him. But He came as a servant, respecting the poor and outcast, criticizing pride and haughtiness. Therefore they killed Him.
God grants freedom.
Similarly God is humble in the sense that He grants each of His intelligent creatures complete freedom to decide for or against Him. He does not override our personal inclinations by force. Sufficient evidence exists of God’s existence and power, but that evidence is not presented in such a way that it will limit our freedom to decide for ourselves according to what principles we will organize our lives. We are free to live our earthly lives ignoring the demands of the humble Creator (Mat 11:29).
The infinite source of all life and power does not want to rule the universe by fear, but through love. In fact, the only service He can accept is the service of love, and love requires complete freedom.
We reject Daniel’s prophecy because we want to rule.
We are not like God. We want to force our will on the people around us. To do that we must avoid the demands presented by the supernatural predictions. Very good evidence exists for a sixth-century date of composition, but we defend ourselves against the demands of God by rejecting it in favor of an unsupportable Maccabean hypothesis. We choose to embrace a liberal, naturalistic, and rationalistic philosophy. Like Porphyry the intellectual leaders of this world, steeped in human reason and intellectual vanity, refuse to recognize the miracle of Daniel’s prophecy. Rationalistic naturalism does not accept the possibility of an all-powerful God Who intervenes in the course of history, even declaring in advance what will transpire in the future. Critics do not subject their views to a reality beyond that which man can rationally investigate and measure. We angrily attack Daniel by rejecting its supernatural aspects.
But then all Scripture falls.
If Daniel’s prophecy is rejected because of miracles, then all of Scripture must be rejected. The Bible is a book of miracles. You will find a miracle on nearly every page. Judaism and Christianity are founded on the supernatural workings of a personal God who acts in human history, is in control of human history. Based on this assumption it is possible to allow the Book of Daniel to be a book written by a real sixth century Daniel containing real prophecies and telling of real miracles. To admit that Daniel was given amazing visions of the future is to acknowledge that an almighty, authoritative God exists.