When was Daniel written according to the Dead Sea Scrolls?

When was the book Daniel written; before or after the events it foretold?

ABSTRACT

Critical scholars do not accept the supernatural. For that reason, they claim that the Book of Daniel was written after the events it ‘predicts’. Since Daniel seems to clearly predict the reign of the Greek king Antiochus IV, critical scholars claim that Daniel was written around 165 BC, namely, after Antiochus had already begun to reign.

But, for the following reasons, the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered around 1950 at Qumran, show that Daniel was written before the time of Antiochus IV:

    1. The Qumran sect regarded Daniel as inspired Scripture and new documents are only accepted as Scripture after a century or more.
    2. But the Qumran sect was formed only about 15 years after the time of Antiochus and some of their copies of Daniel are dated to only about 50 years after his reign.

If Daniel was written before the time of Antiochus, then it makes accurate ‘predictions’ of future events. This does not prove that Daniel’s prophecies were written in the sixth century BC. But this does prove that Daniel is divinely inspired. That forces us to conclude that Daniel is what it itself claims to be, namely that it was written in the sixth century BC.


SUMMARY

INTRODUCTION

The book of Daniel, itself, claims to have been written in the sixth century BC, foretelling history until Christ’s return. The church has always believed that to be true.

However, over the past 300 years, the theological faculties of universities, submitting to the anti-supernatural culture of modern intellectualism, have come to agree that Daniel was written after the events it pretends to foretell. In other words, it describes past events as if it describes the future.

Specifically, they say that the book was written around the year 165 BC; during the Maccabean Revolt against the Greek king Antiochus IV. They have decided on this date because they say that the prophecies in Daniel can be aligned with historical events until 165 BC but not with later events.

This article is part of a series that discusses the evidence for WHEN Daniel was written. In particular, this article discusses the evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls. These are scrolls of an ancient Jewish sect that have been discovered around the year 1950 in caves at Qumran near the Dead Sea. Many of the scrolls and fragments of scrolls were copies of books of the Old Testament, including of the Book of Daniel. Daniel was not written at Qumran. Only copies of Daniel were found at Qumran.

THE BIBLE IS RELIABLE

The first conclusion from the Dead Sea Scrolls is that the Old Testament in our Bibles is reliable:

The Old Testament in our Bibles is translated from the Masoretic Text (MT) which dates to about a thousand years AFTER Christ. But the Dead Sea Scrolls are a full thousand years older.

Comparisons of the MT to the Dead Sea Scrolls have demonstrated the unusual accuracy of transmission over that thousand-year period. The chief differences have to do with the spelling of words.

That means that we now have proof that the Old Testament, and by implication, our Bibles, has been accurately transmitted (copied) for more than 2000 years. It is, therefore, reasonable to believe that the Old Testament has also been accurately copied before the time of the Qumran community as well.

DANIEL IS RELIABLE

Secondly, the Dead Sea Scrolls show that the book of Daniel in our Bibles is accurate. Before these scrolls were discovered, scholars had little confidence in the reliability of Daniel due to the differences between the ancient Greek translations and the Hebrew and Aramaic of Daniel in the MT.

But the eight Daniel manuscripts discovered at the Dead Sea confirmed the accuracy of the book of Daniel in our Bibles because they conform closely to Masoretic tradition.

DANIEL PART OF THE SCRIPTURES

A third conclusion from the Dead Sea Scrolls is that Daniel was regarded as “Scripture” at Qumran. This is indicated by the large number of copies of Daniel discovered and by the way in which Daniel was used. For instance, the Florilegium (4Q174) quotes Dan 12:10 as ‘written in the book of Daniel, the Prophet‘ (frgs. 1-3 ii 3-4a). This formula is typical of quotations from canonical Scripture at Qumran.

While critical scholars claim that Daniel was written in 165 BC by an unknown writer, the reference to “the book of Daniel, the Prophet” means that the Qumran community regarded Daniel as a real historical person and as a prophet.

The canonical status of Daniel at Qumran can be confirmed by comparing it to the Book of Jubilees, which is not in our Bibles. While both books were regarded as authoritative by the Qumran sect, they had different levels of authority:

Daniel was regarded as having primary authority, namely as the word of God spoken through the prophet. In fact, during the centuries before and after Christ, all of Judaism regarded Daniel as a primary authority. None of those closest to the data considered Daniel to be describing the past events as if it describes the future.

Jubilees, in comparison, was regarded as having secondary authority, meaning that it was an authoritative interpretation of Scripture. Jubilees was similar to a creed of one of the Christian denominations today; it was regarded as authoritative by a subgroup but not by all.

PRE-MACCABEAN

A fourth conclusion from the Dead Sea Scrolls is that Daniel must have been written BEFORE the time of Antiochus IV.

As discussed, the Qumran community regarded the book of Daniel as inspired Scripture. The important point is that it takes A VERY LONG TIME for a new document to become accepted as Scripture. It must first undergo a slow process of distribution and copying until it wins the hearts of the people. Therefore, since Qumran regarded Daniel as a primary authority, it must have existed for a long time before the Qumran community was formed.

50 YEARS ARE TOO SHORT.

Two of the Daniel manuscripts (4QDan(c) and 4QDan(e)), discovered at the Dead Sea, have been dated to the late 2nd BC. This was only about 50 years after critical scholars say Daniel’s prophecies were composed (in 165 BC).

That does not leave enough time. It is quite improbable, if not impossible, that the book was composed during the Maccabean revolt in 165 BC, as the critical scholars claim, and gained acceptance as an inspired book within 50 years.

15 YEARS ARE TOO SHORT.

Furthermore, the Qumran sect has been formed at about 150 BC. Since their interaction with the outside Jewish world would have been limited, and largely polemical, their views would have remained fairly static. Therefore, since the Dead Sea Scrolls show that they regarded Daniel as a prophet and the book of Daniel as the word of God, that would also have been their view when that community was formed in 150 BC. But that was only 15 years after critical scholars say Daniel’s prophecies were composed.

INCONSISTENT APPLICATION

In the case of Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Chronicles, after copies of these books have been found at Qumran, critical scholars were willing to push the date of composition for these books a century or more back. They say, for example:

“Each song had to win its way in the esteem of the people before it could be included in the sacred compilation of the Psalter. Immediate entrée for any of them is highly improbable.

“The discovery of a fragment of Chronicles at Qumran renders a Maccabean date virtually impossible for any part of Chronicles.”

But, even though the evidence is identical, they refuse to draw the same conclusion for Daniel because otherwise, it would mean that Daniel makes accurate ‘predictions’ of future events which they assume is not possible.

A KNOWN FORGERY?

No book of the Bible would be accepted as “Scripture” within 50 or 15 years after it was written. But that is even more true for Daniel because, if the critical scholars are right, everybody that lived through the Maccabean revolt, such as the first member of the Qumran sect, would have known that Daniel:

    • Was written under a false name,
    • Pretends to be an old book but really describes past history as if it predicts the future, and that
    • Failed to correctly predict the success of the Maccabean revolt a year or two after it was written.

It is impossible for a known forgery to become to be regarded as the word of God within 50 years.

CONCLUSION

Therefore, Daniel’s prophecies must have been written before the Maccabean revolt against Antiochus IV. This means that the detailed prophecies in Daniel 11, pointing to Antiochus, really were written before those events. 

This does not prove that Daniel’s prophecies were written in the sixth century BC. But this does prove that Daniel is divinely inspired and contains true prophecy. That forces us to conclude that Daniel is what it itself claims to be, namely that it was written in the sixth century BC.

– END OF SUMMARY – 


ACADEMIC CONSENSUS

Modern science presupposes that everything has ‘natural’ causes. The theological faculties of universities operate in that intellectual climate and, over the past 300 years, unfortunately, have submitted to that culture. In other words, the theological faculties of universities no longer presuppose that the Bible is the Word of God. In fact, the reverse is true today, namely that they presume that the Bible is NOT the word of God. This means that they assume that everything in the Bible, including the miracles and prophecies, has natural causes.

Consequently, in academic circles, historical criticism (critical scholarship) has become the standard approach to Bible study. That means that they ‘criticize’ the Bible against secular history. Whenever they find a difference, they assume the Bible is wrong.

For example, the book of Daniel mentions two kings that were previously unknown, namely Darius the Mede and Belshazzar. Archeology has since revealed that a king named Belshazzar did exist but, before that, critical scholarship concluded that neither of these kings ever existed.

Due to its anti-supernatural presupposition, to avoid the strong evidence for the divine authorship of Scripture from the detailed prophecies in Daniel that ultimately came to pass, historical criticism takes the position that Daniel’s prophecies were written after the events it so accurately ‘predicts’:

“We need to assume that the vision as a whole is a prophecy after the fact. Why? Because human beings are unable accurately to predict future events centuries in advance … So what we have here (in Daniel) is in fact not a road map of the future laid down in the sixth century B.C. but an interpretation of the events of the author’s own time, 167-164 B.C.”1Towner, Daniel, Interpeter’s Bible, John Knox:1984, p. 115

They claim that the prophecies were written exactly in 167-164 BC because they are able to align the prophecies of Daniel 11 with the history of the Greek kings up until that date, but after that date, they say, Daniel’s prophecies no longer agree with actual history.

167-164 BC was during the Jewish Maccabean revolt against the armies of the Greek king Antiochus Epiphanes. Critics claim that Daniel’s prophecies were written at that time to inspire the Jewish revolt.

For the same reasons, critical scholars also claim that the events predicted in Daniel 11 after that point in time were the uninspired attempts by an unknown author, but he (she?) failed miserably because the ‘prophecies’ did not foresee the success of that revolt.

It is a bit of a contradiction to say that Daniel was written to inspire the revolt but that its prophecies did not foresee the success of the revolt. Nevertheless, this view is the academic consensus today. One can see that in encyclopedias such as Britannica. In other words, it is the consensus of the theological faculties of universities.

For a further discussion, see historical criticism.

DEAD SEA SCROLLS

In 1947, a young shepherd boy made the discovery of the century: In one of the Qumran Caves near the Dead Sea, he found a scroll. From that year on to 1956, eleven caves were discovered. They brought back to light hundreds of ancient Old Testament manuscripts, along with a large number of other writings.

The manuscripts include thousands of fragments, larger manuscripts, and fewer than a dozen well-preserved, almost intact manuscripts.

DATING OF MANUSCRIPTS

Historians use various techniques to date these manuscripts. But the date of a document does not mean that the contents were first created at that time. For example, take the following two Dead Sea manuscripts:

      • 4QDan(a) (dated 50 BC – Daniel 1:10 to 2:6)
      • 4QDan(b) (dated 20-50 AD – Daniel 3:22-30).

They overlap in terms of text covered but are dated a century apart. Ulrich studied the orthography (the spelling of words) and wrote that the later manuscript may have been copied from the earlier one “by a scribe who was intent upon reproducing the text in the more contemporary, more full and clear and interpretative orthography of the late Second Temple period.” 2[The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Origins of the Bible. Eugene Ulrich. Eerdmans/Brill:1999:162]

In other words, the later manuscript may appear to be written a century later because of changes in the spelling of words and writing style, but the contents are exactly the same as the earlier one.

But this means that the earlier manuscript, dated 50 BC, could well be a copy of an original document created centuries earlier. See Thinktank for a further discussion.

DANIEL NOT WRITTEN AT QUMRAN

It is generally accepted that Daniel was not written at Qumran:

“There is no clear case of an apocalypse actually authored within the Qumran community.” (Collins Thinktank)

In the view of critical scholars, the prophecies of Daniel were created in 165 BC but the stories in the first half of Daniel were already in circulation by that time.

In the conservative view, Daniel was compiled in the 6th century BC, as the book itself also claims.

THE BIBLE IS RELIABLE.

The Old Testament in our Bibles is translated from a major manuscript of the Masoretic Text (MT). Up until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest MT manuscripts were dating to about a thousand years AFTER Christ. This allowed some scholars to question the faithfulness of the text of the Old Testament. Consequently, they took great freedom in amending, changing, and adjusting the Hebrew text. (Hasel)

But the Dead Sea Scrolls are much older. They date to between the 3rd century BC and the 1st century AD. Bronze coins found at the same sites are dated from 135 BC until 73 AD. This supports the radiocarbon and paleographic dating of the scrolls. (Wikipedia)

Therefore, the Dead Sea Scrolls are the oldest surviving manuscripts of books of the Bible and reveal how the Old Testament, including the book of Daniel, read a full thousand years before the oldest copy of the MT. They would either affirm or repudiate the reliability of textual transmission from the original texts to the oldest Masoretic texts at hand.

The Dead Sea Scrolls demonstrated the unusual accuracy of transmission over a thousand-year period, rendering it reasonable to believe that current Old Testament texts are reliable copies of the original works. For example, comparisons of the MT to the Dead Sea Scrolls show the following:

Of the 166 words in Isaiah 53, there are only 17 letters in question. Ten of these letters are simply a matter of spelling, which does not affect the sense. Four more letters are minor stylistic changes, such as conjunctions. The remaining three letters comprise the word “light,” which is added in verse 11, and does not affect the meaning greatly.3The Dead Sea Scrolls by Hebrew scholar Millar Burrow

“The chief differences … have to do with the spelling of words.”4G. Ernest Wright, Biblical Archeologist, (No. XII, 1949)

As proof of the accuracy of the Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls are considered one of the most important finds in the history of archaeology.

We have, therefore, proof that our Bibles have been accurately transmitted (copied) for more than 2000 years. It is, therefore, reasonable to believe that the Old Testament has been accurately copied during the centuries before the time of the Qumran community; at least from the time of Ezra the Scribe.

DANIEL IS RELIABLE.

RELIABILITY QUESTIONED

The official Greek translation of Daniel used in ancient times was that of Theodotion (ca. 180 AD). His translation has a close affinity with the MT. But the oldest Greek translation of Daniel, namely in the Septuagint, contains considerably added material and reads differently from the MT. Around 400 AD, Jerome ventured the opinion that the Septuagint “differs widely from the original [Hebrew], and is rightly rejected.” (Hasel)

Nevertheless, these differences and some other considerations have caused leading modern scholars to have little confidence in the text of Daniel. For example, Professor Klaus Koch suggested that, while we have a Hebrew/Aramaic text and two Greek versions, none of these three is original.5Koch et al. 1980:22, 23; Koch 1986:16–21

RELIABILITY CONFIRMED

However, the eight Daniel manuscripts discovered at the Dead Sea confirmed the accuracy of the book of Daniel in our Bibles today because they:

(1) Are very close to each other and conform closely to Masoretic tradition (Cross 1956:86).

(2) Do not contain any of the additions that are in the ancient Greek translation (the LXX, also called the Septuagint) but not retained in the Protestant Bibles, namely the Prayer of Azariah, the Song of the Three Young Men, and the Story of Susanna.

(3) Preserve the Hebrew and Aramaic sections of the book.

In the MT, Daniel is written partly in Hebrew and partly in Aramaic. Hartman and Di Lella (1978:75) assumed that the book of Daniel in its entirety was written originally in the Aramaic language and that the Hebrew parts of the book are translations from Aramaic into Hebrew. (Hasel) However:

Two different manuscripts (4QDan(a) and 1QDan(a)) confirm the change from Hebrew into Aramaic for Daniel 2:4b.

Both 4QDan(a) and 4QDan(b) show the change from Aramaic into Hebrew in Daniel 8:1, just as in the MT. (Hasel)

Consequently, scholars conclude:

The Daniel fragments … reveal, on the whole, that the later Masoretic text is preserved in a good, hardly changed form. They are thus a valuable witness to the great faithfulness with which the sacred text has been transmitted.”6Mertens 1971:31

“Despite the fragmentary state of most of Daniel scrolls, they reveal no major disagreements against the Masoretic Text, although individual readings differ on occasion.”7Peter W. Flint, The Daniel Tradition at Qumran in Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Related Literature, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan.

“The chief differences (w.r.t. Daniel) … have to do with the spelling of words.”8G. Ernest Wright, Biblical Archeologist, (No. XII, 1949).

The overwhelming conformity of these Qumran Daniel manuscripts with the MT is evidence that the MT preserved the text of the book of Daniel well. It is incredible that a book should be copied for a thousand years and remain virtually intact.

DANIEL IS SCRIPTURE.

To date, eight manuscripts of the biblical book of Daniel have been discovered at the Dead Sea. This is more than as for much larger books such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel. (Wikipedia) It is evident from the number of manuscripts that the book of Daniel was a favorite book in the Qumran community.

The Dead Sea Scrolls also include discussions of and references to Daniel in other works. Flint observes:

“Every chapter of Daniel is represented in these manuscripts, except for Daniel 12. However, this does not mean that the book lacked the final chapter at Qumran, since Dan 12:10 is quoted in the Florilegium (4Q174), which explicitly tells us that it is written in ‘the book of Daniel, the Prophet.'” (Thinktank)9Eschatology, Messianism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Craig Evans and Peter Flint (eds). Eerdmans:1997. 43)

Flint (p44) continued:

“We may conclude that Daniel was regarded as a scriptural book at Qumran for two reasons:

(1) The large number of preserved copies is a clear indication of Daniel’s importance among the Qumran covenanters.

(2) The way in which Daniel was used at Qumran is indicative of its authoritative status; for instance, the Florilegium (4Q174) quotes Dan 12:10 as ‘written in the book of Daniel, the Prophet’ (frgs. 1-3 ii 3-4a). This reference has two implications:
– That Daniel was regarded by the writer as Scripture and
– That it may have belonged among the ‘Prophets’.” (Flint:44) (Thinktank)

The formula “which written in the book of Daniel the prophet” is typical of quotations from canonical Scripture at Qumran. (Hasel) It is similar also to Matthew 24:15, where Jesus refers to “Daniel the prophet.”

Another example of a Qumran document that refers to Daniel as a scriptural book is 11QMelch. Quoting Isaiah, it refers to “the messenger who announces peace” and interprets this as “the anointed of the spirit about whom Daniel spoke.” (Thinktank) This probably refers to “the Anointed One” (Dan 9:25; NIV), whom we interpret as Jesus Christ (See Daniel Nine).

In other words, while critical scholars claim that Daniel was written in 165 BC by an unknown writer, the Qumran community regarded Daniel as a real historical person and as a prophet.

These are clear, objective evidence of Daniel’s rightful place among the inspired Jewish Scriptures. (Hasel) As Professor Ulrich says:

“However one uses in relation to Qumran the category of what is later explicitly termed ‘canonical,’ the book of Daniel was certainly in that category.” (Hasel)10Ulrich 1987:19

BOOK OF JUBILEES

A possible objection to the arguments above is that the Book of Jubilees was written 160-150 BC, and was accepted at Qumran as an authoritative book, even being used in prooftexts. Does this mean that Daniel could have been accepted as inspired within 15 years?

LEVELS OF AUTHORITY

The difference lies in the level of authority:

Primary (Bible) – In traditional Protestantism, we begin with sacrosanct Scripture as “primary” or “ultimate” authority.

Secondary (Creeds) – Every denomination, however, has somewhat different interpretations of the Scripture, and these interpretations are set forth in Creeds. For that denomination, those Creeds are ‘authoritative’. To disagree with the Creed is to relinquish membership in that sub-group. The authority of the Creed, however, is “secondary” to the “primary” authority of the Bible. The secondary character of the Creed’s authority can be seen in its usage of the primary authority: It will use the Scriptures to support arguments.

Teachers – But typically, the authority structure doesn’t stop at just these two levels, but additional levels can appear. Certain ‘teachers’ can assert their authority to interpret both Scripture and Creeds.

TIME REQUIRED

It takes a very long time for a document to be accepted as a primary document. For example, if someone came forth with a book and said that it was a ‘lost’ book of the Sacred Scriptures, how long do you think it would take for Protestantism to accept it (if ever)? Right—forever!

But secondary documents are ‘instantly’ accepted by the group that produced them. If, for example, a group of theologians decided they didn’t like the current dominant creed and decided to craft a NEW ‘sub-creed’, how long would it take the membership of that sub-group to accept that new sub-creed? Right, very little time at all.

DANIEL COMPARED TO JUBILEES

For the following reasons, while the book Daniel was considered primary authority at Qumran, Jubilees enjoyed only secondary authority:

PART OF THE BIBLE

Daniel is part of the Bibles we have today but the Book of Jubilees is not. It was not considered ‘Scripture’ by Formative Judaism of the first century.

ACCEPTED BY ALL

During the centuries before and after Christ, all of Judaism accepted Daniel as authoritative. None of those closest to the data – including eyewitnesses – considered Daniel to be describing the past events as if it describes the future:

“The book of Daniel … was considered prophetic at Qumran, in the New Testament, by Josephus, by Melito, and indeed, to judge by the evidence, by all.”11The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Origins of the Bible. Eugene Ulrich. Eerdmans/Brill:1999.:91

Prof. Menahem Kister, Bible Department, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, wrote:

“The last chapters of Daniel were thus accepted as sacred and worthy of interpretation and midrash in all streams of Judaism relatively shortly after they were composed.”

To come to this conclusion, he argued as follows12Biblical Perspectives: Early Use & Interpretation of the Bible in the Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Michael Stone and Esther Chazon (eds.). Brill:1998.102:

“Explicit and implicit citations of Daniel 12 are found elsewhere in the sect’s literature.

Outside the sect, an allusion to Dan. 11:31 is found in 1 Macc. 1:54;

The rabbis cite and interpret these chapters as part of their Bible, probably reflecting the Pharisaic acceptance of these visions as authoritative.

Matt 24:15, Mark 13:14 and Josephus, Ant. 10:269-276, treat Dan. 8, which is from the same period, as an authoritative text.”

Josephus was a Romano-Jewish historian who lived and wrote at the same time as when the books of the New Testament were composed. He wrote:

“If … there is anyone who … wishes to learn about the hidden things that are to come, let him … read the Book of Daniel, which he will find among the sacred writings” (Ant. 10.210).

“We are convinced … that Daniel spoke with God, for he was not only wont to prophesy future things, as did the other prophets, but he also fixed the time at which these would come to pass” (Ant. 10.266-67).

“Events under Antiochus Epiphanes … had been predicted many years in advance by Daniel, on the basis of his visions” (Ant. 10.276).

In contrast, Jubilees was very popular at Qumran but was not accepted as authoritative for all of Judaism.

THE PROPHET

As mentioned, Daniel is cited “as is written in the book of Daniel, the prophet.” There is no evidence that the unknown author of Jubilees was considered a prophet.

PSEUDO WORKS

The book of Daniel has generated additional, transitory works associated with his name (i.e., the Pseudo-Danielic mss). Jubilees did not generate any “pseudo-” types of works or expansions on itself that we can find.

INTERPRETATION

Daniel was interpreted by other Qumran documents. It doesn’t present itself as something that interprets other scripture.

In comparison, the Book of Jubilees is a rewriting of the Bible “which include implicit exegesis and longer additions to the biblical narrative.”13Biblical Perspectives: Early Use & Interpretation of the Bible in the Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Michael Stone and Esther Chazon (eds.). Brill:1998.:101-2 In other words, it did not have primary authority.

“The Book of Jubilees is a rewritten version of Genesis 1 – Exodus 14 … The largest group of additions to the biblical text are halakhic (an interpretation of the laws of the Scriptures).”14Nickelsburg, in [Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period: Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Qumran Sectarian Writings, Philo, Josephus. Michael E. Stone (ed.), Fortress:1984.:97ff

The book of Jubilees, therefore, is a ‘re-telling of the bible’ document, and that genre added an ‘interpretative layer’ on top of the biblical narrative. It has interpretative or secondary authority rather than primary authority or ‘scriptural authority’.

For a further discussion, see Thinktank.

PRE-MACCABEAN

The Qumran community, therefore, regarded the book of Daniel as inspired Scripture and referred to the author of the book as “Daniel the prophet.”

Before a document can be accepted as such, it has to go through a slow process of copying and distribution and more copying and distribution until it wins the hearts of the people.

LATE SECOND CENTURY BC

Already in 1961, Professor Cross dated 4QDan(c) to the “late second century BC.” (Hasel)15Professor Frank M. Cross, Harvard University, The Ancient Library of Qumran 43

To date, two of the manuscripts are dated to the late 2nd BC, namely 4QDan(c) and 4QDan(e). (Thinktank)16The Dead Sea Scrolls after Fifty Years (vol 2). Peter W. Flint and James C. Vanderkam (eds). Brill: 1999: 53 Both these manuscripts are from the last half of the Book of Daniel (10:5 to 11:29 and 9:12-17). ) This is significant because the academic consensus is that the stories in the first six chapters of Daniel may be older, but they claim that the prophecies were added in 165 BC, during the Maccabean revolt against Antiochus Epiphanes. For example:

“Daniel 11:40-45 … is a vaticinium ex eventu, that is a record of the events of the recent past in the form of a prophecy for the future.”17‘Time and Times and Half a Time’: Historical Consciousness in the Jewish Literature of the Persian and Hellenistic Eras, Ida Frohlich (trans. Bea Vidacs), Sheffield:1996. 80

50 YEARS ARE TOO SHORT.

But that would mean that the oldest copies of the book of Daniel are dated only about 50 years after its composition in 165 BC. That does not leave enough time (Hasel). It is quite improbable, if not impossible, that the book was composed during the Maccabees revolt, as the critics claim, and gained acceptance as an inspired book within 50 years. (ThinktankIn 1969, based on the evidence available at that time regarding the Qumran Daniel texts, Roland K. Harrison had already concluded that:

The second century dating of the book of Daniel was “absolutely precluded by the evidence from Qumran, partly because there are no indications whatever that the sectaries compiled any of the Biblical manuscripts recovered from the site, and partly because there would, in the latter event, have been insufficient time for Maccabean compositions to be circulated, venerated, and accepted as canonical Scripture by a Maccabean sect.18Harrison, R.K. 1969 Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans):1127 (Gerhard Hasel)

Subsequent to this, he stated, based on the Qumran manuscripts, that:

“There can no longer be any possible reason for considering the book as a Maccabean product.” (Hasel)19Harrison, R.K. 1979 Daniel, Book of. Pp. 859–66 in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans). P. 862

Waltke wrote:

The “discovery of manuscripts of Daniel at Qumran dating from the Maccabean period renders it highly improbable that the book was composed during the time of the Maccabees.”20Bruce K. Waltke, “The Date of the Book of Daniel,” Bibliotheca Sacra 133, no. 532 (October 1976): 321.

15 YEARS ARE TOO SHORT.

The Qumran community was an ascetic sect of Jews who lived in the Judean Desert near the Wadi Qumran, along the northwest shore of the Dead Sea roughly between 150 BC and AD 68 (Encyclopedia). As discussed, they regarded Daniel as a prophet and the book of Daniel as the word of God. Since interaction with the outside religious community would have been very limited, and largely polemical, their views would have remained fairly constant for the 200 years of its existence. This implies that Daniel was already accepted as FULLY INSPIRED Scripture when that community was formed – in 150 BC.

But this was only 15 years after the prophecies in the book of Daniel were composed (according to critical scholars) in 165 BC. This is completely too little time. You just cannot, within only 15 years, get from a known forgery to full acceptance as inspired Scripture. Remember, many of the first members of that sect lived through the Maccabean struggle. They saw all of this with their own eyes. And, being a sect, they would have been rigorous in accessing documents.

Daniel, therefore, must have existed LONG before the Qumran community was formed. But that would mean that Daniel was written before at least some of the events it predicts.

For a further discussion, see Thinktank.

INCONSISTENT APPLICATION

For books of the Bible that do not claim to predict the future, critical scholars, when they date a manuscript copy of that book to the second century BC, are willing to push the date of the original a century or more back, but not for the book of Daniel. For example:

PSALMS

It was previously proposed that some of the Psalms in the Bible were composed during the Maccabean struggle. But after Frank Cross found that one manuscript of one of these psalms is dated more or less to the same time as their supposed composition, critical scholars were willing to abandon the idea that any of the psalms were written during the Maccabean struggle:

“The fragmentary copy of the Psalter from Qumran (4QPsaa) … shows quite clearly … that the collection of canonical psalms had already been fixed by the Maccabean period.”21F.M. Cross, The Ancient Library of Qumran and Modern Biblical Study (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1961), p. 165.

This is based on the following argument:

“Each song had to win its way in the esteem of the people before it could be included in the sacred compilation of the Psalter. Immediate entrée for any of them is highly improbable.”22Brownlee, professor of religion, Claremont Graduate School

As a result, scholars have pushed those compositions formerly regarded as “Maccabean psalms” to the Persian period. (Thinktank)

ECCLESIASTES

Similarly, two scrolls of Ecclesiastes found at Qumran were dated to the middle of the second century BC. This is not much later than the time at which many scholars have thought the book was originally written. From this, critical scholars conclude that this “somewhat enhanced” “the probability of its composition in the third century, if not earlier.”23M. Burrows, The Dead Sea Scrolls (New York: Viking, 1955), p. 118

CHRONICLES

Likewise, “the discovery of a fragment of Chronicles at Qumran renders a Maccabean date virtually impossible for any part of Chronicles.”24Myers, professor of Old Testament at the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

CONCLUSION

Harrison concluded:

“It is now evident from the findings at Qumran that no canonical writing can be dated later than the end of the Persian period, i.e., much beyond 350 B.C.”25R.K. Harrison, “Historical and Literary Criticism of the New Testament”, in EBC, vol. 1

This conclusion should apply to all canonical writings (books of the Bible), but critical scholars refuse to apply this principle to the book of Daniel. Waltke complains about this inconsistency:

“Equivalent manuscript finds at Qumran of other books where the issue of predictive prophecy is not in question have led scholars to repudiate a Maccabean date for their compositions. … But critical scholars have refused to draw the same conclusion in the case of Daniel even though the evidence is identical.”26BibSac—V133 #532,Oct 1976,p.322

For a further discussion, see Thinktank.

DANIEL A KNOWN FORGERY?

No book of the Bible would be accepted as “Scripture” only 50 years after it was written but, for the following reasons, it is even more true for Daniel for, if the critical scholars are right, during the Maccabean struggle, everybody would have known that:

      • Daniel was written under a false name,
      • Pretending to be an old book making long term predictions, but really describing past history, and that
      • It failed to correctly predict the success of the Maccabean revolt a year or two after it was written.

Would Daniel be renowned as a prophet if it were known that he had lived a mere 50 years earlier? In that event, he would have been a contemporary person writing fiction.

This is almost a death blow to the Maccabean theory of the composition of Daniel.

CONCLUSION

The high regard that this community had for Daniel can be much better explained if one accepts an earlier origin of Daniel than proposed by the Maccabean hypothesis of historical-critical scholarship. (Hasel)

Notice that all the historical and linguistic ‘problems’ in the Book of Daniel are irrelevant to a discussion of this “Maccabean or Pre-Maccabean” question. These kinds of problems could be used to argue for a 3rd century BC date versus a 6th century BC date, or for an uninformed writer versus an eyewitness writer, or for a fictional versus historical genre, perhaps, but NEVER for a Maccabean or Pre-Maccabean dating.

For a further discussion, see Thinktank.

 

  • 1
    Towner, Daniel, Interpeter’s Bible, John Knox:1984, p. 115
  • 2
    [The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Origins of the Bible. Eugene Ulrich. Eerdmans/Brill:1999:162]
  • 3
    The Dead Sea Scrolls by Hebrew scholar Millar Burrow
  • 4
    G. Ernest Wright, Biblical Archeologist, (No. XII, 1949)
  • 5
    Koch et al. 1980:22, 23; Koch 1986:16–21
  • 6
    Mertens 1971:31
  • 7
    Peter W. Flint, The Daniel Tradition at Qumran in Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Related Literature, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan.
  • 8
    G. Ernest Wright, Biblical Archeologist, (No. XII, 1949).
  • 9
    Eschatology, Messianism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Craig Evans and Peter Flint (eds). Eerdmans:1997. 43)
  • 10
    Ulrich 1987:19
  • 11
    The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Origins of the Bible. Eugene Ulrich. Eerdmans/Brill:1999.:91
  • 12
    Biblical Perspectives: Early Use & Interpretation of the Bible in the Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Michael Stone and Esther Chazon (eds.). Brill:1998.102
  • 13
    Biblical Perspectives: Early Use & Interpretation of the Bible in the Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Michael Stone and Esther Chazon (eds.). Brill:1998.:101-2
  • 14
    Nickelsburg, in [Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period: Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Qumran Sectarian Writings, Philo, Josephus. Michael E. Stone (ed.), Fortress:1984.:97ff
  • 15
    Professor Frank M. Cross, Harvard University, The Ancient Library of Qumran 43
  • 16
    The Dead Sea Scrolls after Fifty Years (vol 2). Peter W. Flint and James C. Vanderkam (eds). Brill: 1999: 53
  • 17
    ‘Time and Times and Half a Time’: Historical Consciousness in the Jewish Literature of the Persian and Hellenistic Eras, Ida Frohlich (trans. Bea Vidacs), Sheffield:1996. 80
  • 18
    Harrison, R.K. 1969 Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans):1127
  • 19
    Harrison, R.K. 1979 Daniel, Book of. Pp. 859–66 in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans). P. 862
  • 20
    Bruce K. Waltke, “The Date of the Book of Daniel,” Bibliotheca Sacra 133, no. 532 (October 1976): 321.
  • 21
    F.M. Cross, The Ancient Library of Qumran and Modern Biblical Study (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1961), p. 165.
  • 22
    Brownlee, professor of religion, Claremont Graduate School
  • 23
    M. Burrows, The Dead Sea Scrolls (New York: Viking, 1955), p. 118
  • 24
    Myers, professor of Old Testament at the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
  • 25
    R.K. Harrison, “Historical and Literary Criticism of the New Testament”, in EBC, vol. 1
  • 26
    BibSac—V133 #532,Oct 1976,p.322

When Christ returns, only God’s people will receive eternal life.

SUMMARY

In the traditional view, all people have immortal souls and
the unrepentant will suffer torment in hell forever. In contrast, this article shows that the unrepentant will not suffer eternally but die an eternal death. In other words, people do not have immortal souls and do not have eternal life inherently. This is justified as follows:

THE APOSTLE PAUL

Paul taught as follows:

(1) Only God’s people will receive eternal life (e.g., Rom 2:5-8).

God promises to give eternal life ONLY when Jesus returns and ONLY to those who persevere in doing good (Rom 2:7). This means that people are not currently or inherently immortal. It also means that the unrepentant will not become immortal, which implies that they will die.

(2) Paul never wrote that sinners will suffer in hell for eternity.

He does NOT use the word “hell” even once. Rather:

(3) Paul consistently warns the unrepentant that they will die.

For example, “if you are living according to the flesh, you must die” (Rom 8:13) or “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23).

(4) Paul contrasted this death with eternal life (e.g., Rom 6:23). 

In other words, the death that these people will die is not the temporary death that faces all people, but an eternal death; that awful and irreversible death which only the unrepentant will suffer, which Revelation refers to as “the second death.”

JESUS CHRIST

Jesus warned about “the fiery hell” – “the unquenchable fire,” “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”  This is often understood to mean that the wicked will be tormented eternally.  What people, apparently, do not realize is that Jesus quoted these words from Isaiah 66:24, which explicitly refers to “the corpses of the men.” In other words, it is a symbol of death; not of eternal life in torment. 

To explain: In ancient times people sometimes destroyed corpses by fire, but when wood was in short supply, the body might not be fully consumed. And due to the hot, dry conditions, the corpse sometimes dried up and the worms died before the corpse was fully consumed. 

In contrast, Jesus said that the “worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” because God will destroy the body and soul in hell (Matt 10:28). These beings will be completely annihilated.

REVELATION

In Revelation, “if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev 20:15) “where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev 20:10, 15) and the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever” (Rev 14:9-11). 

This article shows that this is symbolic language:

    • Revelation is a book of symbols.
    • The beast is not a person that can be tormented. .
    • They will be tormented in the presence of the Lamb (Rev 14:10). Literally interpreted, this means that Jesus Christ will remain forever in hell.
    • Babylon’s smoke will also go “up forever and ever,” but she is not a person.
    • The lake of fire is twice explained as “the second death.” 

– END OF SUMMARY – 

THE APOSTLE PAUL

ETERNAL LIFE

Immortality and eternal life, according to Romans 2:5-8, is not something which people already have but is something which God, on “the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Rom 2:5), “will render to those who by perseverance in doing good” (Rom 2:7)

The following are further indications that people do not yet have immortality, and that only believers will receive eternal life:

 “We believe in Him FOR eternal life“ (1 Tim 1:16).

We are heirs according to the HOPE of eternal life“ (Titus 3:7).

“Take hold of the eternal life
to which you were CALLED
“ (1Tim 6:12).

“God … PROMISED eternal life long ages ago” (Titus 1:2).

Since eternal life is promised only to those who persevere in doing good (Rom 2:7), such verses imply that “those who obey unrighteousness” (Rom 2:8) will NOT live eternally.  In other words:

SINNERS WILL DIE.

Paul never wrote that sinners will suffer in hell for eternity. He never uses the word “hell” but always warns sinners that they will die. For example:

Unrighteousness, wickedness, greed …
those who practice such things
are WORTHY OF DEATH
” (Rom 1:29-32).

 “If you are living according to the flesh,
YOU MUST DIE;
but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body,
YOU WILL LIVE
“ (Rom 8:13).

You are slaves of the one whom you obey,
either of sin RESULTING IN DEATH, or of
obedience resulting in righteousness”
(Rom 6:16).

The WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH  (Rom 6:23).

ETERNAL DEATH  

When traditionalists read such verses, their minds automatically switch “death” into “eternal torment.” However, in Paul’s writings, the OPPOSITE of the death which sinners will die is explicitly and always eternal life:

As SIN REIGNED IN death,
even so GRACE WOULD REIGN … to eternal life
” (Rom 5:21).

You are slaves … either of SIN RESULTING IN death, …
But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God …
THE OUTCOME, eternal life.
” (Rom 6:16, 21-22)

The wages of sin is death,
but the free gift of God is eternal life
” (Rom 6:23).

Our Saviour Christ Jesus abolished death
and brought life and immortality to light
” (2 Tim 1:10).

(“Life and immortality” mean the same as “eternal life.”)

The one who sows to his own flesh
will from the flesh reap corruption,
but the one who sows to the Spirit
will from the Spirit reap eternal life
” (Gal 6:8).

(The Greek word translated “corruption” in this verse is phthoraStrong’s concordance defines this word as “destruction, corruption.” )

CONCLUSION

Paul, therefore, taught that:

    1. People do not yet have immortality.
    2. Only believers will receive eternal life, namely when Christ returns.
    3. Sinners will die.

Since Paul also taught that the opposite of the “death” which sinners will die is eternal life,” this is not the temporary death that faces all people. It is, rather, eternal death; that awful and irreversible death which only the unrepentant will suffer, to which Revelation refers as “the second death(Rev 20:14).

JESUS CHRIST

It should, therefore, be abundantly clear that Paul taught that the unrepentant will die an eternal death. But traditionalists claim that Jesus taught the eternal torment of sinners.

Christ often mentioned “hell” (Matt 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43-48; Luke 12:5). He warned of “the fiery hell” (Matt 5:22; 18:9); “the unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43), “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44, 46, 48).

It is often assumed that Jesus, with these words, taught that the wicked will be tormented in hell for all eternity, but this is not what He said:

Firstly, He said that the worm and the fire are immortal. He did not say that people are immortal.

Secondly, these are symbols. In ancient times, when people attempt to destroy corpses by fire, wood may be in short supply and the fire go out before the body is consumed.  And due to the dry conditions, corpses sometimes dry up and the worms die before the corpse was fully consumed. Therefore the expression, the “worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched,” simply means that nothing will remain; “both soul and body” will be consumed (Matt 10:28).

Thirdly, Jesus, like Paul, also contrasted eternal life with death:

He who … believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life,
and does not come into judgment,
but has passed out of death into life
” (John 5:24
).

In John 5:28-29, Jesus said that all people who ever lived will be resurrected. Some will be resurrected to “life,” which is the eternal life of verse 24. But the others will be resurrected to “judgment,” which is the “death” of verse 24. Since life here is eternal, death here is also eternal.

Fourthly, Jesus said that God “is able to destroy BOTH BODY AND SOUL in hell” (Matt 10:28). In other words, God is able to annihilate human beings. This means that souls are not immortal. Some counter that God is “able” to annihilate body and soul but that does not mean that He will not do it. But why would Jesus say this unless God would also do this?

Fifthly, and perhaps most important, Jesus quoted “their worm will not die And their fire will not be quenched” from Isaiah 66:24, which explicitly refers to “the corpses of the men.” In other words, it is a symbol of death; not of eternal life in torment. 

REVELATION

Arguably, the strongest evidence for eternal torment comes from the book of Revelation. It says that any person who “worships the beast and his image:”

“… will be TORMENTED with fire and brimstone
in the presence of the holy angels
and in the presence of the Lamb.
And the smoke of their torment goes up FOREVER AND EVER;
they have no rest day and night
” (Rev 14:9-11). 

This “fire and brimstone” refers to the “lake of fire and brimstone” (Rev 19:20) where “the devil … the beast and the false prophet … will (also) be tormented day and night FOREVER AND EVER” (Rev 20:10) and into which these people are thrown (Rev 20:15). How do we reconcile this with Paul’s consistent view that sinners will die, and with Christ’s statement that God will destroy body and soul in hell?

Our response is that Revelation is a book of symbols and that the following shows that the eternal torment in Revelation is symbolic:

(1) SMOKE RISES FOREVER.

What is eternal in Revelation 14:9-11 is the smoke of their torment; not their tormentBabylon’s smoke will also go “up forever and ever” (Rev 17:18; 19:3), but she is not a literal person that can be tormented. Babylon is a symbol of the anti-God religious system that has ruled over the kings of the world of all ages. 

Furthermore, the “ten horns … will burn her up with fire” (Rev 17:16), which means that Babylon will be fully and completely destroyed.  

The ever-rising smoke is, therefore, a symbol. It means that God and the saved will never forget the awful destruction of people who they loved. People will remember it for as long as they live, and they will live “forever and ever.”

(2) BEAST TORMENTED FOREVER

As a further example of the figurative nature of this eternal torment, the beast will also be “tormented day and night forever and ever” in “the lake of fire and brimstone” (Rev 20:10), but the beast is not a literal person. One of the articles on this website identifies the beast as the mainstream church of Christianity. The beast, therefore, cannot literally be tormented forever in an eternal hell. This must be understood as symbolic language.

(3) THE SECOND DEATH

The lake of fire is twice called “the second death” (Rev 20:14; 21:8). This means that this death is different from the first death. All people are resurrected from death (Rev 20:5; John 5:28-29). Therefore, all people live twice. But the worshipers of the beast also die twice (Rev 19:21; 20:9). After the judgment of the dead (Rev 20:11, 12), their death becomes final and irreversible when Hades is thrown into the lake of fire (Rev 20:14-15).

This is confirmed by the fact that, in Revelation, once a being is cast into the lake of fire, he is never again seen doing anything. For example, the beast and the false prophet “were thrown alive into the lake of fire” when Christ returns (Rev 19:11). Thereafter they never again do anything in Revelation. One thousand years later, the devil and the people with the mark of the beast are cast into the lake of fire (Rev 20:10-11; 20:15) and is never again seen. 

(4) THE PRESENCE OF THE LAMB

Revelation 14:10 says that the worshipers of the beast “will be tormented … in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.”  Literally interpreted, this means that the Lamb and His angels will remain in hell forever, which is ridiculous. God gave Christ “authority to execute judgment” (John 5:27), and this is what He will do. 

The pain of hell is not that God torment people as retribution for their sins. God does not work that way. Everything that God does, He does from love (1 John 4:7; 1:5). But He promised a universe with perfect peace and joy. Therefore, eventually, God must annihilate evil and the consequences of evil. In the process, He has to do certain things that will cause pain. To understand a bit about these larger issues, I recommend Why Satan thought he could win and The Seven Seals of Revelation.

CONCLUSION

The idea of immortal punishment results from the concept of the immortal soul. That man has an immortal soul came from the Greek philosophical view in the world in which Christianity arose. Although it is foreign to Judaism and Christianity, it soon became accepted in the church and is today defended in the Church as orthodox. However, it is actually the first lie recorded in the Bible, when the serpent said to Eve, “You surely will not die” (Gen 3:4).  

The concept of an immortal soul is rebellion against God. The promise of the Bible is a resurrection from death, which depends on God’s miraculous power, but the concept of the immortal soul says that we do not need God.

For further discussion, see the other articles in this series.

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