The book Daniel claims that its visions were received by Daniel in the sixth century BC. But critical scholars argue that it was written by an unknown writer in the second century BC, writing history as prophecy. This summary addresses the question when was Daniel written. It evaluates the evidence from other ancient documents, compares Daniel to known ancient history and analyses the language in which Daniel was written.
This is an overview of the evidence that is more fully
discussed in the main document.
TO the more detailed discussion: Is the Book of Daniel a Fraud?
Great Gulf – The book of Daniel 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. Critical scholars (liberals) believe:
(1) That Daniel was written by an unknown writer after Antiochus IV desecrated the altar of the temple in Jerusalem; around 167 BC;
(2) That its prophecies are by and large interpretations of past history and
(3) That the stories in the book are moral fables.
In other words, Daniel is pious fraud.
Bible falls – The accurate predictions in Daniel, written in the sixth century BC, are an amazing testimony of God’s complete control and comprehension over time and nations. But if this book was written in the second century BC, under a false name, then the book is a fraud. Then also Jesus made a mistake by accepting Daniel as true, and the reliability of other Bible books, particularly the book of Revelation, may also legitimately be questioned.
Precise date – Most commentators find a good resemblance between the first 35 verses of Daniel 11 and the history of the Greek kings up to Antiochus IV. Critical scholars, therefore, conclude that Daniel was written after the events of the first 35 verses, in particular after 167 BC, when Antiochus IV desecrated the sanctuary. But the subsequent verses do not mention the success of the Maccabean revolt in 164 BC. Critics, therefore, conclude that the book was written before 164 BC.
The first category of evidence is called “external”, namely what other documents say or not say about the book of Daniel:
Daniel is part of the Bible, and the Bible was put together under the inspiration of God.
There is no indication of controversy around Daniel in the first 400 years after Antiochus IV. This includes:
– The book of First Maccabees, written before 100 BC;
– The Qumran community, within a generation or two after Antiochus IV;
– The translators of Daniel into Greek, prior to 40AD;
– The first century AD Jewish historian Josephus;
– Our Creator Jesus and
– The authors of the Bible books Hebrews and Revelation.
They all referred to the book of Daniel as an authoritative portion of the inspired Hebrew Scriptures.
Hundreds of years passed from the initial writing before a book was accepted as part of Scripture. There is not nearly enough time between 165 BC and the earliest sources in the previous paragraph for this process.
The following are responses to arguments of liberal scholars for a second-century authorship:
In the Jewish Bible Daniel is not among the prophets but among the “Writings”, such as the Psalms and Proverbs. However, this is how the Masoretes grouped the books of the Old Testament six or more centuries after Christ. The earliest sources, such as the Greek Bible and certain early writers listed Daniel with the prophets.
Ben Sirach, writing around 200-180 BC, lists many famous Jewish men, but he does not mention Daniel. However, Ben Sirach also fails to list dozens of other famous men. It is also possible that the book of Daniel only became fully accepted as part of Scripture when the oppressive reign of Antiochus IV fulfilled its prophecies, which is after the time of Ben Sirach.
Daniel achieved a high rank in both the Babylonian and Persian empires, but no archaeological records have ever been found that mention him. However, only some prominent government officials are mentioned in archaeological records. Further, Ezekiel, a contemporary of Daniel, mentions a righteous and wise Daniel, comparable to Noah and Job. No other such Daniel is known from Scriptures.
It is therefore concluded that good external evidence exists supporting a sixth-century date.
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.
But first, evidence for a sixth-century date:
The fifth chapter of Daniel states that Belshazzar was king the night that Babylon fell (5:30), but secular sources have, since ancient times, stated that Nabonidus was the last king of Babylon. The name “Belshazzar”, as well as his co-regency with his father Nabonidus, was only rediscovered when the Nabonidus Chronicle was published in 1882. This is proof of an early date for Daniel because a second-century author would not have known about Belshazzar.
Various other instances of precision with respect to the sixth century argue that the writer was an eye-witness of that ancient culture. This includes knowledge of Ashpenaz, the master of the eunuchs, the categories of wise men, the practice of wives eating with the men, the practice of putting “Medes” first in the phrase the “law of the Medes and Persians”, the location of the city of Shushan and Nebuchadnezzar’s building prowess.
The following are responses to arguments used by critical scholars for a second-century date:
Daniel says comparatively little about the earlier kingdoms and kings, but later becomes much more detailed, particularly when describing the evil king. – This does not mean that the book was written in the time of the evil king. The purpose of the prophecies is to identify the evil king. The only purpose for describing the preceding kings and kingdoms is to enable us to do this.
Driver, a famous critic, once eloquently said: “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 demands, the Hebrew supports, and the Aramaic permits, a date after the conquest of Palestine by Alexander the Great (BC 332).” However:
If Daniel was written in 167 BC it would have been saturated with Greek influence. Since it contains only three Greek words, and particularly because these three words are names of musical instruments, which easily move between cultures with the instruments themselves, the book must have been written much earlier.
Daniel includes nineteen Persian words, but Daniel received many of his visions in the Persian period and placed the material in its final form in that period. Furthermore, the Persian words in Daniel are Old Persian words, which is rather strong evidence for an early date of composition.
Part of Daniel is written in Aramaic, which was the common language of the entire known world. The dialect of Aramaic in Daniel was written is Imperial Aramaic, which had currency in all parts of the Near East. The normal practice of the Aramaic used in Palestine was to put the verb first, while the Aramaic of Daniel puts the verb later in the clause, exactly like the Aramaic as used in Babylonian.
The first chapter and the last five chapters of Daniel are written in Hebrew, and 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.
Critics argue that, since most apocalyptic works date from the second century BC onwards, Daniel should be dated then too. – However, the style of the many other apocalyptic writings may have been inspired by the book of Daniel.
Critics argue that some of the concepts in Daniel only developed later. – However, these new concepts are completely consistent with the New Testament, which verifies that Daniel was inspired by God.
Nabonidus was Belshazzar’s father but Daniel refers to Nebuchadnezzar as Belshazzar’s father. – This is not an error in Daniel because “father” is also used for a functional relationship.
Daniel 1:1 states that Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah in the third year of Jehoiakim, whereas Jeremiah announced the coming of the Chaldeans only in Jehoiakim’s fourth year. – The authors used different dating systems. Daniel’s reference to Jehoiakim’s third year proves that the author of Daniel wrote from a Babylonian perspective.
Daniel dates the siege of Jerusalem to Jehoiakim’s third year, but Chronicles dates it to Jehoiakim’s eleventh year. – But this also is not an error in Daniel. Jerusalem was twice sieged by Nebuchadnezzar during Jehoiakim’s lifetime.
The Mede-Persian armies under Cyrus defeated Babylon in 539 BC, but the book of Daniel identifies “Darius the Mede” as the conqueror of Babylon and as its first ruler after the defeat of Babylonia (Dan. 5:30-31; 6:25). – However, this does not necessarily indicate an error in Daniel. Darius is described by Daniel as a subordinate ruler, not the supreme ruler of the empire, and might have been the throne name for the person whom Cyrus appointed as governor of the province of Babylon, but who ruled only for (at most) three weeks.
The term “Chaldeans” refers in the first place to the ethnic race from which Nebuchadnezzar came, but Daniel uses this term to refer to wise men. – The fifth-century historian Herodutus uses this name for priests. It is therefore not impossible that this term already had this specialized meaning when Daniel wrote.
It is therefore also concluded that good “internal evidence” exists supporting a sixth-century date. Many of the arguments used by critics for a late date actually support an early date, upon further reflection. Perhaps the only strong support the critics have for a late date is the absence of Darius the Mede in the archeological records, but the document The search for Darius the Mede provides a feasible explanation.
Predicts events after Antiochus
The prophecies in the first 35 verses of Daniel 11 closely resemble the history of the fragmented Greek empire and the reign of the Greek king Antiochus IV. According to Daniel itself, these prophecies were received more than 300 years in advance, but critical scholarship does not accept that it is possible to predict events centuries later so accurately. Using the arguments addressed above under internal and external evidence they must show that Daniel was written during or after the time of Antiochus IV.
But shifting the date of writing to the time of Antiochus does not entirely solve the problem for the critics. Since copies of Daniel and the undisputed references to the book of Daniel in other writings has been dated to 100 BC or even earlier, critics are obliged to date the writing of the book to no later than 100 BC. Three lines 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 shows that Daniel predicts that Rome would become an empire that would dominate the known world. To predict this, in 165 BC, when critics claim the book of Daniel was written, and further to predicts 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.
Secondly, in Daniel 9 Interpretations Overview it has been shown that Daniel 9 predicts the appearance and the killing of the Messiah Jesus Christ in the first century AD.
Thirdly, there are many similarities between Antiochus and Daniel’s predicted evil king, but in the article, Does Antiochus IV fit the profile?, it has been shown that Antiochus IV does not entirely fit the profile of Daniel’s predicted evil king. For the complete fulfillment of the prophecies, we must search for a later and much more powerful evil king.
The rise and fall of the Roman Empire, the killing of the world’s Messiah and Daniel’s evil king are all predictions to be fulfilled after the time of Antiochus, and after 100 BC. This verifies the credibility of the prophecies and the supernatural inspiration of Daniel. This also implies that the references to Antiochus IV in Daniel are also supernaturally inspired.
Daniel is an amazing book. The symbolic, precise and succinct representation of future empires presents God as existing outside time, for He created time. The miracles in Daniel speak of a God that is in absolute and complete control of our physical environment.
We may do not like this conclusion because it implies that we should subject ourselves to this infinite Force. Some avoid the demands presented by the supernatural predictions. Some defend themselves against the demands of God by rejecting the solid evidence for a sixth-century date of composition. We choose to embrace a liberal, naturalistic, and rationalistic philosophy.
But if Daniel 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 is in control of human history and knows the future. 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.
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