WHEN WAS DANIEL WRITTEN?
The book of Daniel itself claims to have been written in the 6th century B.C. by a person named Daniel and explicitly predicts the rise of Medo-Persia and Greece as dominant powers centuries later.
In contrast, the academic consensus today is that the prophetic visions in Daniel were written by an unknown writer in the second century B.C. – after Medo-Persia and Greece rose to power. For example:
“The Book of Daniel … was written … when the Jews were suffering severe persecution under Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175–164/163 BCE).” (Britannica)
In other words, the academic consensus is that Daniel was written after the events it pretends to predict.
For Christians, the implications of this view would be devastating:
Firstly, it would mean that one of the books of the Bible (Daniel) is a forgery. Could the same apply to the other books?
Secondly, Jesus regarded Daniel as a real person and as a prophet (Matt 24:15). If Jesus was mistaken, what other mistakes did He make?
Thirdly, Revelation is built on the foundation of the Book of Daniel. For example, the Beast of Revelation is the same as the evil king-horn in Daniel. Therefore, if Daniel is a forgery, then Revelation is fiction.
In fact, the academic consensus with respect to the rest of the Bible is similar to that of Daniel. For example, the consensus is that the five books of Moses were not really written by Moses but by people who lived long after Moses. Some even claim that the entire Hebrew Bible is propaganda for a Judaism that arose in the Persian period or later.
However, there are good reasons to reject the academic consensus:
The main reason is to understand that the ‘intellectual culture’ of our day is anti-theistic. In other words, it does not accept the existence of the supernatural. Science wants natural answers to all questions.
Unfortunately, over the last 300 years, the theological faculties of large universities have bought into this ‘intellectual culture’. In other words, these theological faculties also reject the supernatural. For example, they:
Regard as fiction the idea that God created all things and the miracles that are recorded in the Bible.
Do not accept that God supernaturally guided the production of the Bible. In other words, they do not regard the Bible as the word of God.
Do not believe that accurate long-term predictions are possible. It is for that reason that they argue that Daniel was written after the events it seems to predict.
Once we understand that the academic consensus is driven by naturalism (the belief that everything arises from natural causes) then the academic consensus should not be a problem for Christians.
It remains a mystery how the theology in the academic centers of the world could have moved so far from the simple faith of the Bible. But we must remember that Satan is the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4). Christianity is marching through largely alien territory. The devil has come down to this world (Rev 12:12).
Furthermore, the letters to the seven churches (Rev 2-3) show that the Antichrist is inside the church. Babylon, the mother of harlots is a woman, implying that she claims to be the bride of Christ. One of the articles on this website shows that the Antichrist in Daniel (the evil king-horn) is the same as the beast of Revelation, namely, the mainstream church of Christianity.
In Jesus’ day, the scribes and Pharisees were the academic elite but, actually, they were controlled by Satan (Matt 23:27-36). Why should we expect anything different today?
The Wikipedia article on Daniel 9 also says that Daniel was written in the second century B.C. but describes it as “the consensus among critical scholars.”
The consensus among critical scholars is that … the visionary chapters 7–12 were added during the persecution of the Jews under Antiochus IV in 167–163 BCE. (Wikipedia)
This “consensus among critical scholars” is the same as the academic consensus discussed above because Biblical criticism and historical criticism have become the standard approach to the study of the Bible in the theological ivory towers of the world.
The Wikipedia article on Biblical Criticism calls Johann Semler (1725–1791) the father of historical criticism because he argued for an end to all doctrinal assumptions. This is the main principle of historical criticism. An end to all doctrinal assumptions includes an end to the assumption that the Bible is God’s word. This has changed the nature of the study of the Bible at these academic centers over the last 300 years:
Traditionally, theology accepted the Bible as the word of God and studied it to understand what God is saying to us.
Claiming neutrality, from “all doctrinal assumptions,” historical criticism treats the Bible as a work of literature with human authors. It does not seek for ‘truth’ in the Bible. One indication of this is that, generally, “critical scholars do not ‘waste’ their time on … writing commentaries” (Quora).
As the word “historic” indicates, historical criticism evaluates the Bible against secular history, including ancient languages, documents, and artifacts. Historical criticism, therefore, is really a specialized form of Historical Studies. This is what the theological faculties have evolved into over the last 300 years due to the shift in the intellectual culture towards an anti-theistic position.
REASONS TO TRUST THE BIBLE
In spite of the explanation above, it remains difficult for the average Christian, who is quite far removed from the academic centers of the world, to understand how their approach to theology could be so far removed from the simple faith of the Bible. To help Christians, we can mention several good reasons to trust the Bible and to reject the academic consensus.
(1) Christians do not trust the Bible because it has been proven to agree with secular history. They trust the Bible because of the beauty and synergy and meaning that they find in it, revealing its supernatural Source.
(2) Daniel contains spiritual truths that were unknown in the second century B.C., such as the resurrection of the dead with consequent rewards and punishments (Dan 12:2-3, 13).
(3) Even if Daniel was written in the time of Antiochus IV, it still contains true prophecy. For example, it predicts:
(4) Jesus and all Bible writers accepted Daniel as true prophecy (Matt 24:15). Therefore, we could safely do the same.
(5) To support their view, critical scholars point to several historical ‘errors’ in the book of Daniel. Over decades, numerous commentators have provided well-researched answers to these so-called ‘errors’.
(6) Good counterarguments exist for all the arguments of historical criticism (see here). For example, there are many differences between the historical Antiochus IV and the Antichrist that Daniel predicts. (See here.) As another example, the book of Maccabees was written to record the Maccabean struggle but it refers in the plainest terms to the Daniel of the captivity.
(7) Historical criticism is only possible if one presupposes that the Bible is NOT the word of God. Therefore, although it claims to be neutral, it is not: “Nothing in the Biblical text is accepted without support from an independent source” (Alan Millard). The presupposition that the Bible is NOT the word of God predetermines research outcomes.
(8) The documents and knowledge on which historical criticism relies are very old and limited. The certainty of the conclusions, therefore, is low. Alvin Plantinga has said: “There is no compelling or even reasonably decent argument for supposing that the procedures and assumptions of [historical Biblical criticism] are to be preferred to those of traditional Biblical commentary.”
Jesus warned that “many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.” “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved” (Matt 24:9-13). Therefore, “if anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt 16:24).
– END OF SUMMARY –
WHEN WAS DANIEL WRITTEN?
I have posted a number of articles on the book of Daniel on this website. In these articles, I have assumed that Daniel is what it claims to be, namely, that it was written in the sixth century B.C. by a person named Daniel (e.g., Dan 9:1) who received visions from God.
However, the Wikipedia article on Daniel 9 states:
The consensus among critical scholars is that chapters 1–6 of the Book of Daniel originated as a collection of folktales … in the Persian/Hellenistic periods, to which the visionary chapters 7–12 were added during the persecution of the Jews under Antiochus IV in 167–163 BCE.
If Daniel’s prophecies, which symbolize empires by means of beasts and other symbols, were added in 167–163 BCE, then Daniel was written after the events it pretends to predict. That would mean that Daniel is a forgery.
The quote above attributes the view, that the prophecies were added in the second century, to “critical scholars.” The article in Britannica on Daniel contains a similar statement, but simply states this as a matter of fact; not as the opinion of a specific group of people:
“The Book of Daniel 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).” (Britannica)
Many Christians are not even aware of the view that Daniel was written in the second century B.C. It is not taught in churches. Those who share that view, simply avoid the topic. Those who believe that Daniel is true prophecy, written in the 6th century B.C., use Daniel as the cornerstone of their eschatology.
The implications of these conclusions by critical scholars are quite devastating to the Christian faith:
Firstly, if the book of Daniel was written in the time of Antiochus IV, then it is uninspired fraud, for then it was written after the events it pretends to predict. And its prophecies that go beyond the time of Antiochus IV are pure fiction. Then, any study of Daniel is a waste of time.
Secondly, Jesus regarded Daniel as a real person and as a prophet (Matt 24:15). But the academic consensus implies that Jesus was misinformed. In other words, we are no longer able to trust what Jesus said.
Thirdly, Revelation is built on the foundation of the Book of Daniel. There is just no way to understand Revelation without the Book of Daniel. For example:
- The Beast of Revelation is the same as the Antichrist in Daniel; a continuation of the beasts of Daniel 7 (Dan 7:4-8; Rev 13:2).
- Revelation uses the “time, times, and half a time” from Daniel 7:25 in various places and forms (Rev 11:2, 3; 12:6, 14).
- The oath in Daniel is concluded in Revelation (Dan 12:7; Rev 10:6).
Therefore, if Daniel is a forgery, then Revelation is fiction.
In fact, all the writers of the New Testament assumed that the Old Testament is God’s word. Therefore, if the Old Testament is a forgery, then the New Testament also does not reflect truth.
Given these implications, the Biblical Research Institute claims that “the historical-critical method has emptied churches in Europe.”
SIMILAR CONCLUSIONS FOR THE BIBLE
Historical criticism has not only concluded that Daniel is a forgery; it has come to similar conclusions for most of the Bible. For example
Little, if any, of the Pentateuch (first five books of the Old Testament) comes from the hand of Moses (Alan Millard).
Rather than accepting the traditional view that Moses wrote the Pentateuch in the middle of the second millennium B.C., source criticism, which is part of historical criticism, claims that scribes living after the Babylonian exile (after 539 BC) created the Pentateuch out of various pre-existent “sources” (Pete Enns).
“It is thus clearer than the sun at noonday that the Pentateuch was not written by Moses, but by someone who lived long after Moses.” (Wikipedia staff)
David and Solomon, assuming they existed, were minor rulers of a small area around Jerusalem (Alan Millard).
Any oracles prophets may have uttered were adapted, expanded, and edited centuries after they were spoken (Alan Millard).
The Hebrew Bible is propaganda for a Judaism that arose in the Persian period or later; it has lost its claim to be an authoritative divine revelation (Alan Millard).
OVERVIEW OF THE HISTORY
Britannica provides a very useful overview of Jewish history from the exile in Babylon in the 6th century B.C. until Antiochus IV. This overview helps to explain the quotes above:
The exiled Jews had been permitted to return to their homeland by Cyrus II the Great, master of the Medes and Persians, who captured Babylon in 539 BCE from its last king, Nabonidus, and his son Belshazzar. The ancient Near East was then ruled by the Persians until Alexander the Great brought it under his control in 331. After Alexander’s death in 323, his empire was divided among his generals, with Palestine coming under the dominion of the Ptolemies until 198, when the Seleucids won control. Under the Persian and Ptolemaic rulers, the Jews seem to have enjoyed some political autonomy and complete religious liberty. But under Antiochus IV, Jewish fortunes changed dramatically. In his effort to Hellenize the Jews of Palestine, Antiochus attempted to force them to abandon their religion and practice the common pagan worship of his realm. Increasingly sterner restrictions were imposed upon the Jews, the city of Jerusalem was pillaged, and, finally, in December 167 the Temple was desecrated. The outcome of this persecution was the open rebellion among the Jews, as described in the books of Maccabees.
MAINSTREAM ACADEMIC CONSENSUS
After I attempted to add criticism in the Wikipedia article to the second-century authorship, Wikipedia responded to me as follows:
Unfortunately, the content you added to Prophecy of Seventy Weeks appears to be a minority or fringe viewpoint.
So far, it looks as if the 2d-century date for Daniel assuming its present form is the scholarly consensus.
The idea that the Book of Daniel has historicity does not fly with mainstream academia. As a historical view, it is not even remotely tenable.
The dating in the 6th century BC is simply untrue. It’s pseudohistory. A dating of 6th century BC is not history, it is fundamentalist superstition.
Mainstream academic consensus owns Wikipedia articles, nobody else does: not Christianity. Scholars following a non-mainstream, fundamentalist view are regularly removed from Wikipedia.
Wikipedia, therefore, distinguishes between “mainstream academia” and fundamentalists. By implication, “mainstream academia” refers to large universities and mainstream academic outlets. It excludes scholars and journals associated with specific denominations or interest groups. Encyclopedias such as Wikipedia and Britannica only accept the views of “mainstream academia” as ‘truth’. For example, the Wikipedia staff further wrote:
The paper on Daniel that you want us to use was published by JISCA, an outlet for advocating conservative religious views. The folks saying that Daniel was written in the sixth century don’t publish in mainstream outlets, generally speaking. When a journal is dedicated to a particular religious view, that matters. Just as, for example, Wikipedia does not make use of articles published in the Journal of Creation when dealing with the subject of creationism.
The question I’d like to see answered is, have any defenses of a sixth-century date been published in mainstream academic outlets. And if they have been, are they the work of a tiny fringe group of scholars, or do they represent a significant number of scholars.
In other words, Wikipedia will only reflect a view as ‘truth’ when “a significant number of scholars” support it in the “mainstream outlets.”
As quoted above, the Wikipedia article attributes the view of second-century authorship to “the consensus among critical scholars.” It is, therefore, important to understand who they are.
A MODERN DEVELOPMENT
The Wikipedia page on Biblical Criticism comments as follows on the origin of Historical Criticism:
Most scholars believe the German Enlightenment (c. 1650 – c. 1800) led to the creation of biblical criticism. Biblical criticism reached “full flower” in the nineteenth century.
The view that Daniel was written in the 2nd century, therefore, was not the ‘scholarly consensus’ during the reformation. Luther and Calvin, for example, still believed that Daniel is true prophecy.
While Wikipedia staff referred to “mainstream academia,” the Wikipedia article itself (quoted above) refers to “critical scholars.” By implication, these terms refer to the same group of people, as confirmed by Pete Enns:
Historical Criticism has its roots in Europe and has governed the academic study of the Bible for about 300 years.
You’d be hard-pressed to find academic programs in Bible that don’t take as their axiomatic starting point a historical-critical approach to the Bible.
The Wikipedia article on Biblical Criticism states:
Jean Astruc (1684–1766), a French physician, is often called the “Father of Biblical criticism” because he was the first person to apply textual criticism (used to investigate Greek and Roman texts) to the Bible.
Johann Salomo Semler (1725–1791) argued for an end to all doctrinal assumptions, giving historical criticism its nonsectarian character. As a result, Semler is often called the father of historical-critical research.
In the quotes above, Astruc is called the “father of Biblical criticism” and Semler is called the “father of historical-critical research.” The word “criticism” refers to the process of interrogation and evaluation of the text of the Bible (Biblical Research Institute). When the word “historical” is added, it means that the Bible is evaluated against secular history, including ancient languages and writing styles. As Wikipedia says, it is called the “historical-critical method” because it is mostly an analysis of history, as opposed to theology:
The Wikipedia article refers to people applying biblical criticism and historical criticism as “critical scholars.”
THE BIBLE IS NOT GOD’S WORD.
The end to all doctrinal assumptions, as Semler argued for (see above), includes an end to the assumption that the Bible is God’s word. Quora states:
The biggest difference between evangelical/conservative biblical scholarship and liberal/critical biblical scholarship is their a priori theological and methodological commitments. Conservatives have prior commitments to the Bible being the Word of God or being divinely inspired. Critical scholars have prior commitments to a humanistic understanding of religion and the Bible.
Conservative Christians accept that the content and production of Scripture resulted from the will of God, namely, that the prophet operated within a historical situation and within a particular language, culture, and thought-form, but that he was nonetheless guided by the Holy Spirit in such a way that the result was the Word of God. Therefore, although there is a distinctive human component in it, the Bible has authority. And because God inspired the entire Bible, one part of the Bible explains another.
Critical scholars, on the other hand, as Bible Odyssey states:
Do not accept that “the Bible is the ‘word of God’ because … faith claims … are inherently unprovable.”
“Most scholars treat the Bible as a work of literature with human authors.”
They assume that the Bible has come about in the same manner as has any other piece of literature. Consequently, in their view, the Bible has evolved over many centuries as it was rewritten, extended, and amended by different layers of people – without divine guidance – and, therefore, is subject to error.
And, since the Bible claims to be God’s word, by implication, historical criticism presupposes that the Bible is a forgery.
REJECT THE SUPERNATURAL
It is also important to understand why Semler called for an end to all doctrinal assumptions and why critical scholars reject the Bible as the word of God. Plantinga stated:
“The intellectual culture of our day is for the most part profoundly non-theistic and hence non-Christian … More than that, it is antitheistic.”
This “intellectual culture of our day,” therefore, does not accept the supernatural. The world of science seeks to find natural explanations for all things. This “culture” has taken root also in the theological faculties at large, independent universities. As Plantinga also stated:
“A good bit of allegedly Christian theology is animated by a spirit wholly foreign to that of Christian theism.”
Critical scholars, therefore, reject the existence of the supernatural, including the idea that God created the universe, and the miracles recorded in the Bible, and they reject the possibility of God-given accurate long-term predictions.
But this assumption is challenged by Daniel, for it contains explicitly refers to “Media and Persia” and “Greece” (Dan 8:20-21; 11:2-3), which became ‘world empires’ after Daniel was written in the sixth century B.C., as the book Daniel itself claims. In defense, critical scholars propose that Daniel’s prophecies were written after these empires had already come to power.
To support this view, they point to several historical ‘errors’ in the book of Daniel. Over decades, numerous commentators have provided well-researched answers to these so-called ‘errors’. Critical scholars, largely, ignored this evidence because the critic must give up his “faith” in naturalism and, in humility, admit that the supernatural God has the ability and desire to foretell the future. This the critic cannot afford to do without suffering a great loss of credibility within academia.
WHAT MOTIVATES HISTORICAL CRITICISM?
People believe what they want to believe.
The Pharisees – the intellectual elite of that day – did not believe Jesus in spite of all His miracles. Why? Because people believe what they WANT to believe. The Pharisees did not WANT to believe. Therefore, they found evidence that He is NOT the Christ. They said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons” (Matt 9:15) and, after He healed a man that was born blind on a Sabbath day, they said, “this man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath” (John 9:16).
People prefer to be honored by people rather than by God.
Jesus said to the Pharisees, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” (John 5:44) and, “Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places” (Luke 11:43; cf. Luke 20:46).
A DIFFERENT DISCIPLINE
Consequently, historical criticism and theology, in practice, are two distinct disciplines:
Theology, as practiced by conservative scholars, takes the text of the Bible seriously as the word of God and strives to learn FROM it.
Historical criticism does not seek for ‘truth’ in the Bible. It does not seek to learn FROM the Bible. It wants to learn ABOUT the Bible. One indication of this is that, generally, “critical scholars do not ‘waste’ their time on … writing commentaries” (Quora).
As stated, historical criticism evaluates the Bible against secular history, including ancient languages, documents, and artifacts. It is mostly the study of history, as opposed to theology (Wikipedia). Historical criticism, therefore, is really a specialized subset of historical studies. “Their concern was not about the text per se but the history behind the text” (Biblical Theology).
Since historical criticism requires detailed knowledge of secular history and of ancient languages and documents (see, for instance, When was the Book of Daniel Written?), a person with a standard training in theology is not equipped to do historical criticism. For that reason, it is unfair to expect ‘theologians’ to refute the claims of Historical Criticism.
Over the last 300 years, as the intellectual culture shifted towards an anti-theistic position, the theological faculties at large independent universities have evolved into faculties of historical criticism.
The following are examples of the arguments used by critical scholars:
OLD TESTAMENT GENERALLY
Firstly, with respect to the Old Testament in general:
Excavations at the site of Jericho, which according to Joshua 6 had walls in the period of the Israelite conquest, have revealed no walls for the historical period in which the conquest is supposed to have happened, thus indicating that the biblical account cannot be entirely historical. (Bible Odyssey)
If Abraham really existed 2000 years before Christ, Genesis, in its description of Abraham, would have mentioned tents more often (Alan Millard).
The description of Goliath’s armor (1 Samuel 17) does not fit the time in which the Bible says David lived (Alan Millard).
Moses could not have written the preface to Deuteronomy because he never crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land. Furthermore, Deuteronomy 31:9 references Moses in the third person.
Egyptian historical records do not mention the Passover, in which the firstborn son in every household was killed.
The purpose here is not to discuss or refute such arguments; simply to show the type of arguments used. There are counter-arguments for all such arguments. For example, with respect to the Passover, we would not expect the proud Egyptians to document their own humiliating defeat. And the Passover was a very long time ago. Perhaps it was recorded in some documents that have since been destroyed.
Secondly, with respect to Daniel specifically, Britannica gives some of the reasons why scholars do not accept that Daniel was written in the sixth century B.C.:
The writer’s knowledge of the exilic times was sketchy and inaccurate. His date for the fall of Jerusalem, for example, is wrong; Belshazzar is represented as the son of Nebuchadnezzar and the last king of Babylon, whereas he was actually the son of Nabonidus and, though a powerful figure, was never king; Darius the Mede, a fictitious character perhaps confused with Darius I of Persia, is made the successor of Belshazzar instead of Cyrus.
I have addressed these and other arguments in my article on this subject.
One thing that we must realize is that it will require a miracle for conservative scholars to change the consensus any time soon. Since we do believe in miracles, that is possible. However, it has taken more than 200 years for the current consensus to develop. Since historical criticism is a very specialized field, in which conservative Christians typically have very little interest, to refute the consensus by using the same methods as used by critical scholars will be very difficult.
This is the challenge that faces Christians. If they want to believe that the Bible is true and proclaim it as God’s word, they need a sensible response to the academic consensus. They would need good reasons to reject the conclusion of historical criticism. It is the purpose of this article to propose such reasons.
ARGUMENTS AGAINST HISTORICAL CRITICISM
I propose that conservative Christians have sufficient reasons to trust the Bible and distrust historical criticism:
REASONS TO TRUST THE BIBLE
Firstly, conservative Christians do not trust the Bible because it has been proven to agree with secular history. They trust the Bible because of the beauty and synergy and meaning that they find in it, revealing its supernatural Source. Therefore, while Biblical criticism ‘criticizes’ the Bible against external documents and sources, I propose that conservative Christians defend the Bible from the Bible itself. For example:
(1) Daniel contains theological truths that were not available in the time of Antiochus IV.
For instance, the resurrection of the dead with consequent rewards and punishments (Dan 12:2-3, 13) is a truth that was only clearly revealed for the first time by Jesus Christ (e.g., John 5:25, 28-29).
(2) Even if Daniel was written in the time of Antiochus IV, it still contains true prophecy. For example:
(2a) Daniel 9 points to Jesus Christ in the first century A.D.
Daniel 9:24-27 Daniel says that a Messiah will appear within 500 years after the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, therefore before the destruction of AD 70. But it also says that the Messiah will be killed, that reconciliation will be made for iniquity, and that sacrifices will be stopped. In the light of the New Testament, this describes Jesus Christ and His death on the Cross in the first century A.D. (See here for a further discussion.)
(2b) Daniel predicted the rise of the Roman Empire.
Daniel 8 explicitly identifies the two beasts in that chapter as Medo-Persia and Greece (Dan 8:20-21). Daniel 7 uses four beasts as symbols for four sequential empires. Both Daniel 7 and 8 describe the physical appearances of their beasts (heads, horns, wings, etc. – Dan 7:4-7; 8:3-8). One of the articles on the website compares the beasts of Daniel 7 to the beasts in Daniel 8 and concludes that the two beasts of Daniel 8 (Medo-Persia and Greece) are equivalent to the second and third beasts in Daniel 7. This means that the dragon-like fourth beast of Daniel 7 is the next empire, namely the Roman Empire.
But, at the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (c. 165 B.C.), the Roman Empire did not yet dominate Palestine. Pompey the Great took over that part of the Near East only in 63 B.C. It is true that Antiochus III had been crushed by the Romans at Magnesia in 190, but the Romans had still not advanced beyond the limits of Europe by 165, except to establish a vassal kingdom in Asia Minor and a protectorate over Egypt.
Therefore, as things stood in 165 BC, no human being could have predicted with any assurance that this Italian republic would become more ruthless and widespread than any empire that had ever preceded it.
Therefore, even if the book has been written c. 165 BC., it still contains accurate long-term predictions.
To avoid the interpretation of the fourth beast as the Roman Empire, and to identify it as Greece, critical scholars interpret the second and third empires of Daniel 7 as the Medes and Persians. But this divides the Medo-Persian Empire into two separate kingdoms and ignores the fact that, in Daniel, the Medo-Persian Empire is always a single kingdom (Dan 5:28; 6:8, 12, 15; 7:5; 8:20; cf. Esther 1:3, 14, 18-19; 10:2).
Furthermore, if the fourth beast is the Roman Empire, the Antichrist (the evil 11th horn-king that comes out of that beast) comes out of the Roman Empire and cannot be a Greek king. (See here for a further discussion.)
(2c) Daniel predicted HOW the Rome Empire would fall in the fifth century A.D.
Both Daniel 2 and 7 symbolize four sequential empires. The first three come to their end when the next one conquers them. But the fourth breaks apart into many kingdoms (the divided kingdom in Daniel 2:41 and the eleven horns of Daniel 7:7-8). Another article shows that that was a remarkably accurate prophecy of HOW the Roman Empire was subdivided into many kingdoms in the fifth century A.D. In other words, Daniel predicted events eight centuries after Antiochus!
(3) Jesus and all Bible writers accepted Daniel as true prophecy.
Jesus’ teachings are filled with supernatural wisdom and miracles. Since He accepted the book of Daniel as true prophecy (Matt 24:15), we could safely do the same.
These are only examples of reasons that we may trust the Scriptures. Many more may be added.
REASONS TO DISTRUST HISTORICAL CRITICISM
Secondly, there are good reasons to distrust historical criticism:
(1) Good counterarguments exist for all the arguments of historical criticism.
I have done such a study with respect to the book of Daniel and came away from that study satisfied that abundant evidence exists to reject the critical consensus and to maintain the view that Daniel was written in the sixth century B.C. (See here.) For example:
(1a) Antiochus IV does not fit the description of the Antichrist.
There are many similarities between the historical Antiochus IV and the Antichrist predicted in Daniel but another article shows that there are also many differences. Antiochus IV by no means exhausts the passage. For example, Antiochus IV did not:
- Exalt himself above every god (Dan 11:36),
- Serve a “strange god” unknown to his fathers (Dan 11:38),
- Seize the kingdom by intrigue (Dan 11:21),
- Cause deceit to succeed (Dan 8:25),
- Distribute plunder (Dan 11:24),
- Begin small (Dan 7:8; 8:9; 11:23),
- Become greater than all of his predecessors (Dan 7:20), or
- Expand his kingdom “toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land (Judea)” (Dan 8:9).
Therefore, Antiochus IV was only a type of a later and much more powerful Antichrist. See here for a further discussion.
(1b) Fiction does not motivate people to fight to the death.
According to critical scholars, the Book of Daniel was composed during the crisis under Antiochus to encourage the beleaguered Jews to be faithful to death in their fight against Antiochus. However, if the book was written at that time, the Jews would have known that Daniel was fiction. It would not have encouraged Judas Maccabeus and his heroic rebels for their deadly conflict. People do not die for fiction.
(1c) The heathen kings are different from Antiochus.
If Daniel was written during the Maccabean era, it would have presented the kings of Babylon and Persia as similar to Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who persecuted the Jews and sought to destroy Judaism. But Daniel presents them as very tolerant of the Jewish religion.
(1d) Maccabees does not mention a book written in the time of Antiochus.
The book of Maccabees was written to record the Maccabean struggle. If Daniel was written during that time, the book of Maccabees would have mentioned the book and its author. But it makes no such mention. In contrast, it refers in the plainest terms to the Daniel of the captivity.
While critical scholars deny the existence of the person of Daniel as presented by the book of Daniel because he is not mentioned outside the Bible, they pronounce a person that is not mentioned either by the Bible or by other literature as the real author!
(2) Historical criticism is not neutral.
Historical criticism claims to be neutral (Wikipedia) but it is important to understand that it is not:
“Nothing in the Biblical text is accepted without support from an independent source” (Alan Millard).
In other words, as also argued above, historical criticism presupposes that the Bible is NOT the Word of God. And, since the Bible claims to be God’s word, historical criticism presupposes that the Bible is a forgery. To say it differently, critical scholars assume that the Bible is guilty until proven innocent.
INTEGRATED INTO THE METHOD
If the Bible is the word of God, then historical criticism is inappropriate. The very fact that historical criticism feels that it is appropriate to verify the Bible against secular sources confirms their assumption that it is not the word of God.
Some argue that the methods of historical criticism are fine and that the problem is the presuppositions. However, the presuppositions are part of the method. They make the method possible. For example, one of the three principles of biblical criticism that Ernst Troeltsch listed is “searching for certainty by doubting everything” (Wikipedia). When the presupposition that the Bible is not the word of God is removed from the historical-critical method, one no longer has the method. Critical scholarship, therefore, cannot be unbiased.
PRESUPPOSITIONS PREDETERMINE OUTCOMES
All human cognitive activity is heavily influenced by presuppositions that are firmly settled in our subconsciousness, mostly completely out of sight. When we search for truth, any input we receive will invariably be sifted through these subconscious ideas and biases. People with different presuppositions will recognize and emphasize different things.
For example, given that we read in Daniel 9 of a Messiah that will be killed while atonement will be made of iniquity, that chapter, for somebody who comes to it with the presupposition that the Bible is God’s word, is a clear prediction of Jesus Christ. But if you come to the chapter with the presupposition that the Bible is NOT God’s word, you will want to find a different explanation.
In other words, to a large extent, presuppositions predetermine the outcome of research.
(3) Historical criticism works with a low level of certainty.
The documents and knowledge on which historical criticism relies are very old and limited. Relative to current languages, documents, and events, our understanding of ancient languages, documents, and history is very limited. Conclusions may change as new data becomes available. Consequently, similar to any field where the data is distant from us in terms of space, time, or culture, critical scholars are accustomed to working with low levels of certainty. Therefore, the certainty of the conclusions from this data is low. For that reason, I would accept what Alvin Plantinga – probably the best-known Christian philosopher today – has said:
“There is no compelling or even reasonably decent argument for supposing that the procedures and assumptions of [historical Biblical criticism] are to be preferred to those of traditional Biblical commentary.”
Plantinga believes that interpreting the Bible by means of historical Biblical criticism is like “trying to mow your lawn with nail scissors or paint your house with a toothbrush.” In other words, it’s basically a waste of time and effort. (BAS Library)
(4) This world is Satan’s territory.
Satan actively opposes God’s work. As Alvin Plantinga stated, “Christianity … is marching through largely alien territory.” Satan brought sin to the earth when he led Adam and Eve into sin (Gen 3). After Satan was defeated in heaven, he was thrown down to earth and we are warned:
“Woe to the earth and the sea,
because the devil has come down to you,
having great wrath,
knowing that he has only a short time” (Rev 12:7-9, 12).
The letters to the seven churches (Rev 2-3) show that the Antichrist is inside the church. Babylon, the mother of harlots is a woman, implying that she is a church. One of the articles on this website shows that the Antichrist in Daniel (the evil king-horn) is the same as the beast of Revelation, namely, the mainstream church of Christianity.
In Jesus’ day, the scribes and Pharisees were the academic elite but, actually, they were controlled by Satan (Matt 23:27-36). It was not the people of Israel that rejected Christ—it was their scribes and Pharisees. Why should we expect anything different today? Where in history, as recorded in the Bible, was the academic elite ever ‘right’?
A CALL TO END-TIME CHRISTIANS
Daniel is the key to Revelation.
The reason for this massive attack on the Book of Daniel, I believe, is to keep God’s people in the dark concerning what God revealed about the end-time in the Book of Revelation.
We need to take up our cross and follow Jesus.
The historical-critical method not only is based on an aversion to the supernatural and the prior commitment that the Bible is not God’s word; it also highly damaging to confidence in the reliability of the Bible. This is often the snare of bright young people who, in furthering their preparation to serve Christ, wind up chasing academic recognition, often shipwrecking their faith. The thorns choke the seeds that God has planted (Mark 4:7).
The Savior had to die. Similarly, He warned:
“You will be hated by all nations because of My name” (Matt 24:9).
“Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.” “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved” (Matt 24:9-13).
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt 16:24).
We, therefore, must not expect that this road will be easy. On the contrary, if it becomes easy, we must know that we are on the wrong road. The strategy of the evil one is to gain control of the places of high influence. In this world, where dark scholarship dominates almost every discipline including theology, it is hard to believe in God. But God, in His immeasurable wisdom, allows the thorns to grow. We may not be able to understand today, but we have to trust and we have to choose.