The book of Daniel claims that its visions were received by Daniel in the sixth century BC, revealing God’s knowledge of the future. But critical scholars believe that the book was written in the second century BC by an unknown writer. In other words, they believe that Daniel was written after the events it pretends to predict.
For the Christian faith, the implications of this view would be disastrous. Not only would it mean that the Bible includes a book that is a forgery, Jesus thought that Daniel was a real person and a prophet (Matt 24:15). And Revelation, because it is built on the foundation of the prophecies of the book of Daniel, would become a book of fiction.
This article discusses the evidence for WHEN Daniel was written, including:
The historical errors which critical scholars claim to find in the book which a sixth-century author would not have made;
Conversely, the knowledge reflected in Daniel that a second-century author would not have had;
Indications in Daniel’s language and words used of when it was written; and
What other ancient documents, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls and the book of Maccabees, say about Daniel;
This article concludes that the real reason that critical scholars believe that Daniel was written after the events it ‘pretends’ to predict is that modern science does not accept the supernatural. It demands natural answers for all things.
Unfortunately, theological faculties at universities, over the past three centuries, have submitted to this culture. And since Daniel clearly and explicitly predicts events later than the sixth century, critical scholars attampt to show that Daniel was composed AFTER such predicted events. Specifically, they propose that it was written in the second century BC. Unfortunetly, for that point of view, Daniel also predicted events after the second century BC. For example, Daniel 9:25-27 seems like a clear prophecy of Jesus Christ.
See Daniel Fraud Summary for a summary of this article.
There is a great gulf between what the book of Daniel claims about itself and the liberal understanding of the book.
The book of Daniel itself claims that the visions recorded in it were given by God (Dan 2:29ff.; 4:24; cf. 4:31ff.; 5:24-30; 9:21-22; chapters 7-12) to a person named Daniel (Dan 7:1, 28; 8:1, 9:2; 10:2; 12:5), who was a contemporary of Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 B.C.), Belshazzar (556-539) and Cyrus (539-530) (Dan 2:1; 5:1; 10:1, etc.). Daniel, therefore, lived in the sixth century B.C. The book claims that the prophecies are proof of God’s knowledge of the future and that its stories are real events during and shortly after the Babylonian captivity that demonstrate God’s power.
In contrast, the Wikipedia page 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 among the Jewish diaspora 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.
The authors of the tales apparently took the name Daniel from a legendary hero mentioned in the Book of Ezekiel, and the author of the visions in turn adopted him from the tales.
In other words, in the view of critical scholars:
(a) We do not know who wrote Daniel. There was no person called Daniel in the sixth century B.C. who wrote the book of Daniel. The second-century writer used the name “Daniel” as a pseudonym (a false name).
(b) The book Daniel was completed after Antiochus IV Epiphanes (a king from the Seleucid branch of the Greek Empire) desecrated the altar of the temple of Jerusalem around 167 B.C. It was compiled as a response to these events.
(c) Its prophecies are, by and large, interpretations of past history.
(d) The stories in the book are parables or moral fables, perhaps with a historical core.
Today, liberal criticism dominates the mainstream academia of the world. Since few ordinary Christians are even aware that this is what students are taught at large universities, the following is quoted here to confirm that view is widely taught in academic centres:
“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” (Pete Enns).
“The consensus opinion of modern scholarship is that Daniel is an apocalyptic book written in the mid-second century B.C.” (Reading Acts).
“Numerous scholars date Daniel in the first half of the 2nd century BC and relate the visions to the persecution of the Jews under Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–164/163 BC).” (Britannica)
“The book … 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).
The Book of Daniel was written during the persecutions of Israel by the Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes. (Jewish Encyclopedia)
Personally, I attempted to edit the Wikipedia page on Daniel 9 to include a comment from Walvoord that is critical of this view and my input was rejected with a fairly vicious response from Wikipedia, saying:
The idea that the Book of Daniel has historicity does not fly with mainstream academia.
Mainstream historians adjudicate the matter, not traditionalist theologians.
The views of colleges and universities that are linked to specific denominations or interest groups are not regarded as credible or as ‘neutral’ by ‘mainstream academia’. This explains why university-trained preachers so seldomly preach from Daniel. They have been taught that this book is pious fraud.
Daniel mentions the Mede-Persian and Greek Empires by name (Dan 8:20-21) and the first half of Daniel 11 provides clear ‘predictions’ of even individual Greek kings up to Antiochus IV Epiphanes in the second century BC. For conservative Christians, this bolsters belief in the supernatural character of Daniel’s prophecy and in the unique predictive capability of God.
However, if the book was compiled during the reign of Antiochus IV for the purpose of strengthening the morale of the Jews during that crisis, under a false name and creating the false impression that the author was Daniel, a super-Jew of the sixth century B.C., then the book is a forgery.
Jesus referred to Daniel as a prophet and put the fulfillment of some of its prophecies in His future (Matt 24:15–16; Mark 13:14; Luke 21:20). If the book of Daniel is a forgery, then Christ was mistaken about it. Then we should also doubt His other statements.
Due to the interwoven nature of the Scriptures (e.g., John 5:39), an attack on any one book of the Bible is an attack upon all books of the Bible. Although written by many different authors at many different places and times over a period spanning more than a thousand years, the Holy Spirit guided the message of the Bible into an integrated whole. If Daniel is a fraudulent piece of literature, then the reliability of other books in the canon of Scripture may also be questioned.
This applies particularly to the book of Revelation because Daniel is the foundation on which the book of Revelation has been built. For instance, the “time, times and dividing of a time” from Daniel 7:25 is central to many of the visions in Revelation (Rev 11:1, 2; 12:6, 14; 13:5). Further examples are listed below in the section titled “No Controversy”.
It is therefore important that every Christian be aware of the convincing evidence that Daniel’s prophecy was really written in the sixth century BC, and also understand that historical criticism, as used in academic circles, operates from the presupposition that the Bible is NOT the word of God. (For a further discussion, see the article on critical scholars.) The purpose of this document, therefore, is to provide evidence that Daniel was written in the sixth century B.C. and, consequently, contains real prophecy.
An important concept to grasp in this context is that critical scholars believe that they are able to determine accurately when the book of Daniel was put into its final form. For instance, as stated by the New Jerusalem Bible:
The book ‘Daniel’ must … have been written during the persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes and before his death, even before the success of the Maccabaean [Hasmonean] revolt; that is to say between 167 and 164.
Antiochus Epiphanes IV desecrated the temple in 167 BC and attempted to destroy the Jewish religion, but the Jewish rebels (the Maccabees) were able to drive Antiochus’ forces out of Israel by 164 B.C.
Critical scholars claim that the first 35 verses of Daniel 11 closely resemble the history of the Greek kings up to Antiochus IV, including the desecration of the sanctuary in 167 BC (Dan 11:31). They conclude, therefore, that Daniel was written after the historical events of the first 35 verses. But the remainder of Daniel 11 and 12, which apparently continues the history of the same king, does not agree with known history. In particular, although it seems to continue until the end of the world’s history, it does not mention the success of the Maccabean (Jewish) revolt. Critical scholars, therefore, conclude that the remainder of Daniel 11 and Daniel 12 is the author’s own but incorrect predictions and that Daniel was written before the success of the Maccabean revolt in 164 BC. Consequently, they date the writing of the book to bout 165 B.C. This is known as the Maccabean Date Hypothesis.
“External” evidence is what other ancient documents say or not say about the book of Daniel. The first person to propose the Maccabean theory was Porphyrius in the third century AD. His view was rejected by Christian writers. It was only in the 18th century, with the upsurge of naturalism in science, that theologians against picked up Porphyrius’ proposal until it became the academic consensus today.
This section shows that, during the centuries before Porphyrius, everybody believed that Daniel was a true prophecy written in the sixth century BC. There was no controversy about this:
Porphyrius of Tyre proposed this hypothesis in his work entitled “Against Christians.” His goal was to discredit Daniel because its remarkably accurate predictions prove the existence of a God that knows the future. He contended that the “predictions” in Daniel (esp. ch. 11) were the result of a pious fraud, perpetrated by some zealous propagandist of the Maccabean movement, who wished to encourage a spirit of heroism among the Jewish patriots resisting Antiochus IV.
EIGHTEENTH CENTURY NATURALISM
Porphyry was more or less dismissed by Christian scholarship until the time of the enlightenment and scientific revolution in the eighteenth century, when naturalism and rationalism had an upsurge, and when all supernatural elements in Scripture came under suspicion. A series of authors revived Porphyry’s theory. They all agreed with Porphyry that such long-range prophecies are impossible. In 1890, Klaus Koch wrote a powerful book denouncing the exilic date of writing (sixth century BC) and proclaiming the Maccabean theory. Immediately following him, in 1900, came S.R. Driver’s commentary on Daniel supported the same theory. Since then, the majority of scholars have generally accepted the Maccabean date theory without much question.
First Maccabees was written most likely near 166 BC and no later than 100 BC. Its purpose was to record the Maccabean struggle. As such, one should expect it to mention that the book of Daniel was written at that time to encourage the Jews in their struggle against Antiochus IV, but it does not. On the contrary, it cites history from the book of Daniel as actual historical events:
“Ananias, Azarias, and Misael,
by believing were saved out of the flame.
Daniel for his innocency was delivered
from the mouth of lions.”
(I Macc 2:59-60 KJV)
Here, Maccabees refers to Daniel 3 and 6 (Dan 3:23-25; 6:20-21) and regards Daniel as a real historical figure.
Late daters say Daniel and 1 Maccabees were written only 40 or 50 years apart in the second century BC. Surely, the writer of Maccabees could have distinguished between a fraudulent book that was 50 years old and one that was 400 years old and considered to report actual history.
PART OF THE BIBLE
For those that accept that the Bible was put together under the inspiration of God, it would be an unpleasant surprise to find a book written under a false name, falsely claiming divine foreknowledge and miracles, being accepted as Holy Scripture.
DEAD SEA SCROLLS
The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) are ancient documents discovered around 1950 on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea at Khirbet Qumran. They contain the oldest known surviving copies of books of the Bible.
These scrolls include an extensive collection of manuscripts of the biblical book of Daniel — from every chapter of Daniel except one. These also include other works that discuss and reference the book of Daniel. At least 7 different works contained in 9 different fragments mention Daniel, including references to:
- “The book of Daniel, the Prophet” and
- The “Anointed of the Spirit, of whom Daniel spoke” (cf. Dan 9:25-26).
All of the manuscripts consider Daniel to be a historical character in Babylon. (Mark Haughwout)
These manuscripts have been dated with paleography, which is the study of ancient styles of writing, alphabetic characters, and layout. Some of the documents (Items 4QDan(c) and 4QDan(e)) were dated between 150 and 100 BC; no more that about a half century after critical scholars say Daniel’s prophecies were composed. Those are the dates when these documents were copied; not when they were written for the first time.
Therefore, evidently, in that ancient Qumran community, only a generation or two after the Maccabean revolt, the book of Daniel was regarded as Scripture, and Daniel was regarded as a prophet. It is very unlikely that Daniel would be accepted as Scripture at Qumran, had it been a forgery invented perhaps only 40 or 50 years earlier:
“Such a period of composition (the Maccabean dating theory) is in any event absolutely precluded by the evidence from Qumran … because there would … have been insufficient time for Maccabean composition to be circulated, venerated, and accepted as canonical Scripture by a Maccabean sect.“
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
For a further discussion, see the article on the Dead Sea Scrolls.
After the Greek empire began to dominate the known world, even the Jews began to speak Greek. Therefore, they translated the Old Testament into Koine Greek in what is called the Septuagint (or the LXX). That translation began around 300 to 250 BC and was completed in 132 BC (Wikipedia). And guess what? The book of Daniel that you and I read today was and is there in the Septuagint! The Septuagint, therefore, was completed only about 30 years after critical scholars say that Daniel’s prophecies were composed. Living much closer to the events in view than us today, these translators accepted Daniel as the inspired Word of God.
The first-century AD Jewish historian Josephus accepted the book of Daniel as an authoritative portion of the inspired Hebrew Scriptures.
He called Daniel, “one of the greatest of the prophets [Antiquities Book 10, Chapter 11:7]. Since Josephus lived in the years 37 to 100 CE, he is closer to reality than modern scholars, who are more than 2,000 years removed from the biblical culture.
Josephus also wrote that no books were added to the Old Testament after the time of the Persian ruler Artaxerxes (464-424 B.C.) (Josephus, Against Apion 1.8).
Josephus interpreted the desolation of the temple by Antiochus IV Epiphanes as the fulfillment of prophecies made by Daniel “according to Daniel’s vision and what he wrote many years before they came to pass” (Antiquities X.Xl.7).
ALEXANDER THE GREAT
In his Antiquities of the Jews, Book XI, chapter 8, Josephus tells us a gripping story of how, during the siege of Tyre, the great Greek conqueror asked the Jews for provisions for his army. Jaddua, the high priest, refused Alexander’s request. The reason he gave was that the Jews had sworn allegiance to the Persian king, Darius. Once Alexander had overcome Tyre, he furiously marched on Jerusalem around 332 BC to teach the Jews a lesson.
It seems Jaddua, the high priest, had been told by God in a dream what the Jews must do. All the priests dressed in white. Jaddua put on his high priestly garb, a scarlet robe, the breastplate, and the golden mitre. Followed by the procession of the priests in white, and singing the songs of Zion, the Jews went out to greet Alexander on his white steed with his fierce and unstoppable army. According to Josephus, Jaddua showed Daniel’s prophecy that prophesied of Alexander’s arrival and invincibility on the world stage (Dan 8:1-8; 15-22; 11:8-5) to the Greek general. Josephus further wrote that the illustrious commander was so impressed that he spared the holy city (Antiquities Xl:8, VIII, 3-5).
The salient point is that this happened around 330 BC; 200 years before the Maccabean Revolt. The critics, of course, at least are consistent when they dismiss Josephus’ account as being that of a lying historian.
The indisputable fact, however, remains: Alexander destroyed every city in Syria allied to Darius, with the sole exception of Jerusalem. Indeed, Alexander not only spared Jerusalem and its Temple, but highly favored it. Why? Well, make up your own mind. Josephus informs us of a very reasonable explanation.
Furthermore, this story at least highlights Josephus’s view and, therefore, the Jewish view at the time, namely that Daniel was the author of the work and that it was completed long before the time of Alexander, and therefore long before the Maccabees. Living much closer to the Maccabean era than us, Josephus knows nothing of a Maccabean origin for Daniel or any alternative author than the biblical Daniel.
Jesus Christ and the writers of the New Testament often referred to the book of Daniel.
Jesus believed Daniel was a real person that predicted future events. He said:
“When you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’
of which the prophet Daniel spoke,
standing in the holy place …
then those who are in Judea
must take to the hills.”
(Matt 24:15-16 cf. also Mark 13:14-15; Luke 21:20).
Jesus, therefore, believed that Daniel was a real person and a prophet. Furthermore, Jesus treats as unfulfilled some of Daniel’s prophecies that modern scholars say refer to the Maccabean era.
Jesus’ endorsement of Daniel and his book settles the matter for those who place their faith in Christ. Or perhaps Jesus, who claimed every word he spoke was his Father’s (e.g., John 7:16), was sadly mistaken after all?
THE SON OF MAN
In the New Testament, Jesus refers to Himself more than 80 times as “the Son of man” (e.g., Mark 14:61-62; Luke 22:69). There can be no doubt that, in doing this, Christ claimed Himself as the fulfillment of Daniel 7:13-14:
“One like the Son of man
came with the clouds of heaven,
and came to the Ancient of days …
And there was given him dominion, and glory …
his dominion is an everlasting dominion (Dan 7:13-14).
The reference in Daniel 7 to the Son of man coming with the clouds is in the context of judgment. Consistent with this, Jesus said that He, as the Son of man, will come with the clouds of heaven to judge:
“The high priest was questioning Him …
‘Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ …
Jesus said, ‘I am;
and you shall see the Son of man
sitting at the right hand of Power,
and coming with the clouds of heaven.’”
(Mark 14:61-62; cf. Matt 16:27; 25:31-32; 26:64)
This means that Jesus accepted Daniel as truth.
The author of the letter to the Hebrews accepted Daniel as factual. In Hebrews 11:33-34, we read:
“prophets who … stopped the mouths of lions,
quenched the violence of fire”
This is a reference to Daniel chapter 6 with his encounter in the lions’ den as well as to Daniel 3 where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego are thrown into the blazing furnace in Nebuchadnezzar’s reign.
GABRIEL AND MICHAEL
The angel Gabriel, who announced the births of John the Baptist (Luke 1:19) and Jesus (Luke 1:26), appears in the Old Testament only in the book of Daniel (Dan. 8:16; 9:21).
Daniel has the clearest reference to resurrection in the Old Testament, an event which will result in either “everlasting life” or “everlasting contempt” for those “who sleep in the dust of the earth” (Daniel 12:2; compare John 5:29 and Revelation 20:4-5).
THE BOOK OF REVELATION
Many of the key concepts in the book of Revelation originated from the book of Daniel. Even if we do not believe that John received these prophecies from God, it at least means that the author of Revelation (John) accepted the book of Daniel as an authoritative portion of the inspired Hebrew Scriptures:
In Revelation 13, a beast comes out of the sea. It was:
“Like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority” (Rev 13:2).
These are the same four beasts that also come out of the sea in Daniel 7 (Dan 7:4-7). Both the beast in Revelation 13 and the beasts in Daniel 7 have seven heads and ten horns (Rev 13:1).
The beast that comes out of the sea in Revelation (Rev 13:1) becomes the main evil character in rest of Revelation. It is his mark (the mark of the beast) that is given to all people who oppose God (Rev 13:16-17). This beast is the same as the evil king of Daniel. Both:
- blaspheme God,
- persecute the saints,
- pretend to be God, and
- is given power for a “time, times and half a time”
(e.g., Dan 7:25; Rev 13:5-7).
TIME, TIMES AND HALF A TIME
This period, which is mentioned first in Daniel (Dan 7:25; 12:7), is found five times in Revelation (Rev 11:2, 3; 12: 6, 14; 13:6) in different forms (also expressed as 1260 days and as 42 months.
The oath in Revelation 10 is a further explanation of the oath in Daniel 12:
- Both are made in the context of a book, which is sealed in Daniel but open in Revelation,
- In both, the supernatural being who makes the oath is above water,
- In both, he lifts up his hand to heaven and swears by “Him who lives forever and ever,” and
- In both, he swears about time, namely when the end will be.
Son of man: Daniel prophesied about the Son of man that will come on the clouds of heaven to receive the eternal kingdom (Dan 7:13). Jesus said He is the Son of man. John, the Revelator, saw the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven to reap the earth (Rev 14:14-16).
Jesus confirmed that He is the Christ and added: “you shall see the son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (e.g., Mark 14:61-62)
These references to the book of Daniel in the New Testament are from both the Hebrew and Aramaic sections of the book and from both very early and very late parts of Daniel’s life. Therefore, Jesus and the writers of the New Testament books considered:
- The whole book to be Scripture,
- The Hebrew and Aramaic sections as one continuous book, and
- Daniel to be a real historical prophet who lived in Babylon.
NOT ENOUGH TIME
From the initial writing of a new book, hundreds of years of copying, distribution, reading, and discussions follow before it found a place in the hearts of the people as part of the Scriptures. The earliest sources discussed above, namely First Maccabees, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Septuagint, dated at the latest to 100 BC, do not allow nearly enough time for this process if Daniel was written in 165 BC.
If Daniel was known in the Maccabean period to be written under a false name, falsely presenting history as prophecy and falsely claiming miracles, with an incorrect view of the history after 164 BC, and containing many historical errors (as the critics propose it does), then it is almost impossible that it could have become accepted as inspired Scripture—while other such books were consistently rejected—within a generation of two by a community that was eyewitnesses of the Maccabean revolt. People first had to forget about its origins before it could slowly start to become accepted as inspired.
To this should be added the major new theological concepts in Daniel, such as that people will arise from death (Dan 12:2, 13), and the other concepts discussed below. These new concepts would also have prolonged the time required before the book was accepted as inspired.
EXTERNAL EVIDENCE FOR
A SECOND CENTURY DATE
External evidence for a second-century authorship
The next two points (In the Writings and Ben Sirach) are also external evidence, but it is evidence that critical scholars use to argue for second-century authorship:
IN THE WRITINGS
In English Bible, in the Latin Vulgate, and in the Greek Septuagint, we find the book of Daniel among the books of the Major Prophets. But in the Jewish Hebrew canon, which is divided into the Law (the Pentateuch), the Prophets, and the Writings, Daniel is included in the Writings; not in the Prophets.
One famous critic (Driver) once wrote:
…there are strong reasons for thinking that the threefold division represents three stages in the collection and canonization of the sacred books of the O.T.,–the Pent. being canonized first, then the ‘Prophets’, and lastly the Kethubim.
Critics propose that the collection of the ‘Prophets’ was completed by 200 BC, and argue that if the Book of Daniel existed at the time, it would have been included in the ‘Prophets’. Since it is found amongst the Writings, they conclude that Daniel must have been written after the collection of the Prophets had been closed; therefore after 200 BC.
To this, we respond that the inclusion of Daniel in the ‘Prophets’ was a later development. Initially, Daniel was regarded as a prophet as was included in the ‘Prophets’:
(A) DANIEL WAS AMONG THE PROPHETS.
Daniel was regarded as a prophet in the New Testament and at Qumran. At the time of Christ, Daniel was listed among the prophets:
- In the Greek Septuagint,
- By Melito, bishop of Sardis (AD 70), and
- By Origen (AD 254). (He listed Daniel before Ezekiel and the twelve prophets.)
The first century AD Jewish historian Josephus mentioned the three divisions of the Hebrew canon, but included only four books in the Writings, rather than the thirteen assigned to it by the Masoretes of the late first millennium AD.
(B) THE MASORITES WERE LATER.
The division of the Hebrew canon into the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings was something that came later. The first record that we have of it is in the Masoretic text, dated about 1000 years after Christ. Driver’s fundamental assumption, namely that the Jewish threefold division represents three stages in the collection and canonization, is flawed. That categorization has nothing to do with when books were composed. For example:
- Lamentations, written by Jeremiah the prophet, is also in this section and it is dated to the late 7th century and was written by one of the greatest prophets in Israel.
- Zechariah and Ezra were contemporaries but, while Zechariah is included in the ‘Prophets’, Ezra was placed in the Writings.
BASIS OF CATEGORIZATION
The Masoretes may have reassigned Daniel to the Writings because Daniel was not a prophet in the strict Hebraic sense. For the Jews, a prophet was somebody that received messages from God and called the nation to repent, such as Isaiah or Jeremiah. In contrast, Daniel served in a foreign court throughout his entire career and was not specifically sent to the children of Israel with a “Thus says the LORD.”
Other factors that may have influence the Jewish categorization are the following:
- Daniel spoke very plainly of the Messiah, which was a major point of contention between the Jews and Christians at the time of canonization.
- He also spoke plainly of the resurrection, which the influential sect of the Sadducees did not accept.
Jesus Ben Sirach, writing in 200-170 BC, praises “men of renown” such as Henoch and Noah (44). He acknowledges Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the Twelve Minor Prophets, and many other famous men, but he does not mention Daniel. This is taken to mean that Sirach was unaware of Daniel; hence, that Daniel was written after 170 BC.
However, dozens of other “men of renown” are not listed by Ben Sirach, for instance, Moses, Joshua, Solomon, Samuel, Job, Sampson, and Ezra. Certainly, this does not mean that these leaders were unknown to Jesus Ben Sirach. His writings can only be used for establishing the historicity of characters it mentions. It cannot be used as evidence against the historicity of anyone else.
Critics also point out that Ben Sirach expressly said that he has never found a man
“as Joseph, who was a man born prince of his brethren,
the support of his family,
the ruler of his brethren,
the stay of the people” (49).
They conclude that he could not have made this statement if he knew of Daniel since both Daniel and Joseph rose to be Prime Minister by virtue of their ability to interpret dreams.
However, unlike Joseph, Daniel did NOT save the entirety of Israel from extinction and he did not do anything to raise the Jews as a whole to prominence. Far too much emphasis is placed on the fact that both received dreams as a prophetic tool; the differences between these two tend to be ignored.
“Perhaps, since he held the views which later characterized the Sadducees, he may have passed Daniel by because of his views on the resurrection and on angels.”
On the next page (p34), Wilson asks how it was possible that Ben Sirach did not know Daniel while, perhaps a decade or two later, according to 1 Maccabees, Matthias exhorted his brethren to follow the example of the fortitude of Daniel and his friends.
Evidence from Ecclesiasticus (Ben Sirach’s book) does not weigh heavily on either side of the argument.
DANIEL WAS SEALED UP.
But it is also possible that Sirach really did not know about Daniel. Daniel was told to conceal the words and to seal up the book until the end of time (Dan 12:4). A few verses later, he was again told:
Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time … none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand (Dan 12:9-10)
From this, it may be concluded that the book was not made publicly available very soon. And even when it was made available, it was not understood. It is possible that the book of Daniel only became (partly) understood and fully accepted as part of Scripture when the oppressive reign of Antiochus IV fulfilled its prophecies of an evil king, which is after the time of Ben Sirach.
THE PERSON DANIEL
Very soon after his arrival in Babylon, Daniel achieved a high rank in the Babylonian Empire (Dan 2:48). After the Persian conquest, he was immediately elevated to a role second only to the king (Dan 6:3). But although many archaeological records are available from both empires, none mentions Daniel. There is also no mention of him in the Jewish (or other) literature before the Maccabean period (from 164 BC). For Critics, this is strong circumstantial evidence that Daniel never existed and that the book was of later authorship. However:
Only a limited number of prominent government officials are mentioned in archaeological records.
Furthermore, Ezekiel, who, like Daniel, lived in the 6th century BC, mentions a Daniel who, like the Daniel of our book, was righteous and wise, comparable to two other great heroes of the Hebrew Bible — Noah and Job:
“‘Even though these three men,
Noah, Daniel and Job were in its midst,
by their own righteousness they could
only deliver themselves,’
declares the Lord GOD” (Ezek 14:14, cf. 20)
“Are you wiser than Daniel?
Is no secret hidden from you?” (Ezek 28:3)
This fits the Daniel of our book very well:
Ezekiel calls Daniel righteous along with Noah and Job. Surely, this fits only the Daniel of the Bible. He was not willing to compromise his devotion to the God of Israel even at the threat of a painful death in the lions’ den (Daniel 6).
Ezekiel refers to Daniel as extremely wise. No secret was hidden from him (Ezek 28:3-4). The Daniel of the Bible is the only one we know of as being this wise and able to understand all secrets:
The queen described Daniel as follows to King Belshazzar:
“There is a man in your kingdom
in whom is a spirit of the holy gods; …
illumination, insight and wisdom
like the wisdom of the gods were found in him …
an extraordinary spirit, knowledge and insight,
interpretation of dreams, explanation of enigmas
and solving of difficult problems were found in this Daniel.”
In a letter “to all peoples … that dwell in all the earth,” king Nebuchadnezzar described Daniel as superior to all “the conjurers, the Chaldeans and the diviners.” “No mystery baffles” Daniel (Dan 4:1, 7, 9).
Since he mentions this Daniel without qualification, he must have been a well-known person, and there is no other famous Daniel than in the Book of Daniel. For Stephen Miller, the three references to Daniel in Ezekiel is the strongest argument for the early date of Daniel.
Critics argue that in 591 and 586 BC—when Ezekiel wrote those passages—our Daniel had barely begun his career. However:
Quoting God: Ezekiel is simply quoting God, and God exists outside time.
After Daniel 2: The events of Daniel 2, when the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts, and, on Daniel’s request, also appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego over the administration of the province of Babylon, occurred in the 2nd year of Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 2:1). This would have been around 604 BC. Consequently, 14 to 20 years later, when Ezekiel wrote his book, Daniel would have been the highest-placed and the most famous of the Jews of the Exile. Since Ezekiel himself was an exile dwelling in the land of Babylon, he would have been aware of this.
A PAGAN HERO?
Critical scholars, however, insist that Ezekiel here refers to a pagan hero who was closely associated with Baal and Annath and did not believe in the God of Israel (a mythological Danel in the Ugaritic epic “The Tale of Aqhat”).
This is hardly a respectable supposition:
(1) This Dnil is not was wise and righteous as the description in Ezekiel 28 requires. Collins, who supports a late date, confesses concerning Ugaritic Dnil that “He is not portrayed as exceptionally wise, and even his righteousness is incidental to the story.”
(2) Ezekiel would not use such a person as a model of faithfulness to Israel’s God. Miller argues that it is unlikely for Ezekiel to cite an Ugaritic wise man favorably while condemning idolatry in Judah.
Some argue that Ezekiel’s Daniel is someone else because Ezekiel spelled his name different than in the book of Daniel. Daniel’s Daniel has a yood in the name (represented by the English “I”) while Ezekiel‘s Daniel does not.
But this difference in the spelling does not prove anything (See John J. Collins, p1 footnote 4). The spelling without the yood reflects a first temple period spelling style while the spelling with the yood reflects second temple style. David’s name is also spelled with a yood in post-exilic writings such as Zechariah 12:10, but without a yood in 1 Samuel and in all pre-exilic writings.
The books of Daniel and Ezekiel were written in the intermediary period and Daniel could simply have been updated in the copying process.
Daniel B. Wallace analyzed the evidence and wrote:
“We conclude, then, that Ezekiel’s Daniel is Daniel’s Daniel and that on this strand of evidence at least the sixth century date of Daniel still remains intact.”
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.
According to Daniel 5, Belshazzar was reigning in Babylon the night the kingdom passed to the Medes and the Persians (Dan 5:28). Thus, the book establishes him as the last king in Babylon (Dan 5:30)
But the two famous Greek historians of the fifth and fourth centuries BC (Herodotus and Xenophon) and the Jewish historian Josephus in the first century AD did not mention Belshazzar when they described the fall of Babylon. These sources have stated that Nabonidus was the last king of Babylon.
Critical scholars, therefore, believed Belshazzar was a fictional character and used this as evidence that the Book of Daniel was not written in the 6th century B.C. but considerably later.
The name “Belshazzar” was not rediscovered until the Nabonidus Chronicle was published in 1882. Together with the Prayer of Nabonidus (75-50 BC), which was discovered at Qumran, these documents confirms Belshazzar’s existence, as well as his co-regency of Babylon while his father (Nabonidus) was away at Teima in Arabia during the last ten years of the Babylonian Empire:
Nabonidus “entrusted the ‘camp’ to his eldest son [‘Belshazzar] …entrusted the kingship to him and himself … he turned towards Tema in the West.”
“He [Nabonidus] entrusted the army to his oldest son, his first born, the troops in the country he ordered under his command. He let everything go, entrusted the kingship to him.”
These are fairly strong evidence that Belshazzar was indeed the coregent in his father’s absence, and that he was in Babylon when it fell in 539 BC.
This also explains why Belshazzar offered to make the one who could interpret the writing on the wall “the third highest ruler in the kingdom” (Dan 5:16). Belshazzar could not offer Daniel anything higher, as Nabonidus was the highest ruler, and Belshazzar himself was the second.
Daniel chapter five, describing the fall of Babybon, consequently, has become a major support for the authenticity of the book of Daniel. Scholars do not like the miraculous element in the chapter related to the writing on the wall. For example, Amélie Kuhrt describes the Nabonidus Chronicle as “the most … sober ancient account of the fall of Babylon,” implying that the account in Daniel 5 is religiously ‘intoxicated’.
Nevertheless, scholare also have to admit that:
Of all the non-Babylonian records dealing with the situation at the close of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, the fifth chapter of Daniel ranks next to cuneiform literature in accuracy so far as outstanding events are concerned. The Scriptural account may be interpreted as excelling because it
– employs the name Belshazzar, because it
– attributes royal power to Belshazzar, and because it
– recognizes that a dual rulership existed in the kingdom.
Babylonian cuneiform documents of the sixth century BC furnish clear-cut evidence of the correctness of these three basic historical nuclei contained in the Biblical narrative dealing with the fall of Babylon.
The total information found in all available chronologically-fixed documents later than the sixth century BC … could not have provided the necessary material for the historical framework of the fifth chapter of Daniel.’
The very mention of Belshazzar by Daniel is proof of an early date for Daniel. Since the historians of the fifth and later centuries do not mention Belshazzar, how would a second-century author know of Nabonidus leaving Belshazzar in charge? Other than that some other information is lost to us today, the only conclusion that one can reach is that the author was indeed alive during the events of 539 BC.
SIXTH CENTURY KNOWLEDGE
Various other instances of precision with respect to the sixth century argue that the writer was an eye-witness of that ancient culture:
(1) Asphenaz is mentioned in the first chapter of Daniel as master of the Eunuchs (Dan 1:3). The following statement has been found on monuments of ancient Babylon which are now in the Berlin Museum: “Ashpenaz, master of eunuchs in the time of Nebuchadnezzar”.
(2) Daniel is very detailed and, as confirmed by archaeological records, correct in his categories of wise men (cf. Dan 2:2, 27).
(3) The account of Belshazzar’s feast matches that of historical accounts of what was happening when Babylon was captured by the Medo-Persian army:
“As they engaged in a festival, dancing and reveling until they learned of the capture”
“He (Cyrus) heard that there was a festival in Babylon, in which all the Babylonians drank and reveled the whole night.”
Josephus gives a similar account.
(4) The prophet describes the practice of Belshazzar’s wives eating with the men on festive occasions (Dan 5:1-4). This was the custom in ancient Babylon and Persia (Herodotus, History, V.18), but not in the period of the Greeks in the second century BC.
(5) Daniel lists the Medes first in the phrase “law of the Medes and Persians” (Dan 5:28; 6:8, 12, 15). In later history, due to Persia’s ascendancy, it became “Persians and Medes” (cf. Esther 1:19).
(6) Daniel locates the city of Shushan in the province of Elam (Dan 8:2), whereas boundary changes in the later Persian period located Shushan in the province of Susiana.
(7) Daniel correctly represents Nebuchadnezzar’s building prowess. The East India House inscriptions in London have six columns of Babylonian writing bragging about building operations which Nebuchadnezzar carried on in enlarging and beautifying Babylon. Pfeiffer admits: “We shall presumably never know how our author learned that the new Babylon was the creation of Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 4:30) … and that Belshazzar … was functioning as king when Cyrus took Babylon in 538 (ch. 5).”
FOR A LATE DATE
The following points are also internal evidence, but it is evidence that critics offer to argue for second-century authorship. However, in many instances, this evidence rather supports sixth-century authorship:
LATER MORE DETAILED
An analysis of the visions in Daniel 7, 8, and 10 to 12 will show that Daniel’s prophecies get more & more detailed all the way to 168-164 BC:
Daniel 7 and 8 say comparatively little about the earlier kingdoms and kings, but much about the little horn.
The same applies to Daniel 11. In the beginning of chapter 11, many kings are described in a single verse, but later many verses describe a single king. About 8 verses describe Antiochus III, followed by more than 20 verses describing the evil king of Daniel 11.
Critical scholars argue that the detail provided with respect to the evil king shows that the book was written in the time of the evil king. But there is another explanation: The purpose of the prophecies is to identify and describe this evil king. The only purpose for describing the preceding kings and kingdoms is to provide information to identify the evil king.
Driver, the famous critic mentioned above, once eloquently stated:
The verdict of the language of Daniel is thus clear. The Persian words presuppose a period after the Persian Empire had been well established: the Greek words demand, the Hebrew supports, and the Aramaic permits, a date after the conquest of Palestine by Alexander the Great (BC 332).
The 13 Akkadian words in Daniel indicate that Daniel’s language belongs to the Babylonian period and to the Mesopotamian region.
According to Driver’s statement, the strongest linguistic support for a late date is the Greek words in Daniel. This refers to the names of three musical instruments in chapter 3 of Daniel, which appear to be Aramaic transliterations of their Greek names (Dan 3:5, 7, 10, 15). Critics assert that these Greek words were not known in Babylon in the sixth century BC because Greek cultural influence upon other nations did not reach its zenith until after Alexander the Great (about 330 BC), suggesting that the book was written after Greek culture had invaded the Near East.
ONLY THREE GREEK WORDS
However, there are only three Greek words in the entire book – and all three refer to musical instruments (Kitharos, Psanterin, and Sumphonyah). If the book of Daniel was written as late in 165 BC in Palestine, after Greek-speaking governments had controlled the region for more than 160 years, it would have been saturated with Greek terms. That the translation of the Old Testament into Greek was begun around 260 BC illustrates the influence of Greek on the Jewish nation.
Stephen Miller suggests that “the meager number of Greek terms in the Book of Daniel is a most convincing argument that the prophecy was not produced in the Maccabean period, the heart of the Greek era.”
KNOWN BEFORE THE SIXTH CENTURY
Furthermore, Hellenistic influence had already reached Babylon by the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II. It is important to remember that from Greece through Assyria and Babylonia all the way to Persia and south to Egypt was one continuous bed of civilization. It should be no surprise that Greek musical instruments were used in Babylonia. As today, people in the ancient world traveled from place to place and upon their return, brought back with them new ideas and new products. And, apparently, the Greek musical instruments were more advanced than the Babylonian instruments.
Secular literature like that of Homer, which dates back to at least the eighth century BC, uses the loan Greek word kitharis. In other words, Greek words were known well before the sixth century. Greek words also appear in the Elephantine Papyri dated to the fifth century BC. The names of musical instruments would circulate beyond national boundaries with these instruments themselves, just as foreign musical terms have made their way into English, like the Italian piano and viola.
“Greek loans are explainable since the famous orientalist W. F. Albright demonstrated that Greek culture penetrated the ancient Near East long before the Neo-Babylonian period.”
“As far as the Greek loan words are concerned, an insinuation that their appearance demands a date posterior to Alexander the Great is now absurd. An avalanche of evidence has demonstrated the presence of Greek language in Semitic milieu long before the sixth century BC.
Driver’s second strongest linguistic evidence for a late date of composition is the Persian words in the text of Daniel. He noted, for instance, that “the mention of ‘satraps’ under Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 3:2, 3, 27) is alone a remarkable anachronism”. There are 17 Persian words in Daniel.
WRITTEN IN THE PERSIAN PERIOD
The visions contained in the last four chapters of Daniel were received after Persian authority has been established over Babylonia (Dan 9:1; 10:1). The story of Daniel in the lions’ den (chapter 6) plays out in the same period. Daniel himself served as a very senior official in the Persian government (Dan 6:3, 28). The book of Daniel was therefore put in its final form during the Persian period. There is no particular reason why Daniel should not have used Persian terms that had found currency in the Aramaic spoken in Babylon in the Persian period.
At least 12 of the 19 Persian loan words are technical terms used within government, including 8 official titles—just the sort of terminology which Daniel, given his high position in the Persian court, would have quickly acquired.
If the Book of Daniel was written in 165 BC, after Greek government had controlled both Babylon and Palestine for 150 years, there would be Greek words used for governmental terminology instead of Persian.
Further, “the Persian terms found in Daniel are specifically Old Persian words, that is to say, occurring within the history of the language to about 300 BC.” “Old Persian” gave way to Middle Persian ca. 300 BC. Six of them are not found later than 330 BC. In other words, these Persian words were not used in Judea in 165 BC. Therefore, Persian expressions in the book would seem to be rather strong evidence for an early time of composition.
CONCLUSION – FOREIGN LOAN WORDS
Kitchen concludes as follows with respect to the Greek and Persian loan words:
“Only three words (of one class: music) are involved. Greek wares reached all over the Ancient Near East from the eighth century B.C. onwards; Greek mercenaries and artisans served the Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar. Greek words occur in Imperial Aramaic at the end of the fifth century BC … and there is nothing to stop them appearing earlier. It is unjustifiable to hold that Greek words in Aramaic imply a date after 330 BC.
Many Old Persian words alongside hardly any Greek words in our text suggest a date in the Persian age; a document of Hellenistic date with a penchant (liking) for loan-words should have taken them from Greek (or Middle Persian). Hence, a second-century date cannot be based on three Greek words; a very late sixth-century date is early enough for the body of Persian words—between these dates no greater precision is possible linguistically.”
Therefore, the Greek and Persian loan word serve to support a sixth century date over against a second century date.
The first chapter of Daniel is written in Hebrew, but in the middle of Daniel 2:4, the Chaldeans (Babylonian wise men) start to speak in Aramaic:
“Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic, ‘O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will give the interpretation.’” (Dan 2:4)
From this point forward, the book of Daniel continues in Aramaic until the end of chapter 7 and then resumes in Hebrew in 8:1 and continues in Hebrew for the remainder of the book.
Critical scholars point out that half of Daniel was written in Aramaic, a language Jews spoke during the intertestamental period. Some also claim that the Aramaic of Daniel is Western Aramaic that was a type mostly used in Palestine; not the Eastern dialect spoken in Babylon. However, there is now an avalanche of evidence that the Aramaic in Daniel is pre-Maccabean:
Criswell wrote that the Aramaic of the manuscripts of Daniel found among the Dead Sea Scrolls “is not at all the Aramaic … of the Maccabean period.” He concluded that it was “the eastern Aramaic of the sixth century BC” and the same Aramaic as found in other books of the Bible.
Wilson stated that the Aramaic in Daniel “is almost exactly the same as that which is found in portions of Ezra” (5th century) and “might properly be called the Babylonian-Persian Aramaic.”
Wilson also concluded that the Aramaic of Daniel aligns in orthography, syntax, and etymology with Egyptian papyri of the 5th century BC and of the Aramaic of the North Semitic inscriptions of the 9th to and 7th centuries B.C.
Miller confirmed that the Aramaic employed by Daniel is almost identical to the Aramaic used in Elephantine Papyri, which dates back to the fifth century BC.
Kitchen stated that “Biblical Aramaic … stands in striking contrast to” documents from the first and late second century BC. “But it agrees well with the word-order of” documents from the seventh and fifth-century BC.” He also noted that about 90% of the Aramaic vocabulary in Daniel occurs in fifth-century texts or earlier and maintains that words appearing in the fifth century presuppose their existence in the sixth century.”
Collins stated that four words in the Aramaic, which are apparently of Persian origin, are not attested to after the 5th century BC.
Rosenthal’s studies have led him to conclude that the ‘Aramaic employed in Daniel was that which grew up in the courts and chancellors from the seventh century BC.
Stefanovic found that Daniel’s Aramaic is similar on many levels to Old Aramaic (900-700 BC) or to the transitional period from Old Aramaic to Official Aramaic (700-300 BC).
Archer stated that “discoveries of fifth-century Aramaic documents” have shown quite conclusively that Daniel was written in a form of Imperial Aramaic, an official or literary dialect which had currency in all parts of the Near East.
The Genesis Apocryphon from the third or second century BC that was discovered in Qumran Cave 1 puts the verb first in sentence clauses. This was the normal practice of Western Aramaic used in Palestine during the Maccabean period (Archer). But, exactly like the eastern Aramaic as used in Babylonian, the Aramaic of Daniel shows a marked tendency for the verb to be referred till a later position in the clause. On the basis of the word order alone, it is safe to conclude that Daniel could not have been composed in Palestine.
Robert Vasholz compared the Aramaic of Daniel to the Aramaic of other Dead Sea Scrolls and concludes from this evidence that the Aramaic of Daniel is pre-second century. Vasholz, Robert I. “Qumran and the Dating of Daniel.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 21 (1978) pp315-21 http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/21/21-4/21-4-pp315-321_JETS.pdf
Aramaic was the common language (lingua franca) spoken by the heterogeneous populations of the Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian Empires, especially in the realms of government and commerce. Aramaic was not the common language in the Maccabean period (c. 166 BC). At that time, it was Greek.
Even supporters of a late date such as Collins (in his introduction) are forced to confess that the Aramaic is not consistent with a 2nd century date and belongs to an earlier period.
It must also be remembered that Daniel has been copied and recopied time and again allowing for updates in spelling and perhaps even changes in the wording itself. Yet, in spite of this, Daniel still resembles the Aramaic of the 5th, 6th and 7th centuries.
Therefore, the Aramaic in Daniel does not necessitate a late date for the composition of the Book of Daniel and in a number of cases rather strongly supports an early date.
Arguments that the author of Daniel attempted to employ an older form of Aramaic to make his work appear older than the 2nd century are unfounded.
It is also said that the Hebrew is more like 2nd century BC Hebrew than 6th century BC Hebrew, but it is very hard for anyone to show that Hebrew is earlier or later. Thousands of years can go by in Hebrew and nothing really changes.
For more information on the language in Daniel and many other aspects, please refer to the Tektonics website.
Both the book of Revelation and the book of Daniel are classified as apocalyptic. This term is a transliteration of the first Greek word in the book of Revelation (Apokalypsis), meaning ‘a revealing’.
Characteristics of apocalyptic literature include:
- Extensive use of symbols or signs;
- Visions that are recorded exactly as they were seen. (limited human design)
- Focus on the end time;
- Shows God’s people trampled in the short term, but victorious in the end;
Daniel is a prime example of apocalyptic literature. This writing style was quite common in Israel from the 2nd century BC to the 2nd century AD. These writings are often attributed to a famous historical hero in order to give them credibility. Critics argue that since most works of apocalyptic date from the second century BC onwards, Daniel should be dated then too.
But the style of the many other apocalyptic writings may have been inspired by the book of Daniel, which means that the other works would be later than the book of Daniel. Furthermore, some other OT passages, e.g. Isaiah 25-27 and Zechariah 9ff. have apocalyptic features yet can hardly be dated as late as the second century.
NEW THEOLOGICAL CONCEPTS
According to the New World Encyclopedia the book Daniel was an important influence on later apocalyptic writing and attitudes in both Judaism and Christianity.
In the view of the critics, the Bible has developed over a long period of time through small changes, similar to the concept of the evolution of life on earth. They argue that some of the concepts in Daniel have only developed much later than the sixth century BC.
Daniel’s prophecy is the only book in the Old Testament in which angels are given names (Gabriel in Dan 8:16 and 9:21 and Michael in Dan 10:13, 10:21, and 12:1). Elsewhere names for angels only appear in the Apocrypha and the New Testament.
In the sixth century BC, Jews believed that all persons went to Sheol after death. Critics claim that the concepts of heaven and hell, which are found in Daniel (Dan 12:2), were introduced centuries later by the Greeks, and that they did not appear in Israel until the time of the Maccabean revolt.
Other concepts that are new in Daniel, compared to the rest of the Old Testament, are the last judgment, the resurrection of the dead (Dan 12:2), and the everlasting kingdom. These concepts may be new compared with the Old Testament, but they are completely consistent with the New Testament, which verifies that it was inspired by God.
JEHOIAKIM’S THIRD YEAR
Daniel 1:1 states that Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of Judah and siege of Jerusalem took place in the third year of Jehoiakim, whereas Jeremiah 25:9 announced the coming of the Chaldeans only in Jehoiakim’s fourth year. Jeremiah 46:2 furthermore dates the first year of Nebuchadnezzar also in Jehoiakim’s fourth year.
DIFFERENT DATING SYSTEMS
This is not an error in Daniel. On the contrary, it supports an early date. The authors used different dating systems:
Jeremiah—a Palestinian—naturally used the Palestinian dating system, whereby the calendar year in which a new king acceded to the throne was reckoned as the first year of his reign (which, in the case of Jehoiakim, would have been 608 BC). His fourth year would therefore be 605 BC.
Daniel, used the Babylonian system, whereby the first year of a new king begins at the commencement of the next calendar year. Thus, by the Babylonian reckoning, Jehoiakim’s first year was 607; therefore Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion in 605 was Jehoiakim’s third year. (Harrison, R.K. Introduction to the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1969, pg. 1112)
SUPPORTS A SIXTH-CENTURY AUTHORSHIP
This apparent error therefore actually supports a Babylonian sixth-century authorship. If Daniel’s prophecy was written by some Jew in the second century, he would have made his work appear as Scriptural as possible, and refer to historical sources, such as Jeremiah. Why would he contradict Jeremiah—whom his readers knew well?
JEHOIAKIM’S THIRD OR ELEVENTH YEAR?
2 Chronicles 36:5-8 reports a siege by Nebuchadnezzar in Jehoiakim eleventh year as king, when Jehoiakim was carried off to Babylon. This was in 599 BC.
2 Kings 24:1 also implies a siege:
During Jehoiakim’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded the land, and Jehoiakim became his vassal for three years. But then he changed his mind and rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar.
The invasion in Kings is not the same as the one in Chronicles because in Chronicles Jehoiakim was carried away, while in Kings he remained as vassal king after the invasion. For the same reason, it is also clear that the siege in Chronicles was at least three years later than the invasion in Kings, and that the three years that Jehoiakim was vassal king for the Babylonians were before 599 BC.
RECONSTRUCTION OF HISTORY
With the assistance of secular history the events can be reconstructed:
Jehoiakim had been put on the throne by the Egyptian Pharaoh Neco (2 Kings 23:34). In the year 605, Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptian army. The Egyptians retreated to Egypt and “The king of Egypt did not come out of his land again, for the king of Babylon had taken all that belonged to the king of Egypt from the brook of Egypt to the river Euphrates“ (2 Kings 24:7). He therefore also took control of the king of Judah. On this expedition, Nebuchadnezzar probably besieged Jerusalem, took hostages and looted treasures from the temple. Among the hostages were Daniel, Shadrach, Mishach and Abendgo; descendants of the Royal family.
When Nebuchadnezzar returned to Palestine in 601, his army was defeated by the Egyptians. It is consequently possible that the Egyptians returned to Palestine in 602 and that Jehoiakim at that time rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. He therefore could have been a vassal to the Babylonians from 605 to 602.
The Chronicles-siege was a few years later in 599 BC when Jehoiakim was carried off to Babylon.
There was actually a third siege, namely the siege in 2 Kings 24:10 and following. By that time Jehoiakim was already dead (2 Kings 24:6). After this siege, Nebuchadnezzar led the entire Jerusalem into exile (2 Kings 24:14).
A siege in 605 is therefore quite possible.
Belshazzar is represented by Daniel as the son of Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 5:2, 11, 13, 18, 22), but he was the son of Nabodinus. Critics propose that, during the long period of oral tradition, the unimportant kings of Babylon were forgotten, and the last king, who was vanquished by Cyrus, have been taken by the second-century writer as the successor of the well-known Nebuchadnezzar. (JE)
However, by ancient usage, the term ‘son’ was also used for a successor in the same office, whether or not there was a blood relationship. Archer, Gleason. A Survey of the Old Testament Introduction. Chicago: Moody Press, 1974, 391-2 lists examples. The terms ‘father’ and ‘son’ are used figuratively in the Old Testament. Elisha, for instance, called Elijah ‘my father’ (2 Kings 2:12).
Nabodinus was not related to Nebuchadnezzar, but Herodotus reports that Nebucadnezzar’s wife was the “mother” of Nabodinus [Town.Dan – Towner, W. Sibley. Daniel. Atlanta: John Knox, 1984, 70]. Oriental monarchs who were usurpers commonly tried to legitimate their claim to the throne by marrying their predecessor’s wife or daughter. A literal blood relationship is therefore also possible.
DARIUS THE MEDE
Persian records identify Cyrus as king of Persia when Babylon was captured, after he conquered the Medes eleven years earlier in 550 BC. These records also identify a Gubaru (Greek: Gobryas), a Persian, as the governor of the province of Babylon after the Babylonian Empire was defeated.
Apart from the book of Daniel, only Josephus refers to Darius the Mede. Critics, therefore, regard Darius the Mede as a fictional character, or at the very best a confusion of Cyrus’ third son with the same name – who was not a Mede, but a Persian. They propose that this mistake by the second-century writer was the result of predictions in Isaiah and Jeremiah that the Medes will conquer Babylon (Jeremiah 51:11; Isa 13:17; 21:2; Jer 51:28). They, therefore, propose that the author of Daniel’s prophecy, contrary to historical evidence, inserted a separate Median empire between the Babylonian and Persian empires, and created the fictitious figure of Darius the Mede to fit this schema.
The fact that this mighty king Darius is not mentioned by non-biblical sources is perhaps the best support the critics have for historical inaccuracies in the book of Daniel. But:
Firstly, it would have been a very unlikely mistake for a second-century author to insert a Median Empire. Such an author must have been of the most educated class and could hardly be expected NOT to be aware of the actual history. Ezra 4:5-6 has a listing of the Persian kings, and as Josephus’ work indicates, there were many histories in circulation at the time of the Maccabees which would include information on the Persian Empire. We know some of these histories today: Herodotus, Xenophon, Berosus, and even the OT outside of Daniel’s prophecy (Is. 45:1, 2 Chron. 36.20-3). These it clear that Cyrus was the conqueror who took Babylon, and who freed the Jews and other peoples to return to their homes. If he did make such a mistake, it would have been pretty obvious to his contemporaries.
Secondly, it is adequately clear that the book of Daniel always represents the Medes and the Persians as a single empire. The “Writing on the Wall” was interpreted as “your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians” (Dan 5:28). This explicitly indicates a dual monarchy. (See also Dan 6:8, 12, 15, 8:20). Daniel never mentions a war, after the defeat of Babylon, between the Medes and the Persians, through which Cyrus became king. The author, therefore, did not think of Darius as king of a separate Median empire. His rule must have coincided with that of Cyrus. Darius was either another name of Cyrus, or he ruled only in the province of Babylon.
Thirdly, Daniel’s prophecy never describes Darius as king of the Medes, only as king of the Chaldeans (Dan 5:30-1, 9:1), which would be limited to the province of Babylon. Darius has also been “made king” and he “received” the kingdom when Babylon was defeated (Dan 5:31). These indicate that Darius was a subordinate ruler.
A separate article has been published on this website (The search for Darius the Mede) in which it is argued that Darius was the throne name for Ugbaru. Ugbaru was the general whose troops conquered Babylon for Cyrus. He was made regional governor by Cyrus over the province of Babylon. He appointed his own supervisors over his dominion, holding the power of life and death over them, but unexpectedly died three weeks after Babylon was captured. It is possible that he is not mentioned as Darius in other literature because he ruled only for a very short time.
Daniel uses the term “Chaldeans” for both the ethnic race from which Nebuchadnezzar came (Dan 5:30) and as a specialized term for wise men (Dan 2:2, 4, etc.). Apparently, Nebuchadnezzar reserved the positions of wise men for people from his race. In this way “Chaldeans” over time became a synonym for “wise men”. Critics maintain that the word only attracted this additional specialized meaning much later than the sixth century, but Herodutus (vol. 1, sec 181-183) already in the fifth century BC refers to the priests of Bel as Chaldeans. It is therefore not impossible that this term had this meaning in the middle of the sixth century when Daniel wrote.
Daniel predicts the Greek Empire by name. Most liberal and conservative scholars agree that the prophecies in the first 35 verses of Daniel 11 closely resemble the history of the fragmented Greek empire. This includes a minutely accurate portrayal of the Seleucid-Ptolemaic wars, which seems to culminate in the reign of the Greek king Antiochus IV. According to Daniel itself, these prophecies were received more than 300 years in advance of these events. However, critical scholarship does not accept that it is possible to predict events centuries in the future so accurately:
We need to assume that the vision [of Daniel 8] as a whole is a prophecy after the fact. Why? Because human beings are unable accurately predict future events centuries in advance [Towner, Daniel, Interpreter’s Bible, John Knox: 1984, p. 115, cited in [DLIOT:332]]
Critics, therefore, need a solution for Daniel. They must show that Daniel was written during or after the time of Antiochus IV. This they do by arguing that Daniel contains many errors with respect to the sixth century and by pointing to other indications (such as the language), arguing that Daniel was actually written in the second century. (These arguments have been addressed above.)
WRITTEN BEFORE THE MACCABEAN REVOLT
But shifting the date of writing to the time of Antiochus does not solve the problem for the critics. Since the death of Antiochus IV does not agree with the death of the evil king as described in the latter portion of Daniel 11, and because Daniel does not mention the Maccabean revolt or the success of that revolt, they have to conclude that Daniel was written before the death of Antiochus IV and before the success of the Maccabean revolt in 164 BC and that in the latter portion of Daniel 11 the author ventured his own predictions of the future, but got it hopelessly wrong.
Furthermore, the copies of Daniel and the undisputed references to the book of Daniel in other writings dated in 100 BC or earlier also oblige critics to date the writing of the book to no later than 100 BC.
PREDICTED EVENTS AFTER THE MACCABEAN REVOLT.
Therefore, if it can be shown that Daniel predicts events after the time of Antiochus, and after 100 BC, the credibility of the prophecies in Daniel is confirmed. Then the attempt of the critics to push the date of writing forward avails nothing because the supernatural inspiration of Daniel is verified. Then the fundamental assumption of the critics, on which their entire theory is based, namely that accurate long-term predictions are impossible, is shown to be false.
Three 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 the evil king comes out of the Roman Empire. Daniel, therefore, predicts that Rome would become an empire that would dominate the known world. In the time of Antiochus Rome was a growing threat, but it did not yet dominate. To predict, in 165 BC, when critics claim Daniel’s prophecy was written, that Rome would one day dominate, and further that it would not be followed by another empire, but be subdivided into various independent kingdoms, of which the predicted evil king would be the most powerful, is accurate long term prophecy, which verifies the supernatural character of the book.
Secondly, in another article published on this website (Daniel 9 Interpretations Overview), it has been shown that Daniel 9 predicts the appearance and the killing of Jesus as the Messiah in the first century AD. This also supports the proposal that Daniel contains accurate long-term prophecies, as copies of Daniel (Dead Sea Scrolls) have been available to the Qumran sect before the crucifixion.
Add to this the fact that the Jews expected a Messiah that would lead the nation to world dominance. But Daniel’s prophecy predicts that the Messiah will be killed (Dan 9:26), only to receive the eternal kingdom at the end of the current world history (Dan 7:13). It is unlikely that an uninspired second century BC author, writing under a false name, falsely predicting the future, would represent their national hero thus. The suffering Messiah underscores the divine inspiration of the book of Daniel.
ANTIOCHUS IV DOES NOT FIT THE PROFILE.
Thirdly, Daniel 11:2-19 correlates well with the history until the death of Antiochus III in verse 19 and there are many similarities between Antiochus and the predicted evil king. However, as shown in Does Antiochus IV fit the profile?, Antiochus IV does not fulfill all aspects of Daniel’s predicted evil king. Antiochus IV is a type of the predicted evil king, but for complete fulfillment, we must search for a later and worldwide powerful evil king.
These three predictions of events after 164 BC verify Daniel’s prophecy as supernatural inspiration. We can safely conclude that the references to Antiochus IV in Daniel are also supernaturally inspired.
GOD IS IN CONTROL.
Daniel is an amazing book. The symbolic, precise and succinct representation of future empires presents God as in control of time. The miracles in Daniel, such as the three Jews that came unscathed out of a sevenfold intensified fire without even the smell of fire on them, or a hair on their bodies scorched (Daniel 3), speak of a God that is in absolute and complete control. Through Daniel, a Force that is infinite in time and space, has burst into our microscopic existence.
WE ARE SMALL.
But it reminds us how small we are, drifting around on a particle of dust in a minute galaxy, swirling around in a universe of infinite size, not knowing from where we came or where we are going. In the immense infiniteness of time, we exist for a fraction of a second.
JESUS CAME AS A SERVANT.
If Jesus came with the same ambitions as Israel, presenting Himself as a warrior, ready to defend and fight for the supremacy of Israel, Israel would have gladly accepted Him. But He came as a servant, respecting the poor and outcast, criticizing pride and haughtiness. Therefore they killed Him.
GOD GRANTS FREEDOM.
Similarly, God is humble in the sense that He grants each of His intelligent creatures complete freedom to decide for or against Him. He does not override our personal inclinations by force. Sufficient evidence exists of God’s existence and power, but that evidence is not presented in such a way that it will limit our freedom to decide for ourselves according to what principles we will organize our lives. We are free to live our earthly lives ignoring the demands of the humble Creator (Matt 11:29).
The infinite source of all life and power does not want to rule the universe by fear but through love. In fact, the only service He can accept is the service of love, and love requires complete freedom.
WE REJECT DANIEL BECAUSE WE WANT TO RULE.
We are not like God. We want to force our will on the people around us. To do that we must avoid the demands presented by the supernatural predictions. Very good evidence exists for a sixth-century date of composition, but we defend ourselves against the demands of God by rejecting it in favor of an unsupportable Maccabean hypothesis. We choose to embrace a liberal, naturalistic, and rationalistic philosophy. Like Porphyry the intellectual leaders of this world, steeped in human reason and intellectual vanity, refuse to recognize the miracle of Daniel’s prophecy. Rationalistic naturalism does not accept the possibility of an all-powerful God Who intervenes in the course of history, even declaring in advance what will transpire in the future. Critics do not subject their views to a reality beyond that which man can rationally investigate and measure. We angrily attack Daniel by rejecting its supernatural aspects.
BUT THEN, ALL SCRIPTURE FALLS.
If Daniel’s prophecy is rejected because of miracles, then all of Scripture must be rejected. The Bible is a book of miracles. You will find a miracle on nearly every page. Judaism and Christianity are founded on the supernatural workings of a personal God who acts in human history, is in control of human history. Based on this assumption it is possible to allow the Book of Daniel to be a book written by a real sixth century Daniel containing real prophecies and telling of real miracles. To admit that Daniel was given amazing visions of the future is to acknowledge that an almighty, authoritative God exists.