The Book of Daniel

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127 See the discussion in Gleason Archer, Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 3rd. ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), 427.

128 William H. Shea, Selected Studies on Prophetic Interpretation, ed. Frank B. Holbrook, Revised Edition., vol. 1, Daniel and Revelation Committee Series (Silver Spring, MD: Biblical Research Institute, 1992), 35–36.

129 Gerhard F. Hasel, “Chapter II: Establishing a Date for the Book of Daniel,” in Symposium on Daniel: Introductory and Exegetical Studies, ed. Frank B. Holbrook, Vol. 2, Daniel and Revelation Committee Series (Washington, DC: Biblical Research Institute, 1986), 116–117.

130 For more on the historicity of Darius the Mede, see John C. Whitcomb, Jr.: Darius the Mede. Grand Rapids; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1959; Gleason Archer, Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 3rd. ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), 427–430; Merrill C. Tenney, ed., “Darius the Mede,” Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, 5 vol. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1975). For an alternative defense of Darius’ historicity, see Steven D. Anderson, Darius the Mede: A Reappraisal. Grand Rapids, MI: CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2014.

It ought also to be noted that claiming the Bible is in error because of the current absence of extra-biblical confirmation is a serious historiographical fallacy. As Yamauchi explains, there are many things evidenced only in written historical records, or only through epigraphical evidence, or only through archaeology, that nevertheless clearly exist. He illustrates from Aegean archaeology that denying what is attested only in written historical records would, for example, “prove” that something as common as an apple did not exist:

As I have pointed out elsewhere, the ancient historian has at his disposal three major bodies of evidence: (1) the traditions (e. g., the Old Testament, Homer, Herodotus); (2) the epigraphic evidence (inscriptions, letters, etc.); and (3) archaeological evidence (buildings, pottery). If one should plot these sources as three overlapping circles, one discovers that there are seven possible combinations. That these seven possibilities are actually found, e. g., in Aegean archaeology, may be illustrated from a chart of the evidence for plants and animals prepared by Emily Vermeule. In the following list tradition [is] Homer and the epigraphic evidence [is] Linear B.

1. Tradition alone: apple

2. Epigrapic evidence alone: mint

3. Archaeological evidence alone: almond

4. Both tradition and archeological evidence: pear

5. Both tradition and archaeological evidence: cypress

6. Both epigraphic and archaeological evidence: coriander

7. All three sources: linen

The implication of this random distribution is that just as an object may be attested alone by excavations or alone by inscriptions, it may very often stand alone in the traditions without any necessary reflection upon its authenticity. This is particularly true in view of the relatively fragmentary nature of our excavations and the small extent of the publication of epigraphic and material remains which have been excavated. It is therefore quite unrealistic to demand external corroboration from either epigraphic or archaeological evidence before accepting elements in the traditions which are otherwise credible. . . . [M]any of the elements in the traditions have received their first external confirmation only in the discoveries of the last two decades. Let me add some further examples[.] . . . Though the Mesopotamians used millions of clay tablets for writing, no representation of a clay tablet has been found on their reliefs. . . . As yet no word “scribe” has been uncovered in the Linear B texts, although scribes did indeed write the tablets. . . . Archaeological evidence of Hannibal’s devastating sojourn of over a decade in Italy, as described by Polybius and Livy, is quite exiguous [very small.] . . . If it were not for two archaeological finds, there would be no evidence that Hannibal had ever existed at all except for the texts of the classical authors[.] . . . It has often been assumed in Old Testament studies that the historicity of a person in the Scriptures is suspect unless corroborated by inscriptional evidence[,] . . . [b]ut attempts to identify a person in the traditions with someone in the inscriptions may founder simply on the lack of overlapping evidence. Before cuneiform documents were discovered that identified Belshazzar as the son of Nabonidus, some declared his name a pure invention[.] . . . The same principle would hold true of New Testament studies. If we had to depend upon inscriptional evidence to prove the historicity of Pontius Pilate [Matthew 27:2], we would have had to wait until 1961, when the first epigraphical documentation concerning him was discovered at Caesarea. The first epigraphical attestation of Herod the Great [Matthew 2:1] was discovered in the 1963-65 expedition at Masada. The first inscriptional reference to Felix the procurator [Acts 23:24] was found 10 miles north of Caesarea in 1966.

We may thus conclude that external confirmation of the tradition is desirable, but cannot be held to be necessary. Those who have operated on the principle that external corroboration of the tradition is necessary, have made their cases upon the basis of a precarious argumentum ex silentio. . . . It is . . . very dangerous to draw dogmatic conclusions from existing material or to argue ex silentio. . . . [T]he witness which archaeology and the texts afford is and always will remain incomplete. The earth’s crust has preserved only a small portion of the monuments and objects of antiquity, and archaeology has recovered only a small proportion of these[.] . . . Thus archaeology can mitigate the silence of ancient texts to a certain degree, but one must also admit that lack of archeological evidence would not be sufficient in itself to cast doubt on the affirmations of the written witnesses. . . . [I]n those areas where the traditions still lack archaeological corroboration one can take them at face value or reject them. The negative course was adopted by a great many of the critics of the 19th and early 20th century. . . . [But a] striking change in attitude toward the traditions has [been] brought about . . . [by] archaeology. . . . It is indeed true that archaeology has revolutionized our attitude toward biblical historical traditions. A previous generation of scholars was inclined to make skepticism . . . an almost primary ingredient in the conclusions drawn from use of the . . . historical method[.] . . . Today most of us take a far more positive line . . . to give a tradition the benefit of the doubt . . . this is a basic and all-important scholarly shift in viewpoint, and archaeology is its cause. . . . [I]t would seem that the future of the study of the ancient traditions and archaeology lies with the optimists [about Biblical historicity] and not with the pessimists. (Edwin M. Yamauchi, “The Archaeological Confirmation of Suspect Elements in the Classical and the Biblical Traditions,” in John H. Skilton, ed., The Law and the Prophets: Old Testament Studies Prepared in Honor of Oswald Thompson Allis. [Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1974], 54-70)

Thus, even were there no extra-biblical confirmation of the historicity of Darius the Mede—which there is—carefully trained historians recognize the fallacy of equating a current absence of archaeological evidence with proof of historical absence. As Yamauchi notes, consistent application of such unjustified skepticism would have to conclude that Homer should be doubted when he referred to the existence of apples, or that clay tablets and the scribes who wrote on them never existed.

131 S. R. Driver, The Book of Daniel with Introduction and Notes, The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1900), 1–2.

132 Edwin R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965), 163, 165.

133 Bruce K. Waltke, “The Date of the Book of Daniel.” Bibliotheca Sacra 133 (1976): 325-326.

134 R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1969), 1113.

135 E. g., S. R. Driver, An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1914), 498.

136 See Herodotus, Herodotus, with an English Translation by A. D. Godley, ed. A. D. Godley (Medford, MA: Harvard University Press, 1920) 7:63:1.

137 Herodotus, Herodotus, with an English Translation by A. D. Godley, ed. A. D. Godley (Medford, MA: Harvard University Press, 1920), 1:183:1-3.

138 R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1969), 1113.

139 Robert Dick Wilson, Studies in the Book of Daniel: A Discussion of the Historical Questions. (New York: G. P. Putnam, 1917), 337, 341. Note Wilson’s exhaustive discussion on pages 319-389, where the testimony of many other ancient historians is reviewed, along with other lines of evidence.

140 Not every objection has been evaluated in this study; readers who want more information can consult the sources in the bibliography. Further objections include:

1.) The account of Nebuchadnezzar going crazy and thinking he was an animal for a period of time (Daniel 4) is not credible nor supported in extra-biblical history. In response, Nebuchadnezzar’s affliction is a known, although rare, condition known as boanthropy. It still exists today. Furthermore, the testimony of Daniel does in fact receive extra-biblical support from the records of the Babylonian priest Berossus, the second century B. C. author Abydenus, and, most importantly, from a Babylonian inscription from the period of Nebuchadnezzar himself. Furthermore, even apart from this external confirmation, a skeptical bias that discards every Biblical statement that pertains to history unless it also receives external confirmation is entirely unjustified and has been proven incorrect over and over again. For a discussion of Nebuchadnezzar and the affliction recorded in Daniel 4, see R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament [Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1969], 1114–1117.

2.) The book of Daniel has been criticized for referring to Nebuchadnezzar as the “father” of Belshazzar (Daniel 5:11, 18), since Belshazzar was not the immediate descendent of Nebuchadnezzar. However, there is evidence that Belshazzar’s mother was Nitocris, daughter of Nebuchadnezzar, so Belshazzar was Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson. In Semitic usage there was not even a separate word for grandson; on the contrary, son was regularly used in the sense of “offspring” or for descendants other than immediate ones. For that matter, “in the ancient world, successive monarchs were often identified as sons of famous predecessors even when there was no dynastic or genealogical connections. So, for instance, on the black obelisk of Shalmaneser III, Jehu, king of Israel, is identified as ‘son of Omri,’ even though he had been responsible for wiping out the line of Omri and was no relation (a fact probably well known to the Assyrians)” (Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Da 5:2.). Thus, even if Belshazzar had not a drop of Nebuchadnezzar’s blood in him the language employed in Daniel would be entirely appropriate. This objection is simply quibbling. See R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1969), 1120; Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 276–277 & E. B. Pusey, Daniel the Prophet: Nine Lectures, Delivered in the Divinity School of the University of Oxford, with Copious Notes (Oxford: John Henry and James Parker, 1864), 404–407, for further discussion.

3.) The fact that Daniel was classified with the “Writings” in the Hebrew canon rather than the “Prophets” is appealed to in support of a late date. However, the third division of the Hebrew canon contains early books such as Job, the Davidic Psalms and the writings of Solomon, and Ruth, as well as later books such as Chronicles. The simple reason for assigning Daniel to the third division is that he was a statesman in a heathen court who had prophetic gifts, much like Joseph, rather than one who held the official office of prophet within the theocratic community, like Isaiah or Jeremiah. Indeed, the book of Daniel records a great deal of history that does not contain any specific prophecies, unlike all of the strictly prophetic books. Furthermore, all the extant early evidence clearly recognizes Daniel as a prophet. This argument has been classified as a weak and “almost desperate appeal” (R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament [Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1969], 1123) to weaken the clear supernaturalism of Daniel.

4.) Anti-supernaturalists point out that Daniel is not mentioned in the list of famous Israelites in Ecclesiasticus 44:1ff, written c. 180 B. C. Since Daniel is not mentioned in this passage, it is argued, he was unknown at the time. However, Job also goes unmentioned, as do all the judges except Samuel, Ezra, Mordecai, Asa, and Jehoshaphat. This argument from silence proves nothing. What is more, Ezekiel is mentioned (Ecclesiasticus 49:8-9), and Ezekiel mentions Daniel (Ezekiel 14:14, 20; 28:3), so Ecclesiasticus supports the existence of Daniel. Furthermore, “The shallowness and erroneous nature of [this objection] . . . has been amply demonstrated by the Qumran discoveries, which make it impossible to deny the popularity of Daniel at that period, if the numbers of copies and fragments of the composition may be taken as furnishing any indication at all of the situation” (R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament [Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1969], 1123). Unless one wishes to argue the fantastically unhistorical position that Ezra, Gideon, Ehud, Othniel, Asa, and so on were unknown in 180 B. C., the absence of Daniel’s name in Ecclesiasticus proves nothing. What is more, Daniel is not mentioned in a section of Ecclesiasticus that deals with the second half of the Jewish canon, the nevi’im, but Daniel is found in the third division, the kethuvim, so “not mentioning him there implies no more than that the Jews in his time had the same arrangement [of books] as they have now . . . clearly . . . [there is no] argument against the existence of the book of Daniel, in the time of the son of Sirach, [from the fact] that writer did not speak of its author in a place which he did not occupy in the Canon” (E. B. Pusey, Daniel the Prophet: Nine Lectures, Delivered in the Divinity School of the University of Oxford, with Copious Notes [Oxford: John Henry and James Parker, 1864], 349, 352). Indeed, Ben Sira does not mention any authors outside of Israel (such as Jonah at Nineveh, Daniel at Babylon, or Mordecai in Persia), probably because of his nationalistic ideas, so the mention of Daniel in Ecclesiasticus would be unexpected.

What is more, there are textual evidences that, while Daniel’s name is not mentioned, nonetheless in Ecclesiasticus “the previous existence of the book of Daniel is presupposed, for the idea presented in Sirach 17:14, that God had given to that people an angel as hegemonos (sar), refers to Daniel 10:13, 20-11:1; 12:1 . . . Daniel is the author from whom this opinion was derived” (Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 9 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 505. Greek and Hebrew characters have been transliterated.).

5.) Anti-supernaturalists appeal to certain passages of Daniel (e. g., 11:40-45) that, they claim, are about Antiochus Ephiphanes and state that, since Antiochus did not do what the passages say, the book contains historical error. However, these passages, which anti-supernaturalists claim are in reference to Antiochus, actually concern the future Antichrist; Antiochus Ephiphanes did not fulfill these passages because they did not deal with him. In ancient times “the Jews th[ought] Antichrist is spoken of . . . [in] this passage” (see Jerome, Jerome’s Commentary on Daniel, trans. Gleason Archer [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1977], comment on Daniel 11:36); such is the natural interpretation of the passage, not an arbitrary expident to attempt to explain away an alleged false prophecy.

Indeed, the evident distinction between the actions of Antiochus and the statements of these passages constitutes a serious objection to the second century anti-supernaturalist date for the book. The alleged second-century forger of Daniel could successfully record the history of past centuries and of his own time with amazing accuracy. How could he have recorded allegedly contemporary events about Antiochus so inaccurately, and, if he had done so, why would the Jews have accepted the forged and errant book into the canon of Scripture and unhesitatingly accepted its inerrancy almost immediately after the time of the alleged gross historical errors? “It is difficult to see how an intelligent second-century B. C. Jewish author could possibly have made such blunders as the critical scholars have ascribed to the compiler of Daniel[.] . . . Had the work contained as many frank errors as are usually credited to it, it is certain that the book would never have gained acceptance into the canon of Scripture, since it would have emerged very poorly by comparison with the writings of secular historians such as Herodotus, Ctesias, Menander, and others whose compositions are no longer extant” (R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament [Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1969] 1122).

141 Bruce Waltke, “The Date of the Book of Daniel.” (Bibliotheca Sacra 133 [1976]), 329.

142 E. g., S. R. Driver, The Book of Daniel with Introduction and Notes, The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1900), 100. It is noteworthy that Driver admits that nothing at all in the actual text of Daniel contradicts the view that the last empire is Rome or teaches that the last empire is Greece, but he rejects this position for reasons external to the text (pg. 98ff.):

So far as the . . . symbolism of the vision goes, there is no objection to this interpretation. The kingdom which is to ‘tread down and break in pieces,’ with the strength of iron, ‘the whole earth’ (7:23; cf. 7:7, 2:40) might well be the empire of the Romans, who by their military conquests subdued, one after another, practically all the nations of the then known world; and it has been contended, not without some show of plausibility, that the imagery of the second kingdom agrees better with the Medo-Persian than with the Persian empire: the bear, it is urged, with its slow and heavy gait would be the most suitable symbol of the Medo-Persian empire, of which ‘heaviness,’ as exemplified by the vast and unwieldy armies which its kings brought into the field, was the leading national characteristic, while the three ribs in its mouth are more naturally explained of three provinces absorbed by the empire of the Persians, than of any conquests made by the Medes. (S. R. Driver, The Book of Daniel with Introduction and Notes, The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1900], 97)

143 Archer notes:

The third word of this announcement of doom was parsin (5:25), which was interpreted by Daniel himself in the singular form peres. Daniel 5:28 derives from peres (which may have appeared to mean “division into two” or “half shekel”) the verb perisat (“is divided”) and the noun paras (“Persians”). The only possible inference is that the author who wrote these words believed that imperial power was taken from the Babylonians under Belshazzar and given over directly and immediately to the Persians, who at the time of the capture of Babylon were already merged with the Medes in a single domain: “Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” The trilateral prs is involved in the linkage of a triple wordplay and there can be no legitimate alternative to the proposition that the author—whoever he was and whenever he wrote—believed that the second empire was the Medo-Persian, not the Median alone. This carries with it the fatal consequence that the third empire was Greek, not Persian, and that the fourth empire must have been one that superseded and overcame the Greek one and turned out to be the Roman Empire, which took over the Near East in the first century B.C., a century later than the death of Antiochus Epiphanes. (Gleason L. Archer Jr., Daniel [Expositor’s Bible Commentary 7; ed. Frank E. Gaebelein and J. D. Douglas; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985], n.p.)

144 The successive advances of Persian Empire are as follows: in 550 B. C. Media merged with Persia; in 546 B. C. Lydia was conquered; in 539 B. C. Babylon was taken; in 525 B. C. Egypt was conquered (Psamtik III, 526–525) by Cambyses.

145 Gleason Archer, Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 3rd. ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), 439–440.

146 The only serious attempt at a textual case for making Greece the last empire falsely identifies the “horn” of chapter 8, Antiochus Ephiphanes, with the “horn” of chapter 7, the Antichrist (who is set forth in type by Antiochus). Davis explains:

[To] maintain . . . [that] the four kingdoms are understood to be the Babylonian, the Median, the Persian and the Grecian . . . it is necessary to interpret the second and third kingdoms contrary to the usage of the Book of Daniel itself, which repeatedly speaks of the Medes and Persians as one (5:28; 6:8; and especially 8:20). Capital is, indeed, commonly made out of the reference to a little horn in the prophecy of the seventh chapter and again in the eighth chapter. In the latter instance there is a general agreement among expositors that Antiochus Epiphanes is intended; and advocates of the theory that the Median and Persian kingdoms are distinct world-empires in the thought of the prophet urge that the little horn of the seventh chapter must also denote Antiochus, leaving out of consideration the fact that “horn” is the standing symbol for king and kingdom, and that the horn is described as little, not necessarily because referring to the same person, who in fact was not little, but because in each vision a horn is seen in the act of sprouting and, hence, is at first little. This interpretation of the four kingdoms ignores the fact also that the Roman power had already appeared in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes and shown its supremacy over the Syrian monarchy at Magnesia, and that it is actually within the horizon of the writer of the Book of Daniel (11:18, 30). Impartial investigation, we think, would acknowledge these facts and allow them due weight. (John D. Davis, “Exegetical Theology. Review of The Messages of the Bible: The Messages of the Apocalyptical Writers by Frank Chamberlain Porter,” The Princeton Theological Review IV, no. 1–4 (1906): 407.)

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