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Daniel — Battleground of Biblical Criticism

WHY the hostility toward the traditional dating of Daniel in the sixth century B.C.?

As Mr. Dart has shown in the previous article, it all boils down to one fundamental reason. If the sixth-century date is accepted for Daniel, critics have no alternative but to admit that a supernatural Being inspired him. There can be no other possibility, considering the incredibly accurate historical record so clearly set forth in Daniel 11. John C. Whitcomb sums up the matter:

The Book of Daniel has long been a battleground of Biblical criticism. The reason for this is not to be found in the lack of historical information concerning the date and authorship of the book, but rather in the very nature of the book itself. . . . He who thus finds his path blocked in his own peculiar conceptions, which eliminate both miracles and prophecy, must of necessity dispose of this book in some way . . . (Darius the Mede, p. 1).

Half a century ago skeptics sneeringly pointed to Belshazzar and declared there was no such person — the record in Daniel was nothing but so much imagination. Today we do not even need to discuss whether Belshazzar was historical, or whether Daniel was accurate on this point. Critics have been forced to admit and accept it. Doubters have only to check Dougherty's volume titled Nabonidus and Belshazzar. It gives proof from many secular records, including contemporary cuneiform inscriptions.

In light of this amazing confirmation of Daniel's accuracy regarding Belshazzar, might it not be possible that the other historical points in the book are also just as factual? One must admit that the critics have eternal optimism that proof in this regard will not turn up, even though it has time and again in the past.

Let's examine four major points confirming Daniel's date according to the Bible. We do not choose these four points idly — they are precisely the ones which the critics themselves have chosen to supposedly prove that Daniel was a fraud.


1. Proof From Language

The embarrassing back-pedaling, oftentimes painfully necessary for critics, is illustrated by two quotes from the Encyclopedia Britannica. In the 1946 edition this positive, no-alternative, no-compromising statement was made:

Comparison of the language of the sufficiently abundant inscriptions and papyri shows beyond question that the Aramaic of Dan. ii-vii represents a type which cannot possibly be carried back of 300 B.C. (Vol. 7, p. 20, emphasis ours throughout unless otherwise indicated).

The point was "beyond question" in 1946. But in 1970 "the Aramaic is inconclusive for a 2nd-century date"!! (Vol. 7, p. 51)

One of the main arguments for a later date (rather than the early Biblical date) for Daniel has been the presence of Greek words in the book. "This proves," critics have claimed, "that Daniel was written under the Greek influence of the second century." In the early days of Biblical criticism some scholars claimed to have found ten or more Greek words in Daniel. That count has dropped to two or three (and some deny there are any!).

A handful of Greek words is hardly proof that the book of Daniel was written in the second century B.C. At that time Hellenistic culture was in its prime, and consequently one would surely expect many more than three possible Greek words. One would have expected perhaps dozens — in addition to a very definite Greek influence in style. This we do not find.

Actually the words of supposed Greek etymology are quite easily explained. They are the names of musical instruments. In fact, they are all found in chapter 3, not scattered through the book. It is hardly surprising that the Greek names for certain musical instruments would be found in Persia in the sixth century. There is abundant evidence to corroborate a great degree of intercourse between Greece and the East long before the second century.

Terpander's harp was invented in 650 B.C. Assurbanipal, king of Assyria, died 625 B.C.; that is, only twenty-five years lapsed between the invention of the seven-stringed harp and the death of Assurbanipal. The significance of these figures will be seen when it is stated that this harp with seven strings is sculptured upon a monument of Assurbanipal's (Urquhart, New Biblical Guide, vol. VIII, p. 249).

Terpander was a Greek poet and musician. Yet a record of his instrument is found in Assyria within 25 years of its invention ! Strabo records that several famous Greeks fought on the side of the Babylonians in the time of Nebuchadnezzar. He also shows that certain Greek musical styles and instruments originated in the East.

The few Greek words in Daniel confirm it was written when stated, in the sixth century, rather than proving it was later.

In fact, further proof that Daniel was written in Babylon, rather than in Judaea under the Maccabees as some claim, is that no solely Hebrew instruments are listed among the six mentioned. This is despite the fact that the Judaean Hebrews had about ten of their own! The description fits perfectly with sixth-century Babylon.

A Jew in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes 'in the second century B. C, who would have written a sacred book partially in Hebrew and partially in Aramaic would be looked upon as rather odd by his compatriots. Before the exile, only Hebrew was spoken by the Jews. But Aramaic was the official language of the Babylonian, and later the Persian Empire. So it would not be surprising to find Aramaic and Hebrew in a book of the Bible written during the Babylonian or Persian Empires. Daniel and Ezra quote Babylonian and Persian records in Aramaic, which would be fine for the sixth century but very unusual for the second.

As far as the Hebrew of the book is concerned, C. F. Keil points out that "the Hebrew dictum of Daniel harmonizes peculiarly with the language used by writers of the period of the exile, particularly by Ezekiel" (Biblical Commentary on the Book of Daniel, p. 44).

He cites a number of examples in a footnote on the same page.


2. Historical Proof

Language is not the only proof for the early (i.e., Biblical) date for Daniel. The historical accuracy of the book is quite astounding (and quite disconcerting to scoffers and doubters).

Notice another "positive" statement made by an early critic: "The historical pre-suppositions of Dan. 5 are inconsistent with the evidence of the contemporary monuments" (S. R. Driver, Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament, p. 499). But Dr. R. P. Dougherty, who did a lengthy study on documents relating to Daniel at a later time, found an entirely different picture:

The foregoing summary of information concerning Belshazzar, when judged in the light of data obtained from the texts discussed in this monograph, indicates that of all 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 of Belshazzar, because it attributes royal power to Belshazzar, and because it recognizes that a dual ruler-ship existed in the kingdom (Nabonidus and Belshazzar, pp. 190-200, italics his).

Despite this acknowledgment from an eminent authority, there are still those who pick and carp at the prophet.

One major objection concerns Darius the Mede. But here we find Daniel is our chief witness to a historical personality only hinted at by secular historians.

W. F. Albright pointed out that those casting aspersions on the existence of Darius were treading on shaky grounds:

Torrey's view that Darius the Mede is a confused reminiscence of Darius Hystaspes [Darius I of Persia) . . . is not likely. Darius I was a Persian of the Persians, of the purest Achaemenian stock, and his victory over Pseudo-Smerdis was also a triumph over the growing Median influence . . . After the cuneiform elucidation of the Belshazzar mystery . . . the vindication of Darius the Mede for history was to be expected ("The Date and Personality of the Chronicler," Journal of Biblical Literature, XL, 1921, footnotes on pp. 112-113).

As several ancient and modern sources point out, there was without question a Darius recognized in Persian history before Darius I (Hystaspes). "To this may be added, that profane history speaks distinctly of a King Darius, more ancient than the son of Hystaspes, a monarch who, according to some, was the first to introduce into Western areas the silver coin known as the daric which took its name from him" (George Rawlinson, Testimony of History, p. 186). Rawlinson makes reference to the classical writer Harpocration, who said Darius the Mede was the first king of the Medes and Persians who coined gold.

The names in Daniel were once considered simply the clumsy invention of a second-century author. But again archaeology has confirmed what scoffers once declared fake. Daniel's name "Belteshazzar" is a Hebrew form of the Babylonian Balat-su-usur meaning "Protect thou (O God) his life."

Shadrach is a Hebrew form of the Babylonian Sudur-Aku, "command of Aku (Moon-god)." Abed-nego is uncertain, though many have thought it to be the Babylonian for "servant of (the god) Nebo." Arioch is from the Babylonian Iri-Aku. Although Daniel and other Bible books use the form Nebuchadnezzar, unlike the monument form of Nebuchadrezzar, the famous Babylonian historian Berossus uses the same form as Daniel. This simply means that two forms of spelling were urrent. Jeremiah uses both spellings.

Rawlinson quotes ancient authorities :o show that the use of the term "Challean" applied to the priestly-magician lass as well as to the race of people in Babylon — exactly in the same way Daniel uses it (The Historical Evifences, p. 351). He also demonstrates :hat the Magi were divided up into :he same three classes which Daniel enumerates along with the astrologers and priests (Testimony of History, p. 175).

Some have tried to say that Daniel showed a nonexistent Median Empire. This is absolutely ridiculous. He continually refers to the Medes and Persians together as one empire in such passages as 5:28; 6:8, 12, 15; 8:20. The reason for such an accusation is given below.


3. Testimony of Ancient Writers

Some have asked why Daniel was not mentioned by Ben-Sirach (writer of the apocryphal Ecclesiasticus — second century B.C.) in his list of illustrious men. It is true that the book of Daniel is not mentioned by name. But then neither is Ezra! Yet Nehemiah is mentioned.

But Ben-Sirach does borrow phrases from Daniel, as he does from other Bible books, showing that he was acquainted with Daniel: Ecclesiasticus 18:26 from Daniel 2:9, and 33:8 from Daniel 2:21. There are also allusions to certain passages of Daniel: Ecclesiasticus 17:17 alludes to Daniel 10:20-21 and 12:1, and 10:8 alludes to Daniel 8:23. According to some, Ben-Sirach did not mention Ezra or Daniel as "punishment" for using Aramaic instead of Hebrew! But he was certainly aware of Daniel.

So were the Maccabees (who lived at the very time critics say Daniel was written). Daniel and his three friends are cited as examples of faith and zeal in I Maccabees 2:59-60. Yet the Maccabees considered the prophets to have been far in the past (4:46; 9:27; 14:41). In the same way Josephus (Contra Apion,' 1, 8) states nothing was accepted into the Old Testament Canon after the time of Artaxerxes (fifth century B.C.).

Josephus tells us further that the book of Daniel was shown to Alexander the Great (4th century) when he came to Jerusalem, and his fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy was pointed out to him. This is backed up by the very considerate and friendly treatment which Alexander accorded the Jews (Antiquities, XI, viii, 5).


4. Fulfilled Prophecy

But here is the crux proving Daniel: prophecy fulfilled after it was written. Daniel speaks of four world-ruling empires: Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman. But some critics say Daniel spoke of a Median Empire and a Persian Empire to try to make the Greek Empire the fourth and last.

But Daniel specifically labels the MedoPersian Empire as only one, and the Greek as the third, not the last.

Then he describes the Roman Empire. Josephus definitely tells us Daniel meant Rome (Antiquities, X, xi, 7), though his testimony is not necessary since Daniel's description identifies it. Even if Daniel is falsely put at the time of Antiochus Epiphanes in the mid-second century, he still would have had to be inspired to record the prophecies yet to be fulfilled at that time.

At the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, Rome was only barely beginning to rise. The Carthaginian wars were not yet over. But even an astute observer who prophesied the rise of Rome could not have described the later revivals of the Roman history so precisely.

Notice as a final point the judgmentof one eminent scholar about chapter 5. The consensus of critics is that Daniel is one unit. It stands or falls together. So what he says of chapter 5 applies to the entire book:

The view that the fifth chapter of Daniel originated in the Maccabean age is discredited . . . a narrative characterized by such an accurate historical perspective as Daniel 5 ought to be entitled to a place much nearer in time to the reliable documents which belong to the general epoch with which it deals (Dougherty, p. 200).

The language, the history, the testimony of other witnesses, and the prophecy all point up that Daniel is not a "pious fraud."

It is part of God's revelation to man of essential knowledge we need to know in this 20th century.