Decoding Daniel - an in depth Bible study of the book of Daniel

| Daniel Bible Study | About the Author | Bibliography |
Introduction to Daniel

Why Study the Book of Daniel?

Purpose of Daniel

Great Conflicts Unveiled

Daniel the Prophet

Structure and Themes

Style and Interpretation

Ancient Translations

Daniel In the Critics' Den

Historical Background

The City of Babylon

Daniel In the Critics' Den

Daniel has suffered more in the critics’ den than in the lions’ den. His book has been the object of more negative criticism than any other book of the OT. In the third century A.D, its authenticity was first challenged by the Neo-Platonic philosopher Porphyry. He alleged that the book was a forgery written during the Maccabean period inasmuch as the history of this period is so clearly detailed in the book. Modern criticism follows this rationalistic conclusion.

Perhaps nowhere has the impact of “higher criticism” been so great or so startling as with the book of Daniel. German criticism under the likes of Wellhausen, Holscher, von Rad, Gunkel, and Schweitzer did not regard the “apocalyptic” language in Daniel as genuine but as later additions. These critics held that “apocalyptic” and “eschatological” genre were optimistic, postexilic developments.

Chapter 11 of Daniel is one of the most amazing chapters in the Bible. It exactly details nearly one hundred thirty-five historically verified events more than two hundred years before they occurred. Therefore, critics deny the historicity of the book of Daniel itself. They believe the book is a pseudepigraph written to buoy the hopes of the victims of Seleucid persecution, somewhere between the beginning of Seleucid persecution in 167 B.C. and Judas Maccabeus’ rededication of the Temple in 164 B.C.

In 1947, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls disproves this theory. The documents themselves date from the mid-third century B.C. to A.D. 68; the majority was composed during the first century B.C. and first century A.D., with the oldest manuscripts being biblical (“Dead Sea Scrolls,” 1999 Encyclopedia Britannica).

The range of criticism of this book is wide. Critics found “bones to pick” with virtually every early chronological reference in the book. They also criticized the existence of Darius the Mede, Daniel’s use of “Chaldean,” Nebuchadnezzar’s madness, Nabonidus’ extended absences at
the oasis in Tema, Greek terms used in Daniel, etc. The critics have been proven wrong by archeology. In fact, archeological finds indicate that only a person living in Babylon during the time of the exile could have written the book. Linguistic studies show that the Aramaic of Daniel
closely resembles that of Ezra and the Elephantine papyri, both of the latter part of the fifth century. Thus, Daniel’s Aramaic section belongs to the sixth century, not the second century, B.C.

Though many alleged difficulties have been cleared up by archaeological and historical advancements, the book remains a battleground between faith and unbelief. The critics’ reasons for dating the book of Daniel in the second century B.C. primarily fall into three assertions.

  1. The predictions that have been fulfilled are too minutely correct to have been recorded before they occurred. Hence, it is considered a vaticinium ex eventu, a “prediction after the fact,” in which the author creates a character of long ago and puts into his mouth predictions of important events that have already happened.
  2. The language contains several Greek and Persian words that appear later in history. There are seventeen words from the Persian language, three Greek, and possibly one Egyptian.
  3. The book is placed in the Hebrew canon among the Writings—after Esther and before Ezra-Nehemiah—instead of the Prophets. Therefore, it should be considered historical, not prophetic.

These three assertions, once thought to be supported by the strongest evidence, have in recent years given way to new discoveries of Aramaic documents and archaeology. Daniel’s familiarity with the individuals as well as with the historical events and customs in the book necessitates a sixth-century date for the book (see bibliography for details). There is no compelling reason not to date the completion of this book around 530 B.C. The clear testimony of the book itself is that Daniel was the author (Daniel 8:1; 9:20; 10:2). Without question, Jesus and His audience believed in Daniel’s authorship of the book bearing his name.

"So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand" (Matthew 24:15).

Jewish and Christian traditions hold that Daniel is the author of the book.

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