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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.