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An Introduction to the Book of Daniel

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I. TITLE OF THE BOOK: In both the Hebrew and Greek canons the book is titled after its main character, Daniel.

A. Hebrew: laynd meaning ‘God is Judge.’

B. Greek: DANIHL


A. Hebrew:

1. The Hebrew Scriptures were probably originally canonized into a two-fold division: the Law and the Prophets1

2. By around the second century B.C.2 a three-fold division of the Hebrew Scriptures arose: The Law, The Prophets, and The Writings3

a. The three-fold division included the same books as the two-fold division

b. There are several possible reasons for a three-fold division:4

1) A distinction was made between books which were written by men who held the prophetic office, and men who only had the prophetic gift

2) Some at a later date may have felt that those books which were not written by “prophets” were not fully canonical

3) A more practical purpose was served by the topical and festal5 significance rather than by the two-fold categories

3. In the Hebrew canon Daniel is not included among the prophets

4. In the Hebrew canon Daniel is included among the writings with the “historical” books. This emphasis may well have been appropriate for the following reasons:

a. Daniel is not in the role of a prophet who is speaking to the nation to repent of their ethical misdeeds

b. Although Daniel certainly wrote down prophetic visions, they are a message to the nation to enable them to walk through their history with the confidence that God is working among them even though they are being dominated by the Gentiles. If historical literature is emphasizing a revelation (record) of the sovereign work of God in history, then Daniel certainly applies because the prophetic visions are also a record (in advance) of the sovereign work of God in history as the Gentiles overrun Israel (who is in sin), but as Israel is also going to be ultimately delivered. As in other historical literature, this book would enable Israel to walk more faithfully with God when they saw His inclusive plan for them.

c. Perhaps the Masoretes did not consider Daniel to be a prophet since he was not appointed or ordained as a prophet in the text in the usual way; rather he was a servant of the government

d. Much of Daniel’s writing does not bear the character of prophecy, but rather of history

B. Greek & English:

1. The Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (The Septuagint or LXX c. 280-150 B.C.) divided the Old Testament according to subject matter which is the basis of the modern four-fold classification of the: five books of Law, twelve books of History, five books of Poetry, and seventeen books of Prophecy6

2. Daniel was a part of the major prophets

3. Our English editions follow this division

4. This is also a logical placement of Daniel becuase of the many prophetic visions in the book


A. Late--Second Century (soon after 168 B.C.; usually 165 B.C.)8

1. Those who hold to a late date see this work as “historical fiction” designed to “encourage the resistance movement against the tyranny of Antiochus Epiphanes”9

2. Some argue that Daniel must have been late because it was placed among the “writings” of the Hebrew Scriptures, but many of the books in the “writings” are very old like Job, Davidic psalms, and Solomonic writings. Therefore, a placement in the “writings” does not determine a late date10

3. The date of 168 matches the evidence spoken of in Daniel 11:31-39; therefore, it is assumed that the book must have been written soon after that time

4. Most who hold to a late date for Daneil emphasize it as being apocalyptic literature:

a. While most all would agree that there are apocolyptic elementes to Daniel, this does not require that it also be modled after all aspects of apocalyptic literature

b. Some aspects of apocalyptic literature which Daniel is accused of are:

1) It is pseudepigraphic--a false author is attached to the book to give it credibility

2) The prophecies are vaticinia ex eventu or “prophecies-after-the-event”

5. The sensational events (3; 5; 6) are necessarily writing conventions like those which were employed by noncanonical literature of the intertestamental period

6. Often there is a hermeneutical presupposition against predictive writing11

7. Often there is a non-miraculous presupposition against narratives like in Daniel (3; 5; 6).

B. Early--Sixth Century:12

1. Manuscript Evidence: Manuscripts discovered at Qumran (e.g., a Florilegium found in cave 4Q), which date from the Maccabean period make it very unlikely that the book was written during the time of the Maccabees (e.g., 168 B.C.) since it would have taken some time for it to have been accepted and included in the canon13

2. Linguistic Evidence:

a. Aramaic: Daniel’s Aramaic demonstrates grammatical evidences for an early date more closely associated with the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. than with the second century B.C.14

b. Persian:

1) Persian loan words in Daniel do not necessarily argue against an early date for the book since Daniel, who lived under the Persians, could have placed the material in its final form at the latter part of his life15

2) Four of the nineteen Persian words are not translated well by the Greek renderings of about 100 B.C. implying that their meaning was lost or drastically changed meaning that it is very unlikely that Daniel was written in 165 B.C.16

3) The Persian words which are cited in Daniel are specifically old Persian words dating from around 300 B.C. This argues against a 165 date17

c. Greek: Three Greek loan words in Daniel need not argue for a late date since there may well have been Greek writing prior to Plato (370 B.C.) where these words could have been used, and since they are the names of musical instruments which often are circulated beyond national boundaries, and since Greek words are found in the Aramaic documents of Elephantine dated to the fifth-century B.C.18

3. Apocalyptic Evidence: The themes of the prominance of angels, the last judgment, the resurrection of the dead, and the establishment of the final kingdom are not themes that are limited to later apocryphal literature, but have their roots in earlier biblical literature and even Zechariah19

4. Literary Evidence: The reason the development of history seems to stop with Antiochus IV Epiphanes is not necessarily because that was when the writer lived; it is probably for literary/theological reasons, he best foreshadows the Antichrist to come20

5. Predictive Evidence: The fourth empire in Daniel 2 is not that of the Greeks as those who hold to a late date affirm; this is substantiated by the vision in chapter 7 were the second empire is not Media and the third empire is not Perisa, but is Greece which divides into four (the Persian empire never divided into four parts). This is also substantiated in Daniel 9 with the vision of the ram and the he-goat (with one horn and then four horns--divided Greece).21


A. Late: Someone living during the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (these go with the arguments above)

B. Early: Daniel the self-proclaimed author of the book living during the sixth century B.C.

1. External Evidence:

a. Jesus identifies Daniel as the prophet who spoke of the “abomination of desolation” (cf. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11) in the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24:15-16 (cf. also Mark 13:14; Luke 21:20)

b. The Jewish Talmud attributes the writing of “Daniel” to the Great Synagogue22 but it is questionable whether such a synagogue ever really existed.

c. The writer shows an accurate knowledge of sixth-century events:

1) The city of Shushan is described as being in the province of Elam back in the time of the Chaldeans (8:2)23

2) In chapter 9 the writer goes beyond the Maccabean period by predicting the crucifixion of Christ and the following destruction of the city of Jerusalem24

2. Internal Evidence: The author refers to himself as Daniel throughout the book (cf. 7:1; the rest of the references are in terms of pronouns either third person or first person singular)


A. “To establish hope in future restoration by reflecting in vision God’s dealing with Israel’s national sin through the times of the Gentiles”25

B. To instruct and admonish the people of God in the crisis of faith26

C. To challenge “the faithful to be awake and ready for the unexpected intervention of God in wrapping up all of human history”27

1 The two-fold division is argued upon (1) the way in which Moses' Law is referred to as a unit throughout the Scriptures, (2) the way in which the historical books are linked together as a unit, (3) the reference in Daniel to the Law and the books [9:2], and (4) the recognition of the Former prophetic books by the Latter (See Geisler and Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, pp. 148-161).

2 Prologue to Ecclesiasticus (c. 132 B.C.), Jesus in Luke 24:44 (A.D. 30) Josephus, Against Apion, I.8 (A.D. 37-100).

3 The Writings include: (1) Poetical Books--Psalms, Proverbs, Job, (2) Five Rolls (Megilloth)--Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Esther, Ecclesiastes, (3) Historical Books--Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles

Sometimes Ruth was attached to Judges, and Lamentations was attached to Jeremiah thereby making the Hebrew canon comprised of 22 books rather than the more usual 24 books (see Geisler and Nix, General, pp. 18-19).

4 Critical scholars assume that the three-fold division reflects dates of canonization in accordance with their dates of compositions--Law (400 B.C.), Prophets (c. 200 B.C.), Writings (c. A.D. 100). However, this thesis is untenable in light of early reports of a three-fold division (c. 132 B.C.; see above). See Geisler and Nix, General, p. 151.

This critical approach is suggested by La Sor et al as an explanation for the placement of Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles, Esther, Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes when they write, Essentially, the purpose of the Writings as a whole was to collect those sacred books whose purpose, character, or date excluded them form the collections of law and prophecy (Old, p. 508-509).

5 Song of Solomon (eighth day of Passover), Ruth (second day of Weeks, or Pentecost), Lamentations (ninth day of Ab, in mourning for the destruction of Solomon's temple), Ecclesiastes (third day of Tabernacles), Esther (Purim).



Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy


Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I Samuel, II Samuel, I Kings, II Kings, I Chronicles, II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther


Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon


Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel


Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

For a more extensive overview see Geisler and Nix, General, pp. 17-25.

7 Concerning the importance of this study Waltke writes, This is is of greatest importance for at least three reasons. First, the sovereignty of the revealed God in this book is at stake. If Daniel's God was able to predict the future, then there is reason to believe that the course of history is completely under Yahweh's sovereignty. On the other hand, if the predictions are fraudulent, then one must remain agnostic about Daniel's God. Second, the divine inspiration of the Bible hangs in the balance. If the book contains true predictions, then there is firm reason to believe that this book ultimately owes its origin to One who can predict the future. On the contrary, if it is a spurious, fraudulent, although well-intentioned piece of literature, then the reliability of other books in the canon of Scripture may legitimately be questioned. Third, one's understanding of the nature of Jesus Christ depends on the answer to the date of the book. Jesus Christ regarded the Book of Daniel as a prophetic preview of future history and indeed of the divine program for a future that still lies ahead (Matt. 24:15-16; Mark 13:14; Luke 21:20). If he is wrong in His interpretation of the book, then He must be less than the omniscient, inerrant God incarnate. On the other hand, if His appraisal is right, then His claim to deity cannot be questioned in this regard (Bruce K. Waltke, The Date of the Book of Daniel. Bibliotheca Sacra 133 (1976): 320).

8 For a concise overview of this position and the imaginative working with the evidence to support their presuppositions see Brevard S. Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, 611ff. Archer provides an excellent discussion of the supports for a late date with good answers throughout (Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 3387ff).

9 Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 388; Brevard S. Childs writes, The visions called the community of faith to obedience and challenged it to hold on because the end of time which Daniel foresaw would shortly come. Because it was written in the form of vaticinium ex eventu, the effect of this message would be electrifying. Daniel had prophesied about the rise and fall of the earlier three kingdoms and these events had occurred. Now his vision of the last days was being fulfilled before their very eyes. The 'little horn' had appeared; the persecution had reached its height; the end was imminent. Therefore 'blessed is he who waits' (Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, 615-16).

10 In addition Archer writes, the statement in Josephus (Contra Apionem 1:8) ... indicates strongly that in the first century A.D., Daniel was included among the prophets in the second division of the Old Testament canon; hence it could not have been assigned to the Kethubim until a later period (Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 388).

11 This was first advanced by a Neoplatonic philosopher named Porphyry who lived in the third century after Christ and wrote his fifteen volume set, Against the Christians. See R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament: With a Comprehensive Review of Old Testament Studies and a Special Supplement on the Apocrypha, 1110. Waltke writes, But the question naturally arises, If the evidence for a sixth-century date of composition is so certain, why do scholars reject it in favor of an unsupportable Maccabean hypothesis? The reason is that most scholars embrace a liberal, naturalistic, and rationalistic philiosphy. Naturalism and rationalism are ultimately based on faith rather than on evidence; therefore, this faith will not allow them to accept the supernatural predictions (Bruce K. Waltke, The Date of the Book of Daniel. Bibliotheca Sacra 133 [1976]: 329).

12 Archer writes, Despite the numerous objections whihc have been advanced by scholars who regard this as a prophecy written after the event, there is no good reason for denying to the sixth-century Daniel the composition of the entire work. This represents a collection of his memoirs made at the end of a long and eventful career which included government service from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar in the 590s [605?] to the reign of Cyrus the Great in the 530s. The appearance of Persian technical terms indicates a final recension of these memoirs at a time when Persian teminology had already infiltrated into the vocabulary of Aramaic. The most likely date of the final ediition of the book, therefore, would be about 530 B.C. (Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 387).

13 Bruce K. Waltke, The Date of the Book of Daniel. Bibliotheca Sacra 133 (1976): 321-322. Concerning the supposed error of the writer in 11:40-45 to predict the death of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (cf. I and II Maccabees) Waltke writes, if this be so, it seems incredible that the alleged contemporaries would have held his work in such high regard referring to him as 'Daniel the prophet,' a title bestowed on him in a florilegium found in 4Q (Ibid.).

14 Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 398-401. Daniel's Aramaic is closer to Eastern Aramaic (rather than Western Aramaic) much like that which is found in the Elephantine papyri (fifth-century B.C.) and Ezra (450 B.C.) than it is with the Genesis Apocryphon found in Qumran Cave One from the first century B.C. (Bruce K. Waltke, The Date of the Book of Daniel. Bibliotheca Sacra 133 (1976): 322-23; Franz Rosenthal, Die Aramaistisch Forschung (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1939), 66ff; Kenneth A. Kitchen, et. al., The Aramaic of Daniel, in Notes on Some Problems in the Book of Daniel, 31-79.

15 Kenneth A. Kitchen, et. al., The Aramaic of Daniel, in Notes on Some Problems in the Book of Daniel, 41-42; Bruce K. Waltke, The Date of the Book of Daniel. Bibliotheca Sacra 133 (1976): 323.

16 Kenneth A. Kitchen, et. al., The Aramaic of Daniel, in Notes on Some Problems in the Book of Daniel, 43.

17 Ibid., 43-44.

18 For a fuller discussion see Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 395-97 where he also shows how the Greek (or lack thereof) is a strong support for an early date for Daniel. Bruce K. Waltke, The Date of the Book of Daniel. Bibliotheca Sacra 133 (1976): 324..

19 Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 402-403.

20 See Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 404; Matthew 24; Mark 13.

21 For a further discussion see Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 403-407; Bruce K. Waltke, The Date of the Book of Daniel. Bibliotheca Sacra 133 (1976): 326-329. Waltke writes, If then the second and third kingdoms refer to Medo-Persia and Greece respectively, the fourth kingdom must be Rome. In this case, even those who contend for a Maccabean date of authorship must admit true prediction in the Book of Daniel for the Roman Empire did not appear in Israel's history until 63 B.C. (Ibid., 328).

22 B.Bat 15a.

23 Archer writes, But from the Greek and Roman historians we learn that in the Persian period Shushan, or Susa, was assigned to a new province which was named after it, Susiana, and the formerly more extensive province of Elam was restricted to the territory west of the Eulaeus River [cf. Strabo, 15:3, 12; 16:1, 17; Pliny, Natural History, 6. 27] (Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 408).

24 Waltke writes, Daniel, in addition to predicting that Rome will succeed Greece, also predicts the very date that Israel's Messiah will be crucified. In Daniel 9:24 the writer predicts that 69 'weeks' (= 483 years) after the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem Messiah will be 'cut off.' Artaxerxes issued this decree in the month Nisan of his twentieth year of 444 B.C. (Neh. 2:2).

Hoehner demonstrates that Jesus Christ was crucified on the Passover in the year A.D. 33. The time interval between the first of Nisan (444 B.C.) and the Passover (A.D. 33) is 173,880 days (476 x 365 = 173,740 days; March 4 [1 Nisan] to March 29 [the date of the Passover in A.D. 33] = 24 days; add 116 days for leapyears). Now a prophetic year (also a lunar year) is 360 days (cf. Rev 11) and 483 years multiplied by that figure also equal 173,880.

Here then is confirmatory proof that the book contains genuine predictions (Bruce K. Waltke, The Date of the Book of Daniel. Bibliotheca Sacra 133 (1976): 329).

25 Elliott E. Johnson, Principle of Recognition, 55.

26 Although Childs does not hold to a sixth century date for Daniel and comes about this statement in a 'round-a-bout manner, his analysis of its design is true (Brevard S. Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, 622). Later he writes, the biblical writers pointed to the end of the world in order to call forth a faithful testimony from the people of God. They sought to evoke a commitment 'even unto death' (Ibid.).

27 Brevard S. Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, 622. Continuing he writes, The stories of Daniel and his friends picture men who bear eloquent testimony in both word and deed to an unswerving hope in God's rule. As a consequence, they were made free to hang loosely on the world because they knew their hope rested elsewhere (Ibid.).

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines

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