Article contributed by www.walvoord.com
Date And Authorship
The book of Daniel, according to its own testimony, is the record of the life and prophetic revelations given to Daniel, a captive Jew carried off to Babylon after the first conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 b.c. The record of events extends to the third year of Cyrus, 536 B.C., and, accordingly, covers a span of about seventy years. Daniel himself may well have lived on to about 530 b.c, and the book of Daniel was probably completed in the last decade of his life.
Although Daniel does not speak of himself in the first person until chapter 7, there is little question that the book presents Daniel as its author. This is assumed in the latter portion of the book and mentioned especially in 12:4. The use of the first person with the name Daniel is found repeatedly in the last half of the book (7:2, 15, 28; 8:1,15, 27; 9:2, 22; 10:2, 7, 11, 12; 12:5). As most expositors, whether liberal or conservative, consider the book a unit, the claim of Daniel to have written this book is recognized even by those who reject it.1
Except for the attack of the pagan Porphyry (third century a.d.), no question was raised concerning the traditional sixth century b.c. date, the authorship of Daniel the prophet, or the genuineness of the book until the rise of higher criticism in the seventeenth century, more than two thousand years after the book was written. Important confirmation of the historicity of Daniel himself is found in three passages in Ezekiel (Eze 14:14, 20; 28:3), written after Daniel had assumed an important post in the king’s court at Babylon.2 Convincing also to conservative scholars is the reference to “Daniel the prophet” by Christ in the Olivet Discourse (Mt 24:15; Mk 13:14).
Higher critics normally question the traditional authorship and dates of books in both the Old and New Testaments, and therefore disallow the testimony of the book of Daniel itself, dispute the mention of Daniel by Ezekiel, and discount the support by Christ in the New Testament. But conservative scholars have given almost universal recognition to the book of Daniel as an authentic sixth century b.c. composition of Daniel, the captive of Nebuchadnezzar. Consideration of the arguments of higher critics is given in the later discussion of the genuineness of the book of Daniel, upon which the conservative opinion rests.
Place in the Scriptures
The book of Daniel, written last of all the major prophets, appears in this order among the major prophets in the English Bible. In the Hebrew Old Testament—divided into three divisions consisting of the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings, which is also called Kethubim (Hebrew) or Hagiographa (Greek)—Daniel is included in the third section, the Writings. In the Septuagint, Vulgate, and Luther, however, it is placed with the major prophets. Josephus also includes it in the second division of the Jewish canon, the Prophets, rather than in the Hagiographa. There is, therefore, general recognition of the prophetic character of the book.
Although the ministry of Daniel was prophetic, it was of different character than the other major prophets; and apparently for this reason, the Jews included Daniel in the Writings. As Robert Dick Wilson has pointed out, the reason for this was not that the Jews regarded Daniel as inferior nor because the prophetic section of the canon had already been closed, but as Wilson states, “It is more probable, that the book was placed in this part of the Heb Canon, because Daniel is not called a na„bhi„á (‘prophet’), but was rather a ho„zeh (‘seer’) and a ha„kha„m (‘wise man’). None but the works of the nebhi„áim were put in the second part of the Jewish Canon, the third being reserved for the heterogeneous works of seers, wisemen, and priests, or for those that do not mention the name or work of a prophet, or that are poetical in form.”3
J. B. Payne observes, “For though Christ spoke of Daniel’s function as prophetic (Matt. 24:15), his position was that of governmental official and inspired writer, rather than ministering prophet (cf. Acts 2:29-30).”4
In any case, the Jews did not regard the third division as less inspired, but only different in character. This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that they included in it such venerable writings as Job, Psalms and Proverbs, the historical books of 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, along with others not considered either the Law or the Prophets. There is no hint anywhere in ancient literature that the Jews regarded Daniel as a pious forgery.
In the dark hour of Israel’s captivity, with the tragic destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, there was need for a new testimony to the mighty and providential power of God. Such is afforded by the book of Daniel. It js obviously not the purpose of the book to give a detailed account of Daniel’s life, as important details such as his lineage, age, and death are not mentioned, and only scattered incidents in his long life are recounted. Little is said about the history of Israel or the lot of the Jewish captives in Babylon. The book of Daniel, like Esther, reveals God continuing to work in His people Israel even in the time of their chastening. In this framework the tremendous revelation concerning the times of the Gentiles and the program of God for Israel was unfolded. While it is doubtful whether these prophecies were sufficiently known in Daniel’s lifetime to be much of an encouragement to the captives themselves, the book of Daniel undoubtedly gave hope to the Jews who returned to restore the temple and the city, and it was particularly helpful during the Maccabean persecutions. It was clearly the purpose of God to give to Daniel a comprehensive revelation of His program culminating in the second advent. As such, its prophetic revelation is the key to understanding the Olivet Discourse (Mt 24-25) as well as the book of Revelation, which is to the New Testament what Daniel was to the Old.
The book of Daniel is rightly classified as an apocalyptic writing, because of its series of supernatural visions which by their character fulfilled what is intimated by the Greek word apokalypsis, which means unveiling of truth which would otherwise be concealed. Although apocalyptic works abound outside the Bible, relatively few are found in Scripture. In the New Testament only the book of Revelation can be classified as apocalyptic; but in the Old Testament, Ezekiel and Zechariah may be so classified in addition to Daniel.
Ralph Alexander has provided an accurate and comprehensive definition of apocalyptic literature in his study of this literary genre. He defines apocalyptic literature as follows: “Apocalyptic literature is symbolic visionary prophetic literature, composed during oppressive conditions, consisting of visions whose events are recorded exactly as they were seen by the author and explained through a divine interpreter, and whose theological content is primarily eschatological.”5 Alexander goes on to define the limits of apocalyptic literature, “On the basis of this definition, a corpus of apocalyptic literature was determined. The biblical and extrabiblical apocalyptic passages are shown to include the Apocalypse of the New Testament; Ezekiel 37:1-14, Ezekiel 40-48; Daniel’s visions in chapters 2, 7, 8, and 10-12; Zechariah 1:7-6:8; I Enoch 90; II Esdras; II Baruch; and A Description of New Jerusalem.”6
Apocalyptic books outside the Bible are included among the pseudepigrapha, many of which appeared about 250 b.c. and continued to be produced in the apostolic period and later. Many of these attempted to imitate the style of biblical apocalyptic books. Usually they developed the theme of deploring the contemporary situation but prophesying a glorious future of blessing for the saints and judgment on the wicked. The real author’s name is normally not given in apocalyptic works outside the Bible. Apocalyptic works rightly included in the Old Testament may be sharply contrasted to the pseudepigrapha because of the more restrained character of their revelation, identification of the author, and their contribution to biblical truth as a whole.
Apocalyptic works classified as the pseudepigrapha include such titles as Ascension of Isaiah; Assumption of Moses; Book of Enoch; Book of Jubilees; Greek Apocalypse of Baruch; Letters of Aristeas; III and IV Maccabees; Psalms of Solomon; Secrets of Enoch; Sibylline Oracles; Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch; Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs; Apocalypses of Adam, Elijah, and Zephaniah; and Testament of Abram, Isaac, and Jacob.
Although higher criticism, often opposed to supernatural revelation in symbolic form, tends to deprecate apocalyptic books in the Bible and equate them with the sometimes incoherent and extreme symbolism of the pseudepigrapha,7 there is really no justification for this. Even a casual reader can detect the difference in quality between scriptural and non-scriptural apocalyptic works. Frequently, the apocalypses of scriptural writings is attended by divine interpretation which provides the key to understanding the revelation intended. The fact that a book is apocalyptic does not necessarily mean that its revelation is obscure or uncertain, and conservative scholarship has recognized the legitimacy of apocalyptic revelation as a genuine means of divine communication. If close attention is given to the contextual interpretive revelation, apocalyptic books can yield solid results to the patient exegete.
An unusual feature of the book of Daniel is the fact that the central portion (2:4-7:28) is written in biblical Aramaic also called Chaldee (AV, “Syriack”). A similar use of Aramaic is found in Ezra 4:8-6:18; 7:12-26; Jer 10:11; and the two words of the compound name Jegar-Sahadutha in Genesis 31:47.8 The use of the Aramaic, which was the lingua franca of the period, was related to the fact that the material concerned the Gentile world rather than Israel directly. The fact that there are similar portions elsewhere in the Bible should make clear that there is nothing unusual or questionable about the Aramaic section in Daniel. As pointed out by Brownlee,9 the shifts from Hebrew to Aramaic and back again in Daniel are found in the scrolls of Daniel at Qumran, supporting the legitimacy of this feature of the Massoretic text commonly used in English translations.
The argument that the Aramaic of Daniel was western and not used in Babylon, as popularized by S. R. Driver,10 now has been clearly shown to be erroneous by later archeological evidence. As Martin observes, relative to Driver’s contention, “When he [Driver] wrote, the only material available was too late to be relevant. Subsequently, R. D. Wilson, making use of earlier materials that had come to light, was able to show that the distinction between Eastern and Western Aramaic did not exist in pre-Christian times. This has since been amply confirmed by H. H. Schaeder.”11
As Gleason L. Archer expresses the Aramaic problem, “The Jews apparently took no exception to the Aramaic sections in the book of Ezra, most of which consists in copies of correspondence carried on in Aramaic between the local governments of Palestine and the Persian imperial court from approximately 520 to 460 B.C. If Ezra can be accepted as an authentic document from the middle of the fifth century, when so many of its chapters were largely composed in Aramaic, it is hard to see why the six Aramaic chapters of Daniel must be dated two centuries later than that. It should be carefully observed that in the Babylon of the late sixth century, in which Daniel purportedly lived, the predominant language spoken by the heterogeneous population of this metropolis was Aramaic. It is therefore not surprising that an inhabitant of that city should have resorted to Aramaic in composing a portion of his memoirs.”12
Major Divisions and Unity
The traditional division of the book of Daniel into two halves (1-6; 7-12) has usually been justified on the basis that the first six chapters are historical and the last six chapters are apocalyptic or predictive. There is much to commend this division which often also regards chapter 1 as introductory.
As indicated in the exposition of chapter 7, an alternative approach, recognizing the Aramaic section as being significant, divides the book into three major divisions: (1) Introduction, Daniel 1; (2) The Times of the Gentiles, presented in Aramaic, Daniel 2-7; (3) Israel in Relation to the Gentiles, in Hebrew, Daniel 8-12. This view is advanced by Robert Culver following Carl A. Auberlen.13 Although this has not attracted the majority of conservative scholars, it has the advantage of distinguishing the program of God for the Gentiles and His program for Israel, with the break coming at the end of chapter 7. Robert Dick Wilson recognizes both principles of division.14
Although the principle of division may be debated, it is most significant that the great majority of interpreters, whether liberal or conservative, have agreed to the unity of the book. Some, beginning with Spinoza in the seventeenth century, had other views. Montgomery, for instance, offers a minority view, even among critics, that chapters 1-6 were written by an unknown writer in the third century b.c. and that chapters 7-12 were written in the Maccabean period, 168-165 b.c. It is significant that all who deny the unity of the book also deny its genuineness as a sixth century b.c. writing. Although the two halves of Daniel differ in character, there is obvious historical continuity which supports the unity of the book.15 The same Daniel who is introduced in chapter 1 is mentioned three times in chapter 12. The evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the unity of the book.
In the Greek version of Daniel, several additions are made to the book, which are not found in the Hebrew or Aramaic text as we now have it Included are The Prayer of Azarias, The Song of the Three Holy Children, Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon.
The Prayer of Azarias and The Song of the Three Holy Children contain the prayer and praise of Daniel’s three companions while in the fiery furnace in Daniel 3, with phrases from Psalm 148. Susanna is the story of a woman protected by Daniel, who obtains conviction of two judges guilty of attempting her seduction. These judges were executed according to Mosaic Law. Bel and the Dragon includes three stories in which Daniel destroys the image of Bel, kills the Dragon, and was fed by Habakkuk the prophet while living in the lions’ den for six days, an amplified account of Daniel 6. These stories have been rejected from the Scriptures as not properly in the book of Daniel.16
The genuineness of Daniel as a sixth century b.c. writing by the prophet Daniel does not seem to have been questioned in the ancient world until the third century a.d. At that time, Porphyry, a pagan neo-Platonist, attacked the book, asserting that it was a second century b.c. forgery. Porphyry’s fifteen books, Against the Christians, are known to us only through Jerome. Porphyry’s attack immediately aroused a defense of Daniel on the part of the early fathers.
Jerome (a.d. 347-420) in his introduction to his Commentary on Daniel summarized the situation at that time in these words,
Porphyry wrote his twelfth book against the prophecy of Daniel, (A) denying that it was composed by the person to whom it is ascribed in its title, but rather by some individual living in Judea at the time of Antiochus who was surnamed Epiphanes. He furthermore alleged that ‘Daniel’ did not foretell the future so much as he related the past, and lastly, that whatever he spoke of up till the time of Antiochus contained authentic history, whereas anything he may have conjectured beyond that point was false, inasmuch as he would not have foreknown the future. Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, made a most able reply to these allegations in three volumes, that is, the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth. Appollinarius did likewise in a single large book, namely his twenty-sixth. (B) Prior to these authors, Methodius made a partial reply.
“… I wish to stress in my preface this fact, that none of the prophets has so clearly spoken concerning Christ as has this prophet Daniel. For not only did he assert that he would come, a prediction common to the other prophets as well, but also he set forth the very time at which he would come. Moreover he went through the various kings in order, stated the actual number of years involved, and announced beforehand the clearest signs of events to come. And because Porphyry saw that all these things had been fulfilled and could not deny that they had taken place, he overcame this evidence of historical accuracy by taking refuge in this evasion, contending that whatever is foretold concerning Antichrist at the end of the world was actually fulfilled in the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, because of certain similarities to things which took place at his time. But this very attack testifies to Daniel’s accuracy. For so striking was the reliability of what the prophet foretold, that he could not appear to unbelievers as a predictor of the future, but rather a narrator of things already past. And so wherever occasion arises in the course of explaining this volume, I shall attempt briefly to answer his malicious charge, and to controvert by simple explanation the philosophical skill, or rather the worldly malice, by which he strives to subvert the truth and by specious legerdemain to remove that which is so apparent to our eyes.17
This statement of Jerome may be taken as the attitude of the church consistently held until the rise of higher criticism in the seventeenth century. At that time, the suggestion of Porphyry began to be taken seriously and arguments were amassed in support of a second century date for Daniel. It should be noted at the outset (1) that the theory had an anti-Christian origination; (2) that no new facts had been determined to change the previous judgment of the church; (3) that the support of Porphyry by higher critics was a part of their overall approach to the Scriptures, which tended almost without exception to denial of traditional authorship, claimed that books frequently had several authors and went through many redactions, and—most important—included the almost universal denial by the higher critics of the traditional doctrine of biblical inerrancy and verbal, plenary inspiration. The attack on Daniel was part of an attack upon the entire Scriptures, using the historical-critical method.
The great volume of these objections, based for the most part on higher critical premises which in themselves are subject to question, involves so many details that an entire volume is necessary to answer them completely. At best, a summary of the problem and its solution can be considered here. Generally speaking, critical objections to particular texts have been treated in the exposition of Daniel where they occur in the text. A review, however, of major features of the critical attack on the genuineness of Daniel may be presented appropriately here.
Thomas S. Kepler has summarized critical objections under ten heads:
There are, however, a number of factors which make it difficult for this Daniel living at the time of Nebuchadrezzar to be the author of Daniel:
(1) About 200 b.c. the Prophets were added to the Law to compose the Jewish “Bible.” Yet Daniel is not among the Prophets, being added to the Sacred Writings about a.d. 90, when the Jewish “Bible” was completed.
(2) The book of Daniel is not mentioned in any Jewish literature until 140 b.c, when the Sibylline Oracles (3:397-400) refer to it. In Baruch 1:15-3:3 (written about 150 B.C.) there is a prayer similar to that in Daniel 9:4 ff. The book of Daniel is also alluded to in I Maccabees 2:59 ff. (written about 125 b.c). Daniel is referred to 164 times in I Maccabees, the Sibylline Oracles, and Enoch (written about 95 b.c). (3) Jesus Ben Sirach about 190 b.c, lists the great men of Jewish history (Ecclesi-asticus 44.1—50:24); but among these names that of Daniel is missing. (4) Words borrowed from the Babylonian, Persian, and Greek languages appear in Daniel. (5) Jeremiah is mentioned as a prophet (9:2) and his writings are referred to. (6) In Jeremiah’s time (also the period of Nebuchadrezzar) the Chaldeans are spoken of as a nation or people, referring to the Babylonians; but in the book of Daniel they are known as astrologers, magicians, diviners of truth. (7) The book of Daniel is written partly in Aramaic, a language popular among the Jews in the second century b.c, but not at the time of Nebuchadrezzar. (8) The author has an excellent view of history after the time of Alexander the Great, especially during the Maccabean struggles; but his history shows many inaccuracies during the Babylonian and Persian periods. (9) The theology regarding the resurrection of the dead and ideas about angels show that the author lived at a later time than that of Nebuchadrezzar. The same may be said in regard to his concern for diet, fasting, and ritualistic prayers. (10) The pattern and purpose of the book of Daniel as an apocalypse, which reinterprets history from the time of Nebuchadrezzar until the time of Judas Maccabeus and Antiochus IV, and written in 165 b.c, fits better into the scheme and purpose of Daniel than if the book were written in the period of Nebuchadrezzar, predicting history for the next 450 years.18
These critical objections, answered already in part and considered further in the exposition of the text of Daniel, may be grouped under six heads: (1) rejection of its canonicity; (2) rejection of detailed prophecy; (3) rejection of miracles; (4) textual problems; (5) problems of language; (6) alleged historical inaccuracies.
Rejection of canonicity. As previously explained under consideration of the place of Daniel in the Scriptures, the book is included in the Writings, the third section of the Old Testament, not in the prophetic section. Merrill Unger has defined the erroneous critical view of this as follows: “Daniel’s prophecy was placed among writings in the third section of the Hebrew canon and not among the prophets in the second division because it was not in existence when the canon of the prophets was closed, allegedly between 300-200 B.C.”19 As previously explained, Daniel was not included because his work was of a different character from that of the other prophets. Daniel was primarily a government official, and he was not commissioned to preach to the people and deliver an oral message from God as was, for instance, Isaiah or Jeremiah. It is questionable whether his writings were distributed in his lifetime. Further, the Writings were not so classified because they were late in date, inasmuch as they included such works as Job and 1 and 2 Chronicles, but the division was on the classification of the material in the volumes. Most important, the Writings were considered just as inspired and just as much the Word of God as the Law and the Prophets. This is brought out by the fact that Daniel is included in the Septuagint along with other inspired works, which would indicate that it was regarded as a genuine work of inspiration.
The denial that the book was in existence in the sixth century B.C. disregards the three citations referring to Daniel in Ezekiel (Eze 14:14, 20; 28:3), as well as all the evidence in the book of Daniel itself. Liberal critics tend to disregard the references to Daniel in Ezekiel. James Montgomery, for instance, states, “There is then no reference to our Daniel as an historic person in the Heb. O.T…”20 Montgomery holds that Ezekiel’s reference is to another character, whom he describes as “the name of an evidently traditional saint.”21
The “traditional saint” mentioned by Montgomery refers to a “Daniel” who apparently lived about 1400 b.c. In 1930, several years after Montgomery wrote his commentary, archeologists digging at ancient Ugarit (modern Ras Shamra) found some clay tablets detailing a legend of a Canaanite by name of Aqhat who was the father of a man called Daniel. In the tablet Daniel is portrayed as being a friend of widows and orphans, and as a man who was unusually wise and righteous in his judgments. This is the one who Montgomery asserts is referred to in Ezekiel 14:14, 20 as a worthy ancient character on the same plane as Noah and Job. Daniel, the son of Aqhat, however, was a Baal worshiper who prayed to Baal and partook of food in the house of Baal. He is pictured as worshiping his ancestral gods and offering oblations to idols. He was also guilty of cursing his enemies and living without a real hope in God.22 It is hard to imagine that Ezekiel, writing by inspiration, would hold up such a character as an example of a godly man. Such a judgment is hardly in keeping with the facts.23
If the Ezekiel references were insufficient, certainly the clear attestation of Christ to the genuineness of Daniel in Matthew 24:15 should be admitted as valid. As Boutnower expresses it,
Now, what is the witness of Christ respecting this Book of Daniel, for it is evident from His position as a teacher, His tastes, and the time at which He lived, that He must know the truth of the matter; whilst from His lofty morality we are sure that He will tell us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? How does Christ treat this Book, of which the critics form so low an estimate, regarding it as a religious romance with a pseudonymous title, and its prophetic portion as a Jewish apocalypse, a vaticinium post eventum? The answer is that this is the Book which Christ specially delights to honour. To Him its title is no pseudonym, but the name of a real person, “Daniel the prophet”— “the prophet” in the sense of one inspired of God to foretell the future, “what shall come to pass hereafter.” Our Saviour in His own great Advent prophecy—Matt. 24—uttered on the eve of His death, quotes this Book of Daniel no less than three times [Matt. 24:15, 21; cp. Dan. 12:1; Matt. 24:30; cp. Dan 7:13].24
The recent discoveries at Qumran have given impetus to the trend to reconsider late dating of such books as the Psalms and 1 and 2 Chronicles. Brownlee on the basis of recent discoveries indicates that the Maccabean authorship of the Psalms can no longer be held. He states, “If this is true, it would seem that we should abandon the idea of any of the canonical Psalms being of Maccabean date.”25 Myers gives ample evidence that the Maccabean dating of 1 and 2 Chronicles (after 333 b.c. ) is no longer tenable since the publication of the Elephantine materials. He concludes that 1 and 2 Chronicles now must be considered written in the Persian period (538-333 b.c.).26
This trend toward recognition of earlier authorship of these portions of the Old Testament point also to the inconsistency of maintaining a late date for Daniel. If, on the basis of the scrolls recently discovered, Psalms and Chronicles can no longer be held to be Maccabean, then Daniel, on the same kind of evidence, also demands recognition as a production of the Persian period and earlier. Raymond K. Harrison has come to this conclusion when he states, “While, at the time of writing, the Daniel manuscripts from Qumran have yet to be published and evaluated, it appears presumptuous, even in the light of present knowledge, for scholars to abandon the Maccabean dating of certain allegedly late Psalms and yet maintain it with undiminished fervor in the case of Daniel when the grounds for such modification are the same.”27 Harrison points out that the Qumran manuscripts of Daniel are all copies; and if the Qumran sect was actually Maccabean in origin itself, it would necessarily imply that the original copy of Daniel must have been at least a half century earlier, which would place it before the time of the alleged Maccabean authorship of Daniel. The principles adopted by critics in evaluating other manuscripts and assigning them to a much earlier period than had been formerly accepted, if applied to Daniel, would make impossible the liberal critical position that Daniel is a second century B.C. work. Strangely, liberal critics have been slow to publish and comment upon the Qumran fragments of Daniel which seem to indicate a pre-Maccabean authorship. The facts as they are now before the investigator tend to destroy the arguments of the liberals for a late date for Daniel. The evidence against the canonicity of Daniel is without support. Besides, it is highly questionable whether the Jews living in the Maccabean period would have accepted Daniel if it had not had a previous history of canonicity.
Rejection of detailed prophecy. In the original objection of Porphyry to Daniel, the premise was taken that prophecy is impossible. This, of course, is based on a rejection of theism in general, a denial of the doctrine of supernatural revelation as is ordinarily assumed in the Scriptures by conservative scholars, and a disregard of the omniscience of God which includes foreknowledge of all future events. The defense of the possibility of prophecy should be unnecessary in treating the Scriptures inasmuch as it is related to the total apology for the Christian faith.
A more particular attack, however, is made on the book of Daniel on the ground that it is apocalyptic and therefore unworthy of serious study as prophecy. That there are many spurious apocalyptic works both in the Old Testament period and in the Christian era can be readily granted. The existence of the spurious is not a valid argument against the possibility of genuine apocalyptic revelation anymore than a counterfeit dollar bill is proof that there is no genuine dollar bill. If Daniel were the only apocalyptic work in the entire Scriptures, the argument could be taken more seriously; but the other apocalyptic sections of the Old Testament and the crowning prophetic work of the New Testament, the book of Revelation, have usually been considered adequate evidence that the apocalyptic method is sometimes used by God to reveal prophetic truth.
Further, it should be observed in the book of Daniel that the apocalyptic is not left to human interpretation, but along with the revelation is given divine interpretation which delivers the biblical apocalyptic from the vague, obscure, and subjective interpretations often necessary in spurious works. Actually, the problem in Daniel is not that the apocalyptic sections are obscure, but critics object to the clear prophetic truth which is therein presented.
The argument sometimes advanced, that apocalyptic writings had not yet begun in Daniel’s time in the sixth century B.C., is of course answered by the contemporary work of Ezekiel and the essential weakness of such an argument from silence. Actually, apocalyptic writings extended over a long period. Conservative scholarship, accordingly, while admitting the apocalyptic character of the book of Daniel, rejects this as a valid ground for questioning the sixth century authorship and therefore the genuineness of the book.
Rejection of miracles. If the book of Daniel is to be considered spurious on the ground that it presents miracles, it would follow that most of the Scriptures would also be eliminated as valid inspired writings. The objection to miracles reveals the essentially naturalistic point of view of some of the critics. Daniel’s miracles are no more unusual than some of those attributed to Christ in the gospels or to Moses and Aaron in the Pentateuch. Aside from the supernatural as related to revelation in the Bible, the deliverance of Daniel’s three companions in Daniel 3 and of Daniel himself in Daniel 6 is no more unusual than Christ passing through the mob that was threatening to throw Him over a cliff (Lk 4:29-30) or Peter’s deliverance from prison (Ac 12:5-11). In the biblical context, the rejection of a book because of miraculous incidents must be judged invalid.
Textual problems. Critics have raised textual problems almost without number in relation to the book of Daniel; but they have also contradicted each other, testifying to the subjective character of these criticisms. Critics have especially concentrated on the Aramaic portions, alleging many redactions and various degrees of tampering with the text; but there is wide divergence in their findings. The idea that Daniel himself may have originally written this section in either Hebrew or Babylonian and then changed it to the lingua franca of the time is not necessarily a reflection upon the inspiration of the final form which now appears in the book of Daniel.
Robert Dick Wilson, probably the outstanding authority on ancient languages of the Middle East, summarized his findings in these words,
We claim, however, that the composite Aram, of Dnl agrees in almost every particular of orthography, etymology and syntax, with the Aram, of the North Sem inscriptions of the 9th, 8th and 7th cents. BC and of the Egyp papyri of the 5th cent. BC, and that the vocabulary of Dnl has an admixture of Heb, Bab and Pers words similar to that of the papyri of the 5th cent. BC; whereas, it differs in composition from the Aram, of the Nabateans, which is devoid of Pers, Heb, and Bab words, and is full of Arabisms, and also from that of the Palmyrenes, which is full of Gr words, while having but one or two Pers words, and no Heb or Bab.28
Wilson finds the textual problems are no different from that of other books whose genuineness has not been assailed. While problems of text continue in the book of Daniel as in many other books in the Old Testament, these problems in themselves are not sufficiently supported by factual evidence to justify disbelief in the present text of Daniel. As in many other arguments against Daniel, the presuppositions of the higher critics which lead to these arguments are in themselves suspect; and the widespread disagreement among the critics themselves as to the nature and extent of the textual problem tends to support the conclusion that they are invalid.
Problems of language. Critics have objected to the presence of various Greek and Persian words in the book of Daniel as if this proved a late date. As brought out in the exposition of Daniel 3 where a number of these Persian and Greek words are found, in the light of recent archeological discoveries this objection is no longer valid. It has now been proved that one hundred years before Daniel Greek mercenaries served in the Assyrian armies under the command of Esarhaddon (683 B.C.) as well as in the Babylonian army of Nebuchadnezzar.29 As Robert Dick Wilson has noted, if Daniel had been written in the second century, there would have been far more Greek words rather than the few that occur.30 Yamauchi has also demonstrated that the critical objections to Greek words in Daniel are without foundation.31
The use of Persian words is certainly not strange in view of the fact that Daniel himself lived in the early years of the Persian empire and served as one of its principal officials. He naturally would use contemporary Persian description of various officials in chapter 3 in an effort to update the understanding of these offices for those living after the Persian conquest of Babylon in 539 b.c. It must be concluded that objections to the book of Daniel as a sixth century writing on the basis of Greek and Persian words is without reasonable scholarly support and increasingly becomes an untenable position in the light of archeological evidence.
Alleged historical inaccuracies. These supposed inaccuracies of the book of Daniel have been treated in the exposition where it has been demonstrated that there is no factual manuscript discovery which reasonably can be construed as questioning the historical accuracy of Daniel’s statements. On the other hand, it would be most unusual for a writer in the second century b.c. to have had the intimate knowledge of Babylonian history presented in the book of Daniel in view of the probability that the texts and other materials now in our possession may not have been available at that time.
Adequate answers to critical objections to the dating involved in Daniel 1:1 are treated in the exposition of the verse.
The difficulty of identifying Belshazzar (chap. 5), the source of much critical objection to the accuracy of Daniel on the ground that his name did not occur in ancient literature, has been remedied by precise information provided in the Nabonidus Chronicle.
While questions may continue to be raised concerning the identity of Darius the Mede (also considered in the exposition) the argument on the part of the critics is entirely from silence. Nothing in history has been found to contradict the conclusion that Darius is either another term for Cyrus himself or, preferably, an appointee of Cyrus who was of Median race and therefore called “the Mede.” As there are several plausible solutions to the identity of Darius the Mede, there is no legitimate ground for the objections to Daniel’s statements because of lack of support in ancient literature. Obviously, there are hundreds of facts in the Bible of historical nature which cannot be completely supported, and the Bible itself must be taken as a legitimate ancient manuscript whose testimony should stand until well-established facts raise questions.
On the basis of the critical idea that Daniel was written in the second century B.C., it is alleged that the “prophecies” relative to the Medo-Persian Empire and the Grecian Empire are often inaccurate. Particularly the claim is made that Daniel teaches a separate Median kingdom as preceding the Persian kingdom, which is historically inaccurate. The problem here is that the critics in the first place are seemingly willfully twisting Daniel’s statement to teach what he does not teach, namely, a separate Median empire. Second, the alleged discrepancy between the prophecy and its fulfillment is in the minds of the critics. Conservative scholars have no difficulty in finding accurate historical fulfillment of genuine prophecies made by Daniel in the sixth century B.C. Here the critics are guilty of circular argument, based on a false premise which leads to questionable conclusions. The larger problem of the interpretation of Daniel’s prophecy does not in itself invalidate the genuineness of the book unless it can be demonstrated that the prophecy itself is inaccurate. Up to the present, the critics have not been able to prove this.
Taken as a whole, the major objections of critics against the book of Daniel, as well as many minor questions commonly raised, are of the same kind as those hurled against Scripture as a whole and against the doctrine of supernatural revelation. Often the objections are products of the critics’ own theory in which they criticize Daniel for not corresponding to their idea of second century authorship. Prominent in the situation is the argument from silence in which they assume that Daniel is guilty of error until proved otherwise.
The broad historical questions raised in the study of Daniel have been answered by Robert Dick Wilson, who has demonstrated that the critics have not made an adequate case for their theories or their conclusions.32 Wilson shows that our problem is not with facts, as no facts have been discovered which contradict Daniel, but with theories too often supported by circular argument. To date, the critical arguments have not been confirmed by fact and must be accepted by faith. For the conservative expositor, it is far more preferable to accept the book of Daniel by faith in view of its confirmation by Christ Himself in Matthew 24:15.
Problems of interpretation in the book of Daniel have naturally been considered in the exposition of the text. If the premise be granted that the book of Daniel is genuine Scripture and that detailed prediction of the future as in Daniel may be admitted as genuine, the problems of interpretation are then reduced to determining what the text actually says.
The interpretation of apocalyptic literature such as the visions of Daniel requires special skills and close attention to hermeneutics as it applies to such revelation. Alexander, for instance, in his illuminating study of this problem, offers twenty-three rules to be used in the interpretation of Old Testament apocalyptic literature.33 In general, however, the meaning of the text can be ascertained, especially with the help of fulfillment in history which is now available to the expositor.
Historical records have been kind to Daniel in providing such adequate proofs of the fulfillment of his prophecy as to induce the critics to want to place its writing after the event. As pointed out in the exposition, the book of Daniel supports the interpretation that Daniel is presenting truth relative to the four great world empires beginning with Babylon, with the fourth empire definitely prophetic even from a second century point of view. The interpretation of chapter 2 is confirmed by chapter 7, which has special revelation concerning the fourth empire in its yet future stage, and by the considerable detail added in chapter 8 on the Medo-Persian and Grecian Empires. Most, if not all, of chapter 8 was fulfilled in history in the five hundred years from the death of Daniel to the formal beginning of the Roman Empire in 27 B.C.
The concentrated prophecy of Daniel 11:36-12:13 is properly regarded as a detailed discussion of “the time of the end,” the period immediately preceding the second advent of Christ. Chapter 9:24-27, giving the broad view of Israel’s history, may be considered fulfilled from the viewpoint of the twentieth century with the exception of Daniel 9:27, another prophecy of the role of Israel in the years immediately preceding the second advent.
Taken as a whole, the interpretation of Daniel provides a broad outline of the program of God for the Gentiles from Daniel to the second coming of Christ and the program for Israel for the same period with Daniel 9:24 beginning in Nehemiah’s time. The support of these interpretations as opposed to contrary views has been presented in the exposition.
In its broad revelation, the book of Daniel provides the same view of God that appears elsewhere in the Old Testament, namely, a God who is sovereign, loving, omnipotent, omniscient, righteous, and merciful. He is the God of Israel, but He is also the God of the Gentiles. Both of these theses are amply sustained in the content of the book.
Although Daniel does not concern himself primarily with Messianic prophecy, the first coming of Christ is anticipated in Daniel 9:26, including His death on the cross and the later destruction of Jerusalem. The second advent of Christ is given more particular revelation in chapters 7 and 12.
The doctrine of angels is prominent in the book of Daniel with Gabriel and Michael named and active in the events of the book. In this, Daniel is an advance on the Old Testament doctrine, but the liberal criticism that Daniel borrowed from Babylonian and Persian sources is unjustified and is not supported by the text.34
In his doctrine of man, Daniel fully bears witness to the depravity of man, to God’s righteous judgment upon him, and the possibility of mercy and grace, as illustrated in chapter 4 in the conversion of Nebuchadnezzar.
Daniel’s clear testimony to the subject of resurrection in chapter 12 has been contradicted by critics as being out of keeping with his times, as being borrowed from pagan sources, and as being unnoticed by the Minor Prophets who followed him. All of these allegations are without adequate foundation. The doctrine of resurrection is brought out clearly in Job 19:25-26 as normally interpreted. The resurrection of Israel is mentioned in Isaiah 26:19. Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones (chap. 37), while referring to the restoration of Israel nationally, requires the individual resurrection of Israel to accomplish its purpose. Also embedded in the Old Testament are references to the Book of Life or the Book of Remembrance which is related to resurrection as early as Exodus 32:32-33. The Old Testament doctrine of Messiah carries with it a doctrine of resurrection; and this theme begins, of course, in Genesis 3:15. On the other hand apocryphal books rarely mention the resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked; Archer finds mention only in the Book of the Twelve Patriarchs. Further, as Archer points out, the doctrine of the last judgment which implies resurrection is a frequent theme of prophecy, including minor prophets such as Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, as well as in many of the Psalms. Accordingly, the objection of Montgomery and other critics that Daniel’s doctrine of resurrection was un-suited for sixth century B.C., was borrowed from pagan sources, or was unnoticed by the Minor Prophets who wrote after Daniel, is completely without adequate support and is contradicted by the facts of Scripture.35 There is no good reason why God could not reveal these truths to Daniel in the sixth century B.C. Of interest is Daniel’s faith that he would be resurrected “at the end of the days,” that is, at the second advent of Christ (Dan 12:13).
Daniel’s contribution to eschatology is evident with his main theme being the course of history and Israel’s relation to it, culminating in the second advent of Christ. On the whole, Daniel makes a tremendous contribution to theology in keeping with the general revelation of Scripture, but constituting a distinct advance in Old Testament revelation.
In many respects, the book of Daniel is the most comprehensive prophetic revelation of the Old Testament, giving the only total view of world history from Babylon to the second advent of Christ and interrelating Gentile history and prophecy with that which concerns Israel. Daniel provides the key to the overall interpretation of prophecy, is a major element in premillennialism, and is essential to the interpretation of the book of Revelation. Its revelation of the sovereignty and power of God has brought assurance to Jew and Gentile alike that God will fulfill His sovereign purposes in time and eternity.
1 Cf. H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Daniel, p. 8.
2 Cf. ibid., pp. 5-7.
3 Robert Dick Wilson, “Book of Daniel,” ISBE 2:783.
4 J. Barton Payne, “Book of Daniel,” Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, p. 198.
5 Ralph Alexander, Abstract of “Hermeneutics of Old Testament Apocalyptic Literature,” doctor’s dissertation, p. 1.
7 Cf. H. H. Rowley, The Relevance of the Apocalyptic, pp. 29-55; and Stanley B. Frost, Old Testament Apocalyptic, pp. 178-209.
8 Cf. W. J. Martin, “Language of the Old Testament,” The New Bible Dictionary, pp. 712-13.
9 William H. Brownlee, The Meaning of the Qumran Scrolls for the Bible, p. 36.
10 S. R. Driver, The Book of Daniel, pp. 59-60.
11 Martin, p. 712; cf. Wilson, 2:784.
12 Gleason L. Archer, Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, pp. 377-78.
13 Cf. Robert D. Culver, Daniel and the Latter Days, pp. 95-104; and Carl August Auberlen, The Prophecies of Daniel and the Revelations of St. John, pp. 27-31.
14 Wilson, 2: 783-84.
15 Cf. ibid., p. 784.
16 Cf. ibid., p. 787.
17 Jerome, Commentary on Daniel, pp. 15-16.
18 Thomas S. Kepler, Dreams of the Future, pp. 32-33.
19 Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Bible Dictionary, p. 238.
20 James A. Montgomery, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Daniel, p. 3.
21 Ibid., p. 2.
22 James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, pp. 149-55.
23 Cf. W. A. Criswell, Expository Sermons on the Book of Daniel, 1: 54.
24 Charles Boutflower, In and Around the Book of Daniel, pp. 287-88.
25 Brownlee, p. 30.
26 Jacob M. Myers, The Anchor Bible, 1 Chronicles, pp. LXXXVII ff.
27 Raymond K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 1118.
28 Wilson, 2:785.
29 Leupold, p. 143.
30 Robert Dick Wilson, “The Aramaic of Daniel,” in Biblical and Theological Studies, p. 296.
31 Edwin M. Yamauchi, Greece and Babylon, pp. 17-24.
32 Robert Dick Wilson, Studies in the Book of Daniel, 402 pp.
33 Alexander, abs. p. 2.
34 Cf. Rowley, pp. 56-57.
35 R. D. Wilson shows that the Egyptians believed in resurrection more than 3000 years before Daniel and that Babylonians also commonly believed in a doctrine of resurrection (Wilson, Studies, pp. 124-27).
Cf. Montgomery, pp. 84 ff.; and Archer, pp. 380-81.