Prophecies of Daniel

Modern criticism views the date of authorship during the Maccabees era, about B.C.167. However, the most damaging evidence to this assessment has been provided by the Qumran discoveries. It is now clear that the sect originated in the 2nd century B.C., and that all its Biblical manuscripts were copies, not originals. The nature of Jewish compositions aspiring to canonicity was that they were allowed to circulate for a period of time so that their general harmony with the law and the other canonical writings could become established. Once this had taken place the works were accorded a degree of popular canonicity as distinct from a council pronouncement. Under normal circumstances a moderate interval of time was required for this process, though some prophecies were doubtless recognized early for what they were by those who heard them. Nevertheless, the written form generally only gained acceptance as the Word after some time had elapsed, but once this had happened it was transmitted with scrupulous care. Daniel was represented at Qumran by several manuscripts in good condition as well as by numerous fragments, thus showing the popularity of the work. Since all of these are copies, the autograph must clearly be earlier than the Maccabees period. Two fragments of Daniel recovered from Cave 1Q proved to be related paleographically to the large Isaiah scroll, and another was akin to the script of Habakkuk. If this relationship is as genuine as paleographers think, the liberal dating of Daniel will need radical upward adjustment, since the Book of Isaiah was certainly written several centuries before the earliest date to which the large Isaiah scroll (1QIsa) can be assigned on any grounds. A Maccabees dating for Daniel has now to be abandoned, if only because there could not possibly be a sufficient interval of time between the composition of Daniel and its appearance in the form of copies in the library of a Maccabees religious sect.

Now, the embarrassing thing about this attempt to explain away the meticulously accurate prophecy, is really that it explains away only a small part of Daniel’s prophecies. Vast predictions remain concerning the First advent of the Messiah, a staggeringly accurate prediction of the date of the Messiah’s death (Daniel 9:24-27), and the scattering of the Jewish people by the Romans (Daniel 9:26), which are already fulfilled, and the Second advent of the Messiah (Daniel 7:13,14), and the establishment of the Kingdom of Israel (Daniel 2:44,7:27, etc) which are yet prophecies yet to be realised, though Israel has been re-established in readiness for the latter prophecy.

What, then, of the supposed ‘inaccuracies’? The writer of the Book of Daniel must have been an intelligent Jew. If he had lived, as is supposed, in the Maccabees age, and if he had ever read the Book of Ezra, which covered the history of the Persian period, he would never have committed the alleged mistakes contained in the book. Furthermore, the Jews of the Maccabees period would never have recognised the book as canonical had it actually contained the kind of errors proposed. So let’s just look at a couple of the most commonly claimed ‘errors’.

Linguistic problems are claimed: the Greek words used in places require a date later than the conquest of Alexander in B.C.332. Yet modern discoveries of ancient documents categorically refute such an argument. The fifth century B.C. Elephantine papyri from Egypt, as well as sections of Ezra are closely related forms of writing. The Hebrew portions of Daniel have affinity with the linguistic forms of Ezekiel, Haggai, Ezra and Chronicles; all books written about the time of Daniel. The fact that Greek names were used for certain musical instruments in Daniel, translated as ‘harp’, ‘sakbut’ and ‘psaltery’, was formerly much in vogue as an argument for a Maccabees date for the writing of the book. However, this view no longer constitutes a serious problem, since archaeological discoveries have revealed something of the extent to which Greek culture had infiltrated the Near East long before the Persian period. It is now known that the instruments in question are of undoubted Mesopotamian origin. The term ‘satrap’, once thought to be Greek, is now known to have been derived from the Old Persian word ‘Kshathrapan’, which occurred in cuneiform texts as ‘satarpanu’, from which the Greek form emerged.

The identification of Darius the Mede has been an issue of past concern, but with recent discoveries can be confidently identified with Gubaru. Previously this was less clear, due to confusion with a similarly named person, Ugbaru.

Critical objections have also been raised in connection with the relationship between Belshazzar and Nabonidus. However, due to involved nature of the situation, it is not my intention to recite here the true explanation of the issue. It can be found in many reputable books. A reasonably concise explanation is expounded in the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, to which you can refer.

In summary, a Maccabees date for Daniel is now absolutely precluded by the discoveries at Qumran. Since the choice of date is between a Maccabees and a sixth century B.C. one, the demonstrated inadequacy of the former leaves the latter the only acceptable alternative.

Daniel’s relevance for today

Having established the credibility of Daniel’s writings, and verified the astonishing accuracy of his predictions regarding the empires of the Babylonians, the Medes and Persians, the Greeks, the Romans and of the date of Jesus’ crucifixion, we can be sure that what he predicts for those days that lie beyond our own day will be similarly and as amazingly fulfilled.

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