Major Arguments in Favour of a Date c.

165 BCE for Daniel
Background comments:
Scholars generally think that there is plenty of earlier material in Daniel, especially the
narratives (chapters 1–6 in English Bibles) and possibly earlier versions of visionary material
especially chapter 7. But the argument is that the four sections, Chapters 7; 8; 9; and 10–12
all received their decisive formative moment c.165 during the crisis under the Seleucid king
Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Antiochus attempted to suppress Jewish practices like keeping the
Sabbath, circumcising children, and reading the Torah/Law. The Temple was profaned and
new rituals were introduced like offering pigs. The Hasmonean family fought against
Antiochus, first led by Judas Maccabaeus, and liberated the Temple after a bit over three
years of it being occupied.
Two Major Arguments:
Argument 1. Daniel 10–12 Connects the End With Antiochus IV’s Time
Chapter 11 gives a very detailed description of events in the Hellenistic period, from the end
of the Persian period in the late 4th century BCE. Daniel 11:1–20 describes from the Persian
period down to Antiochus IV. Detail increases in 11:21–39 where Antiochus IV is described
as the “king of the north” with detailed information about his reign. It is generally accepted
by scholars of all types that we are talking about Antiochus IV, since the detail is so great.
The issue is how to interpret what happens next. Traditionalist scholars tend to suggest that
there is a change of subject about verse 40 (or 36, since the last few verses are generally
about the king exalting himself, so is not as specifically about Antiochus as the previous
verses). Traditionalist scholars suggest that we change to talk about an evil eschatological
king (“the Antichrist”) and are talking about a later period, at the end of time, hence the leadin to the resurrection of the dead.
Mainstream scholars point out that this is far from an obvious reading of the text, but is rather
a special theory to avoid the problem that the resurrection of the dead etc seems to be placed
straight after Antiochus’ time. There is no indication of a change of subject in verse 36 “and
the king shall act as he pleases” with a weqatal verbal form in Hebrew, which is not used in
standard Hebrew grammar as a head word in a new clause.
There is a clear change from describing the known details of Antiochus’ reign to apocalyptic
symbols around verse 40. There is the massive battle of the nations in the holy land “At the
time of the end” (11:40; cf. e.g., Zech 14; Vision of Gabriel). “At that time” (12:1) also
happen end-time events like the resurrection of the dead (12:1–3). However, the transition
from known history to apocalyptic symbols is not indicated by any change of subject. Daniel
11:40 says: “At the time of the end the king of the south shall attack him. But the king of the
north shall rush upon him like a whirlwind, with chariots and horsemen, and with many
1

it seems to me. why stop detailed description in c. (2) Future-looking prediction using apocalyptic imagery.” The “him” and the “king of the north” is by a straightforward reading the same person as before. but already in basic form in older Akkadian [e. for example. The problem with this interpretation is that if this is all future prediction. This interpretation is the only one.ships. There are three options for interpretation of the sequence of events in chapters 11–12: 1. which is a very strong consensus among scholars outside some traditionalists. He shall advance against countries and pass through like a flood. The writer of Daniel was writing after the time of the crisis after the victory of Judas Maccabaeus. with no one to help him” (Dan 11:45). Babylonian] texts). The most extensive (and contemporary) example of this is the Animal Apocalypse. and was not predicting anything. and “at that time” the angel Michael shall appear.e. and what is the function of the literary form of Daniel? Scholars suggest that Dan 10–12 uses an accepted literary form of the “survey of history” (found in other apocalypses such as the Animal Apocalypse [a text also focused on an End in Antiochus’ time]. by their church denomination) argue that Daniel wrote these sections in the sixth century and all history in these sections is future prediction. A major problem with this interpretation is: why not give an account of all Judas’ career if it was known. which gives a final. that can explain the shift from detailed description of known historical events to apocalyptic symbols in Daniel 10–12.165BCE. Therefore Dan 10–12 has a timeline where Antiochus’s activities in the earlier part of the 160’s BCE are immediately followed by the great final battle in the holy land which ends with Antiochus coming “to his end. The purpose of this is a theological interpretation of past history. Judas. since it is obvious that that sequence of events did not exactly happen c. for example.. This was the opinion of the antiChristian philosopher Porphyry. his brothers and their children. God’s-perspective view to the whole of history.. Traditionalist scholars (scholars who wish to uphold the traditional understanding of the biblical books held. followed by the resurrection of the dead.g.165 BCE and move to the use of symbols? 2. and the text move to symbolic description of the victory of God? This is the same problem as the previous interpretation: there is no motivation for suddenly stopping giving detailed historical information at a particular point. This literary form has two sections: (1) A survey of history down to the author’s own day. Eventually the Jewish military resistance under Judas Maccabaeus regained control of Jerusalem and gradually over time the Hasmonean family. 3. no modern scholar accepts this. Why traditionalist scholars try to avoid that simple reading is plain. or 4 Ezra. established themselves as independent from the Seleucid empire. But. i. there will be a final period of suffering. The question is: where does future prediction begin in Daniel. why does the detailed and accurate description end at a certain point. The third view is the standard scholarly view. Antiochus. 2 . which spends a great deal of time giving an Enochic spin on Israel’s history. the dead were not raised.

Daniel 8 and Daniel 7 are Closely Related The vision in chapter 8 is very clear and has been understood as referring to Antiochus IV by all major commentators. and the most obvious reading is that he is the little horn in chapter 7 too. the little horn in chapter 8 is clearly Antiochus. Therefore. Daniel 9 also refers to Antiochus. who is succeeded by the four Hellenistic successor kingdoms. 9:27: “He shall make a strong covenant with many for one week. Certainly. for example. However. and for half of the week he shall make sacrifice and offering cease. Ancient readers understood that the texts had made true statements about the defeat of Antiochus and the triumph of God’s cause using apocalyptic symbols. 24–25). 23–25) are acknowledged to identify the little horn as Antiochus IV. mention of his desecration of the Temple in Dan. The activities of the “little horn. Unlike Daniel 8.g. for no literary reason. since the chapter focuses on the restoration of the Temple and doesn’t have much to say about other eschatological events. rather than considering that it was some sort of failure that every detail did not literally happen. Daniel 8 is very closely related to Daniel 7. This isn’t too much of a problem even for a literalistic reading of this chapter. though. Thus. Argument 2. Daniel was very soon in the authoritative collection of scripture books in the Jerusalem Temple.Apocalyptic visions are not to be read literalistically. It clearly identifies the ram in the vision as the (Medeo-)Persian empire. chapter 7 makes clear mention that the activities of Antiochus are followed by the final judgement. However. including the presence of the “little horn. in the same apocalypse. I haven’t responded to all the traditionalist arguments for a sixth century date. Final Comments There are undoubtedly other points that can be made in favour of the 165BCE date for Daniel. and the goat as the succeeding Hellenistic kingdoms. and the vision of the End in Daniel 7 is to be understood in the same way as in Dan 10–12. and in their place shall be an abomination that desolates. including most relevantly for the Jews.” who is again described in terms reminiscent of Antiochus IV (Dan 7:8. but are not exclusive of other visions which convey other truths. Apocalypses (as an extreme example of what was normal in ancient Near Eastern literature) paint pictures that convey certain truths.” which arises from one of these Hellenistic kingdoms and who.. traditionalist scholars claim that the little horn is different in both chapters. The first horn on the ram is Alexander the Great. just as Daniel 10–12 does. the Seleucids in Syria and the Ptolemies in Egypt. he is the final king before the end as in Dan 10–12. things said in one vision will even be logically contradictory to things said in another vision. Regularly. until the decreed end is poured out upon the desolator”). takes away the temple offerings (Dan 8:9–12. but what is said there is brief and does not add anything to the current discussion (e. The focus here is just trying to give some clarity on why scholars are so convinced that 3 . ancient readers considered Daniel was a true prophet.

edu. even if it doesn’t behave like modern people expect or want it to. And making best sense of the book is what it is all about.the second century dating of Daniel makes the most sense of the book.au 4 . Any follow up questions: Ian.Young@sydney. The bottom line is being open to what the biblical text is actually saying. It is not very respectful to Daniel or any other ancient text to decide what it can and can’t mean ahead of time and not be open to what it might actually be saying and how it might be saying it.