Daniel: Date & Historicity

Dani T. (CE3)


Two possibilities  date of composition has been hotly disputed. Essentially two possible dates

o 6th Century BC
   Suggests that book was written by Daniel himself Traditional Jewish and Christian view Now abandoned by nearly all scholars except some conservatives

o 2nd Century BC (c. 165BC)
 View of nearly all modern scholars- often without reexamination.

Driver is the big name  Based on 3 areas o o o Historical Linguistic Theological

So compelling the evidence… that it is possible to almost pinpoint not only the year but the month when it reached its present form… late 165BC  Anderson

Stories of Daniel and his friends handed down orally • probably adapted in the process to convey theological lessons to later generations in new situations

Visions were added in 2nd century (though chp 7 and other parts might be a bit earlier) • • • Retell recent history in form of ancient prophecy and predict imminent overthrow of evil foes Purpose to encourage the jews in their resistance against Selecuid monarch

Lingusitic Issue
• One of difficulities of single author theory is the bilingual nature

o Bilingual nature of one piece of literary work to be composed in
two languages  needs explanation o Ezra can be explained according to form (narrative – Hebrew, certain letters quoted in Aramaic)  • Not so with Daniel

Part of problem is nature of Aramaic and Hebrew in Daniel o Much recent development in our understanding of Aramaic and so earlier linguistic theories, like Drivers, need to be reexamined in light of this

 

Driver  Aramaic of Daniel: western dialect spoken in Palestine Recent discoveries  no longer classify Aramaic on geographical basis but according to date and use

Daniel presents Imperial/Official Aramaic


Adopted by Persian admin and used throughout ANE from 6th-2nd Centuries

Daniel’s Hebrew does not appear to be standard biblical Hebrew  Appears heavily influenced by Aramaic • Not impossible that Daniel himself spoke Aramaicflavoured Hebrew… after all he was deported at a very young-age o • But if more comfortable in Aramaic why did he write in both Aramaic AND Hebrew then Just as likely that it might reflect a post-exilic situation where Hebrew would have been heavily influenced by Aramaic • Difficulty with Daniel s whether it represents a clear stage in development of Hebrew or merely Aramaic speak writing with broken Hebrew

Suggestion that multiple authors/editors were involved helps overcome the linguistic issue

o o

However, at best this means Daniel is only one of the authors of the book So for those who want to hold that Daniel was written by a single author they need to come up with an answer which makes sense of both date and language.

Theological Issue – Predictive Prophecy
• Conservatives analyse the problem on the basis of theology, especially predictive prophecy. • Most scholars place major concern of the visions in Daniel as the Maccabean Crisis of 167-164 o Antiochus IV invading Jerusalem and revolt under the Maccabees

The argument therefore is that those who propose the 6th Century date do so on the basis of predictive prophecy o God revealing to Daniel in 6thC what would happen in 2ndC Daniel was actually just vaticinia ex eventu  prophecy after the event  Many scholars now follow his approach

o Porphyry (3rd C) was first to suggest that predictive prophecy of

All Christian scholars acknowledge the possibility of predictive prophecy o However, that is different to acknowledging the plausibility or probability of it

o Many 2nd C advocates argues that while God does know the future
and can reveal it in advance he usually does not operate in this way

Predictive prophecy is always relevant to the time of the prophet and so if Daniel was written in the 6thC then it must be directly relevant to readers in 6thC.


Since the visionary portions of Daniel have little do with with 6thC, more probably written in 2ndC when it was relevant

However, prophecy can also be divine comment given in hindsight as well  So classification of visions as prophetic does not mean they have to apply to the future


Daniel is apocalyptic, which has some prophetic aspects, but is different genre from prophetic genre.   So should not weigh it down with anchor of prophetic literature Issue of predictive prophecy becomes almost non-issue for dating of Daniel

• •
If Daniel was historical author  then lived in 6th C If this is the case then do we need to re-classify as proto-apocalyptic? o o Genuine apocalyptic employs pseudonymity where historical milieu of implied author/main character is literary construct It is the historical milieu of real author which matters  o If Daniel was historical figure of 6thC then the milieu of that time is not central to message of book But does all apocalyptic literature need to employ all the conventions of the genre?  Can be genuine apocalyptic without pseudonymity

So is historicity of Daniel in 6th C central to message of book? o o Very significant since number of historical difficulties 3 views

• • •

Requisite Historicity  it is crucial to theology of book and so difficulties must be resolved Unreliable History  Daniel is historically unreliable, demonstrating numerous factual errors Caricatured History  historical difficulties are not factual errors but deliberate caricaturing for authors purposes

So we really need to address the historical details of Daniel…

Historical Details

• Part of problem is that for many events in Daniel there is no correlation with secular documentation  historical corrbotation difficult The absence of corrobatory evidence leaves us with 3 ways to understand the historicity of the book

i. ii.

Requisite Historicity  does not mean events did not happen. Some events are recorded in only one source Unreliable History  does not mean events did not happen, but lends support to argument that they are purely fictional or result of faulty/fanciful memories


Caricatured History  not important because no need to find this evidence. Message of Daniel not to be tied to any one set of historical events. Caricaturing requires exaggeration or distortion of known historical events/entities

Siege of Jerusalem
o Jehoiakim  king of Judah 609BC 
o  Dan 1:1  siege of Jerusalem in his 3rd year (606BC?) This siege unattested in OT. Only time Jerusalem said to have been besieged was 2 times after his death • •  Reign of his son Jehoiachin (597BC) Reigh of Zedekiah (588-86BC) Two problems

Only time Neb could have come to Jerusalem during reign of Jehoiakim was in 605BC


Requisite Historicity  lot of details and date but the upshot is two fold a. 2 Kings 24:1 (Jehoiakim made Neb’s servant for 3 years) alludes to the effect of the siege written about in Daniel without refering to the siege itself

b. Depending on how you date the accession year of Jehoiakim the

dates can be made to fit with the 3rd year date in Dan 1:1


Unreliable History  Attempt at above does not work at all. Neb didn’t have time to besiege Jerusalem at the time Daniel says he did


Caricatured History  date issues not important because Neb is just a stereotypical foreign king and Jehoiakim stereotypical wicked king of Judah

Figure of Daniel
• No mention of a Jew named Daniel holding high office in either Babylonian or Persian administration Only Daniel in ANE literature is Dan’el in Ugartic literature  a legendary hero

o But Ugarit destroyed in 13thC, so not him
i. Requisite Historicity a. absence of evidence does not equal evidence of absence. There are countless administrative officials of various empires whose names are lost

b. Possible Ezekiel references him (14:14, 20, 28:3)  describing
him as very wise person. i. Contemporaries – date in Dan 1:1 means Daniel deported to Babylon 8 years before Ezkekiel giving him time to forge his wise reputation ii. Spelling discrepancy of his name not important ii. Unreliable History a. Fact that Daniel not mentioned outside Bible supports purely fictional character b. Daniel in Ezekiel cannot be same Daniel i. Missing yod in the name ii. Ezkiel referring to Dan’el of Urgatic literature iii. Places him beside Noah and Job who were both foreigners iv. Daniel would have been too young to have had such a big reputation to be referred alongside Noah and Job

c. Possible/Probably that biblical Daniel is derived from the Ugartic Dan’el i. Author uses the tradition and adds his own visions etc in the name of Daniel derived from Dan’el.


Caricatured History  not important if Daniel is entirely, loosely or not at all fictional. The purpose of the book (a metanarrative to give hope to God’s people) transcends any person of historicity.

Babylonian Names
• i. Daniel and his friends are all given unusual Babylonian names Requisite Historicity i. Says there is some precedence for the names Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meschach & Abednego

ii. Slight differences between Babylonian originals and
names as seen in Daniel  due to bowdlerisation of originals which were objectional to jews ii. Unreliable History i. Names do not have direct Babylonian etymologies ii. They are perversions and suggests author tried to mimic them


Caricatured History  not important. What matters is that they sound Babylonian. Purpose of names it to highlight the pressure put on Daniel and his friends to abandon jewish identity. Expect author to parody the name

Nebuchadnezzar’s Name

Name in OT spelt with a r (Nebuchadrezzar)  but only in Ezekiel and Jeremiah who were directly affected by his name. IN rest of OT (including Daniel) always spent with a n (Nebuchadnezzar) i. Requisite Historicity

i. Spelling with an n in Daniel represents legitimate shift
from r  n (as per Berger). ii. Does not mean author was not a contemporary ii. Unreliable History i. Spelling is inaccurate and incorrect. ii. Reflects usage of an author who was not a contemporary of him


Caricatured History  not important. What matters is that the caricature of Neb, who is portrayed as self-absorbed, childish, barbaric

Nebuchadnezzar’s Madness

i. Chp 4 goes mad. No Babylonian or other ANE doctrines refer to this Requisite Historicity i. Possibly officially suppressed? ii. Records from end of his reigh are very sketchy

iii. Any similarities between prayer of Nabonidus and Daniel
either coincidental or derived from Daniel ii. Unreliable History i. Dan 4 derived from older tradition about last king of Babylon (Nabonidus, 556-539BC) who went from Babylon to Arabian oasis for ten years where for 7 years he was afflicted by some kind of inflammation where he had to be put away from men 1. Idolater who is then absolved and healed by anonymous jewish exorcist ii. No corroborating evidence for Neb


Caricatured History  origin of Dan 4 not important. Simply lampooning foreign kings for pretentiousness and self-importance

King Belshazzar

• i.

He was never crowned as king Requisite Historicity

o Until 20thC his rule was unknown in historical records
o But cuneiform texts published in 1929 name him as son of later King (Nabonidus) 

He acted as a kind of de facto king

o A 2 century author would have pleaced Nabonidus, who was
the last king of Babylon, in the palace that night rather than forgotten Belshazzar. So this is an indication of historical reliability ii. Unreliable History o Unlikely Belshazzar was a forgotten memory that quickly   Yet his father, Nabonidus, returned from his exile c 543BC and was reigning at 539, not his son Bel. Indication of historical inaccuracy.

o Dan 5  Bel reigning at time Babylonian Empire fell (539BC)


Caricatured History  not crucial. What matters is that sons of pretentious monarchs also turn out to be every bit as pretentious as their fathers with no regard for God.

King Belshazzar
• i. Named as son of Nebuchadnezzar but his father was Nabonidus Requisite Historicity   Term father commonly denotes ancestor or forebear Whilst Nabonidus was not a descendant of Neb he did hold high rank during his administration • Possibly married Neb’s daughter and therefore Bel might have been able to trace lineage back through mother ii. Unreliable History • • Factual error and no corroboration that Nabonidus married Neb’s daughter. Speculation at best and probably wishful thinking


Caricatured History  characters chose and used for their idiosyncrasies and do not necessarily reflect real history. It is characters of Nebuchadnezzar and Beltshazzar who serve the authors intentions best.

Darius the Mede
• Babylonian empire said to fall at hands of Darius. But we know from other biblical and extrabiblical sources that the empire fell to the Persian King Cyrus in 539BC i. Requisite Historicity o Darius = Ugbaru who was Cryus’ military commander who led capture of Babylon. Became a temporary governor and vassal king of Babylon o Darius = Gubaru who was a governor of Babylon after Ugbaru (general who died not long after the conquest).

 o

Passive ‘Darius was made king over realm’ implies the existence of a greater authority  Cyrus

Darius = Cyrus  relies on a reading of 6:28 which is ‘vav explicativum’  Darius that is (not and) the reign of Cyrus.

Unreliable History • There is simply no way to reconcile Darius the Mede with any prominent figure known in overthrow of Babylon in 539BC. Each option fails completely


Caricatured History  no need to find a historical resolution to this problem. Darius is simply the personfication of every Medo-Persian king rolled into one. Darius was the most common name of Persian kings (followed closely by Xerxes). • Cyrus cast as successor to stereotypical Darius because he is the liberator of the Jews and so appropriate that Daniel live on to his reign

External Evidence
• Eight fragments of Daniel dated to c 100bc o Shows that it was accepted as authoritative upon the thought and language of the sect

o Bruce  can’t help but notice the pervasive influence of Daniel •
But if we go with the five stage historical development, the narratives of 1-6 probably had long life before the Maccabean crisis. o Visionary material (7-12) added during the Maccabean crisis probably gained rapid acceptance because of their association with already revered figure of Daniel

Ben Sira (Ecclesiasticus) •
Apocryphal book of Ben Sira is late 2nd BC translation of early 2nd BC work. o o Amongst its materials is a list of famous Israelites from Scripture List is cited as evidence against early Daniel since it makes no mention of him amongst heroes of past

However, also neglects to mention Ezra from 5th C so inconclusive