Robert Dick Wilson’s talk “Is the Higher Criticism Scholarly?” (part 3 of transcript) (Wilson looks at the Book of Daniel)

The Bible and Archaeology (4/5)

For many more archaeological evidences in support of the Bible, see Archaeology and the Bible . (There are some great posts on this too at the bottom of this post.)


Robert Dick Wilson at the Grove City Bible Conference in 1909.

IS THE HIGHER CRITICISM SCHOLARLY?Clearly attested facts showing that thedestructive “assured results of modern scholarship” are indefensible

By Robert Dick Wilson, Ph.D., D.D.

Professor of Semitic Philology in Princeton Theological Seminary[Originally Published in 1922] 

No Whit Different From Our Own Language To-day

We see that the Hebrew, just like the Aramaic, has embedded in it traces of the nations that influenced its history from 2000 B. C. to A. D. 1500, or indeed to the present time. The reader will compare this with the marks which have been left upon our American nomenclature by the different nations that have influenced its history. The native Indian appears in the names Massachusetts, Connecticut, Allegheny, Ohio, Mexico, Yucatan, and countless other terms. The Spanish appears in Florida, San Anselmo, Los Angeles, Vera Cruz, New Granada, and numerous appellations of mountains, rivers, and cities; the French, in Montreal, Detroit, Vincennes, Duquesne, Louisiana, St Louis, and New Orleans; the Dutch in Hackensack, Schenectady, Schuyler; the German, in Germantown, and Snyder County (Pennsylvania). Some of these languages have contributed, also, various words of common use such as moccasin, succotash, potato, maize, tomato, tomahawk, prairie, sauerkraut, broncho, and corral.

These languages have all left their mark, but the great directing, predominating, language and nation were the English, as shown not merely in our literature and laws, but also in such names as New Hampshire, Boston, New York, Albany, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, and the names of most of our cities, counties, and statesmen. But that the English received their laws largely from the Romans and Normans is evident in any law book or courtroom; that they received their religion from the Hebrews through the Greek and Latin churches is evident from the words we use everyday such as amen, hallelujah, priest, baptism, cathedral, bishop, chant, cross, resurrection, glory, and countless others.

Critics Undervalue the Totality of the Evidence

Thus the vicissitudes of the life of the English people for the last fifteen hundred years can be traced in the foreign words that have been taken over into its literature during that period. So also with the Hebrew people for the last four thousand years, and in the first part of sixteen hundred years no less that since that time. And in the study of the Hebrew literature in the light of the foreign elements that are embedded in it, we find that the truthfulness of the history is incidentally but convincingly confirmed. In each stage of the literature the foreign words in the documents are found to belong to the language of the peoples that the Scriptures and the records of the nations surrounding Israel unite in declaring to have influenced and affected the Israelites at that time. The critics of the Old Testament have never given sufficient weight to the totality of this evidence.

That the presence of Babylonian terms in the first chapter of Genesis points to a time when Babylonian influence was predominant, no one will dispute; but the same influence is manifest in the second chapter and also in Daniel. This influence can easily be accounted for in all three instances on the supposition that the contents of Genesis 1 and 2 were brought by Abraham from Babylon and that the book of Daniel was written at Babylon in the sixth century B. C.  While it might be accounted for in Genesis 1 if it were composed at Babylon during or after the exile, how can it have influenced Genesis 2, if, as the critics asset, it were written somewhere between 800 and 750 B. C.? How can we account for the Babylonian influence in Daniel if as the same critics assure us, it were written in Palestine in 164 B. C.?

Why Are Persian Words Missing in Critic-Belated Bible Books?

So of the Persian words. They are found especially in Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, and Daniel, all ostensibly from the Persian period of world domination. According to analogy, this Persian domination accounts for their presence in these books. But how about their absence from Jonah, Joel, Job, the Psalms, the Song of Songs, the so-called Priest-Code of the Pentateuch and other writings which the critics place in the Persian period? Why especially should the Priest-Code have no Persian, and probably no Aramaic, words, if it were written between 500 and 300 B. C., in the very age and, as some affirm, by the very author of the book of Ezra? And why should the only demonstrably Babylonian words in this part of the Pentateuch be found in the accounts of the Creation and the Flood, which may so well have come with Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees? And how could the word for “kind” (min), an Egyptian word, have come to be used by the man who is supposed to have written this latest part of the Pentateuch in Babylon in the fifth century B. C.?

These and other similar questions that ought to be asked we may leave to the critics of the Old Testament to attempt to answer. They dare not deny the facts without laying themselves open to the charge of ignorance. They dare not ignore them without submitting to the charge of willful suppression of the facts in evidence.

But someone will say: How about the Greek words in Daniel? No one claims that there are any Greek words in the Hebrew of Daniel. In the Aramaic parts of Daniel there are three words, all names of musical instruments, which are alleged, not proved, to be Greek. It is more likely than not, I think, that they are of Greek origin, though no one of them is exactly transliterated. Assuming, however, that they are Greek, and waiving the question as to weather this part of the book was originally written in Hebrew, or Babylonian, and afterwards translated into Aramaic, there is no good reason for supposing that Greek musical instruments, retaining their original names though in a somewhat perverted form, may not have been used at the court of Nebuchadnezzar.

How Greek Words May Have Crept Into Daniel

It is known for a certainty that from the earliest times the kings and peoples of Babylon and Nineveh delighted in music. Now the Greeks, according to all their traditions and habits, both in war and worship, had practiced music at all periods of their history and far excelled all ancient peoples in their attainments in the art of music. We all know how readily musical instruments and their native names travel from land to land. We might instance the ukelele, the guitar, the organ, and the trumpet. The Greeks themselves imported many foreign musical instruments which retained their foreign names. From at least 1000 B. C. there was an active commerce between the Greeks and the Semites. Cyprus and Cilicia were subdued by the Assyrian kings; and Sennacherib about 700 B. C. conquered a Greek fleet and carried many prisoners captive to Nineveh. Assurbanipal received the homage of Gyges, king of Lydia, the neighbor and overlord of many Greek cities in Asia Minor.

Greeks had been settled in Egypt since long before the time of Assurbanipal and Nebuchadnezzar and served as mercenaries in the armies of the Egyptian kings of Nineveh and Babylon, and also in the army of Nebuchadnezzar himself. Thousands, perhaps, tens of thousands, of captive Greek soldiers would, according to the custom of those days, be settled in the cities of the Euphrates and Tigris valleys. And these valleys were filled with people who spoke Aramaic. The Greeks would mingle with them and, as in the case of the Jews at Babylon, the natives would ask of them a song; and they would sing their strange songs to the accompaniment of their native instruments. This is one way in which the instruments and their names could get into Aramaic long before the time when the Aramaic of Daniel was written. Another was through the slaves, both men and girls, who would certainly be brought from all lands to minister to the pleasures of the luxurious court of the Chaldean king.

Why Daniel May Have Used Persian Words

That Daniel may have used the so-called Persian words in a document dating from the latter part of the sixth century B. C. is manifest when we remember that the children of Israel from the kingdom of Samaria had been captive among the Medes for two hundred years before the time of the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus, and that the Jews had been carried to the banks of the Chebar and other localities where Aramaic was spoken nearly two generations before Daniel died. The Medes spoke a dialect of the Persian, and, having overthrown Nineveh in 606 B. C., had ruled over large numbers of Aramæan tribes on the upper Tigris ever since that time. Such Medo-Persian terms are found in Daniel, being mostly official titles like governor and names of persons, are the ones which would most readily be adopted by the subject nations, including the Aramæans and Jews. That the words satrap and Xerxes were taken directly from the Medo-Persian and not from the Greek is shown by the fact that the Hebrew and Aramaic spelling of these names in Daniel is exactly the equivalent of that in the original language and not such as it must have been if these words had been taken over indirectly through the Greek historians.

Before leaving this subject of language, attention must be called to two matters that the critics have made of supreme importance in their attempts to settle the dates of the documents of the Old Testament. The first matter is that of the value, as evidence of date of occurrence, of Aramaic words in a Hebrew document; and the second is the value, as evidence of date, of Hebrew words that occur but once, or at most a few times, in the Old Testament and that reoccur in the Hebrew of the Talmud.

Hebraisms in Aramaic, Not Aramaisms in Hebrew

As to the first of these, the so-called Aramaisms, the number of these has been grossly exaggerated. Many of the words and roots formerly called Aramaisms have been found in Babylonian records as early as Abraham. As to the remainder, many of them occur in the Old Testament but once. In view of the fact that there are about 1500 words used but once in the Old Testament, it is impossible to select some of these and call them Aramaisms, simply because they are used in Aramaic also. Hundreds of words in both Aramaic and Hebrew, and also in Babylonian and Arabic, have the same meaning irrespective of the number of times or the document in which they occur. According to the laws of consonantal change existing among the Semitic languages, not more than five or six Aramaic roots can be shown to have been adopted by the Hebrew form the Aramaic. These roots are found in what the critics class as early documents as well as in the later. Besides a large proportion of the words designated as Aramaisms do not occur in any Aramaic dialect except those that were spoken by the Jews. In all such cases the probability is that instead of the words being an Aramaism in Hebrew, it is a Hebraism in Aramaic. For the Hebrew documents in all such cases antedate the Aramaic by hundreds of years; and it is evident that the earlier cannot have been derived from the later.

Again the critics find words which they call Aramaisms not merely in the books which they assert to be late, but in those that according to their own dating, are the earliest. In this case without any evidence except their own theory of how it ought to be, they charge that the original text has been changed and the Aramaic word inserted. Such procedure is contrary to all the laws of evidence, fairness, and common sense. For there is no reason why the early documents of the Hebrews should not have contained linguistic marks of Aramaic influence. According to Genesis 31, Laban spoke Aramaic. David conquered Damascus and other cities where Aramaic was spoken and the Israelites have certainly been in continuous contact with Aramæan tribes from that time to the present. Sporadic cases of the use of Aramaic words would, therefore, prove nothing as to the date of a Hebrew document.

A Theory That Would Make All Documents Late

In the second place, critics who are attempting to prove the late date of a certain document are wont to cite the words in that document which occur nowhere else except possibly in another work claimed as being late, and in the Hebrew of the Talmud. Such evidence is worthy of being collected in order to show the peculiarities of an author, but it does not necessarily have anything to do with proving the date. For there are three thousand words in the Old Testament that occur five times only or under, and fifteen hundred that occur but once. Besides, such words occurring elsewhere in the Talmud are found in every book of the Old Testament and in almost every chapter. If such words were proof of the lateness of a document, all documents would be late; a conclusion so absurd as to be held by nobody.

Hebrew Literary Forms Duplicated in Babylon and Egypt

From the language of the Old Testament we naturally turn to the literature, in order to see if the literary forms in which the documents are written are such as we would expect to find in existence when the documents lay claim to have been written. Our only evidence here must be derived from comparative literature and contemporary history. Turning, then, to the vast body of the literatures of the Babylonians and Egyptians we find that in one, or both, of them is to be found every type of literary form that is met with in the literature of the Old Testament; except perhaps the discourses of the prophets. As no serious dispute of the date, or authorship, of the works of the prophets is made on the ground of mere literary form, the general statement will stand unimpeached; for poetry, history, laws, and biographies are all amply duplicated in form and style in the many productions of the great nations that surrounded Israel.

The Same True of Legal Forms

With regard to the laws it may be said that, not merely in the form in which the individual laws are stated, but also in the manner in which they are collected together in a kind of code, there was a pattern for the Israelites already existing at least from the time of Hammurapi, a contemporary of Abraham. This code of Hammurapi, it is true, deals almost entirely with criminal and civil laws such as we find in parts of Deuteronomy. But the plan of the tabernacle in Exodus 25-29 may be likened to the plans of the Babylonian temples which were placed in their foundation stones, to which Nebuchadnezzar Nabunaid so often refer. Laws similar to those concerning leprosy and other diseases have also come down from the old Sumerians. It is almost certain, also, that the elaborate ceremonies of the Egyptian and Babylonian temples must have been regulated by written laws, though thus far we have discovered no complete code treating of such matters.

That Moses with his education in all the wisdom of the Egyptians at 1500 B. C. might have produced the laws of the Pentateuch under the divine guidance seems beyond dispute. Lycurgus, Mohammed, Charlemagne, Peter the Great, and Napoleon have preformed similar feats without any special divine help. It does not follow that systems of law and constitutions were not written, or inaugurated, because they were never carried out nor permanently established. Theodoric and Alfred the Great and even Charlemagne organized governments which scarcely survived their demise. The critics are in the habit of stressing the fact that so little mention of the law is made in the period before Hezekiah, or even Josiah, and assert that the law of the Priest- code was not fully established before Ezra.


Is the Bible historically accurate? Here are some of the posts I have done in the past on the subject:

The Babylonian Chronicle
of Nebuchadnezzars Siege of Jerusalem

This clay tablet is a Babylonian chronicle recording events from 605-594BC. It was first translated in 1956 and is now in the British Museum. The cuneiform text on this clay tablet tells, among other things, 3 main events: 1. The Battle of Carchemish (famous battle for world supremacy where Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon defeated Pharoah Necho of Egypt, 605 BC.), 2. The accession to the throne of Nebuchadnezzar II, the Chaldean, and 3. The capture of Jerusalem on the 16th of March, 598 BC.

2. Hezekiah’s Siloam Tunnel Inscription.

King Hezekiah of Judah ruled from 721 to 686 BC. Fearing a siege by the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, Hezekiah preserved Jerusalem’s water supply by cutting a tunnel through 1,750 feet of solid rock from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam inside the city walls (2 Kings 20; 2 Chron. 32). At the Siloam end of the tunnel, an inscription, presently in the archaeological museum at Istanbul, Turkey, celebrates this remarkable accomplishment.

3. Taylor Prism (Sennacherib Hexagonal Prism)

It contains the victories of Sennacherib himself, the Assyrian king who had besieged Jerusalem in 701 BC during the reign of king Hezekiah, it never mentions any defeats. On the prism Sennacherib boasts that he shut up “Hezekiah the Judahite” within Jerusalem his own royal city “like a caged bird.” This prism is among the three accounts discovered so far which have been left by the Assyrian king Sennacherib of his campaign against Israel and Judah.

4. Biblical Cities Attested Archaeologically.

In addition to Jericho, places such as Haran, Hazor, Dan, Megiddo, Shechem, Samaria, Shiloh, Gezer, Gibeah, Beth Shemesh, Beth Shean, Beersheba, Lachish, and many other urban sites have been excavated, quite apart from such larger and obvious locations as Jerusalem or Babylon. Such geographical markers are extremely significant in demonstrating that fact, not fantasy, is intended in the Old Testament historical narratives;

5. The Discovery of the Hittites

Most doubting scholars back then said that the Hittites were just a “mythical people that are only mentioned in the Bible.” Some skeptics pointed to the fact that the Bible pictures the Hittites as a very big nation that was worthy of being coalition partners with Egypt (II Kings 7:6), and these bible critics would assert that surely we would have found records of this great nation of Hittites.  The ironic thing is that when the Hittite nation was discovered, a vast amount of Hittite documents were found. Among those documents was the treaty between Ramesses II and the Hittite King.

6.Shishak Smiting His Captives

The Bible mentions that Shishak marched his troops into the land of Judah and plundered a host of cities including Jerusalem,  this has been confirmed by archaeologists. Shishak’s own record of his campaign is inscribed on the south wall of the Great Temple of Amon at Karnak in Egypt. In his campaign he presents 156 cities of Judea to his god Amon. 

7. Moabite Stone

The Moabite Stone also known as the Mesha Stele is an interesting story. The Bible says in 2 Kings 3:5 that Mesha the king of Moab stopped paying tribute to Israel and rebelled and fought against Israel and later he recorded this event. This record from Mesha has been discovered.

8Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III

The tribute of Jehu, son of Omri, silver, gold, bowls of gold, chalices of gold, cups of gold, vases of gold, lead, a sceptre for the king, and spear-shafts, I have received.”

View from the dome of the Capitol!9A Verification of places in Gospel of John and Book of Acts.

Sir William Ramsay, famed archaeologist, began a study of Asia Minor with little regard for the book of Acts. He later wrote:

I found myself brought into contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.

9B Discovery of Ebla TabletsWhen I think of discoveries like the Ebla Tablets that verify  names like Adam, Eve, Ishmael, David and Saul were in common usage when the Bible said they were, it makes me think of what amazing confirmation that is of the historical accuracy of the Bible.

10. Cyrus Cylinder

There is a well preserved cylinder seal in the Yale University Library from Cyrus which contains his commands to resettle the captive nations.

11. Puru “The lot of Yahali” 9th Century B.C.E.

This cube is inscribed with the name and titles of Yahali and a prayer: “In his year assigned to him by lot (puru) may the harvest of the land of Assyria prosper and thrive, in front of the gods Assur and Adad may his lot (puru) fall.”  It provides a prototype (the only one ever recovered) for the lots (purim) cast by Haman to fix a date for the destruction of the Jews of the Persian Empire, ostensibly in the fifth century B.C.E. (Esther 3:7; cf. 9:26).

12. The Uzziah Tablet Inscription

The Bible mentions Uzziah or Azariah as the king of the southern kingdom of Judah in 2 Kings 15. The Uzziah Tablet Inscription is a stone tablet (35 cm high x 34 cm wide x 6 cm deep) with letters inscribed in ancient Hebrew text with an Aramaic style of writing, which dates to around 30-70 AD. The text reveals the burial site of Uzziah of Judah, who died in 747 BC.

13. The Pilate Inscription

The Pilate Inscription is the only known occurrence of the name Pontius Pilate in any ancient inscription. Visitors to the Caesarea theater today see a replica, the original is in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. There have been a few bronze coins found that were struck form 29-32 AD by Pontius Pilate

14. Caiaphas Ossuary

This beautifully decorated ossuary found in the ruins of Jerusalem, contained the bones of Caiaphas, the first century AD. high priest during the time of Jesus.

14 B Pontius Pilate Part 2      

In June 1961 Italian archaeologists led by Dr. Frova were excavating an ancient Roman amphitheatre near Caesarea-on-the-Sea (Maritima) and uncovered this interesting limestone block. On the face is a monumental inscription which is part of a larger dedication to Tiberius Caesar which clearly says that it was from “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea.”

14c. Three greatest American Archaeologists moved to accept Bible’s accuracy through archaeology.

Despite their liberal training, it was archaeological research that bolstered their confidence in the biblical text:Albright said of himself, “I must admit that I tried to be rational and empirical in my approach [but] we all have presuppositions of a philosophical order.” The same statement could be applied as easily to Gleuck and Wright, for all three were deeply imbued with the theological perceptions which infused their work.

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