Was Daniel an Eyewitness of 6th-Century B.C.Events? (part 1)

The Bible and Archaeology (2/5)

There is evidence pointing to the accuracy of the Bible. Here is some below.

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.)

Was Daniel an Eyewitness
of 6th-Century B. C. Events?
by Everette Hatcher III
2000 / November-December

In the September/October 1999 issue of TSR, Farrell Till said I needed to argue logically and not just appeal to authorities. With that admonition in mind, I have included both linguistic and archaeological evidence in this paper. Plus, I have noted several of the assertions made by critics in TSR that have not been backed up by evidence.

Till pointed out that Chuck Missler had no evidence to back up his claim that Daniel was translated into Greek prior to 270 B.C. (TSR, September/October, 1999, p. 10), and I agree that Missler cannot come up with any hard evidence. However, there is plenty of linguistic evidence that indicates that Daniel was written hundreds of years before 270 B.C. For instance, when the Septuagint was translated, translators were completely unaware of the meaning of many terms in Daniel as evidenced by their mistranslations. Dr. Kenneth Kitchen notes the Septuagint rendering of four Persian loan words in Daniel “are hopelessly inexact mere guesswork,” which indicates that the terms were so ancient that “their meaning was already lost and forgotten (or, at the least, drastically changed) long before he [the translator] set to work” (Notes on Some Problems in the Book of Daniel, 1970, p.43). Nevertheless, Till claims that all of Daniel was written in the 2nd Century (TSR, Vol. 9, No. 5, pp. 1, 16), but clearly the linguistic evidence points to a sixth-century date of authorship. In fact, the existence of these approximately twenty Persian expressions has forced a number of critics to admit that some of Daniel was written prior to 300 B.C.

I am going to focus on three issues in this article. First, plausible answers will be given to the eight toughest problems in Daniel presented by critics in The Skeptical Review, (Volume 9.2 through Volume 11.3). In fact, the evidence does not indicate there are errors in Daniel, but it points to possible misunderstandings of history by modern critics.

Second, six pieces of archaeological evidence concerning the book of Daniel will be examined. All of these support the conclusion that the writer of the book of Daniel was an eyewitness of 6th-century B. C. events. It is highly unlikely that a Maccabean author would know such specific details about 6th-century B. C. life in Babylon.

Third, it will be noted that at least three dilemmas exist for the critic who wants to apply the Maccabean theory to the details of the book of Daniel. Finally, I will summarize the evidence presented in this debate and contrast that with several of the grandiose pronouncements made by critics in TSR.

The Eight Toughest Problems in Daniel (TSR, Vol. 9.2 through Vol. 11.3): (1) Did “Darius the Mede” actually exist? Dave Matson stated dogmatically that he did not exist (TSR, Vol. 11.3, p., 13) and Farrell Till observed that modern critics “are in general agreement that this mistake was a major blunder that would not have been made by someone who had been an important official in 6th-century Babylon” (TSR, Vol. 9.4, p. 8 and Vol. 11.1, p. 5). Earlier, I admitted that this argument is the most difficult problem remaining for the inerrantist to resolve (TSR, Vol. 10.2, p., 4, Column 1), and Till has correctly noted that the vast majority of critics regard the appearance of this name as an error (Paul L. Redditt, Daniel, New Century Bible Commentary, Sheffield Academic Press Ltd., 1999, p. 2; D.S. Russell, Daniel, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1981, p. 96). However, one critic this decade wrote a scholarly paper, which seems to resolve this matter. I found the evidence by Dr. Brian Colless of Massey University, New Zealand, compelling in his article “Cyrus the Persian as Darius the Mede in the Book of Daniel”(Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Vol. 56, 1992, pp. 113-126), and I sent Farrell Till a copy of this provocative paper. (Till published my letter to him in TSR, Vol. 10.5, p.12). Most of my material on this issue came directly from this fine work.

First, the book of Daniel has many cases of double identity. Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.) is the little horn and the King of the north. Alexander the Great (331-332 B.C.) is the big horn and the warrior king. Daniel’s three friends have second names, and their Hebrew names are used in Jewish contexts (1:6; 2:17) and their Akkadian names appear in Babylonian situations (1:7; 2:49; 3:14) in their involvements with King Nebuchadnezzar (Colless, p. 113).

Second, Daniel 6:28 indicates that “Darius the Mede” and Cyrus reigned at the same time, and “the reader is expected to understand, by the author’s principle of dual nomenclature for many of the characters in his book that Darius and Cyrus are one and the same person” (Colless, p. 116). Colless translates Daniel 6:28 as follows: “Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius [‘and simultaneously,’ ‘that is’ or ‘even’] in the reign of Cyrus the Persian” (Colless, pp. 114-115). Colless stated, “It must be emphasized that ‘explicative and’ (‘that is, namely’) is a widely attested phenomenon in Semitic languages: cf. D.W. Baker, “Further Examples of the Waw Explicativum,” Vetus Testamentum, Vol. 30 (1980), pp. 129-136″ (Colless, p.115, Note #3). I Chronicles 5:26 demonstrates this because Tiglathpileser and Pul were not two different individuals (TSR, Vol. 10.2, p.4, Column 1).

Concerning Daniel 6:28, Farrell Till has argued that there are no translators currently willing to translate “waw” as “even.” Till noted: “Hatcher continues to skate on thin ice by sticking to his premise that Darius and Cyrus were just different names for the same person. This premise is based on a very flimsy possibility that the waw conjunction in Daniel 6:28 meant even instead of and, so the verse could have been saying that ‘Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, even in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.’ What I wonder is why so many translators have failed to realize this, because an extensive check of translations will show that they consistently rendered the verse as quoted above” (TSR, Vol. 10.4, p.3, Column 3).

I doubt seriously that there are any translations that don’t at least once translate the waw conjunction as “even” somewhere in the Bible. Before archaeological studies confirmed that Tiglathpileser and Pul were the same individuals, the KJV translated waw as “and” in 1 Chronicles 5:26. However, the discovery was made and translations began to change. (Check out these translations: New Jerusalem, New Revised Standard Version, New International and New Living Translation. In fact, the New Living translates waw into “also known as.”) The same will happen to Daniel 6:28 if archaeology uncovers evidence that links Cyrus to the nickname “Darius the Mede.” Until then, all we have is a good, working hypothesis, and some modern scholars have noted this as a possibility (J.M. Bulman, “The Identification of Darius the Mede,” Westminster Theological Journal, Vol. 35 [1973], pp. 247-267; J.G. Baldwin, Daniel, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Intervarsity, 1978, pp. 26-28, 127; Colless, p. 115, note #3; Baker, p. 134). In fact, Dr. David W. Baker of Cambridge noted, “There is one apparent double name in Ugaritic which is of special relevance to Dan. [6:28]. In CTA [corpus de tablettes en cuneiformes alphabetiques, A. Herdner, editor] Vol. 14, IV: 201-202, Keret makes a vow by athirat of the Tyrians and ilat (or ‘goddess’) of the Sidonians. In CTA 6:40, athirat and ilat are shown, by their poetic parallelism, to refer to the same person. This would thus allow the translation ‘athirat of the Tyrians, that is, ilat of the Sidonians.’ This is parallel in form to Dan. [6:28], and supports Wiseman’s reading of that verse as ‘in the reign of Darius, that is, in the reign of Cyrus the Persian'(D. J. Wiseman, Notes on Some Problems in the Book of Daniel, [London, 1965], p. 12 and n. 21). In both tests, one person has different names in association with two different locales (cf. Dan. 6:1 where Darius is ‘the Mede’)” (Baker, p. 134).

Third, the writer of Daniel must have known that Cyrus was the conqueror of Babylon (Colless, p. 115; TSR, Vol. 9.2, p.2, Column 3; Vol. 10.2, p.3, Column 2). The Bible mentions this (Isaiah 45:1; 2 Chronicles 36:20-23), and this fact was recorded by Herodotus, Xenophon, and Berossos (Colless, p. 115).

Fourth, Daniel’s “Darius the Mede” has apparently stolen many of the imperial roles that belong to Cyrus. Darius took over Babylon when he was 62 years old in 539 B.C. (Dan. 5:31), and he organized the new empires (Dan. 6:1). He issued decrees that applied to the whole kingdom (Dan. 6:9, 26) and administered “the laws of the Medes and Persians” (Dan. 6:8, 12). However, Cyrus was only mentioned in passing (Dan. 1:21; 6:28; 10:1; Colless, pp., 115-116).

Dr. Brian Colless concluded that the evidence “seems to point to the same conclusion: Darius the Mede is synonymous with Cyrus the Persian in the Book of Daniel” (p.124). Some evangelical scholars (e. g., Whitcomb, Keil, Boutflower, Wilson, Archer) agree with Michael Bradford’s suggestion that Darius the Mede was probably a general who ruled in the temporary absence of Cyrus (TSR, Vol. 11.1, p.3), but I disagree with this view because of several of the same reasons Dave Matson does (TSR, Vol. 11.3, p.,13). Matson rightly noted that generals don’t “reign,” and only the “top dog gets mentioned.” Furthermore, Matson observed that Darius “was listed chronologically with the other kings of Babylon…” and the book of Daniel “treats Darius the Mede as a full-fledged king…” (TSR, Vol. 11.3, p.13).

(2.) Was it erroneous for the book of Daniel to refer to Belshazzar as Nebuchadnezzar’s son? I covered this in my earlier reply (TSR, Vol. 10.2, pp. 4-5), but I wanted to respond to some criticisms from David Mooney and Farrell Till. Mooney asserted, “Hatcher referred to an Assyrian inscription that refers to Jehu as a ‘son of Omri.’ He seems to claim this sets a precedent for Daniel’s use of ‘father’ in his book, but this proves at best, only an Assyrian custom, not a Jewish custom, and at worst it proves only the Assyrian scribe made a mistake. He fails to establish with certainty his case that ‘in the near East the word son could also mean successor,’ unless, of course, there are more examples from that era” (TSR, Vol. 10.3, pp. 12-13). Farrell Till repeated these same concerns in the next issue (TSR, Vol. 10.4, pp. 2-3). First, I did cite two examples from the Bible (2 Kings 2:12; 1 Kings 20:35). These indicate it was also a Jewish custom. Now, it is true that Farrell Till would like me to come up with a longer passage in the Bible where “father” is used in the sense of “predecessor” and “son” as “successor,” but I don’t see why the verses I have already cited are insufficient. Elijah was Elisha’s predecessor, and in 2 Kings 2:12 Elisha called Elijah “My father!” Likewise, in 1 Kings 20:35, the Bible refers to the apprentice of a prophet as a “son.” Second, I also referred to a similar usage in ancient Egypt. I noted, “In the Westcar Papyrus (dating from the Hyksos period), King Keb-ka of the Third Dynasty is referred to as the father of King Khufu of the Fourth Dynasty, a full century later” (TSR, Vol. 10.2, p. 5, Column 1). Therefore, Daniel was only following the custom of the day when he referred to Nebuchadnezzar as Belshazzar’s “father” (predecessor). Nebuchadnezzar had ruled Babylon for over forty years and brought Babylon to its greatest point in history. Why is it strange that a later king would wish to emphasize that Nebuchadnezzar was his predecessor? Even though it is a secondary use of the word “father,” King Belshazzar probably chose to use it for public relation reasons.

(3.) Does the Book of Daniel picture an intermediate Median Empire? Till and I have discussed this issue at length in previous issues of TSR. Therefore, I will keep my responses short and refer back to my earlier arguments.Till interprets Daniel 5:28 to mean that “Daniel’s interpretation of the writing was that part of Babylonia would be given to the Medes, and part of it would be given to the Persians, and so the interpretation indicated that the writer thought that Media and Persia were separate kingdoms that would divide the territory of Babylonia between them” (Till, TSR, Vol. 11.2, p. 2). There are three pieces of evidence that contradict this view. Linguistic experts even from the critical view have asserted that Daniel 5:28 indicates that the Persians would conquer Babylon (TSR, Vol. 10.2, p. 5). Also, Till correctly anticipated my reference to Daniel 8:3, 20 where Daniel tells us the ram is representing the Kingdom of the Medes and the Persians just as the goat symbolized the Kingdom of Greece in Daniel 8:21 (TSR, Vol. 11.2, p. 4; TSR, Vol. 10.2, p. 5). How can Till claim that these two horns are not closely related? It seems that the ram represents one kingdom, and the two horns represent two distinct parts of that empire. Furthermore, we know from secular historical sources that this is exactly what happened. However, there is a third problem for those who hold to the critical interpretation: How can the new government in Daniel chapter six be an intermediate Median Empire if it operated under “the laws of the Medes and Persians” as verses 8, 12 and 15 indicate? Instead of addressing this, Till spent a lot of time talking down to one of the top scholars in the field of biblical history. Till stated, “If [William] Shea would consult just about any general biblical reference book, he would see that Media was a separate empire in the 7th century B. C., which allied itself with Babylon to capture the Assyrian strongholds of Nineveh in 612 and Haran in 610, but in 550 B. C., Cyrus conquered Media and absorbed it into his empire” (TSR, Vol. 10.2, p. 8, Column 2). Of course, Dr. Shea knows all about this. He never claimed that Media was not at one time a separate kingdom. Till left the impression that Dr. Shea is ignorant of near Eastern ancient history, but nothing can be further from the truth. Dr. Shea earned his Ph.D. in ancient near eastern studies from the University of Michigan in 1976, and he taught biblical languages (Hebrew and Aramaic) in the Theological Seminary at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, for many years. In 1996, his commentary on Daniel was published by Pacific Press, and his numerous articles have appeared in respected journals such as Biblical Archaeologist, Journal of Biblical Literature, Vetus Testamentum, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Israel Exploration Journal, Palestine Exploration Quarterly, and Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. In fact, Dr. Shea’s article “Jerusalem Under Siege: Did Sennacherib Attack Twice?” was the cover story for the November/ December 1999 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, pp. 36-44, 64).

(4.) Did King Nebuchadnezzar take Daniel captive in the 3rd year of Jehoiakim’s reign (Daniel 1:1)? Till asserted that it “seems rather strange that this man, who possessed all of the great wisdom claimed in his book, did not even know what year he was taken captive to Babylon” (TSR, Vol. 9.4, p. 8, Column 1). However, Till’s criticisms are based on a misunderstanding of the historical facts. The critic D.R.G. Beattie holds the view that the author of Daniel erred in Daniel 1:1. Nevertheless, Beattie admits that this problem has a possible solution (D.R.G. Beattie, First Steps in Biblical Criticism, Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1988, pp. 59-60). Most of my points come from Beattie’s book. First, there were two calendars used back then (Beattie, p.59). Daniel went by the Judean system, and Jehoiakim’s third year was from Tishri (September-October) 606 B.C. to Tishri 605 B.C. Jeremiah employed the Babylonian Nisan system (spring to spring) in Jeremiah 25:1, and both systems used the accession year dating method. Therefore, according to the Babylonian system, the late spring or summer of 605 B.C. would have been the fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign (Jer. 25:1), but it would have fallen in the 3rd year according to the Judean system (Daniel 1:1). Nebuchadnezzar led Babylon to victory over Egypt in May/June 605 B.C., approximately a couple of months before he took over as king. It was during this period that Nebuchadnezzar took Daniel captive.

Second, we know from archaeology that Nebuchadnezzar did attack Syria and Palestine at this time. Beattie notes, “Nebuchadnezzar was in that general area at the time…” (Beattie, p. 59; J. Alberto Soggin, Introduction to the Old Testament, Old Testament Library [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1980], p. 408). Babylonian texts state that after his victory over the Egyptians, Nebuchadnezzar “conquered the whole area of the Hatti-country” (Donald J. Wiseman, Chronicles of Chaldean Kings, London: The Trustees of the British Museum, 1961, p.69). Wiseman observed that the Assyrian King Tiglath- Pileser also reported going to the land of Hatti to put down an uprising instigated by “Azriau of Yaudi” (Azariah of Judah, p. 25).

Third, the Bible did not err in this story when it referred to “King Nebuchadnezzar”even though Nebuchadnezzar was not king at this time. I have heard people say, “In the childhood of President Clinton….” However, Bill Clinton was never president while in his childhood years. Those critics who consider this a mistake are grasping at straws (Till, TSR, Vol. 9.4, p. 8; Philip R. Davies, Daniel, Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1985, pp. 29-30; Arthur Jeffery, “The Book of Daniel,” Interpreter’s Bible, Nashville: Abingdon, 1956, p. 361; John Joseph Owens, “Daniel,” Broadman Bible Commentary, Broadman, Nashville, TN, 971, p. 381). For more discussion,consult Edwin Thiele’s excellent book, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983, p. 183. At the 1994 national meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature and the American Schools of Oriental Research, the critic Anson F. Rainey roundly rebuked scholars who did not accept Thiele’s chronology. I suggest that skeptics should get this book through an interlibrary loan and examine the evidence for themselves. The subscribers of TSR may discover that the chronology given by Daniel 1:1 is not so erroneous after all.

(Everette Hatcher III, P. O. Box 23416, Little Rock, AR 72221)


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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