Was Daniel an Eyewitness of 6th-Century B.C. Events? (part 3)

The Bible and Archaeology (4/5)

For many more archaeological evidences in support of the Bible, see Archaeology and the Bible. Here is some good evidence below:



Three Dilemmas in applying the Maccabean Hypothesis to the Book of Daniel.

The critic Otto Eissfeldt noted that since “the end of the Eighteenth Century, this later dating has become an assured position of scholarship, in spite of the repeated attempts -­ as for example by Moller (1934), Linder (1939), and Young (1949) -­ at proving the correctness of the tradition of Synagogue and Church” (The Old Testament, Oxford: Blackwell, 1966, p. 517). One of the reasons conservatives have objected to the Maccabean theory is that it does not apply well to the details of the Book of Daniel. Maybe this “assured position of scholarship” should be reevaluated by critical scholars.

First, a combined Median and Persian Empire is pictured in Daniel (5:28; 6:8, 12, 15; 8:3, 20), and even many critics recognize that certain verses seem to indicate this (TSR, Vol. 9.2, p. 2; Vol. 10.2, pp. 3, 5). “Peres” in Daniel 5:28 points to Persia as the conquerors of Babylon. Daniel 8:1-20 tells us the ram represents the kingdom of the Medes and Persians. According to Daniel 6:8, 12, 15, the second kingdom was under the law of the “Medes and Persians”, and the critic Arthur Jeffery noted this as an anachronism (p. 442). Jeffery had to make the comment because the details of the Book of Daniel did not fit with his Maccabean hypothesis.

Conservative scholar Ronald Youngblood has rightly noted that “in the mind of the author ‘the Medes and Persians’ (5:28) together constituted the second in the series of four kingdoms (2: 36-43)” (NIV Study Bible, p. 1288). All of these arguments were developed in my earlier articles, and Till has refuted none of them.

Second, Daniel 11:40-45 does not refer to any events that occurred in the Greek period, but it is a prophecy similar to Revelation that is speaking of events still future to us. Daniel 11:45 states, “He will pitch his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain. Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him” (NIV). Many conservative scholars consider this to refer to the end of anti-Christ, who is also mentioned in Revelation 19:11-21 (Charles Ryrie, Ryrie Study Bible, Chicago: Moody Press, 1978, p. 1331; Raymond B. Dillard, and Tremper Longman III, An Introduction to the Old Testament, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994, p. 331; Miller, p. 313, n. 121; John Vines and John Phillips, Exploring the Book of Daniel, Neptune NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1990, pp. 250-251; Baldwin, pp. 201-202, n.1; Archer, pp. 146-149).

Jesus taught us there are sometimes large time gaps between fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Charles Ryrie commented on one such scripture (Isaiah 61:1-3): “The ministry of Messiah at His first coming is described in verses 1-2a and at His second coming in verses 2b-3. In claiming to be Messiah, Jesus Christ read in the synagogue only that which applied to His ministry during His first coming” (Luke 4:18-19) (Ryrie, p. 1104). In other words, at least two thousand years separate the first and second comings of Christ, yet both events are involved in the fulfillment of Isaiah 61:1-3. Likewise, most of Daniel 11 has been fulfilled, but the last six verses are referring to events that are still future to us. However, critics hold that verses 40-45 were actual false prophecies given around 165 B.C. concerning Antiochus and none of these predictions were accurate (Montgomery, p. 465; S. B. Frost, “Daniel”, Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Nashville, 1962, Vol. 1, p. 767; Jeffery, p. 541, 548; Heaton, p. 240; Collins, pp. 388- 389; Eissfeldt, p. 520; Owens, p. 456; Hartman, p. 303-305; Lacocque, pp. 232-233; Randall Helms, Who wrote the Gospels? Prometheus Books, 1997, p. 615; W.R.F. Browning, Dictionary of the Bible, Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 90; Trent Butler, “Daniel”, Holman Bible Handbook, Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 1992, p. 458; Russell, p. 213). For instance, Antiochus died at Tabae in Persia and not in Palestine (Driver, pp. 199-200).

The dilemma facing these critics is clear: Why would a forger in 165 B.C. be foolish enough to give specific details about the death of Antiochus and leave himself open to be proved to be a writer of fraud? You would expect a forger to slip into a vague prediction that would not be falsifiable, but the writer of Daniel did not do that.

Daniel 11 is filled with exact historical details, but in the closing verses, nothing corresponds with history at all. The critic Samuel Driver concludes that this writer of fraud just recklessly made predictions of the future at this point (ca. 165 B.C.): And while down to the period of Antiochus’ persecution the actual events are described with surprising distinctness, after this point the distinctness ceases: the closing events of Antiochus’ own life are, to all appearance, not described as they actually occurred (see on xi 40-45); and when the end of his life has been reached, the prophecy either breaks altogether (viii. 25, ix 27), or merges in an ideal representation of the Messianic future (vii. 27, xii 1-3)…. It is hardly possible to fix the actual year in which the book was written; but the inexactness respecting the closing events of Antiochus’ life renders it almost certain that these were still in the future when the author wrote…” (Driver, p. 66 of the introduction).

If the Book of Daniel was forgery intended to encourage the Jews during their persecution, why did the author have such a weak reference to the Maccabees (v. 32-35), and finish the chapter with specific details about Antiochus that he knew could be later contradicted?

Third, Dr. Stephen Miller has rightly noted that “the linguistic evidence does not necessitate a late date for the composition of the Book of Daniel and in a number of cases rather supports an early date” (p. 32).

In Farrell Till’s article “Primary Colors of the Bible” (TSR, Vol. 9.4, pp. 1, 5), Till argued that textual criticism is a valid science, but sometimes wrong conclusions do occur. He also noted that the traditional view of authorship of Daniel has been challenged by reputable scholars based on these linguistical studies, but many conservatives have ignored these results. I don’t want to be guilty of that, and I have examined the conclusions of some of these linguistic studies concerning Daniel.

Perhaps the most famous linguistic expert to weigh into the debate is Dr. Samuel Rolles Driver (1846-1914). Driver served on the Old Testament revision committee (1875-1884), and he was Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford for 31 years. Driver’s commentary on Daniel set the new standard of scholarship as Brevard S. Childs observed: “Above all, it was S. R. Driver’s commentary of 1900 which broke the back of conservative opposition. In his lucid style and meticulous scholarship, Driver… established definitely the critical position” (p. 612). During his lifetime no one had greater reputation as a Hebraist than Driver, and here is his often quoted conclusion concerning the Book of Daniel: “The verdict of the language of Daniel is thus clear. The Persian words presuppose a period after the Persian Empire had been well established: the Greek words demand, the Hebrew supports, and the Aramaic permits, a date after the conquest of Palestine by Alexander the Great [B.C. 332]” (Driver, p. 63 of intro; Frost, p. 763; Baldwin, p. 30; H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Daniel, Baker, 1949, p. 31; Harrison, pp. 1124-1125; Collins, p. 14). Most conservative scholars hold that the Book of Daniel was written around 530 B.C. Therefore, Daniel was completing his book during the Persian period. Then why all the fuss over 20 Persian words?

Now, concerning the Aramaic of Daniel, Farrell Till has asserted in our debate, “I have never studied Aramaic, so how could I have a view that the Aramaic in Daniel dated from the Maccabean period? I have absolutely no qualifications at all to make such a statement, and so I have never made any such claim” (TSR, Vol. 10.2, p. 9). However, in my first article (TSR, Vol. 9.2, p. 3, Column 1), I quoted directly from an earlier article Till had written. Till had stated: “Scholars cite the writer’s obvious confusion about political events of the time that a contemporary would have surely been familiar with, the linguistic style (especially the section written in Aramaic), and other factors too numerous to discuss in detail as evidence that the book as written at the extreme end of the Old Testament period (no sooner than the second century)” (TSR, Vol. 4.3, p. 13).

Therefore, let Till come forth with the specific names of these scholars to whom he is referring. If he has changed his mind since writing this in TSR, Vol. 4.3, then he should say so instead of denying that he ever said it. I personally find it strange that Till would write an article like “Primary Colors” (TSR, Vol. 9.4, p. 1, 5) that emphasizes the importance of the linguistic studies done by critical scholars, but then fail to refer to any of these results in our current debate. Maybe Till has read pages 27-32 in Stephen Miller’s commentary, and he is uncomfortable with what he discovered concerning the linguistic evidence.

Till noted that it was proper to use a long quotation if it supported a major point in my argument (TSR, Vol. 10, no. 5, p. 12). Therefore, I am going to show another possible reason Till has backed off his original statement concerning the late linguistic style of the Aramaic by quoting from a conservative scholar Till knows all too well -­ Dr. Gleason Archer, Jr.: “The Maccabean date hypothesis was propounded long before the discovery of the Genesis Apocryphon from Qumran Cave 1. Before the publication of this scroll, there was no Palestinian Aramaic document extant from the third or second century B.C.; and it was therefore theoretically possible to date the Aramaic of Daniel as coming from the 160’s B.C. But with the publication and linguistic analysis of the Apocryphon (which is a sort of midrash for Genesis), it has become apparent that Daniel is composed in a type of centuries-earlier Aramaic. A full discussion of this evidence appears in my article ‘The Aramaic of the Genesis Apocryphon”, New Perspectives on the Old Testament. Edited by J. B. Payne, 1970, pp. 160-169. The Apocryphon was probably composed (according to its editors, N. Avigad and Y. Yadin) in the third century B.C., even though this copy dates from the first century B.C. yet linguistic analysis indicates that in morphology, vocabulary, and syntax, the Apocryphon shows a considerably later stage of the Aramaic language than do the Aramaic chapters of Daniel. 5

“As for the characteristic word-order, the Apocryphon tends to follow the normal sequence of Northwest Semitic­verb first, followed by subject, then object -­ in the characteristic structure of the clause. Beyond question this was the normal practice of Western Aramaic used in Palestine during the Maccabean period. But the Aramaic of Daniel shows a marked tendency for the verb to be deferred till a later position in the clause, often even after the noun object -­ somewhat like the word order of Akkadian (Babylonian and Assyrian) as used in Babylonia from the time of Sargon of Agade (twenty-fourth cent. B.C.) onward. On the basis of the word order alone, it is safe to conclude that Daniel could not have been composed in Palestine (as the Maccabean hypothesis demands) but in the eastern sector of the Fertile Crescent, in all probability in Babylon itself. The above-mentioned article contains several pages that should prove quite conclusively to any scholar that the second-century date and Palestinian provenance of the Book of Daniel cannot be upheld any longer without violence being done to the science of linguistics.

Footnote 5: The Apocryphon uses ha for the third feminine singular suffix (hitherto regarded as Targumic) instead of Daniel’s ah; for the third feminine singular perfect of the lamed-aleph verb, it uses iyat rather than the earlier at used by Daniel and Ezra. It occasionally uses a mi’fol pattern for the Pe’al infinitive (e.g., misboq, ‘to leave’) rather than the earlier mif’al used invariably in Daniel. The third masculine plural suffix appears as on (Talmudic and Midrashic!) rather than the earlier hon or hom used by Ezra and Daniel. As for adverbs, the Apocryphon uses kaman ‘how great,’ rather than kema, the earlier form used in Daniel, likewise, tamman for ‘there’ rather than tamma.

Summary: Most reasonable individuals who have read through the entire debate in TSR on the date of authorship of the Book of Daniel will notice several grandiose pronouncements made by critics that have not been backed up by evidence. First, William Sierichs, Jr., asserted that archaeology has “trashed all claims to historical accuracy for Daniel” (TSR, Vol. 9.6, p.2, Column 1), but that is simply not backed up by the facts. Second, Farrell Till declared that Daniel pictures an intermediate rule by the Medes, but then Till failed to explain why this intermediate Median Empire operated under “the laws of Medes and Persians” (Daniel 6:8, 12, 15). Third, Till declared that linguistic evidence is very important and reputable scholars have late-dated Daniel in part because of the results of linguistic studies done. However, when pressed, Till failed to provide the actual names of these reputable scholars.

These grandiose pronouncements seemed impressive in the beginning of the debate, but the evidence presented during this debate has not supported these bold assertions. Instead, there are many pieces of evidence from history, archaeology, and linguistics that support the conclusion that the Book of Daniel was written by an eyewitness of 6th-century B.C. events.

(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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