Answers to historical problems in the Book of Daniel (Part 3)

The Bible and Archaeology (2/5)

Here is some more evidence that indicates the Book of Daniel was written in the 6th century B.C.

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.)

Till Is Batting Around .250 on Daniel
by Everette Hatcher III

1999 / March-April

Is there any direct textual evidence that indicates that the writer of Daniel knew Babylon fell to Persia? Till stated:

Hatcher cited (p. 2, TSR Vol. 9.2) Porteous’s commentary on Daniel from The Old Testament Library (Westminster Press, 1965) in an attempt to make a dubious pun in Daniel 5:28 imply that the writer of Daniel knew that Persia conquered Babylon. In other words, Hatcher’s case is so tenuous that he can’t produce direct textual evidence that the writer of Daniel knew that Babylon fell to Persia; he has to resort to claiming that the writer of Daniel `punningly’ implied it (TSR, Vol. 9.2, p. 7).

There is plenty of good textual evidence that the writer of Daniel knew that Babylon fell to a combined empire made of the Medes and Persians. However, the critics cannot afford to accept this evidence because they would have to admit there has been real prophecy. For instance, many critics will admit that peres in Daniel 5:28 is a possible pun for Persia. Arthur Jeffery states, “Moreover, since prs could also be pointed to mean `Persians,’ it can refer to the giving of the kingdom to the Persians; indeed, Bauer’s suggestion allows him to give Daniel’s interpretation as `He has numbered! He has weighed! He has divided! The Persians!'” (Jeffery, p. 432).

The critic James A. Montgomery noted:

Here a balanced phrase is obtained by finding a double paranomasia [sic] in the mystic word, i. e., division and Persia. Were these ominous words first assembled and applied by our narrator; or did he take them from some source and adapt them to his interpretation (so Bev.)? It is to be noted that the play of words gives `Persia,’ not `Media,’ despite the fact that in immediate sequence it is Darius the Mede who destroys the kingdom; the enigma is based on the correct historical tradition of Cyrus’ conquest” (p. 263).

Therefore, several critics will admit that Daniel 5:28 could be implying that the division of Babylon would be done by the Persian armies (Porteous, p. 81). Nevertheless, the critics usually give an alternative interpretation based on the work of Clermont-Ganneau in 1886 (Owens, p. 410; Collins, pp. 250-252; Montgomery, p. 263, Jeffery, p. 432; Porteous, p. 81; Hartman, pp. 189-190; Driver, p. 69). The critic Robert A. Anderson commented:

Clermont-Ganneau advanced the thesis that the terms are measurements of weight, namely, mina, tekel (the Aramaic equivalent of shekel), and peres. By this means the motif of successful kingdoms already encountered in chapter 2, and which features so prominently in the second half of the book, could be applied to the inscription, albeit in a modified form. The subjects could be the last kings of the neo-Babylonian empire. It must be admitted that all this is in the area of speculation. Fuller treatment is given in the commentaries of Hartman and Lacocque. When we turn to the explanation in vv. 26-28 we are at least on firm ground (p. 61).

Thus Anderson admits that the theory put forth by Clermont-Ganneau is “speculation.” The critic W. H. Brownlee goes even further. He observes, “There is one fatal weakness to this method of interpreting the handwriting on the wall: It is not so interpreted in the Book of Daniel itself” (Brownlee, p. 41)! Most critics don’t want to admit the possibility that the author of Daniel correctly thought that Babylon was conquered by a combined kingdom of the Medes and the Persians. Therefore, they have to avoid taking Daniel 5:28 to its logical conclusion. The conservative Gleason Archer stated:

The author of Daniel believed that Belshazzar was conquered by a coalition of Medes and Persians; in Daniel 5:28 the whole point of the word play is that the Persians were about to take over the kingdom directly from the Babylonians: “Peres: Your kingdom is divided [prisat, from the verb pras, `separate’] and given to the Medes and Persians [paras]” (5:28). It is quite apparent that only the Persians fit into this word play (P-R-S are the three consonants involved in all three: PeReS, PeRiSat, PaRaS). The reason the Medes are mentioned first in the phrase “the Medes and Persians” here is that historically the Persians had earlier been subject to the Medes, until Cyrus defeated his uncle King Astyages of the Median Empire back in 550 B.C. (“Daniel,” Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985, pp. 16-17).

The passage that destroys the critical view completely is Daniel 8:1-20. The critic Raymond Hammer admits that verse 3 “indicates a knowledge of the combined Medo-Persian Empire, although elsewhere we have seen a tendency to think of Median and Persian empires as separate entities” (Hammer, p. 84; Driver, p. 29). In Daniel 8:20 the ram with two horns is “the kings of Media Persia.” The critics do not want to admit there are many parallels between the bear in chapter seven and the ram in chapter eight. Persia arose to be stronger than Media in the alliance, and that is symbolized by both the bear and the ram being unbalanced (7:51, 8:3). Media-Persia’s three major victories were over Babylon (539 B. C.), Lydia (546 B. C.), and Egypt (525 B. C.). This is pictured by the three ribs in the bear’s mouth (7:5b) while the ram ran off in three directions to do battle (8:4a). The critics simply have no idea what the three ribs symbolize (Jeffery, p. 454; Collins, p. 298; Driver, p. 82; Porteous, p. 105; R.A. Anderson, p. 79). L. F. Hartman comments that “the effort of commentators to explain why `three ribs should be in the mouth of a beast’ have proved futile” (p. 205). Hartman and his fellow critics have come up empty because they insist on making the bear a symbol of the Median empire. There is no textual evidence to support this view. In a letter dated October 23, 1998, the conservative William Shea commented:

It is interesting to note that all of these arguments on the Daniel of the 2nd century B. C. go back to the Neo-Platonist philosopher Porphyry in the 5th century A. D. Porphyry, however, saw clearly that there was no separate Median kingdom, so his sequence was Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece I and Greece II. He had to shorten the sequence to get it to end up with Greece and not Rome. The adaptation of dividing Media from Persia is a modern phenomenon, worked out in the 18th and 19th centuries.

There is plenty of direct textual evidence in the book of Daniel that indicates that Babylon fell to a combined Medo-Persian empire. Therefore, critics would be wise to stop insisting that Daniel envisions a separate rule by the Medes.

Another area of textual evidence that supports the Maccabean thesis according to the critics is the late date “objective” scholars attribute to the languages used in the Book of Daniel. Till stated:

In the very first paragraph of the introduction to his commentary, Porteous said, “The linguistic evidence and the fact that the visions reveal a vague knowledge of the Babylonian and Persian periods and an increasingly accurate knowledge of the Greek period up to and including the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, with the exception of the closing events of that reign, suggest a date for the book shortly before 164 B. C. (March/April 1998, pp. 7,16, emphasis added).

I wish Till would specifically indicate which linguistic evidence he would put forth as significant. Earlier he cited the Aramaic (TSR, Vol. 4.3, p.13), but I dealt with that in my previous article (March/April 1998, p. 3).

Gerhard F. Hasel noted that “several recent historical-critical commentaries have dropped the argument from the Hebrew language for the late dating of the book of Daniel” (D. S. Russell, A. Lacocque, J. J. Collins, W.S. Towner, and others; “Establishing a Date for the Book of Daniel,” Symposium on Daniel, ed., Frank B. Holbrook, Washington, D. C.: Biblical Research Institute, 1986, p. 140).

William Shea has commented on Till’s view concerning the date of authorship of the Book of Daniel:

Till is behind the times in his view of the Aramaic in Daniel as Maccabean. No reputable scholar that I know of at the present time holds that opinion. The reason for it is twofold. First, the discovery of more and more Aramaic texts from Qumran. These have pushed the date of Daniel backward, earlier, because Daniel writes a kind of Aramaic that is earlier than Qumran’s earliest Aramaic text, the Job Targum.

Second, more and more Aramaic inscriptions have been found and published and these have been helpful in pulling Daniel’s Aramaic earlier. So that now it is admitted that Daniel’s Aramaic is Imperial, not Maccabean. But that still leaves a range from the 7th to the 4th century B. C. It does, however, rule out Till’s late date (Letter dated October 23, 1998).

Therefore, many of the most respected Bible critics have moved to the position that only the last six chapters definitely originated during the time of the Maccabees, and they hold that the previous chapters initially were written during the Persian period.

The critic Philip R. Davies observed:

The progress of research on the book of Daniel in recent years has been marked by the appearance of several major commentaries as well as articles and, especially, one very important study. While these studies illustrate a variety of approaches to the book, they all accept what has become a universally recognized distinction, namely between the two parts of the book which contain respectively tales and visions. According to nearly every modern commentator, the tales of chapters 1-6 are originally products of a Jewish community in a Gentile environment, whose concerns were rather different from those of Jews who read these tales in Palestine in the Maccabean period (The most recent and detailed treatments are W. Lee Humphreys, “A Life Style for Diaspora: A Study of the Tales of Esther and Daniel,” Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 92, 1973, pp. 211-223; J. J. Collins, “The Court Tales in Daniel and the Development of Jewish Apocalyptic, Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 94, 1975, pp. 218-234; H. P. Muller, “Marchen, Legende und Enderwartung,” Vetus Testamentum, Vol. 26, 1976, pp. 338-350); the visions, which were written during this period are of a different genre, “apocalyptic….” We can be reasonably confident that the stories about Daniel and his friends in chapters 1-6 were in existence before the visions were composed. To begin with, the attitude to Gentiles and Gentile monarchs in particular hardly reflects a Maccabean context (Philip R. Davies, “Eschatology in the Book of Daniel,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Vol. 17, 1980, p. 33).

Therefore, it appears that Till is out of step with most of the modern critical scholarship concerning the date of authorship of the first six chapters of Daniel because Till believes all of Daniel was written during the Maccabean period. In “Convenient Coincidences in the Book of Daniel,” (September/October 1998, p. 1), Till makes the case that Daniel chapter one belongs to the Maccabean period because “it’s hard to believe that a book actually written in the 6th century B. C. would have very conveniently contained a story so clearly parallel to a religious dietary crisis that would happen four centuries later.” According to Till, chapter three is late because it is a story “that 2nd-century B. C. Jews suffering such persecution would have easily related to” (p. 1), and chapter five is late because it involves the desecration of sacred vessels. Till stated:

Such convenient coincidences as these in the story of a 6th-century B. C. captive who, choosing to serve Yahweh faithfully, was rewarded with a position of prominence in the kingdom of his captors complements the mountain of other evidence that indicates the author of this book was actually a 2nd-century writer who wanted his contemporaries to believe that a prophet living long ago in another difficult period of Jewish history had foreseen their sufferings and predicted that they would triumph over oppression (p.1, 16).

I have clearly demonstrated that there is no mountain of legitimate “evidence that indicates the author of this book [Daniel] was actually a 2nd-century writer.” In Till’s provocative article “Primary Colors of the Bible” (July/August 1998, pp. 1, 5) he asserted, “In past issues of TSR, fundamentalist views about the authorship of the books of Jeremiah and Daniel have been challenged by documentation from the works of reputable scholars….” Till’s article argues that linguistic evidence should not be underrated. Yet Till has not offered any specific linguistic evidence concerning Daniel in our current debate!! Instead, much of Till’s focus is on attacking my methods of writing. For instance, Till observed:

When I received the article, my first inclination was not to publish it because it is little more than one appeal to authority after the other strung out over two and a half pages. In other words, Hatcher basically argued throughout his article that the 2nd-century B. C. dating of the book of Daniel is wrong and the 6th-century B. C. dating correct, because certain scholars say so. In so doing, he pieced together various quotations, obviously lifted unchecked from fundamentalist sources, and paraded them before us as if quoting a “scholar” necessarily proves anything. I have said many times in TSR and its Internet list that anyone committed to a religious position can always find books published by authors who share that belief, so if quoting “scholars” constituted proof of one’s position, anyone could prove any belief to be true…. There is much more to biblical apologetics than just citing “scholars,” but apparently Hatcher does not realize this (March/April 1998, pp. 4-5).

I am not an archaeologist or a linguist, but that doesn’t stop me from discussing archaeology or linguistics. I must quote experts in these fields, and in this sense I must use authorities in my articles. Also many times other scholars articulate things in such a clear way that I would rather quote them directly than put it in my own words. The real issue Till is getting at concerns the strength of one’s argument. Is there credible evidence to back up an argument or not? Here I agree that one should not appeal to authority without having a credible argument. However, my arguments are credible. Go back and closely examine the evidence I provided for these following arguments: (1) Daniel does not picture the intermediate Median empire that Till claims exists in the book of Daniel. (2) The Aramaic of Daniel does not point to a 2nd-century date of authorship. (3) Daniel did not necessarily err when he referred to Belshazzar as Nebuchadnezzar’s son because in the Near East the word son could also mean successor.

I wish I had space to respond to Till’s accusation concerning the apparent dating problems found in Daniel 1:1-5. Also I wish I could spend more time on the archaeological evidence that supports the 6th-century view. Today there is greater evidence than ever before that the author of Daniel was an eyewitness of the events of the 6th-century B. C. Nevertheless, two hundred years ago sufficient evidence existed that caused the critic Thomas Paine to note, “Are they [the books of Ezekiel and Daniel] genuine? I am more inclined to believe that they were than that they were not… in the manner which the books ascribed to Ezekiel and Daniel are written agrees with the condition these men were in at the time of writing them” (The Age of Reason, Secaucus, N. J.: Citadel Press, reprint, 1974, p. 150, emphasis added). Of course, Paine denied there was any clarity concerning the prophecies in Daniel, but this is why I enjoyed Till’s last article so much (“Good History in the Book of Daniel,” September/October 1998, pp. 9-11, 16). Till correctly observed that Daniel chapter eleven contains many references to actual events that took place during the Greek period.

Comments like that brought Till’s batting average up to .250 on Daniel. However, .250 is nothing to brag about in the area of biblical interpretation.

(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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