Book of Daniel written in 6th century B.C.? (Part 1)

The Bible and Archaeology (1/5)

I have been amazed at the prophecies in the Bible that have been fulfilled in history, and also many of the historical details in the Bible have been confirmed by archaeology too. ( I have put a list below of several posts I have made in the past about this.) One of the most amazing is the prediction that the Jews would be brought back and settle in Jerusalem again. Another prophecy in Psalms 22 describes messiah dying on a cross  almost 1000 years before the Romans came up with this type of punishment.  One of the top 10 posts on this concerns the city of Tyre.  John MacArthur went through every detail of the prophecy concerning Tyre and how history shows the Bible prophecy was correct.


Here is a review of  a 1998 paper I wrote on the dating of the Book of Daniel. 

In 1998, Everette Hatcher presented a sterling defense of the book of Daniel using the best scholarship had to offer. We will attend to specific issues regarding Daniel in our article on Daniel, such as is needed. Here are a few accessory issues.

One of them stated that “(t)he discoveries of fragments of Daniel among the Dead Sea Scrolls shows [sic] that it was written earlier than 164 B. C.,” but that was all that he said on the subject. He gave no evidence at all to support this assertion. Furthermore, saying that these discoveries show that Daniel was written earlier than 164 B. C. is too imprecise to warrant comment, for if it were written in 165 B. C., that would be earlier than 164 B. C. Referring also to the copy of Daniel found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, another of Hatcher’s professors said in awkward syntax that “even the liberals say that this must have had several hundred years before the second century” and that “(i)n that case, it would put it back at least to the fourth or fifth century, if not the sixth.” The professor said nothing to explain why the discovery of a copy of Daniel at Qumran would have to mean that it was written “several hundred years before the second century.”

On part A, what “evidence” is wanted? Is this implying this person is lying about fragments of Daniel? Does the objector want a complete list of fragments and the dating methods? And if we get these, will that be sufficient, or will we then be told that more evidence is needed to satisfy?

The proper response to such an argument is not to demand more evidence, but to provide one’s own evidence in response. The objector is doing no more than buying time here because he does not have the competence or the familiarity with the scholarly literature that is needed to address the issue. How hard is it to get material on the DSS and confirm or refute this simple claim? It isn’t hard at all. In our own study we noted that liberal critics have had to shift into the gear of claiming the some of Daniel is early, and some of it is late — a supposition with no textual support, merely made to shore up their theory. The text and data as it stands offers no supporting evidence.

Further, the claim that it may therefore have been written in 165 B.C. is easily to refute: Simply put, the presence of Daniel at Qumran testifies to its composition much earlier because the Qumranites, by the evidence of their documents, were a strict society that would not readily recognize the validity of any book claiming prophetic authority. Someone showing up at the door of Qumran with a newly-minted Daniel scroll, claiming it was a genuine document, isn’t going to get a reaction from the Qumranites like this: “Wow, a prophetic document we’ve never seen before and no one else has ever heard of! Thanks, we’ll add it to the library!” More likely any person trying to foist such a document would be spat upon by the clannish Qumranites.

The ancients had every care and concern that we did. If it was not their own internal material, documents needed a pedigree to be accepted. The ancients respected antiquity. There is every indication that Daniel was recognized by the Qumranites as Scripture. Daniel is called a “prophet” (4Q174) and comments on his text are made with standard introductory formula for Scripture; there are seven copies of his book at Qumran, in other words, it was not an accident or a passing fancy for it to be there. In order to confound this argument, the critic needs to study Qumranite society, literature, and culture, and in the context of the larger socio-religious culture of Judaism, and provide a reason why Daniel managed to slip through these strictures.

…[Daniel] went directly from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar to the reign of Belshazzar without mentioning any of the four kings who reigned between them. This within itself would indicate an ignorance of 6th-century Babylonian history, because it at least implies that the writer thought that Belshazzar’s reign followed Nebuchadnezzar’s.

Question: Why is this a problem? Daniel served Nebuchadnezzar for decades and highlights less than half a dozen episodes with him that took no more than a few weeks at most; why is it such an issue that he says nothing of the four kings with far shorter reigns than Nebuchadnezzar’s (one of them a child)?

Re the old Joshua stopping the sun not being recorded elsewhere argument, it is answered here. It is related to the idea that Ezekiel should have mentioned Daniel, and he did, but the connection with the pagan hero fails; see our article for response.

A further appeal is made to the idea that the refusal of Daniel and friends to eat from the king’s table corresponds to a Maccabbean-era issue in which Jews were threatened with their lives if they did not follow a decree to eat unclean foods. There is no indication that Daniel and friends would have been killed for their dietary choices; their overseer feared for himself, if they ended up looking bad, but the parallel drawn is superficial and non-existent. Moreover, such problems as this, and problems of idolatry as in Daniel 3, would have indeed been historically encountered by conscientious Jews in Exile. A Maccabbean parallel is superfluous.

Another erroneous Maccabbean parallel: Belshazzar defiled the temple vessels by using them at a party; Antiochus defiled them by taking them. Taking temple parephenalia, however, was the normal mode of operation in the ancient world for all invaders and attackers. The Romans did it to the Temple as well. This is again not a unique parallel but a universal in context.

Next the objector tries to refute a late date by noting that Daniel contains “good history” about Alexander the Great and beyond. But it’s not that simple — it also contains “accurate history” (i.e., prophecy) beyond the 160s BC. See here. See here on alleged inaccuracy about Antiochus.

Objection is also made about Daniel’s name not being in Babylonian records, but we hardly could claim to possess complete and full records from this period or from any ancient civilization. This is again no more than argument from silence. Remember again that this is what used to be said about Belshazzar — and also note in our article that the names of Daniel’s three friends have been found.

In the year 2000 there was more from Hatcher. Hatcher presented the critical scholarship of one who acknowledged that the Daniel 1:1 timing issue had a potential and plausible resolution in the variable calendar systems of the Babylonians and Jews — just as Archer argues. This came not from a fundamentalist press in Grand Rapids, but from a critic who admitted that there was no surety of error being found in Dan. 1:1.

The critic could offer no actual response to this, but could only seize upon the acknowledgement that the critic preferred to suppose error (never mind that in doing so, he did not act consistently with his admission that there was a plausible solution) and object that this was no more than “a how-it-could-have-been solution” — never mind that it works within established knowledge and it fully acceptable historical detective work that would be used by any writer concerning the works of a secular historian. Within such work, such solutions are sufficient justification and constitute reasonable evidence, and can only be responded to with evidence that the solution could not possibly apply (i.e., showing that the calendar system wasn’t that different, or that the years in Daniel were still too far apart for the calendar difference to be of use).

Beattie’s possible solution to the chronological discrepancy in Daniel 1:1, which solution he himself didn’t accept, is dubious on the surface. It postulated that Daniel, a captive in Babylon who rose to prominence in the Babylonian government, used the Judean calendric system, but Jeremiah, a prophet who remained in Judea and did not go to Babylon with the captives, used the Babylonian calendric system. How likely was that?

The answer is that it isn’t unlikely at all, though Archer does prefer to suppose that Daniel used the Babylon method. Daniel’s final form was written for Jews who would leave their Exile; Jeremiah’s work was written to people currently in Exile in Babylon. Either writer could have used either system for acceptable reasons, and a critic living in a modern era with standard calendars and no threat of conquest has no cause to argue about such things. That the critic finds such hypotheses “unimpressive” is an interesting insight into his personal view, but does nothing to affect the reasonableness and plausibility of the scenario. Demands for “real evidence” could never be met in any historical study context.

Further matters we mostly address within the text of our article on Daniel. There is no controversy at all over whether Pul was a title or a name; it is known as a shortened name for Tiglath-Pileser III.

Hatcher said that the writer of Daniel “must have known that Cyrus was the conquerer of Babylon,” because this was mentioned by Isaiah and recorded by Herodotus, Xenophon, and Berossos. What was Hatcher’s proof that the author of Daniel had any familiarity with Herodotus, Xenophon, and Berossos? He cited none. He just listed Colless as his source of this claim, but if Colless knows of any reasons why we should think that the author of Daniel was familiar with the writings of these historians, Hatcher should have stated what they are.

What proof is needed that the author of Daniel was familiar with these works? None is needed — that the author of Daniel could read and write is evidence enough. In an age when 10% or less of the population could read or write, such capability indicated a trip through the ancient educational system. That meant that they would become familiar with, and use, the works of men like Herodotus, Xenophon, and Berossos, since these were the common texts used for study.

Of course the critic may speculatively suggest that Daniel’s 2nd century author was absent that day from class, but once again, he would do so in admission that the historical background data as it stands provides no support for his view. (The critic also errs in that he thinks that Hatcher is arguing that Daniel in the 6th century would have read these later authors.)

It is also a counsel of despair to claim that “the Jewish scriptures didn’t exist in bound volumes” (they did not have to exist in that condition; scrolls are just as usable) and that the author of Daniel may not have known the writings of Jeremiah or Ezra, etc. As a literate Jew, he was bound to know these things by definition.



Related posts:

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 […]

Hanukkah celebrates Maccabean Revolt: Was the Book of Daniel written then or when the Bible claims?

Bible Prophecy vs. History (Daniel 11:1-19) _____________________________ Wikipedia notes: Hanukkah (Hebrew: חֲנֻכָּה‎, Tiberian: Ḥănukkāh, usually spelled חנוכה pronounced [χanuˈka] in Modern Hebrew, also romanized as Chanukah, Chanukkah, or Chanuka), also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time […]

Was Daniel an Eyewitness of 6th-Century B.C. Events? (part 2) (Plus Six Pieces of Archaeological Evidence that Support the 6th Century View and video of John MacArthur on Daniel 4)

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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. […]

The Critics’ Admissions Concerning Daniel

The Bible and Archaeology (1/5) I have been amazed at the prophecies in the Bible that have been fulfilled in history. John MacArthur went through every detail of the prophecy concerning Tyre and how history shows the Bible prophecy was correct.   I love the Book of Daniel and I am starting a series today […]

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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