[Draft May 16, 1998; major revision Dec/2000]
Someone wrote in:
When was the book of Daniel written? Do we have any proof that it was written before the events it foretold happened? My professor told our class that it was written after the events and made to look like real prophecies.
A lot depends on which events/prophecies your professor is referring to:
1. the statute prophecy of Daniel 2
2. the tree vision/humbling of Nebuchadnezzar of Dan 4
3. the prophecy of the fall of Babylon to the Medes/Persians, of Dan 5
4. the beast visions of world empires in Daniel 7
5. the ram/goat/horn vision--identified as Media/Persia versus Greece, with likely reference to Antiochus Epiphanes, in Daniel 8
6. the 70 weeks prophecy of the Messiah, in Daniel 9
7. Prophecies of successive empires, with likely reference to Antiochus Epiphanes in Daniel 11
8. Prophecies of Israel's future and end-time events, in Daniel 12
The prophecies that are usually 'objected to' in this way are the detailed prophecies in chapter 11, especially with reference to 11.21-35 dealing with Antiochus Epiphanes. So we will concentrate on that section first, and then broaden the discussion to encompass some of the earlier prophecies (e.g. the triumph of Greece).
Well, let's try to scope out the problem first--(1) when did the events Daniel
(theoretically) referred to happen, and (2)
when did he allegedly write the book?
One--The events in history (of Daniel 11)
It is generally accepted by scholars of ALL theological orientations that some of the elements of Daniel 11 were fulfilled (at least partially) by Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 BC), with the 'abomination of desolation' being in 167 BC.
Josephus, for example, explicitly connected some of Daniel's prophecy to the Maccabean period:
"Though these dreams and visions all concern events in the future, there is considerable variation both in the timescale involved and in the scope of the events predicted. Some dreams predict events for the immediate future, some for the more distant future, and some for the very distant future. The dream of Pharaoh's butler indicated that he would be release from prison 'within three days' (Ant. 2.65). Events under Antiochus Epiphanes, on the other hand, had been predicted 'many years' in advance by Daniel, on the basis of his visions (10.276). As we saw in chapter 1, Josephus believed that Daniel had predicted events that occurred in the Roman period, and even events that were still to come from his own (Josephus') point of view" [HI:PFLST:63]
[Christians, under the guidance of Jesus in Matthew 24.15, speaking of some future manifestation of the 'abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel', saw this event as typological of a later, eschatological event, as well.]
This places the
events under question (i.e., the prophetic elements) squarely in the period of
the Maccabean revolt, ca. 168-165 B.C.
Two--When was the book written?
Most modern non-conservative scholars believe that Daniel (or at least the second half of Daniel, the section containing the passages in question) was written by someone other than Daniel either DURING these events or shortly thereafter. This view was first developed by the brilliant anti-Christian Porphyry in the 3rd century AD. The history of this view is given by Archer in EBC:
"The Maccabean date hypothesis, a widely held theory of the origin and date of the Book of Daniel, was originally advanced by the third-century A.D. Neoplatonic philosopher Porphyrius of Tyre. According to the relation of his opinions by Jerome (who spent much of his commentary on Daniel refuting Porphyry's arguments), Porphyry contended that the remarkably accurate "predictions" contained in Daniel (esp. ch. 11) were the result of a pious fraud, perpetrated by some zealous propagandist of the Maccabean movement, who wished to encourage a spirit of heroism among the Jewish patriots resisting Antiochus IV. The discomfiture of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar as related in Daniel were intended to be prophetic of the defeats and downfall of the hated Epiphanes.
Jerome's refutation of Porphyry, he was more or less dismissed by Christian
scholarship as a mere pagan detractor who had allowed a naturalistic bias to
warp his judgment. But during the time of the Enlightenment in the eighteenth
century, all supernatural elements in Scripture came under suspicion, and
Porphyry's theory received increasing support from J.D. Michaelis (1771), J.G.
Eichhorn (1780), L. Berthold (1806), F. Bleek (1822), and many others after
them. They all agreed that every accurate prediction in Daniel was written
after it had already been fulfilled (a vaticinium
ex eventu) and therefore in the period of the Maccabean revolt
(168-165 B.C.). Also some of them were inclined to question the unity of the
book on the ground of internal evidence and language differences; certain
portions of the book--particularly the narratives in chapters 2-6--were thought
to come from third-century authors or even earlier. Essentially the same
position is maintained even to this day by liberal scholars throughout
Collins [ABD, "Daniel, Book of"] cites Jerome's description:
"Quite apart from the historicity of the figure of Daniel,
the authenticity of the book had already been questioned by the 3d century
Neoplatonist philosopher Porphyry. We are informed by Jerome that:
"Porphyry wrote his twelfth book against the prophecy of Daniel, denying
that it was composed by the person to whom it is ascribed in its title, but
rather by some individual living in Judaea at the time of that Antiochus who
was surnamed Epiphanes; he further alleged that 'Daniel' did not foretell the
future so much as he related the past, and lastly that whatever he spoke of up
till the time of Antiochus contained authentic history, whereas anything he may
have conjectured beyond that point was false, inasmuch as he would not have
foreknown the future."
The alternative view, of conservative evangelicals, is that Daniel was written in the late 6th century BC, long before these events. EBC gives a summary:
"As to the date of the composition of Daniel, the narrative
of the prophet's earliest experiences begins with his capture as a hostage by
Nebuchadnezzar back in 605-604 B.C. and according to 1:21 continues certainly
till the first year of Cyrus (c. 537 B.C.), in relation to his public service,
and to the third year of Cyrus (535 B.C.), in relation to his prophetic
ministry (Dan 10:1). Daniel seems to have revised and completed his memoirs
during his retirement sometime about 532 or 530 B.C. when he would have been
close to ninety years old (assuming his birth c. 620 B.C.). The appearance of
Persian-derived governmental terms, even in the earlier chapters composed in
Aramaic, strongly suggests that these chapters were given their final form
after Persian had become the official language of government."
The issue--was it written BEFORE the events or NOT?
Notice carefully that our task is much more simple than would first appear. We do NOT have to demonstrate that the Book of Daniel was written according to conservative theories--in the 6th century BC. ALL we have to do (in this first part) is to demonstrate that it was written BEFORE 167 BC! If the prophecies were uttered even ten years before the event, then they constitute 'prophecy proper'.
Strictly speaking, all that is therefore necessary to do is to demonstrate that the material/content in the book of Daniel was in existence by the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. We don't even have to show that the book was in its current form at all-if we can even find references or close/obvious allusions to the images/languages in Daniel, we will have ante-dated the events, and hence, have encountered 'real' prophecy. [If we find data to support a MUCH earlier, perhaps 6th century provenance, then 'so much the better'.]
And this is a much simpler task...
I will survey the data in the following categories:
1. Do we have any copies of the Book of Daniel that either date BEFORE 167bc, or even somewhat later ones that virtually require the existence of the Danielic material before that time? [The Dead Sea Scrolls data]
2. Do we have any literary references or clear allusions to the Book in other pre-Maccabean extra-biblical literature?
3. Do we have any contrary data adequate to overturn any of the data in points 1 and 2 above [Internal Evidence: Historical and Linguistic]?
4. Is there any other data that is best explained by the "early dating" of the Book?