Defending the Book of Daniel
The book of Daniel is an apocolyptic book of the Old Testament which starts with King Nebuchadnezzar II’s defeat of Johoiakim, the Judean king. Nebuchadnezzar then decided to take certain members of the Jewish royal family and nobility with him, as well as certain articles of the temple. (This may have been in 605 B.C.)
Daniel and his three freinds are offered food from the king’s own table. However they refuse to take it asking for vegetables and water. The guard that they say this to protests and says that vegetables and water would have negative affects on them. — They eventually agree to a ten day test to see who is healthier, them or the ones who ate the rich food of the king. After the ten days they appeared healthier than the others.
Nebuchanezzar has a dream that he immediately forgets when he wakes up and demands his wise men to tell him what it was and then to interpret it. They are unable to so the king gets angry and decrees that all wise men should be executed. Daniel then goes to the king and offers to interpret his dream. He starts by telling him what he dreamed. Satisfied with Daniel’s description and interpretation, Nebuchadnezzar promotes him to a high position.
What I plan on doing in this post is defend the authenticity of the Book of Daniel from the people who say that it is a forgery from the Maccabean revolt in the second century.
One of the top on my list is a post from Farrell Till of Infidels.org entitled “ Bad History in the Book of Daniel,” however, there are others I plan on defending it from. *Some of the issues here deserve there own blog posts, and probably will get them.
Being a Christian, faith in God and the Bible are fundamentals, especially if you believe that the Bible is the infallible word of God. So if the Bible is shown to have historical blunders then that could shake any open-minded person’s faith. — However, it is good for that person to do his own independent research and check his facts.
A philosopher and “violent opponent of Christianity and defender of paganism” and author of the book Against the Christians named Porphyry who lived between 232 and 304 A.D. was the first person to call into question the authenticity of the Book of Daniel, saying that is was written during the Maccabean revolt at around 165 B.C. — Since then, most scholars seem to have accepted his accusation as fact without question. Even the scholars who worked on the catholic New American Bible in the introduction of Daniel accept this idea.
Also, many scholars mention many apparent “historical blunders” to show that the book can’t possibly be authentic or accurate. — In this post, I’m going to take a look at these apparent historical errors in Daniel.
King Belshazzar, “Son” of Nebuchadnezzar
In his criticism of the Book of Daniel, the first apparent historical blunder Farrell Till deals with is found in Daniel 5: 1-23 where King Nebuchadnezzar is called Belshazzar’s “father” five times and Belshazzar is called his “son” once.
Till is very quick to point out that Belshazzar is actually the son of Nabonidus, not Nebuchadnezzar. – He then insists that someone who was once ruler of the entire province of Babylon would not make be so uninformed. He then dismisses an explanation that says that Belshazzar could be the son of Nebuchadnezzar like Jews are the sons of Abraham and that Jesus was the son of David on the grounds that Abraham and David were separated from modern Jews and Jesus Christ by centuries while Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar weren’t.
An explanation for this apparent “historical blunder” can be found in the bottom page reference of these passages of Daniel in any New International Version of the Bible. These references give an alternate translation of “father” as “ancestor” for Nebuchadnezzar. And it also shows that in Belshazzar’s case an alternate understanding for “son” can be substituted with “descendant.” — So, on that grounds alone, Daniel isn’t necessarily in error.
But he goes on: He insists that Daniel means that Belshazzar and Nebuchadnezzar are literally father and son by mentioning that between that last acts of Nebuchadnezzar in the Bible until Belshazzar, the other Babylonian rulers aren’t mentioned. — He then insists that “this within itself would indicate an ignorance of 6th-century Babylonian history.”
This, however, doesn’t need to be construed as ignorance of the author. It could be that Daniel just didn’t see the other rulers of Babylon that came between the two said kings as being relevant to what he was writing.
But he keeps on with it. He mentions that Nebuchadnezzar’s family was deposed and replaced by men who were not related to him, like Nabonidus. Then he says:
The fact that the writer of Daniel leaped from Nebuchadnezzar to Belshazzar, passing over completely the reigns of four intervening kings, certainly indicates a fuzzy knowledge of the history of this period. That lack of knowledge provides the best explanation for why the writer would have called Nebuchadnezzar the “father” of Belshazzar and Belshazzar the “son” of Nebuchadnezzar when the two were not related.
While it is true that Nabonidus was not related to Nebuchadnezzar, that doesn’t rule out any relation that his son Belshazzar could have had with him. — In fact the Encyclopædia Britannica says that Belshazzar’s mother was named Nitocris “who was perhaps a daughter of Nebuchadrezzar.”
Hence, Belshazzar was not related to Nebuchadnezzar by his father Nabonidus, however it is possible that he was his grandson through his mother. — These details support the book of Daniel. — So Farrel Till, in his paper against the historicity of Daniel, in assuming that the two weren’t related at all obviously didn’t do enough research.
Some Critics (Not Farrell Till) criticize Daniel for calling Belshazzar the King of Babylon, pointing out that his father Nabonidus was still alive. It is true that Nabonidus was still alive and still officially King. But there are other details that should be looked at that show Daniel is correct.
Archaeological Experts point out that Belshazzar “stood in as temporary ruler” in his father’s absence. One could say he was a stand in king. They also point out:
Nabonidus, as King of Babylon, paid little attention to the politics, religion, or affairs of Imperial Babylon preferring instead to travel and research the older buildings, temples, and objects of antiquity that lay in the outer most parts of his Empire. For this reason he is included in archaeology’s ‘hall of fame’ because his abandonment of his royal duties were in favour of some of the first archaeological investigations.
In other words, Nabonidus wasn’t much of a king and his son was a stand in as Co-Regent. Apparently Belshazzar was more of a king than his father, though he was officially second in command.
More evidence is found in ancient text of “the Verse Account of Nabonidus” which says:
After he (Nabonidus) had obtained what he desired, a work of utter deceit, had built this abomination, a work of unholiness -when the third year was about to begin- he entrusted the army [?] to his oldest son, (Belshazzar) his first born, the troops in the country he ordered under his command. He let everything go, entrusted the kingship to him, and, himself, he started out for a long journey. The military forces of Akkad marching with him, he turned to Temâ deep in the west. (Parentheses Mine)
The Nabonidus Verse says that Nabonidus “Entrusted the Kingship” to his oldest son, who was Belshazzar. You cannot get much stronger evidence in favor of Daniel’s calling him the King of Babylon.
There is actually certain evidence in the book of Daniel itself that Belshazzar wasn’t first in the Babylonian Kingdom. — In Daniel 5 Belshazzar sees writing on the wall and doesn’t know what it means. He then asks Daniel to read and interperate the meaning. Belshazzar then tells him:
“Now I have heard that you are able to give interpretations and to solve difficult problems. If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.” Daniel 5:16 NIV
That Belshazzar offers Daniel the office of third in the kingdom is very important. Why not make Daniel the second ruler? Because Belshazzar was second and Nabonidus was first. — So even though King Nabonidusisn’t mentioned outright by Daniel, there is a certain implication of his existence.
The “third year” of Jehoiakim
Another apparent error in Daniel is found as the book opens:
During the third year of King Jehoiakim’s reign in Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it with his armies. The Lord gave him victory over King Jehoiakim of Judah. When Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon, he took with him some of the sacred objects from the Temple of God and placed them in the treasure house of his god in the land of Babylon. Daniel 1:1-2 NLT
This invasion of Judah would have happened in 605 B.C. when King Jehoiakim pledged allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar instead of Neco, the Egyptian king, after the the Battle of Carchemish. Then same year Nebuchadnezzar had to go back to Babylon when his father Nabopolassar died to claim his throne.
Farrell Till assumes that Jerusalem wasn’t besieged in 605 B.C. — He says that even the Biblical records say that the seige was in the last year of Jehoiakim, not his third. However, the Bible also says that when Nebuchadnezzar first invaded Judah in 605 B.C., he made Jehoiakim, after his surrender, his vassal for three years before he rebelled. (1 Kings 24: 1) Even though a siege isn’t mentioned, it is possible that that is exactly what happened. In fact, it doesn’t have to have been an actual seige because the Hebew term ,צור (pronounced as tsür), allows for the alternate understanding as “to show hostility to,” or “to treat as foe.”
He also claims that then, and apparently only then, were the sacred objects of the temple of God and captives taken, probably hoping to show a contradiction between Daniel 1:1-2 and 2 Kings 24: 10-13. — However, this isn’t a contradiction.
In Daniel 1:1-2, which would have happened in 605 B.C., it is said the Babylonians took only “some”of the temple objects. — In 2 Kings 24: 10-13, which happened years later under Jehoiachin, Jehoiakim’s successor,it is said that the Babylonians, then, took all of them. — Some temple articles being taken in one year, and then all of them years later is hardly a contradiction.
It should also be mentioned that 2 Chronicles 36: 5-9 shows that temple treasures were taken from the temple twice by the Babylonians. Once when Jehoiakim was king, and the other time when Jehoiachin, his son ruled.
Another doubt of Daniel from the beginning of chapter 1 comes from the claim that the first Babylonian invasion of Judah was in “the third year”of King Jehoiakim. — As I mentioned earlier, this invasion happened in the same year almost immediately after King Neco of Egypt was defeated by Nebuchadnezzar at the battle of Carchemish. — In Jeremiah 46, this battle is mentioned and it is said to have happened in “the forth year” of King Jehoiakim’s reign (Jeremiah 46:2).
Understandably, this does look like a contradiction. But the fact is that the Babylonians had a different system of time reckoning. — The Berytus Archeological Studies of the American University of Beirut shows that the Babylonians had a calender system called the “accession year” which was later adopted by the Persians.
This is how they define accession years:
The last civil year of a previous ruler was identified with the “year of the beginning” of his successor, and “year 1″ of the latter started at the next Nisanu 1 only.
In other words, because the Jews had no such system, they counted 609 B.C. as the first year of Jehoiakimand counted the first year of his reign starting with the first day he became king. Therefore to the Jews the year 605 B.C. would have been his fourth year on the throne. — However, in the Babylonian system, the first year of the reign of Jehoiakim would have been officially started on the first day of their calender in 608 B.C., counting 609 B.C. as the last year of his predecessor. So according to the Babylonians, the third year of King Jehoiakim would have been in 605 B.C.
If Daniel were a Babylonian official, as his book claims, he likely would have adopted their style of time reckoning. I seriously doubt Daniel would have known of this system difference if he lived in the second century.
King Darius the Mede
The biggest problem in Daniel is the Identity of Darius the Mede. Many assume that Daniel confuses Cyrus with Darius the first. There are a couple of theories as to his identity.
One theory suggests that he is Gobryas (or Ugbaru) who, according to the Nabonidus Chronicle, was the General of Cyrus that became the Governor of Babylon. However, my problem with this theory is that Ugbaru died just a few days after capturing the city, so if he is indeed Darius then it would be a very tight fit. However, there is another theory which I think fits even better. The theory that Darius is Cyrus.
D.J. Wiseman has noticed that there is an alternative translation of Daniel 6: 28. This verse usually shows up in the Bible as “So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.” However, he mentions the following:
The basis of the hypothesis is that Daniel 6:28 can be translated ‘Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, even (namely, or i.e.) the reign of Cyrus the Persian.’ Such a use of the appositional or explicative Hebrew waw construction has long been recognized in Chronicles 5:26 (‘So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria even the spirit of Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria’) and else where.
Mentioning Pul and Tiglath-Pileser as an example to prove his point is important, because the two of them were the same person. Pul was his given name, and Tiglath-Pilaser was his throne name. His translation of 1 Chronicles 5: 26 emphasises that they were one and the same, though with different titles. Even though some translations like the New American Bibletranslate this verse as “God of Israel incited against them the anger of Pul, king of Assyria, andof Tiglath-pileser” phrasing the verse as if they were different persons, many modern translations, like the New King James Version, phrase it as “the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, that is, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria” showing they are the same individual, which they are, and also because it was a possible translation. — So, obviously, this verse can be legitimately translated both ways.
He then points out that his verse is structured similarly to Daniel 6: 28, hence it would then be possible that Cyrus and Darius were the same. *One name would be a given name and the other might possibly be a title.*
In Farrell Till’s responce he says: “I have checked various translations, and I can find none that support Wiseman’s hypothesis.” — Well, Till obviously has not searched enough. In certain Bible translations like the New International Version, the New Living Translation, and the Holman Christian Standard Bible in the bottom of the page references (not in the actual text of Daniel) there is an alternative translation similar to Wiseman’s. It is given as, ” . . . Darius, that is, the reign of Cyrus,” or as “Darius, even . . .”
So Wiseman didn’t make this up. The verse can be translated as ” So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius, that is, the reign of Cyrus the Persian.” It doesn’t just have to say ” . . . during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus” as Till keeps on insisting.
The “that is” or “even” point to the reigns of both Cyrus and Darius as being one and the same, like King Pul’s anger or spirit being the same as Tiglath-Pileser’s. So, the truth is that Wiseman’s hypothesis does, in fact, have support.
It would be understandable for people to reject the theory that Cyrus is Darius on the basis that Cyrus is called a Persian and Darius is called a Mede. However, that would be to forget Cyrus’s heritage. — Cyrus was probably half-Mede, the grandson of Astyages who was the last king of the Medes.
George Grote says:
Astyages, the king of the Medes and overlord of the Persians, gave his daughter in marriage to his vassal in Persis, a prince called Cambyses. From this marriage Cyrus was born.
He then mentions a legend in which Astyages saw Cyrus growing up to dethrone him so he decided to have him killed. He then changed his mind later and in 550 B.C. His dream became reality.
– A reasonable question, though is why would Daniel want to use the “Median” title for the conqueror of Babylon? The answer may be because of prophesies that predicted that Babylon would fall to the Medes.
See, I will stir up against them the Medes, who do not care for silver and have no delight in gold. Their bows will strike down the young men; they will have no mercy on infants nor will they look with compassion on children. Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the glory of the Babylonians’ pride, will be overthrown by God like Sodom and Gomorrah. Isaiah 13: 17-19 NIV
Knowing Cyrus’s tribal background, this isn’t impossible. It also seems likely that Daniel may have preferred the name “Darius the Mede” to Cyrus the Persian, though he did use the latter a variety of times. This would be misleading to us but obvious to Daniel’s first readers.
Going back a little Since both 1 Chronicles 5:26 names King Pul along with his title as manarch, and Since Daniel 6: 28 can be understood in both ways, we can be sure that one of the two names given is Cyrus’s given name and that the other is a title. The question then becomes: Which is which?
According to the Encyclopedia of the Orient “It is not known whether Cyrus was a title or a personal name.” This then indicates that if “Cyrus” is a title and not a personal name then his name is probably lost to history. Or is it? — Since Daniel 6: 28 shows both as the same, then what if Daniel was the one who preserved his real name? What if his given name was, in fact, Darius?
There is also the question of the father of Darius the Mede is called ofAhasueras in Daniel 9:1. I believe that if Cyrus is indeed Darius then “Ahasueras” may be an alternate name for Astyages his grandfather, or for Cambyses his actual father. But if Daniel wanted to stress that Cyrus was half-Mede as accomplishment of the prophesy that the Medes would conquer Babylon, then most probably he meant Astyages the last of the Median Kings. — Actually there is a historical source to back this up. Josephus, the ancient Jewish historian, does in fact mention that Darius “was the son of Astyages” (Antiquities of the Jews, 10,11, 4). This is important because Josephus would have known that Daniel called Darius’s father Ahasueras. So he likely saw them as one and the same.
Even though some question such a relationship between Astyages and Cyrus, it has never been disproved. Also, it is possible that Cyrus was more than his grandson. He may have also been his son-in-law. It was suggested that, although his mother was a daughter of Astyages, that he married his mother’s sister (i.e. his aunt). It isn’t impossible. And if this is true, then Cyrus could be called “the son of Astyages” in more ways that one.
The last issue about the Cyrus-Darius theory has to do about Cyrus’s age when he took Babylon. Daniel 5:31 says that Darius the Mede was sixty-two years old when his rule began. We know that he took Babylon in 539 B.C., meaning his accession year would have begun in 538 B.C.
The year of his birth, however, in unknown. — Some sources (like the Encyclopaedia Britannica) suggest the years 590 to 580 B.C. If either of these are true, then Cyrus would have been between 41 and 51 at the time of the conquest of Babylon. — Other sources (like the Encyclopaedia of the Orient) suggest the year 600 B.C. Now if this is true, then Cyrus would have been 61 at the time of the Babylonian conquest and, possibly, 62 when his accession year as King of Babylon began just as Daniel points out. — The evidence seems to point to King Cyrus as Darius the Mede.
Based on this evidence, I believe that the Book of Daniel is not historically inaccurate. It seems to me that accusations of historical inconsistency are based on honest misunderstandings of the book and known history.