Dating the Book of Daniel
In several of my posts such as “Defending the Book of Daniel” I defend the historical accuracy of the book. Now I’m going to try to defend the traditional 6th century B.C. date of the book by talking about it’s linguistic style and other details.
But before I start, I want to mention that the second half of the book of Daniel is supposed to be prophetic. It seems that many of the prophesies are the main basis that skeptics have to place the writingof the book with in the second century B.C. because that is the time that many of his prophesies came to pass. — As a matter of fact Rolf Furuli a professor at the University of Oslo, in an e-mail conversation he had admitted:
I do not criticize scholars who stick to the scientific principle of rejecting any metaphysical explanation. But an honest course would be to admit this, and as far as Daniel is concerned, to admit that the basic argument for a second century dating is the view that the future cannot be predicted.
Okay, so this is just to know what you’re dealing with if you ever talk with anyone that uses this as his basis for rejecting the authenticity of the book of Daniel
Language use of Daniel
It was once argued that Daniel had to be written after the conquest of Alexander the Great because there were three Greek loan-words in chapter 3 in verses 5, 7, and 10. — Actually, these loan-words are musical instruments: The Harp, the Psaltery, and the Dulcimer. These words were used to show that Daniel could not possibly have been written in the 6th century B.C.
However, Greek loan words need not disprove the traditional date of the Book because there was Greek penetration in the Middle East before Alexander the Great. — King Nebuchadnezzar II, for example, had Greek mercenaries in his armies already in the 6th century B.C. —Also, the brother of Alcaeus of Lesbos (a Greek poet) also served under King Nebuchadnezzar as well. Then there was the 6th century B.C. ancient and Greek philosopher named Pythagoras who lived from 569 to 475 B.C. who was taken prisoner to Babylonby Cambyses II.
Also, there was a Mycenaean Greek colony in the Middle East known as Anatolia. Very important to this point, the Encyclopedia Britannica in it’s article “Anatolia: Greek colonies on the Anatolian coasts” mentions that:
Greek place-names such as Anchiale and Pityoussa occur repeatedly in Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian texts of the 7th and 6th centuries BC relating to the south coast of Anatolia.
The 6th Century B.C., of course, was the time the Book of Daniel is traditionally believed to have been written. So the appearance and knowledge of Greek names and words in Assyrian and Babylonian tablets that early shows that the appearance of only three Greek loan words in Daniel isn’t a necessary indicator that it had to have been written after the conquest of Alexander the Great.
The question may now become, did these certain three Greek words exist in the Greek language at the right time or before? — A logical way to answer this question would be to examine ancient Greek literature to see if these words that are used in the Book of Daniel were in use before the second century B.C. If it can be proved that they were not in use several centuries before the Maccabean revolt then Daniel is indeed a document from around 165 B.C.
Even though the comparison of Greek manuscripts seems like a plausible method to find out whether a certain word was in use in a certain period, there is a major flaw to the method. The Encyclopædia Britannica says that the most well preserved writings of the ancient Greeks are from the fourth and third centuries B.C. But that, however, “there are virtually no documentary papyri before the time of Alexander.” — It also says that most Greek writings from the fifth century B.C. scarcely survived at all. The same is true of those from the third century B.C, although there is an abundance of inscriptions from the fourth century.
Moving on, a comprehensive linguistic study of the Aramaic of Daniel shows that:
If proper allowance be made for attested scribal usage in the Biblical Near East (including orthographical and morphological change, both official and unofficial), then there is nothing to decide the date of composition of the Aramnaic of Daniel on the grounds of Aramaic anywhere between the late sixth and the second century BC. Some points hint at an early (especially pre-300), not late, date—but in large part could be argued to be survivals till the second century BC, just as third—second century spellings or grammatical forms must be proved to be original to the composition of the work before a sixth—fifth century date could be excluded. The date of the book of Daniel, in short, cannot be decided upon linguistic grounds alone.
However, the study mentions that there are 19 Persian words in the book of Daniel. If the Maccabean date were correct, then it would be odd to have so few Greek words in the text and so many Persian words. I see this as evidence that it was indeed written during the Persian empire. — Also, Another study on the Hebrew of Daniel shows that:
There is nothing about the Hebrew of Daniel that could be considered extraordinary for a bilingual or, perhaps in this case, a trilingual speaker of the language in the sixth century BC.
So, there is no evidence on linguistic grounds that Daniel couldn’t have been written in the 6th century B.C. whether it be Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic.
There is some historical evidence that the book of Daniel actually did exist before the Maccabean revolt. The Ancient historian Josephus (in Antiquities of the Jews 11, 8, 5) says that when Alexander the Great arrived in Jerusalem in the 4th century B.C. during his war against Persia that he was shown a copy of Daniel:
And when the Book of Daniel was showed him [Alexander the Great] wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended. And as he was then glad, he dismissed the multitude for the present; but the next day he called them to him, and bid them ask what favors they pleased of him; whereupon the high priest desired that they might enjoy the laws of their forefathers, and might pay no tribute on the seventh year. He granted all they desired.
Most scholars agree that the […] story, told by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus in his Jewish antiquities 11.317-345, is not true. One argument is that Alexander is shown a book that was not yet written.
Another important point is about Belshazzar, the son of King Nabonidus. The MSN Encarta Encyclopedia explains that although there are several inscription with his name, he is not mentioned by name by any ancient historian. (The only exception I personally can think of is Josephus who used Daniel as a source.) — The Bible Dictionary of the Commentary Reference Series (volume 8 ) points out that Belshazzar was identified only in the 19th century by the mentioned inscriptions, but until then historians were puzzled about him. (Pages 127-255)
My point from this is: If Daniel were indeed written in the second century, then how could the writer have known Belshazzar’s name when he was already forgotten and already unknown to history? Either Daniel was written in the sixth century B.C. (as it claims) or a Maccabean author in 165 B.C. made up a name out of thin air and got extremely lucky. Personally, I find the latter very unlikely.
Evidence at Qumran
About the Daniel scrolls found at Qumran (which is important to the dating of Daniel): It has been suggested by some that the Essenes didn’t regard the book as canonical. This is because of certain peculiarities in certain copies of the book found:
These variations include the fact that two copies of Daniel from 4Q are “in unorthodox format” (apparently a reference to the column arrangement); one is in cursive script; and another Daniel fragment from Cave VI is written on papyrus.
However, it has also been shown that these variations from other Biblical books found at Qumran aren’t “an infallible criterion for determining whether or not the Qumran scribes regarded a given book as canonical or non-canonical.” — Also, it has been noted that “the Book of Kings, whose canonizing is unquestioned, has been found on a papyrus manuscript in 6Q; also that Cave IV has yielded Biblical scrolls in a true cursive script; and that the column arrangement found in the Daniel copies has been found in Biblical works discovered in other caves.” So, again, from this, there is no reason to believe the Essesnes didn’t see Daniel as scripture. — Also, some scholars have noted that because of the multiple fragmants of Daniel at Qumran Daniel may have been “one of the most treasured” books at Qumran.
Glenn M. Miller, the webmaster to Christian Thinktank, in his study on the Daniel scrolls at Qumranreasons that since it is widely believed that the Essene community at Qumran was founded in 150 B.C., dangerously close to the alleged 165 B.C. date of Daniel’s composition then it should have been written earlier than the second century. He points out that the Essenes in other scrolls cite Daniel as a prophet so it would be unlikely that the Essenes would have viewed or cited Daniel as a prophet or would have treasured his book so much if it were written only within 15 years of its their community’s founding, well within the memories of the founders themselves. It just isn’t plausible or credible!
Miller mentions the non-canonical book of Jubilees, which was written at 160 B.C., was at Qumran. However, he points out major differences: 1) The Essenes as well as all other Jews viewed Daniel as Scripture while Jubilees was only seen as authoritative which is a lower lever i.e. not viewed as scripture. 2) The Essenes didn’t even agree on whether Jubilees was to be cited at all. However, there was wide agreement on Daniel.
Lastly, he mentions a major double standard in the scholarly community in relation to the Daniel scrolls and other Biblical manuscripts: Because of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran, scholars have re-dated Biblical literature once believed to be from the Maccabean period in the second century B.C. to even earlier periods due to the time requirement for them to be considered scripture. Such examples mentioned in his essay are the book of Ecclesiastes and some of the Psalms. However, even though the the manuscript evidence, in the case of Daniel is the same, scholars still prefer the late date in the second century for its composition. This is because Daniel apparently contains prophecies that likely points to that era, and in their minds prophesy is impossible. So there is a clear unjustifiable double standard as Daniel goes.
My Conclusion is that there is no reason to date the Book of Daniel to the second century, apart from anti-Biblical bias and every reason to date it to an earlier date based on the manuscripts at Qumran and accounts of Josephus. However, this evidence has not been allowed to speak for itself due to pre-conceived bias, and unfortunately, it may never be because of the assumption that the future cannot be predicted.