The Background of Daniel

by R. D. Wilson

Taken from: The Princeton Theological Review Vol. 22 No. 1 (1924)


The critics are in the habit of making one or more un founded assumptions and then basing upon these unproved and unprovable assumptions still others equally baseless. In the case of Daniel they have assumed that the book is unhistorical, that its miracles are impossible, and that its presumably predictive prophecies are dim recollections of long past events. They even assume that there was no man called Daniel living in the time of Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus,1 and that the customs, objects, and events mentioned or not mentioned in the book, as well as the language in which they are mentioned, indicate the age of Judas Maccabeus. That there is no ground for denying the existence and the deeds of Daniel as recorded in the book named after him has been shown in Studies in the Book of Daniel where the harmony between the life of the man and his surroundings has been maintained. The existence of such a Daniel is upheld by the testimony of his great contemporary Ezekiel who mentions him three times as a model of wisdom and righteousness (xiv. 14, 20, xxviii. 3). No other man worthy of being placed alongside of Noah and Job, as is done by Ezekiel, is known to history, or would, so far as we know, have been known to the Jews whom Ezekiel addressed. The critics, in their endeavors to account for this singular prominence given by their favorite author to an otherwise unknown person, are ’ reduced to the most absurd conjectures. Hitzig supposed that Daniel was another name for Melchizedek.2 Prince conjectures that he was "really a well known character under the disguise of another name," probably "some celebrated ancient prophet," but which one "cannot possibly be known, as there is not a single trace to guide research as to his origin and date." Bevan says it is "impossible to decide who the Daniel was to whom reference" is made by Ezekiel,3 but he qualifies this statement with the remark: "Presumably Ezekiel believed him to be, like Noah and Job, a person of the remote past." Professor Bevan here assumes that Ezekiel believed Job to be a person from the remote past. This is an example of a kind of assumption frequently indulged in by certain critics, that is, that they can tell exactly what an ancient prophet believed. Professor Cornill maintains that the book of job was written after Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Proverbs and P.4 If this be so, then we would have Ezekiel citing as models two men not known to have existed before his time, and of whom his readers could have known merely the names and an indefinite number of traditions, as the works describing them had not yet been written. We could understand this concerning Job, since the book gives no indication of time; but we cannot see why a writer later than Ezekiel would have taken traditions current among the people before the time of Ezekiel and have centered these traditions about a contemporary of Ezekiel. According to the critics, the writer of Daniel knew the prophets. According to some of them he got the name of Daniel from these very passages in Ezekiel. Why then did he not place Daniel at the court of some Pharaoh, or of some Assyrian or Elamite king, instead of making him a younger contemporary of Ezekiel? We leave the critics to conjecture why, and returning to our subject, we sum up by saying that we have two first class witnesses to the fact that Daniel lived at the time of Nebuchadnezzar; first, the book of Daniel itself, and secondly, the book of Ezekiel. They both testify also that he was a man of wisdom and righteousness. Further, another first class witness, the First Book of the Maccabees, testifies that the two most notable events recorded in Daniel (the fiery furnace and the den of lions) were known to the Jews in 169 B.C., when they were cited by Mattathias in the climax of his great speech in which he stirred up his compatriots to rebellion. This speech is reported to have been delivered five years before he date a which the critics assign the composition of the book of Daniel. Josephus, also, testifies that the book of Daniel was shown to Alexander the Great in 336 B.C. Dare we ignore the testimony of such a scholar?

Now compared with this direct evidence in favor of the existence of Daniel in the sixth century B.C., and of a knowledge of some of the contents of his book before the time of the Maccabees, what direct evidence have the critics to offer in favor of the year 164 B.C. as the time of the composition of the book? Absolutely none. Not a single word, or intimation, or opinion, can be produced from any source before the third century A.D. in favor of the view that Daniel was written in Maccabean times. The New Testament in its references to Daniel the prophet and to the fiery furnace and the den of lions implies at least that Daniel is what it appears to be, a record of historic facts enacted in the sixth century B.C. Josephus treats the book as reliable and the author as the Daniel of the book, and one of the greatest of the prophets. It is not till the third century A.D. in the writings of a heathen assailant of Christianity that we find the first expression of the opinion that the book may have been a fabrication, full of pseudo predictions written post eventum. This opinion was never accepted by Origen or any of the scholars claiming to be of the Jewish or Christian faith, till the beginning of the nineteenth century. Bertholdt and Gesenius were the proponents of the view that Daniel was neither authentic nor genuine, that its historical parts were a pure fabrication, and that its alleged predictions were written post eventum. These professors were both German rationalists of the most pronounced type. They based their opinion of Daniel upon the assumption that miracles and predictive prophecies are impossible, that the historical statements are largely false, and that the language, customs, and ideas are those of the age of Antiochus Epiphanes. Like Bevan and other living members of their school, they preferred the opinion of the neoplatonist Porphyry in his virulent and prejudiced assault on Christianity, and especially on the book of Daniel, to the opinions of Eusebius of Caesarea, Origen, and Jerome in their answers to Porphyry; although these three are justly esteemed the greatest scholars and critics of the early church and had be fore them all the sources of information and all the evidence possessed by the heathen Porphyry; neither is there any proof that they were more prejudiced in favor of Christianity than he was against it. Besides, in Josephus, that great Jewish scholar of the first century A.D., we have a better judge of the reliability of Daniel than any of these third and fourth century critics. For, in the first place, he lived two hundred years earlier than Porphyry and Origen. Secondly, he had access to many more and much better sources of information as to Seleucidian times than the later writers give evidence of. Of the sources which Jerome says to have been used by Porphyry, Josephus names Polybius, Posidonius, and Hieronymus. Of Polybius, Josephus speaks in high praise in general,5 but differs modestly with him in regard to the death of Antiochus Epiphanes.6 Posidonius, who lived about 300 B.C., he accuses of telling lies about the Jews and of "framing absurd and reproachful stories about our temple,7 and cites against him the testimony of Polybius, Strabo, Nicolaus of Damascus, Timagenes, Castor the chronologer, and Apollodorus.8 Of Hieronymus he asserts that he "never mentions us in his history, although he was bred up very near to the places where we live."9 The other sources of Porphyry mentioned by Jerome are not named by Josephus; and since the works of most of them have been lost, we can form no correct opinion as to their merits. Callinicus, we know, lived about 3qq B.C., and consequently can have testified only as to matters concerning Alexander and his sons and his generals who immediately followed him. Diodorus flourished in the reign of Augustus and can only have written at second hand. Having access to the same sources, Josephus may have thought it unnecessary to allude to him. As to Claudius, Theon, and Andronicus, not only are their works lost, but nothing is known of their age or histories. On the other hand, Josephus had the use of many sources that are not mentioned as having been known to Porphyry. Aside from official documents from Jerusalem, Tyre, Sparta, Rome, and from the kings of Egypt and Syria, he cites among others Hecataeus of Abdera, Nicolaus of Damascus, Menander of Tyre, Berosus for Babylon, Manetho for Egypt, Epistles of Alexander, Ptolemy Soter and the succeeding kings, Agatharcides, Posh donius, Lysimachus, Aristeus, Theopompus, Theodotus, Apollodorus, Apollonius Molo, Timagenes, Strabo, Polybius, Hieronymus, Castor, Theophilus, Mnasias, Aristophanes, Hermogenes, Euhemerus, Conon, Zopyrion, Eupolemus, Demetrius Phalereus, the elder Philo, and others. In addition to these, he would know, of course, the books of the Maccabees, and a large number of the apocryphal and pseudepigraphical works of the Jews. His mention of the elder Philo implies his knowledge of the younger.

In the third place, Josephus was not an aspiring publicist seeking to gain a livelihood, nor an ambitious writer hoping to win an Olympian crown by his rhetoric and patriotic utterances, regardless of truth and reckless of consequences; but as the learned Scaliger justly says, "he was the greatest lover  of truth of all writers" and it is safer to believe him, not only as to the affairs of the Jews, but also as to those that are foreign to them, than all the Greek and Latin writers; and this because his fidelity and compass of learning are every where conspicuous." Besides, his writings were a challenge and an affirmation. He defied the world to deny or refute his statements and he affirmed the incontestable truth of his history. Nor was he an unknown author hiding in a comer, un recognized by his contemporaries or unworthy of their acceptance as an opponent. Educated as a priest in all the learning of his people, versed in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin, and in a measure in Babylonian, Egyptian, and Phoenician, he cites his authorities at first hand, and uses them with a skill that betrays on every page the hand of the master. The laws and literature of all the preceding ages seem to have been at his command, mostly in the original languages in which they were written. Homer and Hesiod, Herodotus and Thucydides, Plato and Pythagoras, Berosus, Menander, Nicolaus, Manetho, and Polybius were known to him. He compares the laws of Moses with those of Draco, Lycurgus, and Solon. He discusses the histories and the historians of the different states of Greece and condemns forgeries and lies in the most unsparing terms. His purpose in all his writings was to vindicate the truth and to correct and instruct the ignorant.

The accuracy and truthfulness with which Josephus wrote his histories was attested in his own time by the emperors Vespasian and Titus and by king Agrippa. Titus subscribed the Wars with his own hand and ordered them to be published. Agrippa wrote a letter to Josephus in which he said: "I have read over thy book with great pleasure, and it appears to me that thou hast done it much more accurately and with greater care, than the other writers."10 Besides, the accuracy of the transmission and the truthfulness of the subject matter of his writings are attested by an almost unbroken succession of the most brilliant scholars from his own time up to the present. Tacitus and Justin Martyr seem to have used his statements and certainly Origen, Eusebius, Ambrose, Jerome, Isodorus, Sozomen, Cassiodorus, Syncellus, Photius, and Suidas cite him and attest his works as reliable.11 According to the ordinary laws of evidence, these giants of old were better able to testify as to the text and veracity of Josephus than any scholars of today. For they lived nearer to the time of Josephus by a thousand to fifteen hundred years. They were the brightest men and the most accomplished scholars of their respective generations. They did not read laboriously a musty manuscript, or a classical author, with the aid of grammar and dictionary; but were to the language born. They had not merely fragments and desultory references and short descriptions concerning the events to which Josephus alludes, but possessed many complete works which since have perished. We may safely conclude, therefore, that Josephus knew what he was writing about and that he told the truth.

Knowing, then, all the sources of information that we have today and a great many more than either we or Porphyry can claim, and animated by the highest principles of veracity and the strongest desire for accuracy, Josephus agrees with both Porphyry and his opponents as to the exactness with which the narratives in Daniel harmonize with the events that occurred in the time of the Maccabees. But he does not on that account consider that Daniel was a forgery written post evemtum. On the contrary, he narrates at length the history of Daniel at the courts of Nebuchadnezzar, Be1shazzar,and Darius the Mede, following herein the book of Daniel. He says that Daniel was one of the greatest of the prophets; that the several books that he wrote were still read in his time; that Daniel conversed with God; that he did not only prophesy of future events, as did the other prophets, but that he determined also the time of their accomplishment, and that by their accomplishment he secured belief in the truth of his predictions. He emphasizes especially the vision of Daniel at Susa, recorded in the 8th chapter, and says expressly that the ,Jews suffered in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes the things predicted there so many years before they came to pass.12 He says, further, that the book of Daniel was shown to Alexander who supposed that himself was the person intended to destroy the empire of the Persians, as Daniel had predieted in chapter xi.3.13 And again he states that in the same manner Daniel wrote also concerning the Roman government and that his country should be made desolate by it.14 "All these things," he says, "did this man leave in writing, as God had showed them to him, insomuch that such as read his prophecies, and see how they have been fulfilled, would wonder at the honor with which God honored Daniel; and would thence discover how the Epicureans are in error, who cast providence out of human life, and do not believe that God takes care of the affairs of the world."15 Finally, Josephus says that the desolation of the temple by the Macedonians had been predicted by Daniel four hundred and eight years before it was accomplished.16 It is possible, also, that when Josephus17 calls Jesus Christ he derived the title Christ from Daniel; for we have shown elsewhere,18 that, contrary to the common opinion, the title Messiah or Christ, as applied to the Saviour was a very unusual one, being found in the Old Testament only in Ps. ii. 2, and Daniel ix. 25, 26, and in the other pre-Christian literature of the Jews in Enoch xliii. id, lii. 4, Pss. of Solomon xviii. 6, 8, alone.19

It is evident, then, that Josephus must have thought that the background of Daniel was that of the times of Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus and not that of the Maccabees. If there had been any indication of the later time, surely one of his knowledge and opportunities and methods and love of veracity would have detected it, whether it was in the sphere of history, customs, or language. Surely, also, he, if anyone, was in a position to know that it was written in the second century B.C., if that had been the age of its composition. But neither he, nor any of his sources, nor any source possibly unknown to him, gives any intimation that anyone even thought that it was written then. More than 500 years after the death of Antiochus Epiphanes, a heathen philosopher antagonistic to Christianity startles the world with his opinion that it was composed shortly before the death of Epiphanes, and lo! the German critic puts this forth as evidence that it was written then. Let him follow Porphyry who will, but let him cease to say that he does so on the ground of evidence. Let him be honest enough to say that he does so because like Porphyry he does not believe in the possibility of miracles, nor in predictive prophecy,—at least in that kind of predictive prophecy which is found in Daniel.

But, since Josephus was not infallible, let us look at some of the other alleged evidence that the background of Daniel is that of the second century B.C. Professor Cornill reasserts20 the old opinion that the fact that Daniel is said to have prayed three times a day with his face turned to Jerusalem shows that Daniel was written in the second century B.C. rather than in the sixth. He gives no evidence in support of this assertion and for the very good reason that there is none to give. He says only that "all this would have been unintelligible at the time of the Babylonian exile," a statement of the kind frequently indulged in by special pleaders of Professor Comill’s school, but which has absolutely no value as evidence. How can we know that it was unintelligible? To pray three times a day is a very simple act. To pray with one’s face toward Jerusalem, the place of Jehovah’s residence, is another very simple act. Why could either of these acts be more intelligible in the second century B.C. than in the sixth ? What is unintelligible is, that a German professor of the 20th century A D. should make such an unfounded statement.

For, in fact, no better illustration of the falseness of the critical method can be found than this very case. As to praying toward Jerusalem, the practice is referred to three times in the prayer of Solomon (1 Kings viii).21 That this prayer of Solomon was known to Daniel seems evident from the fact that in his own prayer he uses such significant phrases of Solomon’s as "prayer and supplication," "we have sinned, we have done iniquity, we have transgressed," "keeping the covenant and the mercy."22 It is immaterial as far as Daniel’s use of the direction is concerned, whether this prayer was really made by Solomon, as the book of Kings affirms, or was written during the captivity as the critics assert.23 Since according to Dr. Driver the compiler of Kings was "a man likeminded with Jeremiah, and almost certainly a contemporary,"24 the prayer of Solomon was written before the reign of Cyrus when Daniel’s prayer was made. After a hundred years of diligent search, no other trace of this custom has been found by the critics, till we come to Mohammedan times in the 7th century A.D., unless with Hitzig we find an allusion to the custom in Tobit iii. 7, where Sarah is said to have "stretched forth her hands toward the window and prayed." However we may attempt to account for this failure of the immense Jewish literature to mention the fact that the direc tion in Solomon’s prayer had become a custom, certain it is that no argument for the late date of Daniel can be based upon the fact that he alone of all men in the long period from 550 B.C. to 600 AD. is recorded to have followed the direction of Solomon.

As for the statement that Daniel prayed three times a day, the case for the critics is not much better. In Psalm lv. 18 the Psalmist says: "Evening and morning and at noon will I pray and cry aloud." In the heading this Psalm is ascribed to David; but the critics place it as probably from the time of Jeremiah.25 The next reference to the custom is found in the Acts of the Apostles, x. 9, a work written about 70 AD.; so that if we suppose that Jeremiah died about 550 B.C. there were at least 620 years between these two only allusions to the custom that the critics can find outside of Daniel. As far as this custom is concerned it is evident, therefore, that Daniel may have been written at any time between 550 B.C. and 70 A.D. In other words the custom proves nothing as to the date of the book.

Professor Comill makes the importance placed upon fasting in Daniel another evidence of its late date. In favor of this importance he cites ix. 3 and x. 3. The former reads: "And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting and sackcloth and ashes." The latter reads, beginning with verse two, "In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three whole weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine into my mouth," etc. Professor Comill might have added vi. i8, where we read: "Then the king went to his palace and passed the night fasting; neither were instruments of music brought before him." In the first of these passages the Hebrew word for fasting is ṣôm from a root found in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic. Tile verb is found twenty-one times in the Old Testament Hebrew, and the noun twenty-six times. Neither of them is found in the Hexateuch; but one or the other occurs in Judges once, Samuel eight times, Kings thrice, Chronicles twice, Ezra twice, Nehemiah twice, Esther four times, Isaiah seven times, Jeremiah thrice, Joel thrice, Jonah once, Zechariah seven times, Psalms thrice, and Daniel once. In Isaiah it occurs onlyin chapter lviii. 3, 4, 5, and 6, where we find the verb three times and the noun four times. In Zechariah the verb occurs three times in chapter seven and the noun four times in chapter eight. In 2 Samuel xii, the verb is found four times and the noun once. In the literature classed by the critics as late, the verb is found once in Chronicles and that in a passage found also in Samuel, once in Ezra, once in Nehemiah, and twice in Esther; while the noun occurs once in Chronicles, once in Ezra, once in Nehemiah, twice in Esther, three times in Joel, once in Jonah, and three times in the Psalms. Altogether, therefore, even granting the claims of the critics as to the dates of the books, the verb occurs in the late literature five times to sixteen in the earlier and the noun twelve to four teen times. According to the traditional view of the dates, the verb occurs in the early literature sixteen times to five times in the later literature, and the noun eighteen or nineteen times to seven or eight. It should be noticed that verb and noun occur eight times in Samuel, seven times in Zechariah vii-viii, seven times in Isaiah lviii. Wherein any special importance can be found in Daniel’s single and appropriate act of fasting from which to determine the late date of the book named after him, the superman professor of Koenigsberg has not made known to us. Presumably, he has willed it thus to be and so it must be! When the lion roars, let all the beasts of the forest keep silence.

Our German professor has discovered another important act of fasting in chapter x. 3, where Daniel says that because he was mourning he ate no pleasant bread nor partook of meat or wine for three weeks. Surely no one but an eminent professor in the school of Kant could have the penetration into the evolution of nature and history to perceive that a man depressed with mourning might have abstained from his ordinary diet 2ioo years ago but could not or would not have done so 2500 years ago. Nor is it clear to the writer how the phrase "I ate not, I drank not" could have been used by the Sumerian author of the Nimrod Epic26 hundreds of years before the time of Darius the Mede and still could be an important factor in determining the late date of the book of Daniel. Is it not probable that in all the ages since man has lived upon the earth deep grief has taken away the desire for the ordinary pleasures of the palate? Real mourning does not express itself in champagne suppers and pâtés de fois gras, and disgust with life has driven many a hermit to a lonely cave and a beggar’s fare.

The third instance of fasting mentioned in Daniel (to which Professor Comill has failed to allude) is found in vi. i8, where Darius is said to have passed the night fasting because of the predicament of Daniel who had just been cast into the den of lions. Since this chapter is in Aramaic, the word for fasting is in Aramaic also, and is not found in Biblical Hebrew.27 While the word is not found in Babylonian, a parallel to the whole passage occurs in an inscription of Ashurbanipal where it says that Ishtar of Arbila said to him: "Where the place of Nebo is, eat food and drink wine, let music be made, and honor my divinity."28 Numerous parallels can be found, also, in the Arabian Njghts, which show clearly that to oriental kings eating and drinking and music were the ordinary means of distraction and dissipation. Abstention from them was a sign of low spirits. Haroun ar Rashid is represented as frequently refusing these common enjoyments and as demanding some extraordinary means of relieving the gloom and ennui of life. That Darius should have been sorely grieved because of his friend Daniel was natural and commendable and that he should have abstained from the nightly routine of pleasures was to have been expected, because he was a man as well as a disgruntled king made helpless by his own thoughtless decree; but to assert that his fasting was an important event or an indication of the date of the book that records it, would be preposterous. It was simply human. Had he done otherwise, he would have been a monster.

The phrase "to afflict one’s soul" which is employed in the so-called Holiness and Priestly codes as an equivalent of the words for fasting, is not found in Daniel; but even if it were, it would not indicate the late date of Daniel, inasmuch as the Holiness code at least is usually assigned by the critics to the time of the captivity.29

The conclusion from the review of fasting, as far as it is mentioned in the Old Testament, can only be that the writer of Daniel does not attach an importance to it superior to that to be found in Samuel, Isaiah and Zechariah, and that no indication of date can be derived from the reference to it in Daniel. In works antedating the New Testament writings the only sure evidence (aside from the special "affliction of the soul" that characterized the services of the Day of Atonement) of any particular importance imputed to the act of fasting is to be found in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. This book according to Professor Charles was written between 109 and 107 B.C.30 According to this document "Reuben practices abstinence for seven years (i. 10), Simeon for two (iii. 4), and Judah till old age (xv. 4, xix. 2), in expiation of their sins. Joseph fasts seven years to preserve his chastity (iii. 4). Issachar in his righteousness and self control abstains from wine all his life (vii. 3). The righteous man combines fasting with chastity (ix. 2), the double hearted man superstitiously combines fasting and adultery, ii. 8, iv. 3."31 None of the other pre-Christian writings even so much as mention fasting. To be sure, Professor Charles finds in the second chapter of Tobit a fasting that had "not reached the culmination of its development." To show how far this fasting of Tobit’s was from a culmination it is only necessary to quote the passage in full:

"When Esarhaddon was king, I came home again, and my wife Anna was restored unto me, and my son Tobias. And at our feast of the Pentecost, which is the holy head of the Weeks, there was a good dinner prepared for me; and I laid me down to dine. And the table was set for me, and abundant victuals were set for me, and I said unto Tobias my son, Go my boy, and what poor man soever thou shalt find of our brethren of the Ninevite captives, who is mindful of God with his whole heart, bring him and he shall eat together with me; and 10, I tarry for thee, my boy, until thou come.

"And Tobias went to seek some poor man of our brethren and returned and said, Father. And I said to him, Here am I, my child. And he answered and said, Father, behold, one of our nation hath been murdered and cast out in the marketplace, and he hath but now been strangled. And I sprang up and left my dinner ’before I had tasted it, and took him up from the street and put him in one of the chambers until the sun was set, to bury him. Therefore I returned and washed myself, and ate food with mourning, and remembered the word of the prophet which Amos spake against Bethel, saying: Your feasts shall be turned into mourning and all your ways into lamentation."

The Oxford professor who can discern the undeveloped custom of fasting in this story of Tobit32 is evidently not the editor of Punch nor a lecturer on the humor of Dickens and Jerome K. Jerome. One can imagine him sitting down to an abundant repast in honor of the king of England’s birthday, while a captive in Broussa or Iconium, and sending out a messenger to invite to his dinner some stranded countryman. The messenger returns with the terrifying announcement that while going out at the front gate he stumbled over the dead body of an Englishman just slain by the Bashi Bazouks. The nice fresh corpse is brought in. But the professor says in sang froid: On with the dinner. Let joy be unconfined. And so he gorges himself with soupe a la reine, and ros-bif and chilton cheese and plum pudding and gooseberry tart and a cup of Mocha with a glass of Benedictine and a Sumatra cigar (or a half dozen Memnon cigarettes), while the company drink their port and raise the rafters with the chorus: Brittannia Rules the Waves. According to him Harpagus would have sent up his plate for some more little boy soup after he had been informed that the soup had been made from his own little boy; and Hannibal would have celebrated the unexpected arrival of the head of Asdruba1. As for your humble servant, he would have done like the judge when the lightnings began to play. He would have crawled under the feather bed and cried to God for mercy. When Tobit saw the dead body of his countryman, he simply did not eat. Reader, what would you have done? And is it not absurd to express a belief that in this natural loss of appetite on the part of Tobit one can see the undeveloped gems of a custom of religious fasting for the good of one’s soul?

Another late custom which Professor Comill discerns as proving the late date of Daniel is that of Almsgiving. The only statement that can possibly support his view is the clause in iv. 24 (27) where Daniel advises Nebuchadnezzar to "break off his sins in righteousness and his iniquities by showing mercy to the poor." He follows the Septuagint, Peshitto, and Talmud by rendering the Aramaic word usually translated "righteousness" by "thanksgiving," and then argues that this use of the word is later than the sixth century. In view of the use of this word in the Teima Aramaic inscription from the fifth century, it is doubtful if a good case could be made against the early date of Daniel, even if it were admitted that the word meant almsgiving here in Daniel.33 This, however, would not prove that it was used in this sense in Daniel, nor does the fact that the early translators into Greek and Aramaic interpreted it as meaning alms. No one disputes that when these translations were made the word had acquired this meaning. In fact, in Aramaic the common word for sin denoted originally "debt," and so the word for righteousness came to mean the means of getting rid of the debt by payment. It was a quid pro quo system of redemption; so much sin, so much righteousness, a system of indulgences on a universal scale. But that it is not so used in Dan. iv. 24 appears from the following reasons. First, righteousness or right conduct suits the connection. Secondly, a king would more naturally be asked to be righteous than to give alms. Thirdly, the parallel clause "showing mercy" favors the judicial rather than the beneficiary interpretation. Fourthly, many of the radical critics hold to the sense of righteousness.34 Fifthly, in ix. 7, 16, 18, the only other places where Daniel employs the word, it is admitted by all to be used in the sense of righteousness, or righteous deeds.

The last custom which Professor Comill cites as indicating a late origin for Daniel is that of abstaining from flesh and wine in intercourse with the heathen.35 In regard to this abstention Professor Prince says that it is a "distinctly Maccabean touch."36 "We have," he adds, "only to refer to 1 Macc. i. 62-63 to see how such a defilement [as that of eating unclean food] was regarded by the pious Jews of that period. The persecuting Syrian king was particularly importunate against the ritualistic requirements of the Jewish Law and especially against the regulation forbidding the Jews to touch a strange food (see 1. c. I. 60). The author of Daniel, therefore, in emphasizing this act of piety on the part of his hero, is plainly touching on a point of vital importance to his readers."37

Since this passage in First Maccabees is the only one in pre-Christian literature outside the Bible bearing upon un cleanness of food, we shall give it in full before proceeding to comment on the subject. We shall quote the passage from the 54th verse to the 64th, inclusive:


"And on the fifteenth day of Chislev in the one hundred and forty-fifth year [i.e. 168 B.C.] they set up upon the altar an" abomination of desolation, and in the cities of Judah on every side they established high places; and they offered sacrifices at the doors of the houses and in the streets. And the books of the Law which they found they rent in pieces and burned them in the fire. And with whomsoever was found a ’book of the covenant and if he was consenting unto the Law, such an one was, according to the king’s sentence, condemned to death. Thus did they in their might to the Israelites who were found month by month in their cities. And on the twenty-fifth day of the month they sacrificed upon the altar which was upon the altar of burnt-offering. And, according to the decree, they put to death the women who had circumcised their children, hanging their babes round their (mothers’) necks, and they put to death their (entire) families, together with those who had circumcised them. Nevertheless, many in Israel stood firm and determined in their hearts that they would not eat unclean things, and chose rather to die so that they might not be defiled with meats, thereby profaning the holy covenant; and they did die."

Upon this passage from Maccabees it may be remarked:

First, it is the only place in the book in which unclean foods are mentioned.

Secondly, abstention from wine is not expressed in it.

Thirdly, it was the law as a whole and in all its parts that Antiochus was attempting to destroy, the laws against eating certain meats being only a part of it.

Fourthly, the laws about clean and unclean animals occur in Deut. xiv as well as in Lev. xi. They were in existence, therefore, according to the critics, before the sixth century B.C., so that they would be as binding oh Jews in Babylon in the time of Nebuchadnezzar as on those in Palestine in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes.

Fifthly, a strange inconsistency is latent in this assumption of the anti-biblical critics with regard to the alleged emphasis placed upon unclean foods in the second century B.C. It is a fundamental assumption of those who believe in the natural evolution of religion that fetichism and totemism, with their involved distinctions of holy and unholy, clean and unclean, are to be found in the first stages of religious development, and yet these critics of Daniel would have us believe that the importance attached to it arose in the second century B.C.! To carry one point they argue that the distinction is among the earliest of all customs. To carry another point, they argue that it is among the latest.

Sixthly, there was no more reason for a pious Jew’s abstention from unclean meats in the second century B.C. than there was in the sixth. The Law of God was just as binding at the earlier as at the later period. And this Law, according to the critics themselves, contained the in junctions and regulations with regard to clean and unclean animals and with regard to the eating of blood. According to these same critics the man Daniel is represented in the book named after him as a pious Jew living in Babylon in the sixth century B.C., but the ignorant author makes him in fact live like a pious Jew of the time of the Maccabees. No proof of this opinion can be found either in the law or the custom of abstention from unclean animals. Besides, the inscriptions of Nebuchadnezzar clearly show that no man was ever a more ardent and faithful and munificent worshipper of the gods than he and hence would be more likely than he to require conformity to the religious customs prevailing in his palace. The numerous temples which he built or renovated and the bountiful gifts with which he endowed them are the theme of his tireless boastings and the ground of his repeated prayers. In some cases he has enumerated his donations toward the support of the temple service. Thus in the Grotefend Cylinder38 he says that he had increased his fat offerings and clean freewill offerings of Marduk," among which he names "for every day one fat ox, a perfect ox, . . . fish, birds, various kinds of vegetables, honey, butter, milk, the best oil and a dozen different kinds of wine and strong drink," which he made to abound "upon the table of Marduk and Zarpinat my (his) Lords." In the same inscription, he is said to have offered substantially the same things to Nebo and Nana. Now, from what we know of all ancient nations and their religions we are certain that they all had rules as to what was a proper offering to make to the gods and how it should be offered. Their offerings were usually the best of what they allowed themselves. Reasoning from analogy, it is certain that the Babylonian court would have its etiquette and the priests their observances, and that every courtier and servant of the king would be compelled to submit to them, especially if he had an order of the kin¥ to that effect. Daniel and his three companions at court were therefore in an apparently in escapable dilemma. They must either obey the law or the king. By a permissible subterfuge they circumvented the king. By confining themselves to a diet of cereals and possibly, fruits and herbs, they escaped the danger of eating blood, eels, swans, and other unclean things, and of drinking strong or mixed drinks, perhaps mixed with blood; and especially they avoided the outward appearance of honoring the gods to whom possibly all of the meats and drinks on the king’s table had first been offered.39 In short, so true to what the life of a pious Jew at the court of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel’s circumstances must have been is this first chapter, that the author of it, if he really lived in the second century, must have had the genius of an historical novelist of the first order. The injunction about clean and unclean foods had been given long before the sixth century. The observance of the injunction by a pious Jew of the sixth century was to be presupposed. Daniel is represented as such a pious Jew. Therefore he must have observed the injunction. And consequently, to use the statement that Daniel observed this injunction as an argument for the late date of the book is absurd.

Thus far we have been on the defensive with regard to the customs referred to in Daniel which are said to have been emphasized, also, in the time of the Maccabees and thus to indicate an origin of Daniel at that time. Now, before concluding this matter, a few offensive, or offensive-defensive, counter charges along this line of customs must be made. Take, for example, the custom of magnifying the importance of the law which is the outstanding feature of First Macca bees and Jubilees, and compare it with the fact that the Law is never mentioned in Daniel except in ix. 11 and 13.40 Jubilees is really a sort of commentary on the laws of Moses, and First Maccabees again and again represents the great war of liberation as a revolt against the attempt of Antiochus Epiphanes and his successors to suppress the law and to Grecize the Jews. Thus in 1 Mace. i. 42, Epiphanes writes to his whole kingdom that everyone should give up his usages, and letters from the king were sent to Judea to the effect that they should practice foreign customs, cease the offerings in the sanctuary, profane the Sabbaths, feasts, and sanctuary, build high-places, sacred groves, shrines for idols, sacrifice swine and other unclean animals, and leave their sons uncircumcised, so that they might forget the Law. In accordance with this decree, high places were established in the cities, sacrifices were offered at the doors of the houses and in the streets, the books of the Law were rent in pieces and burnt, whoever had a copy of the Law was put to death, and the women who had circumcised their children were put to death with their families.41 In ii. 21, Mattathias proclaimed the principle of the rebels when he said with a loud voice: Heaven forbid that we should forsake the Law and the ordinances. He showed his zeal for the Law by killing the king’s officer who had come to Modin to enforce the king’s decree and fled to the mountains after he had cried: Let everyone that is zealous for the Law and that would maintain the covenant come forth after me.42 Afterwards there were gathered unto him the mighty men who willingly offered themselves for the Law,43 and they went round about and pulled down altars and circumcised children by force and rescued the Law out of


the hand of the Gentiles.44 In his great speech delivered just before his death he says among other things: "My children, be zealous for the Law and give your lives for the covenant of your fathers, be strong and show yourselves men on behalf of the Law, take all who observe the Law and avenge the wrong of your people, and render a recompense to the Gen tiles and take heed to the commandments of the Law."45 After the death of Epiphanes, when his commander Lysias wanted to make peace with the Jews, he said: "Let us settle with them that they be permitted to walk after their own laws as aforetime; for because of their laws which we abolished were they angered and did all these things."46 In comparing the references to the Law and laws in Daniel with what is said in Maccabees, it must be noticed, also, that in the former it is the wilful transgressions of them by the fathers that are always in mind; whereas in Maccabees, it is the attempted annulment of them by an alien, and an enforced transgression of them by the living Israelites to which allusion is made.

What is true of the Law in general is true of circumcision and the Sabbath in particular. The book of First Maccabees contains numerous and scattered references to the Sabbath and one to the sabbatic year, and the first two chapters describe at length the endeavors to suppress the usage of circumcision and on the part of apostate Jews to conceal even its traces; whereas Daniel never mentions either Sabbath or circumcision. If Daniel were a fiction with Maccabean background, it certainly seems a great defect that the author failed to show how his heroes refused to work on the Sabbath day or that they were tempted to hide their circumcision.

One other feature that is conspicuous in the background of the Maccabees is utterly ignored in Daniel, that is the use of the phalanx and of elephants in war. The Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian armies never employed the elephant; and in harmony with this fact, the books of the Old Testament never mention it. Alexander the Great was the first of the Greeks to come in contact with the elephant as an instrument of warfare. This was in his battle with Porus in the Punjaub. Seleucus Nicator introduced it first in the battles of Western Asia. Pyrrhus and the Carthaginians used it in their wars with Rome and it continued to be a much dreaded arm of service until at the command of Scipio Africanus the Romans at the battle of Zama which sealed the fate of Carthage discomfited his great rival Hannibal by opening up the legions so that the elephants would pass between the serried ranks. In the wars against Antiochus the Romans triumphed by using the same tactics, and we hear nothing of their use in battle after the fall of Carthage and of the Seleucid kingdom. In the wars of Antiochus Epiphanes and his successors against the Jews, however, they were still the main arm of the service and at first they struck terror into their rebellious adversaries. Eleazar, one of the brothers of Judas Maccabeus, was crushed by the falling on him of an elephant which he had stabbed from underneath in an endeavor to kill the king.47 They are mentioned, also, elsewhere48 as constituent and important parts of the Syrian armies.

The phalanx, that great Greek rival of the Roman legion, was the ordinary formation of the heavy armed troops of the Syrian as well as the Macedonian armies, and the word is found in 1 Mace. vi. 3Sy 38g 45; ix. 12; and x. 82. In Daniel, however, neither elephant nor phalanx is mentioned, but simply the old time ’horses and chariots of the Persian and pre-Persian period. It seems to be incumbent on the critics to explain how an artist of the ability of the writer of Daniel could be so correct in some parts of his background and so defective in others,—that is, if this artist really lived in the second century, and painted the background of his fiction with the colors of his time. This wonderful accuracy of his in describing what existed in the sixth century confirms us in our belief that the author of the book really lived in that period. For we cannot see how one who was so ignorant of the history of Babylon, Persia, and Greece, as the critics assert that this author was, could have known that the elephants and phalanxes were not in existence in the time of which he feigned the history. He is supposed (?) to err on such important and easily ascertained matters as who was the last king of Babylon, who was Darius the Mede, and how many were the kings of Persia, and yet he knows enough about" their times to steer clear of any mention of elephants in his description of the great army of the king of the north referred to in xi. 4q. He describes so accurately the history of the wars between the Ptolemies and Seleucids that the critics say that the account must have been written post eventum, and yet he knows so little of their armies as to speak of their chariots, and horsemen, and fleet and never mention their phalanxes and their elephants.

One other’ custom is mentioned in Daniel which seems eminently fitted to a Babylonian background in the sixth century B.C., but for which we will look in vain in the Palestine of the second century. This is the custom of closing and sealing documents. As is well known, the Babylonian clay tablet or brick was first prepared and inscribed and then was covered with an envelope of clay upon which a docket or endorsement was written, and the whole was stamped with a seal.49 The statements of Dan. ix. 26 and xii. 4, 9 would then be clear. Daniel’s visions were to be written on tablets, closed up, and sealed, until the time of the end.50 The endorsement on the envelope may have directed when the tablet was to be uncovered. Two tablets of the size of the creation tablets would contain the whole of Daniel. The first tablet may have contained the part in Aramaic and the second that in Hebrew (i.e., chapters viii-xii) or there may have been nine or ten tablets. The injunction of the prophetic writer to keep the vision secret would then be not a "mere literary device to explain to the readers of Daniel why the book was not known before their time"; but it would be a real part of the vision, repeated on the endorsement, and designed as it says to preserve the contents of the vision from the prying eyes of the curious. That the keeping of the contents of a document "hidden from immediate posterity" was not a difficulty in the view of "the oriental mind" is apparent from the fact that the contents of their contract tablets were concealed by their envelopes from all prying eyes, until the time of breaking off the envelope arrived. That time would be determined either by the instructions on the envelope or by the decision of the custodians or judges. The Assyrian and Babylonian tablets were preserved in the archives of the temples, palaces, and banks. Daniel’s tablets would naturally be entrusted to the care of the proper Jewish custodians, to be opened according to the instruction given in the endorsement, or docket, which was inscribed on the envelope. If in chapter xii. ii we read dalath instead of resh giving us husad instead of hussar, the endorsement may have read that the tablet was to be opened 1290 years after the daily offering had been instituted at Sinai. If Daniel and the custodians dated this institution at Sinai at 1460 B.C., the time for the opening would be 170 B.C. If the text as it stands is preferred and the 1290 days be interpreted as literal days, it might mean, as Bevan suggests,51 1290 days after the desecration of the temple and the taking away of the daily offerings. In 2 Mace. ii. 14, Judas is said to have collected all the writings which had been scattered owing to the outbreak of the war. Among these writings Daniel may have been found still in its original tablets which may then have been broken, translated, and published. Whatever may be said of this conjecture, it is certainly as sensible as many of those put forward by commentators. It would eliminate all objections made to the early date of Daniel, in so far as they are based upon the character of the language in which the book is written.


R. D. Wilson.



1) Prince, Commentary on Daniel, p. 28.

2) Commentary on Daniel, p. viii.

3) Commentary, p. 12.

4) Introduction, p. 433.

5) As in Antiquities, XII. iii 3, XII. ix. i, and Contra Apion, II. 7.

6) Antiquities, XII ix. i.

7) Contra Apion, II. 7.

8) Id.

9) Contra Apion I. 23. The question naturally arises, whether Jerome was wrong in saying that Hieronymus was one of the authorities of Porphyry. Even if he was an authority, it could have been only for the time of Alexander’s immediate successors, since he was a friend of Antigonus and a contemporary of Hecateus.

10) Life of Flauius Josephus, 65.

11) See Dissertation I, in Whiston’s Josephus.

13) Bk. XI. viii. 5. Prince, p. 14.

14) Bk. X. xi. 7.

15) Id.

16) Bk. XII. vii. 6.

17) Bk. XVIII. iii. 3.

18) This Review for October, 1923, pp. 553, 563.

19) Since Josephus never elsewhere pays any attention to this apocryphal literature it is possible at least that he derived the title Christ from Daniel directly, as the people of New Testament times seem to have done.

20) Introduction, p. 388.

21) The three places are 1 Kings viii. 30, 38, and 48, which read as follows :

And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: yea hear thou in heaven thy dwelling-place; and when thou hearest, forgive. . . .

What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, who shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house. . .

If they return unto thee with all their heart and all their soul in the land of their enemies, who carried them captive, and pray unto thee toward their land, which thou gavest unto their fathers, the city ’which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name.

22) Daniel ix. 3, 4, 5 compared with i Kings viii. 28, 47, and 23.

23) Thus Hitzig in his Commentary on Daniel, p. 94; Bevan in The Book of Daniel, p. iii.

24) LOT, 199.

25) Prince, Commentary on Daniel, p. 126.

26) See Haupt, Nimrod-Epos.

27) The root occurs in Arabic, where it means "to be hungry." In Syriac the verb means to "roast," but the noun has the sense of fasting. The usual word for fast in both Aramaic and Arabic is the same as the ’Hebrew ṣum.

28) Ašar maškani Nabu akul akalu šiti kurunnu ningutu šukun nu’id iluti (KB. II. 252).

29) See Lev. xvi. 3L xxiii. 27, 29, 32, Num. xxix. 7. Compare Cornill, Introduction p. 132-36.

30) The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, II. 290.

31) Id., p 296, note to vs. 10.

32) Tobit, chap. II, 1-6.

33) Compare Bevan (Commentary, P. 94) who says that its use on the Teima inscription shows that the Aramaic word had acquired the sense of a "payment for religious purposes" long before the second century.

34) So, Von Lengerke, Das Buch Daniel, p. 185: Prince, in his Commentary, p. 88 makes it mean ’kind acts;”

35) Introduction, p. 288: Objection must be made to Cornill’s translation of Patbag by "flesh." In none of the derivations for this word suggested by the eminent Persian scholars and by the translators and lexicographers who have attempted to give its meaning is the sense confined to flesh. Prince’s "dainties" is better but his "food" is better still, since the writer of Daniel defines it in verse 12 by ma’akal, a term which means "anything that is eaten." The good old word "victuals" is, perhaps, as correct an equivalent as the English language affords.

36) Commentary on Daniel, p. 61.

37) Id., p. 61, 62.

38) KB. III. ii. 32 f.

39) So, at least, thinks Hitzig: "Sic wollten keine Speise geniessen, von der möglicher Weise den Götzen geopfert werden, oder die vielleicht noch obendrein von einem unreinen Thier herrührte." See Das Buch Daniel, p. 10.

40) In verse iq the laws of the prophets are spoken of

41) i. 44-61.

42) ii. 19-28.

43) ii. 42.

44) ii. 45-48.

45) ii. 49-68.

46) vi. 55-60. For other references to the Law and the laws, see iii. 29, 48, 56: iv. 42, 47, 53; x. 14; xi. 21; xiii. 3; xiv. 14, 29.

47) 1 Mace. vi. 36-46.

48) In i. 17, iii. 34; viii. 6; and xi. 56.

49) It is possible that the Babylonian word šatam, used to denote an official of the temples, may be derived from the root "to close, or shut up." The man who closed up the inside tablet and endorsed and sealed it would be a more important individual than the scribe who wrote the document. Hommel’s translation "secretary" would be a very good equivalent. One šatam might have a dozen tablet-writers under him, it being his business to read over, and close up, endorse, and seal the letters and contracts.

50) One is tempted to take the word ḳeṣ, usually meaning end, as an infinitive from ḳaṣaṣ meaning "to break off" and to translate "until the time of breaking off" i.e., of taking off the clay envelope which contained the tablet on which the vision was written.

51 Commentary, p. 207.