The Prophecies of Daniel

by R. D. Wilson

Taken from: The Princeton Theological Review Vol. 22 No. 3 (1924)


The Fourth Kingdom

It is assumed by the critics that the fourth kingdom of Daniel is the Greek instead of the Roman empire.1 This involves the further assumption that not merely xi. 2045 but also ii. 3134, 4043, vii. 9, 1927, viii. 914, 2326 refer to Antiochus Epiphanes.2

The assumption that Alexander and his successors, especially the kingdom of the Seleucids, represent the fourth kingdom of Daniel, depends on the further assumption that the second kingdom was Median, an assumption that has no foundation in the book of Daniel. To be sure Darius is called a Mede (v. 30), and is said to have received the kingdom of Belshazzar; and the two horns of the ram spoken of in viii. 20 are said to denote the kings of Media and Persia. But since Belshazzar was not king of Media but of Babylon and probably of Accad and Chaldea, it is to be presumed that Darius the Mede received the kingship over that comparatively small part of the empire of Cyrus that had been ruled over by Belshazzar the Chaldean. There is absolutely no foundation for the assertion of the critics that Daniel makes Darius the Mede to have ruled over Babylon before the accession of Cyrus.3 He is said in vi. 1 to have received the kingdom and from whom could he have reached it except from Cyrus? The verb ḳabbel means "receive" not "take by force." Brockelmann in his Syriac Dictionary renders it by accepit, that is annehmen, not einnehmen. In the Targum of Onkelos, it always has the sense of "receive," the sense of "taking by force" being expressed by kevash and ’ehad.

In ix. 1, it is said that Darius was made king (homlak) over the realm of the Chaldeans. Who could have made him king but Cyrus? Hitzig, indeed, says that this does not mean merely that he was made king by God, but that he must by human action have been made king of Babylon and that this action was taken by the army led by Cyrus.4 It seems convenient for Professors Bevan and Prince to ignore these two passages in their discussions of Darius the Mede, an admirable way for a special pleader to escape the necessary conclusion to be derived from indisputable evidence against his side of the case!5 They confuse the issue by making long dissertations on irrelevant matters connected with the Median kingdom of Deioces and his successors down to Astyages whom Cyrus overthrew. For example, Professor Prince affirms, that "Babylon was captured by Cyrus the Persian, who, sometime previously, had obtained possession of Media and its King Astyages."6 He then discusses the theory formerly advanced by some that Darius the Mede was "identical with Cyaxares, son of Astyages, mentioned in Xenophon’s Cyropaedia."7 He then compares "the data of Xenophon regarding the last Median kings with those of Herodotus on the same subject," and notices in passing that "neither Berosus nor any other ancient author knows of a Median ruler after the fall of Babylon."8 He next states that the annals of Nabonidus and the Cyrus Cylinder make no mention "of any ruler of Media between Astyages and Cyrus nor of any king of Babylon intervening between Nabonidus and Cyrus."9 He then continues to discourse at length on the Cyaxares of Xenophon, the Darius of Eusebius, and the coin darik, and gives a résumé of the history of Media from Deioces to Cyaxares and finally gives his views as to the probable origin of the conception of Darius the Mede as given in Daniel.10 He concludes by saying that Darius the Mede "appears therefore to have been a product of a mixture of traditions" of the "destruction of Nineveh by the Medes" and of the "capture of Babylon by Darius Hystaspis,"11 and thinks that "it seems apparent that the interpolation of Darius the Mede must be regarded as the most glaring inaccuracy in the Book of Daniel."12

We readily give Professor Prince the credit of having produced the mose scholarly and up to date presentation of the case of the critics versus Daniel that has so far been published. We think that most of his statements as to facts are undeniable, that Cyrus did conquer Babylon, that Xenophon and Herodotus differ as he says, that Berosus and the other ancient authors know nothing of a Median ruler after the fall of Babylon, that the annals of Nabonidus and the Cyrus Cylinder make no mention of a Median king of Babylon, that there is doubt as to who was the Cyaxares of Xenophon and as to the Darius of Eusebius; but he will pardon us for the inability to perceive that his views and conclusions are justified by the facts and the evidence that he has produced. For, first, all authorities are agreed that Cyrus took Babylon. Herodotus and Xenophon say so expressly. Isaiah implies it. The Cyrus Cylinder confirms it, but adds that his general Gubaru took it for him and that Cyrus himself did not enter the city till four months later. Gubaru, according to the cylinder, was made governor (in Aramaic malka ’"king") of the city by Cyrus, a position which he seems to have held" for at least twelve years.13 Secondly, whether there was a Cyaxares the son of Astyages and what his relationship to Cyrus may have been, are interesting questions; but the book of Daniel says nothing bearing directly on either question.14 Thirdly, since Daniel does not say that a Median king independent of Cyrus ruled over Babylon after the Chaldean empire was destroyed, the silence of Berosus and other ancient authors on this subject agrees with the silence of Daniel. The statement that Darius was a Mede no more proves that he was king of Media than does the statement that Napoleon ,was a Corsican prove that he was king of Corsica. Besides he may have been a king of Media and still have been subordinate to Cyrus king of Persia. Murat was a Frenchman who was made king of Naples and was subordinate to a Corsican Italian who had become emperor of the French.15 Fourthly, Professor Prince says that the annals of Nabonidus and the Cyrus Cylinder make no mention of a ruler of Media between Astyages and Cyrus. In this they agree with Daniel. Fifthly, the annals of Nabonidus and the Cyrus Cylinder are said to make no mention of any king of Babylon intervening between Nabonidus and Cyrus. To this statement we take exception because of the ambiguity of both terms of the phrase "king of Babylon," and because of the use of the word "intervening." As has been shown elsewhere,16 the Aramaic word for king may denote the son of a king, the ruler of a city, of a province, or of an empire. Babylon, also, may mean the city of Babylon, or the lower region of the Euphrates-Tigris valley, or the whole Babylonian empire. Now, it is true that the records of Nabonidus and Cyrus do not mention a king of the empire as intervening between Nabonidus and Cyrus; but the records of Nabonidus and Cyrus do speak of many kings as reigning in subordination to them. Thus, in the Abu-Habba Cylinder I. 45, Nabonidus refers to the kings, princes, and governors which the gods had made subject to him, and in I. 27, speaks of Astyages and the kings who helped him; and Cyrus in his Cylinder inscription says that all the kings from the upper to the lower sea came to Babylon and kissed his feet. In the Chronicle, also, the kings of the sealand (i.e. Phenicia) who were subject to Nabonidus are mentioned.17 In the Abu-Habba Cylinder, I. 29, Cyrus king of the land of Anzan is called the "little servant of Astyages." In the Chronicle (lines 15-17), Cyrus king of Persia is said to have crossed the Tigris below Arbda and to have killed a king who must have been a sub-king to Nabonidus, king of Babylon. Neriglassar in the Cambridge Cylinder (I. 14) calls himself the son of Belshumishkun king of Babylon. This Belshumishkun must have been king of the city of Babylon at some time when Nabopolassar or Nebuchadnezzar was king of the empire; for the Chaldean empire began in 626 B.C., and the reign of Neriglassar began in 559 B.C.18 It is probable that a son of Nabonidus of the same name and title as his father was king of Harran while his father and overlord was still reigning as king of the empire of Babylon.19 Belshazzar is treated as king when his name is used in an oath along with that of his father. Besides, his father invokes the gods to bless him just as he invokes them to bless himself. Antiochus in like manner joins his son Seleucus with him and expressly calls his son king.20 The "son of the king" who commanded Nabonidus’ armies in Accad was probably Belshazzar and in the 10th year of Nabonidus this son seems to have been made governor (Aramaic malka "king") of Erech21 He would be the natural successor in the kingship over Babylon as soon as his father was made prisoner by Cyrus at Sippar. Gubaru the governor (piḫu) of the land of Gutium took Babylon for Cyrus and was then made governor (piḫu) of the city of Babylon, a position which he seems to have been occupying as late as the 4th year of Cambyses.22 Finally Cyrus and Cambyses were both kings of Babylon at once.23

The above evidence proves that Nabonidus, Astyages, and Cyrus were all kings of kings, and that in the two accredited instances of Belshumishkun and Cambyses these sub-kings were called on the Babylonian monuments and in the Babylonian language king (sharru) of Babylon. Gubaru, also, although he is not called sharru is called shaknu of Babylon and this would in Aramaic be equivalent to malka "king of Babylon." "Out of the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established." The necessity for supposing that, if Daniel is true, there must have been a king intervening between Nabonidus and Cyrus does not exist. Like many other objections to the statements of the Bible, it is not merely unsupported by the evidence we possess, but is absolutely contrary to it.

Sixthly, who the Cyaxares of Xenophon may have been, or whether he existed at all, is a question of importance for students of Xenophon, or historians of Media or Cyrus; but we agree with Professor Prince that there is not sufficient evidence to justify us in supposing that he was the same as Darius the Mede of Daniel. The same may be said of the Darius of Eusebius.

Seventhly, as to the word darik, it is now generally agreed that it has probably no connection with the name Darius; since it occurs in a contract tablet from the reign of Nabonidus.24

The conclusion, then, to be derived from this long discussion of Darius and the Medes is that Darius the Mede is one of the hundreds of sub-kings who reigned over parts of the great empires of the Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes, and Persians, whose name has been rescued from oblivion because of his connection with the prophet Daniel. Who he was and what he was we may never definitely determine. Most probably, he was either the same as Gubaru to whom Cyrus entrusted the government of Babylon immediately after its capture, or a greater sub-king who ruled over Media as well as Assyria and Babylonia and Chaldea, or a subordinate of Gubaru who we know was governor of Gutium before he was given the government of Babylon. But, whoever he was and whatever the extent of his government, there is no intimation in Daniel, or elsewhere, that he ever ruled over an independent kingdom, or that he ever was king of the Medes, or that his kingdom intervened between that of Nabonidus and Cyrus. Consequently, that the second empire of Daniel was that of the Medes is a figment of the critics’ imagination. With no evidence in support of its existence, it should be dropped from all serious discussion of the meaning of the predictions of Daniel.

Having thus ruled out the supposititious Median empire, the four kingdoms of Daniel’s visions will be the Babylonian, the Persian, the Greek, and the Roman, as has been held by most of the ablest Christians interpreters from the earliest times to the present.25

Darkness and Light in Daniel’s Predictions.

It is asserted by the critics, (1) that the part of Daniel which treats of the Ptolemies and Seleucids down to the year of the death ok Antiochus Epiphanes is substantially correct, and (2) that all before and after this is enveloped in darkness.26

(1) With the first statement, all conservative scholars will agree. The part of Daniel concerned with Antiochus Epiphanes is correct as far as we can judge, but it is frequently enveloped in the same kind of darkness that is supposed to characterize the rest of the book. In their commentaries, the radical critics admit this "darkness." In their attempts at interpretation of the passages refer to Epiphanes, they indulge in such words as "probable," "incorrect," author’s "ignorance of facts," and obscurity "owing to our ignorance regarding the history of Israel at this period."27 They disagree among themselves and resort to many violent changes of the text in order to make it suit their conception of what it ought to be. The most damning evidence of their inability to make the account of Antiochus Epiphanes harmonize with their view of the date of Daniel occurs in xi. 40-45. DeWette-Schrader put the time of writing Daniel at between 167 and 164.28 Driver at sometime about 168 B.C.29; and Cornill asserts that it must have been written between the end of December 165 and June 164, thus probably in January 164.30 But the commentators of the radical school say that the campaign against Egypt spoken of in verses 40-43 never occurred.31 Yet we are expected to believe that the people of Israel were such a lot of innocents (?) and ignoramuses as to accept shortly after it was written this book as a genuine and authentic work of a great prophet living 400 years before! It was, says Comill, "the work of a pious Jew, loyal to the Law, of the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, who was animated with the desire to encourage and support his persecuted and suffering comrades."32 Bevan asserts that "everything combines to show that the Book of Daniel is, from beginning to end, an exhortation addressed to the pious Israelites in the time of the great religious struggle under Antiochus Epiphanes.33 Prince makes it a "consolation to God’s people in their dire distress at the time of Antiochus Epiphanes."34 Bevan asserts that it was "read aloud in public."35 All are agreed that it was known in the Maccabeans times, for the author of 1 Maccabees cites from it36

And yet, we are asked to believe, that those men who had lived through the whole reign of Epiphanes and must have known all about his various campaigns accepted a work as historical and its predictions as having been fulfilled, when it speaks of a whirlwind conquest of Egypt which never took place at all! Why, it is fifty-three years since the American war of secession, and there are tens of thousands of us now living who were boys in 1865 and thousands of veterans of the blue and of the gray who would laugh to scorn a historian who attempted to palm off on us a third Bull Run, or to add to the campaign of Antietam and Gettysburg a third great invasion of the Northern States under the command of General Lee! But if the historian camouflaged himself as a prophet of the Lord and sought to encourage us in these troublous times by stating that in his third campaign, Lee had captured Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, but had suddenly turned back across the Potomac because of rumors which he had heard from the West and from the South, we would peremptorily reject his whole series of stories and visions as a tissue of lies and would refuse to be comforted by all his exhortations and consolations. We would inevitably conclude that a book claiming to have been written four hundred years ago and narrating the marvelous interventions of God in behalf of his people in the days of old and predicting the persecutions and triumphs of the nation in our own times for our encouragement and support was an impudent and baseless forgery, provided that we saw clearly that the author was incontrovertibly wrong in his alleged prognostications with regard to the events which were transpiring before our very eyes.

But, one can hear the supermen of Germany and their English and American scholars cry out in amazement, "You must not suppose that the Jews of Maccabean times were men of intelligence like us of today. Our people have der Kultur, la civilisation, the university professor, to guard them from the acceptance of such forgeries; but the Jews of Maccabean times were ignorant peasants, knowing nothing of criticism and sources." In such an opinion there is some measure of truth. The average man of today has doubtless more both of learning and scientific knowledge than the average man then possessed. But this is not a matter of education but of memory and common sense, and in these two particulars there is no evidence to show that the men of today are superior to what they were two thousand years ago. At that time, when there were fewer books, the memories of men were most highly cultivated. Besides, there never was a man not an idiot who did not remember the great events of his own life time.

Further, Daniel was not received by the common man alone, but by the leaders of the nation, by men like the Maccabees who had fought the armies of this same Antiochus Epiphanes, and with zealous care had watched all his wicked machinations against their people from the beginning of his tyrannical conduct unto the end of his career. This was a time also when the Greek learning was spread all over the countries that had been conquered by Alexander. Most of the Old Testament books had already been translated into Greek by Jewish scholars who were competent for their task. It was the age when Jewish writers of ability like Aristobulus, and Jason of Cyrene, and the Ben Siras, and the writers of First and perhaps of Second Maccabees, and Wisdom and Judith and parts of Enoch flourished. The Jews of Egypt, Cyrene, Syria, Cyprus, and other parts of the Diaspora had adopted Greek as their language. A hellenizing party had arisen even in Palestine itself which was ready to accept the innovations imposed by the Syrian king and prided itself on its Greek citizenship and customs. Alexandria and Antioch with their teeming Jewish populations were already the rivals of Athens and the centers of Greek learning. The critics of Alexandria were discussing the text of Homer and the works of Plato and Aristotle, and some at least of their Jewish scholars would be acquainted with their methods. Polybius, that great historian of Rome, was writing his unsurpassed discussion of how history should be written and condemning in unsparing terms the false statements of Timaeus Callisthenes and others of their kind. In order to prevent interpolations the works of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides had been collected at Athens in a standard edition which was secured through fraud by Ptolemy Philadelphus for his library at Alexandria. As to the sacred writings of the Jews, they were most certainly looked upon with the deepest veneration long before the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. This is attested, not merely by the fact that most of them at least had been translated into Greek before this time, but also by the fact that the astute tyrant saw the necessity of destroying the books if he would destroy the religion based upon them and by the further fact that the Jews preferred death to the giving up of their sacred writings.

Now, the radical critics, without any direct evidence to support them, profess to believe that into the midst of these sacred writings for which men readily died a forged document of unknown authorship and (according to the critics) full of easily detected errors and of doctrines unrecognized in the Law and the other books of the prophets was quietly admitted as a genuine and authentic writing of a prophet hitherto unknown to history. They would have us believe that this fictitious volume became immediately the model of a vast amount of similar literature and they admit that in the New Testament its influence is apparent almost everywhere and that "no writing of the Old Testament had so great a share in the development of Christianity."36a They admit, also, that in early times its canonicity and truthfulness were never seriously disputed by Jews or Christians. Truly, the credulity of these critics is pitiable in its eccentricities! They cannot believe in miracles and predictive prophecy which involve nothing but a simple faith in a wise and mighty and merciful God intervening in behalf of his people for his own glory and their salvation; but they can believe that a lot of obstreperous and cantankerous Jews who through all their history from Jacob and Esau down to the present time have disagreed and quarreled about almost everything, or nothing, could have accepted, unanimously and without a murmur, in an age when they were enlightened by the brilliant light of Plato’s philosophy, and Aristotle’s logic, and the criticism of the schools of Alexandria, a forged and fictitious document, untrue to the well remembered facts of their own experience and to the easily ascertained facts concerning their own past history and the history of the Babylonians, Medes, Persians, and Greeks of whom the author writes. Such a psychological improbability, devoid of any direct evidence in its support, let the critic believe if he can. Your unsophisticated servant prefers his belief in predictive prophecy to any such quixotic and sciolistic attempts to belittle and besmirch a book simply because we cannot understand the why and the how of all the extraordinary deeds and doctrines that are recorded there.

(2) As to the second statement of the second assumption, that all the record of Daniel before the time of the Seleucids and after June 164 B.C. is "enveloped in darkness," the whole of the volume of Studies in the Book of Daniel is intended to show that this is not true of the historical part which treats of the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius the Mede, and Cyrus. As to the predictions which touch matters subsequent to June 164 B.C., the visions and interpretations of Daniel were no more veiled in darkness to those who lived in the sixth century B.C. than were those of Jacob, Moses, Balaam, Nathan, David, Isaiah, and Zechariah to those of their time, or than the predictions of Jesus, Peter, Paul, and John to the men of the first century A.D. The prophets we are told on the highest authority, foretold many things which they themselves did not fully understand, let alone their hearers, but which they "desired to look into."37 To the question of the disciples as to when the things of which Jesus spoke should be, the Lord replied: No man knoweth these things but the Father.38 The predictions of Daniel in regard to the resurrection, the judgment, the world kingdoms, and the Messiah, are no more obscure or difficult of interpretation than are some of those in the Gospels, the Epistles, and the Book of the Revelation of St. John. Of course, those who do not believe ’in God, nor in a revelation from God to man, nor in any superhuman prediction of future events, will reject alike the predictions of Daniel, Jesus, Paul, and John. But for those who call themselves Christians to deny the resurrection, the judgment, the second coming, and other predicted events, is absurd enough to make all the logicians in Hades laugh and all the angels weep. To reject a book from the sacred writings because it contains such statements with regard to the future, is to reject that in the book which most of all makes it sacred. For the distinguishing characteristic of sacred as contrasted with profane writings is this very fact, that they do contain, or are related to, such predictions. The most precious promises of the gospel from the protevangelium to the last verses of the book of the Revelation of St. John all refer to that blessed future which now we see through a glass darkly, but where we are assured sorrow and sin and death shall be no more. To the true Christian those things to come are the brightest things in all the universe, the anchor of the soul sure and steadfast; but the god of this world has blinded the eyes of the children of disobedience, lest seeing with their eyes they should believe and be converted. Woe to the so-called Christian who under the pretense of a science falsely so-called denies the reality of revelation. Like Esau, he has sold his birthright of the hope of eternal glory for a mess of pottage, the beggarly elements of worldly wisdom and pride.39

The Importance of Antiochus Epiphanes

The time has now arrived to grapple with the most insidious and treacherous attack that has been made upon the book of Daniel. It is insidious because it claims to be philosophical and scientific. It is treacherous in so far as it is made by professing Christians. A philosopher who believes that God wound up the universe, like a clock, and then let it run its course without any interference, must refuse to accept the book of Daniel as true. So, also, must one who thinks that nothing contrary to the ordinary course of human or natural events can be proved by testimony. A scientist (or shall we say sciolist) who thinks he knows that the laws of nature are binding on their Creator and that a modern chemist or psychologist or animal trainer can manipulate the elements, or the minds of men, or of lions, better than the Almighty, will not hesitate to reject Daniel because of the extraordinary events recorded there as having been wrought by God. But a Christian who necessarily accepts the principles of Theism, and who consequently believes in God’s intervention in the affairs of men, and in predictive prophecy as well as miracle, cannot refuse to accept the book of Daniel as historical and reliable, as authentic, genuine, and veracious, simply because of the character of its predictions. Now, in works already published40 we have endeavored to show, that the objections against Daniel based upon the ground that its statements about the age of Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus are unfounded, that the argument from silence as illustrated in Ecclesiasticus and other cases is fallacious, that the argument from Daniel’s place in the present Hebrew Bible has no basis to rest on, and that the origin and influence of its ideas and its background including its language are in harmony with its claims to have been written in the sixth century B.C. in a Babylonian environment.41 There remains but one important obstacle standing in the way of the Christian who desires to follow Christ and the apostles in their apparent acceptance of the book of Daniel as being what it purports to be. It is the fact that Antiochus Epiphanes looms so high in the mind of the prophet. It is difficult to account for the prominence given to this "contemptible" monarch in the midst of a narrative that opens with an account of Nebuchadnezzar the king of great Babylon that he had built, that thinks Cyrus the founder of the Persian empire to be worthy of the merest reference, and that alludes to Alexander the Great in the most cursory fashion. Why should Epiphanes be selected from all the successors of Alexander, the Ptolemies, the Seleucids, Perdiccas, Eumenes, Antigonus, Demetrius Poliorcetes, and the rest? Why should he be given forty verses, or more, of a book which barely squints at the Persian kings, and never gives but a glimmering intimation that the Roman fleets and legions were to become in his time the masters of the world? Why should a vision predicting with such accuracy and detail the campaigns of the kings of the North and the South never allude to that unequalled family of heroes who were to begin at Modin the liberation of God’s people and scatter like the leaves of Vallombrosa the numerous and frequent hosts of deadly enemies who were to desolate the homes and attempt to suppress the religion of that Jehovah in whose name the prophet spake? Why above all was his detailed vision to cease with the renovation of the temple and fade off into dim outlines when it passed beyond that time into the more distant vistas but the more glorious hopes of the Messianic kingdom? Why especially should he describe the true course of events in Epiphanes’ expedition against Egypt till the year i69 and then picture another campaign which according to the critics never occurred at all.

These and similar questions have vexed the righteous souls of many who would like to believe in the real Daniel and who have no prejudices against the possibility of the kind of predictive prophecy alleged to be found in the book. They can accept the first six chapters which record the striking occurrences in the lives of Daniel and his companions. They can accept the principle of the possibility and the fact of divine revelation of future events. But they hesitate at accepting the whole, at least, of Daniel, because they see no good and sufficient reason why he should have narrated with such length and clearness the history of the Seleucids up to the death of Epiphanes and have given so much emphasis to the deeds of this tyrant while barely mentioning such superlatively and relatively important events as the resurrection, the judgment, and the kingdom of the Messiah.

Now, in order to remove this hesitation, it may seem to some sufficient to affirm our belief that these predictions might have been made by God through Daniel, even though we could perceive no good reason for them. We think, however, that we can perceive a good and sufficient reason for them, one at least that justifies them in our estimation, and we shall proceed to state it, in order that if possible we may make the ways of God appear just to the men of little faith.

It appears to us, then, that the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes was one of the most important events in the history of the church. It can be rivalled only by the call of Abraham, the giving of the Law, the Captivity, and the In carnation. Among all the crises to which the people of God have been subjected, it can be compared only with the dispersion in the time of Nebuchadnezzar. The return of the exiles had been definitely foretold by Jeremiah, and Jeremiah’s prediction was known and pondered by Daniel.42 He was not needed, nor was it given to him, to supplement the work of his great predecessor. But he performed a greater and more lasting service for the church. He showed clearly that all the tyrants of the earth were under the control of the God of heaven, that the kingdoms of this world were foreordained by Him and should at last be superseded by the kingdom of the Messiah and his saints, and he encouraged the people not merely of his own time but of all time to be steadfast in the midst of fiery trials and deadly perils of all kinds in view of the certainty that God could and would eventually circumvent or crush the tyrants and deliver the innocent for time and for eternity. Now, the deadliest peril that the church has ever confronted was the attempt of Antiochus Epiphanes to suppress it utterly. For reasons of state, and perhaps also of religion, he determined to enforce conformity of worship throughout his dominions. His plan of operations was the most astute that has ever ’been devised. He ordered the cessation of circumcision, the sign of the covenant between the people and their God and that which held them together as a race. He stopped the services in the temple and instituted in their stead the worship of Jupiter. He set up idol altars in every city and demanded that every Jew should sacrifice according to the heathen ritual which he had introduced. He commanded that the holy writings should be destroyed so that the laws and customs and institutions might be gradually but surely forgotten and eliminated. And " for all who refused to accept these severe and stringent regulations and requirements he pronounced the penalty of death; whereas he crowned with honors and emoluments all who apostatized and renounced the God of their fathers. The resuit of his well calculated machinations was almost complete enough to equal the most sanguine expectations. Most of the Jewish people seem to have cast away without any apparent qualm the hereditary claims of race and country and religion, and to have grasped with eagerness the proffered hand of the subtle enemy of their faith. The bloodthirsty tyrant executed his threats of death upon all who opposed his will. Men, women, and children were ruthlessly slaughtered. Whole families were extirpated for the guilt of one of their number.. The chosen people were on the point of being annihilated and the promises and the hopes of the covenant of being annulled for ever.

There never was, before or since, such a period of desperation and despondency in the history of the church. Pharoah’s aim had ’been to destroy thorace, but the promise to Abraham had been fulfilled through Moses and Joshua. Nebuchadnezzar had carried the people captive and destroyed Jerusalem and the temple; but the sacred books had been preserved, apostasy was rare, and through God’s servants, the kings of Persia, the people and the temple were at length restored to their former worship, as it had been foretold by the prophets. But, now, under Epiphanes, was attempted what had never been proposed by Babylonian conqueror or Persian friends, the entire destruction of people and religion at one fell blow. Prophecy had ceased. The tribes of Israel were scattered over the earth, some foreign cities like Alexandria and Antioch having more Jewish inhabitants than Jerusalem. The Holy Land was largely in possession of the Gentiles. The Jews themselves had become indifferent to the Law. The High Priests were murdering each other and one of them when deposed at Jerusalem built a rival temple in Egypt. The whole polity of the Jews was disintegrated, all their fortresses and cities were in the hands of the enemy, they had no army and no leaders, and all seemed lost.

Then it was that one man stood up and defied the haughty king. His name was Mattathias. He lived at a village named Modin. The heathen had constructed an altar. The priest was ready to sacrifice the victim, when Mattathias slew him and made a fiery appeal to his fellow citizens to take arms against the tyrant. To hearten them, he called to mind the great deeds of their fathers and the faith that had inspired them. In the climax of his speech he referred to the fiery furnace and to Daniel in the den of lions. This recalled to them that their God could and would save those who put their trust in Him. They rallied round Mattathias and his five noble sons, the most valiant and able of them all. The pious sprang to arms and after many a hard fought fight the Syrians were overcome and the kingdom of the Jews was reëstablished under the Asmonean kings. Had the attempt of Antiochus succeeded, the preparation for the coming of the Messiah could not have been completed. A people waiting for his appearing would not have been existent. A Diaspora eager to receive and disseminate the gospel would not have been ready. In short, the continuity of the church would have been destroyed, the records of the Old Testament might have disappeared as utterly as the archives of Tyre and the memoirs of Hannibal, the New Testament could not have been written, the life of Jesus would have been entirely different, the method of the early propagation of the gospel must have been altered and the whole plan of salvation changed.

But, it will be said, how did the time when these alleged predictions of Daniel were written affect all this? Only in this respect, that it afords sufficient reason for their having been made so many years before. Just as the deliverance of the three children from the fiery furnace and of Daniel from the lions’ den on account of their faith in Israel’s God gave Mattathias a fitting climax in his speech inciting the people to steadfastness in their trials, so the knowledge that their evil condition has ’been foretold nearly four hundred years before would strengthen the hearers’ confidence that the rest of the prediction would be fulfilled in the overthrow of the oppressor and in the ultimate triumph of the kingdom of God. The stupendous crisis justified the prediction; the prediction justified the expectation of deliverance. Because the hearers of Mattathias knew about the three children and Daniel, they were incited by Mattathias’ speech to emulate their conduct and to imitate their faith. Because the learned leaders of the Jews believed that the visions were really those of Daniel, they accepted the book as true and received it as canonical. Had the history been fictitious, Mattathias would not have cited from it and the people would not have been roused by it. Had the visions not been considered genuine, the educated church of that day would not have acknowledged the book as holy and its’ teachings as divine. Had the book not been deemed authentic, it would have been condemned as a forgery and would have failed in that purpose of consolation and encouragement to which all critics ascribe the reason of its existence. Because both people and rulers and literati esteemed the book to be authentic, genuine, and veracious, they placed it among those holy writings for whose preservation they willingly gave up their lives.

No other satisfactory explanation of the canonization and influence of Daniel has ever been given. The theories that the Jews received into their canon all of their national literature, or all that was written in their own language, or all that was religious in character, all break down in view of the book of Ecclesiasticus alone; for it was written in Hebrew and is exceedingly religious and nationalistic. It is impossible also to see why First Maccabees and Tobit and the first and third sections of Enoch should have been rejected on the ground of not possessing these qualifications. Moreover, Jubilees, Judith, and the Testimony of the Twelve Patriarchs are religious and nationalistic in an eminent degree. We are shut up, therefore, to the conclusion that the sharp-witted and intensely conscientious Jews of the second century B.C., who determined the limits of the canon, investigated thoroughly the origin, purpose, and contents, of the books which they accepted as authoritative as a rule of faith and practice, and that Daniel, if a forgery, could not have escaped detection and rejection when subjected to their intelligent and searching scrutiny.

It is utterly irrelevant to assert that there were many "pious frauds" that were put forth during the second century B.C. and later, and that consequently Daniel must have been a fraud. There are three inadmissible assumptions in this proposition. First, that the proof that one document is a forgery, or fraud, or fiction, shows that another is of the same character. You might as well assume that all coins are counterfeit because some are. You might as well assume that Polybius was a liar as he asserts that Ephorus and Timaeus were; that Cicero’s and Pliny’s letters were not authentic, because the epistles of Phalaris have been demonstrated by Bently to have been written 5qq years after Phalaris was dead; that all the tragedies of Euripides were falsely ascribed to him, because some are acknowledged to have been written by other and unknown authors; that the four canonical gospels were identical in origin with the gospel of Peter and those of the Infancy; that the Lives of Augustine and Jerome were of the same character as those of St. Anthony and St. Christopher; that the decrees of Constantine, Theodosius, and Charlemagne in favor of the papacy were forged because the decretals of Isodore are false; that all parts of Ashurbanipal’s Annals are unreliable because some parts certainly are; that Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic War are spurious because his Commentaries on the Civil War may be. In short the argument is absurd. For counterfeits involve the existence of the genuine; forgeries presuppose similar documents that are authentic; fictions are but the shadows of verisimilitude. The Jewish religious authorities accepted the book of Daniel because they believed it to be authentic, genuine, and true. They rejected Tobit, Judith, Enoch, Jubilees, The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, and the other apoc’ypha1 and pseudepigraphic writings, because in their judgment they were lacking in one or more of these features.

It may be attempted to escape this judgment by affirming that the Jews who accepted Daniel as canonical were deceived, or befooled, so that they decided wrongly with reference to this particular book. But this affirmation cannot be established as true. For the Jews who made the decision were living and present at the very time when the critics allege that Daniel was written and when the events described in the eleventh chapter, upon which the allegation is based, were enacted. Many of them had taken part in the glorious conflict for freedom and religion, and could no more be deceived as to what had happened than could the common soldiers of the Grand Army of the Republic who participated in the campaigns of Meade or Grant be deceived about the results of Gettysburg and Appomattox. As to the customs, they certainly would recognize anachronisms, incongruities, and inconsistencies better than we can do today after two thousand years have passed. As to the languages also, it is passing strange, if they contain so many marks of Hebrew and Aramaic of Maccabean times as the critics claim, that the Hebrew purists did not recognize the anachronisms; and, on the other hand, if the book were designed for a stimulus to the common people, how does it come to contain so many uncommon words and so many difficult constructions as to have rendered it largely "unintelligible" (to use Bevan’s word) to the Hebrews who, shortly after it was written (if we accept the critics’ date), translated it into Greek. It must have been hard to fool a people as to what was good Hebrew in the age that produced the Ben Sims, for the grandfather certainly knew how to write good Hebrew, unadulterated with foreign words and clear in its rhetoric and grammar; and the grandson knew both Hebrew and Greek well enough to make a magnificient version of his grandfather’s work. As to the Aramaic portions of the book, if they were, as Bevan suggests to be probable, a version of the original Hebrew by the author himself, the decision as to the date of the original would be made regardless of the peculiarities of the Aramaic version. If, however, the Aramaic was the original, it seems hard to account for the use, in a work designed to comfort the people, of so many words that must have been unintelligible to them; for there is no proof in favor of, and the analogies are all against, the probability of the presence of so many Babylonian and Persian words in an Aramaic composition of the second century B.C.43 To say that the author, like another Chatterton, had dived into the records of the past and drawn from them a number of antique expressions in order to give credence to his forgery and to deceive his readers, breaks down because of two considerations; first, a scholar with learning enough to investigate such ancient documents in order to give an antique coloring to his writings would certainly have used the antique spelling and pronouns, whose absence from Daniel is the strongest objective argument against its early date. Secondly, he would have used the eastern forms of the verb, if, as the critics affirm, those eastern forms were different from those of Palestine. And thirdly, he could hardly have known so much of the character of the ancient documents without having more knowledge of the times in which they were written than the critics ascribe to him.

Thirdly, there remains, then, only the hypothesis that the writer of the book and those who accepted it as true were united in an endeavor to impose upon the common people. The chief objection to this hypothesis is that there is not a single item of evidence in its favor. It is absurd to suppose that men who were willingly giving up their lives for the preservation of their holy writings from destruction would have been participants in a fraud to Perpetuate the book of Daniel as one of their holy writings. But since such general charges of fraud without specifications and proofs are beneath the notice of a sober, scientific, historian, we leave the consideration of the charge of fraud until such time as the critics advance a specific charge with alleged proofs in its behalf. The investigation and arraignment of unexpressed motives and plausible possibilities are hereby relegated to the speculative philosopher and the examiner of psychological phenomena; the undeniable fact is that history knows nothing of the alleged composition and publication and canonization of the book of Daniel in the Maccabean age. When it first emerges into historic view, it was already stamped with the same authority as the other books of the Old Testament. Its authenticity, genuineness, and veracity, have never been denied except by those who have disbelieved in miracle and predictive prophecy and by some weak-kneed Jews and Christians of these later decades who have thought that they were scientific when they were merely blind followers of the blind. Scientific? This word implies knowledge. And where did they get their knowledge? Let the critics produce it. Where are their facts in evidence ? The great jury of Christendom demand that they be produced. History and philology and archaeology have been searched for centuries and they have’ failed to present a single fact of direct evidence in support of the critics’ positions. The time is past when a German professor can pound his desk and overawe his submissive students with the shout, "Mein Gott in Himmel, meine Herren, es ist unmöglich," or "Es ist ganz selbstverständlich." We Christians demand some facts to prove that the ’book of Daniel is false before we will admit the charge from any man. We still believe that Christ and the Apostles and the Maccabean and Rabbinical Jews knew more about the origin and veracity and authority of Daniel than the critics do or can know. The vociferous and continuous cry of "all scholars agree" has weight only with those who are ignorant of what these scholars really know. As a fact, they know very little about Daniel, or any other Old Testament book, except" what the book testifies as to itself. Against this first hand and direct testimony they put forth a host of conjectures and opinions and ask the world to accept them as the testimony of science and scholarship. They set up their golden calves of what they call history and criticism and cry out: These by thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. They make a golden image of their own reason and imagination and command that all men shall bow down and do homage, in pain of being cast into the fiery furnace of their professional contempt and branded as bigots and ignoramuses. But the church of Christ will never bow down to this image, and God will deliver it from all evil and in the fiery furnace of the world’s criticism there will always be one like the Son of God to save it from all its foes. In the case of Daniel, Daniel is with us and Christ is with us. Caveat criticus!


R. D. Wilson



1) Prince, Commentary on Daniel, p. 71.

2) For a full discussion of the assumption that the second kingdom was Median the reader is referred the writer’s Studies in the Book of Daniel, pp. 128238.

3) So Bevan, Commentary on Daniel, p. 20.

4) Commentary on Daniel, p. 145.

5) Professor Bevan assumes that kabbel means "take possession," (Comm., p. 109), but he does not attempt to prove it.

6) Commentary on Daniel, P. 44.

7) id, pp. 45, 46.

8) id. p. 47.

9) id. p. 49.

10) id. pp. 4855.

11) id. p. 55.

12) id. p. S6.

13) See tablet published by Mr. Pinches in The Expository Times for 1915.

14) Since the Ku of the Greek Kuaxares corresponds to Eva in the Persian cuneiform of the Behistun inscription, it might be possible that the Hebrew and Aramaic Ahasuerus represents the axares of Cyaxares. In this case, Darius the Mede would be the son of Cyaxares, the son of Astyages, the son of ·Cyaxares; or he might be descended from the father of Astyages. In the Behistun Inscription the Median claimants to the throne call themselves the sons of Cyaxares. If Darius the Mede were the son of Cyaxares the son of Astyages, he could be called "of the seed of Media," that is, of the royal family of Media, without his father or himself having really been king of Media.

15) Again Darius the Mede may have been the son of Cyaxares, predecessor of Astyages, king of Media. Since he was sixty-two years old when he was made king of Babylon (by Cyrus?), he would have been born in 600 B.C. If Sayce is right in supposing that Astyages was a Scythian who conquered Media, Darius the Mede may have been the heir of Cyaxares. The defection of the Medes under Harpagus during the battle between Astyages and Cyrus would be accounted for if we could be certain that Astyages was a Scythian conqueror of the Medes. The Medes in this case were simply going over to their kinsmen the Persians and throwing oft the yoke of the foreign despot who had subdued them.

16) Studies in the Book of Daniel, 90-94.

17) Reverse 3.

18) Of course if he were sixty-seven or over when he began to reign, his father may have been king of Babylon before Nabopolassar. In this case he must have been sub-king to Shamashshumukin or to Ashurbanipal king of Assyria; for the latter was overlord of "Babylon till his death in 626 B.C.

19) See the Eshki-Harran Inscription by Pognon.

20) KB III. II. 139.

21) KB III. II. 133.

22) Pinches in Expository Times for April 1915.

23) See, Studies in the Book of Daniel, Vol. I. 132f.

24) Strassmaier: Inschriften von Nabonidus, 1013.26.

25) It seems, also, to have been the view of our Lord; for he speaks of "the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel" as being about to be fulfilled in its true import in the time future to his own (Matt. xxiv. 15). No new evidence has appeared since the old commentaries were written that could cause us to change the traditional interpretation. On the contrary, the new evidence is preponderatingly in favor not merely of the historicity of Daniel, but of the old view of the meaning of his predictions.

26) Bevan, Comm. p. 167; Cornill, Introduction, p. 384.

27) See Prince, Commentary, pp. 171-188.

28) Einleitung, p. 507.

29) LOT, p. 497.

30) id., p. 39O.

31) Prince, p. 186; Bevan, p. 198.

32) Introduction, p. 388.

33) Comm. p. 23.

34) Comm. p. 24

35) Comm. p. 25.

36) 1 Macc. ii. 59, 60.

36a) Bevan, Comm., p. 15, quoting Westcott.

37) 1 Peter i. 10, 11.

38) Math. xxiv. 3-36.

39) For a thorough discussion of this subject, see Pusey’s Lectures on Daniel, pp. 60-233.

40) Especially in Studies in the Book of Daniel (1916) ; "The Aramaic of Daniel" (Biblical and Theological Studies by the Faculty of Princeton Theological Seminary, 1912) ; and in the following articles which were published in this Review: "The Book of Daniel and the Canon" (July, 1915), "The Silence of Ecclesiasticus concerning Daniel" (July, 1916), "The Origin of the Ideas of Daniel" (April, 1923), "The Influence of Daniel" (July, October, 1923).

41) The whole matter of the languages and text of Daniel will be discussed in a subsequent volume.  

42) See Dan. ix. 2.

43) See the writers article on "Babylon and the Bible" in the Presbyterian and Reformed Review for April 1902, p.