Daniel in the Critic's Den

By Sir Robert Anderson

Appendices 3


     THE Massoretic punctuation of Daniel ix. 25 has been adopted by Dean Farrar and Professor Driver, who fail to see that it is fatal to their pseud-epigraph theory of Daniel. The passage when thus read limits to 62 "weeks" the period during which Jerusalem was to remain as an inhabited city; and it is quite certain that no Jew writing "in the days of the Seleucid tyrant, anxious to inspire the courage and console the sufferings of his countrymen," would have used words which could only mean that the destruction of their holy city was imminent. Assuming the genuineness of the Book of Daniel, the R.V. punctuation renders the meaning of the passage more obscure, but it cannot alter it ; for as 7+62+1 make up 70, it is obvious that the lesser periods mentioned are subdivisions of the 70 weeks of the prophecy. It is clear, therefore, that the 62 weeks follow the 7 weeks, and that the death of Messiah (according to verse 26) was to be at the close of the 69th week.

     "The sacred writings - Torah, Prophets, and Hagiographa - were written in archaic style, the letters were unaccompanied by vowel or punctuation signs. . . . The accents and the vowel system are an integral part of the Massorab." And further, "The Received, or, as it is commonly called, the Massoretic, text of the Old Testament Scriptures, has come down to us in manuscripts which are of no very great antiquity, and which all belong to the same family or recension" (Preface, R.V.). As the words "of no very great antiquity" may be explained to mean not more than about one thousand years old, the reader can appreciate Professor Margoliouth’s statement "that we possess the Old Testament in a partially anti-Christian recension." And as a false punctuation of Dan. ix. 25 would suffice to obscure, though it could not destroy, the Messianic reference of the passage, the Jewish editors may have possibly sought in this way to lessen the weight of proof which Daniel affords of the truth of Christianity.

     But we may clear the Jewish editors from this charge, though at the expense of the Old Testament Company of Revisers. Punctuation marks (as we understand the term) there are none in Hebrew. But the Hebrew accents serve to a certain extent the same purpose. The following extract from the Gesenius-Kautzsch Hebrew Grammar (than which there is no higher authority) will enable the reader to judge of this matter for himself: -

     "The design of the accents is primarily to regulate the musical enunciation (chanting) of the sacred Text; and thus they are first of all a kind of musical notes. . . . On the other hand, according to their original design they have also a twofold use which is still of the greatest importance for the grammar - viz., their value (a) as marking the tone; (b) as marks of punctuation." And to this a footnote is added to explain "that the value of the accent as a mark of punctuation is always relative. Thus, e.g., ‘Athnah, as regards the logical structure of the sentence, may at one time indicate a very strong caesure (thus Gen. i. 4); at another, one which is almost imperceptible (thus Gen. i. i)."

     Now it is the presence of the Athnah accent which has led the Revisers to divide Dan. ix. 25 by a colon. On the same principle and for the same reason they ought to have rendered Gen. i. I, "In the beginning God created: the heaven and the earth." In the Hebrew the order of the words is, "In the beginning created God;" and the force of the Athnah is to make the reader pause at the sacred name in order that the hearers may grasp the solemn meaning of the words. In every case, therefore, the context must decide whether the accent should be "translated" by the insertion of a colon in the English version. The Revisers, however, by a majority vote, and in spite of the protest of the American Company, have thus corrupted Dan. ix. 25. It is one of the blemishes of the R.V. of the Old Testament, which is generally free from these "schoolboy translations," that so often mark the R.V. of the New Testament. I will conclude by repeating that if their punctuation here is right, it is proof that Daniel was not written in the Maccabean era.

     Since writing the foregoing my attention has been called to the presence of the Athnah in verse 2 of this very chapter. If the critics are right they ought to render it, "I, Daniel, understood by the books: the number of the years, &c. But their position is in fact utterly untenable. 1 Eccles. xii. 5 is a notable instance of this. The beautifully veiled reference implied in the caper-berry is rendered with exquisite propriety in our A.V., "and desire shall fail." The R.V. reading, "and the caper-berry shall fail," is a mere schoolboy translation, and absolutely meaningless to the English reader.