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Daniel

The Book of Daniel consists of twelve chapters of which only the first half, the narrative portion concerns us here. Like Jonah, it pretence at being a historical work is foiled by the author’s poor knowledge of history. That he profoundly ignorant of the history of 6th century BCE can be seen in the following errors he made:

We see that Daniel was actually written around 167-164BCE and that he had less than honest reasons for pretending to be a work of the 6th century BCE.

Mistakes in Details Regarding the Fall of Jerusalem

Daniel 1:1-2
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord have Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God; and he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his God.

The passage if filled with historical errors and anachronisms:

  • First he god the name of the king of Judah during the seige wrong. II Kings 8-13 showed that it was during the reign of Jehoiachin, Jehoiakim’s son, that Nebuchadnezzar laid seige on Jerusalem. Furthermore, the third year of Jehoiakim’s reign would be 606BC. Nebuchadnezzar was not yet king of Babylon at that time! Nebuchadnezzar only become king in 605BC, the fourth year of Jehoaikim’s reign.
  • Secondly the use of the term Shinar is an anachronism. The name was used to refer to Sumeria during the time of Abraham. During the exilic period, around the time the book of Daniel was supposed to have been written, the correct term was Chaldea, not Shinar.
  • And finally, the correct spelling for the neo-Babylonian king was Nebuchadrezzar. We noticed that books that were actually written during the exilic period such as Jeremiah (25:9) and Ezekial (26:7), got this spelling right at least some of the time. Daniel always incorrectly spells the name with an “n” rather than “r”. [1] [a]

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Mistakes Regarding Belshazzar

Daniel 5:1-2
King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords, and drank wine in front of the thousand. Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and silver which Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought...

This innocent looking passage is simply loaded with historical errors.

  • Belshazzar, or more correctly Bel-shar-utsur ("Bel, Protect the King"), was never a king. He was a crown prince but never became king of Chaldea, for the kingdom collapsed during the reign of his father.

  • Nebuchadnezzar was not the father of Belshazzar. In fact there is no family relation at all between the two. Nebuchadnezzar died in 562BC leaving the kingdom to his son Amel-Marduk. Amel-Marduk, in turn was murdered by his brother-in-law Nergal-ashur-usur two years later. Nergal-ashur-usur reigned for only four years. After his death in 560BC, his son, Nebuchadnezzar's grandson, Labashi-Marduk became king. There was a revolt, and Labashi Marduk was dethroned. The new king was Nabu-naido ("Nabu is glorious"), or in its Greek form Nabudonius. Nabudonius was not related at all to Nebuchadnezzar. He was the last king of the Chaldean Empire, and Belshazzar was his son. [2]

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Mistakes Regarding the Succession of Babylonian Kingdoms

Daniel 5:30-31
That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was slain. And Darius the Mede received the kingdom...

Again another statement that is historically false. In the first place the Chaldean Kingdom, fell not the Medes but to the Persians (in 538BC). The King who conquered Chaldea was Cyrus the Persian. There was no historical Darius the Mede who conquered Chaldea! There was however a Persian king name Darius who became king in 521BC, seventeen years after the fall of Babylon. Darius was a renowned king in antiquity and it is obvious that the author of Daniel erroneously thought he was the conqueror of the Chaldean Empire. [3]

The author of Daniel revealed further his ignorance of history when he wrote:

Daniel 9:1
In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by birth a Mede...

Now, if he is referring to the historical Darius (the Persian) this is another false statement. The father of Darius was Hystaspes. Ahasuerus, based on Ezra 4:5-6, can be correctly identified with Xerxes I. But Xerxes I was the son of Darius, not his father! [4]

As a coup de grace, the author of Daniel wrote the passage below:

Daniel 6:28
So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

A fitting "tribute" to Daniel's monumental ignorance of history. The passage above clearly shows that he believed that the Chaldean empire fell first to the Median Empire and this, in turn, fell to the Persian. This is clearly unhistorical. History tells us that the Chaldean and the Median empires existed together and both fell to the Persians. [5]

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The Dating of Daniel

The book of Daniel is so filled with historical errors and inaccuracies that most biblical scholars (always excepting the fundamentalists, of course) now conclude that Daniel was written very much later (between 167 to 164 BCE) than the period it pretends to be (sixth century BC). How do the scholars know this? Let us digress because it is worth knowing [6]:

  • First we know that the book could not have been written in the 6th century BCE because it made errors that anyone living during that time would know. (see above)

  • Second is this statement from Daniel 9:2;

    I was studying the sacred books and thinking about the seventy years that Jerusalem would be in ruins, according to what the Lord had told the prophet Jeremiah.

    This is revealing. The prophet Jeremiah lived during the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar in 587BCE. Thus he was a very near contemporary of Daniel. The time of the supposed Daniel was simply too soon for the book of Jeremiah to be considered scripture (which is another word for "sacred books") In fact we know that the book of Jeremiah was only canonized, i.e. widely considered as "scripture", around 200BCE. Thus Daniel could not have been written earlier than that.

  • Daniel was very accurate in "predicting" events leading to and including the desecration of the Jerusalem temple by Antiochus in December 167 BCE.[b]

  • After this Daniel starts to go wrong again. Daniel 11:45 predicted that Antiochus IV would die "between the sea and the mountain on which the temple stands", i.e. between Jerusalem and the Mediterranean sea. Yet Antiochus IV died in Persia in 164BCE.
To summarize, he made errors regarding events in the distant past (6th century BCE), was remarkably accurate in describing details of the events leading to the desecration of temple in 167BCE and then made errors about events after that. Thus it is obvious that Daniel must have been written at a time after the temple desecration but before the death of Antiochus IV. In short between 167 and 164BCE.[c]

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Reason for Daniel's Pretense

The question then, is this: why did the author of Daniel adopt this pretence of writing in the 6th century BCE? For a simple (but dishonest) reason; by the time it came to be read, many of the so-called “prophecies” would have already been “fulfilled”. This would thus lend credence to the book and add more weight behind the prophecies yet to be fulfilled. In a nutshell, the author of Daniel tried to fool his readers into believing that the book is of an ancient origin in order to have them believe his future prophecies.

The summary below on the book of Daniel, made by the historian Robin Fox, is apt:

The book [of Daniel] has the familiar ingredients of a biblical success story: its hero probably never existed; he was credited with visions he never saw and actions he never did; ...while its dates and kings are incorrect and its setting is a fiction, posing as history. [7]

In short, the author of Daniel is a fraud.

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Notes

a.Due to Daniel’s error, the use of Nebuchadnezzar is now more common than the correct term Nebuchadrezzar. Thus the former is now more commonly used. I have decided to follow this convention. However, note that the latter is actually the correct form.
b.Some examples:
  • Daniel 11:1-5 "predicted" that a Greek warrior king will conquer Persia, rule a vast Kingdom, will not pass on the empire to his descendent, and have his kingdom will be divided into the "four winds of heaven". We know that Alexander the Great, a "Greek warrior" conquered the Persian empire and upon his death 323 BCE had his empire divided among his four generals: Cassander, Lysimachus, Ptolemy and Seleucus.
  • Daniel 11:5-6 "predicted" that "after some years", the daughter of "king of the south" shall marry the "king of the north" to make peace. We know that around 253 BCE, Antiochus II, the grandson of Seleucus 1 the king of Syria and Palestine ("north"), married Berenice, daughter of Ptolemy II, king of Egypt ("south").
  • Daniel 11:6-7 "predicted" that she (together with her husband and children) will be killed by one from her "own branch". We know that Berenice and Antiochus were murdered circa 246 BCE by Berenice's brother Ptolemy III.
  • This remarkably accurate and detailed predictions continued until Daniel 11:20 where he predicted that the succession of a king who "shall send an extractor of tribute through the glory of the kingdom" who shall meet his death "neither in public nor in war". We know that Seleucus IV, the grandson of Seleucus II, tried to extract money from the temple funds ("extractor of tribute") in Jerusalem to pay a hugh indemnity to Rome and was assasinated by Heliodorus ("died neither in public nor in war").
  • Finally Daniel predicted the accension of a "contemptible person" who will set up the "abominable thing that causes desolation". This is Antiochus IV, who succeeded his brother of Selecus IV, desecrated the Jerusalem temple by placing an altar to Zeus (on which pigs were sacrificed) there. This of course happened in December 167BCE.
c.Around the end of the third century AD a pagan critic named Porphyry called attention to the fact that Daniel’s prophecy stopped being accurate for events after the year 167BC. He thus, rightly concluded that Daniel must have been written around that time. Of course, when Christianity became the dominant power in the Roman Empire, the “Christian thing” was done: Porphyry’s books were burned. It was only around the nineteenth century that biblical scholars began to accept Porphry’s views as the correct one.
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References

1.Asimov, Asimov's Guide to the Bible: p599
Helms, Who Wrote the Gospels: p20
Roux, Ancient Iraq: p349
2.Asimov, Asimov's Guide to the Bible: p605-606
Andersen, A Critical Introduction to the Old Testament: p210
Roberts, The Pelican History of the World: p129
3.Asimov, Guide to the Bible: p608
Andersen, A Critical Introduction to the Old Testament:210
Roberts, History of the World: p129
4.Asimov, Guide to the Bible: p609
5.Ibid: p609
6.Helms, Who Wrote the Gospels, p29-34
7.Fox, The Unauthorized Version: p331,337

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