1902 Encyclopedia > Book of Daniel

Book of Daniel




BOOK OF DANIEL. The controversy as to the origin and significance of this book has passed through so many phases, and the collateral arguments are so apt to obscure those on which the question really hinges, that a simpler mode of treatment than is customary in theological works seems to be here desirable. Instead of beginning with the second part of Daniel (vii.-xii.), which professes to contain circumstantial predictions, and is consequently difficult to treat without some reference to " burning questions " of theology, we shall first survey the narrative-portion (i.-vi.) from an historical point of view, and inquire how far the names, ideas, customs, and historical allusions in it agree with the facts known to us from other sources. Our chief guide will be a critical study of the cuneiform inscriptions.
(1.) As to the names. The writer of Daniel evidently supposes that Belteshazzar is compounded with the name of Bel, or Merodach, the favourite god of Nebuchadnezzar (see iv. 8). It appears, however, that the word has no connection with Bel, and it is most probably a corruption of Balatsu-usur, " his life protect." Ashpenaz, Shadrach, and Meshach are quite out of keeping with Babylonian scenery ; they cannot be explained at all. Arioch, on the other hand, may be from the primitive Accadian name Eri-akû (Lenormant), though the revival of such a name is rather surprizing. Hamelsar (i. 11) may perhaps be a corrupt form of a Babylonian name, as Abed-nego (from Abed-nebo) certainly is. The form Nebuchadnezzar, for Nebuchadrezzar, is not peculiar to Daniel, and can hardly be used in argument. (2.) Traces of Babylonian ideas have been most industriously sought for by Mr Fuller, but they are too uncertain to be of any appreciable value. Who can believe that that fine appellation, " the Ancient of days " (vii. 22), is derived from the eternally self-begotten Hea (the god of the waters), when there is so obvious a source for the phrase in the second part of Isaiah, or that " like a son of the gods " (iii. 25) means, " like the divine fire-god Bar % " Nor is M. Lenormant much more fortunate in his supposed discovery of a reference to Nebuchadnezzar's equally supposed recognition of one supreme deity. The fact is that the greater gods of Babylonia at this period were two in number, viz., Maruduk (Merodach) and Nabu (Nebo), who are coupled, for instance, by Nebuchadnezzar in the great inscription translated by M. Oppert. (3.) There are in Daniel three undoubted points of agreement with Babylonian custom, viz., the punishment of burning alive (iii. 6), the description of the dress of the courtiers (iii. 21), and the mention of the presence of women at feasts (v. 2). On the other hand, there is (a) a striking inaccuracy in the use of the term ;' Chaldeans " for " astrologers." This use is directly opposed by the cuneiform inscriptions, and it is useless (in the face of Hebrew etymology) to meet this fact by an imaginary correspondence of the three names for the wise men in the book of Daniel to the three leading classes of magicians, Sac, mentioned in the inscriptions. (b) There is also (as M. Lenormant has observed) an error in the use of the Assyrian salcnu (reproduced in the Aramaic of ii. 48), which really means " a high civil officer," but is used in Daniel in the sense of arch-magician. (4.) The points of disagreement between the book of Daniel and Babylonian history have probably been exaggerated. It is true the former tells us many strange things of Nebuchadnezzar, who is only known in history as a great warrior, a great builder, and a great patron of learning. His lycanthropy is not mentioned in any historical documents as yet discovered ; to quote Berosus (ap. Josephus, contr. Ap. i. 20) is entirely beside the mark, as Hilgenfeld and Mr Fuller have convincingly shown. The statements respecting Belshazzar have been in part confirmed. Bilu-sarra-usur is the name of the eldest son of Nabu-nahid or Nabonadius, and a dated tablet in the British Museum, recently obtained from Babylon, proves that the last king of Babylon was Maruduk-sarra-usur, which may be the same name as Belshazzar, since Maruduk is identical with Bel-Merodach. It must be confessed, however, that Belshazzar was not the son of Nebuchadnezzar, as appears to be stated in Dan. v. 2, 11, 18, 22. This has been met by the assertion that " son " in Dan. v. means " grandson;" but that Belshazzar was even the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar is still unproved, not to mention the strangeness of interpreting " thy father " in v. 11 as = " my father " (on the hypothesis that Belshazzar's mother was daughter of Nebuchadnezzar). The most puzzling discrepancy, however, relates to the name of the Medo-Persian king, who " received " from God's hands the " distributed " Babylonian empire (v. 28, 31). The book of Daniel states (v. 31) that this was Darius the Mede ; profane history asserts that it was Cyrus the Persian. Many attempts have been made to reconcile these opposing statements. Some think that Darius the Mede was Astyages, but there is a chronological difficulty; others, Cyaxares II., but we are not certain that such a king existed; while Des Vignoles and M. Lenormant would make him a Median prince, rewarded by Cyrus for his fidelity with the vassal kingship of Babylon. Unfortu-nately this Median prince is at present even more shadowy than Cyaxares II. " The inscriptions," remarks Mr G. Smith, " have as yet afforded no information on this point." But this is not the only difficulty about Darius the Mede. In ix. 1 we are told that he was the son of Ahasuerus, who on philological grounds must be identified with Xerxes. This, when taken in conjunction with the facts concerning Belteshazzar, suggests that the author or editor fell into three errors, by supposing (1) that the con-queror of Babylon was not Cyrus but Darius I, ; (2) that Darius I. came after, instead of before,Xerxes; and (3) that he was son, whereas he was really father, of that monarch. There are two " undesigned coincidences," to be men-tioned presently, which appear to confirm this view.

Thus far the evidence preponderates against the theory that the narratives in the book of Daniel—or, to be quite safe, let us say the narratives in their present form—were written by a resident in Babylon. Two other historical inaccuracies ought not to be slurred over, though they are certainly unfavourable to the authorship of Daniel. One is the chronological statement in i. 1. It may fairly be urged (a) that, if the battle of Carchemish took place in the fourth year of Jehoiakim (Jer. xlvi. 2), Jerusalem cannot have been captured in the third ; and (b) that our one certainly contemporary authority, the prophet Jeremiah, nowhere alludes to a captivity at this period. The other is the statement (vi. 1) that Darius the Mede appointed 120 satraps (so in the Hebrew), whereas Darius Hystaspis only mentions 23 satrapies (Records of the Past, vii. 88). A similar apparent confusion between satrapies and inferior governments appears in the Alexandrine translation of 1 Kings x. 15. This translation was made in the Greek period ; presumably, therefore, the book of Daniel was written (or edited) in the Greek period. This, it should be added, is one of the " undesigned coincidences " which con-firm a view mentioned above respecting " Darius the Mede."





We now go on to a class of arguments, which, even more obstinately than those based upon history, refuse to lend themselves to theological prepossession. From the Hebrew of the book of Daniel no important in-ference as to its date can safely be drawn. It is true, Aramaisms abound, but this feature is common to all the later books of the Old Testament. Nor, in spite of the assertions of controversial writers on both sides, can any argument be based on the fact (strange as it seems) that the book of Daniel is written in two languages or dialects, i. 1-ii. 4a and viii.-xii. being in Hebrew, and ii. 46—vii. 28 in Aramaic (miscalled Chaldee). The philological data (which will be found collected in Dr Pusey's Daniel the Prophet, pp. Ixvii. 44-57) have been most variously interpreted. Hitzig inferred that the Aramaic of Daniel was later than that of Ezra ; Hengstenberg. Dr Pusey, and especially the late Professor McGill, that Ezra's was later than Daniel's. But the truth seems to be that the evidence is insufficient to determine the question. The Massorites aimed at making the language of the Old Testament (Aramaic as well as Hebrew) uniform, though they didnot carry out their plan thoroughly, and allowed not a few vestiges of older stages of the language to remain. It is impossible therefore to decide ex cathedra that the later forms in Daniel or Ezra have not arisen from this levelling procedure of the Jewish critics. A similar controversy has arisen as to the relation of the Aramaic of the Old Testament to that of the Targums. Dr Pusey and others maintain that they are separated by a wide interval of time ; but recent researches have shown that the official Targum, or Aramaic translation, of the Pentateuch, the earlier historical books, and the prophets, was thrown into its present form at Babylon on the basis of a work composed in Palestine. Now the Aramaic of Babylon was different from that of Palestine ; still, on the whole, as Noldeke rightly says, the Aramaic of the official Targum is only a rather later development of the Aramaic of Daniel and Ezra, which is therefore presumably Palestinian. It does not, however, follow that the whole book was written in Palestine. The correct translation of Dan. ii. 4 seems to be—" And the Chaldeans spoke unto* the king (Aramaic);" i.e., that which follows from this point to the end of chap. vii. is extracted from an Aramaic document Now, considering the careless treatment extended to the book of Daniel (see the Septuagint version of it), it is quite possible, as M. Lenormant suggests, that the original Hebrew of Dan. ii. 46-vii. 28 was lost, and its place supplied by the Aramaic translation. There is an exact parallel (not mentioned by M. Lenormant) in Jer. x. 11, which appears only to exist in an Aramaic version.

The remaining linguistic evidence is supplied by certain Persian and Greek words in the book of Daniel. This will retain its importance, even if we adopt M. Lenormant's theory of a substituted Aramaic translation, for a translator writing in a kindred dialect, would be tolerably precise in reproducing technical terms,—at any rate, would not succeed in expunging all traces of the original. (1) The book contains (see Mr Fuller's second excursus) at least nine words which are referred, in most cases with certainty, to a Persian origin. It must be remembered that no Persian words occur in Daniel's supposed contemporary— Ezekiel, nor even in Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. There are some, it is true, in Ezra and in Esther, but those books were written long after the beginning of the Persian rule. (2) The three Greek words in Daniel admitted by Delitzsch are all names of musical instruments—Kidapis, {j/aXTrjpiov, crviMpiovta.. The reproduction is (philologically) so exact that they must have been taken from the lips of a Greek, and this, according to M. Lenormant's presentation of the facts, was impossible before the age of the Seleucidae, since the commercial intercourse between Greece and Babylonia was not " considerable nor consecutive enough " to admit of it at an earlier period.

The third class of facts to be reckoned with are the in-ternal difficulties in the admission of the authorship of Daniel. Putting aside those which raise questions of the-ology, we may mention the two following as specimens :— (a) In ii. 25 Arioch speaks of Daniel as merely " one of the captives of Judah," and as personally unknown to the king. This seems inconsistent with chap, i and conse-quently unlikely to have been written by Daniel. (b) No subsequent mention is made of the offices to which Daniel and his three friends, according to ii. 48, were promoted, not even in the narrative in chap. iii. The former of these seems the more important. An exact parallel occurs in 1 Sam. xvii. 55-6, where Saul professes himself entirely unacquainted with David, and this after the latter had been constantly playing the harp before him (chap. xvi. 23). Now, critics of such opposite opinions as Thenius and Nagelsbaeh agree that the solution of the difficulty in 1 Sam. is the reference of the respective passages to different documents. It has been urged, therefore, that the same theory will at once account for the inconsistencies in Daniel, and that the narratives at any rate were most likely written at different times, possibly by different authors, and certainly not by Daniel himself (as Mr Bussell Martineau has cogently shown). These various narratives would natu-rally be connected by an editor, and to this editor we may be indebted for the second of the " undesigned coincidences " referred to above as confirming the supposition of a mistake as to the date and the acts of Darius the Mede; for the name of Cyrus only occurs in three passages (i. 21 ; vi. 28; x. 1), and may have been inserted by the editor (who knew that Cyrus, not Darius, conquered Babylon) with the object of bringing the book into some-what closer accordance with profane history. It is gratify-ing to state that the fundamental principle of this theory has been conceded by such orthodox writers as Mr Fuller and M. Lenormant. " In its present form," says the former, " the book possesses peculiarities of an internal character which seem to suggest a certain extraneous aid perfectly compatible with the recognition of its unity and authority" (Speaker's Commentary, vi. 229). M. Lenormant's view has already been mentioned; we need only add that he puts down all the errors of the narrative chapters in Daniel to the copyists or translators, and that he finds a truthfulness of Babylonian colouring piercing through the injuries of time, which can only be accounted for by ascribing the original work to the prophet Daniel. Colder and more critical students will naturally go further. They will not perhaps deny the unity of authorship. The inconsistencies of the narratives are at most a proof of their separate origin; and the 12th chapter of Enoch (an apocalyptic work like Daniel) supplies a parallel which has been hitherto overlooked to the transition from the third person to the first in Dan. vii. 1, 28. There is, further, a general similarity of style between the Hebrew and the Aramaic portions, and (especially) a marked parallelism of contents between chaps, vii. and ii., which is not favourable to a diversity of authorship. But there is a growing feeling that the narratives in the book before us could not have been the work of a resident in Babylon. There may, it is allowed, be an element of historical tradition in them; but, if so, we have not at present the means of detecting it. The narratives, however, have quite sufficient merit regarded from the point of view of edification. If we only place ourselves in the position of the later Jews, we shall perhaps faintly realize the stirring effect they must have produced. We shall then no longer be surprized at the improbability of many of the details, which has given rise to so much unnecessary ridicule. Admiration will be our only feeling, when we consider the author's comparative success in reproducing a distant past. It is possible, no doubt, that he derived some part of these narratives from Jewish or Babylonian popular stories, for we find a Daniel already celebrated for his wisdom in Ezekiel (xxviii. 3, cf. xiv. 14, 20), and the Babylonian Abydenus has a legend distantly resembling Dan. iv. But even if we admit this conjecture, the historical setting, the moral purpose, and the skill in presentation are all his own, and reflect dimly as it may be the spirit and the power of the writers of the Pentateuchal histories.





We may now proceed to the next stage in the argument, and inquire which is the earliest period to which the narratives of Daniel can apply 1 The third chapter of the book suggests an answer. There (seever. 5) we meet with a Greek musical instrument called symphonia (probably a kind of bag-pipe ; A. V., wrongly " dulcimer "), which, as we learn from Polybius (Aihen., x. 52), was a special favourite of Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria, the notorious persecutor of the Jews. If, therefore, the period of this king (175-164 B.C.) suits the remainder of the work, the clue to the book of Daniel has been found. One reserve must, however, be made. If any historical evidence should be forthcoming in favour of M. Lenormant's view stated above,—if, in a word, an earlier recension of the book of Daniel should be discovered,—it will become necessary to revise or abandon the foregoing argument.

The difficulty of the second part of Daniel (vii.-xii.) is greatly increased by the necessity of making some assump-tions with a view to its interpretation. Those of one class of critics are based upon a tradition, reaching back as far as the Christian era (see Josephus, Antiq., x. 11, 7), that the statements of the book of Daniel are literally true; those of another class upon the theory, resulting from the study of the undisputed prophecies on the one hand and of the apocalyptic literature on the other, that the prominence of minute circumstantial prediction, and the absence of a moral, hortatory element, are the distinguishing marks of an artificial, apocalyptic imitation of prophecy. (See APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE.) The latter class of critics hold that the " analogy of prophecy " is an exegetical argument equal in importance to that of the " analogy of faith " in dogmatics. The oidy attempt to mediate between the two positions is that of Zockler, who, while believing that the book as a whole is the work of Daniel, is of opinion that the most circumstantial passage (xi. 5-39) has been in some parts interpolated by a contemporary of Antiochus Epiphanes. He thus unintentionally supplements the theory as to the narrative-chapters held by M. Lenormant. The second part of Daniel is occupied with a series of visions and angelic communications, chiefly descriptive of the stages through which the empire of the world had passed, or was about to pass, between Nebuchadnezzar and the latter days. Of these visions, the last (x.-xii.) is the most important. In the form of prediction, the angel who discours s with Daniel communicates the history of the kingdoms to which Palestine was attached from the time of Cyrus to that of Antiochus Epiphanes. This is followed by a description of the deliverance and glorification of the Israelites in the Messianic period (using the word in a wide Bense), which is here represented as immediately supervening on the Syrian persecution. The second vision (chap, viii.) has an'equally clear reference to Antiochus Epiphanes (the " little horn"). What the writer can have meant by " 2300 evening-mornings " is confessedly most obscure ; and the statement that the "shameless king" (Antiochus, ver. 23) should fall by a sudden divine interposition (ver. 25, cf. Job xxxiv. 20) is one of those inconsistencies with pro-fane history which mark the second as well as the first part of Daniel. To the second "beast" of the second vision corresponds, by its description, the fourth beast of the first (chap, vii.) ; consequently both signify the Greek empire of Alexander and his successors. This is now becoming the prevalent view ; it is that of Delitzsch and Dr Westcott, no less than of Ewald and Bloek, but is opposed by the "traditional " theory still upheld by Dr Pusey, which makes the fourth empire that of Rome. Of the dream of the image in chap, ii., the interpretation of which depends on that of chap, vii., our limits preclude us from speaking. The 9 th chapter is as instructive as it is difficult. At the very outset it suggests a very late origin for the book by the way in which the prophets are looked back upon (ver. 6, 10); and the minute study of the works of the prophets described in ver. 2 seems to many to point to a time when prophetic inspiration had ceased, and the prophetic writ-ings (here called " the books") were already collected. Meditating, like one of the later scribes, over the letter of Scripture, Daniel (or the writer who assumed his name) came to the conclusion that the seventy years appointed by Jeremiah for " the desolations of Jerusalem " must have meant seventy weeks of years, i.e., 490 years. The point from which and to which these " weeks" are to be reckoned is, however, keenly debated. Hengstenberg, following most of the fathers, takes the terminus a quo to be the 20th year of Artaxerxes (445 B.C.), and the terminus ad quern the public appearance of Christ. Dr Pusey prefers for the one the return of Ezra to Jerusalem, in 457 B.C., and for the other the martyrdom of St Stephen, 33 A,D. Dr Kuenen reckons the seventy weeks from the date of Jeremiah's prediction of the rebuilding of Jerusalem (604 B.C.) to the murder of the high priest Onias III. (170 B.C.). It is true that this does not produce exactly the required number of years, but we ought not, contends Dr Kuenen, to assume that the author was a perfect master of chronology. We need not, however, dwell further on this " perplexed subject," as it is more than probable that the Hebrew text is unsound. Our view of the second part of the book must be determined by the distinct, not by the obscure, passages. These show that the real centre of the thoughts of the author is Antiochus Epiphanes, and exoner-ate those critics from the charge of wilfulness, who suppose the book to have been written in the reign of that king. For why, these critics ask, should one of the Jewish exiles at Babylon single out the episode of Antiochus in prefer-ence to the far more important crisis of the struggle with Rome 1 And how is it that the revelation of future events ceases to be in accordance with history precisely when we come to the passage (xi. 40-45) which relates to the closing years of the Syrian king ?

It would be unjust, however, to writers of the school of Dr Kuenen to slur over the fact that they can offer plausible historical proofs, unconnected with exegesis, which appear to favour a late date for the book of Daniel. Just as in reviewing the first part of the book we found philolo-gical evidence of a post-Babylonian origin, so in the second part there are (according to this school) references to beliefs confessedly post-Babylonian. The doctrine of angels in Daniel is developed to a degree which, it is said, implies a long continuance of Persian influences. In Zechariah we see this doctrine in a less advanced stage. Even the " accuser " angel in Zechariah is still an appellative (" the Satan "), whereas the book of Daniel not only contains a full system of " first princes " or angels, to whom the government of the world is intrusted, but gives names to two of them (Michael and Gabriel), which, as Dr Kohut has shown, correspond to those of the two Persian archangels, Vohumano and Craosho. The book of Daniel, too, contains the first distinct prediction of a resurrection of the dead (See Cheyne's Look of Isaiah Chronologically Arranged, p. 130, par. 5), and the researches of Windisch-mann, Haug, and Spiegel appear to have shown that this is a genuine Zoroastrian doctrine, traces of it being found in the earliest portions of the Avesta. Now, it is both natural and right to look with suspicion on theories of the importation of foreign ideas among the Old Testament writers, for experience shows that they will rarely stand a critical examination. Still the evidence for a Persian origin (or share in the origin) of the doctrine of the resurrection is so strong as to unite the suffrages of the most opposite writers. Mr Fuller, it is true, has tried to make Babylonian influences equally plausible in the development of this doctrine. But his authority, M. Lenormant, candidly admits that the Babylonian literature only contains the " first germ " of the doctrine which in Daniel has attained an advanced degree of development (La Magie chez les Chaldeens, pp. 155-6).

We have thus endeavoured to give the leading facts on which the criticism and interpretation of this most interest-ing book depend. In the present phase of the controversy, two positions only would appear to be philologically tenable. One is that so confidently maintained by M. Lenormant, the eminent Assyriologue, for the first part, and to some extent by Dr Zockler for the second part, which consists in assuming that the original book of Daniel has been interpolated by later hands. The other, that the work is still mainly in the form in which it was written, that its date is in the Maccabean period, and that, as in the case of Deuteronomy (according to most critics) in earlier times, and the apocalyptic writings which preceded and followed the rise of Christianity, the author, in the service of truth, assumed a name which would more than his own command the respect of his countrymen. " Such a writer," thought the late Professor Weir, " however much we may disapprove his procedure, yet, regarding him in the light of his age, we cannot so unhesitatingly condemn. It was not unnatural that the cessation of the voices of the old prophets should have been followed by what may be described as echoes waked up from time to time, and chiefly at critical periods of the national history, in the breasts of sympathizing and enthusiastic disciples " (Academy, vol. i. p. 70), From this point of view, we may perhaps say that the book of Daniel is in part an attempted echo of Jeremiah (see Dan. ix. 2).

Still if we accept this as the more natural alternative, we must not suppose that every detail in the narratives of the first part was planned with reference to the Syrian persecution,.—Nebuchadnezzar is not a mere double of Antiochus. There is a parallelism, it is true, between the circumstances of the persecuted Jews and the pious friends at Babylon, but it must not be pressed too far. Nor need we suppose that the book was circulated at once as a whole or among all classes of the Jews. The two parts of the work are separable, and the former part displays perhaps too much antiquarian research to be perfectly suitable for general circulation. The " wise men, " who formerly sat " in the gate, " had withdrawn since the time of the Captivity to the student's chamber ; and in the author of Daniel we behold the prototype of the scholar-martyrs and confessors of the Christian church.

Among the more important modern works on Daniel are Hitzig, Das Buch Daniel, 1850; Delitzsch, article "Daniel" in Herzog's Real-Enzyclopadie, Bd. iii. 1855 ; Hilgenfeld, Die jüdische Apokalyptik, 1857 ; Zündel, Kritische Untersuchungen, Sec., 1861 ; Pusey, Daniel the Prophet, 2nd ed., 1868; Perowne, review of Pusey, in.Contemporary Review, vol. i. ; E. Martineau, "Daniel,"in Theological Review, 1865 ; Zockler, "Der Prophet Daniel," in Lange's
Bibélwerk, 1870 ; Lenormant, La divination, &c, chez les Chaldéens, (pp. 169-227), 1875 ; Fuller, "Commentary on Daniel "in Speaker's Commentary, vol. vi., 1876 ; Kuenen, The Prophets and Prophecy in Israel, 1877. (T. K. C.)



Search the Encyclopedia:



About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Sitemaps
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us



© 2005-17 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries