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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica
Book of Daniel
BOOK OF. - The Book of Daniel stands between Ezra and Esther in the third great division of the Hebrew Bible known as the Hagiographa, in which are classed all works which were not regarded as being part of the Law or the Prophets. The book presents the unusual peculiarity of being written in two languages, i.-ii. 4 and viii.-xii. being in Hebrew, while the text of ii. 4-vii. is the Palestinian dialect of Aramaic.' The subject matter, however, falls naturally into two divisions which are not coterminous with the linguistic sections; viz. i.-vi. and vii.-xii. The first of these sense-divisions deals only with narratives regarding the reign of Nebuchadrezzar and his supposed son Belshazzar, while the second section consists exclusively of apocalyptic prophecies. There can be no doubt that a definite plan was followed in the arrangement of the work. The author's object was clearly to demonstrate to his readers the necessity of faith in Israel's God, who shall not for ever allow his chosen ones to be ground under the heel of a ruthless heathen oppressor. To illustrate this, he makes use on the one hand (i.-vi.) of carefully chosen narratives, somewhat loosely connected it is true, but all treating substantially the same subject, - the physical triumph of God's servant over his unbelieving enemies; and on the other hand (vii.-xii.), he introduces certain prophetic visions illustrative of God's favour towards the same servant, Daniel. So carefully is this record of the visions arranged that the first two chapters of the second part of the book (vii.-viii.) were no doubt purposely made to appear in a symbolic form, in order that in the last two revelations (xi.-xii.), which were couched in such direct language as to be intelligible even to the modern student of history, the author might obtain the effect of a climax. The book is probably not therefore a number of parts of different origin thrown loosely together by a careless editor, who does not deserve the title of author. 2 The more or less disconnected sections of the first part of the work were probably so arranged purposely, in order to facilitate its diffusion at a time when books were known to the people at large chiefly by being read aloud in public.
Various attempts have been made to explain the sudden change from Hebrew to Aramaic in ii. 4. It was long thought, for example, that Aramaic was the vernacular of Babylonia and was consequently employed as the language of the parts relating to that country. But this was not the case, because the Babylonian language survived until a later date than that of the events portrayed in Daniel.' Nor is it possible to follow the theory of Merx, that Aramaic, which was the popular tongue of the day when the Book of Daniel was written, was therefore used for the simpler narrative style, while the more learned Hebrew was made the idiom of the philosophical portions. 4 The first chapter, which is just as much in the narrative style as are the following Aramaic sections, is in Hebrew, while the distinctly apocalyptic chapter vii. is in Aramaic. A third view, that the bilingual character of the work points to a time when both languages were used indifferently, is equally unsatisfactory,' because it is highly questionable whether two idioms can ever be used quite indifferently. In fact, a hybrid work in two languages would be a literary monstrosity. In view of the apparent unity of the entire work, the only possible explanation seems to be that the book was written at first all in Hebrew, but for the convenience of the general reader whose vernacular was Aramaic, a translation, possibly from the same pen as the original, was made into king to great political prominence, owing to his extraordinary God given ability to interpret dreams. In both.versions, the heathen astrologers make the first attempt to solve the difficulty, which results in failure, whereupon the pious Israelite, being summoned to the royal presence, in both cases through the friendly intervention of a court official, triumphantly explains the mystery to the king's satisfaction (cf. Prince, Dan. p. 29).
1 See Bevan, Dan. 28-40, on the Hebrew and Aramaic of Daniel.
2 According to Lagarde, Mitteilungen, iv. 351 (1891); also Gat, Gelehrte Anzeigen (1891), 497-520.
The latest connected Babylonian inscription is that of Antiochus Soter (280-260 B.C.), but the language was probably spoken until Hellenic times; cf. Gutbrod, Zeitschr. fiir Assyriol. Vi. 27.
Prince, Dan. 12.
Bertholdt, Dan. 15; Franz Delitzsch, in Herzog, Realencyklopddie, 2nd ed., iii. 470.
Aramaic. It must be supposed then that, certain parts of the original Hebrew manuscript being lost, the missing places were supplied from the current Aramaic translation.' It cannot be denied in the light of modern historical research that if the Book of Daniel be regarded as pretending to full historical authority, the biblical record is open to all manner of attack. It is now the general opinion of most modern scholars who study the Old Testament from a critical point of view that this work cannot possibly have originated, according to the traditional theory, at any time during the Babylonian monarchy, when the events recorded are supposed to have taken place.
The chief reasons for such a conclusion are as follows.' 1. The position of the book among the Hagiographa, instead of among the Prophetical works, seems to show that it was introduced after the closing of the Prophetical Canon. Some commentators have believed that Daniel was not an actual prophet in the proper sense, but only a seer, or else that he had no official standing as a prophet and that therefore the book was not entitled to a place among official prophetical books. But if the work had really been in existence at the time of the completion of the second part of the canon, the collectors of the prophetical writings, who in their care did not neglect even the parable of Jonah, would hardly have ignored the record of so great a prophet as Daniel is represented to have been.
2. Jesus ben Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), who wrote about 200180 B.C., in his otherwise complete list of Israel's leading spirits (xlix.), makes no mention of Daniel. Hengstenberg's plea that Ezra and Mordecai were also left unmentioned has little force, because Ezra appears in the book bearing his name as nothing more than a prominent priest and scholar, while Daniel is represented as a great prophet.
3. Had the Book of Daniel been extant and generally known) after the time of Cyrus (537-529 B.C.), it would be natural to look for some traces of its power among the writings of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, whose works, however, show no evidence that either the name or the history of Daniel was known to these authors. Furthermore, the manner in which the prophets are looked back upon in ix. 6-10 cannot fail to suggest an extremely late origin for the book. Besides this, a careful study of ix. 2 seems to indicate that the Prophetical Canon was definitely completed at the time when the author of Daniel wrote. It is also highly probable that much of the material in the second part of the book was suggested by the works of the later prophets, especially by Ezekiel and Zechariah.
4. Some of the beliefs set forth in the second part of the book also practically preclude the possibility of the author having lived at the courts of Nebuchadrezzar and his successors. Most noticeable among these doctrines is the complete system of angelology consistently followed out in the Book of Daniel, according to which the management of human affairs is entrusted to a regular hierarchy of commanding angels, two of whom, Gabriel and Michael, are even mentioned by name. Such an idea was distinctly foreign to the primitive Israelitish conception of the indivisibility of Yahweh's power, and must consequently have been a borrowed one. It could certainly not have come from the Babylonians, however, whose system of attendant spirits was far from being so complete as that which is set forth in the Book of Daniel, but rather from Persian sources where a more complicated angelology had been developed. As many commentators have brought out, there can be little doubt that the doctrine of angels in Daniel is an indication of prolonged Persian influence. Furthermore, it is now very generally admitted that the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, which is advanced for the first time in the Old Testament in Daniel, also originated among the Persians, 8 and could only have been engrafted on the Jewish mind after a long period of intercourse with the Zoroastrian religion, which came into contact with the Jewish thinkers considerably after the time of Nebuchadrezzar.
' Bevan, Dan. 27 ff.; Prince, Dan. 13.
For this whole discussion, see Prince, Dan. 15 ff.
The investigations of Haug, Spiegel and Windischmann show that this was a real Zoroastrian doctrine.
5. All the above evidences are merely internal, but we are now able to draw upon the Babylonian historical sources to prove that Daniel could not have originated at the time of Nebuchadrezzar. There can be no doubt that the author of Daniel thought that Belshazzar (q.v.), who has now been identified beyond all question with Belg ar-uzur, the son of Nabonidus, the last Semitic king of Babylon, was the son of Nebuchadrezzar, and that Belshazzar attained the rank of king.' This prince did not even come from the family of Nebuchadrezzar. Nabonidus, the father of Belshazzar, was the son of a nobleman Nabu-baladsu-igbi, who was in all probability not related to any of the preceding kings of Babylon. Had Nabonidus been descended from Nebuchadrezzar he could hardly have failed in his records, which we possess, to have boasted of such a connexion with the greatest Babylonian monarch; yet in none of his inscriptions does he trace his descent beyond his father. Certain expositors have tried to obviate the difficulty, first by supposing that the expression "son of Nebuchadrezzar" in Daniel means "descendant" or "son," a view which is rendered untenable by the facts just cited. This school has also endeavoured to prove that the author of Daniel did not mean to imply Belshazzar's kingship of Babylon at all by his use of the word "king," but they suggest that the writer of Daniel believed Belshazzar to have been co-regent. If Belshazzar had ever held such a position, which is extremely unlikely in the absence of any evidence from the cuneiform documents, he would hardly have been given the unqualified title "king of Babylon" as occurs in Daniel. 2 For example, Cambyses, son of Cyrus, was undoubtedly co-regent and bore the title "king of Babylon" during his father's lifetime, but, in a contract which dates from the first year of Cambyses, it is expressly stated that Cyrus was still "king of the lands." This should be contrasted with Dan. viii. 1, where reference is made to the "third year of Belshazzar, king of Babylon" without any allusion to another over-ruler. Such attempts are at best subterfuges to support an impossible theory regarding the origin of the Book of Daniel, whose author clearly believed in the kingship of Belshazzar and in that prince's descent from Nebuchadrezzar.
Furthermore, the writer of Daniel asserts (v. 1) that a monarch "Darius the Mede" received the kingdom of Babylon after the fall of the native Babylonian house, although it is evident, from i. 21, x. 1, that the biblical author was perfectly aware of the existence of Cyrus.' The fact that in no other scriptural passage is mention made of any Median ruler between the last Semitic king of Babylon and Cyrus, and the absolute silence of the authoritative ancient authors regarding such a king, make it apparent that the late author of Daniel is again in error in this particular. It is known that Cyrus became master of Media by conquering Astyages, and that the troops of the king of Persia capturing Babylon took Nabonidus prisoner with but little difficulty. Unsuccessful attempts have been made to identify this mythical Darius with the Cyaxares, son of Astyages, of Xenophon's Cyropaedia, and also with the Darius of Eusebius, who was in all probability Darius Hystaspis. There is not only no room in history for this Median king of the Book of Daniel, but it is also highly likely that the interpolation of "Darius the Mede" was caused by a confusion of history, due both to the destruction of the Assyrian capital Nineveh by the Medes, sixty-eight years before the capture of Babylon by Cyrus, and also to the fame of the later king, Darius Hystaspis, a view which was advanced as early in the history of biblical criticism as the days of the Benedictine monk, Marianus Scotus. It is important to note in this connexion that Darius the Mede is represented as the son of Xerxes (Ahasuerus) and it is stated that he established 120 satrapies. Darius Hystapis was the father of Xerxes, and according to Herodotus (iii. 89) established twenty satrapies. Darius the Mede entered into possession of Babylon after the death of Belshazzar; Darius Hystaspis conquered Babylon 1 Prince, Dan. 35-42.
2 Certain tablets published by Strassmaier, bearing date continuously from Nabonidus to Cyrus, show that neither Belshazzar nor "Darius the Mede" could have had the title "king of Babylon." See Driver, Introduction, 3 xxii.
Prince, Dan. 44-56.
from the hands of certain rebels (Her. iii. 153-160). In fine, the interpolation of a Median Darius must be regarded as the most glaring historical inaccuracy of the author of Daniel. In fact, this error of the author alone is proof positive that he must have lived at a very late period, when the record of most of the earlier historical events had become hopelessly confused and perverted.
With these chief reasons why the Book of Daniel cannot have originated in the Babylonian period, if the reader will turn more especially to the apocalyptic sections (vii. - xii.), it will be quite evident that the author is here giving a detailed account of historical events which may easily be recognized through the thin veil of prophetic mystery thrown lightly around them. It is indeed highly suggestive that just those occurrences which are the most remote from the assumed standpoint of the writer are the most correctly stated, while the nearer we approach the author's supposed time, the more inaccurate does he become. It is quite apparent that the predictions in the Book of Daniel centre on the period of Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.), when that Syrian prince was endeavouring to suppress the worship of Yarweh and substitute for it the Greek religion. 4 There can be no doubt, for example, that in the "Little Horn" of vii. 8, viii. 9, and the "wicked prince" described in ix. - x., who is to work such evil among the saints, we have clearly one and the same person. It is now generally recognized that the king symbolized by the Little Horn, of whom it is said that he shall come of one of four kingdoms which shall be formed from the Greek empire after the death of its first king (Alexander), can be none other than Antiochus Epiphanes, and in like manner the references in ix. must allude to the same prince. It seems quite clear that xi. 21-45 refers to the evil deeds of Antiochus IV. and his attempts against the Jewish people and the worship of Yahweh. In xii. follows the promise of salvation from the same tyrant, and, strikingly enough, the predictions in this last section, x. - xii., relating to future events, become inaccurate as soon as the author finishes the section describing the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes. The general style of all these prophecies differs materially from that of all other prophetic writings in the Old Testament. Other prophets confine themselves to vague and general predictions, but the author of Daniel is strikingly particular as to detail in everything relating to the period in which he lived, i.e. the reign of Antiochus IV. Had the work been composed during the Babylonian era, it would be more natural to expect prophecies of the return of the exiled Jews to Palestine, as in Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Isaiah, rather than the acclamation of an ideal Messianic kingdom such as is emphasized in the second part of Daniel.
As a specimen of the apocalyptic method followed in Daniel, the celebrated prophecy of the seventy weeks (ix. 24-27) may be cited, a full discussion of which will be found in Prince, Daniel, 157-161. According to Jer. xxv. 11-12, the period of Israel's probation and trial was to last seventy years. In the angelic explanation in Daniel of Jeremiah's prophecy, these years were in reality year-weeks, which indicated a period of 490 years. This is the true apocalyptic system. The author takes a genuine prophecy, undoubtedly intended by Jeremiah to refer simply to the duration of the Babylonian captivity, and, by means of a purely arbitrary and mystical interpretation, makes it denote the entire period of Israel's degradation down to his own time. This prophecy is really nothing more than an extension of the vision of the 2300 evening-mornings of viii. 14, and of the "time, times and a half a time" of vii. 25. The real problem is as to the beginning and end of this epoch, which is divided into three periods of uneven length; viz. one of seven weeks; one of sixtytwo weeks; and the last of one week. It seems probable that the author of Daniel, like the Chronicler, began his period with the fall of Jerusalem in 586. His first seven weeks, therefore, ending with the rule of "Messiah the Prince," 5 probably Joshua ben Jozadak, the first high-priest after the exile (Ezra iii. 2), seem to coincide exactly with the duration of the Babylon exile, i.e. forty-nine years.
4 Prince, Dan. 19-20, 140, 1 55, 1 79 ff.
That "Messiah" or "Anointed One" was used of the HighPriest is seen from Lev. x, 3, v. 16.
The second period of the epoch, during which Jerusalem is to be peopled and built, and at the end of which the Messiah is to be cut off, is much more difficult to determine. The key to the problem lies undoubtedly in the last statement regarding the overthrow of the Messiah or Anointed One. Such a reference coming from a Maccabean author can only allude to the deposition by Antiochus IV. of the high-priest Onias III., which took place about 174 B.C., and the Syrian king's subsequent murder of the same person not later than 171 (2 Macc. iv. 33-36). The difficulty now arises that between 537 and 171 there are only 366 years instead of the required number 434. It was evidently not the author's intention to begin the second period of sixty weeks simultaneously with the first period, as some expositors have thought, because the whole passage shows conclusively that he meant seventy independent weeks. Besides, nothing is gained by such a device, which would bring the year of the end of the second period down to the meaningless date 152, too late to refer to Onias. Cornill therefore adopted the only tenable theory regarding the problem; viz. that the author of Daniel did not know the chronology between 537 and 312, the establishment of the Seleucid era, and consequently made the period too long. A parallel case is the much quoted example of Demetrius, who placed the fall of Samaria (722 B.C.) 573 years before the succession of Ptolemy IV. (222), thus making an error of seventy-three years. Josephus, who places the reign of Cyrus forty to fifty years too early, makes a similar error.
The last week is divided into two sections (26-27), in the first of which the city and sanctuary shall be destroyed and in the second the daily offering is to be suspended. All critical scholars recognize the identity of this second half-week with the "time, times and a half a time" of vii. 25. This last week must, therefore, end with the restoration of the temple worship in 164 B.C.
This whole prophecy, which is perhaps the most interesting in the Book of Daniel, presents problems which can never be thoroughly understood, first because the author must have been ignorant of both history and chronology, and secondly, because, in his effort to be as mystical as possible, he purposely made use of indefinite and vague expressions which render the criticism of the passage a most unsatisfactory task.
The Book of Daniel loses none of its beauty and force because we are bound, in the light of modern criticism, to consider it as a production of the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, nor should conservative Bible-readers lament because the historical accuracy of the work is thus destroyed. The influence of the work was very great on the subsequent development of Christianity, but it was not the influence of the history contained in it which made itself felt, but rather of that sublime hope for a future deliverance of which the author of Daniel never lost sight. The allusion to the book by Jesus (Matt. xxiv. 15) shows merely that our Lord was referring to the work by its commonly accepted title, and implies no authoritative utterance with regard to its date or authorship. Our Lord simply made use of an apt quotation from a well-known work in order to illustrate and give additional force to his own prediction. If the book be properly understood, it must not only be admitted that the author made no pretence at accuracy of detail, but also that his prophecies were clearly intended to be merely an historical resume, clothed for the sake of greater literary vividness in a prophetic garb. The work, which is certainly not a forgery, but only a consolatory political pamphlet, is just as powerful, viewed according to the author's evident intention, as a consolation to God's people in their dire distress at the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, as if it were, what an ancient but mistaken tradition had made it, really an accurate account of events which took place at the close of the Babylonian period.' Literature. - See bibliography in Bevan, Daniel 9, and add Kamphausen, Dan., in Haupt's Sacred Books of the Old Testament; Behrmann, Dan. (1894); J. D. Prince, Dan. (1899); G. A. Barton, "The Compilation of the Book of Daniel," in Journ. Bibl. Lit. (1898), 62-86, against the unity of the book, &c., &c.; J. D. Davis, "Persian Words and the Date of O.T. Documents," in Old Testament and Semitic Studies: in Memory of W. R. Harper (Chicago, 1908). (J. D. PR.) 1 Prince, Dan. 22-24.
Additions To Daniel. - The "additions to Daniel" are three in number: Susannah and the Elders, Bel and the Dragon, and The Song of the Three Children. Of these the two former have no organic connexion with the text. The case is otherwise with regard to the last. In some respects it helps to fill up a gap in the canonical text between verses 23 and 24 of chapter iii. And yet we find Polychronius, early in the 5th century, stating that this song was not found in the Syriac version.
This addition was placed by Theodotion before chap. i., and Bel and the Dragon at its close, whereas by the Septuagint and the Vulgate it was reckoned as chap. xiii. after the twelve canonical chapters, Bel and the Dragon as xiv. Theodotion's version is the source of the Peshitto and the Vulgate, for all three additions, and the Septuagint is the source of the Syro-Hexaplaric which has been published by Ceriani (Mon. Sacr. vii.). The legend recounts how that in the early days of the Captivity Susannah, the beautiful and pious wife of the rich Joakim, was walking in her garden and was there seen by two elders who were also judges. Inflamed with lust, they made infamous proposals to her, and when repulsed they brought against her a false charge of adultery. When brought before the tribunal she was condemned to death and was on the way to execution, when Daniel interposed and, by cross-questioning the accusers apart, convinced the people of the falsity of the charge.
The source of the story may, according to Ewald (Gesch.3 iv. 636), have been suggested by the Babylonian legend of the seduction of two old men by the goddess of love (see also Koran, Sur. ii. 96). Another and much more probable origin of the work is that given by Briill ( Das apocr. Susanna-Buch, 1877) and Ball ( Speaker's Apocr. ii. 323-33 1). The first half of the story is based on a tradition - originating possibly in Jer. xxix. 21-32 and found in the Talmud and Midrash - of two elders Ahab and Zedekiah, who in the Captivity led certain women astray under the delusion that they should thereby become the mother of the Messiah. But the most interesting part of the investigation is concerned with the latter half of the story, which deals with the trial. The characteristics of this section point to its composition about ro090 B.C., when Simon ben Shetah was president of the Sanhedrin. Its object was to support the attempts of the Pharisees to bring about a reform in the administration of the law courts. According to Sadducean principles the man who was convicted of falsely accusing another of a capital offence was not put to death unless his victim was already executed. The Pharisees held that the intention of the accusers was equivalent to murder. Our apocryph upholds the Pharisaic contention. As Simon ben Shetah insisted on a rigorous examination of the witnesses, so does our writer: as he and his party required that the perjurer should suffer the same penalty he sought to inflict on another, so our writer represents the death penalty as inflicted on the perjured elders.
The language was in all probability Semitic-Hebrew or Aramaic. The paronomasiae in the Greek in verses 54-55 (inrb cX%vov ... aXio
EC) and 58-59 (UT-6 rpIvov ... 7rpiaEC) present no cogent difficulty against this view; for they may be accidental and have arisen for the first time in the translation. But as Briill and Ball have shown (see Speaker's Apocr. ii. 324), the same paronomasiae are possible either in Hebrew or Aramaic.
Literature. - Ball in the Speaker's Apocr. ii. 233 sqq.; Schiirer, Gesch. 3 iii. 333; Rothstein in Kautzsch's Apocr. u. Pseud. i. 176 sqq.; Kamphausen in Ency. Bib.; Marshall in Hastings' Bible Diet.; Toy in the Jewish Encyc. Bel and the Dragon. - We have here two independent narratives, in both of which Daniel appears as the destroyer of heathenism. The latter had a much wider circulation than the former, and is most probably a Judaized form of the old Semitic myth of the destruction of the old dragon, which represents primeval chaos (see Ball, Speaker's Apocr. ii. 346-348; Gunkel, Schopfung and Chaos, 320-323). Marduk destroys Tiamat in a similar manner to that in which Daniel destroys the dragon (Delitzsch, Das babylonische Weltschopfung Epos ), by driving a storm-wind into the dragon which rends it asunder. Marshall (Hastings' Bib. Diet. i. 267) suggests that the "pitch" of the Greek (Aramaic Nv7) arose from the original term for storm-wind (s n).
The Greek exists in two recensions, those of the Septuagint and Theodotion. Most scholars maintain a Greek original, but this is by no means certain. Marshall (Hastings' Bib Dict. i. 268) argues for an Aramaic, and regards Gasters's Aramaic text [Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology (1894), pp. 280-290, 312-317; (1895) 75-94] as of primary value in this respect, but this is doubtful.
Literature. - Fritzsche's Handbuch zu den Apoc.; Ball in the Speaker's Apocr. ii. 344 sqq.; Schiirer, 3 Gesch. iii. 332 sqq.; and the articles in the Ency. Bibl., Bible Dict., and Jewish Encyc. The Greek text is best given in Swete iii., and the Syriac will be found in Walton's Polyglot, Lagarde and Neubauer's Tobit. Song of the Three Children. - This section is composed of the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of Azariah, Ananias and Misael, and was inserted after iii. 23 of the canonical text of Daniel. According ro Fritzsche, Kdnig, Schiirer, &c., it was composed in Greek and added to the Greek translation. On the other hand, Delitzsch, Bissell, Ball, &c., maintain a Hebrew original. The latter view has been recently supported by Rothstein, A pocr. and Pseud. i. 173-176, who holds that these additions were made to the text before its translation into Greek. These additions still preserve, according to Rothstein, a fragment of the original text, i.e. verses 23-28, which came between verses 23 and 24 of chapter iii. of the canonical text. They certainly fill up excellently a manifest gap in this text. "The Song of the Three Children" was first added after the verses just referred to, and subsequently the Prayer of Azariah was inserted before these verses.
LITERATURE. - Ball in the Speaker's Apocr. ii. 305 sqq.; Rothstein in Kautzsch's Apocr. and Pseud. i. 173 sqq.; Schiirer, 3 Gesch. iii. 33 2 sqq. (R. H. C.)
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Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Book of Daniel'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/bri/b/book-of-daniel.html. 1910.