|On Issues Related to Daniel|
In 1998, Everette Hatcher presented a sterling defense of the book of Daniel using the best scholarship had to offer. We will attend to specific issues regarding Daniel in our article on Daniel, such as is needed. Here are a few accessory issues.
One of them stated that "(t)he discoveries of fragments of Daniel among the Dead Sea Scrolls shows [sic] that it was written earlier than 164 B. C.," but that was all that he said on the subject. He gave no evidence at all to support this assertion. Furthermore, saying that these discoveries show that Daniel was written earlier than 164 B. C. is too imprecise to warrant comment, for if it were written in 165 B. C., that would be earlier than 164 B. C. Referring also to the copy of Daniel found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, another of Hatcher's professors said in awkward syntax that "even the liberals say that this must have had several hundred years before the second century" and that "(i)n that case, it would put it back at least to the fourth or fifth century, if not the sixth." The professor said nothing to explain why the discovery of a copy of Daniel at Qumran would have to mean that it was written "several hundred years before the second century."
On part A, what "evidence" is wanted? Is this implying this person is lying about fragments of Daniel? Does the objector want a complete list of fragments and the dating methods? And if we get these, will that be sufficient, or will we then be told that more evidence is needed to satisfy?
The proper response to such an argument is not to demand more evidence, but to provide one's own evidence in response. The objector is doing no more than buying time here because he does not have the competence or the familiarity with the scholarly literature that is needed to address the issue. How hard is it to get material on the DSS and confirm or refute this simple claim? It isn't hard at all. In our own study we noted that liberal critics have had to shift into the gear of claiming the some of Daniel is early, and some of it is late -- a supposition with no textual support, merely made to shore up their theory. The text and data as it stands offers no supporting evidence.
Further, the claim that it may therefore have been written in 165 B.C. is easily to refute: Simply put, the presence of Daniel at Qumran testifies to its composition much earlier because the Qumranites, by the evidence of their documents, were a strict society that would not readily recognize the validity of any book claiming prophetic authority. Someone showing up at the door of Qumran with a newly-minted Daniel scroll, claiming it was a genuine document, isn't going to get a reaction from the Qumranites like this: "Wow, a prophetic document we've never seen before and no one else has ever heard of! Thanks, we'll add it to the library!" More likely any person trying to foist such a document would be spat upon by the clannish Qumranites.
The ancients had every care and concern that we did. If it was not their own internal material, documents needed a pedigree to be accepted. The ancients respected antiquity. There is every indication that Daniel was recognized by the Qumranites as Scripture. Daniel is called a "prophet" (4Q174) and comments on his text are made with standard introductory formula for Scripture; there are seven copies of his book at Qumran, in other words, it was not an accident or a passing fancy for it to be there. In order to confound this argument, the critic needs to study Qumranite society, literature, and culture, and in the context of the larger socio-religious culture of Judaism, and provide a reason why Daniel managed to slip through these strictures.
...[Daniel] went directly from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar to the reign of Belshazzar without mentioning any of the four kings who reigned between them. This within itself would indicate an ignorance of 6th-century Babylonian history, because it at least implies that the writer thought that Belshazzar's reign followed Nebuchadnezzar's.
Question: Why is this a problem? Daniel served Nebuchadnezzar for decades and highlights less than half a dozen episodes with him that took no more than a few weeks at most; why is it such an issue that he says nothing of the four kings with far shorter reigns than Nebuchadnezzar's (one of them a child)?
Re the old Joshua stopping the sun not being recorded elsewhere argument, it is answered here. It is related to the idea that Ezekiel should have mentioned Daniel, and he did, but the connection with the pagan hero fails; see our article for response.
A further appeal is made to the idea that the refusal of Daniel and friends to eat from the king's table corresponds to a Maccabbean-era issue in which Jews were threatened with their lives if they did not follow a decree to eat unclean foods. There is no indication that Daniel and friends would have been killed for their dietary choices; their overseer feared for himself, if they ended up looking bad, but the parallel drawn is superficial and non-existent. Moreover, such problems as this, and problems of idolatry as in Daniel 3, would have indeed been historically encountered by conscientious Jews in Exile. A Maccabbean parallel is superfluous.
Another erroneous Maccabbean parallel: Belshazzar defiled the temple vessels by using them at a party; Antiochus defiled them by taking them. Taking temple parephenalia, however, was the normal mode of operation in the ancient world for all invaders and attackers. The Romans did it to the Temple as well. This is again not a unique parallel but a universal in context.
Next the objector tries to refute a late date by noting that Daniel contains "good history" about Alexander the Great and beyond. But it's not that simple -- it also contains "accurate history" (i.e., prophecy) beyond the 160s BC. See here. See here on alleged inaccuracy about Antiochus.
Objection is also made about Daniel's name not being in Babylonian records, but we hardly could claim to possess complete and full records from this period or from any ancient civilization. This is again no more than argument from silence. Remember again that this is what used to be said about Belshazzar -- and also note in our article that the names of Daniel's three friends have been found.
In the year 2000 there was more from Hatcher. Hatcher presented the critical scholarship of one who acknowledged that the Daniel 1:1 timing issue had a potential and plausible resolution in the variable calendar systems of the Babylonians and Jews -- just as Archer argues. This came not from a fundamentalist press in Grand Rapids, but from a critic who admitted that there was no surety of error being found in Dan. 1:1.
The critic could offer no actual response to this, but could only seize upon the acknowledgement that the critic preferred to suppose error (never mind that in doing so, he did not act consistently with his admission that there was a plausible solution) and object that this was no more than "a how-it-could-have-been solution" -- never mind that it works within established knowledge and it fully acceptable historical detective work that would be used by any writer concerning the works of a secular historian. Within such work, such solutions are sufficient justification and constitute reasonable evidence, and can only be responded to with evidence that the solution could not possibly apply (i.e., showing that the calendar system wasn't that different, or that the years in Daniel were still too far apart for the calendar difference to be of use).
Beattie's possible solution to the chronological discrepancy in Daniel 1:1, which solution he himself didn't accept, is dubious on the surface. It postulated that Daniel, a captive in Babylon who rose to prominence in the Babylonian government, used the Judean calendric system, but Jeremiah, a prophet who remained in Judea and did not go to Babylon with the captives, used the Babylonian calendric system. How likely was that?
The answer is that it isn't unlikely at all, though Archer does prefer to suppose that Daniel used the Babylon method. Daniel's final form was written for Jews who would leave their Exile; Jeremiah's work was written to people currently in Exile in Babylon. Either writer could have used either system for acceptable reasons, and a critic living in a modern era with standard calendars and no threat of conquest has no cause to argue about such things. That the critic finds such hypotheses "unimpressive" is an interesting insight into his personal view, but does nothing to affect the reasonableness and plausibility of the scenario. Demands for "real evidence" could never be met in any historical study context.
Further matters we mostly address within the text of our article on Daniel. There is no controversy at all over whether Pul was a title or a name; it is known as a shortened name for Tiglath-Pileser III.
Hatcher said that the writer of Daniel "must have known that Cyrus was the conquerer of Babylon," because this was mentioned by Isaiah and recorded by Herodotus, Xenophon, and Berossos. What was Hatcher's proof that the author of Daniel had any familiarity with Herodotus, Xenophon, and Berossos? He cited none. He just listed Colless as his source of this claim, but if Colless knows of any reasons why we should think that the author of Daniel was familiar with the writings of these historians, Hatcher should have stated what they are.
What proof is needed that the author of Daniel was familiar with these works? None is needed -- that the author of Daniel could read and write is evidence enough. In an age when 10% or less of the population could read or write, such capability indicated a trip through the ancient educational system. That meant that they would become familiar with, and use, the works of men like Herodotus, Xenophon, and Berossos, since these were the common texts used for study.
Of course the critic may speculatively suggest that Daniel's 2nd century author was absent that day from class, but once again, he would do so in admission that the historical background data as it stands provides no support for his view. (The critic also errs in that he thinks that Hatcher is arguing that Daniel in the 6th century would have read these later authors.)
It is also a counsel of despair to claim that "the Jewish scriptures didn't exist in bound volumes" (they did not have to exist in that condition; scrolls are just as usable) and that the author of Daniel may not have known the writings of Jeremiah or Ezra, etc. As a literate Jew, he was bound to know these things by definition.