This essay examines whether the book of Daniel was composed in the second century B.C. or sixth century B.C. We will not survey all arguments from both sides, as it is simply impossible to conduct an honest historical-criticalstudy onallarguments with the assigned amount of words. Comprehensibility, criticality and words limitation are irreconcilable nemeses. They do not exist in the same confinement. Therefore this essay examines only one issue of the debate with depth to demonstrate the critical aspect required, while resort to juxtaposing differing scholars’ works to secure as much comprehensiveness as possible. (The one issue is the historical anomaly of Jehoiakim and Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Jerusalem. Hence the following paragraphs dealing with this issue are numbered to assist the analytical nature of this task as well as to enhance the clarity of the argument.Paragraphs that do not deal with this issue are not numbered. This essay can be read as a normal essay without the numerical format as well should one find it unhelpful).
1) Some think that Daniel was composed late in the second or third century B.C.One of their reasons is the historical anomaly over the date of Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem (Judah). Daniel 1.1-2 states, “In thethird year of the reign of Jehoiakimking of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some ofthe vessels of the house of God.” This event seems to go against 2 Kings 24, 2 Chronicles 36 and the Babylonian Chronicles.
1.2) 2 Kings 23.36-24.13 states that “Jehoiakim…reigned eleven years in Jerusalem… In his days, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant three years. Then he turned and rebelled against him…and… Chaldeans… Syrians… Moabites and… Ammonites… against Judah to destroy it… Jehoiakim slept with his fathers, and Jehoiachin his son reigned in his place… At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up to Jerusalem, and the city was besieged… and carried off all thetreasures of the house of the LORD and the treasures of the king's house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold in the temple of the LORD…” In this account, we see that Jehoiakim and his son Jehoiachin were both subdued by Nebuchadnezzar consecutively. In Jehoiakim’s time, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Chaldeans, Syrians, Moabites and Ammonites. While in Jehoiachin’s time, Jerusalem was besieged by Nebuchadnezzar.
1.3) We cannot be sure whether the Chaldeans, Syrians, Moabites and Ammonites were “servants of Nebuchadnezzar” (v.10). If yes, then Nebuchadnezzar was possibly the oneresponsiblefor Jerusalem’s destruction during the eleventh year under Jehoiakim. If this is true, then there were two besieges over Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar; one during Jehoiakim’s time, one during Jehoiachin’s time. The text seems ambivalent here. On one hand, there seems to be a differentiation between the four tribes from Nebuchadnezzar’s servants. They were agents raised by God and there is no explicit attribution of their allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24.4). Yet on the other hand, we know that Nebuchadnezzar has conquered the entire Palestine (2 Kings 24.7), which included the land of the four tribes. This would put these four tribes under Nebuchadnezzar’s rule. Then in this sense, they were Nebuchadnezzar’s servants and were commissioned to destroy Jerusalem. However, it could also be the case that the attack (2 Kings 24.2) was launched not from the directive of Nubuchadnezzar but the four tribes’ own initiative. We cannot be sure.
1.4) 2 Chronicles 36.5-10 records, “Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and hereigned eleven years in Jerusalem… Against him came up Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and bound him in chains to take him to Babylon. Now the rest of the acts of Jehoiakim… are written in theBook of the Kings of Israel and Judah(1 and 2 Kings?). And Jehoiachin his son reigned in his place. Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king… In the spring of the year King Nebuchadnezzar sent and brought him to Babylon, with theprecious vessels of the house of the LORD…”
1.5) The Babylonian Chronicles dates Babylon’s direct conquest on Jerusalem to Jehoiachin’s era.Does this then conclusively show that Daniel 1.1 provides a wrong date for Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem?
1.6) J. G. Balwin does not see this as conclusive. By reconstructing the chronology of Nebuchadnezzar’s victory over Egypt’s dominion in Palestine from 2 Kings 23-24, she affirms reasonably that Nebuchadnezzar’s victory in securing the vast land “that belonged to the king of Egypt from the Brook of Egypt to the river Euphrates” (2 Kings 24.7) indirectly brought Jehoiakim, who was otherwise Pharaoh’s vassal ruler in Judah, under his command (2 Kings 23.34).So in this sense Jerusalem was conquered in the third year of Jehoiakim’s reign. We shall refer to this type of conquest as ‘indirect conquest’ since it differs from the sort of direct conquest mentioned in Babylonian Chronicles.
1.7) How many times did Nebuchadnezzar confiscate the precious materials from the Jerusalem temple? On one hand, Daniel 1.1 records Nebuchadnezzar’s confiscation of the temple in Jehoiakim’s third year of reign. If the subjugation of Jehoiakim by Nebuchadnezzar through the latter’s victory over Egypt is correct (see paragraph 1.6), then the confiscation described in Daniel 1.2 is a reference to that event. This would mean that Nebuchadnezzar confiscated from the temple more than once; First confiscation occurred when Babylon won over Egypt (Jehoiakim’s era), and followed by second confiscation when he besieged Jerusalem (Jehoachin’s era). However we have no determining factor to decide which conquest was Daniel 1.1 referring to; direct conquest or indirect conquest? If it is the former, then the author has mistaken the date of Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Jerusalem and so committed a historical error. If it is the latter, then the author has not committed any mistake and so remains credible. We cannot know.
1.8) S. R. Driver, C. L. Seow, J. J. Collins, and P. R. Davies allow onlyone time confiscation of the temple by Nebuchanezzar, and that was during Nebuchadnezzar’sone and only officialsiege of Jerusalem. By this allowance, these scholars are able to argue that the siege of Jerusalem and its confiscation of the temple in Daniel 1.1-2 is identical with ‘the siege and confiscation’ recorded in 2 Kings 24.13 and 2 Chronicles 36.10, and ‘the siege’ in Babylonian Chronicles. They disqualify ‘indirect conquest’ (paragraph 1.6) as the event mentioned in Daniel 1.1-2 without a basis. Through identifying the ‘siege’ and the ‘confiscation’ across these three different books and one extra-biblical artefactas the same event, these scholars are able to conclude that the author of Daniel has mistaken the date of this event.
1.9) Nevertheless these unanswered questions (see paragraph 1.3, 1.6, 1.7 and 1.8) hinder our attempt to use this issue to either argue for or against the early date of Daniel’s composition. The confidence for several confiscations (paragraph 1.7) and the allowance for only one confiscation (paragraph 1.8) areequallyundermined by uncertainties.
The one-year difference between Daniel 1.1-2 with Jeremiah 25.1 over whether Nebuchadnezzar assumed his father’s throne in the third or fourth year of Jehoiakim is explained by an appeal to the difference between Judean’s and Babylonian’s calendar. So this is not an issue.
Some think that Darius the Mede (Daniel 5.31, 9.1) is a fictional character read back into the past by the author of Daniel in the second century B.C.They reason that there is no extra-biblical attestation. The Nabonidus Chronicles records that it was Ugbaru (some think Gubaru), the governor of Gutium from the Persian army who conquered Babylon.J. Whitcomb identifies Darius the Mede as Gubaru and differentiates Gubaru from Ugbaru. But this hardly explains why Darius was referred to as 'king' (Daniel 6.6ff).D. J. Wiseman translates Daniel 6.28 in order to identify Darius as Cyrus. Though convenient, yet not convincing for we are not sure whether did Cyrus really had two names.W. H. Shea suggests that Cyrus ruled Babylon through Darius the Mede for a certain period. He identifies Darius as Gubaru and so differs from J. Whitcomb.W. H. Shea together with J. Goldingay argue that Cyrus' mother was a Median, so Darius 'the Mede'.Others provide more arguments to identify Darius with Cyrus from references toBel and the DragonandCicero. Even with so many attempts to identify Darius with either Cyrus or Ugbaru or Gubaru, we still cannot make any conclusive statement over it given our insufficient corroborative data. And so T. Longman III and R. B. Dillard rightly concluded that this issue is “one of the unsolved mysteries in biblical history.”
The identification of Belshazzar as the son of Nebuzhadnezzar (Daniel 5.2, 11, 13, 18, 22) is seen as a historical mistake by some scholars.Others have responded that this is not a mistake as the father and son relation is a literary device used to describe the succession line in a dynasty.This father-son literary device is also applied as supplication for deficiency in Aramaic language.Others think that such literary device is common in the Old Testament’s world. For example, Elisha called Elijah 'my father' (2 Kings 2:12).Therefore this issue hardly suggestive. Even P. R. Davies who adopts the later dating of Daniel thinks that this issue “should not be pressed; even if it might betray a misunderstanding on the part of Daniel, a strong case against Daniel’s historical reliability is not enhanced by the inclusion of weak arguments such as this.”In other words, this matter is considerable, though weak.
The Masoretic division of the Hebrew canon designates Daniel to the ‘Writings’ and not among the ‘Prophets’ is seen as evident supporting late composition date.Yet according to Josephus, Daniel was included among the ‘Prophets’.The Septuagint (through the Vulgate), Melito and Origen testify similarly.Although Jesus Ben Sirach did not mention Daniel in his list of ‘famous Israelites’ in the first or second century B.C.,the fact that he did not also mention Ezra, Job, Asa, Jehoshphat, Mordecai and some Judges shows that his list is non-determinative.This could just hint on the fact that there were various canonical traditions which does not shed much light in our endeavour.
Others have pointed out the linguistic anomalies such as the existence of fifteen Persian words (post-Babylonian lingua franca), three Greek words (post-Alexander’s era), Western Aramaic dialect (identical with Ezra, similar with “Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan” and inscriptions from the third century B.C. to second century A. D.) and Hebrew language (resemble post-Nehemiah’s Hebrew) point to the later composition date.Yet all these have been responded accordingly.On top of that, the twenty or so Assyro-Bablyonian words in Daniel can be evidences that it was composed earlier before the Greek Empirethough this at the same time can be argued that they are retained by later authors. Hence the linguistic nature of Daniel is dubious.
The theologies, historical distinctiveness and comprehensiveness of Daniel are also subtle pointers of its late second century B.C. composition.These dimensions clearly reflect a more developed form as compared to other books in the Old Testament, yet these alone do not have much prerogative given the possibilities of revelation and prophecy. And since the discussions on revelation and prophecy, which are more metaphysical in nature, are beyond the purview ofhistorical-critical study, they will not be discussed here.
Both sides of the debate have appealed to the first and third person descriptions in Daniel to make their case. Yet these are not strong arguments as even in our time we have authors who wrote non-fiction literatures in the third personas well as all kinds of fictional literatures that are written in the first person. Some opt to view Daniel as written in different times or compiled by editors, or both. But this would be putting the cart before the horse unless the date of the book is known.
I was required to provide my own choice between the sixth or second century B.C. composition date for Daniel in this essay. From the above studies, the evidences for both composition dates are ambiguous. How then does this study affect my faith and my teaching of Daniel? I suppose just as most people do not know when a movie was made but still enjoy watching and telling others about it, our innocence over the composition date of Daniel should not remove our enjoyment in reading it and hinder us from telling or teaching others about it.
In summary, the only affirmation we can make is the fact that Daniel was already being circulated in the second or first century B.C. as evidenced from the Qumran (a topic which the word limitation forbids us from venturing into).To skip through all these ambiguities to a secured conclusion in pretence for the sake of marks would be a dishonest research, if not a worse essay. As much as I am tempted, I do not think I can ride a cart with the horse behind. It just would not go anywhere.
Similar with Ludwig Wittgenstein’sTractatus Logico-Philosophicusand Alister McGrath’s essay ‘A Working Paper: The Ordering of the World in a Scientific Theology’ inThe Order of Things(UK: Blackwell, 2006), p.183-193.
S. R. Driver,An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament(1972 reprint edition); C. L. Seow,Daniel(USA: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003); P. R. Davies,Daniel(UK: JSOT Press, 1985); J. J. Collins,Daniel(USA: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1994).
J. J. Collins,Daniel(USA: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1994), p.131; C. L. Seow,Daniel(USA: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), p.4-5. The text of the cuneiform tablet reads, “In the seventh year [598/597], the month of Kislîmu, the king of Akkad mustered his troops, marched to the Hatti-land and besieged the city of Judah and on the second day of the month of Addaru he seized the city and captured the king. He appointed there a king of his own choice [Zedekiah], received its heavy tribute and sent to Babylon.” (The Chronicle Concerning the Early Years of Nebuchadnezzar II,http://www.livius.org/cg-cm/chronicles/abc5/jerusalem.html, accessed on 25 April 2010).
J. G. Baldwin,Daniel(USA: IVP Press, 1978), p.19-20.
See the discussion in T. Longman III and R. B. Dillard,An Introduction to the Old Testament(USA: Zondervan, 1994, Second Edition, 2006), p.376-377; G. Archer,Daniel(USA: Zondervan, 1985), p.14.
S. R. Driver,An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament(1972 reprint edition), p.499-500; C. L. Seow,Daniel(USA: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), p.5.
S. R. Driver,An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament(1972 reprint edition), p. 497-498; S. R. Driver,The Book of Daniel(UK: Cambridge University Press, 1901), p. xivii-xiviii.
G. Archer,A Survey of the Old Testament Introduction(USA: Moody Press, 1974), p.388-389; G. Archer, Daniel(USA: Zondervan, 1985), p.7-8.
J. C. Whitcomb,Daniel(Chicago: Moody Press, 1985), p.15-16.
S. R. Driver,An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament(1972 reprint edition), p. 498.
G. Archer,A Survey of the Old Testament Introduction(USA: Moody Press, 1974), p.389.
S. R. Driver,An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament(1972 reprint edition), p. 501-508.
R. Hamner,The Book of Daniel(UK: Cambridge University Press, 1976), p.5; G. Archer,A Survey of the Old Testament Introduction(USA: Moody Press, 1974), p.395-397; G. Archer, Daniel(USA: Zondervan, 1985), p.23; J. G. Baldwin,Daniel(USA: Intervarsity Press, 1978), p.33; E. Yamauchi, "Daniel and Contacts between the Aegean and the Near East Before Alexander" inEvangelical Quarterly, (1981), p. 37-47; J. C. Whitcomb,Daniel(Chicago: Moody Press, 1985), p.38.
C. Boutflower,In and Around the Book of Daniel(USA: Zondervan, 1963), p.265.
S. R. Driver,An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament(1972 reprint edition), p.508-515.
Eisegesis like those by J. J. Collins and co. to categorize ‘apocalyptic’ literatures is problematic.
A recent example is Alister McGrath,Science and Religion: A New Introduction(UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), Chapter 33.
P. W. Flint, "The Daniel Tradition at Qumran" inThe Book of Daniel: Composition and Reception, ed. J. J. Collins, P. W. Flint, and C. VanEpps (Netherlands: Brill, 2001), p.329-367.
Archer, Gleason. Daniel. USA: Zondervan, 1985.
Archer, G.A Survey of the Old Testament Introduction. USA: Moody Press, 1974.
Baldwin, J. G.Daniel. USA: IVP Press, 1978.
Boutflower, C.In and Around the Book of Daniel. USA: Zondervan, 1963.
Collins, J. J.Daniel: With an Introduction to Apocalyptic Literature. USA: William B. Eerdmans, 1984.
Collins, J. J.Daniel.USA: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1994.
Driver, S. R.An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament.1972 reprint edition.
Davies, P. R.Daniel.UK: JSOT Press, 1985.
Flint, P. W. "The Daniel Tradition at Qumran" inThe Book of Daniel: Composition and Reception. Collins, J. J., Flint, P. W., and VanEpps, C., ed. Netherlands: Brill, 2001, p.329-367.
Goldingay, J.Daniel. USA: Word, 1989.
Hamner, R.The Book of Daniel.UK: Cambridge University Press, 1976.
Longman III, Tremper and Dillard, R. B.An Introduction to the Old Testament. USA: Zondervan, 1994, Second Edition, 2006.
McGrath, A.Science and Religion: A New Introduction. UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.
Millard, A. R. "Daniel and Belshazzar in History" inBiblical Archaeological Review. May-June 1985.
Miller, S. R.Daniel. USA: Broadman and Holman, 1994.
Seow, C. L.Daniel.USA: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003.
Shea, W. H. "Darius the Mede in his Persian-Babylonian Setting" inAndrews University Seminary Studies 29. Autumn 1991, p. 235-57.
Whitcomb, J. C.Daniel.Chicago: Moody Press, 1985.
Yamauchi, E. "Daniel and Contacts between the Aegean and the Near East Before Alexander" inEvangelical Quarterly.1981, p. 37-47.