Thursday, May 27, 2010

Craig A. Herron on the history of Christianity in West Malaysia & Singapore

The resources on the history of Christianity in Malaysia and Singapore are scarce. When I was attempting at my essay on the theological scene in Singapore in the early twentieth century, I came across the work by Craig Alan Herron through Bobby Sng's In His Good Times.

He was missionary from New Zealand who was appointed as a lecturer at Trinity Theological College in 1962. He went back to New Zealand in December 1974 for his wife's health's sake. It was a few years later, in 1977, Herron submitted his Ph.D thesis to the University of Otago, where Tony Siew, a current New Testament lecturer at Trinity Theological College, got his Ph.D from as well. The title of Herron's thesis is 'A history of the Protestant Christian churches in West Malaysia and Singapore'. It is an important work describing the development of Christianity in these two countries.

However, Herron's thesis never got published. So far I located only two places that possess his thesis. A photocopy of the thesis can be found at Trinity Theological College's library. Another one at Seminari Theoloji Malaysia's library. So I applied from the librarian to have a look at the thesis. It is an old copy. The fonts were those of 'typewritter'. (In a generation's time, no one else would know what is a typewriter!) While reading it I was wondering how does one type footnotes with a typewriter. Nowadays our software makes it so easy to write.

I also wondered why Herron's thesis never got published? Perhaps no publisher wanted to invest in the history of Christianity in Malaysia and Singapore at that time. Since then, the printing and transcription cost has become more affordable. Hope that someone or a church or a denomination, perhaps the Presbyterian--since Herron was a Presbyterian--would sponsor to print this out and give it a proper ISBN so that the important Christian history of these two countries can be preserved for the next generation.

I have tried searching for Herron's contact but couldn't find it. The only information that I got is from the New Zealand Presbyterian Archives Research Centre's website:
HERRON, Rev Alan Craig, B.A., M.A., B.D., S.T.M. (Union NY)
b. Auckland 28.8.1929;
w. Shona Mary McArthur b. Christchurch 12.3.1928 m. 19.5.1955. Shona holds a
Karitane Nursing Certificate.
Alan educated at Otago Boys High School and Otago University.
Theological Hall 1952-54
Granted the Begg Travelling Scholarship and studied at New College, Edinburgh
for one year and at the Union Seminary, New York, USA.
Ordained Invercargill Outdistricts 29.8.1957 - resigned 5.10.1961
To All Saints College (Mission Course), Sydney for preparation prior to overseas
mision work 19.1.1962
Trinity College Singapore, appointed as Lecturer 1962.
London for special study 24.8.1966; back to Singapore 28.12.1967.
Trinity Coll & University of Singapore, Lecturer 12.1967; returned to NZ with wife
and family Dec 1974, as Shona's health could not survive the tropics.
Off Mission staff 4.8.1976.
St Marks Collegiate Chch 17.2.1977
St Andrews Blenheim 20.3.1984
Minister Emeritus 31.10.1994.
Son of Very Rev. D.C. Herron
But the details did not include his doctoral title. Could it be that he didn't got his Ph.D for submitting a history about Malaysia and Singapore?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Exams-Assignment Marathon

Have been busy for the past two months to prepare myself for the exams and to finish writing the essays. At last, just now, I have slotted the final required assignment into the lecturer's mailbox in the college. That marks the end of this semester. The first year in a theological studies has officially ended for me.

I wrote 3 essays altogether in the past three weeks. Almost one a week. For Simon Chan's 'Holy Spirit in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement' class, I attempted to discern the activity of the Holy Spirit in the creation. Through this paper, I come to recognize the personhood of the Spirit in relation to Christ and the church. After submitting the paper, I went on to examine the relationship between creation and eschatology for Roland Chia's 'Theology II' class. The most satisfying and also the most creative part of the essay is the development of a theology of death. in relation to creation and eschatology. And finally, for the third paper, I ventured to narrate the theological scene in Singapore in the first half of the twentieth century by exploring the founding histories of Trinity Theological College and Singapore Bible College. When I proposed this topic to Andrew Peh, the lecturer, he remarked that this would be a 'touchy' issue. The reason why I chose this topic is because I am really curious why is there still a persistent impression among some local Christians that TTC is a liberal institution. And in the paper, I traced the origin of this impression.

I have learned a lot from the research conducted for these essays. They will be posted here together with comments when I got back the papers.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Critique on Kong Hee's Genesis 1-2 'Cultural Mandate'

Kong Hee has an article in the latest issue of Church & Society in Asia Today journal published by the Centre for the Study of Christianity in Asia, Trinity Theological College. The article was originally published in City Harvest Church's magazine Harvest Times. Here is my critique of the article:
When God created man and put him in the Garden of Eden, He gave him the responsibility “to tend and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). To tend the land means to plow or to cultivate the ground. But in the Latin, it is the word cultura, where you get the English word “culture.” Herein lies a very important truth: culture is God’s original purpose for man! It is not a concept from the devil. It is an idea from God.

God wanted Adam to “do culture,” taking the seed He has put into Adam’s hands and releasing its potential into a mighty harvest. Therefore, in its earliest and simplest definition, culture means taking the raw material God has given to man, and creatively nurturing it to its fullest potential. Because doing it requires creativity, each time we do culture we are actually reflecting the image of Elohim—the God who is creative. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28).

In Genesis 1:28, God gave mankind its primary job description. The first phrase “be fruitful and multiply” has to do with people. It means develop the social world! Build families, churches, schools and cities. Establish governments and laws.

The second phrase “subdue the earth” has to do with nature. It means harness the natural world! Plant crops, build bridges, design computers, and compose music.

Consciously or subconsciously, the human race has been doing that in past millennia from cutting wood to build houses, to cultivating cotton to make clothes, to extracting silicon to make computer chips.

As we develop the social world and harness the natural world, we are creating culture and building civilization upon the world that God has ordered. In theology, this is called the “cultural mandate.” As we do that, we are given the awesome privilege to be God’s co-creators! No wonder King David stood in amazement as he pondered on the whole purpose of man: “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels [more accurately, ‘Elohim God’], and You have crowned him with glory and honor” (Ps. 8:4-6).

Man is to harness all the raw materials on the earth, in the ocean, and in space, and creatively release them into their fullest potential (8:6-8).
As we do that, we are creating culture to the glory of God, and taking dominion over the world that He loves.” (Kong Hee, ‘Our Cultural Mandate’, Church & Society in Asia Today, vol. 13, no. 1 (April 2010), p. 54-55. An online version of the article is here.)
Two major problems with Kong Hee’s theological interpretation of Genesis.

First, Kong Hee is reading into the text. Genesis 1 – 2 has nothing to do with the broad mandate to cultivate ‘culture’ in the world. These passages concern the specific agricultural work of the primitive family for their sustenance and not about “taking the raw material God has given to man, and creatively nurturing it to its fullest potential,” as Kong Hee stated.

Simply said, these passages are about God legitimating Adam to hunt and plant for food. Genesis 1.29-30 spells this out unmistakably, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.”

Kong Hee only highlighted Genesis 1.27-28 and simply does not refer to the subsequent passages before coming to his conclusion. This is understandable because if Kong Hee had paid close attention to the entire text, instead of picking up just two verses from the narrative, he will not have anything to say about ‘Cultural Mandate’ from Genesis 1. This is the first major problem: flimsy theological interpretation that is insubstantial, lacking critical engagement with what the text says and misreading of the text entirely.

The second major problem is the repulsive corollary following from the first problem: justifying human’s unquenchable self-serving exploitation of the natural world in the name of God. By calling it as ‘cultural mandate’, suddenly Christians are led to think that they have all the rights to “harness all the raw materials on the earth, in the ocean, and in space, and creatively release them into their fullest potential.

Peter Harrison in his brief survey of different interpretations of Genesis 1 has show that Kong Hee’s type of understanding of “have dominion” and “subdue” (1.26, 1.28) came to prominence during the rise of modern science. This interpretation was initially “incorporated into the rhetoric of scientific progress” which later being used as justification for “property ownership and colonization.”
1 Yet there is a difference between these seventeenth century people from Kong Hee. They did all they did in the name to restore the creation or to reverse the effect of the Fall in the creation. Kong Hee is doing it and teaching others to do it because when we do it, “we are given the awesome privilege to be God’s co-creators.2 With such justification, human race has not been only cutting wood to build houses, cultivating cotton to make clothes, extracting silicon to make computer chips in the past millennia. Human race has also been busy with developing guns, nuclear bombs, chemical weapons, advanced vehicles and machinery to kill humans more efficiently and effectively, abortion technology, artificial unhealthy food and all sort of useless fanciful consumerism-driven products by exploiting the natural world.

If God is the creator of everything then, as Rowan Williams stated, "Things in the universe exist in relation to the Creator before they exist in relation to us, so that a degree of reverence and humility is appropriate when we approach anything in the created order." (Rowan Williams, Tokens of Trust, p.50) This is a sharp contrast against Kong Hee's domineering attitude.

Kong Hee's entire thesis on 'Cultural Mandate' is grounded on his mis-interpretation of Genesis 1-2. It serves as his rhetorical justification for his agenda to push for a certain careless response to culture and society. A similar agenda-driven rhetoric used by Adolf Hitler. Perhaps the Church & Society in Asia Today journal is giving us an example of how a careless theology and biblical interpretation like that of Kong Hee can affect our response to the society and culture at large.

Harrison, Peter, ‘Subduing the Earth: Genesis 1, Early Modern Science, and the Exploitation of Nature’, The Journal of Religion 79 (1), (1999), p. 86-109. The article can be read here or here.

2 Kong Hee, ‘Our Cultural Mandate’, Church & Society in Asia Today, vol. 13, no. 1 (April 2010), p. 55.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Eleonore Stump's "second person context" interpretation on Job

As I was preparing for my exam on the theodicies in the OT, I chanced upon Eleonore Stump's interpretation of the divine speech (Job 38-42) in second person context and second person experience. Stump is a philosopher at Saint Louis University with expertise in medieval philosophy, theodicy, Thomas Aquinas and Augustine. A brilliant woman.

She engages with Marvin Pope's commentary on Job. Pope thought that God didn't give Job an answer in those latter chapters of the book. Stump differs. She concludes that God's answer to Job is to show him God's caring, loving and steadfast relationship with the creation (for eg. God created the Behemoth and loves it and provides for it).

Hence Stump suggests that God is not merely asserting his sovereignty over Job and the creation, but appealing to Job as a father appeals to a son to trust God that he is taking care of him no matter what have happened. So, it is not that God scolded Job, "You who are made of dust, dare you question me!?" Instead, God was saying to Job, "My child, look at how I have loved everything in this world. I have will their good. So it is also with you. Trust me."

Stump also highlights the second person experience of the book. The experience is a real, immediate and direct experience. Not an experience derived from reading a theological treatise about God. Job met God. This encounter changes the relationship that Job previously had with God. He used to read, pray, meditate and think about God. Now, God is in-front of him.

Stump asked us to imagine a scenario. A baby who was kidnapped and secluded from the rest of the human world by a mad scientist. The baby grew up in seclusion where she doesn't know there is another human like herself. The child was taught everything about the world but without any contact with a real human. Then one day, the child escaped and found by her real mother. Guess how she feels to be touched, hugged, kissed, cared for, and loved for the first time by her mother? That is her first time second-person experience. And so was Job with God.

I find Stump's interpretation fascinating. So, just to share with you. The MP3 can be found here.

Friday, May 07, 2010

In some cases, real friendship is open and closed

Today my Facebook friend list hits 500, and today Soo Inn posted his weekly commentary which starts with this sentence: "You have 500 friends on facebook. How many friends do you have?"

Either Soo Inn was trying to remind me of something or he just thought that the number 500 is a good gauge to consider 'many' on Facebook.

Earlier in the week, a friend told me that she has lost another friend. I asked her why. She said that an overseas (currently) ex-friend has just deleted her from her Facebook friend list. So my friend emailed her ex-friend to inquire. Her ex-friend replied that she has too many friends on her list and needed to shrunk it to those who she "keeps in touch."

Well, everyone does that once in a while. I did that too. But what caused my friend unease is the fact that she was deleted but not her sister and her brother-in-law. Her ex-friend consider my friend's sister and her brother-in-law as friends who she keeps in touch but not her despite she knew her first before the two.

My friend was troubled. I tried to comfort her. I told her that it is more important to have 3 real friends who are close rather than 3000 friends on Facebook list. I told her that I have three close friends, and she is one of them. She felt better after hearing that.

Soo Inn listed 5 levels of communication that mark the level of friendship. The deepest level is one where "[individuals] experience strongly their sense of belonging and sharing . . . without defensiveness or barriers. Openness, transparency, and self-disclosure shapes the flow of the conversation [with each other]."

Looking at what I have experienced in the past two weeks, I realized that in some context there can be no full openness and transparency even among real close friends. Everyone has their own secrets to keep. Sometimes these secrets cannot be shared for good reasons like to protect another person's integrity; in most severe cases, to protect another person's life (more common in espionage movies).

In such cases, the burdened person cannot even share with his or her real friends who experience strong sense of belonging and sharing. Perhaps in some cases, we just don't have real friends or we mistakenly thought we do. But let's assume that we really do have real friends. In this case, it is not that we don't share because we don't trust our friends, but the welfare of another person takes priority. It means carrying a burden with no outlet to let it down even for a while. One may see this in the character of Alfred in the movie The Dark Knight. He burned Rachel's letter written to Bruce Wayne in order to protect the latter after Rachel's death. And we all know that Alfred is the only one who understands Bruce Wayne the most. Sometimes, it is precisely because the friendship is so real that we cannot be transparent.

I don't disagree with Soo Inn's wise, clear and (not to mention) timely piece. Perhaps what he wrote is in a different context in mind. But what he wrote helped me to think through what I am going through. And writing it down here helps me to see what am I thinking.

One may meditate over the internal sorrow and struggle that Jesus had within him when he purposely delayed his visitation over Lazarus in John 11. He had to let his good friend go through death. He couldn't tell anyone about his plan until after Lazarus' death. The mere thought of letting Lazarus die instead of healing him right away was consuming him inwardly. Yet he knew that's his calling. And there are some among us who are called to take that way.

Kong Hee & co. are into plagiarism?

The blogger of Cheat Grace alerted me to his blog two months ago. He/she has been compiling plagiarism evidences committed by Kong Hee, the founder and senior pastor of City Harvest Church, a mega-church with a congregation of over 30,000 members.

(Disclaimer: I don't have the published materials mentioned below, so I am depending on the blogger's reports. For this reason, I was hesitant to blog about this initially. However, what my clustermate told me yesterday motivates me to blog as a way to seek verification from those who have access to these materials.)

Most of the evidences are those from Kong Hee's web-based daily devotion. There are a few examples (post one, post two) taken from the Leadership Study Bible edited by Kenneth Boa, Sid Buzzell and Bill Perkins.

The blogger also reported that Kong Hee has plagiarized not only for his website but also in his own hard-copy publication: Renewing your Spiritual Life in 90 Days, Vol. 1. It appears that Kong Hee copied the devotional material for day 61 and day 89 from other sources without acknowledgment. What is irony is this printed statement on Kong Hee's book: "All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced in any form without the written permission, with the exception of brief excerpts in magazine reviews." Since I don't have a copy of this book, I hope my readers who have access to it able to verify the cited pages.

In our first semester at Trinity Theological College, we are required to attend a class titled 'Theological Study Skills'. Throughout the class, the lecturer, Andrew Peh, keep reiterating the severity of plagiarism. Taking another person's work and claiming it as your own is equivalent to stealing, coveting, bearing false witness, etc. Kong Hee who has a Doctorate in Theology from New Covenant International Theological Seminary should know this. Or perhaps that seminary, unlike Trinity Theological College, allows plagiarism.

Last night, one of my clustermates told us about a conference which he has attended. One of the speakers of the conference was the Caucasian pastor from City Harvest Church pastoral team. At the beginning of the speech, the Caucasian pastor told the attendees that what he was about to say on that day was revealed to him by God. Guess what? My clustermate recognize that his speech was copied entirely from one of Willow Creek Church's resources. As he was speaking on the stage, my clustermates was telling his fellow attendees seated besides him the subsequent points the Caucasian pastor was going to make. And my clustermate got them all right.

Is plagiarism a trend in City Harvest Church's pastorate?

Comment on the comment on OT essay

The comment on my OT essay by the lecturer is this:
"You omitted discussion of Dan. 11.40-45, which explains your mark, although you show the ability to handle critical issues."
Those passages are passages where scholars think that the author of Daniel was referring to Antiochus Epiphanes. They say that although the description of Antiochus' life provided in Daniel is accurate but Daniel got it wrong about Antiochus' death. They say that Antiochus died of sickness in 164 B.C., and Daniel states that he died in a war (Daniel 11.45). Therefore they can say that the book of Daniel was written before Antiochus' death since he got his death account wrong.

During discussion in the class, I have raised a lot of questions over this way of looking at the text. I said that if this is a historical error, then it would discredit itself among its contemporary readers (for eg. Qumran community) who were much more familiar with their current times than us. Since they didn't have problem recognizing the credibility of Daniel, that shows that either they do not see this as an error or they just couldn't care less.

If these ancient readers of Daniel, who were living around Antiochus' time, did not see Daniel 11.45 as referring to Antiochus, then what basis can we modern readers so certain that those passages are referring to Antiochus?

The lecturer invoked the genre of Daniel to say that the ancient readers does not have problem with the historical error because they received Daniel as an 'apocalyptic' literature. And according to her (she got it from J. J. Collins, whose work I had also consulted in my essay) an apocalyptic literature is written ex eventu (prophecies that are written after the event have occurred). And I asked her on what basis can we say that Daniel was written ex eventu, just because there is similarity between the character narrated in Daniel and Antiochus? But the fact that the ancient readers, who are much more aware of Antiochus than say, J. J. Collins and us, did not have issue with Daniel, then that suggests that these ancient readers did not see the character in Daniel as a reference to Antiochus.

Anyway, this post is just for my personal venting. I do not intend to pursue the case with her. She is just doing her job. And I am lazy and think this is not a severe issue. My point is that I didn't include the discussion of Antiochus and Daniel 11.40-45 is because it is irrelevant, as I have shown above. Hence in my essay, I discussed explicit historical references such as Jehoiakim, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius the Mede rather than Antiochus who is not named at all in Daniel. On that basis, it is questionable how much historical probability can we read Antiochus into Daniel 11.

That's the sentiment in my conclusion:
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.

'B' grade OT essay: Dating Daniel

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-critical study on all arguments 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.[1] 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.[2] One of their reasons is the historical anomaly over the date of Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem (Judah). Daniel 1.1-2 states, “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 gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the 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 the treasures 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 one
responsible for 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 he
reigned 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 the Book 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 the precious vessels of the house of the LORD…”

1.5) The Babylonian Chronicles dates Babylon’s direct conquest on Jerusalem to Jehoiachin’s era.
[3] 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).
[4] 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 only
one time confiscation of the temple by Nebuchanezzar, and that was during Nebuchadnezzar’s one and only official siege 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 artefact as 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) are
equally undermined 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.
[6] 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.[7] 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).[8] 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.[9] 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.[10] W. H. Shea together with J. Goldingay argue that Cyrus' mother was a Median, so Darius 'the Mede'.[11] Others provide more arguments to identify Darius with Cyrus from references to Bel and the Dragon and Cicero.[12] 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.”[13]

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.
[14] 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.[15] This father-son literary device is also applied as supplication for deficiency in Aramaic language.[16] 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).[17] 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.”[18] 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.
[19] Yet according to Josephus, Daniel was included among the ‘Prophets’.[20] The Septuagint (through the Vulgate), Melito and Origen testify similarly.[21] Although Jesus Ben Sirach did not mention Daniel in his list of ‘famous Israelites’ in the first or second century B.C.,[22] the fact that he did not also mention Ezra, Job, Asa, Jehoshphat, Mordecai and some Judges shows that his list is non-determinative.[23] 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.
[24] Yet all these have been responded accordingly.[25] On top of that, the twenty or so Assyro-Bablyonian words in Daniel can be evidences that it was composed earlier before the Greek Empire[26] though 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.
[27] 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 of historical-critical study, they will not be discussed here.[28]

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 person
[29] as 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).
[30] 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.

[1] Similar with Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and Alister McGrath’s essay ‘A Working Paper: The Ordering of the World in a Scientific Theology’ in The Order of Things (UK: Blackwell, 2006), p.183-193.
[2] 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).
[3] 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,, accessed on 25 April 2010).
[4] J. G. Baldwin, Daniel (USA: IVP Press, 1978), p.19-20.
[5] 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.
[6] 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.
[7] British Museum, Cuneiform tablet with part of the Nabonidus Chronicle (556-530s BC), The translation of ‘Nabonidus Chronicle’ column III-IV, (accessed 27 April 2010).
[8] T. Longman III and R. B. Dillard, An Introduction to the Old Testament (USA: Zondervan, 1994, Second Edition, 2006), p. 378-379.
[9] Ibid, p.379. No reason provided for their rejection of D. J. Wiseman’s proposal.
[10] Ibid, p.380-381. No reason provided for their rejection of W. H. Shea’s proposal.
[11] W. H. Shea, "Darius the Mede in his Persian-Babylonian Setting" in Andrews University Seminary Studies 29, Autumn 1991, p. 235-57; J. Goldingay, Daniel (USA: Word, 1989), p.51.
[12] J. G. Baldwin, Daniel (USA: Intervarsity Press, 1978), p.27; S. R. Miller, Daniel (USA: Broadman and Holman, 1994), p.176.
[13] See the discussion in T. Longman III and R. B. Dillard, An Introduction to the Old Testament (USA: Zondervan, 1994, Second Edition, 2006), p.377-381.
[14] S. R. Driver, An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament (1972 reprint edition), p.498-499; C. L. Seow, Daniel (USA: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), p.5.
[15] G. Archer, A Survey of the Old Testament Introduction (USA: Moody Press, 1974), p.391-392. New Testament example is in Matthew 1.1: Jesus Christ son of David.
[16] A. R. Millard, "Daniel and Belshazzar in History" in Biblical Archaeological Review (May-June 1985), p.77.
[17] J. G. Baldwin, Daniel (USA: Intervarsity Press, 1978), p.22-23.
[18] P. R. Davies, Daniel (UK: JSOT, 1985), p.31.
[19] 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.
[20] 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.
[21] J. C. Whitcomb, Daniel (Chicago: Moody Press, 1985), p.15-16.
[22] S. R. Driver, An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament (1972 reprint edition), p. 498.
[23] G. Archer, A Survey of the Old Testament Introduction (USA: Moody Press, 1974), p.389.
[24] S. R. Driver, An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament (1972 reprint edition), p. 501-508.
[25] 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" in Evangelical Quarterly, (1981), p. 37-47; J. C. Whitcomb, Daniel (Chicago: Moody Press, 1985), p.38.
[26] C. Boutflower, In and Around the Book of Daniel (USA: Zondervan, 1963), p.265.
[27] S. R. Driver, An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament (1972 reprint edition), p.508-515.
[28] Eisegesis like those by J. J. Collins and co. to categorize ‘apocalyptic’ literatures is problematic.
[29] A recent example is Alister McGrath, Science and Religion: A New Introduction (UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), Chapter 33.
[30] P. W. Flint, "The Daniel Tradition at Qumran" in The Book of Daniel: Composition and Reception, ed. J. J. Collins, P. W. Flint, and C. VanEpps (Netherlands: Brill, 2001), p.329-367.

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The Chronicle Concerning the Early Years of Nebuchadnezzar II,, (accessed on 25 April 2010)
Cuneiform tablet with part of the Nabonidus Chronicle (556-530s BC), (accessed 27 April 2010).
The translation of ‘Nabonidus Chronicle’ column III-IV, (accessed 27 April 2010).