When and WHY Did the Sanhedrin DEMOTE Daniel the Prophet?

In the Christian Bible, Daniel is listed with the Prophets, yet in the Jewish Tanakh, Daniel is listed in the Writings (Kesuvim), not in the eight books of the Prophets (Neviim). The Jewish Tanakh is divided into three categories: the five books of Moses (Torah): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; the eight books of the prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Twelve minor prophets; and the eleven books of the writings: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra/Nehemiah, and Chronicles.

Jesus seemed to acknowledge this division in Luke 24:44 “He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.”

Yet Jesus also acknowledged that Daniel is a prophet. “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel – let the reader understand.’” – Matthew 24:15

The Jewish historian Josephus also referenced Daniel in Antiquities of the Jews 11:8. He recounted a visit by Alexander the Great to Jerusalem around 332 B.C. and specifically mentioned the book of Daniel (11:8) when he recounted how Alexander the Great read about himself in the book of Daniel (7:6; 8:3-8, 20-22; 11:8).

“And when the book of Daniel was shewed him, wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended.”

Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews 10:4, 6) considered Daniel a prophet.

“But I do not think proper to relate it: since I have only undertaken to describe things past, or things present; but not things that are future. Yet if anyone be so very desirous of knowing truth, as not to wave such points of curiosity, and cannot curb his inclination for understanding the uncertainties of futurity, and whether they will happen or not, let him be diligent in reading the book of Daniel, which he will find among the sacred writings.”

“When he [Nebuchadnezzar] had seen this dream, he called the magicians together again, and inquired of them about it; and desired them to tell him what it signified. But when none of them could find out the meaning of the dream, nor discover it to the King, Daniel was the only person that explained it. And as he foretold, so it came to pass.”

In the Dead Sea Scrolls, which date to the 2nd century B.C., Daniel is referred to as a prophet. Florilegium 4Q174 states that the passages in Daniel 12:10 are written in the “book of Daniel, the prophet.”

In Daniel 9:24, Daniel referred to himself as a prophet when he said “to seal up the vision and prophecy.” Vision and prophecy were “hazon ve-navi.” The word “hazon” refers to a vision and “navi” refers to a prophet.

Some of the prophets in the Jewish Scriptures who were referenced as navi are Isaiah (37:2; 38:1; 39:3), Jeremiah (1:5), Ezekiel (2:5), Habakkuk (1:1; 3:1) and Zechariah (1:1,7) (Sumner, 2019). Prophets not called navi who were included in the book of Prophets are Amos, Hosea, Joel, Jonah, Malachi, Micah, Obadiah, and Zephaniah (Sumner, 2019). In other words, the book of Prophets includes 9 un-named prophets and excludes 1 named prophet, Daniel.

Furthermore, Daniel is referenced three times in Ezekiel within the book of Prophets. Ezekiel called Daniel wise and righteous (14:14; 14:20; 28:3). Daniel was clearly respected by both his peers and those in the years to follow through the first century A.D.

When did Daniel get demoted?

The Talmud is a comprehensive written version of Jewish commentary and oral law, which include the Mishnah and the Gemara. The book was compiled between the 2nd and 5th centuries A.D. In the Babylonian Talmud Megillah 3a, the authors claimed that Daniel was not a prophet.

“It is written [Daniel 7] ‘And I, Daniel, saw alone this appearance, but the men that were with me did not see the appearance; nevertheless a great terror fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves.’ Who were these men? Said R. Jeremiah, according to others R. Hyya b. Abba: They were Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. They were better than he, because they were prophets, and he, Daniel, was not a prophet. And he was better than they because he saw it, and they, did not see it. But if they did not see, why fell a terror upon them? Although they did not see literally, they saw it clairvoyantly.’ Said Rabbina: ‘From this we may infer that who so is terrified, although he does not himself see, he sees clairvoyantly.” – Babylonian Talmud Megillah 3a, Chapter 1

“Evidently, Daniel was greater than these prophets [Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi], and all the more so he was greater than Nehemiah, who was never privileged to prophesy. Apropos Daniel, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, the Gemara notes: In certain respects, the latter three were greater than Daniel, and in certain respects, Daniel was greater than the latter three. They were greater than he, as they were prophets and he was not a prophet. Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi were designated to transmit their visions of God to the Jewish people, but Daniel was not designated to share his visions with others. And he was greater than they, as he saw this vision, and they did not see this vision.” – Sanhedrin 93b – 94a

Why did the Jews demote Daniel the prophet?

Given evidence that Daniel was revered as a prophet during his own time, in the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls, in the time of Jesus, and in the time of Josephus, one wonders why he was suddenly demoted to non-prophet status. It seems likely that when the Jews realized that Daniel’s prophecies of the Anointed One (in Daniel 9) had been fulfilled, rather than admit he was a prophet and that they had missed the coming of their Savior, they demoted Daniel.

In Sanhedrin 97a and 97b, their reasoning is made clear:

“The school of Eliyahu taught: Six thousand years is the duration of the world. Two thousand of the six thousand years are characterized by chaos [Adam to Abraham]; two thousand years are characterized by Torah, from the era of the Patriarchs until the end of the mishnaic period [Abraham to the Anno Domini era]; and two thousand years are the period of the coming of the Messiah.”

“That is the course that history was to take, but due to our sins that time frame increased. The Messiah did not come after four thousand years passed, and furthermore, the years that elapsed since then, which were to have been the messianic era, have elapsed.”

Why didn’t the Jews who wrote the Talmud recognize Jesus as the Messiah? Numerous times in the Old Testament, we read that only a remnant of Israel would recognize Jesus (Isaiah 4:2-3; Zechariah 3:8). The rest would have eyes and ears, but they won’t be able to see or hear (Psalm 135:16).

Much credit for many of the ideas in this article goes to:

Sumner, P. (2019). Why the Rabbis exiled Daniel (..to the Ketuvim). Hebrew Streams. www.Hebrew-streams.org/works/Hebrew/Daniel-exiled.html


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