Around the 1800s, “critical” scholars in German universities realized the divine implications of fulfilled prophecies in the Bible, so rather than accept their possibility, they produced theories to discredit the original authorship and dating of books by Isaiah, Daniel, and others. Their theories are often complicated (such as proposing multiple authors over centuries and mysterious editors who married manuscripts under a single author’s name and somehow fooled Jewish people into believing them prophetic). They also often force their adherents to ignore ancient claims on authorship by numerous sources, such as Jesus, Josephus, Paul, the author of Hebrews, Peter, and the Gospel authors.
Traditional conservative scholars and pastors believe that Isaiah and Daniel were written in the centuries in which these prophets lived: in the 8th century B.C. (Isaiah) and the 6th century B.C. (Daniel). Some scholars have claimed that the later books of Isaiah (40-66) were written by another author or authors in Babylon in the 6th century B.C. or later under Medo-Persian rule since Isaiah couldn’t have possibly known about King Cyrus before Cyrus was even born. Some scholars have also claimed Daniel or parts of Daniel were written around 165 B.C. since he couldn’t possibly have known about the “abomination of desolation” by Antiochus Epiphanes in 165 or the four kingdoms.
While under Assyrian rule around 722 B.C., Isaiah prophesied that the First Temple would be destroyed (which occurred in 586 B.C.) and King Cyrus would permit the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem and their Temple (which was completed in 516 B.C.). During the Babylonian exile of the Hebrews (6th century B.C.), Daniel prophesied the future kingdoms of Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. He also prophesied that God’s Kingdom and the Messianic era would be ushered in during the last of the four kingdoms (Rome). These fulfilled prophecies are among many by the two authors, which is why ancient Jews and Christians called them prophets and included them in their canons. Fulfilled prophecies help to affirm the validity of the Bible and God’s Word. Below I’ve listed the Jewish historian Josephus’ pre-emptive rebuttals to claims of multiple authorship or late dating.
In chapter 1 in book 11 of Antiquities of the Jews, he shared the following information about King Cyrus of Persia:
“In the first year of the reign of Cyrus; which was the seventieth from the day that our people were removed out of their own land into Babylon; God commiserated the captivity and calamity of these poor people: according as he had foretold to them by Jeremiah the Prophet, before the destruction of the city; that after they had served Nebuchadnezzar, and his posterity; and after they had undergone that servitude seventy years, he would restore them again to the land of their fathers; and they should build their temple, and enjoy their ancient prosperity. And these things God did afford them. For he stirred up the mind of Cyrus, and made him write thus throughout all Asia: “Thus saith Cyrus the King: since God Almighty hath appointed me to be King of the habitable earth, I believe that He is that God, which the nation of the Israelites worship. For indeed he foretold my name by the Prophets, and that I should build him a house at Jerusalem, in the country of Judea.”
“This was known to Cyrus by his reading the book which Isaiah left behind him of his Prophecies. For this Prophet said, that God had spoken thus to him in a secret vision: ‘My will is, that Cyrus, whom I have appointed to be King over many and great nations, send back my people to their own land, and build my temple.’ This was foretold by Isaiah one hundred and forty years before the temple was demolished. Accordingly, when Cyrus read this, and admired the divine power, an earnest desire and an ambition seized upon him, to fulfill what was so written. So he called for the most eminent Jews that were in Babylon, and said to them, that ‘He gave them leave to go back to their own country, and to rebuild their city Jerusalem, and the temple of God; for that he would be their assistant; and that he would write to the rulers and governors that were in the neighborhood of their country of Judea, that they should contribute to them gold and silver, for the building of the temple; and besides that, beasts for their sacrifices.’”
In Against Apion 1:8, Josephus stated that the canon of the Jewish Scriptures was closed at the reign of Artaxerxes, between 465 and 425 B.C., which refutes claims of 165 B.C. dating of Daniel. The passage is as follows:
“For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another, [as the Greeks have,] but only twenty-two books, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine; and of them five belong to Moses, which contain his laws and the traditions of the origin of mankind till his death. This interval of time was little short of three thousand years; but as to the time from the death of Moses till the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, who reigned after Xerxes, the prophets, who were after Moses, wrote down what was done in their times in thirteen books. The remaining four books contain hymns to God, and precepts for the conduct of human life. It is true, our history hath been written since Artaxerxes very particularly, but hath not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there hath not been an exact succession of prophets since that time; and how firmly we have given credit to these books of our own nation is evident by what we do; for during so many ages as have already passed, no one has been so bold as either to add anything to them, to take anything from them, or to make any change in them; but it is become natural to all Jews immediately, and from their very birth, to esteem these books to contain Divine doctrines, and to persist in them, and, if occasion be willingly to die for them.”
In 12:6 of the same book, Josephus recounted a visit by Alexander the Great to Jerusalem around 332 B.C. and specifically mentioned the book of Daniel (11:8-15).
“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. And as he was then glad, he dismissed the multitude for the present: but the next day he called them to him, and bid them ask what favors they pleased of him. Whereupon the High Priest desired, that they might enjoy the laws of their forefathers: and might pay no tribute on the seventh year.”
In 10:276, Josephus made clear that Daniel was “written many years before” Antiochus (~165 B.C.):
“And indeed it so came to pass, that our nation suffered these things under Antiochus Epiphanes, according to Daniel’s vision, and what he wrote many years before they came to pass. In the very same manner Daniel also wrote concerning the Roman government, and that our country should be made desolate by them.”
In 12:6, he specified the number of years, dating Daniel into the 6th century, B.C.:
“For so it was, that the temple was made desolate by Antiochus, and so continued for three years. For this desolation happened to the temple in the hundred forty and fifth year; on the twenty fifth day of the month Apelleus; and on the hundred fifty and third Olympiad. But it was dedicated anew, on the same day, the twenty fifth of the month Apelleus, on the hundred forty eighth year; and on the hundred fifty fourth Olympiad. And this desolation came to pass according to the prophecy of Daniel, which was given four hundred and eight years before. For he declared that the Macedonians would dissolve that worship, [for some time.]
Let the ancients speak! They often reveal truths and we should be seeking the truth and speaking truth to power. Thank you for your time.
SJ Thomason is a business professor who teaches management, leadership, cross-cultural, and communication courses. She’s been working on a book on the dating and authorship of Isaiah, which will focus on its content, literary devices, prophecies, and alignment with the New Testament.