Daniel in the Liberal Revisionists’ Lions’ Den: When, Where, and Who Wrote the Book of Daniel?

Modern liberal revisionists can’t stomach the view that Daniel correctly prophesied a variety of events that occurred decades and centuries after his time, so they have invented the notion (following the 3rd century A.D. pagan Porphyry) that Daniel was written by an imposter in the 2nd century B.C. who duped ancient Jews into thinking his book was worthy of inclusion into Jewish Holy Scriptures within a handful of years after being written. This blog is part of a larger argument against that notion and to pull Daniel from the proverbial Lion’s Den into the prophetic position where he belongs.

Who was Daniel?

While exiled in Babylon in the 6th century B.C., Daniel prophesied the future kingdoms of Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome through Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2 and in his own visions and dreams in Daniel 7 and 8. Greece would be like a leopard with “four wings of a bird on its back.”[1] Alexander the Great ruled Greece between 336 and 323 B.C. In only a handful of years, Alexander conquered thousands of miles of land and amassed a massive empire. Upon his passing, his four generals Cassander, Ptolemy, Antigonus, and Seleucus split up the kingdom. Antiochus IV (or Antiochus Epiphanes, “God manifest” or Antiochus Epimanes, “the Mad”) was a descendent of Seleucus.    

“As for the ram that you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia[2] [Darius the Mede and Cyrus.] And the goat is the king of Greece. And the great horn between his eyes is the first king [Alexander the Great] As for the horn that was broken, in place of which four others arose, four kingdoms shall arise from his nation, but not with his power. And at the latter end of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their limit, a king of bold face, one who understands riddles, shall arise. His power shall be great—but not by his own power; and he shall cause fearful destruction and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people who are the saints. By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great. Without warning he shall destroy many. And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes, and he shall be broken—but by no human hand.” (Daniel 8:20-25)

“Then the goat became exceedingly great, but when he was strong, the great horn was broken, and instead of it there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven. Out of one of them came a little horn, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land. It grew great, even to the host of heaven. And some of the host and some of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them. It became great, even as great as the Prince of the host. And the regular burnt offering was taken away from him, and the place of his sanctuary was overthrown. And a host will be given over to it together with the regular burnt offering because of transgression, and it will throw truth to the ground, and it will act and prosper. Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the one who spoke, ‘For how long is the vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled underfoot?’ And he said to me, ‘For 2,300 evenings and mornings. Then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.’ (Daniel 8:8-14)

Who was Antiochus Epiphanes?

Antiochus Epiphanes reigned from 175 to 164 B.C., when he died. In 169 B.C., he plundered the 2nd Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, and in 167 B.C., he desecrated it by building an altar to Zeus and demanding worship of him.[3]

“And from the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be 1,290 days.” (Daniel 12:11)

The 2nd book of Maccabees (9) detailed Antiochus Epiphanes’ fate. The Jews had forced him to flee, which bruised his outsized ego, so he decided to get them back by returning to Jerusalem and turning it into a mass grave. He set out on a chariot when God struck him hard with an invisible blow, which resulted in unbearable stomach pain. Now his fiery rage and arrogance fueled him as he raced again to Jerusalem only to be thrown to the ground by God once again. He writhed in pain as his flesh started to rot and stink, which continued to his death.   

The Jewish people led by the Maccabees (or “hammer”) revolted around 167 B.C.[4] and he was eventually stopped. Today, the celebration of Hanukkah is in remembrance of this Maccabean victory.

Porphyry’s “Against Christians”

Sometime around 285 A.D., a pagan named Porphyry of Tyre must have read the book of Daniel and drawn parallels with his prophesied events in the Maccabean time period. Rather than accept the divine implications of fulfilled prophecies, he invented the notion that an unnamed person who lived in the Maccabean period wrote Daniel and somehow managed to insert his writings into Jewish canon, which Josephus said had been closed over 2 centuries earlier.[5]

Early church fathers rejected Porphyry’s book Against Christians and declared his claims heretical. Eusebius, Appollinarius, Methodius, and Jerome soundly kicked Porphyry’s claims to the grave,[6] where they languished for centuries. Liberal revisionists such as Samuel R. Driver (1846-1914) resurrected Porphyry’s notions, which still waft through the halls of academia today despite new evidence against them.

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has reinforced conservative scholars’ original dating of the book of Daniel to the 6th century B.C. The scroll 4QFlorilegium includes the quotation “which is written in the book of Daniel the prophet.”[7] Scholars have dated some of the books of the Daniel DSS to 125 B.C. and others to 60 B.C.[8] These findings have led scholars such as Roland K. Harrison to reject the assertion that Daniel is a Maccabean product.[9] Final authorization of the Jewish Scriptures (or what later was referred to as “canonization”) couldn’t have possibly have occurred in such a short time period.[10]

Conclusion

In conclusion, we need not accept the notions that Daniel was written during or after his many prophecies. We need to follow the truth, which is that God gave Daniel truths in visions and dreams many centuries prior to the events they prophesied. Daniel further prophesied the coming of our Messiah in both a glorious form (Daniel 7) and one whose life would be cut short (Daniel 9). Thankfully the discovery of multiple Daniel Dead Sea Scrolls prevents scholars from digging their claws into those fulfillments.

Thank you for reading my blog. This is from a chapter in a new book I’m writing on the book of Isaiah. Please consider subscribing here and on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/c/ChristianApologist/about


[1] Daniel 7:6

[2] Through the ram with two horns, Daniel’s view of dual reign between the Medes and Persians is clear. This view is further underscored by the writing on the wall with King Belshazzar in Daniel 5:26-28. Daniel translated the words on the wall: “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.” Upharsin is the plural of Peres. Belshazzar had been weighed in the balances and found wanting and his kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians. Some have posited four kingdoms of Babylon, Media, Persia, and Greece, but we have no evidence to suggest Media had conquered Babylon separate from the Persians. 

[3] Duignan, B., Rodriguez, E., Sampaolo, M., and Sheetz, K. (2020).  Temple of Jerusalem. Encyclopedia Britannica, September 17. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Temple-of-Jerusalem.

[4] Note that scholars have debated the dating of the Maccabean revolt, which was either between 168 and 165 or 167 and 164 B.C.  L.L. Grabbe (1991). Maccabean Chronology. Journal of Biblical Literature, 110(1), 59-74.

[5] Josephus, F., Against Apion, with an English translation by H. St. J. Thackeray, (1926). Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA. http://www.philipharland.com/Courses/Readings/5025/Josephus,%20Against%20Apion.pdf.

[6] Archer, G.L. (1958). St. Jerome, Commentary on Daniel. English translation by Gleason L. Archer. Baker Book House  https://www.tertullian.org/fathers/jerome_daniel_01_intro.htm

[7] Brooke, G.J. (1984). Exegesis at Qumran: 4Q Florilegium. A&C Black

[8] Hasel, G.E. (1990). The book of Daniel confirmed by the Dead Sea Scrolls, Journal of the Adventist Theological Society, 1/2, 37-49.

[9] Harrison, R.K. (1969). Book of Daniel, Introduction to the Old Testament, William B. Eerdmans, p. 1127.   

[10] Hasel, G.E. (1990). The book of Daniel confirmed by the Dead Sea Scrolls, Journal of the Adventist Theological Society, 1/2, 37-49.

10 Replies to “Daniel in the Liberal Revisionists’ Lions’ Den: When, Where, and Who Wrote the Book of Daniel?”

    1. Thanks. I’m glad you agree. There is far more evidence than this too – from conservative scholars like Gleason Archer. He analyzed the Aramaic and Hebrew against Aramaic and Hebrew from the 2 and 3rd centuries BC – and they’re not consistent with the forms from Daniel.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. This one will be about how we work out our faith at work. I find that many churches talk about faith but not how that should play out at work. I am using the Sermon on the Mount as a framework for what it can (and should) look like.

        I’ll get you the link to the others. They were written for the corporate marketplace to build up my professional resume.

        Blessings.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. 1. There are no “liberal revisionists.” Scholars from a wide range of faith positions—including a substantial number of Evangelical Christians—have come to the conclusion that at least portions of Daniel were written in the Second Century BCE, and they have reached these conclusions through a sober examination of the numerous pieces of evidence that point in this direction, and not through some bizarre inability to “stomach the view that Daniel correctly prophesied a variety of events.” The fact is that a second century dating of the Book of Daniel makes the most functional sense of all the available evidence, as well as the several historical problems observed within the book.

    2. There was no “canonization” of Jewish scriptures prior to the destruction of Herod’s Temple, and the term is probably misapplied outside of the context of Christian history. We know for a fact that prior to the second century CE there was a variety of Jewish sects, each with its own ideas about “scripture,” what texts were “authoritative,” and what texts were not. There was wide agreement about some of these (like the Torah of Moses, although Gabrielle Boccaccinni has made a compelling case for the existence of an alternative “Enochic Torah” in the Second Temple period. It is unsurprising that some groups might have considered Daniel a prophet, but this is not the same thing as recognising the book of Daniel as part of a closed “canon.” Texts and ideas about them were still very fluid as late as the time of Jesus.

    3.The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls have very little—if not nothing—to say about the dating of the book of Daniel to the 6th century BCE. The so-called “Florilegium” (otherwise known as the “Messianic Apocalypse” is dated to about 50 BCE at the earliest, and its identification of Daniel as a “prophet” does not in any way indicate that the book was composed as early as the sixth century. The Daniel manuscripts themselves date between 125 BCE to 60 CE, and not one of them is complete. In fact—and most interestingly—the earliest of these mss actually contained only small portions of the book, and there is no clear indication that they even identified these portions as belonging to “Daniel.” Moreover, the existence of several other Daniel-like texts such as Pseudo-Daniel, the prophecies of the Four Trees, the Four Kingdoms scroll and the Apocypha of Jeremiah all strongly suggest that the Book of Daniel itself was a composite work, and still very much in its development by as late as the mid-first century BCE.

    4. There is no evidence whatsoever to support the bald assertion that “canonization couldn’t have possibly have occurred in such a short time period.” In the first place, applying a term like “canonisation” to Second Temple Judaism is historically and theologically inappropriate, but moreover, with the exhibited variety of sects and ideas within Judaism in the Second Temple period, we simply have no way of knowing one way or the other what an acceptable time of passage from composition to “scripturation” would even have looked like. On the contrary, the evidence from Qumran for the Daniel scrolls actually strongly suggests that texts could be viewed as “authoritative” within decades of their origin.

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