Book of Daniel Authenticity ~ Daniel in The Critics' Den ~ Robert Dick Wilson's Studies in the Book of Daniel ~ 10/21/06
The Authenticity of the Book of Daniel
the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel saw a dream and visions
in his mind as he lay on his bed; then he wrote the dream down and related
the following summary of it.” (Daniel
Some Thoughts in Progress…
Prima Facie, the authenticity of the Book of Daniel is a slam dunk for the evangelical believer. Daniel is authentic because Jesus quoted from the Book of Daniel and attributed it to the prophet Daniel:
The hattrick is surely the Ezekiel triad, which speaks boldly of the Daniel we know. If Daniel is a fiction of the second century B.C., of whom does the prophet Ezekiel speak? No mythic, shadowy figure fits as well as the most obvious choice, our man in Babylon—Daniel:
The final score should count the brave Maccabeans who looked back upon the Book of Daniel as an heroic example of moral fortitude despite whelming odds. The Book of Maccabees captures this instance:
Does the Book of Daniel’s authenticity demand Daniel himself as author of the book as a final product? Probably not, and in fact the book as a whole does not make this claim. I’m reluctant to claim more than the book itself asserts.
And exactly what genre is the Book of Daniel? Much of the book reads like a tale; it is told with the flare of a masterful storyteller. Consider this wonderful overstatement:
Another exaggeration heightens the drama,
Surely this is overkill, so to speak, on the part of the author of the Book of Daniel! This is not fiction at all, but storytelling based on solid fact, told boldly to rally readers to faith—if not outright cheers!
Another reason some suppose another hand at work in the Book of Daniel is that portions seem editorial or detached: “Then this Daniel began to distinguish himself…” (Dan. 6:3). Still, the first-person narratives of Daniel (e.g., chapter six) are not to be dismissed. Chapter seven seems to directly assert an editor, “In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel saw a dream and visions in his mind as he lay on his bed; then he wrote the dream down and related the following summary of it.” (Dan. 7:1). What standard do we hold for chapter four? Must it be Nebuchadnezzar’s own report? Are these really the words of Nebuchadnezzar? Can it be so? I don’t take these issues lightly, the possibilities are indeed challenging.
I would cautiously suggest that even Jesus’ statement requires only that the Book of Daniel contain authentic material from the life of Daniel accurately recorded. There must have been a historic person named Daniel. His deeds are partially recorded in the Book of Daniel. His life, his prayers, and his visions and trials must be historical to the standards of their time, tempered by the genre of literature of this strange book, and understood in its social–historical context. There must be a reality, there must be a solid, historical core to this book. This is the battleground. Sadly, it’s not much of a battleground anymore as most scholars have retreated long ago.
Daniel’s authenticity is typically contested in the marketplace of ideas and most don’t hold it to be a reliable account of an historical figure who lived in the sixth century B.C. The burden of historical difficulties simply seems insurmountable to most scholars. These interpret Daniel as a kind of literature other than historical narrative and see it as an encouraging tale to build the faith of Jews during the trials of the Intertestamental period. Still, Evangelicals bristle at this suggestion and find it to be immoral to fabricate history. Late date advocates suggest that it was common to create tales of this sort; and the book was not intended nor received as a fraud. Again, this is the great divide of Daniel scholarship. Against this background, amidst the battleground, it is refreshing to read Robert Dick Wilson’s Studies in The Book of Daniel, which relies so heavily on an examination of historical evidence. At this late date, still there is none other that deals so exactingly with the details and claims of the author of the Book of Daniel and his critics.
All views are welcome: come one, come all! The only way to learn, grow, and truly appreciate the Book of Daniel is to hear all viewpoints. I have organized the links below into three categories:
Traditional Date (Conservative scholars who defend the Book of Daniel as authentic history written in the early Persian period).
Late Date (Non–conservatives who hold the Book of Daniel as valuable but entirely or partially a product of the Hellenistic or Maccabean eras).
date advocates who think it’s all a bunch of hooey—most of these guys have an
axe to grind against Christianity and pick up some Late Date arguments as ammunition.
They rarely deal with the issues seriously) Read and evaluate with discernment.
This site was last updated 10/20/06