Chapter 8

Studies In The Book Of Daniel: A Discussion of the Historical Questions by Robert Dick Wilson




  One of the worst errors of the modern critics is their supposing that one can posit the sources from which a writer who lived two thousand or more years ago must have derived his information. The complacence and self-assurance with which a knowledge of such sources is assumed might be dismissed with a smile, were it not that these suppositions are often put forward as arguments to prove a proposition. It seems marvelous that anyone to-day should fail to recognize that the ancient writers of history, whether sacred or profane, had access to many documentary sources that have long since ceased to exist. Many of these writers claim that they used such sources. Thus, in the introduction to his Expedition of Alexander, Arrian says that he made use of the works of Ptolemy, the first king of Egypt, and Aristobulus, both of whom accompanied Alexander on his campaigns, and also of many others whose names he does not mention. Josephus, in his treatise Contra Apion, gives the names of about forty historians of different nations from whom he culled his statements; and he asserts again and again that a large part of the material used by him had been derived either by himself or by his authorities directly from written official records possessed by the Egyptians, Baby-

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lonians, Tyrians, and Jews. Polybius gives the names of more than twenty historians from whom he derived his facts. Pliny the younger, in the first book of his Natural History, gives names of the sources of each book that follows. For the fifth book, which contains his account of Palestine, he mentions the names of sixty historians and others from whom he derived his information; and for the whole thirty-seven books he names hundreds of authorities. It is noteworthy, also, that neither of the historians named as sources of Arrian is mentioned by either Josephus, Polybius, or Pliny; and that each of the three last named gives among his sources the names of some who were not apparently used by the others. Further, it will be noted that many of the authorities used by Polybius, Josephus, and Pliny, for their information about Persia, Egypt, Syria, and Palestine, are historians who lived and wrote long before the second century B.C., and hence were very near to the time of the events they narrate. Furthermore, both Polybius and Josephus affirm that they themselves had access to and frequently consulted official records that had been preserved to their time; and Josephus reiterates the fact that his chief authorities made use of the archives of the respective countries whose histories they had written. Thus of Manetho he says that “he was a man who was by birth an Egyptian, yet had made himself master of the Greek learning, as is very evident; for he wrote the history of his own country in the Greek tongue, by translating it, as he says himself, out of the sacred records.”1 Of Dius, he says that he was “one that is believed to have written the Phenician History after an accurate manner,” and of Menander the Ephesian, that he “wrote

1 Cont. Ap., i, 14.

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the acts that were done by the Greeks and Barbarians under every one of the Syrian kings; and had taken much pains to learn their history out of their own records.”1 Of Berosus, he says that “he was by birth a Chaldean, well known to the learned, on account of his publication among the Greeks of the Chaldean books of astronomy and philosophy. This Berosus, therefore, following the most ancient records of the nations, gives us a history.”2 Moreover, many other eminent authors who wrote in the Greek language were known to Josephus, such as Ephorus (400 to 300 B.C.), Theopompus (380 to 330 (?) B.C.), Hecatæus (6th-5th cent. B.C.), Herodotus (464 to 424 B.C.), and Thucydides (471-400 B.C.). A certain Castor, also, is named by him as one of his authorities, a man so utterly unknown to the classical writers that his name even is not given in Liddell and Scott’s Greek Dictionary, in the Encyclopedia Britannica, nor in the classical dictionaries.

  From all this, it will be perfectly evident that all educated men living in and before the second century B.C. must have had access to so much information with regard to the number and history of the Babylonian and Persian kings, as to render it highly improbable that any writer of the second century B.C. could have been as ignorant of the history of Persia as certain critics represent the writer of Daniel to have been. Besides, if he himself had been as ignorant of the facts about which he wrote as the critics represent him to have been, how could he have palmed off his work on the Jews of that period as genuine and authentic? According to the critics themselves, it was the time of the two Ben-Siras, and the authors of Tobit, Judith, First

1 Cont. Ap., i, 17.    2 Cont. Ap., i, 19.

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Maccabees, the Letter of Aristeas, and many other literary compositions, so that in such an atmosphere, it is not likely that an author of the ability of the writer of the Book of Daniel could have had no knowledge of the history of Persia, except what he learned from the Jewish Scriptures; and it is especially unlikely that the Jews of that time would have failed to recognize the alleged historical inaccuracies of the book, did they exist; and to reject it as they did reject Tobit, Judith, and other works.

  But after having made this great and yet absolutely unprovable assumption that it can now be known what sources of information a writer of the second century B.C. may have had before him, the critics go a step farther and assert that the author of Daniel can have had but a “dim consciousness” of the events of the sixth century B.C., of which he on his part assumes to speak. Now, whatever opinion one may have with regard to the writer of the Book of Daniel, it seems certain that the very last impression one could derive from the book itself would be that the writer himself felt that he had a dim and uncertain knowledge of the events which he narrates. Few writers are more vivid, more circumstantial, or more given to detail. Few writings bear on their face clearer indication of being the narration of an eye-witness. No document, whether a fictitious or a real story could more manifestly purport to contain the actual words and deeds of the chief actor around whom the plot centered. The writer was certainly not oppressed with the sense of having but a dim consciousness of the things of which he writes. Perhaps, after all, it is we to-day who have the dim consciousness of the times and events and persons that he describes so graphically, —a dim consciousness,

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a very limited and uncertain knowledge, of what transpired at the time when the sun of Babylon’s glory rose in splendor under Nebuchadnezzar, or when it set amid the shame and confusion of Nabunaid and his first-born son. Until this dimness be dispelled and this darkness enlightened by documentary evidence we shall be compelled to believe the writer of Daniel most probably knew more about the subject than any one of us to-day with the evidence at our disposal can ever possibly know. In view of the fact that the works of Herodotus, Ctesias, Berosus, Menander, and many others which treated of the affairs of Assyria, Babylonia, and Persia, may have been known to a writer of the second century B.C., how can any man have the assurance to assert that the author of Daniel must have believed that the Medes without the assistance of the Persians must have captured Babylon? How can anyone know that he derived his information as to the capture of Babylon from the slender hints of Isaiah 13 and 21 and Jeremiah 51 alone, that the author of Daniel possessed but a dim consciousness of the fact that the Persian empire had grown out of the Median kingdom, or that a Darius really did capture Babylon? In the name of scholarship and for the sake of truth and righteousness, it is time to call a halt on all those who presume to a knowledge which they do not possess, in order to cast reproach upon an ancient writer, as to whose sources of information and knowledge of the facts they must be ignorant and whose statements they cannot possibly fully understand, nor successfully contradict.

  It need hardly be stated that the foregoing paragraphs are concerned primarily with the defense of the historicity, rather than of the early date of Daniel. The

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reader, however, will recognize that in the subject discussed in this chapter, the historicity is the principal point of attack, and not the date. For if the author of Daniel is incorrect in what he says about the relations of the Medes to the conquest of Babylon it makes no material difference when his account of it was written, —whether in the sixth or in the second century B.C. But if the work is correct historically, the way is then open to discuss the date of the composition. If it can be shown that there is no sufficient reason for denying the correctness of its historical statements, those who believe in the possibility of miracles and predictive prophecy will be free to accept the early date of its composition. If on the other hand it can be shown that the book is wrong in its statements regarding ordinary historical events, there will be no solid ground upon which to base a defense of its miracles and predictions, nor of its authenticity and early date. The historical statements may be true without being authentic. They cannot be authentic unless they are trustworthy.

  In this chapter, then, the discussion will be confined to the objections to the historicity of Daniel based upon what he is assumed to say about the connection of the Medes with the conquest of Babylon.


  That the Medes must have captured Babylon is derived from Isa. 13:17, 21:2, and Jer. 51:11, 28, in connection with which the author possessed a dim consciousness of the fact that the Persian empire had grown out of the Median kingdom and that once a Darius really did capture Babylon.1

1 Cornill, pp. 384, 385.

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  This sentence is a possible, or even probable, explanation of how a writer of the second century B.C. might have said that Babylon was taken by the Medes. But as regards the book of Daniel, there are four assumptions in it.


  It is assumed first, that Daniel says specifically that the Medes, apart from the Persians, conquered Babylon; secondly, that he derived this information from certain passages in Isaiah and Jeremiah; that, thirdly, the author had a dim consciousness of the fact that the Persian empire had grown out of the Median kingdom; and fourthly, that the writer of Daniel had as the ground of his statements with regard to Darius nothing more substantial to build on than a dim consciousness that once a Darius really did capture Babylon.


  1. With regard to the first of these assumptions, there can be no doubt that the writer of Daniel might justly have said that Babylon was taken by the Medes, inasmuch as Gobryas, governor of Gutium (which, as will be shown below, was in part, at least, coextensive with Media), was the general who while commanding an army under Cyrus took Babylon for him. But as a matter of fact Daniel says nothing of the kind. He says simply that after the death of Belshazzar the Chaldean king, Darius the Mede, received his kingdom;1 and again that Darius was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans.2 But on the other

1 Chapter 5:31.     2 9:1.

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hand Daniel does not say that the Persians under Cyrus took Babylon without the assistance of the Medes. The truth is, it was the Medes and Persians who conquered Babylon. If it be granted, as Professor Sayce, followed by Winckler, has contended that Astyages was not a Mede but a Scythian; then, Cyrus the Persian, and Harpagus the Mede, rebelled against the domination of the alien Scythian, and Cyrus became king of the united peoples, the Medes and Persians, from that time on one and inseparable. This view harmonizes with the facts recorded on the monuments and with the statements of the Scriptures and of the classical writers.1

1 There is abundant evidence from the monuments to show that Gutium was in part at least coextensive with Media. For example, the Nabunaid-Cyrus Chronicle states expressly that Gubaru, the governor of Gutium, captured the citadel of Babylon. According to Winckler, in his History of Babylonia and Assyria (p. 48), Gutium was north of Anzan and Susa, and corresponded substantially to Armenia south of Lake Van, though in his Untersuchungen [page 131], he says it was the country between the Euphrates and Tigris [History of Babylonia and Assyria, page 124]. Again he renders it by “North Countries.” In fact, throughout all the changes of population, the part of the world north of Assyria was known to the inhabitants of Babylon and Assyria as Gutium. In the time of Naram-Sin, the king of Gutium made a dedicatory offering in Babylonia which contains an inscription written, like those of Naram-Sin, in Babylonian. Ashurbanipal, in his Annals (Col. iii, 103) speaks of the kings of the land of Guti. Gubaru, governor of Gutium, may justly have been called governor of the Medes, or king of Guti in the sense employed by Ashurbanipal.

  A strong argument in favor of Gutium’s having been regarded by the Babylonians as embracing Media is that Media is never mentioned on the Babylonian monuments before the time of Xerxes, that Gutium designates the region of Media in the only original Babylonian document mentioning that part of the world; and that on the other hand, Gutium is not mentioned on the Behistun Inscription, but Mada denotes the region denoted earlier by the Babylonian word Gutium. A modern illustration of different names for the same country is Germany, Allemagne, Deutschland; an ancient, Hellas, Græcia, land of the Javanites. A more ancient still is Elam, which appears in other languages under the names of Uwaga, Hatamtup, and Susiana. Again, it seems clear from the references to the destruction of Astyages by Cyrus, which we find in the Babylonian documents, that Gutium and Media were the same country in the estimation of  the writers of those documents. Thus, in the Cyrus’ Clay Cylinder, 13, it is said that “Marduk caused the land of Kuti (Guti) the totality of the host of the Manda, to bow at the feet of Cyrus.” In the Abu Habba Cylinder, we are informed that Astyages the king of the host of Manda, together with his land and the kings his helpers, were no more, because the host had been scattered by the small army of Cyrus king of Anzan, the little vassal of Astyages; and that the latter had been captured and taken prisoner to the former’s land [Col. i, 11–38]. In the Nabunaid-Cyrus Chronicle it is said that the troops revolted against Astyages and that he was captured and delivered into the hands of Cyrus, who advanced to Ecbatana the capital city, where he took silver, gold, and other spoils and carried them to the land of Anshan. Later in the same, it is said that Gobryas was the governor of Gutium or Kuti.

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  Inasmuch, then, as Herodotus1 makes Astyages to have been king of Media and his capital city to have been Ecbatana and the revolted troops to have been Medes; and as the inscriptions make him to have been king of Guti or Gutium, the revolted troops to have been the host of Manda, his capital city to have been Ecbatana, and Gobryas to have been the successor of Astyages in the government of Gutium, though as subordinate to Cyrus the conqueror of Astyages; and finally, inasmuch as this Gobryas the successor of Astyages king of Media, or of the host of the Manda, is said in the Nabunaid-Cyrus Chronicle to have captured Babylon for Cyrus; it is not far fetched to suppose that Gobryas may have been called by his subjects, at least in the Aramean tongue, the king of the Medes, and that his soldiers, his subjects, and himself, may have been called in the same tongue Medes.

1 Bk. I, 107–130.

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  It must be remembered here that the little we know about the Medes and Persians shows that there was a close relationship existing between them. According to the biblical and Greek records, they were substantially one people in race and language. On the Behistun Inscription, Darius treats the Medes and no others as the equals of the Persians. Thus in sections i, 10, 11, he speaks of Persia and Media and the other provinces. In section ix, 13, he says, “there was no one, neither Persian nor Mede nor anyone from our family, who would have wrested the kingdom from Smerdis the Magian till I came.”  The seat of Smerdis’ kingdom was at “Sikayanvatish in the province of Nisaya in Media.” Again, in section i, 14, Darius says, “I placed the people in this place, Persia, Media, and the other provinces.” Again, in ii, 14, he sends a Persian and a Median army under the command of Takhmaspada, a Median, against an uprising in Sagartia. Again, in iii, 6, he sends out the Persian and the Median army against an uprising in Persia itself. In iii, 14, he sends an army against Babylon under command of a Median, Vindafra by name.

  In the Babylonian contract tablets of the reign of Xerxes, we find Media mentioned along with Persia in the titles of a number of inscriptions. For example, in the Acts of the 8th Congress of Orientalists, Strassmaier has given a number of contracts from the time of Xerxes. In No. 19, the subscription reads, “Xerxes, king of Persia and Media”; and in No. 20, “Xerxes, king of Persia and of the land of the Medes.” So also, in vol. iv, No. 193 and No. 194, of the inscriptions published by the Vorderasiatische Gesellschaft of Berlin, we find “Xerxes, (king) of Persia and Media, king (?)

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of Babylon (?) and of the lands.”1 Evetts, No.3, reads: “Xerxes, king of the land of Persia and of the land of the Medes.” In the Morgan Collection, vol. i, 85, we read: “Xerxes, king of the city of Persia (and) of the city of Media,” city being used for country.2

  In the Greek writers of the fifth century B.C. the ordinary designation for the people and kings was Mede, not Persian.3

  2. The second assumption is that the author of Daniel derived most of his information about the conquest of Babylon by the Medes from certain passages in Isaiah and Jeremiah. These passages read as follows:

  “Behold I shall stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver” (Is. 13:17). “Go up, O Elam, besiege, O Media, according to the sighing thereof have I made thee to cease” (Is. 21:2). “Make bright the arrows, gather the shields Jehovah hath stirred up the spirit of the Medes. For his device is against Babylon to destroy it” (Jer. 51:11). “Prepare the nations against her, the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz… Prepare against her the nations with the kings of the Medes, the captains thereof and the rulers thereof …for every purpose of Jehovah shall be fulfilled against Babylon” (Jer. 51:28, 30).

  It will be noted (1) that the nations mentioned in these prophecies are Elam, Media, Ararat (i.e., Armenia), Minni, and Ashkenaz; of which all except

1 So also in Evetts, No. 4, and VSD 118 and VI, 181.

2 See the author’s article on the “Titles of the Kings of Persia” in the Festschrift Eduard Sachau, Berlin, 1915.

3 See, for example, Herodotus and Thucydides, in numerous places, and the writer’s articles on the “Titles of Kings in Antiquity,” in the Pres. and Ref. Review for 1904-5.

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the last are frequently named on the monuments from the time of Shalmanezer III to that of Ashurbanipal inclusive.1

  Of these countries Daniel mentions Elam as a province of Belshazzar (8:2), and speaks several times of the Medes and of Darius the Mede; but he never speaks of the land, kingdom, or kings of the Medes, nor of their captains and rulers. Neither does he mention Minni, Ararat, or Ashkenaz. On the other hand, he refers to Persia, Javan, Chaldea, Shushan, Ulai, and the plain of Dura, which are not mentioned in the passages of Isaiah and Jeremiah cited by Prof.

1 Elam is mentioned frequently in the inscriptions from the time of Isaiah (e.g., by Sargon, KB ii, 40; by Sennacherib, KB 102, 104, 106; by Esarhaddon, KB 128,144; by Ashurbanipal, KB ii, 180-214 passim). Jeremiah speaks of the kings of Elam (25:25), and of the impending destruction of its king and princes (49:35-39). Nebuchadnezzar does not mention it. Nabunaid refers once to the fruit of the land of Elam; and once to Ishtar the mistress of Elam who dwells in Susa (Zehnpfund-Langdon, Neubabylonische Königsinschriften, p. 276, iii, 41, and 292, iii, 15). Darius Hystaspis put down a rebellion in it, which occurred shortly after his accession (Beh. Insc. § 16), and it is frequently mentioned by the Persian kings as a province of their empire.

  Media is frequently named on the Assyrian inscriptions from Shalmanezer III onward (KB i, 142, 180, ii, 7, 18, 128, 132, 146). It occurs many times in the Behistun Inscription in the Babylonian recension as well as in Persian and Susian. It is also found on some Babylonian tablets from the first years of Xerxes. Commonly elsewhere on the Babylonian documents, Gutium is used to denote what the Assyrians call Media (e.g., on stele Nab.-Con. iv, 21, and Cyr.-Cyl., 13 and 31). A third designation for the country is “the land of Ecbatana” (Nab.-Cyr. Chronicle, B. 3, 4, and Strass. Cyr., 60, 16).

  Ararat as the name of Armenia is common in Assyrian and Babylonian from Shalmanezer’s time to that of Darius Hystaspis (KB i, 144, 164, ii, 6, 18, 146; Behistun, §§ 26, 52).  Minni occurs in Assyrian from the time of Shalmanezer to Ashurbanipal (KB i, 146, 178, ii, 128, 178).

  If Ashkenaz be the same as Asquzai, it is mentioned twice in the inscriptions of Esarhaddon (KB ii, 146. See Jeremias, The Old Testament in the Light of the Ancient East, i, 283, and Knudtzon, Assyrische Gebete an den Sonnengott, Nos. 23-35).

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Cornill. In view of these facts, how can it be said that Daniel derived his information as to the conquest of Babylon from these sources?

  3. The third assumption admits that the author of Daniel knew that the Persian empire had grown out of the Median kingdom. But Prof. Cornill asserts that this knowledge was a “dim consciousness.” As to what he means by this phrase he does not enlighten us, nor does he give any examples, nor any proof of it. If he means that the author of Daniel says little explicit about the relations existing between Media and Persia, it will be admitted. Daniel, indeed, speaks of laws of the Medes and Persians,1 and says that Belshazzar’s kingdom was divided and given to the Medes and Persians,2 and interprets the two horns of the ram that was seen in his vision as denoting the kings of Media and Persia, both horns springing from the same head, but the Persian being later and higher than the Median.3 He says also that Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian4; and speaks of the first year of Cyrus the king5 and of the third year of Cyrus, king of Persia,6 of the first year of Darius the Mede,7 and of the first year of Darius the son of Xerxes of the seed of the Medes, who had been made king over the realm of the Chaldeans.8 He says, further, that this Darius the Mede received the Chaldean Kingdom, when he was about sixty-two years of age,9 and that he organized this kingdom for governmental purposes.10 Finally, he speaks of a “prince of Persia”11 and of “kings of Persia.”12

  But all this does not imply that he had a dim con-

1 6:8, 12, 15.    2 5:28.    3 8:3, 20.    4 6:29.    5 1:21.    6 10:1.

7 11:1.    8 9:1.    9 6:1.    10 6:2-4.    11 10:13, 20.    12 10:13, 11:20.

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sciousness that the Persian empire had grown out of the Median kingdom —a subject which he does not propose to state or discuss— but rather an exact knowledge of the fact that the kingdom of Darius the Mede had been established on the ruins of the kingdom of the Chaldeans which had been conquered from Belshazzar. For notice (1) that the author of Daniel does not call anyone “king of Media” or “king of the Medes”; (2) that he always puts the Medes before the Persians, as if he knew that the Median hegemony had preceded the Persian; (3) that Darius the Mede is said to have received the kingdom of Belshazzar the Chaldean; (4) that he makes Cyrus the Persian to be the real successor to the power of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (1:1, 18, 21, 6:29); (5) that he does not purport to discuss the origin of the kingdom of Persia, nor its relation to Media; (6) that he gives the years of the reigns of Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus, and other items of information, which attest the honesty of his intentions and challenge the denial of his veracity; and (7) that no evidence has been produced by Prof. Cornill to show that he was either dishonest in his intentions, or unveracious in his statements.

  4. The fourth assumption of Professor Cornill is that the writer of Daniel had nothing but a dim consciousness that once a Darius really did conquer Babylon. In the following chapters it will be shown that this assumption is a pure assertion without any proof and incapable of proof.


  The above discussion has shown that the book of Daniel does not state that the Medes conquered Baby-

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lon apart from the Persians; nor that the Persians conquered Babylon without the assistance of the Medes. Hence, there is no cause for assuming that the writer had nothing but a dim consciousness that once a Darius did conquer Babylon, inasmuch as the statements of the book are in absolute harmony with the facts made known from other sources.

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Home Up Chapter 9

Studies In The Book Of Daniel: A Discussion Of The Historical Questions by Robert Dick Wilson. New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, The Knickerbocker Press, 1917.

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