Chapter 17

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




  It is futile to suppose that we can define the vocabulary which the writer of an ancient document must have used. To say that a given ancient record cannot have been written before a certain date because a certain word or phrase occurs in it, is to assume a knowledge which we to–day seldom possess. Almost every new find of documents in what ever language written presents to us a number of words which before its discovery were unknown to us. Thus, the papyrus containing the Mimes of Herodas, first published in 1891, revealed a large number of Greek vocables which were not made known in other Greek works of antiquity and were not to be found in our standard classical dictionaries. So, also, Greek papyri, ostraka, and inscriptions have enlarged our knowledge of the so–called Hellenistic Greek, until it has required the rewriting of our grammars and a readjustment of all our conceptions of the origin and use of the common Greek language of New Testament times.

  The recent finds of Aramaic documents in Egypt have in like manner caused a revolution in our ideas of the Aramaic of the times of Ezra. Not merely do they necessitate a revision of all our previous theories with regard to the orthography, phonology, morphology, and syntax of the Aramaic language; they also supple–

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ment the vocabulary with a large number of hitherto undiscovered terms. Above all, they make known to us a large number of foreign words which the Arameans of that time and country have adopted from their rulers and neighbors. So that, when we survey the whole field of foreign words in the various Aramaic dialects, and especially in Egypto–Aramaic, there are found among other peculiarities the following:

  I. 1. Many foreign words are to be found in use in but one Aramaic document.

  2. Some words known to be foreign can be identified with no terms found as yet in the original language from which they are to be derived.

  3. Some words, whose foreign origin is certain, are found in use in Aramaic documents long before they are found in use in the original language from which they were derived.

  4. Some foreign words are found in use in an early document although they are not found again for hundreds of years.

  5. Aramaic words which have been supposed to be borrowed are sometimes found to have been native, or at last Semitic.

  6. Some are found in different documents and in different dialects, but are confined to one age and derived from one source dating from the same period.1

1 In illustration of the above statements the following examples may be given:

  I. 1. (1) Astabid is found in the Syriac Aramaic of Joshua the Stylite (sec. lix) and there only. It is a Persian word said by Joshua to mean Magister, or “master of the soldiery.”

  (2) Chartummin (Dan. 2:10, 27; 4:6, 5:11), denoting one kind of soothsayer, is found nowhere else in Aramaic. It seems to have been taken over by the author of Daniel from the Hebrew of Genesis, the only place where it occurs in the Hebrew of the Old Testament. It is derived apparently from the Egyptian, though not identified with any known Egyptian word.

  2. (1) Nopata, “ship–master,” of Sachau Papyrus No. 8, from Persian Nav “ship,” and pati, “lord.” This compound word is found in no other Aramaic document, or dialect; nor does it occur in Hebrew, nor in Phenician, early or late; nor, in fact, has it been found in Old, Middle, or New Persian. The sense of the context in Papyrus 8, and of a word of like meaning in New Persian, and the meaning of the parts of the compound, seem, however, to justify the form and meaning of the word in this place as given by Dr. Sachau.

  (2) Sewnekanin “Syenese” of the Sac. Pap. No. 4, formed by affixing the Persian ending kan to the word Syene, and then putting on the Aramaic plural ending in.

  (3) Patbag “delicacies” has not been found in Persian either ancient or modern.

  (4) Further examples of this kind are the Greek words kerkiesis and kerkesiris, from the Ptolemaic period, composed of the Aramaic word kerk “village” and the nouns Isis and Osiris. These Aramaic words which are thus made known by the Greek papyri have never been found in any other Aramaic documents.

  3. (1) Dathbar (Dan. 2:2, 3) “judge,” is certainly derived from the Persian dath, “law,” and bar “to bear.” It is found in Babylonian, also, but not in the Old Persian of the inscriptions, nor in the Avesta. (See Davis in Harper Mem. Volume.)

  (2) Artabe a kind of measure, is said by Herodotus (Bk, I, 192) to be a Persian word taken over into Greek. Herodotus uses it before 424 B.C.; but it does not occur in any document in Old or Middle Persian. It is found under the form ardab in the Aramaic of the Sachau Papyrus, No. 25, 4, et al.

  (3) Pitgam “command,” “word,” (Dan. 3:16, 4:14) is found in Armenian under the form padgam. It is not found in the Persian of the inscriptions nor in that of the Avesta.

  4. As examples of foreign words found in use in an early document of a language and not found again for hundreds of years we may note:

 (1) Zarnika “arsenic” occurs in Sac. Pap. No. 8, and not again in Aramaic till after 200 A.D. According to Lagarde (G. A., 47, 117) this is a Persian word. (See Brockelmann, Lex. Syr. in loc.)

  (2) Kebritha, “brimstone” is a second example of the same kind. Sac. Pap. 9, 17, 21.

  (3) Stater is a Greek word used in Egyptian papyri of the fifth century B.C. a number of times, but not found again in Aramaic till 200 A.D. Sac. Pap. 15, 29, 3; 34, 4, 7, 9, 11, 12.

  5. As examples of words supposed to have been derived from one language but which have been discovered later to have been derived from another, are:

  (1) Mdy, “a measure,” which was formerly supposed to have been borrowed from the Latin modius. Inasmuch as it occurs in sac. Pap. No. 8, of the year 412 B.C., it seems impossible to hold longer this view. It is better to take it from the Assyrian madadu or from the Hebrew mada, “to measure.”

  (2) So, iggereth, “letter,” which Marti in his Kurz. Gram. der Aram. Sprache, Berlin, 1911, p. 57, compares only with Iranian, New Persian, and Greek, is surely Assyrio–Babylonian. It is found, for example, in Harper’s letter 911, obv. 13, written about 650 B.C. See, also, letter 414, obv. 18.

  6. As examples of words used in a certain age alone may be mentioned ארנבטא  (de Voguē 26, A.D. 264) = ארקבטא in Targum to 2 Chron. 28:7.

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  II. 1. Further, of pure Aramaic words, some are found in the early documents which are not found again the Aramaic dialects for hundreds of years.

  2. Secondly, some are used in one dialect alone.

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  3. thirdly, some are used in documents from one age alone.

  Since no one of these nine statements can be denied it will be a reckless man who will assert that a word cannot have been used by a writer of the sixth century

1In illustration of the statements under II, the following examples may be given:

1. As examples of Aramaic words found in the Egypto–Aramaic which are not found again for centuries, may be mentioned:

  (1) Sefina, “ship” (Sac. Pap. 8); and

  (2) Peshka, “handbreadth” (id.).

  2. As examples of words used in one dialect alone may be mentioned:

  (1) Ducenarius, found in Palmyrene alone, see de Voguē 24, 2 (A.D. 263); id., 25, 2 (A.D. 263); id., 2 (A.D. 264).

  (2) Degel, “regiment,” found in this sense in the Egypto–Aramaic alone (Sac. Pap. 15, 29, 2 bis; 26, 27, 3 bis; 32, 2; 59, 4, 2; 60, 3, 2; 17, 12; 33, 33, 2; 58, 3, 2; 52, 1), though it occurs also in New Hebrew.

  3. as examples of words used in documents of one age alone, see gazerin (Dan. 2:27, 4:4, 5:7, 11) for the augurs of Babylon, and ’hinâ, “opportunity” in Joshua the Stylite, xiii and lix.

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B.C., because that word has been found in no other known author of that time, or in fact, of any other time. We simply do not know enough to make these assertions, and we might as well admit it. To say that a writer of Aramaic of the sixth century B.C. cannot have used the word “Chaldean” or the Greek names of three musical instruments is merely to make an assertion that lies beyond the bounds of proof. The desire to find fault and to depreciate the genuineness of Daniel overrides the historic–philological judgment of those who say it. Neither history or philology supports such an assertion, as I shall attempt in the following discussion to show. Before entering upon this discussion, however, the following caveat must be entered, to wit: that even though it may be impossible to demonstrate when or how certain foreign words came into a language, the time of their coming there cannot commonly be determined by the date at which they first appear in another document, whether this other document be in the language from which the word has been derived, or in the language that has derived the word. All analogy, based on records already found, would lead us to believe that hundreds of both native and foreign words were used by the ancient Arameans that have hitherto been discovered in no Aramaic document.1 The accumulating finds in Greek teach us that there were doubtless thousands of Greek loan words in common use that have never been used by the classical writers

1 For proof of this statement, it is only necessary to attempt to translate Sachau Papyrus 8 which is full of Persian and Egyptian words, many of them of unknown meaning; and also of good Aramaic words, as to which Prof. Sachau well remarks: “was man sonst aus dem Aramäischen oder Hebräischen weiss und zum Vergleich heranziehen kann, ist nicht genügend, um das Verständnis dieser Urkunde zu erschliessen.” (See Sachau: Aram. Pap., 47.)

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that have come down to us. Any one of these words might have been borrowed by the Arameans and others who came in contact with the Greeks who used them. Again, new discoveries in the Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, and all other ancient languages are always revealing to us afresh our ignorance of the fullness of their vocabularies, and of the origin and use of their words. Cognizant of this universal lack of knowledge of the vocabularies of ancient languages, and refusing to be bound by mere assertions that a given word cannot have been used by a given writer at a given time, inasmuch as we do not happen to know that some other writer of that same time or of dome time previous used it, I pass on to a consideration of the objections made to the book of Daniel on the assumption that its author has employed certain words which could not have been used in the sixth century B.C. I shall, at present, confine myself to a discussion of the word “Chaldean,” as to which the critics of Daniel assert that it cannot have been used as early as the sixth century B.C. to denote the Babylonian astrologers, inasmuch, they say, as it is not found in use in this sense until a much later time.


  Professor Cornill says: “The manner in which the term kasdim (Chaldean), exactly like the Latin Chaldæus, is used in the sense of soothsayer and astrologer (2:2, 4, 5, 10; 5:7, 11) is inconceivable at a time when the Chaldeans were the ruling people of the world.”1

  Professor Driver states the objection as follows:

1 Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 387.

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  The “Chaldeans” are synonymous in Daniel (1:4; 2:2; etc.) with the caste of wise men. This sense “is unknown to the Ass. Bab. language, has, wherever it occurs, formed itself after the end of the Babylonian empire, and is thus an indication of the post–exilic composition of the Book” (Schrader, The Cuneiform Inscriptions and the Old Testament, 2nd edition, p. 249). It dates, namely, from a time when practically the only “Chaldeans” known belonged to the caste in question (comp. Meinhold, Beiträge, p. 28).1

  Professor Meinhold, to whom Dr. Driver refers, says in the passage cited as follows:

  Wonderful above all things appears to us the use of the name Kasdim. For while Kasdim everywhere else in the Old Testament is a designation of the Babylonian people, we find here alongside of this common meaning (3:8; 5:30) that of Magians which is also known from the profane historians. As to what particular kind of Magians these are is not clear, since Kasdim is at times the general designation of the totality of all classes of wise men (2:10) and at times is a special designation of a division of the same (4:4; 5:10). This striking appearance is only to be explained by the fact that the Jews of the exile had first learned something of the Chaldeans as a special division of the wise men within the totality of the Babylonian nation. Everywhere in the Old Testament kasdim appears rather as the most general name of the whole people.

  The more specific meaning, however, shows that the specific meaning, however, shows that the knowledge of the kingdom of the Chaldeans had only been retained in the memory of the priest and wise men of succeeding times. While everything else had soon passed away and disappeared in the course of time, the castes, because of a religious kind, could still long be retained in remembrance. They were the only remains of the Chaldeans. They were the Chaldeans. Thus is explained the

1 Literature of the Old Testament, p. 498.

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later use of the name. An exilic author could, however, not write thus.1


  There are here the following assumptions:

  I. That the term kasdim to denote the ruling nation in Babylon passed away from the remembrance of succeeding times, while the use of it to denote the wise men remained.

  II. 1.That the original of the word kasdim, in the sense of a priestly class, is not found on the monuments.

  2. That the word Chaldean as used for priest, or wise man, is of the same origin, or meaning, as the word Chaldean as used to denote a people.

  3. That the absence of the term in its priestly sense from the Assyrio–Babylonian monuments proves that it was not employed by the Babylonians in common speech to denote a certain class of wise men.

  III. That the apparent absence of the word from the Assyrio–Babylonian language is a proof that it was not used in the Aramaic language.


  I. Taking up the assumptions in the order named, we shall discuss the first two heads: first, the use of the word to denote a people, and secondly, its use to denote a priestly class.

1 It is admitted that in the Scriptures outside of Daniel, the word always denoted a people.

  The places where it is employed in this sense are, Gen. 11:28, 31; 15:7; 2 Kings 24:2; 25:4, 5, 10, 13, 24, 25, 26; 2 Chron. 36:17; Neh. 9:7; Job 1:17; Is. 13:19; 23:13; 43:14; 48:14, 20; Jer. 21:4, 9; 22:25; 24:5; 25:12; 32:4, 5, 24, 25, 28, 29, 43; 33:5; 35:11; 37:5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14; 38:2, 18, 19, 23; 39:5, 8;  40:9, 10; 41:3, 18; 43:3; 50:1, 8, 10, 25, 35, 45; 51:4, 24, 35, 54; 52:7, 8, 14, 17; Ezek., 1:3; 11:24; 12:13; 23:14, 15, 16, 23; Hab. 1:6.

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  1. It is admitted that in the scriptures outside of Daniel the word always denoted a people. In Daniel, also, it is employed to denote a people; once in the Hebrew portion, chapter 9:1, where it is said that Darius had been “made king over the realm of the Chaldeans”; and once in the Aramaic, in chapter 5:30, where it is said that “Belshazzar the Chaldean king (or king of the Chaldeans) was slain.” In Daniel 1:4, the Chaldeans may be the people, but it is more probable that the priestly class is meant.

  On the monuments we find this sense, with one or two possible exceptions, only in those inscriptions which come from Assyria. The documents from the Persian, Greek, and Parthian periods never use it to denote a people; and those from the Babylonian of the time preceding Cyrus never employ it in this sense, save perhaps once. This exception is in an inscription of Nabunaid addressed to the gods Shamash and Ai of Sippar, in which he mentions the cedars (erinu) of Amanus and of the land of Kal–da.1 Since we have no evidence from any other source that the cedars were a product of the Chaldea south of Babylon, it is most probable that some other land with a similar name was meant by Nabunaid. It is a most remarkable circumstance that none of the documents from Babylonia, not even those of the Chaldean kings themselves, with the possible exception of this one instance just noted, ever speak of either the Chaldean land or people.

  The Assyrians, however, frequently mention both the land and the people of the Kaldu, from the time of Ashurnasirabal (885–860 B.C.), down to the time of Ashurbanipal (668–626 B.C.).

  After the time of Ashurbanipal neither the land nor

1 Zehnpfund–Langdon, NK, p. 231; Col. i, 23.

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the people of the Chaldeans is mentioned till the time of Sophocles1 and Herodotus (464–424 B.C.), the latter of whom says that the Chaldeans served among the Assyrians who went against Greece in Xerxes’ army, under Otaspes, son of Artachæus.2 The Chaldeans of whom Xenophon speaks3 were near the Black Sea and may possibly have been the descendants of the Chaldeans of Bit–Yakin whom Sargon carried away and settled in Kummuh. The next writer to speak of the southern Chaldeans is Berosus, himself a Chaldean priest who lived in the time of Alexander the Great. In his Chaldean History, he speaks of a great number of people as inhabiting Chaldea, and of ten early kings of the Chaldeans who ruled before the time of Abraham, and of the Chaldean language, and of the Chaldean kings beginning with Nabonasar.4 He says further that Nebuchadnezzar exceeded in his exploits all that had reigned before him in Babylon and Chaldea and that his father, Nabopolassar, was king of Babylon and of the Chaldeans.5 Strabo, who was born about 54 B.C., says in his Geography6 that there was a tribe of Chaldeans and a district of Babylonia inhabited by them near the Persian Gulf; and further, that Babylonia was bounded on the south by the Persian Gulf and the Chaldeans.7 Again, he says that the Babylonians and the nation of the Chaldeans possessed the country at the mouth of the Euphrates.8 Again, he speaks of a  city called Gerra in a deep gulf inhabited by Chaldean fugitives from Babylon,9 and of the marsh lands of the Chaldeans made by the overflowing of the Euphrates.10

1 468 B.C., Fragments, 564.    2 Bk. VII, 63.    3 Bk. IV, 3.    4 See Cory, Fragments, pp. 21–36.

5 Josephus; Contra Apion., i, 19.    6 Bk. XVI, 1.    7 Id.    8 Id. xvi, 3.    9 Id.    10 Id., xvi, 4.

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Josephus, in his Antiquities of the Jews,1 calls Nebuchadnezzar “king of Babylon and Chaldea,” and speaks of the “kings of Chaldea.”2 Alexander Polyhistor, who lived in the second century B.C., speaks of Saracus king of the Chaldeans, and of Nabopolassar who obtained the empire of the Chaldeans.3 Polyhistor states, also, that after the deluge, Evixius held possession of the country of the Chaldeans during the period of four neri; that 49 kings of the Chaldeans ruled Babylon for 458 years; that there was a king of the Chaldeans whose name was Phulus (Pul); that Sardanapalus the Chaldean reigned 21 years; and that Neglisarus reigned over the Chaldeans four years.4

  It will be seen from the above references that the people and country of the Chaldeans are mentioned on the monuments as existing from about 850 B.C., and in the Greek historians as existing from immediately after the flood, to the time of Christ.

  2. Secondly, we shall consider the use of the word “Chaldean” to denote a priestly class. In this sense the word is found in Daniel in the following places.

  (a) In Hebrew, (1) in i, 4, where it is said that the king of Babylon commanded the master of his eunuchs to teach certain Jewish youths “the language and the tongue of the Chaldeans.”

  (2) In 2:2, “the king commanded to call the magicians, and the enchanters, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to tell the king his dreams.”

  (3) In 2:4, the Chaldeans speak to the king “in the Aramaic language.”

  (b) In Aramaic, (1) in 2:5, “The king answered and said to the Chaldeans.”

1 Bk. X, chapter ix, 7.    2 Id. X, chapter x, 2.    3 Cory: Fragments, p. 59.    4 Id., 63.

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  (2) In 2:10, “The Chaldeans answered before the king and said, There is not a man upon the earth that can show the king’s matter, forasmuch as no king, lord, or ruler, hath asked such a thing of any magician, or enchanter, or Chaldean.”

  (3) In 3:8, “Certain Chaldeans came near and brought accusation against the Jews.”

  (4) In 4:7, Nebuchadnezzar says, “Then came in the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers; and I told the dream before them.”

  (5) In 5:7, “The king [Belshazzar] cried aloud to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. The king spake and said to the wise men of Babylon,” etc.

  (6) In 5:11, 12, the queen says that Nebuchadnezzar had made Daniel “master of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and soothsayers; forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and showing of dark sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel.”

  In the classical writers, it is used in this sense first by Herodotus, who flourished from 464 to 424 B.C.; that is, contemporaneously with the whole reign of Artaxerxes I, called Longimanus, the successor of Xerxes the son of Darius Hystaspis. It will be noted that Herodotus died about one hundred years after the death of Cambyses the son of Cyrus, and little more than a century after the death of the Daniel who is the hero and supposed author of our book. Herodotus never mentions a Chaldean people save once, and that incidentally; but he does speak at length of the Chaldean priests. His statements are as follows:

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  In the middle of each division of the city of Babylon, fortified buildings were erected, in one of which was the precinct of Jupiter Bel, which in my time was still in existence. In the midst of this precinct was a tower of eight emplacements and in the uppermost of these a spacious temple in which was a large couch handsomely furnished, but no statue; nor did any mortal pass the night there except only a native woman, chosen by the god of the whole nation, as the Chaldeans, who are priests of this deity, say. These same priests assert, though I cannot credit what they say, that the god himself comes to this temple. There is, also, another temple below, within the precinct at Babylon; in it is a large golden statue of Jupiter erected, and near it is placed a large table of gold, the throne also and the step are of gold, which together weigh 800 talents as the Chaldeans affirm. Outside the temple is a golden altar and another large altar where full–grown sheep are sacrificed; for on the golden altar only sucklings may be offered. On the great altar the Chaldeans consume yearly a thousand talents of frankincense when they celebrate the festival of this god. There was also at that time within the precincts of this temple a statue of solid gold, twelve cubits high. I, indeed, did not see it. I only relate what is said by the Chaldeans.

  Ctesias, the Greek physician of Artaxerxes II, who wrote about 400 B.C., speaks of the Chaldeans as having hindered Darius Hystaspis from viewing the dead body of Sphendidates the Magian.1 Aristotle, who was the tutor of Alexander the Great, mentions the Chaldean astrologers.2

  Arrian, in his great work on the Expedition of Alexander, has much to say about these Chaldean priests. This Arrian was a Greek historian, a Roman general, prefect of Cappadocia under Hadrian, who reigned from 117 to 138 A.D. He was conversant with philosophy,

1 See Fragments by Bähr, pp. 68 and 140.    2 See Frag., 30.

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being a pupil of Epictetus and publisher of his lectures. He wrote a treatise on military tactics, another on the geography of the Black Sea, and another on that of the Red Sea, and was a friend and correspondent of Pliny the Younger. He was, therefore, well fitted to write a history of the expedition of Alexander against Persia. This he has done in seven volumes which he claims in his proem to be based upon a work by Aristobulus, who marched along with Alexander; and on another work by Ptolemy Lagus, who not only marched with him, but, as Arrian says, “since he was a king, it would have been shameful for him to lie.” Both, he says, wrote without expectation of any reward, since Alexander was already dead when they composed their memoirs. So Arrian pronounces them both most worthy of credence. Trained geographer, philosopher, historian, politician, general, and writer, as he was, he might well be trusted to have transcribed the essence at least of his authorities; and having proclaimed and praised the truthfulness of his sources, it may be supposed that he tried himself also to be truthful. Senator, consul, and prefect of Rome, it is altogether probable that he was a capable, as well as an experienced, judge of documentary, as well as oral, testimony.

  Arrian, then, says with references to the Chaldeans, as follows:

  Alexander, having hastened from Arbela, went forward straight to Babylon; and when he was not far from Babylon he led his army drawn up in battle array; and the Babylonians in a body met him with their priests and rulers bearing gifts as each one was able, and surrounding the city, and acropolis, and the treasure. And Alexander, having come to Babylon, gave orders to build again the

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temples which Xerxes had destroyed, both the altar and also the temple of Bel, who is the god whom the Babylonians deem especially worthy of honor. There indeed, also, he met the Chaldeans, and whatever seemed good to the Chaldeans with reference to religious matters in Babylon he did; both other things, and to Bel, also, he sacrificed as these directed.1

Later, he says that when Alexander was returning form India and was marching to Babylon,

the wise men of the Chaldeans met him and, drawing him aside from his companions, besought him to hold up his advance on Babylon; for an oracle had come to them from the god Bel that his going to Babylon at that time would not be for his good. Alexander answered them: “Who guesses well, is the best prophet.” Whereupon the Chaldeans said, “Do thou, oh king! not go to the west nor come hither leading an army of occupation; but go rather to the east.” (Bk. VII, 16.)

He says further that

Alexander was suspicious of the Chaldeans, because at that time they managed the affairs of Bel, and he though that the so–called prophecy was meant for their profit rather than for his good.2 Refusing to follow their advice but attempting to evade the consequences predicted, he nevertheless did as their prediction had implied that he would.3

  Berosus, our next witness, informs us concerning himself, that he lived in the age of Alexander the son of Philip. He speaks of the writings of the Chaldeans4 and of their wisdom,5 and “of a certain man among them in the tenth generation after the deluge who was

1 Bk. III, 16.    2 Id., 17.    3 Id., 21–27.    4 Cory, Fragments, p.26.    5 Id., 32.

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renowned for his justice and great exploits and for his skill in the celestial sciences”;1 and of their having been accurately acquainted only since the time of Nabonassar with the heavenly motions.2 He says that the affairs of Nebuchadnezzar had been faithfully conducted by Chaldeans and that the principal person among them had preserved the kingdom for him after the death of his father and before his return from Palestine.3

  Mehasthenes, who lived and occupied important official positions under Seleucus Nicator, wrote about 300 B.C., that the Chaldeans related certain facts about Nebuchadnezzar’s having been preserved by some god, so as to foretell to them the downfall of Babylon through the Medes and Persians.4

  Abydenus, a pupil of Berosus, speaks of Pythagoras, who lived about the time of Daniel, as a “follower of the wisdom of the Chaldeans.”5

  Strabo, who fluorished from 54 B.C., one of the most reliable of ancient writers, says that

in Babylonia there was a dwelling place for the native philosophers, called Chaldeans, who are for the most part concerned with astronomy; but some are also given to casting nativities, which the others do not permit. There is also a tribe of the Chaldeans and a district of Babylonia near to the Arabs and to the Persian Sea. And there are of the Chaldean astronomers several kinds. For some are called Orchenoi, and others Borsippenoi, and there are others more, as it were, in sects, holding different dogmas concerning the same things.6

  Diodorus Siculus, who lived in the time of Cæsar and Augustus, in his History, Book II, 9, says that

1 Id., 16.    2 Id.    3 Id., 89.    4 Cory: Fragments, 44–45.    5 Cory, 65.    6 XVI, 1.

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“the Chaldeans made observations of the stars from the tower of the temple of Jupiter, whom the Babylonians call Bel.” Again, he says in chapter 24, that

  Belesus, who understood how to destroy the hegemony of the Assyrians, was the most notable of the priests whom the Babylonians call Chaldeans. Having, then, the greatest experience in astrology and soothsaying, he foretold the future to the multitude just as it fell out.

In chapter 29, he says

that it does not seem out of place for him to narrate a few words concerning those who were called in Babylon Chaldeans and their antiquity, that he may omit nothing worthy of mention. The Chaldeans, then, being the most ancient Babylonians have a position in the determination of the policy of government something like that of the priests of Egypt. For being assigned to the service of the gods they pass their whole life philosophizing, having the greatest glory in astrology. They pat much attention, also, to soothsaying, making predictions concerning future events, and purifications, and sacrifices, and with various kinds of incantations they attempt to bring about the avoidance of evil and the accomplishment of good. And they have experience also in divination by birds and show the interpretation of dreams and omens. Not unwisely, also, do they act in matters concerning hierscopy and are supposedly accurately to hit the mark. This philosophy is handed down from father to son in a race which is freed from all other services.

  Finally, Quintus Curtius Rufus, probably of the second century A.D., says that early in the expedition of Alexander “The Chaldeans had explained a singular dream of Pharnabazus to mean that the empire of the Persians would pass over to the Greeks.”1 Further

1 See the Life and Expedition of Alexander the Great, III, iii, 6.

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on, he says that “as Alexander was approaching Babylon, he was met by Bagophones, the custodian of the citadel, who was followed by gifts of herds of sheep and horses; and next to these came the Magi, singing their native song according to their custom. After these, the Chaldeans and not only the seers (priests) of the Babylonians, but even the skilled workmen, advanced with the harps of their own class; the last mentioned were wont to sing the praises of the kings; the Chaldeans to manifest the movements of the stars, and the fixed changes of the seasons. Then, last of all, marched the Babylonian horsemen, with their own peculiar dress and with special horse–trappings, required more for luxury that for magnificence.”1 Further he says that

“when Alexander, on his return from India, was 300 stadia from the city [Babylon], the seers warned him not to enter since there was a portent of danger. But he scorned their predictions as being vain and mere fabrications. Therefore, when the envoys had been given audience he set sail for the land of the Arabs, laughing at the Chaldeans, who predicted danger in the city.”2

  Afterwards, when Alexander was brought dead to Babylon, it was the Babylonians who “looked down, some from the walls, others each from the roof on his own house, to see the funeral cortège pass through the streets”;3 but the Egyptians and Chaldeans were “ordered to attend the dead body in their own fashion.”4

  From the above extracts, it is evident that Quintus Curtius, whatever may have been the sources of his information as to the life of Alexander, sought to make a clear distinction between the Babylonians and the

1 Id., V, i 4.    2 Id., X, iv 11.    3 Id., V, v 14.    4 Id., X, x, 26.

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Chaldeans who were in Babylon at the time of Alexander’s conquest of Persia. According to him, therefore, the former were the people and the latter were the priestly class as early as 330 B.C.

  Summing up, then, the testimony of the ancient classical writers who have written about Babylon, we find that they make a distinction between the Babylonian, or Chaldean, people or peoples on the one hand, and the Chaldean priests or astrologers on the other; and that this distinction is held by them to have existed from the earliest times in which they respectively wrote.

  II. We shall consider together the assumptions as to the origin, meaning, and use of the word Chaldean upon the Babylonian monuments.

  It may justly be asked in view of all the references in the classical writers of Greece and Rome to the Chaldeans as the wise men of Babylon, if there is no evidence on the monuments to corroborate the other authorities. If there were no evidence on the monuments from Babylon, we must remember, that the case would be the same as to the Chaldeans as astrologers that it is as to the Chaldeans as a nation. But we are in better case with regard to the use of the term to denote astrologers, than we are with regard to its use to denote a nation. For we are still inclined to believe that a good argument can be made in favor of the galdu of the inscriptions being the same as the Chaldean priest of classical sources and of the Chaldeans of Daniel. It may be argued:

  First, the galdu in Babylonian would according to the laws of phonetic change become kaldu in Assyrian, Chaldaios in Greek, and kasday in Hebrew and Aramaic. The change of g to k is found in the word e–gal, “great

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house,” “palace,” or “temple,” which becomes e–kal in Assyrian, hekal in Hebrew. Compare also the Greek kamelos, “camel,” in Assyrian, gammalu.1

  The change from l to s before d is found in the Hebrew Kasdim for the Assyrian Kaldi, from an original Babylonian Kaldu or Kasdu. After the analogy of the change from Kaldu to Kasd the Hebrew would change galdu to kasd. K in Assyrian and Hebrew frequently is represented by ch in Greek and Latin. So that there is no reasonable ground for denying that galdu might be Chaldean, as far as the phonetics are concerned.

  Moreover, it shows an ingenuity almost surpassing belief in a writer of the middle of the second century B.C., who derived from the Greeks the notion of what the Chaldaioi were, to suppose that he would deliberately change Kaldim to Kasdim. This was a law of change in Babylonian, Assyrian, and Hebrew, but not as between Greek and Hebrew, or Greek and Aramaic.2

  The Aramaic version and dialects outside of Daniel consistently use Kaldi to denote the astrologers and Kasdi to denote the people of Chaldea.3 The author of Daniel, forsooth, was the only writer who confounded the distinction between them! It seems more likely that an author living in Babylon in a time when words which had a sibilant, or an l, before a dental were often

1 This change of Assyrio–Babylonian g to Hebrew and Aramaic k is not so frequent as the change of k to g. The latter is found in Mukina—Mugin; Sharukin—Sargon; Tikulti—Tiglath; Mannuki—Manug; Shakan–Sagan.

2 In words derived from the Greek which have an l before a dental, the New Hebrew, the Syriac, and the Aramaic of the Talmuds, never change the l to s or sh. See Dalman Aram–neuhebr. Wörterbuch, pp. 53, 188, 226, 228, 320, 321, and 364; and Brockelmann’s Lex. Syr. in loc.

3 See dictionaries of Levy and Jastrow, sub verbis.

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written in both ways (as iltu, ishtu; iltansih, ishtanish) would have written Kasdim for Kaldim, than that an author living in the second century in Palestine and deriving a word and its meaning from the Greek should have changed ld to sd, contrary to the usage of the Greek in words derived from the Aramaic languages, and of the Arameans and Hebrews in words derived from the Greek.1

  Secondly, that old Accadian double words like gal and du were often taken over into Semitic, still preserving the double sense of the original compound words, may be abundantly shown. E.g., e = “house,” gal = “great,” e–gal = “palace” (Hebrew, “temple,” also); e = “house,” kur = “land” or “mountain,” e–kur = “temple of the land, or mountain”; dup = “tablet,” sar = “writer,” dupsar = “writer of tablets”;  and many others.

  Thirdly, that the meaning of galdu can be reconciled with the duties of the Chaldeans is certainly probable; at least, we can see no sufficient reason for denying on this ground that Gal–du and Chaldean are the same.

  III. The last assumption, that is, that “the absence of the term from the Babylonian monuments2 would prove that it could not have been used by the Aramean and Hebrew writers,” is a most unjustifiable assertion. We could multiply analogies to show that writers in foreign languages often use terms when speaking of a given nation and its affairs, which a writer in the language of the nation spoken of would never use. For example and in point, Dr. Meinhold, in his statement of this very objection to the book of Daniel of which we

1 Cf. Brockelmann’s Lex. Syr., pp. 17–21, 29, and Dalman’s Aram.–neuhebr. Wörterbuch., 29–37.

2 That is, in monuments written in the Babylonian language.

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are now speaking, uses the term “Magian” as a description of the wise men of Babylon. Yet this word never appears on any Babylonian monument and is never found in Babylonian at all except in the Babylonian recension of the Behistun Inscription of Darius Hystaspis. There Darius used it correctly to describe the Magian usurper Gumatu, or Smerdis. But why should Dr. Meinhold call the Babylonian men by this Medo–Persian word? Simply because the term has been adopted into the German language as a designation of a class of heathen priests practicing certain arts. So, also, the Arameans and Hebrews probably used the word Chaldean to denote a certain class of wise men in Babylon, who practiced certain arts. They may have derived the term from galdu, “the master–builder,” or from the Kaldu, the conquering tribe of Nabopolassar, because of certain arts practised by them. The term Chaldean to denote this class may not have been used in Babylonian at all any more then Magian was. But will anyone tell us by what term this class should have been designated by an Aramean writer of the sixth century B.C.? If we go to the Syriac for information, no term will be found that would cover such a class of star–gazers and dream interpreters and fortune tellers as the Chaldeans of Daniel probably were. No other Aramean dialect will help us to a term. The ancient versions suggest no other equivalent designation to take its place. Pray, what term would the critics of Daniel suggest as a substitute? The ancient Hebrews, the Arameans, the Greeks and Romans, early and late, all use the word Chaldean in some form or other to denote this special class of Babylonian wise men. It is appropriate, distinctive, and general, in its meaning and use. As to its origin and antiquity no one knows for certain anything except

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negatively. And let it be remembered that no amount of negative evidence from the Babylonian can ever countervail the positive evidence to be derived from the fact of the use of this term in the Aramaic of the book of Daniel.


  The conclusion of the discussion about the use of the word “Chaldean” by the author of Daniel is that there is no evidence to show that he does not employ the term consistently and that it may not have been used in Aramaic as a designation of a class of Babylonian wise men, or priests, as early as the sixth century B.C.

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Home Table of Contents Chapter One

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.

E-Text transcribed from the 1917 edition.