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


  This volume is concerned especially with the objections made to the historical statements contained in the book of Daniel, and treats incidentally of chronological, geographical, and philosophical questions. In a second volume, it is my intention to discuss the objections made against the book on the ground of philological assumptions based on the nature of the Hebrew and Aramaic in which it is written. In a third volume, I shall discuss Daniel's relation to the canon of the Old Testament as determining the date of the book, and in connection with this the silence of Ecclesiasticus with reference to Daniel, the alleged absence of an observable influence of Daniel upon post-captivity literature, and the whole matter of apocalyptic literature, especially in its relation to predictive prophecy.

  The method pursued is to give first of all a discussion of some of the principles involved in the objections considered in the pages following; then, to state the objections with the assumptions on which they are based; next, to give the reasons why these assumptions are adjudged to be false; and, lastly, to sum up in a few words the conclusions to be derived from the discussion. As to the details of my method, it will be observed that I have sought in the case of every objection to confront it with documentary evidence designed to show that the assumptions underlying the objection

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are contrary to fact. When no direct evidence is procurable either in favor of or against an objection, I have endeavored to show by analogy, or the production of similar instances, that the events or statements recorded in Daniel are possible; and that the objections to these events, or statements, cannot be proved by mere assertion unsupported by testimony.

  In the first chapter, the inadequacy of the argument from silence to prove that the books of the Old Testament contain misrepresentations, is shown by giving a résumé of the historical documents of the Hebrews, Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, and others, in their relations to one another. A careful reading of this summary of the known evidence ought to convince all unbiased judges that an argument from the silence of one document as to events which are recorded in another, is usually devoid of validity. In many cases, it will be seen that for long periods of time there are no extra-biblical documents whatever; in other cases, there is, for long periods of time, no evidence either biblical or extra-biblical. Again, often when documents of the same time are found, they treat of subjects entirely alien to the subjects treated of in the other, and hence have no bearing on the case. Or, even when they treat of the same subjects, the narrators look at them from a different point of view and one will be intentionally silent where the other enlarges upon the topic.

  Chapter two discusses the objections made by Dean Farrar to the very existence of Daniel on the ground that his name even is not mentioned on the monuments of his time. Here I show, first, that it is not to be expected that the Jewish name of Daniel would ever have been used in Babylonian documents, inasmuch as Nebuchadnezzar changed it to Belteshazzar on his

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arrival in Babylon; secondly, that the name Belshazzar, under which form the name Belteshazzar might be written in Babylonian, does occur on the Babylonian tablets as the name of several individuals and that one of these may have been the Daniel of our book; thirdly, that it is difficult to make any possible identification of Daniel, owing to the fact that his ancestors are not mentioned in the Bible; fourthly, that even if his ancestors were known, he could not be identified from the monuments, because on them the father or grandfather is never mentioned in the case of slaves, or even of foreigners, except in the case of kings and their children; and lastly, that it is unreasonable to expect to find the name of Daniel upon the monuments, first, because the names of slaves are rarely mentioned; secondly, because the names of slaves are never found as witnesses, and those of foreigners but rarely; thirdly, because the annals and display and building inscriptions of the kings never mention the names of anybody except occasionally the names of the kings they conquer, of an occasional general, and of the members of their own families. In fact, no better illustration than this of Dean Farrar can be found of the fact that a man, however brilliant as a preacher and as a writer and however accomplished as a classical scholar, is but a blind leader of the blind when he attempts to speak upon such complicated matters as those which are involved in an introduction to the book of Daniel, without having first mastered the languages and the literature of Babylon and Persia.

  Chapter three treats of the silence of the other biblical documents and of the monuments as to an expedition of Nebuchadnezzar, said by Daniel to have been made against Jerusalem in the third year of Jehoiakim. It

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will be noted that in this particular case of the alleged silence of other sources, there is a tacit overlooking of the testimony to this expedition afforded by the fragments of Berosus, who states that Nebuchadnezzar was in Palestine at the time when his father Nabopolassar died, which according to the Babylonian system of reckoning the years of a king would have been the third year of Jehoiakim. It will be noted, further, that the critics in their allegations of error against the author of Daniel have failed to consider the whole matter of the different ways of reckoning the regnal years of a king, and the different times at which, among different nations, the year was supposed to begin. This frequently renders it very difficult to determine the corresponding months and years of a king's reign in the different countries, and should make us slow in asserting that the third year of a king in one document might not be the same as the fourth year in another. Again, I show in this chapter that Jeremiah and the books of Kings and Chronicles do not purport to give us a complete history of the times of Nebuchadnezzar, and that, hence, it is not fair to say that an event which is mentioned in Daniel cannot be true because it is not mentioned in these other writings; and, further, that the monuments of Nebuchadnezzar say nothing definite about his military expeditions, except about one to Egypt in his thirty-seventh year, although they do show conclusively that he was king of Syria and many other countries, whose kings are said to do his bidding. Lastly, it is shown that in the fragments of his history of Babylon, Berosus supports the statement of Daniel, that Nebuchadnezzar made an expedition to Palestine before he was crowned king of Babylon, and carried away spoils from Judea which were placed in his

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temple at Babylon, and that there is no statement made in Daniel about this expedition which is in any way controverted by any other direct testimony.

Chapter four answers a further question connected with the expedition of Nebuchadnezzar against Jerusalem in the third year of Jehoiakim, arising from the charge that the author of Daniel made false interpretations of the sources known to him. An examination of the alleged sources of Daniel’s information showed that he does not contradict these sources nor make erroneous interpretation of them; but that, on the contrary, it is the critics who, on the ground of their own implications and conjectures and sometimes of their crass ignorance of geography and of the historical situation, have really manufactured or imagined a case against Daniel. No more astonishing example of the fabrication of evidence can be found in the history of criticism than the use which is made of the statements of the Old Testament with regard to Carchemish, in order to show that Nebuchadnezzar cannot have moved against Jerusalem as long as this fortress was in the hands of the Egyptians. The critics of Daniel have assumed not merely that the Egyptians had Carchemish in their possession, but also that it lay on the way from Jerusalem to Babylon, so as to cut off, if in an enemy's hands, a possible retreat of Nebuchadnezzar from Palestine to Babylon. A knowledge of the position of Carchemish and of the lines of traffic from Damascus to the Euphrates should have precluded them from statements so unscientific from a geographical and military point of view.

Chapter five investigates the use of the word for king, especially in the Semitic languages. This discussion, shows that Nebuchadnezzar may have been called king

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before his father’s death; and will serve also as an introduction to the discussion of the kingship of Belshazzar and that of Darius the Mede, in that it illustrates that there might be two kings of the same place at the same time.

  Chapter six considers the objections made to the book of Daniel on the ground of what it says in regard to Belshazzar. Here, it is shown that Belshazzar, the son of Nabunaid, may, according to the usage of those times, have been also the son of Nebuchadnezzar; that there is good reason to suppose that he was king of the Chaldeans before he became king of Babylon; that he may have been king of Babylon long enough to justify the writer of Daniel in speaking of his first year as king of that city; that the fact that he is not called king elsewhere by his contemporaries is simply an argument from silence, paralleled by other instances; and that neither the biblical sources outside of Daniel, nor the monuments, say that any man other than Belshazzar was last de facto king of the city of Babylon. In short, it is shown that the evidence fails to substantiate the assertion that the statements of Daniel in regard to Belshazzar are false.

  Chapters seven to thirteen treat of all the questions that have been raised concerning Darius the Mede and the Median Empire, showing that if we identify Darius with the Gubaru of the inscriptions, there is no objective reason for denying the truth of the biblical statements with regard to him. It is shown, that Darius may have been the name of a Mede; that he may have been the son of a man called Xerxes (i.e., Ahasuerus) of the seed of the Medes; that he may have reigned at the same time as Cyrus and as sub-king under him; that he could have appointed one hundred and

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twenty satraps over his kingdom, even though it was restricted to Chaldea and Babylonia alone; that he may have had a den of lions, containing lions sufficient to have devoured the conspirators against Daniel and their families, that he could not have been a reflection of Darius Hystaspis, or of any one, or all, of the Persian kings of the name Darius; in short, that, granting that Darius the Mede had two names (for which supposition there is abundant evidence from the analogy of other kings), there is no ground for impugning the veracity of the account of Darius the Mede as given in the book of Daniel.

  To particularize, it is shown, in chapter seven, that it is pure conjecture to suppose that the author of Daniel thought that Darius the Mede preceded Cyrus the Persian as king of Babylon, or that Cyrus succeeded to the empire of Babylon on the death of the Median Darius; further, it is shown, that Darius the Mede may have had a second name, Gubaru (Gobryas), and that he probably received the government of Chaldea and Babylon from Cyrus.

  Chapter eight treats of the statements of Daniel with regard to the part taken by the Medes and Persians respectively in the conquest of Babylon, and shows that they are in harmony with the monumental evidence.

  Chapter nine discusses the allegation that the author of Daniel was deficient in knowledge and confused in thought in the statements which he makes with regard to the Persian empire, especially with regard to the names and number of its kings, the absolute rulership of Darius the Mede, and the division and number of its satrapies.

  Chapter ten answers the assumption that Darius the Mede has been confused with Darius Hystaspis, because

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each of them is said to have organized his kingdom into satrapies. It is shown that the satrapies varied so in extent, that there may easily have been one hundred and twenty of them in the dominions over which Darius the Mede was made king; and that Darius Hystaspis did not originate the government by satraps, since the Assyrian monarchs, especially Sargon the Second, had organized their possessions in the same manner.

  Chapters eleven and twelve treat of the assumption that Darius the Mede is a reflection of Darius Hystaspis. By a careful comparison of what Daniel says about Darius the Mede with what is known from all sources about Darius Hystaspis, the evidence is given to show that, whatever else Darius the Mede may have been, he cannot have been a reflection of Darius Hystaspis. In chapter eleven are discussed the names and families of the two kings, showing that in these particulars Darius the Mede cannot have been the reflection of Darius the Persian.

  Chapter twelve shows how the two kings differ in the age and manner of their becoming king, in the names and extent of the kingdoms over which they ruled, in their relation to other kings, in their methods of government, and in their personal characteristics.

  Chapter thirteen treats of the alleged confusion by the author of Daniel of Xerxes and Darius Hystaspis, and of his further alleged confusion of this alleged confused Xerxes-Darius with Darius Codomannus. It treats, further, of the alleged belief of the author, that there was a triumphant repulse by Alexander the Great of an attack on Greece by this confused Xerxes-Darius-Hystaspis-Codomannus.

  Chapter fourteen gives the latest evidence to show

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that Susa in the time of Daniel's vision was in all probability a province of the Babylonian empire.

  Chapter fifteen gives the latest evidence from the monuments and from medical science tending to confirm the historicity of all the statements made in Daniel about the fact, the character, and the duration, of the madness of Nebuchadnezzar.

  Chapter sixteen discusses the theory that the edicts of the king are impossible. I here show that those edicts cannot be called either morally, legally, physically, or historically impossible. That they are not morally impossible is shown from analogy by the edicts of the Roman emperors, and by the tenet of the Roman hierarchy that the church may justly inflict on heretics the penalty of death; and, also, by a study of the character of Nebuchadnezzar as revealed in his monuments, and of Darius the Mede as revealed in Daniel, in comparison with such tyrants as Henry VIII of England, Philip II of Spain, and Louis XIV of France. That they are not legally impossible is shown by a review of what is known of the laws of ancient Babylon and Persia. That the execution of these decrees was not physically impossible is shown by numerous examples of similar cases given in the histories of Assyria and Babylonia. Many examples prove the commonness of burning in the fire as a method of punishment. The possibility of the destruction of the one hundred and twenty satraps and their families by lions is shown from the fact that the monuments of the kings of Assyria say that they had menageries containing “all the animals of the mountains and of the plains,” including elephants, panthers, and lions. Further, it is shown that lions at that time were the pest of the Euphrates Valley, hundreds of them being killed in a

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single hunting expedition, and that in one case mentioned by Ashurnasirapal, king of Assyria, fifty young lions were captured alive and shut up by him in the city of Calach. Finally, the assertion that there is an historical impossibility involved in the decrees recorded in Daniel is shown to be the baseless fabric of the critics' imagination, inasmuch as of the many decrees which the monarchs of Babylon and Persia must have made, only one or two have come down to us. The opinion of certain men to-day that these decrees could not have been made, must yield to the positive evidence. To deny the historical possibility of the decrees is a pure case of opinion versus evidence.

  Chapters seventeen and eighteen discuss the possibility of the use of the word “Chaldean” in the sixth century B.C. to denote the wise men, or a part of the wise men of Babylon, and the relation in which Daniel stood to the wise men. The evidence gathered together in these chapters shows that there is no sufficient reason for denying that the word “Chaldean” to denote a class of Babylonian wise men may have been employed as early as 600 B.C.; nor for denying that a strict Jew may have been a member of the class of Babylonian wise men to which Daniel is said to have belonged. The use of the words for wise in all the Semitic languages proves, that the term is always used in an honorable sense, and that it is a groundless supposition of the critics that any blame was ever attached by the writers of the Old Testament, or by the Jewish scribes, to any class of real wise men to whatever nation they may have belonged.

  Hoping that this volume may confirm the faith of any wavering ones in the historicity of a book which was so highly prized and so often quoted by our Lord and his apostles, and that it may show particularly to men who

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have a due regard for the laws of evidence, how flimsy are the grounds on which some would reject the testimony and impugn the veracity of the writer of Daniel, I send it forth upon its mission in the world. If it shall have served no other purpose, it has at least accomplished this: —it has convinced the writer that the methods pursued by many so-called higher critics are illogical, irrational, and unscientific. They are illogical because they beg the question at issue. They are irrational because they assume that historic facts are self-evident, and that they can set limits to the possible. They are unscientific because they base their conclusions on incomplete inductions and on a practical claim of omniscience.

  Before closing my introduction, a few words ought to be said about the sources from which I have derived my evidence. Generally, it will be observed that I have appealed to the standard editions of texts in the original languages in which they are written. When there exist good translations as in the case of some of the classical historians, I have made free use of these translations, always, however, after comparison with the original texts. In the case of others, I have secured as good versions as possible, my son, Philip Howard Wilson, A.B. (died June 27, 1913), honor man in classics of the class of 1911 at Princeton University, being responsible for many of the translations from the classical writers whose works have not yet been rendered into English.

  In the case of Assyrian and Babylonian documents, I have made use, where possible, of the Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek (denoted by K. B.), translating from the German version, revised in the light of the transliterated Assyrio-Babylonian text. In doubtful and important connections I have consulted the original texts, so far

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as they are published. This method has been pursued, also, with all other original documents; that is, I have used the best version available, but always in comparison with the original texts.

  My hearty thanks are due to the Rev. Prof. Jesse L. Cotton, D. D., of Louisville, to the Rev. Oswald T. Allis, Ph.D., of Princeton, and to the Rev. J. B. Willson, M.A., B. D., for the invaluable assistance which they have given me in the preparation of this volume.

R. D. W.


April, 1917

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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 by hand from the 1917 edition.

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