Book of Daniel
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Table of contents
Narratives in DanielThe first part, consisting of the first six chapters, comprises series of lightly connected court tales, connected instructive narratives, or miracle tales, of the kind that would be parables save for their miraculous content. Only the first story is in Hebrew, the rest in Aramaic from ch. 2:4, beginning with the speech of the "Chaldeans". Three sections are preserved only in the Septuagint, and are considered apocryphal by Protestant Christians and Jews, and deuterocanonical by Catholic and Orthodox Christians.
- Daniel refuses to eat meat at court #Nebuchadnezzar dreams of an idol of four metals with feet of clay, which Daniel interprets as the four great monarchies (compare Fifth Monarchy) #Ananias, Azariah, and Mishael refuse to bow to the golden idol and are thrown into the Fiery Furnace; God prevents their death #Nebuchadnezzar dreams of a tall tree
- Belshazzar's Feast, where Daniel interprets the writing mene mene tekel upharsin #Daniel in the lions' den
- Susanna and the elders (apocryphal to Protestants) #Bel and the Dragon (apocryphal to Protestants)
Protestant and Jewish editions omit the sections that do not exist in the Masoretic text: in addition to the two chapters containing accounts of Daniel and Susanna and of Bel and the Dragon, a lengthy passage following Daniel 3; this addition contains the prayer of Azariah while the three youths were in the fiery furnace, a brief account of the angel who met them in the furnace, and the hymn of praise they sang when they realized they were delivered. [[The Prayer of Azariah and Song of the Three Holy Children]] are retained in the Septuagint and in the [[Eastern Orthodoxy|Eastern Orthodox]] and Catholic [[Biblical canon|canons]]; the "Song of the Three Holy Youths" is part of the Matins service in Orthodoxy, and of Lauds on Sundays and feast days in Catholicism.
The narratives are set in the period of the [[Babylonian captivity]], first at the court of [[Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon|Nebuchadnezzar]] and later at the court of his successors Belshazzar and the Persian king Darius. Daniel is praised in Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897, as "the historian of the Captivity, the writer who alone furnishes any series of events for that dark and dismal period during which the harp of Israel hung on the trees that grew by the Euphrates. His narrative may be said in general to intervene between Kings and [[Books of Chronicles|Chronicles]] on the one hand and Ezra on the other, or (more strictly) to fill out the sketch which the author of the Chronicles gives in a single verse in his last chapter: 'And them that had escaped from the sword carried he [i.e., Nebuchadnezzar] away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia'" (2 Chr. 36:20)."
Daniel appears as an interpreter of dreams and visions in these narratives, though not as a prophet.
Historical accuracyModern secular historians of Babylonia or Achaemenid Persia do not adduce the narratives of Daniel as source materials. As the editors of the Jewish Encyclopedia (1901–1906) put it, "they contain many details that cannot be harmonized with the data furnished in other historical sources." and that "during the long period of oral tradition the unimportant kings of Babylon might easily have been forgotten, and the last king, who was vanquished by Cyrus, would have been taken as the successor of the well-known Nebuchadnezzar."
According to H.H. Rowley in Darius the Mede and the Four World Empires in the Book of Daniel, "The references to Darisu the Mede in the book of Daniel have long been recognized as providing the most serious historical problems in the book.". Secular histories state that the Median kingdom had been conquered by [[Cyrus II of Persia]] before he conquered Babylon, so that there was never a Median rulership of this city. Some suggest that the character is based on Darius the Great, who ruled Persia from 522–486 BC, that is, after the end of the Jewish Exile in Babylon.
Sacred historians have energetically defended the accuracy of Daniel, responding to the many objections on a point by point basis. In response to the above objections, for example, sacred historians have reminded their secular colleagues that it was common in the ancient world for a king to have multiple names. Darius may be another name for Cyrus II, as suggested by D.J. Wiseman. Or, instead, Darius may be an alternate name for Ugbaru, the person who actually captured Babylon (Cyrus was with other troops in Opis at the time), or Darius might have been the named claimed by Gubaru, the man Cyrus put in charge of the city until he arrived. These latter theories are supported by Robert Dick Wilson, a famous Princeton Theologian, and many others.
Fundamentalist Christians find ample reason to accept the historicity of the Book of Daniel, pointing to the following: #the testimony of Jesus ([[Gospel of Matthew|Matthew]] 24:15; 25:31; 26:64) and his apostles (1 Cor. 6:2; 2 Thess. 2:3) and #the testimony of Ezekiel (14:14, 20; 28:3). #The character and records of the book are also entirely in harmony with the times and circumstances in which the author lived. #The linguistic character of the book is, moreover, quite similar to what might be expected. #Certain portions (Dan. 2:4; 7) are written in the Aramaic language; and the portions written in Hebrew are in a style and form having a close affinity with the later books of the Old Testament, especially with that of Ezra. The writer is familiar both with the Hebrew and the Aramaic, passing from the one to the other just as his subject required. This is in strict accordance with the position of the author and of the people for whom his book was written. That Daniel is the writer of this book is also testified to in the book itself (7:1, 28; 8:2; 9:2; 10:1, 2; 12:4, 5).
Apocalyptic visions in DanielThe second part, the remaining six chapters, are visionary, an early example of apocalyptic literature, in which the author, now speaking in the first person, reveals a vision entrusted to him alone. The historical setting of the first chapters does not appear. It too consists of text from two sources, part (to 7:28) written in Aramaic, the rest (chapters 8–12) in Hebrew. The apocalyptic part of Daniel consists of three visions and one lengthened prophetical communication, mainly having to do with the destiny of Israel:
- The vision in the first year of Belshazzar the king of Babylon (7:1) concerning four great beasts (7:3) representing four future kings (7:17) or kingdoms (7:23), the fourth of which devours the whole earth, treading it down and crushing it (7:23); this fourth kingdom produces ten kings, and then a special, eleventh person arises out of the fourth kingdom that subdues three of the ten kings (7:24), speaks against the Most High and the saints of the Most High, and intends to change the times and the law (7:25); after a time and times and half a time (three and a half years), this person is judged and his dominion is taken away (7:26); then, the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven are given to the people of the saints of the Most High (7:27)
- The vision in the third year of Belshazzar concerning a ram and a male goat (8:1–27); Daniel interprets the goat as the "kingdom of Yawan" that is, the Hellenistic kingdom (8:21)
- The vision in first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus (9:1) concerning seventy weeks, or seventy "sevens", apportioned for the history of the Israelites and of Jerusalem (9:24)
- A lengthy vision in the third year of Cyrus king of Persia (10:1- 12:13)
The prophetic and escatological visions of Daniel, with those of Ezekiel and Isaiah, are the scriptural inspiration for much of the apocalyptic ideology and symbolism of the Qumran community's Dead Sea scrolls and the early literature of Christianity. "Daniel's clear association with the Maccabean Uprising in Palestine was undoubtedly one of the reasons why the Rabbis, following the uprisings against Rome, downgraded it from its position among the 'Prophets'" (Eisenman 1997, p 19f).
In Daniel are the first references to a "kingdom of God" and the most overt reference to the resurrection of the dead in the Tanakh.
Most secular interpreters find that references in the Book of Daniel reflect the persecutions of Israel by the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–164 BC), and consequently date its composition to that period. This conclusion was drawn by Porphyry of Tyros (c.f. also Book of Enoch), a third century pagan Neo-Platonist whose 15 volume work Against the Christians is only known to use through Jerome.
Secular interpreters have raised a raft of objections against an early dating, though many of their objections cut both ways. At one point historians felt the use of a few Greek words throughout the text suggested that it could not have been written prior to the rise of Greek culture. However, sacred historians have objected to this, claiming that mercenaries and traders of Greek origin had been in the area for a hundred years before the putative date of writing. They also suggest it would be a strange forgery indeed to litter an Aramaic and Hebrew text with Greek words.
Sacred historians, such as John Walvoord, have suggested that secular historians have as a major obstacle in accepting an early dating the 'a priori' belief that genuine prophecy is impossible. He also objects that many of the historical inaccuracies claimed by opponents are caused by their own hypothesis that Antiochus Epiphanes represents the fulfillment of the prophecies given, creating a type of circular reasoning.
According to Walvoord in Daniel-The Key to Prophetic Revelation, most secular historians, and practically all sacred historians, believe the work to be the product of a single writer.
Christian uses of DanielAs mentioned above, the prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Children from the deuterocanonical parts of Daniel are widely used in Orthodox and Catholic prayer.
The various episodes in the first half of the book are used by Christians as moral stories, and are often seen to foreshadow events in the gospels.
The apocalyptic section is primarily important to Christians for the image of the "Son of Man" (Dan. 7:13). According to the gospels, Jesus used this title as his preferred name for himself. The connection with Daniel's vision (as opposed to the usage in the Book of Ezekiel) is made explicit in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark (Matt 27:64; Mk 14:62). Christians see this as a direct claim by Jesus that he is the Messiah.
Influence of Daniel
Due to the specificity of its prophecy and its place in both the Jewish and Christian cannons, the book of Daniel has had great influence on the history of man.
Jews in particular have had to grapple with its predictions. The Jewish exegete Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon, sometimes called simply RaMBaM and later called Maimonides was so concerned that the "untutored populace would be led astray" if they attempted to calculate the timing of the Messiah and found that he should have already come that it was decreed that "Cursed be those who predict the end times." This verbiage can be both found in the famous IGERET TEIMAN and in his booklet The Statutes and Wars of the Messiah-King.
Similarly, Rabbi Judah, who is so revered in his compilation of the core of the Talmud as to simply be referred to as "The Rabbi," lamented that the times for the fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel "were over long ago." (Sanhedrin 98b. and 97a)
Messianic Jews and Christians have embraced the prophecies of Daniel, as they believe they clearly illustrate that Jesus Christ of Nazareth must be the Messiah. They consider the seventy weeks prophecy to be particularly compelling due to its literal accuracy. They also content that this prophecy is compelling regardless of whether one takes a late or early dating of Daniel, as they consider the prophecy fulfilled well after even the latest datings of Daniel.
Medieval study of angels was also affected by this book, as it is the only Old Testament source for the names of two of the archangels, Gabriel and [[Michael (archangel)|Michael]] (Dan 9:21; 12:1). The only other angel given a name in the Old Testament is Raphael, mentioned in the deuterocanoncial Book of Tobit.
- Christian translations:
- Jewish Encyclopedia: Daniel
- Daniel in the Historians' Den – An analysis of the book's origins, from a skeptical perspective.
- Life-Study of Daniel – online study of the Book of Daniel, from a Christian perspective
- A discussion of Jewish beliefs about the Messiah
- Evidences Relating to the Book of Daniel
- Linguistic Argument on Dating of Daniel
- Historical Questions About Daniel A Q&A format defense of Daniel's early dating.
- E. J. Bickerman, Four Strange Books of the Bible, 1967 A standard analysis.
- Daniel Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus 1997.
- John F. Walvoord, Daniel-The Key to Prophetic Revelation