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What are the most significant arguments for an early date of authorship of Daniel (6th century BC)? What are the primary arguments for a late date (2nd century BC)?

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up vote 18 down vote accepted

Arguments for a late (2nd century BC) dating:

Anti-Prophetic Argument
One of the first people to dispute the traditional dating of Daniel was Porphyry, a pagan philosopher whose arguments have been preseved by Jerome. He argues that some of the prophecies in Daniel are so congruent to the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the book must have been written during his time (175-164 BC).

Linguistic Argument
Many of the more modern arguments against the traditional dating of Daniel surround linguistic studies. These arguments are built around loan words that are thought not present in the vernacular at the time when Daniel was traditionally written. Moreover, some consider the simple diversity of languages present in Daniel to indicate a later date.

Manuscript Evidence
The earliest known manuscripts are eight copies found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The oldest of these is said to date to about 125 BC.

Arguments for an early (6th century BC) dating:

Argument from Tradition
It should at least be stated that this view maintains the weight of tradition. Absent compelling evidence to the contrary, it should probably be the de facto date. The traditional date, of course, is based on the internal dating of Daniel (cf. Daniel 1:1, 2:1, 7:1).

Canon Argument
Because Daniel appears in the LXX and was considered part of the Jewish Canon, some have argued that a late dating does not allow enough time for full acceptance into that canon. In contrast, the Books of the Maccabees, which were written around that time, only appear in some of the Septuagint manuscripts - evidence that there hadn't been enough time to decide on their canonicity.

Linguistic Argument
The writer of Daniel appears to be fluent in both Hebrew and Aramaic. By the 2nd century BC, Hebrew had ceased to be a living language. The combination, however, is well-suited to an author living in Babylonian exile. Moreover, many studies have come out that discredit some of the linguistic studies supporting the late dating.

To give a flavor of the debate over loan words, here is an excerpt from Wikipedia:

Three Greek words used within the text have long been considered evidence for a late dating of Daniel. All three are terms for musical instruments: κιθαρις (cithara), ψαλτηριον (psaltery) and συμφωνια (symphonia). The existence of the Greek word symphonia was cited by Rowlings as having its earliest known use in the 2nd century BC, but it has subsequently been shown that Pythagoras, born in the 6th century BC, used the term, while its adjectival use meaning "in unison" is found in the Hymni Homerica, ad Mercurium 51; both instances date from the 6th century BC, the supposed setting of Daniel.

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Here's a paper that argues for the early dating:… – Soldarnal Oct 7 '11 at 4:44
The argument style of Porphyry, which would evidence its late date to an unbeliever, furthers the glory of God in the heart of a believer at the detailed accuracy of the prophecy. – Kazark Apr 6 '12 at 17:06

More on the linguistics for an early date. It is more proper to say that Hebrew had changed drastically by the 2nd century BC. Lingual shifts had happened but it was still a living language. The most obvious being the word order changed from verb-subject-object to subject-verb-object. It is called Mishnaic Hebrew and the rabbinic writings are full of it. Evidence for Hebrew as a living language throughout the time of Jesus can be found in Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus. Also, coins have been found from the Hasmonean period (165 BC-37 BC) with Hebrew writing on them. During the time of the Hasmoneans, a Hebrew renaissance was in full swing and a new book written in Aramaic would not easily have been accepted.

The Hebrew in Daniel is perfect for Biblical Hebrew but does not match what was used in Mishnaic Hebrew. Likewise, Aramaic had changed since the time of Imperial Aramaic. The Aramaic in Daniel is perfect for Imperial.

One last indication of the antiquity of Daniel is the style of the apocalyptic sections. Apocalyptic writings changed heavily over the life of the genre, and we have examples of them from throughout the Intertestamental period. Daniel's apoc sections don't have all the pieces we would expect from a late dating.

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The deciding factor for me is that Ezekiel which has an early date was written after Daniel for it mentions him. 'you are indeed wiser than Daniel; no secret is hidden from you; (Ezekiel 28:3)' Anyone who has read Daniel knows 'no secrets was hid from him' refers to only the one Daniel that we know of. It's almost an emblem of his person. This on its own is a weighty argument that tips the balance for me to anything else considered. – Mike Jul 15 '13 at 18:17
I don't understand how you can say Daniel's apocalyptic sections lack an angelic guide. All four sections of chapters 7-12 have Daniel receiving a 'guide' to interpret his visions or explain the apocalyptic nature of the future: one of them appears to be an (angelic?) figure within his first vision (7.16), the angel Gabriel appears to him twice to explain a vision and then the future (8.15-16; 9.20-23), and finally an unidentified angel appears to explain 'a further version' (10.5,14). – Mark Edward Jan 18 at 23:45
@MarkEdward, you are correct. I was going off memory and forgot those guides. – Frank Luke Jan 19 at 19:00

Further argument for a late date

Not only does Daniel seem able to prophesy events close to the time of 167 BCE accurately, although not the relevant events that occurred shortly after this time, but its narrative around the chronology of the Exile seems flawed. Chapter 8 is in the time of Babylonian rule, then Daniel 9:1 is the first year of Darius, son of Xerxes, who was made king over the Chaldeans (Babylonians). "Made king over the Chaldeans" implies conquest, but it was Cyrus who conquered the Chaldeans. Allowing that "son of Xerxes" could mean descendant of, the first Darius who was a descendant of Xerxes I was Darius II, who lived 423-404/5 BCE, far too late for Daniel.

My conclusion is that i) the book was not written after about 167 BCE, else it would certainly have mentioned those events, nor was it predictive, or once again it would have mentioned those events; ii) it was not written during the Exile or early Persian period, or it would have been at least as accurate regarding events in this period as it was regarding events leading up to 167 BCE.

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