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)?


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.

  • Here's a paper that argues for the early dating: espanol.apologeticspress.org/rr/reprints/… – Soldarnal Oct 7 '11 at 4:44
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    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). – user2910 Jan 18 '16 at 23:45
  • @MarkEdward, you are correct. I was going off memory and forgot those guides. – Frank Luke Jan 19 '16 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.


The most important arguement for a late date is that if Daniel were written in the 6th Century BC, it would mean that predictive prophecy had occurred, an astounding thing. Other less significant arguments are related to Darius the Mede not being attested to in history, and other less significant issues.

Evidence for an early date are these:

  1. Daniel describes Nebuchadnezzar as the builder of Babylon. Greek historians attributed the construction to Semiramis, a legendary Assyrian queen. That history had been lost by 160 BC, but Daniel records it correctly
  2. Daniel states that Beltashazzar could only give Daniel the third place in the kingdom. This was the best he could do as he was a co-regent with his father. This, too, had been lost by 160 BC., but Daniel had the politics right.
  3. The Book of Daniel is found among the Dead Sea scrolls dating from about 125 BC, There are several fragments, and they do not all agree, that is, there were different “schools” of documents, one close to the masoretic text, and one nearer the Septuagint. It is impossible for such “schools” of texts to have developed in only 40 or less years. The book thus must be more ancient.
  4. The linguistic studies have been covered.
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    Hello Allen - welcome to BHSX. Thanks for this excellent answer. It could be improved with some historical references. – Mac's Musings Nov 5 '18 at 8:34

Here are a few excerpts from “The Book of Daniel Confirmed by the Dead Sea Scrolls,” by Gerhard Hasel arguing for an earlier date of authorship for the book of Daniel than what is commonly accepted by modern biblical scholars who advocate a date between 167-64 BC,

At this juncture we need to make the point that according to current historical-critical opinion with its ‘Maccabean hypothesis,’ the book of Daniel originated in its present form during the time of the Maccabees and the crisis brought about by Antiochus Epiphanes, that is between 168/7 and 165/4 B.C. It seems difficult to believe that such a significant number of Daniel manuscripts would have been preserved in a single desert community, if the book had really been produced at so late a date. The large number of manuscripts can be much better explained if we conclude that the book of Daniel had a much earlier origin.”

“Scholars who theorize that the book of Daniel wasn’t written until the Maccabean crisis (around 165 B.C.) are being compelled to admit that 4QDane [ca. 125 B.C.] comes from ‘only a half century later than the composition of the book of Daniel.’ This means that these scholars will now have to demonstrate that a mere forty or fifty years was sufficient time for all the editorial and other processes needed—according to their traditio-historical and redaction-critical theories—for the book to be developed into its present form and become canonical!”

“In 1969, based on the evidence available at that time regarding the Qumran Daniel texts, Roland K. Harrison concluded that the second-century B.C. dating of the book of Daniel is rendered absolutely impossible by the evidence from Qumran. There was, he said, insufficient time for Maccabean compositions to be circulated, venerated, and accepted as canonical Scripture by a Maccabean sect."

“There can no longer be any possible reason for considering the book [of Daniel] as a Maccabean product.”

“Ulrich, ‘Daniel Manuscripts from Qumran. Part 1,’ observes that 4QDanc, with its very early dating, ‘is thus, for the Hebrew Bible comparable to the Rylands manuscript of the Johannine Gospel for the New Testament.’ The papyrus fragment of the Gospel of John (published in 1935) known as Rylands 457 and as P52 and dated to the first half of the second century A.D., was made about as few years after John was actually written as 4QDanc was made after Daniel was allegedly written—according to those scholars who insist that Daniel wasn’t written till around 168-165 B.C., during the Maccabean period.”

(source: https://jimhamilton.info/2010/09/06/qumran-scrolls-and-the-date-of-daniel/)


Well, I believe that the book of Daniel was written in the 6th century Bc. Why? Well there is the story of Shadrach Meshach and Abednego, who were smart Jews that were exiled from the holy land after the destruction of the first temple. This therefore proves that the book of Daniel was written in the traditionally accepted time of 450-550 bc....

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    When I write a story that takes place in the 17th century, was that story written in the 17th century? – Keelan Apr 13 '18 at 19:34
  • I have to agree with @Keelan here - I don't understand what your point is, or why you think that the inclusion of the story is supposed to prove when the book was written. – EJoshuaS Apr 16 '18 at 3:10

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