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)?


11 Answers 11


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
    Commented Oct 7, 2011 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
    Commented Apr 6, 2012 at 17:06
  • "By the 2nd century BC, Hebrew had ceased to be a living language." More evidence on this point, or links to arguments for this, would be helpful.
    – Kyralessa
    Commented Feb 23, 2021 at 11:36

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
    Commented Jul 15, 2013 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
    Commented Jan 18, 2016 at 23:45
  • @MarkEdward, you are correct. I was going off memory and forgot those guides.
    – Frank Luke
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 19:00

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.
  • 2
    Hello Allen - welcome to BHSX. Thanks for this excellent answer. It could be improved with some historical references.
    – user25930
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 8:34

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.


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/)


164 BC, let's see: 1) Was the covenant confirmed 2) Did Jesus die 3) did the sacrifice and oblation cease 4) Was Jerusalem and the sanctuary destroyed 5) Did Jesus die for himself 6) have the Jews been suffering since

Pretty good prophecies for being ~200 years in the future. I'm of the 6th century crowd but thought I should remind the critics, even with your later date, Daniel is a true prophet. I hope that is not what you are trying to disprove.

  • 3
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    – Community Bot
    Commented Nov 22, 2022 at 20:33
  • 1
    Welcome to Hermeneutics! This answer has some good ideas, but uses a very conversational tone. Answers need to be more direct and clear, with specific reasons that support the answer to the question. Can you edit it to do that?
    – Jesse
    Commented Nov 22, 2022 at 23:17

The scientific date for Titus and the Roman armies burning down Herod's Temple happened on Sunday (day of the week inferred by Josephus and pinpointed by Rabbi Yose, Book of the Order of the World, Ref: Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, para. 201-203), August 5, AD 70. Daniel 9:26 foretold of the destruction for Herod's Temple. New Moon on July 26 aligns ten days to Sunday, 8/5/AD70. Using 165 BC for composition date reveals the burning down of Herod's Temple occurred 235 years into the future. For conservatives, using 530 BC as the composition date supports burning down Herod's Temple 600 years into the future. Therefore, the premise: Foretelling specific events to occur on a precise date, hundreds of years into the future unveil a transcendent Being sourced the texts recorded in Daniel.

You must use the exact science of astronomy, the Mishnah (validates high variation in the practice of the Hebrew calendar before AD 360), Elephantine papyri, and Babylonian Cuneiform texts, to date all the foretold events in the time-based matrix, you discover God-like control of human activities. Refer to "Beyond - The Coming Prince by Sir Robert Anderson" (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08429FCJT) wherein I wrote the study.

Also, you must accept the biblical math recorded in the texts of Daniel. By taking this approach, you discover divine influence over human events so that prophetic utterances become credible as being sourced from a prophet.

The precise date for the decree to rebuild Jerusalem occurred on Sunday, March 16, 445 BC. Sunday date required based on the biblical math use of the number seven, inferring all events must occur on a Sunday. BTW: Eyewitness accounts and Ab 10 date validate Sunday, August 5, AD 70 (Julian calendar).

You must use the biblical math used by Sir Robert Anderson, which supports Jesus' arrival into Jerusalem on Sunday, April 6, AD 32.

We discover precisely 14,000 days from Palm Sunday to the destruction of Herod's Temple. To show the credibility for April 6, AD 32 as the year of Jesus' crucifixion relies on statements in the Mishna and astronomical data from Babylonian Cuneiform texts. (Ref: Sachs, Abraham J., Steele, John M., Hunger, Hermann, Astronomical Diaries and Related Texts from Babylonia, Vol. V, Lunar and Planetary Texts, 2001). For sure, the Babylonian cuneiform texts validate the statement in the Mishnah with astronomical data related to how the ancient people practiced their calendar. You will find that this contrasts with the bias of modern-day scholars, who hold to presuppositions that ignore the exact science of astronomy and how the ancients practiced their calendars.

This is where the Mishnah references validate AD 32 as the year of Jesus' crucifixion.

We find three sets of text in the 70-weeks prophecy that isolate sacrificial offerings as the key to understanding this profound prophecy.

1: The foretold purpose of the time-based prophecy in Dan. 9:24 "atonement"

2: Messiah will be killed as a sacrificial offering in Daniel 9:26 (cut-off) The original Hebrew word "karath" means to covenant (i.e., make an alliance or bargain, originally by cutting flesh and passing between the pieces).

3: Destruction of Herod's Temple on the 14,000th day in the time-based matrix. The purpose of Herod's Temple was to conduct sacrificial services. However, Jesus' death and supernatural resurrection would be the ultimate sacrifice. Therefore, the prophetic texts include the destruction of Herod's Temple related to the purpose of the Messiah becoming a sacrificial offering.

These three items, based on sacrificial offerings, show coherence in the prophetic texts.

I have reasoned that destruction of Herod's Temple as an act of God because Jesus' death and resurrection did away with the need of that temple with its removal on the final 14,000th day.

Destruction of Herod's Temple on the 14,000th day appears to be an act orchestrated by the Source of these texts that could only be given by a transcendent Being, who exists outside the realm of space-time. Therefore, scientific dating and using the biblical math as written, without the abuse of human bias of all types, supports the original texts were recorded in the sixth century BC as recorded in the Bible and accepted by conservatives.

Additional support comes from isolating four sets of 14,000 days hidden beneath the surface of the biblical texts. For example, this research unveils both Solomon's Temple and Herod's Temple burned down on the final 14,000th day. Perchance, some of you will read the following literature and take the time to write an honest review.

Secrets - never heard until now - of the Book of Revelation https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08236FQVC

Eternal Life - Why you should expect to live forever (e-book) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B082FMQT77

Beyond - The Coming Prince by Sir Robert Anderson https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08429FCJT


Book of Daniel mentioned in Flavius Josephus as having been shown to Alexander the Great prophecies about him wouldn't that suggest earlier composition of Daniel existed.

Alexander the Great lived from 356–323 BC.

Josephus, Antiquities 11, Chapter 8, Paragraph 5, speaking of Alexander that Great, includes the sentence: "And when the Book of Daniel was showed him wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended."


The book of Daniel contains manuscrips from a long range of time. A later editor must have bundled these manuscripts. Therefore you should differentiate the date of origin between the different original manuscripts and the later editor.

I found there is a shift of the king's title visible in the book of Daniel which occurred between Darius I and Xerxes (https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/37656/27923).

The notes of Frank Luke appeal to me as for the original manuscripts, but are they also true for the connecting texts?


The MAIN slam dunk argument for the late dating of Daniel is the blatant historic inaccuracies for the time when Daniel supposedly lived. It gets nearly EVERYTHING wrong, on history (proven by Babylonian/Persian records)... BUT then it get nearly EVERYTHING RIGHT, when it comes to the period ending at 164 BCE!... and THEN again, for EVERYTHING AFTER 164 BCE -- it again GETS THINGS GROSSLY WRONG again.

This blatantly indicates that the writers weren't so well versed on actual history from hundreds of years prior, as they confused names, dates, and in some cases made up events/characters that never existed. BUT when it came to their "present day" (~165 BCE) (when the text was actually written) - it became amazingly accurate and detailed. BUT then when it moves into the future beyond the actual date of authorship (post-164 BCE), it again becomes INACCURATE in some very big ways!

What other evidence do you need?

Here is a scholarly article by Richard Carrier, "How We Know Daniel Is a Forgery", which provides the detailed evidence of this argument. Skip to section #2 titled "Historical Problems" to read the details:


Edit based on reviewer comment (add examples):

  1. First off most scholars divide Daniel into 2 main parts: Ch 1-6 which may have been written around the 4th century (still makes it a forgery), but this is the less important part, because it doesn't contain the Messianic prophecies.

  2. From Daniel ch 9-12, most reputable scholars say it was written right around 165 BCE. As Dr. Carrier concludes: "we can directly tell when the book was written: sometime in or shortly before 165. Because any earlier and its inaccuracies would start sooner, and any later and it wouldn’t have circulated successfully so as to gain a strong position as scripture, since its predictions would have been too rapidly falsified"

Also: "Daniel 11:1-4 is not so accurate, but Daniel 11:5-39 is spot on, and that chapter gets progressively more detailed and precise as it follows history along from the Persian to the Alexandrian and then the Seleucid eras, until it spends the most verses, and with the most verifiable detail, on the ten year reign of Antiochus, all the way up to just before his death (and the Jewish recapture of Jerusalem) in 164 [BCE]".

Then he concludes further: "So when we notice Daniel then starts to get history totally wrong (Daniel 11:40-45), incorrectly “predicting” a war between the Ptolemies and Seleucids that never came to pass, and that Antiochus would conquer most of North Africa (he didn’t capture even a single province there, due to the unforeseen intervention of the Romans), and die in Palestine (he was nowhere near), we can directly tell when the book was written: sometime in or shortly before 165. Because any earlier and its inaccuracies would start sooner, and any later and it wouldn’t have circulated successfully so as to gain a strong position as scripture, since its predictions would have been too rapidly falsified"

==== In summary, regarding details at start of Ch 9:1-39, which per Daniel itself, he's claiming to be predicting stuff to happen here after 250 BCE -- and it starts out being reasonable accurate, historically. Then as we approach the magic date of 164 BCE, these prophecies become increasingly more detailed, and more accurate!... But once we cross the 164 BCE threshold, the level of details drop off immediately (because in truth, now they are just talking about stuff that hasn't yet happened as of the true writing time). And for these events after 164 BCE, they get nearly everything wrong!

=== So if you were cross-examining this testimony in a court of law, based upon THIS alone (amount of details, and accuracy of the details) - it all blatantly indicates an authorship of around 164 BCE.

The rest of the arguments mentioned by others, also help, but the blatant smoking gun has mostly to do with the argument the Dr. Carrier has laid out here.

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    – agarza
    Commented Sep 30, 2021 at 21:17
  • 1
    An interesting answer, but if you think the book of Daniel was written circa 165 BCE, some evidence for that late date is required in an hermeneutical answer. If there are some good reasons for a late date given in the article you provide a link to, you would do well to quote some of them, or to at least summarise them. As it is, you have only provided negative reasons for an early date. If you go on to provide positive reasons for that late date, your answer will be complete, for you cannot prove a positive by detailing a negative.
    – Anne
    Commented Oct 3, 2021 at 14:23
  • Richard Carter's article... far too long, tiresome unscholarly trash. -1. Commented Oct 29, 2022 at 13:38

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?
    – user2672
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 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. Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 3:10
  • Perhaps consider re-thinking your logic a little...
    – Hg0428
    Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 21:48

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