What does it means to say that "Daniel wrote/Did not write the book of Daniel?" Are we saying: 1. Daniel did not produce the finish product but could have provided the notes 2. Daniel had nothing at all to do with the production or compilation of of the book?
The traditional Jewish and Christian identification of the author of the book of Daniel is, of course, Daniel himself. All biographical details about Daniel in the book are taken at face value: he was a young member of the Judean nobility, deported to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar in the year 605 BC, who quickly found favor with the Babylonian court for his wisdom, and subsequently became an interpreter of dreams and had prophetic dreams of his own.1
The entire book is obviously the work of one writer. . . . . If Daniel is named as the one who received certain revelations, it follows that he must be the author of the whole book. Therefore the book purports to have been written in the sixth century before Christ. It claims to be the fruit of the ministry of a Jewish captive named Daniel who occupied high positions in the courts of the kings who ruled Mesopotamia. The book's claims are bolstered by the fact that the historical context of Daniel is the Babylonian and Persian empires, and not the Hellenistic world of the second century when critics date the book.
The answer of critical scholarship is much more complex. The book of Daniel is divided into two sections on the basis of its content: the 'court tales' of chapters 1-6, and the 'apocalyptic visions' of chapters 7-12. However, adding to the confusion is that chapters 2-7 are preserved in Aramaic, while chapters 1 and 8-12 are in Hebrew.
In the late 19th century the Nabonidus Chronicle was published, a document which 'revealed that Nabonidus had been absent from Babylon for several years'.2 Hence, scholars speculated for decades that the story of Nebuchadnezzar's seven-year madness in Daniel 4 was actually based on Nabonidus' absence. Then the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, and among them a document labeled 4Q242, which reads:3
The words of the prayer uttered by Nabunai king of the l[and of Ba]bylon, [the great] king, [when he was afflicted] with an evil ulcer in Teiman by decree of the [Most High God]. I was afflicted [with an evil ulcer] for seven years . . . and an exorcist pardoned my sins. He was a Jew from [among the children of the exile of Judah, and he said], 'Recount this in writing to [glory and exalt] the name of the [Most High God'. And I wrote this:] 'I was afflicted with an [evil] ulcer in Teiman [by decree of the Most High God]. For seven years [I] prayed to the gods of silver and gold, [bronze and iron], wood and stone and clay, because [I believed] that they were gods . . .
This granted the hypothesis substantial support: the 'court tales' appear to have originated separately from the apocalyptic chapters of the book; they were stories of folklore about an idealized sage in a foreign court (comparable to Joseph in Genesis, Mordecai in Esther, or Ahikar in extra-biblical literature). These stories of a Jewish sage in Babylon may have floated independently of one another, or they may have been collected together. (The Greek additions to Daniel would also have come from this 'Daniel Cycle' of folklore.)
The book of Daniel is replete with historical inaccuracies regarding the Babylonian and Persian periods, indicating it was written quite some time after those eras. Between this point, and the independent nature of the court tales, the person of 'Daniel' appears to be a literary fabrication, not a historical figure (and hence, not the author of the book). Davies suggests this 'Daniel' character may not have been a well-known figure in Jewish culture before the book was completed,4 and Collins is one scholar to suggest the very name 'Daniel' was chosen for the anonymous Jewish sage of the folklore out of inspiration from the ancient sage 'Danel', mentioned by Ezekiel and Ugaritic texts.5
The apocalyptic visions offer more details to us as to who the author(s) might have been. Chapters 7-12 are almost exclusively focused on Antiochus Epiphanes and the ensuing Maccabean Revolt. (See my answers to two other questions here and here for a fuller exposition on these details.) The concern here is the resolution of the Revolt, the cleansing of the temple in Jerusalem, and the reinstitution of the sacrifices, offerings, and Torah observance. Critical scholars have long noticed that the apocalyptic section's grasp on history during the Maccabean Revolt appears to suddenly disappear a year or two before its conclusion.
Some scholars also go a little further than simply identifying the time period of the author, by also trying to deduce his specific theological or ethical identity. Hill notes:6
Unlike many apocalypticists, Daniel did not foresee a great battle in which the armies of Israel would vanquish their foes. Instead, the victory would be God's alone. In the meantime, believers were to batten down the hatches and weather the storm.
This mindset is thematically found in the court tales: neither Daniel nor his fellow exiles resort to violence against their Babylonian captors; they only endure through their adversities, trusting that God will vindicate them. Going into Daniel 11, Hill continues:7
Almost certainly, the author of this text was among the "wise" teachers to whom these verses [11.33-35] refer. There is no consensus about who helps them ("a little") or what form that assistance takes. Many have interpreted the saying as an early reference to the Maccabees, but that identification is by no means certain.
Davies also locks onto references to these 'wise':8
At the close of the book of Daniel comes a passage of four verses in which a group within Israel, called the 'wise,' are promised an extraordinary deliverance (12.1-4). . . . The reference [in 11.32-35] to a 'little help' and to those who 'join themselves to them with flattery' are taken by virtually every commentator as a disparaging reference to the Maccabean resistance. If this is so (see the following Chapter), the reason is quite obvious: the time of deliverance is the time appointed by God, and the death of the righteous in the meantime is to test and purify them; hence active resistance would be neither theologically appropriate nor politically effective. The advocacy of passive resistance is in harmony with the stories; the heroes are powerless to defend themselves, but in any case their witness rests not on their power to resist but the power of their God to assert his sovereignty. This is the stance of the 'wise' in our passage; their role is not to lead resistance, but to teach and to suffer: they 'make many understand' and they (or some of them) 'fall'.
Coming up to chapter 12, Collins points something out regarding the date-setting in the final verses of the book:9
The heat of persecution also underlies the attempts in Daniel to specify the number of days until the end. Such attempts are rare in the apocalypses. In the case of Daniel, contradictory numbers were allowed to stand side by side (Dan 12:11: 1,290 days; 12:12: 1,335 days). This shows that they were not taken with absolute literalness. The final figure was presumably the result of a revised calculation when the first date passed.
It would be impossible to enumerate and identify every writer who contributed to the book of Daniel. Most of them are anonymous. At the bare minimum of historical possibility we would have two authors: the earlier authors(s) having written the original court tales, and the later author(s) having written the apocalyptic visions and having edited the court tales to bring them into cohesion with the visions. Possibly also a third author, if we do not assume the second author was the one who added the revised calculations in chapter 12.
The actual number of authors, however, is likely more than just two or three. The court tales may have originated independently, with a later author simply unifying them into a collection. Some of the apocalyptic visions may have directly adapted earlier sources before also being unified, such as Daniel 7 being a reshaped story from the Baal mythos. For the sake of simplicity, let's simply look at the final author(s), the one who gave us the (bulk of the) book in its present (Hebrew) form:
- Wrote the book about 166-165 BC, while in Judea.
- Highly valued the Jerusalem temple and all the related commamds in the Torah concerning it. As such, he would have opposed the Hellenization many of his contemporaries had undergone (cf. 1 Maccabees 1.11-15).
- Considered himself among 'the wise', a group which favored a pacifistic approach, at least as regarding foreign occupation of his homeland, because they believed God would directly intervene on their behalf.
- Rejected the violent resistance of the Maccabees, another group of Jews who opposed Hellenization and the foreign occupation of Judea, though at least recognized they were working toward the same goal (hence calling them 'a little help').
1 James E. Smith, Daniel: A Christian Interpretation, 14.
2 John J. Collins, Daniel, 62.
3 Geza Vermes, The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, 329.
4 Philip R. Davies, Daniel, 42.
5 John J. Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination, Chapter 3. (Kindle edition.)
6 Craig C. Hill, In God's Time, Chapter 5. (Kindle edition.)
8 Davies, 109-110.
9 Collins, Apocalyptic Imagination, Chapter 3.
One point I would like to add, Jesus attributed the authorship of the book of Daniel to the prophet Daniel and Jesus very clearly acknowledged the existence of this person.
KJV Matthew 24:15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)
Daniel spoke about the abomination of Desolation - this clarifies that Daniel was a real person and the events described in the book are real including the prophecies.
Who so ever reads, let him understand - Meaning whatever Daniel saw was recorded and at that recorded clearly and correctly. If it had been erroneously recorded then Jesus would not have asked His followers to read and understand. Thus, the recorded portion of Daniel's prophecies are accurate according to Jesus Christ.
The Book of Daniel does not contain an attribution or claim to authorship, but is nevertheless traditionally attributed to Daniel, living during the entire period of the Babylonian Exile and in the early years of the Persian period. Some of the text is written in the first person, and after all, if the book is historically accurate, only Daniel could have known so much detail about events in his life.
There is no evidence that Daniel was a real historical person, and some scholars believe the name for the principal character of the Book of Daniel may have been inspired by Ezekiel 14:14, written a little before the timeframe of Daniel:
Ezekiel 14:14: Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD.
Scholars long believed that the Book of Daniel was entirely written during the Maccabean period, but Philip R. Davies says in 'The social world of apocalyptic writings', published in The World of Ancient Israel (edited by R. E. Clements), page 256, that chapters l-6 are now "widely accepted as not only earlier, but reflecting a different social setting from the visions of Chapters 7-12." In other words, there were at least two main authors of Daniel, one living during the Maccabean period and one living at least a century earlier. Neither of these authors was Daniel, the character portrayed in the book.
Leonard J Greenspoon says, in 'Between Alexandria and Antioch: Jews and Judaism in the Hellenistic Period', published in The Oxford History of the Biblical World, page 341:
All but the most conservative interpreters agree that these chapters [7-12] date from the time of the Maccabean revolt, specifically to the period between Antiochus' decrees of 167 BCE and Judah's cleansing of the Temple at the end of 163.
Although we know when these chapters are believed to have been written, and the final composition of the book, we will probably never know who the anonymous author was.
A similar problem applies to the earlier chapters of Daniel. It would be comforting to see these chapters as having been written by Daniel himself, but that does not appear to be the case. Lester L. Grabbe says in Ancient Israel, page 211, "the author of Daniel seems to know of Nebuchadnezzar only through the biblical text." The Institute for Biblical & Scientific Studies says that a fragmentary Dead Sea Scroll known as 4Q2424, or 4Q Prayer of Nabonidus, preserves an earlier Jewish tradition that pre-dates the Book of Daniel and has some similarities to the neo-Babylonian texts. The Prayer of Nabonidus may explain the origin of the biblical story of Nebuchadnezzar living like a beast.
Once again, we do not know who wrote these chapters in the Book of Daniel.
WHO WROTE DANIEL WHEN?
The book of Daniel itself claims to have been written in the 6th century B.C. by a person named Daniel. The book explicitly predicts the rise of Medo-Persia and Greece as dominant powers centuries later.
In contrast, the academic consensus is that the prophetic visions in Daniel were written by an unknown writer in the second century B.C. – after Medo-Persia and Greece rose to power. For example:
“The Book of Daniel … was written … when the Jews were suffering severe persecution under Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175–164/163 BCE).” (Britannica)
In other words, the academic consensus is that Daniel was written after the events it predicts.
For the Christian faith, the implications of the academic consensus are devastating:
- Firstly, it would mean that one of the books of the Bible (Daniel) is a forgery. Could the same apply to the other books?
- Secondly, Jesus regarded Daniel as a real person and as a prophet (Matt 24:15). If Jesus was mistaken, what other mistakes did He make?
- Thirdly, Revelation is built on the foundation of the Book of Daniel. For example, the Beast of Revelation is the same as the evil king-horn in Daniel. Therefore, if Daniel is a forgery, then Revelation is fiction.
- In fact, the academic consensus with respect to the rest of the Bible is similar to Daniel's. For example, the consensus is that the five books of Moses were not written by Moses but by people who lived long after Moses. Some even claim that the entire Hebrew Bible is propaganda for a Judaism that arose in the Persian period or later.
To defend against the academic consensus, conservative Christians argue as follows:
The main argument of conservative Christians is as follows:
- “The intellectual culture of our day is for the most part profoundly non-theistic and hence non-Christian … More than that, it is antitheistic.” (Plantinga, perhaps the best-known Christian philosopher today) In other words, the ‘intellectual culture’ does not accept the existence of the supernatural. Science requires natural answers to all questions.
- Over the last 300 years, theological faculties of large universities have bought into this ‘intellectual culture’. In other words, these theological faculties also reject the supernatural.
Consequently, such theological faculties:
- Regard as fiction the idea that God created all things and the miracles that are recorded in the Bible.
- Do not accept that God supernaturally guided the production of the Bible. In other words, they do not regard the Bible as the word of God.
- Do not believe that accurate long-term predictions are possible. Conservative Christians argue that it is for this reason that the critical consensus is that Daniel was written after the events it seems to predict.
For many conservative Christians, that the academic consensus is driven by naturalism (the belief that everything arises from natural causes), is the main defense against the academic consensus.
In support of this view, conservative Christians argue as follows:
- Satan is the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4).
- Christianity is marching through largely alien territory.
- The devil has come down to this world (Rev 12:12).
- The letters to the seven churches (Rev 2-3) show that the Antichrist is inside the church.
- Babylon, the mother of harlots is a woman, implying that she claims to be the bride of Christ.
- In Jesus’ day, the scribes and Pharisees were the academic elite but, actually, they were controlled by Satan (Matt 23:27-36). Why should it today be different?
The Wikipedia article on Daniel 9 also says that Daniel was written in the second century B.C. but describes it as “the consensus among critical scholars:”
- The consensus among critical scholars is that … the visionary chapters 7–12 were added during the persecution of the Jews under Antiochus IV in 167–163 BCE. (Wikipedia)
This “consensus among critical scholars” is the same as the academic consensus discussed above because Biblical criticism and historical criticism have become the standard approach to the study of the Bible in academia.
The Wikipedia article on Biblical Criticism calls Johann Semler (1725–1791) the father of historical criticism because he argued for an end to all doctrinal assumptions. This is the main principle of historical criticism. An end to all doctrinal assumptions includes an end to the assumption that the Bible is God's word. This has changed the nature of the study of the Bible at these academic centers over the last 300 years:
- Traditionally, theology has accepted the Bible as the word of God and studied it to understand what God is saying to us.
- Claiming neutrality, from “all doctrinal assumptions,” historical criticism treats the Bible as a work of literature with human authors. It does not seek for ‘truth’ in the Bible. One conservative website (Quora) says that one indication of this is that, generally, “critical scholars do not ‘waste’ their time on … writing commentaries”.
The word “historic” in historical criticism indicates that it evaluates the Bible against secular history, including ancient languages, documents, and artifacts. Historical criticism, therefore, may be regarded as a specialized form of Historical Studies. For conservative Christians, this is what theological faculties have evolved into over the last 300 years due to the shift in the intellectual culture towards an anti-theistic position.
WHY CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIANS TRUST THE BIBLE
Conservative Christians hold that they are able to trust the Bible and to reject the academic consensus for reasons such as the following:
(1) Christians do not trust the Bible because it has been proven to agree with secular history. They trust the Bible because of the beauty and synergy and meaning that they find in it, revealing its supernatural Source.
(2) Daniel contains spiritual truths that were unknown in the second century B.C., such as the resurrection of the dead with consequent rewards and punishments (Dan 12:2-3, 13).
(3) Even if Daniel was written in the time of Antiochus IV, it still contains true prophecy. For example, it predicts the rise of the Roman Empire in the century after Antiochus (see here), Jesus Christ in the first century A.D. (Daniel 9 - Messiah killed, stop sacrifices, atone for iniquity), and the fall of Rome in the fifth century A.D. (see here) - eight centuries after Antiochus.
(4) Jesus and all Bible writers accepted Daniel as true prophecy (Matt 24:15).
(5) Over decades, conservative Christians claim, numerous commentators have provided well-researched answers to the historical 'errors' that critical scholars have discovered in the book of Daniel.
(6) Counterarguments exist for the arguments of historical criticism. For example, the book of Maccabees was written to record the Maccabean struggle but it refers in the plainest terms to the Daniel of the captivity.
(7) Historical criticism is only possible if one presupposes that the Bible is NOT the word of God. Therefore, although it claims to be neutral, it is not: “Nothing in the Biblical text is accepted without support from an independent source” (Alan Millard). The presupposition that the Bible is NOT the word of God predetermines research outcomes.
(8) The documents and knowledge on which historical criticism relies are very old and limited. The certainty of the conclusions, therefore, is low. Alvin Plantinga has said: “There is no compelling or even reasonably decent argument for supposing that the procedures and assumptions of [historical Biblical criticism] are to be preferred to those of traditional Biblical commentary.”
For a further discussion of the arguments conservative Christians use to defend against the critical consensus, see here.