The book of Daniel is said to be written in Hebrew, Aramaic (late and early) and the the author also used loan words from Persian and Greek.

If the original scrolls are not available, how do scholars determine this facts?

For example, could the loan words (such as Kitharis, Psanterion, Symphonia) have been introduced as part of modernization during the copying process?

EDIT The Greek loan words would be those in Daniel 3:5: κιθαρις (cithara), ψαλτηριον (psaltery) and συμφωνια (symphonia)

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    You will need to quote some specific passage for us to provide an answer.
    – Dottard
    Feb 28, 2021 at 20:59
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    I'd especially like to see proof of the Greek loan words, as my understanding is that only two words that are names of Greek musical instruments are loan words, no Greek idioms or general language loan words appear. Same for "late" and "early" aramaic. These are some unorthodox suppositions.
    – Robert
    Feb 28, 2021 at 23:37
  • @Dottard I've updated my answer Mar 1, 2021 at 18:16

2 Answers 2


The question is based on the unverified assumption that the Greek words, κιθαρις (cithara), ψαλτηριον (psaltery) and συμφωνια (symphonia), are the source of the Aramaic and thus loan words. This is possible inasmuch as the Greek language is older than the 6th century BC and was highly influential by then. Given that the meeting of officials described in Dan 3 was truly international, and thus some international words were used.

However, It is entirely possible, in fact probable, that Greek borrowed the words from Aramaic because Aramaic appears to be much older than Greek.

Barnes makes similar comments on Dan 3:5 -

It has been alleged that this word is of Greek origin, and hence, an objection has been urged against the genuineness of the book of Daniel on the presumption that, at the early period when this book is supposed to have been written, Greek musical instruments had not been introduced into Chaldea. For a general reply to this, see the introduction, section I, II, (d). It may be remarked further, in regard to this objection,

(1) that it is not absolutely certain that the word is derived from the Greek. See Pareau, 1. c. p. 424, as quoted in Hengstenberg, "Authentic des Daniel," p. 16.

(2) It cannot be demonstrated that there were no Greeks in the regions of Chaldea as early as this. Indeed, it is more than probable that there were. See Hengstenberg, p. 16, following.

The Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament has more information -

The great delight of the Babylonians in music and stringed instruments appears from Isaiah 14:11 and Psalm 137:3, and is confirmed by the testimony of Herod. i. 191, and Curtius, Daniel 3:3. קרנא, horn, is the far-sounding tuba of the ancients, the קרן or שׁופר of the Hebr.; see under Joshua 6:5. משׁרוקיתא, from שׁרק, to hiss, to whistle, is the reed-flute, translated by the lxx and Theodot. σύριγξ, the shepherd's or Pan's pipes, which consisted of several reeds of different thicknesses and of different lengths bound together, and, according to a Greek tradition (Pollux, iv. 9, 15), was invented by two Medes. קיתתס (according to the Kethiv; but the Keri and the Targ. and Rabbin. give the form קתרס) is the Greek κιθάρα or κίθαρις, harp, for the Greek ending ις becomes ος in the Aramaic, as in many similar cases; cf. Ges. Thes. p. 1215. סבּכא, corresponding to the Greek σαμβύκη, but a Syrian invention, is, according to Athen. iv. p. 175, a four-stringed instrument, having a sharp, clear tone; cf. Ges. Thes. p. 935. פּסנמּרין (in Daniel 3:7 written with a טinstead of תand in Daniel 3:10 and Daniel 3:15 pointed with a Tsere under the )ת is the Greek ψαλτήριον, of which the Greek ending ιον becomes abbreviated in the Aram. into ין (cf. Ges. Thes. p. 1116). The word has no etymology in the Semitic. It was an instrument like a harp, which according to Augustin (on Psalm 33:2 [Psalm 32:2] and Psalm 43:4 [Psalm 42:4) was distinguished from the cithara in this particular, that while the strings of the cithara passed over the sounding-board, those of the psalterium (or organon) were placed under it. Such harps are found on Egyptian (see Rosellini) and also on Assyrian monuments (cf. Layard, Ninev. and Bab., Table xiii. 4). סוּמפּניה, in Daniel 3:10 סיפניה, is not derived from ספן, contignare, but is the Aramaic form of συμφωνία, bag-pipes, which is called in Italy at the present day sampogna, and derives its Greek name from the accord of two pipes placed in the bag; cf. Ges.

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    I think I didn’t express myself well enough in the question. It could be much broader: if all we have are copies of original scrolls, how do we know what language was used in said originals? Apr 15, 2021 at 15:58

The book of Daniel is said to be written in Hebrew, Aramaic (late and early) and the the author also used loan words from Persian and Greek.

If the original scrolls are not available, how do scholars determine this facts?

In the article "Daniel, Book of" the Insight on the Scriptures discusses the uses of Hebrew and Aramaic along with the use of Persian loan words:

Language. Daniel 1:1–2:4a and 8:1–12:13 are written in Hebrew, while Daniel 2:4b–7:28 is written in Aramaic. Regarding the vocabulary used in the Aramaic portion of Daniel, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Vol. 1, p. 860) says: “When the Aramaic vocabulary of Daniel is examined, nine-tenths of it can be attested immediately from West Semitic inscriptions, or papyri from the 5th cent. B.C. or earlier. The remaining words have been found in sources such as Nabatean or Palmyrene Aramaic, which are later than the 5th cent. B.C. While it is at least theoretically possible that this small balance of vocabulary suddenly originated after the 5th cent. B.C., it is equally possible to argue from a fifth-century B.C. written form to an earlier oral one. By far the most probable explanation, however, is that the missing tenth represents nothing more serious than a gap in our current knowledge of the linguistic situation, which we may confidently expect to be filled in process of time.”​—Edited by G. Bromiley, 1979.

There are some so-called Persian words in Daniel, but in view of the frequent dealings that the Jews had with Babylonians, Medes, Persians, and others, this is not unusual. Furthermore, most of the foreign names used by Daniel are names of officials, articles of clothing, legal terms, and such, for which the Hebrew or Aramaic of the time apparently had no equally suitable terms. Daniel was writing for his people who were for the most part in Babylonia, and many were scattered in other places at this time. Therefore, he wrote in language that would be understandable to them.

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