Daniel Survives the critics' den

The Dead Sea scrolls have provided a wealth of new material for reassessing current opinions regarding the book of Daniel.

Gerhard F. Hasel, Ph.D., is professor of Old Testament and Biblical theology at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan.


The renewed interest in the apocalyptic is sparking a reassessment of the book of Daniel. 1 This is as it should be, for the book holds a most honored place in the Bible. No other contains such far-reaching predictions regarding Israel and the nations of the world.

Many features of Daniel's content are unique. Among the many Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah, the book of Daniel is the most precise regarding His mission and accomplishments, and particularly the timing of His activity and death.2 The book is unique in its presentation of the exact succession of world empires and their dissolution into small political entities. 3 The forecasting of future events related to the rise and domination of the anti-God forces is second to none in the Bible.4 The book of Daniel makes a unique contribution in the Old Testament regarding the events of apocalyptic eschatolpgy5 with its emphasis on a heavenly judgment, the victory and vindication of the saints of the Most High, the physical resurrection,6 the destruction of all earthly kingdoms and the establishment of God's everlasting kingdom. 7 In short, no other book reveals to the same magnitude details of history, exact time predictions, and the overruling power of God in the affairs of world empires.

It should come as no surprise to the informed person that such a book has not escaped criticism. In the mid-seventeenth century, naturalistic rationalists, unable to deal with supernatural revelation, began to question the authenticity of Daniel. The origin, purpose, and scope of the book was reinterpreted.

It is believed that the Jewish skeptic Uriel Acosta (Gabriel da Costa), who lived from about 1585 to 1640, was the first in post-Reformation times to assign the book of Daniel to a period centuries later than its content indicates. 8 His influence, however, was not much greater than that of the pantheist Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677), who also redated Daniel to a very late period.9 Then in 1727 the English deist Anthony Collins published a detailed study10 in which he "denied the authenticity of the book of Daniel so thoroughly that more recent criticism has added only immaterial aspects."11 It is particularly noteworthy that Collins refers12 to the pagan Neoplatonist philosopher Porphyry (c. 233- 305), whose criticism of the book of Daniel is a part of his twelve-volume work against Christians. 13 Porphyry suggested that the book of Daniel was produced in the crisis of the time of Antiochus IV (Epiphanes), a view adopted by Collins. 14 He also suggested that the Jews of the Greek period modeled their books "by Greek literature . . . [and thus] they became the greatest forgers of books that had appeared in the world." 15 Thus they wrote "in the way of prophecy, with the clearness of history." 16 Collins argues, then, that all the prophecies in Daniel are vaticinia ex eventu (written after the event occurred). In this he is followed not only by H. Corrodi, 17 who was among the first to declare the entire book inauthentic18 and whose influence upon later critical scholarship has been strong, but by many twentieth-century scholars.

Many modern commentaries on the book of Daniel are written from the perspective of the historical-critical method. 19 The reader should be aware that this method of research originated in the presuppositions of the Age of Enlightenment. 20 It is within this context that one must read statements such as these: "The bulk of the material [of the book of Daniel] is historical retrospect from an apocalyptic perspective, i.e., vaticinia ex eventu. These are followed by prophetic glimpses of the future [Dan. 11:40-45], whose failure to correspond to later events proves them to be true prophecies." 21 An assumed author in the period of Antiochus Epiphanes produced narratives, "in the eastern Jewish Diaspora during the Hellenistic period." 22 More recently a few other critical scholars have suggested that the assumed author of Daniel "made use of traditions older than his day, but molded them to serve his purpose." 23 In any case, liberal scholarship holds that the book was produced in its form in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes.

Although we have described briefly what is old in the interpretation of Daniel, there is much that is new and startling. Discoveries in recent years have reopened the questions posed by the Aramaic portions of the book of Daniel. The Greek terms in Daniel can be shown to be no obstacle to an early (sixth-century) date. The alleged error in the chronology of Daniel 1:1 can now be demonstrated to be no error at all. The "undoubted anachronism" 24 of the expression "Chaldean" has found a solution. The kingship of Belshazzar is firmly supported through Babylonian cuneiform sources that archeologists have dug up. The Babylonian names given to the friends of Daniel and to Daniel himself can now be adequately explained on the basis of Babylonian onomastics. Although totally unknown to ancient historians, Nebuchadnezzar is now demonstrated to have rebuilt Babylon as claimed in the book of Daniel. There is even new light on the enigmatic Darius the Mede from cuneiform sources.

But it is to the Qumran caves that we must turn for the most exciting news of our century on the book of Daniel. The phenomenal 1947 discoveries of the Dead Sea scrolls are the twentieth century's greatest archeological finds relating to the Bible. It is unlikely that the supremacy of their importance will be challenged even by the 20,000-plus tab lets from the city of Ebla. 25 

No less than eight copies of the book of Daniel are represented among the Biblical scrolls from Qumran.26 There is also the so-called Florilegium, a document containing Messianic proof texts with commentaries, which mentions "Daniel the prophet" and quotes from the book of Daniel in the same vein it quotes from Isaiah and Ezekiel. What light do these sources shed on the faithfulness of the traditional text? Do they support its canonical status, or the alleged Maccabean date so favored today by many scholars? Let us examine each item before we summarize its importance for the book of Daniel.

Content of the finds

Aside from the famous Isaiah scrolls (lQIsa a , lQIsab ) and other items, the first of the eleven caves at Qumran has provided fragments of two scrolls containing the book of Daniel. One contains Daniel 1:10-17 and 2:2-6 (lQDan a)27 and the other has Daniel 3:22-30 (IQDanb).28 Significantly the former fragment has the transition from Hebrew into Aramaic occurring in Daniel 2:4b (IQDana), indicating that the two languages changed at precisely the place where the traditional (Masoretic) text has it.

For the present we have to be satisfied with publication of the Daniel fragments from Caves 1 and 6 from Qumran. The fragments from Cave 6 are written in a cursive hand on papyrus, in contrast to those from Cave 1, which are in the normal square script on leather (parchments). The Cave 6 fragments contain Daniel 8:16, 17 (?); 8:20, 21 (?); 10:8-16; 11:33-36, 38. 29

It has been reported also that there have been found in Cave 4 of Qumran pieces of no less than four scrolls containing the book of Daniel. Unfortunately they are still unpublished.30 Nevertheless some have been briefly identified. One fragment contains Daniel 2:19-35 (4QDana) and another contains the transition from Hebrew to Aramaic in Daniel 7:28-8:1. 31 This transition demonstrates that the pattern of He brew-Aramaic-Hebrew, which follows the ancient literary device of A-B-A, is preserved where the Masoretic text has it today. 32

These manuscript discoveries indicate that Daniel was one of the most popular Biblical books among the Qumran covenanters, to judge from the number of copies preserved. Fourteen copies are known from Deuteronomy, twelve from Isaiah, ten from the Psalms,33 and eight from Daniel. To these must be added the so-called Florilegium from Cave 4, which contains Biblical quotations introduced with the phrases "written in the book of Isaiah the prophet," "written in the book of Ezekiel the prophet," and "written in the book of Daniel the prophet." 34 Thus we find here not only the designation "Daniel the prophet," just as Jesus designated the author of the book of Daniel in Matthew 24:15, but short quotations from Daniel 12:10 and 11:32. Let us not overlook the fact that the Florilegium (4QFlor) belongs to the pre-New Testament period. The frequent appearance of Daniel scrolls from the second century to the New Testament period together with the fact that apocryphal additions to the book of Daniel (Susanna and the Two Elders, Bel and the Dragon, and The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men) have not appeared at Qumran—indicates that Daniel was considered canonical. 35

Date and text of the finds

Surprising facts surface from the Qumran manuscripts regarding the date, textual affinity, and canonical status of the book of Daniel. The various fragments of Daniel described above usually are considered to belong to the first century B.C. Here is an unusually difficult problem for those scholars who hold to the late composition of the book of Daniel, i.e., a date in the Maccabean period (c. 167-164 B.C.). The famous British scholar Sir S. R. Driver has pointed out, in arguing for a later date for the Qumran scrolls in general, that the generally accepted dates for the Qumran scrolls (from the third century B.C. to c. A.D. 67) would force an earlier dating of Daniel than the Maccabean period. 36 This problem is heightened for critical scholarship by the conclusion of a recent study that indicates that the Old Testament canon was closed in Maccabean times and not, as is often asserted, at the end of the first century A.D.37 In this connection we must be reminded of a statement by Professor Frank M. Cross, Jr., of Harvard University, an authority on the Qumran materials: "One copy of Daniel [from 4Q] is in scribed in a script of the late second century B.C." 38 He then adds this remarkable comment: "In some ways its antiquity is more striking than that of the oldest manuscripts from Qumran, . . ," 39 which date to "the last quarter of the third century B.c." 40 No wonder liberal critical scholarship senses a serious problem for their late date for the book of Daniel!

The text of Daniel has been a matter of difficulty for some people because the Greek translation in the Septuagint reveals a paraphrastic, inexact rendering. The Septuagint is attested in only two manuscripts, i.e., the eleventh-century Codex Chisianus, also designated as Codex 88, and the incomplete Chester Beatty papyrus Codex 967 41 from the third century. The Syro-hexaplaric version of the eighth century also reflects the Septuagint version. Although frequent renderings of the book of Daniel are omitted in the Septuagint, the typical features of that version are its para phrase and expansions, which reveal wide-ranging interpretations rather than a faithful translation. 42 The ancient scholar Jerome noted that the Septuagint version "deviates widely from the truth," i.e., from the Hebrew text, and so he informs us that the church does "not read the prophet Daniel according to the seventy translators [Septuagint], using rather Theodotion's edition." 43 Theodotion is said to have produced a Greek translation of the Old Testament around A.D. 180. The Theodotionic version of Daniel corresponds fairly well to the Hebrew and Aramaic text. On the basis of detailed investigations—in part of materials from the Dead Sea—scrolls it now turns out that the Theodotionic version of the book was actually the work of an earlier translator from pre-New Testament times.44 Thus the so-called Theodotionic version not only rivals the Septuagint version in age, but has gained important strength as a faithful witness to the text of the book of Daniel.

The background of the Greek versions of Daniel is significant also in assessing the Hebrew and Aramaic text. The perennial question—whether the He brew and Aramaic Daniel text as preserved by the Masoretes and reflected in the Theodotionic version is faithful—now can be answered with certainty. The published fragments of three different scrolls from Qumran (lQDan a , lQDanb , 6QDan), which contain Daniel 1:10-17; 2:2-6; 3:22-30; 8:16, 17, 20, 21; 10:8-16; 11: 33-36, 38, and thus both Hebrew and Aramaic, reveal that the variants contain differences in spelling affecting only one letter, inconsequential additions, and typical scribal errors.45 Such differences are so insignificant that they would not show up in a modern translation. Thus the traditional Hebrew and Aramaic text of Daniel has found welcome support.46 We can say on the basis of the new light from the Hebrew-Aramaic fragments and the Theodotionic version that the text of Daniel is today essentially the same as in the time of Christ and before. We can, therefore, have a greater degree of confidence in the traditional (Masoretic) text of Daniel than at any other time in the history of Christianity.

Importance of the finds

The importance of the Dead Sea scrolls for the book of Daniel can hardly be overemphasized, for the following reasons: 1. The published fragments of three different scrolls of Daniel that date to pre-Christian times have substantially the same text as the traditional one preserved in the Masoretic text, from which all our Bibles are translated. We may have high confidence in the essential accuracy of the preserved text, both Hebrew and Aramaic, of the canonical book of Daniel. 2. The Theodotionic version of Daniel corresponds faithfully to the Hebrew-Aramaic text of the book. It rivals the deviant, expansionistic, and paraphrastic Septuagint version in age and is a major source of textual studies of greater antiquity than any other known Greek version of Daniel. 3. The early, pre-Christian canonical status of the book of Daniel is assured on account of the Florilegium quoting Daniel as Scripture on the same level as the books of Isaiah and Ezekiel. Thus serious questions must be raised about the alleged second-century date of the book of Daniel.47 4. The suggested early date for yet-unpublished parts of a scroll from Cave 4 further compromises a late, second-century date for the book. An earlier, pre-Maccabean date may more adequately account for the archaic script used. 5. The eight separate scrolls of Daniel found at Qumran would appear to require more time than a Maccabean date for the book would allow. 6. Al though the Hebrew canon has placed Daniel in the third division of "Writings," the Qumran community, as later also Jesus (Matt. 24:15), speaks of Daniel as "the prophet" who has written the book. 7. The apocryphal additions to Daniel are absent at Qumran, indicating that they are later productions built upon aspects of the canonical Daniel. 8. The transition from Hebrew to Aramaic to Hebrew at Daniel 2:4b and after Daniel 7:28 is preserved in the Qumran fragments, indicating that the book was composed in this manner.

The believer is grateful for these highly significant contributions to the book of Daniel from the Dead Sea scrolls. Many of the old questions are now answered far better than one could have dreamed a few years ago.


1 See L. Morris, Apocalyptic (Grand Rapids, Mich.: 1972); K. Koch, The Rediscovery of Apocalyptic (London: 1972); P. D. Hanson, The Dawn of the Apocalyptic (Philadelphia: 1975); et cetera.

2 Dan. 9:24-27.

3 Chaps. 2:31-45; 7:1-7, 17-27; 8:1-12, 20-26;

4 Chaps. 7:21, 22; 8:9-14; 9:24-27; 11:30-12:5.

5 Chaps. 2:40-45; 7:21,22, 25-27; 8:13, 14; 12:1-4.

6 Chaps. 2:40-43; 7:21-27; 11:30-45; 12:1-5.

7 See the forthcoming essay "The Resurrection in the Theology of Old Testament Apocalyptic," Zeitschrift fur alttestamentliche Wissenschaft (1979).

8 He had in mind the period of the Pharisees. See his tractate Sobre a mortalidade da alma in C. Gebhardt, Die Schriften des Uriel da Costa (1922), pp. 95, 96, 253-259.

9 In his Theologico-Political Treatise (published anonymously in 1670), he suggested that the Sadducees were the ones who redacted the book of Daniel.

10 A. Collins, The Scheme of Literal Prophecy Considered in View of Controversy, Occasioned by a Late Book Entitled: A Discourse of the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion (London: 1727).

11 L. Diestel, Geschichte des AT in der christlichen Kirche (Leipzig: 1869), p. 541.

12 Collins, p. 151.

13 See E. J. Young, The Prophecy of Daniel (Grand Rapids, Mich.: 1949), pp. 317-320.

14 Collins, pp. 151, 152.

15 Ibid., p. 459.

16 Ibid., p. 151.

17 H. Corrodi, Freymuthige Versuche uber verschiedene in Theologie und biblische Kritik einschlagende Gegenst'dnde (1783).

18 H. J. Kraus, Geschichte der historisch-kritischen Erforshung des Alien Testaments, 2d ed. (Neukirchen-Vluyn: 1969), p. 100.

19 For example, R. H. Charles (1929), J. A. Montgomery (1927), N. Porteous (1965), et cetera.

20 See E. Krentz, The Historical-Critical Method (Philadelphia: 1975), who writes in support of this method, and G. Maier, The End of the Historical-Critical Method (St. Louis: 1977), who depicts the failure of this method.

21 G. Fohrer, Introduction to the Old Testament (Nashville: 1968), p. 476.

22 Ibid., p. 474.

23 H. H. Rowley, The Servant of the Lord and Other Essays on the Old Testament (Oxford: 1965), p. 276, n. 1; cf. J. Barr, "Daniel," Peake's Commentary on the Bible (1962), p. 591;J. J. Collins, The Apocalyptic Vision of the Book of Daniel (Missoula, Mont.: 1977), pp. 8-11.

24 Porteous, p. 28.

25 Basic in the mushrooming literature on this subject are P. Matthiae, "Ebla in the Late Early Syrian Period: The Royal Palace and the State Archives," Biblical Archeologist 39/3 (Sept., 1976), pp. 94-113 (with lit.); G. Pettinato, "The Royal Archives of Tell Mardikh-Ebla," Biblical Archeologist 39/2 (May, 1976), pp. 44-52; D. N. Freedman, "A Letter to the Readers," Biblical Archeologist 40/1 (March, 1977), pp. 2-4.

26 This number is provided by J. A. Sanders, "The Dead Sea Scrolls—a Quarter Century of Study," Biblical Archeologist 36 (1973), p. 136.

27 Published by D. Barthelfmy and J. T. Meek, Discoveries in the Judean Desert I, Qumran Cave 1 (Oxford: 1955), pp. 150, 151.

28 Ibid., pp. 151, 152. See also J. C. Trever, "Completion of the Publication of Some Fragments from Qumran Cave 1," Revue Qumran S (1964-1966), pp. 323-344.

29 Published by M. Baillet, J. T. Milik, and R. de Vaux, Discoveries in the Judean Desert III: Textes (Oxford: 1962), pp. 114-116.

30 See J. A. Fitzmyer, S. J., The Dead Sea Scrolls: Major Publications and Tools for Study, 2d ed. (Missoula, Mont.: 1977), p. 20.

31 F. F. Bruce, "The Book of Daniel and the Qumran Community," Neotestamentica et Semitica. Studies in Honor of M. Black, ed. by E. E. Ellis and M. Wilcox (Edinburgh: 1969), p. 222.

32 R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: 1969), p. 1107. Mentions the circumstance, in 1956, of "two manuscripts of the Hebrew text being recovered from 11Q ... to supplement portions of the work found in other Qumran caves." The present writer has discovered in the literature to date nothing that would confirm the 11Q manuscripts.

33 The number of copies preserved in Cave 4.

34 Published by J. M. Allegro and A. A. Anderson, Discoveries in the Judean Desert of Jordan V (Oxford: 1968), pp. 53-57.

35 F. F. Bruce, Second Thoughts on the Dead Sea Scrolls, 2d ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: 1964), p. 57; Harrison, p. 1107.

36 G. R. Driver, The Hebrew Scrolls (Oxford: 1951), p. 9, n. 5.

37 S. Z. Leiman, The Canonization of Hebrew Scripture (Hamden, Conn.: 1976).

38 F. M. Cross, Jr., The Ancient Library of Qumran, rev. ed. (Garden City, N.Y.: 1961), p. 43.

39 Ibid.

40 F. M. Cross, Jr., "The Oldest Manuscripts from Qumran," JBL 74 (1955), p. 164.

41 Codex 88 is in the Vatican Library, Codex 967 is published by F. G. Kenyon, ed., The Chester Beatty Biblical Papyry, fasc. VII (Ezekiel, Daniel, Esther), 2 vols. (London: 1937-1938).

42 See F. F. Bruce, "The Oldest Greek Version of Daniel," Instruction and Interpretation. Studies in Hebrew Language, Palestinian Archeology and Biblical Exegesis, ed. by A. S. van der Woude (Leiden: 1977), pp. 22-40.

43 As quoted in Bruce, "The Oldest Greek Version of Daniel," p. 23.

44 A. Schmitt, Stammt der sogenanntetext bei Daniel wirklich van Theodotion? (Gbttingen: 1966).

45 See for 1QDana and 1QDanb The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary (Washington, D.C.: 1955), vol. 4, p. 744. The other fragments from 6QDan were studied by the author of this article.

46 Bruce, Second Thoughts on the Dead Sea Scrolls, p. 57.

47 Gordon J. Wenham, "Daniel: The Basic Issues," Themelios 2/2 (1977), p. 51.

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Gerhard F. Hasel, Ph.D., is professor of Old Testament and Biblical theology at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan.

January 1979

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