What to do with the Book of Daniel?

The Book of Daniel is undoubtedly one of the strangest books in the Bible, it’s also one of the most problematic, probably even more so than the Book of Joshua. All the evidence I have seen would suggest that it is a literary forgery written around the time of the Maccabees, to give encouragement to the Jewish rebels.

It probably has it’s most worth as the only book of the Jewish Bible to contain explicit and unambiguous references to the resurrection and judgement of the dead. But there is a problem, the previous verse to Daniel 12:2 states that the resurrection would happen ‘around the time’ of Antiochus’ death:

45 He shall pitch his palatial tents between the sea and the beautiful holy mountain. Yet he shall come to his end, with no one to help him.

12 “At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book.

I don’t need Daniel to tell me about the resurrection of the dead, Deuteronomy 32:39 already mentions that God has power over life and death. If God is merciful and just, we can infer that he will surely resurrect and judge the dead. Hence, the Book of Enoch, written ‘before’ Daniel also has a doctrine of life after death.

However, I don’t wish to challenge thousands of years worth of tradition giving canonicity to the Book of Daniel, so what are we to do with it?

Daniel is one of the most spiritual books of the OT and therefore, I can see how it seems out of place with a materialistic view of the OT. It was also written in one of the most extraordinary times of the history of the Word, when the the works of Solomon were destroyed and his decedents carried off to the city of the devil.

One has to understand the gravity of this event, and the great spiritual battle that took place, and which was lost. When the Jews returned from Babylon, they were negatively influenced by this time and they rewrote the OT with what they had learned there.

Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. (Daniel 3:10-11)

Let us not forget the rules of Babylon. All the Jews that returned from Babylon had submitted to the law and worshipped the golden image. This means they made blood offerings to this false god. Remember, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Socrates refused to offer blood sacrifices to the pagan gods. This too, saved his soul from the fire, but not his body.

Daniel and Ezekiel bore witness to this time.

Johannes Greber uses Daniel to describe the methods the spirit of truth uses to communicate with humanity:

“It was by clairvoyance also that the great prophets saw the spirits sent to them, as well as the fate in store for humanity, for nations and for individuals. This fate was generally revealed to them by the spirit-world symbolically. In addition to the gift of clairvoyance, the prophets were also endowed with clairaudience. You will find an example of this if you will read over again the Book of Daniel, especially those of its passages relating to the apparition of the archangel Gabriel: ‘While I was uttering my prayer, the ANGEL Gabriel whom I had seen in the former vision, sped swiftly to me about the hour of the evening sacrifice. He came and talked to me saying: O Daniel, I now come to give you insight. When you began your supplications this divine oracle was granted, which I now come to impart to you, for you are a man greatly loved by God; so ponder the oracle and understand the vision’. (Daniel 9:21 et seq. )

“Then in the twenty-fourth day of the first month, when I was on the banks of the great river, which is Tigris, I raised my eyes, and as I looked there I saw a spirit standing robed in linen, with a girder of fine gold from Ophir round his waist, his body gleaming like a topaz, his face like lightning, his eyes like lamps of fire, his arms and legs like the color of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the noise of a multitude. I, Daniel, alone saw the vision; for the men beside me did not see it; shuddering had seized them, and they ran to hide themselves. So I was left alone to see the great vision. No strength was left in me; paleness ruined my fresh color; I heard the sound of what he was saying, but when I heard his voice I fell down into a dead faint, my face upon the ground. Then a hand touched me, and set me on my knees and hands all shaking. (Daniel 10:4-10.)

“I have quoted these two passages from the Book of Daniel at length, because they are especially instructive for your purposes and because they confirm much of what I have told you so far. In the first place you have here a most pronounced instance of the actual occurrence of clairvoyance and clairaudience. Daniel sees the spirit-shape, whereas his companions do not. But since they also were mediumistic, they felt the proximity of the spirit and its mighty odic power, and fled in terror. This supports my statement that some

people, while they may not be able to see or to hear spirits, can feel their presence. Furthermore, these passages of the Bible, like so many others, prove that spirits have a figure and limbs similar to those of mortals. Finally, Daniel felt a hand which touched him and raised him upon his knees and upon the palms of his hands; it was the hand of Gabriel who had materialized it with the aid of the odic force borrowed from Daniel. The audible speech of the spirit and the materialization of its hand required so much odic force that Daniel, who had sunk powerlessly to the ground, had to be strengthened by Gabriel with his own odic energy.

I tend to take a more conservative view on Daniel and see that it was a book with events taking place during the Babylonian exile. The events of Daniel did happen and take place but I doubt Daniel wrote a large majority of the book (asides from the prophecies which I believe he did write down, the events of his life were passed down over time and added into the book in my opinion) A lot of the prophecies that were written down were meant to comfort the Hebrews in exile and I tend to take a very liberal view of the abomination of desolation and see it was the event that took place when Antiochus IV sacrificed a pig in the temple in 167 BC and Jesus would later on use this as a reference point when He made his prophecy about the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. And as you have said Daniel didn’t come up with the doctrine of the resurrection but it has been a long lived motif within Judaism since Moses. Daniel is a book of part narrative story and the other half is prophecy, very dark apocalyptic prophecy along with Ezekiel and Zechariah (of whom a lot of apocalyptic symbolism was also taken by John when he wrote Revelation).

While I do not take a conservative view on Daniel, to call it a forgery is too strong. Daniel is a work of inspirational fiction dating (in its final form) to near the end of the reign of Antiochus IV, and meant to buttress the faithful during the Hellenistic oppressions of that era. Pseudepigraphy was so conventional at the time that, whatever it was precisely about, it is anachronistic to apply the modern concept of “forgery” to it, with all the sense of nefarious and malevolent intent that goes along with that word.


What I mean is pseudipigrapha, just as 1 Enoch was falsely attributed to Enoch, so Daniel is falsely attributed to Daniel.

Reggie, yes I understood that is what you meant :slight_smile: My response still speaks to that.

I guess I should elaborate on that. Pseudepigraphy was very common during the intertestamental period, and before then as well. This was a time when modern established notions of authorship and textual finality did not yet exist. That a “valid” text is one that is: created over a single, not-too-lengthy time period; has a single final form; is the product of a single attributed author (or if multiple contributors, then all are credited); and that anything otherwise is an offense of some kind (plagiarism, forgery, etc) - these notions did not yet exist. Think about the production of the Pentateuch, by redaction in committee as it were, a few hundred years before the creation of today’s Daniel - or think about the prophetic books which are commonly acknowledged as being collections of oracles (some written, some spoken) by disciples, potentially over generations, some of which oracles came from the original prophet and others which came from disciples later - and you can see other examples of this all throughout the conclusions of OT scholarship. Daniel is not much different.

When we use the word “forgery” it brings along connotations of nefarious intent - an intent to deceive for purposes of self-aggrandizement or profit, for example - precisely because, in our age and culture, we do have such strong notions of textual finality, integrity and authorship. But back in the day, in the ANE and intertestamental periods, they didn’t, and the evidence of that is in how commonplace and unremarked-upon pseudepigraphy was (and other violations of modern textual norms, such as anonyomous redaction of pre-existing content, or insertion of new content). So, that’s why I don’t see Daniel’s pseudepigraphical nature as a huge strike against it; like with much of the rest of the Bible, this is simply another exhibit of its “enculturated” nature.


Sounds to me like this is not a problem with Daniel but simply adds to the already long list of problems with the idiotic idea of a physical resurrection. … probably why Paul so thoroughly refutes this in 1 Cor 15.

Physical resurrection is the only meaningful way in which we can survive death, since we consist of both soul and body, not one or the other.

Not according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. Have you read it? Though there is a problem with terminology in the word “physical” which has more than one meaning.

1a : of or relating to natural science
b(1) : of or relating to physics
(2) : characterized or produced by the forces and operations of physics
2a : having material existence : perceptible especially through the senses and subject to the laws of nature
b : of or relating to material things
3 : of or relating to the body

Paul teaches a bodily resurrection to a physical/natural body. Thus using two of the meaning in this list 1 and 3 which creates some confusion. Physical as in bodily? Yes. Physical as in subject to the laws of nature? No.

Following the lead of Paul, I do not buy into the pagan notions of body and mental soul from the Greeks and Gnostics at all. Instead there is a physical body and spiritual body. The first partakes of the laws of nature and thus decays and is subject to all the physical forces such as fire and impact, while the second does not partake of the laws of nature and thus is imperishable and not subject to such destructive forces. The second requires resurrection since spirit of fallen man is dead. And this is why all through the Bible it speaks of two kind of life and two kinds of death, from the very beginning in Genesis when God says that Adam and Eve will surely die if they eat of the fruit to comment Jesus makes in Luke 9:60 “let the dead bury their own dead.”

What about according to the definition 2? Well stories of the resurrected Jesus suggest that the resurrected body is physical in the sense of perceptible and relating to material things but not physical in the sense of being subject to the laws of nature.

I’m not a Christian


You are the one speaking about a problem with Daniel. In what context? Not in the context of the Christian Bible. Apparently it is only a problem with those giving some authority to the book of Daniel while pushing a physical resurrection.

There’s lots of discussion back and forth on Daniel, of course. But I would humbly suggest it is a false dichotomy as to whether it either was written by the hand of Daniel himself in its present form at the timeframe he lived, or it is a total pseudepigraphal forgery.

For instance, when I affirm that the Pentateuch is from Moses, I claim neither that Moses invented every line with complete originality and borrowed nothing, nor do I claim that the book as we have it today is exactly as Moses inscribed it, nor that he had to have personally written every word with his own hand.

I for one think it a reasonable hypothesis that Daniel in its current form may well have been finally redacted or compiled at a later date, incorporating various earlier sources but editing it into a “modern” format and style.

This obviously happened with Kings and Chonicles, after all. Someone took the original source material and reworked it so it would speak more to the current situation. We just happen to have the original source material in that case.

Not to mention, the first 6 chapters are simply narrative about Daniel, unless I’m mistaken there is no claim of his direct authorship of these parts? This doesn’t seem a problem any more than observing the narrative about Abraham as we have them were not compiled in their current form until the time of Moses. And as for Daniel’s prophecies in the later book, I don’t see any reason they could not have been available and recorded later, perhaps not unlike what Matthew, Mark, and Luke are presumed to have done with Jesus’ teachings? Daniel could well have made said prophecies, either written or oral, at the time he is understood to have lived, and they were compiled later into a new compendium by an unknown source, the source material being lost (not unlike “Q”?)

Finally, for what it is worth… the argument often made that Daniel’s prophecies are too specific or accurate for so early a date simply don’t hold much water to me. C.S. Lewis addressed the topic very well in “Miracles”…

“In a popular commentary on the Bible you will find a discussion of the date at which the Fourth Gospel was written. The author says it must have been written after the execution of St Peter, because, in the Fourth Gospel, Christ is represented as predicting the execution of St Peter. ‘A book’, thinks the author, ‘cannot be written before events which it refers to’. Of course it cannot—unless real predictions ever occur. If they do, then this argument for the date is in ruins. And the author has not discussed at all whether real predictions are possible. He takes it for granted (perhaps unconsciously) that they are not. Perhaps he is right: but if he is, he has not discovered this principle by historical inquiry. He has brought his disbelief in predictions to his historical work, so to speak, ready made.”

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Why do you and others in this forum invoke C. S. Lewis as a biblical authority? The most reliable OT scholar is the author of the Hexapla who did not credit Moses with the authorship of the books in his name, but the Yahwehist at the palace of Solomon. In addition, this unique work highlights the multiple times that the OT was changed at the hands of the scribes as Jesus also taught.

I would never invoke Lewis as a biblical authority. I invoke him because of his formidible philosophical adroitness as it relates to biblical study.

What he observes here, philosophically, is inescapable. Someone who dates a book to a certain date because of their disbelief in miraculous predictions is philosophically begging the question. It matters not how well a person is studied in a certain topic of biblical studies, if they reach their conclusions using fallacious reasoning.

Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch is an entirely separate, large and complex topic which I would not hesitate in defending, but that would demand a separate thread.

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It is true that one of the bases for late-dating Daniel is the book’s many accurately-fulfilled “predictions”, especially in Daniel 11. But it is incorrect to say that the reason for this is simply unbelieving philosophical apriori’s. It is rather because of the pattern and form of the “predictions”. In form, the predictions are apocalyptic - and we know that virtually all other apocalyptic books are pseudepigraphical, suggesting that pseudepigraphy and apocalypse went hand-in-hand back in the day. And in pattern, the predictions fit the typical ‘retrodictive curve’: they are detailed and precise and find increasingly-close correspondence to events back in the day leading up to the Maccabean revolt - and then the close correspondence to history suddenly disappears, as well as the detail. The simplest inference and explanation for this, is that that is the time in history when the “predictions” were written - making them retrodictive and pseudepigraphical up to that point, rather than authentically predictive. Read a good critical commentary on Daniel, particularly Daniel 11, to see what I mean.

For Christian believers, there is another reason to doubt the authentic predictive nature of Daniel 11 in particular. This passage (up to 11:40, the ‘time of the end’) contains the most amazingly plain-spoken, detailed, and clearly-fulfilled predictions in all of the Bible. But the events that fulfilled them were - to Christian believers - obscure political machinations of the intertestamental period, leading up to the oppressions of Antiochus IV, with no import beyond that whatsoever. In other words, these are ostensible predictions more compelling, complete, precise and accurate than even the prophecies pointing to Jesus; but the events they point to are tangential, and irrelevant, to anyone outside of the faithful Jewish community of the Maccabean period. Think about that from a Christian, doctrinal/theological perspective, for a moment - does it really make any sense that that would be so?

That is the case for a Maccabean date based just on the prophecies alone. But there are many other reasons found throughout Daniel to assign such a date to the book in its current state, including:

  • its historical incongruities,
  • its linguistic and doctrinal anachronisms (like resurrection),
  • its repetitious themes, narrative motifs and story arcs in Daniel 1-6 (suggesting an older ouevre of Daniel stories collected here, as you said),
  • its overall focus on concerns of great import to the Jewish community of Maccabean times (assimilation versus resistance in the face of religious oppression),
  • its lack of reference from any pre-Maccabean literature,
  • and its ending in which a verisimilitudinous explanation is offered for why the book was unknown until Maccabean times (ie, because it has been sealed until ‘the time of the end’ - in other words, Maccabean times, when the book became known, was the ‘time of the end’, and the reason it was unknown until then is because it had been sealed).

Each one of these points has alternative explanations, but a Maccabean date for Daniel is the only simple and unified explanation for all of this evidence.

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As mentioned, I don’t in principle object to the idea that the final composition of the book could have been assembled at a much later date, or even that the book was re-written and updated at that time. But every Scholarly study I have read that argues for a late date of the origin of the material simply depends far too much on anti-supernatural presuppositions. The disbelief in accurate predictions is part of it. The same argument is used to argue late composition for the Gospels, because Jesus could never have predicted with such accuracy the fall of Jerusalem. And his discussions certainly had a certain apocalyptic style to them.

, some of the “historical problems“ strike me as a bit labored, they give me the impression of someone determined to find an error whether or not it is actually there, and give no benefit of doubt or academic caution… . Reminds me of the egg on the face of previous generations of scholars that critiqued the book of Daniel because it had invented wholesale this completely fictional Belshazzer character…

You mean its lack of reference from any extant pre-Maccabean literature, of course.

But even so, this seems a selective or arbitrary standard, if we are going to exclude Ezekiel’s references to Daniel… Daniel’s character and ministry must have been significant, familiar, and famous enough in Ezekiel’s day for Daniel to be referenced alongside Job and Noah, and for Ezekiel to reference his wisdom. Granted it is not an explicit reference to anything contained in the book, but there must have been some significant extant information about Daniel and his ministry in Ezekiel’s day for him to make a passing reference and assume his audience would understand the reference, no?

Linguistic anachronisms would be easily explained by a later redactor.

But, for what it is worth, I have trouble with any argument based on when God did or did not choose to reveal transcendent truth about resurrection. The idea that resurrection is anachronistic, I find problematic. Elisha witnessed an actual resurrection, Ezekiel saw a valley of bones resurrected, I cannot help but see hints of resurrection in Job. If there is no afterlife and/or resurrection, then what sense Do we make of Enoch’s departure, or that of Elijah? They Simply departed into sheol by a different route?

To some degree it reminds me of the arguments against Paul’s authorship of the pastoral’s, because they exhibit “anachronistic” theology, And here, like elsewhere, I remain extremely skeptical of search methods. To borrow from Lewis one more time (granted he was speaking about NT criticism, but I find the principle applies also to OT criticism as well)…

The sort of statement that arouses our deepest scepticism is the statement that something in a Gospel cannot be historical because it shows a theology or an ecclesiology too developed for so early a date. For this implies that we know, first of all, that there was any development in the matter, and secondly, how quickly it proceeded. It even implies an extraordinary homogeneity and continuity of development: implicitly denies that anyone could greatly have anticipated anyone else. This seems to involve knowing about a number of long dead people…things of which I believe few of us could have given an accurate account if we had lived among them; all the forward and backward surge of discussion, preaching, and individual religious experience. I could not speak with similar confidence about the circle I have chiefly lived in myself. I could not describe the history even of my own thought as confidently as these men describe the history of the early Church’s mind.

As mentioned earlier, I don’t have any significant issue with a late or Maccabean final redaction, perhaps even one that selected and arranged and retold Daniels ministry or prophecies specifically for the needs of the current community.

However, I pray you will forgive me, but I have always been skeptical of this kind of thinking in general. I have run into the same rationale when people argue against Paul’s authorship of the epistles of Timothy and Titus. Each link in a long chain, i have been told, is more consistent with a late or second century date for those letters, and thus the cumulative affect is to argue for a late date. But then, when I examine each link of the chain, I find problems with each individual link. Thus my confidence in the overall theory is to that degree undermined.

Consider any phenomenon described by a bunch of observations. Imagine one theory explains the observations by proferring a bunch of separate explanations - none of which, in itself, logically necessitates any of the others; and each of which explains only a few, or one, of the observations. Meanwhile, imagine that a second theory presents a single explanation that fits all of the observations. Now, which theory is to be preferred?

The theory which most simply explains all of the phenomena of the book of Daniel in one go, is that a corpus of older (Aramaic), related stories and traditions - which (like Esther) were about persevering and even thriving under pagan rule, making them thematically quite relevant for Jews in the time of Antiochus IV - and which featured a traditional or legendary character of wisdom, Daniel/Danel - was collated with a set of contemporary (Hebrew) and de-novo apocalyptic visions and prophecies featuring the same character (with a little introductory exposition as well), around 168-164 BCE. For dramatic effect, retrodiction and psuedepigraphy were employed, mostly in the new material but some in the old as well. So inspirational was the scroll, especially after the death of Antiochus IV and the amazing success of the Maccabees, that it caught on like wildfire and became part of the Tanakh and especially cherished by certain communities (Qumran for instance). And hence we have the canonical book of Daniel to this day (to which we Christians and Jews can still look to see what God might be saying to us). Because this single explanation most simply explains all of the phenomena of Daniel, that is why it is the scholarly consensus today.

Now, one can proffer many disparate and disjunct alternative arguments that each addresses only a piece of the puzzle: historical inconsistencies really aren’t inaccurate after all (we just haven’t discovered their resolutions yet); same for linguistic anachronisms, or maybe they are the work of later copyists/editors; the uncannily-accurate prophecies were genuine and, where they suddenly become inaccurate and vague, that is where a sudden (and completely absent from the text) “prophetic gap” of thousands of years is to be injected (and thus those prophecies are still future to us); and so on. But pretty soon it becomes clear to me, at least, that this is just an ad-hoc effort at ex-post-facto justification. Meanwhile the Maccabean theory in one fell swoop explains it all.

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Genuinely appreciate the thoughts. Again, I don’t take issue in principle with a late Maccabean final composition, any more than I would a post-exilic final edition of Chronicles. But I would obviously object if someone said that Chronicles was purely the invention of the post-explicitly community, created de novo at that time to serve the needs of that community.

Nor (traditionalist that I am) do I object to sayimg that Genesis was compiled by Moses, edited and arranged for the needs of the pre-conquest community. But I would object to anyone who claimed that Moses himself invented the accounts of Abraham, Joseph, the flood, out of the blue for his purpose.

So as with Daniel. Many reasons may well point to a composition /compilation for the purpose of addressing the needs of the 2nd century B.C., that I have no issue with. But I still would object to the idea that these were invented entirely or largely wholesale. That theory depends too heavily on the anti supernatural presuppositions I find untenable.

So I appreciate the thoughts, but you’ll forgive me if I remain unconvinced. I simply don’t see the critical scholarly throry as so neat and tidy as you seem to. There are numerous problems, forced interpretations, stretches with evidence that appear obvious to me. Daniel’s ministry was well-known enough that Ezekiel could mention him alongside Noah and Job in passing, indicating his hearers would be very familiar with him… but we must choose rather to believe Daniel was a legendary figure borrowed to hang these new stories on. Then we must force an interpretation of the silver chest to be media, separated from the bronze Persia, as opposed to one media-Persian kingdom (as it is described throughout the rest of the book) to avoid having Daniel have prophecies regarding the Roman Empire being the timeframe wherein God’s eternal kingdom would be inaugurated. And the decree to rebuild jerusalem could not have been the one associated with Nehemiah under Artaxerxes, which aligns the 69 sevens to the very time of the Messiah Christ being cut off, because Daniel couldn’t have predicted anything beyond 150BC…

If critical scholarship was consistent, I personally cannot help but think that someone ought to posit that parts of Daniel were written after the time of Christ, to make sense of those elements that so clearly align with the death of the messiah, and the establishment and vast expansion of the Christian Church throughout the world, as taking place during the Roman Empire.

Imagine, if you will, that every and all ancient records of the book of Isaiah were lost by the year 500AD… but we had extant a 2nd century AD, Greek, Christian writing that described the ministry of Isaiah, which included a selection of his prophecies which were of particular significance to the Christian Church, especially Is 53.

I cannot help but think the critical approach would be to insist that the language in Is53 was too detailed about the crucifixion and sacrifice of the Servant of God and the theology of personal atonement is far too consistent with the kerygma of the early church to have been written before Christ. It would clearly have been invented by the Christian community and pseudopigraphally inserted back into the mouth of the legendary Isaiah.

I don’t reject critical scholarship wholesale, but I object to any approach that is all but guaranteed to arrive at certain conclusions by removing certain other conclusions as options before inquiry begins. And when Daniel is concerned, the antisupernatural bias simply permeates every single interpretation to the degree I have trouble having much confidence in the enterprise as a whole. Critical scholars examine Daniel, and find no evidence whatsoever of supernatural prediction. Big surprise.

“Those who assume that miracles cannot happen are merely wasting their time by looking into the texts: we know in advance what results they will find for they have begun by begging the question.”


(By the way, for what it is worth, I have tremendous difficulty with the use of Occam’s razor as a philosophical tool. There are simply far too many counterexamples wherein the more complex solution is clearly the true one and the neat and tidy and less complicated solution remains erroneous.)