And in hopes of not beating this topic too much, let me give one specific illustration of my difficulty that may illustrate better why, specifically, I remain so skeptical of the whole overall critical methodology, especially as relates to Daniel:
I think if you were to ask any genuinely objective party to read through the book of Daniel, and then asked them, “Does the author of the book conceive of the Medes and Persians as two separate entities, two separate kingdoms, or does he consider the Medo-Persian empire as one entity?” I cannot help but think that most if not all objective readers would certainly recognize that the “Medo Persian” empire is consistently presented as one, united entity throughout the book. Belshazzar’s Babylonian kingdom is going to be given directly to “The Medes and Persians.” Even Darius “the Mede” was subject to the laws of “The Medes and Persians.”
But then, in what seems to me a completely arbitrary move, critical scholarship demands that in one particular place in the book, the author must have jettisoned his otherwise consistent perspective, and conceptually separated the Medes and Persians into separate, distinct kingdoms… that being the statue, of course. The Silver chest is understood as the Medes, the Bronze torso as the Persian, completely contrary it seems to the pattern and mindset throughout the rest of the book.
Why? Simply and solely, as far as I can tell, to prevent us from believing that Daniel was prophesying about the Roman empire before its time. This seems to me to be “moving the goalposts” in the extreme, arbitrarily selecting an interpretation solely to ensure we arrive at a predetermined nonsupernatural conclusion.
Now, it isn’t simply that alone. It would be one thing if critical scholars laid out the options and argued for one over the other. If they said, “given his usage throughout the book, it is conceivable that Daniel may mean by the silver chest the combined Medo-Persian empire. However, he may have had reason to separate them in this one case. We elect the second interpretation because…”
But this isn’t what I find in critical scholarship. it isn’t that this conclusion is reasoned to by considering and weighing the various options… rather, the option that the Silver chest represents the combined Medo-Persian empire is not even considered. Every critical commentary I’ve read on the subject simply glosses over this and states matter-of-factly that the silver chest represents the Medes, the Bronze the Persians.
To my reading, the only conceivable reason why they would not even entertain the idea that Silver represents Medo-Persia is that they have ruled out, a priori the possibility that Daniel could have been predicting the future, and a Medo-Persian chest would require Roman legs.
Even evangelical scholarship typically outlines and acknowledges both options, and then argues for one over the other. Critical scholarship doesn’t even acknowledge there is anything to discuss.
So sure, the “fact” that Daniel’s prophecy regarding the statue in Ch 2 ends with the Greek/Ptolemaic empire would be one of those proverbial pearls on the string, which is wonderfully consistent with all the other arguments for the critical position. Until I actually look at that particular pearl in detail, and realize that the validity of this particular detail depends largely on an antisupernatural presumption that begs the question in order to rule out even the consideration of alternatives.
This is the most glaring example to me. But then I find similar problems every time I examine many of the other “pearls” of this proverbial necklace that seem to fit together so well. Again, this is essentially the same experience I’ve had when the arguments against the pastoral epistles have been made to me, as well as other similar critical biblical arguments that fit together so well so as to make the case obvious.
So, not trying to argue to you or persuade you, but hopefully this at least communicates to you the source of my deep skepticism. It isn’t simply that the critical scholars arrive at different conclusions, it is that they arrive at their conclusion by begging the question, and ruling out certain conclusions from consideration - namely, those that would conflict with their antisupernatual positions. Due to the methodology, I simply cannot garner confidence in the method or conclusions they offer with such confidence.