The book of Daniel
Its date and author. Interpretation of the
visions and end of the world.
Author and date of the book:
||Conservative Christians generally believe that the book was written by
Daniel himself in the 6th century BCE. This is confirmed in a number of verses. e.g.|
|Daniel 7:1: "Then he wrote down the dream. and here his
|Daniel 7:28: "...as for me, Daniel, my thoughts dismayed me
|Daniel 8:1: "...a vision appeared to me, Daniel, following my
|Daniel 9:2: "I, Daniel, was reading the scriptures..."|
|Daniel 10:2: "At that time I, Daniel, mourned for thee whole
|Daniel 12:5: "I, Daniel, looked and saw two others standing..."|
Jesus verified that the book was written by Daniel. In Matthew 24:15,
he states "So, when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' of which the prophet
Daniel spoke, standing in the holy place...then those who are in Judea must take to
The early Christian church generally accepted the authorship of Daniel in the 6th
century BCE without question. Essentially all Fundamentalist and other Evangelical Christians
believe the same today.
||Since the19th century, most Old Testament scholars have dated the Book of Daniel to the 2nd century BCE. Liberal Christians generally accept this dating and believe that the book was really written during the Maccabean revolt against the Greek occupying
forces in 168-164 BCE. They regard the book as pseudepigraphic - written by an anonymous
author or authors, and attributed to Daniel. They conclude this for a number of reasons:|
|The text contains a number of Greek words; yet the Greek occupation of the area did not
occur until the 4th century BCE.|
|One of the musical instruments mentioned in Daniel 3:5 and in
subsequent passages did not exist until developed in 2nd century BCE Greece.|
|Daniel 1:4 refers to the "Chaldeans" as a priestly class in
Babylon. This term did not attain this meaning until much later than the 6th century.|
|About 180 BCE, Jeshua ben Sira listed the heroes of the Jewish faith, including "Enoch, Noah and Abraham through to Nehemiah;" Daniel is not mentioned - presumably because Jeshua is unaware of him. This would indicate that the book of Daniel was written after that time.|
|Chapter 12 discusses the dead being resurrected, judged, and taken to
either heaven and hell. At the time of Daniel, the Jews believed that all persons went to Sheol after death. The concept of heaven
and hell was introduced centuries later by the Greeks. It did not appear in Israel
until the time of the Maccabean revolt.|
|Daniel 11:31 (and elsewhere) refers to "the abominable thing
that causes desolation." This appears to refer to the erection of a statue of
Zeus in the Jerusalem temple in 167 BCE, and would indicate that the book was written
later than that date.|
||Prior to Daniel 11:40, the author(s) has been recording past events
under the Babylonian, Median, Persian and Greek empires. In Daniel 11:40-45,
he really attempts to predict the future. He prophesizes that a king of the south (of the
Ptolemaic dynasty) will attack the Greeks in Judea, under Antiochus. The Greeks will
win, will lay spoil to all of northeast Africa, and return to Judea where Antiochus
will die. The end of history will then occur. The author(s) appeared to be a poor psychic
because none of these events actually happened. Antiochus did die in 164 BCE, but it was
in Persia. Thus, the book was apparently completed before 164.|
Summary: Many liberal Christians believe that the Book of Daniel is a work of
fiction. Fables and myths about a non-existent ancient hero, Daniel's, were passed down orally
for centuries, and then finally written down by an unknown
sometime between 167 and 164 BCE. At the end of the book, the author(s) then unsuccessfully attempted to predict
Interpretation of the Dreams, Visions and End of the World:
|Conservative Christians generally believe that the 4
earthly kingdoms mentioned
in different places in the book represent the empires of:|
- Babylon (represented by the lion/eagle symbol and gold)
- Medo-Persia (considered as a single empire; represented as the bear,
- Greece (represented as the leopard and bronze)
- Rome (represented as the terrible beast, and iron). Since the end of
the world and resurrection of the dead in Daniel 12 has not happened yet,
then it must be in our future. Most conservative Christians look upon the fourth empire as
existing in two parts:
|the first is the historical Roman Empire;|
|the second phase has not yet risen to power. It will be the Kingdom of the Antichrist.
Many conservative Christians believe that the Antichrist will be a European and that the
revived Roman Empire will evolve out of the European Community.|
"Pre-millenialist Christians" believe that this
second phase of the Roman Empire will come to an end at the second coming of Christ and
the war of Armageddon. Many conservative Christians interpret the book of Daniel and
describe the end of the world as happening in our immediate
future, Many assumed 2000 or 2001 CE. - perhaps about 2000 CE. This book is one of the most important sections of the
Hebrew Scriptures because of the prophecies based on 4 earthly kingdoms.
|Many Liberal Christians point to the actual foreign countries
occupied what is now Palestine between the 6th century and 2nd century BCE:
- Babylon (represented by the lion/eagle symbol and gold). They attacked
the Southern Kingdom in the 580's BCE.
- The Median empire under (bear and silver). Daniel 5-31
records how "Darius the Mede" conquered Babylon and killed king
Belshazzar. This belief probably arose out of many predictions in Isaiah and Jeremiah that
Babylon would fall to the Medes. In reality, the Median and Babylonian kingdoms coexisted
until the Medians were conquered about 550 BCE and the Babylonians were conquered in 539,
both by the Persians. Darius was not a Median king. Apparently the later Persian king
"Darius the Great" was confused by the author(s) with
last Median king.
- The Persian empire (symbolized by a leopard and bronze).
- The Greek empire (terrible beast and iron). They conquered Judeah in
332 BCE. Daniel 2:41 and 11:3 described it as a kingdom
ruled by a warrior king that is divided into 4 sections after his death. None of the 4
sections will be ruled by his descendents. This fits precisely with the structure of
the Macedonian-Greek empire of Alexander the Great. After his death, it was divided among
four of his generals, none of whom were his sons. Daniel 2:43 refers to
the mixing of families by intermarriage, and mentions that these arrangements would not be
stable. Again, this fits well with the attempts that the Seleucid (the King of the North
in Daniel 11:7) and Ptolemaic (the King of the South in Daniel
11:5) dynasties to achieve peace and stability through intermarriage. The
attempts were unsuccessful.
At the time of the writing of the book of Daniel, circa 164 BCE, the Greek empire
occupied what is now Palestine. Since the book was written after the rise of the
final empire, the author had the advantage of hindsight. The book is mainly a history of
past events, not a prophecy of the future. The author wrote the book almost
a century before the Roman Empire invaded what is now Palestine. Since he had no
knowledge or expectation of this invasion, it was not mentioned in the book.
In the final chapter of Daniel, the author describes the "end of history"
- a resurrection of the dead, judgment and transfer the resurrected dead to heaven or
hell. According to Daniel 12:12, these events would happen during approximately three
years following the "abomination of desolation" (the erection of a statue of
Zeus in the Jewish temple in 167 BCE). Some Bible scholars have interpreted this period of
time as occupying many millennia. But this is clearly not a valid interpretation, because
Daniel 12:12 refers to people who "wait and live to see the completion of the
If the author(s) could have accurately predicted the future after 164 BCE, he would
have prophesized some additional earthly empires that controlled Palestine:
|5. The Roman Empire (from 63
|6. Byzantine Empire (from 313 CE)|
|7. Arab conquest; control of Palestine by Muslim groups (from 636 CE)|
|8. Christian Crusaders from Europe (from 1099 CE)|
|9. Mamluks under Saladin reinstate Muslim rule (from 1291 CE)|
|10. Ottoman rule (from 1517 CE)|
|11. British Empire rule (from 1917 CE)|
|12. The State of Israel (1948 CE
to the present time)|
From the time of Daniel to the present day, Palestine has been controlled by 11 foreign
empires until Israel finally attained independence in 1948 CE. The author(s) of the book
of Daniel, apparently writing about 166 CE, was unable to predict his future.
Many religious liberals classify this book as apocalyptic literature. This writing
style was quite common in Israel from the 2nd century BCE to the 2nd century CE. The book
of Revelation in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) is perhaps the
best known example. The writings are often attributed to a famous historical hero in order
to give them credibility: Daniel in the case of the book of Daniel; John in the case of Revelation.
- Farrell Till, "Bible Inerrancy: A Belief Without Evidence," available
- G.A.F. Knight, "The Book of Daniel," part of "The
Interpreter's One-volume Commentary on the Bible," Abingdon Press, Nashville TN,
- A.E. Hill & J.H. Walton, "A Survey of the Old Testament,"
Zondervan, Grand Rapids MI, (1991), Pages 349 to 356.
- H.H Halley, "Halley's Bible Handbook," Zondervan, Grand Rapids MI,
(1997) Pages 336 to 352.
- J.D. Douglas, Ed., "New Commentary on the Whole Bible, Old Testament Volume,"
Tyndale, Wheaton, IL, (1990), Pages 1165 to 1204.
Copyright © 1998 to 2011 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update 2012-JAN-22
Author: B.A. Robinson