As I’ve studied each individual Bible criticism, I’ve found that the majority of them can be peeled away and disproven with enough research. I want to examine one controversy in particular and explain why it confirms for me that the Bible is in fact the Word of God. I call it the “Daniel lynchpin,” not just because it involves that particular book, but because it serves as a point upon which the credibility of all scripture can hang.
The book of Daniel takes places immediately after the Babylonian invasion of 591 BC. Jerusalem was burned by Nebuchadnezzar’s armies and God’s people were scattered into the wilderness. The temple was a smoldering ruin. This is one of the most devastating moments in Old Testament history. Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore she is removed: all that honoured her despise her, because they have seen her nakedness: yea, she sigheth, and turneth backward (Lamentations 1:8).
But even in the worst of times, the Spirit had not completely left. Many of the king’s administrators were recruited to work for Nebuchadnezzar. Among them was a young prophet named Daniel. And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the princes; Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: (Daniel 1:3, 6).
Daniel’s book chronicles his life in the palace of Shushan. God gave him several visions, most of them concerned with when the Jewish people would be able to return to their homeland. Some, however, went much further. Daniel also contains prophecies of the empires that would rise and fall over the course of human history. It contains some of the most exact prophecies of the Messiah ever recorded. And it vividly spells out the Tribulation and the rise of the antichrist, laying out a foundation upon which the book of Revelation is built.
In chapter 8, while resting by the Ulai River, the prophet looks into the sky and sees two rams about to butt heads. Then I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and, behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last (Daniel 8:3). The great ram in the sky, with one horn bigger than the other, was the empire that would defeat Babylon. After the death of Nebuchadnezzar, the kingdom started to decline. The Medians to the North united with the much larger kingdom of Persia to form the next powerful army that conquered Babylon.
This happened in Daniel’s own lifetime; in 539, Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson, Belshazzar, was killed by the Medo-Persians and the city fell. In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. And Darius the Median took the kingdom, (Daniel 5:30-31).
But the Medo-Persian Empire was to only last about 200 years before being crushed by a new and terrible king. Daniel 8:5: And as I was considering, behold, an he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes. Daniel saw another powerful ram, with one “notable horn” charging like a force of nature from the West. Verse 7: And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns: and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him: and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand.
But shortly thereafter, the horn was broken, and in its place, four littler horns rose and expanded until they scattered in all directions: North, South, East and West. Therefore the he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven (verse 8).
We aren’t given the meaning of this vision until verses 20-22. God spells out exactly that the two-horned ram was Medo-Persia, which probably wasn’t too hard to believe, since that was an emerging threat in Daniel’s time. The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia (verse 20). However, the symbolism of the second ram is one of the most seismic prophecies in the entire Bible: And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king (verse 21).
The ram from the West was the Greek empire, and the “notable” horn, the “king of Grecia,” was one of the most important figures in world history: Alexander the Great.
Two centuries years later, Alexander’s armies swept across the Middle East, crushing Medo-Persia and creating the largest kingdom in world history. It is said that he never lost a battle, and even wept when he had no more land to conquer.
But Alexander’s greatness was short-lived. At the young age of 33, he died unexpectedly, leaving an empire with no heirs. After a few years of bloody struggle, it was divided into four, each taken over by one of the emperor’s generals: Ptolemaic Egypt, Seleucid Mesopotamia, Attalid Anatolia, and Antigonid Macedonia. Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power (Daniel 8:22).
Daniel then saw one of the four horns become a powerful king that would become an enemy of God’s people. Verse 9: And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land.
Verse 23: And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. Judah would be in the center of all this empirical turmoil and the Seleucids were their worst nightmare. The wicked ruler, Antiochus Epiphanes, first promised to be their friend and protector. But he betrayed that peace and cruelly invaded Jerusalem, defiling the temple and setting himself up to be a god. In some prophetic circles, Antiochus is referred to as the “first antichrist.” Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of the sanctuary was cast down (verse 11).
One of the most crucial moments in Jewish history was when Judah Maccabeus led a small army in revolt against Antiochus, driving out his army against overwhelming odds. To this day, Jews still celebrate Hanukah every year to commemorate the rededication of the temple.
Daniel’s details were so exact that he even described the number of days it would take for the Jews to win back their freedom. Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed (verses 13 and 14).
Why then, would there be any doubt in the validity of the book of Daniel?
In the 1700s, two Bible critics named J.D. Michaelis and J.C. Eichhorn proposed a theory that Daniel was a product of the Maccabean period itself (about 165 BC). According to their narrative, Daniel himself was a fictional character, created to give the Jews a sense that history and God were on their side as they went into battle against superior forces. They cited the fact that he prophesied the future history of world kingdoms as proof that he was not a product of 5th century BC.
Michaelis and Eichhorn never produced proof, yet godless academia swallowed it up and still champions this as the accepted explanation for the creation of the book of Daniel. In most universities, professors teach it as undisputed fact. Even though it has been completely disproven.
Before the late 1950s, the oldest known copies of the Old Testament were from the 1100s AD. It was much harder to believe that these scriptures were actually the products of ancient times, yet more people had faith. In the caves surrounding the Dead Sea just outside of the city of Q’umran, explorers have found hundreds of copies of the Old Testament scriptures, many of them dated several centuries before Christ. It has been one of the most important finds in archaeological history, largely validating the Hebrew Bible. And yet anti-Bible myths persist.
Let’s focus on Daniel specifically. Nine copies total have been found among the Dead Sea scrolls, the oldest of which has been dated from the late second century BC. But can it still be used to demonstrate that Daniel was a product of 6th century Babylon?
Every thorough scientific analysis has concluded yes. This is not just based on the age of the scroll, but the language itself.
Gleason Archer wrote after his survey: “In light of all the data adduced under the four categories just reviewed, it seems abundantly clear that a second-century date for the Hebrew chapters of Daniel is no longer tenable on linguistic grounds…”
Kenneth Kitchen, Alan Millard, and E.Y. Kushner have all agreed that 90% of Daniel’s Aramaic vocabulary was Eastern Babylonian, not Western Palestinian, making the Maccabean date even more improbable, if not impossible.
Old Testament scholar Gerhard Hasel concluded: “The Aramaic documents from Qumran push the date of the composition into a period earlier than the Maccabean date allows. Thus the alternative date for Daniel in the sixth or fifth century BC has more in its favor today from the point of view of language alone than ever before.”
With this amount of evidence, maintaining the Maccabean date for the book of Daniel requires a stretch of logic that eventually becomes a denial of reality. As I said in my previous blog, confirmation bias dictates that people will choose what to believe based on their pre-conceived worldview. If you don’t want to believe in the Bible, you cannot accept putting the book of Daniel in its proper time period, because then you are faced with a terrifying reality.
Just like with Belshazzar, the handwriting is on the wall. You can choose to look at it or not. But the pronouncement remains the same. If you don’t submit to the warnings from God in this hour, you will hear the same terrible words that he did: Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting (Daniel 5:27).
-Price, Randall. Secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Eugene, Oregon, Harvest House Publishers, 1996. Pages 157-163.
-Angley, Ernest. Daniel’s Little Horn and Seventy Weeks of Years. Akron, Ohio, Winston Press, 1990. Pages 6-11
-“Alexander the Great (356-323 BC). Bbc.co.uk. 2014. Accessed May 20, 2017. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/alexander_the_great.shtml>
-Volkman, Hanz. “Antiochus IV Epiphanes.” Britannica.com. Accessed May 20, 2017. <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Antiochus-IV-Epiphanes>