February 1, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy XII: Dating Daniel & The Theme

February 31, 1869
There are some modern scholars that believe Daniel might actually have been written later than the 5th or 6th Century. Although I do not I will still try to remain intellectually honest and provide their reasoning to date the book of Daniel to later than the fifth century even though I believe their reasoning is flawed as is their premise.

Except for negligible ancient sources, according to the epilogue in the text, it was generally agreed in antiquity that Daniel is the product of the 6th century BC. This date was not seriously called into question until the 18th century. My guess is that this was mitigated by literary criticisms and liberal theologians with anti-supernatural presuppositions that presupposed a naturalistic explanation. It was/is claimed by some “experts” that there are historical inaccuracies in Daniel in terms of dating and is therefore subject to question and its inerrancy is put into sharp scrutiny. The incidents documented in Daniel that count against Daniel supposedly being the work of an author that wrote during the 6th century are as follows: (1) The reference in Daniel 1:1-2 notes a siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in the third year of Jehoiakim. (2) Chapters 2 and 7 infer existence of a Median Empire between the Babylonian and the Persian –and- (3) Chapter 5, Belshazzar is given the title king and Nebuchadnezzar is supposedly his father (4) Daniel 5:31; 6:28, and the figure of Darius the Mede. The text then goes on to state that there is no conclusive evidence of historical inaccuracy an therefore these criticisms are “not proven”. (Lucas 307).

Some scholars suggest that the dating is subject to error because of what it calls “Linguistic arguments”. This argument in my mind carries more weight. The Persian words presuppose a period after the Persian empire had been well established just as Greek words demand Greek power or influence. As for Daniel we see Aramaic and Hebrew material. History being reflective can now see that Aramaic used in Daniel is the Aramaic used from 700-200 BC. This is different from the Qumran Aramaic used between 200 BC to AD 200. On the other hand the Hebrew of Daniel is more similar to Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicles than exilic Hebrew of Ezekiel. There are clear differences between Ezekiel and Hebrew of Daniel. The bottom-line is that the language used in Daniel lends itself to as early a date as the 6th century but according to (P.312) the wordage does not totally preclude a later date no matter how improbable a later date might be. Regardless, the dates should never be a factor for discounting divine inspiration as noted below.

If there is a question of date of writing, is the divine inspiration of Daniel in doubt at all? Of course not! The only people that question the divine inspiration of Daniel and doubt its inspiration are those that have a presupposition or bias to do so in my opinion. If a person comes to the Scripture looking for error that is what they will find and rarely will they attribute that error or “contradiction” to their own flawed or bias hermeneutical grid. If dating is so perfect why do we have a calander now..today in 2012 that has an error correction built right into it (its called leap year?). This issue is a post within itself that also dates back as far as the Babylonians. We cannot allow human inability to date things properly to prevent us from adhering to Scriptural inerrancy. So yes, dating can raise the specter of doubt but my question back to the person who asks this is: “Whose doubt does it raise?” We Christians are a people of faith and as such we should always approach Scripture the way Christ would, not the way a cynical and skeptical culture would. We must assume inerrancy if God is truly omnipotent and sovereign (which I believe He is!)

The truth is this:

The criticality in terms of divine inspiration of prophecy does not necessarily lie within pinpointing exact dates as mentioned within the forth-telling and foretelling question. The theological implications lie within the fact that God delivers prophecy as a tool or knowledge to His faithful. They are for people to make decisions at the point of prophecy calling them to faith immediately, not necessarily predicting things “down the road” for the unfaithful as punishment. God is not giving us prognosticators so much as he is trying to warn and instigate procrastinators.

It’s not how the message is given so much as it is the way it is interpreted and applied in a pragmatic manner both can be the product of divine inspiration….giving (prophecy) and receiving (Holy Spirit) (Lucas 309).

Ay! I love subtleties in wordage!

So the central theme running through the book of Daniel based on the information above was sort of answered already. The central theme is the sovereignty of the God of Israel (an ironically us too). Above all we must look at Daniel in the context of the entire Bible and its relation to the rest of Scripture. Scripture does not exist in a void and it is best when Scripture interprets Scripture. As such, the underlying passive and active agent in Daniel (and the Bible overall) is Almighty God. All the variables, aspects, perceptions and presuppositions of time and human subjectivity must be put on pause when we understand that God is in control of all things…and that is the point. Not only was Daniel a divinely inspired/authored book, so too is its interpretation and reading...divinely inspired. God influenced the input and he most certainly influences the output or discerning of Scripture as noted in places like 1 Corinthians 2:14-15, John 14:26, and 1 John 2:27.

Just as God encouraged Jews to interact with the pagan world in Daniel, God seems to reach across time to ask us to do the same in our reading of Daniel. Just as God is seen working through the pagan rulers of Daniel’s time, so to we see the possibility of the same happening to us now. Regardless, the implications and applications may differ person to person or age to age but the immutability and unchanging nature of God remains as does His sovereignty over all...for all of time.

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