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Skeptics often claim that the Book of Daniel was written in 165 B.C.E, disputing its prophetic status. However, linguistic, historical, and canonical evidence supports a 6th-century B.C.E. dating. This earlier composition upholds Daniel’s authenticity and prophetic power, reinforcing the credibility of biblical revelation. Hence, its correct dating is vital for theological analysis and defends the veracity of the entire Bible against modern-day critics.
Critics of the Bible, especially those coming from a skeptical viewpoint, often claim that the Book of Daniel was written in 165 B.C.E. during the Maccabean period. Their reasoning stems from a presupposition that predictive prophecy is not possible. Since Daniel contains detailed prophecies that were accurately fulfilled, the skeptics claim it must have been written after the events it describes. Their argument relies heavily on the historical setting, language, and content, which they claim are more fitting for a 2nd-century B.C.E. context.
Internal Evidence Supporting an Early Date
Contrary to the critics, several facts point to Daniel being written much earlier than 165 B.C.E., specifically in the 6th century B.C.E. The language itself, Aramaic and Hebrew, is more in line with what would be expected from the period of the Babylonian exile rather than a later date. Additionally, Daniel is included among the “Writings” in the Jewish canon, not among the “Prophets.” If it had been written during the Maccabean period, it would likely have been included with other works from that time, not placed in the more prestigious category of ancient Writings.
Moreover, Daniel shows an intimate knowledge of 6th-century B.C.E. Babylonian and Persian customs, politics, and history that would be unlikely for a writer from the 2nd century B.C.E. For instance, the use of the term “Chaldeans” is precise and reflects a familiarity with Babylonian culture. Critics often mention the historical inaccuracy regarding Belshazzar being called a king, but newer archaeological findings, such as the Nabonidus Cylinder, validate the Bible’s description, vindicating the early date of Daniel.
The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, contains Daniel and was translated in the 3rd century B.C.E., which would be a logical absurdity if Daniel were written in 165 B.C.E. Furthermore, the historian Josephus records that the Jewish Scriptures were presented to Alexander the Great when he entered Jerusalem in 332 B.C.E. This record implicitly supports an earlier date for the writing of Daniel, as the book was part of the canon by that time.
Impossibility of a Post-Event Composition
If Daniel were written after the events it describes, it would not only invalidate its prophetic claims but also raise significant questions about its historical accuracy and its rapid acceptance into the Jewish canon. Predictive prophecy is a hallmark of biblical revelation. If Daniel were a fraudulent, after-the-fact composition, it would undermine the credibility and divine inspiration of not just Daniel but the entire biblical text.
Also, the book’s early and widespread acceptance both in the Jewish and Christian canons is testament to its authenticity. A late-dated Daniel would not have gained such quick acceptance and would have been subject to scrutiny, much more than other controversial books like Esther or Song of Solomon, which did face questions about their canonicity.
A late date for Daniel would diminish its theological impact and prophetic significance. Daniel’s prophecies serve not merely as historical markers but as divine revelations that confirm the sovereignty of Jehovah over human history. The true dating of Daniel, in the 6th century B.C.E., upholds the book’s authenticity and its place within the canon of divinely inspired Scripture.
In summary, the claim that Daniel was written in 165 B.C.E. is inconsistent with both internal and external evidence. The linguistic, historical, and canonical facts all support a 6th-century B.C.E. date for its composition. Moreover, the very nature of predictive prophecy as a verification of divine inspiration means that Daniel could not have been composed after the events it describes without losing its authenticity and purpose. Hence, Daniel’s true dating is not just a matter of academic interest but one of theological necessity. Its correct dating fortifies its place in the canon of Scripture and supports the veracity and divine inspiration of the entire Bible, effectively countering the claims of modern-day critics.