Modern Rationalism and the Book of Daniel -- By: Gleason L. Archer, Jr.

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 136:542 (Apr 1979)
Article: Modern Rationalism and the Book of Daniel
Author: Gleason L. Archer, Jr.


Modern Rationalism and the Book of Daniel

Gleason L. Archer, Jr.

[Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Professor of Old Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois.]

An Early Proposal For A Late-Date Daniel

One very curious feature about the modern late-date theory of the Book of Daniel is that it was first proposed in ancient times. The Neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry back in the third century A.D. devoted a considerable portion of his polemic Against the Christians to a rationalist explanation of the Book of Daniel. He reasoned that the detailed and accurate predictions in the book point to its having been forged by some unknown author who lived in the days of the Maccabean patriots. According to Jerome, Porphyry argued that “he who wrote the book under the name of Daniel lied for the sake of reviving their hope”1 —that is, the hope of the Jewish rebels who longed to throw off the yoke of Antiochus Epiphanes. The underlying assumption for Porphyry was the absolute impossibility of predictive prophecy. He rejected the idea that a personal God by special revelation could have foretold to a sixth-century Daniel what was going to happen through the centuries to come.

It is beyond dispute that this same antisupernatural presupposition has been adopted as a basic premise by the negative school of higher criticism ever since the appearance of Leonhard Bertholdt’s commentary on Daniel in the year 1806.2 This work followed the same deistic, skeptical viewpoint as that employed by J. G. Eichhorn

in his source-criticism of the Pentateuch3 and Johann Doederlein in his theory of a sixth-century B.C. authorship for Isaiah 40–66, published in 1789.4 All three writers assumed that apparently “prophecy” could only have resulted from forgery after the fulfillments had already taken place. Pentateuchal predictions of the Babylonian captivity and of the return of the Jewish exiles to Jerusalem in the 530s could not have been truly foreseen as early as the fifteenth century (or thirteenth century) B.C. Neither could the author of Isaiah 40–66 (“Deutero-Isaiah”) have foretold the Babylonian exile and the subsequent restoration unless he actually wrote at a time when the approaching fall of Babylon to the forces of King Cyrus of Persia was already evident to a keen human observer (ca. 540 B.C.).

Revealed prediction by a supernatural God was completely...

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