The Date of the Book of Daniel -- By: Bruce K. Waltke

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 133:532 (Oct 1976)
Article: The Date of the Book of Daniel
Author: Bruce K. Waltke

The Date of the Book of Daniel

Bruce K. Waltke

[Bruce K. Waltke, Professor of Semitic Languages and Old Testament Exegesis, Dallas Theological Seminary.]


The Dispute

The Book of Daniel purports to record historical episodes in the life of Daniel and visions he saw predicting the future course of lsrael’s history from the Neo-Babylonian era to the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. The book dates these historical incidents and visions in the life of Daniel during the Neo-Babylonian era (i.e., 606-539 B.C.) and into the early Persian era (i.e., 539 to about 535 B.C.) Accordingly, the uniform view of Hebrew and Christian tradition was that Daniel was a historic person who composed his book in the sixth century B.C.

But this view has not gone unchallenged. One of the first to question this outlook was the Neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry, who lived in the third century after Christ. During a period of residence in Sicily, he wrote a fifteen-volume work entitled Against the Christians, in which he endeavored to refute the leading tenets of Christianity.

Porphyry commenced his reasoning from the a priori assumption that there could be no predictive element in prophecy (si quid autem ultra opinatus sit, quia futura nescient, esse mentitum), so that the Book of Daniel could be only historical in nature, and therefore of a late date. This formidable heathen antagonist of the Christian faith maintained that the author of Daniel had lied in order to revive the hopes of the contemporary Jews in the midst of their adversities.

The German literary critical movement seized avidly on Porphyry’s supposition that the book could contain no predictive element, and with Porphyry repudiated the Jewish and Christian tradition of a sixth century B.C. date of composition for the book, despite the arguments of some conservative scholars. Harrison, professor of Old Testament at the University of Toronto, writes: “Objections to the historicity of Daniel were copied uncritically from book to book, and by the second decade of the twentieth century no scholar of general liberal background who wished to preserve his academic reputation either dared or desired to challenge the current critical trend.”1

The Importance Of The Study

This issue is of greatest importance for at least three reasons. First, the sovereignty of the revealed God in this book is at stake. If Daniel’s God was able to predict the future, then there is reason to believe that the course of history is completely under Yahweh’s sovereignty. On the other hand, if the predictions ar...

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