There is no reason why the Catholic commentator… sincerely devoted to Holy Mother Church, should be deterred from grappling again and again with these difficult problems, hitherto unsolved.. that he may attempt to find a satisfactory solution, which will be in full accord with the doctrine of the Church, in particular with the traditional teaching regarding the inerrancy of Sacred Scripture.‘ (Pope Pius XII: Encyclical on the Promotion of Biblical Studies ‘Divino Afflante Spiritu’).

Those who have read the Book of Daniel will be aware that it is no longer regarded as having been written in the 6th century B.C. The swing in opinion came in the 19th century when rationalist scholars claimed that as the Book described events in 167 B.C. in such detail, its author must have been living at that time and have assumed the name Daniel and written it in the style of a prophecy in order to console those suffering during a persecution. This is the viewpoint for instance of ‘the Jerusalem Bible’: ‘The book of Daniel was written between 167 and 164 B.C. during the persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes.. the aim of the book was to sustain faith and hope among the Jews in their persecution’ –  and the ‘Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church’: ‘The traditional belief that the Book was written in the 6th Century B.C. by Daniel, one  the Jewish exiles in Babylon, is now almost universally regarded as untenable.. The consensus of modern critical opinion is that it was written between 168 and 165 BC’. Apparently the Pontifical Biblical Commission accepts this evaluation. For in its publication ‘The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church’ it refers to Jeremiah’s prophecy that Jerusalem would be chastised for 70 years, and states ‘...much later, the author of Daniel returns to reflect on it once more, convinced that this word of God still conceals a hidden meaning that could throw light upon the situation of his own day (Dan 9:24-27).  But Christ referred not to ‘the author of Daniel’ but to ‘the prophet Daniel’ and assigned the fulfilment of 9:26,27 not ‘to his own day’ but to the last times (Matt 24:15). Since truth cannot contradict itself, and since these prophecies may contain an important message, let us consider the grounds for the traditional viewpoint.     

First, let us briefly summarise the Book of Daniel. It comprises 12 chapters, the first six being historical and the last prophetic in character. Chapter 7 reveals  the ‘vision of four beasts’, foretelling the attacks of various nations, ending in an attack led by one who will be defeated by ‘a son of man whose sovereignty is everlasting’. Chapter 8 foretells the above persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes, while Chapter 9 foretells the coming of Christ, and in the last days, an attack on the sanctuary. Chapters 10 and 11 foretell events in the reign of Antiochus, while Chapter 12 foretells the ‘general resurrection’.

The rationalist argument is that because the events of Antiochus’s reign are foretold in such detail in Chapters 8, 10, and 11 – and because the attack revealed there resembles the attack in the last days as foretold in Chapters 7 and 9, the whole book was written as a means of strengthening those under persecution, in 167 B C. To consolidate their theory they adduce so-called ‘historical and linguistic anomalies’ which they claim to be incompatible with an authorship in 6th century Babylon. However others have refuted those arguments by adducing new historical and linguistic evidence, as I reveal below.

The rationalist argument is based on ‘higher criticism’, a phenomenon that has had a general effect on Biblical studies. By concentrating on ‘internal evidence’, its advocates have challenged traditional views on the Pentateuch, the Book of Kings, and Isaiah. But their principles have not always been accepted, nor its claims. Indeed this whole approach to Biblical interpretation was attacked by Pope Leo XIII in an encyclical on Bible studies: ‘There has arisen, to the great detriment of religion, an inept method, dignified by the name of “higher criticism”, which pretends to judge of the origin, integrity and authority of each Book from internal indications alone. It is clear that in historical questions, such as the origin and handing down of writings, the witness of history is of primary importance, and that historical investigation should be made with the utmost care; and that in this matter internal evidence is seldom of great value, except as confirmation.

To look upon it in any other light is to open the door to many evil consequences. It is to make the enemies of religion much more bold and confident in attacking and mangling the Sacred Books; and this vaunted “higher criticism” will resolve itself into the reflection of the bias and the prejudice of the critics. It will not throw on Scripture the light which is sought but will give rise to disagreement and dissension, those sure notes of error, which the critics in question so plentifully exhibit in their persons; and seeing that most of them are tainted with false philosophy and rationalism, it must lead to the elimination from the sacred writings of all prophecy and miracle, and of everything else that is outside the natural order’ (‘Providentissimus Deus’ 1893). 

One Evangelical scholar, Sir Robert Anderson, even claimed that Johann Eichhorn, the ‘father’ of higher criticism: ‘set out with the deliberate design of eliminating God from the Bible… The Bible must be accounted for, and Christianity explained, on natural principles. The miracles therefore had to be got rid of, and prophecy is the greatest miracle of all.. Such passages as the 53rd Chapter of Isaiah could be jauntily disposed of, but the infidel could make nothing of the visions of Daniel. The Book stands out as a witness to God, and by fair means or foul it must be silenced. And one method alone of accomplishing this is possible. The conspirators set themselves to prove that it was written after the events it purports to predict.’ (‘The Coming Prince’: Kregel Pubns., Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA).

In fact this standpoint met with opposition from traditionalist scholars from the very beginning. Thus John Henry Newman stated: ‘The prophet Daniel is conspicuous among the inspired writers for the clearness and exactness of his predictions; so much so that some … overcome by the truth of them, could only take refuge in the unworthy, and at the same time, unreasonable and untenable supposition, that they were written after the events which they profess to foretell’ (‘Lectures on the Patristical Idea of Antichrist’).

His colleague at Oxford, Dr Edward Pusey, wrote: ‘The Book of Daniel.. is either divine or an imposture. To write any book under the name of another, and to give it out to be his, is, in any case, a forgery, dishonest in itself, and destructive of all trustworthiness.  But the case as to the Book of Daniel, if it were not his, would go far beyond this. The writer, were he not Daniel, must have lied on a most frightful scale, ascribing to God prophecies which were never uttered… In a word, the whole book would be one lie in the name of God’ ‘ (‘Daniel the Prophet’: 1869).


In fact this ‘rationalist’ approach to the Book of Daniel was first proposed in the 3rd Century by a neo-Platonist called Porphyry. But his arguments were refuted by St Jerome, who pointed out that Daniel prophesied not one, but two attacks, that of Antiochus in 167 BC, and that of Antichrist in the last days – and that the reason they are so alike is that the one foreshadows the other (‘Commentary on Daniel’). Likewise Hippolytus (180-245) had stated: ‘Daniel has spoken of two abominations: the one of destruction and the other of desolation. What is that of destruction, but that which Antiochus established there at the time? And what is that of desolation, but that which shall be universal when Antichrist comes?’ (Commentary on Daniel: 40).

It is evident the rationalist view is not ‘modern’ at all, but originated centuries ago, when it was opposed by the Fathers. At the same time many of the Fathers clearly assigned the fulfilment of Daniel 9 to the last days, thus affirming it as valid prophecy. Thus St Augustine states: ‘Daniel prophesies of the last judgement in such a way as to indicate that Antichrist will come first..’ (‘City of God’: 22:23) – and Origen wrote: ‘The prophecy regarding Antichrist is stated in the Book of Daniel, and is fitted to make an intelligent and candid reader admire the words as truly divine and prophetic; for in them are mentioned the things relating to the coming kingdom, beginning with the times of Daniel and continuing until the destruction of the world’ (contra Celsum). 

But the strongest grounds for regarding Daniel 9 as truly prophetic is that Christ Himself, in the course of His teachings, assigned its fulfilment to the last days. This is the passage where He refers to ‘the abomination of desolation of which the prophet Daniel spoke, set up in the Holy place’ (Matt 24:15).

According to the ‘Catholic Encyclopaedia’: ‘Christian tradition, both in the East and in the West, has been practically unanimous from Christ’s time to the present in admitting the genuineness of the Book of Daniel. Its testimony is chiefly based on Matt 24:15 in which passage Christ treats Daniel’s visions as true oracles, and expressly names that Prophet as their writer. In so doing, it is argued. Christ endorsed and confirmed by His authority the view which was then received among the Jews, and which regarded Daniel as the author of the book which bears his name’ .

Amazingly, rationalist scholars fail to accept the validity of this argument..     


The passage cited above, comes after the disciples had asked Christ for ‘the sign’ that His coming in the last days, was imminent. And He gave it as ‘when you see the abomination of desolation of which the prophet Daniel spoke, set up in the Holy place‘  (let the reader understand)…there will be such tribulation as has never been from the beginning of the world to this day, nor ever will be again (Matt 24:15,21). What do we ‘understand’ by this? Firstly it is clear that the term ‘abomination’ refers to an idol, as this expression was habitually used of idols, throughout the Old Testament. The next logical step is to consult the prophecy to which Christ referred, which is part of the ‘seventy-week prophecy’ of Daniel 9 – vv 24-27. This foretells the coming of a ‘prince’ who will remove the ‘victim and sacrifice’ in the sanctuary and set up the ‘abomination of desolation’. It is clear from the context that he is the one that St John refers to as the Antichrist (I John 2:18, 19).


But the words ‘let the reader understand’ more logically apply to ‘the Holy place’ – so what does this signify? In the Temple of Jerusalem, this referred to a special area where loaves of bread were left in offering, to symbolise the offering of the 12 tribes of Israel and so representing that unbroken covenant between God and His chosen people. The command which God gave to Moses, reveals the derivation of the name ‘the Holy place’: 

 ‘You are to bake twelve loaves (and) set them in two rows of six on the pure table that stands before the Lord…   This will be the food offered as a memorial, a burnt offering for the Lord. Continually every sabbath they shall be set before the Lord. The sons of Israel shall provide them by unending covenant. They will belong to Aaron and his sons, who shall eat them in a holy placefor they are a most holy portion for him of the Lord’s burnt offerings. This is a perpetual law.’ (Leviticus 24: 5-9).

But why did Christ state that the ‘idol’ was to be set up ‘in the Holy place’ when the Temple of Jerusalem was to be destroyed? The key comes in St Augustine’s teaching that what was foreshadowed in the Old Testament, is fulfilled in the New. For when Christ took bread to institute the Sacrifice of the Mass, He fulfilled the demands of the Jewish covenant by establishing a new covenant in His own person. This interpretation is supported by Origen (P.G. XII col 547). But this implies that ‘the Holy place’ now refers to the altar of the Church, the place where Mass is celebrated, which in turn implies it is there that Antichrist will set up his idol, at the same time ‘removing the sacrifice’ –  of the Mass. 

This conclusion is supported by the Fathers of the Church, such as Hippolytus: ‘In the middle of the last week will appear the abomination of desolation: the Antichrist announcing devastation to the world. And when he appears, the sacrifice and oblation will be removed, which are now offered to God in every place by the nations’. (Commentary on Daniel: 22); and St Irenaeus (140 – 202) who wrote: ‘Gabriel reveals the time that the tyranny shall last, during which the saints shall be put to flight, they who offer apure sacrifice to God’  (Ad Heresias V 25).  Indeed Cardinal Manning stated: ‘The Holy Fathers who have written upon the subject of Antichrist, and the prophecies of Daniel, without a single exception, as far as I know.. all of them unanimously say that in the latter end of the world, during the reign of Antichrist, the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar will cease”  (‘The Present Crisis of the Holy See’, 1861).

It is significant that after foretelling the coming of Christ, the ‘seventy-week prophecy’ of Daniel 9 reveals that in the last days, a tyrant (Antichrist) will ‘remove victim and sacrifice’ in the temple and set up the ‘abomination’ instead (vv 26,27). As stated above, this cannot refer to the Jerusalem Temple, as it was to be destroyed in 70 AD, so it must apply to what has superceded it, namely the sanctuary of the Church. This again implies that the ‘sacrifice’ that Antichrist is going to ‘remove’ or abolish there, is the sacrifice of the Mass. But this begs the question: how could someone enter the sanctuary, and set up an idol in place of the altar of sacrifice, thereby abolishing the Mass? For answers we turn to St Paul’s account of the coming of Antichrist in his second Letter to the Thessalonians. It was prompted by rumours that Christ’s return in glory was imminent. But St Paul responded: ‘it cannot happen until an apostasy has taken place, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or is worshipped, so that he sits in the sanctuary, showing himself as if he were GodSurely you remember me telling you about these things when I was with you? And you know what is still holding him back from appearing before the appointed time. The mystery of iniquity is at work already, only the one who restrains it has first to be removed until the wicked one appears openly.’ (2: 1-7). Note that he ‘sits in the sanctuary’. But what is the ‘sanctuary’? Surely in the Christian dispensation, it is defined as the place where priests celebrate Mass? So this implies not a forced entry but that he will take his place there ‘as if by right’, and thus that he will ‘oppose and exalt himself over what is worshipped’ .. in that sanctuary.

St Paul also states that the ‘mystery of iniquity is at work already but he who restrains it must be removed before the wicked one can be revealed openly’. But what is signified by that person? Who ‘restrains iniquity’? Surely it must refer to Christ, present in the Mass? Remember that the Mass is the re-presentation of that Sacrifice by which Christ defeated Satan, hence it is He who on the altar – currently restrains Satan. In fact the logic of this is born out by St Paul’s next statement, namely that that once Antichrist has displaced Christ, ‘the lawless one will be revealed.. his coming by the agency of Satan will be with power and all signs and deceptive wonders’ (vv 8, 9). So what we have is a cryptic account of the coming of one man, the Antichrist, who by intervening in a celebration of the Mass,   displaces Christ and abolishes the Mass, so enabling Satan to display visual prodigies in order to seduce mankind into following him as God, and so renouncing faith in Christ.


Such an intervention would clearly be impossible without the collusion of churchmen. The ‘sanctuary’ is their domain and under their protection, and so such a person could not enter without their permission. The fact that Antichrist ‘sits in the sanctuary’ implies that he will take his place among those who validly celebrate Mass, as if by right – which in turn implies an acceptance by the authorities. But the text also indicates that he lacks valid orders because the effect of his action is to remove Christ from the altar..  If he were truly ordained he would not remove Himbut make Him present. But at the same time, he must come in the guise of a Christian minister.. There are instances when such ministers are invited to stand at the altar in celebrations of the Mass, but always without official permission. But the Church’s involvement in the ecumenical movement could lead to that.  If our Bishops invited an Anglican minister to ‘officiate’ in a Mass with them, as a demonstration of their acceptance of his ‘orders’, it could achieve what St Paul reveals. For at ‘the consecration’ he would fail to change the bread and wine into His Body and Blood, and when these material objects were elevated for worship by the Bishops they would constitute an idol, set up on the altar, thereby displacing Christ and abolishing the Mass.. 


What the Apocalypse does is re-state Daniel’s prophecy in symbolic terms. Just as Daniel 9:26 reveals that a ‘people with its leader’ will attack, so Apocalypse 13 foretells the emergence of two ‘beasts’, the first signifying a nation that will persecute ‘the saints’; the second, the person who spearheads the attack. We are told that it has ‘two horns like a lamb, but speaks like a dragon’ (13:11). Since Apocalypse signifies Christ as ‘the Lamb’, this must signify someone who comes in Christian guise but is Satan’s mouthpiece. He will ‘set up an image of the first beast’ and force people to worship it on pain of death (v. 15), a correlation with Daniel’s ‘abomination’ that denotes that the ‘beast’ signifies the Antichrist. We are told he ‘makes the world worship the image’. What kind of man ‘makes us worship’? Surely a minister of religion? Which confirms it is in that guise he will appear.  The Apocalypse also reveals that Antichrist is ‘servant of the first beast’, in effect, his agent. This ‘first beast’ clearly correlates with the final ‘beast’ of Daniel 7, and so must signify the nation that will attack in the last days. By enforcing worship on the idol on pain of death, it will provoke a falling away from the faith: an apostasy. This will be Satan’s attempt to set up a kingdom on earth where he is worshipped instead of Christ.


Daniel 9:27 foretells the defeat of Antichrist. But how is this to be achieved?   When he has unleashed Satan’s power is the display of false miracles, and in the emergence of a nation to enforce worship on the idol, how will God secure the victory? The solution is revealed in a promise made by God in the Garden of Eden, when He told ‘the serpent’: ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed: she shall crush your head and you will lie in wait for her heel’‘ (Gen 3:15). This awaits its fulfilment in the last days, and in its own account of those days, Apocalypse 12 re-states the prophecy, in the symbolism of a woman clothed with sun, giving birth to a son who is to judge all nations. This implies the imminent fulfilment of the promise made at the dawn of history.   

According to Pope John Paul II, when Our Lady appeared at Fatima in 1917, it fulfilled the above prophecy of Apocalypse 12:1.  He made this statement when he came to Fatima in 2000 to beatify Jacinta and Francisco.  Under the title of the Immaculate Heart, Mary symbolises the victory of Christ. For she was conceived free from the stain of original sin  through God’s foreknowledge of Christ’s death, to be the mother of His Son,  By sharing His sufferings she has deserved a role in His great victory in the last days. 

Clearly that power has to be put into effect. But how? At Fatima Our Lady promised that when the Pope and all his Bishops consecrated Russia to her Immaculate Heart, it would be converted and peace would ensue. This implies that this act will bring God’s power against that nation, and  both drive Satan out and effect its conversion in a miracle that would reveal to the  world that it is through His Mother that God has won the victory.  So it appears there is a link between Daniel 9 and what Our Lady revealed at Fatima. It surely implies a future rather than a past – fulfilment of the Third Secret.

For Catholics the Mass is (literally) sacrosanct, and so to suggest that it is going to be abolished, is almost unthinkable. But there is a comparison here with that passage in the Gospels when Christ foretells His death. For when Peter said: ‘Heaven forbid, Lord, this must never happen to you’, Christ replied: ‘your thinking is man’s thinking, not God‘s’ (Matt 16:22,23). The apparent defeat of the Cross was the very means by which Christ defeated Satan, but that victory awaits its fulfilment in the decisive victory over Satan in the last days. The triumph of the Immaculate Heart, foretold at Fatima, will thus bring about the victory that was predicted by Daniel in prophecies that are both authentic, and relevant today. It is perhaps ironic that while many are now urging the Vatican to reveal the full contents of the Third Secret of Fatima, that message may well have been released some 2,600 years ago, by one of the Jewish exiles in Babylon.


The overall significance of the Book of Daniel is that while God may have punished His people through the deportation to Babylon, His purposes were still being worked out – and the fulfilment of that purpose lay ahead in the coming of Christ as Redeemer of mankind. The Jews were chosen from all the races to fulfil that purpose, and while God had punished them, His purpose still stood firm, and He therefore revealed that purpose through the person of Daniel. Chapter 9 begins when Daniel prayed to know when the prophecy of Jeremiah that the exile would last for seventy years – would be fulfilled. He acknowledged that the Jews had sinned and had merited this punishment. King Manasseh had erected a pagan idol for worship in the Temple of Jerusalem, thus provoking this punishment (II Kings 21:7; 23:11; Jer 15:4). The Temple now lay in ruins, that place where God had established a covenant and conferred His sovereign protection on His people, so in pleading for a return to rebuild the Temple, Daniel was urging a restoration of that bond of unity. In effect there were exiled not so much from Jerusalem as from God’s presence.

So the underlying question is: when will man break the bonds of sin and return to God’s presence?  Gabriel then appeared with the answer to that question. He revealed: ‘Seventy-weeks are decreed for the ending of transgression and sin, abolishing iniquity, introducing everlasting justice, fulfilling vision and prophecy and anointing of the Holy of Holies ’ (24).

This reveals a chain of causes: first sin must be abolished and man justified and then, when prophecy is fulfilled, he will be able to enter heaven. Christ accomplished this by dying on the Cross and then through the Church He instituted to fulfil His purposes. He ‘introduced everlasting justice’ through the Mass which is the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Calvary. It is through this means that He prepares us to enter heaven: indeed the Eucharist is called ‘the pledge of our immortality’. Thus it is logical and orthodox to postulate that the words ‘introducing everlasting justice’ refer to the Mass. Returning to Gabriel’s announcement, he then revealed stages in the fulfilment of the prophecy: ‘Know this and understand that from a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem to the coming of a Messiah,  there shall be seven and sixty-two weeks.. and after sixty-two weeks, the Messiah shall be cut off and  the people that shall deny him shall not be his. And a people, with their leader that shall come, shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be desolation until the end appointed. And he shall make a covenant with many for a week, and after a half-week the victim and the sacrifice shall fail, and there shall be in the temple the abomination of desolation, which shall continue until the consummation and the end (Daniel 9: 26-27).

So the starting-point was when the Jews left their exile, and the end-point is yet to come. Since events have not reached their conclusion, it implies a  ‘hiatus’ in the fulfilment of the prophecy after the coming of Christ in the sixty-ninth ‘week’. What can account for this? The solution lies in the words ‘everlasting justice’ which point to Christ’s action in the Mass. But in the Eucharist Christ reigns outside time in eternity. Does that not explain the break? For the purposes of the prophecy nothing of significance was to happen after the institution of the Mass, until the coming of Antichrist in the last ‘week’ to ‘remove victim and sacrifice’.    

This brings us to the significance of the weeks. It is generally accepted that signify ‘weeks of years’ – or  seven years. Thus the prophecy of ‘seventy-weeks’ represented 490 years, with the 69 weeks leading up to the coming of Christ, being 483 years. I wish here to acknowledge my indebtedness to the late Sir Robert Anderson, a bible scholar who made an important discovery. Scholars had tried to ‘fit’ the 483 years between the time Cyrus told the Jews to return to Jerusalem, and the time of Christ’s crucifixion. The  starting-point happened in 445 BC on 14th March, and 483 years after this leads us to AD 38, which overshoots the time. But Anderson realised the time needed to be adjusted to allow for the way the Jews computed time.  For they computed by the moon and the sun. They thus reckoned thirty days to the month and twelve months to the year, a span of 360 days, whereas scholars had been reckoning years the modern way as lasting 365.25 days. So to calculate the old way we have to multiply 483 by 360 which comes out as 173,880 days. Anderson then determined the date when the Jews returned to rebuild Jerusalem as 1st Nisan ie 14th March 445 BC and by adding 173,880 days, arrived at the very day when Christ entered Jerusalem before His crucifixion – that is 6th April 32 AD.  He decided this as folllows. St Luke’s Gospel states that His public ministry started ‘in the 15th year of the Emperor Tiberias Caesar’ (Luke 3:1) – that is during AD 28. Most Scriptural authorities hold that His ministry lasted for over three years. St John expressly refers to three Passovers, and it is most likely that the ‘feast’ of John 5:1 was also a Passover, since the alternative, Purim, was not so much a religious feast as a social one. So if Christ’s first Passover was in 29 AD, His final one would have been three years later, in 32 AD. He was acclaimed as the Messiah on the Sunday before the Feast of Passover. John 12:1 states that He went up to Jerusalem ‘six days before the feast’, in accordance with Jewish custom and lodged at Bethany, just outside the city. The feast began on 14th Nisan, which in the Julian calendar then in force, was 10th April 32 AD. So the date when Christ entered Jerusalem on the previous Sunday was 6th April. The time between the date when the Jews were sent to rebuild Jerusalem, and when Christ rode into it triumph is 173,880 days.

This sets in context St Augustine’s claim that ‘Daniel foretold the date when Christ would appear’ (City of God). Surely the above reinforces the claim of Daniel 9 to be considered as both valid – and relevant to our own times, times when many churchmen seem ready to compromise on the truths of religion in order to accommodate the demands of Protestants.



Rationalists claim there is no evidence that Belshazzar was King of Babylon (Ch 5:1ff) or was the ‘son of Nebuchadnezzar’ and that the person of Darius the Mede (5:30; 6:1-3) is unknown to history. However the ancient Monuments support the Biblical claim by revealing that the last King of Babylon, Nabonidus had a son called Belshazzar, who had control of the troops, thus he was regent in Babylon, which accounts for him making Daniel third ruler (5:29). Nabonidus had displaced Nebuchadnezzar, and as it was customary for a usurper to marry into the family of the king to strengthen his dynastic claims, he may have married Nebuchadnezzar’s daughter, thus entitling their son Belshazzar to style himself ‘son of Nebuchadnezzar’. It is postulated that the influential queen who appears in Chapter 5 was Nebuchadnezzar’s daughter and thus mother of Belshazzar – having married Nabonidus, a member of Nebuchadnezzar’s court.

Regarding Darius the Mede:  It has been postulated that this was a ‘dynastic title’ assumed by Cyrus, following his conquest of the Medes in 550 BC. It is significant that Cyrus was referred to by Nabonidas in 546 as ‘King of the Medes’, only 4 years after defeating them. An alternative theory is that Darius was the ‘Gobyrus’ named by the Annalistic Tablet of Cyrus as governor of Babylon. 

Rationalists also point out Daniel’s account of a ‘siege of Babylon’ (ch 5) is not substantiated by the Book of Kings. But both Xenophon and Herodotus do describe the taking of Babylon by Cyrus, who is said to have diverted the waters of the Euphrates so that his soldiers could enter by the river-bed. The Annalistic Tablet of Cyrus, found in 1880, does mention Belshazzar by name, and tells how Nabonidus, the king and Belshazzar’s father, was taken prisoner in Babylon without fighting; that three months later Cyrus entered Babylon; that Gobryas was made governor, and that 8 days later he made a night assault and the king’s son was slain. Babylon was divided by the Euphrates with the king’s palace on the eastern side. Gobryas entered the western part of the city without fighting, and finding Nabonidus there, took him prisoner; Belshazzar still held out in the eastern part of city for three months, and his father being a prisoner, Belshazzar was virtually king. During those three months the Persians were digging to divert the river; then Cyrus came, and on the night of 11th of Marchesvan, while Belshazzar’s feast was in progress, the enemy was wading in through the now shallow waters, and he was found standing in the palace hall, and was slain.


i) For those supporting the older dating of Daniel, the presence of Persian and Greek words (3:5,15) has long been a problem. But linguistic arguments alone are inadequate when it comes to dating the book as our knowledge of the development of the vocabularies of Aramaic and Hebrew from the 6th to the 3rd Century BC is too fragmentary. But there are certain factors that favour an early date, such as the mistranslation of the Septuagint (2nd Century BC) of some of the Aramaic words used in Daniel. Such an occurrence is more explicable if the translators were dealing with words with which they were no longer familiar (i.e. the text of Daniel from 6th Century BC) than if they were working on a contemporary manuscript. Persian words found in Daniel are traceable to the Old Persian Period which ended about 300 BC.

ii) There are three Greek words in Daniel, all names of musical instruments. But there were Greek colonies on the coast of Palestine in the time of Hezekiah, a century before Daniel was born and archaeology reveals in strongest terms there were bonds between Greece and the East during the relevant period 800-480 BC. Furthermore we know that in Nebuchadnezzar’s time Greek craftsmen and mercenaries were working in Babylon. You might say that the fewness of Greek words is strong evidence for a date before the conquest of Alexander the Great. As for the Aramaic words, there is evidence of a Jewish colony on the island of Elephantine on the Nile around 494 BC, which would account for the prevalence of Aramaic around the earlier dating for Daniel.

It is also relevant that in his ‘Antiquities of the Jews’ (Book 11, Ch 8),  the Jewish historian Josephus (AD 40 – 100) wrote: “When the Book of Daniel was shown to Alexander the Great (died BC 323), wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that he himself was the person intended.”

Furthermore, before the Christian era, the 1st Book of Maccabees (written very early in the 1st  Century B.C.) shows acquaintance with the Septuagint version of the Prophecy of Daniel (cf. 1 Macc 1:54 with Dan 9:27; 1 Macc 2:59,60 with Dan 3: 6), which infers (i) that at that date the Book of Daniel must have been for some considerable time rendered into Greek; and (ii) that its composition must have preceded this translation by some considerable time more, so that its origin under Antiochus Epiphanes is hardly probable. Again the Sybilline Oracles (Bk III, vv 388ff), supposed to have been written about 170 B.C., contain an allusion to Antiochus IV, and to the ten horns of Daniel 7:24, and therefore point to an earlier date that that which is proposed nowadays.

Finally, according to Josephus (Contra Apion VIII), the Old Testament Canon of the Jews, which has always included Daniel among ‘The Writings’, was closed by Ezra in the middle of the 5th Century BC, that is to say, at a date so near the composition of the book that its genuineness could then be easily ascertained, and would naturally be the reason for the insertion of the work into the Palestinian Canon.

Thus both historical and linguistic findings support the case for the original dating of Daniel.  

It is significant that according to Henry & Scott’s ‘Commentary on the Bible’ 1834 when the Jews came to write their ‘targums’ or commentaries of the Old Testament, they omitted Daniel, because they wished to conceal its foretelling the coming of the Messiah, and cursed anyone who attempted to interpret its meaning. A bit like our own leaders in their effective suppression of the message that ties in with the message of Daniel.

Iain Colquhoun

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