Updated Article – The Book of Daniel

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم

The Book of Daniel: A Critical Examination (2nd Edition)

Originally published: September 16, 2016

Updated: May 7, 2020

“And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”

– Daniel, 9:27 (New International Version)

            The book of Daniel is one of the most quoted apocalyptic books in the Bible, second only to the book of Revelation. Used especially by Christians, the book of Daniel is often times touted as a historically-accurate account of the Jewish exile in Babylon, and for also containing “prophecies” about the End Times.[1] Like Revelation, “Daniel” has been used by fanatic Christians to “predict” such events as the coming of the Antichrist as well as Jesus’ crucifixion and second coming.[2] But are these claims true? Is the book of Daniel a historically accurate book which also contains “fulfilled” prophecies about Jesus (peace be upon him) as well as prophecies of future events that have yet to be fulfilled?[3] Or, like the book of Revelation,[4] is it merely a product of its own time which has been misinterpreted by overzealous believers? In this article, we will attempt to answer these questions. Beginning with a brief background discussion, we will then summarize the book from beginning to end and finally provide a critical analysis of the text. Based on this discussion, it will be shown that the “Daniel”, like the Revelation, is indeed a product of its own time and does not refer to events that will occur in the near future.

The Book of Daniel – Background

            Unlike the Revelation, whose author identified himself as “John”,[5] the book of Daniel does not actually state that the author was a man named “Daniel”. Rather, the book gets its name from the main character, the prophet Daniel (peace be upon him).[6] So, who was the author of this book? According to the “United States Conference of Catholic Bishops”, the author is simply “unknown”.[7] On the other hand, the Babylonian Talmud actually attributes authorship of the book to a group known as the “Men of the Great Assembly” and not to the prophet Daniel.[8]

            Also, unlike the book of Revelation, the book of Daniel did not generate much controversy regarding its canonical status and enjoyed general acceptance. While the book of Revelation was the subject of great controversy regarding its “canonicity”, the book of Daniel seems to have been considered “canonical” by Jews by the 2nd-century BCE, as evidenced by some incomplete manuscripts among the Dead Sea Scrolls.[9] Also, among Christians, there was no debate regarding its authenticity or canonical nature.

            Nevertheless, the book has been treated differently by Christians and Jews. As “The Jewish Study Bible” states:

“[i]n the Christian Old Testament Daniel is placed with the major prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, while in the Jewish Scriptures it is placed with the Kethuvim, or Writings.”[10]

So, while the authorship of the book remains a mystery, it is clear that there were few questions, if any, regarding it authority.[11]

            But what can be said about the date of composition? Most faithful Christians and Jews maintain that the book was written during the Babylonian exile in the 6th-century BCE.[12] However, modern scholars question this date and most assign a date no earlier than the 2nd-century BCE. According to the USCCB, the book:

“…was composed during the bitter persecution carried on by Antiochus IV Epiphanes (167-164 B.C.)…”[13]

Likewise, Bryan S. Rennie, professor of religion at Westminster College, states that:

“[t]he most obvious conclusion would be that the Book of Daniel was written at the time of the profanation of the Temple by Antiochus IV, during the Maccabean revolt which that sacrilege provoked.”[14]

However, some sources have questioned the 2nd century date, at least for the entire book. The “Jewish Virtual Library” divides the book of Daniel into two components, “Daniel A” (Chapters 1-6) and “Daniel B” (Chapters 7-12).[15] Based on this division, it then dates “Daniel A” to the middle of the 3rd-century BCE, while “Daniel B” is dated to the reign of Antiochus IV (2nd-century BCE). The Italian historian Arnaldo Momigliano (d. 1987) likewise suggested a 3rd-century date,[16] but elsewhere, he dated the “final version” to about 165 BCE (i.e. 2nd-century BCE).[17] Similarly, Raymond Hammer (d. 1994) suggested:

“…that the stories in the first part of the book were already well known before their incorporation into the book and adaptation to the main message of the writer.”[18]

Finally, “The Jewish Study Bible” explains that:

“…the dating of at least the last [chapters] of Daniel can be established precisely. […] The predictions are detailed and accurate until the end of the Maccabean revolt in 164. At that point, however, they veer dramatically…and scholars assume that the author lived and wrote at the precise time when the predictions become inaccurate.”[19]

While debates regarding the date of composition will no doubt continue, it seems unlikely that the book of Daniel was actually written in the 6th-century BCE, as apologists often claim. However, it also seems unlikely that the entire book was written in the 2nd-century BCE. The presence of “Daniel” in the Dead Sea Scrolls certainly shows that a 2nd-century BCE date is unlikely, at least for the entire book (if the book was actually written in two parts).[20] Furthermore, the claim that certain linguistic features in the book of Daniel, such as the use of Greek words, prove a 2nd-century BCE date are weak. As the Christian scholar David Malick states:

“[t]hree Greek loan words in Daniel need not argue for a late date since there may well have been Greek writing prior to Plato (370 B.C.) where these words could have been used, and since they are the names of musical instruments which often are circulated beyond national boundaries, and since Greek words are found in the Aramaic documents of Elephantine dated to the fifth-century B.C.”[21]

Michael Shepherd, professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Louisiana College, provides a more cautious view and seems to be the most reasonable since he avoids the two “extreme” positions. He states that:

“…it is best to say that the sixth century date and the second century date are two extremes on a spectrum and that the actual date of the book could be anywhere in between the two.”[22]

Thus, as far as a date of composition is concerned, it seems likely that the book of Daniel could have been written earlier than the 2nd-century BCE, but most certainly received its final form by that time. There is also little doubt that the last six chapters were written during the Maccabean revolt and the traditional suggestion that the entire book was written in the 6th-century BCE is without merit.

The Book of Daniel – Summary

Chapter 1:

            The book begins with an immediate reference to the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar:

“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.”[23]

Nebuchadnezzar’s forces overran the kingdom of Judah and carried off “the articles from the temple of God” to Babylon, where they were placed in “the treasure house of [Nebuchadnezzar’s] god”.[24]

            Shortly afterward, Nebuchadnezzar ordered that some individuals from among the captured children of Israel should be brought into his court so that they may be taught “the language and literature of the Babylonians”.[25] Among those chosen were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.[26] As part of their three-year training period, they were to be given “a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table.”[27] But Daniel, being faithful to his religious duties, refused to eat or drink from the king’s table for fear of being “defiled”, and instead asked that they be given “nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink”, a request that was granted.[28]

            Finally, after three years, Daniel and the others were presented to the king and entered into his service. After questioning them, Nebuchadnezzar found them to be better in “wisdom and understanding” than all of his “magicians and enchanters”.[29] Daniel remained in the service of the king “until the first year of King Cyrus”.[30]

Chapter 2:

            In his second year as king,[31] Nebuchadnezzar had dreams which greatly “troubled” him.[32] When he summoned his “magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers” to describe and interpret his dreams,[33] they stated:

“No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among humans.”[34]

This response greatly angered Nebuchadnezzar, who then “ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon”.[35] After pleading with the king for some time, Daniel and his companions prayed to the “God of heaven” to reveal the details of the king’s dreams, a prayer that was answered that very night.[36]

            Having had the mystery revealed to him, Daniel went to the king and explained the meaning of the dreams, attributing his abilities to “a God in heaven who reveals mysteries”.[37] Daniel then described the dream:

“Your Majesty looked, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.”[38]

            Finally, Daniel interpreted the dream, describing Nebuchadnezzar himself as the “head of gold” on the statue.[39] As for the rest of the statue, Daniel informed the king that it represented three more kingdoms which would follow his, the last of which will be a “divided kingdom” (due to its being part “baked clay” and part “iron”).[40] Following these kingdoms, a final kingdom would replace them and “endure forever”,[41] and was symbolized in the dream as:

“…a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.”[42]

            After having been explained the meaning of his dreams, the king “fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him”.[43] He also made Daniel the “ruler over the entire province of Babylon” and made Daniel’s companions “administrators over the province” as well.[44]

Chapter 3:

            Sometime after,[45] Nebuchadnezzar reverted to his wicked ways by building “an image of gold” and “summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image”.[46] He also ordered all people to worship the image.[47] He also ordered that anyone who did not worship the image would “immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace”.[48] In obedience to this decree, all of the “nations and peoples of every language” worshiped the golden image, except for the Jews.[49] Nebuchadnezzar’s astrologers informed him that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, respectively) did not heed the decree and refused to worship the Babylonian gods or the image of gold that the king had built.[50] When Nebuchadnezzar summoned the three Jewish administrators and threatened them with death, they still refused to obey his decree. He even credulously asked them:

“Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”[51]

Furious with their refusal to obey him, Nebuchadnezzar ordered that they be thrown into the furnace, which was to be heated “seven times hotter than usual”.[52]

            But then something miraculous happened. After the three men were placed in the furnace, Nebuchadnezzar witnessed a fourth man in the furnace as well, whom he described as looking “like a son of the gods”, and he saw that all four men were “unbound and unharmed”.[53] Having witnessed the miraculous way in which the three men were saved, Nebuchadnezzar praised the God who had saved them and made a new decree:

“Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”[54]

Finally, he promoted the three faithful men.[55]

Chapter 4:

            Once again, Nebuchadnezzar had a dream which he desperately wanted to be interpreted. But this time, he was praising “the Most High God” and described the visions that had terrified him.[56]

            After seeking the advice of the “wise men of Babylon” (the “magicians, enchanters and astrologers”), who failed to interpret the visions, the king once again sought the advice of Daniel, whom he referred to as “Belteshazzar, after the name of my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in him.”[57]

            Nebuchadnezzar described seeing “a tree in the middle of the land” so big that “its top touched the sky” and that “it was visible to the ends of the earth”.[58] From this tree, “every creature was fed”. But then, he saw “a holy one, a messenger coming down from heaven” who declared that the tree should be cut down, leaving only the stump and roots and bound with iron and bronze.[59] The messenger also declared that the “tree” would “live with the animals” and his mind would be changed from that of a man to that of an animal until “seven times pass by for him”.[60]

            The king then asked Daniel to interpret the dream. Daniel replied solemnly that the “tree” was in fact Nebuchadnezzar himself since:

“[y]ou have become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your dominion extends to distant parts of the earth.”[61]

As for the interpretation of the cutting of the “tree” and his banishment among the animals, Daniel explained it as meaning that the king himself:

“…will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes. The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules.”[62]

Finally, Daniel advised the king to renounce his sins “by doing what is right” and to be “kind to the oppressed”.[63]

            However, Nebuchadnezzar foolishly decided not to heed Daniel’s advice, remaining boastful of his power.[64] He then heard a voice from heaven which declared that his power had been taken away from him.[65] And so, the prophecy was fulfilled and Nebuchadnezzar, the great Babylonian king:

“…was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.”[66]

            Fortunately, after the end of the seven-year period, Nebuchadnezzar humbled himself before “the Most High” and “honored and glorified him”, thereby regaining his “sanity”. Moreover, he regained his throne, becoming “even greater than before” and continued to “praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven”.[67]

Chapter 5:

            Belshazzar, king of Babylon, held a great feast which a thousand of his “nobles” attended.[68] They drank wine from “the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father” had seized from the temple in Jerusalem and “praised the gods”.[69]

            Suddenly, the king saw “the fingers of a human hand” writing on the wall of the palace, which greatly troubled him.[70] The joy and revelry of the feast suddenly gave way to fear. The fearful king then called for his “enchanters, astrologers and diviners” to decipher the mysterious writing on the wall, just as Nebuchadnezzar had done on the occasions of his troubling dreams and visions. [71] And just as the “wise men” could not interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams, so too did the “wise men” of Belshazzar’s court fail to interpret the writing.[72] But just when it seemed hopeless, the queen came into the “banquet hall” and told him of “a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him” and whom “[y]our father, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed [as] chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners”, obviously referring to Daniel.[73]

            Daniel was brought to the king, who asked him if he was indeed “Daniel, one of the exiles my father the king brought from Judah”.[74] Belshazzar asked Daniel to read the writing on the wall, and offered him certain rewards if he could do so successfully.[75] Daniel, while nobly refusing the gifts, nevertheless agreed to interpret the writing for the king.[76] After recounting the rise, fall and redemption of Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel turned to Belshazzar’s sins, saying that he had not “humbled himself” despite knowing all that had happened to his “father” Nebuchadnezzar.[77] Finally, Daniel proceeded to interpret the writing:

“This is the inscription that was written: mene, mene, tekel, parsin. Here is what these words mean: Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”[78]

            Belshazzar, having had the writing deciphered, rewarded Daniel as he had promised, which Daniel apparently accepted, despite initially rejecting any rewards for his services.[79] Later that night, however, the king was slain and “Darius the Mede took over the kingdom”, bringing an end to the once mighty Babylonian Empire.[80]

Chapter 6:

            Darius, the conqueror of Babylon, appointed 120 satraps to rule his kingdom, each “with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel”.[81] Daniel performed his duties and distinguished himself so much that the king even “planned to set him over the whole kingdom”, earning him the envy and ire of the other administrators and satraps.[82]

            The envious administrators and satraps conspired together to destroy Daniel, but failed to find any charges against his character or in his “conduct of government affairs”.[83] Thus, they agreed that they could not bring any charges against him unless it had “something to do with the law of his God”.[84]

            Their wicked plot involved tricking Darius into issuing a decree that “anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days”, except to the king himself, would be “thrown into the lions’ den”.[85] They also urged the king to issue the decree to “put it in writing so that it cannot be altered-in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed”, to which Darius agreed.[86]

            When Daniel heard of the decree, he went to his house and prayed three times a day in the direction of Jerusalem, getting down on his knees and “giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before”.[87] The conspirators went to his house to catch him in the act of praying and immediately informed the king.[88] Upon hearing the charge, Darius was “greatly distressed” and was “determined to rescue Daniel”.[89] However, as the law of the Medes and Persians could not be repealed, even by the king, Darius was forced to order Daniel’s arrest and execution in the lions’ den.[90] Even so, Darius said to Daniel:

“May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”[91]

The lions’ den was sealed with a stone and the king’s “signet ring” and the “rings of his nobles”, after which Darius “returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without entertainment” and was unable to sleep.[92]

            When dawn came, Darius rushed to the lions’ den and called out to Daniel to see if he had survived by the will of his God.[93] Remarkably, Daniel answered in the affirmative, indicating that:

“My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight.”[94]

Chapter 7:

            In the first year of Belshazzar’s reign as king of Babylon, Daniel had a mysterious dream, in which he saw “the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea” and “four great beasts” emerge from the sea.[95] The first beast was “like a lion” and had the “wings of an eagle,”, the second “looked like a bear” with “three ribs in its mouth”, the third “looked like a leopard” with four wings and four heads, and the fourth had “large iron teeth” and ten horns and was the most powerful of them all.[96]

            In addition to seeing the ten horns of the fourth beast, Daniel also saw yet another horn, “a little one” which “uprooted” three of the first horns. The little horn “had eyes like a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully”.[97]

            Then, Daniel saw “the Ancient of Days” with clothing “as white as snow” and hair that was “white like wool”. He was seated on a throne that was “flaming with fire” and “ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him”.[98]

            As Daniel was watching, the “little horn” continued to speak boastfully, until it was eventually killed. Its body was destroyed “and thrown into the blazing fire”, whereas the other three beasts “had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time”.[99]

            Next, Daniel beheld “one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven”.[100] This man “was given authority, glory and sovereign power” and was “worshiped” by “all nations and peoples of every language”.[101] He was given “an everlasting dominion that will not pass away” and his kingdom would “never be destroyed”.[102]

            These visions greatly troubled Daniel and he asked that they be explained to him. One of the angels told him that “the four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth”.[103] As for the fourth beast, which was the most powerful, it was explained that it was another “kingdom” that will “devour the whole earth”.[104] The “ten horns” represented “ten kings” of this kingdom.[105] The “little horn” was yet another king who would “subdue three kings” and “speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and laws”.[106] However, the “little horn” would eventually be defeated and “the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High”.[107]

Chapter 8:

            In the third year of Belshazzar’s reign, Daniel had yet another vision.[108] This time, Daniel saw “a ram with two horns”, one of which was longer than the other.[109] This ram, which “did as it pleased”, was eventually confronted and defeated by a goat “from the west” that had “a prominent horn between its eyes”.[110]

            This “goat became very great”, but eventually, it too lost its power and “the large horn was broken off” and replaced by four other horns.[111] Out of these four horns came a small horn whose power grew “toward the Beautiful Land”.[112] This horn “took away the daily sacrifice from the Lord and his sanctuary was thrown down”.[113]

            Daniel then heard two angels (“holy ones”) conversing and one asked how long it would take “for the vision to be fulfilled”.[114] The other angel responded that:

“It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated”.[115]

            Next, the archangel Gabriel explained the meaning of the vision to Daniel.[116] He explained that the vision was about “the time of the end” and that the “two-horned ram” represented “the kings of Media and Persia”, while “the shaggy goat” represented “the king of Greece” and the “large horn” represented “its first king”.[117] As for the other “four horns”, they represented “four kingdoms” that would emerge from the first king’s nation but would not “have the same power”.[118]

            Finally, the smaller horn represented “a fierce-looking king” who would “become very strong”.[119] This wicked king would “cause astounding devastation” and destroy “the holy people”.[120] He would also “take his stand against the Prince of Princes”, yet despite his power, he too would be destroyed, “but not by human power”.[121]

            After having this vision, Daniel “lay exhausted for several days”. Once he recovered, he “went about the king’s business”.[122]          

Chapter 9:

            In the first year of Darius, the son of Xerxes (or Ahasuerus), Daniel understood from reading the book of Jeremiah “that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years”.[123] Thus, Daniel prayed to God to forgive the Israelites for their sins and to “turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem…”[124]

            As he was praying, Daniel was visited by Gabriel at “about the time of the evening sacrifice”.[125] As before, Gabriel came to help Daniel understand the prophecies. He thus explained that:

“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.”[126]

            Gabriel also explained that from the time the command to rebuild Jerusalem goes out “until the Anointed One” comes, there would be “seven sevens and sixty-two sevens”.[127] But after sixty-two “sevens” have passed, Gabriel explained that “the Anointed One will be put to death” and “the people of the ruler…will destroy the city and the sanctuary”.[128]

            From that point on, Gabriel explained, there would be endless war until the ruler who destroyed Jerusalem would “confirm a covenant with many for one seven” (i.e. for seven years).[129] But half-way through this period, the ruler would “put an end to sacrifice and offering” and “set up an abomination that causes desolation” in the temple until the end.[130]

Chapter 10:

            In the third year of “Koresh”,[131] the king of Persia, Daniel had another vision. While standing on the bank of the Tigris River with other people, Daniel saw a man whose face was “like lightning” and whose eyes were “like flaming torches”.[132] However, only Daniel saw this mysterious being, while the rest of the people did not see him. Even so, they were terrified and “fled and hid themselves”.[133]

            Overcome with fear as before, Daniel was comforted by Gabriel, who explained that Daniel’s prayers (see Chapter 9) had been heard but that Gabriel had been unable to visit him for twenty-one days because “the prince of the Persian kingdom” had prevented him.[134] Only when Michael came to help him was Gabriel free to visit Daniel and explain what will happen to the Israelites “in the future”.[135]

            But Daniel was still overwhelmed from his experience and he became “speechless”. But after being healed, Daniel was able to speak with his angelic visitor who told him that he would soon go to “fight against the prince of Persia”, after which the “prince of Greece” would come.[136]

Daniel 11:

            Gabriel further explained to Daniel about future events. He revealed to Daniel that there would be four more kings in Persia, the fourth of which would be “far richer than all the others”, and would march against Greece.[137] Afterwards, “a mighty king” would arise, who would “do as he pleases”, but whose empire would be “parceled out toward the four winds of heaven”.[138]

            Then, a certain “king of the South” would make an alliance with the kingdom of “one of his commanders” (the “king of the North”).[139] After the daughter of the “king of the South” would be “betrayed”, a king would arise from her family to avenge her death.[140] This new “king of the South” would attack the “king of the North” and be victorious against him, carrying off valuables to Egypt.[141] The “king of the North” would then invade the lands of the “king of the South”, only to retreat and regroup.[142] Then, the “king of the South” would attack the “king of the North”, and would “slaughter many thousands”.[143]

            But the “king of the North” would muster yet another army.[144] Rebellions would begin against the “king of the South”, including by the “violent” among Daniel’s people, but they would not be successful.[145] The “king of the North” would fortify himself and occupy “the Beautiful Land”.[146] He will then make an alliance with the “king of the South”, but under false pretenses.[147]

            Eventually, one of the successors of the “king of the North” (who would be “a contemptible person”)[148] would attempt to invade the “South”, but would be turned back in defeat.[149] In his fury, he would desecrate the temple and abolish the Jewish sacrifice.[150] He would set up the “abomination that causes desolation”, but the faithful “people who know their God” would resist him.[151] The king would “exalt and magnify himself above every god”, including the “gods of his ancestors” and the god “desired by women”, and would even say things “against the God of gods”.[152] Instead of all these other “gods”, the king would “honor a god of fortresses”.[153]

            During “the time of the end”, the king would be attacked by the “king of the South”, but the former would “invade many countries”   , including Egypt, Libya and Cush.[154] Yet despite his power, he would still “come to his end” and would not be helped by anyone.[155]

Chapter 12:

            After the death of the king, the archangel Michael would descend.[156] After a time of great distress, all true believers (those whose names will be “found written in the book”) would be saved, and there would be a resurrection of the dead.[157]

            Daniel then saw two angels talking about all of the events of the end times, and one informed the other that the events would last “for a time, times and half a time”.[158] When Daniel asked what the “outcome” would be, he was told that many would be “purified” but that the “wicked” would continue in their wicked ways and will not understand.[159] However, he was informed that there would be 1,290 days between the end of the daily sacrifice and the setting-up of the “abomination that causes desolation”, and that those who patiently wait for the end of 1,355 days would be “blessed”.[160]

Daniel – Analysis and Historical Context

            Having summarized the contents of the book of Daniel, let us now conduct a critical analysis of the text. Like Revelation, “Daniel” has been a favorite of fanatics who seek to predict when the events described within would occur. However, as we will now see, these fanatics have failed to adequately understand the proper historical context. Thus, they have failed to understand that, like the book of Revelation, the book of Daniel is not prophesying events in our time or in the near future but was more concerned with events in the author’s time. We will also discuss the evidence of inconsistencies and historical errors. The discussion will be divided into the following topics: contradictions/inconsistencies, historical errors, false prophecies, discussions of the various interpretations of the book, and apologetic defenses of authenticity and accuracy.

Contradictions/Inconsistencies –

            As we saw in the summary above, the book begins with the sacking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the Babylonian Empire. As a result of his victory, he carried off relics of the temple as well as many Jews back to Babylon. This occurred in the “third year” of the reign of Jehoiakim. However, elsewhere in the Bible, it is stated that Jerusalem was conquered after Jehoiakim’s death, during the reign of his son Jehoiachin.[161] Therefore, unless Jerusalem was attacked on two occasions, the Bible provides contradictory accounts of its capture.[162]

            Another contradiction in the text can be seen in the beginning of the second chapter. It is stated that in the “second year” of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, he had dreams of an enormous statue. Only Daniel was able to know what the dream was and provide its proper interpretation. Yet this story directly contradicts what we learned earlier in chapter 1. Daniel and his companions were still supposed to be in their three-year training period if the dream occurred in Nebuchadnezzar’s “second year”! Therefore, it would mean that in the second year of this period, Daniel went to the king and interpreted his dream, before his training was completed. In addition, it would mean that Daniel and his companions became provincial rulers before the end of the period! In chapter 1, Daniel and his companions were presented to the king after their training was completed, which means that they would already have been provincial rulers. Yet the text states that only after completing the three-year period did they enter into the king’s service! There is a clear contradiction and no amount of mental gymnastics can explain it. As Hammer puts it:

“…there must be a mistake in calling this ‘the second year’ of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. […] If the chronology of this verse were correct, Daniel would be a ruler before his graduation!”[163]

            Moving on, a minor inconsistency can be seen in chapter 5, when Belshazzar was holding his lavish feast. When the king saw the mysterious hand writing some indecipherable words on the palace wall, he brought the astrologers and diviners to read the words, just like Nebuchadnezzar had done for his dreams. Yet when these men were unable to read the hand writing on the wall, Belshazzar then summoned Daniel, who by this time would have had a great reputation as a wise man. However, the text seems to suggest that Daniel was no more well-known than when he first arrived in Babylon during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, and Belshazzar certainly did not know him.[164] It was not until the “queen-mother” remembered Daniel’s exploits and advised Belshazzar to summon him that the illustrious and wise Daniel was finally called.[165]

            Additionally, the fact that Belshazzar was completely unaware of Daniel appears to contradict the statement of Daniel himself in chapter 8:

“I, Daniel, was worn out. I lay exhausted for several days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business.”[166]

How could Daniel have done “the king’s business” if the king and his court didn’t even seem to have heard of him? In the moment when the king would have needed Daniel’s services the most, no one even thought of him, except the queen![167] It is an irreconcilable contradiction.

            Another inconsistency, and one that has far more egregious theological significance, can be seen in chapter 7. In his “vision”, Daniel saw the “Ancient of Days” and provided a vivid description of this being (who was obviously “God”), including clothing that “was white as snow”, and hair that “was white as wool”. But as historians have recognized, this description of a white-haired and elderly deity seems to be influenced by pagan mythology. According to Hammer:

“[t]he imagery probably comes from Canaanite mythology, in which El was regarded as an aged deity with grey hair.”[168]

Professor Mark S. Smith also notes that this motif of an aged deity is common in Canaanite myth, where “El is an elderly bearded figure enthroned, sometimes before individual deities…, sometimes before the divine council…”[169] Moreover, just as Yahweh was referred to as the “Ancient of Days”, El was also given similar titles, such as “ageless one” and “father of years”.[170] In fact, it seems that Yahweh’s elderly nature was even depicted by other cultures. Smith points to a coin from the Persian period (c. 4th century BCE) with the marking “Yehud” depicting an “enthroned bearded god”. Smith explains that (emphasis ours):

“[t]he iconography belongs to a god, apparently Yahweh.”[171]

Yahweh - coin

Figure 1 – A Persian coin depicting an elderly and bearded deity, most likely Yahweh. Note the wheels of the throne (cf. Daniel 7:9; Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yehud_coinage)

            Moreover, the imagery of a “son of man” approaching the “Ancient of Days” shares similarities with Canaanite myth as well. According to Hammer:

“[i]n Ugaritic texts Baal, the younger god, is described as the one who slew the dragon Itu and so gained victory over the sea, thus establishing his kingship. (In verses 13-14 the second figure is seen as the recipient of authority at the hand of the ‘ancient in years’ and this may reflect the ancient mythology preserved in the enthronement festival of New Year rites.”[172]

This parallel is also noted by John Day, who additionally points out that the “son of man” appears before Yahweh “coming with the clouds of heaven” (Daniel 7:13). This is reminiscent of (emphasis ours):

“Baal’s stock epithet…‘rider of the clouds’…by virtue of his role as a storm god.”[173]

In addition, Day observes that the “son of man” in Daniel is given authority after the destruction of the “beasts of the sea” (Daniel 7:3), similar to Baal, whose “kingship was dependent on his victory over Yam, the god of the sea…”[174]

            Thus, the anthropomorphic characteristics of God raise serious questions about the influence of pagan culture on Jewish monotheism. The influence of Canaanite mythology on the imagery in Daniel 7 is undeniable. Given the fact that pagan cultures dominated the Holy Land for thousands of years, it is not surprising that some theological influences did occur.

Historical Problems –

            In Chapter 1, the author introduced Daniel and his companions, who had been among the exiles carried off to Babylon. They had been selected to be trained in Babylonian culture and specifically in “the language and literature of the Chaldeans”. The reference to “Chaldeans” is in itself not problematic, since it could be used as an ethnic term,[175] but the book of Daniel mainly uses it as a term for “astrologers” or those who study the heavenly bodies.[176] However, this usage was only common in the later Hellenistic (Greek) world, and was not used in that sense in earlier times.[177] Thus, the reference to Chaldeans as “astrologers” is an anachronism and is further proof of the Hellenistic backdrop in which the book, or at least some parts of it, was written.

            Another historical inconsistency in the first chapter is the giving of Babylonian names to Daniel and his companions. As previously mentioned, the names reflected Babylonian culture, and more specifically, the religion of Babylon (see note #26). However, as also previously noted, the names were actually incorrect and “mangled” forms of Babylonian names. This fact naturally raises some logical questions:

  1. Why would the Babylonians have deliberately given such names to Daniel and his companions?
  2. Why would they deliberately insult their gods and religion?

Since there would have been no reason for the Babylonians to give such insulting names, scholars agree that they are the author’s own invention or a later corruption.[178] In either case, what is more interesting is that the practice of giving foreign names was very common in the later Hellenistic period. As Hammer explains:

“[t]his practice was very common in the Greek period and encouraged in the Hellenizing policy of the Ptolemies and Seleucids.”[179]

Thus, the claim that Daniel and his companions were given corrupted Babylonian names may actually just be a reflection of the practice of the Greeks, a practice which was naturally detested by the author. Of course, if they were actually given pagan names, it is interesting that despite Daniel’s resistance to eating food from the king’s table (for fear of eating unclean food), he didn’t seem to show any resistance to being given a pagan name.[180]

            Another historical problem arises from the other dream that Nebuchadnezzar had, as recounted in chapter 4. In this dream, Nebuchadnezzar saw a very large tree which was then cut down and given the mind of an animal. As before, it was Daniel who was called upon to interpret the dream. This time, Daniel informed the king that the “tree” was himself, the king of the Babylonian Empire, which was the most powerful nation on Earth at the time. So is there historical evidence that Nebuchadnezzar was temporarily removed from power and went insane? Stated plainly, the answer is no. As previously stated (see note #66), there is no historical evidence to support the claim that Nebuchadnezzar lost the throne of Babylon for a period of seven years, only to regain it later after undergoing a religious transformation. According to Hammer, while the 4th-century BCE historian Megasthenes (c. 300 BCE) wrote that Nebuchadnezzar “was inspired by some god or other, and spoke of a calamity from the roof of his palace”, no historical source mentions Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity and absence for a period of seven years.[181] In fact, Hammer argues that it is much more likely that the story fits more closely with the reign of Nabonidus, the last king of the Babylonian Empire.[182] As it turns out, it is likely that the story has changed over time, and there is support for this theory from an unlikely source: the Dead Sea Scrolls.


Figure 2 – William Blake’s depiction of Nebuchadnezzar’s period of insanity as told in the book of Daniel [Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nebuchadnezzar_(Blake)%5D

            As previously mentioned, the Dead Sea Scrolls provide historical evidence that the book of Daniel enjoyed widespread acceptance by Jews as early as the 2nd-century BCE, shortly after it received its final form. However, the Dead Sea Scrolls also provide evidence of a variant version of the story recounted in chapter 4. For among the many manuscripts discovered in the caves of the Dead Sea valley, one particular scroll known as “The Prayer of Nabonidus” shows that it was this king, and not Nebuchadnezzar, who was stricken with a disease “for a period of seven years”.[183] Of course, this in itself does not prove that the historical Nabonidus was actually stricken with a disease and repented of his sins, though there are possible parallels between his sojourn in Arabia (for which we know very little about) and the seven-year period of insanity described in the Bible and “The Prayer of Nabonidus” scroll.[184] However, what we can be almost certain about is that the original story in chapter 4 was not about Nebuchadnezzar, but Nabonidus, regardless of whether the story is historically accurate or not.

            Moving on, in chapter 5, where King Belshazzar was confronted by the mysterious hand, we find three additional historical problems. The first has to do with the description of Belshazzar as “king”. Historical evidence suggests that Belshazzar was never regarded as the king, but rather as the “crown prince”. Two historical documents, dated from 543 BCE to 542 BCE, attest to Belshazzar as the “crown prince”.[185] Moreover, the Babylonian New Year festival was not held for several years, during the time that Nabonidus was in Arabia. Since the festival required the presence of the king, historians generally agree that Belshazzar was not regarded as the king.[186] Therefore, the Bible’s description of him as the king of the Babylonian Empire is historically untenable.

            The second historical problem in chapter 5 has to do with the description of Nebuchadnezzar as Belshazzar’s “father”. The reality was that Belshazzar’s father was Nabonidus, which is why Belshazzar was the “crown prince”.[187] Apologetic claims that Nebuchadnezzar was Belshazzar’s “nonliteral” father are based on mere assumptions that assume the book’s infallibility and not on any concrete evidence.[188]

            Finally, the third historical problem has to do with the ending of the chapter with Belshazzar’s death and the conquest of Babylon by a certain individual known as “Darius the Mede”. As previously mentioned, it is well known that the Persian king Cyrus the Great conquered the Babylonian Empire around 539/538 BCE.[189] Indeed, Cyrus was mentioned directly in chapter 1 as well.[190] Who then was “Darius the Mede”?

            As it turns out, there is no historical evidence of a ruler known as “Darius the Mede” who conquered the Babylonian Empire.[191] In fact, “Darius” was a Persian name, not Median,[192] and the Persian Empire actually had three rulers named Darius, neither of which was the first Persian king to conquer Babylon.[193] Interestingly, Darius I captured Babylon in 520 BCE after a rebellion.[194] Thus, scholars have theorized that the author possibly confused the capture of Babylon by Darius I with the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus the Great almost 20 years earlier.[195] In any case, what is clear is that history does not know of a ruler known as “Darius the Mede”, who conquered the Babylonian Empire during the reign of Belshazzar, and the assertions made by apologists lack any solid basis.[196]                        

            Moving on to chapter 6, a major historical absurdity can be seen in the decree of the Persian king “Darius” (who is not a historical figure anyway), who was fooled by some administrators (who were jealous of Daniel) to issue a decree requiring all people to pray to the king and to no other deity or human being. Assuming that “Darius” was actually Cyrus the Great, as Christian apologists have suggested (wrongly as we have seen), then the claim that Cyrus would have issued such a decree is ludicrous. As the Encyclopedia Iranica states:

“Cyrus himself may have been a worshiper of Ahura Mazdā, but almost nothing is known about his personal beliefs. According to Xenophon (Cyropaedia 4.5.14), in religious matters Cyrus followed the instruction of the Magians at his court.”[197]

Hence, there is no reason to believe that the historical Cyrus would have issued such a decree since his court followed the teachings of Zoroastrianism, a religion which would have forbidden such behavior.

            In addition, if “Darius the Mede” was not Cyrus the Great, but some other Persian ruler, it would still be absurd to claim that such a decree would have been issued. As “The Jewish Study Bible” states:

“[t]he interdict is historically implausible. No king of this period who claimed divine status forbade the worship of other gods. Darius the Persian was supportive of local religions, including that of the Jews. The exclusive worship of one god was a Jewish view, and this exclusive notion is projected onto an Eastern divine monarch. The narrative thus reflects Jewish tensions about remaining monotheistic in a mixed Diaspora culture.”[198]

            A final example of a historical error in the book of Daniel can be seen in the chronology of Babylonian and Persian rulers, from the beginning of Nebuchadnezzar’s capture of Jerusalem to the capture of Babylon by Cyrus the Great. It is clear from the text that the succession of rulers in the book of Daniel is as follows:

Nebuchadnezzar – Belshazzar – Darius the Mede – Cyrus

However, as Gary Greenberg explains,[199] the correct succession of rulers was as follows:

Nebuchadnezzar – Evil-Merodach – Neriglass – Nabonidus – Belshazzar – Cyrus

False Prophecies –

            The book of Daniel is often seen as a book of prophecies by zealous Jews and Christians. But as is often the case with Biblical prophecies,[200] the prophecies that Daniel supposedly saw in his dreams and visions failed to come true.

            The first example can be seen in Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the statue in chapter 2. Daniel informed Nebuchadnezzar that the parts of the statue represented different kingdoms. It was explained that the head made of gold represented Nebuchadnezzar’s own kingdom and the rest of the parts represented other kingdoms that were to come. If we assume, for the sake of argument, that the book of Daniel was actually written in the 5th century (which is clearly not the case as explained above), this “prophecy” may appear very impressive. After all, following the fall of the Babylonian Empire, there came other kingdoms: Media, Persia, and Greece, as well as a divided Greek empire after the death of Alexander the Great.


Figure 3 – A 15th-century French depiction of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a statue made of different materials (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_2)

However, the problem with this “prophecy” is that these earthly kingdoms were supposed to be replaced by God’s kingdom, as Nebuchadnezzar’s dream showed. The last part of the dream foretold the coming of a divine kingdom which would “endure forever”. But what actually happened is that while the Greek kingdoms (representing the lowest part of the statue) were indeed replaced by a Jewish kingdom (God’s “kingdom”), this kingdom was then itself conquered by the Romans.[201] Thus, the dream did not come to fruition, despite the claims of the apologists.

            Additionally, a similar prophecy can be seen in chapter 7, the first of the “vision” chapters, in which Daniel himself sees mysterious visions of the “future”. The first “vision” showed that different earthly kingdoms would arise to dominate the world, but each would be overthrown by a more powerful kingdom, ultimately culminating in a kingdom of the “son of man”, which would “endure forever”. But as we just saw, this kingdom did not survive for that long. While the Jewish rebels did succeed in driving the Seleucids from Judea, the kingdom they founded did not survive for long, and it was eventually conquered by the Roman Empire.[202]

            Indeed, in chapter 11, the author provided a detailed chronology of events, which have been conclusively linked with actual events during the period of Seleucid domination of Palestine. But as scholars have noted, after summarizing the events leading up to “the time of the end”,[203] the author’s seemingly amazing attention to detail seems to dissipate when describing the events in the end times. As “The Jewish Study Bible” states:

“…the predictions do not correspond to events as known from other sources, and scholars agree that the author must have been writing at the time of the events described in the preceding [verses]. What is described is a cataclysmic battle of the major powers that would mark the end of the present age (cf. Ezek. 38-39), but the campaigns predicted here did not occur. This helps to date Daniel to the middle of the persecutions of Antiochus IV.”[204]

Perhaps the best example of the sudden failure of the author to accurately predict the events of the end times can be seen in the prediction of Antiochus’ death. As Hammer observes:

“[i]t is assumed that [Antiochus] will make a further attack on Egypt…and perish in Palestine, the place where he has committed his greatest atrocities.”[205]

Yet, there is no historical evidence of Antiochus’ attack on Egypt.[206] What is worse is that Antiochus came “to his end” not in Palestine but in Persia, where he succumbed to an unknown disease.[207]

            Finally, the book ends with the promise of the resurrection of the dead. The time when this would happen was explained by one of the angels as occurring 1,335 days after the Jewish sacrifice was abolished by Antiochus IV.[208] Of course, this never happened. It was yet another false prophecy. Life went on as usual and the world did not come to an end.

The Use and Abuse of the Book of Daniel –

            Thus far, we have discussed several problems within the book of Daniel that have been known to scholars for decades, and that reveal its true historical status as a man-made book and not the “inspired” word of God. Let us now turn our attention to how the book has been used and abused by those who continue to believe in its divine origin as a book that prophesies the “end times”.

            As we have seen, the book of Daniel does indeed make prophecies about the coming of God’s kingdom on earth, but those prophecies were made within the historical context of the Jewish struggle against Greek tyranny, and still failed to come true. However, while this is the scholarly interpretation, the faithful continue to believe that the book makes prophecies which have not yet come true, but will so in the future.[209]

            Moreover, Christian apologists insist that the book of Daniel predicted the coming of Jesus (peace be upon him) as well as his crucifixion.[210] So is there evidence that certain parts of the book of Daniel predict the coming of Jesus (peace be upon him)? An objective analysis of the text will show that the answer to this question is “no”.

            According to Daniel 9:25, there would be 69 “sevens” (i.e. weeks), which in the context of the chapter refers to 69 periods of seven years each,[211] from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem and the coming of the “Anointed One”. In total, “seventy sevens” or 490 years were to pass before the Jews would be redeemed.[212] The prophecy also states that the “Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing”, which Christians interpret as referring to the crucifixion of Jesus (peace be upon him),[213] followed by the destruction of Jerusalem and the placing of the “abomination that causes desolation” in the temple, which they interpret as referring to the Roman conquest of Jerusalem in 70 CE.[214]

            However, the context simply does not allow for such an interpretation. In fact, the events described in Daniel 9 can be reliably traced to historical events which occurred during the struggle between the Jews and the Seleucids in the 2nd-century BCE, and not the 1st-century CE. As Hammer explains:

“…the final week (i.e. seven years) is the crucial period, starting with the murder of Onias III, the high priest (described as the removal of ‘one who is anointed’ in verse 26) in 171 B.C. Halfway through this period has occurred the desecration of the temple, when Antiochus ‘put a stop to sacrifice and offering’ (verse 27).”[215]

Furthermore, “The Jewish Study Bible” observes regarding the “Anointed One” that (emphasis in the original):

“[i]n the context of the other historical references…the anointed leader probably refers to either Zerubbabel or the high priest Joshua (Ezra 3.2; Hag. ch 1; Zech. 6.9-15, while the anointed one is most likely the high priest Onias III, killed in 171 BCE (2 Macc. 4.30-34).”[216]

            Another reason the prophecy cannot be referring to Jesus (peace be upon him) is that the death of the “Anointed One” was supposed to happen 62 weeks (434 years) after the declaration to rebuild Jerusalem. The year of Jesus’ alleged death is not known with any certainty, though Christians generally settle for the year 30 CE. However, since Christians also cannot ascertain with certainty as to when the declaration to rebuild Jerusalem was even made, only through generous assumptions can they finagle the chronology of events to coincide (and only roughly at that!) with the approximate year of Jesus’ death! For example, Christian apologist Matt Slick admits:

“…there is much debate among scholars regarding the decree to which Daniel is referring. There does not seem to be an easy solution.”[217]

He and other apologists generally settle on the year 457 BCE as the most likely date of the declaration, but even with that assumption, the prophecy fails to complete the full 483 years required, since 483 minus 457 equals 26. In other words, the death of the “Anointed One” should have occurred in the year 26 BCE. But, the earliest date for Jesus’ death is assumed to be 30 CE![218]

            Moreover, as Chris Sandoval notes, the Christian interpretation ignores the clear parallels between chapters 8 and 9, the former of which definitely refers to the tyranny of Antiochus IV.[219] Thus, the interpretation posited by Christians is rather fanciful.[220] It is clear that the correct interpretation is that the prophecy was referring to events in the 2nd-century BCE.

            Finally, let us briefly discuss the appeals made by some Christian apologists to the famous Jewish commentator Rashi and his explanation of Daniel 9.[221] First and foremost, the apologists point to Rashi’s explanation of Daniel 9 in “Messianic” terms, and use that as proof that since Jesus (peace be upon him) claimed to be the Messiah, Daniel 9 must be referring to him since it is “Messianic”.[222] However, this view has serious flaws, besides being nothing more than a circular argument, when we actually read Rashi’s commentary.

            First of all, the “Anointed One” of Daniel 9:25 was identified by Rashi as Cyrus the Great, and not the king Messiah, while the “Anointed One” who was to be “put to death” was identified as Agrippa, who was king of Judea as the time of the Roman conquest of Jerusalem in 70 CE.[223] Thus, Rashi was only referring to events he believed were to occur before the coming of the king Messiah, not during his life or after (since the conquest of Jerusalem actually happened after the time of Jesus). The actual reign of the Messiah, according to Rashi, was to occur sometime in the future.[224] Moreover, since we know from the text that the time of the end was to occur very shortly after the second “Anointed One” was to be “put to death”, there is absolutely no possibility of applying this prophecy to Jesus anyway. Also, Rashi claimed that the “abomination that causes desolation” was to remain on the Temple grounds until “the days of the king Messiah”, but it is of course well known that the pagan altar that the Romans set-up after the conquest has long disappeared from history.[225]

            Second, the Christian claim that the “Messiah” would bring “atonement” for sins (based on their flawed reading of Daniel 9:24) is simply a case of interjecting their theology into the text. They assume from the start that the Messiah came to die for humanity’s sins, and then assume that Daniel 9:24 must be referring to this. But when reading Rashi’s commentary, we see nothing about the Messiah “atoning” for humanity’s sins. In fact, he only mentioned the Messiah after the ending of “transgression” and “sin”! As Rashi stated (emphasis ours):

“…so that Israel should receive their complete retribution in the exile of Titus and his subjugation, in order that their transgressions should terminate, their sins should end, and their iniquities should be expiated, in order to bring upon them eternal righteousness and to anoint upon them (sic) the Holy of Holies: the Ark, the altars, and the holy vessels, which they will bring to them through the king Messiah.”[226]

We can see that the termination of “transgressions” and the ending of “sins” needed to occur first, after which the reign of the Messiah would begin. We can also see that there is no mention of the Messiah dying for the sins of the “world”, let alone for the sins of the Jews.[227] In fact, according to Rashi, the subjugation of the Jews under Titus was supposed to serve as expiation for their sins. In other words, they had to “atone” for their sins by suffering under Roman persecution and exile. Thus, the apologetic claims are foolish and do not warrant serious consideration.


            In this article, we have discussed the book of Daniel, its importance to Jews and Christians and the mysterious prophecies that it makes. Like the book of Revelation, it has been at the center of great controversy and has been touted by believers as an amazing example of the accuracy of Biblical prophecies. However, in our discussion, it has been demonstrated that the book of Daniel needs to be read in its proper historical context, just like the book of Revelation. The “prophecies” in the first six chapters were not made hundreds of years before they took place, but rather after the fact, while the “prophecies” in the last six chapters were meant to be fulfilled in the time of the Seleucid domination of Palestine. Like the book of Revelation, the book of Daniel has no relevance to modern times. The author’s “prophecies” of a cataclysmic battle between good and evil never came true and will probably never come true. The Jews did succeed in resisting the Seleucid king Antiochus IV, and eventually drove the Greek armies out of the Holy Land, but their kingdom survived for a short time, and hardly endured “forever” as it was supposed to. Not only does it have false prophecies, but the book of Daniel is also hindered by historical inaccuracies and internal contradictions. And perhaps most importantly for those Christians who believe that it predicted the coming of Jesus (peace be upon him) as well as his death and atonement for the sins of humanity, the book does not provide any impressive evidence. Thus, an objective analysis reveals an interesting and mysterious book, but one that is the result of fallible men and not the result of divine “inspiration”. And Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) knows best!

[1] For Christians, “Daniel” is also important since, as they claim:

“…this text is certainly an amazing prophecy that one definitely should use in his or her apologetic case for Jesus as the Messiah” (https://carm.org/does-daniel-9-24-27-predict-jesus).

We will discuss this claim later on.

[2] According to one such fanatic source, the “Antichrist” will be a Middle Eastern individual who:

“…will rule a region north of Israel in the first part of the Tribulation, as Daniel calls him the ‘king of the north’ and Isaiah and Micah call him the ‘Assyrian’” (http://www.trackingbibleprophecy.com/antichrist.php).

As we will see, however, this claim is without any foundation because when the book of Daniel is read in its proper historical context, the only reasonable conclusion is that it was not prophesying events in our time.

[3] We have discussed some alleged “prophecies” in the Tanakh and New Testament elsewhere:



[4] https://quranandbibleblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/31/the-book-of-revelation/

[5] Revelation 1:2, 4.

[6] http://usccb.org/bible/scripture.cfm?bk=Daniel&ch=

While Daniel (peace be upon him) is not mentioned in the Quran or the authentic Ahadith, he is generally regarded by Muslims as an Israelite prophet who lived sometime after David (peace be upon him) (http://www.islamweb.net/emainpage/index.php?page=showfatwa&Option=FatwaId&Id=88907). Other than this, not much more is known about him.

[7] http://usccb.org/bible/scripture.cfm?bk=Daniel&ch=

[8] Michael B. Shepherd, Daniel in the Context of the Hebrew Bible (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., 2009), p. 65.

[9] Ibid.

See also Arnaldo Momigliano, Essays on Ancient and Modern Judaism (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1994), pp. 84-85.

The 1st century CE Jewish historian Josephus related a story about Alexander the Great being shown a copy of the book of Daniel (Antiquities of the Jews, 11:8:5), which would mean that it was well known to Jews as early as the 4th century BCE (since Alexander’s conquest of Palestine occurred sometime around 333 BCE). Not surprisingly, this is used by some Christians to prove that the book of Daniel was written in the 6th century, during the Babylonian exile (http://www.biblequery.org/dan.htm).

Yet scholars generally reject the story. For example, Momigliano stated:

“I shall say immediately and dogmatically that I assume there is no truth in the visit of Alexander to Jerusalem. It is not recorded by any respectable ancient source on Alexander and is full of impossible details” (Essays on Ancient and Modern Judaism, op. cit., p. 81).

Indeed, it is hard to believe that the proud Macedonian king who aspired to conquer the world would have humbled himself before the Jewish High Priest in such a way!

[10] The Jewish Study Bible, ed. Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 1642.

[11] However, it should be stated that the book of Daniel may not have enjoyed universal acceptance among Jews. Scholars point to the apocryphal book “Ecclesiasticus” (written around 190-180 BCE) to argue that the book of Daniel must not have existed at that time, since the author of Ecclesiasticus did not mention it or allude to it in anyway. This is also used as proof for a 2nd-century date for the book of the Daniel. However, as Frank W. Hardy theorizes, it is possible that the author of Ecclesiasticus was aware of the book of Daniel but simply did not regard it as reliable. He writes:

“Ben Sira held the opinion, and stated it in so many words, that dreamers and dreams were fools and foolishness, respectively. […] If Ben Sira believed dreamers were fools, and thought of Daniel primarily as a dreamer, one could hardly expect Ben Sira to name Daniel as one of Israel’s great and illustrious figures of the past. For Daniel to be passed over in silence would be much more consistent with the passage just quoted than prominent mention of him a few chapters later would be” (Frank W. Hardy, “Ben Sira’s Silence Concerning Daniel”, Historicism, no. 2 (April 1985): p. 2 [http://www.historicism.org/Documents/Jrnl/BenSira.pdf]).

[12] http://www.biblequery.org/dan.htm

Gleason L. Archer gives an approximate date of 530 B.C., and refers to the book as the “memoirs” of Daniel, based on his experiences living under the Babylonian empire (https://bible.org/article/introduction-book-daniel#P59_10765).

[13] http://usccb.org/bible/scripture.cfm?bk=Daniel&ch=

[14] http://www.westminster.edu/staff/brennie/rel101/daniel.htm

See also Raymond Hammer, The Cambridge Bible Commentary on the New English Bible: The Book of Daniel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976), pp. 4-6.

[15] https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0005_0_04854.html

[16] Momigliano stated (emphasis ours):

“Outside Greek historical thought, the idea of a succession of empires appears first in the Book of Daniel, chapter 2, if we date this chapter, as I believe we must, about 250 B.C.”(Arnold Momigliano, On Pagans, Jews, and Christians [Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1987], p. 8).

[17] Momigliano, Essays on Ancient and Modern Judaism, op. cit., p. 83.

[18] Hammer, op. cit., p. 5.

[19] The Jewish Study Bible, op. cit., p. 1642.

Moreover, it states:

“[Chapters] 1-6, probably originally oral, circulated most likely in the 4th to 2nd centuries BCE, when they were collected into a cycle of Daniel legends. [Chapters] 7-12 are most likely written compositions, datable to the last year of the Maccabean revolt (164 BCE). In editing [chapters] 1-12 together, the author of the visions made the whole into an apocalyptic book” (Ibid., p. 1640).

[20] As Christian apologist David Malick points out:

“Manuscripts discovered at Qumran (e.g., a Florilegium found in cave 4Q), which date from the Maccabean period make it very unlikely that the book was written during the time of the Maccabees (e.g., 168 B.C.) since it would have taken some time for it to have been accepted and included in the canon” (https://bible.org/article/introduction-book-daniel).

Of course, this does not mean that the entire book was present at Qumran. More likely, some parts may have been present (including a variant story involving the Babylonian king Nabonidus, as we shall see later), while the second part of the book was still in the process of being written.

[21] Ibid.

Similarly, claims that the use of Aramaic or Persian words in the book of Daniel support a 2nd century BCE date also appear to be weak (Ibid.).

Regarding the use of Aramaic, Kenneth A. Kitchen states:

“…there is nothing to decide the date of composition of the Aramnaic [sic] of Daniel on the grounds of Aramaic anywhere between the late sixth and the second century BC. Some points hint at an early (especially pre-300), not late, date…” (K.A. Kitchen, “The Aramaic of Daniel,” in Notes on Some Problems in the Book of Daniel, ed., D. J. Wiseman [London: The Tyndale Press, 1965], p. 79, http://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/tp/notes-daniel/daniel_kitchen.pdf)

Additionally, the “Jewish Virtual Library” states:

“The popular story book Daniel A was composed in Aramaic because by the third century B.C.E. it was the language of the majority of Jews; and Daniel B, being a continuation of Daniel A, was written in the same language” (https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0005_0_04854.html).

[22] Shepherd, op. cit., p. 66.

[23] Daniel 1:1.

[24] Daniel 1:2.

[25] Daniel 1:4. Some translations use the word “Chaldeans” instead of “Babylonians”. As we will see, the use of this word is a clue to the Greco-Roman world in which the book of Daniel was compiled in its final form.

[26] Daniel 1:6. Daniel and his companions were also given Babylonian names. Daniel was named “Belteshazzar”, while his companions were named “Shadrach”, “Meshach” and “Abednego”, respectively (Daniel 1:7). According to Hammer, these names reflected distorted names of the Babylonian gods (Hammer, op. cit., p. 20). It is also interesting that:

“[a]part from the mangling, no exception is taken to the use of the foreign names, and they are duly accepted as alternative names” (Ibid.).

One has to wonder why pious Jews so easily accepted these pagan names, whereas Daniel was so adamant in not eating any unclean food from the king’s court (Daniel 1:8)! Also, since the names represent “mangled” names of the Babylonian gods, we have to wonder why the Babylonians would have deliberately done so. Incidentally, the use of foreign names by Jews is also a clue to the original context in which the book was compiled, as we will see later.

[27] Daniel 1:5.

[28] Daniel 1: 8-15.

[29] Daniel 1:20.

[30] Daniel 1:21. Cyrus “the Great” was the king of the Persian Empire and conquered Babylon around 539/538 BCE. The phrase “first year” thus refers to the year of Cyrus’ conquest of Babylon (http://usccb.org/bible/daniel/1#34001021-1).

[31] In our analysis, the phrase “second year of his reign” will be discussed in more detail.

[32] Daniel 2:1.

[33] Daniel 2:2. The NIV states that the word “astrologers” could also be rendered as “Chaldeans” (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=daniel+2&version=NIV#fen-NIV-21761a). Indeed, the USCCB renders the verse as:

“So he ordered that the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and Chaldeans…” (http://usccb.org/bible/daniel/2).

It also states:

“…because the Babylonians gave serious study to the stars and planets, “Chaldeans” were identified with astrologers throughout the Hellenistic world” (http://usccb.org/bible/daniel/2#34002002-1).

However, as we will see, the use of the word “Chaldeans” to refer to “astrologers” does not reflect historical usage in the 6th-century BCE.

[34] Daniel 2:11.

[35] Daniel 2:12. This decree evidently included Daniel and his companions (v. 13), despite the great impression they had left on Nebuchadnezzar only one year earlier.

[36] Daniel 2:16-19.

[37] Daniel 2:28.

[38] Daniel 2:31-35.

[39] Daniel 2:36-38. In describing Nebuchadnezzar’s dominion and power, Daniel states:

“Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.”

[40] Daniel 2:39-43.

[41] Daniel 2:44.

[42] Daniel 2:45.

It seems clear that the various kingdoms represented Media (silver), Persia (bronze) and Greece (iron). The “divided kingdom” (iron and clay) clearly refers to the kingdoms that were created after the death of Alexander the Great (Hammer, op. cit., pp. 32-33). We will discuss this in more detail later.

[43] Daniel 2:46. The USCCB states that Nebuchadnezzar ordered “sacrifice and incense” to be offered to Daniel (http://usccb.org/bible/daniel/2#34002002-1).

[44] Daniel 2:48-49.

[45] According to the Greek translation, this was in the 18th year of Nebuchadnezzar (Hammer, op. cit., p. 39).

[46] Daniel 3:1-2.

This image was “sixty cubits high and six cubits wide”, which was equivalent to “about 90 feet high and 9 feet wide” (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=daniel+3&version=NIV#fen-NIV-21809a).

According to the USCCB, the immense proportions of the statue:

“…were not uncommon in antiquity; a cubit was about a foot and a half. The unrealistic proportions of this statue suggest a comic effect” (http://usccb.org/bible/daniel/3#34003001-1).

Regarding the “satraps, prefects, governors…” Hammer explains that nearly all of the titles are Persian in origin (Hammer, op. cit., pp. 39-40).

[47] Daniel 3:5.

[48] Daniel 1:6.

[49] Daniel 3:7-8.

[50] Daniel 3:12. It should hardly have come as a surprise to Nebuchadnezzar that his Jewish administrators would not worship his gods or the golden image. Nebuchadnezzar seems to have forgotten that they worshiped “the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries” (Daniel 2:47)!

[51] Daniel 3:15. This is more evidence of Nebuchadnezzar’s poor memory!

[52] Daniel 3:19.

[53] Daniel 3:25.

[54] Daniel 3:29.

[55] Daniel 3:30.

[56] Daniel 4:1-6. Here, Nebuchadnezzar speaks in the first person and addresses “the nations and peoples of every language, who live in all the earth”, which is obviously impossible.

[57] Daniel 4:6-8. It is of course strange that Nebuchadnezzar would begin by praising “the Most High God” and then refer to Daniel as “Belteshazzar, after the name of my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in him”.

[58] Daniel 4:10-11. For this tree to have been “visible to the ends of the earth”, the earth would have to be flat, at least in his dream!

[59] Daniel 4:13-15.

[60] Daniel 4:15-16. The NIV indicates that “seven times” can also mean “seven years” (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=daniel+4&version=NIV#fen-NIV-21854d). Indeed, the USCCB translates the phrase as “seven years” (http://usccb.org/bible/daniel/4).

[61] Daniel 4:22. Of course, despite the enormous size of the Babylonian Empire under Nebuchadnezzar, it was hardly a global empire. Even at its peak of power, the empire did not stretch much further than modern-day Iraq to the east, Turkey to the north and the Sinai Peninsula to the west:

By contrast, by the year 1279 CE, the Mongol Empire stretched from China and Korea in the east, parts of Russia and Europe to the north and as far as Syria to the west:

Thus, Daniel’s description of Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom was certainly over-exaggerated.

[62] Daniel 4:25-26.

[63] Daniel 4:27.

[64] Daniel 4:30.

[65] Daniel 4:31.

[66] Daniel 4:33. It is quite clear from the text that Nebuchadnezzar was stricken with insanity, which explains his animal-like behavior. However, as we will see later, this incredible event is lacking in historical evidence and if it even happened, it was probably not Nebuchadnezzar but Nabonidus, the last king of the Babylonian Empire, who suffered this divine judgement.

[67] Daniel 4:34-37. Again, as we will see, the absence of Nebuchadnezzar from the throne of Babylon lacks historical support.

[68] Daniel 5:1.

[69] Daniel 5:2-5. The fact that Nebuchadnezzar is referred to as Belshazzar’s “father” will be discussed in the next section, as it seems to contradict established history.

[70] Daniel 5:5-6.

[71] Daniel 5:7.

[72] Daniel 5:8.

[73] Daniel 5:10-11. Most likely, this was actually the “queen-mother” and not Belshazzar’s own wife. Some have equated her with Nitrocris, who was a widow or daughter of Nebuchadnezzar (Hammer, op. cit., p. 63).

[74] Daniel 5:13. As we will see, Belshezzar’s unfamiliarity with Daniel seems to contradict the second part of the book of Daniel, where Daniel is shown doing the “business” of the king.

[75] Daniel 5:16. Belshazzar offered to clothe Daniel with “scarlet”, give him “a chain of gold” and to install him as “the third ruler in the kingdom”. The practice of wearing scarlet or purple robes “was a sign of dignity among the Persians…and the Seleucid rulers”, and suggests that this part of the story is an anachronism owing to the author’s 2nd-century BCE knowledge and experience (Hammer, op. cit. p. 62).

[76] Daniel 5:17.

[77] Daniel 5:18-22.

[78] Daniel 5:25-28.

[79] Daniel 5:29.

[80] Daniel 5:30-31. As we will see, the reference to “Darius the Mede” cannot be accurate.

[81] Daniel 6:1.

[82] Daniel 6:3-4.

[83] Daniel 6:4. As Hammer explains:

“[t]he fact that the other ministers and satraps try to discover some other malpractice…indicates that they were motivated by envy rather than anti-Semitism” (Hammer, op. cit., p. 69).

[84] Daniel 6:5.

[85] Daniel 6:6-7.

[86] Daniel 6:8-9. As we will see, for the Persian king to issue such a decree would have been unthinkable, given his religion and general policies of religious tolerance.

[87] Daniel 6:10.

[88] Daniel 6:11-13.

[89] Daniel 6:14.

[90] Daniel 6:15-16.

[91] Daniel 6:16.

[92] Daniel 6:17-18.

[93] Daniel 6:19-20.

[94] Daniel 6:21-22.

[95] Daniel 7:1-3.    

[96] Daniel 7:4-7.

[97] Daniel 7:8. As we will see later, this is a clear reference to the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes. We will discuss this wicked figure in more detail in the next section.

[98] Daniel 7:9-10. The “Ancient of Days” is obviously God seated on his throne. As Hammer states:

“It speaks rather of the ultimate character of God’s tribunal” (Hammer, op. cit., p. 77).

But as we will see later, the descriptions attributed to God probably originated from pagan mythology.

[99] Daniel 7:11-12.

[100] According to the NIV, the Aramaic phrase rendered “son of man” is “bar enash”, which means “human being”. However, the translators state that they chose the phrase “son of man” solely:

“…because of its use in the New Testament as a title of Jesus, probably based largely on this verse” (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=daniel+7&version=NIV#fen-NIV-21947a).

However, as we will see later, the passage in question cannot be referring to Jesus anyway.

[101] The word rendered as “worshiped” is more correctly translated as “served”, since it is used in Daniel 3:28:

“They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God” (http://biblehub.com/hebrew/yiflechun_6399.htm).

Indeed, Daniel 3:28 uses different words for “serve” and “worship”, so it is clear that the NIV translators chose to deliberately mistranslate the word in 7:14 due to their Christian bias.

[102] Daniel 7:13-14. As we will see, when read in the historical context in which the book of Daniel was written, it becomes clear that the “kingdom” of this “son of man” actually did not endure and was eventually destroyed.

[103] Daniel 7:17.

[104] Daniel 7:23. This is yet another exaggeration.

[105] Daniel 7:24.

[106] Daniel 7:24-25. Again, it is obvious that the author had Antiochus IV in mind.

[107] Daniel 7:26-27.

[108] Daniel 8:1.

[109] Daniel 8:3-4.

[110] Daniel 8:4-5. The “goat” was able to “cross the whole earth without touching the ground”, which describes the remarkable speed with which it would conquer everything in its path.

[111] Daniel 8:8.

[112] Daniel 8:9. The “Beautiful Land” is of course the Holy Land, and especially Jerusalem.

[113] Daniel 8:11. This is yet another reference to the actions of Antiochus IV.

[114] Daniel 8:13.

[115] Daniel 8:14.

[116] Daniel was “terrified and fell prostrate” before Gabriel.

[117] Daniel 8:17-20. Clearly, this “first king” is Alexander the Great, who defeated the powerful Persian Empire and overthrew its king, Darius III (Hammer, op. cit., p. 90).

[118] Daniel 8:22. This clearly refers to the four kingdoms that arose after the death of Alexander the Great and the division of his empire. These four kingdoms were Macedonia and Greece, the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt, the Seleucid dynasty in the Middle East and Asia and the kingdom of Lysimachus in modern-day Turkey (https://www.wdl.org/en/item/11739/).

[119] Daniel 8:23-24.

[120] Daniel 8:24.

[121] Daniel 8:25.

[122] Daniel 8:27. The fact that Daniel was going about “the king’s business” shows that he was acquainted with Belshazzar’s court. This will be discussed later.

[123] Daniel 9:1-2. The reference to a certain “Darius son of Xerxes” will be discussed in more detail later. For now, we can see that Daniel is now living under the Persian Empire, which overthrew the Babylonian Empire.

[124] Daniel 9:16. The prayer of Daniel spans from verses 4-19.

[125] Daniel 9:21.

[126] Daniel 9:24.

The “seventy sevens” have been the subject of much debate, and in recent times, Christian apologists and fundamentalists have joined in on the debate with amusing theories about this subject (http://carm.org/does-daniel-9-24-27-predict-jesus). However, as we will see, these theories are simply more examples of wishful thinking on the part of these apologists, similar to their fantastical theories about the book of Revelation.

[127] Daniel 9:25. While the NIV refers to “the Anointed One”, it also has a footnote which states that another reading is “an anointed one” (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=daniel+9&version=NIV#fen-NIV-22014f).

Hammer renders it as “…one anointed, a prince” (Hammer, op. cit., p. 94). In other words, the Christian apologists have once again attempted to misconstrue the text for ideological reasons. It is obvious that they are trying to apply this “prophecy” to Jesus, as is their modus operandi!

[128] Daniel 9:26. Hammer renders the verse as “…one who is anointed shall be removed…” (Ibid.). Again, as we will see, the attempt by Christians to apply this verse to Jesus’ crucifixion is wishful thinking.

[129] Daniel 9:26-27. As we will see, this is an obvious reference to the reign of Antiochus IV and not to some future event involving the “Anti-Christ” as some Christians claim (for example, see http://www.endtime.com/q-and-a/daniel-927/).

[130] Daniel 9:27. This is again a clear reference to Antiochus.

[131] Koresh is equivalent to Cyrus (Hammer, op. cit., p. 99).

[132] Daniel 10:6. The man is understood to be Gabriel (Ibid., p. 102).

[133] Daniel 10:7. Hammer sees parallels between this incident involving Daniel and the incident of Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus, as told in the New Testament (Ibid.)

[134] Daniel 10:13. The identity of the “prince of Persia” is a matter of debate, but the majority view appears to be that he was the “patron” or “guardian” angel of the kingdom of Persia. As Hammer states:

“…each nation was thought to have its own patron angel, just as Michael was seen as Israel’s…” (Ibid., p. 103).

However, some sources believe that the “prince” was actually a human figure, such as Cambyses, the son of the Persian king Cyrus the Great (http://biblehub.com/context/daniel/10-13.htm).

[135] Daniel 10:13-14.

[136] Daniel 10:20. If the “prince of Persia” is indeed the “patron” angel of Persia, then the “prince of Greece” would obviously be the “patron” angel of Greece. But if this is true, then it would suggest what Hammer describes as “the notion of celestial warfare”, which is hinted at in the non-canonical book of 2 Maccabees (Hammer, op. cit., p. 103). Since 2 Maccabees is nearly universally believed to have been written in the 2nd-century BCE (Hammer gives it a date of c. 124 BCE), it provides further proof that the second-half of the book of Daniel was also written in that time since it has similar theology (Ibid., p. 12).

[137] Daniel 11:2-3. According to Hammer, the fourth king is most probably Xerxes, who led a major campaign against Greece in 480-479 BCE (Ibid., pp. 107-108).

[138] Daniel 11:3-4. This again refers to Alexander the Great, whose empire was divided amongst his generals. See notes #117 and #118.

[139] Daniel 11:5. The “king of the South” is a king of the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt (Ptolemy was one of Alexander’s generals), which ruled Egypt until 30 BCE, after Alexander’s empire was divided up (Ibid., p. 108).

The “king of the North” refers to a king of the Seleucid dynasty. As Hammer explains, Seleucids served under Ptolemy until 312 BCE (the division of Alexander’s empire had been agreed upon in 321 BCE) and eventually controlled territory spanning from Asia Minor to India, thereby surpassing the kingdom of Ptolemy in power, as Daniel 11:5 states: “…one of his commanders will become even stronger than he…” (Ibid.)

[140] Daniel 11:6-7. This refers to the murder of Berenice, the daughter of Ptolemy II, who in c. 248 BCE, gave her hand in marriage to Antiochus II, the grandson of Seleucus (Ibid., p. 108).

[141] Daniel 11:7-8. The invasion of the Seleucid kingdom was carried out by Ptolemy III, the brother of Berenice (Ibid., p. 109).

[142] Daniel 11:9. This refers to the attempted invasion of Egypt by Seleucus Callinicus in 240 BCE, which ended in defeat for the Seleucid king (Ibid.)

[143] Daniel 11:11-12. At the battle at Raphia in 217 BCE, Antiochus III suffered a major defeat at the hands of Ptolemy, and Palestine was re-annexed by Egypt (Ibid.).

[144] Daniel 11:13.

[145] Daniel 11:14. Some Jews are said to have sided with Antiochus III against Egypt (Ibid.).

[146] Daniel 11:15-16. Again, the “Beautiful Land” is the Holy Land, including Jerusalem.

[147] Daniel 11:17. Antiochus gave his daughter Cleopatra in marriage to Ptolemy V in 194/193 BCE, but Cleopatra persuaded her husband to ally himself with Rome, thus spoiling Antiochus’ plan to increase his power (Ibid.).

[148] Daniel 11:21. This is referring again to Antiochus IV!

[149] Daniel 11:29-30. Verse 30 mentions “ships of the western coastlands”, which would oppose the “king of the North” (Antiochus IV). The Hebrew phrase is actually “ships of Kittim”, which originally referred to the Greeks. However, in the Qumran scrolls (specifically, in the “Commentary on Habbakuk”), “Kittim” was used as a reference to the Romans (Ibid., p. 110). Indeed, Roman intervention kept Antiochus IV out of Egypt (Ibid., p. 111).

[150] Daniel 11:30-31.

[151] Daniel 11:31-32. Antiochus IV is infamous for his desecration of the temple, where he installed a statue of Zeus, the “abomination that causes desolation” first mentioned in Daniel 9:27 (Ibid., pp. 99, 113).

[152] Daniel 11:36-37. The god “desired by women” is identified by scholars as Tammuz (Ibid., p. 113). This pagan deity is also mentioned in Ezekiel 8:14.

[153] Daniel 11:38. The “god of fortresses” was “Jupiter Capitolinus” (Zeus). Hence, Antiochus IV suppressed the cults of Apollo and Tammuz, while promoting that of Zeus (Ibid.). Thus, he did not single out the Jews only.

[154] Daniel 11:40-43.

[155] Daniel 11:45.

[156] Daniel 12:1.

[157] Daniel 12:1-2. Some would be resurrected “to everlasting life”, while others “to shame and everlasting contempt”.

[158] Daniel 12:7. According to Hammer, the phrase “for a time, times and half a time” means three and a half years (Ibid., p. 118).

[159] Daniel 12:8-9.

[160] Daniel 12:11.

[161] http://www.usccb.org/bible/daniel/1#34001001-1

According to 2 Kings 24, Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem during the reign of Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim. However, 2 Chronicles 36 states that Jehoiachin was simply “brought” to Babylon and only mentions an attack on Jerusalem during the reign of Jehoiakim.

[162] Hammer asserts that the author dated the “first” capture of Jerusalem to 606 BCE in order “to extend the [Jewish] exile to the seventy years foretold by Jeremiah (Jer. 25:11-16; 29:10)” (Hammer, op. cit., p. 19).

[163] Ibid., p. 26.

Incidentally, at least one Greek manuscript (MS 967) of the book of Daniel refers to the twelfth year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, not his second (Zdravko Stefanovic, Daniel: Wisdom to the Wise: Commentary on the Book of Daniel [Nampa: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2007], p. 82). This would make more sense.

[164] Belshazzar even asked Daniel:

“Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father the king brought from Judah?” (Daniel 5:13).

[165] It seems likely that it is simply a literary device used by the author for dramatic effect, as Hammer explains:

“… [Daniel’s] initial absence is a device to make his later appearance even more effective. He steps in when everyone else has failed” (Hammer, op. cit., p. 64).

Of course, if it is simply a literary device, then the book of Daniel should be read as a dramatic literary work rather than “scripture”!

[166] Daniel 8:27.

[167] This is especially glaring given that the queen stated that Nebuchadnezzar had appointed Daniel as:

“…chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners” (Daniel 5:11).

[168] Hammer, op. cit., p. 77.

[169] Mark S. Smith, The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel, 2nd Edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002), pp. 35-36. See also John Day, Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan (New York, New York: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002), p. 106.

[170] Smith, op. cit., p. 36.

[171] Ibid., p. 37.

Some scholars have interpreted the deity on the coin to be Zeus, who is “syncretistically equated with YHWH” (Charles E. Carter, “(Re)Defining ‘Israel’: The Legacy of the Neo-Babylonian and Persian Periods”, in The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Ancient Israel, ed. Susan Niditch [United Kingdom: Wiley & Sons Ltd, 2016], p. 234).

[172] Smith, op. cit., p. 37.

See also The Jewish Study Bible, op. cit., p. 1656.

[173] Day, op. cit., p. 106.

[174] Ibid.

[175] The Jewish Study Bible, op. cit., p. 1656.

[176] For example, in Daniel 2:2, the author claimed that Nebuchadnezzar had brought “the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers (Chaldeans)” to explain the meaning of his dream.

[177] As Hammer states:

“…the book of Daniel reflects later Graeco-Roman usage, which saw in the Chaldaeans a professional class of astrologers, magicians and wise men” (Ibid.).

The USCCB also admits:

“…because the Babylonians gave serious study to the stars and planets, “Chaldeans” were identified with astrologers throughout the Hellenistic world” (http://www.usccb.org/bible/daniel/2#34002002-1).

[178] Stefanovic, op. cit., p. 57.

Interestingly, the name “Nebuchadnezzar” is also a corruption of the actual Babylonian name “Nabu-kudurri-usur” (or “Nebuchadrezzar”), which means “Nabu protect my boundary stone” (Hammer, op. cit., p. 19). “Nabu” was one of the Babylonian gods.

[179] Ibid., p. 20.

[180] Similarly, Daniel didn’t seem to mind when Nebuchadnezzar actually prostrated to him (2:46). In fact, this part of the story so disturbed Josephus that he attempted to interpret it in a way that seemed less blasphemous. As Hammer explains:

“[t]he Jewish historian, Josephus, was troubled by the language and tried to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s action as his recognition of Daniel’s God-given wisdom. Hence, the king venerates not so much Daniel as God who had revealed the secret to Daniel” (Ibid., p. 34).

Some later Jewish interpreters also simply assumed that Daniel declined the homage paid to him, though the text does not describe his reaction (The Jewish Study Bible, op. cit., p. 1646).

[181] Hammer, op. cit., p. 48.

[182] Ibid.

See also The Jewish Study Bible, op. cit., p. 1649.

[183] Hammer, op. cit., p. 48.

For the text of “The Prayer of Nabonidus”, see Geza Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (New York: The Penguin Press, 1997), p. 573.

While some scholars dated this story as being older than the book of Daniel, Vermes considered a late 2nd-century or even early first-century BCE date “to be less adventurous” (Ibid.). In either case, it is proof of variant legends about the Babylonian kings that were circulating among the Jews.

[184] Hammer, op. cit., p. 49.

[185] Ibid., p. 61.

[186] Ibid.

[187] Ibid.

[188] For example, Stefanovic claims that the Aramaic word for “father” could mean “a grandfather” or “a remote ancestor” (Stefanovic, op. cit., p. 180). However, he does admit that “there is no material proof” for the claim that Belshazzar was “Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson through his mother but not his father” (some apologists have suggested that the queen was a widow or daughter of Nebuchadnezzar whom Nabonidus had married). Also, as Hammer notes, Belshazzar was already an adult when Nabonidus had become king. Thus, he could not be considered “the actual son of such a marriage” (Hammer, op. cit., p. 63).

[189] http://usccb.org/bible/daniel/1#34001021-1

[190] Daniel 1:21.

[191] See the article “Was Daniel’s ‘Darius the Mede’ Really Xenophon’s ‘Cyaxares II’? An Examination of a New Look at an Old Theory” for a discussion of the recent claim by Christian apologist Dr. Steven Anderson that the unhistorical “Cyaxares II” was the mysterious “Darius the Mede” of Daniel.

[192] Hammer, op. cit., p. 66.

[193] http://www.iranchamber.com/history/achaemenids/achaemenids.php

[194] Hammer, op. cit., p. 66.

[195] Ibid.

[196] For example, one proposed apologetic solution to the enigma of “Darius the Mede” is that he was the Persian general Gobryas or one of Cyrus’ relatives, who had been made “king of Babel in name” (G. Ch. Alders, “The Book of Daniel: Its Historical Trustworthiness and Prophetic Character”, The Evangelical Quarterly, 2, no. 3 [July 1930]: p. 248, http://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/eq/daniel_aalders.pdf).

But this “explanation” is typical of apologists. Without any recourse to the pesky thing known as “evidence”, these apologists make an assumption and then assume that the assumption could be true!

Similarly, Stefanovic proposes the view that “Darius the Mede” was the “Median title” or “throne name” of Cyrus the Great, although again, he presents no reasonable evidence (Stefanovic, op. cit., p. 200). The fact is that while Cyrus was known as “King of the Medes” (because he had conquered the Media before conquering Babylon), no historical source refers to him as “Darius the Mede” or even just “Darius”.

Fortunately, other Christian sources analyze the Bible based on the evidence. Thus, the USCCB admits that “Darius the Mede” was:

“…unknown outside of the Book of Daniel. The Median kingdom did not exist at this time because it had already been conquered by Cyrus the Persian. […] The character of Darius the Mede has probably been modeled on that of the Persian king Darius the Great (522–486 B.C.), the second successor of Cyrus” (http://www.usccb.org/bible/daniel/6#34006001-1).

As it turns out, this sort of confusion is not unusual for ancient sources and is found in other historical sources as well. As the Encyclopedia Iranica states:

“Other scholars have proposed that verse 6:28 should be interpreted as referring not to Darius and Cyrus but to Darius as a throne name for Cyrus (Wiseman, p. 15); the age of sixty-two years would certainly fit with the facts known about the life of Cyrus. D. J. Wiseman (pp. 12-14) has suggested further that all the names of the Achaemenid kings were throne names, hence liable to confusion in the minds of subjects living far from the court. As the names of the Achaemenid kings were later lost, even in the Persian tradition, it is not surprising that in an area far from Persia the names and events of the Achaemenid period were reported incorrectly. Failure to recognize the distinction between Mede and Persian is, of course, found in other texts and was not unusual” (http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/darius-ii).

In fact, the author of the book of Daniel also erred in regards to another Persian ruler, a certain “Darius son of Ahasuerus” (Daniel 9:1). The name “Ahasuerus” was the Hebrew version of the Persian name “Xerxes”, but we know of no Persian ruler named “Xerxes” who had a son named “Darius” (Hammer, op. cit., p. 96). In fact, the historical Xerxes (485–465 BCE) was the son of Darius I (521-486 BCE) (Ibid.). Moreover, neither Darius nor Xerxes were Medes “by descent”, as claimed in the opening verse of chapter 9 (The Jewish Study Bible, op. cit., p. 1659).

Thus, it seems likely that the author simply confused the names of the Persian rulers. However, in the case of “Darius son of Ahasuerus”, it is also possible that the author was trying to harmonize the Persian background of Darius and Xerxes with the “Darius the Mede” of chapter 6 (Ibid.).

[197] http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/cyrus-iii

In other words, Cyrus the Great was a follower of the Zoroastrian religion, a monotheistic religion which worshiped the god “Ahura Mazda”. Thus, for Cyrus to issue a “decree” requiring all of his subjects to pray to him only, even if for a 30-day period, is historically implausible.

Christian apologists have struggled to explain this historical problem and have suggested ridiculous theories as a result. For example, Stefanovic writes:

“If the king in question was Cyrus, who was very popular in Babylon, a decree of this kind would have made sense during the period when the gods from the temples of the surrounding towns were still in Babylon or were in the process of being returned to the temples from which they had been taken” (Stefanovic, op. cit., p. 215).

Unfortunately, this theory fails to take the religious beliefs of Cyrus’ court into account and is simply an assumption. Moreover, why would Cyrus have made such the violation of this decree a capital offense simply because the other gods were still being moved to their respective temples?

It would seem that, in all likelihood, the story of Cyrus’ decree was an anachronism and was influenced by the historical context of 2nd-century Palestine, when it was under Seleucid control. Unlike the Persian kings, Greek kings were not above demanding that they be worshiped, and as we have seen already, Antiochus IV considered himself to be divine and worthy of worship, as the title “Epiphanes” shows.

[198] The Jewish Study Bible, op. cit., p. 1654.

[199] Gary Greenberg, 101 Myths of the Bible: How Ancient Scribes Invented Biblical History (Naperville, Illinois: SourceBooks, Inc., 2000), p. 288.

[200] For an analysis of some Biblical prophecies, see the articles:



[201] The famous Maccabean Revolt succeeded in wresting control of Judea from the Seleucids, leading to the creation of the Hasmonean dynasty, which would rule the Holy Land until 63 BCE, when it was conquered by the Roman leader Pompey (Vermes, op. cit., p. 52).

Some Christian apologists claim that the dream was actually predicting the rise of the Roman Empire as well, claiming that the second kingdom of silver was actually a combined Medo-Persian Empire and the third kingdom was that of Greece. Thus, the fourth kingdom was Rome (https://bible.org/article/introduction-book-daniel#P79_15948). This interpretation was seemingly shared by the medieval Jewish commentator Rashi, who explained in his commentary to Daniel 2:44 that the kingdom of the Messiah was to be set-up during the time of the Roman Empire (http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16485#showrashi=true).

However, even if this interpretation is correct, it still ends in a false prophecy since the apologists still fail to take the rest of the dream into consideration. If Rome was the last of the earthly kingdoms, then which divine kingdom replaced it and has endured ever since? One also has to wonder what Messianic kingdom was set-up during the time of the Roman Empire, as Rashi thought. The answer is there was no such kingdom!

Furthermore, it is actually more likely that the author regarded Media and Persia as two separate empires. When the mysterious hand predicted the fall of Belshazzar’s kingdom, it clearly stated (according to Daniel) that Belshazzar’s kingdom was:

“…divided and given to the Medes and Persians” (Daniel 5:28).

[202] In chapter 8, another vision represented the earthly kingdoms of chapter 7 in symbolic language, depicting them as different animals, a literary technique that clearly influenced the author of the book of Revelation. For example, a joint Median-Persian kingdom was represented by a ram (which contradicts chapter 5), while the kingdom of Greece was represented by a goat. But when the power of the goat was broken and replaced by smaller kingdoms (horns), one particular horn gained prominence. As previously explained, the kingdom of Alexander the Great was broken up into 4 smaller kingdoms, one of which became more powerful than the others (the Seleucid kingdom). Based on this historical context, it is clear that the small horn described in verse 9 was none other than the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes, whose name literally meant “god manifest” (The Jewish Study Bible, op. cit., p. 1642). In chapter 7, the “little” horn is described as having “a mouth that spoke boastfully” (Daniel 7:8), a clear reference to Antiochus’ claims to divinity.

Additionally, in chapter 8, the horn is described as taking away “the daily sacrifice”, another clear reference to Antiochus, who “suppressed the practice of Judaism and turned the Temple into a pagan worship site” (The Jewish Study Bible, op. cit., p. 1658).

[203] Daniel 11:40.

[204] The Jewish Study Bible, op. cit., pp. 1664-1665.

[205] Hammer, op. cit., p. 112.

[206] Ibid., p. 114.

[207] Ibid.

[208] Daniel 12:11-12.

Most scholars believe that the 1,335 days are either an editorial “gloss” or an “interpolation” which was added to extend the time period when earlier estimates failed to pinpoint the exact time. As Hammer explains:

“…the time of severe persecution will last for three and a half years, as in 7:25. […] In place of the 1150 days (cp. 8:14) we have successive changes to 1290 and 1335 days (12:11f.), but whether these are glosses or not is unclear” (Ibid., p. 118).

He further adds (emphasis in the original):

“[t]he majority of commentators take these verses as successive glosses which seek to prolong the time of waiting. […] The first correction to 1290 days may be an attempt to give the longest period for three and a half years. The addition of another 45 days could perhaps have been intended to provide further time for the establishment of the new kingdom after the death of Antiochus and the rededication of the temple to the worship of Yahweh” (Ibid., p. 119).

[209] There are many such theories (see note #2 for an example), and it is outside the scope of this article to discuss them. However, since we have already established that the events described in the book of Daniel were supposed to happen in the 2nd-century BCE, there is no need to waste time in discussing the silly theories made by some fanatics!

[210] For example, according to the Christian apologist Matt Slick of the “Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry” (CARM), Daniel 9:

“…is certainly an amazing prophecy that one definitely should use in his or her apologetic case for Jesus as the Messiah” (https://carm.org/does-daniel-9-24-27-predict-jesus).

[211] As the website “Jews for Judaism” explains:

“Daniel chapter 9 uses the Hebrew word (שבעים ~ Shavuim) to represents a period of time multiplied by seven. For various reasons this word is translated as “weeks” and means a multiple of seven years rather than a multiple of seven days” (https://jewsforjudaism.org/knowledge/articles/answers/jewish-polemics/texts/daniel-9-a-true-biblical-interpretation/).

[212] Daniel 9:24.

For the interpretation of the “seventy sevens” as 490 years, see Hammer, op. cit., p. 98. Also, see The Jewish Study Bible, op. cit., p. 1660.

[213] As Slick claims:

“…though it is difficult to demonstrate the exact time of the decree for the start date or the exact date of Christ’s crucifixion, Daniel definitely predicts an event that would take place extremely close to Christ’s life” (http://carm.org/does-daniel-9-24-27-predict-jesus).

This claim has been repeated by other Christian apologists, such as Ken Temple. See here for an article refuting the Christian claim that Daniel “prophesied” the death of Jesus (peace be upon him): https://quranandbibleblog.wordpress.com/2019/06/01/the-anointed-one-will-be-cut-off-a-response-to-ken-temple-and-the-christian-abuse-of-daniel-926/.

[214] Quoting other Christian apologists, Slick writes:

“Ankerberg, Weldon, and Kaiser note, ‘Whoever the Messiah is, He will appear on the scene after the rebuilding of Jerusalem (Dan. 9:25-26) and be killed before Jerusalem and the temple are again destroyed’” (Ibid.)

[215] Hammer, op. cit., p. 95.

[216] The Jewish Study Bible, op. cit., p. 1660.

For the identification of the first “Anointed One” with either Zerubbabel or Joshua and the second one with Onias III, also see Hammer, op. cit., p. 99.

Thus, Matt Slick’s rather excited declaration that Daniel 9 is referring to the coming of the Messiah because “[t]he text uses the word Messiah!” is premature. The verse may be “messianic” but not in the sense that Slick and other Christians want it to be.

[217] http://carm.org/does-daniel-9-24-27-predict-jesus).

[218] Apologists may argue that it is only a 4 year difference, but since they are the ones arguing that “[o]nly God could have predicted the coming of His Son with such amazing precision”, it would be fair to say that God seemed to miss the date by 4 years, a gap that is very unbecoming of the Almighty (Ibid.)!

[219] Sandoval states:

“The classical interpretation also ignores the obvious parallels between Daniel 9:24-27 on the one hand, and Daniel 8:9-26; 11:31-45 on the other. Actually, all three passages unmistakably describe Antiochus Epiphanes committing a desolating sacrilege or “abomination that makes desolate” at the Temple and bringing normal Jewish sacrifices to an end for about three and a half years (cf. Daniel 7:25; 12:6-7,11). Daniel 9 places this event at the end of the seventy weeks, and the other two passages place it at “the time of the end.” The “abominations” of “the prince who is to come” in Daniel 9 are to be understood in the light of the unspeakable blasphemies of Antiochus Epiphanes described in the other two passages (cf. also Daniel 7:8,20,25)” (http://infidels.org/library/modern/chris_sandoval/daniel.html#origin).

[220] Similarly, the theory that the proclamation of Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 2:1-8) was the starting point also fails. The claim that the proclamation was made in the year 444 BCE is simply an assumption which has no historical evidence to support it. As the website “Jews For Judaism” observes:

“…there is no reliable source stating that it occurred exactly in 444 BCE. It seems that Christian [sic] picked this passage out of convenience and assigned it this specific date, because if you start at 444 BCE and count 69 weeks of years (483 years) you reach 39 CE” (https://jewsforjudaism.org/knowledge/articles/answers/jewish-polemics/texts/daniel-9-a-true-biblical-interpretation/).

In fact, even Slick admits that this date is unlikely:

“The decree recorded in Nehemiah is unlikely to be the decree that Daniel is referring to since he expresses disappointment that the rebuilding had not already taken place…” (https://carm.org/does-daniel-9-24-27-predict-jesus).

[221] http://www.biblestudying.net/rabbinic1.html

[222] We have already seen that the prophecies in Daniel 9 cannot be referring to Jesus (peace be upon him), given the clear historical context.

[223] http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16492#showrashi=true

[224] http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16492#showrashi=true

Rashi lived in the 11th-century CE, so he was obviously still expecting the coming of the Messiah.

[225] Of course, Rashi’s attempt at applying the events discussed in chapter 9 to the Roman conquest was simply mistaken. The internal evidence suggests that the events were supposed to occur during the era of Seleucid rule, as shown above. Even so, the pagan altar set-up by Antiochus IV has also disappeared from history!

Christians may argue that these events will be fulfilled during the second coming, but this argument fails because the Tanakh does not mention a “second coming” of the Messiah anywhere.

[226] http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16492#showrashi=true

[227] The above Christian website claims the following:

“…Christians have a clear basis for their Messianic interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27, namely, that the Messiah died for the sins of the world during the very times specified by Daniel” (http://www.biblestudying.net/rabbinic1.html).

But this is simply wishful thinking and just another example of apologists inserting their own preconceived notions into the text. There is no mention of the Messiah dying for anyone’s sins, whether it was the Jews only or the entire world. In fact, there is no mention of the Messiah at all, but rather two different “Anointed” individuals! In addition, the author of the book of Daniel clearly had very different “times” in mind from Rashi, as we have seen. He was clearly not referring to the era of Roman domination, so Rashi was mistaken in that regard. The reason seems clear. Acknowledging the actual historical context would have been an inconvenient truth!

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