THREAD: Daniel’s Date of Composition (2nd Ed.).

Historically, the vast majority of Bible commentators took the book of Daniel to represent the memoirs of a 6th cent. exiled prophet (named Daniel).

In recent times, that situation has pretty much reversed.
The majority of commentators now take the book of Daniel to have been composed—or at least edited/arranged in its final form—in the days of the Maccabees, in c. 165 BC.

John Collins summarises the situation as follows (Collins 2002:I.1–2):
In the thread below, I’ll outline some reasons why I find what I’ll call ‘the Maccabean Hypothesis’ to be unsatisfactory.

First, however, let’s make sure we’re clear on what the Maccabean Hypothesis asserts.

On the Maccabean Hypothesis—or, for short, ‘the MH’—, the book of Daniel ain’t what it appears to be.

Specifically, it’s not a collection of visions/prophecies revealed to a 6th cent. BC exile.
It’s the work of a 2nd cent. Israelite who looked back over history and noticed a pattern in the rise and fall of past empires,

and (on that basis?) came to believe the Messianic era was just around the corner.
A helpful three-paragraph summary of the Maccabean Hypothesis can be found on the website  (published under the pseudonym ‘Chris Sandoval’), which is reproduced below:

Paragraph 1:
Paragraph 2:
Paragraph 3:
In other words, advocates of the Maccabean Hypothesis claim to have identified—and explained—an important trend in Daniel’s historic/prophetic claims.

Daniel, they say, is inaccurate when he refers to life in 6th cent. Babylon,
becomes progressively more accurate as he refers to events nearer to his own time (165 BC),

and becomes wildly inaccurate when he refers to post 165 BC events.
To put the point more specifically, Daniel is aware of the desecration of the Temple in 167 BC and the onset of the Maccabees’ resistance in 166 BC,

but is evidently *not* aware of the Temple’s reclamation in 164 BC (and the demise of Antiochus),
all of which is neatly explained by the Maccabean Hypothesis (e.g., LaCocque 1979:8).

Advocates of the MH also advance independent lines of evidence in support of their hypothesis, included among which are:

🔹 indicators of lateness in Daniel’s vocabulary,
🔹 after-the-event ‘prophecies’ elsewhere in the ANE,

🔹 four-empire schemas elsewhere in the ANE,

🔹 Daniel-like documents in the Dead Sea Scrolls (e.g., Pseudo-Daniel), and
🔹 a sense of bewilderment as to why God would want to reveal intricate details about Seleucid kings to an exiled 6th cent. prophet.

As such, advocates of the Maccabean Hypothesis are able to mount a persuasive cumulative case for their view.
The book of Daniel, they say, is not the kind of book a 6th cent. author would write, yet it is exactly the kind of book a 2nd cent. author would write.

So then.

What can be said by way of response to the Maccabean Hypothesis?

Well, many things *could* be said.

We *could*, for instance, examine various ‘indicators of lateness’ in Daniel’s Aramaic,
and/or the nature of after-the-event prophecies in the ANE.

But I’m far from the best person to discuss such matters,

and Twitter may not be the best place for a discussion of them anyway.
Instead, then, let me simply outline four facts which strike me as problematic given the MH.

On the Maccabean Hypothesis, it’s hard to see how the book of Daniel could have made its way into the canon of Scripture and/or come to be known as the work of ‘Daniel the Prophet’.
On the MH, Daniel made three main predictions:

a] that Antiochus would conquer Egypt (11.42–43);

b] that Antiochus would perish soon afterwards somewhere in Israel (11.44–45); and

c] that the Messianic era would begin soon afterwards (12.1ff.) (e.g., Porteous 1965:13).
Unfortunately, not one of these predictions came to pass.

Antiochus never conquered Egypt, nor did he die in Israel.

And when, acc. to Daniel, the Messianic age was due to begin, the Jewish people found themselves confronted by a large Seleucid army (led by Antiochus’s son).
It’s therefore hard to see how Daniel and his ‘prophecies’ acquired such grandeur.
Advocates of the Maccabean Hypothesis are, of course, aware of these facts, and have responded to them in various ways.

Their responses, however, strike me as rather inadequate.

Consider, for instance, Louis Hartman’s:
In one sense, Hartman is right. The Maccabean Daniel did have a great confidence in God.

Biblically, however, the test of a prophet is not his level of confidence in God, but the accuracy of his prophecies (Deut. 18.20–22),

which is a test Daniel spectacularly failed.
Besides, the ‘hope’ Daniel offered his people would hardly have endeared him to them when, in the aftermath of Antiochus’s death, they expected to see their Messiah...
...and instead saw tens of thousands of Seleucids on the horizon (and suffered heavy casualties in the resultant battle).

True, given sufficient time and dedication, Daniel’s supporters could no doubt have rescued his prophecies (by various hermeneutical maneouvres).
But who exactly would have wanted to do so?

While loyalty to a long-cherished religious text is understandable, it is doubtful whether the supporters of such a recently born (and embarrassed) prophet as Daniel would have felt a great deal of loyalty to him.
(‘You guys go fight the Seleucids while we come up with a fresh take on these prophecies!’)

Indeed, the Maccabean Daniel’s prophecies lavish little praise on the people of his day.
Out of over a hundred verses’ worth of prophetic visions (in chs. 7–12), Daniel only devotes a couple to the exploits of Daniel’s people,

and what little they say is highly ambiguous (Collins 1993:66–71):
a group referred to as ‘the wise’ (משכלים) are praised, though they are also said to have ‘deceivers/treachery’ (חלקלקות) in their midst,

and a Maccabee-esque group are said to offer the wise ‘a little help’ (11.34),
which seems a rather enigmatic comment (insofar as it can be taken either to commend them or to damn them with faint praise).

Furthermore, the theology of chs. 2–6 is not very Maccabee-friendly,
since, as many advocates of the MH have noted, it seems to promote passive reliance on divine intervention rather than military resistance.
It’s therefore hard to see why anyone left alive in the aftermath of 164 BC’s events would have been so keen to rescue the text of Daniel from the failed prophecy pile.
Ahistorical visions don’t seem to have been in short supply at the time (e.g., Pseudo-Daniel and the Animal Apocalypse).

What made Daniel’s so special?
The situation is further complicated by two other lines of evidence.

First, the text of 1 Maccabees, which says Judas and his men didn’t have any prophets to consult in 165 BC.
And, second, Daniel’s manuscript evidence.

Late 2nd cent. BC copies of Daniel have been discovered at Qumran (where they are accord the same status as Scripture), the existence of which requires a remarkable sequence of events to have transpired.
Specifically, the book of Daniel needs to have been:

🔹 finalised (in Jerusalem) in 165 BC (e.g., Newsom 2014:21),

🔹 reinterpreted in the aftermath of 164–160’s battles (against Antiochus’s successors),
🔹 canonised—or, to be more precise, accorded the same status as the prophecies of, say, Isaiah and Jeremiah, in a manner unparalleled among other 2nd cent. BC compositions—,

🔹 copied,

🔹 disseminated at least as far afield as Qumran, and
🔹 canonised at Qumran, where the Jerusalem cult was viewed as corrupt.

And all these things need to have taken place within the space of fifty years or so, which is hard to imagine (to say the least).
Furthermore, unlike other books, Daniel has never (as far as I know) been disputed as far as its status as Scripture is concerned,

which would suggest it was embraced as Scripture early on in Israel’s history rather than in the 2nd century when Judaism was highly fragmented.

It’s hard to imagine the Maccabean Daniel would have wanted to associate himself with the theology of Daniel 2–6.

Consider, by way of illustration, ch. 2’s central message.
The interpretation of dreams, ch. 2 states, is not a matter of study or speculation.

God alone knows the future;

God alone can reveal it to people;

and the knowledge God gives his people is ‘certain’ (2.10–11, 27–28, 45).
By contrast, the gods of Babylon’s wise men are remote and inaccessible.

They ‘do not reside with flesh and blood’, and they cannot, therefore, help their followers.
Consequently, Babylon’s wise men are unable to discern the king’s dream and blind to Babylon’s imminent fall. (The theology of Daniel 3–6 is much the same: cp. 3.15–18, 28, 4.9, 18, 5.23, 6.26–27.)
That the Maccabean Daniel would have had the nerve to append his ‘prophecies’ to Daniel 2–6 is, therefore, hard to imagine.

Daniel was, in the words of H. H. Rowley, ‘a man with an imperfect knowledge of past history and exaggerated hopes for the future’ (Rowley 1959:180–182).
As such, he was a far cry from the Daniel of ch. 2, and must have realised as much.

Indeed, Daniel was in exactly the same boat as ch. 2’s wise men!

Like the gods of Babylon, his deity was at best remote and inaccessible, and at worst powerless.
His deity had not revealed the future to any of Judah’s 6th cent. exiles (hence the need to borrow Daniel 2–6’s material from legends),

nor had he revealed the future to Daniel (hence the failed prophecies of 11.42ff.).
As such, the theology of Daniel 2–6 would have made its (Maccabean) author decidedly uncomfortable,

not least because it would have encouraged his readers to dismiss him as a charlatan.

It’s almost impossible to imagine the Maccabean Daniel would have made a prediction like 11.42–43’s.

On the Maccabean Hypothesis, Daniel was not a ‘prophet’ in the traditional/Biblical sense of the word,
i.e., a man who had stood in the council of YHWH and seen/heard his word (Jer. 23.18).

Why, then, would Daniel have sought to begin his career with a prediction as intrinsically unlikely as 11.42–43’s?
That Antiochus would conquer Egypt (let alone Libya and Ethiopia) was practically unthinkable in 165 BC.

It was exactly what the course of history suggested wouldn’t happen!

Antiochus was a spent force.
Meanwhile, Egypt was a fully paid-up member of the protectorate of Rome (the day’s undisputed superpower).

And Antiochus had only just been told (by the Romans) to leave Egypt well alone (in no uncertain terms).
Antiochus was about as likely to conquer Egypt in c. 164 BC as Syria is to conquer Russia next year.

Whoever arranged the book of Daniel in its final form didn’t view Daniel’s visions/prophecies in the same way as advocates of the Maccabean Hypothesis do.
As we’ve seen, the Maccabean Hypothesis isn’t merely a statement about when Daniel was composed;

it goes hand in hand with a particular interpretation of Daniel’s prophecies.
On the Maccabean Hypothesis, the reason why Daniel puts pen to paper is to bolster the faithful in the days of the Maccabees.

And, if Daniel’s visions reach their climax in the days of the Maccabees (and ipso facto the Greeks),...
...then they entail a particular view of Daniel’s four-empire schema.

Daniel’s 2nd and 3rd empires can only really be depictions of Media and Persia.
But the schema ‘Babylon → Media → Persia → Greece’ is problematic on a number of levels.

Below, I’ll outline just two of them.
First, Daniel has no reason to include an independent Median empire in his four-empire schema.

Daniel’s schema isn’t merely a list of empires compiled for the sake of historiography.

It’s a depiction of the major influences on Judah’s history over the years—...
...a category to which ‘Media’ doesn’t belong.

The Medes never functioned as Judah’s overlords and had little if any impact on life in ancient Israel (which is why they’re barely mentioned in the OT).
To depict Judah’s history in terms of Babylon, Media, and Persia would, therefore, seem an odd decision,

as many advocates of the Maccabean Hypothesis acknowledge (e.g., Lucas 1989:192).
Indeed, the notion of an independent Median empire—while essential to the Maccabean Hypothesis—is quite foreign to the author of Daniel.

Every time the Median empire is mentioned in the book of Daniel, it is mentioned in the context of Medo-Persia...
...(i.e., מָדַי וּפָרַס: cp. 5.28, 6.8, 12, 15, 8.20).

And the notion of an independent Median empire would (apparently) have been equally foreign to the Maccabean Daniel’s contemporaries,
since the book of Maccabees opens with an account of Alexander the Great’s defeat of Darius III, ‘the (last) king of the Persians and the Medes’ (1 Macc. 1.1).
True, in ch. 6, Daniel refers to a ruler named ‘Darius the Mede’.

But for a Medo-Persian empire to be headed up by a Mede is hardly an unusual fact in need of explanation.
To take Daniel’s reference to ‘Darius the Mede’ as a reference to an independent Median empire therefore seems unwarranted,

not least because three verses before Darius is installed in Babylon, the Medo-Persians are said to conquer it,
and then a few verses later Darius passes a ‘Medo-Persian law’ (6.8, 12, 15).

In any case, the flow of chs. 5–6 leaves little room for an independent Median empire to arise.

In 5.28, Babylon falls to the army of a two-pronged alliance—...
...viz. the empire of ‘the Medes and the Persians’—, as is depicted in ch. 7’s vision, where Babylon is succeeded by a lop-sided bear.

In sum, then, the notion of an independent Median empire is quite foreign to the text of Daniel.
Second, the Maccabean Hypothesis’s four-empire schema fails to note the various contact-points between Daniel’s visions.
Consider, by way of illustration, a traditional view of Daniel’s visions, where Daniel’s 4th empire is simply labelled ‘Rome and Beyond’—a point I hope to address in a subsequent note.
As can be seen, Daniel’s schema makes good and obvious sense.

The two-armed torso is aligned with the two-sided bear and the two-horned ram.

The four-headed leopard is aligned with the four-horned goat.

And the ten-toed feet is aligned with the ten-horned beast.
Furthermore, the bear with one side ‘raised up higher than the other’ resonates with the ram with one horn higher than the other.

And the leopard with wings on its back resonates with the Greek goat which charges into the ANE with such speed its feet don’t touch the ground.
The schema also makes sense in light of what we know of ANE history.

The Medo-Persian empire was in fact composed of two sub-empires (the Medes and the Persians).

And the Greek empire did in fact splinter into four sub-empires.
By contrast, consider the schema posited by advocates of the Maccabean Hypothesis:
Daniel’s visions are now noticeably out of kilter with one another.

The two-sided bear is no longer aligned with the two-horned ram.

The four-headed leopard is no longer aligned with the four-horned goat.
And the ten horns of the beast have been replaced with a mere four horns (for no apparent reason).

Daniel’s visions are also out of kilter with what we know of ANE history.

The independent Median empire didn’t consist of two distinct people-groups/parts.
The Persian empire didn’t splinter up into four sub-empires.

And the Greek empire was never ruled by ten co-regents.
What, then, has gone wrong?

The answer isn’t hard to see.

Since advocates of the Maccabean Hypothesis identify Daniel’s 4th empire with Greece, they have been forced to treat what our author treats as a single empire (Medo-Persia) as two independent empires (Media and Persia),
...and, as a result, Daniel’s visions have been knocked out of kilter with one another.

The lop-sided bear has ended up aligned not with the lop-sidedly-horned (Medo-Persian) ram, but with the first of its horns.
And the four-headed leopard has ended up aligned not with the (Greek) goat, but with the ram’s other horn.

Equally important to note is how Daniel’s seventy weeks relate to these issues.
Just as the Maccabean Hypothesis has an empire too many to accommodate in between Babylon’s rise and Antiochus’s fall, so the Maccabean Hypothesis has at least hundred years too many to accommodate between Daniel’s prophecy and Antiochus’s fall.
As such, the MH’s exegetical difficulties seem to stem from a
common problem; specifically, its (hypothesised) end date seems much too early.
Of course, advocates of the Maccabean Hypothesis could always say it’s unreasonable to expect Daniel’s visions to cohere with one another and/or the course of history.
But if we can’t expect the Maccabean Hypothesis to yield a coherent view/interpretation of Daniel’s text, then in what sense is it a testable hypothesis?
Every time Daniel describes an event the MH wouldn’t expect him to describe, advocates of the MT can simply explain his statement away as an error or a highly vague/symbolic claim—and frequently do.
When Daniel has Babylon succeeded by an independent Median empire (in which Cyrus is not involved) rather than a Medo-Persian alliance (in which Cyrus is involved), it is because Daniel is ignorant of history...
...and/or overly taken by the four-kingdom schemas of his contemporaries (Collins 1993:166–170).
When the inauguration of Daniel’s final week doesn’t coincide with the inauguration of Antiochus’s covenant (cp. 9.27), advocates of the Maccabean Hypothesis keep conspicuously quiet (e.g., Montgomery 1927:386, Collins 1993:357, Newsom 2014:307).
When Daniel’s final empire doesn’t turn out to be ruled by ten co-regents (‘horns’), it is either because the final empire’s horns don’t depict co-regencies (contra their employment elsewhere in Daniel’s visions)...
...or because the number ‘ten’ is merely symbolic (Hartman 1979:216–217, Collins 1993:321).

And when Daniel’s ‘seventy weeks’ (490 years) can’t be accommodated prior to Antiochus’s fall, it is either because Daniel miscalculated (Montgomery 1927:393)...
...or, again, because Daniel’s numbers are merely symbolic (Hartman 1979:5–6).

Of course, all hypotheses have their outliers, which their advocates must somehow explain (if they can). The issue is how often such explanations need to be proffered.
And, in the case of the Maccabean Hypothesis, the answer, I submit, is ‘too often for comfort’.

As such, the Maccabean Hypothesis seems practically unfalsifiable,... which case it is not really so different from the ‘fundamentalist’ approach it seeks to distance itself from (e.g., Collins 2002:I.1–2).

It simply begins with a different presupposition.

The Maccabean Hypothesis strikes me as unsatisfactory in at least four important respects.

It fails to explain Daniel’s status.
It fails to explain why Daniel would align himself with a man (namely the Daniel of chs. 2–6) whose theology and experiences are totally foreign to him (not to mention a threat to his career).
It fails to explain why a young and inexperienced prophet like Daniel would have begun his prophetic career with one of the boldest predictions in Biblical history.
And it fails in its attempt to cram the contents of Daniel’s visions into the interval between Nebuchadnezzar’s rise and Antiochus’s fall.
None of that, of course, forces us to view the book of Daniel as the memoirs of a 6th cent. Judean exile. (Indeed, the traditional view of Daniel is not without its difficulties.)
But to say the book of Daniel has conclusively been shown to have been put in its final form in the 2nd cent. BC is, I believe, quite incorrect.
In the final analysis, the book of Daniel invites us—and even requires us—to approach it with a particular attitude of heart.
Those who approach the text of Daniel convinced it is the product of merely human authorship are likely to walk away from it with their presuppositions confirmed,
while those who view it as a potentially divine revelation may well, like Daniel, hear the voice of God speak to them as they consider its contents (cp. 12.10).

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