Good Morning, brothers and sisters! What a week! Alright, let’s get down to business. Today we’re gonna talk about Biblical Prophecies. We have a big show. So, enjoy it!
Of all the arguments used to justify belief in the divine inspiration of scripture, the most impressive has always been the argument regarding biblical prophecy. How, it is asked, could the prophets have predicted world events in both the near and distant future — supposedly in amazing detail — if they were not directed by a god in their utterances. Modem scientists can't predict the weather even two days in advance, whereas the prophet Daniel, supposedly writing around the year 530 B.C., is believed to have predicted accurately the political events of the Greek and Roman world up to the time of Jesus.
It has been said of ordinary mortals that their hindsight is often 20/20, but their foresight is usually dim or lacking altogether. How different they seem from ancient Hebrew prophets, who allegedly could see into the future and into the past equally well!
But could they? Or was their "prophecy" actually prophetia ex eventu — prophecy written after the event? Space does not permit an analysis of all the prophets of the Bible. But one may learn a great deal about prophecy in general by examining carefully a specific example: the Book of Daniel. In particular, one will want to consider whether or not the book could possibly have been written at the time the prophet Daniel is supposed to have lived — the period of the Babylonian Captivity or Exile — or whether it was composed centuries later, after most of the events "predicted" in the book had already occurred.
Evidence Against Exilic Composition
There is very solid evidence which indicates that the Book of Daniel was written much later than the Babylonian Captivity (597-538 B.C.). the "Exile" period to which Christian tradition has assigned the composition of the work.
Scientific scholarship has shown that the Book of Daniel was actually written around 165 B.C. — long after the Exile — at a time when the Seleucid king of Syria, Antiochus Epiphanes, was trying to stamp out the Jewish religion.
Daniel was not writing predictive prophecy, we now know, but rather history — and rather sloppy history at that!
Error In Verse One
The main line of evidence against composition around the time of the Babylonian Captivity involves the great number of factual errors in the book which concern the time of the Exile — errors which are in glaring contrast to the considerable precision with which the later Greek period is described (the period allegedly in the future, but actually the period in which the book was written).
The errors begin with Verse 1:
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah. Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and laid siege to it. The Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his power, together with all that was left of the vessels of the house of God; and he carried them off to the land of Shinar... (Dan. 1:1-2).
Now the third year of Jehoiakim's reign would be 606-605 B.C., and Nebuchadnezzar was probably not yet the king of Babylon. At any rate, Jerusalem did not fall to the Babylonians until 597 B.C. By then, of course, Jehoiakim was no longer king of Judah.
[Jehoiakim] rested with his forefathers, and was succeeded by his son Jehoiachin.... Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned in Jerusalem for three months.... At that time the troops of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon advanced on Jerusalem and besieged the city. Nebuchadnezzar arrived while his troops were besieging it, and Jehoiachin king of Judah, his mother, his courtiers, his officers, and his eunuchs, all surrendered to the king of Babylon (2 Kings 24:6-12).
Imagine! A loyal Jew noted for piety and wisdom — and of the ruling class to boot — unaware that Jehoiakim was dead and there was a new king! How could anyone who actually lived through the time in question so totally misdate an event of such importance? The captivity actually began three months after the end of Jehoiakim's eleven-year reign, and the author of Daniel supposes it occurred eight years earlier.
If the author of Daniel was writing centuries later, it is understandable that a three-month reign would have been forgotten and blended with the preceding one, especially with names as similiar as Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin. But it is not credible that anyone who actually lived through those three months would have been unconscious of the excitement and general atmosphere of expectation which always surrounds the accession of a new monarch. It is impossible that he should have forgotten who was the actual king of Judah at the time of the fall of Jerusalem.
Incidentally, although it has no bearing upon the authenticity of the Book of Daniel, there is a further contradiction in the Bible concerning Jehoiachin. As we have seen in the quotation from 2 Kings 24, Jehoiachin was supposedly eighteen years old when he came to the throne and reigned three months. This is contradicted by 2 Chronicles:
Jehoiachin was eight years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned in Jerusalem for three months and ten days (2 Chron. 36:9).
While the ten-day discrepancy may be excused as merely "round-off error," the difference between eight and eighteen is enough to prove beyond doubt that the "Holy Scriptures" are far from inerrant.
In concluding this discussion of the Jehoiakim/Jehoiachin problem, we may note that the author of Daniel was not the only prophet to come to grief over the facts of Jehoiakim. Even Jeremiah (who actually was alive at the time of Jehoiakim) made a mistake:
Therefore these are the words of the Lord concerning Jehoiakim son of Josiah, king of Judah.... He shall be buried like a dead ass, dragged along and flung out beyond the gates of Jerusalem (Jer. 22: 18-19).
Now, of course, this never actually came to pass. But one may excuse Jeremiah as one cannot excuse the author of Daniel: Jeremiah was actually legitimately trying to make a predictive prophecy. Things just didn't happen to work out the way god told him they would.
King Belshazzar, Son Of Nebuchadnezzar
Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver which Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought....
There is in your kingdom a man in whom is the spirit of the holy gods... King Nebuchadnezzar, your father, made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans and astrologers.
0 King, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty.
From these and other passages, it is apparent that the author of the Book of Daniel was laboring under two erroneous impressions: (1) that Belshazzer was a king and (2) that Nebuchadnezzar was his father. Both ideas are demonstrably false.
The actual succession of kings was:
Nebuchadnezzar, 606-561 B.C.
Evilmerodach (Avil-Marduk or Amel-Marduk), 561-559 B.C.
Neriglissar (Nergal-ashur-usur), 558-555 B.C.
Laborosoarchod (Labashi-Marduk), 555 B.C. (9 months)
Nabonidus (Nabu-nahid), 555-538 B.C. (Nabonidus was the last king of Babylon.)
While the list alone makes it obvious that Nebuchadnezzar was not the father of any king Belshazzar, it is further of interest to note that Nabonidus, the actual last king of Babylon, was not even related to Nebuchadnezzar. He was an usurper. The Babylonian inscriptions list Nabu-balatsu-ikbi as the father of Nabonidus. They also reveal that Nabonidus had a son name Belsharuzur (Belshazzar) Moreover, the inscriptions show that up to the time that Belshazzar was killed by Gubaru (one of Cyrus's governors), he was referred to as "The King's Son." At no time did Babylonian records refer to Belshazzar as a king. Moreover, he died before his father did. Nabonidus was held captive by Cyrus an unspecified length of time after the death of Belshazzar on the llth of Marchesvan (October), 538 B.C
Now although Belshazzar, according to the ancient cuneiform chronicles, was killed on the llth of October, Babylon had been captured without a fight by the Persians on the preceding 16th of Tammuz (June). That is to say, Nabonidus (and presumably Belshazzar as well) had been held captive already for four months at the time Belshazzar was murdered. This being the case, the whole story about the handwriting on the wall becomes completely incongruous. Working backward from the end of chapter five of Daniel, one notes first the last two verses:
That very night [after Daniel had explained the meaning of mene mene tekel u-pharsin] Belshazzar king of the Chaldeans was slain, and Darius the Mede took the kingdom, being then sixty-two years old (Dan. 5: 30-31).
One must remember that (according to Chapter 5 of Daniel) earlier the same evening "King" Belshazzar is supposed to have held a banquet for a thousand of his nobles. (Also remember that according to the cuneiform inscriptions Babylon had already been held captive for four months at the time.) Then the hand began to write on the wall and Belshazzar
called loudly for the exorcists, Chaldeans, and diviners to be brought in; then, addressing the wise men of Babylon, he said, "Whoever can read this writing and tell me its interpretation shall be robed in purple and honoured with a chain of gold round his neck and shall rank as third in the kingdom" (Dan. 5:7).
Now if Belshazzer was being held captive, not only would he not be having a party with the temple treasures, he obviously could not be dispensing honors and the royal purple. If it be supposed that Belshazzar was not actually being held captive with his father (Nabonidus, not Nebuchadnezzar) but rather had somehow managed to hold out (for four months) somewhere in the palace (throwing a party!), he would have no need for Daniel to tell him at that late date:
Mene. God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end . . u-pharsin: and your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians (Dan. 5-26-28).
The Persians (not the Medes) by that time had already possessed the kingdom for four months.
To relate all the foregoing to the authorship of the Book of Daniel: Is it conceivable that a "wiseman" living in Babylon throughout the entirety of the Exile would not know that as many as four kings after Nebuchadrezzar ruled Babylon before its fall? Is it possible that a man privy to palace politics would not know that Belshazzar not only was the son of an usurper (and thus not even related to Nebuchadnezzar, let alone his son), but that he was never a real king? Even if — as some suppose on the basis of the so-called "Nabonidus Document" — Belshazzar was ruling as Nabonidus's viceroy, would not a man in Daniel's supposed position make a careful distinction in this regard and give an explanation for the startling circumstance of a king's father outliving him?
If, however, the Book of Daniel was written centuries after the Exile, it is understandable that our author might not have know about four monarchs of lesser luminosity than Nebuchadnezzar. Evilmerodach, Neriglissar, and Labashi-Marduk combined only reigned for about six years (as against Nebuchadnezzar's forty-three and Nabonidus's seventeen years). Over the course of centuries they would easily be forgotten. They would not, however, be overlooked by one of their contemporaries.
Before leaving this topic, one may note that Jeremiah (who, unlike the author of Daniel, actually lived at the time of the Exile) was aware of the existence of at least Evilmerodach:
In the thirty-seventh year of the Exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, on the twenty-fifth day of the twelfth month, Evil-merodach king of Babylon in the year of his accession showed favor to Jehoiachin king of Judah (Jer. 52: 31-32).
This story is given also in 2 Kings, though not without contradiction as to what day of the month it was:
In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, on the twenty-seventh day of the twelfth month, Evil-merodach king of Babylon . . . showed favor to Jehoiachin king of Judah (2 Kings 25: 27).
Darius The Mede
As if it were not astonishing enough that Daniel should be in error as to who was the last king of Judah and who were the five kings of Babylon during the Exile, one is further amazed to learn that he also does not know the correct name or nationality of the liberator of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity.
That very night Belshazzar was slain, and Darius the Mede took the kingdom... (Dan. 5:30-31).
It pleased Darius to appoint satraps over the kingdom, a hundred and twenty in number in charge of the whole kingdom, and over them three chief ministers, to whom the satraps should send reports so that the king's interests might not suffer, of these three, Daniel was one (Dan. 6:1-2).
Apart from the fact that every schoolboy knows that Babylon actually fell to Cyrus the Persian, and the modest inconvenience resulting from the fact that "Darius the Mede" never existed, the only serious flaw in the above passage concerns the number of satraps in the Persian Empire.
As one sees in the passages quoted above, the author of Daniel thought there were 120 satraps in the empire. But according to the Behistun Rock inscription (Column 1, paragraph 6) which was carved during the reign of Darius the Great (the Persian king, 522-486 B.C., who actually organized the Persian Empire into satrapies) there were only twenty-three.
Is it possible that a prophet living through the collapse of the Babylonian Empire would not know that it was Cyrus, not Darius, a Persian, not a Mede, who was responsible?
It may be argued, however, that Cyrus did not deal with Babylon directly, but may have had a Median general named Darius do the job for him. According to this view, the Book of Daniel reflects the immediate contact with the conquerors (under "Darius the Mede") and not with the highest level of imperial government (Cyrus).
The problems with this are several. First of all, the Book of Daniel gives the impression that "Darius the Mede" is in complete control (e.g., Dan. 6:25-26). Who but the "King of Kings" would have the authority to organize an entire empire?
Secondly, the Book of Daniel makes it dear that a sequence of kings, not a hierarchy of rulers, is intended:
So this Daniel prospered during the reigns of Darius and Cyrus the Persian (Dan. 6:28).
Since both Isaiah (13:17) and Jeremiah (51:11) had falsely predicted that Babylon would fall to the Medes, the author of the Book of Daniel thought that there had been a sequence of four great empires: Chaldean, Median, Persian, and Greek, and that after the fall of the fourth, a fifth, an eternal Jewish state, would be inaugurated.
For a believer in prophecy, it is embarrassing enough that a prophet should not be able to foresee the fact that the Roman Empire would, in fact, be the fifth (The sequence of kingdoms is represented by Daniel's interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream about the colossus with head of gold and feet of clay, [Dan 2:31-44]) But how obtuse would a prophet have to be who did not know that the Chaldean and Median empires were contemporary, not consecutive, if he was living in one of the two at the time in question?
Because the author of the Book of Daniel thought the Median kingdom succeeded the Chaldean, he has Babylon fall to a semi-fictitious "Darius the Mede" I say "semi-fictitious" because it is apparent that the late author of the Book of Daniel has confused a real Persian monarch — Darius Hystaspis, who had to reconquer Babylon in 521 B. C. and again in 515 — with the original conquerer, Cyrus. That the author has a garbled knowledge of history is further shown by his mistaken notion that Darius was the son of Ahasuerus (Xerxes), instead of vice versa.
To lay "Darius the Mede" to rest for once and for all, one may observe that the archeological evidence leaves no space at all for a ruler of Babylon between Nabonidus and Cyrus. Archeologists have found numerous contract-tablets from the period in question. The dates of the tablets pass directly from one dated 10 Marchesvan in the 17th year of Nabonidus, to one dated 24 Marchesvan in the accession year of Cyrus the Persian.
Reading The Scriptures
In the first year of the reign of Darius... I, Daniel, was reading the scriptures and reflecting on the seventy years which, according to the word of the Lord to the prophet Jeremiah, were to pass while Jerusalem lay in ruins (Dan. 9:1-2)
The feeling one gets from this passage is that Daniel is looking back to a worthy of the distant past, rather than to a senior contemporary. One wonders also why Daniel was reading the words of Jeremiah. One would have expected a firsthand report of what the prophet had said, since both should have been in Jerusalem at the same time and Daniel would have heard in person what Jeremiah had to say:
The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah (that was the first year of Nebuchadrezzar [sic] king of Babylon), which Jeremiah the prophet spoke to all the people of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem (Jer 25:1-2)
(One may merely note in passing that this is dated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim's reign, whereas Daniel 1:1 ends Jehoiakim's reign in its third year, which would appear to be one year before Nebuchadnezzar became king.)
Most revealing in the passage just quoted from Daniel is the implication that the writings of Jeremiah had already been incorporated into a scriptural collection of canonic significance. While one does not in fact know exactly when the Book of Jeremiah was accepted into the Old Testament canon, one can be absolutely certain that this did not occur during Jeremiah's lifetime.
Now just what had Jeremiah prophesied?
For seventy years this whole country shall be a scandal and a horror, these nations shall be in subjection to the king of Babylon. When those seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and his people, says the Lord, for all their misdeeds and make the land of the Chaldeans a waste for ever (Jer 25:11-12)
Once again, Jeremiah's record for predictive accuracy falls somewhat short of divine accuracy. Even if one reckons from the time of Jehoiachin's captivity (598 B.C.) instead of from the date of the fall and destruction of Jerusalem (587-6 B.C.), the captivity lasted only fifty nine years (Babylon fell in 539 B.C.) The fact of the matter is that less than seventy years had elapsed at the time of the return to Jerusalem, although the chronicler seems to think that Jeremiah's prophecy came true.
Those who escaped the sword he [Nebuchadnezzar] took captive to Babylon . . . until the sovereignty passed to the Persians, while the land of Israel ran the full term of its sabbaths. All the time that it lay desolate it kept the sabbath rest, to complete the seventy years in fulfillment of the word of the Lord to the prophet Jeremiah.
Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, so that the word of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah might be fulfilled ... Cyrus issued a proclamation to this effect:
"the Lord the God of heaven has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem in Judah. To every man of his people now among you I say, the Lord his God be with him, and let him 90 up" (2 Chron 36 20 23)
Perhaps it was this error in chronology that was bothering the author of the Book of Daniel. Just as there is said to be honor among thieves, so too, apparently, the prophets looked after their own kind. Our author tries to rescue Jeremiah by pretending that Jeremiah didn't really mean seventy years (even though that's exactly what Jeremiah said!) and that he wasn't referring to the trivial question of the release from captivity. What Jeremiah really had in mind was the establishment of an ideal Jewish state centuries after his time.
So Gabriel comes to the rescue and explains to Daniel that Jeremiah really meant that:
Seventy weeks of years are decreed concerning your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to annoint a most holy place (Dan. 9:24).
Seventy weeks of years, of course, would be 490 years. Reckoning from the time of Jehoiachin's captivity (598 B.C.) this would bring one to 108 B.C. Counting from the time of destruction of the first temple (586 B.C.) this would take one up to 96 B.C. Both dates, one may note, are well in the future of the author of Daniel (writing about 165 B.C.). Unfortunately, this rare instance of our author trying to predict the future (rather than rewrite the past) is a glaring example of prophetic inadequacy. Neither 108 nor 96 B.C. corresponds to anything significant in Jewish history — let alone marks the establishment of the ideal Jewish state. If Daniel lived today, he'd surely be a weatherman.
The reader has, by now, doubtless seen enough evidence to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Book of Daniel could not have been written at the time of the Exile and is, therefore, a forgery. But when, in fact, was it written? Why have I throughout assumed a date of composition ca. 165 B.C.?
Unlike the evidence proving Daniel wasn't written during the Captivity, the arguments dating the story to ca. 165 B.C. are much more subtle and require more space than is available. Interested readers are referred to the book of S. R. Driver noted previously, and to the The Anchor Bible: The Book of Daniel, by Louis F. Hartman and Alexander A. DiLella (Doubleday, 1978).
In the above-mentioned works, readers can find evidence that Daniel's "abomination of desolation" or "abomination which makes desolate" (Dan. 9:27) refers to the desecration of the temple by Antiochus Epiphanes. In 168 B.C. he prohibited the practice of the Jewish religion. The Temple-worship was suspended and on 15 Chisleu, a heathen altar (the abomination) was erected on the altar of Burnt-offering, and swine were sacrificed (which "makes desolate"). Just slightly over three years later (25 Chisleu, 165 B.C.) the Temple was again purified and worship reestablished
Isaac Asimov sums up the Daniel-dating problem very well:
Where Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel make no anachronistic mistakes concerning the times supposed to be theirs, the Book of Daniel is replete with anachronisms as far as it deals with the period of the Exile. It treats, however, of the Greek period with easy correctness and while this might be explained by those dedicated to the literal acceptance of the Bible as a case of prophetic insight, it is odd that Daniel should be so correct in his view on what was to him the "future" and so hazy about his view of what was to him the "present." It is easier to believe that the writer was a man of Greek times, to whom the Exile was an event that had taken place four centuries earlier and concerning the fine details of which he was a bit uncertain.
Implications Of The Fraud!
The Book of Daniel has, since ancient times, been considered to be an important Old Testament source of Messianic doctrines. The use of the expression "Son of Man," the prediction of "an anointed one" (priest or messiah) who will be "cut off (Dan 9:26), and other passages have been thought by many to presage the coming of Jesus. How embarrassing for true believers, therefore, is the fact that Jesus himself seems to have been unaware of the fraudulent nature of the book. On at least one occasion — when forecasting the end of his world -- he referred to the Book of Daniel:
So when you see "the abomination of desolation," of which the prophet Daniel spoke, standing in the holy place ... then those who are in Judea must take to the hills (Matt. 24: 15-16).
The fact that Jesus not only did not recognize the fraud, but was also unaware that the "abomination of desolation" had already appeared nearly two centuries earlier, does not reflect favorably either on Jesus's wisdom or his knowledge of history. If Jesus was mistaken in regard to the Book of Daniel, we may well ask, "What other mistakes did he make?"
Kemo D. (a.k.a. no.7) www.beyondgenes.com