The author of the Book of Daniel (presumably Daniel himself) viewed the shadowy character of Darius the Mede as a separate ruler from Cyrus the Great. I am not qualified enough to say that I can argue this case from a thorough knowledge of archaeology, but internal evidence within the Scriptures appears to compel us to come to the conclusion.
Now, while this does not necessarily pose problems to secular historians (“Darius the Mede” could be known by a different name or he was an inferior who ran governmental offices while Cyrus continued to lead the army) it poses major problems to liberal theologians who try to date Daniel to the second century BC.
Why? Liberal theologians assume that the “real” author of Daniel, who was literate in at least two languages including Hebrew and Aramaic, was a buffoon who did not know what most ninth graders know today: that Cyrus the Great ruled first and his grandson, Darius the Great, ruled later.
Further, this Jew, literate in Hebrew and knowledgeable of the Book of Jeremiah, writing in the second century BC where the Hebrew Canon was closed, apparently was ignorant of 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Isaiah, Haggai, and Zechariah where a cursory reading of these books lists the names of these Persian emperors in their known secular chronology. This means the average literate Jew in the second century BC would have easily known the secular chronology of the monarchs even without any reference to Greek or Persian histories.
So, in the mind of liberal theologians, the writing of Daniel is almost a miracle onto itself. A bilingual Jew who has read the Jewish Scriptures, something that only an educated Jew would have been able to do, would have mentally lapsed and misunderstood the order in which Cyrus and Darius the Persians ruled, even though he had all the evidence necessary to know that this was not the case.
It is my contention that in the Book of Daniel, the author is not conflating the two figures, because in consecutive chapters (nine and ten) both kings are addressed as two separate people (and interestingly enough, Darius the Mede precedes Cyrus the Persian chronologically.)
Even though liberal theologians love just making up theories out of thin air (i.e. two different authors wrote the two different chapters), there is no evidence of this. Both sections include Daniel speaking in the first person, an occurrence that does not occur earlier in the book. In fact, even though the style of the book changes from the beginning where Daniel is addressed in the third person, the fact that “Darius the Mede” exists in both sections adds weight to the argument that one author wrote the whole book at one time, not several different authors.
What other bad assumptions do liberal theologians make about Daniel’s authorship?
- Jesus of Sirach does not list a Daniel in his list of Biblical heroes, which means, he did not know who Daniel was. This means the book was not yet written during his time.
Answer to objection: First, Ezekiel 14, a much earlier work, does. Second, Jesus of Sirach only names prophets found in the books of 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah. Further, Daniel in the Jewish Scriptures is organized with the historical books (such as Esther) and as the last prophetic work in the Septuagint (perhaps out of uncertainty over where to place it). So, this is not evidence of Sirach not knowing who Daniel was anymore of him not knowing Esther was written. Rather, he was just going by the historical books of Ezra’s when he devised his list.
- The Book of Daniel is quoted in second century sources such as the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Sibylline Oracles.
Answer to objection: It is also found in the Septuagint, which was first formulated in the third century. In fact, the Greek version of Daniel has incorrect translations (which reflects it being translated during a period where some of the Hebrew and Aramaic has become archaic) and has additions made to it (i.e. Bel and the Dragon.) For there to be additions requires it to have been written before the Septuagint was completed, which is in the early second century BC. Further, the fact it was one of the most popular manuscripts found in Qumran increases the probability of it being from a period other than the contemporary one. To quote BibleArchaeology.org:
According to current historical-critical opinion, the book of Daniel originated in its present form in the Antiochus Epiphanes crisis, that is, between 168/167–165/164 BC. It seems very difficult to perceive that one single desert community should have preserved such a significant number of Daniel manuscripts if this book had really been produced at so late a date. The large number of manuscripts in this community can be much better explained if one accepts an earlier origin of Daniel than the one proposed by the Maccabean hypothesis of historical-critical scholarship, which dates it to the second century BC.
Being quoted in the second century does not make it from the second century. Rather, it just shows that the work may be even older.
What possible clues do we have about dating it? First, we actually have a manuscript carbon-dated to the second century BC. While that does not prove the book existed for hundreds of years before that, it does increase the probability of that (it is worth knowing that most ancient manuscripts for works are centuries, if not almost a thousand years older than what we think the book really is.)
It is worth noting that if the Book of Daniel is a second century BC concoction, and the earliest manuscript for this book is dated to the same century, it would be a world record. There is no other ancient book where any substantial manuscript presently exists from the same century it was written. This includes the Quran, all the books of the New Testament, all the works of Greek philosophies, everything! This would put Daniel in a class of its own, which by the odds is extremely unlikely. It is more likely that the book originates at least centuries before its earliest presently extant manuscript.
Further, though I am not an expert in this, the linguistic evidence lends itself to the Hebrew and Aramaic found in the book being of a date much earlier than the second century BC. Judge for yourself here.
- The writer of Daniel obviously bungled the names of Cyrus/Darius.
As we have seen previously, it is very unlikely that the names were actually mixed up in any way. The author could have purposely made up false historical details, for who knows what reason. He also obviously knew history, as in Daniel 11 he shows a very firm grasp of Greek history. Further, he knew Scripture and would have known from reading just Ezra 4:5 that Cyrus came before Darius.
So, this is what liberal theologians are saying: Just for fun, the “real author of the Book of Daniel” wanted to screw up the historical details that clearly he would have easily known. Yet, he carefully inserted Persian technical terms that would have been antiquated in the second century BC to lend the work credibility.
This, to me, is absolutely incredible. It is easier for me to believe that there really was a Darius the Mede who in secular history is either unrecorded or has a different name. He would have probably been under Cyrus authority the whole time, however.
- Daniel 11:1 to 11:40 all build up to a climax with Antiochus IV Epiphanes that can be confirmed by secular history and then afterwards these verses go off the deep end into inaccurate historical details.
So, while all the other points liberals bring up are demonstrably false and weak contentions in their own right, this one actually holds water. Why would Daniel perfectly prophesy everything leading up to this evil king and accurately describe what he would actually do, and then go off on a tangent and talk about details of some end time climatic battle?
I don’t know. Being that Jesus referenced this section as awaiting its fulfillment, the default Christian interpretation is that Antiochus IV is a perfect picture of the anti-Christ, just as Babylon is the perfect picture of the anti-Christ’s dominion. Neither Babylon nor Antiochus IV were the anti-Christ that Paul warns about in 2 Thessalonians–he is yet to come. However, both were against God’s people and are vivid reminders for us into the present of the nature of persecution.
The Babylonians, Macedonians, Romans, Muslims, Medieval Catholics and Orthodox, Vietnamese, Germans, North Koreans, and others purposely have tried or continue to try to annihilate the people of God and the teaching of the Gospel. Babylon and the Seleucids were merely the first to purposely desecrate the temple and force God’s people, the true Israel, to pray to Satan’s demons which are in every idol (1 Cor 10:20).
The setting of the Book of Daniel in Babylon and the foretelling of the coming of Antiochus IV lend themselves to a conversation about the end times. This explanation at least makes sense with the evidence given, though I would agree with the liberals in seeing the transition form the time to Antiochus IV to who knows when is rather abrupt.
We will just have to pray to God for more understanding in the meantime.