Towards Understanding Revelation


Here’s the last installment.

Arguments based on language and words

The first argument for a 2nd century BC date for Daniel in this category is that the book is written in two different languages. The critics suggest that this creates a sense of ‘disunity.’

The beginning and the end of this book are directed towards the Jews and are in Hebrew.  The central part of the book is in Aramaic and messaged to the Gentiles. This is a device that was common in Mesopotamian literature; the book also demonstrates a complex literary structure which is strong evidence for its unity.

And while we’re here, the critics complain because the first half of the book is written in the third person, while the second half is in the first person.

Apparently this was a common style used in antiquity as well. The reason Daniel chose not to insert himself personally into chapters one through six as he did in chapters seven through twelve relates to his different role in each part. 

In the first part of the book he wrote about how he was captured, brought to Babylon and trained. Then, he relates how he solved the mysteries that Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar put before him. Additionally, God saved him from the schemes of the Persian wise men who were jealous of his favor with Darius the Mede. It was thus natural for Daniel to speak of himself obliquely rather than to brag about his abilities, his piety, and his favor with God. By putting it in the third person he was able to cast a stronger light on God’s role in the events. He was also able to avoid putting the emphasis on any frightening or angry feelings he might have had during these times.

In the second part of the book, he was relating personal visions in which he wished to convey what God showed him. He became the observer through whose eyes we could see what he was seeing. It was a more personal experience. You might notice that he starts chapter seven out in the third person:

In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions in his mind as he lay on his bed; then he wrote the dream down and told the following summary of it. Daniel said, “I was looking in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea… (Daniel 7:1-2; NASB)

It’s an interesting transition from the third person to the first. The rest of the book remains in the first person as he abandons the historical accounts and tells of his visions. This very clever transition makes it clear that it was intentional and well thought out. Truthfully, it seems to me to not provide ammunition for either side of this debate. If it had been handled unskillfully, it might argue for a writer less intelligent than Daniel obviously was, but even then it would not have been conclusive.

The next argument claims that the Hebrew that Daniel used was not as ‘smooth’ as would be expected from 6th century Judaism. I’ve even seen it said that we can’t tell what era things were written in when looking at the Hebrew…which is patently false as Hebrew has changed over the millennia.

It’s likely that the Hebrew of Daniel was updated some during the centuries (spelling, names of place, etc), yet no term used in it precludes Daniel as the human author in the 6th century. The Hebrew portion contains words, phrases, and grammar common throughout the Hebrew Bible. These words and phrases are very much like those found in Ezekiel, Haggai, Ezra, and Chronicles, and not so much like the later Qumran documents.

As for the Aramaic portion, comparing that used in Daniel with 8th to 6th century BC writings and inscriptions, 90% of the words in Daniel occur in those sources. Interestingly, when the Septuagint, the earliest known (3rd century BC) translation of the Old Testament into Greek was written, they mistranslated some of the Aramaic words in Daniel, suggesting that they were no longer familiar with the words, rather than suggesting that they were working on what would have been a contemporary text if the critics are right.

The next complaint is that there are Greek and Persian loan words found in Daniel that are considered ‘late,’ so the book must have been written after the Greek invasion.

There are in total 3 Greek loan words in Daniel: all three are the names of musical instruments. We now know that there was extensive trade with Greece from at least the 8th century BC, and there were Greek mercenary troops in the Battle of Carchemish in 605 BC just prior to Daniel’s capture. Honestly, one would expect far more Greek loan words if Daniel were written after the Greek invasion.

As an aside, musical instruments frequently maintain the name given them in their originating country. For instance, the piano was invented in Italy and originally named ‘clavicembaol col piano e forte’ (literally, a harpsichord that can play soft and loud), it was shortened to ‘piano’ and that’s what we still call it today. Most of the orchestra is filled with instruments whose names are Italian loan words. Some exceptions are the flute, which is French (though the piccolo is both French and Italian), and the trumpet which is either French or German, depending on who you read. We’ll leave this rabbit hole here, but I’m sure you get the point.

The Persian words found in Daniel are traceable to the Old Persian Period which ended about 300 BC. During the last few years of his life, Daniel served in the Persian government. About half of the 20 Persian loan words found in Daniel concern government officials in some way. It seems unlikely to me that a person from the 2nd century BC, pretending to be from the 6th century BC, would think to add old Persian governmental words to the text, even if he knew them.

Earlier we saw that Nebuchadnezzar pretty clearly took enough control of Jerusalem in 605 BC to extract booty and slaves. In terms of language, the critics have complained that 2 Kings doesn’t say that Nebuchadnezzar ‘besieged’ Jerusalem, just that he ‘came up’ and forces Jehoiakim to be his vassal. 

The root of the Hebrew word interpreted as ‘besieged’ is ‘tsur’ and means ‘to confine, bind, besiege.’  It can be translated as barricade, besiege, bind, enclose, stirring, or tied.

But in 2 Kings 24:1, the word used is not ‘tsur’ but ‘alah,’ meaning ‘to go up, ascend, climb.’ It’s translated as a very large number of words in English, including: approach, ascend, attack, blow away, burn, came, carried away, enter, goes, invaded, marching, raged, stacking, stirs, taken, took, went, withdrew. So, no, 2 Kings does not describe a ‘besiegement’ here, but Nebuchadnezzar did something in the context of that verb that made Jehoiakim surrender.

Here are the various ways ‘alah’ is translated in some of the translations of 2 Kings:

In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant for three years. Then he turned and rebelled against him. (2 Kings 24:1; KJV)

During Jehoiakim’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded the land of Judah. Jehoiakim surrendered and paid him tribute for three years but then rebelled. (2 Kings 24:1; New Living Translation)

During Jehoiakim’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon attacked. Jehoiakim became his vassal for three years, and then he turned and rebelled against him. (2 Kings 24:1; Holman Christian Standard Bible)

During his days, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, ascended, and Jehoiakim became his servant for three years. And again he rebelled against him. (2 Kings 24:1; Catholic Public Domain Version)

In the time of Jehoiakim, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to the country of Judah. Jehoiakim served Nebuchadnezzar for three years. Then Jehoiakim turned against Nebuchadnezzar and broke away from his rule. (2 Kings 24:1; English Standard Version)

The next word in question is ‘Chaldean.’ In some instances it is used to describe a race of people:

That same night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. (Daniel 5:30; NASB)

In other verses it is used to describe a group of wisemen:

The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is no person on earth who could declare the matter to the king, because no great king or ruler has ever asked anything like this of any soothsayer priest, sorcerer, or Chaldean. (Daniel 2:10; NASB)

Critics charge that the sixth century is too early for that word to have developed into a term that refers to a certain group of men.

The Aramaic word is ‘kasdim;’ it can be translated as either ‘Chaldean’ by race, or as ‘learned,’ as of the class of Magi. 

The Chaldeans were indigenous to the area of Babylonia from the 9th century BC to recent times (when most have moved to the USA to escape persecution); they are Aramaic-speaking, and have a history going back more than five millennia. Though we are not sure where they came from before they moved to Mesopotamia, it’s thought that they descended from Shem’s son, Arphaxad. 6th century BC was definitely not too soon for Belshazzar to be called “the Chaldean king.” 5000+ years is not too soon to refer to a people as the name they call themselves.  

As for the designation of ‘Magi’ or ‘soothsayer,’ the Chaldeans began studying astronomy in the 4th millennium BC. By Abraham’s time (~19th or 20th century BC) they were building temples (ziggurats) to the moon god, Syn. By the time of Daniel, Babylon was considered the intellectual center of the known world. Their study of astronomy and other sciences made them appear ‘magical;’ and they often used their knowledge to pretend to know the future. I don’t think 3500 years is too short a time for a star-studying people to develop the reputation of being mystics. 

Arguments Based on the Form of Apocalyptic Literature

Apocalyptic literature was popular between 200 BC and 100 AD, so the critics say that Daniel must have been written within that time frame. They also say that because Daniel holds to the basic form of apocalyptic literature, then it must be pseudonymous like other apocalyptic literature.

These arguments seem simplistic and almost petulant to me. I can almost picture someone stamping their foot while making these arguments. 

The first question one should ask is: how did this form of literature start? Isn’t it logical that Daniel may have been the first, original, archetypal example of this form? This book would have been well-entrenched within Scripture by 200 BC, and as the stress of the Maccabean period began to subside, people may have recognized in it a form which could be used to express both their fear and gratefulness.

As any archetypal form, the second part of Daniel contains only some of the features of later apocalypses: the periodization of history (in analogy), chronological predictions of end times (which Britannica calls ‘a universal judgment’), the sovereignty of God over earthly empires (certainly present in most of the Bible), martyrdom (though unsuccessful!), and resurrection (in analogy only, referred to by Britannica as ‘a supernatural resolution’). From the entry on apocalyptic literature, it provides a narrative framework for the predictions, but it does not provide a pseudonymous view, esoteric language, a pessimistic view of the present, an imminent crisis (which Britannica supplies as the Maccabean revolt…) or a treatment of final events as ‘imminent.’ To the last point, Daniel is told to seal the book for now because, basically, it’s so far into the future.

Daniel also provides numerous specific dates throughout the book, which later apocalyptic literature does not. This would imply that, if the book were written later, it was very deceptive rather than just used innocently for ‘encouragement’

Arguments Based on Theology

The second-century advocates have the idea that the areas of angelology, Christology, and the concepts of a resurrection and judgment are too far developed to be a product of the 6th century. 

Daniel is unique in that it provides the names of two angels, Michael and Gabriel, yet otherwise contributes nothing new to the study of angels. These messengers of God are encountered in several Old Testament books, even as far back as Genesis. The concept of angels was well-developed by the 6th century.

It’s wrong to state (or even imply) that the doctrine of Christ (the Anointed One, the Messiah) was not begun until the book of Daniel was written. Genesis 3:15 has the first hint of a Messiah:

And I will make enemies of you and the woman, And of your offspring and her Descendent; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise Him on the heel.  (Genesis 3:15; NASB)

Furthermore, Isaiah (written ~740-680 BC), among many others, has numerous passages which speak of a Messiah:

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and she will name Him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14; NASB)

For a Child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6; NASB)

Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch from his roots will bear fruit. (Isaiah 11:1; NASB)

Daniel is not even the first place that a Christophany (an Old Testament appearance of Christ) occurred:

7Now the angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. 8He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s slave woman, from where have you come, and where are you going?” And she said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.” 9So the angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.” 10The angel of the LORD also said to her, “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.”  (Genesis 16:7-10; NASB)

The the word Lord appears in all caps, it means that it is a place-holder for Yahweh, or YHWH. The “angel of the LORD” is interpreted to mean that the appearance is that of God in the form of Christ, rather than of an angel. The other clue is what the angel of the LORD says; a regular angel, or  even archangel, could not promise to multiply someone’s descendants.

There are multiple Christophanies prior to Daniel in Genesis (16:7-13, 22:15-18; 31:11-13); Exodus (3:1, 13:21, 14:19) and Judges (6:11-23; 13:9-20).

Concerning resurrection and judgment, again, passages older than Daniel mention these concepts, here are a few:

25Yet as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last, He will take His stand on the earth. 26Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I will see God, 27Whom I, on my part, shall behold for myself, And whom my eyes will see, and not another. My heart faints within me! (Job 19:25-27; NASB)

Your dead will live, their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, For your dew is as the dew of the dawn, And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits. (Isaiah 26:19; NASB)

But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, For He will receive me. Selah (Psalm 49:15; NASB)

Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? Death, where are your thorns? Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion will be hidden from My sight. (Hosea 13:14; NASB)

The following passages, all written before Daniel, all have something to say about God’s judgment:

For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. (Deuteronomy 10:17; NASB)

 Those who contend with the Lord will be terrified; Against them He will thunder in the heavens, The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; And He will give strength to His king, And will exalt the horn of His anointed. (1 Samuel 2:10; NASB)

So I have not sinned against you, but you are doing me wrong by making war against me. May the Lord, the Judge, judge today between the sons of Israel and sons of Ammon. (Judges 11:27; NASB)

Far be it from You to do such a thing, to kill the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly? (Genesis 18:25; NASB)

There are more passages that could be quoted, but the basic idea here is that Daniel makes no significant contribution to theology, aside from eschatology (the study of the end times, the final events of the world). This means that the 6th century BC was obviously not too early for these concepts to have been already developed.

How Does Daniel Relate to Revelation?

There are so many parallels between Daniel and Revelation that seminaries often include them in the same course:

  • Both mention an earthly kingdom becoming God‟s everlasting kingdom (Dan. 2:44; Rev. 11:15).
  • Both use the word times for units of years (Dan. 7:25; 12:7; Rev. 12:14).
  • Both mention the ministry of the angel Michael (Dan. 10:21; 12:1; Rev. 12:7).
  • Both speak of a book containing the names of the righteous (Dan. 12:1; Rev. 20:12).
  • Both speak of 10 kingdoms (Dan. 2:41; 7:24; Rev. 17:12).
  • Both contain extended passages on the antichrist (Dan. 7:24-27; 8:23-25; 9:26; 11:36-45; Rev. 6:2; 11:7; 13:1-10; 19:20).
  • Both see the Father on His Throne in heaven (Dan. 7:9; Rev. 4:2, 3).
  • Both witness a vast multitude of angels ministering to the Father (Dan. 7:10; Rev. 5:11).
  • Both writers were ministered to by an angel (Dan. 10:10-15; Rev. 10:8-11; 21:9-11).
  • Both describe two pagan statues (Dan. 3; Rev. 13:11-18).
  • Each records an important banquet (Dan. 5; Rev. 19:7-9).
  • One was a sealed book (Dan. 12:9), the other an open one (Rev. 22:10).

As we look at these specific Revelation references, we will also be looking at the Daniel references. 

And that wraps up our excursion into Daniel. Hopefully you now feel more confidence in the 6th century dating of the book.

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