Archive for May, 2007

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Article: The Book of Daniel (5/20)

May 22, 2007

Daniel: The History

The largest number of criticisms aimed at Daniel are allegations that the book contains numerous historical inaccuracies. It is worth noting that archaeological evidence over the last 130 years or so has disproved a number of these allegations, but they are frequently repeated by atheists and skeptics without reference to evidence which contradicts them.

In this section the historical issues in Daniel will be addressed chapter by chapter.

Historical Issues In Daniel One

  • The spelling of Nebuchadnezzar’s name (Daniel 1:1 and throughout)
  • The identification of Nebuchadnezzar as ‘king’ during the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim (Daniel 1:1)
  • The seige of Jerusalem (Daniel 1:1-2)
  • The names of Daniel and his friends (Daniel 1:6-7)

Nebuchadnezzar’s Name

Critics have claimed that Nebuchadnezzar’s name is spelled incorrectly in Daniel:

‘It has been claimed (by Taylor (citing Dummelow in Taylor [2], Sierichs, and others) that the book of Daniel can’t even spell the name of Nebuchadnezzar correctly because it uses an n rather than an r. [Porteus, 26; Dummelow, 530; Farrar, 20]‘

David Conklin, ‘Evidences Relating to the Date of the Book of Daniel’, 2000

There is plenty of evidence to demonstrate this objection to be spurious:

‘However, Millard points out that a study done in 1975 demonstrates “that the writing with n is not improper for Hebrew“. [Millard (1977): 73; the 1975 study was by P. R. Berger in the Zeitschrift fur Assyriologie, vol 64, pages 224-34; Goldingay, 4 note 1--the "Heb. spelling can be explained philologically."] See also the article on Nebuchadnezzar by LaSor in the ISBE.

He notes that the LXX supports the use of the n [Nabuchodonosor] and that Jeremiah uses both spellings in chapters 27-29. [LaSor, 506] Wiseman simply refers to the Biblical spelling as a “variant.” [Wiseman, 552]

BTW, the Greeks spelt it “both” ways: Nabochodonosor and Nabokodrosoros. [Baldwin (1978a): 78] In Aramaic it is Nebukadnessar–note the use of n in both the Aramaic and Greek.’

David Conklin, ‘Evidences Relating to the Date of the Book of Daniel’, 2000

Article here.

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Article: The Book of Daniel (4/20)

May 20, 2007

The Greek

Driver argued:

‘…the Greek words demand, the Hebrew supports, and the Aramaic permits, a date after the conquest of Palestine by Alexander the Great (332 B.C.).’

SR Driver, ‘An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament’, page 508, reprint 1956, originally printed 1891

Generalising statements such as Driver’s often lead people to believe that Daniel is littered with Greek words and phrases, betraying the Maccabbean culture in which it was written. This is not the case. There are only three Greek terms in Daniel, they are found in only one chapter of the entire book, and all three of them are musical instruments (Daniel 3: 5, 7, 10, 15).

Once this is acknowledged, two arguments are usually raised. The first is that the author of Daniel must have been living in the Greek era in order to even be aware of these terms. The second is that they are not found in Greek literature prior to the 2nd century BC, requiring the book of Daniel to have been written much earlier than it claims.

The three terms are transliterated as ‘qithros’ (Greek ‘kitharis’), ‘pesanterin’ (Greek ‘psalterion), and ‘sumponeyah’ (Greek ‘symphonia’). It should be noted that the words appear as transliteratons, not as words written in Greek. This is what we would expect from a text which was written prior to an era in which Greek became the common language, since it reveals that Greek is not the native language of the author.

Driver’s argument (in 1891), was that these words did not appear in the Middle East until the 2nd century BC, or were not even coined in Greece until this time, leading him to conclude that ‘the Greek demands’ a late date for the composition of Daniel. Other critics contemporary with Driver agreed and the same argument continued to be made right up to the present time, over 100 years later:

”On the last word Rowley claimed that this “word is first found in Greek literature in this sense in the second century B.C.”. [Rowley (1950): 157; Hammer, 5; Lacocque (1979): 57]‘

David Conklin, ‘Evidences Relating to the Date of the Book of Daniel’, 2000

This argument, however, has long since been identified as inaccurate.

Article here.

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Article: The Book of Daniel (3/20)

May 18, 2007

Daniel: The Language

In an oft quoted challenge to the language in the book of Daniel, SR Driver alleges (emphasis in original):

‘The Persian words presuppose a period after the Persian Empire had been well established; the Greek words demand, the Hebrew supports, and the Aramaic permits, a date after the conquest of Palestine by Alexander the Great (332 B.C.)’

SR Driver, ‘An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament’, page 508, reprint 1956, originally printed 1891

It is incredible to see this claim being repeated by contemporary critics of Daniel, especially since it was originally made in 1891, and has been comprehensively refuted for decades. Indeed, Pusey’s own massive research into the language of Daniel (1886), pre-empted many of Driver’s arguments, but does not appear to have been addressed by Driver.

The first issue to note is that the book of Daniel was undoubtedly written in the Persian era. The events of the Babylonian era are spoken of in the past tense, and the last king referred to as contemporary with Daniel is ‘Cyrus king of Persia’, the last vision which Daniel receives being in the third year of his reign (Daniel 10:1), around 539 BC. The book cannot have been written earlier than this date, which is in the early Persian era.

Our expectations of the language used in Daniel should therefore be governed by this fact. We would expect to find the following general features of language in Daniel:

* Chaldean (Babylonian), used accurately but not predominantly
* Persian words and phrases used frequently, even to describe events which took place in the Babylonian era
* Aramaic which is in greater agreement with the exilic than the post-exilic era
* An almost complete lack of Greek terms

This is, in fact, exactly what we find.

Article here.

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Article: The Book of Daniel (2/20)

May 18, 2007

Daniel: The Canon

Critics argue against the canonicity of Daniel on two main grounds. The first is the claim that the Jews themselves did not accept Daniel as a prophetic book until long after the Old Testament canon was closed.

This argument fails to take into account the fact that although the present position of the book of Daniel in the Masoretic compilation of the Henrew Scriptures is among the ‘Writings’ (not the ‘Prophets’), this was not the original position of the book of Daniel within the Hebrew canon. Critics who use this argument assume that since Daniel is placed among the ‘Writings’ of the Masoretic compilation, it has always been there.

In doing so they display ignorance of the fact that the earlier placement of Daniel was in fact placed within the other books of prophecy as early as the LXX. In addition, it was included in the prophetic canon of the early Qumran community (from at least 100 BC onwards), and Josephus makes explicit reference to the book of Daniel as one of the prophetic works, proving that it was already recognised as such well before the 1st century:

‘Josephus, writing in c. 95 A.D., includes Daniel as one of the Prophets in his accounting of the composition of the Hebrew canon.

This is in his Contra Apion (Against the Jews) I, 38-39 [8] and Antiquities, X, 11, 17. [Archer (1985): 7-8; Audet, 145; see also Barnes, 38-9] BTW, Josephus (Antiquities, b. xi. ch. viii. 3-8, 21, 22; xi. 3, 4) also describes an incident during the conquest of Palestine by Alexander the Great (332 B.C.; i.e., about 175 years before the commonly accepted date of 164 B.C. for the composition of Daniel) in which priests from Jerusalem met him and showed him the prophecies of Daniel concerning a Greek conquering the Persian empire. [Barnes, 54-5; Metzger, 219] “In all the sources of the first century A.D.–Matthew, Josephus, [and the] Qumran–Daniel is reckoned among the prophets.” [Koch, 123]‘

David Conklin, ‘Evidences Relating to the Date of the Book of Daniel’, 2000

Article here.

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Article: The Book of Daniel (1/20)

May 16, 2007

The book of Daniel is probably one of the most assaulted books in the entire canon of Scripture. Its prophetic witness is a significant problem to the non-Christian who wishes to assert that the Bible is merely the work of men, and it has been railed against by atheists, agnostics, and non-Christian religions alike for literally centuries – for almost 2,000 years, in fact.

In the following series of posts, some of the key arguments raised against the book will be addressed, including:

  • That Daniel was not considered canonical by the Jews
  • That the language in the book necessitates a date well into the Greek era
  • That the book contains historical inaccuracies and anachronisms
  • That the book contains evidence of redaction by several hands over the centuries

Preparation of this work has included a combination of the very latest scholarship in this field, supplemented by certain older commentaries which provide material and arguments which are still valuable and valid.

Of the modern works used, the most heavily relied on is David Conklin’s excellent paper ‘Evidences Relating to the Date of the Book of Daniel‘ (2000), which is a thorough, well researched, and convincing work on the subject. It is freely available online, and runs to some 54 A4 pages, including the extensive bibliography.

The other modern works used extensively (both available online), are WD Jeffcoat’s ‘The Linguistic Argument For The Date Of Daniel‘ (2004), which deals specifically with the linguistic issues of the book, and Daniel B Wallace’s paper ‘Who is Ezekiel’s Daniel?‘ (1997), which is a well written and very readable introduction to key criticisms and answers.

Of the older works, most commonly used is material from the superb work by Pusey (E Pusey, ‘Daniel The Prophet’, eighth edition, 1886), which contains a formidable array of counter-arguments in reply to the claims of ‘Higher Criticism’, as well as an analysis of the linguistic issues which is probably still unparalleled in its detail. Pusey’s work is frequently cited in the best contemporary defenses of Daniel.

It is probable that the unavailability of this book (which ran to at least eight editions, but which has been out of print for decades), together with its date of authorship (late 19th century), both contribute to it being ignored as inconvenient or outdated by contemporary critics of Daniel. From this point of view, it is highly ironic that SR Driver’s critical work written against Daniel (SR Driver, ‘An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament’, originally printed 1891), is frequently quoted in depth by contemporary critics as practically the first and last word on the subject,though it is almost as old as Pusey’s, and uses arguments which Pusey had already refuted, and which many secular scholars have already conceded as false or irrelevant.

In addition, occasional use has been made of the commentaries of Clarke (1712), Gill (1748), and Barnes (1851), as well as the International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (revised edition of 1973). A wide range of sources defending Daniel has been quoted, to show the level of agreement among Cristian scholars and commentators, as well as to prove that earlier Christians were not ignorant of these criticisms, and have for centuries presented replies which remain valid even in the face of the latest secular research.

Christians have not had to wait for centuries for men such as Conklin to find sound answers to difficult questions regarding Daniel. The book of Daniel has always been criticised, and Christians have always had the correct answers for the critics.

Article here.

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Series: Christianity And The Witch Hunt Era

May 11, 2007

The series on Christianity and the witch hunt era is almost completed. Here are the introductory articles:

* Article 1: Introduction and major arguments against common myths regarding the witch hunt era

* Article 2: The witch hunts were not ended by the rationalist ‘Enlightenment’

The next articles demonstrate that the witch hunts were uncharacteristic of historical Christianity. These articles are separated into different historical eras, describing Christian skepticism of beliefs in witches and witchcraft, as well as Christian protests against witch hunts, unjust trials, torture, and the death penalty:

* Article 3: 634-1539

* Article 4: 1540-1610

* Article 5: 1611-1627

* Article 6: 1631-1676

* Article 7: 1691-1695

* Article 8: 1649-1711

* Article 9: 1711-1720

* Article 10: 1720-1788

* Article 11: 1794

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Article: Christianity And The Witch Hunt Era (11/12)

May 7, 2007

* 1794: William Ashdowne published ‘AN INQUIRY INTO THE Scripture Meaning of the Word SATAN, AND ITS SYNONIMOUS TERMS, The DEVIL, or the ADVERSARY, and the WICKED-ONE’, an enlarged edition of his previous pamphlet ‘An enquiry into the scripture meaning of the word Satan’ (1770).

Ashdowne addressed specifically the ‘angels which sinned’ in 2 Peter 2:4, and Jude 6, arguing that these were the ten unfaithful messengers sent to spy out the land of Cannaan, punished by death and reserved for judgment at Christ’s return. In his exposition he made the following important points:

* That the Greek and Hebrew word translated ‘angel’ simply means ‘messenger’ and can refer either to a heavenly being or a mortal man

* That the ‘chains of darkness’ in Jude are a reference to dead men being held in the grave (Ashdowne provides examples from Psalms and Proverbs of chains being used metaphorically in this way)

* That the only ‘evil angels’ in Scripture are the ‘destroying angels’ of Psalm 78:49 (obedient angels sent by God to punish Egypt)

Ashdowne demonstrated a familiarity with previous expositions of the subject, showing that there was a recognised continuity of authors and works opposing the previously unchallenged ‘orthodox’ beliefs:

‘The Notions concerning Dæmons, about our Saviour’s time, have been collected, from the best authorities, by Dr Lardner, in his Tracts; by Dr Newton, in his Dissertations on Prophecy; and lately by Mr Farmer, in his Dissertations on Miracles: It only remains, that we should search the Scriptures, and point out some Errors in the application of known Truths.’

William Ashdowne, ‘‘AN INQUIRY INTO THE Scripture Meaning of the Word SATAN, AND ITS SYNONIMOUS TERMS, The DEVIL, or the ADVERSARY, and the WICKED-ONE’, page 40, 1794

Article here.

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Article: Christianity And The Witch Hunt Era (10/12)

May 6, 2007

* 1680-171?: Sir Isaac Newton wrote extensively on the subject of the devil, demons, witchcraft, and ghosts, his views gradually developing over a long duration. The first signs of his abandonment of the ‘orthodox’ position are found in his writings of the 1680s, whilst his latest and most mature comments on the subject are dated to some time after 1710.

Newton’s views appear to have commenced with his unorthodox reflections on the serpent in Genesis 3, in the 1680s:

‘The first example of this kind comes from another prophetic manuscript, Yahuda MS 9, which dates from the 1680s and thus helps establish a terminus a quo for Newton’s departure from the orthodox view. In this manuscript Newton moves beyond mere description to conscious explication. The first reference to a serpent in the Bible is found in the account of the first human sin committed in the Garden of Eden, and it is to this account that Newton turns when tracing the original of the serpentine imagery of the “spirit of error”. Newton saw the serpent that tempted Eve to eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil as symbolic of the fleshly lust for her husband that filled her heart.’

Stephen Snobelen, ‘Lust, Pride, And Ambition: Isaac Newton And The Devil’, page 5, November 2002

At this time Newton also expressed a disbelief in the existence of evil spirits:

‘Newton argues:

The spirits of God of fals Prophets & of Antichrist are [in 1 John 4] plainly taken not for any substantial Spirits but for ye good or evil dispositions & true or fals perswasions of mens minds; & the spirits of all men who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is called in the singular number the spirit of Antichrist, & said to be come into the world as if it were an evil spirit wch was to reign therein & deceive all the followers of Antichrist. And such an evil spirit is the Dragon in the Apocalyps.’

Stephen Snobelen, ‘Lust, Pride, And Ambition: Isaac Newton And The Devil’, page 6, November 2002

From this position, Newton moved to a rejection of belief in demons, using arguments similar to those proposed by Muggleton, Bekker, and Hutchinson, including the argument of accommodated language:

‘Newton’s views on demons follow a similar pattern. The traditional Christian conception of demons holds that they are fallen angels subordinate to the chief fallen angel, Satan. Not so with Newton. As with his view on the devil, Newton began to dismiss the reality of demons from the 1680s. Yahuda MS 9, the same document in which Newton treats the devil as a symbol of the “spirit of error”, demonstrates this:

From this figure of putting serpents for spirits & spirits or Daemons for distempers of ye mind, came ye vulgar opinion of ye Jews & other eastern nations that mad men & lunaticks were possessed with evil spirits or Daemons. Whence Christ seems to have used this language not only as Prophet but also in compliance wth ye Jews way of speaking: so yt when he is said to cast out Devils it cannot be known by this phra those Devils may be nothing but diseases unles it can be proved by the circumstances that they are sp substantial spirits.

For Newton, therefore, demons were figures for disordered psychotic states. The cases of demon-possession in the Synoptic Gospels do not describe the activity of literal devils, but instead reflect the (mistaken) beliefs of first-century Jews.’

Stephen Snobelen, ‘Lust, Pride, And Ambition: Isaac Newton And The Devil’, page 7, November 2002

On this basis, Newton thoroughly rejected all beliefs in witches and witchcraft:

‘Newton goes on to say that

to beleive that men or weomen can really divine, charm, inchant, bewitch or converse with spirits is a superstition of the same nature wth beleiving that the idols of the gentils were not vanities but had spirits really seated in them.’

Stephen Snobelen, ‘Lust, Pride, And Ambition: Isaac Newton And The Devil’, page 7, November 2002

Like some other expositors, Newton understood demons in the Bible to refer simply to the false gods of the heathen, inventions of men which were mere idols, taking his definition directly from Scripture, and that the ‘orthodox’ understanding of demons was an early heresy imported from paganism:

‘For Newton belief in activity by evil spirits is equivalent to the conviction that the false gods or idols of the pagans were real, independent beings; both positions are equally untrue. There is no ambiguity in Newton’s position on the reality of idols; in one manuscript he declares flatly: “An Idol is nothing in the world, a vanity, +a lye, a fictitious power.” Newton shared with traditional exegesis the identification of the false gods of the Old Testament with demons. He departed radically from the traditional view in concluding that neither demons nor idols exist.’

‘Newton laid the blame for the rise of the pagan doctrines about demons in the Church at the door of his ecclesiastical nemesis Athanasius, whom he also saw as responsible for introducing Trinitarianism and the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. In his “Paradoxical questions concerning Athanasius”, Newton contends that Athanasius advanced the notion of a conscious existence of the soul in the intermediate state between death and resurrection.’

Stephen Snobelen, ‘Lust, Pride, And Ambition: Isaac Newton And The Devil’, pages 8-9, November 2002

Later than Muggleton, but earlier than Bekker, Newton came to the same conclusion as both of them – that the devil in Scripture was never the supernatural evil being of ‘orthodox’ theology, and that all temptation comes from the lust of the heart:

‘The logical corollary to Newton’s views on evil spirits is that those who claim to be tempted by a personal devil are deluded and provoked by their own fleshly imagination. Newton’s “Paradoxical questions concerning Athanasius,” an important manuscript held at the Clark Library dating from the early 1690s, makes this clear’

‘It is instructive that in these words, which he all but admits are laden with connotations of reflexivity, Newton tackles the problem of lust without any reference to a literal, external tempter. Newton well knew the source of sin from his own contests with the demons of his soul. It was not the devil who made him do it. Unlike the monks of old, Newton’s own battles with the devil were with himself.’

Stephen Snobelen, ‘Lust, Pride, And Ambition: Isaac Newton And The Devil’, pages 10-11, November 2002

Article here.

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Article: Christianity And The Witch Hunt Era (9/12)

May 4, 2007

* 1711: The infamous trial of Jane Wenham became pivotal in the controversy between opponents of the belief and prosecution of witchcraft, and those who both believed in it and held it should be prosecuted. An elderly woman, twice widowed, Jane Wenham was prosecuted largely on the basis of accusations made by Anne Thorne, a young woman recognised by many to be mentally deranged, and who had a well known grudge against Jane, with whom she had quarrelled, and even fought physically.

It was fortunate that the presiding judge, Sir John Powell, was a man of considerable intelligence and reason, who showed himself to be utterly sceptical of the evidence and witness testimonies presented by the prosecution. His careful evaluation of the case and his obvious sympathy for the accused caused his treatment of the trial to become legendary – it is said that when told that Jane Wenham had been seen flying on a broomstick, Powell commented that there was no English law against flying. The story cannot be verified, but stands as an example of how well known and recognised Powell’s sensible handling of the case became.

Despite the appalling lack of genuine evidence, the obvious prejudice of the witnesses, and all Powell’s urging to the contrary, the jury found Jane Wenham guilty of witchcraft and Powell had no choice but to pass the formal legal sentence, which was death by hanging:

‘A case of witchcraft was tried in 1711, before Lord Chief Justice Powell; in which, however, the jury persisted in a verdict of guilty, though the evidence was of the usual absurd and contradictory character, and the enlightened judge did all in his power to bring them to a right conclusion.’

Charles Mackay, ‘Memoirs of Popular Delusions’, volume 2, section V, 1841

However, immediately after the case Powell petitioned ceaselessly for the judgment to be overturned, and finally succeeded in obtaining a royal pardon for Wenham. The case ignited a pamphlet war between those who believed in witchcraft and those who did not, and was the catalyst for a major shift in English beliefs regarding supernatural evil.

Article here.

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Article: Christianity And The Witch Hunt Era (8/12)

May 3, 2007

Before moving to the 18th century, it is necessary to review the work of two 17th century authors who also contributed usefully to the ongoing debate regarding supernatural evil. These two men were Joseph Mede and Thomas Hobbes.

* 1640: Joseph Mede, prominent Anglican professor of Greek at Cambridge University, puzzled over the accounts of demon possession in the New Testament. He noted their complete absence from the Old Testament, and wondered that such possession was so common in the 1st century, yet so rare in his own time:

‘Now, to come toward my Text; a like instance to this, I take to be that of the Daemoniacks so often mentioned in the Gospel: For I make no question, but that now and then the same befals other men; whereof I have experience my selfe, to wit, To marvell how these Daemoniacks should so abound in, and about that Nation, which was the People of God; whereas in other Nations and their writings wee heare of no such; And that too, as it should seem, about the time of our Saviours being on earth onely; because in the time before we finde no mention of them in Scripture.

The wonder is yet the greater, because it seems notwithstanding all this, by the Story of the Gospel, not to have been accounted then by the people of the Jews, any strange or extraordinary thing, but as a matter usuall; nor besides is taken notice of by any forraine Story.’

Joseph Mede, ‘S. Iohn 10.20. He hath a Devill, and is mad’, published posthumously in ‘DIATRIBAE. DISCOVRSES ON DIVERS TEXTS OF SCRIPTVRE: Delivered upon severall occasions’, pages 122-123, 1642

Mede’s conclusion was that those described as ‘demoniacs’, or possessed by demons, were in fact mentally ill:

‘To meet with all these difficulties, (which I see not how otherwise can be easily satisfied) I am perswaded (till I shall heare better reason to the contrary) that these Daemoniacks were no other then such as well call mad-men, and Lunaticks; at least that we comprehend them under those names, and that therefore they both still are, and in all times and places have been, much more frequent then we imagine. The cause of which our mistake, is that disguise of another name, and notion, then we conceive them by; which makes us take them to be diverse which are the same.”’

Joseph Mede, ‘S. Iohn 10.20. He hath a Devill, and is mad’, published posthumously in ‘DIATRIBAE. DISCOVRSES ON DIVERS TEXTS OF SCRIPTVRE: Delivered upon severall occasions’, pages 123-124, 1642

Article here.

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