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It is incredible to see this claim being repeated by contemporary critics of Daniel, especially since it was originally made in 1891, and has been comprehensively refuted for decades.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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