The Book of Daniel (4/20)

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.

Firstly, the word ‘sumphonia’ is found in Greek literature contemporary with Daniel:

In fact, we now know that Pythagoras used this term around 530 B.C.; i.e., about the time of Daniel. If this instrument is a bagpipe then it is also pictured in a Hittite relief at Eyuk (20 miles north of Boghazkoy in central Anatolia); this relief is from the middle of the second millennium B.C.–i.e. 1500 B.C.. What Rowley may be referring to by the words “in this sense” is in terms of a specific musical instrument or an orchestra.

But, it may be that Daniel is NOT using this word to refer to a “specific musical instrument” at all; he may be using it adjectively (“in unison”) which is the meaning of the word in Hymni Homerica, ad Mercurium 51 from the early sixth century B.C. [see the Mitchell and Joyce article, pages 19-27 or Baldwin (1978a): 102; see also the NEB: “concord of sound”; Pusey, 94 note 1 points out that the context of Polybius’ use of the word indicates that it means “concert”]

It has also been pointed out that it could be that this word is a dialectal form of tympanon which dates back to at least the sixth century B.C.. Kitchen notes that it is only “the elementary fallacy of negative evidence” that allows Rowley to claim that this word is first known in the second century B.C. [Kitchen (1965): 47] Thus, Rowley’s claim is an appeal to ignorance; Kitchen notes that this is due to “the inadequacy of our Greek source material.’

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

Secondly, overwhelming evidence has been found to prove that Greek loan words entered the Middle East at a very early date, certainly well before the Babylonian captivity of Israel:

‘Unfortunately, for the critics, the presence of Greek words has long been demonstrated by “an avalanche of evidence” to have entered into “the Semitic milieu long before the sixth century B.C.” [Vasholz, 316; Kitchen (1965): 44-48, Archer (1985): 21; McDowell, 98-102; this also means that Davies (1988) 38 errs when he sates that the “balance of probability weighs heavily against” the argument that these words would have been “available to a sixth-century Jew.”]’

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

‘By way of reply, it should be noted that Greek traders and mercenaries were familiar sites in Egypt and throughout Western Asia from the seventh century on, if not earlier (see Albright, 1957, p. 337). A Greek coin, the drachma is mentioned in Ezra 2:69 and Nehemiah 7:70,72 as having been used in Persian times. Additionally, archaeologists have found much evidence of the early spread of Greek influence (see Harris, 1969, p. 149).’
‘The claim that the Greek musical terms in Daniel give credence to a late date cannot be defended successfully. Greek words now are authenticated in the Aramaic documents of Elephantine dated to the fifth century B.C. For example, one document refers to a “starter” as the ksp jwn, meaning “silver of Greece.” Jacob Rabinowitz suggested that three other words possibly are Greek words in the Elephantine Papyri (1958, pp. 76-82).

J.A. Montgomery recognized the weakness of Driver’s view when he wrote: “The rebuttal of this evidence for a low date lies in stressing the potentialities of Greek influence in the Orient from the sixth century and onward” (1927, p. 22). Archaeologist Edwin Yamauchi demonstrated this in convincing fashion in his work, and concluded: “The only element of surprise to this writer is that there are not more Greek words in such documents” (1967, p. 94).’

Jeffcoat, ‘The Linguistic Argument For The Date Of Daniel’, pages 5-6, 2004

Jeffcoat provides a strong argument that such Greek musical terms would be available to Daniel:

‘There are numerous considerations that assure the possibility of the use of Greek musical instruments at Babylon in the sixth century B.C., including the following: Greek inscriptions of Abu Simbal in Upper Egypt (dating from the time of Palmtek II in the early part of the sixth century B.C.); the Minoan inscriptions and ruins in Crete; the revelations of the wide commercial relations of the Phoenicians in the early part of the first millennium B.C.; the lately published inscriptions of Sennacherib regarding his campaigns in Cilicia against the Greek seafarers (telling about having carried Greek captives to Nineveh about 700 B.C.) to which Alexander Polyhistor and Abydenus both referred; and, the confirmation of the wealth and expensive ceremonies of Nebuchadnezzar (made possible by the discovery of his own building habits and other inscriptions) [see Wilson, 1939, p. 785].

The term kitharis was used in the epic poetry of Homer (Iliad III, 54; XIII, 731; Odyssey I, 153; VIII, 248) long before Daniel’s time (see Tisdall, 1921, p. 208). It does not seem unlikely that, if one [original emphasis] Greek musical instrument had become known in Babylonia before Daniel’s time, two others should have been introduced also, especially as the names of other instruments mentioned in the same connection were known not long afterwards in Greece.’

‘As early as the reign of Sargon (722-705 B.C.) there were, according to the Assyrian records, Greek captives who were sold into slavery from Cyprus, Ionia, Lydia, and Cilicia. The Greek poet Alcaeus of Lesbos (600 B.C.) mentioned his brother Antimenidas serving in the Babylonian army. Thus, it is evident that Greek musical instruments were in use in the Semitic Near East long before the time of Daniel (see Archer, 1964, p. 387). The name of such instruments usually does not change from nation to nation. So, it is not unusual that the instruments that are mentioned in Daniel 3:5 should keep their Greek name (see McGarvey, 1956, pp. 259-260).

Furthermore, if the Jews were required to furnish music (see Psalm 137:3), it would not be incredible to assume that Greeks from Cyprus, Ionia, Lydia, and Cilicia were required to do the same (see Unger, 1951, p. 399). R.K. Harrison has observed that the instruments under consideration were of Mesopotamian origin (1969, p. 1126).’

Jeffcoat, ‘The Linguistic Argument For The Date Of Daniel’, pages 5-6, 2004

What is more remarkable than the presence of three Greek words in Daniel is the fact that there are not more of them. According to common criticism, the book was not written until the Maccabbean era, under the Greek rule.

Jewish works produced at this time betray their date and authorship by the conscious and unconscious use of the language contemporary with their author. The book of Daniel does not share this feature – none of it is written in Greek, and the three Greek words which are used a transliterated as loan words.

The Hebrew

Driver argued that the Hebrew in Daniel supported the theory of a late date:

‘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

In response to this there are three two lines of evidence which contradict Driver’s claims:

* Extensive study has demonstrated that the Hebrew of Daniel shares features of early Hebrew books

* It has also been demonstrated that the Hebrew of Daniel is very different to later Hebrew texts

The first line of evidence was presented by Pusey, even prior to Driver’s criticisms. Indeed, Pusey also demonstrated that even in his own day the theory that Daniel’s Hebrew was post-exilic, had lost considerable support among ‘Higher Criticism’:

‘But where is the proof? Bertholdt [a critic attempting to present this claim]offered none. In his fuller introduction, he rejected the obvious remark of Saudlin which he had before admitted, dropped the imputation of Rabbinisms, but appealed to his own critical tact, that the Hebrew of Daniel must be two centuries later than Ezekiel, Jeremiah, or such Psalms as were written during or soon after the captivity.

He himself, he says, “could not support this by proof in that place, without taking up the room required for other more necessary investigations“. An “accurate critical history of Hebrew and of its development would,” he thought, “supersede the necessity of appealing to his own philological feeling, and would make it plain to sight, that the author of the last five chapters of Daniel must have lived a considerable time after Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.”

A commencement of such a history of Hebrew appeared two years later from one who shared all Bertholdt’s doctrinal prejudices; but Gesenius simply classed Daniel in the “silver age” of Hebrew, with Ezra, Nehemiah, the Chronicles, Esther, and some older books. The words, which he selects as characteristic of that age, occur chiefly in those historical books and in Ecclesiastes, some in Job; and but few in Daniel.

Bleek, and De Wette, after a careful examination of the Hebrew portion of Daniel with a view to the question, for the time distinctly renounced Bertholdt’s notion of the lateness of the style of Daniel; and Bleek semed to think it a gain if any how the style should prove nothing one way of the other. Even Ewald has no thought except of three marked periods of Hebrew writers; that before David; that before the Captivity; and the decline, upon and through the Captivity.

He classes together the language of Ecclesiasties, the Chronicles, Daniel.’

E Pusey, ‘Daniel The Prophet’, pages 34-5, eighth edition, 1886

Other 19th century scholars agreed. Conklin cites the opinions of Barnes (1851), but also of Stuart and Delitzsche, both of whom were supporters of ‘Higher Criticism’, but who agreed with the conservative assessment of Daniel’s Hebrew:

‘Barnes notes that Prof. Stuart looked at “the judgment of Gesenius (Geschich. Heb. Sprach. P. 35), [that the book of Daniel]has decidedly a purer diction that Ezekial; in which opinion, as far a I am able to judge, after much time spent upon the book, and examining minutely every word and phrase in it many times over, I should entirely coincide.” [Barnes, 19]

Barnes later notes that “it is well known that the Hebrew language became greatly adulterated by foreign admixtures soon after the return from the exile, and never regained the purity which it had in the early periods of its history.” [Barnes, 57]

Metzger cites Delitzsche as saying that the “Hebrew of Daniel is closely related to that of Ezekial.” He goes on, “Ezekial, it is agreed, was written about 570 B.C..” [Metzger, 219]’

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

Conklin adds the witness of 20th century scholars who have had the opportunity to compare Daniel’s Hebrew with the latest textual evidence:

‘If Daniel originated in Palestine in the 2nd century B.C. as alleged then why doesn’t the language of the book reflect the Hebrew that was common at that time–i.e., as reflected in the Qumran scrolls? [Goldingay, xxv] Distinct differences have been noted and it has been shown that the Qumran documents have none of the distinct characteristics of the Hebrew chapters in Daniel. [For a detailed presentation see Archer (1974): 470-481] Archer concludes that “in the areas of syntax, word order, morphology, vocabulary, spelling, and word-usage, there is absolutely no possibility of regarding Daniel as contemporary” [to other second century documents]. He submits that “centuries must have intervened between them.”

These findings mean that the Aramaic documents from Qumran require that Daniel was written far earlier than the Maccabean thesis allows and that the book was not written in Palestine.’

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

It is this later textual data which constitutes the second line of evidence, that the Hebrew of Daniel is in fact very different to the Hebrew of later texts:

‘It has been asserted by Driver that the Hebrew of Daniel resembles the Hebrew of a later date (1956, pp. 504-505). Archer has replied to this, and indicated that in the sectarian documents of the Qumran material, which is later, there is no similarity in syntax or in style of expression to that of the Hebrew found in Daniel (1964, p. 391).’

‘The proportion of certain idioms (which Daniel had in common with the middle age of Hebrew) to that of the books that historically are of a late period, demonstrates that there is no marked preponderance of either, while there is not one word or idiom that, in the slightest degree, has reference to an age later than that of the prophet (see Pusey, 1885, p. 462).’

Jeffcoat, ‘The Linguistic Argument For The Date Of Daniel’, page 8-9, 2004

Driver’s third challenge was with regard to Daniel’s use of certain Hebrew words, which he claimed were not congruent with an early date. Jeffcoat provides a comprehensive reply:

‘In endeavoring to justify a date for Daniel that falls after the conquest of Palestine by Alexander the eat, Driver listed some thirty words that were said to occur never or rarely in the earlier literature (1956, p. 508).

To make a plausible case for a late date of Daniel on lexical grounds, it is necessary to show not only that the words or idioms did not occur earlier, but that there was prima facie evidence against the possibility of their appearing. There is no intrinsic probability that any of the terms listed could not have been used much earlier. Words that are not recorded in the literary language are to be found in the dialects.

In discussing this point, W.J. Martin stated: “There is nothing about the Hebrew of Daniel that could be considered extraordinary for a bilingual or, perhaps in this case, a trilingual speaker of the language in the sixth century B.C.” (1965, p. 30).’

‘In ascribing the Hebrew of Daniel to a later date, the charge has been made that it resembles not the Hebrew of Ezekiel, or even of Haggai or Zechariah, but that of the age “subsequent to Nehemiah.”

One of the alleged proofs of such a charge is that in Daniel 1:21 and 8:1, the name of the king precedes the title. [emphasis in original] That this order is a proof of lateness is affirmed in the words of Driver: “So often in the post-exilic writings, the older Hebrew has nearly always the order-‘the king David’ ” (1956, p. 506).

It is somewhat surprising that Driver would employ this particular testimony to suggest that Daniel did not resemble Haggai or Zechariah, but was “subsequent to Nehemiah,” for the books of Haggai, Zechariah, Ezra, and Nehemiah each use the same phrase that is produced as evidence that Daniel is later than they.

Furthermore, higher critics have not produced a single example from Hebrew literature (i.e., literature that they place in the age subsequent to Nehemiah) to show that the form, “the name of the king precedes the title,” was used by the Jews subsequent to Nehemiah. [emphasis in original] The phrase does not occur in Isaiah 24-27; nor does it occur in Jonah, Joel, Ecclesiastes, or in any of the psalms or proverbs (see Wilson, 1959, pp. 96-98).’

Jeffcoat, ‘The Linguistic Argument For The Date Of Daniel’, page 10, 2004

‘Conservative scholars object to a word being considered as an evidence of age when no other word in the language could have expressed the exact meaning as well as the one employed. Thus, gil in Daniel
1:10 is said to indicate a date in the second century B.C., rather than the sixth.

The only reason Driver gave for such a conclusion on his part was that in the use of this word, the Hebrew of Daniel resembles the Hebrew “of the age subsequent to Nehemiah,” since it is used “also in Samaritan and Talmudic” (1956, pp. 506,10). R.D. Wilson has pointed out that it seems strange that it is not found in Ecclesiastes or the Zadokite Fragments-if it characterizes the age “subsequent to Nehemiah.”

Also, it would seem to prove that Daniel was written after the Zadokite Fragments (i.e., after A.D. 40) [1959, pp. 127-128].

No doubt some critics will suggest that the writers of these books had no occasion to use the word, since they do not make any reference to a company of men such as Daniel and his three well-known companions. Such a statement would be correct. However, the same is true of all the writers of the other Old Testament books, and Daniel shows his linguistic ability in that, to express a new idea or a concept different from that employed by others, he made use of a different word.’

Jeffcoat, ‘The Linguistic Argument For The Date Of Daniel’, page 11, 2004

The Use Of Different Languages

One more argument which has been raised regarding the language in Daniel, is that the very use of more than one language in the book is evidence of late authorship.

Jeffcoat responds:

‘Joseph D. Wilson affirmed that the diversity of languages points to the fact that Daniel was composed later than the traditional view would allow (n.d., p. 66). In rebuttal to such a view, it may be observed that Ezra employed this same style of writing, and his work is accepted at face value. Furthermore, an Aramaic text also is found in Jeremiah 10:11.

Such diversity cannot be maintained on a bilingual argument in view of current information regarding literary patterns of the Near East (see Harrison, 1969, p. 1108). The compilation of works in such bifid form was not uncommon in antiquity. Archaeological research has shown that ancient Mesopotamian writers frequently enclosed the main body of a unified literary work within a linguistic form of a contrasting nature to heighten its general effect.

In fact, such is the case in the Code of Hammurabi and in the book of Job (see The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, 1975, pp. 12-13).’

Jeffcoat, ‘The Linguistic Argument For The Date Of Daniel’, page 11, 2004


Despite the many arguments of the critics, the available linguistic evidence supports an early, rather than a late date for the composition of Daniel:

‘Wegner points out that “there is no evidence that the foreign-language terminology [i.e. the Greek and Persian words]used in certain passages of Daniel is common to any of the Dead Sea writings.” [Wegner, 114] Whereas, given that the Dead Sea scrolls were written at the time commonly claimed that the book of Daniel was written then we “have a valid right to expect to find” those words in the Dead Sea scrolls. The absence of these words in the other Dead Sea scrolls indicates that Daniel was not written at the same time the Dead Sea scrolls were written.’

‘After examining all of the linguistic indicators Kitchen concludes: “One would–on the Greek and Persian evidence …–prefer to put the Aramaic of Daniel in the late sixth, the fifth, or the fourth centuries BC, not the third or second. The latter is not ruled out, but is much less realistic and not so favoured by the facts as was once imagined.” [Kitchen (1965): 50; cited by Baldwin (1978a): 34]

Boutflower, page 257, reports that R. D. Wilson studied the composition of the various words found in Daniel in his article “The Aramaic of Daniel,” for Biblical and Theological Studies. (Princeton, 1912).

Wilson then concluded, on page 304: “we are abundantly justified in concluding that the dialect of Daniel, containing as it does so many Persian, Hebrew, and Babylonian elements, and so few Greek words, with not one Egyptian, Latin, or Arabic word, and being so nearly allied in grammatical form and structure to the older Aramaic dialects and in its conglomerate vocabulary to the dialects of Ezra and Egypto-Aramaic, must have been used at or near Babylon at a time not long after the founding of the Persian empire.”

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


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