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  • On The Authenticity of The Book Of Daniel

    December 4, 2023

    Warning: This post is incomplete. I started it in December of 2023, but never got the opportunity to complete it. Now, in April, I have decided to just publish what I have because it may be a useful starting point.

    Please be aware of any typos or incomplete/incorrectly cited information. Also excuse the increased brevity of the later sections, as they have not been fully written yet.

    It has recently come to my attention that the Book of Daniel is a widely disputed book with many claims about the date of its authorship. Some claim that, despite it and the rest of the Bible's claims to the contrary, Daniel was written in the 2nd century BC. If these claims are true, then the author of Daniel would be a false prophet and the book should probably be removed from the Biblical canon. In this way, the claim of a later authorship of Daniel and thus the claim that Daniel is not authentic is a large one, so care should be taken in addressing it.

    I have done extensive research on this topic and am now going to make the case that Daniel is, in fact, an authentic book that belongs in the Biblical canon because its author is indeed Daniel, and it was indeed written when it claims it was written, in the 6th century BC.

    First, let's hear what the text of Daniel itself has to say about its authorship:

    1In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters.

    — Daniel 7:1

    1In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar a vision appeared unto me, even unto me Daniel, after that which appeared unto me at the first.

    — Daniel 8:1

    1In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans; 2In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.

    — Daniel 9:1-2

    1In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, a thing was revealed to Daniel, whose name was called Belteshazzar; and the thing true, but the time appointed was long: and he understood the thing, and had understanding of the vision. 2 In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks.

    — Daniel 10:1-2

    So you can see here how we have an issue, because the book of Daniel clearly makes the claim that Daniel himself wrote it, and clearly he did so in the 6th century BC, because we know for an absolute fact that Cyrus reigned over Babylon from 539-530 BC. Thus, if these claims about Daniel in the book that carries his name are not true, then the book could not have been written by Daniel and its value in the canon of the Bible would be totally undermined, since it would not be telling the truth.

    The Claim: Daniel Was Written In The 2nd Century BC.

    I have already established that the argument that Daniel was written much later than it claims has much larger implications on its authenticity and truthfulness than one might assume at first glance, but I should lay out exactly why the claim that Daniel was written in the 2nd century is made. There are a number of reasons, many of which are cited by Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica, among other generally reputable sources.

    These claims are summarized as follows:

    A number of auxillary claims1 are also made about Daniel, which seek to provide additional evidence for later authorship:

    Is The Reasoning Legitimate?

    When I sat down to begin my research on this topic, I will admit that I was initially overwhelmed. However, I have good reason to believe that the claims made above are either outright false, or do not actually provide a valid line of reasoning for a 2nd century dating of Daniel. Many of these claims have been made since at least the 3rd century AD2, but they are of little importance or have since been disproven.

    In this section, I will systematically analyze each of the claims presented above, and determine whether or not they are (1) historically accurate and (2) relevant to the overall claim that Daniel was in fact written much later than it states.

    Apocalyptic Literature

    When Biblical scholars say the phrase "Apocalyptic Literature", they typically are referring to 2nd century literature that makes broad prophetic claims—except these works are written by people that are not prophets. There is a clear distinction between the prophets of the Old Testament and these apocalyptic books. The Old Testament prophets verbally told their prophesies, which were then recorded later either by Jewish scribes or the prophets themselves. Additionally, because of the bold claims that the prophets made, they were generally well-known as they did not attempt to hide their identity. However, the 2nd century apocalyptic works were never verbally told—they were simply written down by unknown authors that lived in obscurity, or at least, enough obscurity that historians have not been able to identify them.

    There are many non-canonical Jewish books that fall into this category. These books often exist in so many varying and conflicting manuscripts, are riddled with historical errors or inaccuracies, and don't have any clear indication that they are the words of God. That is why they are not a part of the Jewish and Christian canon.

    The argument being made here is that Daniel belongs not with the Prophets or in the Writings of the Hebrew Bible, but to this Apocalyptic body of literature because it very closely resembles this style of writing. In other words, critics say that it just reads like it is too mythical, and therefore couldn't possibly be true.

    This argument feels weak to me, because it could just as easily be said that the apocalyptic books were inspired by the Old Testament prophets, which seems extremely likely. In that case, their similarity to the Prophets is to be expected. Just because a book is similar to another one does not necessarily mean that they were from the same period, particularly if one of the books was written after the other one, which was well-known and popular, because it could just as well be merely heavily influenced by it.

    Additionally, there are many apocryphal books that actually where written during the 2nd century BC, such as Judith, and many of these books have many historical mistakes, unlike Daniel, which does not have any mistakes. Judith in particular is classified as an apocryphal book because of its historical inaccuracies and the lack of surviving manuscripts—the oldest existing version of Judith is in the Septuagint, an early Greek translation from Hebrew; the original Hebrew manuscript has long been lost.

    Finally, I might also add that if one believes in prophesy—a belief that can easily be supported by the verified date of authorship of the other prophetic books in the Bible—then one should have no difficulties accepting the fact that God can make prophesies as specific or as general as He would like, so the claim that Daniel's prophesies are too specific to be true prophesies and therefore must have been written after the fact is actually a much larger claim that predictive prophesy altogether is impossible. That claim is not one against Daniel, but against the Bible as a whole, so that is a topic for another time.

    Saying that Daniel just feels too similar to the apocalyptic literature of the 2nd century BC for it to not be is very abstract and not that helpful, so I don't think it is worth my tme and effort to go into it too much here beyond those few remarks. The remainder of the claims are much more useful to us because they are much more concrete.

    Historical Accuracy

    The argument that because the historical accuracy of Daniel is low the author could not possibly have written the book during the time period in which it is set is an understandable one if it was being made prior to a few centuries ago. However, modern archaeology has almost certainly proven the historical accuracy—or otherwise explained away the perceived inaccuracies—of the book of Daniel.


    Prior to 1854, one of the prominant claims against Daniel was that the author frequently referred to Belshazzar, who historians were convinced didn't actually exist because there was no evidence for him. However, since then, enough evidence in the form of cuneiform writing has made mention of Belshazzar that it is no longer a question that he existed. We know for certain that he did in the region Daniel says he did.

    Of course, although the claim that Belshazzar did not exist is no longer a tenable one, there are still outstanding claims about Belshazzar, the main being that Belshazzar was not in fact the son of Nebuchadnezzar as Daniel claims in Daniel 5:22. It does appear to be well-known that Belshazzar was actually the son of Nabonidus, who is historically known to be the last king of Babylon. While historians don't know for certain, there are many sources that suggest that Nabonidus married the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar, which would make Belshazzar the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar. Given that there are no Hebrew or Aramaic words for "grandfather" or "grandson", it makes perfect sense that Daniel would refer to Belshazzar as the son of Nebuchadnezzar if this is the case. It is well-known throughout the Bible that the phrase "son of" does not always mean literal son. It just means "descendent of", and there are numerous examples of this scattered throughout the Old and New Testaments.

    The other claim is that Belshazzar was never actually a king, so the way Daniel refers to him—as a king—doesn't make much sense. Since Nabonidus was the last king in Babylon, Daniel calling Belshazzar, his son, a king would imply that Daniel didn't know what he was talking about. However, this actually is not so. It is extremely reasonable to assume that the king's son would have had great influence over the kingdom and in some cases could be considered a king himself. Look at Daniel 5:16, in which Belshazzar states:

    And I have heard of thee, that thou canst make interpretations, and dissolve doubts: now if thou canst read the writing, and make known to me the interpretation thereof, thou shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a gold chain about thy neck, and shalt be the third ruler in the kingdom.

    — Daniel 5:16

    Notice that Belshazzar is offering Daniel the third highest ruling position in the kingdom. This may seem very odd, but if we take the stance that his father was first, and he was second, then we see clearly that the third was the highest position he could offer. So it appears that Daniel does, in fact, understand the political situation of the 6th century BC, because this extremely specific statement indicates that while, maybe perhaps not in the most technical sense of the word, Belshazzar, son of Nabonidus king of Babylon was in fact a king with great power, particularly if he is able to offer Daniel a ruling position, but not the highest ruling position. This does not conflict whatsover with what we know of Nabonidus.

    The Fall Of Jerusalem

    There also appears to be a problem with Daniel 1:1 regarding the fall of Jerusalem, which states:

    1In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and beseiged it.

    The reason that this is supposedly problematic is because of Jeremiah 46:2, which states:

    2Against Egypt, against the army of Pharaoh-necho king of Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates in Carchemish, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon smote in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah.

    (Emphasis mine).

    This contradiction of the well-known and well-established book of Jeremiah—in the very first verse of Daniel, no less—is supposedly proof that Daniel is historically inaccurate.

    As it turns out, placing events in time in the ancient world is a hot mess. This is because different regions used different calendars, and the duration of kings' reigns were measured differently as well. So, as silly as it sounds, the legitimate answer to this claim is that both Jeremiah and Daniel are correct, and there is no contradiction here whatsoever—both writers are saying the exact same thing, making this particular inaccuracy a moot point entirely.

    Let me explain. There are two main systems used for counting the years of a king's reign in the Bible. The first is the Babylonian accession year system, which counts the years of a king's reign starting in the first month of the year following his accession. For example, say that I ascended to a throne in October of 2023. Under the Babylonian system, the first year of my reign does not start until January of 2024. The reason the Babylonians did this was to provide a simple way to keep track of events that occurred during a king's reign, because no matter when the king ascended, his reign was always measured from the first month of the year, so statements like "in the second year of Jordan's reign" would always mean the same year regardless of when I technically started my reign within the calendar year.

    However, the system used in Judah was not like this. They counted the years of a king's reign starting immediately after that king begun reigning. In the best-case scenarios, this would only be a few months different than the Babylonian system, so it effectively wasn't a big deal, however it could be up to a year off3. This perfectly explains why Jeremiah and Daniel differ in the way they place events in time under Nebuchadnezzar's rule, because Daniel used the Babylonian accession year system, whereas Jeremiah used the system that was used in Judah because that is where he did his prophesying.

    Darius The Mede

    Finally, to top off the section on historical accuracy, many argue that Darius the Mede is a fictitious person. Since no historical evidence for him exists, he was not real and thus Daniel is a work of fiction.

    It is true that Darius the Mede is unknown to history, but that in and of itself is not proof that he did not exist. Indeed, since it is speculation to say that he did not exist, we should find it beneficial to speculate about who he was. There is, surprisingly, more than one possible explanation, but the most likely and widely held belief is that Darius the Mede was a governor named Gubaru. Critics claim that there was no such king as Darius the Mede over Babylon, but like Belthazzar, the title "king" was not used in the highest sense—in Hebrew, the same word for "king" was also used for "governor" or "prince". Belthazzar was both; Darius the Mede was only the former.

    We know that Darius the Mede was a governor because Daniel says this in Daniel 5:31:

    So Darius the Mede received the kingdom at about the age of sixty-two.

    — Daniel 5:31 (NASB)

    I chose the NASB in quoting this verse to emphasize the original meaning of the Hebrew word for received, which is translated more accurately in the NASB than the KJV. The word received is passive, and implies that Darius was not the highest authority, but some authority was handed down to him from a king in the highest sense. Daniel 9:1, which says Darius was made king, also confirms that Daniel knew and understood the position of Darius as governor, not supreme king.

    Daniel 5:31's statement about Darius the Mede's age is also significant, and supports the notion that Darius the Mede was in fact Gubaru the Mede, who we know was born in 601 BC and appointed to rule Babylon when he was exactly 62 years old. Thus, we have good reason to suggest that the historical person Gubaru is the Darius of which Daniel speaks.

    Finally, there is the possibility that "Darius" is actually not a name, but a title of honor, possibly meaning something along the lines of "Holder of the Scepter" or even just "holder", "supporter", or "lord". This would make the literal translation of "Darius the Mede" actually be "The Scepter Holder of the Medes" or "Lord of the Medes". This would actually make sense in the context of Daniel if Gubaru is who the author speaks of, because then we have no trouble with the name discrepency between the Bible and other non-Biblical sources. Not only does the timing and information about Gubaru match what is in Daniel, but the title "Darius" accurately reflects his title.

    We therefore have good reason to believe that Darius the Mede was a historical person.

    Placement In The Hebrew Bible

    The first of our auxillary arguments is in regard to the placement of Daniel in the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew Bible is divided into three large books, each composed of smaller books, which Christians recognize as the Old Testament. These books are as follows:

    The book of Daniel is full of prophesy and visions from God. As such, one might expect that it would be in the Nev'im, probably as a Minor Prophet. However, it is not. It is in the Ketuvim as a historical writing. Critics that doubt the authenticity of Daniel argue that if it were actually written in the 6th century BC, it would have been in with the prophets. Instead, the fact that it is relegated to the Writings in the Hebrew Bible is proof that it was written later and the author did not have the credentials to be a true prophet.

    While scholars are apparently unable to reach a consensus on when the Hebrew Bible canon was closed, conservative estimates place it at roughly 400 BC, while more liberal estimates are between 200 BC and 200 AD. Despite this large range, any date chosen within it supports an early composition of Daniel, because none of the 2nd century books are included in the canon; they were either written well after the canon was closed, while the canon was being finalized, or only shortly before the canon was closed depending on which date you hold to.

    In the first case, the fact that Daniel is included in the Hebrew canon is proof that it is at least written in 400 BC, but probably much earlier if it was known well enough at the time of canonization. In the second case, Daniel would have been written while the Hebrew Bible was being canonized, so it would not have been included because it would have been obscure or apocryphal. Thus, the fact that it is included in the canon suggests an older composition date. Finally, in the last case, Daniel would still be recent enough of a book that probably would not have been included in the canon for the same reasons: obscurity and unauthenticity.

    Additionally, the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered in the 1940s and 1950s, were created between the 3rd and 1st century BC, right around the time that Daniel was supposedly written. However, the Dead Sea Scrolls have eight translatable copies of Daniel. This clearly suggests a much earlier composition date for Daniel, because if it were just being produced when the Dead Sea Scrolls were created, they would not contain the book of Daniel, let alone so many translatable copies. The fact that there are so many copies indicates that Daniel was well-known at the time, which can only mean that it had been around for a while.

    The Book Of Sirach

    Sirach is an apocryphal book produced in the 2nd century BC. It is said that since Daniel is not mentioned in Sirach, it must have been written around the same time, because if it were written much earlier, Ben Sira, the author of Sirach, would have mentioned it.

    For those unfamiliar with Sirach, as I was before I started this study, you may be wondering why so much weight is placed on mention in a non-canonical book. In other words, why should we care that some uninspired, non-Biblical writer didn't mention Daniel in his writing? Well, Sirach is an interesting book in that it contains 6 chapters at the end which identify every single one of the books of the soon-canonical Old Testament, some exceptions being Ezra, Daniel, Ruth, Esther, and the Chronicles. This indicates that Ben Sira heavily influenced the Hebrew canon.

    This is intriguing because Ben Sira makes such a comprehensive list of books, yet Daniel is not in it. One would think that if Daniel was the hero he is said to be and was as well-known, Ben Sira would have mentioned him. However, the lack of Daniel's presence in Ben Sira's list is not something that disproves the authenticity of Daniel. Ben Sira's book is not Biblical canon, and it makes no claims of being exhaustive. Additionally, the fact that it omits Ezra, Job, and all of the Judges of Israel, among other Biblical figures that were of great importance to the Jewish people, is proof that, while perhaps Ben Sira was influential in developing the Hebrew canon, he did not include everything that was a part of the canon, so the omission of Daniel from Sirach should not be too surprising to us.

    Persian Loan Words

    The claim that the presence of words loaned from Persian means that Daniel could not have been written as early as it claims is simply altogether false. In fact, the loan words actually require Daniel to have been written earlier than at least 320 BC.

    The Persian words in Daniel are in fact so old that they were initially mis-translated for many years. This contradicts the notion that the Persian loan words require a more recent composition, because early translators of Daniel would have translated the book around 160-150 B.C. This leaves way too short of a time between Daniel's supposed composition and when it would have been translated. It seems highly unlikely that in just a few decades, the meaning of these words would be so totally lost that they were mistranslated.

    Additionally, none of the words used in Daniel are used in any literature after 320 BC. Two Persian words used in Daniel are found in other texts from the 6th and 5th centuries. So the words actually don't place Daniel in the 2nd century at all—the evidence suggests that these loan words were well known at the time of Daniel, and their inclusion in the book doesn't surprise scholars at all. I'm not sure where the claim that the loan words indicate a later composition date even comes from, but I cannot find any evidence to support it whatsoever. As another blow to the argument, many of the words that were previously thought to be Persian words are actually Babylonian words, so their use in Daniel is perfectly appropriate, given that the book takes place in Babylon.

    Grammatical Person

    The argument that because Daniel is written in the third person in some places prevents it from being written by Daniel doesn't have any merit in the context of the established authorship of many of the other books of the Old Testament, because most of the Old Testament is written in the third person. In this time period, and particularly in Hebrew, authors frequently refer to themselves in the third person. A notable example would be the first 5 books of the Old Testament, which are attributed to Moses, who wrote about himself in the 3rd person.

    There really isn't anything else that needs to be said on this subject. I find it to be a rather weak argument, so it doesn't require a lengthy response.

    1st Century BC Additions

    It is well-known that there were three additions to the book of Daniel in the 1st century. Skeptics of Daniel use this as evidence that the whole book must be recent, but the logic there doesn't follow. First and most importantly, the late additions to Daniel are not canonical. They are not included in the Hebrew or Christian Bibles, and are classified as apocryphal books. This means that from very early on, scholars knew that the late additions were different from the original book. Given this, the late additions are totally irrelevant to the argument about the authenticity of the original book. They are not even canonical to begin with, so their authorship and date of composition do not matter, and the fact that they exist at all does not affect the authenticity of the original book either way.


    Aramaic was primarily spoken by the Jewish people in the time between the Old and New Testaments. Thus, the fact that roughly half of the book of Daniel is written in Aramaic suggests a later composition date. Aramaic actually existed in many forms for many centuries, and one of these forms is the "court" or "imperial" dialect in which Daniel is written. This dialect showed up much earlier than the more common dialects, and very few people would have even known this dialect, only those with high political status, such as Daniel.


    The evidence that the book of Daniel is historically accurate is overwhelming. Even though what appears to be the majority of historians find reasons to doubt its authenticity, simply working through each of their claims slowly and carefully is enough to see that they are incorrect. The author of Daniel clearly had a solid grasp on the politics and history of the 6th century BC—certainly a much better understanding than we do now, at the very least—and could thus not have written the book later. Any discrepencies in Daniel are trivial to resolve, so we have no reason to doubt its authorship or authority.

    The 66 canonical books of the Bible are divinely inspired. We know this because they have been faithfully preserved for generations with no substantial deviations from the original texts. We have more evidence for the authenticity of the Bible than we do for anything else in all of human history. There is more historical evidence for Jesus than there is for Julius Ceasar, for example. The fact that Daniel is included in the Hebew and Christian canon is evidence enough of its authenticity, but it is not the only evidence. A clear and compelling case can easily be made using external sources and reasoning that Daniel deserves its spot as Biblical canon.

    It is my suspicion that the lense through which most historians look is one that intentionally seeks to undermine the historical accuracy of the Bible, reducing it to superstition, legend, and fiction. However, time and time again, the Bible is—perhaps against all odds, it may seem—proven to be historically accurate. And because the Bible is historically accurate, we have even more reason to trust that what it says about God is true, making it the single most important book we can ever have. The prophesies of Daniel are spectacular, and speak well to the omnipotence and sovereignty of God.

    1. Which I consider such because they are only mentioned briefly and not in much seriousness, and are generally not the most typical or strong claims in the controversy surrounding Daniel. 

    2. Greek Philosopher Porphyry wrote Against The Christians, in which he details his arguments regarding the impossibility of long-range predictive prophesy. 

    3. A king whose reign begun in February would not have his entire first year counted in the Babylon system, because his reign would still be recorded as starting in the January of the following year. 

    4. Not to be confused with Sirach, or Ecclesiasticus. Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon. 

    © 2019-2024 Jordan Bancino.