The Failed Prophecies of Daniel
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14 September 2006 (Revisions and updates through 28 January 2009)
Daniel 11:1-4 TANAKH
"In the first year of Darius the Mede, I took my stand to strengthen and fortify him. And now I will tell you the truth: Persia will have three more kings, and the fourth will be wealthier than them all; by the power he obtains from his wealth, he will stir everyone up against the kingdom of Greece. Then a warrior king will appear who will have an extensive dominion and do as he pleases. But after his appearance, his kingdom will be broken up and scattered to the four winds of heaven, but not for any of his posterity, nor with dominion like that which he had; for his kingdom will be uprooted and belong to others beside these."
(TANAKH, The Holy Scriptures. Philadelphia & New York. The Jewish Publication Society. 1988. 5748 [year of the Creation])
Mitchell First is interested in the discrepancies appearing in the Seder Olam Rabbah, a chronological work held in high esteem by many Jews versus the Conventional Chronology for the Kings of Persia appearing in the Book of Daniel. In his work he draws upon Daniel's prophecy of three Persian Kings yet to rise before Persia is overcome by Greece (under Alexander the Great).
My interest in Daniel is in showing the viewer that Daniel is NOT a prophet of God, he is a false prophet. His chronology for the Kings of Persia defies the records of that nation preserved by the Greeks as well as what has been discovered by archaeologists. His famous "70 weeks of years" prophecy is understood NOT to refer to Jesus and the destruction of the Temple ca. 70 AD (CE) but to be consumated with Antiochus IV's death. That is to say the Jewish author of Daniel is using flawed methodologies in calculating the reigns of the Persian kings and Antiochus IV's end was not as predicted. Christians are using flawed methodologies in ascribing Daniel's 70 weeks of years as a prophecy concerning Christ's appearance and mission.
"According to Seder Olam Rabbah (SO), the work that forms the basis for almost all rabbinic chronology, the period from the defeat of the Babylonians by the Medeo-Persians until the beginning of Greek rule encompassed 52 years and spanned the reigns of three Persian kings. According to the chronology that is universally accepted by historians today (conventional chronology), this period of Persian rule over the land of Israel encompassed 207 years (539 to 332 BCE) and during this period more than ten Persian kings reigned."
(p. xix. "Statement of Purpose." Mitchell First. Jewish History in Conflict: A Study of the Major Discrepancy Between Rabbinic and Conventional Chronology. Northvale, New Jersey. Jason Aronson, Incorporated. 1997. ISBN 1-56821-970-9)
"Seder Olam is a rabbinic chronological work attributed by the Talmud to Rabbi Yose ben Halafta (2nd century CE). Seder Olam's chronology of the Persian and Second Temple periods can be easily constructed from several passages within the work. According to Seder Olam's chronology:
1. The length of the period from the defeat of the Babylonians by the Medeo-Persians until the beginning of the Greek period was 52 years.
2. These 52 years spanned the reigns of one Medean king and three Persian kings: Koresh, Ahashverosh, and Daryavesh.
3. The length of the period from the commencement of the building of the Second Temple in the reign of Daryavesh until the beginning of the Greek period was 34 years.
4. The length of the entire Second Temple period was 420 years. The period of Persian dominion spanned the first 34 of these years, and the periods of Greek, Hasmonean, and Roman dominion spanned the following 386 years.
If the destruction of the Second Temple took place in the year 70 CE, the Seder Olam's chronology would imply that the Medeo-Persian period commenced in the year 369 BCE, that the commencement of the building of the Second Temple was in the year 351 BCE, and that the entire Medeo-Persian period spanned only the years 369 to 317 BCE. (pp. 3-4. First)
The Conventional Chronology was derived largely from the narrative works of Greek historians from the Persian period and from the astronomical tables of the Egyptian astronomer Ptolemy (2nd century CE). According to the conventional chronology:
1. The length of the period from the defeat of the Babylonians by the Persians until the beginning of the Greek period was 207 years.
2. These 207 years spanned the reigns of more than ten Persian kings. These kings included: Cyrus, Cambyses, Darius I, Xerxes I, Artaxerxes I, Darius II, Artaxerxes II, Artaxerxes III, Arses, and Darius III.
3. The length of the period from the commencement of the building of the Second Temple in the reign of Darius I until the beginning of the Greek period was 188 years.
4. The length of the entire Second Temple period was 589 years. The period of Persian dominion spanned the first 188 of these years and the periods of Greek, Hasmonean, and Roman dominion spanned the following 401 years.
In the conventional chronology, the Persian period commenced in the year 539 BCE, the commencement of the building of the Second Temple was in the year 520 BCE, and the entire Persian period spanned the years 539 to 332 BCE." (pp. 4-5. First)
A comparison of the two chronologies shows that descrepancies of about 154 to 169 years exist between them regarding the lengths of the Persian and Second Temple periods. These discrepancies are due almost entirely to the underlying discrepancy that exists between two chronologies regarding the length of the Persian period, which Seder Olam views as spanning 52 years (including the brief reign of te Medean king Daryavesh) and the conventional chronology views as spanning 207 years...This discrepancy is not merely a discrepancy between the conventional chronology and a chronolgy of the Persian period found in one ancient rabbinic work. Seder Olam's chronology of the Persian and Second Temple periods is included in and adopted by the Talmud and is viewed by all authorities as implicit in the accepted Jewish count from creation. Any suggestion that the Persian or Second Temple periods were longer than the time assigned to them by Seder Olam is also an attack on the accuracy of the traditions of the Talmud and on the accuracy of the accepted Jewish count from creation.
This discrepancy is also not simply a discrepancy between rabbinic chronology and the conventional chronology. The Seder Olam chronology, or something close to it, is also implicit in verse 11:2 of the book of Daniel. This verse, in the form of a prediction, states that the Persian period would span the reigns of only a few Persian kings. Any suggestion that the Persian period spanned the reigns of ten or more Persian kings ia an attack on the authority of this biblical verse." (pp. 5-7. First)
"The verse refers to three Persian kings and then to a fourth king, who will all reign before the Greek period. The simplest understanding of the verse is that it refers to four Persian kings. Seder Olam understands the verse as consistent with its own chronology of one Medean and three Persian kings." (p. 6. Note 15. First)
"Saadiah Gaon (882-942) refers to the view of the Christians and some others that the Persian period spanned the reigns of seventeen Persian kings. He argues that Daniel 11:1-2 refutes such a claim and proves that the period between the Babylonian era and the Greek era could have spanned the reigns of four kings: one Medean king and three Persian kings.
Saadiah believes that the view of the Christians is the result of their having purposely increased the length of the Persian period. He postulates that they purposely increased the length of the Persian period so that Daniel's prophecy about an annoited one who will be cut off toward the end of the 70 weeks would fall chronologically around the time of Jesus. He then criticizes the Christians for having the audacity to claim that the Jews purposely eliminated these same years (so that the above prophecy would not fall chronologically around the time of Jesus)." (pp. 11-12. First)
"In the modern period, the responses of non-Jewish scholars to the discrepancy fall almost uniformly into category B. Moreover, the non-Jewish scholars in the modern period usually refer to the Seder Olam's chronology only briefly, making either no attempt to account for the chronology, or little attempt other than stating that the chronology was the result of the author's insufficient knowledge of the Persian period or was derived from the "seventy weeks" of Daniel 9:24-27.Many non-Jewish scholars who refer to the Seder Olam's chronology do so in the context of their discussion of the Damascus Document of the Dead Sea Scrolls, or of chapters 9 and 11 of the book of Daniel, which chapters (as well as all chapters commencing with chapter 7) they believe were authored or put into final form in the 2nd century BCE...Note that any non-Jew who wishes to maintain that all the historical statements included in the Bible are accurate is faced with a discrepancy similar to the one that is the topic of this study. Daniel 11:2 implies that the Persian period spanned the reigns of only a few Persian kings, while the conventional chronology is to the contrary. This discrepancy is much discussed in the literature of the non-Jews. The response of those who believe in the historical accuracy of all the statements included in the Bible is that Daniel 11:2 did not intend an enumeration of all the Persian kings. The response of those who do not have this belief, e.g., most modern scholars, is usually that chapters 7-12 of the book of Daniel were authored or put into final form in the 2nd century BCE at a time when the true chronology of the Persian period was forgotten." (pp. 203-205. First)
Montgomery on Daniel's four kings:
"The three remaining kings of Persia. "Behold yet three kings are to stand up for Persia; and the fourth shall be rich in riches greater than all; and when he is waxed strong through his riches he shall arouse the whole, the kingdom of Greece."
"The writer [Montgomery] finds himself in a small minority in identifying the four kings of Persia as Cyrus (and three yet to come), Xerxes, Artaxerxes, Darius III Codomannus, the four Persian kings named in the Bible, the last one denoted as 'the Persian,' Nehemiah 12:22. For our book distinctly excludes the Median kingdom with its representavive Darius (v.1) as preceding the Persian. But that position was taken by Saadia, as cited by AEz., namely Darius the Mede, Cyrus, Xerxes, Darius the Persian, a view known to Jer., who criticizes it as 'in vain.' The oldest interpreter, Hipp. iv, 41, found the four kings, Cyrus, Darius, Artaxerxes, Xerxes (sic), But Jeremiah [a scholar not the prophet] interprets the text as of four kings after Cyrus, making 'the fourth' additional to the 'three.'...The first to try to equate the four or five kings with the actual sequence of the Persian line was Jer., who names Cyrus, Cambyses, Pseudo-Smerdis, Darius, Xerxes. Most recent commentators, agreeing that four kings in toto are meant, obtain various combinations: Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes, Artaxerxes...or Cyrus, Cambyses, Pseudo-Smerdis, Darius...The crux of but four kings in Persian history was recognized by Jer., who explains" "non enim curae fuit spiritui prophetali historiae ordinem sequi sed praeclara quaeque praestringere." Behr. interprets the four as 'cyclic,' and Zock. as 'symbolic.' But we must reject this rationalizing and follow the veritas biblica; Ra., true to the traditional Jewish chronology, notes at 10:20 that there were but 34 years between the rebuilding of the temple and Alexander..."
(pp. 422-423. James A. Montgomery. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Daniel. Edinburgh, Scotland. T. & T. Clark. 1927. reprint of 1989)
I note that Daniel's prophecies were important to early Christians as they used them to support the notion that Daniel had prophecised Christ's birth and mission.
Daniel mentions Darius son of Ahasuerus, by birth a Mede, and a ruler of Chaldea (Dan 9:1, 11:1) and Cyrus, King of Persia (10:1). Yet, three "more" kings of Persia will arise, all unnamed (11:2). This would total 6 kings, yet the "third to come" is called "the 4th king." Daniel has some lapses regarding what he has already stated, that he, Daniel, knows in his lifetime three kings: Ahasuerus (a Mede?), Darius (a Mede) and Cyrus, in addition to a future three unnamed kings.
Daniel's sequence of rulers appears to be out of order: Belshazzar (a Chaldean) (7:1); Darius "the Mede" (9:1); Cyrus (10:1).
Daniel claims Darius the Mede is a son of Ahasuerus (9:1), but the Behistun rock face inscription has Darius I claiming he is the son of Hystaspes, and the grandson of Arsames. This same inscription notes that rule was borne by Cyrus, then his son Cambyses, then a Gaumata the Magian who falsely claimed to be Smerdis the dead brother of Cambyses. This "interloper" is overthrown 522-521 BC by Darius I. Daniel's sequence of Persian kings _at no point_ resembles that preserved in Persian records (Behistun). With the fall of Babylon Cyrus the Persian (cf. Isaiah 44:28 & 45:1) becomes the "first" non-Chaldean ruler of that city-state, _not_ Darius the Mede (Dan 9:1).
It appears to me that the 70 "weeks of years" (computed as 490 years) is to terminate with the death of Antiochus IV (Dan 9:24-27) who was prevented by the Romans from conquering Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia (Dan 11:40-44). His death is to occur in 3 more years in Palestine between the Mediterranean Sea and Jerusalem or Mount Zion "the holy mount" (Dan 11:45; 12:6-7), but instead, he dies in Mesopotamia shortly after an attempt to plunder a temple at Elymais in 163 BC. He carried out a war against Egypt with some success from 171-168 BC, he beseiged Alexandria but the Romans forced him to retire in that year. (cf. p. 86. "Antiochus Epiphanes." Harry Thurston Peck. Harper's Dictionary of Classical Literature and Antiquities. New York. Harper & Brothers. 1896. reprint 1923)
As noted by First the Seder Olam Rabbah's chronology appears to support the Book of Daniel's notions that only four kings reigned over Persia before the Greek dominion was established under Alexander the Great. I suspect modern scholars are correct, Daniel was written in the 2nd century BCE by a Jew who was unaware of the "real" chronology of the Kings of Persia. He didn't know their order of succession, how many there were, or how long each reigned.
The author of Daniel is aware of Antiochus IV's intent to wage war on Egypt and conquer it and his abandonment of this enterprise due to intervention by the Romans (The Romans being identified with the "kittim ships" of Dan 11:30). This war begins circa 171 BCE, but by 168 BCE he is forced to retire from Egypt by the Romans. Because the author of Daniel is UNAWARE that Antiochus did NOT attempt another conquest of Egypt out of fear of the Romans, the text has to have been written some time _after_ the Romans had intervened to prevent the fall of Alexandria (the Ptolemaic capital) to the Syrian king. The kittim ships prophecy is the prophet's last accurate prophecy. Everything else which follows is contradicted by events preserved in Greek and Roman histories of the era. Daniel was probably written some time shortly after 168 BC (after the Roman intervention) and before Antiochus IV's death in Mesopotamia circa 164/163 BC.
The "end" of the "70 weeks of years" (490 years), was to occur shortly after Antiochus IV's death in Judah, after his successfully conquering Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia which never happened. Antiochus did not die in Judah as prophecised by Daniel, but in Mesopotamia. Daniel's 70 weeks of years has nothing to do with the birth of Christ and the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem (in 70 AD) as later claimed by the early Christians.
Daniel 11:40-44 presents Antiochus winning a war against Egypt, seizing its wealth and conquering Libya and Ethiopia. This did not happen. He feared the Romans who prevented his earlier conquest of Egypt, who intervened while he was besieging Alexandria and who forced him to lift the siege and leave Egypt (the Romans being the "kittim ships" of Daniel 11:30).
Daniel 11:44 claims that Antiochus will die while pitching his tents "between the sea and the glorious mountain" AFTER CONQUERING EGYPT, LIBYA AND ETHIOPIA. Most Secular scholars understand that the "glorious mountain" is Mount Zion at Jerusalem. In other words, God will destroy the persecutor of his people in the Holy Land, in Judah. It never happened. Antiochus IV died of injuries sustained in an attempt to sack a temple treasury in Elam near Persia in Mesopotamia, not in Judah.
Daniel 12:1-3 suggests a resurrection of the dead, but this event never occurred shortly after Antiochus IV's death.
Daniel is dated circa 167 BC by some scholars on the basis of the detailed events aligning with Antiochus IV and is considered a pious fraud.
The following concerns have been made about Daniel by Secular Scholars:
(1) How accurate is his knowledge about the rise of Persia and its kings according to which he was "allegedly" an eye-witness?
According to Persian records (the Behistun monument) Daniel was wrong.
(2) How accurate is his knowledge of events in the days of Antiochus IV?
Daniel is more or less accurate regarding the invasion of Egypt and the Romans (kittim ships) causing Antiochus IV to give up the conquest of Egypt in 168 B.C.
(3) How accurate is his knowledge of events which were to transpire after the Roman intervention in Egypt (after 168 B.C.)?
Not accurate at all.
Fox on Daniel's inaccuracies about Antiochus IV of Syria and his attempt to overthrow the worship of Yahweh and replace him with a Greek god (Daniel 11:21-44):
"Daniel's apocalyptic text was beautifully peppered with obscurities...In the later third century (c. 270-300) a sharp-eyed pagan critic, Porphyry, remarked that Daniel's accurate knowledge stopped abruptly in 167 B.C: the book, then, must have been faked at that moment because after 167, it was wrong. No body believed him, neither Jews nor Christians, and under a Christian Empire the book in which he argued the truth was burned. In its absence people continued to believe that Daniel was a genuine prophet and that the 'seventy weeks' looked forward to Christ. Not until 1672 was the truth rediscovered and not until the nineteeth century was it accepted as basic knowledge by scholars."
(p. 337. Robin Lane Fox. The Unauthorized Version, Truth and Fiction in the Bible. New York. Alfred A. Knopf. 1992)