Who wrote the Book of Daniel?

SHARE

By BibleAsk Team


The question of authorship concerning the Book of Daniel has been a subject of scholarly debate for centuries. Traditional Jewish and Christian belief attributes the authorship of Daniel to the prophet Daniel himself, who lived during the Babylonian captivity in the sixth century BCE. However, modern biblical scholarship has raised questions about this traditional view, leading to various theories regarding the composition of the book. In this article, we’ll examine the evidence surrounding the authorship of the Book of Daniel, looking at both traditional and critical perspectives, along with the historical and textual context of the book.

Critical Perspectives: Multiple Authorship Theories

While the traditional view attributes authorship to Daniel the prophet, modern biblical scholarship has proposed alternative theories regarding the composition of the Book of Daniel. These theories are based on various linguistic, historical, and theological factors:

1. Historical Criticism: Critics argue that certain details in the Book of Daniel, particularly its predictions of future events, suggest a later date of composition during the Hellenistic period (around the second century BCE). They point to similarities between Daniel and other apocalyptic literature from this period, such as the Book of Enoch and the Book of Jubilees.

2. Linguistic Analysis: Linguistic analysis of the book reveals a mixture of Hebrew and Aramaic, suggesting different linguistic traditions and possible stages of composition. Critics propose that the Aramaic sections may have been written later than the Hebrew portions, indicating multiple authors or editors over time.

3. Theological Themes: Some scholars argue that the theological themes and concerns addressed in the Book of Daniel reflect the experiences and perspectives of the Jewish community during the Hellenistic period, particularly under the oppressive rule of Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

Theories of Composition

1. The Traditional Model: Advocates for traditional authorship maintain that Daniel, as a prophet and statesman, wrote the book during the Babylonian exile or shortly thereafter. They argue that the prophet’s firsthand experiences and divine revelations account for the accuracy of the historical and prophetic content.

2. The Pseudonymous Theory: Proponents of this theory suggest that the Book of Daniel was composed anonymously during the Hellenistic period, but it was attributed to the legendary figure of Daniel to lend authority to its message. This view posits that the book contains predictions and historical accounts retroactively written as prophecy.

3. The Redactional Theory: Some scholars propose that the Book of Daniel originated as a collection of earlier traditions and stories, which were later edited and compiled by anonymous editors or redactors during the Hellenistic period. According to this view, the book underwent significant editorial work to shape its final form.

The Evidence of Authorship to Daniel the Prophet

Let’s explore the clear evidence of the prophet Daniel to authorship of the book that bears his name.

Internal Evidence:

1. Daniel’s Autobiographical Accounts: The book opens with the statement, “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it” (Daniel 1:1, NKJV). Throughout the book, Daniel is portrayed as the central figure, narrating his experiences and visions during the Babylonian exile. For example, in Daniel 7:15, Daniel describes a vision he received: “I, Daniel, was grieved in my spirit within my body, and the visions of my head troubled me.” Similarly, Daniel recounts his interactions with King Nebuchadnezzar and his own experiences in interpreting dreams and visions (Daniel 2:1-45; 4:19-27).
2. Historical Accuracy: The book of Daniel contains numerous historical details and events that align with external historical sources and archaeological findings. For instance, the description of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, the conquest of Babylon by the Medo-Persian empire, and the reigns of subsequent rulers accurately reflect the historical context of the 6th century BCE. Daniel’s position as a high-ranking official in the Babylonian court (Daniel 1:3-5) and the Persian court (Daniel 6) provides a plausible explanation for his access to such information.
3. Literary Style and Language: The linguistic style and Aramaic vocabulary used in the book of Daniel are consistent with the language and writing style of the exilic period. Critics who propose a later date of composition often argue that the language reflects a later era, but linguistic analysis supports the book’s authenticity to the time of Daniel.

External Evidence:

1. Testimony of Jesus Christ and the New Testament Authors: The most powerful evidence comes from the lips of Jesus Christ Himself for He referenced the book of Daniel and affirmed its prophetic authority. In Matthew 24:15, Jesus refers to the “abomination of desolation” spoken of by the prophet Daniel, attributing authority to the prophetic writings of Daniel. This is also affirmed in Mark 13:14. Additionally, references to Daniel in other New Testament books, such as Hebrews 11:32-33, further confirm its traditional authorship.
2. Jewish Tradition and Early Christian Writers: Jewish tradition, as well as early Christian writers such as Josephus. In his work “Against Apion,” Jewish historian Flavius Josephus explicitly attributes the book of Daniel to the prophet Daniel himself. Josephus affirms the prophetic authority of Daniel and references events from the book, affirming its antiquity and authenticity.

Also, the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in the mid-20th century near Qumran, include fragments and manuscripts of various biblical texts, including portions of the book of Daniel. These scrolls, dating back to around the 2nd century BCE, attribute authorship of Daniel to the prophet Daniel himself. Specifically, the presence of Daniel among the scrolls at Qumran confirms the early Jewish community’s acceptance of Daniel as the author. These references provide external testimony to the traditional attribution of authorship to Daniel.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, while modern critical scholarship may raise questions about the authorship and composition of the book of Daniel, there is substantial clear evidence to support the traditional attribution of authorship to the prophet Daniel himself. Internal evidence, including autobiographical accounts, historical accuracy, and linguistic analysis, points to Daniel as the author of the book. External evidence, such as the testimony of Jesus our Lord and the New Testament, as well as early Jewish and Christian tradition, further corroborate Daniel’s authorship. Ultimately, the traditional view of Daniel as the author of the book bearing his name remains consistent with the biblical text and supported by a wide range of evidence.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

We'd love your feedback, so leave a comment!

If you feel an answer is not 100% Bible based, then leave a comment, and we'll be sure to review it.
Our aim is to share the Word and be true to it.