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Basic Worldview:
104 Why Christianity?


Scholarly Objections and
Historicity of the Book of Daniel (Part 1)


Judaism and Christianity Introduction and History
History of Judaism Continued
Scholarly Objections and Historicity of Daniel (P. 1)
Historicity of Daniel (P. 2) & Judeo-Christian Syncretism
A Few Words on Gnosticism
Christianity - A Sect of Judaism (P. 1)
Christianity - A Sect of Judaism (P. 2) & Prophecy in Judaism
Is Jesus the Jewish Messiah? (P. 1)
Is Jesus the Jewish Messiah? (P. 2)
List of Messianic Qualifications & the Resurrection of Jesus (P. 1)
The Resurrection of Jesus (Part 2)
Study Conclusions and Overall Comparisons

Additional Material
The Sufferings of Eyewitnesses
Comparison of Mystical Religions to Judeo-Christianity
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 1)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 2)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 3)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 4)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 5)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 6)

Introduction
| Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3




Scholarly Objections

Despite the fact that the Judeo-Christian scriptures not only meet, but far exceed the requirements for historical documentation that are considered necessary to establish historicity and authorship, some scholars, nevertheless, still object to the reliability of the Bible. The reason for this objection is based upon the Bible's inclusion of the miraculous within its record of historical events. Because the Judeo-Christian scriptures attest to the occurrence of both natural and supernatural phenomenon with the same level of certainty, scholars claim that the Bible is unreliable as a historical witness.

To be clear, we are not arguing here that the historical documentation of the Bible requires us to accept either its claims about God or the occurrence of the miraculous in human history. We will discuss this topic later in our study as we examine whether or not the evidence offered by the Judeo-Christian tradition can be verified to substantiate its claims. If it does not then we do not have to accept its claims about God or the miraculous. What we are arguing, however, is that it is absolutely inappropriate to question the reliability of the Bible simply because it claims miraculous events and supernatural involvement within human history.

The scholarly criticism of Biblical reliability is first of all founded on the Atheist view that God does not exist. And because (according to that view) God does not exist the supernatural is simply not possible. With this premise, then scholars object to the reliability and historicity of the Judeo-Christian scriptures simply because the Bible does attest to the occurrence of the supernatural. For these scholars, the impossibility of the supernatural means that the reliability and historicity of the Biblical record must by definition be rejected because of its inclusion of the supernatural.

However, this objection is completely groundless and must not be permitted. In our series of articles entitled "Atheism vs. Theism" we disproved the Atheist view of the universe and proved the necessity of the conclusion that a supernatural God exists, who transcends the universe, which He created. Since a supernatural God exists who is responsible for the existence of the universe within which human history occurs then the supernatural is possible even within the course of human history. With the Atheist protest against the existence of the supernatural disproved, scholars have no grounds for rejecting the claims of the Judeo-Christian scriptures as unreliable or non-historical simply because these scriptures describe supernatural events.

Human history is human history. Without an Atheistic presupposition there is nothing in the study of human history, the science by which that study is conducted, or the definition of history itself, that would rule out the occurrence of the supernatural or miraculous. Since we are part of the creation of a supernatural God there is nothing that would prohibit us from considering the occurrence of supernatural events within our history. Therefore, given the fact that we live in a universe that was created by a supernatural Being, there is no reason whatsoever to discriminate in any way against historical documents which record the occurrence of supernatural events as well as natural events.

As such we must consider that it is possible that supernatural events have occurred over the course of human development. We are not forced to accept the legitimacy of each and every miraculous claim, but instead we must attempt to verify them on their own merits. We cannot simply reject a claim of supernatural quality on the basis of the disproved and invalid Atheist notion that the miraculous is not possible.

The same can be said concerning any objection to the reliability or historicity of the Bible, which is based upon Agnostic, Deistic, or any form of Naturalistic concepts of the nature of the universe. As we showed earlier these views of God can only be proposed AFTER an examination of the evidence has been conducted and only when that examination has conclusively revealed that no evidence for the supernatural involvement of God can be found. As such it is inappropriate to use Agnostic, Deistic, or Naturalistic conclusions as a criteria by which we discard and reject possible evidence for the existence of God or by which we discard and reject the occurrence of the supernatural. For this reason, any objection to the reliability or historicity of the Biblical record that is founded upon an Agnostic, Deistic, or Naturalistic conclusion must be dismissed as pure circular reasoning.

We must let history speak for itself and then evaluate its claims based upon their own merits and based upon uniform standards. And there is nothing in the simple claim of the supernatural or miraculous that would, by face value or by historical criticism, disqualify it from being considered historical, especially in a universe created by a supernatural Being. So, with these scholarly objections addressed and dismissed the reliability and historicity of the Bible remains intact at least until an examination of the evidence it offers can be performed.

Additionally, it would not be fair to dismiss the historical value of the Judeo-Christian scriptures simply because they were written by Jews and Christians as if that would so bias their writings that, at face value, they cannot be considered reliable. Such a standard would contradict the normal historical standards and thereby, if employed, require us to also forfeit a great deal of important historical conclusions. The simple fact is that history is recorded by the victors and is seldom if ever written by those with no interest in the subject matter. If we cannot rely upon any historical documentation that is written by someone with a stake in or a tie to the subject matter then a modern understanding of history becomes rather impossible. Instead, since historians accept that people with a personal interest can be relied upon to provide an accurate and fair description of historical events, we must also permit Judeo-Christian scriptures to at least be considered reliable, accurate, and fair with regard to historical material and accounts.

One last comment should be added. In our previous section on Propositional religions we noted that the evidence of the supernatural offered by religions of this type tended to be subjective in nature and was defined, by these religions themselves, as unknowable through normal reasonable processes. History, by basic definition, is interested in events that can be objectively verified through a reasonable assessment of evidence. Since, Propositional religions are not concerned with claims of this type their evidence is not available to and does not involve historical analysis. For this reason some historians may be content to permit this kind of supernatural claim simply because it falls outside of the domain of historical interest and qualifications.

And yet it is the very claim made by Evidentiary religions that knowable, verifiable supernatural events have occurred that leads some historians and scholars to dismiss them, not through an assessment of the evidence, but without one, simply because some historians and scholars hold to the presupposition that the supernatural cannot occur. It is a blatant contradiction and prejudice to permit subjective claims of the supernatural which, by definition, cannot offer objective evidence of their validity, while at the same time dismissing out of hand, claims of the supernatural, which offer objective evidence of their validity, without first conducting an examination of that evidence.

And while this criticism applies to those scholars who would apply an atheistic bias to the evidence, a similar comment can be made regarding Theists. Given the existence of God, which we have demonstrated in our previous article series on Atheism, there is a need for us to investigate what view of God is accurate and should be adopted. The world's religions comprise the available options. As we examine which of the world's religions offer an accurate view of God, it would be completely contradictory for us to reject the testimony of those who claim to have experienced objectively verifiable events, such as miracles, while at the same time accepting the testimony of those who claim to have experienced an internal, subjective realization of truth. It is completely irrational to dismiss without examination the testable evidence offered by one party in order to favor an alternate explanation given by another party, which offers absolutely no evidence and cannot be verified.

If the goal is to determine the most reasonable assessment of God based upon the available objective evidence, then we cannot dismiss testimony regarding physical events while at the same time believing testimony regarding mere mental realizations. Rational analysis concerning the accurate view of God requires that testimony regarding external, physical evidence take preference over subjective knowledge precisely because the external evidence can be objectively tested, while subjective knowledge can not.

It is one thing to dismiss a subjective claim of the supernatural, which cannot be verified through objective assessment of the evidence as we have done. It is quite another to dismiss supernatural claims, which do offer objective evidence to substantiate their claims, without any assessment of the evidence that they offer. For this reason, we must now perform an evaluation of the evidence offered by the Judeo-Christian scripture concerning the supernatural claims that it makes in order to determine if those claims are valid and should be accepted or invalid and must be rejected.

With these objections dismissed we can move on to our next section, a more in-depth look at the books of the Judeo-Christian scripture, whose historicity and reliability are most contested by historians and scholars.



The Book of Daniel

As we proceed the Book of Daniel will become relevant to our examination of evidences for the accuracy Judeo-Christian theology. This relevance will be explained when we engage this examination. For now, however, it is first important to discuss the reliability and historicity of the Book of Daniel. Or more specifically, to address the scholarly objections to a 6th century dating of Daniel.

(NOTE: Later it will be shown that the Book of Daniel is sufficient to conclusively demonstrate the existence of prophecy and the supernatural within the Judeo-Christian scriptures and therefore the reliability of Judeo-Christian theology even if the scholarly dating of this book to the 2nd century is accepted.)

According to the Bible (specifically the Book of Daniel itself), Daniel was a prophet who lived during the 6th century B.C.

"Daniel - In the Bible, a Hebrew prophet of the sixth century B.C." - The American Heritage¨ Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.

"Daniel - 1: the Jewish hero of the Book of Daniel who as an exile in Babylon interprets dreams, gives accounts of apocalyptic visions, and is divinely delivered from a den of lions 2: a book of narratives, visions, and prophecies in canonical Jewish and Christian Scripture -- see BIBLE table." - Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary

Chapter 1 of the Book of Daniel informs us that Daniel was taken captive into exile in Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar (II) when he conquered Israel's southern kingdom of Judah.

Daniel 1:1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god. 3 And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the princes; 4 Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans. 5 And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king. 6 Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 7 Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego...18 Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king. 20 And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.

From the historical record we know that these events took place in 586 B.C.

"Judaism - After Nebuchadrezzar's decisive defeat of Egypt at Carchemish (605 BCE), Jeremiah identified the scourge as Babylon. King Jehoiakim's attempt to be free of Babylonia ended with the exile of his successor, Jehoiachin, along with Judah's elite (597); yet the court of the new king, Zedekiah, persisted in plotting new revolts, relyingÑagainst all experienceÑon Egyptian support." - Britannica.com

"Judaism - In 587/586 BCE the doom prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel came true. Rebellious Jerusalem was reduced by Nebuchadrezzar, the Temple was burnt, and much of Judah's population dispersed or deported to Babylonia." - Britannica.com

"Diaspora - The first significant Jewish Diaspora was the result of the Babylonian Exile (q.v.) of 586 BC. After the Babylonians conquered the Kingdom of Judah, part of the Jewish population was deported into slavery." - Britannica.com

"Jerusalem - Jerusalem became the spiritual and political capital of the Hebrews. In 586 B.C. it fell to the Babylonians, and the Temple was destroyed." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

Nothing in Daniel's record at this point conflicts with our modern understanding of history. Instead, what Daniel reports is completely consistent with what we now know of history, that upon conquering Judah, Nebuchadnezzar did take captive many of the nobles and people and bring them back to Bablyon. The second chapter of the book states that Daniel was one of these captives who became one of the chief ministers of the court of King Nebuchadnezzar and his successors through a series of events, initiated by Daniel's interpretation of a Nebuchadnezzar's dream.

From there the Book of Daniel goes on to present the figures and events of the 6th century as contemporary events. Likewise, the book presents future developments in Mesopotamian and Middle Eastern history for the period of time approaching the mid-2nd century B.C. through prophecy. In this way the Book of Daniel provides the following account of Babylonian and Medo-Persian rulers:

Nebuchadnezzar comes and besieges Jerusalem and exiles it nobility and youth back to Babylon (Daniel 1:1), among them is a Jew named Daniel. After Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel reports that a king named Belshazzar, referred to as Nebuchadnezzar's son, rules Babylon (Daniel 5:1-2, 9-13) and appoints Daniel as the third ruler in the kingdom (Daniel 5:16, 29). Belshazzar is depicted as the last king of Babylon and the Babylonian empire is said to fall to the Medes and Persians when Belshazzar is slain the night of a great feast and a man referred to as Darius the Mede (also Darius the son of Ahasuerus of the seed of the Medes - Daniel 9:1) takes the kingdom at 62 years of age (Daniel 5:1, 30).

Daniel presents this Darius the Mede as being a contemporary ruler with Cyrus the Great of Persia (Daniel 6:28) and refers to their two reigns alternately throughout the Book (Daniel 1:21, Daniel 6:28, Daniel 9:1, Daniel 10:1, Daniel 11:1). In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Daniel an account of events is given that covers the rise of the Greek empire under Alexander the Great and continuing through the line of Ptolemaic and Seluecid kings ending with Antiochus III (Daniel 11:1-20). This account begins with Daniel's statement that after three more Persian kings a fourth king will arise in Persia, who will stir up all against the realm of Greece (Daniel 11:2). Daniel then describes the rise of Alexander the Great as a mighty king, which will stand up, whose kingdom will be broken and divided to four others to rule who are not of his bloodline (Daniel 11:3).

Despite the book's 6th century perspective, scholars have instead concluded that the book is a product of the 2nd century B.C. This conclusion is based on two objections.

First, scholars note the accuracy of Daniel 11's depiction of 4th through 2nd century Middle Eastern history.

"Old Testament Literature - By contrast, the book is a not inconsiderable historical source for the Greek period. It refers to the desecration of the Temple in 167 and possibly to the beginning of the Maccabean revolt. Only when the narrative reaches the latter part of the reign of Antiochus do notable inaccuracies appearÑan indication of a transition from history to prediction. The book is thus dated between 167 and 164 BCE." - Britannica.com

Britannica.com exemplifies the scholarly response to the descriptions of Daniel 11. First, it is noted that Daniel is a sound historical source on matters of 4th to 2nd century Middle Eastern history and that not until the part of the chapter dealing with the latter part of Antiochus IV Epiphanes' reign do "inaccuracies" appear.

The "inaccuracies" that Britannica.com says indicate "a transition from history to prediction" deal with the second half of Daniel 11. In this section of Daniel 11 a king is depicted, which some historians argue is Antiochus IV Epiphanes. As Britannica.com confirms the early description of this last figure's life and actions does resemble that of Antiochus in some ways. However, the later details of this king's life and actions do not fit with the history of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. It is these final details, which Britannica.com identifies as "inaccuracies." It is these final details, which lead some scholars to label this portion of Daniel as a failed attempt to prophecy the end of Antiochus' reign.

However, Christians argue that Daniel 11:21-45 is not at all a reference to Antiochus IV Epiphanes despite the similarities to his early reign. Instead, they note that Jesus' comments in the Olivet Discourse, found in Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14, indicate that one of the most notable actions of this final king, his desecration of the Jewish Temple, was yet to occur.

Matthew 24:15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)

Mark 13:14 But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains:

Therefore, since Antiochus IV Epiphanes lived 175 years before Jesus and since Jesus' places this act of the final king as still in the future, Jesus is indicating that Antiochus is not the final king described in Daniel 11:21-45. So, if Daniel 11:21-45 was not meant as a reference to Antiochus IV Epiphanes as some have taken it to be, then the inconsistencies between its description and his reign are explained not as a case of failed prophecy, but of mistaken identity on the part of historians, who misunderstood the subject of the text.

But, back to the point, the first objection to a 6th century origin of the Book of Daniel offered by scholars is founded on their recognition that Daniel accurately identifies significant historical events that, if written in the 6th century B.C., would constitute legitimate prophecy. Since scholars reject the notion that prophecy could legitimately occur because it is fundamentally a supernatural phenomenon, scholars are forced to conclude that Daniel was not written in the 6th century B.C. as the book itself proclaims.

However, we can quickly dismiss this first scholarly objection to a 6th century origin of the Book of Daniel. As we have previously discussed a rejection of the supernatural phenomena cannot be used as a legitimate objection for assessing historical claims. Given that Atheism has been disproved and conversely that the existence of a supernatural God has been proven, supernatural phenomena are entirely possible unless one presumes a Deistic or Naturalist view of God and then by a process of circular reasoning uses that conclusion to bias an analysis of historical evidence and claims.

Since, it is premature to assert Deistic and Naturalistic conclusions before or during our examination of historical evidences for the occurrence supernatural phenomena, we must allow for the possibility that supernatural phenomena, such as prophecy, can occur and then evaluate the specific instances to determine whether they are valid. For this reason, we cannot simply reject a 6th century origin of Daniel because it would require us to accept parts of Daniel as being legitimate supernatural phenomena in the form of prophecy. Far from being a rational approach to this comparative evaluation of Theistic views, to do so would be circular reasoning.

We can only conclude that Daniel was not written in the 6th century B.C. as the book itself claims, if we can identify evidence indicating that the Book was not written at that time. Again, because Atheism has been disproved and because Deism and Pantheistic Naturalism are conclusions that cannot interfere with the assessment process, a claim of supernatural phenomena cannot be used as evidence to object to a 6th century writing. This is where we arrive at the second scholarly objection to a 6th century dating of the Book of Daniel.

Scholars object to a 6th century origin of the Book of Daniel because they claim the book has a sketchy understanding of 6th century Mesopotamian history.

"Old Testament Literature - For many centuries the apocalyptic character of the Book of Daniel was overlooked, and it was generally considered to be true history, containing genuine prophecy. In fact, the book was included among the prophetic books in the Greek canon. It is now recognized, however, that the writer's knowledge of the exilic times was sketchy and inaccurate." - Britannica.com

As Britannica.com articulates, scholars claim that the inaccurate understanding of the period of Jewish exile exhibited in the Book of Daniel is not consistent with the book's claim to have been written by someone who was in close proximity to the nobility of the relevant empires during that period. Therefore, because they claim that Daniel does not have a sound grasp of 6th century history of the region it could not have originated at that time as the book itself claims.

However, we must ask what exactly it is that has led scholars to conclude that Daniel does not have an accurate understanding of 6th century Mesopotamian history. Specifically, they contend that Daniel exhibits confusion regarding historical persons and either their relationship with other ancient figures, their status in the empires of the day, or their placement in the chronology of events. In some cases scholars have claimed that Daniel invents figures that never historically existed. Again, Britannica.com articulates some of these objections.

"Old Testament Literature - Belshazzar is represented as the son of Nebuchadrezzar and the last king of Babylon, whereas he was actually the son of Nabonidus and, though a powerful figure, was never king; Darius the Mede, a fictitious character perhaps confused with Darius I of Persia, is made the successor of Belshazzar instead of Cyrus." - Britannica.com

The first historical figure that scholars contend is misunderstood in the Book of Daniel is Belshazzar. As we recall from our outline of the Book of Daniel early on in this section, Daniel reports three things about Belshazzar. First, he was king of Babylon after Nebuchadnezzar. Second, Belshazzar is referred to as Nebuchadnezzar's son. And third, Belshazzar is said to be the last king of Babylon, who is killed when the Medo-Persians take the city.

Scholars claim that each of these three facts is historically incorrect. First, Belshazzar was not a king of Babylon. Second, Belshazzar was not the son of Nebuchadnezzar, but the son of Nabonidus, who was the king of Babylon after Nebuchadnezzar. And third, Nabonidus, and not Belshazzar was the last Babylonian king during whose reign Babylon fell to the Persians, not the Medes.

The scholarly criticism that Daniel's identifying Belshazzar as the son of Nebuchadnezzar is incorrect and can easily be dissolved by a look at the Aramaic words the Bible uses to describe this relationship. The word for father that is used in Daniel 5:2, 11, 13, and 18 is the word "ab."

Daniel 5:1 Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father (02) Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein.

Daniel 5:9 Then was king Belshazzar greatly troubled, and his countenance was changed in him, and his lords were astonied. 10 Now the queen by reason of the words of the king and his lords came into the banquet house: and the queen spake and said, O king, live for ever: let not thy thoughts trouble thee, nor let thy countenance be changed: 11 There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of thy father (02) light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy father (02), the king, I say, thy father (02), made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers; 12 Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and shewing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar: now let Daniel be called, and he will shew the interpretation. 13 Then was Daniel brought in before the king. And the king spake and said unto Daniel, Art thou that Daniel, which art of the children of the captivity of Judah, whom the king my father (02) brought out of Jewry?

Daniel 5:18 O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father (02) a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour:

Strong's Concordance of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words that are used in the Bible lists "ab" as occurring 9 times in the Bible. If we were to survey those nine times we would see that in at least three cases the word is used more broadly than simply as the immediate biological father.

Ezra 4:15 That search may be made in the book of the records of thy fathers (02): so shalt thou find in the book of the records, and know that this city is a rebellious city, and hurtful unto kings and provinces, and that they have moved sedition within the same of old time: for which cause was this city destroyed.

Ezra 5:12 But after that our fathers (02) had provoked the God of heaven unto wrath, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house, and carried the people away into Babylon.

Daniel 2:23 I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers (02), who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of thee: for thou hast now made known unto us the king's matter.

In each of the above cases we see that the word "ab" is used to imply ones predecessors or forebears. It does not require that the persons in mind be a direct male parent. So, when Daniel refers to Nebuchadnezzar as Belshazzar's father he simply is referring to the fact that Nebuchadnezzar preceded Belshazzar in the line of Babylonian royalty.

That Daniel's account of this is historically accurate is further supported the following additional details. The word for son that is used in Daniel 5:22 is the Aramaic word "bar."

Daniel 5:22 And thou his son (1247), O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this;

Strong's Concordance provides the definition for "bar" (1247) and its Hebrew counterpart "ben" (1121).

1247 bar
TWOT - 2639 corresponding to 01121
Part of Speech
n m
Outline of Biblical Usage
1) son

1121 ben
TWOT - 254 from 01129
Part of Speech
n m
Outline of Biblical Usage
1) son, grandson, child, member of a group
a) son, male child
b) grandson
c) children (pl. - male and female)
d) youth, young men (pl.)
e) young (of animals)
f) sons (as characterisation, i.e. sons of injustice [for un- righteous men] or sons of God [for angels]
g) people (of a nation) (pl.)
h) of lifeless things, i.e. sparks, stars, arrows (fig.)
i) a member of a guild, order, class
As we can see the Hebrew word "ben," which corresponds to the Aramaic word "bar" can be used to refer to a son or a grandson. These two words are used interchangeably in the following four passages, which discuss the genealogy of Zechariah the prophet.

Ezra 5:1 Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son (1247) of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them.

Ezra 6:14 And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son (1247) of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia.

Zechariah 1:1 In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son (1121) of Berechiah, the son (1121) of Iddo the prophet, saying,

Zechariah 1:7 Upon the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Sebat, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son (1121) of Berechiah, the son (1121) of Iddo the prophet, saying,

Notice, that in Ezra, Zechariah is noted as the son (bar) of Iddo, but in the book of Zechariah, Zechariah refers to himself as the son (ben) of Berechiah who was the son (ben) of Iddo. This means that Ezra uses the word son (bar) to denote Zechariah's relationship with Iddo even though Zechariah was, in fact, Iddo's grandson. So, we see that the word "bar" can be used to indicate a grandson.

So, from our examination of the Aramaic words that are used in these passages, that the Book of Daniel is simply referring to Nebuchadnezzar as a predecessor and possibly grandfather of Belshazzar and not necessarily as father and son as scholars insist. But the essential question is whether or not history supports or contradicts Daniel's record of these matters.

As we proceed into the historical record we should also mention that besides the three objections we identified earlier, some scholars have also continued to object to very existence of Belshazzar. But, though scholars are insistent upon the historical incorrectness of Daniel's account of Belshazzar, history has proven Daniel to be quite accurate.

For instance, the long disputed existence of Daniel's king Belshazzar, was proven true by the discovery of Babylonian cuneiform inscription in 1854.

"Belshazzar - Belshazzar had been known only from the biblical Book of Daniel (chapters 5, 7-8) and from Xenophon's Cyropaedia until 1854, when references to him were found in Babylonian cuneiform inscriptions." - Britannica.com

From these cuneiform inscriptions we know that Belshazzar did exist, just as the Book of Daniel reported. But we also learned a great deal of information about Belshazzar, all of which proves that Daniel's account of him is quite accurate.

First, we now know that Daniel's description of Belshazzar as the king of Babylon is correct because his father, Nabonidus made him coregent over the kingdom with Belshazzar ruling from Babylon while Nabonidus spent most of his time away in Arabia.

"Nabonidus - After a popular rising led by the priests of Marduk, chief god of the city, Nabonidus, who favoured the moon god Sin, made his son Belshazzar coregent and spent much of his reign in Arabia." - Britannica.com

"Nabonidus - He was not of Nebuchadnezzar's family, and it is possible that he usurped the throne...Cuneiform records indicate that Belshazzar was Nabonidus' son and his coregent during the last years of Babylon." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Belshazzar - When Nabonidus went into exile (550), he entrusted Belshazzar with the throne and the major part of his army." - Britannica.com

So, we see that it is in fact, accurate to call Belshazzar the king of Babylon. For he was coregent with his father over the empire and he ruled in Babylon, while his father traveled the empire in exile after a popular uprising led by the priest of Marduk. Additionally, it is apparent that the Book of Daniel makes reference to this coregency when Belshazzar appoints Daniel to be the third and not second ruler in the kingdom. Since Belshazzar and his father, Nabonidus both ruled as kings of Babylon, Belshazzar could only offer Daniel the third position in the kingdom.

Daniel 5:16 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 shalt be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about thy neck, and shalt be the third ruler in the kingdom.

Daniel 5:29 Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.

We also saw in the quote from Columbia Encyclopedia that Nabonidus was not of Nebuchadnezzar's family. However, this does not pose a problem for Daniel's description of Belshazzar as Nebuchadnezzar's son for two reasons. First, as we have already stated it is entirely possible that Daniel was only referring to the fact that Belshazzar was a successor to Nebuchadnezzar over Babylon. Second, it is believed by some scholars that Belshazzar's mother was, in fact, a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar.

"Belshazzar - Though he is referred to in the Book of Daniel as the son of Nebuchadrezzar, the Babylonian inscriptions indicate that he was in fact the eldest son of Nabonidus, who was king of Babylon from 555 to 539, and of Nitocris, who was perhaps a daughter of Nebuchadrezzar. When Nabonidus went into exile (550), he entrusted Belshazzar with the throne and the major part of his army." - Britannica.com

So, it may well be the case that Belshazzar is not only Nebuchadnezzar's successor, but also his grandson on his mother's side. So, we see that scholarly objections to Daniel's description of Belshazzar as king of Babylon and the son of Nebuchadnezzar are invalid. But what about Daniel's claim that Belshazzar was killed the night of a great feast as the Medo-Persian army took the city?

Daniel 5:30 In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.31 And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old.

Again, history substantiates the Book of Daniel.

"Belshazzar - According to the accounts in the Bible and Xenophon, Belshazzar held a last great feast...Belshazzar died after Babylon fell to the Persian general Gobyras without resistance on Oct. 12, 539, and probably before the Persian king Cyrus II entered the city 17 days later." - Britannica.com

So, we see that, though our modern understanding has been quite inadequate, Daniel's account of the fall of Babylon is, in fact, quite accurate (even his mention of the feast). But what about Daniel's report that a person named Darius the Mede (whom Daniel later says in chapter 9 is the son of Ahasuerus) takes the city and acts as king? Is this an accurate understanding of history or not?

According to scholars, Daniel is again in error here. Scholars note that Daniel falsely credits this Darius the Mede with taking the city of Babylon. They claim this task was accomplished by Cyrus the Great and that the author of Daniel probably confused Cyrus the Great with Darius the Great (who became the king after the death of Cyrus' son Cambyses II.)

However, history is not so clear on this point. What we do know is that just as Daniel reports, Cyrus did not take the city himself, but his forces were led by another man, known as Gobryas.

"Belshazzar - Belshazzar died after Babylon fell to the Persian general Gobyras without resistance on Oct. 12, 539, and probably before the Persian king Cyrus II entered the city 17 days later." - Britannica.com

"Nabonidus - After a popular rising led by the priests of Marduk, chief god of the city, Nabonidus, who favoured the moon god Sin, made his son Belshazzar coregent and spent much of his reign in Arabia. Returning to Babylon in 539 BC, he was captured by Cyrus' general Gobryas and exiled." - Britannica.com

(Continued in next section.)


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