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Daniel in the Critic's Den 7: Professor Driver's "Book Of Daniel"

By Robert Anderson


      To have answered Dean Farrar's Book of Daniel may appear to some but a cheap and barren victory. For they will urge that if the attack on Daniel were entrusted to abler hands, the issue would be different. But the suggestion is untenable. While the passing years are bringing to light from time to time fresh evidence to confirm the authenticity of the book, the treasury of the critics is exhausted. They have no abler, no more trusted, champion than Professor Driver of Oxford; yet in his Introduction there is not a single count in the elaborate indictment of Daniel that will not be found in his apparatus criticus. And now, in his Book of Daniel, after an interval of ten years, he has reproduced these same stock difficulties and objections, and for the most part in the same words.

      That volume is fitted to excite feelings of surprise and disappointment. An "Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament" may fitly cite what German sceptics have written on the Book of Daniel. But it is deplorable that a commentary for the use of "schools and colleges," coming from the pen of an English clergyman, a scholar of high repute, and the occupant of a chair in the University of Oxford, should be merely a modified reproduction of what German rationalism has to urge on one side of a pending controversy. Surely we might have expected some indication of independent inquiry and free thought; but we look for it in vain. The very same criticisms which Dr. Farrar has strung together are once again paraded.

      Of these criticisms there is only one which is of vital importance. If, as the critics assert, there was no invasion of J udea and no deportation of Jewish captives in the third year of Jehoiakim, the historical basis upon which the Book of Daniel rests is destroyed, and the book as a whole is discredited. To that criticism, therefore, I invite the reader's close and earnest attention. If he finds it to be sustained, let him regard the controversy as closed. But if he finds it disproved by Scripture, and demonstrated to be erroneous by the strict test of chronology, let him look upon it as discrediting the critics.

      (1 Pages 14 - 18, ante, seemed a sufficient reply to Dr. Farrar on this point. But as Dr. Driver blindly follows the same false lead, not even avoiding the blunder of the journey from Carchemish to Babylon across the desert, I add an excursus on the subject. See Appendix I., p. 153.)

      As for the rest of these criticisms, what Professor Driver says of some is true of them all: they will influence the mind "according as the critic, upon independent grounds, has satisfied himself that the book is the work of a later author or written by Daniel himself." If, therefore, any one of the visions of Daniel can be shown to be a Divine prophecy, the authority of the book is established. And of this, full and incontestable proof is afforded by the fulfilment of the vision of the Seventy Weeks.

      The course of study which led me to these results was begun a quarter of a century ago under pressure of doubts whether the Bible could withstand the attacks of the sceptical movement known as the "Higher Criticism." In accordance with my usual habit, I set myself to test the matter by examining the critics' strongest position. For their indictment of the Book of Daniel is supposed to be unanswerable, and I confess that at first it seemed to me most formidable. But no one who has much experience of judicial inquiries is ever surprised to find that a case which seems convincing when presented ex parte, breaks down under cross-examination, or is shattered by opposing evidence. And this is emphatically true of the sceptical attack on Daniel. And let it not be forgotten that the present inquiry is altogether judicial. The question involved is precisely similar in character to issues such as are daily decided in our Courts of Justice. And one of H.M. Judges with a good "special jury" would be a fitter tribunal to deal with it than any company of philologists, however eminent. Due weight would of course be given to the evidence of such men as experts. But the dictum, so familiar to the lawyer, would not be forgotten, that the testimony which least deserves credit is that of skilled witnesses, for the judgment of such men becomes warped by their habit of regarding a subject from one point of view only.

      The critics maintain that the definiteness of the predictions of Daniel is due to the fact that the book was written after the events referred to; and further, that its "visions" cease with the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes. The main issues of fact, therefore, to be decided at such a trial would be these :--

      (i) Was the Book of Daniel in existence in pre-Maccabean days? and

      (2) Was any one of its visions fulfilled in later times? And if either of these issues should be found against the critics their whole case would be shattered. The discovery of Neptune was due to the fact that astronomers found reason to assume the existence of such a planet. And if the Book of Daniel had been lost, true criticism would assume the presence of a Daniel at the Court of Babylon. For otherwise the story of the exile and return of the Jews would be intelligible only on the assumption of miracles such as those which marked the Exodus. And further; if the advocates of the pseud-epigraph theory of Daniel were versed in the science of evidence, they would recognise that, on their own hypothesis, the presence of the book in the canon is evidence of the existence of the man. For the Sanhedrim would never have accepted it unless they had had knowledge of the historical facts on which it is based.

      But while the existence of Daniel was indisputable when Dr. Driver wrote his introduction, it was only "probable" when he came to write his Book of Daniel - a deplorable lapse from true criticism to "Higher Criticism," and from rational belief to unreasoning scepticism. On this point I have already cited the testimony of Ezekiel; and that testimony is conclusive unless the critics can find some adequate answer to it. The only answer they offer is not even reasonable. And as regards the existence of the Book of Daniel, the same remark applies, though in a modified degree, to the testimony of i Maccabees.2

      Even if the testimony of these witnesses stood alone, it would prevail with any impartial tribunal. But when we come to consider the general question of the canon, the weight of proof becomes overwhelming. Apart from the disturbing influence of these controversies, no reasonable person would reject the clear and definite tradition that the completion of the Old Testament canon was the work of the men of the Great Synagogue. In an age when scepticism of a singularly shallow type has been allowed to run riot, it is the fashion to reject that tradition because of the myths and legends which have attached themselves to it. But a soberer scholarship would recognise, first, that this very element is a proof of its antiquity, and of the hold it gained upon the Jewish mind in early times; and secondly, that if historical facts are to be ignored on this ground the whole volume of ancient history must shrink to very small proportions. But all that concerns me here is to establish that the canon was complete before the Maccabean epoch. And upon this point I might almost rest the case upon the evidence of a single witness.

      As mentioned in an earlier chapter,1 Ecclesiasticus was written not later than about B.C. 200. The object of the book is thus explained by the grandson of the writer, who translated it into Greek not later than B.C. 132: "My grandfather Jesus, seeing he had much given himself to the reading of the law, of the prophets and the other books of the Fathers, and had gotten therein sufficient proficiency, was drawn himself to write something pertaining to learning and wisdom." Now it is acknowledged even by hostile critics that the words "the law and the prophets and the other books," or as he calls them again, "the rest of the books," refer to the sacred writings, and that they imply the existence at that time of a recognised canon.

      Dr. Ryle's book has a fair statement of the arguments in favour of a late date. And any one who is used to frequent our courts of justice will recognise the kinship of those arguments with the case which is always made against any claim to prescriptive or ancient rights.For treatises of a different kind see by all means Dr. Alexander's article on the "Canon," and Dr. Ginsburg's on the "Great Synagogue," in Kitto's Cyclopaedia; and also Lecture VI. in Pusey's Daniel the Prophet. 1 P. 52, ante.

      ~ The evidence clearly points to an earlier date for both the book and the translation of it. But as I wish to avoid all "collateral issues?" I adopt for the sake of argument the dates accepted by the critics. See, however, Dr. Ginsburg's article in Kitto's Cyclopaedia, also Edersheim's Life and Times of the Messiah, vol. i. pp. 26ff.

      "I think it quite incredible," says Dr. Ryle, "that the thrice repeated formula should have been an invention of the Greek translator, and not rather the description of the Hebrew Scriptures commonly used among the Jews." The Law, The Prophets, and the Writings - these same words stand upon the title-page of the Jewish Bible of to-day, and no fair and competent tribunal would hesitate to find that that title has covered the same books for more than twenty-three centuries.

      Ben-Sira was "a poetical paraphraser" of the Old Testament, and his book abounds in passages which are imitations of the canonical writers. And, "as clear examples of such imitation can be found of all the canonical books, with the doubtful exception of the Book of Daniel, these books must, as a whole, have been familiar to Ben-Sira, and must therefore be much anterior to him in date." These words are from Dr. Schechter's Introduction, already quoted, and they are substantiated by a list of the passages referred to. That list includes three quotations from Daniel; these however are, of course, rejected by the critics.

      Now I confidently maintain that upon the evidence any impartial tribunal would find that the canon was complete before Ben-Sira wrote. But assuming, for the sake of argument, that the inclusion of Daniel is doubtful, the matter stands thus : - It is admitted,

      (I) that the canon was complete in the second century b.c.; and

      (2) that no book was included which was not believed to have been in existence in the days of Nehemiah.

      For the test by which a book was admitted to the canon was its claim to be inspired; and the Sanhedrim held that inspiration ceased with the prophets, and that no "prophet " - that is, no divinely inspired teacher - had arisen in Israel after the Nehemiah era. When, therefore, Josephus declares that the Scriptures were "justly believed to be Divine," and that the Jews were prepared "willingly to die for them," he is not recording merely the opinion of his contemporaries, but the settled traditional belief of his nation. How, then, can the critics reconcile their hypothesis as to the origin of the Book of Daniel with its inclusion in the canon?

      As regards point (I) above indicated, the Bishop of Exeter's testimony carries with it the special authority which attaches to the statements of a hostile witness. "If," he says, "all the books of 'the Kethubim' were known and received in the first century A.D., and if, as we believe, the circumstances of the Jewish people rendered it all but impossible for the canon to receive change or augmentation in the first century B.C., we conclude that 'the disputed books' received a recognition in the last two or three decades of the second century B.C., when John Hyrcanus ruled and the Jews still enjoyed prosperity."

      This ought to decide the whole question. For mark what it means. The critics would have us believe that after the death of Antiochus some Jewish Chasid incorporated a history of his reign in a historical romance, casting it into the form of a prophecy supposed to have been delivered hundreds of years before; and that, at a time when this was still a matter within living memory, the work was accepted as divinely inspired Scripture, and bracketed with the Psalms of David among the sacred books of the Hebrew nation!

      We are dealing here, remember, with the acts, not of savages in a barbarous age, but of the religious leaders of the Jews in historic times. And the matter in question related to the most solemn and important of all their duties. Moreover, the Sanhedrim of the second century B.C. was composed of men of the type of John Hyrcanus; men famed for their piety and learning; men who were heirs of all the proud traditions of the Jewish faith, and themselves the sons or successors of the heroes of the noble Maccabean revolt. And yet we are asked to believe that these men, with their extremely strict views of inspiration and their intense reverence for their sacred writings - that these men, the most scrupulous and conservative Church body that the world has ever known - used their authority to smuggle into the sacred canon a book which was a forgery, a literary fraud, a religious novel of recent date. Such a figment is worthy of its pagan author, but it is wholly unworthy of Christian men in the position of English ecciesiastics and University Professors. And were it not for the glamour of their names it would be deemed undeserving of notice. But our respect for Church dignitaries of our own times must not make us forget what is due to the memory of Church dignitaries of another age, men whose fidelity to their trust as the divinely appointed custodians of "the oracles of God" has earned for them the gratitude and admiration of the Church for all time. Their fitness, moreover, to judge of the genuineness and authenticity of the Book of Daniel was incomparably greater than could be claimed for any of those who join in this base and silly slander upon their intelligence or their honesty. For if the critics are right, these men who were, I repeat, the divinely appointed custodians of the Hebrew Scriptures, and from whom the Christian Church has received them, were no better than knaves or fools. Let no one start at this language, for it is not a whit too strong. They were utter fools if they were deceived by a literary forgery of their own time; they were shameless knaves if they shared in a plot to secure the acceptance of the fraud. For let it be kept steadily in view that no book would have been thus honoured unless it was believed to be ancient. The "avowed fiction" theory of Daniel is puerile in its absurdity. If the book was not genuine it was a forgery palmed off upon the Sanhedrim. And like all forgeries of that kind the MS. must have been "discovered" by its author. But the "finding" of such a book at such a period of the national history would have been an event of unparalleled interest and importance. Where then is the record of it? When it suits them, the critics make great use of the argument from the silence of witnesses; but in a case like this where that argument has overwhelming force they ignore it altogether.

      Moreover, the suggestion of the critics that the Sanhedrim admitted a book to the canon in the way a library committee adds a volume to their catalogue is grotesque in the extreme. "They never determined a book to be canonical in the sense of introducing it into the canon. In every instance in which a writing is said to have been admitted to the canon, the writing had already been in existence for generations, and had for generations been claimed as canonical before the discussions arose in regard to it. In every instance the decision is not that the book shall now be received into the collection of sacred writings, but that the evidence shows it to have been regarded from the first as a part of that collection."

      (Imagine a meeting of the upper House of Convocation to discuss a proposal to add Dr. Farrar's Life of Christ to the canon of the New Testament! Quite as grotesquely ridiculous is the suggestion that the Jewish Sanhedrim in the second century B.C. would have entertained the question of adding "an elevating romance" of their own age to the canon of the Old Testament.)

      One point more. While books of great repute, such as Ecclesiasticus and i Maccabees, were absolutely excluded from the canon, and even canonical books, such as the Book of Proverbs, Ecciesiastes, and even Ezekiel were challenged, "the right of the Book of Daniel to canonicity was never called in question in the Ancient Synagogue."

      In disparagement of Daniel the critics point to the extraordinary additions which mark the Septuagint version. But owing to their want of experience in dealing with evidence, they fail to see what signal proof this affords of the antiquity of the book. The critics themselves allow that the Greek version of Daniel was in existence before i Maccabees was written. According to their own case, therefore, the interval between the appearance of the book and its translation into Greek must have been within the memory of the older members of the Sanhedrim. And yet they ask us to believe that though during that interval it was under consideration for admission to the canon, it was guarded so carelessly that these additions and corruptions were allowed. The Septuagint version is evidence that Daniel was a pre-Maccabean work: the corruptions of the text which mark that version are evidence that it was in existence long before the Maccabean era.

      (The presumption is strong that the LXX. version was in existence at the date to which the critics assign the book itself. But here, as on every other point, I am arguing the question on bases accepted by the critics themselves.)

      In view of all this it is not surprising that even a writer so cautious and so fair as Canon Girdlestone should assert that "there is not an atom of ground for the supposition that any of the books or parts of books which constitute our Old Testament were the work of men of that age." "Of one thing," he adds, "we may be quite certain: nothing would be introduced into the 'Sacred Library' which was not believed to be 'prophetic,' and therefore in some sense Divine, and though there were occasionally men after Nehemiah's time who had semi-prophetic gifts, the Jews do not acknowledge them as prophets.' . . . We look in vain down the remains and traditions of Hebrew history between the age of Nehemiah and the Christian era for the appearance of any men who would venture to add to or take from the sacred library or canon which existed in Nehemiah's days."

      I therefore claim a decision in favour of the Book of Daniel. I now proceed to state the grounds upon which, with equal confidence, I claim a verdict also on the second.

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