What Can the Prophet Daniel Show Us about Biblical Inerrancy

By: Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. John Weldon; ©2013
Perhaps no book in the Bible has aroused as much controversy or skepticism as the book of Daniel. It’s not difficult to understand why. The prophecies in chapters 2, 7, and 11 are so detailed they would have to be written after the fact if we discount the possibility of predictive prophecy. Yet everyone agrees that the information is there.

What Can the Prophet Daniel Show Us about Biblical Inerrancy?

What is the amazing truth about the book of Daniel?

Perhaps no book in the Bible has aroused as much controversy or skepticism as the book of Daniel. It’s not difficult to understand why. The prophecies in chapters 2, 7, and 11 are so detailed they would have to be written after the fact if we discount the possibility of predictive prophecy. Yet everyone agrees that the information is there. If Daniel was written when it claims to have been written, then specific, detailed, predictive prophecy is clearly proven and established. That is the amazing truth about the book of Daniel.

According to critics, the book of Daniel is a second century (165 BC) text used by a pseudonymous author as a literary device interpreting history retrospectively to encourage Maccabean Jews during the persecution of the Syrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes IV.

Christians maintain that Daniel is a genuinely prophetic text written by Daniel, a contemporary of Ezekiel, and a captive of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar near the end of his life, about 530 BC. As such it contains predictive prophecy that is unmistakable in describing the future kingdoms of Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.

The following facts document the conservative view.

First, Jesus Christ, being God, is an infallible authority. In referring to “Daniel the Prophet” (Matt. 24:15 NASB and further documenting this by citing Daniel’s still future “abomination of desolation”), Jesus declared both the authenticity of the book and the prophetic office of Daniel, thereby undercutting the principal bias and pillar of the critics’ antisupernaturalism.

Second, for Daniel to be mentioned by God three times in the book of Ezekiel (14:14, 20; 28:3), he must at least have been Ezekiel’s contemporary or older. Even critics accept Ezekiel as being written in the sixth century BC. If Daniel was a contemporary of Ezekiel, he could hardly have been born three centuries later. For the liberal to respond by asserting that the Daniel mentioned in Ezekiel was a Baal worshiper, as if to discredit the conservative view, is utterly untenable in light of the intent of the passage and the godly men cited with him.

Third, the author of Daniel consistently places himself in sixth-century BC Babylon (e.g., 1:1; 2:1; 5:31; 7:1; 8:1; 9:1; 10:1; 11:1) and declares that divine revelations were given to him (7:2,15; 8:1ff.; 9:2ff.). Further, the linguistic, geographic, cultural, and theological data are consistent with a Babylonian composition (including the existence of earlier Jewish theology). If the author of Daniel claims he is writing in the sixth century and receiving divine revelation, yet is actually writing in the second century and inventing it, he is a liar and should be dismissed. Such a forgery could never have been accorded the status of canonicity by the Jews. Nor would a Jew writing under persecution in 165 BC in Judea be likely to fabricate the specific earmarks of the sixth-century BC Babylonian period, whether linguistically, geographically, or culturally, or reflect pre-Maccabean Jewish theology (e.g., angels, resurrection, Messiah, last judgment).

Fourth, the internal unity of the book of Daniel as to style means it could not have been a composite work of different authors and/or editors. Daniel 12:4 implies full authorship by one person.

Fifth, if written in 165 BC, Daniel could hardly have been previously placed in the Jewish canon that closed in 400 BC. Given its obvious errors, according to critical dating (e.g., Daniel 11:40-45 is not the manner in which Antiochus Epiphanes met his death), it would not have been canonized even by Maccabean Jews. Further, to have been translated in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, in 250 BC, it is impossible for Daniel to have been written in 165 BC.

Sixth, recently discovered archeological data further supports a Babylonian composition, in confirmation of what the text declares (Daniel 2:12, 13, 46; 6:8, 9; 8:2). A Maccabean Jew writing in 165 BC would not be familiar with the specific legal regulations and geographical details of the earlier Babylonian and Medo-Persian pagan empires.

Seventh, Josephus writes that Alexander the Great was shown a copy of the book of Daniel. This occurred some 200 years prior to 165 BC, when critics allege the book was written. Everyone knows that Alexander the Great lived in the fourth century BC. He could hardly be shown a book that would not be written for some 200 years.

Eighth, the Qumran scrolls of Psalms and Chronicles must now be dated at least as early as the Persian period (538-333 BC); on the exact same criteria Daniel must also be dated no later. Further, a Daniel fragment at Qumran also indicates canonicity; the Maccabean Jews would not have accepted Daniel without a previous history of canonicity.

Ninth, even if the critics’ impossible date of 165 BC is accepted, we still find predictive prophecy in the book of Daniel in the fourth kingdom of chapters 2 and 7. The facts require that Rome be considered Daniel’s fourth kingdom, yet Rome did not come into power until 63 BC, a century after 165 BC. The comments of Jerome (347-420 AD), who lived in the decline of the Roman Empire, are illuminating at this point. In his commentary on Daniel 2:40 he states:

Now the fourth empire, which clearly refers to the Romans, is the iron empire which breaks in pieces and overcomes all others. But its feet and toes are partly of iron and partly of earthenware, a fact most clearly demonstrated at the present time. For just as there was at the first nothing stronger or hardier than the Roman realm, so also in these last days there is nothing more feeble… since we require the assistance of barbarian tribes both in our civil wars and against foreign nations.[1]

In addition, Daniel 9:24-27 contains specific messianic prophecy.[2] Thus, even granting the 165 BC date, if the book still contains genuine prophecy, the very basis for the critics’ assumption of a late date, the impossibility of predictive prophecy, is undermined.

Tenth, if we argue Daniel was written in 165 BC, the influence of the Greek language and culture would have been much more pronounced.

Eleventh, the alleged positive evidences for a 165 BC date (e.g., placement in the Writings; lack of mention by Jesus ben Sirach; use of the third person; alleged inaccuracies concerning the sixth century BC; such literary features as the use of Aramaic; three Greek words for musical instruments in 3:10, and so-called “later” theological content) are all refuted by an unbiased consideration of the data. (The Greek language for example, was known in the time of Daniel.) In fact, most of the errors that the critics find today in Daniel result from their own faulty assumption that Daniel was written in 165 BC!

In conclusion, the noted linguistic scholar Dr. R. D. Wilson observes in his still definitive study of Daniel that the critics “have failed to present a single fact of direct evidence in support of [their] positions.”[3] This means that the book of Daniel supplies proof of predictive prophecy and is one more evidence of biblical inspiration and reliability.


  1. Gleason Archer, trans., Jerome’s Commentary on Daniel (Baker, 1977), p. 32.
  2. See Robert Anderson, The Coming Prince (Kregel); A. J. McClain, Daniel’s Prophecy of the 70 Weeks (Zondervan); John Walvoord, Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation.
  3. R. D. Wilson, Studies in the Book of Daniel, vol. 11, p. 280, rpt., Baker 1979.

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