Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Daniel (Pt 15): Linguistic Nonsense

In the 19th and early 20th century, Daniel's critics
expanded their arguments by attempting to use linguistic evidence
to assign the book of Daniel a late date, for the purpose of
discrediting its prophecies.

As usual, the poisonous skepticism and unbelief came from Germany,
and was transmitted to France (the seat of apostacy),
and then translated and transferred to Britain:
The Greek Words in the Book of Daniel
Hartwig Derenbourg and Morris Jastrow, Jr.

Vol. 4, No. 1 (Oct., 1887), pp. 7-13


[Translated from the French by Prof. Morris Jastrow, Jr., Ph. D.]

"The conquests of Alexander, in the year 332 B.C., gave the Greek language a preponderating influence in Palestine. Hebrew grammar, indeed, firmly resisted the Macedonian sway, as it formerly presented an inflexible front against Persian rule; but the vocabulary was enriched by the addition of a number of foreign words, imported with new conceptions for which there existed no equivalents in the national tongue. It is of the Greek elements in the Book of Daniel that I propose to treat.

The date and composition of the Book of Daniel have been fixed with an absolute certainty. It is a Palestinian work (1) of the year 169 or 168[B.C.] before the Christian era.

Hebrew and an Aramaic dialect, known as biblical Aramaic, are used alternately, as in the Book of Ezra. But our author goes even further, and does not hesitate to give his work a still stronger polyglottic character by the introduction of Persian and Greek words. M. Haug, in a learned monograph, has traced the etymologies of the former [the Persian words],(2) and I shall endeavor to do the same for the latter [the Greek words]."


(1) Apart from the linguistic point of view, which in itself is decisive, the contents of ch. IX., referring to Jerusalem, removes all further doubts.

(2) M. Haug, in Ewald's (ed.) Jahrbuecher d. Bibl. Wissenschaft (1853), V., pp. 151-164.


Note that this 'brilliant scholarship' is based on secondary work
done in the 1850s in the case of the alleged 'Persian' loan words in Daniel,
and work prior to 1887 for the supposed 'Greek loan words'.

Most importantly, note that the 'certainty' is inversely proportional to
the ignorance of the critics.

These idiots actually claim to be able to date the composition of the
entire book of Daniel down to within ONE YEAR of accuracy,
with a handful (3) of apparent Greek loan words. - in 1887.

This imported fad from Germany and France is exactly what
S.R. Driver based his own supposed dating for the book of Daniel upon,
in his "The Book of Daniel" (Cambridge, 1922).

In fact, the linguistic knowledge at that time (1880-1940)
was near-worthless for narrowing down the composition
and cultural influences, and hence establishing the date.

Yet somehow, Driver's work has been quoted ever since,
as if it were a scientific fact based on actual scientific, historical,
and linguistic data.
Driver argued:
‘…the Greek words demand, the Hebrew supports, and the Aramaic permits, a date after the conquest of Palestine by Alexander the Great (332 B.C.).’

S.R. Driver, ‘An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament’, page 508, (1891, reprinted 1956)
Generalising statements such as Driver’s often lead people to believe that Daniel is littered with Greek words and phrases, betraying the Maccabbean culture in which it was written. This is not the case. There are only three Greek terms in Daniel, and they are found in only one chapter of the entire book, and all three of them are musical instruments (Daniel 3:5, 3:7, 3:10, 3:15).

Recently, scholars (with less bias, and less urgent agendas)
have openly acknowledged the need to update the assessment
of the evidence pertinent to dating Daniel linguistically.
Regarding the Aramaic language itself, K.A. Kitchen summarises as follows: 

"There is today ample scope for reassessment. The inscriptional material for Old and Imperial Aramaic and later phases of the language is constantly growing. Oone need only mention the Brooklyn and Borchardt-Driver documents published in 1953 and 1954 or the Aramaic documents from Qumran and other cave-sites of Graeco-Roman palestine. Furthermore, some earlier views require revision in the light of facts hitherto unknown or neglected.

In dealing with the book of Daniel, theological presuppositions are apt to colour even the treatment and dating of its Aramaic. The only fair way to proceed is to leave open the whole period c. 540-160 BC until the end of any inquest on the Aramaic, as far as its date is concerned.


- The Aramaic of Daniel, D.J. Wiseman, Ed.,
Notes on Some Problems in the Book of Daniel, K. A. Kitchen, p.31-32, (1965, Tyndale Press)

 Yet in the Critical Edition of the Hebrew O.T. of which Driver himself was involved (he wrote volume on Leviticus), the textual critical situation already
admitted the precariousness of relying on at least one of these supposed 'Greek loan words', which under the rules of textual criticism of the day would have ben flagged as 'Harmonizations' and expunged from the text as 'glosses' or insertions:

-The Sacred Books of the Old Testament; a critical edition of the Hebrew text Footnotes,  p.21 (vol. 18 - Daniel, 1896, Leipzig)

Just in passing, its worthwhile to examine another absurdity in
the footnote (1) offered by Derenbourg/Jastrow (1887):

In the text they claim the work was composed in Palestine (i.e., Israel),
NOT Babylon, as the text itself essentially claims.

"It is a Palestinian work (1) of the year 169 or 168 [B.C.]..."

The idea they want to sell is that this was not composed anywhere near
Babylon, but is really all about Judaea and Jerusalem being persecuted
under the Seleucid Greeks from Turkey and Syria.

For "proof" they offer this in the footnote:

"1. Apart from the linguistic point of view, which in itself is decisive,
the contents of chapter 9, referring to Jerusalem, removes all further doubts."

But these same authors argue that the book is tainted with "Persian loan words".
These Persian loan words, rather than being simply acknowledged
as evidence of composition in Babylon by Daniel in 538 B.C.,
are now ignored, or rather assumed to have been part of late Aramaic in
The Persian flavour of Daniel is now interpreted as the style of Aramaic
in Seleucid Palestine! Its a no-win situation for Daniel, Ezra, and Chronicles.
These books which naturally reflect a Persian flavour are now made into
the assumed new standard for Palestinian Aramaic of the 2nd century.

Thus, evidence that should naturally be seen as Persian influence,
has been turned into 'evidence' of a 'late Palestinian dialect',
for which the only examples are works previously classed as
"Middle Persian Aramaic" of the 6th century B.C.

The second "proof" in the footnote is also equally absurd:

The fact that Daniel mourns and prays over Jerusalem and his own people,
while captive in Babylon, is somehow construed as evidence of a
Palestinian Jew whining about the persecutions of General Antiochius IV
(Epiphanes) against Jews in Palestine in 167-164 B.C., when
in fact, the Maccabeans were violently fighting and eventually routed
the Greeks, securing their autonomy for the future Hasmonean Dynasty.

Nothing however, in the entire chapter 9, other than the mention of
Jerusalem, shows any connection whatever to events in Palestine
under the Greek persecutions of the Seleucids, in particular Antiochius IV.

Far from "removing all doubts", Daniel ch 9 cries out for an explanation:

Why the lack of any reference at all to any acts of Antiocius IV ?

Why no mention of such acts as putting to death of Jews who obeyed
the laws of Moses, or refusal to participate in Greek sports,
or resistance to Greek culture and influence, or the defiling of the Temple?

Why are there no connections at all to Greek cultural invasion?
Not even a single Greek loanword or phrase even unconsciously used
by the author, who according to the critics is now living in a Palestine
dominated by Greeks and Greek culture for over 160 years?

If the Greeks had no impact at all, even on the content of Daniel,
what was the war about?
How could a 2nd century Maccabean author keep utterly silent about
the main points of terrorizing contention between Greeks and Jews?

The theory of the critics was that Daniel was to inspire Jews to resist
Greek invasion, both physically and culturally.

Where is any sign that the author was even aware of 2nd Century Greek
culture, apart from the mention in chapter 3 of three apparently ancient
Greek or at least Mediterranean musical instruments?
Instruments that had been imported into Egypt and Babylon centuries before Daniel?

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