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CHAPTER VIII

EVIDENCE IN FAVOUR OF THE GENUINENESS UNCERTAIN AND INADEQUATE

We have seen that there are many circumstances which force upon us the gravest doubts as to the authenticity of the Book of Daniel. We now proceed to examine the evidence urged in its favour, and deemed adequate to refute the conclusion that in its present form it did not see the light before the time of Antiochus IV.

Taking Hengstenberg as the most learned reasoner in favour of the genuineness of Daniel, we will pass in review all the positive arguments which he has adduced.176176   Hävernick is another able and sincere supporter; but Droysen truly says (Gesch. d. Hellenismus, ii. 211), "Die Hävernickschen Auffassung kann kein vernunftiger Mensch bestimmen." They occupy no less than one hundred and ten pages (pp. 182-291) of the English translation of his work on the genuineness of Daniel. Most of them are tortuous specimens of special pleading inadequate in themselves, or refuted by increased knowledge derived from the monuments and from further inquiry. To these arguments neither Dr. Pusey nor any subsequent writer has made any material addition. Some of them have been already answered, and many of them are so unsatisfactory that they may be dismissed at once.

I. Such, for instance, are the testimony of the author89 himself. In one of those slovenly treatises which only serve to throw dust in the eyes of the ignorant we find it stated that, "although the name of Daniel is not prefixed to his Book, the passages in which he speaks in the first person sufficiently prove that he was the author"! Such assertions deserve no answer. If the mere assumption of a name be a sufficient proof of the authorship of a book, we are rich indeed in Jewish authors—and, not to speak of others, our list includes works by Adam, Enoch, Eldad, Medad, and Elijah. "Pseudonymity," says Behrmann, "was a very common characteristic of the literature of that day, and the conception of literary property was alien to that epoch, and especially to the circle of writings of this class."

II. The character of the language, as we have seen already, proves nothing. Hebrew and Aramaic long continued in common use side by side at least among the learned,177177   See Grimm, Comment., zum I. Buch der Makk., Einleit., xvii.; Mövers in Bonner Zeitschr., Heft 13, pp. 31 ff.; Stähelin, Einleit., p. 356. and the divergence of the Aramaic in Daniel from that of the Targums leads to no definite result, considering the late and uncertain age of those writings.

III. How any argument can be founded on the exact knowledge of history displayed by local colouring we cannot understand. Were the knowledge displayed ever so exact it would only prove that the author was a learned man, which is obvious already. But so far from any remarkable accuracy being shown by the author, it is, on the contrary, all but impossible to reconcile many of his statements with acknowledged facts. The elaborate and tortuous explanations, the frequent "subauditur," the numerous assumptions90 required to force the text into accordance with the certain historic data of the Babylonian and Persian empires, tell far more against the Book than for it. The methods of accounting for these inaccuracies are mostly self-confuting, for they leave the subject in hopeless confusion, and each orthodox commentator shows how untenable are the views of others.

IV. Passing over other arguments of Keil, Hengstenberg, etc., which have been either refuted already, or which are too weak to deserve repetition, we proceed to examine one or two of a more serious character. Great stress, for instance, is laid on the reception of the Book into the Canon. We acknowledge the canonicity of the Book, its high value when rightly apprehended, and its rightful acceptance as a sacred book; but this in nowise proves its authenticity. The history of the Old Testament Canon is involved in the deepest obscurity. The belief that it was finally completed by Ezra and the Great Synagogue rests on no foundation; indeed, it is irreconcilable with later historic notices and other facts connected with the Books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, and the two Books of Chronicles. The Christian Fathers in this, as in some other cases, implicitly believed what came to them from the most questionable sources, and was mixed up with mere Jewish fables. One of the oldest Talmudic books, the Pirke Aboth, is entirely silent on the collection of the Old Testament, though in a vague way it connects the Great Synagogue with the preservation of the Law. The earliest mention of the legend about Ezra is in the Second Book of Esdras (xiv. 29-48). This book does not possess the slightest claim to authority, as it was not completed till a century after the Christian era; and it mingles up with this very narrative a number of particulars thoroughly fabulous91 and characteristic of a period when the Jewish writers were always ready to subordinate history to imaginative fables. The account of the magic cup, the forty days and forty nights' dictation, the ninety books of which seventy were secret and intended only for the learned, form part of the very passage from which we are asked to believe that Ezra established our existing Canon, though the genuine Book of Ezra is wholly silent about his having performed any such inestimable service. It adds nothing to the credit of this fable that it is echoed by Irenæus, Clemens Alexandrinus, and Tertullian.178178   Iren., Adv. Hæres., iv. 25; Clem., Strom. i. 21, § 146; Tert., De Cult. Fæm., i. 3; Jerome, Adv. Helv., 7; Ps. August., De Mirab., ii. 32, etc. Nor are there any external considerations which render it probable. The Talmudic tradition in the Baba Bathra,179179   Baba Bathra, f. 13b, 14b. which says (among other remarks in a passage of which "the notorious errors prove the unreliability of its testimony") that the men of the Great Synagogue wrote the Books of Ezekiel, the Twelve Minor Prophets, Daniel, and Ezra.180180   See Oehler, s.v. "Kanon" (Herzog, Encycl.). It is evident that, so far as this evidence is worth anything, it rather goes against the authenticity of Daniel than for it. The Pirke Aboth makes Simon the Just (about b.c. 290) a member of this Great Synagogue, of which the very existence is dubious.181181   Rau, De Synag. Magna., ii. 66.

Again, the author of the forged letter at the beginning of the Second Book of Maccabees—"the work" says Hengstenberg, "of an arrant impostor"182182   On Daniel, p. 195.—attributes the collection of certain books first to Nehemiah, and92 then, when they had been lost, to Judas Maccabæus (2 Macc. ii. 13, 14). The canonicity of the Old Testament books does not rest on such evidence as this,183183   "Even after the Captivity," says Bishop Westcott, "the history of the Canon, like all Jewish history up to the date of the Maccabees, is wrapped in great obscurity. Faint traditions alone remain to interpret results which are found realised when the darkness is first cleared away" (s.v. "Canon," Smith's Dict. of Bible). and it is hardly worth while to pursue it further. That the Book of Daniel was regarded as authentic by Josephus is clear; but this by no means decides its date or authorship. It is one of the very few books of which Philo makes no mention whatever.

V. Nor can the supposed traces of the early existence of the Book be considered adequate to prove its genuineness. With the most important of these, the story of Josephus (Antt., XI. viii. 5) that the high priest Jaddua showed to Alexander the Great the prophecies of Daniel respecting himself, we shall deal later. The alleged traces of the Book in Ecclesiasticus are very uncertain, or rather wholly questionable; and the allusion to Daniel in 1 Macc. ii. 60 decides nothing, because there is nothing to prove that the speech of the dying Mattathias is authentic, and because we know nothing certain as to the date of the Greek translator of that book or of the Book of Daniel. The absence of all allusion to the prophecies of Daniel is, on the other hand, a far more cogent point against the authenticity. Whatever be the date of the Books of Maccabees, it is inconceivable that they should offer no vestige of proof that Judas and his brothers received any hope or comfort from such explicit predictions as Dan. xi., had the Book been in the hands of those pious and noble chiefs.

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The First Book of Maccabees cannot be certainly dated more than a century before Christ, nor have we reason to believe that the Septuagint version of the Book is much older.184184   See König, Einleit., § 80, 2.

VI. The badness of the Alexandrian version, and the apocryphal additions to it, seem to be rather an argument for the late age and less established authority of the Book than for its genuineness.185185   "In propheta Daniele Septuaginta interpretes multum ab Hebraica veritate discordant" (Jerome, ed. Vallarsi, v. 646). In the LXX. are first found the three apocryphal additions. For this reason the version of Theodotion was substituted for the LXX., which latter was only rediscovered in 1772 in a manuscript in the library of Cardinal Chigi. Nor can we attach much weight to the assertion (though it is endorsed by the high authority of Bishop Westcott) that "it is far more difficult to explain its composition in the Maccabean period than to meet the peculiarities which it exhibits with the exigencies of the Return." So far is this from being the case that, as we have seen already, it resembles in almost every particular the acknowledged productions of the age in which we believe it to have been written. Many of the statements made on this subject by those who defend the authenticity cannot be maintained. Thus Hengstenberg186186   On the Authenticity of Daniel, pp. 159, 290 (E. Tr.). remarks that (1) "at this time the Messianic hopes are dead," and (2) "that no great literary work appeared between the Restoration from the Captivity and the time of Christ." Now the facts are precisely the reverse in each instance. For (i) the little book called the Psalms of Solomon,187187   Psalms of Sol. xvii. 36, xviii. 8, etc. See Fabric., Cod. Pseudep., i. 917-972; Ewald, Gesch. d. Volkes Isr., iv. 244. which belongs to this period, contains the strongest and clearest Messianic hopes,94 and the Book of Enoch most closely resembles Daniel in its Messianic predictions. Thus it speaks of the pre-existence of the Messiah (xlviii. 6, lxii. 7), of His sitting on a throne of glory (lv. 4, lxi. 8), and receiving the power of rule.

(ii) Still less can we attach any force to Hengstenberg's argument that, in the Maccabean age, the gift of prophecy was believed to have departed for ever. Indeed, that is an argument in favour of the pseudonymity of the Book. For in the age at which—for purposes of literary form—it is represented as having appeared the spirit of prophecy was far from being dead. Ezekiel was still living, or had died but recently. Zechariah, Haggai, and long afterwards Malachi, were still to continue the succession of the mighty prophets of their race. Now, if prediction be an element in the prophet's work, no prophet, nor all the prophets together, ever distantly approached any such power of minutely foretelling the events of a distant future—even the half-meaningless and all-but-trivial events of four centuries later, in kingdoms which had not yet thrown their distant shadows on the horizon—as that which Daniel must have possessed, if he were indeed the author of this Book.188188   Even Auberlen says (Dan., p. 3, E. Tr.), "If prophecy is anywhere a history of the future, it is here." Yet, as we have seen, he never thinks of claiming the functions of the prophets, or speaking in the prophet's commanding voice, as the foreteller of the message of God. On the contrary, he adopts the comparatively feebler and more entangled methods of the literary composers in an age when men saw not their tokens and there was no prophet more.189189   See Vitringa, De defectu Prophetiæ post Malachiæ tempora Obss. Sacr., ii. 336.

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We must postpone a closer examination of the questions as to the "four kingdoms" intended by the writer, and of his curious and enigmatic chronological calculations; but we must reject at once the monstrous assertion—excusable in the days of Sir Isaac Newton, but which has now become unwise and even portentous—that "to reject Daniel's prophecies would be to undermine the Christian religion, which is all but founded on his prophecies respecting Christ"! Happily the Christian religion is not built on such foundations of sand. Had it been so, it would long since have been swept away by the beating rain and the rushing floods. Here, again, the arguments urged by those who believe in the authenticity of Daniel recoil with tenfold force upon themselves. Sir Isaac Newton's observations on the prophecies of Daniel only show how little transcendent genius in one domain of inquiry can save a great thinker from absolute mistakes in another. In writing upon prophecy the great astronomer was writing on the assumption of baseless premisses which he had drawn from stereotyped tradition; and he was also writing at an epoch when the elements for the final solution of the problem had not as yet been discovered or elaborated. It is as certain that, had he been living now, he would have accepted the conclusion of all the ablest and most candid inquirers, as it is certain that Bacon, had he now been living, would have accepted the Copernican theory. It is absurdly false to say that "the Christian religion is all but founded on Daniel's prophecies respecting Christ." If it were not absurdly false, we might well ask, How it came that neither Christ nor His Apostles ever once alluded to the existence of any such argument, or ever pointed to the Book of Daniel and the prophecy of the seventy weeks as containing the least96 germ of evidence in favour of Christ's mission or the Gospel teaching? No such argument is remotely alluded to till long afterwards by some of the Fathers.

But so far from finding any agreement in the opinions of the Christian Fathers and commentators on a subject which, in Newton's view, was so momentous, we only find ourselves weltering in a chaos of uncertainties and contradictions. Thus Eusebius records the attempt of some early Christian commentators to treat the last of the seventy weeks as representing, not, like all the rest, seven years, but seventy years, in order to bring down the prophecy to the days of Trajan! Neither Jewish nor Christian exegetes have ever been able to come to the least agreement between themselves or with one another as to the beginning or end—the terminus a quo or the terminus ad quem—with reference to which the seventy weeks are to be reckoned. The Christians naturally made great efforts to make the seventy weeks end with the Crucifixion. But Julius Africanus190190   Demonstr. Evang., viii. († a.d. 232), beginning with the twentieth year of Artaxerxes (Neh. ii. 1-9, b.c. 444), gets only four hundred and seventy-five to the Crucifixion, and to escape the difficulty makes the years lunar years.191191   Of the Jews, the LXX. translators seem to make the seventy weeks end with Antiochus Epiphanes; but in Jerome's day they made the first year of "Darius the Mede" the terminus a quo, and brought down the terminus ad quem to Hadrian's destruction of the Temple. Saadia the Gaon and Rashi reckon the seventy weeks from Nebuchadrezzar to Titus, and make Cyrus the anointed one of ix. 25. Abn Ezra, on the other hand, takes Nehemiah for "the anointed one." What can be based on such varying and undemonstrable guesses? See Behrmann, Dan., p. xliii.

Hippolytus192192   Hippolytus, Fragm. in Dan. (Migne, Patr. Græc., x.). separates the last week from all the97 rest, and relegates it to the days of Antichrist and the end of the world. Eusebius himself refers "the anointed one" to the line of Jewish high priests, separates the last week from the others, ends it with the fourth year after the Crucifixion, and refers the ceasing of the sacrifice (Deut. ix. 27) to the rejection of Jewish sacrifices by God after the death of Christ. Apollinaris makes the seventy weeks begin with the birth of Christ, and argues that Elijah and Antichrist were to appear a.d. 490! None of these views found general acceptance.193193   See Bevan, pp. 141-145. Not one of them was sanctioned by Church authority. Every one, as Jerome says, argued in this direction or that pro captu ingenii sui. The climax of arbitrariness is reached by Keil—the last prominent defender of the so-called "orthodoxy" of criticism—when he makes the weeks not such commonplace things as "earthly chronological weeks," but Divine, symbolic, and therefore unknown and unascertainable periods. And are we to be told that it is on such fantastic, self-contradictory, and mutually refuting calculations that "the Christian religion is all but founded"? Thank God, the assertion is entirely wild.


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