You are hereThe Mysterious Number in Daniel 5:31

The Mysterious Number in Daniel 5:31

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By Islamaphobe - Posted on 14 August 2006

by John Evans
Toward the end of Daniel 5, which contains the marvelous tale of the handwriting on the wall, the prophet Daniel informs Belshazzar, the ruler of Babylon: “your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians” (NASB, v.28). Verse 30 tells us that Belshazzar was slain that very night, and the next verse ends the tale with this information: “So Darius the Mede received the kingdom at about the age of sixty-two.”Toward the end of Daniel 5, which contains the marvelous tale of the handwriting on the wall, the prophet Daniel informs Belshazzar, the ruler of Babylon: “your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians” (NASB, v.28). Verse 30 tells us that Belshazzar was slain that very night, and the next verse ends the tale with this information: “So Darius the Mede received the kingdom at about the age of sixty-two.”Among the biblical scholars who take it for granted that the Book of Daniel as we have it is a product of the second century BC—most of whom believe that the tales of Daniel 1-6 had an earlier beginning than that—it is generally accepted that the author was a poor historian of the sixth century BC and simply invented Darius the Mede in order to present Media as the second kingdom in the four-kingdoms sequences of Daniel 2 and 7, with Babylonia, Persia and Greece filling the first, third, and fourth slots, respectively. The author (or authors) was/were motivated to invent Darius, they believe, because he/they wanted to demonstrate the fulfillment of the prophecies in Isaiah (13:17-18, 21:2) and Jeremiah (51:11, 28) that have the Medes coming against Babylon without mentioning the Persians.[1] In holding to this position, these scholars—I call them “liberals”—generally dismiss or ignore the inconvenient fact that, as Daniel 5:28 clearly indicates, the Book of Daniel portrays the Medes and Persians as the joint conquerors of Babylon.

There is no reference to Darius the Mede elsewhere in the Old Testament or in any non-biblical source. It is easy to understand, therefore, why one of the greatest challenges to those who believe in a sequence of four kingdoms in Daniel 2 and 7 that has Rome as the fourth kingdom—the present author included—is to provide a plausible resolution of the Darius the Mede problem that supports this “Roman” sequence. That we can approach the solution of this problem optimistically is justified, I believe, by the history of biblical scholarship pertaining to Belshazzar. Until the 1850s, no historical record revealed his existence, and it was assumed among the higher critics that he, like Darius the Mede, was a fictional character. Archeological discoveries that began in 1854 revealed, however, that Belshazzar was indeed in charge of governing Babylon at the time of its fall to the Medes and Persians 539 BC. He was not the crowned ruler of Babylonia, but the co-regent with his father, Nabonidus, who preferred to live for some years in northern Arabia. To this day, liberals continue to nitpick about Belshazzar, but there is no getting around the facts that he was the ruler in charge of Babylon when it fell and that the Book of Daniel alone preserved this information until the nineteenth century. Liberals tend to dismiss their Belshazzar problem by suggesting that even though the author of Daniel was a poor historian, traditions about Belshazzar and the fall of Babylon somehow survived that allowed the author to luck out in this instance. Nevertheless, they assure us, Darius the Mede cannot be a historical figure.

But if Darius the Mede is a fictional character, why was it necessary to make up an age for him at all, much less an age as precise as sixty-two? The liberal answer to this question is that the number sixty-two must have symbolic, as opposed to historical, significance. Therefore, those liberal writers who have concerned themselves with the sixty-two problem have tended to speculate about just what the symbolic significance of the number sixty-two might be.

This number appears at one other place in the Book of Daniel; it is the second of the three periods into which the famed prophecy of the seventy “weeks” or sevens is broken up (Dan 9:25-26). Just how the sixty-two weeks of 9:25-26, which represent a period of 434 years, connects symbolically with the age of the conqueror of Babylon is not obvious, but I have found one critical scholar, Reinhard Kratz, who believes that there must be a connection.[2] Kratz does not offer an explanation of just why the author of Daniel wanted to symbolically connect the 434 years of the sixty-two weeks with the age of Darius the Mede, and I confess that I have been completely unable to think of one. But I am an economist by training and lack the capacity for imagination that some biblical scholars possess.

In his admirable commentary on Daniel, Ernest Lucas states that the precision of the number sixty-two given as Darius’s age “suggests something symbolic about the number,” and he offers these possibilities: (1) to imply a short reign for Darius and thus explain Daniel’s survival into the reign of Cyrus; (2) to suggest “that the seeds of the end of Babylonian power were sown (by Darius’ birth) at about the time the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed”; and (3), following John Goldingay, the possibility that “on the basis of the Babylonian mina of sixty shekels, sixty-two is the number of shekels implied in Daniel’s interpretation of the writing (a mina, a shekel, and two half-shekels).”[3] The writing to which Lucas refers is, of course, the four-word message or omen of the handwriting on the wall: “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN” (5:25). In terms of monetary units, if you ignore the fact that MENE is listed twice, this can literally be translated as “a mina [worth sixty shekels], a shekel, and two halves,” though the “two halves” could also be translated as “some halves.”[4]

John J. Collins, whose massive commentary constitutes the definitive work on Daniel from the critical perspective, leans toward the first of these possibilities, observing that “the relatively high age precludes a long reign and makes it plausible for Daniel to survive into the reign of Cyrus.”[5] But sixty-two was not such an advanced age for a ruler even in ancient times as to automatically create a life expectancy of a year or two—which is how long the Book of Daniel appears to have Darius the Mede reign—and why have such a specific number if the idea was to suggest that Darius not going to last long?

More persuasively, I believe, John Goldingay argues that if the sixty-two of Darius’s age corresponds to the quantity of shekels indicated in the handwriting on the wall, then Darius “is the actual person who brings [the] fulfillment [of the omen] upon Belshazzar.”[6] Perhaps so, though my lack of imagination handicaps me in relating sixty-two shekels to Darius’s age. Note, however, that Goldingay’s solution requires you to ignore the fact that MENE appears twice in the omen. Those who favor this solution ignore the repetition and perhaps believe that the second MENE was not in the original version of the tale and was added for some reason. Of course, one of the advantages of assuming second century BC authorship for the final version of the Book of Daniel is that this makes it easy to invoke the hand of an unknown glossator to rid yourself of inconvenient bits of text that you want to treat as editorial additions.

As for the second of the three possibilities listed, the idea that the purpose of the sixty-two was to have the birth of Darius coincide with the time when the seeds of Babylon’s eventual fall were sown, it has serious problems. If we add sixty-two to the year of Babylon’s fall (539 BC), we arrive at 601, four years after the year when Daniel was supposedly taken to Babylon, four years before a major exile of Jews to Babylonia, and fifteen years before the destruction of the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar. In other words, you land not far from the middle of nowhere. What the year 601 is supposed to represent besides the birth of Darius simply escapes me.

Adding to the difficulties involved in trying to figure out a symbolic meaning of the number sixty-two in Daniel 5:31 is the fact that the number sixty-two apparently is not as precise as is often claimed. As best as I can determine, the texts on which most English translations of Daniel are based—the Hebrew of the Masoretic Text and the Greek version known as Theodotion—are most accurately translated with 5:31 (6:1 in the MT) indicating that Darius the Mede was about sixty-two years old when he “received the kingdom.” Some translations omit the word “about,” however, and I have noticed that the comments on this verse that I have read by critical writers are generally written as if this word were not there. In my judgment, when you consider that the word about is there, the effect is to undermine the plausibility of most attempts to interpret the sixty-two symbolically.

Trained as we are in the decimal system, it is natural for us to round to numbers that are divisible by ten or five. It may be, however, that the residents of ancient Babylon did not think that way. Thus, while we are prone to say that a certain man was “about sixty” or “about sixty-five,” it may be that a Babylonian resident might have said that a certain man was “about sixty-two.” In any event, we have to conclude, I think, that the sixty-two years of age for Darius the Mede is not the precise figure that liberals have tended to assume it is.

If the explanations offered for how the sixty-two figure of 5:31 might have been intended to be understood symbolically do not seem satisfactory—and I submit that they do not—this raises the possibility that maybe, just maybe, “about the age of sixty-two” was intended to be understood literally; i.e. perhaps the author of Daniel thought of Darius the Mede as a real person and believed that he was about sixty-two years old when Babylon fell. But if that is the case, is it possible that we might be able to identify who he was if we put our minds to the task? I believe that the answer to this question is yes, and that Darius the Mede was none other than Cyrus the Persian.

About fifty years ago, the great conservative biblical linguist Donald J. Wiseman first put forth his hypothesis that when Daniel 6:28 is properly translated, it indicates that Darius the Mede was, in fact, none other than Cyrus the Persian. Here is the translation of that verse from the NASB: “So this Daniel enjoyed success in the reign of Darius the Mede and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.” According to Wiseman, the “and” should be understood explicatively, meaning that it should be translated as “even” in the sense of “that is.” In other words, the verse should read, “So this Daniel enjoyed success in the reign of Darius the Mede, that is, the reign of Cyrus the Persian,” thereby yielding the meaning that the two are the same person.[7]

It is not uncommon for the Hebrew construction in question in 6:28 to be translated as Wiseman suggests elsewhere in the OT, so the question emerges as to why it is generally translated as “and” in Daniel 6:28. The answer seems to be that most translators simply have not considered the possibility that Darius the Mede could be Cyrus the Persian. A partial exception to this pattern is the NIV, which recognizes in a footnote that the “and” of 6:28 could be translated as “that is.” Collins remarks (in a footnote) that Wiseman’s line of argument exists, but he dismisses it as being “very dubious” and explains himself by stating that Wiseman offers “no explanation of why Cyrus should be called Darius.”[8] By contrast, Lucas recognizes that “For those who are looking for a historical ‘Darius the Mede’, Wiseman’s suggestion seems to provide the best answer.”[9] Since those who believe that the Book of Daniel is a second century BC production generally are not “looking for a historical ‘Darius the Mede’,” one can safely assume that Lucas is here referring to those conservatives who entertain the notion (probably mistaken in his view) that Daniel the Prophet really existed.

In actuality, Wiseman and those who believe that he is on the right track with regard to 6:28 have suggested reasons why the author of Daniel may have chosen to refer to Cyrus as a Mede. Cyrus’s maternal ancestry was Median, and he had come to power with assistance from the Median nobles and chosen the capital of Media, Ecbatana (modern Habadan in western Iran), as the administrative capital of his empire. The residents of Babylonia, including the captive Jews, were more familiar with the Medes than with the Persians; and given Cyrus’s background, it was natural for them to think of him as a Mede. And of particular significance, no doubt, was the fact that since Isaiah and Jeremiah had prophesied that Babylon would fall to the Medes, it made sense in terms of prophetic fulfillment to credit a Mede with its conquest.

These factors, however, do not explain why the author of Daniel chose to change Cyrus’s name. I suggest that he did so because (1) he needed to credit a Mede with the conquest of Babylonia but the name Cyrus was specifically identified with the Persian aspect of the conqueror’s background and was, therefore, unsuitable; and (2) it was a common practice in that era for people to be known by more than one name, including the throne names that were given to kings. The name that the author chose was probably an appropriate throne name. Recall that Daniel 1:7 informs us that when Daniel and his three friends entered into Nebuchadnezzar’s service, the name Belteshazzar was given to Daniel and the names Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, respectively, were given to his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Daniel 5:12 reminds us that Nebuchadnezzar referred to Daniel as Belteshazzar. Richard N. Frye, a long-time specialist in Iranian languages and history at Harvard, suggested that Darius was probably a throne name meaning “having wealth (good things of life).”[10]

To all this liberals can (and do) respond by revealing their ace in the hole, the fact that Daniel 9:1 refers to Darius as the “son of Ahasuerus, of the race of the Medes.” Ahasuerus is the Hebrew equivalent of Xerxes, a name that is generally associated with Xerxes I, the ruler of the Persian/Achaemenid Empire from 485 to 465. Xerxes I was the son of Darius I, the ruler of the Empire from 522 to 485. Historians agree, however, that Cyrus the Great was actually the son of Cambyses I, who ruled Persia as a Median vassal king and died ca. 559. Based on this information, liberals have often concluded that the author of Daniel recycled the names of a couple of well-known Persian kings for his mythical Median conqueror of Babylon and his pedigree. For example, Collins informs us that “there can be little doubt that the figure in Daniel 9 [verse 1] is fictitious and that the author has simply used the well-known Persian name [Ahasuerus] to fill out the allusion to the sketchy ‘Darius the Mede’.”[11] Some liberals who are less careful than Collins have suggested that the author of Daniel actually confused his Darius the Mede, the “son of Ahasuerus,” with the Persian kings Darius I and Xerxes I and reversed the father-son relationship.

Ernest Lucas, who shows a greater willingness to take conservative arguments seriously than most writers who favor a Maccabean date for Daniel, notes that Wiseman “suggests that, since there is evidence . . . that ‘Ahasuerus’ was a dynastic throne name, it could have applied to any of Cyrus’ forebears who are known to us by other names,” and he indicates that Wiseman’s analysis should be taken seriously by those “looking for a historical, rather than a purely literary, explanation of ‘Ahasuerus’ here.”[12] Again I remind the reader that liberals generally are not looking for a historical explanation of Ahasuerus—though perhaps they should be! I add that if the author of Daniel had written in 9:1 that the father of Darius was Cambyses I, he would not have been able to append to that name “of the race of the Medes”; and as I have already explained, the author had reason to call attention to the Median aspect of Cyrus’s background.

The early years of Cyrus the Great are shrouded in myth and weak in solid documentary evidence, but it is generally agreed that Cyrus’s mother was a Median princess named Mandane, who was the daughter of Astyages, the ruler of Media, and the granddaughter of Cyaxares, the founder of the Median Empire. Based on Herodotus, historians generally give the reigns of Cyaxares and Astyages as running from ca. 625 to 585 and 585 to 550, respectively. In other words, both reigns were quite long. Cyrus founded what became known as the Achaemenid Empire by wresting the Median throne from Astyages in 550. This means that if it is correct that Cyrus’s mother was Mandane and that Mandane was the daughter of Astyages, then Cyrus deposed his own maternal grandfather. Historians generally give credibility to this assertion. In large part, they do so because they know that Cyrus received great support from the Median nobility. A reasonable assumption, it would seem, is that toward the end of his reign, Astyages became a rather irascible old man and was forcibly removed from office by what passed in those days for popular demand.

Unfortunately, the information that we have on the life of Cyrus the Great does not specify when he was born; and for the purposes of this article, the key question about his life is whether he could have been about sixty-two years of age when Babylon fell; i.e. in 539 BC. In other words, could Cyrus possibly have been born as early as, say, 601 BC? Admittedly, the ripe old age of sixty-two sounds rather advanced for a sixth-century BC conqueror, and it may seem improbable that a man who was about fifty-one years of age in 550 BC would have ousted his own grandfather from the Median kingship.

Assume that Cyaxares was at least thirty when he ascended the throne of Media ca. 625. Given the leadership that he exhibited in welding the various tribes of Medes together and molding a major fighting force that could be a full partner with Babylonia in destroying Assyria, it is reasonable to believe that he was no younger than that. Also assume that his son Astyages was born ca. 635. That may seem early, but princes in those days were expected to marry young and produce heirs. Mandane, who is supposed to have been the mother of Cyrus, is said to have been a daughter of Astyages. Given the fact (as the case of Mohammed reminds us), that females attained marriageable age quite early in the ancient Near East as late as the seventh century AD, it is not at all out of the question that when Cyrus ousted Astyages from the kingship of Media in 550, he could have been as old as fifty-one and still had Astyages as his maternal grandfather. In sum, it is mathematically possible for Cyrus to have been about sixty-two when his forces took Babylon.

Scholarly opinion about the year of Cyrus’s birth varies greatly. I have noticed that some posters on the “Net” have picked a date as late as 576 for the year of his birth, but I have also found that several prominent scholars have gone with a much earlier date and that a date of ca. 600 is common among them. I trust the work of archaeologist Max Mallowan, who is perhaps best known these days for having been the second husband of Agatha Christie. Mallowan stated that Cyrus must have been about forty when he ascended the Persian throne (ca. 558) and about seventy when he died campaigning in Transoxiana in Central Asia in 529; i.e. ten years after his forces took Babylon.[13]

Conflicting somewhat with the evidence that would push the birth of Cyrus back as far as ca. 600 is the information that we have about three princesses who were contemporaries of Astyages: Amytis of Media, Aryenis of Lydia, and Mandane, who is said to have been the daughter of Astyages and the mother of Cyrus. If that information is correct, Cyrus could not have been born ca. 600. There is reason to believe, however, that the information is not fully trustworthy.

Amytis is known to history as the daughter of Cyaxares and the wife of Nebuchadnezzar whose homesickness for her native Media induced that monarch to construct the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Her marriage to Nebuchadnezzar reportedly occurred in connection with the alliance formed ca. 614 between Cyaxares of Media and Nabopolassar of Babylonia (the father of Nebuchadnezzar) to destroy Assyria. Although Berossus, a third-century Babylonian, wrote that Amytis was a daughter of Astyages, that is very unlikely in view of the fact that it would seem to require that Astyages was born considerably earlier than I have suggested. I completely agree, therefore, with James Jordan, who simply asserts that Amytis was the daughter of Cyaxares.[14] If this is correct, this means that she was a sibling of Astyages and must have been born within a few years of the 635 date that I have surmised for the birth of Astyages.

According to Herodotus, Aryenis was the daughter of Alyattes II of Lydia, the wife of Astyages, and the mother of Mandane. If she was the daughter of Alyattes II, this means that she was also the sister of Croesus, who reigned as king of Lydia from 560 until his defeat by Cyrus in 547. Her marriage to Astyages supposedly occurred as part of a peace settlement reached between Lydia and Media following the indecisive Battle of the Eclipse in 585. This date cannot be reconciled with the claim that Mandane was the daughter of Aryenis and the mother of Cyrus unless you assume that she gave birth at a remarkably young age and that Cyrus was quite young when he became the ruler of the empire of the Medes and Persians. Neither assumption seems plausible. Far more reasonable is to believe that Astyages had a much earlier marriage than the one that supposedly occurred to Aryenis and that the account of Herodotus contains inaccuracies.

Near Eastern rulers, after all, tended to be polygamous, and Herodotus wrote his account of the time of Astyages and Cyrus long after they had passed from the scene. Here I agree with the “Some modern scholars” referred to in the Wikipedia article “Mandane of Media” who believe that Herodotus’s account of the supposed dynastic links between Cyrus the Great and the kingdoms he conquered may be embellishments designed to legitimize his conquests.[15]

In conclusion, I am of the opinion that the evidence favoring a strictly symbolic interpretation of the “about the age of sixty-two” is weak, that a strong case can be made for believing that Darius the Mede was none other than Cyrus the Persian, and that a very plausible case can be made for believing that Cyrus was “about the age of sixty-two” when Babylon fell to the forces of Media and Persia. So when you encounter a statement on the “Net” from Wikipedia or other sources that suggests that Cyrus the Great was born ca. 576 BC, I recommend that you discount it very heavily.

Notes

[1]Isaiah 21:2 does, however, give both Elam and Media as the attackers of Babylon, and Elam was next door to the Persian heartland. It had been incorporated into the Achaemenid or Persian Empire by the time Babylon fell, 539 BC; and one can readily see why in Isaiah’s mind, it would have been indistinguisable from Persia.

[2]Reinhard G. Kratz, “The Visions of Daniel,” in The Book of Daniel: Composition and Reception, ed. John J. Collins and Peter W. Flint, vol. I (Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, 2001), 108.

[3]Ernest C. Lucas, Daniel, Apollos Old Testament Commentary, ed. David W. Baker and Gordon J. Wenham, vol. 20 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 2002), 137.

[4]John E. Goldingay, Daniel, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 30 (Dallas: Word Books, 1989), 100, 102.

[5]John J. Collins, A Commentary on the Book of Daniel, Hermeneia—A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible, ed. Frank Moore Cross (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1993), 253.

[6]Goldingay, Daniel, 112.

[7]Donald J. Wiseman, “Some Historical Problems in the Book of Daniel,” in Notes on Some Problems in the Book of Daniel (London: The Tyndale Press, 1965), 12. In a footnote, Wiseman records that he first advanced this hypothesis in a BBC broadcast in 1957 that was subsequently published in Christianity Today, II, 1957, pp. 7-10. Ibid., 12n19.

[8]Collins, A Commentary, 253n116.

[9]Lucas, Daniel, 137.

[10]Richard N. Frye, The Heritage of Persia (Cleveland: Word Publishing, 1963), 92.

[11]Collins, A Commentary, 348.

[12]Lucas, Daniel, 234-35. See Wiseman, “Historical Problems,” 15. Wiseman follows Frye in suggesting that Ahasuerus was a throne name. Frye writes: “The names of Achaemenid kings after Darius which have been preserved were probably ‘throne names’ or appellations, perhaps taken at the time of accession, or when named crown prince.” He adds: “The name Xerxes probably means ‘hero among rulers.” Frye, Heritage, 92-93,

[13]Max Mallowan, “Cyrus the Great,” The Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 2, ed. Ilya Gershevtch (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 404.

[14]James B. Jordan, “Esther: Historical and Chronological Comments,” Biblical Horizons, www.bibilicalhorizons.com/ch/ch8_07.htm.

[15]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandane_of_Media.

Malachi's picture

The argument that "and" should be translated "even" in Dan. 6:28, based upon Hebrew ("It is not uncommon for the Hebrew construction in question in 6:28 to be translated as Wiseman suggests elsewhere in the OT, so the question emerges as to why it is generally translated as “and” in Daniel 6:28") seems forced, and a little too convenient. Nothing like inventing a translation to accommodate one's hypothesis. Besides (and correct me if I am wrong) beginning at Daniel 2:4 through the end of chapter seven, the book is written in Chaldean. So, Hebrew grammar is hardly material to the discussion. To my mind, the notion that Cyrus and Darius are the same person is very weak. But, I do appreciate the scholarly discussion nonetheless. :)

Islamaphobe's picture

Because Daniel 5 is written in Aramaic, you make a valid point, but Wiseman's argument is that the construction is the same as in Hebrew. I'm obviously not a linguist, but I trust Wiseman's judgment.

J. Evans

Malachi's picture

Hebrew grammar is irrelevant. The only relevant issue is whether Aramaic can arguably be translated "even" instead of "and." I pulled the Septuagint down and consulted it. The reading is "and," so the Jews who translated the Aramaic into Greek 250 years before Christ disagreed with Wiseman. Josephus did too, he treats then as separate individuals ("But when Babylon was taken by Darius, and when he, with his kinsman Cyrus, had put an end to the dominion of the Babylonians..." Ant. X,xi, 4). Josephus seems to rely upon Xenophon for the idea Darius was Cyrus' kinsman. Herodotus was to the contrary. Bottom line: The argument that Darius was Cyrus by a different name is a weak one.

Islamaphobe's picture

You argue forcefully and with conviction. Without a more detailed argument, however, I'll stick with Wiseman and Colless.

Malachi's picture

How much more detailed argument do you need? Virtually every version in the world translates the Dan. 6:28 so as to differentiate between Darius and Cyrus; not one exists that purports to make them the same person. Josephus, who may be deemed representative of all the Jews of his day, makes them two people. Sounds to me like your putting way, way too much stock in a couple commentators who want to reconcile the Bible to the silence of history by inventing an insupportable translation no one heard of until they thought it up! How very like the old earth creationists this case seems: external evidences don't confirm the Bible? Just invent a new reading or theory to change the Bible to match modern science! Nothing like standing upon the word of God!

Islamaphobe's picture

Sorry, Malachi, but you and I simply do not connect on any level that I can see. There is plenty of evidence to refute you, but why bother? I do not employ your technique of argumentation. And Thomas S. accuses me or ridiculing those with whom I disagree! By the way, I'm one of those persons who believes that the universe is approximately 14 billion years old and that Earth has been around for at least 3 billion years of that time.

ThomasS's picture

True... And that's why Collins thinks Wiseman is begging the question. But Colless has adduced more arguments which should be taken into consideration.

Personally, I think "Darius the Mede" still is an enigmatic figure. A nice subject for a Ph.D. I would say. Any takers?

Th. S.

paul's picture

Thanks. I plan to read this, and print it out tommorrow!

paul

ThomasS's picture

Dear John Evans,

It is not true that most 'liberals'

"generally dismiss or ignore the inconvenient fact that, as Daniel 5:28 clearly indicates, the Book of Daniel portrays the Medes and Persians as the joint conquerors of Babylon".

Both Lucas and Caragounis have addressed this "problem".

It's like arguing that, when trying to defend the 'Roman Sequence', many 'conservatives' "generally dismiss or ignore the inconvenient fact that, as Daniel 8 clearly indicates, the Book of Daniel portrays Antiochus IV as 'the little horn'".

Best regards

Th. S.

Islamaphobe's picture

Lucas and Caragounis are not "most liberals." I am unfamiliar with the latter. As I noted in my article, Lucas treats the conservative viewpoint respectfully, though he still holds to a Maccabean date for the writing of Daniel. In my judgment, Lucas comes close at times to swinging over to the Roman sequence but can't bring himself to do it because that would go against the prevailing view in academic circles.

Most conservatives with whom I am familiar have no problem in identifying Antiochus IV in Dan 8. They just don't find him in Dan 7. For you, apparently, it is a "fact" that because Antiochus is "the horn that started small" of Dan 8, he must be the little horn of Dan 7. I disagree with that assessment.

I repeat that most liberals generally dismiss or ignore the inconvenient fact that Dan 5:28 portrays the Medes and Persians as the joint conquerors of Babylon. They have to do that in order to claim that the author of Daniel presented Media as his second kingdom.

ThomasS's picture

Dear John Evans,

You wrote:

“Most conservatives with whom I am familiar have no problem in identifying Antiochus IV in Dan 8. They just don't find him in Dan 7. For you, apparently, it is a "fact" that because Antiochus is "the horn that started small" of Dan 8, he must be the little horn of Dan 7. I disagree with that assessment.”

I am, of course, familiar with ‘conservative’ attempts to distinguish between the little horn in Dan 7 and the little horn in Dan 8. As long as one wants to maintain that the fourth beast in Dan 7 represents the Roman Empire, one just has to find a way to distinguish the little horn in Dan 7 with the little horn in Dan 8 -- as the little horn in Dan 8 inconveniently (?) seems to be identified with a Syrian king, not a Roman one.

Now, I do not really suggest that you find the identification of the little horn in Dan 8 inconvenient! So why should you suggest that Dan 5:30 is inconvenient for most liberals? (By the way, who are these liberal scholars?) Surely, Dan 5:30 does not represent a real problem for an identification of the second kingdom with the Median empire, as this identification could be based on other observations (cf. the arguments presented by several scholars like Caragounis, Lucas, Walton, Gurney, etc.).

I really do not understand why you have to ridicule the position advocated by most liberals. Do you really think Collins is less biased than you? Do you want to suggest that his liberal mind is just too stupid or just too unwilling to see that the conservative view is the only one that really makes sense?

You also wrote:

“In my judgment, Lucas comes close at times to swinging over to the Roman sequence but can't bring himself to do it because that would go against the prevailing view in academic circles.”

And your reason for this would be ... ?

I find it interesting that you question the scholarly integrity of Lucas, implying that he rejects the identification of the fourth kingdom with the Roman Empire for other than scholarly reasons. After reading most of Lucas works on Daniel, I am not able to see that he is “close at times to swinging over to the Roman sequence”. His commentary presents several reasons for not identifying the fourth kingdom with the Roman Empire. In his Ph.D., he demonstrates (beyond any reasonable doubts, I think) that the mixture of iron and clay (in Dan 2) indicates a ‘Macedonian mixture’.

Like Lucas, I think the identification of “Darius the Mede” with Curys the Persian is possible. But there are several problems with this interpretation, some of which eventually made even a conservative scholar like William Shea to reject Wiseman’s theory.

You wrote (in your essay):

“Trained as we are in the decimal system, it is natural for us to round to numbers that are divisible by ten or five. It may be, however, that the residents of ancient Babylon did not think that way. Thus, while we are prone to say that a certain man was “about sixty” or “about sixty-five,” it may be that a Babylonian resident might have said that a certain man was “about sixty-two.” In any event, we have to conclude, I think, that the sixty-two years of age for Darius the Mede is not the precise figure that liberals have tended to assume it is.”

Do you have any information on the Babylonian culture indicating that “about 62 years” would mean the same as indicated by our way of saying “about 60 years” or about 62 years”? If we take the phrase at face value, it would seem that the author of Dan 9:1 did not know exactly how old “Darius the Mede” really was. But perhaps that is too inconvenient? :)

I like your take on “Darius the Mede”, but there is no reason to ridicule the ‘liberal’ view.

Regards

Th. S.

Islamaphobe's picture

Because you put considerable time into your comment, I shall take a little of mine to offer a reply.

Actually, I stated that it is 5:28, not 5:30, that is inconvenient for liberals because 5:28 indicates that Babylon fell to both the Medes and the Persians. The liberals' problem, which I am surprised that you have difficulty acknowledging, is that although they hold that Babylon fell to Darius the Mede and that this means that the author considered Media to be independent from Persia at the time Babylon fell, the Book of Daniel never separates the Medes from the Persians. It separates Darius the Mede from Cyrus the Persian.

As for the horns of 7 and 8, that is an entirely different issue that does not belong here. There are people who do not find significant differences between the two. If one rejects the Roman sequence, he is likely to dismiss those differences; but if one accepts the Roman sequence, he is likely to consider them. It is the weight of the evidence of the Book of Daniel as a whole that should decide the matter.

As a matter of fact, I DO consider Collins to be more biased than I am. I also consider him to be a brilliant scholar, with academic credentials in biblical scholarship that make me look like a kindergarten student by comparison. But you can be brilliant and biased, and Collins is very biased against conservative scholarship. We are all biased, of course. The trick is to be objective in spite of our biases. The academic environment in which Collins works reminds me, in a way, of our news media, whose bias in a liberal direction should be obvious to all.

I shall skip over the rest except to say that because of personal correspondence with Bill Shea, I assure you that he does not reject Wiseman's theory. He did at one time, but that was then.

ThomasS's picture

Dear John Evans,

Just a few comments:

(1) I have to admit that I wonder how you can say that Collins is more biased than you. That he knows more about Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic and Greeks than both of us -- yes! But I just cannot imagine that you are less biased -- if so, in which way?

(2) As to Collins having a bias against conservative scholarship, I think you may be right. But I think you have an even stronger bias against liberal scholarship; using every chance to ridicule liberal interpretations. Why don't you ridicule crazy conservative attempts to identify "Darius the Mede"?

(3) You seem to think that it is a problem that Babylon was taken by Persia (not Media). However, I think you should know that according to many liberals (Caragounis, Walton, Lucas, Colless), this is not a problem at all. Colless has rather strongly advocated Wiseman's identification of "Darius the Mede". Still, he thinks the second kingdom was Media. Does Collins even see this as a problem? Do you really think that he ignores the problem? (What if he does not consider it a problem – have you even considered that as a possibility?)

(4) Could you by any chance share parts of you personal correspondence with William Shea? At least, would you be so nice as to inform me when he stated that he now actually supports Wiseman? As you probably know, in 2001 he wrote an article in which he argued against Wiseman. I would be interested to know if he has been changing his mind, again!

Best wishes

Th. S.

Islamaphobe's picture

I'll go one more round.

I say that Collins is biased because I have read his massive commentary in minute detail and find that he has ignored and dismissed many points that tend to favor the Roman sequence. He refers to conservatives dismissively as "traditional scholars," as opposed to the "modern scholars" with whom he identifies himself. Although he cites hundreds of scholarly works, only a few conservatives since the time of Robert Dick Wilson are included. For example, he cites Gleason Archer only in connection with Jerome's comments on Porphyry. Among numerous others, he doesn't even cite Philip Mauro or Allan MacRae.

Collins is part of a liberal academic establishment that has established paradigms of "received" academic knowledge that operate so as to automatically exclude ideas that are not part of that paradigm. By the way, I know a little about how this works since I was part of the academic world from 1959 until 2000. Fortunately, the field of economics was not dominated by philosophical liberals to the same extent as some other disciplines, including biblical studies.

Now you may not agree, and probably don't, but I do not make it a habit to ignore arguments made by those with whom I disageee. I recently wrote a fairly lengthy book on Daniel that is largely devoted to answering liberals' arguments.

The liberal paradigm to which I refer operates so pervasively with respect to the Book of Daniel that a good number of believing (I think) Christian scholars who have gained admittance to the higher citadels of biblical scholarship accept the Maccabean dating of the Book of Daniel. I think they are wrong and freely say so. If I seem somewhat intemperate to you, good. Finding faults with liberal scholarship is, I believe, the key to opening academic doors to something better. Of course, if I am wrong about the validity of the Roman sequence, then I need to be put down.

There are plenty of conservatives who dispense nonsense about Daniel, but they aren't holding positions in biblical studies at Yale, Princeton, Berkeley, or, for that matter, I suspect, the University of Memphis.

You may not think so, but having Babylon fall to the Medes and the Persians is, I am confident, a real problem for liberal thought on Daniel. Both Colless and Walton have produced variations on the regular Greek sequence that offer problems and are unlikely to become mainstream liberal thought on Daniel. Colless has made very good arguments about Darius the Mede being Cyrus that, in my judgment, advance the cause of the Roman sequence. I do not think that Collins mentions either Colless or Walton in his commentary. I gather that Collins does not consider the Dairus is Cyrus matter problem because he completely rejects it, or at least did so when he wrote his commentary. I regard Lucas as a "moderate" liberal whose overall position on Daniel is somewhat ammbiguous. He is the type of scholar who is open to persuasion.

Finally, about Shea. In an email to me dated March 7, 2002, he wrote that he agreed with me that "Cyrus as Darius is probably the best at the present time."

John S. Evans

ThomasS's picture

Dear John Evans,

I have read Collin’s commentary; and I have read your book. I am not able to see that Collins “has ignored and dismissed many points that tend to favor the Roman sequence”. There simply are no such points (to ignore)! The case against an identification of the fourth kingdom with the Roman Empire is so strong that it really surprises me that you are not able to see it. (Such a highly conservative scholar like Milton Terry saw it.)

Of course, no commentary is perfect. I have my own problems with Collin’s commentary, but he is correct in not spending time and space on out-dated scholars like Philip Mauro. (I am not familiar with Allan MacRae.) You can only put so much in one book; all commentaries are the result of compromises. I guess Collins could have included a reference to Archer’s commentary; but I do not blame him for not doing so. (I rarely use Archer myself.) I don’t think David Aune has a single reference to Thomas Ice in his commentary on the Book of Revelation (3 vols.). Can we blame Aune for not spending time on Thomas Ice? I would say: No!

It is true that “Collins is part of a liberal academic establishment that has established paradigms of “received” academic knowledge that operate so as to automatically exclude ideas that are not part of that paradigm.”

However, that does not make him more biased than you. Liberal scholars had a very hard time before the 19th century; being heard and accepted within the conservative paradigm was not easily done. (Porphyry’s books were destroyed!) Don’t you think that the conservative scholars are part of a conservative “academic establishment that has established paradigms of “received” academic knowledge that operate so as to automatically exclude ideas that are not part of that paradigm”? In which way are leading conservative scholars less biased than Collins?

I think Collins is more biased than Lucas. Lucas demonstrates that he is open for different views; also views held by conservatives. Now, I wonder If John Evans would even consider the possibility that the fourth kingdom is not the Roman Empire or that the Book of Daniel was completed in the second century BCE without dismissing the whole book as fraud.
I have never said that you “make it a habit to ignore arguments made by those with whom” you disagree. My point is that you usually ridicule the liberal position. There is no need for that. If you really think you can present a strong case for the “Roman sequence” based on sound arguments, there is no need for ridicule.

You wrote:

“The liberal paradigm to which I refer operates so pervasively with respect to the Book of Daniel that a good number of believing (I think) Christian scholars who have gained admittance to the higher citadels of biblical scholarship accept the Maccabean dating of the Book of Daniel. I think they are wrong and freely say so.”

Thus, you do not even consider the possibility that a scholar like Lucas actually found the conservative position less compelling? Could it be that some conservative scholars accept the conservative position because they do not want to be accused for being apostate or liberal? For many Christians, the very term “liberal” is something intrinsically bad.

You also wrote:

“Finding faults with liberal scholarship is, I believe, the key to opening academic doors to something better.”

This is a good point. But, again, there is no need for ridicule.

You wrote:

“You may not think so, but having Babylon fall to the Medes and the Persians is, I am confident, a real problem for liberal thought on Daniel.”
I suggest that you read Lucas and Caragounis again!

You wrote:

“Both Colless and Walton have produced variations on the regular Greek sequence that offer problems and are unlikely to become mainstream liberal thought on Daniel.”

Don’t you see that Lucas has incorporated the interpretation advocated by Colless, Gurney and Caragounis in his recent commentary?

You wrote:

“Colless has made very good arguments about Darius the Mede being Cyrus that, in my judgment, advance the cause of the Roman sequence.”

Like Colless, I do not think you are correct. (Scholars like Colless, Caragounis, Gurney and Lucas have demonstrated that an identification of the second empire with Media is not based on the nationality or identity of “Darius the Mede”.) You should also remember that having Medo-Persia as the second kingdom does not necessarily lead to an acceptance of the “Roman sequence”.

Your information re: Shea is, indeed, interesting. For a long time, Shea argued against Wiseman. Eventually, he changed his mind. But in 2001 he informed the scholarly world that he had changed his mind again. I guess history repeated itself in 2002! Now, I wonder what he would say next year...

Thanks!

Regards

Th. S.

Islamaphobe's picture

This is the last that I shall write on the matter. I am sorry that you find in me a tendency to ridicule those with whom I disagree. I prefer to think that what I "ridicule" is poor scholarship, and there is plenty of that from Collins and from numerous others in the liberal camp. Collins, at least, offsets this considerably by his extreme thoroughness. He does, however, fail to consider arguments that, in my judgment, have merit; and since you often agree with him, you find that perfectly o.k.

As I wrote in my article, I find Lucas's commentary to be admirable. I also believe that he fails to take solid positions on matters when going the way his scholarship points to would bring him into conflict with prevailing academic opinion. His Epilogue, in my opinion, leaves the door wide open for dismissing the belief that the Book of Daniel is pseudepigraphal, and I hope that views like those he expresses there and elsewhere exist more widely in biblical academia than I believe they do. I emphatically do not consider Lucas to be mainstream liberal.

The bottom line, as far as I am concerned, is whether there was a real Daniel the Prophet who lived in Babylon in the sixth century BC. I believe there was. Those whom I define as liberals do not. I do not find a halfway house between those two positions.

John S. Evans

ThomasS's picture

I think you should send your commentary to Collins or at least have it reviewed in a scholarly journal like JSOT or JBL.

Th. S.

Islamaphobe's picture

Lucas and Caragounis are not "most liberals." I am unfamiliar with the latter. As I noted in my article, Lucas treats the conservative viewpoint respectfully, though he still holds to a Maccabean date for the writing of Daniel. In my judgment, Lucas comes close at times to swinging over to the Roman sequence but can't bring himself to do it because that would go against the prevailing view in academic circles.

Most conservatives with whom I am familiar have no problem in identifying Antiochus IV in Dan 8. They just don't find him in Dan 7. For you, apparently, it is a "fact" that because Antiochus is "the horn that started small" of Dan 8, he must be the little horn of Dan 7. I disagree with that assessment.

I repeat that most liberals generally dismiss or ignore the inconvenient fact that Dan 5:28 portrays the Medes and Persians as the joint conquerors of Babylon. They have to do that in order to claim that the author of Daniel presented Media as his second kingdom.

EWMI's picture

Thanks for your work here John. I have not seen other work on the 62 years and will be digging into this a little deeper thanks to you. When I first began to teach the seventy weeks I attempted to put together a chronology from Daniel to Cyrus then Ahazuerus etc. While James Jordan's work seemed to help it left me scratching my head. I tried to reconcile this with Philip Mauro's position and then closed the file for later review!

Islamaphobe's picture

Gee, I hardly know what to say. Hope you agree with me when you've done the digging.

EWMI's picture

One of the reasons I think you may be on to something is that merging the Darius into Cyrus may serve to answer some of the critics. This article at infidels.org uses the Biblical Darius as a hammer against the 6th century BC position.

http://www.infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/1998/3/983delib.html

Prior to reading your article I did not know that there are no extra biblical references to Darius.

Islamaphobe's picture

I just noticed that my proofreader, a guy named Islamaphobe, failed to correct the number in the title so that it refers to Dan 5:31, not 5:30.

John S. Evans

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