Beside reading Thucydides the author of Daniel read Herodotus

by kepler 27 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • kepler

    Over a year ago, I engaged in a discussion on a similar topic. It was titled, "Has anyone read Thucydides beside the author of Daniel?"

    Since my annotated New Jerusalem Bible mentions a number of reasons why the text was probably written largely in the 2nd century BCE to address events happening in that period ( the Seleucid occupation and desecration of the Temple), I was aware of a number of arguments for the case. And then I had come to discover some others. Some did not necessarily agree with those of the editors. We parted company on the end of Daniel Chapter 5, verse 30, which slips into chapter 6 verse one.

    "That same night, the Chaldean king Balshazzar was murdered and Darius the Mede received the kingdom, at the age of sixty two."

    The next line, commencing chapter 6, the chapter where Daniel is consigned to the lion's pit, verse one, oddly enough begins:

    "It pleased Darius to appoint a hundred and twenty satraps over his kingdom for the various parts..."

    Wow. So already we've got Belshazzar who was never king, but the son of Nabonidus who was ( if we are talking about Neo-Babylonian times) and then we've got a transfer of power to what the editors of the NJB remark as follows:

    "Darius the Mede is unknown to history and the Persian Cyrus had already conquered Media before he captured Babylon" If that was not enough, go back two hundred pages to the discussion of Daniel in the Introduction to the Prophets ( this is not a Jewish Bible - where Daniel is not included among them, but in the "writings").

    Still, it is my contention that the editors are wrong about that. But let's talk a little more about the transition from chapter 5 to chapter 6.

    How many chapters of the Bible trail off in mid sentence to become the beginning of the next chapter? Sure, there are plenty of continuity problems for this book that was supposedly written by its principal character. It changes narrative tense and language. The sequence of events is caprcious if it exists at all. But how can one imagine that the author of chapter 5 is the same as the author of chapter 6?

    Now the word satrap is not used in the King James Bible. And "satrap" is not the original word for the Persian administrative functionary appointed by the king. But whatever it is, it is honored with two Hebrew Strong numbers: 323 and 324: 'achashdarpan It is spelled and accented identically for its respective use in Ezra& Esther and Daniel, the difference being that it is written in Hebrew (Ez &Esth) and Aramaic respectively (D).

    In Daniel it is used as follows:

    Daniel 3:2-3 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent word to assemble the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. 3 Then the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces were assembled for the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

    Daniel 3:27 The satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king's high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them.

    Daniel 6:1-4 Daniel Serves Darius

    1 It seemed good to Darius to appoint 120 satraps over the kingdom, that they would be in charge of the whole kingdom, 2 and over them three commissioners (of whom Daniel was one ), that these satraps might be accountable to them, and that the king might not suffer loss. 3 Then this Daniel began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and satraps because he possessed an extraordinary spirit, and the king planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom. 4 Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs ; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him.

    Daniel 6:6-7 Then these commissioners and satraps came by agreement to the king and spoke to him as follows : "King Darius, live forever ! 7 "All the commissioners of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the high officials and the governors have consulted together that the king should establish a statute and enforce an injunction that anyone who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, shall be cast into the lions' den.

    In Ezra and Esther, it is used as follows:

    Ezra 8:36 Then they delivered the king's edicts to the king'ssatraps and to the governors in the provinces beyond the River, and they supported the people and the house of God.

    << Ezra 8:35Ezra 8:36Ezra 9:1 >>

    Bible VersionsNASEsther 3:12; Esther 8:9; Esther 9:3

    Esther 3:12 Then the king's scribes were summoned on the thirteenth day of the first month, and it was written just as Haman commanded to the king's satraps, to the governors who were over each province and to the princes of each people, each province according to its script, each people according to its language, being written in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed with the king's signet ring.

    Esther 8:99 So the king's scribes were called at that time in the third month (that is, the month Sivan ), on the twenty-third day; and it was written according to all that Mordecai commanded to the Jews, the satraps, the governors and the princes of the provinces which extended from India to Ethiopia, 127 provinces, to every province according to its script, and to every people according to their language as well as to the Jews according to their script and their language.

    It is odd that the enumeration of officials is so similar in Daniel and the others, even when the narrator is speaking of the court of the Nebuchadnezzar, decades before the Persian king invented the office.

    But back to Darius the Mede. According to Thucydides he was the king that reigned over the forces that Athenians took on at Marathon. In his "History of the Peloponnesian Wars", it was brought to my attention that Thucydides kept calling the Persians "Medes". When I went to a close translation of the Greek text, I discovered he does this about 50 times.

    In "The Landmark Thucydides, A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War, edited by Robert Strassler, book I, paragraph 18, it reads:

    "Not many years after the deposition of the tyrants, the battle of Marathon was fought between the Medes and the Athenians. Ten years afterwards the barbarians returned with the armada for the subjugation of Hellas."

    A footnote explains: "The battle of Marathon was fought in 490 BC. The Greeks regularly referred to the Persians as the "Medes", and to the Persian wars as the Median wars though the Medes and Persians were distinct peoples .

    Many English translations of Thucydides do not pay attention to this oddity. My Penguin edition did not; hence, the edition cited above.

    Well what about Herodotus?

    The Histories are an enjoyable account of the 5th century world. Herodotus seems to have more salesmen stories than Carter had pills. He describes Egypt, Babylon and Persia as best he can. He provides basic world geography, Hellenic perceived history and numerous stories or legends of people who tempted Fate. Perhaps he decided finally to write the story of over-reaching Persian King Xerxes as a tragedy.

    ...I was starting to wear out my copy of Herodotus, and I was enjoying reading it much more than Thucydides. But I was confused about many things, especially his geographic labels and who was the son of whom. People must have had a better mind for that back then... So before the Penguin copy I was reading blew off with the four winds, I bought a more literal translation with more footnotes and picked up the narration in one of the later books.

    I came across the following in book

    104. The Cyprians too, excepting those of Amathus, were added voluntarily to their alliance; for these also had revolted from the Medes in the following manner:--there was one Onesilos, younger brother of Gorgos king of Salamis, and son of Chersis, the son of Siromos, the son of Euelthon. This man in former times too had been wont often to advise Gorgos to make revolt from the king, and at this time, when he heard that the Ionians had revolted, he pressed him very hard and endeavoured to urge him to it. Since however he could not persuade Gorgos, Onesilos watched for a time when he had gone forth out of the city of Salamis, and then together with the men of his own faction he shut him out of the gates. Gorgos accordingly being robbed of the city went for refuge to the Medes, and Onesilos was ruler of Salamis and endeavoured to persuade allthe men of Cyprus to join him in revolt. The others then he persuaded; but since those of Amathus were not willing to do as he desired, he sat down before their city and besieged it.

    105. Onesilos then was besieging Amathus; and meanwhile, when it was reported to king Dareios that Sardis had been captured and burnt by the Athenians and the Ionians together, and that the leader of the league for being about these things was the Milesian Aristagoras, it is said that at first being informed of this he made no account of the Ionians, because he knew that they at all events would not escape unpunished for their revolt, but he inquired into who the Athenians were; and when he had been informed, he asked for his bow, and having received it and placed an arrow upon the string, he discharged it upwards towards heaven, and as he shot into the air he said: "Zeus, that it may be granted me to take vengeance upon the Athenians!" Having so said he charged one of his attendants, that when dinner was set before the king he should say always three times: "Master, remember the Athenians."

    106. When he had given this charge, he called into his presence Histiaios the Milesian, whom Dareios had now been keeping with him for a long time, and said: "I am informed, Histiaios, that thy deputy, to whom thou didst depute the government of Miletos, has made rebellion against me; for he brought in men against me from the other continent and persuaded the Ionians also,--who shall pay the penalty to me for that which they did,--these, I say, he persuaded to go together with them, and thus he robbed me of Sardis.Now therefore how thinkest thou that this is well? and how without thy counsels was anything of this kind done? Take heed lest thou afterwards find reason to blame thyself for this." Histiaios replied: "O king, what manner of speech is this that thou hast uttered, saying that I counselled a matter from which it was likely that any vexation would grow for thee, either great or small? What have I to seek for in addition to that which I have, that I should do these things; and of what am I in want? for I have everything that thou hast, and I am thought worthy by thee to hear all thy counsels.


    This is Darius, king of the Medes.

    Now this is Xerxes in Book 7:

    8. (a) "Persians, I shall not be the first to establish this custom in your nation, but having received it from others I shall follow it: for as I am informed by those who are older than myself, we never yet have kept quiet since we received this supremacy in succession to the Medes, when Cyrus overthrew Astyages; but God thus leads us, and for ourselves tends to good that we are busied about many things. Now about the nations which Cyrus and Cambyses and my father Dareios subdued and added to their possessions there is no need for me to speak, since ye know well: and as for me, from the day when I received by inheritance this throne upon which I sit I carefully considered always how in this honourable place I might not fall short of those who have been before me, nor add less power to the dominion of the Persians: and thus carefully considering I find a way by which not only glory may be won by us, together with a land not less in extent nor worse than that which we now possess, (and indeed more varied in its productions), but also vengeance and retribution may be brought about. Wherefore I have assembled you together now, in order that I may communicate to you that which I have it in my mind to do.

    Moral of the story? If someone comes to your door and tries to spin a cosmology and eschatology based on the Book of Daniel, just try to imagine the Judeans who were struggling with world history

    both in the streets and when they were composing their scrolls.

  • Phizzy

    Thank you for your research and for posting this Kepler.

    It seems the evidence is overwhelming that the book of Daniel was written in the 2nd Century B.C which knocks the whole JW exegesis of the book into a cocked hat.

    The use of "Medes" as interchangeable with "Persians" is understandable in the time, and really explains a lot.

    The confusion of the Israeli/Jewish people about their history continues until today, so many of them , including their Academics , take the Bible accounts as a starting pont, assuming they are largely true, and then try to find evidence to support them.

    JW's are simply a joke, taking every claim in the Bible as true, and taking it as literally as is possible in every case, despite all evidence. Deluded and ignorant in the extreme.

  • Julia Orwell
    Julia Orwell

    So if Daniel uses the same terms as earlier writers, couldn't it mean he was actually contemporaneous with Herodotus and Thucydides?

    I am of the second century Daniel school, but just wonder how you'd argue that Daniel was not a contemporary of those others.

  • Vidqun

    This is what HALOT has to say about "satraps." Although being an Old Persian loanword, it is also found in cuneiform writings and Late Babylonian. So it does not constitute proof of second century writing for the book of Daniel. To the contrary, it rather points to an earlier date of authorship. These administrative terms are predominently Persian and not Greek. One would have expected Greek terms to dominate in a second century MS, while Persian loanwords are well attested in Aramaic papyri of the fifth century.

    *’ähhasheddarepan, Or. ’a?š`sub’ea: → Heb. *’athashäda-rpan (Ellenbogen Foreign Words 23 :: HAL 36a; HALOT 37a); loanword < Old Persian Xša<grc>qrapaµvan “protector of the empire” (Kent Grammar §78); also in cuneiform (AHw. 21a); Middle Persian s’trp (Herzfeld Paikuli 706), ?Ìštrp “in monumento Andabani V Susae invento”, see<spa> Parola del Passato </spa>31 (1953), 307); Late Babylonian a?šad(a)rapanu (AHw. 21a; CAD A/1: 195a); > Syr. ?tÌrp’ and ?tÌrpys (Brockelmann Lexicon 469a), corresponding to KBL s?trapa; Greek ( ? ) ξετρ?πη? σατρ?πη? (e.g. Liddell-Scott 1585; Hübschmann Armenische Gramm. 208; Montgomery Daniel 199); Palm. divine name, σατραπη? (for the divine name, cf. Haussig Wb. 1: 287f; J.G. Février La religion des Palmyréniens (1931), 139nd.147; Pauly-Wissowa (Kl.) 4:1566f): pl. det.: satrap Da 3 2f . 27 6 2nd.5 . 7f . †

  • Julia Orwell
    Julia Orwell

    Ah yes, Vidqun, you put it into words the way I was trying to with my limited understanding of ancient languages.

    I think Daniel is a 2nd century work because I just don't want the prophecies to be true.

  • kepler

    RE: " Although being an Old Persian loanword, it is also found in cuneiform writings and Late Babylonian. So it does not constitute proof of second century writing for the book of Daniel. To the contrary, it rather points to an earlier date of authorship. These administrative terms are predominently Persian and not Greek. One would have expected Greek terms to dominate in a second century MS, while Persian loanwords are well attested in Aramaic papyri of the fifth century. "


    The same word appears in a different alphabet ( Hebrew vs. Aramaic) in writings of what are clearly later periods than whatever the apocalyptic advocacy for Daniel would tend to be. Ezra was a contemporary of Persian king Artaxerxes circa 450 BC who recounts the decree of Cyrus allowing return to Jerusalem, re-establishment and construction of the Temple and subsequent waves of departure from Babylon over a period of 80 years. Esther is a much later document, possibly a 2nd century BC work itself, considering how many passages in it are only written in Greek. But there the only known historical character is king Artaxerxes or Ahasuerus.

    Now if Daniel were written at an earlier date, why would it be written in Aramaic?

    As I noted above, the use of satrap is formulaicly similar in all cases. Redundant in Daniel chapter 3 and downright odd, considering that Darius would be given credit for inventing them.

    Evidently, with the clumsy kluge from Chapter 5 to Chapter 6 it was Darius the MEDE that had done so.

    Whether "Persian loan words are well attested to in the Aramaic papyri" in the 5th century or not, the supposed 6th century narrative of Daniel is all over the place. Consider chapter 9, verse 1 -2.

    "It was first year of Darius son of Artaxerxes a Mede by race who assumed the throne of Chaldea. In the first year of his reign I Daniel was studying the scriptures..."

    The first Darius of the Battle of the Marathon, the Achaemenid carved his ancestral history on a mountain pass in Iran (Behistun) including his father who was not a Mede. Artaxerxes was succeeded by Xerxes II, but his son Darius II eventually followed as King.

    When do you supppose that would place Daniel's first person chapter nine testimony? 423 BC.

    At the end of the chapter, when the angel Gabriel explains the prophecy, he makes reference in verse to the "appalling abomination" in the temple. Antiochus IV had a statue of Zeus erected there.

    There are other segments of Daniel which are later in origin that have left a more recognizable track.

    In Chapter 14, which only exists in the Septuagint, it says "When King Astyages joined his ancestors, Cyrus of Persia succeeded him."

    What happened to Darius the Mede?

    Well, Astyages was the King of the Medes, the last one. And he is one of those people which sources such as Herodotus can give further authentication. But that chapter is thrown out.

    My own inclination is that Christianity should be a philosophy that works whether the world shall continue for ten more minutes or a billion years. If Daniel is given primacy in Scripture, then Christianity appears to be something more like a Gothic radio serial in which believers are all issued secret decoder rings.

    Still, even with all the evidence that points to the 2nd century and the strong suggestions of occupation resistance language...

    I can at least imagine the Gospels and Epistles as documents in preparation. There is composition, some continuity and over-reaching themes. Matthew, Mark and Luke do not change person, language or re-write a miracle or vision several ways. Other books of the OT being compiled by scribes and editors over many years, the various editors (J, P, E, D) seem to explain much. But how does one imagine the writing of Daniel by Daniel? Did he write it all at once and send it in as is? Was there a presumed group of Bible editors who examined it and a chief who said ,"Take it and no amends"? What about that transition from chapter 5 to chapter 6? Wouldn't anyone have said, "Say, Daniel. Wait a minute..."

    Or was it a series of broadsides posted anonymously during a dreadful occupation and ethnic cleansing? Was it not also ironically a distorted picture of Hebrew ancient history? Was it characterized by the transferred gaps in Greek knowledge about ancient Mesopotamia and also a literary tic, the Greek historicall convention of often calling the invading Persians "Medes"?

    The author of Daniel was more Hellanized than he knew.

  • Doug Mason
    Doug Mason

    I doubt that we should be looking for literal history in any of these ancient records. They are religious histories, written for propaganda purposes at the time of its composition. In other words, study is required into the history of the writing of the history (historiography).

    I have no doubt that Daniel was written in the 2nd century as a means of providing comfort and messages to the persecuted without their overlords being aware of the intent. In other words, the overlords were looking at the stories literally rather than as literature. We should not fall into the same trap.

    It helps, as with any other part of Hebrew and NT writings, to search for the chiasms. These are important; they had helped the illiterate to remember stories and it facilitated the stories being told, orally. At any time until quite recently, less than 10% of a population could read and probably less than 2% could write (a very different discipline). So the poetic structure of chiasms was important to the Hebrews (and the NT) and it might be that when you work out the chiasms, that might clarify apparently strange transitions. (I am aware of: "The Literary Structure of the Old Testament" by Dorsey.)

    Other issues with Daniel include the difference between the LXX and MT (see, for example, mention in "Aramaic Daniel and Greek Daniel: A Literary Comparison", by Meadowcroft) and recognising the issues raised in "The Cultic Motif in the Bok of Daniel", by Vogel.

    I am sure I do not need to labour the point that we have to read any ancient (such as Late Iron Age) writing through the lives of the community as it was when a piece was written, not through our ways of thinking.


  • Bobcat


    What happened to Darius the Mede?

    I had posted a lengthy (by my typing standards) list of possible evidences that Darius the Mede was one and the same as Cyrus the Persian. It was posted on a thread started by Larsinger58. Unfortunately, it appears that all the threads started by Lars are deleted, or at the least, no longer available. (A part of the treatise was based on Daniel 6:28.)

    It should also be noted that the fact that certain words cannot be now found in a particular ancient period is an argument by silence. You said, " The author of Daniel was more Hellanized than he knew." It could also be that the Greeks, being the international traders that they were, were more influenced by the ANE than they knew.

    At any rate, nice to 'hear' from you, and as always, an interesting topic you bring up.

    Take Care

  • Vidqun

    Official Aramaic, an international language, was spoken in the Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian Court. When the Jews returned from the Babylonian exile, few Jews could converse in Hebrew. It was necessary for Jewish leaders to translate their holy writings in Aramaic, from there the Aramaic Targums (cf. Neh. 8:8).

    I subscribe to the five-fold scheme for the phases of the Aramaic language as proposed by J. A. Fitzmyer: (1) Old Aramaic, ca. 925–700 BCE; (2) Official Aramaic, ca. 700–200 BCE; (3) Middle Aramaic, ca. 200 BCE–200 CE; (4) Late Aramaic, ca. 200–700 CE; (5) Modern Aramaic, 700 CE-present.

    A language shift occurs in chapter two of the Book of Daniel. Dan 2:4b–7:28 is written in Aramaic, whereas the remainder of the book is written in Hebrew. [1] The language of the Aramaic portion of Daniel has certain affinities with that of extra-biblical Aramaic documents of the fourth and fifth centuries BCE and may be thought of as generally belonging to the phase of Aramaic history sometimes called Reichsaramäisch or Official Aramaic.

    [1] On possible correlations between BA (Daniel) and the corpus of early Aramaic inscriptional material see the following discussion: Z. Stefanovic, The Aramaic of Daniel in the Light of Old Aramaic (JSOTSup 129; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992).

  • mP


    I thought Lars was darius the mede & thats how he knew all his stuff.

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