Category Archives: daniel

One Like A Son Of Man

Over the past month I’ve been doing some armchair research on the books that make up the Tanakh (“Old” Testament) for my website so I haven’t been blogging that much. So I thought I would just combine the two; I’ll be posting short blurbs or “articles” about the different books of the TNK that will eventually end up on my website in a similar manner to my New Testament compilation page.

I’ve already posted about when and where the book of Daniel (lit. “my judge [is] god”) was written for my blog, and the majority of the posts I wrote about that book will be my snippet about Daniel on my website. I did some further analysis on that book and came to some elusive obvious conclusions about the phrase “one like a son of man”. In Aramaic, Daniel writes כְּבַר אֱנָשׁ (KBR ANSH) which is “[one] like [a] son [of] man” at 7:13. The LXX version of Dan 7:13 has ΩΣ ΥΙΟΣ ΑΝΘΡΩΠΟΥ (as/like man’s son) which in my estimation (which might be more wrong than right 😉 )is a lot more grammatically similar to the Aramaic.

The Christians around the time period of the writing of Mark considered the Daniellic phrase “one like a son of man” to be messainic. They render it as ΥΙΟΣ ΤΟΥ ΑΝΘΡΩΠΟΥ (son of man). This is grammatically different from Daniel 7:13 LXX, but the meaning is the same. Much like the difference between “man’s son” and “son of man”. In Daniel, the phrase “one like of a son of man” in chpt 7 refers to a restored Israel. This serves to form an ironic contrast– the four kingdoms that came about after the Exile are “like wild beasts,” (like a lion v4, like a bear v5, like a leopard v6, like an indescribable beast v7) whereas the restored Israel is like a son of a man – the Hebrew phrase meaning a plain human being. Ezekiel uses that phrase to describe himself, and Judith 8:15 uses the phrase as well to mean a plain ol’ human being. It’s ironic that Christians read the majority of the Tanakh allegorically to arrive at their invented savior, but read this obviously allegorical part of Daniel literally so that it could describe Jesus. So they read it not as like a son of man (ως υιος ανθρωπου), but the son of man (ο υιος του ανθρωπου).

The anointed one who gets cut off (9:25) seems to refer to Cyrus the Great, who was considered the anointed one in Isaiah 45:1 and in history was assassinated, while the second anointed one is Alexander the Great (9:26). The definite article in Daniel 9:26 reads: “And after the threescore and two weeks. . . .” By treating the sixty-two weeks as a distinct period, this verse, in the original Hebrew, shows that the sixty-two weeks mentioned in verse 25 are correctly separated from the seven weeks. Hence, two anointed ones are spoken of in this chapter, one of whom comes after seven weeks (Cyrus), and the other after a further period of sixty-two weeks (Alexander).

Darius the Mede is a fictional character produced by the author, loosely based on Darius I of Persia, but here depicted as ruling over a distinctly Median (rather than Persian) empire. The author’s invented chronology is clear enough when you get to the visions of the four beasts. These represent Babylon/Lion, Media/Bear, Persia/Leopard, and Greece/Elephant. Greece is the final kingdom, after which God will intervene, restore Israel (again, who is not a beast but “a son of man”; a human) to power, and resurrect the dead. It could be said that Daniel’s son of man prediction (minus the resurrection of the dead) came true, as subsequent to the turmoil that produced the book of Daniel the Hasmonean kingdom ruled by Jewish priest-kings was established (c. 150 BCE – 49 BCE).

The Hasmonean kingdom was one like a son of man.


Posted by on May 24, 2010 in daniel, son of man


Hanukkah and the Book of Daniel

I wrote about when the book of Daniel was written in an earlier post, so I’ll just summarize it here.

Daniel was written during the earlier stages of the Maccabean revolt of 167 – 164 BCE, but the character(s) were placed in an earlier stage of history to make it seem as though the events of the Maccabean revolt were foretold during the exile. This is a classic literary trope; of commenting about contemporary events via a past scenario. The “abomination causing desolation” is the erection of an idol of Zeus in the temple (Dan 9:27, 11:31) that the Seleucid king Antiochus IV set up in 167 BCE. It should be noted that “abomination” in Hebrew can also mean “idol”.

Daniel’s predictions about how the rebellion would end failed, however. After Alexander the Great conquered a large portion of the “known world”, his empire was split after he died. The southern part of his empire was ruled by his general Ptolemy and his progeny, and the northern (but more accurately “eastern”, but for Daniel it’s north of Judaea) part was ruled by his general Seleucus and his progeny. This is ostensibly described well by Dan in chapter 11. Dan predicts that Antiochus (the “king of the north” i.e. a Seleucid) would be killed by a Ptolemaic king (the “king of the south”). Dan also predicts that after Antiochus sets up the statue of Zeus and stops the sacrificial system (Dan 12:11-12) — which Antiochus did in 167 BCE — that there will be 1,335 days until the world ends, which is approximately three years.

Antiochus actually died from illness, and the revolt lasted until 164 BCE when the Maccabees drove out the Greek forces/idols from Judea (as well as the Hellenized Jews who rejected circumcison) and rededicated (hanukkah in Hebrew) the temple.

54 According to the time, and according to the day wherein the heathens had defiled it, in the same was it dedicated anew with canticles, and harps, and lutes, and cymbals.

55 And all the people fell upon their faces, and adored, and blessed up to heaven, him that had prospered them.

56 And they kept the dedication of the altar eight days, and they offered holocausts with joy, and sacrifices of salvation, and of praise.

57 And they adorned the front of the temple with crowns of gold, and escutcheons, and they renewed the gates, and the chambers, and hanged doors upon them.

58 And there was exceeding great joy among the people, and the reproach of the Gentiles was turned away.

59 And Judas, and his brethren, and all the church of Israel decreed, that the day of the dedication of the altar should be kept in its season from year to year for eight days, from the five and twentieth day of the month of Casleu, with joy and gladness.

– 1 Maccabees 4:56–59

A similar event happens in 132 CE. The Roman emperor Hadrian erected a statue of Jupiter on the temple mount which incited the Bar-Kokhba revolt. The results of which eerily match Jesus’ prediction in Mark 13. Another “abomination causing desolation” standing where it doesn’t belong (statue of Jupiter, Mark 13:14), the complete destruction of the temple in 135 CE at the failure of the Bar-Kokhba revolt (Mark 13:1-2), Bar-Kokhba being called the messiah/christ for driving out the Romans but was ultimately a false christ/messiah (Mark 13:5-6), Christians being persecuted because of Bar-Kokhba’s messanic claims (Mark 13:9). And then, after the failure of the revolt, the Jews are evicted from Judaea (Mark 13:14 those who are in Judea flee to the mountains) and the area was renamed to “Palestine” by Hadrian.

Could the gospel narratives also be following the same theme of Daniel? As in, a contemporaneous account retrojected into the past?

Of course, the writer of Mark gives it away by having Jesus break the fourth wall. Why else would he say “let the reader understand” (Mark 13:14)? “Jesus” is not actually talking to Peter, et. al. in this pericope. The writer – talking through Jesus – is talking to the reader of this narrative, describing a situation that’s contemporary to the writer/reader (either 70 CE or 132 CE). “This generation” (Mark 13:30) is not Peter and company, but the reader.

What makes things more suspicious is that there’s no evidence of any Christians knowing any narrative gospels prior to the Bar-Kokhba revolt. Just like there’s no evidence of any Jews knowing of a “great prophet” named Daniel prior to the Maccabean rebellion. Jesus son of Sirach, writing c. 180 BCE lists a bunch of “great men” in his “Wisdom of ben Sirach” (chapters 44-50) but doesn’t include Daniel. 1 Maccabees, writing about 80 years later c. 100 BCE lists many of the same as Jesus b.Sirach, but includes Daniel as well (1 Macc 2:60). Which is why Daniel is ketuvim and not nevi’im.

The Tisha B’Av of Judaism in 135 CE might be the Hanukkah of Christianity, with Mark playing the role of Daniel.


Dating the Book of Daniel

A favorite prophet for Christians (mainly because of the apocalyptic “Son of Man” language and the Abomination causing Desolation in chapters 7 and 8 which Jesus invokes, cf. Mark 13:14), Daniel isn’t aprophet in Judaism. Daniel was written during the Maccabean revolt c. 165 BCE, the outcome of which is still celebrated to this day with Hannukah. Daniel attempts to be writing in the 6th century BCE but was really written in the 2nd centry BCE.

Those reasons include the following:

1. Daniel contains a number of historical inaccuracies regarding Baylonian history- the era during which it is alleged by traditionalists to have been written. These include such things as the erroneous belief that Nebuchadnezzar had a son named Belshazzar, that this Belshazzar was the last king of Babylon during the Jewish captivity, that Babylon under Belshazzar fell to Darius and that Darius was a Mede. Every single one of those points is wrong. There were four kings of Babylon after Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel thinks there was only one, and the one he names never existed. Nebuchadnezzar did not have a son named Belshazzar and no one by that name was ever king of Babylon. The guy who was king when Babylon fell was named Nabonidus and he was not related to Nebuchadnezzar. Interestingly, Naboninus had a son named Belshazzar but that son was never king and he died before his father did.

2. Daniel is also wrong about both the name and nationality of the person who conquered Babylon (and liberated the Jews from captivity….something which a contemporary Jew should not have gotten confused about). Babylon was not conquered by “Darius the Mede” but by Cyrus, who was Persian. There was no such person as Darius the Mede and (contrary to Daniel, who was evidently trying to backfill failed prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah) Babylon was never conquered by the Medes.

Cyrus had a grandson named Darius who eventually became king, but he, like his grandfather, was a Persian, not a Mede. Daniel also says that “Darius the Mede” was the son of Xerxes, but Xerxes was actually the son of Darius, not his father. It is quite implausible that any Jewish person who survived the entire exile would get this many things wrong but would be entirely to be expected by anyone who was writing historical fiction several centuries later.

3. The Book of Daniel contains a number of historical anachronisms which date it well after the Exile and into the Hellenistic period. It uses Greek words and references a Greek musical instrument which didn’t exist until the 2nd century BCE (Dan 3:5 contains “psaltery”, which is Greek). it contains Aramaic dialect which dates well after the exilic period. It contains an anachronistic use of the word “Chaldean” to refer to astrologers. That word was only an ethnic indicator during the era of the exile and only came to be used for astrologers much later. Daniel contains post-exilic eschatological ideas about such things as a resurrection and judgement of the dead. Daniel also references the book of Jeremiah as a “sacred book” (i.e. as scripture) but Jeremiah would have been a contemporary of Daniel and the Book of Jeremiah did not become part of Jewish Canon until c. 200 CE.

4. Daniel is very accurate about the Greek period and makes historically sound “predictions” regarding Alexander’s conquest and subsequent dynasties up to and including the reign of Antiochus, his installation of a statue of Zeus in the Temple (167 BCE – the Abomination causing Desolation) and the Jewish revolt against him. Once Daniel gets past 164 BCE, though, the predictions all fail. Daniel predicted that Antiochus would be killed in Palestine by a Ptolemaic king from the south and then the end of the world would come. Antiochus died not in Palestine, but in Persia, not by a king from the south but by an illness. Obviously, the world never ended either.

This is a clear indication that Daniel was written after the installation of the “abomination” in the Temple (167 BCE) but before the death of Antiochus (164 BCE). Christians have a lot of problems understanding Daniel. They even think the text is a prophetic text, but the Jews place it amongst the other writings (Ketuvim). Christians should give the Hebrew bible back to the Jews and stop making such a mess with it.

If we turn to ch.11 we find a series of conflicts between the kings of the north and the kings of the south immediately after the time of Alexander, the warrior king of 11:3 and the diadochi in 11:4. The king of the north is clearly Seleucid and the king of the south is Ptolemy and chapter 11 describes the Syrian Wars.

The fulcrum is the stopping of temple sacrifices (and the persecution of the Jews from 167 to 164 BCE), 11:31, 9:27 and 8:11 – this last is done by the little horn, who we also see is the culmination of the fourth beast in chapter 7, who attacked the Jews and attempted to change the seasons and the laws.

The four beasts of chapter 7, the lion (Babylon), the bear (Media), the panther (Persians), the unnamed beast – the elephant to us – (Greece), is the same progression in the statue of Dan 2, which has the Greek empire dividing into two legs, the Seleucids and the Ptolemies. The feet made of iron and clay indicate the varying power that the two empires were able to wield.

The usual Christian view is to interperet that the Medes and the Persians were really one empire, despite the fact that the Persians conquered the Medes. The Jews of course saw Media as separate from the Persians, Isaiah 13:17-19 prophecying that the Medes would destroy Babylon.

The Romans are obviously not the legs of the statue in Dan 2. The Seleucid and Ptolemy kingdoms explain the data correctly and the struggle between them, the kings of the north and south, is outlined in Dan 11. Dan 2:43 deals with the marriage of Berenice with Antiochus II, which was an attempt to unite the two kingdoms, an attempt which failed.

(The major primary sources are Polybius’s history and 2 Maccabees. More information about the struggle between the Seleucids and Ptolemies can be found in any history of the Hellenistic period.) In addition, the canon of the Prophets (Nevi’im) was closed by about 200 BC with the composition of Malachi. The apocryphal book of Jesus ben Sirach (who I wrote a bit about here), written about 180 BCE, contains a long section (chapters 44-50) in praise of “famous men” from Jewish history that does not include Daniel. However 1 Maccabees, composed about 100 BCE, repeats much of that list with the addition of Daniel and the three youths in the fiery furnace, leading to the conclusion that these stories were likely added to Hebrew literature sometime after 180 BCE.

However, Daniel could be a “prophecy” of the events of the Maccabean Rebellion… that means it wasn’t a prophecy about Jesus.

This interpretation of Daniel fits Maccabees (specifically 1 Maccabees 1:54) where the desecrating idol of Antiochus is referred to as an “Abomination of Desolation” (see Daniel 9:27). Also, Josephus identified the “little horn” as Antiochus (Antiquities 10:11).

Daniel was intended to be read as a “prophecy” of (or writing about) the Maccabean Rebellion, so it was more than likely written during this time period. Though later Christians have Jesus reinterpreting it to make it a prophecy about Jesus.

Incidently, the events in the Maccabean rebellion and the Bar-Kochba rebellion are similar. Just like Daniel was more than likely written during the Maccabean revolt, the Christian gospels might have been written during the Bar-Kochba rebellion. Both events have a pagan statue being erected on the sacred ground of the temple insigating Jewish rebellion. Though to be fair, Hadrian erected a statue of Jupiter on the grounds of the temple mount in 132 CE (since the temple had been destroyed in 70 CE) and Antiochus erected a statue of Zeus actually inside of the still standing temple in 167 BCE.

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