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The study of fulfilled biblical prophecies is a book in itself. We’ve looked at Jeremiah’s “70 years” prophecy of Judah’s exile in Babylon; in this post we’ll look at a prophecy that came during the Babylonian Captivity from a prophet living in Babylon.
Daniel went into exile in Babylon as a young man during the first deportation about 606 BC (Dan 1.1-6). According to the story (Dan 2), God sent Nebuchadnezzar a dream that he did not understand. The king, apparently suspecting his regular seers as frauds, demanded that they tell him both what he had dreamed and its meaning. When the seers protested, he ordered them all executed. Daniel then stepped up and offered to fulfill the king’s demand, and God gave him the answer “in a night vision” (Dan 2.19). (I note that in the Scripture, dreams occur while the recipient is sleeping, and visions occur while the recipient is awake. Daniel was apparently awake all night, awaiting the answer from God.)
Daniel reports to the king the next day with the substance of the dream and its meaning. Nebuchadnezzar had seen a large statue, with a head of gold, a chest of silver, hips and thighs of brass, and legs and feet of mixed iron and clay. Daniel reported that the image represented coming world powers: Babylon itself (the head), then Medo-Persia (the chest), then Greece (the hips), and finally Rome (the legs).
Now, Daniel does not name any of these kingdoms except for the first, but their reference is unmistakable, especially in light of later visions given to Daniel himself (Daniel 7-8), where Medo-Persia and Greece are named, and where the king of Greece is said to be “broken” and replaced by 4 kings (Dan 8.22)—an event that you can read about in your world history book in the section entitled “The Death of Alexander the Great.”
No one questions the accuracy of these predictions, because it would be foolish to. They are precisely accurate. So what’s a skeptic to do? Well, all he can do is assert that such a prediction is obviously impossible—so the author must have written after the events occurred and falsely claimed to be Daniel.
Well, that’s theoretically possible, of course. I could write a history of World War II and put Rasputin’s name on it. But I’d have a really hard time passing it off as some kind of miracle and getting it broadly accepted as legitimate. And therein lies the problem with this explanation.
The view requires that the account be written after the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, and even 40 years or so later, when it became clear that the kingdom would be divided into 4 stable parts. And even that’s not good enough. Daniel appears to describe Antiochus IV (Dan 11), who didn’t begin to reign until 175 BC.
OK, so why couldn’t the book have been written after that?
That’s pretty simple—because Daniel is included in the Septuagint, the translation of the Hebrew Scripture (Old Testament) into Greek, which was done in the 200s BC. (We have manuscripts of it from that century, and it is cited by other authors of that century.) How did pseudo-Daniel write about Antiochus, who didn’t start reigning until 175 BC? How did he write about the division of Alexander’s empire, which didn’t occur until perhaps 300 or 290 BC, and get all Jewry to accept his fraud as Scripture in time to get it into the Septuagint before 200 BC at the very latest? Jews are pretty skeptical about adding to their Scripture, if you haven’t noticed.
Now, I suppose there might be just a liiiiittle bit of wiggle room for the skeptic in those dates. But we haven’t finished with the data yet. Next time we’ll look at evidence that the skeptic’s explanation simply cannot stand.