Daniel—An Authentic Book of Prophecy
THE Bible record tells us: “In the first year of Belshazzar the king of Babylon, Daniel himself beheld a dream and visions of his head upon his bed. At that time he wrote down the dream itself. The complete account of the matters he told.”—Daniel 7:1.
It was in the second half of the sixth century B.C.E. that Daniel wrote down this and other dreams and visions that affect us today. We have “the complete account” of such visions in the prophetic book of Daniel.
An Authentic Prophet
Christ himself bore witness that Daniel was a prophet. Interestingly, Jesus did so in his own prophecy on the sign of his “presence and of the conclusion of the system of things.” He thus projected the complete fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy down to our day, when we are witnessing the various elements of the sign, such as international wars, food shortages, earthquakes, and worldwide pangs of distress.—Matthew 24:3-8, 15.
Jesus stated: “Many false prophets will arise and mislead many; . . . this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come. Therefore, when you catch sight of the disgusting thing that causes desolation, as spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in a holy place, (let the reader use discernment,) then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains. . . . Truly I say to you that this generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur.”—Matthew 24:11-34.
The fact that Jesus warned that there would be false prophets just before he referred his disciples to “Daniel the prophet” proves that he held Daniel to be a true prophet of God. We have noted in the previous article that some of Daniel’s inspired prophetic utterances, such as those foretelling Nebuchadnezzar’s temporary insanity and the fall of Babylon, were fulfilled during Daniel’s lifetime. But Daniel also foretold things that would occur centuries later. What are some of the long-range prophecies written in the book of Daniel?
Messiah’s Coming and Death
A prophecy that definitely shows Daniel to be an authentic prophet is known as the 70 prophetic weeks. It reads, in part: “There are seventy weeks that have been determined upon your people and upon your holy city, in order to terminate the transgression, and to finish off sin, and to make atonement for error . . . And you should know and have the insight that from the going forth of the word to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Leader, there will be seven weeks, also sixty-two weeks [making 69 in all]. . . . And after the sixty-two weeks [that is, 7 + 62, or after the 69th week] Messiah will be cut off . . . And he must keep the covenant in force for the many for one week [the 70th]; and at the half of the week he will cause sacrifice and gift offering to cease.”—Daniel 9:24-27.
Many Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant Bible scholars agree that the “weeks” of this prophecy are weeks of years. The Revised Standard Version, Ecumenical Edition, reads: “Seventy weeks of years are decreed concerning your people.” Those 490 years began in 455 B.C.E. when Nehemiah was authorized by Persian king Artaxerxes “to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem.” (Nehemiah 2:1-8) Sixty-nine weeks of years later, that is, in 29 C.E., Jesus was baptized and anointed, becoming the Christ, or the Anointed One, the Messiah. “At the half of the [70th] week,” in 33 C.E., he was “cut off.” His sacrificial death made atonement for the sins of mankind, thus causing the animal sacrifices under the Law of Moses “to cease.”*
Because of this reliable prophecy, first-century Jewish people “knew that the seventy weeks of years fixed by Daniel were drawing to a close; nobody was surprised to hear John the Baptist announce that the kingdom of God had drawn near.”—Manuel Biblique, by Bacuez and Vigouroux.
Beastlike World Powers
Another long-range prophecy, of utmost importance to people living today, foretold a succession of world powers, symbolized by fearsome beasts, that would have to make way for God’s Kingdom.
Daniel related: “I happened to be beholding in my visions during the night . . . And four huge beasts were coming up out of the sea, each one being different from the others. The first one was like a lion . . . And, see there! another beast, a second one, it being like a bear. . . . And, see there! another beast, one like a leopard . . . After this I kept on beholding in the visions of the night, and, see there! a fourth beast, fearsome and terrible and unusually strong. . . . As for these huge beasts, because they are four, there are four kings that will stand up from the earth. But the holy ones of the Supreme One will receive the kingdom, and they will take possession of the kingdom for time indefinite.”—Daniel 7:2-18.
That these beasts represent world powers is evident from another vision Daniel had. Explaining this vision, he wrote: “The ram that you saw possessing the two horns stands for the kings of Media and Persia. And the hairy he-goat stands for the king of Greece.”—Daniel 8:20, 21.
Similarly, the four beasts of Daniel chapter 7 symbolize four world powers dating from Daniel’s day and onward, up until the time for the setting up of God’s Kingdom. Daniel lived past the fall of the Babylonian World Power (the lion) and into the start of its successor, Medo-Persia (the bear). Daniel’s long-range prophecy foretold Medo-Persia’s fall before Greece (the leopard), which in turn would be replaced by “a fourth beast,” the Roman Empire and its outgrowth, the Anglo-American World Power.*
Daniel accurately foretold the succession of world powers, all of which have shed blood like wild beasts in their lust for world hegemony. Likewise, the righteous Kingdom that he foretold will shortly replace present-day political powers. In a vision, Daniel saw “the Ancient of Days,” Jehovah God, give the “son of man,” Jesus the Messiah, “rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him.” Will this provide a lasting solution to mankind’s problems? Yes, for Jesus’ rulership is here described as “an indefinitely lasting rulership that will not pass away, and his kingdom one that will not be brought to ruin.”—Daniel 7:13, 14; compare Matthew 16:27, 28; 25:31.
The short-term and long-term prophecies that have briefly been considered in these two articles are merely a sample of the dreams, visions, and prophecies contained in Daniel. These examples are evidence that Daniel is an authentic book of prophecy—history written in advance. The fulfillment of these prophecies continues into the 20th century, and they provide a wonderful hope, as succeeding issues of this magazine will explain.
For further details on this prophecy, see chapter 7 of the book “Let Your Kingdom Come,” published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
For a detailed explanation of this prophecy, see chapters 6 and 7 of the book Our Incoming World Government—God’s Kingdom, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
[Box on page 6]
THE “LATE-DATE” THEORY
THE Bible attributes the book of Daniel to the prophet of that name, which would locate the writing of this book in the sixth century B.C.E. (Daniel 7:1) But the prophecies it contains are so astounding that many have doubted that they were written before the events foretold. Some non-Christians, and even many Bible commentators who call themselves Christians, have cast doubt on the authenticity of the book of Daniel. They prefer the so-called late-date, or Maccabean-date, theory, originally advanced by a third-century C.E. anti-Christian philosopher named Porphyry. What are the arguments in support of this theory, and what are they worth?
On the premise that all prophecy is impossible, Porphyry asserted that the book bearing Daniel’s name was actually written by an unknown Jew during the Maccabean period, in the second century B.C.E., that is, after many of the events foretold in Daniel had taken place. He speculated that the impostor who wrote in the name of Daniel did so in order to bolster the morale of the Jews at the time of the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucids in the second century B.C.E. But can the respectful and nonviolent conduct of Daniel and his three Hebrew companions in Babylon be considered in any way as an incitement to armed revolt? Absolutely not. (Daniel 1:8; 2:49; 3:16-18, 30) The appearance of “Messiah the Leader” exactly on time in 29 C.E., at the conclusion of the 69 “weeks” of years of Daniel 9:25, also makes Porphyry’s claims of the second century B.C.E. look foolish.
According to the Jewish historian Josephus, the canon of the Hebrew Scriptures, which includes Daniel, was closed at the time of Ezra, in the fifth century B.C.E. How, then, can it be said that Daniel was not written until the “late date” of the second century B.C.E.? Furthermore, the Dead Sea Scrolls have shown that the book of Daniel was widely accepted as Scripture in Jewish circles in the second century B.C.E. Would this have been likely if this book had been a contemporary work?
Another argument used by Porphyry and many higher critics is that the book of Daniel contains historical inaccuracies. Their theory is that Daniel was written in the second century B.C.E. But at that time, discerning Jews were rejecting the First Book of Maccabees as unfit for inclusion in the Scripture canon, even though they considered it to be historically accurate. Educated Jews, who had access to the writings of such secular historians as Herodotus, would certainly have rejected the book of Daniel if it had contained historical errors. Moreover, archaeological discoveries have confirmed the existence of Belshazzar and other details in Daniel that Porphyry and many higher critics held to be inaccurate.
With regard to Porphyry’s accusation that Daniel’s prophecies were written after the events foretold, Philip R. Davies, of the Department of Biblical Studies, University of Sheffield, England, writes: “This is a sorry verdict on the book of Daniel as largely a deliberate fraud perpetrated on a (supposedly) gullible audience to serve, as it were, a meritorious end by untruthful means . . . I find it difficult to ascribe such gullibility to the original readers of the book. If there is gullibility in this case, it is more probably on the part of rationalistic critics.”—Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Issue 17, 1980.
It is hardly surprising that a neo-Platonic philosopher should deny that a Bible writer was inspired by God to prophesy future events. But that Bible commentators who claim to be Christians should try to undermine people’s confidence in an important prophetic book of the Scriptures is saddening. It betrays a lack of faith in the One who said: “From the beginning I revealed the future, in advance, what has not yet occurred.”—Isaiah 46:10, The New Jerusalem Bible.
[Diagram on page 5]
(For fully formatted text, see publication)
70 weeks (490 years)
69 weeks (483 years) 1 week (7 years)
455 B.C.E. 29 C.E. 33 C.E. 36 C.E.
“From the going “until Mes- “Messiah “And he
forth of the word siah the will be must keep
to restore and to Leader. . .” cut off. . .” the cove-
rebuild Jerusalem, nant in
. . .” Daniel 9:24-27 force for
. . . one week”
[Pictures on page 7]
Rome—Britain and U.S.A.