From Whitla’s introduction to Isaac Newton, Observations Upon The Prophecies Of Daniel and The Apocalypse Of St. John – Back to Table of Contents of the Introduction
WE come next to investigate some grave charges which have been made and widely accepted against the authenticity of the book of Daniel. Higher Critics, both German and English, have proclaimed that the historical statements therein made are false, and that these inaccuracies or misstatements render it impossible for any scholar to believe that the book could have been written at the period claimed, and by the great statesman who held such an important and responsible position in the mighty Babylonian Empire.
Let us fancy a book written by our present gifted Prime Minister or by the late Sir Robert Peel; it only comes to see the light about A.D. 2500, and it is found on examination that the assumed writer was ignorant of the names of the sovereigns under whose reigns he had been actively administering the affairs of the United Kingdom. Would any sane man be found to accept the dubious volume as the work of either of these great statesmen? This is no exaggerated parallel of the charges made by the critics. I shall be able to prove to your satisfaction that each of these allegations has been refuted, and that in a way which demonstrates unpardonable ignorance on the part of the critic.
Before we look into the charges we should remember that the book of Daniel makes no pretence to be regarded as a history in any sense of the term. Part of it is written in Hebrew, and part in the Chaldean or Aramaic language. In the narrative certain historical personages are mentioned.
The critics commence their attack on the book at the very first verse, where the author states that in the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, King of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, besieged Jerusalem; the subsequent verses tell us that he carried off Daniel and a few other royal youths.
It is affirmed that there was no siege or capture of Jerusalem in this particular year. By Jeremiah xxv. 1, we find the first year of Nebuchadnezzar corresponds with the fourth year of Jehoiakim, for the Babylonian PrinceRoyal and general only became king after the taking of Jerusalem : this fact is established by the historian Berosus and by Clinton.
By a study of Jeremiah xxv. 1, Jeremiah xxxv., 2 Kings xxiv. 1, 2 Chronicles xxxvi. 6, taken along with the statement from Josephus derived from the lost history of Berosus (a Babylonian priest who lived 300 B.C.), Sir Robert Anderson has proved to a demonstration that this first verse of Daniel, when submitted to the severe test of chronology, is absolutely accurate, and that all statements in the above-mentioned Biblical books are in complete harmony with it.
We come next to a more serious charge, which if established, as the critics maintained, would damage the reliability of Daniel’s accuracy. Recall the narrative of the capture of Babylon and the dramatic incident of the finger writing on the wall and the death of Belshazzar the same night. The critics have said for many years that this account of the death of the last King of Babylon proved conclusively that the book was a fraud; because the last King of Babylon was undoubtedly Nabonidus, as confirmed by secular history, and that consequently Belshazzar was a fiction. There is no doubt that Nabonidus was the last real king, and therefore there was no room for such a personage as Belshazzar. Daniel makes the queen speak of this mythical personage as the son of Nebuchadnezzar a still worse blunder. God certainly moves in a mysterious way. In the old ruins of the Babylonian Empire Sir Henry Rawlinson has discovered cylinders of clay in which this last king gives the name of his son as Belshazzar. Nabonidus calls him his eldest son and the offspring of his heart.
Next we find the wonderfully interesting discovery of what is known as the Annalistic Tablet of Cyrus, who conquered the Babylonian Empire. It is imperfect, but the portion remaining to us tells us that when the general of Cyrus entered Babylon the king’s son died (Professor Driver, a hostile critic, interprets the inscription as saying that Gobryas made an assault and slew the king’s son). This recently discovered tablet of Cyrus clears up the whole matter. It tells us that Cyrus himself, with the great Persian army, was pursuing Nabonidus, who had evidently taken the field with the Babylonian army, leaving his eldest son, Belshazzar, to defend the city of Babylon. He was almost certainly associated in the government with his father. This is the inference derivable from Daniel’s statement that he himself was proclaimed the same night by Belshazzar as ” third ruler ” or ” one of three rulers,” it matters not which form of words, Nabonidus the King being first, his son with the courtesy title of ” King Belshazzar ” being second, and Daniel third.