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Is the Book of Daniel authentic?

Is the Book of Daniel authentic?

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Question:

I was recently reading a commentary on the Book of Daniel. Its introduction contended that Daniel's apocalyptic Messianic prophesies are all most easily explained as referring to the history of the Jews from Babylonia through the Chanukah wars. I.e. the prophecies apparently explain the Messiah as coming after the Chanukah wars. Moreover linguistic analysis apparently shows Hellenistic vocabulary, all of this suggesting the book was written around the time of the Chanukah wars, as an attempt to explain contemporary events as the birth pangs of the Messiah.

I am finding it very difficult to sweep these difficulties away in my mind. I certainly know that it is a cardinal faith of Judaism that the prophets were true. Nevertheless, I have been unable to get these doubts over Daniel from my mind. To be clear, any doubts I have are confined solely to Daniel, not to the prophets in general. Nevertheless, I recognize this is a serious problem.

I know that when the sages were canonizing the Bible, they had a lot of works in front of them, and had to figure out what's authentic and what's not. And I know they were a lot of works now in the Apocrypha that they rejected. How could they (and we) be sure what is what and that a mistake wasn't made in the selection?

Answer:

The fact that all this bothers you to such a degree is the greatest proof of how much faith you do have.

There's a story of a chassid who went to see his rebbe and cried, "Rebbe, I don't believe!"

His rebbe answered him, "So what?"

"What do you mean, 'so what?'?" he cried out, "I am a Jew!"

To which the Rebbe pointed out something similar to what I just wrote you.

I sincerely doubt that the author of the introduction you read approached the Book of Daniel with an open mind. If you would suggest to this author that perhaps it was written as a prophecy, he would most likely provide a condescending smile. Prophecy is not scientific. It is not reasonable. To him, prophecy is just another fairy tale.

So he does what historians always do: Ignore the tradition and compose a scenario that sounds most likely and conclude that this is fact. To whom does it sound most likely? To his very biased modern mind.

Here's a little lesson in prophecy from the Shelah (R' Yeshaya Horowitz, 16-17th century): The prophet sees a vision as it is above, in a higher world. There, however, it is in an amorphous state. How that prophecy actually materializes is up to us.

So it is quite possible that Daniel's prophecy could have materialized with the victory of the Hasmoneans—if it were not for their mistake of taking the royal crown that had been promised to the seed of David.

Prophecy is not "the world as G‑d knows it". The world as G‑d knows it is not something the human mind can fathom. G‑d and His knowledge are one, as Maimonides writes. If we could know the way He knows, we would be Him. It is a kind of knowledge that defies definition and clarity, just as G‑d Himself. Rather, a prophecy is the state of matters in a higher realm, before it has reached our earthly plane. There, it is amorphous, not fully defined and can materialize in more than one way.

The Redemption, according to the sages, could have been complete with Moses, with King David, with King Hezekiah, with Ezra, with the Maccabees, with Bar Kochba...and in so many other instances. But it's all up to us, when we decide to cash in.

I'll give you another major principle to follow: This is called Judaism. By way of comparison — Buddhism means belief in the path taught by Buddha. Taoism means belief in the Tao. Christianity means belief in Jesus. The Karaites believed in a book. Theists believe in G‑d.

What does Judaism mean? It means belief in the Jews. We believe that G‑d reveals Himself to the world through the history of the Jews.

Which means that we believe that when the Jewish people accepted the decision of the Sages concerning which books go in and which not, that means that these books are holy and the others not. That's why we say, "Asher kidishanu b'mitzvotav," blessing G‑d for sanctifying us with His commandments, when we wash our hands before eating bread, or before kindling Shabbat candles, or any other mitzvah that the rabbis instituted and the people accepted—because that process is divine.

The more you think into this, the more you will see that this is the only way to make sense of Judaism.

It's perfectly normal that after reading the works of those who do not share our beliefs, a person will come to have doubts. The human mind is created to doubt. True intellect is never certain of anything.

That is why, the best path for a person is to determine once and for all which is the path he wishes to follow—and then to walk down that path with confidence, never looking back. Otherwise, for every step forward, we would take two steps back. But with confidence and faith, we can change the world.

I suggest that you find yourself a good partner to study with. And you should study those things that strengthen your faith, not challenge it.

In my job, answering questions, I am forced to read all the skeptics and answer the heretics. It's a bitter lunch in foul air. You are blessed that you can stick to the enlightened words of the sages of Torah. If you ever have doubts, look at the lives of those sages and how they epitomized all that is good and wise. Compare it to the alternative of those who live by the authority of their own minds. It's a wonderful empirical experiment: If it works, whether you understand it or not, it's what's right.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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Anonymous Nashville May 4, 2017

Good discussion is rare these days. Reply

Anonymous vancouver, WA April 10, 2016

One of the best arguments I've ever seen Reply

Mushka New york July 29, 2014

Thank you Rabbi Tzvi Freeman. Beautiful, amazing!! Reply

Manfred Melbourne, Australia August 17, 2012

3 Words: Dead Sea Scrolls The book of Daniel is among the Dead Sea Scrolls and probably predates the "scholars" dating by 50 years or more. Please note that it does not appear that the excerpt of Daniel has itself been carbon dated but only other similar scrolls. Reply

Sheina Elka Falk Brooklyn, New YOrk October 7, 2009

The Book of Daniel We are reaching a point in time where it is more and more difficult to be spiritually neutral for we find ourselves in a river with very strong currents. In order to make our way towards Torah we cannot simply float along for we may be washed away and kayaking in such an environment is not for beginners although the experts who know how to steer such a craft can get very far. The idea is to find a sturdy ship that will take you where you need to go. I would begin with learning Chumash --the Five Books of Moses with the commentary of Rav Samson Raphael HIrsch who in his day was dealing with much of the same sort of thinking you encountered in this commentary on the Book of Daniel and he addresses it very well.
I wish you hatzlacha rabba (great success) on your journey. Reply

Don Canada January 7, 2018
in response to Sheina Elka Falk:

With respect to the river, there are also eddies, where things just get stuck and go round and round. Some things may even sink while others cling desperately to some kind of life jacket waiting for the wind to change the current. I've been there and was shown where I was. Reply

Lisa Nampa , Id July 27, 2008

Travis Thank you, I guess my next question is does any one have the Rabbinic concensus on this? Reply

Travis July 27, 2008

"Messiah" prophecy from the book of Daniel Maybe I can be of some sort of help, due to the fact that I have read elsewhere that, in fact, the mention of "anointed one" occurs in reference, apparently, to two different people within the book of Daniel, and there is no indication, at least from the text itself, as far as I know, that these instances of its use should be understood any differently than applied elsewhere in the Tanakh, meaning that one should not read "The Messiah" into what could just as well be thought of as, simply, "anointed one", but take this with a grain of salt, given that I don't know what the rabbinic consensus on this is. Reply

Lisa Nampa, Id July 13, 2008

Book of Daniel Thank you for your answer. I don't think too many are expert. I was only hoping to get a definitive answer I guess. Its only one question in my heart and mind, of course, I have too many to list so I suppose I must do as you say and have faith and let my heart be led by prayer and study.

Again Thank you Reply

Tzvi Freeman (author) July 13, 2008

For Lisa The prophecies are very enigmatic. I understand this must be so, since human beings have free choice and the future may unravel in many different ways. Yet any one of them could fulfill these prophecies. The general theme is to provide hope and encouragement in every generation.

Yes, that's kind of vague, but you've caught me in an area that's not at all my expertise, if I have any. Reply

Lisa Nampa, Id July 8, 2008

Book of Daniel But can you explain the Prophecy of the Book of Daniel please? Your words are kind but rather vague. Please give your view on the prophecy of the Messiah, how he will ride into Jerusalem on a certain day from the day that Nehemya was given leave to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, and he did in fact ride into Jerusalem on that exact date. Are we to discount this? Can you help me to understand this please? Reply

Tzvi Freeman (author) June 13, 2008

Re: Helenistic vocabulary There are three Greek words in the text, all referring to musical instruments. So why couldn't there be Greek instruments in Ancient Persia? Stronger evidence than this would be necessary to place a strong tradition in doubt. Reply

Anonymous Modesto, CA June 13, 2008

Hellenistic Words Okay, but how do you explain the hellenistic vocabulary? Reply

Stephen Rabon June 21, 2007

"That is why, the best path for a person is to determine once and for all which is the path he wishes to follow--and then to walk down that path with confidence, never looking back. Otherwise, for every step forward, we would take two steps back. But with confidence and faith, we can change the world."

These are the most empowering words that I have ever read. Such a true and well-said statement. Reply

Fred Boston, MA September 10, 2017
in response to Stephen Rabon:

Daniel Prophecy Although the words of Mr. Rabon are eloquent, my primary agenda in discussing this book, is more along the lines of discovering historical evidences that can possibly point to objective truth. If the book of Daniel was written near the time of Ezekiel, the book displays foreknowledge, evidenced by such a series of specific events and people, that it would be silly to deny that it was inspired by an intelligence that possesses clear foreknowledge of the future, as no human being has ever has demonstrated. Leaving us with no reasonable alternative, than it was inspired (or indirectly authored) by G-d. Proving his existence, and that the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, did indeed communicate with us. G-d's message to us is not along the lines of "to each his own", or find your way, but rather to seek out the objective truth. Thus one of the main reasons for G-d speaking through the prophets, or seers, to prove himself unique, to help us find him. Reply

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