Question:

I have seen so many contradictory claims about the philological and linguistic analysis of the Book of Daniel. Does the Book of Daniel resemble Aramaic and Hebrew dialects from an earlier or later period? Does this depend on what part of the book one is looking at? Typically the sources I have found on this subject will cover this question with a simple statement without covering evidence or giving a citation. I have found it hard to find an accessible and in depth analysis on the topic. In an article of yours (http://evidenceforchristianity.org/was-daniel-written-in-the-2nd-century-bc-by-a-person-pretending-to-be-daniel-like-a-christian-friend-of-mine-claimed/) you wrote “The most reliable scholars of Aramaic who have analyzed the Aramaic in Daniel (Ch 2-7) shows that it is of the Eastern type of Aramaic from pre-400 BC. ” in response to the claim “… the Aramaic is of the Western Aramaic type from the second century BC.” What are your sources for this claim, and or what specific aspects of the text compared with other Aramaic texts show it is from an earlier rather than latter time period? And what about the Hebrew and or other chapters of the book? Do they show similarities with exilic or Maccabean literature?

Answer:

In my book, “Daniel, Prophet to the Nations” I answer this question more in-depth, including giving citations.  S. R. Driver’s and R.D. Wilson’s commentaries on Daniel give good summaries of the relevant scholarship.   Driver is one of the best scholars out there.  He suggests that the Hebrew allows a date as late as 300 BC, but prefers a date before this.  To him, the Aramaic supports a date closer to AD 300, but certainly not near AD 160.  R. D. Wilson reaches a slightly different conclusion, which is that the Aramaic in Daniel is most similar to an Eastern Aramaic of the sixth or, at the latest, the fifth century BC.  If you read Wilson’s treatment you will find many specific examples of Aramaic words and expressions which cause him to reach this conclusion.   You will find quotes from them in my “Daniel, Prophet to the Nations”.  It is available at www.ipibooks.com

I did extensive research into this when writing my book on Daniel and found that those who argue for a later date–after Antiochus Epiphanes, use “logic” rather than linguistic evidence.  They tend to do what you describe–which is make claims without providing solid examples to support their conclusions.  For example, they will argue that there are Greek words in Daniel 3 in the Aramaic section.  This is true, but the Greek words found are of musical instruments.  These are the first words to be incorporated into a language, even when there is relatively little contact.  There are no Greek borrowed words in the language proper, which is actually evidence for an EARLY not a LATE date.  This is clear evidence, to me, of bias on the part of these liberal theologians.  As I understand it from the sources I have read, the Hebrew has solid evidence for being pre-300 BC if not significantly earlier.  I invite you to do your own research, which will involve reading in-depth commentaries rather that material at web sites or the like.

John Oakes

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