Daniel and the Dead Sea Scrolls (alert-academic paper)

It’s been a while since my last post. I’m earning my Master’s Degree in Christian Leadership…so, it’s been tough to keep up on blogging. I don’t usually (well, I should say never) post my papers because they are rather academic. However, I thought I would share this one and create a ‘Theology Section’ to post some ‘academic’ stuff now and then. This paper may interest you as it proves (or further proves) the validity of the Messianic and end times prophecies in the Bible told through the prophets  in the books of Isaiah and Daniel.  This is because of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, found in Israel near the Dead Sea. I had a chance to see  the caves (picture to the left) where they were found on my trip to Israel in 2014. 

Daniel and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Some of the most magnificent and complex portions of the Bible are Apocalyptic Literature. It is this type of literature that gives believers hope in an eternal future with a loving God. Apocalyptic Literature can also serve to strengthen our faith in a God who is omnipotent. However, it is precisely this type of literature that is strongly disputed by critics because it is based on future predictions given by God, and communicated through fallible humans. The book of Daniel contains more Apocalyptic Literature than any other book in the Old Testament. The composition date is contested by critics because of the prophet’s precise prediction of future events which they find inconceivable. The discovery and publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls impacts this controversy and further proves the unique purpose of Apocalyptic Literature.

Feature and Purpose of Apocalyptic Literature in the Bible

Biblical Apocalyptic Literature is unique because it predicts ‘end times’ events. It differs from most prophetic biblical writings, which typically discuss events which were yet to come for the biblical audience at the time, but which have already come to pass for modern readers. Apocalyptic Literature “is often closely identified with a certain type of eschatology, one that looks beyond the historical process to the end times when God will intervene and bring victory to the oppressed” (Longman & Dillard, 2006, p. 386). These apocalyptic texts, particularly in the book of Daniel, “look beyond the near future to the end of time…beyond the period of Persian, Greek, and Roman oppression to a time when God will intervene and bring all oppression to an end once and for all” (Longman & Dillard, 2006, p, 386).

Another unique feature about Apocalyptic Literature is that in light of the entire Bible it is quite rare, particularly in the Old Testament where “less than one percent concerns events yet to come in our time” (Fee & Stuart, 2014, p. 188). Apocalyptic Literature is also quite controversial in nature. The debate of how literal of an approach to take with regards to interpretation is always a hot discussion, especially since the imagery in Apocalyptic Literature “borders on the bizarre” (Longman & Dillard, 2006, p. 387). The wonderful thing about Apocalyptic Literature is how it pictures God as a warrior for his beloved. It is designed to comfort readers, as opposed to Prophetic Literature which is generally designed to afflict (Longman & Dillard, 2006, p. 387).

Controversy Over the Dating of the Book of Daniel

It is believed that Daniel was written during the time of the exile in the sixth century BC. Many critics who have disagreed date the composition of the book to the second century (Brantley, n.d.). The main reason for this conclusion is the “predictive nature of the book of Daniel. It speaks precisely of events that transpired several hundred years removed from the period in which it claims to have been composed” (Brantley, n.d.). Basically, it is much easier for critics to believe that Daniel wrote about these events after they happened which “can be no earlier than the Hellenistic age-332 BC” (Brantley, n.d.). Since it is not humanly possible for someone to predict the future with such precision, endorsing the sixth century date would prove that God had indeed given these prophecies to Daniel, or that Daniel was extraordinarily clairvoyant! Critics are also skeptical about the credibility of the Masoretic rendition of Daniel because parts are written in Aramaic and other parts in Hebrew. They believe that the “Aramaic sections indicate a second century BC date of composition” based on the “linguistic considerations,” (Bradley, n.d.) which are disproved with the findings at Qumran. When doing a search online, it is clear that even after the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in Qumran, many of these critics still have not reneged on their ‘later date’ position. In a nutshell, the implications of a late date (2nd century BC) would means that Daniel’s predictions were essentially “prophecy after the fact” (Longman & Dillard, 2006, p. 373). The implications of an early date (6th century BC) would prove that Daniel’s predictions were (and are) meant for a time much later in history.

Impact of the Dead Sea Scrolls on Dating the Book of Daniel

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls was revolutionary in that it proved the very specific nature of the Messianic prophecies in the book of Isaiah, which many believed to have been “added after the fact to make people think Jesus was the Messiah” (Moga, 2016). Not only that, the book of Daniel was “peculiarly safeguarded” and it is possible the reason is that the people of Qumran were living during the time period “in which many of these prophecies actually were being fulfilled” (Brantley, n.d.). Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls “there were no extant manuscripts of Daniel that dated earlier than the late tenth century A.D.” (Brantley, n.d.). The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls strongly supports the earlier date of composition because the text/composition of it agrees with the integrity/composition of the Masoretic Text. In other words, “the findings at Qumran have confirmed the integrity of Daniel’s text” (Brantley, n.d.) as written by the Masoretes. In addition, the community at Qumran considered the book of Daniel to be ‘canonical’ in nature, on par with Deuteronomy, Kings, Isaiah and Psalms. It is highly unlikely it would have been canonized in a “mere five or six decades” (Brantley, n.d.). Finally, the type of Aramaic used in the MT matches the linguistic type of Aramaic used in the earlier time period: “A comparison of the documents at Qumran with Daniel demonstrates that the Aramaic in Daniel is a much earlier composition than the second-century BC” (Brantley, n.d.).

Apocalyptic literature in the Bible is unique because it predicts future events and points readers toward the ‘end times’ when God will rule and reign with his people in His Heavenly Kingdom. Apocalyptic Literature is rare in the Old Testament. It is designed to comfort readers. Conservative Christians believe that the book of Daniel was written during the time of exile in the sixth century BC. However, many critics disagree because of the precise predictive nature of Daniel’s prophecies. Critics who believe the book was written at a later date in the second century must find a way to come to terms with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls which support the earlier date and prove the accuracy of the Masoretic Text.

 

References

Brantley, G. K. (n.d.). The Dead Sea scrolls and biblical integrity. Retrieved

from http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=357

Fee, G. D., & Stuart, D. K. (2014). How to read the Bible for all its worth. Grand Rapids, MI:

Zondervan. ISBN#: 9780310517825

Longman III, T., and Dillard, R.B. (2006). An introduction to the Old Testament. Grand Rapids,

MI: Zondervan.

Moga, K. (2016). Prophets: Isaiah-“the twelve” . Retrieved from William Jessup

University Old Testament Foundations: http://jessup.mrooms.net

 

 

 

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