Sunday, January 27, 2008

Historicity of Daniel

One way progressive biblical scholars undermine the faith of the Church is by attacking the authenticity of the Sacred Scriptures themselves, and one of the most subtle but insidious ways of doing this is by questioning the historicity and authorship of certain books. For example, it is common in New Testament biblical scholarship to assert that the fourth Gospel was not written by John the beloved disciple around the year 90 AD, but was produced by a "Johannine community" (to use the phrase of biblical heresiarch and ex-priest John Dominic Crossan) influenced by the theology of John sometime around 150.

This type of insidious "scholarship" has several effects. First, by purporting to be true scholarship (while often being nothing other than prejudice), it instills in the faithful the idea that the opinions of contemporary "scholars" (and there is hardly a more ambiguous term than "scholar") are more trustworthy than the perennial teaching of the Church. Second, it attempts to devalue the divine origin of the books without openly denying their inspiration. It has been believed from time immemorial that the Apostles or the Prophets were inspired by God to write the words of the Sacred Scriptures. Being told later that it was not actually that prophet or apostle, but a "community" who was "inspired" by his theology or ideals, greatly dums down the sense of divine origin of the books. Though the Church has never held a verbatim dictation theory of inspiration (as the Muslims hold of the Koran, for example), the further away we get from a notion of dictation the less sacred the books become. Thus we end up having less faith in them without actually denying them.

A most pernicious manner of devaluing the sacred books is by attacking their historicity and placing their authorship much later in history than had previously been thought. Thus the Pentateuch is moved from 1200 BC to the post-exilic period, the Pslams were not written by David but by some Temple scribe of the Second Temple period, the Proverbs did not come from Solomon but from the Maccabean period, Matthew and John were composed in the 2nd century, etc. This has the two-fold effect of causing a loss of reverence for the Holy Scriptures, and more importantly, a disbelief in the teaching authority and traditions of the Church. Why? Because it comes down to us from Apostolic (and in the case of the Old Testament, pre-Christian) Tradition that certain books were written by certain people at certain times. For example, In Adv. Haer. 3.1.1, St. Irenaeus says: "Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome and laying the foundations of the church." This would put the writing of Matthew around 65 AD. Remember, Irenaeus was only two generations removed from St. John. Long standing tradition affirmed Irenaeus' testimony that Matthew was indeed written by St Matthew the Apostle within a generation of Christ's Ascension.

But, arrogantly throwing out 2,000 years of Tradition and Apostolic Testimony, progressive biblical scholar Francis W. Beare says of Matthew, "[T]here are clear indications that it is a product of the second or third Christian generation. The traditional name of Matthew is retained in modern discussion only for convenience" (The Gospel according to Matthew, p. 7). What are the so-called "clear indications?" Nothing but uncertain presuppositions based on the controversial and shaky Protestant Two Source Hypothesis (formulated by the liberal German Protestant Holtzmann). So all of the sudden, Church Tradition is made to look questionable while Protestant liberal biblical scholarship is more trustworthy. The entire deposit of Tradition and Church authority is sacrificed to the most current scholarship. Nevermind that St. Irenaeus, who knew Polycarp who knew John, said otherwise: we now know better than the Church Fathers!

Fortunately, honest scholarship (the kind that takes testimony like that of St. Irenaeus at face value) has in recent years vindicated the traditional dating systems. Most commentaries today will even place John's Gospel around 95 AD and agree that it was written by John himself. But there is one book of the Scriptures that is continually plagued by liberal dating systems, even in otherwise conservative commentaries by companies like Ignatius Press. This is the Book of Daniel.

Traditional dating places Daniel around the Persian period, around 500 BC, i.e., within living memory of the historical Daniel. The problem is that Daniel makes several stunningly accurate prophecies about the fall of Babylon, Persia, the rise of Alexander the Great and, most amazingly, the exact time of the advent of the Messiah. The prophecies are all way too accurate for progressives to deal with, and so they push the authorship of Daniel forward to the 2nd century BC, in the Maccabean time, and an era when almost all the prophecy in the book had been fulfilled. In effect, they demonstrate an anti-supernatural bias. If there is accurate prophecy, it must have occured after the fact (implicitly denying that accurate prophecy can happen otherwise). For example, the Ignatius Study Bible (an otherwise excellent resource), says in the footnote to Daniel on page 736 of the Second Edition: "[T]he visions of the second part are predominantly concerned with the later Greek Empire and it is unlikely that they were composed before that time. Their literary form, too, corresponds to the apocalyptic style of lierature common in the second century B.C." It seems that "literary form" is always the best argument these people can come up with.

What is one to say about this? To refute this, we need look no further than trusty old Josephus. Remember, Josephus is trusted as a reliable historical account in all other matters, just as much as Tacitus. Knowing that, let's turn to his Antiquities of the Jews, Book 11, chap. 8, sec. 5, William Whiston translation (1981) regarding Alexander the Great's visit to Jerusalem in 332 B.C.:

And when the book of Daniel was shewed him, wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he [Alexander] supposed that himself was the person intended; and as he was then glad, he dismissed the multitude for the present . . .

Alexander was shown the Book of Daniel by the High Priest in the year 332, well before the events prophesied in the book had come to pass. Even more amazing, Alexander was inspired by these words and encouraged in his war against the Persians! Unfortunately, this passage of Josephus is sometimes dismissed as a fabrication. But we ought to ask, why? At what point to our absurd attempts to deny the historicity of certain books get us into more logical difficulties than the original position we were setting out to deny? So, let's say that the passage in Josephus is untrue. Then Josephus either lied, or somebody interpolated a later text. If Josephus lied, then why do we, and all historians, still accept everything else he said without question? If there was an interpolator, then who, and where, and why? We are embroiled in much bigger problems if we deny the legitimacy of this passage from Josephus.

This is an example of pure bias. When a record from antiquity comes up that contradicts some progressive position, it is simply written off as a fabrication. Here is a pretty good article on this same topic making the exact same point I have made (just to show you that I am not the only one who has wondered about this).


bk said...

Your site featured this quote - "Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions." but then you do, what this warns against and act as if it is okay to present an idea AS IF IT WERE BIBLICAL even though there is not even a single verse that would justify teaching that idea.

This ill be proven true by the fact that neither you nor anyone else who promotes this unbiblical, man-made tradition can produce such a verse (because the fact is there isn't one verse that would justify teaching this idea). Instead since you are promoting a man-made tradition that relies on the ideas of men found in NON-BIBLE sources -- in spite of the warning of Ps. 118:8 -- you will have to change the subject because the Bible proves this man-made tradition is false.

You wrote: "it is common in New Testament biblical scholarship to assert that the fourth Gospel was not written by John the beloved disciple" -- and the fact is you are seeking to defend a false tradition by setting up a straw man argument, a logical fallacy. First off, while the author of the fourth gospel does identity himself as the beloved disciple the facts in the plain text of scripture prove that whoever the “other disciple whom Jesus loved” was he cannot have been John. The Bible cannot contradict itself and the facts reported in scripture about this unnamed “other disciple” are mutually exclusive with the facts reported in scripture about John – these cannot have been the same person or the Bible would be contradicting itself.

Circular reasoning is also a logical fallacy. One cannot simply assume that John was “the disciple whom Jesus loved” and then use this assumption as a starting point to reason from and yet this is exactly what proponents of this man-made tradition routinely do. They assume that this-or-that man who attributed this unnamed author’s work to John cannot be wrong and then read this idea into scripture in spite of the Biblical evidence to the contrary. Instead of looking to men, look to the Bible.

What NO proponent of this man-made tradition can do however is cite even a single verse that would justify teaching that this unnamed “other disciple” was John.

Moreover, by comparing the facts stated in scripture about the unnamed "other disciple whom Jesus loved" with what the Bible says about the remainder of the disciples one thing is proven beyond a reasonable doubt and that is WHOEVER the "other disciple whom Jesus loved" was he cannot be John.

Those who want to pretend that the John fallacy is not a fallacy simply because it became fashion will no doubt continue to trust in whatever NON-Bible sources that align with their belief in this tradition. However those who read this will now have to ignore the fact that they have been forewarned that the John idea is a false teaching and pretend that the Bible's admonition to "PROVE ALL THINGS" doesn’t apply to this idea or in other cases where an idea has become fashion.

Mr S said...

Your rambling and complaint is circular for sure.... it comes right back to you.

You finish you opinion with:
"...the Bible's admonition to "PROVE ALL THINGS" doesn’t apply to this idea or in other cases where an idea has become fashion."

Now, I am not a Berean, but perhaps you can provide the verse that says this in the context you suggest.

or you can continue this dialogue by email. Just ask me here and I will provide.

Anselm said...

bk, this isn't really much of a contribution to the discussion, I urge you to take it up with Mr. S. who has generously offered to speak more on the topic, but I am genuinely curious. Do you also deny that Matthew, Mark, and Luke wrote the synoptic Gospels?