Daniel in the Critic's Den - Chapter 5 - THE POSITIVE EVIDENCE IN FAVOUR OF DANIEL

Chapter 5 - THE POSITIVE EVIDENCE IN FAVOUR OF DANIEL

THE critics claim a competency to judge whether this portion or that of the canon of Scripture be divinely inspired, and in the exercise of this faculty they have decided that certain passages of Daniel give proof that the book could not have a divine sanction. Their dicta on this subject will have weight with us just in proportion to our ignorance of Scripture. The opening chapters of the book which follows Daniel in the canon present far greater difficulties in this respect, and yet the prophetic character of Hosea is unquestionable. Other Scriptures also might be cited to point the same moral; but as these pretensions of the critics are not accepted by Christians generally, the matter need not be further discussed.
Still more summarily we may dismiss Dean Farrar's argument from the absence of references to Daniel in the apocryphal literature of the Jews. Indeed, he himself supplies the answer to it, for when he approaches the subject from another standpoint he emphasises the influence which the book exercised upon that very literature. And as for the silence of Jesus the son of Sirach, the argument only serves to indicate the dearth of weightier proofs. The reader can turn to the passage referred to and decide the matter for himself. If an omission from this panegyric of "famous men" proves anything, Ezra and the book which bears his name must also be rejected.
The next point claims fuller notice. Daniel was admittedly received into the canon; but, we are told, "it is relegated to the Kethuvim, side by side with such a book as Esther." The answer to this is complete. In the Jewish canon the Old Testament Scriptures were reckoned as twenty-four books. These were classified as the Torak, the Neveeim, and the Kethuvim - the Law, the Prophets, and the Other Writings. Now, the objection implies that the Neveeim embraced all that was regarded as prophecy, and nothing else; and that the contents of the Kethuvim were deemed inferior to the rest of the canon. Both these implications are false. In the former class are placed the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. And the latter included two books at least, than which no part of the Scriptures was more highly esteemed,- the Psalms, associated so inseparably with the name of King David; and Esther, which, pace the sneer of the critic, was held in exceptional honour. Dr. Driver avers that it came to be "ranked by the Jews as superior both to the writings of the prophets and to all other parts of the Hagiographa." The Psalms headed the list. Then came Proverbs, connected with the name of Solomon. Then Job, one of the oldest of the books. Then followed the five Megilloth (Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecciesiastes, and Esther). And finally Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah, and Chronicles. To have placed Daniel before the Megilloth would have separated it from the books with which it was so immediately associated. In a word, its place in the list is normal and natural.
The Book of Psalms, as already mentioned, stood first in the Keihuvim, and in later times gave it its name; for when our Lord spoke of "the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms," he thereby meant "all the Scriptures." Many of the Psalms were rightly deemed prophetic; but though David was a prophet in the highest sense, it was not as prophet but as king that his name was enshrined in the memory of the people, and the book thus naturally found its place in the third division of the canon. For the books were grouped rather by authorship than by the character of their contents. Precisely the same reason existed for placing Daniel where it stood; for it was not till the end of a long life spent in statecraft that the visions were accorded to the Exile.
But this is not all. As Dr. Farrar urges, though he is obviously blind to its significance, Daniel had no claim to the prophet's mantle. The prophets "spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost:" he merely recorded the words addressed to him by the angel, and described the visions he witnessed. And the question here, be it remembered, is not what weight would be given to this distinction by our modern critics, but how it would influence the minds of the men who settled the canon. I am here assuming that the place which the Book of Daniel now holds in the Hebrew Bible is that which was originally assigned to it. But this is by no means certain. There are definite reasons to suspect that it was the Talmudists who removed it from the position it occupies in the LXX. version and in our English Bible, and relegated it to the third division of the canon.
And now it is high time to raise a question which the critic systematically ignores, a question which possibly he is incompetent to deal with. For the Higher Criticism claims an entirely false position in this controversy. The critic is a specialist; and specialists, though often necessary witnesses, are proverbially bad judges. To some men, moreover, every year that passes brings more experience in the art of weighing evidence than the theologian or the pundit would be likely to acquire in a lifetime. And such men are familiar with cases where a mass of seemingly invincible proof seems to point one way, and yet fuller inquiry establishes that the truth lies in a wholly opposite direction. But the caution which such experience begets is not to be looked for in the critic. And as for Dr. Farrar, his book reminds us of a private prosecution conducted by that type of lawyer whose remuneration is proportionate to the vehemence with which he presses every point against the defendant. It never seems to have crossed his mind that there may possibly be two sides to the question. Here, then, we have everything which can possibly be urged againsi the Book of Daniel: the inquiry remains, What further can be said in its defence? Let us call a few of the witnesses.
First comes the mention of Daniel, three times repeated, in the prophecies of Ezekiel (xiv. 14, 20, and xxviii. 3). The critics urge that a man so famous as the Daniel of the Exile is represented to have been in the book which bears his name, would have filled a large place in the literature of the nation, and they appeal to the silence of that literature in proof that no such personage in fact existed. And yet when the testimony of Ezekiel is cited, they declare that there must have been another Daniel of equal if not greater fame, who flourished at some earlier epoch of their history, albeit not even the vaguest tradition of his existence has survived! Such casuistry is hard to deal with. But here Dr. Farrar is rash enough to leave the path so well worn by the feet of those he follows, and to venture upon a piece of independent criticism. He fixes B.C. 6o6 as the date of Daniel's captivity, and twelve years as his age when carried to Babylon; and he adds :- "If Ezekiel's prophecy was uttered B.C. 584, Daniel at that time could only have been twenty-two: if it was uttered as late as B.C. 572, Daniel would still have been only thirty-four, and therefore little more than a youth in Jewish eyes. It is undoubtedly surprising that among Orientals, who regard age as the chief passport to wisdom, a living youth should be thus canonised between the Patriarch of the Deluge and the Prince of Uz."
The author's words have been given verbatim, lest some one should charitably suppose they have been misrepresented. For the reader will perceive that this pretentious argument has no better foundation than a transparent blunder in simple arithmetic. According to his own showing, Daniel was upwards of thirty-four, and he may have been forty-six, when Ezekiel's prophecy was uttered. And setting aside the absurd figment that Daniel was but a child of twelve when deported to Babylon, his age at the date of the prophecy must, as a matter of fact, have been forty at the least, or "if it was uttered as late as B.C. 572," he must have already reached middle age. In either case he had already attained the prime of his powers and the zenith of his fame.
What, then, are the facts? We have Daniel in a position of dazzling splendour and influence at the Court of Nebuchadnezzar, second only to that of the great king himself. His power and fame, great though they were, cannot fail to have loomed greater still in the estimate of the humbler exiles by the river Chebar, among whom Ezekiel lived and prophesied. Neither "the Patriarch of the Deluge" nor "the Prince of Uz" would have held as large a place in the heart or in the imagination of the people. The name of their great patron must have been on every lip. His power was their security against oppression. His influence doubtless fired their hopes of a return to the land of their fathers.
Nor was this all. The college of the Chaldean Magi was famous the wide world over; and for more than twenty years Daniel had been "chief of the wise men," and thus, in wisdom as well as in statecraft, the foremost figure of the Court of Babylon. Among Orientals, and especially among his own people, the record of the event which gained him that position, and of his triumphs of administration as Grand Vizier, would have lost nothing in the telling. And though his piety was intense and wholly phenomenal, his reputation in this respect also could not fail to be exaggerated. Such, then, was the time and such the circumstances of Ezekiel's prophecy - words of scorn addressed to one of the great enemies of their race: "Behold thou art wiser than Daniel, there is no secret that they can hide from thee;" or words of denunciation of the wickedness which brought such judgments upon Jerusalem: "Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness."
The refusal therefore to accept the testimony of Ezekiel as evidence to accredit the Book of Daniel is proof that neither honesty nor fairness may be looked for from the sceptics. In the judgment of all reasonable men, this single testimony will go far to decide the issue.'
The First Book of Maccabees is a work of the highest excellence. It has an authority and value which no other part of the Apocrypha possesses, and even Luther dedared it not unworthy to be reckoned among the sacred books of Scripture. The author was indeed "a holy and gifted Jew," and though the suggestion that he was no other than John Hyrcanus is now discredited, it gives proof of his eminence both for piety and learning. And one of the most striking and solemn passages of this book, the record of the dying words of the venerable Mattathias, refers to the Daniel of the Exile and the book which bears his name.
Notwithstanding the extraordinary erudition which has been brought to bear upon this controversy, so far as I am aware the full significance of this fact has hitherto escaped notice. There is internal evidence that I Maccabees was written before the death of John Hyrcanus (B.c. 106). Allowing, then, for the sake of argument, the utterly improbable hypothesis that the canon was not closed till after the time of Antiochus, the book affords conclusive proof that among the learned of that day Daniel was regarded as the work of the great prophet-prince of the Captivity. It was as such, therefore, that it must have been admitted to the canon. The theory is thus exploded that it was as a "pseudepigraph" that the Sanhedrim received it; and the fact of its reception becomes evidence of its genuineness which would outweigh the whole mass of the objections and difficulties which have been heaped together upon the other side.
If space were of no account, numerous points might thus be turned against the argument in support of which the critic adduces them. But these may be safely ignored in presence of other proofs of principal importance.
It was Sir Isaac Newton's opinion that "to reject Daniel's prophecies would be to undermine the Christian religion." Bishop Westcott declares that no other book of the Old Testament had so great a share in the development of Christianity. To cite a hostile witness, Professor Bevan admits that "the influence of the book is apparent almost everywhere." In this connection he adds: "The more we realise how vast and how profound was the influence of Daniel in post-Maccabean times, the more difficult it is to believe that the book existed previously for well-nigh four centuries without exercising any perceptible influence whatsoever." On this it may be remarked, first, that it is far more difficult to believe that a "pseudepigraph" could possibly have had an influence so vast and so profound on the development of Christianity. The suggestion indeed, if accepted, might well discredit Christianity altogether. And secondly, it is extraordinary how any person can fail to see that the influence of the Book of Daniel in post-Maccabean times was due to the fulfilment of its predictions relating to those times.
Dr. Farrar quotes, though with special reprobation, the dictum of Hengstenberg, that "there are few books whose divine authoritl is so fully established by the testimony of the New Testament, and in particular by the Lord Himself." And yet the truth of all this no thoughtful Christian can question. St. Paul's predictions of the Antichrist point back to the visions of Daniel. And with those visions the visions of St. John - the Daniel of the New Testament - are so inseparably interwoven, that if the former be attributed to imagination, the latter must be attributed to lunacy. The Book of Daniel and the Apocalypse stand or fall together.
But the matter becomes far more serious and solemn when we realise how definitely the visions of Daniel have been adopted in the teaching of Christ. Dr. Farrar imagines that he has disposed of the matter by the figment that in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew the reference to "Daniel the prophet" was added by the evangelist as an explanatory note. But even if such a wild suggestion could be allowed, every intelligent reader of the passage can see that any such interpolation must have been based upon the obvious and unmistakable connection between the words of our Lord and the visions of the prophet of the Exile.
Here is a dilemma from which escape is impossible. If the Gospels be authentic and true, our Lord has adopted, and identified Himself with, the visions of this now discredited book. If the Gospels be unreliable and fictitious, the foundations of our faith are destroyed, and belief in Christianity is sheer superstition. "To the last degree dangerous, irreverent, and unwise" this may seem in the Dean of Canterbury's judgment, but its truth is none the less obvious and clear.
It cannot be asserted too plainly that Christianity is a Divine revelation. Nor need the admission be withheld that, apart from revelation in the strictest sense, the Christian's faith would be without adequate foundation. It is easy, indeed, to formulate a religious system based on the teaching of a traditional "Jesus Christ." But this is no more than a Christianised Buddhism; it is certainly not Clirislianily. The main fact on which Christianity as a system rests is the incarnation; and the man who, apart from revelation, believes in the incarnation is a credulous weak creature who would believe anything.
"The Nazarene was admittedly the son of Mary. The Jews declared that he was the son of Joseph; the Christian worships Him as the Son of God. The founder of Rome was said to be the divinely begotten child of a vestal virgin. And in the old Babylonian mysteries a similar parentage was ascribed to the martyred son of Semiramis gazetted Queen of Heaven. What grounds have we, then, for distinguishing the miraculous birth at Bethlehem from these and other kindred legends of the ancient world? To point to the resurrection is a transparent begging of the question. To appeal to human testimony is utter folly. At this point we are face to face with that to which no consensus of mere human testimony could lend even an a priori probability."
The editor of Lux Mundi and his allies would here seek to save their reputation for intelligence by setting up the authority of "the Church" as an adequate ground for faith. This theory, however, is a plant of foreign growth, which, happily, has not taken root in England. But while on this point the Dean of Canterbury would probably repudiate the teaching with which, in its degenerate days, Pusey House identified itself, he would doubtless endorse the words which follow. Here is the passage:- "The Christian creed asserts the reality of certain historical facts. To these facts, in the Church's name, we claim assent; but we do so on grounds which, so far, are quite independent of the infiltration of the evangelical records. All that we claim to show at this stage is that they are historical: not historical so as to be absolutely without error, but historical in the general sense, so as to be trustworthy. All that is necessary for faith in Christ is to be found in the moral dispositions which predispose to belief, and make intelligible and credible the thing to be believed: coupled with such acceptance of the generally historical character of the Gospels, and of the trustworthiness of the other Apostolic documents, as justifies belief that our Lord was actually born of the Virgin Mary," etc.
This language is plain enough. The gospels are not even divinely accredited as true. They are "historical in the general sense" indeed, and therefore as trustworthy as history in general. They afford, therefore, ample ground for belief in the public facts of the life and death of Christ. But who denies or doubts these facts? They have their place in the Koran and the writings of the Rabbis, as well as in our Christian literature. But on what ground can we justify our faith in the transcendental facts to which these public facts owe all their spiritual significance? "To these facts, in the Church's name, we claim assent," is the only reply vouchsafed to us. Let a man but yield up his judgment and bow before his priest, and he will soon acquire "the moral dispositions which predispose to belief, and make intelligible and credible the thing to be believed." And whether the object of his worship be Buddha or Mahomet or Christ, the result will be the same!'
"But," Dr. Farrar here exclaims, "Our belief in the Incarnation, and in the miracles of Christ, rests on evidence which, after repeated examination, is to us overwhelming. Apart from all questions of personal verification, or the Inward Witness of the Spirit, we can show that this evidence is supported, not only by the existing records, but by myriads of external and independent testimonies."
Contempt is poured upon our belief that an angel messenger appeared to Daniel, and we are not even permitted to believe that an angel ministered to our Divine Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane. But if, as the natural outcome of this teaching, we should be led to doubt the reality of the angelic apparition at Bethlehem, the indignation of the teacher will find vent in a scream of hysterical and unmeaning rhetoric.
For the question at issue here is the truth of the opening statement of the Gospel narrative. I allude to Matthew i. 78-25, the last verse especially. To the facts there recorded only two persons in the world could testify, and the witness of Mary and Joseph reaches us only in the very records which, we are told, are unreliable and marred by error. But Dean Farrar will assure us that, while words attributed to our Lord Himself are not to be accepted as authentic and true, the evidence here is "overwhelming." Of the reality of Joseph's visions, and of the fact of Mary's faithfulness and purity, we are supposed to have satisfied ourselves, first by "personal verification," secondly by "the inward witness of the Spirit," thirdly by study of the "existing records "-the very records which he disparages - and lastly by "tens of thousands of external testimonies"! To discuss this is impossible, for here the writer passes out of the region in which reason holds sway, and parts company even with commonsense.
The position of the Christian is an intelligible one. Though he believes in the unseen and the unprovable, his faith is strictly rational; for, assuming a Divine revelation, belief is the highest act of reason. I cannot here discuss the grounds on which he claims to possess such a revelation.' I merely note the fact that the Christian maintains such a claim, and that, if it be assented to, his position is unassailable. But if once the validity of that claim be destroyed, every fearless thinker must fall back upon scepticism as "the rational attitude of a thinking mind towards the supernatural." The story of the Incarnation sinks at once to the level of a Galilean legend, and our faith in Christianity is the merest superstition.
Not that the removal of spurious portions of the canon need necessarily lessen faith in what remains. But, as already urged, if the Book of Daniel be expunged the Revelation of John must share its fate, and in view of their exclusion numerous passages in the Gospels and Epistles must be fearlessly re-edited. Some may imagine that the process, if intrusted to reverent hands, would not undermine the fabric of the Bible as a whole; but all will admit that it could not fail to weaken it. Nor is this plea put forward as an excuse for clinging to what is doubtful. It is designed only as a protest and a warning against the recklessness and levity of the critics.