Feb 242013
 

Someone recently pointed me to a web side called “The Case Against Q”. This site does an excellent job of summarizing the problems with the Q hypothesis, but ultimately I believe rejecting Q creates far more problems than it solves. First of all, let’s review the relationship of the synoptic gospels  to each other. I found the following chart from Wiki which summarized it nicely.

What we see is that Matthew and Luke share a large chunk of material (consisting of 23% of Luke and 25% of Matthew) in common. This material doesn’t simply cover the same topical ground. The similarity is often word-per-word in the Greek. How are we to explain this identical material? There are basically three possibilities. The difficulty will be in deciding which is more likely.

Possibility #1 – They simply came up with the same Greek words.
Problems: This is astronomically unlikely. Even if we assume God is inspiring the writing, it’s very clear that God allows individual styles in the writing of scripture. This is copying pure and simple.

Possibility #2 – Either Matthew copied Luke or (more probably) Luke copied Matthew. This is the “two-gospel” hypothesis, which seems to be the solution of the “Case Against Q” website.
Problems: Many. Summarizing:
1.    Matthew and Luke have drastically different version of Jesus birth, genealogy, and resurrection events. These are not only different, but appear contradictory. Perhaps these have legitimate reconciliations, perhaps they don’t. But the issue is, neither Matthew or Luke make any effort to harmonize these apparent discrepancies. This is very hard to explain of Luke was using Matthew as a source.
2.    There are a number of cases in the Triple Tradition where Matthew adds some important detail to Mark’s account and Luke doesn’t copy his additions.
3.    There are places where Matthew has apparently “blended” another source (Q?) with Mark. Luke has the other source (Q?) material, but without the blends. This suggests he’s adding the material on his own, without Matthew’s guidance.
4.    Matthew has a number (10 or 11) peculiar phrases he likes to use “son of David”, “this was to fulfill…” Luke and Mark never use them. Can Luke be using Matthew and manage to NEVER use his trademark phrases?
5.    Matthew has added some things to the double tradition (Q?) that Luke doesn’t copy (for example, Matthew adding “in spirit” to “blessed are the poor”. If Matthew is the source, why doesn’t Luke copy these additions?
6.    Luke and Matthew put pieces of the double tradition (Q?) in entirely different contexts. Part of Matthew’s sermon on the mount takes place on the plain, etc. It looks very much like they are adding fragments of Jesus tradition with minimal guidance on where to put them.
7.    Luke and Matthew have a number of doublets. These are cases where they report the same event or saying twice. Once copying Mark, and once from another apparent source. This suggests that each of them is using two different sources, Mark and “Q”.
8.    The double tradition material in Matthew and Luke seems to have a certain philosophy and style (such as a preference for the Deuteronomist sources) that Matthew and Luke by themselves don’t share.

Possibility #3  – They are both copying from some common source. This is the “Q” hypothesis.
Problems: The ones listed on “Case Against Q” website.
1.    “Q” is a hypothetical document without any real examples or outside citations.
2.    There is some sequence in “Q”
3.    In the triple tradition, there are some agreements, major and minor, against Mark.
4.    In the double tradition, Luke show a fatigue toward Matthew’s version.

For those following along with the website, I believe the author is stretching things a bit to make it come out to 10 reasons.  I’ve conflated reasons 1 and 2 into my reason 1. Original reason 4 isn’t really a reason, but an introduction to reasons 5, 6 and 7, which I’ve conflated into my reason 3. Reason 9 is ad hominem and reason 10 is irrelevant.

It seems to me that 1 is a reasonable argument. The case for Q would be much stronger if there were an actual example or patristic citation. There are, however, a few hints. The page dismisses the Pappius fragments with a “no true Scotsman” fallacy (no REASONABLE scholar contends..). Since some scholars DO contend that Pappius referred to something similar to “Q”, I’m very much interested in why this is unreasonable.  Furthermore, the Gospel of Thomas itself lends credence to the existence of Q – being itself a “sayings” gospel of very early date.

I don’t see any merit in argument #2. No rule is broken if Q turns out to have SOME narrative sequence to it. It would simply be a fragmentary sequence.

Argument #3 is also a good one. However, most of this is simply explained. Mark is written in very poor and primitive Greek. The writers of Matthew and particularly Luke are much more educated. It’s not unreasonable that two learned authors correcting the bad writing of another would make many of the same corrections. Some of the other agreements also turn out to be later scribal redactions. Matthew and Luke didn’t agree until later scribes MADE them agree, and the agreement is missing from the earliest documents. Furthermore, there are places where the triple tradition may overlap with the “Q” material. In this case, Matthew and Luke may BOTH follow the earlier Q documents in preference to Mark.

Argument #4 (fatigue) seems convoluted to me. If Luke is trying to edit AWAY from Matthew, what is his source for those changes? It seems just as  likely that Luke is including additional material, but fatigues toward Q instead of toward Matthew.

So, we end up having to choose which set of problems is the least bothersome. One of these three answers (or some variation of it) is the explanation for the double tradition in Matthew and Luke. To me, the list of problems in the Two-Gospel hypothesis is really overwhelming, and require only common sense to recognize. If Luke had a copy of Matthew in front of him, he sure made some bizarre choices about things he decided NOT to explain.

Jul 282006
 

The Synoptics

Of the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, even traditional scholars agree that and that Matthew, Mark and Luke were written first, and John written sometime later. Traditional scholars also know that Matthew, Mark and Luke include a lot of the same stories, events, teachings and viewpoints. For this reason, they are called the “synoptic gospels” the word “synoptic” meaning “seeing together” or “similar view”.

But these stories and events aren’t just similar, as one might expect. In many cases, they are word-per-word identical. Now any schoolteacher, presented with three reports that use many identical phrases, knows what’s going on. Someone is copying. The question is, who is copying whom? The synoptic writers could be copying from each other, or all of them could be copying from a common source or sources. This isn’t some modern skeptical viewpoint. As early as Augustine (who was no dummy after all) careful readers knew that someone had copied. Because Augustine accepted catholic tradition, he assumed that Mark and Luke had copied from Matthew.

But modern scholars aren’t as ready to accept catholic tradition. The gospel writers don’t even identify themselves after all. The title “The Gospel of Matthew” that you read in your printed Bible is simply a traditional title. The manuscript itself makes no claim to have been written by Matthew. The traditional authorship makes some sense in terms of the emphasis of each gospel. Matthew seems to have a Jewish slant, for example. But tradition needs validation. I’ll continue to call these authors “Matthew, Mark and Luke”, but we really aren’t sure who they are.

Who Copied Whom?

Scholars try to decide which sources are earlier – not by comparing the verses where they are exactly the same, but the verses where there are subtle changes. Either through early copying errors or slightly different emphasis, there are many examples where the synoptic gospel writers are slightly different from each other. Usually, two gospel writers agree and one will have a slight variation. This usually means the variation is NOT the original. For example, if I have three versions of a phrase:

1. Bill took a nap 2. Bill took a nap 3. Bill, being tired, took a nap

I can deduce that “Bill took a nap” was probably the original and “being tired” was a later addition to version #3.

When we apply this method to the synoptics, it turns out that Mark seems to be the original. Sometimes Luke changes something, sometimes Matthew – but rarely are Matthew and Luke in agreement against Mark. And in many of the cases where they ARE in agreement against Mark, the very earliest manuscripts are different, and the agreement is a later “patch up” job.

Mark Wrote First

So it appears, and the majority of scholars (though not all) think, that the author of Mark wrote his gospel first, and that the authors of Matthew and Luke each had a copy of Mark sitting in front of them when they wrote their gospels, and used Mark as a framework. This also seems likely from the fact that Mark is the shorter gospel. Compilers of scripture tend to add to their sources, not abbreviate them. They are reluctant to throw away anything that might be precious.

Matthew and Luke each added from their own sources in the framework Mark provided. Each of them added (somewhat contradictory) information about Jesus’ birth and genealogy for example, and added material about his passion.

The “Q” Source.

One of the things that both Matthew and Luke add to Mark are a number of “sayings” of Jesus. Once again, these sayings of Jesus are so similar in wording in Matthew and Luke that there must be a common source for them. Scholars call this common source “Q”, for “quella”, the German word for “source”. However, each gospel writer puts the sayings in different contexts. The Sermon on the Mount, for example, in Matthew 5, happens on a plain in Luke 6. Jesus saying which begins “are not five sparrows sold for a (two) farthings” is used by Matthew as part of Jesus instruction as he is sending out the twelve. In Luke it is part of a teaching to a much larger gathering. Why don’t Matthew and Luke seem to agree on when and where Jesus said these things?

The reason is that the source (“Q”) that Matthew and Luke are copying from is probably a collection of “sayings”. This was a popular form of ancient literature – the collected sayings of a wise man. Proverbs is an example of this kind of collection. Matthew and Luke had a collection of Jesus’ sayings in front of them, but no clue as to exactly where or when these sayings fit in the life of Jesus. So they put them into the narrative of Mark wherever each author thought they best fit.

Layers in the “Q” Source

Further study has shown that the “Q” source may consist of several layers of tradition, based on differences in language, style and theme. The very earliest of these (Q1) is primarily a collection of Jesus’ “wisdom” sayings. They are generally short, pithy sayings and parables and don’t have a lot of explanation surrounding them. The subsequent layers (Q2 and Q3) deal largely with apocalyptic themes and judgment against those who reject him, and are more verbose. For a scholarly reconstruction of what the “Q” source may have looked like, with the layers indicated, see: http://www.cygnus-study.com/pageq.html

All of this analysis is not to say that Matthew, Mark and Luke were doing anything wrong. They are not trying to take credit for someone else’s work (in fact, they write anonymously). They are simply trying to assemble the best history of Jesus they can provide from the sources they have available. Even a conservative view of scriptural inerrancy doesn’t demand that the gospels be in exact agreement about when and where Jesus made a particular statement. It’s of no importance to anyone’s spiritual condition to know exactly what altitude Jesus was at when he taught the Sermon on the Mount (Plain).

But having these educated guesses about the gospel sources is of help in analyzing other materials, particularly the Gospel of Thomas

Dating:

The tentative dates, then, for these gospels and their sources is thought to be something like this:

Q1 – the mid 50’s AD Q2 – 60 to 70 AD Q3 – the mid 80’s AD Mark – 65 to 80 AD Matthew – 80 to 100 AD Luke – 80 to 130 AD

Jul 282006
 

I thought it might be helpful to give one small example of how independent textual traditions can point back to what appears to be a common source in the historical Jesus. When I say these textual traditions are “independent”, I mean that scholars have concluded, based on differences in wording and grammar, that they did not simply copy from each other. Let’s look first of all at the Gospel of Thomas. The first layer, at least, of the Gospel of Thomas dates back to as early as 50 CE, according to Crossan, and internal evidence suggest the apostle James may have collected this first layer.

Here is Thomas 2 (Lambdin translation)

Jesus said, “Let him who seeks continue seeking until he finds. When he finds, he will become troubled. When he becomes troubled, he will be astonished, and he will rule over the All.”

Several other citations from Thomas have a similar theme:

(92) Jesus said, “Seek and you will find.”

(94) Jesus said, “He who seeks will find, and he who knocks will be let in.”

Several of the earliest Church fathers quote from a very early version of the gospel called “The Gospel of the Hebrews”. Unfortunately, no copy of this gospel survives, but based on analyzing the quotations, scholars believe this is an independent source written as early as 50–80 CE. The following fragment is quoted by Clement of Alexandria:

“He who seeks will not give up until he finds; and having found, he will marvel; and having marveled, he will reign; and having reigned, he will rest.”

Moving to more familiar territory, we come to the “Q” source – a reconstructed text of Jesus’ sayings used by Luke and Matthew. The earliest strata of “Q” dates back to the 50’s, CE. Here is the quotation from the earliest strata of Q, as found in Luke 11:9–10

“And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”

This is basically copied verbatim in Matt 7:7–8, with Matthew quoting independently from the Q source.

A very similar sentiment is expressed in Mark (who did NOT apparently use the Q source). Mark, as the earliest surviving gospel, dates back to as early as 65 CE. Here it is in Mark 8:1–10

“Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”

Matthew, in Matt 12:22, copies Mark basically verbatim.

The dialogue of the Savior, is a document which dates to much later (perhaps 120 CE) but which contains portions of a much earlier “sayings” gospel within it – apparently independent of these earlier texts quotes Jesus . It quotes Jesus as saying: “The Lord said to them, “He who seeks […] reveals […].”

Finally, the Gospel of John, while later (90–120), has several citations which are independent of the previous:

“And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” (Jn 14:13–14)

“If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” (Jn 15:7)

“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” (Jn 15:16)

“And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” (Jn 16:23–24)

So here we have quite a number of independent sources, all quoting Jesus as saying something similar (each having a slightly different “take” on the theme). These sources are as early as 50 CE, perhaps as little as 17 years after Jesus, if not earlier. The fact that they are independent points to the fact that there is an even earlier source, probably oral, dating to the time of Jesus himself. By far the most likely explanation of this is that there WAS a historical Jesus, and that one of the more memorable themes of his preaching was something like “Ask and you shall receive. Knock and it shall be opened”

Jul 282006
 

A discussion on the authenticity of the three “pastoral” epistles attributed to Paul – specifically 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus.

The first person to actually draw up a “canon” of the New Testament was, in fact, Marcion (a semi-gnostic). He was a devoted fan of Paul, whom he considered a gnostic apostle, and his canon included a version of Luke (somewhat different from ours) and the Pauline epistles which he ordered as follows: Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians combined, Romans, 1 and 2 Thessalonians combined, Laodiceans (Ephesians), Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon. Interestingly, there are passages missing from several of the epistles, and from Luke. Scholars argue over whether Marcion removed them, or whether his manuscripts didn’t HAVE them. The stronger case seems to be that his versions didn’t have these passages. Also, you will note that the pastorals (the two Timothy’s and Titus) either didn’t seem to exist at the time, or were rejected by Marcion as inauthentic.

Forging epistles in the name of Paul was certainly not unknown. You won’t find 3rd Corinthians in your modern Bible, although it was considered authentic for a time in the Coptic Church (and you can read it at http://www.biblefacts.org/church/3cor.htm l) Also, an epistle to the Laodicians (which you can read here: http://www.comparative-religion.com/christianity/apocrypha/new-testament-apocrypha/4/7.php) appeared in a few early versions of the Vulgate. In addition, there were the Acts of Paul, the Acts of Paul and Thecla, the Acts of Peter and Paul, the Apocalypse of Paul, the Revelation of Paul, the correspondence of Paul and Seneca, and probably a few I’ve missed.

So the question is, are the pastorals part of the authentic works of Paul, or forgeries? Obviously, if we go by Marcion, they are forgeries. The earliest mention of them by “catholic” sources is a quotation from them by Irenaeus c. 170 AD. By the time the Church fathers are authoritatively quoting from them, it is at least 100 years after the death of Paul. How can we, as modern students, decide this question (assuming we’re not content to rely on Catholic authority?)

We might try analyzing the style. Do these epistles sound like Paul in style, vocabulary, subject matter, etc? The answer is a definite NO, they don’t. At the risk of boring, let me quote a few facts in this regard.

1. Of the 848 Greek words in the pastorals, 306 words do not occur in Paul’s ten letters, or thirty-six percent. This is a huge change in vocabulary.

2. Of the 306 words that do not occur in the ten Pauline letters, 175 are hapaxlegomena (words that occur only once in the New Testament). This is more than two and a half TIMES as many unique words as all the other Pauline epistles combined. Again, a radical change in vocabulary.

3. A number of typical Pauline words and phrases used in Paul’s ten letters aren’t used at all in the pastorals

4. Some of the unique Pauline words and phrases from Paul’s authentic letters that ARE used in the pastorals are used with quite different meanings. His primary definitions have changed. Here are a few examples:

Rom 2:27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter [gamma] and circumcision dost transgress the law?

Vs.:

2Ti 3:15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures [gamma or gammata], which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

When Paul uses “gamma” in the earlier epistles, he means “the letter of the ceremonial law”(in a negative sense) whereas in the pastorals, it means “sacred scripture”. “Gamma” is always negative in Paul, now it’s GOOD in the pastorals.

Here’s another:

Rom 14:14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean (koinos) of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean (koinos), to him it is unclean (koinos).

Vs:

Tit 1:4 To Titus, mine own son after the common (koinos) faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Paul changes from using “koinos” as “ritually unclean” to “something we share in common”.

5. As the counterpoint to number 4, Paul suddenly uses different words to describe the same things. For example

Col 3:22 Servants, obey in all things your masters (kurioi) according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:

Vs.

1Ti 6:1 Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters (despotai) worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.

Paul suddenly calls “masters” of servants or slaves by an entirely different Greek name, and does it all through the pastorals.

Or –

1Co 15:23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming (parousia).

Vs.

1Ti 6:14 That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing (epipheneia) of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Parousia is a very special word used all through the genuine Pauline epistles for the return of Christ. The author of the pastorals prefers an entirely different word (epipheneia).

6. There are also grammatical differences. It’s difficult to illustrate this here, especially since my Greek grammar isn’t adequate. So I’ll simply quote from one of my sources: “First, the use of the definite article differs in the pastoral letters and the ten Pauline letters. Second, the use of the conjunction hôs (as) followed by a substantive occurs frequently in the pastoral letters but is absent in the ten Pauline letters, nor is the latter’s use of hôs (as) found in the former. Finally, the use of a series of prepositions in a sentence with reference to a single subject, common in the ten Pauline letters, is absent from the pastorals (e.g., Rom 11:36: “from him and through him and to him”).” (from http://www.abu.nb.ca/Courses/NTIntro/1Tim.htm)

In summary, the Greek used by the writer of the Epistles is dramatically different from the Greek used by Paul in his genuine epistles.

7. There are equally dramatic differences in writing style. Paul’s style is bold, dramatic and emotional. There are a lot of spontaneous interjections, and imaginary arguments and conversations. Whenever Paul is responding to an error, he attacks it head on and argues it – showing his reasons. It is the writing style of an extemporaneous speaker putting his speeches into writing. The “Paul” in the pastorals mentions errors, but does not argue about them, simply instructing his audience to stand fast to tradition. He gives instructions, but few reasons or arguments. His style is quiet, meditative and carefully structured.

8. The content and theology of the pastoral epistles is also dramatically different. There are only two references to the Spirit in the pastorals, whereas the Pauline epistles are full of such references. The idea of spiritual unity with Christ, which is a constant theme in the epistles, is basically GONE from the pastorals. Paul frequently uses the phrase “in Christ” in the epistles to refer to this union, whereas in the pastorals, “in Christ” never refers to people, but only to concepts, such as “the faith which is in Christ”. Instead of spirituality, the pastorals are full of discussions of apostolic tradition, piety, good works and obedience – far more than the epistles. And, as has been stated before, the pastorals seem to have a lower view of women than the epistles.

9. The pastorals are also anachronistic. They attack Gnostic ideas that didn’t really come into conflict with proto-orthodoxy until the second century. Scriptures such as these, for example:

Tit 1:14 Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.

1Ti 1:4 Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.

1Ti 6:20 O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science [Greek: gnosis] falsely so called:

1Ti 4:3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

And

2Ti 2:18 Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.

All seem to refer to writings and beliefs that only came to prominence as gnosticism began to win converts in the 2nd century.

10. Historians also believe the pastorals are anachronistic regarding Church organization. The well defined roles of Bishop or elder (or overseer) and deacon seem to have become much more rigid structures than they were during Paul’s lifetime.

I have simplified each of these points for brevity. There is quite a bit more if you’ll take a visit to a library and check out any textbook on the New Testament. Now none of this can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Paul isn’t the author of the pastoral epistles. But if these sorts of evidence were presented regarding any other sorts of books, we would conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that a different author or authors was responsible. The ONLY reason for attributing these epistles to Paul is tradition. And as I said above, the earliest hint of that tradition is 170 AD, with strong suggestion from the canon of Marcion in the 140’s that the pastoral epistles weren’t known.

It would seem very imprudent, therefore, for Christians to rely on the pastoral epistles to Timothy and Titus as if they were the genuine writings of Paul.

(in addition to the earlier link, credit also goes to: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/1timothy.html )

Jul 282006
 

(reposted by permission of ScienceGuy)

 

To me the important question is “does God exist?” How does one go about answering it? Gods by definition, if they do exist, exist in a supernatural realm that is inaccessible to mere mortals. Thus, their possible existence can never be ruled out. However, there are claims that are made about certain gods that are open to investigation. The putative god most affecting my life and the lives of people I love is Yahweh, the god of Christians and Jews as portrayed in the bible. There are many claims about this particular god interacting with the natural world and, thus, these claims are open to investigation

Fortunately the bible is a book commonly available (and in multiple translations) so there is a general consensus on the supernatural claims concerning Yahweh’s existence. Unfortunately, there is no general consensus on the reliability of these claims. There are opinions that range from one extreme – the bible is the inerrant and everything in it down to the punctuation marks is perfectly correct when understood in proper context – to the opposite extreme – nothing in the bible shows any signs of real supernatural influence.

I have had a hard time coming up with convenient labels for these positions without being pejorative while still making the label descriptive of the position. I have finally settled on bible-believer for a person who holds the position that the supernatural claim in the bible is true and bible-doubter for a person who holds the position that the claim is false.

Then at one extreme is the person who is a bible-believer concerning all biblical claims of the supernatural and the other extreme is the person who is a bible-doubter concerning these claims. Since most people in this country are theists, but not to the extreme suggested above, I suspect most fall somewhere in the middle. That is, they believe some supernatural claims in the bible may be false, but others are likely to be true. I, on the other hand, am an extreme bible-doubter. I do not believe any claims concerning the supernatural are true. That is not the same as believing nothing in the bible is true, it is just a belief concerning supernatural claims of the bible.

I came by this belief after testing the bible. I had developed an hypothesis concerning the bible and read the bible as a test of that hypothesis. The hypothesis was that if the bible was the inspired word of a creator capable of producing the universe and the life in it and thus having decidedly superior knowledge of the universe and the life in it than we do now, then it should have undeniable evidence of that. The alternative hypothesis was that if the bible were not the inspired word of God, then it is the work of a primitive people with decidedly inferior knowledge of the universe and the life in it than we have now and nothing in the bible should suggest otherwise. After reading the bible twice, I found that the alternative hypothesis (nothing in the bible suggests any superior knowledge of the universe or the life in it) was strongly supported and the hypothesis that the bible should contain undeniable evidence of superior knowledge was not.

I had felt that the strength of these observations alone were sufficiently strong to rule out Yahweh’s existence (and I still do). But, I had not checked out the supernatural claims inside the bible as to whether or not they contradicted the above finding. Perhaps, even without any signs of superior knowledge, the bible may contain irrefutable evidence of supernatural involvement in the activities of the universe to warrant a belief in God. Certainly, some of the extreme bible-believers believe this to be the case.

One oft touted piece of evidence is biblical prophecy fulfillment. Again, opinions on the accuracy of prophecy fulfillment differ. For instance, concerning Messianic prophecies (prophecies about the coming of a Messiah), popular Christian apologist and extreme bible-believer, Josh McDowell? says the Old Testament “contains several hundred references to the Messiah. All of these were fulfilled in Christ and they establish a solid confirmation of his credentials as the Messiah.” But Thomas Paine, one of our founding fathers and a deist, said, “I have examined all the passages in the New Testament quoted from the Old, and so-called prophecies concerning Jesus Christ, and I find no such thing as a prophecy of any person, and I deny there are any.”

Obviously, at least one person above fooled himself. To lessen the likelihood of such an event, one must establish objective guidelines in assessing the accuracy of prophecy fulfillment. The minimum criteria I have come up with are:

1. A real prophecy must be made. 2. The prophecy needs to be made well in advance of the date of fulfillment. 3. The prophecy must contain SPECIFIC information. 4. The prophecy must be so unlikely to happen that the only reasonable explanation for its fulfillment is the intervention of a supernatural entity (as opposed to a lucky guess. 5. The prophecy must be fulfilled in all its particulars.

A corollary is that since the fulfillment of prophecy must be an event that is very unlikely to occur, there can be only one putative event that qualifies as fulfillment.

One criticism that may be made is that the above criteria are stringent. I do not believe this to be the case. If one recognizes that the supernatural demands a suspension of the well-tested laws of physics we have been living by, then one must admit that any claims for the existence of the supernatural fall in the realm of extraordinary claims. Any such claim then will require an extraordinary support. The reasoning behind this is that the laws of physics are so well established that the level of likelihood that they are correct approaches certainty. Thus, if data contradicts them then either the laws are wrong (we already know that is unlikely) or the data is wrong. The only way to overturn established principles is to make the stringency on the data such that its likelihood of being wrong less than that of what it disproves. Besides, Yahweh is claimed to be omniscient. A prophecy inspired from an omniscient being SHOULD be able to meet those criteria easily.

To date, I have examined several putative cases of prophecy fulfillment; prophecies concerning the city of Tyre found in Amos and Ezekiel, Isaiah’s Messianic prophecy (Isaiah 7:14), Jeremiah’s 70 year of servitude, etc. I have found that none of them come even close to meeting the criteria.

This series of posts deals with prophecies found in the book of Daniel. The book of Daniel is used by bible-believers as proof for the existence of God. They claim that it was written by a prophet who was a young man when king Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon laid siege to Jerusalem (605 BCE) and served in the court until at least the third year of the reign of the Persian king Cyrus (ca. 536 BCE). They claim that Daniel made miraculous prophecies, such as the coming of Christ, the Roman Empire, and God’s everlasting kingdom which is yet to come.

If their dating of Daniel is correct, then at least some of the prophecies he made were indeed miraculous (although others were clearly wrong). For instance, there are numerous and unmistakable prophecies concerning the conquests of Alexander the Great, events that did not happen until 332 BCE, over 200 years after the supposed time of Daniel.

Since there is no natural phenomenon that can explain this, if it is true then Daniel would be evidence for the existence of the supernatural. However, the only evidence to believe the dating of Daniel is from the book of Daniel. If we are going to question its reliability, we cannot assume before looking at it that it is indeed reliable. We must look for other evidence.

Most mainstream biblical scholars who have looked at Daniel dispassionately have concluded that the bible-believer’s dating of the book is indeed flawed. They cite overwhelming evidence that Daniel was not written until the Maccabean period, approximately 165–164 BCE or about 400 years after the fundamentalist’s claim. Furthermore, once Daniel is put into its proper historical context, the prophecies that seem to predict the events mentioned above, really concern local events of the time. As such, it does not provide any evidence for the existence of the supernatural. Instead, it is shows Daniel to be a crude forgery and is evidence that the bible is a flawed document not likely to emanate from God.

In a series of posts below I will summarize the evidence for the above assertion. I will look at the entire book of Daniel (12 chapters). Since the purpose of these posts is to examine the reliability of the book of Daniel, I will focus on mistakes and attempt an explanation as to how they occurred. From this critical analysis, one can deduce with reasonable certainty that the book of Daniel is a forgery.

1 Daniel and Friends in Nebuchadrezzar’s Court 0 Replies Posted by: Science Guy? on 12/09/03 at 09:27 PM 1.1 Summary of Chapter 1 According to the book of Daniel, King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon lays siege to Jerusalem in the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim. Daniel and his friends; Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, are taken away to Babylon and chosen to undergo 3 years of training to serve at the king’s court because they are of royal blood, handsome, “skillful in all wisdom, cunning in knowledge and understanding science”. These four remain true to the Jewish traditions by forsaking the rich food Nebuchadrezzar had offered them and instead live off of vegetables and water. Despite this diet they are fatter, and better nourished than the others who were similarly chosen. They distinguished themselves above the others and were given new names: Daniel becomes Belteshazzar, Hananiah becomes Shadrach, Mishael becomes Meshach, and Azariah becomes Abednego. Daniel especially showed a talent for being able to interpret dreams. He was “ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers in [Nebuchadrezzar’s] realm”.

1.2 Analysis

The first thing a skeptic notices is that the tone of the chapter is like that of a fable, complete with a moral. Daniel and his friends suffer the adversity of being taken away captive into a foreign land. However, they keep their faith when it would have been easy to forsake it and prosper for it. There is not necessarily anything wrong with this, but it does increase the level of skepticism.

The second thing to note is that there are some curious minor discrepancies in it. All extant early copies of Daniel (the earliest of which is found in the Dead Sea Scrolls and dates to about 150 BCE) spell the king of Babylonia’s name Nebuchad-N-ezzar. The proper spelling (and found in some copies of bible books such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel which date back to that time) spell is Nebuchad-R-ezzar. The N → R replacement took place during the writings of the Persian period, a hundred years or so after the supposed time of Daniel.

Third, its history does not conform to that generally accepted for its time. Daniel says “King” Nebuchadrezzar laid siege to Jerusalem in the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim. Nebuchadrezzar laid siege to Jerusalem twice, but the sieges were in 597 BCE and again in 586 BCE. The history of the time is as follows:

Pharaoh Necho (610–595 BCE, 26th dynasty) killed King Josiah of Judah (an ally of the Babylonians who along with the Medes had conquered the Assyrians) in a battle at Miggedo. This eventually led to Judah becoming a vassal state of Egypt. Necho set up one of Josiah’s sons, Jehoiakim (whose name was changed from Eliakim) as king (II Kings 24:23; II Chronicles 36:4). This was done in 608 BCE. Jehoiakim reigned for 11 years.

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim Nebuchadrezzar was not king. His father, Nabopolasar, was still alive and king (He would die later that year and Nebuchadrezzar would succeed him). That year (605 BCE) Prince Nebuchadrezzar led Babylonian forces against Pharaoh Necho at Carchemish (in present-day Syria) and defeated them. By all accounts Nebuchadrezzar followed the retreating Egyptians all the way back to their eastern border. Thus, Nebuchadrezzar would have been very unwise to have diverted troops to lay siege to Jerusalem at that time. After the death of his father Nebuchadrezzar hurried back to Babylon to take over the throne. In the year 604 BCE, he consolidated his kingdom by obtaining submissions from some of the lesser kings, including Jehoiakim, but this was done without a siege.

In 601 BCE Nebuchadrezzar fought a particularly costly battle with the Egyptians, which caused him to withdraw and rebuild his forces. During the next two years he stayed in Babylon putting down some local uprisings. It was at this time that Jehoiakim sensed a window of opportunity and rebelled against him. This is what set the stage for the siege of Jerusalem which ended with Jehoiakim’s death and the first time any significant numbers of Jews were carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon. Nebuchadrezzar laid siege to Jerusalem a second time in 586 BCE destroying the city and the first temple at that time. This is the time when the vast majority of the Jews were taken prisoner to Babylon.

According to the book of Daniel, Daniel (the supposed author of the book) becomes a high-ranking official under 4 different kings and 3 different empires. It would be surprising that he would confuse the date of his incarceration by at least eight years.

But this leaves open the question, “How could the author of Daniel make that mistake?” One possibility is that the author misinterpreted the account in II Kings in which it says that Jehoiakim became a vassal of Nebuchadrezzar for 3 years to mean that was the beginning of his rule. However, historical records clearly indicate that Jehoiakim reigned 11 years.

2 Nebuchadrezzar’s Vision of the Great Image 0 Replies Posted by: Science Guy? on 12/09/03 at 09:30 PM 2.1 Summary of Chapter 2

Daniel’s first amazing feat comes when Nebuchadrezzar has a dream that disturbs him. Nebuchadrezzar calls all the magicians, astrologers, sorcerers, and Chaldeans to interpret the dream. He makes the task even more difficult by refusing to tell them what the dream was. To ensure they are telling the truth, they must tell him what his dream was as well as its meaning, and if they don’t they will be killed. They protest saying that it is impossible. Daniel prays to God and is shown the dream and its meaning.

Daniel tells Nebuchadrezzar that he saw in his dream a “great image”. The head of the image was gold, the breast and the arms were silver, the belly and thighs were brass, and the legs and the feet were part iron and part clay. Then, a stone that came not from human hands, hits the image on the legs and feet causing it to be broken up and blown away as dust. The rock then grows in size, eventually filling the whole earth.

The interpretation of the dream is as follows:

(1) Nebuchadrezzar is the head of gold. (2) The breast and arms of silver are a lesser kingdom that is to come after Nebuchadrezzar. (3) The belly and thighs of brass are a kingdom that will succeed that one and rule over the whole world. (4) The legs and feet made partly of iron and partly of clay would be a very strong kingdom that would become split. (5) The stone represents God coming to break up all the kingdoms that came before and establishing His kingdom which will be everlasting.

Nebuchadrezzar is impressed and makes Daniel “chief of the governors over all wise men”.

2.2 Analysis

2.2.1 Minor problems

Again there are some minor mistakes here that make us skeptical of the story. First, the story takes place in the second year of Nebuchadrezzar’s reign. Daniel should not have been out of his training period by then. The book of Daniel uses the term “Chaldeans” to mean a priestly class. Originally, “Chaldeans” referred to a sect within Babylonia. That sect produced Nabopolassar (the father of Nebuchadrezzar) and became dominant. At the time of Nebuchadrezzar, the term “Chaldean” was synonymous to the term “Babylonian” and meant anyone of the Babylonian empire. It was not until well into the Persian rule that “Chaldean” came to mean a Babylonian priest.

A more serious problem is that according to this story Daniel became a high ranking official of Babylon. The Babylonians kept good records and we still have them. These records mention many officials, both major and minor. There is no mention of a Daniel (or Belteshazzar, his supposed Babylonian name) in any of them. In fact, there is no mention of a Daniel (or Belteshazzar) who was an official in the Babylonian court in ANY writing before the second century BCE.

Bible-believers are quick to point out that Daniel is mentioned in Ezekiel (Ezekiel 14;14,20 and 28:3). Ezekiel was a contemporary of Daniel (actually a decade or two older than Daniel) and, thus, provides important evidence of the historicity of Daniel … or so they say. However, Ezekiel only mentions the name and no details that link that Daniel to the Daniel from the book of Daniel. In fact, there is good reason to believe that Ezekiel is actually referring to someone else.

The Hebrew spelling of the Daniel in Ezekiel is different from that of Daniel in the book of Daniel. The one in Ezekiel is more properly rendered Dan’el. Furthermore, this Dan’el is mentioned alongside of the legendary Jewish heroes of Noah and Job. The actual phraseology is “… Noah, Dan’el, and Job …” Placing a contemporary between two legends is awkward phraseology. It would be like referring to three strong people as “… Achilles, Schwarzenegger, and Hercules …” It would be much more natural to place them in chronological order instead: “… Achilles, Hercules, and Schwarzenegger …”

There is another candidate for the Dan’el that Ezekiel refers to. The Ras Shamrah tablets from Ugarit in North Syria tell of the story of Dan’el (spelled exactly like that in Ezekiel). He was a divine Canaanite hero who sat at the gate of the city and judged the causes of widows and established rights for orphans. He was known for his wisdom (Ezekiel 28:3). The dating of the tablets suggests this is a story Ezekiel would likely be familiar with. In fact the consensus among scholars who are not extreme bible-believers is that this is the Dan’el Ezekiel was referring to.

2.2.2 Problems in the interpretation of the prophecy

The bible-believer’s interpretation of this prophecy is that the head of gold refers to the Babylonian empire (indeed the prophecy explicitly states this), the breast and arms of silver refer to a Medo-Persian empire, the belly and thighs of brass refer to Alexander the Great, and the legs and feet made partly of iron and partly of clay refer to the Roman Empire. However, this scenario does not hold up under scrutiny. The biggest problem is that THERE WAS NO MEDO-PERSIAN EMPIRE. There was a Median empire that was conquered by the Persians. Thus, a much more likely scenario is that the head of gold refers to Babylon, the breasts and arms of silver refer to the Median empire, the belly and thighs of brass refer to the Persian empire, and the legs and feet made partly of iron and partly of clay refers to Alexander. This is the argument I will set forth here.

If one reads the book of Daniel, there is a clear picture that is presented. Daniel comes to the court of Nebuchadrezzar, serves under his son, Belshazzar who is violently deposed by Darius the Mede (son of Ahasuerus [also known as Xerxes]) whom Daniel also serves, and is alive into the reign of Cyrus the Persian. The clear implication is that Babylon falls to the Median Empire which is replaced by a Persian Empire. This is not what really happened (as we will see later) but it is the clear picture presented by the author of Daniel. Thus, the simplest conclusion to draw from this is that the author of Daniel THOUGHT that is what happened.

With that in mind, let’s examine the prophecy. The controversy lies on the interpretation of the second empire (the breast and arms of silver). Is it a combined Medo-Persian empire or is it just the Median empire? The pertinent history of the time was that Babylon and Media were the two biggest empires in the region. Persia was a vassal state of Media. Cyrus the Great came to power in Persia and rebelled against the Medes five years later in 550 BCE. He defeated the Median king Astyages. In doing this Cyrus acquired all the Median territory. Thereafter he referred to his kingdom simply as the Persian kingdom.

Another problem with relating the second kingdom to a combined “Medo-Persian” kingdom is that the prophecy clearly states that the kingdom will be inferior to that of Nebuchadrezzar’s. The Persian empire lasted twice as long as the Babylonian empire and at its height controlled three times the land area. That sounds more like ruling over the whole world (the third empire) rather than being inferior (like the second empire). The Median empire, on the other hand, was indeed inferior to Babylonian empire. It did not last as long nor did it control the area of the Babylonians.

The question, then is, “does the fourth kingdom fit that of Alexander?” The answer is a resounding “YES”. Alexander was the strongest king in history up to his time. He conquered all of Egypt, Persia, and extended his kingdom into India. This was pretty much all the known world at his time. In fact, legend has it that Alexander wept because he had no more land to conquer. However, at the height of his power and at a very young age, he unexpectedly died leaving no heir. His kingdom was split 4 ways and given to his top generals: Cassander, Lysimachus, Ptolemy, and Antigonus.

2.2.3 Problems with the bible-believer version of the prophecy

As we have seen, the bible-believer version of the prophecy in which the fourth kingdom is associated with Rome instead of Alexander, is most likely not the one intended by the author. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume the extreme bible-believers are correct and it is. Then they still have the problem of the arrival of God’s everlasting kingdom. Rome has fallen (in either 485 CE with the Visigoth sacking of Rome, or in 1465 CE with the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman empire depending on how you want to define it). The question is, “why does the prophecy stop here?” Why doesn’t it mention the other great kingdoms that dominated the area, the Ottoman empire? Even if we were to accept the extreme bible-believer version of the prophecy, if we looked at the results since then we would be forced to conclude that Daniel was still a false prophet.

3 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo in the Fiery Furnace 3 Replies Posted by: Science Guy? on 12/09/03 at 09:33 PM 3.1 Summary of Chapter 3

Later, Nebuchadrezzar made a 90-foot tall gold statue and decreed that whenever music was heard everyone was to bow down to it and worship it. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, remaining true to their Jewish heritage did not do this. People jealous of their success reported them to Nebuchadrezzar, who was upset at this report. He had them brought before him and gave them one last chance to reconsider. They tell him … nope. He gets angrier, has a furnace made seven times hotter than normal and has some of his strongest guards tie them up, take them to the furnace and throw the three in. The furnace is so hot, in fact, that the large, strong guards who tie up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and take them to be thrown into it are instantly killed by the heat. Nebuchadrezzar is surprised when he sees FOUR people walking around in the furnace apparently unharmed, “the fourth is like the Son of God”.

Nebuchadrezzar takes them out of the furnace and, indeed, they are not harmed. Their hair is not singed, their clothes are not burned and they don’t even smell of fire. Nebuchadrezzar declares on the spot that they can worship their God and not others. He further proclaims that anybody who says a bad thing about their God will be destroyed.

3.2 Analysis

The whole tenor of this story sounds like an unbelievable myth designed to inspire people to maintain their faith in the face of overwhelming persecution. The detail about the furnaces being made seven times hotter than normal makes no sense. How would they know it seven times hotter and not five or ten? The part about the soldiers who drag Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednigo to the furnace being killed by the heat bears the mark of unbelievable myth as well.

A 90-foot tall gold statue would be a memorable work of art, not to mention that if it were solid gold it would go a long way to bankrupting the coffers of Babylon. There is no mention in any other writings of such a structure.

There are some anachronisms in the story as well. Nebuchadrezzar has his herald tell the people to bow down and pray to the statue when they heard “… horn, flute, harp, lyre …” The Hebrew words for these instruments are derived from the Greek and would most likely have entered the language during the Hellenic period (332–164 BCE).

Another thing is that the fourth figure is likened to the “Son of God” and has been associated with Jesus Christ by extreme bible-believers. However, this portrayal is in contradiction with other prophecies in Daniel in which the putative Jesus Christ figure is referred to as the “Son of Man”.

As far as I am concerned these are minor quibbles. Since there are no prophecies to be verified one way or another, nor is there any significant historical information, this story taken by itself does not really constitute compelling evidence that Daniel is a forgery. However, as part of the overall picture of the entire book, it reinforces the conclusion that Daniel was written significantly later than the extreme bible-believers propose.

4 Nebuchadrezzar’s Dream about Going Insane

4.1 Summary of Chapter 4

Chapter 4 is presented as being written by Nebuchadrezzar. He has a second dream that disturbs him. None can interpret it so he calls on Daniel. Daniel listens to the dream and becomes distressed. Nebuchadrezzar says for him to not worry, he can take whatever it is. Daniel tells Nebuchadrezzar that he is about to go crazy. He will be driven from men, will live with beasts, eat grass like oxen, and be made wet by the dew. Once he comes to realize that God is the master (a period of seven “times” [most likely seven years]) he will return to normal and the kingdom will return into his hands. Sure enough this happens. About a year later, Nebuchadrezzar was admiring the beauty of Babylon and praising his own efforts in bringing it about when suddenly he is driven out, has to live with the animals, eats grass, and is made wet by the dew. In the end, Nebuchadrezzar “praise[s] and extol[s] and honour[s] the King of Heaven, whose works are truth and his ways judgment: and those who walk in pride he is able to debase.”

4.2 Analysis

The problem here is that even though good records exist from his reign, there is no record of Nebuchadrezzar going crazy. The extreme bible-believer says this is because kings would hide such embarrassments. But this makes no sense. The account in the book of Daniel is from the point of view of Nebuchadrezzar himself. If it is true, then obviously he wanted people to know about it. Why then is it not recorded elsewhere?

Furthermore, given that Nebuchadrezzar had already supposedly seen and believed that God could control the outcome of future events, save people from a fiery furnace, and drive him crazy for his sin of pride, why didn’t Nebuchadrezzar become a believer? That seems like pretty good evidence of His existence to me. In any case, it is a lot more than I have asked for to become a believer.

Nabonidus, the last Babylonian king, did have a reputation of acting erratically. Some scholars think that stories concerning his behavior and not that of Nebuchadrezzar are the ultimate source for this story, but that just begs the question of how the book of Daniel, inspired by an omnipotent and omniscient God could make that mistake

5 Belshazzar and the Writing on the Wall 0 Replies Posted by: Science Guy? on 12/09/03 at 09:39 PM 5.1 Summary of Chapter 5

The next story takes place after Nebuchadrezzar has died and is replaced as king by Belshazzar, his son. Belshazzar had a party with thousands in attendance. He decides to show off some of his treasures and uses some of the wine goblets of the Jews that had been ransacked following Nebuchadrezzar’s destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 586 BCE. During the feast Belshazzar sees a hand materialize and write something on the wall. Belshazzar brings in “the astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers” to interpret, but they are unable to do so. The queen remembers that Daniel had been useful in this type of thing during the reign of Nebuchadrezzar. Belshazzar brings him in to interpret and offers to give Daniel many gifts and set him up as the third highest ruler in the kingdom.

Daniel says that he does not need to honors but he will tell Belshazzar what the writing means. The writing is “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN” which means “NUMBERED, NUMERED, WEIGHED, DIVIDED”. This, in turn, means that God has numbered Belshazzar’s days, he has weighed his worth and found him wanting, and lastly that his kingdom will be taken away and divided between the Medes and the Persians.

Belshazzar does fulfill his end of the (unaccepted) bargain giving Daniel expensive robes and gold chains and appointing him to the number three position. However, that very night Belshazzar is killed and the kingdom comes under control of Darius the Mede, who is 62 years old.

5.2 Analysis

5.2.1 Minor problems

It seems strange to me that none of Belshazzar’s “astrologers, Chaldeans, [or] soothsayers” could tell him the meaning of the writing. MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN is Aramaic which was the language of the Babylonians at the time. Surely someone there could have come up with a story that would have satisfied Belshazzar as well as Daniel’s. This is especially true since there were high rewards to be obtained if one was successful.

5.2.2 Major problems

First, Belshazzar did not succeed Nebuchadrezzar. Second, Belshazzar was not Nebuchadrezzar’s son. Third, Belshazzar was never king of Babylon. Fourth, the overthrow of Babylon was accomplished peacefully without bloodshed. Fifth, Darius the Mede did not conquer Babylon. Sixth, Darius the Mede is not even an historical person.

Nebuchadnezzar ruled until 562 BCE when he died. He was succeeded by his son Amel-Marduk who ruled for 1 year before being assassinated by his brother-in-law Nergal-Sharezer. Nergal-Sharezer reigned for 7 years and resigned. His son, Labsi-Marduk took his place. Labsi-Marduk was deposed by Nabonidus, a member of the priesthood. It was Nabonidus who was king of Babylonia when it was conquered. Belshazzar was his son, and was not related to Nebuchadrezzar at all.

Extreme bible-believers have a scenario in which they dismiss the above paragraph. They do so at the expense of making words mean what they do not actually mean. First, they point out that Nabonidus, the real king of Babylonia, had moved out of Babylon and made Tema in Arabia his capital. He left his son Belshazzar in Babylon as co-regent and even though Belshazzar was not king in reality, he was acting king and that is what Daniel actually meant when he referred to Belshazzar as king.

While it is true on rare occasions this is done, it always done in such a way that the context makes it clear. Otherwise misinformation is being communicated and it brings up the disturbing question of why a document supposedly divinely inspired would do that. In Daniel, Belshazzar is only referred to as king. He has princes of his own. He has a king’s palace. He has a queen. Daniel is referred to a “man of [his] kingdom”. Daniel tells Belshazzar that God has numbered the days of his (Belshazzar’s) kingdom. And that his (Belshazzar’s) kingdom will be divided between the Medes and the Persians. Belshazzar has the power to promote someone to third highest ruler of the land on his own accord. In short, there is absolutely nothing in the book of Daniel to suggest that Belshazzar is a co-regent. Everything suggests Belshazzar is a full-fledged king.

Next, extreme bible-believers say that while Belshazzar was not the biological son of Nebuchadrezzar, since he was acting as king of Babylon, he was in the same ruling line which means that it is perfectly OK for Daniel to refer to him as the son of Nebuchadrezzar.

Again, this is done on rare occasions, but again, it is always done in such a way that the context is clear. In the book of Daniel, every reference to Belshazzar suggests he is the biological son of Nebuchadrezzar. At the feast Belshazzar uses the goblets “his father, Nebuchadnezzar, had taken from the temple”. The queen tells him, “There is a man in thy kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king, I say, thy father, made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers”. Daniel tells him, “O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour” and “And thou his [Nebuchadrezzar’s] son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart”. In short, every reference in Daniel suggests that Belshazzar is the biological son of Nebuchadrezzar and has succeeded Nebuchadrezzar to the throne. There is no way Daniel could have portrayed Belshazzar more like a king or more like the biological son of Nebuchadrezzar. In other words, there is no way the book of Daniel could have portrayed Belshazzar more wrongly.

According to the book of Daniel, Belshazzar is killed the very night Daniel tells him the meaning of the writing on the wall. This suggests the overthrow of Babylon was violent. However, we know this is not the case. The Cyrus cylinder is an archaeological artifact containing Cyrus’s own version of how he took Babylon. Cyrus had sent agents into the city. They discovered that there was a great deal of resentment of Nabonidus (the real king of Babylonia). The agents talked up the character of Cyrus and by the time Cyrus’s army was ready to enter the city, the people of the city were ready for a new ruler. His army entered the city peacefully with their swords sheathed. There was no killing, nor is Belshazzar mentioned.

From the above, it is apparent it was not Darius the Mede who conquered Babylon but it was Cyrus. And he did this in 539 BCE. There is no other independent historical reference anywhere to Darius the Mede. In a later chapter of the book of Daniel, Darius the Mede is referred to as the son of Ahasuerus. Ahasuerus is an alternate name for Xerxes. Xerxes was Cyrus’s great-grandson and ruled from 485 to 465 BCE. His son was not Darius, but Artaxerxes I. His FATHER was Darius I, but that Darius was a Persian and not a Mede and if Daniel had been alive during his time, he would have been well into his 100’s.

Extreme bible-believers have answers for the problem of Darius the Mede as well. Some say that like Ahasuerus being the alternate name for Xerxes, Darius the Mede is the alternate name for Cyrus. This ignores the fact that Daniel also refers to Cyrus, and this Cyrus is obviously a different person. Furthermore, Cyrus was Persian and not a Mede. Nor is there any independent reason to believe that Darius the Mede was an alternate name for anybody.

Others say that Darius the Mede was Gobryas, the governor of Babylon during the reign of Cyrus. But there is no indication that Gobryas was a Mede either. Furthermore, the book of Daniel portrays Darius the Mede with kingly powers. In the next chapter we will see that Darius the Mede signs a law that cannot be changed no matter what. Darius is tricked into doing this and bitterly regrets it. Surely, if he is only the governor of Babylon he can get Cyrus to overrule the law. Also every reference made to Darius the Mede, clearly implies he is the king.

Quite obviously the author of Daniel did not know the history of the time Daniel was supposed to have lived. Daniel was supposed to have been a high ranking official at this time, it is impossible for such a person intimately involved in these events to make these gross mistakes. Daniel could not have been written when extreme bible-believers say it was. But there is going to be even more evidence for this as we go along.

5.2.3 How could the author of Daniel have made these mistakes?

But wait a second here. These seem to be gross mistakes. Why didn’t the author of Daniel know better? For one thing, as we will see the author of Daniel was separated in time from the events by almost 400 years. His ideas of history were skewed by other biblical writings. The prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel both predicted the violent overthrow of Babylon by the Medes. That was as about as good a prediction as anyone could do at their time. The Medes were the only empire that seemed to have a chance against the Babylonians. What these prophets of God could not foresee is that before the Medes would ever get the chance overthrow Babylon, the Persians would become strong and overthrow the Medes. The author of Daniel was evidently an extreme bible-believer. Isaiah and Ezekiel predicted it, therefore it must have happened. The Medes must have overthrown Babylon. What Mede did it? The author has only a hazy knowledge of the Persian period. There are several Darius’s and some of them were pretty powerful, so he invents Darius the Mede and a Median kingdom to rule over Babylon for a while. Is it any wonder that he concludes that this Median kingdom is inferior to that of Nebuchadrezzar’s?

Furthermore, there is convincing evidence that at least some of this misinformation was commonly believed during the Maccabean times that Daniel is thought to have been actually written. There is a group of non-canonical books written at this time. Many of these are also forgeries that were trying to be passed off as the real thing, but these didn’t make it. They are called the pseudepigraphia. Baruch, one of these books supposedly written by Baruch the secretary of the prophet Jeremiah but was actually written during Maccabean times, has a section in it in which contributions from Jews taken into Babylonian captivity to priests who remained in Jerusalem. The pertinent section is quoted below:

“The money we are sending you is to be used to buy whole-offerings, sin-offerings, and frankincense, and to provide grain-offerings; you are to offer them on the altar to the Lord our God, with prayers for King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and for his son Belshazzar, that their life may last as long as the heavens are above the earth. So the Lord will strengthen us and bring light to our eyes, and we shall live under the protection of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and of Belshazzar his son; we shall give them service for many a day and find favor with them” (Baruch 1:10–13).

There is no denying that whoever wrote this book (which has been dated contemporaneous to the Maccabean time that Daniel was actually written in) thought that Belshazzar is the biological son of Nebuchadnezzar and next in line to the throne.

6 Daniel in the Lions’ Den 0 Replies Posted by: Science Guy? on 12/09/03 at 09:43 PM 6.1 Summary of Chapter 6

Darius the Mede divides the kingdom up into regions to be ruled over by 120 princes. These princes report to 3 presidents. Daniel is first among the three presidents. This creates jealousy and they decide to take him down. The princes and the other presidents trick Darius into signing an irrevocable order saying that for the next 30 days the penalty for praying to any god other than that of Darius would be punished by having the person put into the lions’ den. Daniel, of course, prays to Yahweh and is reported to Darius. Darius tries to get Daniel off, but the order is irrevocable so Daniel is thrown into the lions’ den. Darius calls to him hoping that Daniel can get God’s help to survive through the night.

Darius is upset and cannot sleep that night. The first thing in the morning he checks to see if Daniel made it through the night. Daniel tells Darius that he is indeed OK and God has closed the lions’ mouths. Darius is extremely happy and takes Daniel out of the lions’ den. He then has the princes, their wives, and their children thrown into the lions’ den in his place. The lions “crush the bones” of these people before they even hit the ground.

6.2 Analysis

According to Persian records, it was Darius I, the father of Xerxes, who divided the kingdom up into regions controlled satraps (princes). Many scholars take this as evidence that the author of Daniel based the mythical Darius the Mede on Darius I. Note also that dividing the kingdom into 120 regions is something that only a king, and not the governor of Babylon could do.

Note the high level that Daniel supposedly obtained. According to this narrative, he is intimately involved in the ruling of an empire. How could a person so involved have made such mistakes in recording history? It is impossible. So Daniel must have been fictitious.

Once it becomes clear that Daniel is fictitious, it becomes obvious that this story, along with tales of Daniel and his friends’ arrival at Nebuchadrezzar’s court, and the fiery furnace are myths designed to show the virtue of maintaining one’s faith in the presence of overwhelming persecution. This is just the situation that the Jews were under during the reign of Antiochus IV (also known as Antiochus Epiphanes) during the Maccabean revolt (ca 165 BCE). Note the mythical elements of the tale: Darius the Mede is tricked into doing something he doesn’t want to do, but can’t get out of it, Daniel is magically saved, the instigators of the plot receive their just rewards in the end (although one could argue about how just it was to throw their wives and children into the lions’ den to have their bones crushed before they reach the ground as well).

Needless to say, there is no historical record of such a wholesale purging of upper-level leaders in or around that area.

7 Daniel’s Vision of the Four Beasts 0 Replies Posted by: Science Guy? on 12/09/03 at 09:46 PM 7.1 Summary of Chapter 7

The narrative of Daniel flashes back to the first year of the reign of Belshazzar, king of Babylon. It relates a vision that Daniel had in which he sees four beasts arise from the sea.

The first beast is like a lion, but has wings. The wings get plucked and the beast is lifted off the earth. A second beast comes up. It is like a bear and has three ribs in its mouth. It is told to Arise, devour much flesh”. The third beast to arise is like a leopard. It had four wings and four heads and “… dominion was given to it”.

The fourth beast was “dreadful, terrible, and strong exceedingly”. It had iron teeth and ten horns. While Daniel was looking at the beast he noticed that a small horn grew out from the other 10. It knocked out three of the horns and grew big. This horn had eyes like a man and mouth that spoke. The horn spoke “great things”.

Listening to the horn was the “Ancient of days”. He had white robes, hair like pure wool and “his throne was like a fiery flame and his wheels as burning fire”. The Ancient was served by over 100,000,000. He issues his judgment concerning the haughty speech that the fourth beast had made. The words he says causes the beast to be destroyed.

Then one “like the Son of Man” (KJV) comes down with the clouds of heaven and is brought to the Ancient. He is given an everlasting kingdom such that “all people, nations, and languages, should serve him.”

Daniel is confused by the vision so he asks one of the servants attending the Ancient to explain it to him especially the meaning of the fourth beast. This person tells Daniel that the beasts represent four great kings and their kingdoms. The last beast is one that will arise later and dominate the whole world. There will be 10 kings in this kingdom. An eleventh will arise and subdue three of the others. This king will be arrogant, speaking words against God. He will fight against the saints themselves. He will try to change God’s laws. He will be victorious over the saints for a while but will eventually be destroyed. After that God’s everlasting kingdom will prevail.

Daniel is troubled by his vision, but he keeps it to himself.

7.2 Analysis

7.2.1 The four kingdoms

This is the second prophetic vision and is subject to much controversy as to its meaning. I think it is obvious that the four kingdoms mentioned in this prophetic vision are the same four kingdoms as in the first prophetic vision. If that is so then, identifying Rome as the fourth kingdom in the first vision becomes harder. The description of this kingdom in this vision does not fit that of Rome, but it does do a pretty could job of fitting Alexander’s. More on that below.

There is not much of a controversy on the first kingdom representing Nebuchadrezzar’s Babylon. There is some controversy on the identity of the second kingdom, however. There is not much information given and what is given doesn’t fit any kingdom particularly well. However, considering the author of Daniel’s confusion concerning the Median empire, I think it is reasonable to assume that any symbolic details he may give to identify it would be unlikely to be verified by actual historical information.

There is outright disagreement as to the identity of the 3rd kingdom, the one symbolized as a leopard with four heads and four wings. Extreme bible-believers say it represents Alexander and the four heads and four wings represent the four generals that split Alexander’s kingdom after he died. However, as we will soon see in the King of the North/King of the South prophecy, the author of Daniel thought that Persia had four kings before it was taken over by Alexander (in actuality it had nine, but since the bible only mentions four of them, the author of Daniel assumed there were four). The consensus among scholars who are not extreme bible-believers is that the third empire is the Persian empire.

Extreme bible-believers see the fourth kingdom as something that is yet to happen. However it bears some striking resemblances to Alexander’s kingdom which would be of utmost significance to devout Jews of the Maccabean times. Under this scenario the fourth beast is the Seleucid empire that resulted from the break up of Alexander’s kingdom. It was this empire that ruled Judah during the Maccabean times.

The 10 horns represent the kings as follows: (1) Seleucus I (2) Antiochus I (3) Antiochus II (4) Seleucus II (5) Seleucus III (6) Antiochus III (7) Seleucus IV (8, 9, and 10) Demetrius, Heliodorus, and Seleucus IV’s infant son.

Demetrius, Heliodorus, Seleucus IV’s infant son are not usually listed as kings, but they were significant figures in intrigue of the day. Seleucus IV was king, but his coffers were running low. He sent out his finance minister Heliodorus to seize money from the temple treasury in Jerusalem. Heliodorus had designs on the throne himself and conspired with Seleucus IV’s eldest son, Demetrius. He poisoned Seleucus IV. Next in line would have been Demetrius. However, Antiochus IV (Antiochus Epiphanes) conspired to have Demetrius sent away to Rome. He also successfully plotted the death of Heliodorus and Seleucus IV’s infant son, leaving no heir to the throne. This left the path open for Antiochus IV to gain control of the Seleucid empire.

So Antiochus IV would be the little horn that displaces the other three. How well does he fit the role?

From a pious Jew’s point of view, Antiochus was arrogant speaking against God. He tried to Hellenize the area. He even established an altar to Zeus inside the temple at Jerusalem.

He fought against the “saints” themselves. He persecuted the Jews mercilessly. He killed the most respected priest, Onais, and would even put to death Jewish mothers and their children if the children were found to be circumcised.

He changed God’s laws. He forbid the daily sacrifices. He forbid the reading of the Torah. He banned circumcision. In short, he tried to change the religion practices from Judaism to Greek.

Finally, he was successful for a time. Thus, Antiochus fits the description of the “little horn” very well indeed. Additional support for this interpretation will be forthcoming in the goat and the ram prophecy in which there is a more clear reference to Antiochus as the “little horn”.

7.2.2 The Ancient of Days and The Son of Man

There is no doubt or controversy that the “Ancient of Days” is a symbolic representation for God. But what about “the Son of Man”? Extreme bible-believers say this is a direct reference to Jesus Christ. The New Testament certainly uses this terminology to refer to Jesus (85 times by my count). The Old Testament uses the phrase 102 times (by my count) not counting this particular reference. 90 times the phrase is used to refer to the prophet Ezekiel, 1 time it refers to the prophet Daniel and the rest seem to mean regular people or rulers whose powers do not match that of the Lord’s. This one usage is the only Old Testament reference to the Son of Man that may apply to a Messiah. But does it?

The first thing to note is the phrase is interpreted incorrectly in the King James Version as “THE son of man”. In other translations (NIV, NASB, AMP, ESV, CEV, ASV, RSV, YLT, and DARBY) it is interpreted as “A son of man” or even more simply (NLT) as “A man”. Thus, the phrase like others in the book refers not to a particular person but to someone in general. In fact, the angel who interprets the vision for Daniel says that it will be the “saints” that will rule after the downfall of the “little horn”. This “son of man” is going to be an agent for the saints. It does not refer to anyone in particular.

8 Daniel’s Vision of the Goat and the Ram 0 Replies Posted by: Science Guy? on 12/09/03 at 09:49 PM 8.1 Summary of Chapter 8

This narrative is supposed to take place in the third year of Belshazzar’s reign. Again Daniel has a vision. He sees a ram with two horns. The two horns grow out one after the other and the second horn is the bigger one. The ram pushes westward, northward and southward defeating everything in its path. It looks invincible. But, then a goat with a “notable” horn between its eyes comes from the west so fast it hardly touches the ground. The goat knocks the ram down and destroys it.

When the goat is at the height of its power, the one great horn breaks and 4 smaller ones arise from its spot. They grow toward the north, south, east, and west. From one of these horns a little horn grows and becomes very great in the south, east, and “the pleasant land”. It becomes great enough to challenge the “host of heaven” and even knocks some stars out of heaven and tramples them. The horn takes away the daily sacrifices and brings low the “place of sanctuary”. It transgressed against the heavenly hosts and prospered.

Daniel then overhears some “saints” talking. One asks the other how long this transgression is going to last and the other says 2,300 days and then “the sanctuary will be cleaned”.

The Book of Daniel is a forgery Part 3

  	1 Replies Posted by: Gabriels Trumpet  on 01/11/05 at 11:27 PM

Daniel wonders about the meaning of the vision, and a voice tells the archangel Gabriel to explain it to him. Gabriel tells him first that it is a vision “of the time of the end”. He says the two horns of the ram represent the kings of Media and Persia. The goat is the Greece and the great horn is its first king. When that king dies at the height of his power, the kingdom will be split into four as represented by the other four horns that grow from the broken great horn. These kingdoms will not be as great as that of the first king. The last horn that is talked about represents a king that comes to power during the latter part of the kingdom. This king will destroy all manner of things and proper in doing so. He will destroy “mighty and holy people”. He will even try to take on the “Prince of princes”, but he will eventually be destroyed by God.

Gabriel then leaves Daniel with the caveat to keep this vision sealed since it deals with the far off future.

8.2 Analysis

8.2.1 Minor problems

The archangel Gabriel is introduced here. Mainstream religious scholars say that Gabriel and other named angels did not enter the Jewish traditions until the Persian period, well after the purported time Daniel was to have written it.

Also note that Daniel is left with instructions to keep the prophecy sealed since it deals with the end of times. This suggests that when the prophecy should become unsealed close to that time. The first historical references we have to the book of Daniel date back to Maccabean times. Thus, the author of Daniel was writing about what he thought WAS going to be the end-times when God’s everlasting kingdom was going to be established. He is actually trying to exhort his oppressed friends to maintain their faith because relief is just around the corner.

8.2.2 The interpretation of the prophecy

Gabriel is quite specific concerning the meaning of the ram. The horns represent the kings of Media and Persia. Extreme bible-believers use this as evidence that the author did have in mind a combined Medo-Persian empire. However, they ignore the fact that the prophecy specifically states that the second horn (the Persian empire) grew bigger. How can a single empire be different sizes? The goat is going to represent 5 empires, Alexander’s and those of the 4 generals who took over after him. Thus, it is not the case that the ram represents a single empire. It represents two empires that can trace their origins to the same region, as the goat represents 5 empires that can trace their origins to the same region. Note also that the fact that the second horn of the ram grew bigger lends support to the interpretation of the Median empire (the one inferior to Nebuchadrezzar’s) as being the second empire.

Gabriel explicitly states that the goat is Greece. The goat comes from the west. That is where Greece is in relation to Jerusalem. It bashes and destroys the ram. Alexander devastated the area when he conquered it. The notable horn between the eyes of the goat represents Alexander himself. At the height of his power, Alexander dies and his kingdom is split. The four horns that arise out of the first one represent Alexander’s generals, Cassander (who controlled Macedonia and Greece), Lysimachus (who controlled Pergamon and Asia Minor), Antigonus (who controlled Syria and Babylon), and Ptolemy (who controlled Egypt and Palestine).

One of Ptolemy’s generals, Seleucus I, defeated Antigonus and took over that area and established the Seleucid empire. Antiochus IV is the “little horn” that comes from one of the four (the Seleucid empire) and grows great in the south and the east and the “pleasant land” (Judah). We have already seen how Antiochus fits well the rest of the prophecy.

Note here that the prophecy has explicitly stated Greece as the source of this “little horn”. This adds support to interpretation in the previous prophecies that all of them were referring to Greece as the kingdom during the latter days.

9 The Seventy Weeks Prophecy 0 Replies Posted by: Science Guy? on 12/09/03 at 09:52 PM 9.1 Summary of Chapter 9

This vision takes place in the first year of “Darius, son of Ahasuerus [also known as Xerxes], of the seed of the Medes”. Daniel is praying to God. He remarks about the prophecy by Jeremiah that the Jerusalem would experience 70 years of desolation, a period in which Daniel had lived much of his life. Daniel acknowledges that it is right for God to have done this because the Jews have been sinful. Daniel spends a great deal of time in the prayer acknowledging the sins of the people of Israel, before finally asking for some help in alleviating the desolation of Israel.

God sends the archangel Gabriel again to help Daniel to understand the end times. Gabriel says that 70 weeks are given to Israel and Jerusalem to “finish the transgression, and make an end of sins, and to make reconciliations for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.” That from the time the proclamation is issued to rebuild Jerusalem until the Messiah will be 7 weeks and 62 weeks. After the 62 week interval the Messiah will be “cut off” (a euphemism for killed) but not for anything he did. The prince who does this will “destroy” Jerusalem and the sanctuary (or temple). The prince will confirm the covenant for a week, but in the middle of the week he will break it by ceasing the sacrifices and offerings. He will do this until the consummation of the desolation.

9.2 Analysis

9.2.1 Minor problems

This has already been covered, but it is good to review. Note that the narrative states that Darius is the son of Ahasuerus (Xerxes). Again this does not fit the time period. Xerxes came many years after Cyrus. His son was Artaxerxes. It was his father who was Darius. And none of them were Medes. Note also the problem with the archangel Gabriel.

Some extreme bible-doubters point out that this prophecy is in weeks and that is how it should be interpreted. However, on this point (and on this point only) I think the bible-believers have a better case. First, the Hebrew “week” is the same as for “seven”. So it is perfectly reasonable to consider this the “70 sevens” prophecy. Second, Daniel has a way of referring to time as periods. For instance, Nebuchadrezzar is prophesied to go crazy for 7 “times” and is generally considered to mean 7 years. At the end of the King of the North/King of the South prophecy Antiochus rule over “the saints” is said to be “a time, times, and half a time” and is generally thought to mean 3½ years. Furthermore, the prophecy makes no sense with the pattern that is made with the other prophecies if we interpret “weeks” to mean actual weeks. I am fully inclined to believe that the author of Daniel means weeks of years instead of weeks. In that case, it too fits in well with the other prophecies in Daniel.

9.2.2 The extreme bible-believer’s interpretation of the prophecy

The 70 weeks prophecy is a foundational cornerstone for extreme bible-believers. They find that it convincingly predicts Jesus Christ’s ministry and death. I think it is instructive to look at their scenario. Note all the “fudge factors” that are used. They are obviously working backwards from the “answer” to come up with the “correct” interpretation of the prophecy.

The starting point of the prophecy is a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. This most logical candidate is a decree that came from Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28) in 538 BCE, a year after he conquered Babylon. The 70 weeks prophecy says that the Messiah will come in “seven weeks and sixty-two weeks”. This totals out to 69 weeks, or since it is meant to be 69 weeks of years to 483 years. That would put the Messiah at 55 BCE. OOPS, this is much too early for Jesus!

Fudge Factor #1: The decree by Cyrus to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple isn’t the one that Daniel was referring to. Instead the decree Daniel refers to is one by Artaxerxes described in Ezra 7:11–28. This decree was issued in the 7th year of Artaxerxes reign or 458 BCE. Taking into account that from 1 BCE to 1 CE was only a single year (there was no year 0) this works out to the Messiah coming in 26 CE. That is a pretty good fit for the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. However, the prophecy specifically states that the Messiah will be “cut off” which is a euphemism for killed and 26 CE is too early for that.

Fudge Factor #2: While the prophecy states “and after three score and two weeks the Messiah shall be cut off …” (Daniel 9:26) it does not say that he will be immediately cut off. One COULD allow for another 4 years to go by before the actual crucifixion.

Most bible-believers find this too hard to swallow, however. Besides, the decree mentioned in Ezra does not specify the rebuilding of Jerusalem or the temple. It is a decree that allows Ezra to raise money for sacrifices in the temple. Never mind, there are other options.

Fudge Factor #3: The decree Daniel was referring to was one by Artaxerxes to Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:4–8). This decree was in the 20th year of Artaxerxes and, thus, dates to 445 BCE. Furthermore, Nehemiah was to travel to Jerusalem to help build the walls of the city and to do some work on the temple. 483 years later is 39 CE. OOPS, a little too late for Jesus.

Fudge Factor #4: The years that Daniel refers to are not really 365-day years. They are “prophetic years”. The justification for doing this is Revelation 11:2–3:

Revelation 11:2 But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months. Revelation 11:3 And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.

Here 42 months is equated to 1260 days. That makes each month 30 days. If you consider 12 of these months to a year one gets the year to be 360 days. 483 “prophetic years” equals 173,880 days which equals approximately 476 regular years. Ouila! 32 CE, Right on the money! It is this interpretation most extreme bible-believers accept.

Alas, there are problems with this interpretation. First, as I hope I have already shown, Daniel is a forgery. Why would God inspire a writer to present an accurate prophecy made in the 2nd century BCE and fulfilled in the 1st century CE to appear as though it were written in the 6th century BCE? Second, it is obviously ad hoc explanation intended to make the calculations come out right. Third, there is more than one possible way the prophecy could be fulfilled, so it fails the specificity requirement for a true miraculous prophecy. Fourth, there was no “decree” given to Nehemiah. There were only letters of safe passage back to Jerusalem and a letter authorizing him to cut wood to be used in the modification of the temple. Fifth, the temple had been rebuilt 70 years earlier, and Nehemiah was only remodeling it. Sixth, Jews never used a “prophetic year” of 360 days. Their calendar was a lunar calendar and was 354 days long. To prevent the months from occurring at different seasons, they would add a lunar month every 2 or 3 years. The result was that their years averaged 365 days. Seventh, the reference to Revelation 11:2–3 only shows that Jews rounded off a MONTH to 30 days (the same as we do now) and says nothing about YEARS. Eighth, modern scholarship places the crucifixion of Jesus to 30 CE, not 32 CE. Ninth, even if they are correct about Jesus, the rest of the prophecy was never fulfilled. Tenth, the prophecy totally ignores that the 69 weeks (of years) are split into 7 weeks and 62 weeks. Why was that done? Eleventh, there is no definite article before Messiah in the prophecy. Thus, the prophecy is predicting the arrival of A Messiah, not THE Messiah. Furthermore, if one takes the split of the 69 weeks into two parts the prophecy seems to suggest two Messiahs. One at 7 weeks and another 62 weeks later.

9.2.3 The bible-doubter’s interpretation of the prophecy

If the extreme bible-believer’s interpretation of the prophecy is flawed, how do scholars who allow for errors in the bible interpret the prophecy? They first note that all of Daniel’s prophecies concern “end-times” even this one. Thus, this prophecy is related to the others. All the others, concern Maccabean times (ca 165 BCE). Then they ask, “does this prophecy fit well with those times?” Let’s see.

The bible-doubters have their problem determining when the prophecy is to begin as well. One hypothesis has it that the “decree” to rebuild was from the prophet Jeremiah who says that the Jerusalem will be rebuilt “from the tower of Hananeel unto the gate of the corner” which would include most of the city and the temple (Jeremiah 31:38). Under this scenario, the author of Daniel knew that Jeremiah had prophesized 70 years of servitude to Babylon. Extreme bible-believers date the servitude from Nebuchadrezzar’s first siege of Jerusalem in 597 BCE. However, that was not it. While SOME Jews were carried away to Babylon then, most stayed in Jerusalem. It was his second siege in 586 BCE that the city and the temple were destroyed and most all the Jews were carried away. If you use the proper date, the 70 years prophecy of Jeremiah does not work out. The author of Daniel, being an extreme bible-believer himself, then in typical apologetic style converted the 70 years prophecy to a prophecy of 70 weeks of years. This explains why it was that Jeremiah’s 70 year prophecy was referred to in the first place.

Making 586 BCE as the starting date, then the first 7 weeks of years would be 49 years and would come close to the date of Cyrus’s decree to allow the Jews to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple (actually it is off by a year but considering the author of Daniel’s poor knowledge of history of the time this is well within limits). Adding some support to this theory is that Isaiah refers to Cyrus as God’s anointed one, a euphemism for Messiah (Isaiah 45:1). Thus, the first Messiah would be Cyrus.

The next 62 weeks of years would place it at 103 BCE. This is further off from the times of the Maccabees by about 50 years but again is allowable considering the poor historical knowledge the author had to work with and the fact that he was stuck with the 70 weeks of years to make the Jeremiah prophecy true.

Starting here, however, Maccabean times fulfill the “prophecy” very well. The second Messiah who is cut off would be Onais. Onais was the last head priest of the temple before Antiochus IV conspired to have him killed.

Extreme bible-believers say the prophecy says that the city and the temple will be destroyed and that didn’t happen. However, it is not the case that the prophecy explicitly says that.

The actual Hebrew word that is used is “shachach” which according to Strong’s means to destroy, corrupt, go to ruin, decay. From the point of view of a pious Jew, Antiochus did corrupt the city and the temple. And he did it just the way the prophecy says he would (Daniel 9:27). He made a pact with some of the high ranking Jews, but 3½ years later (the middle of the week) he broke it. He forbid sacrifice and the daily prayer and he even did the abomination of setting up an altar to Zeus.

While this alternate interpretation is not without “fudge factors” of its own, I find it at least as good as that of the extreme bible-believer. It explains why Jeremiah is mentioned in this chapter. It justifies the use of weeks of years. It fits in the overall pattern of the other prophecies contained in Daniel. It explains the 7 week/62 week break. And the actions of Antiochus IV fit perfectly with what the book of Daniel says the “prince” will do.

10 King of the North/King of the South Prophecy 0 Replies Posted by: Science Guy? on 12/09/03 at 09:55 PM 10.1 Summary and analysis of Chapters 10 through 12

This is the final prophecy in Daniel and it is the most detailed covering the last three chapters in Daniel. It is also the one that without any doubt concerns Antiochus IV and pretty much cements the case that Daniel is a product of Maccabean times. In order to lessen the confusion the analysis will be incorporated into the summary of the prophecy.

The prophecy is set in the third year of the reign of Cyrus. Daniel is standing along the banks of the Hiddekel River (now known as the Tigris River) when he sees the archangel Gabriel coming to him. Gabriel tells Daniel that he (Gabriel) along with the archangel Michael is engaged in a struggle with the Persians. But since Daniel has found favor in heaven, Gabriel has taken some time out to tell him of future events.

Gabriel starts out by telling Daniel that there will be 4 Persian kings. This is not true. There were 9 Persian kings. They were Cyrus (549–529 BCE), Cambyses (529–522 BCE), Darius I (521–485 BCE), Xerxes (or Ahasuerus, 485–465 BCE), Artaxerxes I (465–425 BCE), Darius II (425–405 BCE), Artaxerxes II (404–358 BCE) and Darius III (338–330 BCE). Only four of these kings are mentioned in the bible, however (Cyrus, Darius I, Ahasuerus [Xerxes], and Artaxerxes I). So the author of Daniel assumed that was all there were. This just further illustrates the poor historical knowledge he had concerning that time. However, he is about to become much more accurate with his history.

The next verse begins with the Hellenistic period with a reference to Alexander the Great being a mighty that rises up and rules a great dominion. At the height of his power Alexander died. Three relatives wanted to take control of the kingdom: his sons, Alexander and Herakles, and his half-brother Philip Arrhidaeus. However, none of them could forge a sufficiently strong coalition and the empire was broken up and ruled by Alexander’s four top generals; Macedonia and Greece went to Cassander, Pergamon and Asia Minor went to Lysimachus, Syria and Babylon went to Antigonus, and Egypt and Palestine went to Ptolemy. This history is well described by Daniel 11:4.

The prophecy of Daniel describes perfectly the history of the kingdoms of Antigonus (the kingdom of the North) and that of Ptolemy (the kingdom of the South). Daniel 11:5 says that the king of the South shall be strong, but one of his “princes” shall be stronger. The king of the south was Ptolemy I. His general Seleucus I defeated Antigonus in a battle at Gaza and took over the rule of the kingdom of the North. He expanded his territory into that of the other three kingdoms even taking Palestine away from Ptolemy.

70 years after Seleucus I became king of the North, his grandson Antiochus II was king. A peace agreement was reached between the Ptolemaic empire (the kingdom of the South) and the Seleucid empire (the kingdom of the North). Ptolemy II gave his daughter Berenice to Antiochus II to marry. Antiochus II had to divorce his wife Laodice and disinherit his two sons by declaring that any son that Berenice would have would succeed him to the throne. Berenice did have a son. However, after Ptolemy II died, Antiochus reneged on the promise and “gave up” Berenice and took back Laodice. Laodice evidently was not about to let something similar happen again. She plotted to have Berenice, her son, all of her servants and attendants, and even Antiochus II assassinated. This exactly describes Daniel 11:6

After Ptolemy II died, Berenice’s brother Ptolemy III took over. In retaliation for his sister’s murder, he attacked Syria, defeating Laodice’s son Seleucus II, He captured the capital city of Seleucia (later to become the port city of Antioch). Thus, Ptolemy III took over Syria. However, there was an uprising back in Egypt and Ptolemy III had to return, but not before he hauled back all the precious metals he could lay his hands upon. After a number of years, Seleucus II attacked Egypt, but his attack ended in costly defeats and he was forced to return to Syria which was back under his control. This is described perfectly in Daniel 11:7–9.

Seleucus II was succeeded by his son Seleucus III, who fought against Egypt, but not successfully. After he was assassinated Antiochus III took over. He also fought against Egypt and was more successful. In 218 BCE he assembled a large army that advanced through Palestine and into Gaza. The king of Egypt (now Ptolemy IV) counterattacked at Raphia near Gaza and smashed Antiochus III forces causing him to retreat back to Syria. This is accurately described in Daniel 11:10–11.

For some reason Ptolemy IV did not follow the severely defeated Syrian troops but went back to Egypt instead. This allowed Antiochus III to rebuild his forces and attack Egypt again. The attack was somewhat of a standoff. A 13 year period of peace prevailed in which Antiochus III solidified his forces, and extended his empire to the east. Ptolemy IV died in 203 BCE and was succeeded by his 5-year old son Ptolemy V. Antiochus III took this opportunity to launch another attack on Egypt. This history is described in Daniel 11:12–13.

Antiochus III defeated the Ptolemaic general Scopas at the battle of Sidon, a strongly fortified city, in 198 BCE. A rescue force sent out from Egypt failed to stop the siege. With this defeat Palestine (“the beautiful land”) comes under long-term control of the Seleucid empire. Antiochus III was restrained from invading Egypt proper because of an alliance the Egyptians had with Rome, a new power at the time. So instead, he decided to conquer it peacefully. His plan was to give his daughter, Cleopatra I, to Ptolemy V (at that time only 14 years old) and rule through her. The plan failed because Cleopatra I became loyal to her husband. This history is perfectly described in Daniel 11:14–17.

After that Antiochus III invaded the coastal areas of Asia Minor. He was initially successful. However, when he tried to extend his reach into Greece he was defeated by the Roman general Scipio at Magnesia in 190 BCE. While retreating back to his own land, Antiochus III was killed by enraged mob while he was pillaging a temple in Elymais. This history is perfectly described in Daniel 11:18–19.

Seleucus IV succeeded Antiochus III. He was left cash strapped by his father’s military adventures so he sent his finance minister Heliodorus to seize funds from the temple treasury in Jerusalem. In intrigue already described Seleucus IV was poisoned and died. The end result was that Antiochus IV, a contemptible man (at least from the viewpoint of a pious Jew in Jerusalem), succeeded Seleucus IV. This history is perfectly described in Daniel 11: 20–21.

Antiochus IV entered Judah under a banner of peace. 3½ years later, he broke his treaty and desecrated the Jerusalem and its temple killing Onais, the high priest in 175 BCE. This history is described in Daniel 11:22–24.

In the meantime, there was chaos in Egypt. Two of Cleopatra I’s sons were vying for power. Antiochus IV developed a coalition with Ptolemy VI and invaded Egypt. The invasion was partly successful but they were unable to conquer the forces of Ptolemy VII in Alexandria. Returning with loot from Egypt, Antiochus IV stopped off in Jerusalem to put down a revolt led by Jason, the brother of the slain high priest Onias. Antiochus took this opportunity to loot the temple once again. This history is described in Daniel 11:25–28.

He returned to Egypt, but Rome sent Popilius Laenas who ordered Antiochus to withdraw. Rome was much too powerful to take on so Antiochus IV did withdraw. As an aside the prophecy refers to Rome as the ships of Chittim (aka Kittim). During the 6th century BCE Kittim referred to Cyprus, it was not until Maccabean times that the term changed to refer to Rome.

When Antiochus IV returned, he took his frustrations out on Jerusalem and the temple. He sacrifice swine to Zeus, decreed that no religion other than that of the Greeks could be practiced, forbidding the daily sacrifices, the readings of the torah, and the all the annual celebrations and rites the Jews had previously engaged in. This history is described in Daniel 11:29–31.

Antiochus IV courted the support of some of the less devout Jews in his Hellenization efforts, the more openly devout Jews he killed. The Maccabean guerilla forces did manage to give some of these people a little help though. This history is described in Daniel 11:32–34.

The prophecy of Daniel (Daniel 11:37–39) then spends some time describing Antiochus IV from the viewpoint of a pious Jew of Maccabean times. He “exalt[ed] and magnif[ied] himself above ever god” and he spoke ”blasphemies against the God of gods”. Antiochus IV even suppressed the worship of Tammuz, a traditionally worshipped Syrian god who was “desired of woman” .

Then something curious happens in the prophecy. After Chapter 11 of Daniel has gone through 39 verses accurately describing the events up to Maccabean times, it again makes errors in the last 6 verses of the chapter. It predicts another attack from Egypt in which Antiochus IV will be victorious. It predicts that Antiochus will add Libya, Egypt, and Ethiopia to his realm. Alarming news will com from the East and the North and will cause him to set up his tent between the Mediterranean and Jerusalem where he will be supernaturally destroyed by God. After this happens God’s everlasting kingdom is supposed to reign (Daniel 12).

In point of fact, Antiochus IV died in Persia, after an illness. This event took place somewhere between September and December in the year 164 BCE. The obvious reason that Daniel becomes inaccurate is that the author is actually making prophecies here. This allows accurate dating of the book of Daniel (or at least this section of it). Since the last of the accurate history ends with the temple desecrations which took place between 167 and 165 BCE and the inaccurate prophecy of his death which took place in the latter part of 164 BCE, Daniel was written between 165 and 164 BCE.

Conclusion 1 Replies Posted by: Science Guy? on 12/09/03 at 09:58 PM So who did write the book of Daniel?

Was Daniel really written in the 6th Century BCE? Daniel is presented as the author. He is portrayed as a major official in the administration of Nebuchadrezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius the Mede. He is also portrayed as being important during the time of Cyrus. If Daniel was such a person, then the gross historical mistakes made by Daniel must have been intentional. But why? There is no motive for this. It would only serve to make his prophecies be ridiculed. If on the other hand, the mistakes are unintentional, Daniel was written by someone with a poor knowledge of the history of the 6th Century BCE era.

However, whoever wrote it had an excellent knowledge of the history of the area from the time of Alexander to that Antiochus IV. Note how the King of the North/King of the South prophecy fits in perfect chronological order with the actual events during that time. Is it reasonable to believe that a 6th century author would be so wrong about his own history, but so right about the history that is to come 300 to 400 years later? Or is it more reasonable to assume that the reason the author of the story knew the history of that time so much better is because that is the time he wrote it? Then, why was it that the prophecy suddenly started making wrong predictions again sometime between 165 and 164BCE? Was it that even though there is no logical break in the story, this actually refers to events that have not yet happened. Or could it be that the author was actually making guesses that failed to pan out about what would happen in the near future?

Does it make sense that events which are never seen in modern times – supernaturally transmitted information in dreams and by visions, people being magically saved from fiery furnaces and lions’ dens, people being supernaturally driven crazy for being too prideful, and supernatural writing of messages on a wall – actually happened in a more superstitious culture? Or perhaps, these are legends that may have been passed down and were adapted to convince the faithful of the rightfulness of holding onto their faith during a period of severe prosecution? Does it make sense that Daniel would be given prophecies of end times that are to take place several thousand years later? Especially, considering that the archangel Gabriel said to keep them secret until the end-times and they were only kept secret apparently 300 to 400 years. For that matter, does it make sense that Daniel was given prophecies of end times that were to come true in 300 to 400 years? Or is it more likely that someone writing 300 to 400 years later would make use of the his knowledge of history to add validity to his “prophecies” and give hope to people of his own time that were suffering terrible persecution that he was sure his god would soon deliver them from?

Thus either Daniel was written by a 6th century BCE prophet who wrote horribly of the history of his own times, or it was a forgery written by a 2nd century BCE pious Jew who along with his people was suffering terrible persecution under the rule of Antiochus IV. For me the answer is obvious – it was written by a 2nd century BCE Jew -, but each reader must make up her own mind.

Implications of Daniel being a forgery

If Daniel is a forgery as most scholars who are not extreme bible-believers think, what does that mean for the bible? There is a school of thought it means nothing. God could have inspired a 2nd century BCE pious Jew as well as a 6th century BCE prophet. But it is hard to see why God would have inspired a 2nd century BCE Jew to write so inaccurately about the history of the 6th century BCE. This doesn’t make the writing more believable. It doesn’t set an example of good morals. All it does is give a person a reason to not believe. I do not think that is the intention God would have in mind.

Another school of thought says it means very little. If one part of the bible is faked, it doesn’t mean that all of it would be. However, it does put all the rest of the bible open to doubt. If one part is wrong and many people were fooled for many years, then other parts could be wrong as well. Indeed, Daniel is not the only suspected forgery. The book of Isaiah is thought to have been written by at least two different people and maybe three, hundreds of years apart. The first five books of Moses are not thought to be written by Moses. Psalms is not written by David. The Song of Solomon is not written by Solomon. Virtually every book of the bible has places in it that are thought to have changes (interpolations) from the original transcripts. How does one determine which parts of the bible are divinely inspired and which are not? There is no standardization anymore, everything becomes subject to individual interpretation (which is not so far off from what is actually taking place amongst many Christian sects).

A final school of thought is that it means quite a bit. The prophecies in Daniel have been used as evidence for the existence of God by extreme bible-believers for a long time. Many very imaginative scenarios have been and are still being made to fit the end-time prophecies with events of more modern times. Claims are made that Daniel accurately predicted Persian rule of Babylon, Alexander the Great, the Maccabean uprising, the ministry and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and the rule of the Roman Empire. Some extreme bible-believers have even staked their faith on Daniel. Josh McDowell?, one of the most prominent of the extreme bible-believer apologists, noting the references to Daniel’s prophecies in Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14, and Jesus’ own references to himself as the “Son of Man” (which McDowell? feels is an obvious reference to Daniel’s prophecies) says, “Now if Christ were mistaken about the Book of Daniel, then He must also have been mistaken about his own identity. And if this be so, it follows that the Christian faith may be called into question. At stake is the very trustworthiness of Christ’s statements concerning our own faith and salvation through Him”.

Of course, McDowell? doesn’t end up questioning his faith, instead he and other extreme bible-believers ends up affirming Daniel. They do so at the price of making up a siege of Jerusalem in 605 BCE when every historical indication is that there never was one. They do so at the price of credulously believing as fact stories that God would supernaturally help Daniel and three of his friends while at the same time letting a whole nation go into slavery for several generations. They do so by believing that when Belshazzar is referred to as Nebuchadrezzar’s son, Daniel really meant one of several successors to Nebuchadrezzar. They do so by believing that when Belshazzar is called king, Daniel really meant co-regent along with Nabonidus.

Extreme bible-believers affirm the inerrancy of the bible by allowing Darius the Mede, to be someone other than Darius and someone other than a Mede. They affirm the inerrancy of the bible by making up a Medo-Persian empire that never existed in fact. They affirm the inerrancy of the bible by claiming that this Medo-Persian empire was inferior to that Babylon, even though the Persian part of that empire would have been three times as large and lasted twice as long. They affirm the inerrancy of the bible by claiming that when the bible says that the very night King Belshazzar was violently killed in Babylon and Darius the Mede took over is actually the same day that Cyrus’s troops peacefully marched into the city with their swords sheathed.

They say that Darius the Mede could have had a father named Xerxes, even though the Xerxes referred to elsewhere in the bible came many years later and was the son of Darius. They say that when Daniel says there will be four Persian kings, he is only referring to the most important four of the actual nine Persian kings and they disagree as to which of the nine Persian kings are the main four.

In short, ironically these very people who say that God is responsible for every word and every punctuation mark in the bible and that the bible is meant to be taken literally, hold this belief by insisting that the bible means very different things than what it actually says.

What bible-believers never seem to be able to face up to is the fact that if Daniel is a forgery then the most likely explanation is that Yahweh, the god of the bible, does not exist. Since Yahweh is not supposed to cause confusion and is all-powerful and he loves us and has a message for us, he should have wanted that message to be clear and he should have had the power to make it so. There should be no forgeries in his canon. There should be no errors in his canon. Historically, we should be confirming, not casting doubt on the bible. Scientifically, we should be confirming, not outright contradicting the bible. Morally, we should see the best and most logical behavior on the part of God, not example after example of capriciousness, vindictiveness, unfairness, and maliciousness that need special pleadings and denials even worse than what is done by extreme bible-believers concerning Daniel to explain away.

Jul 282006
 

Someone asked me a question below that I started with an easy answer to, but which grows a bit more interesting the more I think about it. Basically, his point was that, given there is a metaphysical/mystical meaning that can be found in the gospel accounts of Jesus (as there is in the accounts of other religions.) Can we simply discard the historical reality of the gospels? regard them simply as “myths” and still derive all the benefit or effect that they are intended to have? Can we still have Christianity without a historical Jesus?

Of course, most Christians would answer with an emphatic “NO!” citing such scriptures as “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” (1 Cor 15:17) To such Christians, the literal, historical facts ARE what Christianity is all about. But I’m not so sure it’s a simple black and white dilemma between regarding the gospels, with scholarly detachment, as interesting myths (which I agree has very little personal benefit) and regarding them as scrupulously literal history.

Malcolm Muggeridge suggested that the truths of the gospel were “artistic truths” or we might say “mystical truths” which he regarded as infinitely more important than historical truths. I can see a lot of merit to his reasoning. Which is more important? that God loves us, or exactly what words Jesus said from the cross?

C. S. Lewis seems to imply something similar in his children’s tale “The Silver Chair”. In that Lewis told a story of several children, accompanied by a strange pessimistic creature called a “marshwiggle” named “Puddleglum” who descend from the kingdom of Narnia, ruled by the good lion Aslan (Jesus) and enter a subterranean kingdom ruled by a witch-queen to try to rescue a kidnapped prince. Once there, the witch puts them under a spell of confusion and forgetfulness. She gradually convinces the children that there IS no world above ground, no sun, no sky, no Aslan. They become convinced that these are all simply children’s tales and dreams – projections they have created in their minds from the drab and ordinary objects in the miserable underground world ruled by the witch. Only Puddleglum rebels.

“One word, Ma’am” he says to the witch, “All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face on I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we HAVE only dreamed, or made up, all those things – trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours IS the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.”

Now of course, in Lewis’ story, Narnia is very real indeed, and the doubt only an illusion. But I think Puddleglum’s point has wisdom nonetheless. You’d be better off living your life as a Narnian than to content yourself with strict materialism. The truths of Narnia were a good deal more important than the bare rock and the darkness.

Important mythical truths tend to be felt as having a very solid reality – a reality that seems to yearn for physical expression. Take for example the recently created myth of ?The Lord of the Rings?. My children became so enthralled with this myth that they began to speculate if there couldn?t have been a time in history, or pre-history, or (if all else fails) a parallel dimension that actually exists wherein this world is REAL (They felt the same way about Narnia when they read THOSE books 😉 The point is, I think human beings sense very deeply that mythic truth is indeed Truth, and tend to associate historical truth with it. I have to admit, for example, that when I read the Bahagavad Gita, I find it very easy to feel a strong sense of “reality” about the personality of Krishna. Furthermore, Jung would contend that powerful mythic archetypes tend to actually PRODUCE in historical reality, embodiments.

In summary – I think one could get some benefit as a mystic out of the Christian gospel while doubting its historical elements. But ONLY by realizing the following: mythic truth is not LESS real than historical truth, it is MORE real.

Take the case of the Catholic who has an intimate, intercessory prayer relationship with some saint who’s historical existence is now in doubt. St. Christopher or St. Philomena for example. I’ve asked St. Philomena for intercession myself – even knowing that virtually everything we know about her is based on conjecture, or ecstatic religious visions. To me, she represents a part of God that is very much interested in me – regardless of the historical details that may or may not have embodied that part of God. On the other hand, for many people, the importance of the historical reality is so powerful in their minds that prayers to a saint of dubious authenticity are useless, as would be Christianity, were it not historically literal to a very high degree.

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