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The Bible:

Outline according to language

  1. Daniel 1:1- 2:3 Introduction (Hebrew)
  2. Daniel 2:4 -7:28 Aramaic
  3. Daniel 8-12 Hebrew

Because of the differences in language some scholars think that the Aramaic part was written early, and the Hebrew added later at the time of the Maccabees. Then the LXX added the Greek Apocryphal portions. For a good commentary on Daniel see John Goldingay’s Word Biblical Commentary on Daniel.

Earliest Interpretations of Daniel


The oldest and most important translation of the Hebrew Old Testament (OT) is the Septuagint (LXX). It translated the Hebrew into Greek in the third century BC in Alexandria, Egypt. The Letter to Aristide tells the story how the Egyptian king Ptolemy II (285-247 BC.) ordered his librarian, Demetrius to collect all the books of the world. Demetrius thought there should be a Greek translation of the Torah so 72 Jews, six from each tribe are sent to translate the Torah into Greek which they did in 72 days (Charlesworth 1985, 7-34).

The original LXX version of Daniel was rejected by both the Jews and Christians because of its interpretative translation. Theodotion’s version of Daniel was used. The LXX modified the text of the seventy weeks in Daniel 9 to show that it was fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanes (Froom 1950, Vol.1, 173). There are four major principles of interpretation that were used in the LXX that are still used today:

  1. "Times" are seen as years in Daniel 4:16, 32.
  2. "Kings" are seen as kingdoms in Daniel 7:17.
  3. "Ships of Chittum" are seen as the Romans in Daniel 11:30.
  4. "Weeks" are seen as weeks of years in Daniel 9:25-27.

The LXX interpolates the Prayer of Asarias and the Song of the Three Holy Children in chapter 3 between verses 23 and 24. The History of Susanna is added at the end in chapter 13, and Bel and the Dragon in chapter 14. These additions are considered part of the Apocrypha today. Placing the Apocrypha books into a separate collection was mainly due to Jerome’s critical work.

Josephus Records Early Interpretation

According to Josephus, Jaddua, the Jewish High Priest, in about 332 BC saw Alexander the Great as fulfilling Daniel’s prophesy that Persia would be replaced by Greece. He writes: "And , when the book of Daniel was shown to him [Alexander], in which he had declared that one of the Greeks would destroy the empire of the Persians, he [Alexander] believed himself to be the one indicated; and in his joy he dismissed the multitude for the time being, but on the following day he summoned them again and told them to ask for any gifts which they might desire. When the high priest asked that they might observe their country’s laws and in the seventh year be exempt from tribute, he granted all this. Then they begged that he would permit the Jews in Babylon and Media also to have their own laws, and he gladly promised to do as they asked" (Antiquities of the Jews book11:8.3-4; Froom 1950, Vol. 1, 167-169).

Josephus also tells how Cyrus the Great understood his role in fulfilling prophecy. He writes: "For He [God] stirred up the spirit of Cyrus and caused him to write throughout all Asia, "Thus says King Cyrus. Since the Most High God has appointed me king of the habitable world, I am persuaded that He is the god whom the Israelite nation worships, for He foretold my name through the prophets and that I should build His temple in Jerusalem in the land of Judaea.’ These things Cyrus knew from reading the book of prophecy which Isaiah had left behind two hundred and ten years earlier" (Antiquities Book 11:1.1-2).

Josephus believes the little horn of Daniel 8 who was to "make war on the Jewish nation" was Antiochus Epiphanes (Antiquities Book 10:11.7). He also sees the Romans as the fourth world empire. The 490 year prophecy is fulfilled in 66-70 AD with Vespasian as the "prince to come" (War 6.5.4; 6:310-15).

The four empires in Pre-Christian times were:

  1. Babylonian empire-Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzer
  2. Medes empire-Darius
  3. Persian empire-Cyrus
  4. Greek empire-Alexander the Great
    The small horn in Chp.8 is Antiochus Epiphanes

Goldingay’s view according to Daniel 2:

  1. Nebuchadnezzar
  2. Belshazzar
  3. Darius
  4. Cyrus

The Oldest Allusion to Daniel 7: The Sibylline Oracles

Oracle of Alexander the Great 3:388-400

Also at a certain time there will come to the prosperous land of Asia a faithless man clad with a purple cloak on his shoulders, savage, stranger to justice, fiery. For a thunderbolt beforehand raised him up, a man. But all Asia will bear an evil yoke, and the earth, deluged, will imbibe much gore. But even so Hades will attend him in everything though he knows it not. Those whose race he wished to destroy, by them will his own race be destroyed. Yet leaving one root, which the destroyer will also cut off from ten horns, he will sprout another shoot on the side. He will smite a warrior and begetter of a royal race and he himself will perish at the hands of this descendants in a conspiracy of war, and then the horn growing on the side will reign (Charlesworth 1983, Vol. 1, 370-1).

The Four Kingdoms in Book 4 of the Sibylline Oracles:

  1. The Assyrians for 6 generations-49-53
  2. The Medes for two generations-54-64
  3. The Persians for one generation prosperous-65-87
  4. The Macedonians-88-101
    The rise of Italy, Rome-102-114
    The destruction of Jerusalem-115-129
    Rumors of Nero’s return-130-151
    Impiety of end Times-152-161
    Exhortation to convert-162-170
    Resurrection & Judgment-179-192

1 & 2 Maccabees (100-63 BC)

It seems that the books of Maccabees interprets Daniel as being fulfilled in the times of Antiochus Epiphanes. Compare Daniel 9:27, 11:31 with I Maccabees 1:54.

Dead Sea Scrolls & the Qumran Community

There are fragments of Daniel among the Dead Sea Scrolls. "Their texts differs occasionally from the MT, sometimes in agreement with the OG (2:5; 10:16) or Th (1:12; 3:23)" (Goldingay 1989, xxvii). The Qumran community saw a partial fulfillment of Daniel in Antiochus Epiphanes with the complete fulfillment in their day. They saw themselves as the teachers and holy ones in Daniel (Ibid). They applied the prophecies of Daniel to themselves. The Damascus Rule gives a commentary on Daniel 9:24-27. They were expecting the Messiah to come around 3-2 BC (Ibid).

I Enoch

There is some debate as to whether I Enoch is dependent on Daniel or vice versa. One common element is "That Son of Man" in Daniel 7:13 and I Enoch 46-48 (62:69; 71:14).

New Testament Times - The Interpretation of Daniel

  1. Babylonian empire
  2. Medes-Persians empire
  3. Greek empire
  4. Roman empire
    Kingdom of God

Matthew 24-26

These chapters have allusions to the book of Daniel. Daniel is reinterpreted to fit the circumstances of the first century AD.

Luke 21:20

It seems clear that Luke understands the "abomination of Desolation" in Daniel 9:27 to be the Romans surrounding Jerusalem, and then capturing Jerusalem. This happened in 70 AD.

The Earliest Christian Commentary on Daniel by Hippolytus

Hippolytus lived from about 170 to 236 AD. He interpreted Daniel 7 as follows:

  1. Lioness = Kingdom of Babylon
  2. Bear = Persians
  3. Leopard = Greeks
  4. Fourth dreadful beast = Rome

Christ is said to be born in the 5,500th year from creation, and 6,000 years need to be accomplished before God’s rest or kingdom comes. He writes, "Since, then, in six days God made all things, it follows that 6,000 years must be fulfilled. And they are not yet fulfilled, as John says: "five are fallen; one is, this is, the sixth; the other is not yet come" (Roberts and Donaldson 1981, Vol. 5, 179; Rev. 17:10). So this would mean that God’s Kingdom would come around 500 AD. Rome finally fell in 476 AD. The first written evidence that creation days were 1,000 year periods appears in 2 Enoch.

Hippolytus sees two different "abominations;" one of "destruction" that was fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanes, and the other of "desolation" when Antichrist comes (Ibid., 184). The two witnesses of Revelation are seen as Elijah and Enoch. From Zerubbabel to the coming of Christ he sees 434 years being fulfilled.