Book of Daniel, Another Borrowed Myth

Biblical stories are never really sequential: they commonly have identical plotlines told under different circumstances.  For example, the twenty-seventh book of the Old Testament is Daniel, which is regarded by many biblical scholars as being more apocalyptic in nature than prophetic.  In the book of Ezekiel (14:14), written 592-586 BCE, there is mention of a Daniel who, along with Noah and Job, is characterized as one of history’s most outstanding righteous men.  The biblical tale of Daniel is set in the timeframe of the sixth century BCE when Nebuchadnezzar was king of Babylonia.  The implied date in Daniel 1:1 is 606 BCE.

But this is Hebrew literature, and the book of Daniel is actually a make-over tale taken from a north Syrian poem dating c. 1500 BCE and updated c. second century BCE as part of the alleged historical background of the Judeans.  We should note as well, the Syrian Daniel was from a city named Salem, meaning “peace,” which also just happened to have become part of the name Jerusalem.  In the Syrian original, Daniel was portrayed as an authoritative judge and lawgiver, ala Moses-style; and, Moses-style, provided for his people’s welfare.  In the 1500 BCE timeframe of the original writing, the story of Daniel was well-known among many Near East cultures.  It is this Daniel of whom Ezekiel refers, not the plagiarized priest version.  But history revision is too often a religionists’ specialty, and thus the transposed youthful Daniel is declared to be “skilful in all wisdom, cunning in knowledge, and understanding science” (Daniel 1:4).  [It should be noted also that the storyline for Joseph in Genesis was closely structured upon this same Syrian poem.]

As the priest-authors revised the Syrian story, the name Daniel was interpreted as meaning “God is my judge;” a loose interpretation of the Syrian Daniel who was  portrayed as a  son of the god El—the same El that pops up in Genesis (as El and Elohim).  The priest version portrayed Daniel as a pious and wise Jewish youth of a  prominent family who was among those who had been deported to Babylon.  In the priestly plotline, Daniel has six defined  episodes: 1) Daniel, and friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego at the table of the king; 2) Daniel interprets the king’s recurring dream (as Joseph had done with Pharaoh); 3) three youths are tossed into the fiery furnace (as Joseph, the butler, and the baker in Pharaoh’s  pokey); 4) Nebuchadnezzar’s temporary madness; 5) Daniel reads the handwriting on the wall; 6) Daniel in the lion’s den.  The biblical Daniel also had visions, among them being a reference in a prayer to seventy years of “…the devastation of Jerusalem” in chapter nine reminiscent of seven years of famine in the Joseph version).  His final vision, generally dated 535 BCE (but actually written c. second century BCE), extends a promise of Jerusalem’s resurrection.

As in the biblical story where Joseph has his name changed to Zaphnathpaaneah by Pharaoh (Genesis 41:45), in the priest-version Daniel is alleged to have had his name changed to Belshazzar by Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 1:7).

Daniel, in its early Bible-style presentation, was written in two languages, Hebrew and Aramaic, and portions switched back and forth suddenly without obvious reason.  Although this seems suspiciously like composite authorship, in the timeframe of this composition both languages were in use, for Aramaic is a  linguistic cousin to Hebrew.  On the other hand, the literary style of chapter 1 through 6 is more “heroic” and is noticeably different from the style of 7 through 12 that concentrates on Jerusalem and the sanctuary.  The early portion has more of a diaspora flavor (dispersion of any originally homogeneous people), and reflects extensive contact with both Persian and Hellenistic influences.  The apocalyptic portion of Daniel (10-12), in contrast, provides something of a review of the ancient Near Eastern political current that swirled around the tiny Judean community from the time of the Persian Empire down to about 167 BCE.  The book of Daniel is rather unique, therefore, in that theological intention and literary genre do not show a strong relationship to the language that was used.

But Daniel has still another level.  The material from which both the Daniel and Joseph stories were “borrowed,” the Syrian poem, although also a myth-fashioned tale, was in regard to cosmological actions.  The priest-authors in Jerusalem were not particularly knowledgeable of cosmology  or particularly psychologically wise, but they knew a good storyline when they could steal one.  Thus in the dream which King Nebuchadnezzar allegedly saw “a great image, whose brightness was excellent…” the original Syrian story was in reference to primal energies in the process of involving toward matter forms.  This is why the “image” is described as having a head of fine  gold, with breast and arms  of silver, his belly and thighs of brass, his legs of iron, and feet part iron and clay (Daniel 2:32-35).  It doesn’t take a divine interpreter to see that this describes the progression from pure energy into materiality, and this accounts for the tradition of speaking of the gold, silver, bronze and iron ages of man’s evolution.

One of the many theatrical events in Daniel is the fiery furnace episode in chapter three, where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are tossed into a fire pit.  Nebuchadnezzar is said to have seen them walking in the midst of the flames with a  fourth figure, described as being “…like the Son of God.”  This is history?  No, this is from ancient cosmology and deliberately misrepresented as history to glorify themselves.  What has been perverted is the ancient allegory of the Sun’s formation’ and the three men walking in that fire represented the three pre-physical elements from which the Sun takes on form.  The fourth figure is element number four, and the slowly appearing image in the fire said to be holding a stone refers to the formation of physical matter.  Witnessing all this, Nebuchadnezzar is therefore said to save those elements.  Of course they were saved; Creation is not halted at the whim of some pompous mortal.

We could go into detail about numerous other “images” mentioned in Daniel, but suffice it to say they all concern stages of energy transforming into matter.  There are the usual “beast” symbols, of course, the fourth of which is said “…shall be  diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth…” (Daniel 7:23).  Should we fear this fourth beast?  Frankly, yes, for it  is in regard to the human kingdom, which history has repeatedly shown the brutal, predatory nature of this animal.  But hope is extended with the promised fifth kingdom: i.e. man’s higher potential that will be achieved only through knowledge of the creative process—indicated in Daniel as employing a reverse engineering process to raise man’s worth from clay, iron, brass, silver to gold.

With these hints regarding ancient symbolism, biblical tales begin to actually make sense.  And reading from the book of Daniel we can recognize where “saint” John “borrowed” much of the imagery used in the convoluted book of Revelation.

A note on real history.  According to holy word, it is  implied that Belshazzar (Daniel) served as king after Nebuchadnezzar; again this is political propaganda, not truth.  As noted in encyclopedias, no ancient historian ever mentioned his name as one of the successors of Nebuchadnezzar.  He certainly was not the son of Nebuchadnezzar as suggested in Daniel 5:2, and his only position of power was as regent.  Nor was it Nebuchadnezzar who became ill; it was Nabonidus, the last of the Chaldean dynasty to reign at Babylon (583-556 BCE) who did have a son named Belshazzar.  The priest-author(s) indulged himself in the liberty of applying some known facts about Nabonidus to the wacky story of Daniel.

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7 Responses to “Book of Daniel, Another Borrowed Myth”

  1. What is the name of this Syrian poem you’re speaking of? Where can I get it? I can’t find it anywhere.

    • chouck017894 Says:

      The Babylonian poem referred to was written around the early 1500 BCE timeframe, and concerned the exploits of the hero Daniel who lived in a city called Salem, which meant “peace.” The name Daniel, like so much in biblical accounts, is not Hebrew in origin. In the Babylonian version, the hero was presented as a son of El, the chief god, and through this divine heritage became an authoritiative lawgiver, judge and bringer of blessings for his people.

      Even the Babylonian account was not original, but borrowed its elements from an older Sumerian source. Cosmically, the pre-Babylonian Daniel was Libra symbolized with the Scales of Nature which dispenses the inflexible decrees that govern matter life. Following the Babylonian example, the Daniel in the Yahweh priest adaptation was portrayed as born of a privileged heritage to imply the bestowal of innate wisdome. There was also a 14th centry BCE version that was found at Ras Shamra (Ugarit) in Syria known as “The Tale of Aqhat.” The hero of that version was Dan’il. All cultures of that region were familiar with stories of Daniel. A number of extracanonical Daniel versions appeared among the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran, for example.

      To be honest, I do not now know where you might easily find translations made from cuneiform script. My own files containing background used by me were lost in a fire some time ago. Translations do not always agree, but it is certain that the scriptural Daniel was based on the Babylonian epic. Amazon is generally helpful in tracking down such things. Hope this helps.

      • Thanks for the info. I’ll look for the Babylonian version as well. I discovered that the Prayer of Nabonidus and the Book of Giants from the 2nd century BC also influenced the writing of Daniel….

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  4. Book of Daniel, Another Borrowed Myth | Time Frames and Taboo Data Blog

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