What textual evidence indicates that the Book of Daniel was the work the sixth century BC prophet in Babylon and not a pseudonymous scribe living shortly after the time of the Maccabean revolt?
The rendering of the Aramaic portions of Daniel in the Dead Sea Scroll texts and Greek Septuagint is also important in determining the authenticity of the Book of Daniel. The oldest known texts of Daniel, as we have seen, are among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The shift from Hebrew to Aramaic back to Hebrew in the Dead Sea Scrolls versions of Daniel is rendered exactly as it is in later manuscripts of the Masoretic text.
The Septuagint prior to the time of Christ contained Daniel translated into Greek. We cannot know for certain whether the original Septuagint (c. 250 BC) contained Daniel simply because we do not have copies dating from that century. However, the earliest existing copies (fourth to sixth century AD) of the Greek Old Testament contain Daniel. Yet in some early copies of the Greek Old Testament, instead of finding the Septuagint’s original version of Daniel, we find instead the Hellenistic Jewish scholar Theodotion’s Greek translation (originally done around AD 150) alongside the Septuagint texts of every other book in the canon. Theodotion’s translation of Daniel follows more closely the Masoretic text than the Septuagint does. This has caused a great deal of questions over the centuries since history does not record the exact reason why this is the case. When Jerome was preparing his version of the Latin Bible, he commented in the preface to Daniel, “I don’t know why this happened.”
The churches of the Lord Savior do not read the Prophet Daniel according to the Seventy interpreters [the Septuagint], using [instead] the edition of Theodotion, and I don’t know why this happened. For whether because the language is Chaldean and differs in certain properties from our speech, [or] the Seventy interpreters were not willing to keep the same lines in the translation, or the book was edited under their name by some unknown other who did not sufficiently know the Chaldean language, or not knowing anything else which was the cause, I can affirm this one thing, that it often differs from the truth and with proper judgment is repudiated. Indeed, it is known most of Daniel and some of Ezra were written in Hebrew letters, but the Chaldean language (Jerome’s Preface to Daniel).
Two of the oldest Greek manuscripts of Daniel are known as the Old Greek, a version of the Septuagint; and Theodotion, a later Greek translation made by a Hellenized Jewish scholar. The Old Greek relies on the text found in Papyrus 967, a recently discovered manuscript dated to about AD 250 containing fragments of the original Septuagint text of the Book of Daniel. The Old Greek is thought to be a copy of the original Septuagint version of Daniel. Conservatives maintain this was completed around 250 BC. Theodotion is an improved translation dated to about AD 150. Theodotion’s version of Daniel is much more faithful to the Hebrew Masoretic text and was so widely copied in the early Church that his Greek translation of the Book of Daniel virtually replaced the Septuagint’s after the fourth century.
These two Greek versions of Daniel can be read in a recently published side-by-side English translation, A New English Translation of the Septuagint. Even with no knowledge of Hebrew or Greek, an English speaking reader can easily see that Theodotion is more accurate than the Old Greek. The greatest number of additions and omissions from the original text of Daniel appear in the Old Greek manuscript of the Septuagint. The Old Greek reads in places like a paraphrase similar to the elaborative style of The Living Bible (TLB). Furthermore, the Aramaic portions of Daniel in the Old Greek are much more loosely rendered than the Hebrew portions.
The original text of Daniel was composed in two languages, Hebrew and Aramaic. Scholarly studies since the 1960s have shown that the Aramaic of Daniel points to the earlier Chaldean Aramaic dialect, not a later Western Aramaic that would be required if a Maccabean date in the second century BC were to be maintained. Western Aramaic was a widely spoken language at the time the Septuagint was translated in Egypt. The scribes at Alexandria who translated Daniel would have had a better working knowledge of Hebrew than the language of Chaldean Aramaic spoken at the time of Daniel. Theodotion’s improved translation of Daniel replaced the Septuagint’s original translation fairly early. Even Jerome did not know how or when this happened. But more importantly, the Jews who translated Daniel into Greek initially had trouble with the Aramaic language. This indicates that these portions were composed a few centuries prior to the time when Western Aramaic had replaced the older dialect.
This discrepancy in the quality of the Septuagint text of Daniel ironically attests to the book’s authenticity in yet another way. If Daniel had been composed in the Maccabean period when Greek was widely spoken, it is much more likely that more Greek words would have made their way into the text. In fact, Daniel contains a total of three Greek “loan words” in the Aramaic portions. These words are the names of musical instruments. This is not surprising since the Greeks traded with the Babylonians and Persians as far back as the seventh century BC. However, the Aramaic portions of Daniel also contain a total of 19 Persian loan words, which would be expected in two cultures that made military alliances and trade exchanges.
If Daniel were composed during the later Hellenistic period, we would expect the Aramaic text portions of Daniel to contain more Greek. We would also expect that the translation of Daniel into Greek would have been done more accurately by Jews familiar with the contemporary Western Aramaic.