Book of Daniel -Abydenus and Megasthenes

Posted by on Jun 20, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Book of Daniel -Abydenus and Megasthenes

Abydenus and Megasthenes

While we do not have the exact dates of Abydenus’ birth nor his death, it is believed that he probably wrote his work entitled the “History of the Chaldeans and Assyrians” around 200 BC. As well as Berossus, we know that Abydenus made use of the works of Megasthenes (350 -290 BC) who was an ancient Greek historian and diplomat. The Byzantine chronicler and ecclesiastic George Syncellus (d. after 810 AD) is also said to have preserved fragments during his lifetime. These he preserved, it is believed, in his own work entitled the “Extract of Chronography”. This work would later be continued by his friend Theophanes (758 – 817 AD)

The fragments of ancient writers and apocryphal books preserved in it made it especially valuable. For instance, considerable portions of the original text of the Chronicle of Eusebius were restored by the aid of George Syncellus’ work. One important fragment of Abydenus’s work appears to clear up some difficulties in Assyrian history. This fragment has been discovered in the Armenian translation of the Chronicon of Eusebius.

Abydenus states that Megasthenes wrote that Nebuchadnezzar became more powerful than Hercules. He makes mention of his invasions and exploits conquering vast areas of lands. What he says next is very intriguing. He says, “It is moreover related by the Chaldæans, that as he went up into his palace he was possessed by some god; and he cried out and said: “Oh! Babylonians, I, Nabucodrosorus, foretel unto you a calamity which must shortly come to pass, which neither Belus my ancestor, nor his queen Beltis, have power to persuade the Fates to turn away. A Persian mule shall come, and by the assistance of your gods shall impose upon you the yoke of slavery; the author of which shall be a Mede, the vain glory of Assyria. Before he should thus betray my subjects, Oh! that some sea or whirlpool might receive him, and his memory be blotted out for ever; or that he might be cast out to wander through some desert, where there are neither cities nor the trace of men, a solitary exile among rocks and caverns where beasts and birds alone abide. But for me, before he shall have conceived these mischiefs in his mind, a happier end will be provided. When he had thus prophesied, he expired.”

Keep an open mind as to the timing of each event in the writing as that may well be a summary as opposed to one event immediately after another. Remember, Megasthenes was also working from fragments that formed his work. I mention this because of what we read in this section. Notice the phrase “he was possessed by some god” in his palace. This could easily be the way the fragment explained the scene by the writer. That could not have been Daniel as he would not have used language like that in describing God possessing someone. Notice the writer of the fragment states that Nebuchadnezzar mentions a calamity that will soon come to pass which none of his false gods have told him about nor do they have any power to stop the calamity. Disrespectful tones of a “Persian mule” and a “Mede author” are used to describe who will overthrow the Babylonians. Finally, Nebuchadnezzar goes into somewhat of a rant about whom he says will defeat his nation. He seems to know, however, that before that happens, he will die in happier circumstances. This portion of the passage concludes by saying that Nebuchadnezzar died after prophesying these things.

We can immediately see the events that the writer of the fragment says Nebuchadnezzar described as the same events which occurred in the second chapter of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar, nor any of the Chaldeans, were able to tell the king the dream he had, let alone interpret it. Indeed, the writer says that Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges that his gods are unable to tell him either. Only Daniel’s God could provide the information. Nebuchadnezzar appears to be speaking in the past tense because he already knows that the Medes and Persians will overthrow his kingdom. He could only have known that because of what Daniel had revealed to him before he utters such words written by the writer of the fragment. Daniel had told Nebuchadnezzar that the defeat of his kingdom would not come in his lifetime. Hence, the comment that Nebuchadnezzar would die in happier times. Megasthenes (who, by the way, uses the name Nabucodrosorus for Nebuchadnezzar) makes mention of the succession of kings after Nebuchadnezzar from Amel-Marduk to Nabonidus.

What comes next is equally intriguing. Megasthenes goes on to say, “Nabuchodonosor having succeeded to the kingdom, built the walls of Babylon in a triple circuit in fifteen days; and he turned the river Armacale, a branch of the Euphrates, and the Acracanus: and above the city of Sippara he dug a receptacle for the waters, whose perimeter was forty parasangs, and whose depth was twenty cubits; and he placed gates at the entrance thereof, by opening which they irrigated the plains, and these they call Echetognomones (sluices): and he constructed dykes against the irruptions of the Erythraean sea, and built the city of Teredon to check the incursions of the Arabs; and he adorned the palaces with trees, calling them hanging gardens.” Remember this last sentence that we will refer back to, namely, the hanging gardens, upon our discussion on Daniel chapter four.

Much of what we have read today is contained in Eusebius Chronicon (or Chronicle) which we will refer to again in the next several blogs.