BOOK OF DANIEL – Our Final Word on Ancient Historians

Posted by on Jun 24, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on BOOK OF DANIEL – Our Final Word on Ancient Historians

Our Final Word on Ancient Historians.

Lucius Cornelius Alexander Polyhistor (c. 105 – 35 BC) was a Greek scholar who was enslaved by the Romans. After his release, he continued to live in Italy as a Roman citizen. So productive was his writing that he earned the surname polyhistor (meaning “very learned”). Alexander’s most important treatise consisted of forty-two books of historical and geographical accounts of nearly all the countries of the ancient world. These included 5 books, one of which was on Chaldean history. Another notable work was about the Jews that had several excerpts from Jewish writers, of whom nothing otherwise would be known.

Hopefully, you have noticed as I have mentioned several ancient scholars that it would appear they each borrowed information from previous works. Not every writing was their own but perhaps, in some way, they were support documents for their own thoughts or treatise. We have learned so far that, obviously, a number of scholars were each using works that were available and, later, much of those works were in fragmentary form. The fragments held enough information to be worth recording. This is a common practice and one in which Biblical scholars have also benefited.  Biblical scholars have also used fragments in order to support the Bible text.

I am sure the last two names we will mention are more known to us than the previous ones. They are, of course, Titus Flavius Josephus (37 – 100 AD) who was a first-century Roman-Jewish scholar, historian, and hagiographer. He is most famous for his works, “The Jewish War” and “Antiquities of the Jews”. Another work which is pertinent to our study is “Flavius Josephus against Apion”. The other is, of course, Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 260/265 – 339/340 AD), who was a historian of Christianity, exegete, and Christian polemicist. He wrote several works namely, “Chronicon”, “Church History”, “Life of Constantine”, “Apology for Origen”, “Proof of the Gospel”, etc.

Both writers also borrowed much of the content of their writings from the same sources we have mentioned. It only looks like it is their work because it is contained in more familiar works to us. Many scholars make use of Josephus and Eusebius and, granted, some may make mention that these men quoted the source of their material. That does not happen all the time. However, hence the reason why perhaps Abydenus; Megasthenes; Alexander Polyhistor; Tatian; Theophilus; Autolycus; Marcus Vitruvius Pollio and even Berossus (all of whom we have mentioned) are not as recognizable to us today. Nevertheless, all of these men left the ink of history in their writings so that others would be able to research many of the things lost to us today. It is through their dedication and effort that we are able to form a picture of what they saw or wrote.

Josephus tells us in his work, “Flavius Josephus against Apion”, “I will now relate what hath been written concerning us in the Chaldean histories, which records have a great agreement with our books in other things also. Berosus shall be witness to what I say: he was by birth a Chaldean, well known by the learned, on account of his publication of the Chaldean books of astronomy and philosophy among the Greeks. This Berosus, therefore, following the most ancient records of that nation, gives us a history of the deluge of waters that then happened, and of the destruction of mankind thereby, and agrees with Moses’s narration thereof. He also gives us an account of that ark wherein Noah, the origin of our race, was preserved, when it was brought to the highest part of the Armenian mountains; after which he gives us a catalogue of the posterity of Noah, and adds the years of their chronology, and at length comes down to Nabolassar, who was king of Babylon, and of the Chaldeans. And when he was relating the acts of this king, he describes to us how he sent his son Nabuchodonosor against Egypt, and against our land, with a great army, upon his being informed that they had revolted from him; and how, by that means, he subdued them all, and set our temple that was at Jerusalem on fire; nay, and removed our people entirely out of their own country, and transferred them to Babylon; when it so happened that our city was desolate during the interval of seventy years, until the days of Cyrus king of Persia. He then says, “That this Babylonian king conquered Egypt, and Syria, and Phoenicia, and Arabia, and exceeded in his exploits all that had reigned before him in Babylon and Chaldea.”” Josephus continues, “He also rebuilt the old city, and added another to it on the outside, and so far restored Babylon,…..So when he had thus fortified the city with walls, after an excellent manner, and had adorned the gates magnificently, he added a new palace to that which his father had dwelt in, and this close by it also, and that more eminent in its height, and in its great splendor. ….. Now in this palace he erected very high walks, supported by stone pillars, and by planting what was called a pensile paradise, and replenishing it with all sorts of trees, he rendered the prospect an exact resemblance of a mountainous country. This he did to please his queen, because she had been brought up in Media, and was fond of a mountainous situation.” Josephus tells us that, “Berosus……says in his third book: “Nabuchodonosor, after he had begun to build the forementioned wall, fell sick, and departed this life, when he had reigned forty-three years; whereupon his son Evilmerodach obtained the kingdom.” (Flavious Josephus against Apion, Book 1, chapters 19-20)

There is very little difference in Eusebius’ Chronicon (known also as The Chaldean Chronicle). Whereas Josephus references Berossus as source material, Eusebius gives credit to Abydenus, Alexander Polyhistor and then Josephus. Eusebius says that Abydenus wrote concerning Nebuchadnezzar that, “He also decorated the royal court by planting sapling trees, calling this the Hanging Garden. [Abydenus] presents a detailed description of this so-called Hanging Garden. The Greeks, he says, regarded [the Hanging Garden] as [one] of the seven wonders of the world.”

I have found no record of a detailed description of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Whether Eusebius (or any others) viewed such a detailed account we do not know. In fact, the only reference to such a garden is Berossus leading many to claim this story was a myth or some other garden. Recent evidence suggests that the so-called Hanging Garden was the work, not of a Babylonian king, but an Assyrian one. That person was King Sennacherib (705 – 681 BC) who was the son of none other than Sargon II. But, while this portion of the story is interesting, it is not relevant to our study. Nebuchadnezzar may well have built such a garden based upon the gardens Sennacherib built, prompting Berossus to give such a description.

 

Irrespective of such thoughts, when we return to the Biblical text of Daniel chapter four no description of a hanging garden is mentioned.