Atheist's Attacks

Answering Humanist's Accusations Against the Bible

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Is The Bible Wrong About History?

Are there errors in Daniel? We'll find out.

THE HUMANIST'S ACCUSATION: The book of Daniel describes events that supposedly happened during the Babylonian captivity of the Jews. The fifth chapter states that Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, was succeeded on the throne by his son Belshazzar. But historians tell us Belshazzar was not the son of Nebuchadnezzar and was never king.

The book of Daniel also says one “Darius the Mede” captured Babylon in the sixth century B.C.E. In contrast, historians know that Cyrus of Persia took Babylon.

Once again the humanist is making statements that are not true. Daniel chapter five is the story of Belshazzar's feast and the night Babylon fell to Medo-Persia. Here is the scripture the humanists reference:

When Belshazzar tasted the wine, he gave orders to bring the gold and silver vessels which Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them. - Daniel 5:2

Here is a list of Babylonian kings who ruled during Daniel's lifetime:

  • Nebuchadnezzar II (605 – 562 BC)
  • Amel-Marduk (Evil-Merodach) (562 – 560 BC)
  • Neriglissar (560 – 556 BC - Son-in-law of Nebuchadnezzar II
  • Labashi-Marduk 556 BC Son of Neriglissar
  • Nabonidus & his son Belshazzar (556-539 BC)

Nabonidus co-ruled with his son Belshazzar. The ancient source, outside of the Bible, from which we learn about Nabonidus and Belshazzar is called the Nabonidus Chronicle. It describes Belshazzar as a grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, most likely through his mother's side of the family.

Why His Mother's Side?

During the feast described in Daniel chapter five the disembodied fingers of a hand wrote on the wall. However, no one could read the writing. The king was terrified and none of his advisors knew what to do. At that moment "the queen," most likely the queen mother, walks in. This must be Belshazzar's mother--no one else could walk in on the king like that. Not even his wife. Here is the rest of the story as told in Daniel 5:10-11

The queen entered the banquet hall because of the words of the king and his nobles; the queen spoke and said, “O king, live forever! Do not let your thoughts alarm you or your face be pale. There is a man in your kingdom in whom is a spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of your father, illumination, insight and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him. And King Nebuchadnezzar, your father, your father the king, appointed him chief of the magicians, conjurers, Chaldeans and diviners.

Daniel was very close to king Nebuchadnezzar. However, when Nebuchadnezzar died Daniel went into obscurity. He was forgotten. Now, 36 years later, Daniel is very old and someone remembers him... someone who knew Daniel personally. That would have to be someone in the royal family, a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar and the mother of Belshazzar.

The Encyclopedia Britannica writes: Though he is referred to in the Book of Daniel as the son of Nebuchadrezzar, the Babylonian inscriptions indicate that he was in fact the eldest son of Nabonidus, who was king of Babylon from 555 to 539, and of Nitocris, who was perhaps a daughter of Nebuchadrezzar. When Nabonidus went into exile (550), he entrusted Belshazzar with the throne and the major part of his army.

In ancient cultures, as well as some cultures today, the term "son of" may be applied to any male descendent, both direct sons and grandsons. That is what is done here.

Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian

The city of Babylon, and thus the Babylonian empire was defeated on the night of Belshazzar feast. The Medo-Persians were at the gates of Babylon, but the king felt secure. The city walls were high and so thick that no one could breach those walls. There was no way in. Belshazzar was right, it was impossible to get through or over the walls, but the Medo-Persians went under them.

The city's water supply was a river. The huge walls spanned the river, closing off that way into the city. However, the Medo-Persians went upstream and damned the river, drying it up. This allowed their army to walk into the city on the dry riverbed, and conquer it without a battle.

At the time of Babylon's fall, the Persians, under Cyrus, had come to dominate the Medo-Persian Empire. Soon it would be simply the Persian Empire, with the Medes serving the Persians. The leader of the Medes, Darius, was the leader who captured Babylon. However, as is still true today, the credit went to the top man, Cyrus... even though he was not present when Babylon fell. Daniel was there and saw Darius conquer the city. That is why he writes that Darius the Mede conquered Babylon. However, history, as it always does, gives credit to the top leader of the empire, Cyrus.


Once you know the rest of the story, you can see there is no error in the way the Bible records history in the book of Daniel.

Next the humanists go to the New Testament:

History and the New Testament: In the New Testament, the second chapter of Luke asserts that shortly before the birth of Jesus, the emperor Augustus ordered a census throughout the Roman world. Luke claims that every person had to travel to the town of his ancestors for the census to be taken. He identifies the census as the reason for Joseph and Mary traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where Jesus is said to have been born.

In his book Gospel Fictions, Randall Helms says this type of census was never taken in the history of the Roman Empire. He points out it’s ridiculous to think the practical Romans would require millions of people to travel enormous distances – to towns of long-deceased ancestors – merely to sign a tax form.[59] Likewise, in Asimov’s Guide to the Bible, Isaac Asimov affirms that the Romans would certainly arrange no such census.[60]

[59] Helms, Randal, Gospel Fictions (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1989), pp. 59, 60.

[60] Asimov, Isaac, Asimov’s Guide to the Bible (New York: Avenel Books, 1981), p. 929.

The humanists now move on to searching for historical errors in the New Testament. Click here to learn the truth...


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