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Is there any historical evidence from the Babylonian or Persian side corroborating the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego found in Daniel chapters 1-3? What is the general state of records of events from that time area? What sources are available to research the validity of the Biblical account?

Such public miracle would likely have been documented by multiple sources. Are there surviving sources other than the Old Testament Scriptures? Are there validated reasons to take this particular Biblical account as accurate history? A modern day skeptic like me would say that the Jews could have just made the story up.

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migrated from christianity.stackexchange.com Oct 31 '11 at 9:12

This question came from our site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more.

Yes history site is a good place to ask then. If you can migrate it then please. I asked the same question in sceptic stack exchange and they delete it because it's religious. It's hard to get the truth nowadays. You get bumped out everywhere. But thanks. – Jim Thio Oct 31 '11 at 8:39
I can migrate. The problem you're going to run into is that you picked a really obscure example. Christianity has plenty of much better documented miracles. The one you pick comes from an empire and age of history that doesn't have a lot of documentation about big events like wars, much less the smaller event here. As Christians sometimes we just have to trust the sources we have based on their accuracy on the ones we can reasonably verify. – Caleb Oct 31 '11 at 8:51
I've removed the ranting from the question pre-migration to History.SE. Please don't use questions as a soap box, only to give background for clear concise questions. – Caleb Oct 31 '11 at 9:10
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Barring some archaeological find in the future, the answer is:


On skeptics.SE, there is a question about the Biblical figures who are also historical and there's a fairly long list of people who verifiably existed. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego don't make that list. On the other hand, you might need to readjust your historical lens. If the events did take place, they were under the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II, who ruled from c. 605 BCE to c. 562 BCE. Records at that time were primarily kept on clay tablets. We do have some stone stela and clay cylinders, but these more appropriately document the great events in the reigns of kings as they require a good deal of effort to produce. Other records written on leather, papyrus, or wax, would not have survived.

Clay tablets were easy to use and if we are to have any records of these minor Jewish nobles, we would hope to find their names on some tablet. However some hurdles the records would have to overcome include:

  1. Someone would have to find the men or the events surrounding their lives interesting enough to record. That's not as likely as the question seems to imply. For one thing, the story makes the king look inept. If King Nebuchadnezzar was willing to condemn people to death for failing to worship his image, how much more would he punish someone for writing about a time he couldn't carry out a death sentence? Even events that effected far more people, such as the Great Fire of Rome hundreds of years later, have relatively few sources in the historical record. Modern people have a completely incorrect sense of what sort of information ought to be available about the ancient past.

  2. Someone would have purposely preserved the record. Tablets were routinely soaked in water and reused unless the tablet was fired in a kiln. (Occasional tablets were fired accidentally when the building they were stored in was burned down.) Once again, there's no particular reason to suppose that would have been done.

  3. The record would have survived intact until found by an archaeologist who could read it. Tablets face(d) many dangers and are prone to breakage.

  4. An expert would have to read and recognize the names on the tablet. The Royal Library of Ashurbanipal contains over 30,000 fragments of tablets, including copies of the Epic of Gilgamesh, which sat unremarked in the British Museum for years. Maybe we'll find the three men's names in the future when all the fragments are digitalized, but I'm not holding my breath.

It seems to me that whether or not you trust the stories in the Bible depends far more on you presuppositions than on the evidence itself. Take for instance the debate between Bart Ehrman and Daniel Wallace on the trustworthiness of the New Testament. It turns out they more or less agree on the technical questions in the field of textual criticism. But they are on opposite edges of the spectrum about what conclusions we ought to draw from the evidence. In truth, the question comes down to a subjective judgement.

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very good answer +1. I don't know what to believe and I do not like use presuppositions. – Jim Thio Mar 1 '12 at 4:03

Backing up Jon's answer a bit here...

The surrounding events place Daniel's life at around the seventh and sixth century BC. Daniel however is a rather unique book in the Hebrew scriptures, in that it was actually not written in Hebrew. Instead, it appears to be a work of Aramaic.

Why the difference? Well the most logical reason would be that it was written much later than the rest of the Old Testament. At around about the third century BC, Hebrew had become a "Dead language" (much like we use Latin today), and the common folk wrote and spoke Aramaic.

In fact, there are now several theories among scholars about when Daniel was written, but all agree that it was probably written in the fourth to second centuries BC (the vast majority the second).

The most widely accepted theory seems to be the following:

The stories of chapters 1-6 are considered to be a literary genre of legends that are older than the visions of chapters 7-12. The visions in the latter half of Daniel are theorized to be written by an anonymous author in the Maccabean era, who assembled the legends with the visions as one book, in the 2nd century BCE.

What this means is that nothing in the first half of Daniel can really be taken as a literal "history", as it was at best an oral tradition for 400 years before being written down.

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Two small corrections: 1) half of Daniel (chapters 2-7) is Aramaic and the rest in Hebrew, and 2) Hebrew probably was spoken through the Roman occupation of Judea. There is considerable uncertainty in the dating of the Book of Daniel. But there's doubt in my mind that this story was, well, a story told orally for some time before being recorded. – Jon Ericson May 11 '12 at 23:36
@T.E.D - "was at best an oral tradition for 400 years before being written down" - no basis for such a claim. As in the case of most of the biblical books, it's probable that the material that makes up Daniel was committed to writing at the time of the events, and simply included as part of a complete 'book' by some writer/editor at a later time. – user2590 Aug 21 '13 at 2:59

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