Darius the Mede

From Dan Audia, notice of an interesting thesis from Dallas Theological Seminary about the possible identity of Darius the Mede, who has an appearance in the Book of Daniel as the conqueror of Babylon in the mid sixth-century BC. The standard line on this character is expressed in a footnote to Daniel 5:31 in the Revised Standard Version-Catholic Edition, at BibleGateway.com:

Nothing is known in history of this person. The Persians, moreover, had already conquered the Medes before taking Babylon.

The non-existence of Darius the Mede serves as evidence that Daniel was not actually written in Babylon, as the book claims for itself, but around the time of the Maccabean Revolt in the 160s – that is, the author was fuzzy on details about what to him were events that occurred almost four hundred years in the past.

Steven Anderson, however, claims that:

Cyrus shared power with a Median king until about two years after the fall of Babylon. This king is called Cyaxares (II) by the Greek historian Xenophon, but is known by his throne name Darius in the book of Daniel.

Cyrus did not make a hostile conquest of Media, did not dethrone the last Median king, and did not become the highest regent in the Medo-Persian Empire until after the fall of Babylon. Xenophon’s detailed account agrees remarkably well with the book of Daniel, and can claim surprising support from a number of other ancient sources. The account of the accession of Cyrus given by the Greek historian Herodotus, which forms the basis of the modern historical reconstruction of events, is a legendary recasting of a propagandistic myth promoted by Cyrus as a means of legitimating his conquest in the minds of an unfavorable Babylonian populace. Cuneiform references to Cyrus as “king” soon after the fall of Babylon are easily explained through a coregency which lasted until the death of Darius the Mede/Cyaxares II. There is surprisingly solid biblical and extrabiblical support for Xenophon’s claim that Cyrus began his career as the commanding general of the Medo-Persian army and crown prince of Persia, and that he was not made king of both Media and Persia until after the fall of Babylon.

Interesting stuff. I am keen to read it to see how well his thesis is argued (i.e. does the author simply assert that Darius is Cyaxares, because the Bible Must Be True?) I would say that even if the identification of these two figures is sustained, it does not necessitate the re-dating of Daniel to the Babylonian period. The simplest explanation for Daniel’s remarkably accurate predictions of subsequent Hellenistic history is that it was composed with the benefit of hindsight! (Cf. Aeneas’s visit to the underworld and his vision of the glorious future of Rome in Virgil’s Aeneid, or Macbeth’s vision of future Scottish rulers, some who “twin orbs and double scepters” carry, in the eponymous Shakespearean play.)