Darius the Mede as fiction?

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The Book of Daniel mentions Darius the Mede. Who is this ruler and why is he controversial? How is this controversy resolved?

The book of Daniel records Darius the Mede as a king who seceded the throne after Belshazzar. While it is recorded that Daniel found favor in Darius’ eyes, it was not before the king had Daniel thrown into the den of lions. This story is important to the Christian faith for a variety of reasons and is taught to young children in Sunday School. While the story is beautiful, the controversy of Darius is who he was and if he ever existed. Historians such as Rowley have argued that Darius a historical misunderstanding and, “the product of fuzzy historical memory.” (FN1)

Firstly, there are no historical records of Darius the Mede, King of Babylon, outside of the biblical text. His status as a Mede is also dubious, considering that Babylon was conquered by the Persians and not the Medes. There is also the question of the 120 satraps recorded in Daniel 6:1. Extra-biblical sources record 20 satraps instated by King Cyrus, several years after the supposed reign of Darius. (FN2) Biblical scholars have been forced to grapple with these apparent historical inaccuracies within the text. Does the Bible err in the book of Daniel? And if so, how can the Bible be inerrant?

Scholars Whitcomb, Wiseman, and Shea have proposed several explanations for this apparent error in the book of Daniel. Whitcomb stated that Darius was a title name given to the governor of Babylon (Gubaru), hence why Darius is called the “King of Babylon,” but not called, “King of Lands.” Wiseman has argued that Darius the Mead and Cyrus the Great are the same man but with different titles. Citing the passage at the end of Daniel 6 as an emphatic description of the same man rather than two separate rulers. Shea’s argument holds a greater weight in the minds of most theologians. He argues, like Whitcomb, that Darius the Mede is Gubaru, but not the same Gubaru. Instead Darius would be a general of the Persian army who would have served for a short time before Cyrus began rule over Babylon, an interim ruler. (FN3) Many conservative scholars have analyzed the work of Grabbe, who is rejects Whitcomb and Wiseman but endorses Shea’s thesis. At the moment, while we may speculate, this controversy is unresolved (especially for less conservative theologians).

Unfortunately, there is too great a lack of historical evidence to corroborate any of these perspectives. As more evidence presents itself biblical scholars will have the opportunity to explore this issue. At the present moment, there does not appear to be a clear answer on who Darius may be. Nevertheless, the biblical narrative holds true and the book of Daniel serves as a fantastic resource for stories of great faith in times of uncertainty and persecution. Time will only tell the answers to the misunderstandings on this King of Babylon.

Rev. Sereine

Rev. Dr. Sereine NTERINANZIZA E-Mail: snterinanziza@gmail.com Address: Kigali- Rwanda /Kicukiro/Kagarama Personal Biography This website has a purpose of educating, and advocating through evangelism. The owner is Pastor Sereine Nterinanziza, passionate business woman. Legal Representative of Hands of Compassion Rwanda. Candidate in Doctor of Ministry in USA. Holder of a Master degree of Business Administration obtained from Kampala International University, Master of Divinity from World Mission Frontiers, Bachelor of Arts and Humanity-History. Since 2006, she is the Managing Director in her own Companies, from 2011-2015 She worked as Capacity Building Officer at International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), in 2019-2011 She worked with Food for the Hungry Rwanda, 2008-2009 She worked with World Vision Rwanda. Sereine is a committed Christian, passionate for delivering family therapies, passionate to help vulnerable people. She loves her family and her Country Rwanda. She is an active member of Pentecostal Church of Rwanda. In 2018, she was appointed Pastor in Nebo Church of Rwanda, to begin a branch in Kigali. She evangelize through socio media ( website, youtube, facebook).

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