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Introduction to Daniel

I. OPENING STATEMENT

I have asked myself again and again, "Why write another commentary on Daniel?" There are so many good ones from varying perspectives available. My study of Revelation piqued my interest about Daniel and Zechariah (OT apocalypses). They have been the Scriptural source for the differing theories of how to interpret many parts of the New Testament. Many very sincere and intelligent believers have expressed their opinions about these revelatory texts, but with such diversity.

In trying to sort out my own perspective several foundational questions must be explored.

1. How are OT apocalypses related to OT prophecies?

2. What is the source of apocalyptic thought and form?

3. Is the new age (1) earthly and physical or (2) spiritual and multidimensional? Does this planet remain the focal point of all creation?

4. Do these specific texts relate to events now past only (e.g. Persian period, Maccabean period, Roman period, the incarnation) or future events (e.g. the Second Coming, millennium, eternal kingdom), or both, by the use of multi-fulfillment prophecy (e.g. Isa. 7: 14)?

5. Why are some texts so seemingly historically specific (Daniel 11) and others ambiguous (Daniel 8)?

6. Is the main issue the defense of the historical setting of the author or the historical accuracy of the future predictions?

These hermeneutical interpretive questions must take precedence over exegesis. This type of literature demands an evaluation of one's presuppositions about the Bible and specifically apocalyptic literature.

So here goes an attempt to lay out my presuppositions related to these questions in order for you, the reader, to clearly understand my "interpretive stance." You also have an "interpretive stance"! Apocalyptic literature demands a literary evaluation of the reader's presuppositions. This literature is so ambiguous that many interpretive stances are possible and defensible.

A. How are OT apocalypses related to OT prophecies?

 

  Prophet     Apocalyptist
1. spoken message   1. written and highly structured message
2. spoken to bring repentance and faith   2. spoken to bring courage and steadfastness to the faithful
3. history is the medium of God's activity (process)   3. God intervenes and reforms history (crisis)
4. message meant to change the present   4. message meant to forecast the future
5. "God said" revelation   5. imaginative visions and dreams which must be interpreted by angels

Two very helpful and insightful books are D. Brent Sandy's Plowshares and Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic, p. 107 and John J. Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination, p. 7.

B. What is the origin of apocalyptic thought and form? Which OT book contains the earliest apocalyptic passages? Is it even fair to talk about an apocalyptic genre? Although similar in many ways to prophecy, there seem to be unique and consistent elements which denote and define apocalyptic as a literary type. (See Introduction to Daniel III. Genre C).

If we take traditional authorship of OT books (which is certainly a presupposition) then the eighth century prophet, Isaiah, must be the first Bible example of this type of literature (cf. 13-14, 24-27, 56-66) followed by the seventh century prophets, Ezekiel (1, 26-28, 35-40), Daniel (7-12), and also the early post-exilic prophet, Zechariah (520 b.c.).

Although there is controversy among OT scholars as to the date of these books and what denotes an apocalyptic passage, it seems that parts of Isaiah must have set the pattern for the developing literary creativity that would, over time, result in what we now call "apocalyptic literature."

There is a growing understanding of the existence of some features of apocalyptic in other cultures of the ancient Near East.

1. Egyptian - "Introductory Remarks on Apocalypticism in Egypt" by Bergman in Apocalypticism in the Mediterranean World and the Near East, ed. David Helbohn, pp. 51-60

2. Akkadia and Persia - same book as above, pp. 77-156, 379-411

 

C. Is the new age (1) earthly and physical or (2) spiritual, and multidimensional? Both OT prophecy and apocalyptic literature point toward an earthly, physical future. I myself hold to a restored Garden of Eden as a model for understanding biblical promises, but always there is the gnawing doubt that I have over literalized Scripture.

The whole issue of resurrection is caught up in this discussion. What are believers to expect? Even Daniel 7:18,22 may imply an earthly setting, but 12:2 implies something beyond the physical. Two NT texts seem relevant at this point: (1) Jesus' words to Pilate in John 18:33-38a (esp. v. 36) and (2) Paul's discussion of the resurrection in I Cor. 15 (esp. vv. 35-53). Both of these texts open the door to a spiritual understanding of the future. It is hard for us as humans to comprehend (a) personality without a physical body and (b) a kingdom without a physical planet!

The more I understand the vastness of creation (Hubble telescope) the more I realize that earth was/is a specially prepared and maintained place, but that may not be the focus of redeemed mankind's future. I am committed to Scripture as the only source for faith and practice, but it is an earth-focused, redemption-focused revelation. We cannot speculate on that which Scripture itself is silent, but there is a crack in the door in Jesus' and Paul's words.

D. Is prophecy and apocalyptic literature locked into a specific historical fulfillment? Surely the specific prophecies about the Messiah establish predictive prophecy as valid (e.g. Micah 5:2). However, Isa. 14:7 (virgin birth) and Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11; Matt. 24:15; Mark 13:14 are good examples of multiple fulfillment prophecy. Prophecy and apocalyptic passages are not exhausted in specific historical fulfillments. Here is a good quote on this subject from Joyce G. Baldwin, Daniel, The Tyndale Old Testament Commentary,

"The four-kingdom scheme seems to have its significance in the four empires between the time of the exile and the death of Christ, but it may have a symbolic meaning also, representing the relationship between God's church and the world powers throughout time" (p. 68).

How do interpreters proceed?

1. seek to establish the historical event of prophetic prediction

2. look for further fulfillment at the first coming of Christ

3. look for further fulfillment at the Second Coming of Christ

It is obvious that history plays a significant part in prophetic/apocalyptic interpretation. Often it is only in history (and often only in hindsight) that these texts become understandable. I understand Gen. 1-2 better in light of modern scientific research and I understand prophecy/apocalyptic better in light of unfolding history. History itself surpasses all biblical interpreters. Scripture is surely true, but exactly how it is true is a developing understanding (see Is There a Meaning in This Text? by Kevin J. Vanhoozer). This developing understanding is the tricky part of prophecy/apocalyptic interpretation.

At this point let me quote from the introduction of my commentary on Revelation.

"FIFTH TENSION

The kingdom of God is both present, yet future. This theological paradox becomes focused at the point of eschatology. If one expects a literal fulfillment of all OT prophecies to Israel then the Kingdom becomes mostly a restoration of Israel to a geographical locality and a theological pre-eminence! This would necessitate that the Church is secretly raptured out at chapter 5 and the remaining chapters relate to Israel.

However, if the focus is on the kingdom being inaugurated by the promised OT Messiah, then it is present with Christ's first coming, then the focus becomes the incarnation, life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Christ. The theological emphasis is on a current salvation. The kingdom has come, the OT is fulfilled in Christ's offer of salvation to all, not His millennial reign over some!

It is surely true that the Bible speaks of both of Christ's comings, but where is the emphasis to be placed? It seems to me that most OT prophecies focus on the first coming, the establishment of the Messianic kingdom (cf. Dan. 2). In many ways this is analogous to the eternal reign of God (cf. Dan. 7). In the OT the focus is on the eternal reign of God, yet the mechanism for that reign's manifestation is the ministry of the Messiah (cf. I Cor. 15:26-27). It is not a question of which is true; both are true, but where is the emphasis? It must be said that some interpreters become so focused on the millennial reign of the Messiah (cf. Rev. 20) that they have missed the biblical focus on the eternal reign of the Father. Christ's reign is a preliminary event. As the two comings of Christ were not obvious in the OT, neither is a temporal reign of the Messiah!

The key to Jesus' preaching and teaching is the kingdom of God. It is both present (in salvation and service), and future (in pervasiveness and power). Revelation, if it focuses on a Messianic millennial reign (cf. Rev. 20), is preliminary, not ultimate (cf. Rev. 21-22). It is not obvious from the OT that a temporal reign is necessary; as a matter of fact, the Messianic reign of Daniel 7 is eternal, not millennial."

E. Some modern interpreters demand a literal fulfillment to all OT prophecies and apocalyptic passages. In reality this forces a non-valid theological grid on Scripture. Even OT prophecies were conditional of human response. Jesus asserted that He is the fulfillment of OT texts (cf. Matt. 5:17-19). The NT is the proper lens through which to view the OT (cf. Matt. 5:21-48). At this point let me quote from the introduction of my commentary on Revelation.

 

"FIRST TENSION (OT racial, national, and geographical categories vs. all believers over all the world)

The OT prophets predict a restoration of a Jewish kingdom in Palestine centered in Jerusalem where all the nations of the earth gather to praise and serve a Davidic ruler, but Jesus nor the NT Apostles ever focus on this agenda. Is not the OT inspired (cf. Matt. 5:17-19)? Have the NT authors omitted crucial end-time events?

There are several sources of information about the end of the world:

1.OT prophets (Isaiah, Micah, Malachi)

2.OT apocalyptic writers (cf. Ezek. 37-39; Dan. 7-12; Zech.)

3.intertestamental, non-canonical Jewish apocalyptic writers (like I Enoch, which is alluded to in Jude)

4.Jesus Himself (cf. Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 21)

5.the writings of Paul (cf. I Cor. 15; II Cor. 5; I Thess. 4-5; II Thess. 2)

6.the writings of John (I John and Revelation).

Do these all clearly teach an end-time agenda (events, chronology, persons)? If not, why? Are they not all inspired (except the Jewish intertestamental writings)?

The Spirit revealed truths to the OT writers in terms and categories they could understand. However, through progressive revelation the Spirit has expanded these OT eschatological concepts to a universal scope ("the mystery of Christ," cf. Eph. 2:11-3:13. See Special Topic at Rev. 10:7). Here are some relevant examples:

1.The city of Jerusalem in the OT is used as a metaphor for the people of God (Zion), but is projected into the NT as a term expressing God's acceptance of all repentant, believing humans (the new Jerusalem of Revelation 21-22). The theological expansion of a literal, physical city into the new people of God (believing Jews and Gentiles) is foreshadowed in God's promise to redeem fallen mankind in Gen. 3:15 before there even were any Jews or a Jewish capital city. Even Abraham's call (cf. Gen. 12:1-3) involved the Gentiles (cf. Gen. 12:3; Exod. 19:5).

2.In the OT the enemies of God's people are the surrounding nations of the Ancient Near East, but in the NT they have been expanded to all unbelieving, anti-God, Satanically-inspired people. The battle has moved from a geographical, regional conflict to a worldwide, cosmic conflict (cf. Colossians).

3.The promise of a land which is so integral in the OT (the Patriarchal promises of Genesis, cf. Gen. 12:7; 13:15; 15:7-15; 17:8) has now become the whole earth. New Jerusalem comes down to a recreated earth, not the Near East only or exclusively (cf. Rev. 21-22).

4.Some other examples of OT prophetic concepts being expanded are (1) the seed of Abraham is now the spiritually circumcised (cf. Rom. 2:28-29); (2) the covenant people now include Gentiles (cf. Hos. 1:10; 2:23, quoted in Rom. 9:24-26; also Lev. 26:12; Exod. 29:45, quoted in II Cor. 6:16-18 and Exod. 19:5; Deut. 14:2, quoted in Titus 2:14); (3) the temple is now Jesus and through Him the local church (cf. I Cor. 3:16) or the individual believer (cf. I Cor. 6:19); and (4) even Israel and its characteristic descriptive OT phrases now refer to the whole people of God (i.e. "Israel," cf. Rom. 9:6; Gal. 6:16, i.e. "kingdom of priests," cf. I Pet. 2:5, 9-10; Rev. 1:6)

The prophetic model has been fulfilled, expanded, and is now more inclusive. Jesus and the Apostolic writers do not present the end-time in the same way as the OT prophets (cf. Martin Wyngaarden, The Future of The Kingdom in Prophecy and Fulfillment). Modern interpreters who try to make the OT model literal or normative twist the Revelation into a very Jewish book and force meaning into atomized, ambiguous phrases of Jesus and Paul! The NT writers do not negate the OT prophets, but show their ultimate universal implication. There is no organized, logical system to Jesus' or Paul's eschatology. Their purpose is primarily redemptive or pastoral.

However, even within the NT there is tension. There is no clear systemization of eschatological events. In many ways the Revelation surprisingly uses OT allusions in describing the end instead of the teachings of Jesus (cf. Matt. 24; Mark 13)! It follows the literary genre initiated by Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah, but developed during the intertestamental period (Jewish apocalyptic literature). This may have been John's way of linking the Old and New Covenants. It shows the age-old pattern of human rebellion and God's commitment to redemption! But it must be noted that although Revelation uses OT language, persons, and events, it reinterprets them in light of first century Rome."

"THIRD TENSION (conventional covenants vs. unconditional covenants)

There is a theological tension or paradox between conditional and unconditional covenants. It is surely true that God's redemptive purpose/plan is unconditional (cf. Gen. 15:12-21). However, the mandated human response is always conditional!

The "if. . .then" pattern appears in both OT and NT. God is faithful; mankind is unfaithful. This tension has caused much confusion. Interpreters have tended to focus on only one "horn of the dilemma," God's faithfulness or human effort, God's sovereignty or mankind's free will. Both are biblical and necessary.

This relates to eschatology, to God's OT promises to Israel. If God promises it, that settles it, yes? God is bound to His promises; His reputation is involved (cf. Ezek. 36:22-38). The unconditional and conditional covenants meet in Christ (cf. Isa. 53), not Israel! God's ultimate faithfulness lies in the redemption of all who will repent and believe, not in who was your father/mother! Christ, not Israel, is the key to all of God's covenants and promises. If there is a theological parenthesis in the Bible, it is not the Church, but Israel (cf. Acts 7 and Gal. 3).

The world mission of gospel proclamation has passed to the Church (cf. Matt. 28:19-20; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8). It is still a conditional covenant! This is not to imply that God has totally rejected the Jews (cf. Rom. 9-11). There may be a place and purpose for end-time, believing Isra el (cf. Zech. 12:10)."

F. Is the main purpose of a commentary to (1) defend a Bible book's author and historical setting (Daniel as a sixth century b.c. writer in Babylon); (2) seek a historical confirmation of specific details of the predictive elements; or (3) establish the major theological themes and clearly expressed truths?

As a believer how can I help other believers through a commentary? Is the trustworthiness of the Scripture itself the issue, or is the message of the author the issue? Is the focus to be (1) the history of Daniel's day, (2) the history of my day, or (3) the specific predictions of a future day? Since I am committed to the inspiration of Scripture, in a sense all three are important. Interpretation moves from (1) the then of an inspired author; (2) to the immediate recipients of the revelation (since this prophecy was to be sealed there remains doubt as to who the first readers or hearers were); and (3) then to the future readers of every generation. Proper hermeneutic procedure demands an initial focus on the historical setting and genre of the original inspired author. His/her purpose(s) become the focus of interpretation. I am not inspired, the original author was inspired! I must focus on his/her intended meaning (however, Daniel did not fully understand all he wrote). This becomes the touchstone of an effective evaluation of interpretations. It cannot mean something totally apart from the author's understanding.

This is why the question of authorship, date, purpose, and recipients are such crucial questions. These are the very questions over which OT scholars disagree!

The next hermeneutical procedure involves genre and context. By context I am referring to three separate issues.

1. the literary context of the book itself (literary units)

2. the literary context of other OT apocalyptic books and other non-canonical Jewish apocalyptic writings (genre)

3. the larger context of Scripture (systematic theology)

After these issues have been studied then comes the exegetical work on paragraphs.

1. contemporary word meaning

2. grammatical features

3. syntactical features

4. parallel passages

 

G. One of the interpretive issues that continues to challenge my thinking is how these apocalyptic passages are structured/designed. Does the revelation come to the author in specific visions or does the author structure God's message in visions? Who does the structuring?

At this point in my study I remain convinced that God reveals truth and human authors structure that truth in ways that their generation (and every generation) can understand. Apocalyptic is not how God speaks, but how humans write! The imagery is from the author's mind. The structure is from the author's day (of course, guided bythe Spirit).

II.  NAME OF THE BOOK

 

A. It is named after its chief spokesman and prophet.

 

B. His name means "God is my judge," "God is judge," or "God has given decision."

 

III. CANONIZATION

 

A. Daniel is part of the third and last division of the Hebrew canon, "The Writings" (kethu'bim).

 

B. This is because:

1. He was considered a statesman, not a prophet, by the Jews.

2. It reflects a later date of composition (editing, i.e. Baba Bathra 15a).

3. It contains diplomatic Aramaic portions (2:4b-7:28), like Ezra.

 

IV. GENRE

 

A. Like many of the Hebrew prophets it is a combination of genres:

1. Chapters 1-6 contain historical narratives written in the third person which reflect Daniel's life and times.

2. Chapters 7-12 are primarily future events often expressed in apocalyptic imagery in the first person (cf. 7:1,9; 8:1; 9:2).

3. The book is a prophetic unity (cf. Authorship E. And F. Chapters 2 and 7 provide a five-kingdom pattern, which is sustained throughout the book. Chapter 8 deals with the second and third kingdoms, while chapter 9 deals with the fourth and fifth kingdoms. History is moving toward a divine nexus!

 

B. This same structural pattern of the historical (temporal) then the future (eschatological) is also found in:

1. Isaiah, 1-39 and 40-66

2. Ezekiel 1-32; 33-48

3. Zechariah 1-8 & 9-14.

 

C. Apocalyptic literature is a uniquely Jewish literary genre. It was often used in tension-filled times to express the conviction that God is in control of history and will bring deliverance to His people. This type of literature is characterized by

1. a strong sense of the universal sovereignty of God (monotheism and determinism)

2. a struggle between good and evil, this evil age and the age of righteousness to come (a limited dualism)

3. use of standardized secret code words (usually from the OT prophetic texts or intertestamental Jewish apocalyptic literature)

4. use of colors, numbers, animals, sometimes animals/humans

5. use of angelic involvement by means of visions and dreams, which are usually interpreted by angels

6. primarily focuses on the soon-coming, climatic events of the end-time (new age)

7. use of a fixed set of symbols, not reality, to communicate the end-time message from God

8. Some examples of this type of genre are:

a. Old Testament

(1) Isaiah 13-14, 24-27, 56-66

(2) Ezekiel 37-48

(3) Daniel 7-12

(4) Joel 2:28-3:21

(5) Zechariah 1-6, 12-14

b. New Testament

(1) Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21,

(2) I Corinthians 15 (in some ways)

(3) II Thessalonians 2 (in most ways)

(4) Revelation (chapters 4-22)

9. non-canonical (taken from D. S. Russell, The Method and Message of Jewish Apocalyptic, pp. 37-38)

a. I Enoch, II Enoch (the Secrets of Enoch)

b. The Book of Jubilees

c. The Sibylline Oracles III, IV, V

d. The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs

e. The Psalms of Solomon

f. The Assumption of Moses

g. The Martyrdom of Isaiah

h. The Apocalypse of Moses (Life of Adam and Eve)

i. The Apocalypse of Abraham

j. The Testament of Abraham

k. II Esdras (IV Esdras)

l. II & III Baruch

10. There is a purposeful structure of duality in this genre. It presents reality as a series of dualisms, contrasts, or tensions (so common in the Dead Sea Scrolls and John's writings) between:

a. heaven - earth

b. evil age (evil men and evil angels) - new age of righteousness (godly men and godly angels)

c. current existence - future existence

All of these are moving toward a consummation brought about by God. This is not the world God intended it to be, but He is continuing to plan, work, and project His will for a restoration of the intimate fellowship begun in the Garden of Eden. The Christ event is the watershed of God's plan, but His two comings have brought about the current dualism.

AT this point let me quote from the introduction to my commentary on Revelation.

"FOURTH TENSION (Near Eastern literary models vs. western models).

Genre is a critical element in correctly interpreting the Bible. The Church developed in a western (Greek) cultural setting. Eastern literature is much more figurative, metaphorical, and symbolic than modern, western culture's literary models. It focuses on people, encounters, and events more than societal propositional truths. Christians have been guilty of using their history and literary models to interpret biblical prophecy (both OT and NT). Each generation and geographical entity has used its culture, history, and literalness to interpret Revelation. Every one of them has been wrong! It is arrogant to think that modern western culture is the focus of biblical prophecy!

The genre in which the original, inspired author chooses to write is a literary contract with the reader. The book of Revelation is not historical narrative. It is a combination of letter (chapters 1-3), prophecy, and mostly apocalyptic literature. It is as wrong to make the Bible say more than was intended by the original author or to make it say less than what he intended! Interpreters' arrogance and dogmatism are even more inappropriate in a book like Revelation.

The Church has never agreed on a proper interpretation. My concern is to hear and deal with the whole Bible, not some selected part(s). The Bible's eastern mind-set presents truth in tension-filled pairs. Our western trend toward propositional truth is not invalid, but unbalanced! I think it is possible to remove at least some of the impasse in interpreting Revelation by noting its changing purpose to successive generations of believers. It is obvious to most interpreters that Revelation must be interpreted in light of its own day and its genre. An historical approach to Revelation must deal with what the first readers would have, and could have, understood. In many ways modern interpreters have lost the meaning of many of the symbols of the book. Revelation's initial main thrust was to encourage persecuted believers. It showed God's control of history (as did the OT prophets); it affirmed that history is moving toward an appointed terminus, judgment or blessing (as did the OT prophets). It affirmed in first century Jewish apocalyptic terms God's love, presence, power, and sovereignty!

It functions in these same theological ways to every generation of believers. It depicts the cosmic struggle of good and evil. The first century details may have been lost to us, but not the powerful, comforting truths. When modern, western interpreters try to force the details of Revelation into their contemporary history, the pattern of false interpretations continues!

It is quite possible that the details of the book may become strikingly literal again (as did the OT in relation to the birth, life, and death of Christ) for the last generation of believers as they face the onslaught of an anti-God leader (cf. II Thess.2) and culture. No one can know these literal fulfillments of the Revelation until the words of Jesus (cf. Matt. 24; Mark.13; and Luke 21) and Paul (cf. I Cor. 15; I Thess. 4-5; and II Thess. 2) also become historically evident. Guessing, speculation, and dogmatism are all inappropriate. Apocalyptic literature allows this flexibility. Thank God for images and symbols that surpass historical narrative! God is in control; He reigns; He comes!

Most modern commentaries miss the point of the genre! Modern western interpreters often seek a clear, logical system of theology rather than being fair with an ambiguous, symbolic, dramatic genre of Jewish apocalyptic literature. This truth is expressed well by Ralph P. Martin in his article, "Approaches to New Testament Exegesis," in the book New Testament Interpretation, edited by I. Howard Marshall:

"Unless we recognize the dramatic quality of this writing and recall the way in which language is being used as a vehicle to express religious truth, we shall grievously err in our understanding of the Apocalypse, and mistakenly try to interpret its visions as though it were a book of literal prose and concerned to describe events of empirical and datable history. To attempt the latter course is to run into all manner of problems of interpretation. More seriously it leads to a distortion of the essential meaning of apocalyptic and so misses the great value of this part of the New Testament as a dramatic assertion in mythopoetic language of the sovereignty of God in Christ and the paradox of his rule which blends might and love (cf. 5:5,6; the Lion is the Lamb)" (p. 235).

W. Randolph Tate in his book Biblical Interpretations said:

"No other genre of the Bible has been so fervently read with such depressing results as apocalypse, especially the books of Daniel and Revelation. This genre had suffered from a disastrous history of misinterpretation due to a fundamental misunderstanding of its literary forms, structure, and purpose. Because of its very claim to reveal what is shortly to happen, apocalypse has been viewed as a road map into and a blueprint of the future. The tragic flaw in this view is the assumption that the books' frame of reference is the reader's contemporary age rather than the author's. This misguided approach to apocalypse (particularly Revelation) treats the work as if it were a cryptogram by which contemporary events can be used to interpret the symbol of the text. . .First, the interpreter must recognize that apocalyptic communicates its messages through symbolism. To interpret a symbol literally when it is metaphoric is simply to misinterpret. The issue is not whether the events in apocalyptic are historical. The events may be historical; they may have really happened, or might happen, but the author presents events and communicates meaning through images and archetypes" (p. 137).

From Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, edited by Ryken, Wilhost and Longman III:

"Today's readers are often puzzled and frustrated by this genre. The unexpected imagery and out-of-this-world experiences seem bizarre and out of sync with most of Scripture. Taking this literature at face value leaves many readers scrambling to determine ‘what will happen when,' thus missing the intent of the apocalyptic message" (p. 35).

D. Apocalyptic literature flourished during Israel's captivity by foreign empires.

 

E. Apocalyptic authors built on prophetic models. They were not innovators, but put traditional prophecies into highly symbolic structures, which focused on a future, certain, divine kingdom.

 

V. AUTHORSHIP

 

A. The book states its author in 12:4. Chapters 1-6 are written in the third person, while chapters 7-12 are in the first person, 7:2,15,28; 8:1,15,27; 9:2; 10:2,7,11; 12:5. The use of the third person is common in the ancient world. In the Ten Commandments God moves from the first person (cf. Exod. 20:2) to the third person (cf. Exod. 20:7,8-11). Jesus acknowledges the traditional authorship of Daniel in Matt. 24:15.

 

B. The Jewish Talmud tradition, Baba Bathra 15a, said, "the men of the Great Synagogue wrote Daniel." This means they edited or copied it. This may be the reason for its late Hebrew characteristics.

 

C. The following reasons are given to support either an early or late date:

1. early date, Daniel's own day (7th-6th century b.c.):

a. the book claims to be the visions of Daniel, 7:2,4,6ff, 28; 8:1,15; 9:1-2; 10:2ff; 12:4-8.

b. the presence of Persian and Greek words does not show a late date because there were trading contracts between these countries before Daniel's day.

c. the theology of an afterlife can also be seen in Job and some Psalms (cf. 16, 49, 118).

d. Daniel fits our current archaeological understanding of the neo-Babylonian and Persian royal courts.

2. late date, the Maccabean period (2nd century b.c.):

a. placement in the Hebrew canon (the Writings)

b. the presence of Persian and Greek loan terms

c. the highly developed theologies of the afterlife and angels

d. the specificity of the predictions, especially chapter 11, relating to the Seleucid and the Ptolomies' struggle for control of Palestine, but after 11:40 the predictions do not fit Antiochus IV

e. the similarity between Daniel and other apocalyptic books of the Maccabean period

f. several supposed "mistakes" in the book:

(1) use of term "chaldean" in several senses

(2) Daniel as chaldean (wise man, pagan priest)

(3) Belshazzar called "king of Babylon"

(4) Nebuchadnezzar called Belshazzar's father

(5) mention of "Darius the Mede"

(6) use of the Persian administrative term, satrap

g. Daniel is not mentioned in Ecclesiasticus (200 b.c.), which lists other biblical heroes during this period (cf. chapters 44-50). However, it must be mentioned that Ben Sirach also fails to mention any of the Judges except Samuel and although he mentions Nehemiah, does not mention Ezra.

 

D. The first person to deny the traditional dating and authorship of Daniel was a third century A.D. neo-platonic philosopher named Porphyry, who rejected Christianity and specifically denounced predictive prophecy (which is powerful evidence for the uniqueness and inspiration of the Bible).

 

E. The unity of the book of Daniel can be seen in:

1. the parallel relationship between chapters 2, 7 & 8 (see full char at Contextual Insights at chapter 8)

 

chap. 2 chap. 7 chap. 8
gold (Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon)
silver
bronze
iron/clay beast
lion
bear
leopard 

ram (Persia)
goat (Greece)

2. the Aramaic section runs from 2:4b-7:28, which overlaps the traditional literary division of chapters 1-6 (historical) and 7-12 (eschatological)

 

F. The Bible identifies the kings of these empires:

1. the gold (first kingdom) of chapter 2 as Babylon, 2:38

2. the ram (second kingdom) of chapter 8 as Medo-Persia, 8:20

3. the goat (third kingdom) of chapter 8 as Greece, 8:21

4. therefore, the fourth kingdom must be Rome. This is the kingdom in which the Messiah (fifth kingdom) will come (2:34-35,44; 9:25)

 

G. What we know of the man Daniel:

1. taken into exile in 606 b.c. by neo-Babylon, 1:1 (third year of Jehoiakim, King of Judah)

2. from an important and wealthy family in Jerusalem, 1:3

3. highly intelligent, 1:4

4. special gift of interpreting dreams and knowledge, 1:17; 2:25-30; 4:7-9; 5:12, 14

5. loyal servant both:

a. to God

b. to Nebuchadnezzar

 

H. There is disagreement among OT scholars related to the Dny'L of the book of Daniel and Dn'L of Ezek. 14:14,20; 28:3, who is also mentioned in "the Aqhat Epic" in the Ras Shamra (Ugarit) texts.

The basic problems are related to

1. the order of the names listed by Ezekiel (Noah, Daniel, and Job)

2. the spellings of the names are different

3. the issue of Daniel's fame spreading so rapidly within contemporary exiled Judah

For a good discussion compare E. J. Young, The Prophecy of Daniel, pp. 274-275, who believes it refers to the Daniel of the Bible and R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 1105, who believes it refers to a wise man of Canaanite lore.

VI. DATE

 

A. Daniel is taken into exile by Nebuchadnezzar II in 606 b.c. (cf. 1:1).

 

B. Daniel is the interpreter of dreams and counselor to kings of neo-Babylon and Persia until the time of Cyrus II, "the great" (538 b.c., cf. 1:21; 6:28; 10:1). W. F. Albright, Journal of Biblical Literature, pp. 40, 1921, asserts a Babylonian flavor to chapter one through seven. He believes they were written in Babylonia.

 

C. Some scholars who reject predictive prophecy are troubled by (1) the accuracy of the historical details of Dan. 11:2-35; (2) the partial accuracy of 11:36-39; and (3) the inaccuracy of 11:40-45. They date the book just after its last specific prediction in 11:35, about Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 b.c.).

 

D. The first person singular pronoun is used often in the book (cf. 7:1,9; 8:1-2; 9:1-10:2). This implies Daniel was the author of the book that bears his name. This would date the book within his life time (seventh century b.c.).

 

E. The literary units are not in chronological order.

1. chapter 1 - third year of Jehoiakim, 606/605 b.c.

2. chapter 2 - second year of Nebuchadnezzar, 605/604 b.c.

3. chapters 3 and 4 are dated in the Septuagint in the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, which would be 587 b.c. (A year before the fall of the temple)

4. chapter 5 - Belshazzar's feast, just before the fall of the city of Babylon to Cyrus' army, 539 b.c.

5. chapter 6 - Darius

a. if the same as 5:31, then around 539 b.c.

b. if later Persian ruler Darius I (Hystrapis), then 522 b.c.

6. chapter 7 - the first year of Belshazzar, who was crown prince. Nabonidus was king from 556-539 b.c., but he moved to Tema and left his son as co-regent, possibly 554 b.c. (LaSor, Hubbard, Bush, Old Testament Survey, p. 665).

7. chapter 8 - in the third year of Belshazzar, possibly 552 b.c.

8. chapter 9 - in the first year of Darius, the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent. If Darius of 5:31, then 538 b.c.

9. chapter 10 - in the third year of Cyrus, king of Persia, 536 b.c. (uncertain of date of coronation, but usually dated from 538-530, although he was king of Media earlier [559])

10. chapter 11 - in the first year of Darius the Mede (cf. 5:31)

11. chapter 12 - linked to chapter 11

Since Daniel's visions start before the events of chapters 1-6 are finished, R. K. Harrison believes that:

"this general arrangement would suggest that if the work was not actually written by Daniel himself in the sixth century b.c., it was compiled shortly thereafter, and in the view of the present writer it was extant not later than the middle of the fifth century b.c." (Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 1127)

F. The Hebrew of Daniel is closer in form to the post-exilic books of Chronicles and Ezra than the Dead Sea Scrolls and this is also true for the Aramaic.\ (LaSor, Hubbard, Bush, Old Testament Survey, p. 666). This reinforces the witness of Baba Bathra that the "men of the Great Synagogue" were involved in editing or compiling Daniel in the fourth or third century b.c.

 

G. The current scholarly theory of a Maccabean date for Daniel was first postulated by a pagan philosopher from Tyre, Porphyrius, who wrote several books debunking Christianity (which Jerome refuted).

 

H. There are several good resources whose introductions deal effectively in support of the traditional view (seventh century b.c. date).

1. Daniel in The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 7, written by Gleason L. Archer, Jr.

2. Exposition of Daniel by H. C. Leopold

3. Introduction to the Old Testament by R. K. Harrison

4. Daniel in the by Joyce G. Baldwin

 

VII. LITERARY UNITS

 

A. Daniel's Day

1. Daniel at Nebuchadnezzar's court, chapter 1.

2. Nebuchadnezzar's dream (the image of a man) and interpretations, chapter 2.

3. Nebuchadnezzar's golden image and Daniel's three friends, chapter 3.

4. Nebuchadnezzar's second dream (the large tree) and its interpretation, chap. 4.

5. Belshazzar's feast (the handwriting on the wall) and the fall of the city of Babylon, chap.5.

6. Darius the Mede and Daniel in the lion's den, chap. 6.

 

B. The Future

1. the vision of the four beasts, chap. 7.

2. the vision of chap. 7 explained and expanded, chap. 8.

3. Daniel's concern and prayer for the restoration of Jerusalem and the Temple, but he is shown future problems for the Jews in Palestine, chap. 9.

4. an introduction to the message of chapters 11-12, chapter 10

5. future struggle between the Seleucids and Ptolomies over Palestine, chapters 11-12.

 

VIII. PURPOSE

 

A. The book spans the period of Judean exile (from Nebuchadnezzar II to Cyrus II). It brings theological perspective and hope in the midst of the tragedy of Judah's being taken out of the promised land. YHWH's promises seem to be rescinded. YHWH's covenant love seems to be ended. Daniel steps into this void.

The events of chapters 1-6 at the courts of pagan rulers, who come to acknowledge YHWH and honor His spokesperson(s), are the theological purpose for recording these events! God cares for Gentiles, but antiGod world empires will be judged for their arrogance and their attack on God's people. It looks as if the world has won, but wait, God is triumphant! Monotheism is defended and established.

B. Daniel shows not only God's love and guidance for Judah, but for Israel and also for "the nations." God is working on a larger redemptive scheme than just one group of Jews. At this point let me quote part of the crucial introduction to my commentary on Revelation.

 

"SECOND TENSION (monotheism vs. an elect people)

The biblical emphasis is on one personal, spiritual, creator-redeemer, God (cf. Exod. 8:10; Isa. 44:24; 45:5-7,14,18,21-22; 46:9; Jer. 10:6-7). The OT's uniqueness in its own day was its monotheism. All of the surrounding nations were polytheists. The oneness of God is the heart of OT revelation (cf. Deut. 6:4). Creation is a stage for the purpose of fellowship between God and mankind, made in His image and likeness (cf. Gen.1:26-27). However, mankind rebelled, sinning against God's love, leadership, and purpose (cf. Gen. 3). God's love and purpose was so strong and sure that He promised to redeem fallen humanity (cf. Gen. 3:15)!

The tension arises when God chooses to use one man, one family, one nation to reach the rest of mankind. God's election of Abraham and the Jews as a kingdom of priests (cf. Exod. 19:4-6) caused pride instead of service, exclusion instead of inclusion. God's call of Abraham involved the intentional blessing of all mankind (cf. Gen. 12:3). It must be remembered and emphasized that OT election was for service, not salvation. All Israel was never right with God, never eternally saved based solely on her birthright (cf. John 8:31-59; Matt. 3:9), but by personal faith and obedience (cf. Gen. 15:6, quoted in Rom. 4). Israel lost her mission, turned mandate into privilege, service into a special standing! God chose one to choose all!"

IX.OCCASIONS

 

A. It seemed to the Jews that the Assyrian exile which affected northern Israel by deportation (722 b.c., fall of Samaria) and the neo-Babylonian exile which affected Judah (586 b.c., fall of Jerusalem) negated God's promises to Abraham and his seed in Gen. 12, 15, 18 and II Sam. 7. How could God's eternal covenant promises be set aside by a foreign empire (cf. Habakkuk)? The prophets answered this dilemma by asserting (1) the sinfulness of the Jewish people, not YHWH's powerlessness, as the cause and (2) that God would gather His people and re-establish them in the promised land. Notice the nationalistic and geographically limited scope of this response. What about the universal aspects of God's promises (cf. Gen. 3:15; 12:3; 18:18; Exod. 19:5-6)?

 

B. It is the apocalyptic aspect of Daniel and Zechariah, which expands the Jewish restoration into universal categories. Even the demise of the Jewish state was a part of the larger plan of God (cf. Rom. 9-11) to include all mankind into His covenant (cf. Matt. 24:14,15).

 

C. Daniel as a servant of a foreign ruler opens a new door of understanding that God reveals Himself to the non-Jewish, yes even Israel's conquering rulers. Chapters 1-6 record visions given to Gentile rulers, but explained by YHWH's spokesperson. God is in control of history for His redemptive purposes. Israel was a means of reaching the whole world, not an end in itself.

 

X. MAIN TRUTHS

 

A. The book is addressing God's people through historical events and future prophecies.

 

B. God was/is in control of events and history as these pagan kings acknowledged (historical kings, cf. 2:46-49; 3:28-30; 4:34-37; 5:17-29; 6:25-27 and future kings, cf. 7:27; 8:25e; 9:24a,26b,27b; 11:35,45). God's people are to trust in Him and remain faithful in difficult times. God's people will receive the kingdom forever (cf. 7:17)!

 

C. God's people will suffer and be exposed to torture and death by pagan rulers. Joyce G. Baldwin, Daniel, The Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, says it well:

"The people of God as a whole are to find themselves at the mercy of a ruler who will systematically impose on them heathen ways and at the same time forbid them to worship the God of their fathers" (p. 66)

Notice the progressively antiGod attitude

1. Nebuchadnezzar (chapters 1-4)

2. Belshazzar (chapter 5)

3. the courtiers of Darius the Mede (chapter 6)

4. Antiochus IV Epiphanes (chapters 8,11)

5. Roman governmental leaders (NT)

6. the Antichrist (cf. II Thess. 2 and the Revelation)

 

D. God will set up an eternal kingdom through His Messiah (cf. 7:13-14). God will deliver His people and all people.

 

E. There will be a resurrection of both the righteous and wicked, who will be judged by God, who alone determines the eternal status.

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines, Bible Study Methods