January 19, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy IV: Book of Daniel-The Engima

The Book of Daniel: An Enigma

The book of Daniel is often referred as an enigma. It comes across as a lingusitic and rhetorical puzzle. The reasons it is referred to as such is multi-fold. First and foremost the book of Daniel is made up of two different types of materials:

(1) Stories about Judean exiles working in the court of pagan kings and (Chapters 1-6)
(2) Accounts of visions experienced by one of these exiles (Daniel) (Chapters 7-12).

These stories even differ in their ethos.

(1) The stories are written in 3rd person and therefore from the Diaspora Persian period
(2) The visions are written in 1st person therefore from the Judea events during Antiochene period

Because of these factors it is quite possible Daniel may not have written the book named after him.
It is also written in two different languages Hebrew and Aramaic. Strangely the language divisions do not even match the thematic divisions or stories and vision accounts. In English Bibles Daniel comes in or is accompanied with the other Old Testament prophets but in the Hebrew Bible it comes in the third section of their canon or within the “Writings” / Ketuvim / כְּתוּבִים‎ This delineation in the Hebrew leads to speculation about whether Daniel actually belongs mixed in with the Prophets or with the later apocalyptic writings.
There is also certain similarities in Daniel to the wisdom tradition with both Israel and Babylon (Lucas 18)
Dating Issues
Except for negligible ancient sources, it was generally agreed in antiquity that Daniel is the product of the 6th century BC. This date was not seriously called into question until the 18th century. The historicity of Daniel is now called into question by many scholars as of the 21st century. As much as I want to just write this off as liberal theological assumptions and presuppositions I must be careful here as there are some things that are very difficult to explain in Daniel and nothing should be summarily dismissed as out of the realm of possibilities. My firm and educated guess though is that these dating discrepancies were mitigated by literary criticisms and liberal theologians with anti-supernatural presuppositions that presupposed a naturalistic explanation. Since it is claimed by some “experts” that there are historical inaccuracies in Daniel in terms of dating and is therefore subject to question and its inerrancy, we must put it under sharp scrutiny. The incidents documented in Daniel that count against Daniel supposedly being the work of an author that wrote during the 6th century are as follows: (1) The reference in Daniel 1:1-2 notes a siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in the third year of Jehoiakim. (2) Chapters 2 and 7 infer existence of a Median Empire between the Babylonian and the Persian –and- (3) Chapter 5, Belshazzar is given the title king and Nebuchadnezzar is supposedly his father (4) Daniel 5:31; 6:28, and the figure of Darius the Mede. The text then goes on to state that there is no conclusive evidence of historical inaccuracy an therefore these criticisms are “not proven” according to highly reliable evangelical sources.
Critics also suggested that the dating is subject to error because of what it calls “linguistic arguments”. This argument in my mind carries more weight. The Persian words presuppose a period after the Persian empire had been well established just as Greek words demand Greek power or influence. As for Daniel we see Aramaic and Hebrew material. History being reflective can now see that Aramaic used in Daniel is the Aramaic used from 700-200 BC. This is different from the Qumran Aramaic used between 200 BC to AD 200. On the other hand the Hebrew of Daniel is more similar to Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicles than exilic Hebrew of Ezekiel. There are clear differences between Ezekiel and Hebrew of Daniel. The bottom-line is that the language used in Daniel lends itself to as early a date as the 6th century but the wordage does not totally preclude a later date no matter how improbable a later date might be (which is extremely unlikely past the fourth century). Regardless, the dates should not me a factor for discounting divine inspiration as noted below.
Is Divine Inspiration In Doubt Due To Date Discrepancies?
In a word: NO!
The only people that question the divine inspiration of Daniel and doubt its inspiration are those that have a presupposition or bias to do so in my opinion. If a person comes to the Scripture looking for error that is what they will find and rarely will they attribute that error or “contradiction” to their own flawed or biased hermeneutical grid. So yes, dating can raise the specter of doubt but my question back to the person who asks this is: “Whose doubt does it raise?” We Christians are a people of faith and as such we should always approach Scripture the way Christ would, not the way a cynical and skeptical culture would. We must assume inerrancy if God is truly omnipotent and sovereign (which He is!)
The truth is this: The criticality in terms of divine inspiration of prophecy does not necessarily lie within pinpointing exact dates as mentioned within the forth-telling and foretelling question. The theological implications lie within the fact that God delivers prophecy as a tool or knowledge to His faithful. They are for people to make decisions at the point of prophecy calling them to faith immediately, not necessarily predicting things “down the road” for the unfaithful as punishment. God is not giving us prognosticators so much as he is trying to warn and instigate procrastinators.
It’s not how the message is given so much as it is the way it is interpreted and applied in a pragmatic manner as both can be the produce of divine inspiration….giving (prophecy) and receiving (Holy Spirit) (Lucas 309).
Ay! I love subtleties in wordage!
The Central Theme
The general theme was sort of answered in the previous “leading” section. The central theme of Daniel is the sovereignty of the God of Israel (an ironically us too). Above all we must look at Daniel in the context of the entire Bible and its relation to the rest of Scripture. Scripture does not exist in a void and it is best when Scripture interprets Scripture. As such, the underlying passive and active agent in Daniel (and the Bible overall) is Almighty God. All the variables, aspects, perceptions and presuppositions of time and human subjectivity must be put on pause when we understand that God is in control of all things…and that is the point. Not only was Daniel a divinely inspired/authored book, so too is its interpretation and reading. God influenced the input and he most certainly influence the output or discerning of Scripture as noted in places like 1 Corinthians 2:14-15, John 14:26, and 1 John 2:27.
Just as God encouraged Jews to interact with the pagan world in Daniel, God seems to reach across time as ask us to do the same in our reading of Daniel. Just as God is seen working through the pagan rulers of Daniel’s time, so to we see the possibility of the same happening to us now. Regardless, the implications and applications may differ person to person or age to age but the immutability and unchanging nature of God remains as does His sovereignty over all...for all of time.

Lucas, Ernest. "Introduction." Daniel. Leicester, England: Apollos, 2002. Print.

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