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by John Dummelow
The book of Daniel occupies a place by itself in the OT., owing to the exceptional features which it presents and the peculiar difficulties with which it confronts the reader. It has been the subject of much discussion and controversy, especially in recent times, and most Christian scholars now hold views both of its interpretation and of its literary character, authorship, and date, different from those which were formerly accepted in the church. Before entering on the special questions at issue regarding it, it will be of advantage to take a general survey of its contents.
1. Contents. The book professes to be a history of Daniel, a Jewish exile who was carried away to Babylon before the fall of his native kingdom, lived at the court of Nebuchadnezzar, and survived till the days of Cyrus, the Persian conqueror of Babylon. It falls naturally into two parts: (a) Daniel 1-6, containing narratives about Daniel and his companions, written in the third person, and (b) Daniel 7-12, containing the visions of Daniel regarding the future, and written in the first person. One of the narratives—that of Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream-Image in Daniel 2—is akin in subject to the latter section. From 24 to the close of Daniel 7 the book is written in Aramaic (known also as Chaldee, or Syriac, a kindred language to Hebrew), the rest of the book being in Hebrew. The division of language is not clearly connected with any division of subject, and has not yet been satisfactorily explained. The following table shows the contents of the book in outline:
Daniel 1. The training of Daniel and his companions.
Daniel 2. The Dream-Image (predictive).
Daniel 3. The Fiery Furnace.
Daniel 4. The Madness of Nebuchadnezzar.
Daniel 5. Belshazzar’s Feast.
Daniel 6. The Den of Lions.
Daniel 7. The Four Beasts.
Daniel 8. The Ram and the He-Goat.
Daniel 9. The Seventy Weeks.
Daniel 10-12. The Kings of the N. and S.
2. Historical Survey. While various points in the predictive portions of the book have received different interpretations, there are undoubted allusions to the course of events for several centuries following Daniel’s time, and a brief outline of the period is therefore necessary at this stage.
The Babylonian Empire was founded by the father of Nebuchadnezzar, and became supreme in western Asia after Nebuchadnezzar’s victory over the king of Egypt at Carchemish in 605 b.c. (Jeremiah 46:2). It was under Nebuchadnezzar that the fall of the Jewish kingdom and the final captivity of the Jewish nation took place in 586 b.c. The Babylonian empire lasted through the reigns of several kings who succeeded Nebuchadnezzar, and came to an end in 539 b.c., when Babylon was conquered by Cyrus, king of Persia, who in his first year issued an edict permitting the captive Jews to return to Palestine to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-4).
The Persian (or Medo-Persian) Empire lasted from 539 to 333 b.c., when its last king was conquered by Alexander the Great. Its first, fourth, fifth, and sixth kings, Cyrus, Darius Hystaspes, Xerxes (Ahasuerus), and Artaxerxes are mentioned in the OT. It was Xerxes who conducted the great invasion of Greece which was so gloriously repelled, and which has made the names of Thermopylæ and Salamis (480 b.c.) immortal in history.
The Greek Empire, founded by Alexander the Great, was of short duration in its undivided state. Alexander died in 322 b.c., and his dominions were broken up. After several years of conflict they were finally divided among four of his generals. Our attention in the book of Daniel is confined to two of these and their successors. Seleucus obtained the Babylonian and Syrian portions of Alexander’s empire, and fixed his capital at Antioch. His descendants are known as the Seleucidæ, or Greek kings of Syria. Ptolemy Lagi got possession of Egypt, and assumed the surname of Soter. He was followed by a line of Lagidæ or Ptolemies, the Greek longs of Egypt. These two kingdoms of Syria and Egypt had a long history of rivalry, varied by fruitless attempts to establish alliance through royal marriages. Palestine formed a debateable ground between them, and many struggles took place for its possession. Speaking generally, it was at first under the power of Egypt, and afterwards passed into the hands of Syria. The eighth Syrian king, Antiochus Epiphanes (176-164 b.c.), is especially important in relation to the book of Daniel. He engaged in several wars with Egypt, and persecuted the Jews with great severity on account of their resistance to his attempts to introduce heathen religious observances among them. His profanations and oppressions led to the heroic and successful struggles of Judas Maccabæeus and his brothers, which are recorded in the books of Maccabees in the Apocrypha.
3. The Visions of Daniel. The interpretation of the predictive portion of the book is quite distinct from the question of date and authorship, and may be treated separately. There are five outlines of the future which call for consideration—those in Daniel 2, 7, 8, 9, , 10-12 respectively. Of these the third and the last are clearly explained in the book itself to refer to the events of which an outline has been given in the last paragraph. The vision of the Ram and the He-Goat (Daniel 8) describes the Medo-Persian empire (the two-horned Ram), its conquest by Alexander the Great (the He-Goat), the four successors of Alexander (the four horns of the Goat), and the career of Antiochus Epiphanes (who is universally recognised under the figure of the Little Horn). The concluding vision, of which Daniel 11 is the most important part, similarly describes the first kings of Persia, and alludes to the war of Xerxes against Greece. Then come Alexander’s conquest of Persia, and the breaking up of his kingdom into four. The greater part of the vision is occupied with a minute account of the political relations between successive kings of Syria and Egypt, and at the end special prominence is given to the doings of a ’vile person,’ in whom again all interpreters recognise Antiochus Epiphanes. With regard to the remaining predictions, the four parts of Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream-Image (Daniel 2), and the Pour Beasts of Daniel 7, have always been rightly regarded as parallel, and the interpretation of the one series therefore decides that of the other. In both of these visions four successive kingdoms are spoken of, which the older expositors identified as the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman. The chief ground for understanding the fourth kingdom to be the Roman is the statement in Daniel 2:24, ’In the days of those kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed’, the supposed reference being to the Advent of Christ under the Romans. On this view the Ten Horns of the Fourth Beast in Daniel 7 have to be connected in some way with the Roman empire, while the Little Horn of the same chapter is identified with the Antichrist foretold in the NT. The Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9, too, have been supposed to reach down to Christian times, and to include the Crucifixion of Christ, and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 a.d. This interpretation is mainly based on the references to ’Messiah the Prince’ (Daniel 9:25-26), and on our Lord’s quotation of the phrase’ the abomination of desolation’ (Daniel 9:27) in His discourse on the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world (Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14). The more modern view of these visions, however, is that the fourth kingdom of Daniel 2, 7 is not the Roman but the Greek empire, that the Ten Horns of Daniel 7 are to be found among the successors of Alexander the Great, and that the Little Horn is Antiochus Epiphanes. The Seventy Weeks, too, are regarded as terminating with this king, the last’ week’ covering the last seven years of his reign (171-164 b.c.).
The reasons in favour of the latter view may be briefly indicated. They arise mainly from a comparison of the different predictive outlines in the book. The more closely these outlines are studied side by side the more clearly does it appear that they are all parallel to one another, and have all the same termination in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes. Starting for example with C.8, where the Little Horn(Daniel 8:9-12, Daniel 8:23-25) is undoubtedly Antiochus Epiphanes, we may compare it with Daniel 7, where another Little Horn and its end are described in very similar terms (Daniel 8:8, Daniel 8:24-26). Further, the period of 1,150 days (2,300 evenings and mornings) in Daniel 8:14 is approximately the same as the ’time, times, and dividing of time’ (3½ years) in Daniel 7:25. Or we may compare Daniel 8 with Daniel 9. In Daniel 8:11-12 the abolition of the daily sacrifice by Antiochus Epiphanes is described, and the 1,150 days already referred to represent the period during which the Temple was polluted in his reign. Now in Daniel 9:27 we read of the cessation of the daily sacrifice for a similar time—the half (3½ years) of the seventieth ’week’. Or again we may start from the undisputed ground of the last vision. Here the abolition of the daily sacrifice and the setting up of the ’abomination of desolation’ are ascribed to Antiochus Epiphanes (Daniel 11:31), while the same events are in Daniel 9:27 placed together at the end of the Seventy Weeks. Daniel 12 is the conclusion of the vision of which Daniel 11 forms the principal part, and further defines the ’time of the end’ to which the outline in the latter chapter reaches. Here again we have the taking away of the daily sacrifice and the setting up of the’ abomination of desolation’ (Daniel 12:11). The duration of the persecution by Antiochus Epiphanes is described as ’a time, times, and a half’ (Daniel 12:7), While two other turning points in the history are indicated as happening a little later, at the end of 1,290 and 1,335 days respectively. The phrase the ’time of the end’ (Daniel 8:17, Daniel 8:19; Daniel 11:40; Daniel 12:4, Daniel 12:9) defined as the termination of the visions in these chapters, is also the limiting horizon of Daniel’s whole outlook upon the ordinary history of the future: see Daniel 7:26; Daniel 9:26. These parallelisms are more clearly explained in the subjoined table.
|Daniel 7||Daniel 8||Daniel 9||Daniel 11||Daniel 12|
|A little horn (Daniel 7:8, Daniel 7:24-28)||The little horn. Antiochus Epiphanes (Daniel 8:9-12, Daniel 8:23-26)|
|Daily sacrifice taken away by Antiochus (Daniel 8:11-12)||Daily sacrifice taken away (Daniel 9:27)||Daily sacrifice abolished by Antiochus (Daniel 11:31)||From abolition of daily sacrifice (Daniel 12:11) and|
|’Transgression of desolation’ (Daniel 8:13)||’Abomination of desolation’ set up (Daniel 9:27) for||’ Abomination of desolation’ set up by Antiochus (Daniel 11:31)||Setting up of ’abomination of desolation’ (Daniel 12:11)|
|Power of the little horn lasts till ’a time, times, and the dividing of time’ (Daniel 7:25)||Temple cleansed after 1,150 days (Daniel 8:14)||Half a ’week’ (3½ years) (Daniel 9:27)||’A time, times, and a half’ (Daniel 12:7) 1,290 days 1,335 days to|
|’the end’ (Daniel 7:26)||The ’time of the end’ (Daniel 8:17, Daniel 8:19)||’the end’ (Daniel 9:26)||The ’time of the end’ (Daniel 11:40)||the ’time of the end’ (Daniel 12:4, Daniel 12:9)|
It thus appears probable that Antiochus Epiphanes is the Little Horn, not only of Daniel 8, but also of c.7 that the fourth kingdom in Daniel 2, 7 is consequently not the Roman but the Greek empire; that the last of the Seventy Weeks falls within the days of Antiochus; that all the references to the taking away of the daily sacrifice and the setting up of the ’abomination of desolation’ are connected with his profanations of the Temple; and that the various expressions denoting exactly or approximately 3½ years refer to a part of his reign.
The reasons adduced in support of the older interpretation are easily met. The statement in Daniel 2:44 about the establishment of the kingdom of God ’in the days of those kings’ (the Greek kings of Egypt and Syria) is to be explained by the absence of perspective which is characteristic of OT. prophecy, and which is illustrated elsewhere in Daniel. Thus in Daniel 12:2 the resurrection of the dead seems to be placed immediately after the destruction of Antiochus Epiphanes and the deliverance of the Jews, and here even such a strenuous defender of the older interpretation as Dr. Pusey sees only an instance of ’that same foreshortening which we find throughout Holy Scripture, and in our Lord’s own prediction, first of the destruction of Jerusalem, and then of His second coming to judge the world.’ This ’foreshortening’ is equally applicable to Daniel 2:44. As for the vision of the Seventy Weeks (Daniel 9), while the phrases ’Messiah the Prince’ and ’Messiah’ in the AV naturally suggest a direct reference to Christ, the true rendering in each case is much less definite, and can be most consistently explained from the historical events of earlier times (see RV and notes). Our Lord’s reference to the ’abomination of desolation’ is an instance of the frequent NT. usage by which OT. words and phrases are quoted with an application different from that which they originally bore. That the ’abomination of desolation’ was primarily connected with Antiochus Epiphanes is proved by Daniel 11:31 and by 1 Maccabees 1:54 where this very phrase is used of the heathen altar set up by Antiochus at Jerusalem.
Assuming the fourth kingdom to be the Greek empire there is more than one way of identifying the other three: see notes on Daniel 2, 7, and table on p. 539. If the Seventy Weeks end with the reign of Antiochus there are various schemes for reckoning the earlier ’weeks,’ none of which is quite free from difficulty (see notes). But the difficulties of the older view in calculating the Seventy Weeks and in identifying the Ten Horns of the Fourth Beast, are much greater, and have given rise to the most varied, arbitrary and conjectural explanations. The newer interpretation of the visions is the result of reading the book of Daniel by its own light, and is supported by scholars like the late Bishop Westcott, who have not committed themselves to modern views of its authorship and date.
4. Literary Character, Date, and Authorship of Daniel. It has generally been supposed, and is still maintained by some, that the book of Daniel is the work either of Daniel himself, or of a contemporary who composed the narratives and joined to them Daniel’s own account of his visions. On this view the narratives are literal history, and the predictive chapters describe revelations of the future actually made to Daniel during or immediately after the Babylonian exile.
In recent times, however, a different view of the origin of the book has met with increasing acceptance. It is one which, though startling at first sight to the ordinary reader, has very much to be said in its favour, and ought not to be dismissed until the grounds on which it rests, and the possibility of reconciling it with the divine inspiration of the book, have been fairly considered. The modern conception of the book of Daniel is briefly this, that it dates not from the age in which Daniel’s career is placed, but from the close of the period to which its visions refer—in other words from the days of Antiochus Epiphanes; that its apparent outlines of the future are really past history thrown by the author into the guise of ancient prediction; that the narratives, though founded more or less on historical tradition, are to be regarded chiefly as stories with a practical moral, and are valuable mainly on this account; that the aim of the writer, both in the narratives and in the view of history presented in the visions, was to encourage the Jews to constancy under the religious persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes; and that the time prophetic element of the book lies in its confident anticipations of the overthrow of God’s enemies, the establishment of God’s kingdom, the triumph of God’s people, the resurrection of the dead, and the final reward of the righteous. The reasons for this view may be summarised as follows:—(1) The Contrast Between the Predictions in Daniel and other Old Testament Prophecies.Prophecy was not merely, nor chiefly, prediction of the future. The prophets were preachers of righteousness to their own times. Their messages conveyed rebuke, or warning, or encouragement to those among whom they lived. In this work the prophets spoke in God’s name, and claimed a special knowledge of His will and purpose. Hence they made use of an element of prediction, foretelling the consequences of evil doing on the one hand, and the results of penitence and obedience on the other. But in so far as these predictions were definite, they related to the immediate future, dealing with the destinies of men and nations already existing, or with the issues of movements already in progress. Further, such predictions were always provisional. Their fulfilment depended upon certain moral circumstances and conditions. Threatened doom might be averted by repentance. Promised prosperity might be forfeited by disobedience. This principle, clearly stated in Jeremiah 18:7-10, is of universal application. The prophets undoubtedly spoke of the distant future also, but their predictions regarding this were always of a more or less general nature, consisting not of minute anticipations of particular historic events, but of ideal pictures of the triumph of righteousness, of the universal sway of God’s kingdom, and of the advent of a perfect King and Saviour. The last-mentioned features are not wanting in Daniel, but in all the other respects which have been referred to, this book differs widely from those of the prophets properly so-called. Except in the solitary exhortation of Daniel 4:27, it contains no practical message for the age of the exile, in which Daniel is placed. Its teaching is expressly represented as sealed up for a future age (Daniel 8:26; Daniel 10:1-14; Daniel 12:4, Daniel 12:9). The earliest period (as interpreters of all schools agree) in which it was fitted to convey instruction and encouragement, was that of Antiochus Epiphanes, 400 years after the captivity. Again, it appears to predict, not in the conditional manner of the prophets, but with absolute certainty, the leading particulars of the course of history during these intervening centuries, the successive empires which arose after the fall of the Babylonian power (chs, 2, 7), the Persian invasion of Greece (Daniel 11:2), the conquests of Alexander the Great (Daniel 8:5-7, Daniel 8:21; Daniel 11:4), and the breaking up of his empire (Daniel 8:8, Daniel 8:22; Daniel 11:4), the minute details of the relations between the later kings of Syria and Egypt (Daniel 11:5-20), and finally the character and career of Antiochus Epiphanes (Daniel 8:9-12, Daniel 8:23-25; Daniel 11:21-45). The contents of Daniel 11 in particular are altogether unique in this respect, and have no resemblance to the predictions of OT. prophecy in general. So obvious is the contrast that some recent scholars, while seeking to maintain the earlier authorship of the book as a whole, have been constrained to regard Daniel 11 as an addition, composed after the events which it describes. But the exceptional features which appear so strikingly in this chapter are more or less characteristic of all the visions in the book, and point to the same conclusion with regard to them all.
(2) The Resemblance of Daniel to the so-called ’Apocalyptic’ Books. At first sight the only alternative to the older view of the book of Daniel appears to be that it is a mere forgery which can have no right to a place in the Scriptures. But a closer acquaintance with the Jewish literature of the centuries before and after the beginning of the Christian era shows that this assumption is by no means necessary. There is a well-defined class of works, known as ’apocalyptic,’ which, though unfamiliar in modern and Western literature, was largely represented during the period in question. The most important of them have only come to light during the last hundred years, and the study of them has shown that the very features which distinguish the book of Daniel from ordinary prophecy serve to connect it closely with this other class of writings. The most accessible example of ’apocalyptic’ literature is the Second book of Esdras in the Apocrypha. The principal work of the kind, however, is the book of Enoch, and in addition to it there may be mentioned the book of the Secrets of Enoch, the Assumption of Moses, the Ascension of Isaiah, the Apocalypse of Baruch, the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, the Psalms of Solomon, and the Sibylline Oracles. Many of these in their present form are composite works, and embody Christian as well as Jewish elements. But in so far as the original groundwork can be separated from the later additions, it may be said in general that these ’apocalyptic’ books were written in times when the Jewish religion seemed in danger of being overthrown by heathen oppressors. Their authors preferred (perhaps from prudential motives) to conceal their own personalities and to put their messages to their contemporaries into the mouths of great figures in the past, such as Enoch, Noah, Moses, or Ezra. They based what they had to say about the present and the future upon a view of the world’s history as providentially guided and controlled by God, and hence they frequently presented more or less extended surveys of the past under the form of predictions uttered by the great men of earlier times. It was also common for the history, thus disguised as prophecy, to be further wrapped up in symbolic visions. Thus, in the Second book of Esdras, which is to be dated shortly before or after 100 a.d., there is a veiled, yet quite recognisable, description of the Roman emperors of the first Christian century, which is said to have been given in answer to the fastings and prayers of Ezra in Babylon. In the earliest portion of the book of Enoch (dating from the second century b.c.) a prediction of the Deluge is attributed to the patriarch whose name it bears. The Assumption of Moses (written about the beginning of the Christian era) tells how Moses addressed to Joshua a long account of the future history of the Israelites, including the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, the restoration of the Jews from captivity, the oppression of Antiochus Epiphanes, the rule of the descendants of the Maccabees, and that of Herod the Great. Now the predictive portions of Daniel have the closest resemblance to this kind of veiled history, and this analogy of itself suggests that the book may be reasonably regarded as a specimen of the’ apocalyptic’ class of literature, that it was written not earlier than the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, and that the writer chose Daniel, a great sage whom he placed in the time of the Babylonian captivity, as the mouthpiece of his teaching. This view of the book of Daniel is borne out by its striking resemblance in several other respects to the ’apocalyptic’ writings. In common with them it makes a large and peculiar use of vision and symbol. These, indeed, are found to a certain extent in some of the regular prophets, especially in Ezekiel and Zechariah, but it is only in Daniel and the ’apocalyptic’ books that they are employed to represent the prolonged course of history. In Second Esdras, and the Apocalypse of Baruch, as well as in Daniel, the visions are granted after fasting and prayer. The 70 ’weeks’ of Daniel mark out the course of time according to an artificial scheme, which finds parallels in the 10 ’weeks’ of the book of Enoch, the 250 ’times’ of the Assumption of Moses, and the 12 epochs of world-history in Second Esdras. Finally, Daniel is the only OT. book in which angels have names given to them (Gabriel, Michael), and special nations assigned to their care (Daniel 8:16; Daniel 9:21; Daniel 10:13, Daniel 10:21; Daniel 12:1). This is a feature which is still further developed in the other ’apocalyptic’ books, where additional angelic names (Raphael, Phanuel, Uriel, etc.) appear. While these resemblances between Daniel and the ’apocalyptic’ writings are undeniable, it has been supposed by the supporters of the older view of the book that Daniel is a work containing genuine predictions of detailed history, and has simply provided the model after which the spurious predictions of later ’apocalypses’ were composed. But this leaves the special features of Daniel without any real parallel either in Scripture or outside of it, and it seems to be a more reasonable deduction from the facts that Daniel not only has supplied the pattern of the other ’apocalyptic’ writings, but is actually a member, though the earliest and greatest one, of the same class of literature to which they belong.
(3) The Absence of External Evidence for the Earlier Date of Daniel. Along with the foregoing considerations there must be taken the important fact that there is nothing to show that the book of Daniel existed before the age of Antiochus Epiphanes. The mention of Daniel’s name in Ezekiel (Ezekiel 14:14, Ezekiel 14:20; Ezekiel 28:3) has no bearing upon the date of the book, since these prophecies of Ezekiel were uttered, the one before, and the other immediately after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 b.c., while the book of Daniel, at the earliest, cannot have been composed before the third year of Cyrus (536 b.c.) to which its narrative comes down (Daniel 11:1). Then, though in the English Bible Daniel appears among the prophetical books, it is not classed among them in the Hebrew Bible, but belongs to the miscellaneous group of ’Writings,’ which forms the third division of the Jewish Canon. Now the Jewish Canon of the Prophets was not closed till after the date of Malachi (about 450 b.c.), and if the book of Daniel was in existence then it is not easy to understand why it should not have been included in this collection. It is probable, indeed, that ’the books’ (Daniel 9:2), among which Jeremiah was included, are to be understood of the Canon of the Prophets as already complete when the book of Daniel was written. Again, the book of Ecclesiasticus in the Apocrypha, written about 200 b.c., contains (Daniel 44-50) a list of the worthies of Israel, in which Daniel is not found, though Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the Twelve Minor Prophets, Zerubbabel and Joshua (from Ezra), and Nehemiah, are all mentioned. The earliest references to the contents of the book of Daniel are those in the Sibylline Oracles, an ’apocalyptic’ work written about 140 b.c., and in 1 Maccabees, a book of the Apocrypha, composed about 100 b.c. This silence about Daniel, previous to the age of Antiochus Epiphanes (176-164 b.c.), is significant. Though the mere absence of allusions to the book before that time does not by itself prove that the book was not then in existence, it nevertheless lends an additional emphasis to the arguments for the ’apocalyptic’ character and later date of the work, which have been already given.
(4) Historical Difficulties in Daniel. The book of Daniel seems to contain certain historical inaccuracies regarding the earlier period with which it deals, which present grave objections to the view that it was written by the Daniel of the exile, or by one of his contemporaries. These features, however, present no difficulty on the other view, and in no way diminish the value of the book of Daniel as an ’apocalyptic’ work. It is not surprising that an ’apocalyptic’ writer, casting into the form of prediction a series of past events, should be more accurate in describing those which are more recent than in his account of those which are more remote. Thus in Second Esdras the author confounds Ezra with Zerubbabel, calling him the son of Salathiel, and placing his vision in the 30th year of the captivity, about a century before Ezra’s real time. The Apocalypse of Baruch, again, is dated in ’the twenty-fifth year of Jeconiah, king of Judah’, though Jeconiah (Jehoiachin) only reigned 3 months and 10 days. In the same way while the visions of Daniel describe accurately and minutely the events of the age of Antiochus Epiphanes and his predecessors, the book is rather meagre and vague with regard to the history of Daniel’s own time, and in particular its statements about the supposed date of Daniel’s captivity, the position of Belshazzar and his relationship to Nebuchadnezzar, and the reign of Darius the Mede, are difficult to reconcile with our knowledge of the period derived from other reliable sources.
(5) Peculiarities in the Language of Daniel. The name of the Babylonian conqueror of Jerusalem is always spelt in Daniel as Nebuchadnezzar, while contemporary writers like Jeremiah and Ezekiel generally give the correct form Nebuchadrezzar (Nabû-kudurri-utsur), which is found on the monuments. The ’Chaldeans,’ who in Jeremiah and Ezekiel are the same as the Babylonians in general, appear in Daniel as a special class of Babylonian wise men. This usage is found elsewhere only in the later classical writers. It points to a time when the Babylonian empire had passed away, and when the name formerly borne by all its people was confined to the sages or magicians who were the only survivors of its lost civilisation. Lastly, in addition to the Aramaic section of the book, there are in Daniel certain Persian and Greek words, and the evidence of date furnished by the language has thus been summed up by Professor Driver: ’The Persian words presuppose a period after the Persian empire had been well established: the Greek words demand, the Hebrew supports, and the Aramaic permits a date after the conquest of Palestine by Alexander the Great (b.Daniel 332).’ All these lines of enquiry lead to the same general conclusion, that the book of Daniel belongs, as to its literary character, to the extensive class of ’apocalyptic’ writings, and that its author lived not earlier than the age of Antiochus Epiphanes. The references to the setting up of the ’abomination of desolation’ show that it was written after Antiochus had set up his heathen altar in the Temple at Jerusalem in 168 b.c., while on the other hand the general terms in which the death of Antiochus (164 b.c.) is spoken of indicate that the writer was not acquainted with the exact circumstances in which it took place. If the modern view of the character of the book be accepted its composition may be placed with certainty between these two dates.
5. The Narratives of Daniel. On the ’apocalyptic’ view of the book it is not necessary to regard these as literal history throughout. They are to be viewed primarily as stories with an instructive moral for the writer’s own time. At the same time it is probable that they were, partly at least, founded on fact. The mention of Belshazzar, who is not named elsewhere in OT., shows that the writer had access to some independent sources of information about Babylonian history, and the picture given of the achievements and the character of Nebuchadnezzar is in perfect keeping with what is known of that monarch from his own inscriptions. As to Daniel himself, there is no doubt that his name was a famous one in Jewish history (Ezekiel 14:14, Ezekiel 14:20; Ezekiel 28:3), but it is not so clear from these references that he was a fellow-exile of Ezekiel. The name Daniel occurs in the list of exiles who returned with Ezra (Ezra 8:2), and it is possible that this person may have come to be identified with the great Daniel of Ezekiel, and may have been placed by tradition in Babylon in the century before Ezra’s day. It seems likely that many stories about Daniel had been handed down to the age of Antiochus Epiphanes, and that the writer of our book selected and combined those which were best fitted to stir up his oppressed and persecuted countrymen to courage and faithfulness to God. Examples of other stories about Daniel and his companions are found in the additions to the book contained in the LXX and the English Apocrypha. They include ’The Song of the Three Holy Children’, ’The History of Susanna’, and ’Bel and the Dragon’.
6. The Right of an ’Apocalyptic’ Book to a place in Scripture. It is perhaps natural that the modern view of the book of Daniel should at first sight present difficulties to reverent Christian minds. It seems to involve a degree of fiction, if not of fraud, inconsistent with the divine inspiration which we attach to the books of Scripture, and especially inconsistent with the way in which the book has been used by our Lord. But it is coming to be more and more clearly recognised that the inspiration of the Bible, which guarantees the truth of its spiritual teaching, is compatible with the greatest variety of literary form, that God has used many kinds of human writing to convey His revelation to men, and that each kind must be judged and interpreted according to its own ordinary rules—history as history, poetry as poetry, parable as parable, etc. And if we find that the book of Daniel belongs to a class of literature comparatively unfamiliar to us, but quite common at a certain period in the past, we must not assume that inspiration could not attach itself to such a form of composition, or that divine revelation could not be conveyed by it. We must rather seek to interpret it according to its own nature, when this has been understood, and learn to place its real value in the special religious truths in which it stands apart from, and above, other writings of the same kind. The objection of fraud would only have weight if the writer were supposed to have desired to deceive his readers. But when we read in ’Paradise Lost’ (Books 11, 12) the long account of the future history of the world which the angel Michael is represented as setting before Adam, we feel that Milton is only using a literary device which is as transparent to his readers as to himself—a device which had been used by poets like Virgil and Dante long before. And there is every reason to believe that the authors of the ’apocalyptic’ books meant their writings to be understood in the same way. Reference has already been made to the supposed predictions contained in the book of Enoch and the Assumption of Moses. Now both of these works are quoted in NT. (2 Peter 2:11; Judges 1:9, Judges 1:14-15), but this does not compel us to take the story of then-predictions as literally true. It is but a single step from these cases to the book of Daniel. If ’apocalyptic’ writings like those just mentioned can be quoted by NT. writers, there is no reason why a work of the same kind should be unworthy of a place in the OT. itself. The term ’prophet’ used by our Lord is not inapplicable to the writer of Daniel, and there is nothing in His reference to the book committing us to any view of its literary character which we are not compelled to adopt with regard to the book of Enoch and the Assumption of Moses.
It is true that the character and claims of the book of Daniel must have been very early misunderstood. The age of Antiochus Epiphanes, in which it appeared, was a time when the real nature of OT. prophecy was largely forgotten, and when there was a growing tendency to confound prophetic revelation with that mere prognostication of the future which formed the heathen conception of inspired oracles. Not only the book of Daniel, but the other ’apocalyptic’ writings as well, soon came to be regarded by the Jews as the actual utterances of the men whose names they bore, and the fact that Daniel was included in the OT. Canon caused this view of it to be taken over and long maintained in the Christian church. But the mere length of time during which such a tradition is accepted without question is no guarantee of its correctness. Many errors, more serious than this, survived in the church for centuries before the progress of knowledge dispelled them. And in the new light which has been thrown on the book of Daniel in modern times it is right to acknowledge the guidance of the Holy Spirit, whose progressive work it is to lead the church of Christ into all truth. If the book of Daniel, when interpreted in the same way as other ’apocalyptic’ writings, is found ’profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,’ its inspiration is not less real than on the older view which regarded its narratives as contemporary history, and its apparent predictions as unique and miraculous disclosures of the remote future. Tried by this test the book, viewed as an ’apocalyptic’ work, appears well worthy of a place in Scripture. While it formed the model on which later books of the same kind were framed, it stands far above them all in simplicity, clearness, dignity, and freedom from tedious digressions and extravagant conceptions. It teaches in an incomparably superior way the truths which they only feebly echo and obscurely reflect. Beneath its artificial literary form we can read the great lessons that God presides over the history of the world; that the Gentile nations as well as the Jews have always been under His control; that the succession of human empires is ordained by Him; that He permits the pride and fury of oppressors for a time, but humbles them in the end, and saves His own; that His kingdom will come at length, and will endure for ever; that faithfulness and constancy to Him lead to a life beyond death, and to an eternal reward of glory.
7. Influence of Daniel on the New Testament Writers. Besides the reference to the ’abomination of desolation,’ a few other sayings of our Lord are based on the language of the book of Daniel, as, for example, the description of the great tree in the Parable of the Mustard Seed (Matthew 13:32; Mark 4:32; Luke 13:19), the pictures of the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven (Matthew 24:30; Matthew 26:64; Mark 13:26; Mark 14:62), and other expressions in the great discourse on the Last Things (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21). The angel Gabriel appears again in Luke 1:19, Luke 1:26. St. Paul’s description of the Man of Sin in 2 Thessalonians 2 includes features derived from the portraits of Antiochus Epiphanes in Daniel. But it is in Revelation, itself an ’apocalyptic’ book, that the influence of Daniel is most manifest. The coincidences in language and imagery are too numerous to mention. We may notice, however, the description of the appearance of the Son of Man (Revelation 1:13-15); His coming in the clouds to judge the world (Revelation 14:14); the composite form, and especially the Ten Horns, of the Dragon (Revelation 12:3), and the Beast (Revelation 17:3); the part played by the archangel Michael (Revelation 12:7), and the repeated mention of the period of 3½ years (’a time, times, and half a time,’ Revelation 12:14; ’forty and two months,’ Revelation 11:2; Revelation 13:5. ’1,260 days,’ Revelation 11:3; Revelation 12:6). In contrast with Daniel 8:26; Daniel 12:9 we have the command in Revelation 22:10 not to seal up the prophecy, since the time is at hand.
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27