Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Gleanings from Daniel [1]

Having spent a good deal of this past year of 2009 writing on the subject of eschatological systems, and looking forward to writing even more on the defense of premillennialism, I thought I would supplement my articles by reproducing the notes to my devotional study on the book of Daniel I have been presenting to my volunteers. A lot of the eschatological themes found with in the prophet's book will be reiterated in later posts.

Daniel: A Brief Introduction

One of the best books in the Bible I believe clearly outlining a premillennial perspective is Daniel.

I agree with theologian Robert Duncan Culver who argues that the only way to really understand the prophecy of Daniel is according to a premillennial perspective. It is the one eschatological system that best explains the purpose of the prophecy -- a presentation of the sovereign rule of God's kingdom over all man-made kingdoms.

To provide a brief introduction to the book:

1) The Critics and their Criticisms

Daniel has been one of the most criticized OT books in all of scripture. Particularly from the unbelieving community. Probably the main reason is due in part to naturalistic skepticism advocated by these individuals. They have a problem with Daniel's predictions: they are too exact. In fact, they will argue, they are so exact the only reasonable explanation is that the book was written after the exile during the intertestamental period for the purpose of offering encouragement to the Jewish revolters against their Roman oppressors. Moreover, they say, there are historical problems. For example, the chronological counting done by Jeremiah who chronicled the same events being different than Daniel's reckoning.

Some notable unbelievers are the first ones who raised these criticisms against the book of Daniel.

Porphyry - He was a 3rd century critic of Christianity. He studied in Rome under the neo-Platonist philosopher, Plotinus. Just like many of the new atheists one will encounter on the internet these days, Porphyry mocked the Bible as being filled with foreign fables and lies. He wrote a 15 volume (15 VOLUMES!) work called "Against the Christians" in which he devoted a major section attacking the authorship of Daniel.

Uriel Acosta - He was a 17th century Jewish rationalist who argued Daniel was a forgery. It was merely written, he claimed, to favor the concept of the bodily resurrection of Jesus and the hope of the Christians. The whole point of Daniel was to get the reader to chapter 12:3 where the prophet tells how those who sleep in the dust shall awake.

2) The Truth about Daniel

Contrary to these skeptics and the many, many others like them, the biblical OT synagogue and the biblical NT Church, confidently taught that Daniel was a real prophet who served in the Babylonian court from 605 B.C. to about 535 B.C. Nothing in the entire prophecy seriously suggests the idea the book was written in the 2nd century B.C. as a rallying cry for rebels.

Daniel is mentioned in the writings of one other contemporary prophet, Ezekiel, in chapters 14:14, 20, and 28:3 of his prophecy. Ezekiel was also a 6th century prophet taken to Babylon more than likely during the second deportation in 598-97 B.C. In chapter 14:14, 20 while Ezekiel is speaking against the persistent unfaithfulness of Judah, he affirms their judgment from God as sure and nothing would rescue them. Even if Job, Noah, and Daniel lived among them, God would not spare them. Later, in 28:3, Ezekiel commends Daniel's wisdom, or his God given ability to know divine revelation. In both these sections, Daniels righteousness and wisdom are noted by Ezekiel. He was speaking of a real, contemporary person to himself.

What exactly is the book about?

When surveyed, Daniel's prophecy is generally broken into two main parts.

Chapters 1-6 is considered historical narrative and covers significant events during the life of Daniel as he was in Babylon. In these first 6 chapters, Daniel speaks of himself in the third person.

Chapters 7-12, on the other hand, is considered to be a series of prophetic visions. In these passages, Daniel speaks of himself in the first person.

Though that is the traditional division within the book, one of the more interesting aspects with the book of Daniel is how it is composed in two languages, Hebrew and Aramaic. I don't believe this is just some mere factoid or some weird coincidence. God is the sovereign author of scripture and He purposed the two languages for a reason.

Aramaic was the common language at that time of the ancient world. Similar to how English is in many places around the world today. If one is to divide the book according to the language an interesting pattern occurs:

Chapters 1, 8-12 are in Hebrew where as chapters 2-7 are in Aramaic.

Robert Duncan Culver states, Daniel had two related, but distinct kinds of messages to deliver. One message of judgment and final defeat to the gentile world, the one written in Aramaic. The second, a message of hope and deliverance for God's oppressed, but precious holy people, the Hebrews. That message was delivered in Hebrew.

With that in mind, chapters 2-7 relates to the gentile nations and the divinely determined course of their existence. Chapters 1, 8-12 has a primary reference to Israel's future, a future intimately connected with the conflict they will have with the gentile powers but leading to the eventual destruction of all gentile powers at the end of all things when the Messiah will come and establish His kingdom above all others.



Blogger P.D. Nelson said...

Okay Fred you need to write a book. Seriously, you need to write a book.

9:25 AM, December 03, 2009  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Well. You have the editorial issues, creative control and shopping for a publisher, and that is just so much work. I don't think I have the where-with-all to deal with all of that.

9:45 AM, December 03, 2009  
Blogger DJP said...

Culver's book is still outstanding, isn't it?

2:21 PM, December 03, 2009  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Do you have a copy of it? Probably hands down one of the best defenses of premillennialism I have read in print.

3:47 PM, December 03, 2009  

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