I call upon You, Lord, God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob and Israel, You who are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who, through the abundance of your mercy, was well-pleased towards us so that we may know You, who made heaven and earth, who rules over all, You who are the one and the true God, above whom there is no other God; You who, by our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, give to every one who reads this writing to know You, that You alone are God, to be strengthened in You, and to avoid every heretical and godless and impious teaching.

St Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies 3:6:4

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Thoughts on Daniel 7 & 8

The Four Kingdoms of Daniel 7
I am convinced that the view which best accounts for the biblical data and accords with history is that the four kingdoms of Daniel 7 should be ordered as follows.

            1. Babylon
            2. Media[1]
            3. Persia
            4. Greece with subsequent Diadochoi:[2]
                        4. A. Seleucids
                        4. B. Ptolemies

Apart from the extended diadochoi points (4. A, B), this is commonly known as the ‘Greek view.’  This ordering of the four kingdoms in modern times is typically associated with liberal-radical scholarship.  The reason for this association is largely because the liberals have a prejudicial bias against the concept of predictive prophecy; and, because the descriptions of the Grecian and Seleucid kingdoms are so incredibly accurate with known history, it must therefore mean—so the reasoning goes—that the pseudonymous author(s) of Daniel lived contemporaneously with these later events, thus meaning that the book was written sometime around the second century B.C. (rather than Daniel in the sixth century). 

However, some, such as Goldingay, argue that the Greek view, even positing a late date (i.e., second century) does no damage to the orthodox doctrines of the inspiration, authority, or infallibility of Scripture.[3]  Goldingay’s precarious stance notwithstanding, the Greek view does not necessitate a late date.  The Westminster divines, for instance, held to the Greek view and sixth century authorship by the historic Daniel.  Wenham observes, “Incidentally to accept the Greek view together with a sixth-century dating is not a new view; it was held by various conservative Christians, including the Westminster divines, long before the Greek view became the hallmark of liberal orthodoxy.”[4]  More recently, Gurney has rescued the Greek view from liberalism, persuasively arguing for a sixth century origin and authorship.[5] 

Finally, it is the Greek view that best gives the book of Daniel an internal unity, especially chapters 2, 7, and 11. 

The One like the Son of Man of Daniel 7

The general identity of the Son of man may be gained by considering the Old Testament literature.  Intermittently throughout  the Old Testament (OT hereafter) the phrase ‘son of man’ (SM hereafter) is most often used to denote a mere human being, a mortal (see, e.g., Ps. 8:4; Eze. 2:1, etc.).  However, the Danielic SM is certainly more than a mere mortal.  In the contexture of the book itself, the first hint at the divine authority of the SM comes from 7:13b, where it is reported that “one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven” (KJV).  According to Ps. 104:3 it is YHWH “who maketh the clouds his chariot.”  Again, “YHWH rideth upon a swift cloud” (Is. 19:1).  So, windsurfing on clouds is indicative of divine authority and judgment. 

Moreover, Daniel 7:9 describes the Ancient of Day’s (i.e., God’s) throne-chariot, to which the SM is ascending, as having flaming wheels.  This is strikingly similar to Ezekiel’s throne-chariot vision, “and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it” (1:26).  The association between the SM and the throne-chariot of God points further toward the divine-yet-mannish character of the SM.  Additionally, “there was given him (SM) dominion, and glory, and a kingdom…an everlasting dominion” (Dan. 7:14).  Despite the fact that an everlasting kingdom-rule would require an everlasting king, which presupposes the SM’s divinity, the description of the scope of the SM’s rule is parallel to that of the “most High…him that liveth forever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation,” as described Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4:34.  Therefore, within the contexture of Daniel alone, the reader is given overt intimations that the SM is a divine-yet-mannish figure, a God-man, if you will. 

Elsewhere in the OT Isaiah speaks similarly of the then-coming Messiah child, who is no less than “the mighty God,” and “of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end…henceforth even forever” (9:6, 7).  One does not have to leave the prophetic corpus of the OT in order to safely conclude that the SM is the predicted Messiah, who is at once divine and human, a God-man.   

The particular and personal identity of SM is explicit in the New Testament (NT hereafter).  “If apocalyptic is at all the mother of Christian theology,” suggests Goldingay, then “Daniel certainly contributed to this mothering.”[6]  He adds that, despite this passage’s centrality, “Daniel’s effect on the NT is more pervasive than merely the influence of 7:13—14.”[7]  For example, Beale has written extensively on the Danielic background for Revelation.[8]

Within the context of second temple Judaism in the first century A.D., messianic expectations were at their zenith.  Amid this culture, Jesus was careful with his use of loaded self-attributions such as Messiah, Son of God, etc.  The SM title provided enough ambiguity that he used it freely and frequently.  Although the title could still denote a mortal during this period, at crucial junctures in his ministry, Jesus used the pregnant SM title with all its glorious messianic connotations.  In Matthew 13:41, for instance, he invokes the title in connection with the kingdom motif.  In John 3:13 Jesus mentions ascension relation to the SM title, which is the direction of movement for SM in Daniel 7.  Most explicitly, though, are Jesus’ clear allusions to Daniel 7:13f in the events surrounding his arrest and trial. 

And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.  Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.  Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.  What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death (Matt. 26:63—66; cf. 24:30; 25:31; Mk. 13:26; 14:62; Lk. 21:27, etc.).

Likewise, approaching his martyrdom, Stephen announced his vision of the SM standing on the right hand of God (Acts 7:56).  And, finally, Revelation 1:5—7 depends heavily on Daniel 7 for all of its various threads. 

Granting these things, therefore, it is plain that Jesus’ messianic/divine self-consciousness was expressed by means of the SM title, and for his audience it was clear enough to invoke the charge of blasphemy and warrant capital punishment.  Jesus knew it, the Sanhedrin knew it; Jesus’ self-attribution as the SM was nothing less than a claim to deity and the eternal kingdom-throne of David.  The Son of Man is the God-man, Israel’s Messiah, Jesus.

The Ram and the Goat of Daniel 8

The ram and the goat of Daniel 8 are not nearly as enigmatic as the four kingdoms or the SM.  Typical of much of the Bible’s apocalyptic material, the seer is given a vision full of vibrant but often elusive symbols and then the angelical messenger gives the vision’s interpretation.  This is done explicitly in Daniel 8, concerning the ram and the goat. 

In Daniel 8:20—21 the reader is told precisely what and who these beasts represent: “The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia.  And the rough goat is the king of Greece: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.”  The ram, therefore, represents the Media and Persia and its horns, the kings.  The goat is Greece and its single great horn, the first king of the empire.  Thus, the great horn is Alexander the Great. 

Daniel 8:5 reports that “the he-goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth.”  Correspondingly, the apocryphal book of 1 Maccabees tells of Alexander, who, having smitten Darius the king of the Persians and Medes, became “the first [king] over Greece,” and “went through to the ends of the earth” during the eastern campaign (1 Macc. 1:1, 2).  Daniel 8:22 goes on to describe the four diadochoi that succeeded Alexander, his generals who divided his kingdom.  Interestingly, in Daniel’s vision the ram was powerless against the strength of the he-goat, which “cast [the ram] to the ground, and stamped upon him” (8:7).  I believe the “stamped upon him” is more than a metaphor for the he-goat’s power.  The idea of a goat trampling another animal is hard to imagine; however, the Greeks, under Alexander and the later Seleucids, pioneered the use of elephants in battle.  1 Maccabees 1:17 describes the Seleucids’ (under Antiochus IV) armaments and mobilizations against the Ptolemies, which included chariots, horseman, a great navy, and elephants.  It appears likely, then, that the “stamped upon him,” respecting the ram (Dan. 8:7), alludes to the military use of elephants by the Grecian armies from Alexander forward.  The little horn to arise out of the four horns of the diadochoi is Antiochus IV (8:9; cf. 7:8).    

[1] Splitting the Medo-Persian kingdom, which is typically conjoined in the ‘Roman view,’ is deftly defended by Robert J. M. Gurney, “The Four Kingdoms of Daniel 2 and 7,” Themelois, 2:2 (January 1977), 42—44.

[2] For a more thorough treatment of the extension of (4) the Grecian kingdom to include the Diadochoi see Otto Erlend Nordgreen, “The Four Kingdoms in the Book of Daniel Reconsidered” (1998), found at http://folk.uio.no/otton/Daniel1.htm , accessed 07 July 2012.   

[3] Gordon J. Wenham, “Daniel: The Basic Issues,” Themelois, 2:2 (January 1977), 51.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 50; also see Robert J. M. Gurney, “The Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9:24-27,” Evangelical Quarterly 53:1 (January-March 1981), 29-36.
[6] John E. Goldingay, Daniel, vol. 30 in Word Biblical Commentary series (Dallas, TX: Word Books, 1989), xxviii—xxix.

[7] Ibid.

[8] See, e.g., Gregory K. Beale, “The Danielic Background For Revelation 13:18 and 17:9,” Tyndale Bulletin 31 (1980), 163—170.

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