Guests: Dave Thomas and Paul Dybdahl
Read: Daniel 7
As with Daniel 2, it can be productive to approach the chapter as if reading it for the first time, perhaps in another culture and without any knowledge of history.
Questions for Discussion:
- The Overall Message of Chapter 7. Even if one had the full book of Daniel (but no other historical reference works), what important insights could one draw from this chapter that would be applicable to a person’s religious experience?
- The Kingdoms. In
Daniel 2 the only kingdom to be identified explicitly by name is Babylon, the head of gold. In Daniel 7, none are explicitly identified. But regardless of the “historical” identification of the last beast and the little horn, both are clearly evil, enemies of God and God’s people. If we lay aside the question of identity, what practical and spiritual applications are possible from this chapter? [For questions of “identity,” see notes at the end of the lesson.
- The Judgment Scene. Several features are notable about this judgment. First, it contrasts with the more typical Old Testament view of judgment where the judge is an active agent in the righting of wrongs more like the prosecuting attorney in American culture. One glimpses this idea of judgment in the work of the “judges” who delivered Israel from their oppressors. In Daniel 7, however, books are opened in the presence of “the Ancient of Days.” That is more like our western concept of judgment. Respond to the following questions in the light of
Daniel 7:9-27 – both the vision as recorded in 1-14 and the interpretation as recorded in 15-27:
- Question: Who is actually judged in this court, God’s people or the evil beast?
- Question: One like a “Son of Man” [NRSV: “One like a human being”] comes “with the clouds of heaven” to the “Ancient of Days” [NRSV: “Ancient One”]. Is this the same directional imagery as one finds in the New Testament where the Son of Man comes “in the clouds of heaven” (cf.
Matt. 24:30; 26:64; Mark 13:26; 14:62)? In other words, in which passages does the Son of Man move horizontally in the heavens and in which passages does he move vertically from heaven to earth?
- Question: According to the vision and the interpretation, who received the “kingdom” from the Ancient of Days?
A personal comment from the Study Guide author: I studied the book of Daniel at the University of Edinburgh under the tutelage of a professor who was once a devout evangelical believer, but who had rejected faith in favor of atheism because his on-going study of Scripture did not match what he had been taught by his evangelical Christian community. One of his pointed comments involved the second question above: “You will note,” he said, “that in Daniel, the Son of Man moves horizontally, with the clouds of heaven to the Ancient of Days; whereas in the New Testament the Son of Man moves vertically, from heaven to earth.”
He may have expected that I, too, would come to the conclusion that the New Testament writers were not being faithful to Scripture and therefore could not have been inspired by God. But I mentally noted that the Adventist application of this passage to the 1844 event returned to the original Old Testament imagery, applying it to the pre-advent judgment.
- Is it appropriate for inspired writers to treat the biblical text so freely? The third question above is perhaps most important in this connection, for in the vision, the Son of Man receives the kingdom (7:14), whereas in the interpretation, “the people of the holy ones of the Most High” receive the kingdom (7:27). In other words, in the vision itself, the Deliverer receives the kingdom, but in the interpretation, the people of the Deliverer receive it.If one is not afraid to face the biblical text honestly in both testaments, one will discover an amazing freedom in the way the inspired writers interpret the text of Scripture. In the book of Hebrews, for example, every single OT passage in the first two chapters, is quoted “out of context” by our modern rules. Is that wrong? Not by their rules. And even in our “modern” day, we often use language with that kind of freedom. Take, for example, the popular phrase “carpe diem” (“seize the day”). The well-known evangelical sociologist, Tony Campolo, used the phrase as the title of a book: Carpe Diem: Seize the Day (Word, 1994). The last sentence in the first chapter confirms the Christian perspective: “This book is about the new life in Christ!” (p. 19). But what was the original usage of carpe diem?
The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations attributes the phrase to the Roman poet Horace (65 – 8 BC). The original lines, along with another quote which immediately follows in ODQ are revealing:
“While we’re talking envious time is fleeing:
seize the day, put no trust in the future.”
“Believe each day that has dawned is your last. Some hour to which you have not been looking forward will prove lovely. As for me, if you want a good laugh, you will come and find me fat and sleek, in excellent condition, one of Epicurus’s herd of pigs.”
In short, the original quote was a far cry from any Christian concept. The closest biblical equivalent would be the flippant remarks of those who have no hope: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor. 15:32) or the description of those who perished in the flood, “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage.” Live it up, said Horace, for we only have today for sure. But Christians have taken his carpe diem and put it to a higher and holier use.
At the end of the day, and at the end of time, it is not so crucial that we be able to produce “accurate” and finely-tuned interpretations Scripture, as important as that task truly is. But in God’s eyes it is faithfulness to the central teachings and broad themes of Scripture that matter. It is crucial to know what the Bible teaches about sin, salvation, judgment, and restoration. With reference to those great teachings, God will take the honest in heart into his kingdom. We should still do our very best to understand as much of Scripture as we possibly can, however, for it is the record of how God has dealt with this children as he leads them toward the kingdom. But the interpretation of a specific passage is secondary to an understanding and application of the great themes of Scripture.
As for Daniel 7, here is a summary of the points noted in the three questions above:
- Who Is Judged? Daniel 7 passes judgment on the beast and the little horn, not the saints; the saints are vindicated and receive the kingdom. Adventists have used the imagery of judgment in the chapter to focus on the lives of the saints. Have we been faithful to Scripture? In a broad sense, yes, for judgment of the saints is quite clear in Scripture (e.g. Eccl. 12:13; Matt.12:36-37).
- Work of the Son of Man. In the Old Testament context, the Son of Man is involved in a heavenly judgment scene which vindicates God and his people; in the New Testament that image is transformed so that the Son of Man comes as deliverer of God’s people on earth. Yet even in that New Testament perspective the image of judgment lurks nearby. Adventists have reverted to the Old Testament imagery to focus on the act of investigation rather than the formal act of deliverance.
- Son of Man or Saints of the Most High? Perhaps the most striking illustration of all is the one internal to chapter 7 in which the individual figure receives the kingdom in the vision, but the saints receive the kingdom in the interpretation.
Additional Comment on the Identification of the Beasts and the Little Horn
In outline form the key elements in each of the prophetic chapters can be laid out as follows. Note that only one kingdom is identified in Daniel 2 (Babylon), none in Daniel 7, and two in Daniel 8 (Medo-Persia, Greece), and nowhere in the book is a master chart given which correlates all the entities. Thus a certain fluidity is possible in linking the beasts with specific kingdoms. Most significantly, that involves the identity of the fourth beast. Before Rome came on the scene, there is evidence to suggest that Greece was seen as the fourth kingdom. But once Rome became dominant, it was identified with the fourth beast. There is evidence for that shift as early as the first Christian century. The Protestant reformers placed even more emphasis on the fourth beast in their battles against the Roman church of their day.
Daniel 2 Daniel 7 Daniel 8 Bib. Interp. (ch.) Reformers God hand Lion — Babylon (2) Babylon Silver chest Bear Ram Medo/Persia (8) Medo/Persia Bronze belly Leopard_ Goat Greece (8) Greece 4 Wings 4 Horns 4 Kingdoms (8) Iron legs Beast — — Rome Iron/clay feet 10 Horns — — Stone Judgment Cleansing
Changing Interpretations? The symbolic nature of the apocalyptic books allows interpreters to exercise considerable freedom in interpreting and applying the vision. One of the earliest indications of this freedom is found in the book of IV Ezra (= 2 Esdras), a Jewish book written after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, but written as if in the setting of the destruction of the first temple in 586 BC. Fourth Ezra (= Second Esdras) is found in the Protestant Apocrypha and in an appendix of the official Roman Catholic Latin Vulgate. [See brief explanatory note on Apocrypha below.]
An eagle vision in IV Ezra 12 is interpreted for the seer Ezra, just as Gabriel interpreted Daniel’s visions in Daniel 8 and 9. Most scholars agree that IV Ezra 12:11-12, confirms that Daniel’s fourth kingdom had earlier been interpreted as Greece; but as Rome rose in prominence, it came to be seen as the fourth kingdom: This is how the angelic interpreter makes that point to Ezra: “The eagle which you saw coming up from the sea is the fourth kingdom which appeared in a vision to your brother Daniel. (12) But it was not explained to him as I now explain or have explained it to you” (RSV).
- The Little Horns: The little horn in Daniel 7 and the one in Daniel 8 are both evil characters, persecuting the saints and mutilating the truth. The little horn in Daniel 7 emerges from among the 10 horns, displacing 3 of them; the little horn in Daniel 8 emerges from one of the 4 horns or (or from one of the 4 winds – the Hebrew is ambiguous). Since the Bible itself does not explicitly identify either of the little horns, interpretations vary according to the presuppositions brought to the text.Among those who do not believe that Daniel is predicting the future, the figure of Antiochus (IV) Epiphanes looms large in the interpretation of the book. He was the renegade Seleucid king who desecrated the Jerusalem temple for three years (168/67 – 165/64), building an altar to the Greek god Zeus over the altar of burnt offering and offering pig on that altar. Antiochus was a descendant of Seleucus, one of Alexander’s four generals who divided the Greek kingdom. The story of Antiochus’ desecration is narrated in vivid detail in 1 Maccabees 1:54-64 and in 2 Maccabees 6:1-6, books found in the Protestant Apocrypha though recognized as “deuterocanonical” by Roman Catholics. It is evident from the language used in Daniel that the Jews describing Antiochus’ “abomination” were thinking in terms of the “abomination of desolation” mentioned in the book of Daniel (8:13; 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14 use that phrase to refer to the future desecration of the Jerusalem temple by the Romans.
Consistent Historicists see both little horns (in 7 and in 8) as referring to papal Rome; consistent Preterists see both little horns as referring to Antiochus Epiphanes; dispensationalist Futurists see the little horn in 7 as referring to the future Roman antichrist, but interpret the little horn in 8 as referring to Antiochus. Idealists can interpret both horns as symbolizing God’s enemies at any point in history.The Apocrypha: A Brief Introduction
From Alden Thompson, “The Apocrypha,” in Introducing the Bible, Vol. 1, The Old Testament and Intertestamental Literature, edited by Doug Clark and John Brunt (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1997), 545, 548 [chapter 30].
The books which Protestants call “Apocrypha” were all written by Jews in the period between the Testaments (200 B.C.E. – 100 C.E.). Though never part of what was to be called the Hebrew Bible, all of them except 2 Esdras [IV Ezra] circulated as part of the Septuagint [the Old Testament in Greek, abbreviated as LXX, the Roman numeral for “seventy”] and thus were read by Greek-speaking Jews throughout the Diaspora.[the Jews who lived outside the Holy Land itself].
The apocryphal books are a varied lot: 1 and 2 Maccabees and 1 Esdras are narrative like the biblical books of Kings and Chronicles; the Wisdom of Solomon and Sirach are wisdom books, roughly analogous to Proverbs and Ecclesiastes; Tobit, Judith, and Susanna are stories like Esther and the ones in Daniel 1-6. The Additions to Esther, the Prayer of Manasseh and the Prayer of Azariah all augment the biblical account, providing emphases or information which seem to be missing from the canonical accounts.
When Christians took over the LXX as their Bible, these additional books were part of the bargain and were used and cherished by Christians in the early centuries of the Christian era. It was Jerome (d. 420 C.E.), however, who set the course for their separate treatment within Christian communities, determining that only those books which were part of the Hebrew Bible belonged in the “canonical” Christian Old Testament. The other books, the ones destined to be called Apocrypha, he described as “ecclesiastical” or church books, helpful for reading, but not authoritative. By contrast, Augustine (d. 430 C.E.) was more inclusive, arguing that books which were part of the LXX should also be part of the Christian canon.
For the most part, Jerome excluded these books from his Latin Vulgate, although the formal copies of the Vulgate still generally included them, usually in one of the Old Latin translations. The final turning point came at the hand of Martin Luther who extracted the texts of the Apocrypha from their scattered locations in the LXX and Vulgate, putting them together at the end of the Old Testament in his German translation of 1534 C.E. Thereafter, following the lead of Jerome and Luther, Protestants typically did not consider them to be canonical Scripture.
The Roman Catholic Council of Trent (1545-1563 C.E.), however, responded by declaring these books to be deuterocanonical, a kind of second canon. Three books generally included in the Protestant Apocrypha, but which are not deuterocanonical for Catholics are 1 and 2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh. These are included in the Latin Vulgate as an Appendix after the New Testament books. Those books which Trent declared deuterocanonical are fully authoritative for Catholics. For Protestants they are not. For all, they illumine the world of Judaism between the Testaments. [See list of 15 items in the Protestant Apocrypha below]
2 Esdras (4 Ezra)
The Rest of the Book of Esther
The Wisdom of Solomon
A Letter of Jeremiah [chapter 6 of Baruch in the Latin tradition]
The Additions to the Book of Daniel
The Song of the Three Children (with the prayer of Azariah)
Bel and the dragon
The Prayer of Manasseh