Thursday, January 12, 2017

"If Daniel 7-12 isn't genuine prophecy, then why trust the Bible?" -- My response to a Friend

David,

I have long thought that the greatest prayer written in the Bible was Daniel's prayer for his people.  I have also held that he was a great Prophet for his people.  I am struggling with your reference that you (and some modern cohorts) place his work at the time of Antiochus IV (175-164 B.C.), and place his prophesies as "after the fact".  I know there is more than one "Daniel" in Jewish history, but this rattles my cage; and belief in Prophesy.  Without Daniel I will be lost...this is huge!

Then... a second email:

I did not sleep last night.  My mind kept turning things over after I reviewed the outline.

If I were to buy in to the theory that one word (Persia instead of Palestine) allowed re-engineering the entire book of Daniel it changes everything (I know there are other pieces of the puzzle still out, but this appears to be big).  

By placing Daniel in the 2nd century BC it does separate chapters 1-6 and 7-12, but in a very negative way (for me).  When viewed as a 2nd century writing as an after-the-fact composition making sense of "current historical affairs" the Book of Daniel (7-12) does just that; it becomes a history book instead of a prophetic book.  The first six chapters dating from the 6th century BC have a very famous and historic author with stories coming from the court of Nebuchadnezzar has been "added" by someone to make the Book of Daniel "appear" prophetic at a later date.  This takes the scripture out of the realm of "God's Words" to that of human.

I am not very smart, but regardless how I look at this interpretation all I see is another reason not to believe the Bible is God's Word, but as a human deceit. 

Lost in Paradise,
D


Hey brother!

I’m sorry you didn’t sleep last night. Here are some quick thoughts. 

First, a standard view among a majority of Christians for centuries is that Scripture is an amalgam of God’s inspiration given via normal humans. There are those who disagree, and think that the Bible is word-for-word straight from God, like what Muslims believe about the Quran. However, you don’t need to have this view to remain a disciple of Jesus. You can very much believe that God inspired the authors (which I bet is your view), and that the authors used the various genres available to them to articulate what they thought God was saying through them, and still believe that Scripture is the chief authority for belief and practice for the Christian.

It seems to me that’s exactly what we have in Daniel 7-12. The author has employed ancient genres of dream reports, symbolic visions, and epiphany visions. Now, God might have “made” the author compose those chapters that way. Perhaps. Or, the author freely chose to compose those chapters in those genres in order to convey the message he received because he thought it was the best way to communicate the truth he thought he possessed. But, no matter what, it was commonplace for those types of genres to cast recent events as past prophecies. In other words, we should expect what we find in Daniel 7-12 because of the genre he has used. This would have nothing to do with “deceit”; it would be properly using available genres of the time. 

(Analogy: If you discovered that the butterflies in the expression “butterflies in my stomach” weren’t intended to be an “actual” description of what was happening in a person’s digestive system, but it was still conveying a truth, there would be no reason to think the person who used that phrase was being “deceitful.” When using the genre of poetry, I would expect to find metaphors being used. And in the case of apocalyptic works, one expects to find ex eventu prophecies.)

Second, perhaps nearly all modern scholars are incorrect. Perhaps this is simply an ancient prophetic word. That’s possible. I don’t think so, but it’s certainly possible. So, if you hold that view, that’s fine.

Third, it’s interesting to note that Jews have not considered Daniel prophecy. In the Jewish canon (= collection of books in their Bible), Daniel is considered part of the “Writings,” not “Prophets.” It got moved over to prophetic literature only when the Christians started collecting their version of the Bible.

Moreover, it’s clear that the Jews thought they could keep adding stories to Daniel. In the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT, written not long after Dan. 7-12), Jews added three more stories to Daniel: the story of Susanna, the story of Bel and the Dragon, and the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Jews. The point being, Jews were fine with adding things to Daniel 1-6.

Fourth, brother, this has nothing to do with the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Not one tenet of the Christian faith is at stake if you think Daniel 7-12 was written as ex eventu prophecy.

Finally, there is no reason not to trust the 66 books of the Protestant Bible as conveying truth if six chapters of one book aren’t a genuine prophecy. That would seem to be a huge generalization that is simply unnecessary. 

Those are some quick thoughts. Don’t give up the ghost yet! :) You’re not lost, brother. Remember, you don’t have to believe in a particular interpretation. Ever. Just read an author’s argument for something and determine if you find it convincing. If not, then discard it and move on. No worries.

Your co-wandering brother,
David

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