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The book of Daniel is one of the most amazing apocalyptic books of the Bible. Within its pages, nations, events and even individual people were foretold ... often decades or hundreds of years before they actually appeared or stepped out upon the scene of human history. Daniel is the main apocalyptic book of the Old Testament and Revelation is the lone apocalyptic book of the New Testament. These two prophetic books predict many of the same events and personalities that are yet to come. Hence, they are essential for the study of the end times (eschatology). The word, apocalyptic, simply means "uncovered" or "unveiling" ... a pulling back of the curtain, so to speak, in order to reveal things that were previously unknown. The term, apocalyptic, when applied to a book of the Bible, involves the following elements:
1. Revelation that comes about through a dream or vision. The book of Zachariah also falls into this catagory, recording several visions.
2. Revelation that comes through the use of symbols. If the reader is unfamiliar with the Bible, it is sometimes difficult to determine which is symbol and which is not.
3. Revelation or predictions of the future of God's people. With great specificity, Daniel predicts many things that will happen in the future to God's chosen people ... the Jews ... many of which have already come to pass ... just as Daniel prophesied ... and others that are still yet to come.
4. Written in a prose style ... rather than a poetic style.
As a youth, Daniel was carried out of
Jerusalem as a captive by the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. This
took place in the first deportation of the Jews around the year 606 BC.
There were two more invasions and deportations by Nebuchadnezzar after
that ... when the Jews that Nebuchadnezzar had left behind became
rebellious. The third time he had to go back to Jeusalem, he was so
angry at the Jews that after he completely destroyed the city, he
literally plowed the ground before he left to return home again.
Jesus called Daniel a prophet in Matthew
24:15, and so he was. His writings are filled with prophecy. However, during his lifetime,
Daniel never held the official office or title of prophet
as did, for example, Isaiah or Amos. The distinction is that Daniel was
not actually a spokesman for God to God's people, the Jews. Rather, he
was God's spokesman to the Gentiles (non-Jews). All his adult life, he
was a statesman in a Gentile court. Therefore, the book of Daniel was
not placed among the "prophetic" books by the Jews, but was placed among
the "historical" books.
Daniel lived during the time of two great world empires ... Babylon and Persia (including Medo-Persia). Under those kingdoms, he served under several kings ... beginning with Nebechadnezzar in 606 BC and ending with the reign of Cyrus around 536 BC. He was apparently well know among the Jewish people. Ezekiel mentions him in his prophecy in Ezekiel 14:14, 20 and 28:3.
Daniel wrote his book in two languages, the lion's share in Hebrew and a small amount in Aramaic. He goes from Hebrew to Aramaic and then back to Hebrew again. These two languages provide a neat separation for outlining
the book as follows:
1. 1-2:4a (in Hebrew) ... containing a simple historical account of Nebuchadnezzar's expedition and Daniel and his friend's experiences in Nebuchadnezzar's court in Babylon. Logically, this was written in Daniel's native Hebrew tongue.
2. 2:4b-7:28 (in Aramaic) ... containing the prophecies of the Gentile nations that were yet to come ... their character, relations, successions and destinies. Since these prophecies do not relate directly to the Jewish people, the language changes to the Gentile tongue of Aramaic.
3. 8:1-12:13 (in Hebrew) ... containing the prophecies of God's future program for his Jewish people. Consistently, and appropriately, the language reverts back to Hebrew.
Early records confirm that the book was
indeed written by Daniel. As far as can be determined, every Jew and early Christian
attributed the book to have been written by Daniel. Even Josephus, the secular
Roman historian of the first century, does so. The authorship and date of the
book was first challenged around AD 300, by the anti-Christian philosopher,
Porphyry. Porphyry realized that the book of Daniel accurately foretold many
historical events that occurred between 600 BC and AD 70 ... especially things during the days of
Antiochus Epiphanes, the "Madman." So, Porphyry concluded Daniel must not have written the book. After all, no one can
foretell the future! Porphyry then concluded that it must have been written
after the events it recorded ... saying that it was merely written to comfort the Jews who were suffering and to prop up their
religion. This is a stubborn view that is still held by many today ... secularists and theological liberals who
deny the historicity and miracles of the Bible.
I will not go into detail about the arguments put forward by these critics who wish to relegate this beautiful and historic prophecy to just another one of the Jewish apocryphal writings. If the reader would like to do further study in this area, I would highly recommend the book, In and Around the Book of Daniel by Charles Boutflower. He takes these critics "head on" and does a masterful job of laying out the case for the historicity and authorship of Daniel. Dr. Herbert Lockyer says of his book, "...there is no other that can compare with Boutflower's masterly work for a right understanding of the historical background of Daniel's prophecy." Another one of the great defenders of the authorship of Daniel was none other than the studious Jerome, the translator of the Latin Vulgate.
Modern archeology has put to rest many of the critic's objections to the book by uncovering records showing the uncanny historical accuracy of Daniel ... such as the East India House Inscription at the British Museum, for example. This stone block with finely carved cuneiform, was found in the ruins of Babylon before 1801 and was presented to the representative of the East India Company in Baghdad (hence its modern name). It records Nebuchadnezzar's wish to glorify his god, Marduk, through his many building works in the capital and the nearby city of Borsippa.
Finally, just let me
say that Jesus spoke of Daniel's authorship (Matthew 24:15). His stamp of approval is proof enough
for me. Someone has said, If I cannot
believe Christ, it doesn't make much difference what I believe about Daniel! ... or anything else, for that matter!
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