Daniel in the Wolves’ Den
When Daniel was in the lions’ den, God “shut the lions’ mouths”.1 Today, Daniel is surrounded by wolves and although he will always be unscathed, those trying to get close enough to hear him have to avoid the wolves. As I see it, God requires us to look beneath the sheep’s clothing and examine what many are saying about Daniel and his extraordinary book.
It may seem extreme to label, as Jesus and Paul do, those speaking error to His people as wolves, especially when they are often really nice and likeable individuals but the damage they inflict can be horrendous. Jesus describes them as devouring His sheep2 while Paul warned the elders of the Ephesian church:
“I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking erroneous things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert…”3
Speaking erroneously about Daniel is particularly destructive because so much of the New Testament relies on him and his prophecies, as we will see. What then is being said?
An Unknown Apocalyptist?
Firstly, some insist that Daniel is “apocalyptic”, not as commonly understood but as academically understood. Robert H. Mounce explains this academic understanding:
The term “apocalypse” used to denote a literary genre is derived from Revelation 1:1 where it designates the supernatural unveiling of that which is about to take place. In contemporary discussion “apocalyptic” applies more broadly to a group of writings which flourished in the Biblical world between 200 BC and AD 100 and to the basic concepts contained in those writings… The apocalyptists followed a common practice of rewriting history as prophecy so as to lend credence to their predictions about what still lay in the future.4
The New Oxford Annotated Bible, for example, rules out Daniel as the author and the dates given for the earliest vision as “the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar”,5 i.e. 604 B.C., confidently asserting instead that an unknown apocalypist wrote it some four hundred and thirty-seven years later:
The history recorded in these visions suggest that they were composed sometime before 164 BCE, when Judas Maccabeus purified the Temple that Antiochus IV Epiphanes had profaned in 167.6
The increasingly detailed descriptions of the period following the division of Alexander’s empire up to the rule of Antiochus suggest that the apocalyptic sections were composed in 167 BCE on the eve of the eve of the Maccabean revolt…7
So… Jesus Was Duped?
Jesus often taught from Daniel. In His last public message before He was crucified, He warned:
“Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place… then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.”8
Obviously, Jesus believed Daniel was a prophet and referred to Daniel 9:27 as genuinely predictive so, according to these Oxford scholars, unlike them, He was duped by the apocalyptist.
Does it really matter? Apparently not, not even to some leading Evangelical scholars like John E. Goldingay, whose commentary on Daniel is considered a standard:
Whether the stories are history or fiction, the visions actual prophecy or quasi-prophecy, written by Daniel or someone else, in the sixth century B.C., the second, or somewhere in between, makes surprisingly little difference to the book’s exegesis.9
With all due respect to those better educated than me, I disagree. Daniel’s visions and revelations are essential to Jesus’ teaching, as I will show. They are also foundational to the Book of Revelation, especially chapters 11-13 and 17 which build on Daniel’s mysterious time period of “a time, times and half a time”,10 the four metaphorical beasts,11 and the fourth’s ten horns.12
However, let’s assume for a moment they are right and look at how they consider Daniel’s visions worked out in real-time.
The Four Kingdoms
Daniel chapters 2 and 7 describe four great Gentile kingdoms or empires which were to rule over Israel, beginning with the Babylonians.13 However, if an apocalyptist was merely recording history as it had been up until 167 B.C, the Roman Empire is obviously excluded – Pompey didn’t capture Jerusalem until 63 B.C. – and there had only been three by then: the Babylonians (626-539 B.C.), the Medo-Persians (539-330 B.C.) and the Greeks (330-164 B.C.).
To make four, therefore, these scholars have to separate the Medes and the Persians into two separate empires, despite their unknown apocalyptist explicitly describing them as one:
- Then I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, a ram which had two horns was standing in front of the canal. Now the two horns were long, but one was longer than the other, with the longer one coming up last.
- I saw the ram butting westward, northward, and southward, and no other beasts could stand before him nor was there anyone to rescue from his power, but he did as he pleased and magnified himself.
- “The ram which you saw with the two horns represents the kings of Media and Persia.” 14, emphasis added)
As you can see for yourself, the ram portrayed one empire: the first horn represented the Median kings, beginning with “Darius the Mede”,15 who were later overshadowed by the second horn, the Persian kings like “Cyrus the Persian”16 – “the longer one coming up last” (vs. 3). Accordingly, it is usually designated as the Medo-Persian Empire.
We also see this alluded to in Daniel 5 where Daniel informs the Babylonian king Belshazzar that his kingdom is being “given over to the Medes and Persians”;17 again, in Daniel 6 where their laws are referred to as “the law of the Medes and Persians”.18 In the Book of Daniel, therefore, this was plainly not two kingdoms but one.
Did the unknown apocalyptist pretending to be Daniel forget about this? Or was the fourth kingdom actually Rome, with Daniel the prophet predicting its conquests five hundred years beforehand?
The Kingdom of Stone
The claims of these scholars would also mean Jesus was not only duped by a forgetful apocalyptist but that He was unable to distinguish between the Greek and Roman Empires. After all, it’s during the time of the ten toes of the iron kingdom, the fourth, that the stone kingdom begins its irresistible growth19 and Jesus said, in 30 A.D., that He was inaugurating that kingdom:
“Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”20
This image of a stone falling and crushing all opposition into dust is from Daniel 2 and predicts this kingdom is not only to rule Israel but all the nations:
- “…a stone was cut out without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and crushed them.
- “Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.” (Dan 2:34-35, emphasis added)
It was during Roman rule that Jesus became “the stone that the builders rejected”,21 embodying the kingdom as He did. Today, His kingdom has grown to “a great mountain” of some 1.8 billion professing believers, one quarter of the world’s population. And, of course, when He returns as the King to inherit the earth, the stone will fill “the whole earth”.
However, if these scholars are correct, the Lord should have inaugurated His kingdom in the time of the Greeks, not the Romans. Did He really not understand His time? And what of Jesus’ preferred self-description as “the Son of Man”? That too is a fourth kingdom prediction.
The Son of Man
In the Gospels, Jesus calls Himself this eighty-four times. Although the term had previously been used one hundred and six times throughout the Law and the Prophets (ninety-three in Ezekiel), it became a Messianic title in Daniel 7.22 Daniel saw ‘a Son of Man’ and His kingdom as God’s antidote to the four wild beast kingdoms:
- “I kept looking in the night visions,
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.
- “I kept looking in the night visions,
- “And to Him was given dominion,
Glory and a kingdom,
That all the peoples, nations and men of every language
Might serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
Which will not pass away;
And His kingdom is one
Which will not be destroyed.” 23
- “And to Him was given dominion,
Beyond all doubt, Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin understood the significance of Jesus quoting Daniel 7:13 at His trial:
- …And the high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.”
- Jesus *said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.”
- Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy;
- what do you think?” They answered, “He deserves death!”24
As you can see, Daniel 7:13 was the immediate cause of Jesus being sentenced to death for blasphemy. However, the Son of Man was to come after the fourth beast so, for the scholars to be right, Jesus should have appeared under Greek rule, not Roman.
‘…Until Messiah the Prince’
Lastly, what do these scholars make of Daniel’s extraordinary ‘70 Weeks of Years’ prophecy in Chapter 9?
- “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city…
- “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.
- “Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.”25
The New Oxford Annotated Bible annotators, believing this can’t be Jesus in Roman times, have to look for someone else in Greek times and they end up with two! Commenting on v. 25:
The one anointed is likely Joshua the high priest (see Zech 4:14…)26
Joshua was anointed as high priest in 519 BC. However, for v. 26, they believe it was another high priest, Onias III:
The deposed anointed one may be Onias III (see 2 Macc 4.23-28), murdered in 171 BCE. The prince who is to come is Antiochus IV Epiphanes.27
As for the timing, they assume that the decree of v. 25 was:
The Edict of Cyrus, sponsoring the restoration of Jerusalem, …promulgated in 538 BCE. 28
They accept the NRSV’s translation of v. 25 as: “until the time of an anointed prince, there shall be seven weeks; and for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again”. This would mean their anointed prince was to come forty-nine years (“seven weeks”) after their assumed decree but Joshua’s 519 BC is only nineteen years after Cyrus’s 538 BC i.e. thirty years too early. Their unknown apocalyptist seems to have been very sloppy in his rewriting of history as prophecy! Why wouldn’t he have said, “after about three weeks”? But wait – it gets worse. One scholar even accused his imaginary culprit of “wrong-headed arithmetical calculations”!29
But wait – it gets even worse! In their scholarly opinion, the falsified prediction of the destruction of “the city and the sanctuary” (v. 26b) was fulfilled by Antiochus and the Greeks in 168 BC but neither Jerusalem nor the temple were actually destroyed then. History tells the rest of us the destruction was brought about by Titus and the Romans in 70 AD.
Compare this with the simplicity and precision of Jesus’ timing. In 26 AD,30 He proclaimed:
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand”31
He had just been publicly declared to be Messiah the Prince at His baptism by the Father and John the Baptist.32 Four hundred and eighty-three years (“seven weeks and sixty-two weeks”) before then was 458 BC (there was no year 0 between BC and AD) which was the year of King Artaxerxes’ first decree.33 This is why Jesus could say, “The time is fulfilled”. It’s that simple and that precise.34
This began the 70th Week, not the Antichrist’s but Messiah’s Week,35 as prefigured by Creation’s seven days,36 Noah’s receiving seven days’ warning to enter the ark,37 Jacob’s working seven years for his brides,38 Joseph’s storing seven years’ of grain for the famine,39 the seven days of the red heifer’s ashes ritual,40 and the seven years building Solomon’s Temple.41
Jesus ministered to Israel for three and half years before making the New Covenant, just as Daniel predicted:
- “And He [Messiah the Prince, not the Antichrist] will make a firm covenant with the many [that’s offered to all of us] for one week [Messiah’s Week], but in the middle of the week [after three and a half years] He will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering…”42
In making the New Covenant, Jesus also made Israel’s sacrificial system ‘obsolete and ready to disappear’, as it did in 70 AD.43 This date, 70 AD, was when the Romans, not the Greeks, fulfilled the rest of Daniel’s prophecy:
- “…the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.” 44
This is why Jesus told the disciples to flee the Roman, not the Greek, siege of Jerusalem:
“…because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.”45
It is easy to overlook the significance of the ‘magi from the east’46 who arrived in Jerusalem just after Jesus was born but Daniel had a major historical connection with them. The Magi were a caste of Mesopotamian wise men specialising in astronomy, astrology, and natural science and these Magi were asking:
“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”47
They may have already known of an extraordinary prophecy of Balaam, a Mesopotamian prophet, who had prophesied in about 1400 BC about ‘a star’ who was to emerge in Israel, a king who would destroy all of God’s enemies:
“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near;
A star shall come forth from Jacob,
A scepter shall rise from Israel,
And shall crush through the forehead of Moab,
And tear down all the sons of Sheth.”48
Daniel’s connection with them was in 604 BC,49 when he interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a multi-metallic statue and Nebuchadnezzar responded:
The king promoted Daniel…and he made him… chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.50
So Daniel was the highly successful chief of the Magi in Mesopotamian Babylon and had actually saved their lives after their failure to help the king.51 Isn’t therefore highly likely they would have listened intently to all of his other dreams and visions, especially about the coming of the Son of Man and His kingdom? He had even given a time: the King would appear 483 years after one of four decrees to rebuild Jerusalem and they could have ascertained those, just as we can today.
The appearance of ‘His star in the east’ would confirm everything they knew.53
Prophet or Phoney?
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John refer to Jesus quoting Daniel twenty-four times, particularly in His final message on the Mount of Olives; Paul refers to Daniel three times, the writer of Hebrews four times, and the Revelation refers to Daniel forty-two times. The New Testament refers to Daniel over seventy times54 so it really does matter if an unknown apocalyptist was able to dupe them all, especially Jesus who publicly and explicitly declared that Daniel was a prophet when He quoted his prophecy.
You and I have a lot to gain if we get it right:
“He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward…”55
So which is Daniel? The evidence for him being a prophet is substantial:
(i) He accurately predicted the fall of the Medo-Persian Empire, the rise and fall and splitting up of the Greek Empire, and the rise of the Roman Empire over the following five hundred years.
(ii) He accurately predicted almost six hundred years ahead of time not only Messiah’s coming, timing, kingdom message and mission, but also His being rejected and executed.
(iii) He accurately predicted over six hundred years ahead of time the consequences to Israel: the Roman destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem. Jesus quoted Daniel’s prophecy56 to warn His listeners to flee Jerusalem immediately prior to its desolation in 70 AD.57 Those who ignored the warning perished.
(v) He also predicts the resurrection of the dead.60
Some of these would even be astonishing if the Book of Daniel was written by our scholars’ duplicitous apocalyptist only two hundred years ahead of time!
Daniel was also the source of some major New Testament mysteries including:
(ii) “A time, times and half a time”63 which is essential for understanding the three central chapters of Revelation (11-13), the two returns of Elijah,64 “the times of the Gentiles”,65 and the “partial hardening” of Israel.66
Lastly, even the Magi appearing in Jerusalem may have been aided by Daniel’s prophecies. 69
Discrediting or minimising Daniel’s divine inspiration, therefore, has huge ramifications.
Draw your own.
Should we believe the naturalistic reasoning of some scholars who believe that long-range predictive prophecy is impossible so the Book of Daniel must have been written in about 164 BC by an unknown apocalyptist who wrote recent Jewish history as if it was predicted by Daniel?
Personally, I think Daniel has spent far too much time in the den of wolves and should be honoured as a courageous and faithful man who was greatly used by God for all of our sakes.
Daniel in the Den: Briton Rivière – allposters, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34947973
Nebuchadnezzar: By Gryffindor – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3126739
- Dan 6:22
- Matt 7:15
- Act 20:29-31
- The Book of Revelation, p. 18. Part of The New International Commentary on the New Testament series, ed. F.F. Bruce. Emphasis added.
- Dan 2:1
- The New Oxford Annotated Bible, p. 1267 Hebrew Bible.
- Ibid. p. 1253 Hebrew Bible.
- Matt 24:15-16, emphasis added
- John E. Goldingay, 1989. Daniel, Word Biblical Commentary 30, ed. John D.W. Watts, Dallas: Word Books, p. xl.
- Dan 7:25, 12:7
- Dan 7:3-7
- Dan 7:7-8, 20-25
- Dan 2:37-38
- Dan 8:3-4, 20
- Dan 5:31
- Dan 6:28
- Dan 5:28
- Dan 6:8, 12 & 15
- Dan 2:44
- Matt 21:43-44
- Matt 21:42
- David’s use of the term in Psa 8:4-5 was also recognised as Messianic by the inspired writer of Hebrews (Heb 2:6-9).
- Dan 7:13-14, emphasis added
- Matt 26:63-66
- Dan 9:25-26, emphasis added
- The New Oxford Annotated Bible, p. 1273 Hebrew Bible, their italics.
- Porteous, Norman W. (1965). Daniel: A Commentary. The Old Testament Library. Westminster John Knox Press, p. 134.
- Jesus was born in 5 BC and began His public ministry when He was thirty. For details, see Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws, p. 96.
- Mark 1:15
- John 1:33-34
- There were four decrees, made by Cyrus in 538 BC, by Darius in 520-518 BC, and by Artaxerxes in 458 BC and 444 BC, to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple (Ezra 6:8). The relevant decree to Daniel’s prophecy is Artaxerxes’ first one.
- John E. Goldingay acknowledges that ‘ancient and modern interpreters have commonly taken vv. 24-27 as designed to convey firm chronological information’. He then shows how the second decree of Artaxerxes in 445 or 444 BC is an impossible starting date for the 483 years and concludes that the 490 years are not chronological: ‘It is not chronology but chronography: a stylized scheme of history’ i.e. metaphorical. (Daniel, Word Biblical Commentary 30, p. 257.) He overlooked Artaxerxes’ first decree in 458 BC which exactly matches Jesus’ baptism in 26 A.D.
- For details, see Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws, pp. 102-106.
- Gen 2:2
- Gen 7:1 & 4
- Gen 29:20 &
- Gen 41:29
- Num 19:19 and explained my book, The Red Heifer’s Ashes.
- 1 Kin 6:38
- Dan 9:27
- Heb 8:13. For details, see Silencing the Witnesses, pp. 128-146.
- Dan 9:25-26
- Luke 21:22
- Matt 2:1
- Matt 2:2, emphasis added
- Num 24:17
- Dan 2:1
- Dan 2:48, emphasis added
- Dan 2:2-9
- Many believe this star was a spiritual phenomenon that led them all the way but others such as Michael Molnar, a Rutgers astronomer, think it was a natural phenomenon, an eclipse of Jupiter in Aries on 17 April, 6 B.C. when Jupiter was precisely “in the east”. This was well known to astronomers and astrologers of the day, even memorialised in the minting of a coin in Syria. This could also explain Herod’s response: ‘Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared… and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi’ (Matt 2:7 & 16, emphasis added). Herod died in 4 BC so we know Jesus had to have been born in 5-6 BC. Moreover, he found that a Roman astrologer described the conditions of that day as fitting the birth of a “divine and immortal” person.52 Michael Molnar, The Star of Bethlehem: The Legacy of the Magi.
- Frank W. Hardy, New Testament References to Daniel, http://historicism.org/Documents/Jrnl/DanNT.pdf, 4 Apr, 2020.
- Matt 10:41
- Dan 9:26-27
- Luke 21:20-24
- i.e. the ten horns on the fourth beast (Dan 7:7-8, 20-27) Explained in Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws and Slouching Towards Bethlehem.
- Dan 7:14
- Dan 12:2
- Matt 21:42-44
- Dan 7:13
- Dan 7:25, 12:7
- Matt 17:11-12
- Luke 21:24
- Rom 11:25
- Dan 3:1
- Rev 13:18. Explained in Gotta Serve Somebody: The Marks of God and 666.
- Matt 2:1-7
- e.g. Matt 5:17, 7:12, 11:13, 22:40
- Luke 24:25-27 and 24:44-47
- Matt 24:15