Sunday, March 13, 2011

Daniel's 70th Week, Part 2

Finally, one must examine the case for the literal and future interpretation for Daniel 9:24-27. One may think we have arrived at such a conclusion via process of elimination, but a positive case must be constructed. Of course, it is obvious that not all of the prophecy can be attributed to the future relative to the time of this paper’s writing. In fact, the prophecy should be examined with respect to the tense needed from the author’s perspective in time. With this in mind, the student should realize that the Messiah has already appeared, yet that event was to Daniel still future.
            That the part of the prophecy yet in our future should be interpreted that way is first demonstrated by the context in which Daniel is writing. Textual criticism claims chapters 7-12 “are intermixed chronologically with the events of chs. 1-6.”[1] This means this is the broad starting context from which to work.
            It is evident from these chapters (7-12) Daniel refers to actual dates. In Daniel 8:1 he speaks of the “third year of the reign of king Belshazzar.” No serious scholar has suggested this year should be symbolic of something else. Further, in 9:1-2, Daniel mentions the first year of Darius’ reign. Finally, presents a more analogous situation. Daniel uses unspecified language (e.g. “many days”) to describe a period of time. Yet it is clear when Daniel wishes simply to express the idea of a long time, he does so with words, not numerals. This suggests we should not only take the numbers seriously, but literally as well.[2]
            Second, the literal-future interpretation is justified when one examines the prophetic message. According to Lamorte and Hawthorne, prophecies are divided into three primary sections: “the internal destiny of Israel,” Messianic prophecies, and eschatological prophecies.[3] Daniel 9:24-27 has the benefit of incorporating all three.
            The text of the prophecy in question clearly incorporates the nation of Israel, for it is they who are “the many” in verse 27. Clearly also, the Messiah is involved, as He both appears and is cut off. Finally, the prophecy is also eschatological, for it deals with “the end” and with the “consummation” of things, which is clearly end-times vocabulary.[4] Since the message of Daniel here was essentially the combined prophetic themes for the nation of Israel, this suggests one should expect such prophecies to be fulfilled literally. Because this literal fulfillment has not yet happened, this suggests such an event (or events) is yet future.
            Third, the literal and future (from the viewpoint of Daniel) fulfillment of the prophecies of this book provide an inferential explanation for the remainder of the prophecy. That is to say, the part that has yet to be fulfilled only is such because it has not come in chronological order as of yet. Thomas Nixon, who endorses a somewhat unique view of the prophecy (where Jesus is the one who confirms the covenant with many and not Antichrist), nevertheless acknowledges a literal reading of the years and details involved in the prophecies (in large part due to literal fulfillment of prior, clear prophecies!).[5]
            Fourth, Daniel clearly had in mind a literal figure of years from reading the prophet Jeremiah. Bowers writes that “Daniel understood the 70 years were nearly up.”[6] Based on this, we understand that not only was Daniel writing in the context of literal years, but reading and thinking within the prophetic structure of Israel in a literal manner.
            Finally, the text itself should be allowed to “speak for itself.” Verse 24 is a masterpiece of a framework for this. Some clues are “to finish the transgression,” “make an end of sins,” “reconciliation for iniquity,” “bring in everlasting righteousness,” and “to anoint the most Holy.” Have these powerful phrases been fulfilled already?
            The first phrase seems to be referring to Israel’s specific transgression against the Holy God. Isaiah 1:4 says of them: “they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger.” Further, in Daniel 9:7 he speaks of “trespassing” against the Lord. “To finish the transgression” then means to bring an end to it; specifically for Israel. This has not yet occurred, biblically or historically.
            The next phrase is to “make an end of sins.” One may successfully argue this has been completed, at the cross of Jesus Christ. Hebrews states that Christ’s death was “one sacrifice for sins for ever.” Even still, it may be pointed out the original audience certainly would not have had in mind this fulfillment, and would have assumed that it was Israel’s sin against God that would be brought to an end. In this case, the paper’s author will grant that this phrase has already been fulfilled.
            The next phrase we will examine is “to bring in everlasting righteousness.” LaSor writes of this “his [God’s] saints will one day inherit a kingdom which shall never be destroyed.”[7] This is the kingdom of everlasting righteousness. It is the kingdom which the apostles thought would be ushered in soon in Acts 1:6. This is revealed clearly when one understands that in the Old Testament, God’s righteousness was seen in His equity and standing in justice.[8] This suggests “everlasting” righteousness, then, is a never-ending period of time in which God executes equitable justice, according to His moral standards and nature. This clearly has not happened as of yet in any way in which an original reader would understand.
            The final phrase to be examined is “to anoint the most Holy.” Biblically, to anoint someone “set persons and objects apart as dedicated to divine service.”[9] This would be a commencement or a beginning of sorts. Van Engen makes the reader aware that it is this exact term for “anointing” from which the ancient Hebrews created the term “Messiah.”[10] This argues powerfully that the setting apart of Messiah to bring in everlasting righteousness speaks in actuality of His future kingdom (which was thought to be literal at least by the time of Christ [cf. Acts 1:6] if not sooner).
            The text goes on to clarify further the literal and future expectations. The Hebrew words behind “to anoint” in verse 24 and “Messiah” in verse 26 are nearly identical, coming from the same root.[11] It is as though Daniel is saying “we will have an anointed one…but the anointed one will be cut off.” While verse 26 includes talk of a “prince,” it is important to note this is a distinguishing feature between this individual and the anointed One. Because of the term “desolations,” a figure such as Antiochus Epiphanes may fit this characterization. He certainly was involved in the prophecies of Daniel in less than favorable ways.[12] In any case, it seems clear the text seems to speak of events that simply have not yet occurred. However, because of the events which have occurred, the student of prophecy can know that these future events will also occur literally.
            This paper has examined the major views of the prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27. It has examined the symbolic-future view, the literal-historical view, and the literal-future view. Next, the paper examined critiques against the former two views. Finally, this paper presented a positive inferential case for the literal-future view. Although some parts of the prophecy have been fulfilled already, several parts have yet to be. Daniel’s 70th week is a future event, taking place during the tribulation. As LaSor mentions, “the book of Daniel was never meant to exhaust its meaning in the days of Antiochus…or the destruction of Jerusalem…or in any calamity the world has yet known.”[13] Instead, the book is for not only modern and future Jews, but modern and future Christians.

                [1] Ibid., 573.
                [2] Klein, 382. Here, though, Klein merely says to take the numbers seriously, but not necessarily literally. I think this is only justified if the literal avenue cannot, or is seriously unlikely to be, true.

                [3] Andre Lamorte and Gerald F. Hawthorne, “Prophecy, Prophet,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 961.

                [4] LaSor, 567-570
                [5] Thomas C. Nixon, The Prophecy of Daniel: Unsealed. (Bloomington, IN: Author House, 2008), 120-130.

                [6] Morris Glen Bowers, Israel: The 51st State. (Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2005), 386. It should be noted Bowers is an unashamed critic of Israel and believes such prophecies are unfulfilled. But his case rests entirely on the point that the prophecies should be taken literally!
                [7] LaSor, 570.

                [8] David W. Diehl, “Righteousness,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 1033.

                [9] John Van Engen, “Anoint, Anointing,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 65.

                [10] Ibid.
            [11] The latter is מָשִׁיחַ and the former is מָשַׁח.

                [12] LaSor, 569.

                [13] Ibid., 569-570.

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