The Apocalyptic Book of Daniel

Smith's Dictionary of the BibleThe following is from Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible. I have supplied links to Scripture references, and highlighted key words, phrases and ideas to help catch the various points made by the scholar who penned this particular entry, Rev. B. F. Westcott. I’m posting on this, first, because I’m interested in learning more about the genre of apocalyptic literature, and this excerpt does a good job of presenting a few basics; second, because I’ll be following an expository series of sermons on Daniel by Kyle Oliphint (for you Westminster Seminary fans, yes, he’s K. Scott Oliphint’s  brother–can’t you see the resemblance?), and third because the four-volume set of Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible which I had the privilege of discovering at a local antique mall several years ago is apparently a facsimile edition of the original dictionary set from which all modern editions of Smith’s Bible Dictionary have been condensed. It goes into detail I’ve rarely found in more recent editions. It’s a fascinating read in and of itself. Whichever of these three reasons may compel you to join me as I learn about the apocalypse of Daniel matter not to me, but you are certainly invited all the same. I don’t know how much I’ll be posting, but I may wind up simply transcribing the present entry in a series of several posts for your further study. You’ll be able to listen along to Kyle’s expositions every week if you like at the Grace Community Presbyterian Church website’s Online Sermons page, or you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. The first sermon is entitled “God and Men at Work” based on verses one and two of Daniel 1.

DANIEL, THE BOOK OF, is the earliest example of apocalyptic literature, and in a great degree the model, according to which all later apocalypses were constructed. In this aspect it stands at the head of a series of writings in which the deepest thoughts of the Jewish people found expression after the close of the prophetic era. The book of Enoch, the Jewish Sibyllines, and the fourth book of Ezra [2 Esdras], carry out with varied success and in different directions, the great outlines of universal history which it (Daniel) contains; and the “Revelation” of Daniel received at last its just completion in the Revelation of St. John. Without an inspired type it is difficult to conceive how the later writings could have been framed; and whatever judgment be formed as to the composition of the book, there can be no doubt that it exercised a greater influence upon the early Christian Church than any other writing of the Old Testament, while in the Gospels it is specially distinguished by the emphatic quotation of the Lord (Matt. 24:15).

  1. In studying the book of Daniel it is of the utmost importance to recognize its apocalyptic character. It is at once an end and a beginning, the last form of prophecy and the first “philosophy of history.” The nation is widened into the world: the restored kingdom of Judah into a universal kingdom of God. To the old prophets Daniel stands, in some sense, as a commentator (Dan. 9:2-19): to succeeding generations, as the herald of immediate deliverance. The form, the style, and the point of sight of prophecy, are relinquished upon the verge of a new period in the existence of God’s people, and fresh instruction is given to them suited to their new fortunes. The change is not abrupt and absolute, but yet it is distinctly felt. The eye and not the ear is the organ of the Seer: visions and not words are revealed to him. His utterance is clothed in a complete and artificial shape, illustrated by symbolic imagery and pointed by a specific purpose. The divine counsels are made known to him by the ministry of angels (7:16; 8:16; 9:21), and not by “the Word of the Lord.” The seer takes his stand in the future rather than in the present, while the prophet seized on the elements of good and evil which he saw working around him and traced them to their final issue. The one (the seer) looked forward from the present to the great “age to come”; the other (the prophet) looked backward from “the last days” to the trials in which he is still placed. In prophecy the form and the essence, the human and divine were inseparably interwoven; in revelation the two elements can be contemplated apart, each in its greatest vigor,–the most consummate art, and the most striking predictions. The Babylonian exile supplied the outward training and the inward necessity for this last form of divine teaching; and the prophetic visions of Ezekiel form the connecting link between the characteristic types of revelation and prophecy.

3 responses

  1. Hello John,

    I saw this blog post of yours a while back. I admit, I’ve been waiting to read your thoughts, as you went about studying the book of Daniel, and other Bible passages which may relate.

    Perhaps I misunderstood that you were going to undertake such an endeavor, or perhaps you were, but have had other things in your life going on which may have delayed it.

    Either way, I’ll keep checking from time to time, to see if you do undertake such a study.

    May the Lord Bless you and your family…

    Mark Bertling

    Psalm 90:1-2

  2. “I don’t know how much I’ll be posting, but I may wind up simply transcribing the present entry in a series of several posts for your further study.”

    Meant to leave it more open-ended than this sentence allowed for. Sorrow to hook you and then drop it. I lost steam. Haven’t been posting much lately at all. Thanks for checking in, though.

  3. Understood

    Hope everything is well with you.

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