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"THE BOOK OF DANIEL" Introduction To Daniel by Mark Copeland


"THE BOOK OF DANIEL"

Introduction To Daniel

INTRODUCTION

1. One of the more fascinating books of the Bible is the book of Daniel...
   a. The first six chapters contain accounts of faith that inspire
      both young and old
   b. The last six chapters are filled with apocalyptic visions that
      challenge even the most advanced Bible students and scholars

2. It is a book that has often been attacked and abused...
   a. Attacked by liberals who deny its inspiration
   b. Abused by many who have taken its visions out of context to
      support all kinds of wild theories concerning the second coming
      of Christ

3. But when properly read and understood, the book of Daniel can...
   a. Inspire us to greater faithfulness in our service to God
   b. Strengthen our faith in the inspiration of the Bible

[In this lesson, we shall introduce the book and look at it as whole,
beginning with what we know of ...]

I. DANIEL AND HIS TIMES

   A. THE MAN...
      1. The name "Daniel" means "God is my judge"
      2. He was a person of deep and abiding faith
         a. As a youth, he purposed not to defile himself - Dan 1:8
         b. When old, he persisted in serving God despite threats
            against his life - Dan 6:10
      3. God blessed Daniel because of his faith
         a. He rose to great heights in the kingdoms of Babylon and
            Persia - Dan 2:48; 6:1-3
         b. He served as a statesman, a counselor to kings, and a
            prophet of God
      4. Daniel was contemporary with Jeremiah and Ezekiel
         a. Jeremiah prophesied in Jerusalem before and during the
            Babylonian exile (626-528 B.C.)
         b. Ezekiel prophesied in Babylon among the exiles (592-570 B.C.)
         c. Daniel prophesied in the capital of Babylon (605-586 B.C.)
      5. Nothing is known of his personal life outside of the book
         a. He descended from one of Judah's prominent families, if not
            from royal blood - Dan 1:3
         b. At an early age (12-18) he was taken from his family to be
            trained in the courts of Babylon - Dan 1:3-4
         c. Whether he ever married is uncertain

   B. THE TIME IN WHICH HE LIVED...
      1. Some key dates to remember
         a. 612 B.C. - Fall of Nineveh, capital of Assyria
            1) Assyria had ruled the world since the days of Tiglath-Pileser (845 B.C.)
            2) Nabopolassar came to the throne in Babylon and rebelled
               against the Assyrians in 625 B.C.
            3) Nebuchadnezzar, son of Nabopolassar, was the general who
               led the Babylonian army against Nineveh, defeating it in 612 B.C.
         b. 605 B.C. - Battle of Carchemish, establishing Babylonian domination
            1) Pharaoh-Necho of Egypt came to fight the Babylonians at
               Carchemish
            2) Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptians, chasing them
               south through Judah
            3) At Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar heard of his father's 
               death; he returned to assume the throne in Babylon
            4) The first group of Jewish captives were taken, along
               with Daniel and his friends - Dan 1:1-4
         c. 597 B.C. - A second remnant taken to Babylon
            1) Jehoiachin (Jeconiah, Coniah) followed the reign of his
               father, Jehoiakim
            2) He lasted just three months, when Nebuchadnezzar took
               him and 10,000 Jews to Babylon - 2Ki 24:8-16
            3) This second group of captives included Ezekiel - Eze 1:1-3
         d. 586 B.C. - Fall of Jerusalem and the temple destroyed
            1) Zedekiah was installed as king in Jerusalem, but was
               weak and vacillating
            2) Eleven years later, Jerusalem was totally devastated by
               Babylonian forces - 2Ki 25:1-10
            3) A third group was taken into Babylonian captivity, but
               Jeremiah was among those who stayed behind - 
              2Ki 25: 11-12,22; Jer 39:11-14; 40:1-6
         e. 536 B.C. - The first remnant returns to Jerusalem
            1) Babylon falls in 539 B.C.
            2) Cyrus, king of Persia, sends the first remnant back
               under the leadership of Zerubbabel - Ezra 1:1-5; 2:1-2
            3) The foundation of the temple was soon started, but the
               temple was not completed until 516 B.C. - Ezra 3:8-13; 6:14-16
         f. 457 B.C. - A second remnant returns to Jerusalem
            1) Ezra the priest returns with this group - Ezra 7:1-8:36
            2) He leads a much-needed revival - Ezra 9:1-10:44
         g. 444 B.C. - A third remnant returns to Jerusalem
            1) This group is led by Nehemiah - Neh 1:1-2:20
            2) Under his leadership, the walls of Jerusalem are rebuilt
               - Neh 3:1-7:73
            3) Together with Ezra, they restore much of the religion 
               - Neh 8:1-13:31
      2. Daniel lived through much of these times (605-534 B.C.)
         a. He was among the first group of captives taken to Babylon- Dan 1:1-4
         b. He continued there over the entire 70 years of captivity
            - Dan 1:21; 10:1; cf. Dan 9:1-2; Jer 25:11; 29:10

[Daniel was certainly a remarkable man. His greatness was recognized by
his contemporary, Ezekiel (Ezek 14:14,20; 28:3). Now let's take a brief
look at...]

II. THE BOOK OF DANIEL

   A. THE THEME...
      1. "God Rules In The Kingdoms Of Men" - cf. Dan 2:21; 4:17,25,32,34-35; 5:21
      2. In this book, we see the rule of God is...
         a. Manifested in the days of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar,
            Darius, and Cyrus, kings of the Babylonians, Medes, andPersians
         b. Foretold to occur in the days of the Persians, Greeks, andRomans
      3. In this book, we learn the rule of God would be especially manifested...
         a. With the establishment of God's kingdom - Dan 2:44
         b. With the vindication of the cause of His saints - Dan 7:27

   B. A BRIEF OUTLINE...
      1. God's Providence In History - 1:1-6:28
         a. Daniel and his determination to be pure - 1:1-21
         b. Nebuchadnezzar's dream and Daniel's promotion - 2:1-49
         c. Faith in the face of fire by Daniel's friends - 3:1-30
         d. Nebuchadnezzar's second dream and temporary insanity - 4:1-37
         e. The writing on the wall and fall of Belshazzar - 5:1-31
         f. Darius and his den of lions - 6:1-28
      2. God's Purpose In History - 7:1-12:13
         a. Daniel's dream of the four beasts - 7:1-28
         b. Daniel's dream of the ram and the goat - 8:1-27
         c. Daniel's prayer, and the vision of the seventy weeks - 9:1-27
         d. Daniel's vision of the time of the end - 10:1-12:13

CONCLUSION

1. As with all of Scripture, the book of Daniel is profitable for our study 
   - 2Ti 3:16-17
   a. From Daniel and his three friends, we will learn the power of
      faith and commitment
   b. By studying this book, we can better understand our Lord's
      references to it - cf. Mk 1:14-15; Mt 24:15-16

2. Despite some of its more difficult and challenging passages, we can
   benefit from them as well, as long as we interpret them...
   a. In the context of the book itself
   b. Consistent with all else the Bible may say on the subject
   c. With the humility and openness that is incumbent upon all who
      would study and teach God' word - cf. 2Ti 2:24-25

In our next study, then, we will begin by taking a look at "The Faith
Of A Fifteen-Year-Old"...

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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The Question of Inerrancy by J.W. McGarvey




The Question of Inerrancy
by J.W. McGarvey


[Editor’s Note: The following article was penned by J.W. McGarvey and originally appeared in the May 27, 1893 issue of Christian Standard, reprinted in McGarvey, 1910, pp. 36-39. While the specific occasion that elicited the article has long since passed, the principles have not, since they still afflict the thinking of modern liberal theologians. We commend this timeless article to your consideration.]
I believe it was Professor Briggs who first introduced the current use of the term “inerrancy” in the controversy about the character of the original Scriptures. If he did not, he at least has given it its chief conspicuity in recent discussions. It is well-known that no intelligent man claims inerrancy for the printed Bibles which we now use, whether in the translations or the original tongues. The question has never had reference to any other than the language of the inspired writers, as distinguished from the alterations and interpolations which have been introduced by copyists and editors. In other words, it has reference to the autographic writing of the authors of the books. Instead of meeting the question fairly, those gentlemen who are so fond of an errant Bible, have taken a great deal of pains to obscure the real issue by throwing dust into the air. Professor Warfield, of Princeton, has an excellent article in the Independent of March 23, in which he scatters this dust, and lays bare the real issue in a most intelligible manner. We quote him:
We have heard a vast deal of late of “the first manuscripts of the Bible which no living man has ever seen,” of “Scriptures that have disappeared forever,” of “original autographs which have vanished;” concerning the contents of which these controversialists are willing to declare, with the emphasis of italics, that they know nothing, that no man knows anything, and that they are perfectly contented with their ignorance. Now, again, if this were to be taken literally, it would amount to a strong asseveration that the Bible, as God gave it to men, is lost beyond recovery; and that men are shut up, therefore, to the use of Bibles so hopelessly corrupted that it is impossible now to say what was in the original autographs and what was not! In proportion as we draw back from this contention—which is fortunately as absurd as it is extreme—in that proportion do we affirm that we have the autographic text; that not only we, but all men, may see it if they will; and that God has not permitted the Bible to become so hopelessly corrupt that its restoration to its original text is impossible. As a matter of fact, the great body of the Bible is, in its autographic text, in the worst copies of the original texts in circulation; practically the whole of it is in its autographic text in the best texts in circulation; and he who will may today read the autographic text in large stretches of Scripture without legitimate doubt, and, in the New Testament at least, may know precisely at what rarely occurring points, and to what not very great extent, doubts as to the genuineness of the text are still possible.
The Professor might have added that this autograph, thus accurately preserved, and now in the hands of every reader of the corrected Greek text of the New Testament, is faithfully represented to the eye of every English reader in the renderings and marginal readings of the Revised Version. For while, as the textual critics make plain to us, seven-eighths of the words of the New Testament are now printed in the very form in which they came from the original penmen, and nine hundred and ninety-nine thousandths of it absolutely so in meaning; and while we can put our finger on every word about which there remains any doubt; the marginal readings of the revised New Testament enable the reader who knows not a word of Greek to put his finger also on these words, and to know that all the rest are precisely those of the autographs. It is a most mischievous and deceptive device, therefore, originating from the heat of controversy, to speak of the autographic writing of the apostles as though it were lost to the world, never to be known again except by conjecture. Thank God, we have it in a purer form than our fathers had, even back to the early ages of the faith; and with this autographic writing in our hands, we stand before those who would criticize its representations, and say: Gentlemen, show us an error here which by a fair logical process can be certainly charged to the inspired penmen, and we will concede that to this extent their inspiration failed to guard against error. You have not done so yet; for all the specifications which you have made fail of this essential condition. We would caution them also to remember that there is the breadth of the heavens between infinitesimal errors of detail in a very few instances, and such errors as they are constantly charging upon the Scriptures, errors in which multitudes of facts, arguments and inferences in every part of the Bible are discredited at the good pleasure of every opinionated critic. The former would be a puzzle worthy of profound consideration and an earnest effort at solution; but the latter makes the Bible less reliable as a record of facts than Macaulay’s History of England or Bancroft’s History of the United States. We want no such Bible as that, and the coming generation will have none at all if that is the alternative

REFERENCE

McGarvey, J.W. (1910), Short Essays in Biblical Criticism (Cincinnati, OH: The Standard Publishing Company).

The Prophecy of Nations by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.





The Prophecy of Nations

by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.


In the feature article, I raised the issue of time, only to say that it does not need to be a problem. Whether differences built up between populations gradually, or rapidly at the beginning, or in occasional brief spurts of intense change, seems to be an empirical matter. The pattern of change should not be assumed ahead of time.
However, we do have to work within certain constraints. If James Ussher’s dates are anything to go by, the Flood occurred in 2348 B.C., and the dispersion from the Tower of Babel occurred in 2234 B.C. Even conservative writers do not agree on the exact dating (e.g., Morris, 1974, pp. 247-250) but, for the sake of argument, let us say that human variation began around the time of Ussher’s date for the Flood. This sets a time limit of approximately 4,350 years.
Next, we need to know the extent of variation. The commonly cited figure is 0.2%. In other words, if you were to compare your DNA with the DNA of a stranger picked randomly from anywhere in the world, you would find that two base pairs (the “rungs” of the twisted, ladder-like DNA molecule) in every thousand base pairs are different, on average. There are around 3 billion base pairs in human DNA, so 0.2% of this figure would equal 6 million base pairs.
Actually, the situation is a little worse than this. If ancient art is anything to go by, skin coloration was a significant feature at an early stage (again, for the sake of argument, I will not worry about the discrepancies between archaeological and biblical chronologies). We could assume that obvious physical variations were fairly well established by the time of Abraham (c. 2000 B.C.). Is there enough time to accumulate these changes in the first few hundred years after the Flood?
The situation is helped a little by the estimate that only 6% of the 0.2% variation represents differences across major groupings (Gutin, 1994, p. 72). Between, say, a European and an Asian chosen at random, we would expect to find a difference of only 360,000 base pairs. Of course, all we need are sufficient mutations in the genes that are most responsible for making us appear different to people in other places. In the case of skin color (see feature article), this could mean a few mutations among a handful of genes.
So far, this is just a sketch of where we need to go in terms of a biblical model. No one, including the evolutionist, has explained all the empirical data. Still, 6 million mutations in such a short time requires some explanation.
One solution may lie in much higher mutation rates. Most estimates have rested on molecular clocks which, in turn, have rested on evolutionary assumptions. Until recently, we have not had good empirical measures of the mutation rates in humans. The situation improved when geneticists were able to analyze DNA from individuals with well-established family trees going back several generations. One study found that mutation rates in mitochondrial DNA are 18 times higher than previous estimates (Parsons, et al., 1997). If this new rate were applied to the “mitochondrial Eve” research, it would turn out that this hypothetical woman lived 6,000 years ago. “No one thinks that’s the case,” science writer Ann Gibbons is quick to point out (1998, 279:29). Still, if these new estimates hold, evolutionary anthropologists will have to do some fancy footwork around their dates for key events in the development of modern humans. Most important, the new data may put a biblical empirical model in closer reach.

REFERENCES

Gibbons, Ann (1998), “Calibrating the Mitochondrial Clock,” Science, 279:28-29, January 2.
Gutin, Joann C. (1994), “End of the Rainbow,” Discover, 15[2]:70-75, November.
Morris, Henry M. (1974), Scientific Creationism (San Diego, CA: Creation-Life Publishers).
Parsons, Thomas J., et al. (1997), “A High Observed Substitution Rate in the Human Mitochondrial DNA Control Region,” Nature Genetics, 15:363.

The Prophecy of Daniel 8 by Kyle Butt, M.Div.




The Prophecy of Daniel 8
by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


One extremely valuable line of evidence that confirms that the Bible is the inspired Word of God is the presence of accurate, predictive prophecy contained in its pages. Not only are the prophecies of the Bible fulfilled in minute detail with complete accuracy, but these fulfillments are often accomplished centuries after the prophecies were made. Even the skeptic understands that if this is the case, a supernatural agent must be responsible for the writing of the Bible. That is why the skeptic attempts to discredit the prophecies by claiming that they were written after the events, or by claiming that they were not fulfilled in detail. By attempting to disparage the prophecies using these methods, the skeptic admits that if the prophecies were written centuries before the events, and if they are fulfilled in detail, then a supernatural agent is responsible for them. As the prophet Jeremiah wrote: “As for the prophet who prophecies of peace, when the word of the prophet comes to pass, the prophet will be known as one whom the Lord has truly sent” (28:9). Completely accurate, fulfilled prophecy is a characteristic that verifies the divine inspiration of the Bible.
In truth, a multitude of accurate, predictive prophecies fill the pages of the Bible. This article will deal with only one, which is found in Daniel chapter 8. In that passage, the prophet Daniel relates to his readers the following prophetic vision:
In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me—to me, Daniel—after the one that appeared to me the first time. I saw in the vision, and it so happened while I was looking, that I was in Shushan, the citadel, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in the vision that I was by the River Ulai. Then I lifted my eyes and saw, and there, standing beside the river, was a ram which had two horns, and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last. I saw the ram pushing westward, northward, and southward, so that no animal could withstand him; nor was there any that could deliver from his hand, but he did according to his will and became great. And as I was considering, suddenly a male goat came from the west, across the surface of the whole earth, without touching the ground; and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes. Then he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing beside the river, and ran at him with furious power. And I saw him confronting the ram; he was moved with rage against him, attacked the ram, and broke his two horns. There was no power in the ram to withstand him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled him; and there was no one that could deliver the ram from his hand. Therefore the male goat grew very great; but when he became strong, the large horn was broken, and in place of it four notable ones came up toward the four winds of heaven. And out of one of them came a little horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land. And it grew up to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground, and trampled them. He even exalted himself as high as the Prince of the host; and by him the daily sacrifices were taken away, and the place of His sanctuary was cast down. Because of transgression, an army was given over to the horn to oppose the daily sacrifices; and he cast truth down to the ground. He did all this and prospered. Then I heard a holy one speaking; and another holy one said to that certain one who was speaking, “How long will the vision be, concerning the daily sacrifices and the transgression of desolation, the giving of both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled underfoot?” And he said to me, “For two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed” (Daniel 8:1-14).
After narrating what he saw in the vision, Daniel wondered what the dream meant. While in this state of contemplation, the angel Gabriel approached Daniel to explain the dream. Gabriel proceeded to offer an accurate interpretation of the events that Daniel saw:
The ram which you saw, having the two horns—they are the kings of Media and Persia. And the male goat is the kingdomof Greece. The large horn that is between its eyes is the first king. As for the broken horn and the four that stood up in its place, four kingdoms shall arise out of that nation, but not with its power. And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their fullness, a king shall arise, having fierce features, who understands sinister schemes. His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power; he shall destroy fearfully, and shall prosper and thrive; he shall destroy the mighty, and also the holy people. Through his cunning he shall cause deceit to prosper under his rule;and he shall exalt himself in his heart. He shall destroy many in their prosperity. He shall even rise against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without human means.And the vision of the evenings and mornings which was told is true; therefore seal up the vision, for it refers to many days in the future (Daniel 8:20-26).

THE TIME OF THIS PROPHECY

In order to understand the significance of this prophecy, it is important to settle the date when the prophecy purports to be written. The author claims to be writing the prophecy in the “third year of the reign of King Belshazzar.” A look at secular, historical records gives us a solid understanding of this date. Nabonidus was the king of Babylon and father of Belshazzar. In the ancient historical inscription known as The Verse Account of Nabonidus, we read, that when “the third year was about to begin—He [Nabonidus] entrusted the ‘Camp’ to his oldest (son), the firstborn, the troops everywhere in the country he ordered under his command. He let everything go, entrusted the kingship to him” (Pritchard, 1969, p. 313). A different ancient inscription known as the Nabonidus Cylinder explains that his firstborn son was Belshazzar (“The Nabonidus Cylinder…,” n.d.). He was entrusted with the army in the third year of Nabonidus’ reign, which most scholars agree was around the year 553 B.C. So the third year of his reign, in which the prophecy of Daniel 8 was delivered, was approximately 550 B.C.

THE KINGS OF MEDIA AND PERSIA

Daniel saw a ram with two notable horns, one being higher than the other. This ram was pushing westward, northward, and southward, and became great. The angel Gabriel explained that this ram with two horns signified the kings of Media and Persia. When we look into history, we see that the description of their activities matches what we know from secular historical accounts. The Median Empire had been growing in strength for many years. Historian J.M. Cook noted, “By the middle of the seventh century [B.C.—KB] things were running for the Medes” (1983, p. 3).
Famed Greek historian Herodotus, writing in the 5th century B.C., describes the formation of the Median Empire in which the Medes had numerous smaller settlements that were united by a man named Deioces. This man built a large capital city known as Ecbatana. According to the historian, he reigned for 53 years and united at least six regional groups into the kingdom of Media. Herodotus then documents that Deioces’ son Phraortes reigned for 22 years after his father. He was succeeded by his son Cyaxares, who “united all Asia beyond the Halys under his rule” (1996, 1:95-103). Cyaxares reigned 40 years, died, and was succeeded by his son Astyagas. Under the reign of Astyagas, the Persians revolted against the Medes. Led by Cyrus the Great, the Persian army defeated Astyagas’ army, and Cyrus ascended to the throne of both the Medes and the Persians (1:127-130). The Nabonidus Chronicle confirms Cyrus’ victory against Astyagas (The Nabonidus Chronicle, n.d.).
One interesting point as it relates to the prophetic vision of Daniel is the fact that initially, the Medes were the superior, ruling class. This information comes from numerous statements found in Herodotus. For instance, Astyagas married his daughter to “a Persian named Cambyses, a man he knew to be of good family and quiet habits—though he considered him much below a Mede even of middle rank” (1:107). When Cyrus took control of the empire, however, the Persian facet of the kingdom grew to be stronger, even though it was the second to rise. Herodotus wrote: “On the present occasion the Persians under Cyrus rose against the Medes and from then onwards were masters of Asia” (1:130). This historical fact coincides perfectly with Daniel’s vision in which the first ram had two horns “but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last.”
The dual power of the Medo-Persian Empire, led first by Cyrus and then by his son Cambyses, continued to grow in strength and territory. Herodotus documents that the empire stretched across all Asia. Cyrus then began to “push westward,” subjugating peoples such as the Ionians as far westward as the Aegean Sea (1:169). The historian notes that Cyrus was possessed of “restless ambition” and engaged in “successive acts of aggression against one nation after another” (1:190). Cambyses, who reigned over the empire after his father, seemed to have the same ambitious spirit. He “pushed southward,” conquering nations as far south as Egypt (3:1-27). Darius, who assumed the throne after Cambyses, claimed to rule over a host of nations, including areas as far north as Armenia (The Behistun Inscription, n.d.). Thus, there can be no doubt that the ram with two horns signified the Medo-Persian Empire, exactly as the angel Gabriel stated.

THE MALE GOAT FROM THE WEST:
ALEXANDER THE GREAT

In Daniel’s vision, the ram with two horns, which was the Medo-Persian Empire, was defeated by a male goat that arose out of the west and had a notable horn in the center of its head. In his explanation of the vision, Gabriel said that this male goat was the kingdom of Greece, and the notable horn was the “first king.” Anyone familiar with ancient history recognizes this first king as Alexander the Great, the son of Philip of Macedon. Alexander was arguably the most successful military commander in the history of the world. First-century A.D. Roman historian Quintus Curtius Rufus stated that Alexander had “a lust for glory and fame reaching a degree which exceeded due proportion” (2001, 10:29). His conquest of the world was so thorough, that Rufus suggested that Fortune had shown her face on him with such delight that it was to Fortune he owed the most gratitude. In fact, Rufus stated: “The fates waited for him to complete the subjection of the East and reach the Ocean, achieving everything of which a mortal was capable” (10:36). In the course of his conquest, he defeated the Medo-Persian Empire and assimilated it into the Greek Empire. Rufus documented the various battles Alexander fought with king Darius, the ruler of the Persian armies, and the Greek’s victory over the opposing Medo-Persian Empire (Books 3 and 4).

THE FOUR NOTABLE HORNS:
RULERS AFTER ALEXANDER

Quintus Curtius Rufus noted that upon Alexander’s death, since he lacked a definite heir, various individuals would most likely make a bid for the throne (10:12). Amidst the scramble for Alexander’s throne, his kingdom was divided into four segments: “[T]he Macedonian Empire split into four main kingdoms—the one of Seleucus (Asia), Ptolemy (Egypt), Lysimachus (Thrace), and Antipater’s son Cassander (Macedonia, including Greece)” (“Alexander the Great Biography,” 2003).
Plutarch, the ancient historian, documented this division in great detail. In his exposition on Demetrius, he wrote:
The followers of Ptolemy in Egypt on their part…gave him the title of king. And thus their emulation carried the practice among other successors of Alexander. For Lysimachus began to wear the diadem, and Seleucus also in his interviews with the Greeks…. Cassander, however, although the others gave him the royal title in their letters and addresses, wrote his letters in his own untitled name (1920, 18).
Diodorus Siculus confirmed this account in Book 19 of his work when he wrote: “When they had been brought into the council, they demanded that Cappadocia and Lycia be given to Cassander, Hellespontine Phrygia to Lysimachus, all Syria to Ptolemy and Babylonia to Seleucus” (1947, 19:57). Both writers mention that Antigonus and his son Demetrius fought for control of portions of the empire as well, but upon their defeat, Plutarch wrote: “The victorious kings carved up the entire domain which had been subject to Antigonus and Demetrius, as if it had been a great carcass, and took each his portion, adding thus to the provinces which the victors already had” (1920, 30).
Thus, over 250 years after Daniel’s vision in the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar, Alexander’s kingdom was divided and ruled by “four notable horns.” As the prophet Gabriel had predicted concerning the kingdom of Greece in Daniel 8:22, “four kingdoms shall arise out of that nation, but not with its power.” Secular history perfectly confirms the accuracy of this statement.

ANTIOCHUS EPIPHANES IV:
THE LITTLE HORN

In Daniel’s vision, a little horn came out of one of the four notable horns (kingdoms) and grew to be great. This horn spread his authority toward the south, east, and the “Glorious land.” He exalted himself as high as the “Prince of the host,” and took away the daily sacrifices. Gabriel stated that this horn represented a king who would “understand sinister schemes,” “magnify himself,” and “be broken without human hand.” Does history record the life of an individual who fits this prophecy? It certainly does. Out of the Seleucid Empire arose a king named Antiochus Epiphanes IV. His reign began in 175 B.C. and lasted until 164 B.C. It was characterized by tyranny, deceit, and brutality, just as Daniel’s vision predicted and Gabriel confirmed. A brief look into the specifics of these prophecies verifies Antiochus Epiphanes IV’s presence predicted in them.

“Exalted Himself as High as the Prince of the Host”

The little horn of Daniel’s vision was predicted to be so enamored with his own importance that the text states, “He even exalted himself as high as the Prince of the host” (Daniel 8:11). The angel Gabriel explained that he would “magnify himself in his heart” (Daniel 8:25). When we compare this prediction with the historical record of the life and actions of Antiochus Epiphanes IV, we see a striking fulfillment in the hubris of this king. Bible scholar H.W. Hoehner explained that Antiochus Epiphanes IV “assumed the title of Theos Epiphanes meaning ‘the manifest God’” (1976, 1:192-193). Coins that were minted during Epiphanes’ reign add further weight to the fact that he exalted himself to the position of deity. Mahlon H. Smith provides detailed pictures of a silver tetradrachma minted by Epiphanes that has on it “Basileos Antiochou Theou Epiphaniou Nikephorou,” which means “of King Antiochus, God Manifest, Victory Bearer” (2008). Smith also presents a bronze coin that depicts Antiochus IV with the phrase “God Manifest” on it as well. There can be no doubt that Antiochus Epiphanes IV exalted himself “as high as the Prince of the host,” a fact that adds additional weight to the idea that Antiochus Epiphanes IV is the little horn of Daniel’s vision.

The Daily Sacrifices Were Taken Away

Daniel’s vision predicted that the little horn that arose from the male goat would grow “exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious land” (Daniel 8:9). The reference to the “Glorious Land” is a reference to Judea and Jerusalem, a fact that is born out by the statement that the little horn would cause the daily sacrifices in the temple in Jerusalem to cease. It is a simple matter of history to identify the point in time when the daily sacrifices in the temple were taken away. The book of 1 Maccabees documents that Antiochus IV waged war against Ptolemy, routing his army and killing many (1976, 1:17-19). On the return trip from Egypt, Antiochus IV plundered the temple. Two years later, he sent a general named Mysarch who destroyed many of the towns of Judah and killed a host of the Jews. In addition, he sent letters to Jerusalem “to put a stop to burnt offerings and meal offering and libation in the temple, to violate Sabbaths and festivals.” And in 167 B.C. he desecrated the altar in the temple, which the 1 Maccabees writer refers to as the abomination of desolation  (1:44-64).

“Broken Without Human Means”

When the angel Gabriel explained Daniel’s dream, the heavenly messenger predicted that the wicked king who was portrayed as the little horn would be “broken without human means” (Daniel 8:25). When we compare the death of Antiochus Epiphanes IV with this statement, we can see that it accurately describes his demise. Antiochus did not die in battle, as many ancient kings did, nor was he assassinated by conspirators. In fact, Antiochus did not die at the hands of any other human. Various historical references relating to his death verify the fact that he died because of a distemper or fever. Josephus stated:
[H]e was confounded, and, by the anxiety he was in, fell into a distemper, which, as it lasted a great while, and as his pains increased upon him, so he at length perceived he should die in a little time; so he called his friends to him, and told them that his distemper was severe upon him, and confessed withal, that this calamity was sent upon him for the miseries he had brought upon the Jewish nation, while he plundered their temple and condemned their God; and when he had said this, he gave up the ghost (Antiquities of the Jews, 12:9:1).
Polybius, a Greek historian from the second century B.C., stated that Antiochus “died at Tabae in Persia, smitten with madness, as some people say, owing to certain manifestations of divine displeasure” (1927, 31:9). Appian, a Roman historian from the second century A.D., said that he died of “wasting disease” (n.d., 66). And Diodorus Siculus, who wrote during the first century B.C., recorded that Antiochus Epiphanes IV “was driven mad by certain apparitions and terrors, and finally died of disease” (1947, 31:18a). Both Siculus and Polybius attribute Antiochus’ disease to divine displeasure over his attack on the temple of Artemis, while Josephus attributes it to his actions against the temple of the Jews. But the fact upon which they agree is that Antiochus Epiphanes IV died of a “disease,” or “distemper,” or “madness,” that was not the result of any human means. Thus, his death perfectly coincides with the death of the little horn of Daniel 8 that would be “broken without human means.”

ENEMIES ACCUSE DANIEL 8 OF BEING HISTORY, NOT PROPHECY

Daniel’s vision and Gabriel’s commentary on it have proven to be so accurate that skeptics are forced to admit its accuracy, but claim that it was written after the events transpired— not hundreds of years before. One can see why skeptics must adopt this tactic. If the vision of Daniel 8 actually was written in approximately 550 B.C., and it accurately predicted events in detail that did not transpire until 164 B.C., then whoever wrote the book must have been aided by divine guidance. Since the atheists, skeptics, and many liberal theologians cannot tolerate such a conclusion, they must find some way to deny the prophecy. Since secular history verifies the prophecy in great detail, to deny that the vision of Daniel 8 documents actual events would be tantamount to intellectual suicide. Thus, the only alternative is to contend that the record of the events in Daniel 8 is a historic record that was penned after the events took place. We will see that such a tactic is misguided and flawed, and cannot be sustained. But the fact that it is used does much to confirm the accuracy of the prophecy. After all, if the prophecy were not accurate, why would any unbeliever be forced to call it history?
Near the beginning of the 5th century A.D., Jerome became a prominent figure among Christians. He penned a commentary on the book of Daniel, in which he mentioned a skeptic by the name of Porphyry,
who wrote his twelfth book against the prophecy of Daniel, denying that it was composed by the person to whom it is ascribed in its title, but rather by some individual living in Judaea at the time of Antiochus who was surnamed Epiphanes. He furthermore alleged that “Daniel” did not foretell the future so much as he related the past…. [B]ecause Porphyry saw that all these things had been fulfilled and could not deny that they had taken place, he overcame this evidence of historical accuracy by taking refuge in this evasion…. For so striking was the reliability of what the prophet foretold, that he could not appear to unbelievers to be a predictor of the future, but rather a narrator of things already past (1958, pp. 15-16).
Modern-day skeptic, Chris Sandoval, was forced to adopt the same line of reasoning, stating: “Actually, the book was written in Palestine in the mid-second century BC by an author who expected God to set up his everlasting kingdom in his own near future…” (2007). Throughout his work, while claiming (without success) that the author of Daniel made mistakes, he insists that the author had an accurate knowledge of much world history. Sandoval said of the author of Daniel: “We see that he was well-acquainted with the history of the Seleucids and Ptolemies up to a century and half before his time;” and “[s]ince these predictions largely came true until the middle of the war and failed thereafter, we know that the author lived in Seleucid times, not Babylonian times” (2007). Sandoval’s statement that Daniel’s prophecies “failed” after the war is false, but he concedes that Daniel’s predictions “largely came true until the middle of the war.” Such reasoning tacitly admits the fact that even the skeptics believe that Daniel’s vision accurately detailed many events as they occurred in history.

WERE DANIEL’S VISIONS PROPHECY OR HISTORY?

Since Daniel’s vision coincides perfectly with actual events to such a degree that the skeptic is forced to label it history instead of prophecy, the Christian apologist is left with the task of showing that the book of Daniel was, indeed, written hundreds of years prior to the events it describes. If that can be done conclusively—and it can—then Daniel’s prophetic vision in Daniel 8 stands as a fulfilled, predictive prophecy, and an infallible proof of the Bible’s inspiration and the existence of God Who inspired the book. Let us explore various reasons why the book of Daniel should be dated to the sixth century B.C.

The Primary Reason to Date Daniel in the Second Century is its Accuracy

Skeptics insist that the book must have been written in the second century B.C. due to anachronism in its text and various other discrepancies. None of their allegations has been sustained. Instead, the astute reader finds that the primary reason the skeptic rejects the early date of Daniel is because of its accuracy. Due to their naturalistic assumptions—that no writer could accurately predict events that occurred 400 years after his writing—skeptics assert a late date for Daniel based on the false assumption that predictive prophecy is impossible.
Sandoval’s article provides an excellent example of this assumption. He stated:  “Since these predictions largely came true until the middle of the war and failed thereafter, we know that the author lived in Seleucid times, not Babylonian times” (2007). Observe the reasoning behind how he arrives at a date for the book. The information in Daniel is accurate up to the time of the Seleucids, thus Daniel must have been written after those events occurred. [Again, I would note that his accusation that Daniel’s information fails after that point is false.]
Notice the circular reasoning involved. The assertion is that Daniel must have been written in the second century solely because of its accuracy. But the assertion fails to account for the possibility of accurate, predictive prophecy. In essence, the skeptic is forced to say that Daniel is accurate, and thus could not have been written before the second century, because no such thing as predictive prophecy exists. Yet, is it not the case that the very point of the discussion is to determine the legitimacy of predictive prophecy? The skeptic cannot say that Daniel is not predictive prophecy because there is no such thing as predictive prophecy. To date Daniel in the second century because it is accurate is faulty reasoning of the highest order.

The Internal Evidence of Authorship

The book of Daniel claims to have been written by an Israelite exile named Daniel. Various verses in Daniel (7:2,15; 8:1,27; 9:2; 12:5) insist that Daniel authored the book. In addition, the book provides specific statements such as, “in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign” (2:1), “in the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar” (8:1), and “in the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus” (9:1), that date the book to the sixth century B.C. In order for the skeptic or liberal theologian to reject these clear statements, he must provide valid reasons why they cannot be true. Such reasons have never been provided. As jurisprudence expert Simon Greenleaf stated: “Every document, apparently ancient, coming from the proper repository or custody, and bearing on its face no evident marks of forgery, the law presumes to be genuine, and devolves on the opposing party the burden of proving it to be otherwise” (1995, p. 16).

Daniel in the Dead Sea Scrolls Collection

Another reason to date Daniel in the sixth century B.C. instead of the second is its presence in the Dead Sea Scrolls collection. Several partial copies of Daniel were found at Qumran. First, this fact shows that by the time the books were being collected to store at Qumran, the book of Daniel was viewed with such respect that numerous copies were made to store there. As Bruce Waltke stated: “The discovery of manuscripts of Daniel at Qumran dating from the Maccabean period renders it highly improbable that the book was composed during the time of the Maccabees” (1976, 133:321). By the time of the Maccabees, Daniel was already such a respected and revered, sacred book that it had been copied and stored with other ancient texts at Qumran. Second, in his study of a section of Job found at Qumran, a fragment known as 11QtJob, Robert Vasholz suggested that the composition of the fragment “may have originally dated to the late third century or early second century B.C.” (1978, 21:319). He compared this fragment to sections of Daniel and concluded that the data “suggest that Daniel was written before 11QtJob and lead us to believe that the evidence now available from Qumran indicates a pre-second-century date for the Aramaic of Daniel” (p. 320). Not only does the presence of Daniel at Qumran provide evidence of a pre-second-century date, but the Aramaic used in the book supplies additional weight to support an early date.

Daniel’s Use of the Name Belshazzar

For many years, critics used Daniel’s reference to Belshazzar as evidence that the book contained historical errors. They asserted that Nabonidus was the last king of Babylon and Belshazzar was a figment of the author’s imagination. Evidence began to accrue, however, in the form of ancient writings and inscriptions, that showed that “for much of the reign of Nabonidus, his eldest son, Belshazzar, acted as coregent” (Waltke, 1976, 133:328). This fact led Waltke to correctly conclude: “It seems clear, then, from a straightforward reading of the narratives of the Book of Daniel that the author possessed a more accurate knowledge of Neo-Babylonia and early Achaemenid Persian history than any other known historian since the sixth century B.C.” (p. 328). The information was available in the Babylonian records if a person had access to those. There is no evidence, however, that a later author of Daniel could have accessed them. Thus the use of the name Belshazzar adds credibility to an early date for the book (Jackson, n.d.).

Josephus’ Witness to an Early Date for Daniel

Josephus, the first century A.D. historian who penned Jewish history for a Roman audience, adds additional weight to the fact that Daniel was written in the sixth century B.C. and not in the second century. First, in regard to the book of Daniel, Josephus expressed the then-common Jewish belief that Daniel was a prophetic book that belonged among the Scriptures or sacred writings. He concluded that a person who wanted to know certain aspects of prophecy should be “diligent in reading the book of Daniel, which he will find among the sacred writings” (Antiquities..., 10:10:4). A few paragraphs later, after relating information taken directly from the book of Daniel, Josephus said, “Let no one blame me for writing down everything of this nature, as I find it in our ancient books” (10:10:6). Notice that Josephus viewed Daniel as both part of the “sacred writings” and as part of the list of “ancient books” about which the entire Jewish community had no doubt of their authenticity.
In addition, in his book Against Apion, Josephus explained that the Jewish nation revered 22 books as divinely inspired, Daniel being one of those. Concerning the date of the writing of the books, he said: “[F]rom the death of Moses till the reign of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, who reigned after Xerxes, the prophets, who were after Moses, wrote down what was done in their times in thirteen books” (1:8). He went on to explain that certain Jewish writers had written history books after the time of Artaxerxes, but their writings were not esteemed “of the like authority with the former by our forefathers” (1:8). Thus, Josephus viewed Daniel as sacred Scripture, and noted that no such Scripture had been written after the reign of Artaxerxes, the date of whose reign is established by secular historians as 465 B.C. to 424 B.C. (“Artaxerxes,” 2011). There is, then, no honest way to read Josephus without understanding that he viewed the date of Daniel to be prior to 424 B.C. and, speaking as a representative for the Jewish nation, believed this view was the common one among his people.
Furthermore, when Josephus wrote about the conquest of Alexander the Great (336-324 B.C.), he again mentioned the book of Daniel. He noted that as Alexander was coming into the land of Judea, one of the priests showed him the book of Daniel: “And when the book of Daniel was showed him, wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended” (Antiquities..., 11:8:5). He came into Jerusalem, treated the high priest “magnificently,” and offered sacrifices to God in the temple. He also promised to let the Jews “enjoy the laws of their forefathers.” Additionally, after Josephus’ discussion of Daniel’s prophecy in chapter 8, he stated: “And indeed it so came to pass, that our nation suffered these things under Antiochus Epiphanes, according to Daniel’s vision, and what he wrote many years before they came to pass” (Antiquities..., 10:11:7).
Were the testimony of Josephus all that history had preserved about the book of Daniel, it would be enough to positively date the book to the sixth century B.C. In order to discredit such powerful testimony, the skeptic or liberal theologian must completely reinvent the way ancient history is viewed. Such attempts show an obvious and ill-advised prejudice against biblical prophecy. The only reason to dismiss such testimony is if a person is dedicated to the proposition that prophecy is impossible. An honest evaluation of the testimony of Josephus forces the analyst to conclude that Daniel cannot be a second century B.C. document, but must be included in the list of ancient books—sacred Scripture—that was written prior to 424 B.C.

AN ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATION

Of course, it has been impossible to consider at length all the reasons to date the book of Daniel in the sixth century and not the second, but one additional reason merits brief mention. “The precision of the details within the book [of Daniel] relative to the city of Babylon argues that the writer was an eyewitness of that ancient culture” (Jackson, n.d.). Indeed, so accurate are the historical facts and the specific knowledge of the writer of the book that a lengthy article could be written solely documenting the myriad examples of the writer’s intimate, accurate knowledge of the culture and history of the precise period in which the book claims to have been written.

CONCLUSION

Daniel 8 provides an accurate, detailed description of the historic events that occurred between 550 B.C. and 164 B.C. A straightforward reading of the text indicates that these events were predicted hundreds of years before they actually occurred. If they are accurate predictions, then the book of Daniel stands as irrefutable evidence that (1) God exists, and (2) the book is divinely inspired by God. Of course, the skeptic and unbeliever do not believe in divine inspiration or God’s existence. Due to their preconceived bias against the supernatural, they are forced to concoct ways to try to discredit the prophecies in Daniel. Since the secular historical record so clearly coincides with the book, attempts to gainsay the book as inaccurate fail miserably.
Thus, the skeptic is forced to conjecture that the book was written after the events took place, instead of before. In this vein, it has been suggested that Daniel was written in the second century B.C., instead of the sixth. The evidence against this assertion, however, is so powerful that to adopt the late date for Daniel lands the skeptic in a morass of contradiction and inconsistency. Gleason Archer, Jr. accurately summed up the force of the evidence for an early date for Daniel when he wrote:
This poses such problems for the committed antisupernaturalist, who can only explain the successful predictions of Daniel as prophecies after the fulfillment, that he is not likely to be swayed by any amount of objective evidences whatever. Nevertheless, such evidence continues to pour in… (1970, 127:297).
In truth, Daniel 8 stands as an insurmountable barrier to naturalism and an atheistic worldview, and provides positive evidence of God’s existence and the inspiration of the Bible.

REFERENCES

“Alexander the Great Biography,” (2003), http://www.historyofmacedonia.org/AncientMacedonia/AlexandertheGreat.html.
Appian (no date), The Syrian Wars, http://www.livius.org/ap-ark/appian/appian_syriaca_00.html.
Archer, Gleason Jr. (1970), “Old Testament History and Recent Archaeology from the Exile to Malachi,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 127:121-128, October-December.
“Artaxerxes,” (2011), The Jewish Encyclopedia, http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/1827-artaxerxes-i.
The Behistun Inscription (no date), http://www.livius.org/be-bm/behistun/behistun03.html.
Cook, J.M. (1983), The Persian Empire (New York: Schocken).
Greenleaf, Simon (1995), The Testimony of the Evangelists: The Gospels Examined by the Rules of Evidence (Grand Rapids: Kregel Classics).
Herodotus (1996), The Histories, trans. Aubrey De Sélincourt (New York: Penguin Classics).
Hoehner, W. H. (1976), “Antiochus,” The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Merrill C. Tenney (Grand Rapids: Zondervan).
Jackson, Wayne (no date), “An Amazing Prophecy in the Book of Daniel,” Christian Courier, http://www.christiancourier.com/articles/869-an-amazing-prophecy-in-the-book-of-daniel.
Jerome (1958), Commentary on Daniel, trans. Gleason L. Archer (Grand Rapids: Baker).
Josephus (1987), The Works of Josephus Complete and Unabridged, trans. William Whiston (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
1 Maccabees (1976), trans. Jonathan Goldstein (New York: Doubleday).
The Nabonidus Chronicle (no date),  http://www.livius.org/ct-cz/cyrus_I/babylon02.html.
“The Nabonidus Cylinder from Ur” (no date), http://www.livius.org/na-nd/nabonidus/cylinder-ur.html.
Plutarch (1920), Demetrius and Anthony, Pyrrhus and Gaius Marius, trans. Bernadotte Perrin (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).
Polybius (1927), The Histories, trans. W.R. Paton (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).
Pritchard, James, ed. (1969), Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (Princeton: Princeton University Press).
Rufus, Quintus Curtius (2001), The History of Alexander, trans. John Yardley (New York: Penguin Classics).
Sandoval, Chris (2007), “The Failure of Daniel’s Prophecies,” http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/chris_sandoval/daniel.html.
Siculus, Diodorus (1947), The Library of History, trans. Russel M. Greer (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).
Smith, Malhon (2008), “Antiochus IV Epiphanes,” http://virtualreligion.net/iho/antiochus_4.html.
Vasholz, Robert (1978), “Qumran and the Dating of Daniel,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 21:315-321, December.
Waltke, Bruce K. (1976), “The Date of the Book of Daniel,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 133:319-329, October.

GETTING SOUP TWICE A DAY by Jim McGuiggan




GETTING SOUP TWICE A DAY

I don’t say that we’re all equally conflicted. I believe I know people that across the board are much more mature than I am. Yes, I suspect that on the whole they are more finely balanced and permeated to a greater degree with virtue than I am or ever have been. I would suppose if I were judged by my moral failures and weakness in some specific areas of my life that I would come very close to the bottom of the moral ladder. I do believe that! This is a great sadness to me for there is a part of me that longs for moral grandeur, there’s a deep desire in me to be like the God in whose image I have been and am being created. [I mustn’t give you the impression that people should be assessed on the basis of so many virtues over against so many vices—that would be wrong-headed, but I think you know what I mean by the above.]
I wish to make the point that however difficult it is for us to believe it, people are not just one thing. That should be—should it not?—a matter beyond dispute. Only the Christ was “just one thing.”
I’ve known many people up close and personal who were faced with a choice between right and wrong and chose the wrong. But it has occurred to me that in many of those cases I was blessed in not being faced with the situation they were faced with; blessed with not having to make the choice between good and evil for I’m not at all certain that I would have stood where they fell. (Their fall in some cases may well have worked out to be a blessing in numerous ways. God works that kind of thing. See Romans 11:15, 30-35.)
Some poor souls are daily faced with the pressure to do evil while others of us (God be praised and thanked!) live in our morally cozy little routines. Surrounded by godly friends, provided with more than adequate material and social resources and having been shaped by strong and warm people and structures we are sheltered from many of the storms that beat ceaselessly around the heads of millions. Yes, surely there is profound reason to be grateful for our conditions but do they not underscore the moral disadvantage of the masses?
Is it surprising that so many are morally weak and fragmented? Given the social and cultural structures that promote the worst aspects of hedonism and greed and self-centeredness, should we be surprised that masses fear neither God nor man? And if this is what they fight against from the moment they draw breath do we do well to feel nothing but revulsion and a desire to isolate or exterminate?
In a powerful television drama one of the characters is morally and mentally ill. He has killed repeatedly but due to the limits in the human judicial system he was not convicted. He attached himself to a lawyer, who, understandably, was afraid of him and wanted nothing to do with him. But the man felt the influence of this lawyer changing him for the better. He gets a job and purposes to live in goodness, free from the evils he had engaged in but the lawyer—again perfectly understandably—feels compelled to undermine his agenda. He’s devastated by what he feels is betrayal and comes to say to her, “As you know, I have never denied being evil. One of the reasons I came to you initially—I saw you as my guardian out of evil and you in fact became that. I was beginning to turn my life around. I rediscovered hope and goodness and I credit much of that to your influence. But you walked away from me like I was some crazy, which I am at many levels. But my feelings for you…my friendship for you was sane and real and legitimate and good. It represents the part of me that wasn’t ill or evil—it was good.”
This expresses well what I want to say. I don’t say that there can’t be exceptions. I don’t say that there are not people, who like Mephistopheles says in that other classic drama, “Evil be thou my good/ good be thou my evil.” There are such people. But I do say that such exceptions aside that there is not one of us that is “one thing”. I do say that down somewhere in the mysterious depths of a human heart, along with its evil there can be the vestiges of good longed for, the residue of good purposes that died for lack of inner strength and outside help.
In the old movie Angels with Dirty Faces we have the hard-bitten and brutal gangster (played by Jimmy Cagney) going to the electric chair for multiple murders. He’s arrogant, unrepentant and unafraid. For the sake of some boys who worship him as their hero the priest begs him to pretend he’s afraid to die. Cagney goes to the chair kicking and screaming and begging for mercy—for the sake of the kids and because his friend asked him to do it.
Should we dismiss this as bleeding-heart drivel, nauseatingly sentimental and untrue to life? I think not.
Hanging on a tree the young Lord of creation saw His enemies with their glittering eyes and heard their hoarse mocking and said, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.” Maybe it takes a purer and stronger heart than most of us have to speak this way under such circumstances. There’s little doubt in my mind that the bulk of us when faced with someone we judge to be a threat have no wish to dwell on his or her virtues. The only thing that counts is their vice.
But when we gather in an assembly we’re not slow to sing Rescue the Perishing. One of the stanzas has this neglected truth.
“Down in the human heart/
Crushed by the Tempter/
Feelings like buried that grace can restore/
Touched by a loving hand/
Wakened by kindness/
Chords that were broken will vibrate once more.”
This sounds well in four-part harmony and feels good during times of peace and tranquility. But let me assume that for the most of us (certainly in the West) that actually doing something costly about such a truth is a real stretch, especially as the expression of our living out that truth on a daily basis. Maybe executing such conviction is currently beyond us—though it’s possible for some that we know or have heard of. But I would suppose that before we can bear unbearable sorrow and fight unbeatable foes we need to truly think the unthinkable.Ah well, then, so no one should be held accountable for wrongs done? I don’t believe that. Jesus Christ held accountable those He loved and pitied (Revelation 3:19). But maybe we can quit pretending that we believe that all sin should be punished. We don’t think all ours should be punished. (Sin is more than deeds and words; it’s soul-contamination as well; the condition out of which sinful deeds, words and thoughts arise.)
Maybe we can chastise with less relish and more sensitivity. Maybe we can pity as well as “punish”. Maybe we can temper our speech when condemning the sins of others and perhaps we can renounce (if only to ourselves) the sense of moral superiority we feel. Should we ever judge? Of course we should–with care! But surely not from a position of power, as though butter wouldn’t melt in our own mouths, as though we were the only virgins in a world of “hookers”. And should we ignore great evil because there is in the transgressor something of real worth? Oh, I’m certain we should not. I’m also certain of this, we should not ignore the something of real worth in him or her because there is great evil. And I’m certain we should take full measure (is that possible?) of our own evil that lurks down among our virtues.
Wasn’t it Schweitzer who told us that two boys were wrestling in a school playground? It was a long and hard tussle but finally the bigger boy (Schweitzer himself) triumphed. The skinnier kid, panting, said something like. “You wouldn’t have beaten me if I had been getting soup twice a day like you.”
Hmmm, I wonder…