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Showing posts from October, 2010

Numerology and Daniel

Perhaps the passage that causes the most confusion for modern readers is the 70 7s of Daniel 9. We need to understand two things to understand the 70 7s. First we need to understand how the Bible and non-canonical Jewish sources used numbers symbolically in relation to periods of time. Second we need to understand the full Scriptural background behind the 70 7s.

Whenever we come upon a number in the Bible referring to a number of years our tendency is to assume that those numbers are literal. Most of the time this is probably the case. Once in a while, however, that assumption can lead us down the wrong path. One example is 1 Kgs. 6:1. It claims that 480 years after the exodus Solomon started building the temple. This, in all likelihood, is a nice round twelve generations, (perhaps one generation per tribe of Israel?). Otherwise, one would have to hold to an unlikely 15th century BCE date for the exodus. (a 13th century date is more likely) The book of Judges repeatedly uses, so it see…

The Earth is the Temple of the Lord

One interesting claim that has been made with increased frequency the past few years in relation to Genesis 1 is that it is a temple text. When God is creating the earth he is creating his temple. His rest at the end of creation is his taking up residence in the temple. We as human beings are his images. Unlike the fake deities of the ancient world, the living God doesn't have dead images of gold and silver and stone, he has living images, human beings. We are God's representatives, or his representation. I believe that this approach to Genesis 1 is very sound (the most thorough defense of this approach is in The Temple and the Church's Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God by Greg Beale).

Last week in our small group we studied Acts 17:16-34. One thing that has always struck me is how different this speech felt from the rest of Paul's speeches in Acts. The difference is that it's not a straightforward exposition of Scripture in the same way Paul…

Apocalyptic Imagery and Daniel Part 2

In the last post we spent some time looking at the importance of understanding both aspects of the meaning (sense and referent) of symbolism in apocalyptic literature. In this post we will start by looking at who the holy ones of Daniel 7:18, 21, 22, 25, 27 are.

The identity of the holy ones has been one of the big scholarly battlegrounds in Daniel 7, though we have come to have more consensus in recent years than in the past. There are two main views. Either the holy ones are angels or they are faithful Jews. Lucas (191, 192) lays out the argument clearly for us. The view that they're heavenly beings is the newer view but it has numerous strengths, especially that this particular phrase 'holy ones' usually does not refer to human beings. Only once in the OT does it clearly refer to people (Ps. 34:9). Typically in the literature from Qumran 'holy ones' refers to angels. On the other hand, there are good arguments for seeing the 'holy ones' as being faithful …

Apocalyptic Imagery and Daniel Part 1

One of the trickiest parts of studying apocalyptic literature is interpreting the imagery and symbolism used. This will be the first of three parts dealing with apocalyptic imagery and numerology in which we will make some general observations and also deal with a few specific passages.

I think that one of the most important things to consider when reading texts like Daniel 7-12 is that the meaning of the symbols has two components; sense and referent. Referent is the object that the symbol stands for (e.g., the four hybrid/distorted beasts in Daniel 7 stand for four kingdoms). The sense is the interpretation of the referent that the symbol provides (more on this later). Unfortunately, within the Evangelical church I think that the sense has been a bit ignored. Most lay people (and more than a few pastors) come to a text like Daniel and have lots of questions about the historical referents but not many about the sense. Apocalyptic texts get treated as a code that we need to unravel. Th…

The Unity of Daniel

Sorry I've been mostly absent from this blog for a little over month now. You can look forward to regular posting from me at least through early January (hopefully even longer) from now on. Over at Boston Bible Geeks, danny mentioned that Daniel was one of the books that was most confusing to him. It was for me too until I studied it. Now that my study and class on Daniel are complete I thought that I could do a short series dealing with a few random aspects of Daniel. Most of the posts will deal with the apocalyptic section as those are the most confusing chapters. The last post in the series will be a wrap up on commentaries (I'll review five of them).

In today's post I'd like to make a couple of comments about how the book as a whole works. First, I think it's important to stress up front that these comments are on the book in its final form. I think that the stories probably circulated orally and possibly somewhat independently of one another for some time (perh…