Dr. Tremper Longman III
Introduction to the Book of Daniel
Tremper Longman III [00:00:00] Thanks. It's great to be here and great to have in-person classes. Well, thank you for coming. And if you have questions, I'll take pauses after I get through a section. I'd love to have any questions that you have about what I'm saying, and it's just a great privilege to be able to talk about the Book of Daniel. As said, it's a book that I've been studying for many decades now. That doesn't mean I know it perfectly, but no one does. It's a book that has immeasurable depth to it, and so I might not be able to answer all your questions either. But it's a book, of course, in the Old Testament that occupies a kind of unique niche within the books of the Old Testament, and I'll explain more about that later, particularly the second half of the Book of Daniel, which is commonly referred to as apocalyptic literature, which bears similarity to prophecy. But there's a significant difference, say, between a Daniel and a Jeremiah that we'll talk about, particularly when we come to the second half of the book. But my purpose here is like my purpose studying any Old or New Testament book is ultimately to hear the voice of God speaking to us through these words. The Church has recognized the Book of Daniel as canonical as Word of God since the beginning, and inheriting that viewpoint from Jewish forebears who also recognize that though traditionally Jews, at least in the first century world, use the phrase makes the hands unclean. If a book makes the hands unclean, it was considered a sacred book. Kind of seems kind of paradoxical to us, but the idea is that if one comes into contact with something holy, that that makes the person unclean. Unless they undergo certain types of rituals before they open the scroll and read it, which is as simple as washing one's hands. But the washing of one's hands is a kind of transition from the realm of the common or ordinary into the realm of the sacred or holy. It also serves a practical purpose, according to some rabbinic scholars, in that rabbis had a tendency to eat before they opened the scrolls, and they needed to get the food particles off their hands before they handled the scroll. So. So the book of Daniel is considered canon, which means it's a standard of our faith and practice. It's a book, along with all the other books of the Old New Testament that we go to learn about God who is God and learn about how we should behave and before him. So we're going to be looking at the Book of Daniel to understand the meaning of the words. But we're also going to be, of course, really interested in how those words affect our understanding of who God is and also how we should act. So. So the next question is how do we do that? How do we do that? And I want to talk a little bit about important things to keep in mind while we're interpreting Daniel or again, any other biblical book. First of all, of course, while we're reading Daniel to hear the voice of God, we also believe that God used human beings as agents of his revelation. And so we want to ask the question of how do we get at the meaning of a biblical book recognizing that just like any work of literature, there is a basic dynamic of an author writing a text to readers. And so were readers reading the text in order to try to understand the message of the author and what tools and things should we keep in mind as we do that? Well, one of the first things to point out is that, yeah, we're readers of the biblical text where we're reading it in the 21st century in our various cultural and social context. And but we also have to acknowledge that we're not the original intended readers of this book. My friend John Walton put it this way Biblical books were not written to us, though. They were written for us. And we do have to keep in mind that that Daniel was written to a specific Old Testament audience. I mean, all we have to realize in the first place is it's written in Hebrew and Aramaic. By the way, that's another unique feature of the Book of Daniel. Well, it's not unique, really, because Ezra is similar in that it too has a large portion of the book written in Aramaic rather than Hebrew. These are two closely related languages, though. They're closely related like English as the German, not like Australian is to American English. So it's something a mystery may come back to this later, though. No one really understands exactly why this is the case, except that in chapter two verse, for the first part, it's written in Hebrew, and then you come to chapter two, verse four, and we'll see that it says, The wise men responded to Nebuchadnezzar in Aramaic, and then it switches to Aramaic. Now, that makes sense. But what we don't really know is why it doesn't switch back to Hebrew until chapter eight again. I'll mention that later. But right now, my point is simply that, you know, the author of the Book of Daniel wrote in two different languages, Hebrew and Aramaic, neither of which, you know, are addressed to us, whether we're speaking English, Chinese or even modern Hebrew, which isn't the same as ancient Hebrew as somebody who knows ancient Hebrew. I have a hard time understanding modern Hebrew, which was reinvented in the 19th century, using a different verbal structure and all those kinds of things. So that's kind of a reminder to us that that these books were weren't written to us. And that's really important because I think we have to commit ourselves to what I call a first reading of an Old Testament book. That is to ask ourselves, what did this text mean to the original audience and try to understand, you know, what the original audience was dealing with at the time. And we'll see later. As I explained at the time, we're talking about the post, the exile. I can post exotic periods and what they're going through now. I'll call a second reading, which I will also advocate will be now that we've understood the book in its original setting. Now let's read it from our perspective, from our New Testament perspective, particularly in the light of the coming of Christ. I think that a Christian reading ultimately has to go to that place based on what Jesus himself says in Luke chapter 24. If you have your Bible, you might want to turn there with me. So, you know, as an Old Testament scholar, it is extremely gratifying to me to realize that Luke 24, which describes the period of time between Christ's resurrection and his ascension, that he spends most of his time lecturing his disciples about what I call Old Testament hermeneutics. That is, how should a Christian interpret the Old Testament? So there are two occasions here. The first one is the famous walk on the road to a mass where it says Now, that same day, two of them were going to a village called a mass about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened as they talked and discussed these things with each other. Jesus himself came up and walked along with them, but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, What are you discussing together? As you walk along, they stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopatra asked him, Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days? We can kind of detector's irritation with Jesus, but Jesus responds, What things about Jesus of Nazareth? He was a prophet, powerful, and were indeed before God, and all the people, the chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death and they crucified him. But we had hope that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it's the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it, just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus. He said to them, How foolish you are and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter His glory, And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning himself. So what is Jesus telling the disciples, telling these two disciples who are walking on the road to Ameas? He's saying, basically, You should have known all of the Old Testament. That's what he means by scriptures. That's what he means by Moses and the Prophets. All of the Scriptures anticipated his coming. And then later in the chapter, when he's meeting with the larger group of disciples, he says something very similar, though with a variation of terminology. In verse 44, he says to them, This is what I told you while I was still with you. Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. Here he uses a tripartite reference to the Old Testament, the law, the prophets, and the Psalms. Now the Psalms are the first book in the third section of the Hebrew canon that is referred to as the ketubim more typically or writings. So a Hebrew, what we call Old Testament, has three parts according to this formulation, the Torah, the prophets, which is nebi’im, and the ketubim, the law, the prophets and the writings. Now the laws, just like our Torah, the first five books Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The nebi’im, or prophets, are divided into two parts. The former prophets, which we tend to think of as historical books. Joshua Judges. Samuel Kings. And then the latter prophets, Isaiah Jeremiah Ezekiel and the 12 Minor Prophets. The ketubim is a more miscellaneous group of books and include the Book of Daniel. So I just wanted to mention that Daniel is in this third part of the Hebrew canon. You might ask, Well, why is our English Bible? Why does it have a different order? Well, the reason why is by the time of Jesus Hebrew as a dead language, I don't know whether you know that, but Hebrew had been displaced as the language of the street by Aramaic by the time of Christ. And mostly it's the rabbis and others who have been studying Hebrew, kind of like Latin during the Middle Ages. So in the centuries before the time of Christ and the emergence of the church, the Hebrew scriptures had been translated into Greek. And probably the best known Greek version is called Septuagint. And the Septuagint has a different order of books that we're familiar with that actually has. More historical dimension to its ordering. So I won't go into all the details, but just to explain why we find Daniel between the major prophets and the minor prophets. So. So. But getting back to the main message of Luke 24, what Jesus is telling us is that we as Christian readers need to ultimately read the New Testament, the Old Testament in the light of the New Testament. But I also again think it's extremely important to preserve a first reading of the text, because sometimes the New Testament takes the Old Testament in a surprising direction. So I think it's really important to think about precisely how we are to read the Old Testament by the New Times. And I intend to do precisely that with the Book of Daniel. I'm going to be doing that perhaps part of the time as we're working our way through the Book of Daniel. But I'm also going to, at the end of the of the time together, pay special attention to how the Book of Revelation appropriates the Book of Daniel. And I'm doing that for two reasons. Number one is that we talked about how Daniel is apocalyptic literature, and the Old Testament revelation is considered apocalyptic literature in the New Testament. While Daniel informs many things in the New Testament, it's particularly important for the Book of Revelation. And the other reason why has because I just finished writing a commentary on the Book of Revelation, which is coming out next April with Kriegel in a series that is called the New Testament through Old Testament Eyes. But as I say, well, we'll from time to time reflect on various parts of the Book of Daniel in the light of the New Testament as well. So that's one important consideration to keep in mind. And actually, as I'm working through the Book of Daniel, I'm going to be doing again what I'm calling a first reading primarily, which is looking at it in the light of the message that it has for the for the original audience. And maybe I'll just tell you upfront what that overall message is. The Book of Daniel is also interesting, not only because it's composed in two different languages, Hebrew and Aramaic, but also because its two halves have two different types of literature. And another very important interpretive principle to keep in mind is that that the Bible isn't just one type of literature, it's really a collection of different types of literature, whether we're talking about history, law, wisdom, poetry, prophecy, the letters of the New Testament or whatever. The technical term for this is genre. Different genres and different genres trigger different types of reading strategies. So it's really important to be mindful of the type of literature you're reading because, you know, if you misidentified the genre, you might misunderstand not totally, but at least not as correctly as one might or not get the full rich message of a text if you misconstrue its genre. And I like to give a quick example of that from outside the book of Daniel, just because it's such a clear example of how people might read a text differently and therefore get different messages out of it. The book that I'm thinking of and you'll identify it, I think right away, begins by saying, Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth for your love is better than wine. Okay, let's write. The king has brought me into his bedroom. Now, if you ask what is the meaning of this opening verse to the Song of Songs, many of you would probably recognize it as the expression of desire for physical intimacy by a woman, for a man. And in other words, what you if you if you're reading it that way, you're reading it as love poetry, some type of love poetry, then there's disagreement among scholars whether this is telling the story of a love relationship or whether it's an anthology of love, love poems. And then, of course, we don't have time to get into how such a book also informs us about God and so forth. But there's another school of thought that was particularly dominant during the Middle Ages and up to the modern period that would say, No, no, no, no, no. This is not love poetry. Rather, it's an allegory. It's an allegory of the relationship between God and his people. So the Targum, the Jewish Targum would understand the verse that I just read to you as a reference not to a desire for physical intimacy, but rather as a reference to the exodus from Egypt. Now, you might say, Really? Why is it a reference to the exodus from Egypt? Well, if God is the man and the woman is Israel. Here you have Israel asking God to take her into his bedroom, which can be nothing else than the promised land. This is a good example of how one's understanding of the type of book the Song of Songs is will lead to different interpretations. Now, if we had time, I would even defend the idea. I'm an advocate of love poetry view. But the fact that this love poetry also exists within a broader canon where the relationship between God and His people is often likened to a marriage that this allows us to do a type. Of typological interpretation of the song, which would get us to talk after talking about what it teaches us about human intimacy, particularly in marriage, but also what it tells us about our relationship with God and ultimately Jesus. Of course, Ephesians five likens the Church's relationship to Jesus as a marriage relationship as well. So we're going to be mindful of the type of literature that we encounter in the Book of Daniel. And as I say, there are really two halves to the book. The first half hour is composed of six. Stories about Daniel and his three friends in a foreign court. Now, when I use the term story, by the way, I want to be clear because I do think that Daniel one through six is talking about something that actually happened in space and time, in other words, history. But it's told in a very story like way. And what I'm doing here is reversing a formulation by a famous Yale theologian, Hans Fry, who called Old Testament narrative books. He said these are history like stories. And my response to that is, no, no, no, no. These are story like histories. And so when we read Daniel one through six, we're going to be gripped by the vividness of these stories, the excitement of these stories. And but again, I think we are learning things about Daniel and the three friends that actually happened in the sixth century B.C. And I'll set the historical background when we turn to Daniel one, two, which mentions a historical event which kind of grounds the first happening in the Book of Daniel. So the first six chapters are six separate stories about Daniel and his three friends and a foreign court. And then the final six chapters are different. They are records of Daniel's Visions, four Visions and all that that are really to strike us reading it at this historical distance. Remember, we're not the original readers. We're reading it many, many centuries later. Coming from a different culture, and they strike us as bizarre. You know, we'll see. The first one is four horrifying hybrid beasts arising out of a chaotic sea and then a figure described as like a sun, a man riding a cloud into the presence of the ancient of days. And it just all seems so strange to us. But my contention will be when we come to Daniel seven is that it wouldn't have been as strange to the original audience that the images that are that are imagined there really have a background that would have made it actually pretty recognizable to the original audience. So six stories, four apocalyptic visions of I'll Talk More when we come to Daniel seven about the genre of apocalyptic and how it works and how we should understand it when we get to that place. But I want you just to recognize that and and also without any kind of solution to this issue. It's interesting to note that the language difference, Hebrew and Aramaic does and doesn't align perfectly with this difference of genre. I mean, it might be interesting and maybe we'd have more of a sense of what's going on. If the first six chapters were written in Hebrew and the second six chapters are written in Aramaic, but it's two through seven. So the first apocalyptic vision is also written in Aramaic. So, you have this diversity. But what I want to end this first session on is just commenting on the fact that all six stories and each of the four apocalyptic visions have the same theme or message to the audience. And that being the primary theme is in spite of present trouble, in spite of present difficulties. God is in control. And he will have the final victory. In other words, this is being written to a people who look out into their world and think that evil is in control. Gods, God doesn't seem in control. Things are falling apart around us. And I'll talk a little bit more about the situation and the exotic and poetic, the like, period later. Gosh, it sure doesn't seem like God's in control. But the Book of Daniel was written in order to bring comfort to the original audience that know once you take away the curtains, look behind the scenes. God is in control. And by the way, he will have the final victory. And this is written in order to give comfort to God's people who are living in a culture that's toxic to their faith. And to give them hope to live with confidence in a troubled present. Now just by saying it that way, I hope you recognize that this message to the original audience remains continually relevant to the generations that follow the time of Daniel and to our generation. And I say that no matter where you live, whether you live in China or if you're part of the church in Iran or you're in England or Europe or in America, don't fool yourself. We live in a culture that's toxic to our faith. And the message of the Book of Daniel, just like we'll see the message. The Book of Revelation is not, by the way, to encourage people to engage in a kind of culture war or to try to take over the culture, but rather to live with faith in the present. That doesn't mean by saying not engage in culture war. I'm not saying that it isn't very valuable for Christians when they can to try to influence their cultures toward Christian values. But one thing I'll probably come back to is something that Martin Lloyd-Jones said, the famous Welsh preacher of the previous generation. He says, You know what? God doesn't want non-Christians to act like Christians. He wants non-Christians to be Christians. So we'll talk about that along the way as well, because we're going to see, and particularly in Daniel chapter one, when Daniel gets exiled to Babylon and is forced to go to what I will call Babylonian university, we're going to see how does he react to being in a toxic culture? Not that that necessarily gives us a blueprint, but it is very illuminating to reflect on how Daniel's living and his toxic culture. Okay there. There are other important messages in the Book of Daniel as well, and I'm giving you an advanced announcement of them so that we can see them as they develop in the various parts of the Book of Daniel. The other one is, you know what? You can not only survive in a toxic culture. You can actually flourish in a toxic culture. Well, notice, for instance, in the first six chapters how often Daniel and his three friends get promoted. Right. It's not just that they survive. It's to make you an even more important person in the Babylonian empire. So we'll reflect on that as well. But we also have to keep in mind the fact, too, that that you this is not a guarantee. This is not a formula for what we call the prosperity gospel. It's, you know, the episode about Daniel Daniel's three friends being thrown into the fiery furnace shows that powerful people need to be ready to die for their faith as well. And we know through the history of time how many faithful people have died for the faith. And even today, you know, people are dying for staying faithful to their witness for Christ. So here are just a few things to keep in mind before we actually dive into the Book of Daniel. I'd love to pause now to see if there are any questions or comments.
Speaker 2 [00:33:41] Can you make any quick comments? He probably will due out throughout this course about what early rabbinical teachers thought of the Book of Daniel. I know that they you mentioned that they considered it holy by Jesus time. But how about, you know, how they traced it through the Talmud and everything?
Tremper Longman III [00:34:03] Yeah, that's a great question and one that I'm not prepared to answer really and should be. But as I was telling Bill beforehand, on the one hand, I punt on these kind of questions because Old Testament scholars are typically not experts in rabbinic theology, because it's opposed post Old Testament development. And also I would, though, guard against the idea that the rabbis have some kind of special insight into the text because they're. They're interpreting it in the light of their interpretive lens, which is different than Christian interpretive lens. That said, I shouldn't paint because I now consider it more important than I did when I wrote my Daniel commentary that we should do a very careful sort of history of interpretation, which would include rabbinic interpretation. So I've done that. Same with my Song of Songs commentary, which was earlier than my Daniel commentary and my job commentary, for instance. So I don't want to completely alleviate myself of the responsibility of knowing about rabbinic interpretation. Yeah. So and today, by the way, most Jewish scholars, of course, I read contemporary Jewish scholars on the Book of Daniel, but most of them are what we call historical critics, at least the ones that publish and academic areas. And so really, reading Jewish scholars is not all that different from reading mainline Protestant scholars on the book.
Speaker 3 [00:35:56] The first and second reading idea that we have as individuals, a pretty limited understanding of history and things like that because we just have a few years, we only have our own experience. Yeah, but to realize that Scripture has the ability to inform us about things that are eternal and purposes of God that span not only a few generations, but hundreds and thousands of years.
Tremper Longman III [00:36:34] Yeah.
Speaker 3 [00:36:34] And to and a look at scriptural perspectives in a way that helps us to have faith, to live in the way that we should in a time that seems out of control for us.
Tremper Longman III [00:36:49] Right, Right.
Speaker 3 [00:36:50] And to and to realize that this that scripture speaks to that in a way that's meaningful.
Tremper Longman III [00:36:57] Absolutely. Absolutely. I that's what I was hoping to get at in terms of talking about how these themes that we need to understand them as addressed to the original generation, how they remain relevant throughout time. You know, there are other places, for instance, where I think. It becomes more obvious how we need to keep ourselves from imposing our 21st century questions on an ancient text. But while understanding, as you say, that what we're getting in Scripture is God's revelation, ultimately the voice of God that we that we can't get from anywhere else, I always think of, say, Genesis one and two, for instance. I mean, you know, a human author wrote it down, but it is ultimately the voice of God who is communicating that to the human author who could know nothing about the creation of the world. However, I would also say that if you read, say, Genesis one and two in its original context and according to its genre, which is history, but it's, I argue in my book Confronting Old Testament controversies that it's history told using figurative language that that if you read it correctly according to the way it was intended to be received by the original audience, then you see that it's not interested in telling us how God created everything, but it is interested in telling us that that God did create everything. So I think so I think that's kind of a good example of the importance of keeping in mind what the message was to the original audience and reading it, say it on their terms concerning questions that they're interested in. And also, it's an interesting example on another level of, you know, reading it in its Old Testament context, I would suggest that no Old Testament person would, for instance, read the Trinity and let us make humans in our own image. But from a New Testament perspective, where we get a fuller revelation of the nature of the Triune God, as we look back on that, we might say, Well, yeah, God is talking to the assembly of spiritual beings who are his servants, what we would call the angels. But now we know that Father, Son and Holy Spirit and that Jesus and the Spirit were engaged in the act of creation. So that's an example of preserving a first and second reading.
Speaker 4 [00:40:11] Having to watch the Bible project, short video introduction. And they take the Aramaic section and see three pairs of two.
Tremper Longman III [00:40:20] Oh, right.
Speaker 4 [00:40:21] Chapter two is 732. Yeah. Do you see that Same.
Tremper Longman III [00:40:24] Yeah, I do. That's something I may mention later in the course too. But yeah, so. And when I do, I'll get the terminology straight. But you. Yeah. So. So I'll come back and talk about that. But you're right. There's a sort of a. A parallel between chapter two and seven, parallel between three and six and a parallel between four and five. But later in the castle. Point that out. Yeah. By the way, I love the Bible project. They're not always right, but either am I? But I think it's been extremely helpful to increase biblical literacy and biblical interest, and they do such creative work.
Speaker 3 [00:41:14] So you mentioned Luke 24, and I strongly agree with you that it's saying that the whole Old Testament is pointing to or anticipating to Christ. But people who I've talked to about this push back and say it says everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the law and the Moses Prophets songs. And they say, no, that only means Jesus was talking about these three or four specific prophecies. How would you answer that question?
Tremper Longman III [00:41:43] Well, first of all, I'd answer it by saying if you if you read the Old Testament, The Light of Christ, you will see it's more than that. Even without Jesus a statement you can see how, how the entire Old Testament anticipates Christ. So, so. And. And what I mean is, for instance, there are some people who think that there is only a very small group of messianic Psalms, say Psalms to some 1620 to 69 Psalm 110, those that are cited in the New Testament. But if you reflect on all 150 Psalms in the light of Christ, you will see an anticipation of Christ in some way which I demonstrate, I believe in my Psalms commentary where in the ten year Old Testament commentary series, where I and every reflection on the Psalm with a Christological interpretation also I'm general editor of a new commentary was ten years old. Now ten volumes are out. It's called The Story of God Commentary series. And the distinctive nature of that is every writer is reflecting ultimately, after looking at the text in its Old Testament setting, will then do a kind of Christological crisp italic interpretation. So in one sense, I'm giving you the proof is in the pudding kind of argument back that I think if you look at these Christological crisp italic interpretations that they are persuasive. You have to realize that not every verse or even every unit within a particular book has a distinctive Christological or Crest Italic interpretation. Christ isn't behind every textual rock, but for instance, in the Book of Ecclesiastes, I think there's one major Christological understanding of the book which is picked up in Romans 818 and following where. It says that the world was subjected to frustration, you know, and so that word frustration. Matteo taste is the word that's used to translate into Greek, the Hebrew word heavily in Ecclesiastes, which means vanity, futility, meaninglessness. And so as Colette or the teacher in chapter 112 through 12 seven is trying to find meaning in the world under the sun, we would say in a fallen world, he's coming up empty, saying meaningless, meaningless. Everything's meaningless. But Paul is saying, Yeah, the world was subjective. And that's reflecting on Genesis three. God subjected it to kind of a divine passive. But Paul doesn't stop there. He goes on to say and hope, you know, and Jesus comes and he experiences. He subjects himself to the meaningless world. He dies, which is one of the things that Coelho thought was rendered the world life meaningless. He died. But was Rais, you know, Philippians to so again, it's kind of a proof is in the pudding. I think that as you reflect on biblical books and don't try to find a distinctive Christological meaning in every particular verse, I think that's the most persuasive argument that that the better understanding of Luke 24 is that the whole Old Testament anticipates us coming.