- Jan 13, 2011Today there is little agreement on exactly what the Apocalypse is saying. There are several major ideas that believers tend to cluster around such as preterism or futurism, premill or amill, pre-trib or post-trib, etc. Most modern views have been developed primarily in the last couple of hundred years, and are based on modern methods of interpretation. Historical/literal and historical/critical interpretations see the symbols of Revelation representing the historical existence and actions of kingdoms and rulers, or perhaps future rulers and nations.
I see three periods of past influence on interpreting biblical prophecy that have contributed to today's diverse views.
A. The pre-Christian teachings of Palestinian Jews
B. The post-Constantine period of Christianity
C. The post-reformation times until today
Daniel is one of the OT books most Christians refer to in regards to understanding Revelation. It is interpreted in much the same kind of historical way as pre-Christian Palestinian Jews understood the book. Daniel's four empires found in chapters two and seven were interpreted as follows.
3. Macedonia (Greece, Alexander the Great)
4. Ptolemies and Seleucids (Little Horn - Antiochus IV Epiphanes)
Daniel's "abomination of desolation" is identified in the book of 1 Maccabees as the action of Antiochus Epiphanes.
>>1Mac 1:54 Now the fifteenth day of the month Casleu, in the hundred forty and fifth year, they set up the abomination of desolation upon the altar, and builded idol altars throughout the cities of Juda on every side; <<Pre-Christian Jews interpreted Daniel's symbols on a somewhat literal level. The author of Maccabees and the historian Josephus believed Daniel's beasts with horns and heads, along with the statue in chapter two, represented earthly kings and kingdoms. (Josephus - Antiquities of the Jews X 11.7 XI.8.5, XII.7.6)
>>Now it so fell out, that these things were done on the very same day on which their Divine worship had fallen off, and was reduced to a profane and common use, after three years' time; for so it was, that the temple was made desolate by Antiochus, and so continued for three years. This desolation happened to the temple in the hundred forty and fifth year, on the twenty-fifth day of the month Apeliens, and on the hundred fifty and third olympiad: but it was dedicated anew, on the same day, the twenty-fifth of the month Apeliens, on the hundred and forty-eighth year, and on the hundred and fifty-fourth olympiad. And this desolation came to pass according to the prophecy of Daniel, which was given four hundred and eight years before; for he declared that the Macedonians would dissolve that worship [for some time]. XII.7.6He said that the ram signified the kingdoms of the Medes and Persians, and the horns those kings that were to reign in them; and that the last horn signified the last king, and that he should exceed all the kings in riches and glory: that the he-goat signified that one should come and reign from the Greeks, who should twice fight with the Persian, and overcome him in battle, and should receive his entire dominion: that by the great horn which sprang out of the forehead of the he-goat was meant the first king; and that the springing up of four horns upon its falling off, and the conversion of every one of them to the four quarters of the earth, signified the successors that should arise after the death of the first king, and the partition of the kingdom among them, and that they should be neither his children, nor of his kindred, that should reign over the habitable earth for many years; and that from among them there should arise a certain king that should overcome our nation and their laws, and should take away their political government, and should spoil the temple, and forbid the sacrifices to be offered for three years' time. 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. In the very same manner Daniel also wrote concerning the Roman government, and that our country should be made desolate by them. X 11.7 <<
Josephus didn't explain exactly which section of Daniel referred to the Romans, and he didn't specify a "dual fulfillment." The twentieth century preterist author, Philip Mauro, asserted that Daniel 11:31 refers to Antiochus Epiphanes while 12:11 refers to the 70 AD desolation, even though 12:11 seems to refer back to 11:31.
Is that the way Jesus and the apostles understood Daniel? When Jesus spoke of Daniel's prophecy He didn't mention Antiochus or any of the historical fulfillment, but simply referred to the abomination of desolation as future.
>>Matt 24:15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) <<(Mark 13:14)Neither did the apostolic father Barnabas refer to historical fulfillment when discussing Daniel's prophecy. Instead he warned of Jewish error and wrote about the Decalogue (Epistle of Barnabas IV). Second century father's, such as Justin Martyt and Irenaeus believed the abomination of desolation referred to a future antichrist. Irenaeus explained the number of the beast (Rev 13:18) in and allegorical way in one place (V.29), but later speculated on what the actual name might be.
>>Then also Lateinos (Lateinos) has the number six hundred and sixty-six; and it is a very probable [solution], this being the name of the last kingdom [of the four seen by Daniel]. For the Latins are they who at present bear rule: I will not, however, make any boast over this [coincidence]. Heresies V.xxx.3<<Irenaeus argued against the early heretics, and claimed apostolic teaching was found in the church. However, he makes clear that speculation about the name of antichrist was his own and not something he learned from tradition. This is the first mention of the historical interpretation of Daniel in the writing of the Christian fathers, and is perhaps partially responsible for the later Christian general interpretation of Daniel's four empires.
3. Macedonia (including Ptolemies and Seleucids)
4. Roman Empire
Later fathers associated the future imminent break up of the Roman Empire with the appearance of Antichrist.
As mentioned, neither Christ or Barnabas explain the historical fulfillment of Daniel. Paul claims that wisdom has nothing to do with earthly rulers (1 Cor 2:6). If so, then the beasts in Revelation probably shouldn't be interpreted as a conglomeration of earthly kings and kingdoms, because they call for wisdom to understand.
>>Rev 13:18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.Rev 17:9 And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth. <<
Wisdom is about success and happiness that come from living in accordance with orderliness (Proverbs 22:17-24:22). It really begins with God and one's faith in Him as Lord and Savior (Proverbs 1:7), even though it involves observation and instruction.
Jesus doesn't mention the historical interpretation of Daniel, and it isn't mentioned in the New Testament. Neither is it found among the church fathers until we reach Irenaeus, who makes it clear he considers it a coincidence.
In relation to Daniel's prophecy, Barnabas recalls the covenant was broken even as Moses received the tablets. He warns of Jewish error, and calls on believers to be spiritual minded and to obey the Law.
>>...Let us be spiritually-minded: let us be a perfect temple to God. As much as in us lies, let us meditate upon the fear of God, and let us keep His commandments, that we may rejoice in His ordinances... Barnabas IV<<Irenaeus gives a similar teaching in regards to Daniel.
>>...Just as it is with those who break the laws, when punishment overtakes them: they throw the blame upon those who frame the laws, but not upon themselves. In like manner do those men, filled with a satanic spirit, bring innumerable accusations against our Creator, who has both given to us the spirit of life, and established a law adapted for all; and they will not admit that the judgment of God is just. Wherefore also they set about imagining some other Father who neither cares about nor exercises a providence over our affairs, nay, one who even approves of all sins... V.26.2<<According to Irenaeus, God has prepared a fire for all apostasy, and God has "both given to us the spirit of life, and established a law adapted for all."
It is said that the Jews seek miracles and the Greeks wisdom (1 Cor 1:22), but Christ came to both Jew and Greek with the power and wisdom of God (v24). Scripture sometimes calls for wisdom (Rev 13:18, 17:9). Paul spoke wisdom to the mature, but not about the rulers of this world (1 Cor 2:6).
Wisdom is called for in identifying the beasts in Revelation (13:18, 17:9). The traditional interpretation uses the literal level of the pre-Christian Jews. The idea is that the beasts represent earthly kingdoms and rulers, but according to Paul the wisdom of God is not about earthly rulers or the literal level of scripture (1 Cor 2:6,7). This would seem to rule out the traditional interpretation of the horns and heads. The fact is Jesus and the apostles never directly confirmed the traditional Jewish interpretation of Daniel's prophecies. Indeed, Jesus seemed to contradict it (Mat 24:15, Mk 13:14).
The Greeks used many ideas and symbols similar to those in the Bible, and Paul identifies a certain type of wisdom with the Greeks (1 Cor 1:22). In Plato's Republic a mythical many-headed beast is used to represent the image of a man's soul. Four ages of man are represented as gold, silver, bronze and iron, like Daniel's image in Daniel two. The rulers of Plato's Republic are referred to as philosopher kings. At one point in Book IX he says:
>>I understand; you mean that he will be a ruler in the city of which we are the founders, and which exists in idea only; for I do not believe that there is such an one anywhere on earth?In heaven, I replied, there is laid up a pattern of it, methinks, which he who desires may behold, and beholding, may set his own house in order. But whether such an one exists, or ever will exist in fact, is no matter; for he will live after the manner of that city, having nothing to do with any other.
(Compare to Gal 4:26, Heb 8:5)<<
The Garden of the Hesperides is Hera's orchard in Greek mythology, where a tree or a grove of immortality-giving golden apples grew. The guardian hundred headed serpent receives the name Ladon.
The Jews who rejected Christ are said not to truly understanding the scriptures (2 Cor 3:13-16, Rom 10:2-3) and did not recognize their messiah (Luke 19:44).
The New Testament talks more about correct belief and behavior than about earthly rulers and political empires. The earliest church fathers also decline to discuss the history based interpretation of Daniel, but instead associate those teachings with the spirit and the law. This leads me to believe it is the true apostolic teaching.
Christian interpretation is clearly influenced by Jewish teachings by the third century, as can be seen in this excerpt from Clement of Alexandria.
>>These two thousand three hundred days, then, make six years four months, during the half of which Nero held sway, and it was half a week; and for a half, Vespasian with Otho, Galba, and Vitellius reigned. And on this account Daniel says, "Blessed is he that cometh to the thousand three hundred and thirty-five days." (Dan. 12:12) For up to these days was war, and after them it ceased. And this number is demonstrated from a subsequent chapter, which is as follows: "And from the time of the change of continuation, and of the giving of the abomination of desolation, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and thirty-five days." (Dan. 12:11-12)Flavius Josephus the Jew, who composed the history of the Jews, computing the periods, says that from Moses to David were five hundred and eighty-five years; from David to the second year of Vespasian, a thousand one hundred and seventy-nine; then from that to the tenth year of Antoninus, seventy-seven. So that from Moses to the tenth year of Antoninus there are, in all, two thousand one hundred and thirty-three years. Stromata, Book I.21<<
1. The historical interpretation was found among pre-Christian Jews.
2. The Palestinian Jews didn't understand the scriptures in a manner that allowed them to recognize their Messiah, according to the NT.
3. Neither the NT or the earliest Christian fathers mention the historical interpretation of Daniel's prophecies. Instead Jesus speaks of an abomination of desolation to come, while Barnabas and Irenaeus talk about the Spirit and the Law in relation to Daniel's prophecies. Barnabas warns of Jewish error.
4. Later Christian writers show the influence of Josephus on their interpretation of Daniel.
My conclusion is that the historical interpretation of Daniel is not the interpretation of the apostles or very early Christianity. Instead Daniel's prophecies are spiritual teachings of theological content concerning Law and Spirit (Romans 7-8). They concern biblical wisdom, perhaps similar to Greek wisdom in some ways.
Paul and the other apostles probably saw the symbolism of the Garden of Eden representing wisdom and the Gospel.
>>1Pe 2:24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.the tree: <<( Gal 3:13)
The tree of life represent the cross. The tree of knowledge is the Law (Rom 3:20-22, Rom 6:21-23, Rom 7:5-7, 7:21) The wisdom isn't just Greek, it is biblical.
>>Sir 19:19 The knowledge of the commandments of the Lord is the doctrine of life: and they that do things that please him shall receive the fruit of the tree of immortality.Sir 19:20 The fear of the Lord is all wisdom; and in all wisdom is the performance of the law, and the knowledge of his omnipotency. <<
The lamb in Revelation symbolizing Christ has seven horns and seven eyes (Rev 5:6) representing the spirits of God (2Ch 16:9 Zec 3:9 4:10). Anyone in Christ is considered a new creature
>>2 Cor 2:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.<< (Gal 6:15 Heb 8:9-13 2Pe 3:10-13 Rev 21:1-5)Therefore the seven also represents the new creation in Christ, and the ten represents the Ten Commandments, the law and the Old Testament (Rev 13:18, 17:9). The Book of Revelation is an allegorical treatise concerning the tension between the Old and New covenants, much like the other books in the NT. It should be interpreted in a theological way rather than a historical/literal way because the wisdom is theological.
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