Archive for November 2020

Bel and the Dragon   Leave a comment

Above:  Daniel Confounds the Priests of Bel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART XII

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Daniel 5:1-30 (Protestant and Anglican)

Daniel 5:1-6:1 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

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The folly of idolatry is the theme of Daniel 14.  The two stories (verses 1-22 and 23-42) in this chapter mock and caricature Babylonian religion.

“Bel” was the Babylonian equivalent of “Baal.”  In this case, Bel was Marduk, the head of the Babylonian pantheon.

Daniel 14, like the rest of the Book of Daniel, is ahistorical.

In this chapter, Daniel cleverly points out how ridiculous idolatry is.  He identifies the footprints of priests, their wives, and their children who consumed food offerings to Bel in the middle of the night.  Daniel also feeds a statue of a dragon, causing it to explode.  Then he survives a second round in the lions’ den (see Chapter 6).  And Cyrus II, like kings before him, acknowledges YHWH.

Daniel 14 does erect a straw man then knock him down.  Nevertheless, idolatry is ridiculous.  One need not sacrifice food to statues to commit idolatry.  Statues of false deities are not really idols anyway; the ideas behind them are the actual idols.

Whenever we love something we ought not to love, we commit idolatry.  Whenever we love something or someone more than we should, we also commit idolatry.  To love something or someone more than we ought to do is to deny proper love to God.  Doing so may not seem ridiculous to us when we commit idolatry, but it is foolish.

Thank you for joining me on this journey through the Book of Daniel, O reader.  I invite you to accompany me through the Book of Tobit, my next project.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 24, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN LAFARGE, JR., U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND RENEWER OF SOCIETY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANDREW DUNG-LAC AND PETER THI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS IN VIETNAM, 1839

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEOPHANE VENARD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MISSIONARY, AND MARTYR IN VIETNAM, 1861

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENT LIEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1773

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Posted November 24, 2020 by neatnik2009 in Daniel 13-14, Daniel 6

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Daniel and Susanna   Leave a comment

Above:  Susanna and the Elders

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART XI

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Daniel 13:1-64

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Daniel and Susanna, according to study Bibles I consulted, hails from either the second or the first centuries B.C.E.  A standard description of Daniel 13 is that it is the oldest surviving detective story.  I prefer to think of it as the oldest surviving Perry Mason story.

The cast of named characters is:

  1. Joakim, husband of Susanna;
  2. Susanna, daughter of Hilkiah and wife of Joakim;
  3. Hilkiah, father of Susanna; and
  4. Daniel.

The story does not name the two wicked elders.

This is a story about the miscarriage of justice.  We read that the beautiful and pious Susanna, wife of the wealthy and pious Joakim, refused the sexual advances of the lecherous and homicidal elders, who had hidden in her garden.  The story describes the two elders as predators.  We also read of their perjury and of Susanna’s false conviction, followed by her sentence of death (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:21-22).

This is also a story about justice.  We read of Susanna’s prayer (verses 42-43) and of God’s reply:  sending Daniel to rescue her.  We read of Daniel’s Perry Mason routine, by which he exposed the two elders’ lies with an arborial question:  

Now, if you really saw this woman, then tell us, under what tree did you see them together?”

–Verse 54, The Revised English Bible with the Apocrypha (1989)

We also read of the elders’ execution, in accordance with the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 19:16-21).  In the Law of Moses, the punishment for committing perjury to convict someone falsely is to suffer the fate one intended for the accused.

The suffering of the innocent and the pious is a major theme in the Book of Daniel.  We also read of God delivering such victims in Daniel 2 and 3.  Yet Daniel 10-12 wrestles with the realities of martyrdoms.

God delivers the innocent and the pious some of the time.  This tension is evident in the Book of Psalms.  Some of those texts sound like Elihu, as well as Job’s alleged friends:  Suffering results from sins, and God delivers the righteous.  Yet other Psalms come from the perspective of the suffering righteous.  The former position fills Proverbs, the Wisdom of Solomon, and Ecclesiasticus/Sirach/the Wisdom of Ben Sira, too.  Ecclesiastes functions as a counter-argument to that excessive optimism.

Why does God deliver some of the righteous and not all of them?  I have no pat answer for such a challenging question.  In Revelation 6:9-11, even the martyrs in Heaven are not always happy.

We who struggle with this vexing question belong to an ancient tradition.  We are the current generation in a long train.  We have reasons to rejoice, at least; God delivers some of the innocent and the pious.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 23, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN KENNETH PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP; HIS WIFE, HARRIET ELIZABETH “BESSIE” WHITTINGTON PFOHL, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN; AND THEIR SON, JAMES CHRISTIAN PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF CASPAR FRIEDRICH NACHTENHOFER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND MISSIONARY

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The Final Vision   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of St. Michael the Archangel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART X

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Daniel 10:1-12:13

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This passage, superficially from 586 B.C.E. or so, actually comes from a time much closer to 164 B.C.E.  The reference to the “prince of Greece” (the guardian angel of the Seleucid Empire) clues us into the actual period of composition.

Again, as I keep repeating in these posts, the Book of Daniel is not history.  Chapter 11 mentions Darius the Mede, supposedly the conqueror of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, and the immediate predecessors of Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes.  Historical records tell us that Cyrus II conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C.E.  Records also tell us that the Persian Empire had ten kings from 559 to 330 B.C.E., with Cyrus II being the first and Darius III the last.  Daniel 11:2 reads:

Persia will have three more kings, and the fourth will be wealthier than them all; by the power he obtains through his wealth, he will stir everyone up against the kingdom of the Greeks.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The material in the reading for this post is dense, with many references to ancient potentates.

  1. The “warrior king” in Daniel 11:3 is obviously a reference to Alexander III “the Great,” given the breaking up of his empire after his death (11:4).
  2. The kings of the south were kings of the Ptolemaic Empire.
  3. The kings of the north were kings of the Seleucid Empire.
  4. The kings of the south (11:5f) and the north (11:6f) were Ptolemy I Soter (reigned 323-285 B.C.E.) Seleucus II Callinicus (reigned 246-225 B.C.E.), respectively.
  5. Daniel 11:6 refers to the murder of the daughter of a daughter of King Ptolemy II Philadelphus (reigned 285-246 B.C.E.).
  6. Daniel 11:7 refers to the retaliation of King Ptolemy III Euergetes (reigned 246-221 B.C.E.).
  7. Daniel 11 also contains references to hostile relations during the reigns of subsequent kings, including Ptolemy V Ephiphanes (reigned 204-180 B.C.E.) and Antiochus III “the Great” (reigned 223-187 B.C.E).
  8. Daniel 11:20 refers to Seleucus IV Philopater (reigned 187-175 B.C.E.), who attempted to rob the treasury of the Temple in Jerusalem (2 Maccabees 3).
  9. Daniel 11:21f refers to Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164 B.C.E.), the bête noire of Hasmonean partisans and a foe of the Ptomemaic Dynasty in Egypt.

Jews were literally in the middle of this Ptolemaic-Seleucid warfare.  Judea, incorporated into the Seleucid Empire after the Battle of Paneas (200 B.C.E.), were subject to religious persecution.  This reality set the stage for the Hasmonean rebellion, in progress during the composition of Daniel 7-12.

The message of Daniel 10-12, then, is to remain faithful despite persecution and martyrdom.  God will win in the end.

Daniel 12 contains another theologically important detail.  The resurrection of the dead in Ezekiel 37 is a metaphor for the restoration of Judah after the Babylonian Exile.  The resurrection of the dead is literal in Daniel 12, though.

Living in perilous times is stressful.  The temptation to surrender hope is strong.  Yet, as the Book of Daniel repeatedly reminds us, God is sovereign.  God is faithful.  And, to quote the Reverend Maltbie Davenport Babcock (1858-1901),

This is my Father’s world,

O let me ne’er forget

That though the wrong seems oft so strong,

God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world:

The battle is not done;

Jesus who died shall be satisfied,

And earth and heaven be one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 22, 2020 COMMON ERA

CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY–PROPER 29:  THE LAST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF ROBERT SEAGRAVE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DITLEF GEORGSON RISTAD, NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, LITURGIST, AND EDUCATOR

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The Prophecy of the Seven Weeks   Leave a comment

Above:  Mina of Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART IX

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Daniel 9:1-27

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As I keep writing in this series of posts, the Book of Daniel is not history.

“Darius the Mede” never existed.  Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes (reigned 559-530 B.C.E.) conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C.E.).  These are matters of historical record.  The Book of Daniel, though, places Darius the Mede between Belshazzar (the Crown Prince; never a king) and Cyrus II.

Another consequence of the scribal teaching that the period of inspiration had closed was a new interest in the predictions contained in existing prophecy.  If they had not been and apparently could not be literally fulfilled, then they must be explained symbolically.  The “seventy years” of Babylonian servitude in Jeremiah 25:11, 12 becomes in Daniel 9:2, 24, “seventy weeks of years,” in order to bring the “accomplishing of the desolations of Jerusalem” down approximately to the Maccabean period from which the author was writing.  Thus the calculation of times and seasons began, and with it a scheme of predetermined future history.

R. B. Y. Scott, The Relevance of the Prophets, 2nd. Ed. (1968), 6

Jeremiah 25:11-12 reads:

This whole land shall be a ruin and a waste.  Seventy years these nations shall serve the land of Babylon, but when the seventy years have elapsed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation and the land of the Chaldeans for their guilt–oracle of the LORD.  Their land I will turn into everlasting waste.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Let us consider dates and mathematics, O reader.

  1. The Fall of Jerusalem occurred in 586 B.C.E.
  2. King Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C.E.  He permitted Jews to return to their ancestral homeland.
  3. 586 – 539 = 47.
  4. Mathematics can prove inconvenient for fundamentalism.
  5. Nevertheless, one can get to 70 by figuring other dates, such as those for the destruction of the First Temple and the dedication of the Second Temple.  Yet that is not the criterion, according to Jeremiah 25:11-12.
  6. Seventy is a symbolic number; it means a long time.

The material is not about the results of simple subtraction, O reader,  The penitential prayer, set in one context, makes more sense in the context of the Hasmonean rebellion and the oppression of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164 B.C.E.), about the time of the composition of the text.  Daniel 9, writing of the second century B.C.E, outwardly as a previous century, offered comfort to pious Jews in their homeland at a difficult time.

This point leads me to another one.  People can live in their homeland yet be in exile.  They can live under foreign occupation.  They can suffer from oppression.  Nevertheless, hope persists.  The reinterpretation of prophecy may abet the encouragement to hope for a better future.  The reinterpretation of prophecy may help people to continue in faith.

This practice has continued since Daniel 9 was new.  One can detect the reinterpretation of prophecies of the Second Coming of Jesus throughout the New Testament.  Christian tradition includes the reinterpretation of Jewish prophecies.  The history of Christianity includes examples of the continuing reinterpretation of prophecies regarding the Second Coming of Jesus.  Prophecy seems not always to be clear-cut, in the Bible and in the the present day.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 21, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS TALLIS AND HIS STUDENT AND COLLEAGUE, WILLIAM BYRD, ENGLISH COMPOSERS AND ORGANISTS; AND JOHN MERBECKE, ENGLISH COMPOSER, ORGANIST, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF HENRY PURCELL AND HIS BROTHER, DANIEL PURCELL, ENGLISH COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF THEODORE CLAUDIUS PEASE, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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The Vision of the Ram and the He-Goat   Leave a comment

Above:  The Ram and the He-Goat

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART VIII

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Daniel 8:1-27

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As I keep writing in the posts of this series, the Book of Daniel is not history.

The last monarch of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire was Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 B.C.E.).  His son, Crown Prince Belshazzar, served as viceroy and regent (553-543 B.C.E,) while Nabonidus was away on the Arabian peninsula.  Belshazzar was never a king.

Daniel 8 has much in common with Chapters 2 and 7.  The imagery in Daniel 8 is of the Persian Empire (the two-horned ram), the Macedonian Empire of Alexander III “the Great,” and the four successor empires of Alexander’s empire.  We have a clue regarding the period of composition.

Prepare for the essential information dump, O reader.

  1. Alexander III “the Great” of Macedonia died in 323 B.C.E.  He did not name a successor.
  2. Generals fought among themselves and rendered the empire asunder.  Four empires emerged.
  3. One was the Ptolemaic Empire, based in Egypt.
  4. Another was the Seleucid Empire, based in Babylonia.
  5. Another was the rump Macedonian Empire.
  6. Another successor empire was in Asia Minor.
  7. The successors of Ptolemy I Soter (reigned 305-282 B.C.E.) and Seleucus I Nicator (reigned 305-281 B.C.E.) concerned and frequently troubled the original audience of the Book of Daniel.
  8. The king in Daniel 8:23f was Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164 B.C.E.).  Contrary to the text, he was not the last ruler of that empire.  Antiochus XIII Asiaticus (reigned 69-69 and 65-64 B.C.E.) was the final monarch of that empire.
  9. The reference to Antiochus IV Epiphanes does provide a clue regarding the period of composition, though.

If one has been paying close attention since the beginning of this series, one may have detected some patterns and motifs in the texts.  For example, consider Chapters 2, 7, and 8, O reader.  Empires and kingdoms rise and fall.  God remains forever.  God is sovereign.  In other words, relativize love of country; do not convert patriotism into idolatry.  Love that which lasts forever than which is temporary, even if long-term.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 20, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF F. BLAND TUCKER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMNODIST; “THE DEAN OF AMERICAN HYMN WRITERS”

THE FEAST OF HENRY FRANCIS LYTE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PRISCILLA LYDIA SELLON, A RESTORER OF RELIGIOUS LIFE IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF RICHARD WATSON GILDER, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

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The Vision of the Four Beasts   Leave a comment

Above:  The Vision of the Four Beasts

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART VII

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Daniel 7:1-28

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The section of apocalyptic visions (Chapters 7-12) in the Book of Daniel begins here.

I remind you, O reader, what I have written in previous posts.  The last Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian monarch was Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 B.C.E.).  His son, Crown Prince Belshazzar, served as viceroy and regent (553-543 B.C.E.) while Nabonidus was on the Arabian peninsula for a decade.  Belshazzar was never a king.

Daniel 7 has much in common with Chapter 2.  Two competing lists of the four kingdoms mentioned in the two chapters exist.  One list is:

  1. the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire;
  2. the Median Empire of “Darius the Mede;”
  3. the Persian Empire; and
  4. the Macedonian Empire of Alexander III “the Great.”

According to this list, the blasphemous horn is the notorious King Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164 B.C.E.).  This identification makes sense to me, for it provides a clue regarding the period of composition.

The competing list is:

  1. the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire;
  2. the Persian Empire;
  3. the Macedonian Empire of Alexander III “the Great;” and
  4. the Roman Empire.

According to this list, the blasphemous horn is the antichrist.

The vision concludes with the descent of 

one like a human being,

or, literally,

one like a son of man.

This was originally a reference to St. Michael the Archangel.

Son of man

has more than one meaning in the Hebrew Bible.  Usually, it means a human being, as in Ezekiel 2:1 and Job 25:6.  The term also means angel, as in Daniel 8:17, a reference to St. Gabriel the Archangel.  The term clearly refers to a heavenly figure in Daniel 7:13.  Christian tradition identifies the heavenly figure as Jesus. 

Son of Man,

in relation to Jesus, is an apocalyptic label in the New Testament.  This association of the label with a future messianic figure also exists in 1 Enoch 46:1 and 48:10, as well as in 2 Esdras/4 Ezra 13.

The establishment of the Kingdom of God in its fullness on Earth at the end of the visions of Daniel 2 and 7 expresses hope for a just world.  This is the concept of the Kingdom of Heaven in the Gospel of Matthew.  (See Jonathan Pennington.)  This is the dream that remains unfulfilled thousands of years later.

I have read what many Biblical scholars have written about the Kingdom of God.  I can, for example, quote C. H. Dodd (1884-1973) on Realized Eschatology at the drop of a hat.  As logical as I find his case in The Founder of Christianity (1970) to be, I conclude that it feels like cold comfort on certain days.  On those days, I agree and sympathize with Alfred Loisy, an excommunicated Roman Catholic theologian who complained,

Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God and what came was the Church.

As Bishop N. T. Wright wrote in Jesus and the Victory of God (1996), the response of many of the faithful to the Kingdom of God not arriving at the expected times has been to continue to hope for it.  Hope persists.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 19, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF HUNGARY, PRINCESS OF HUNGARY, AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND PIANO BUILDER; AND HIS SON, JACOB CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN PIANO BUILDER

THE FEAST OF JOHANN HERMANN SCHEIN, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL JOHN STONE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Daniel in the Lions’ Den   Leave a comment

Above:  Daniel in the Lions’ Den

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART VI

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Daniel 6:2-29 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

Daniel 6:1-28 (Protestant and Anglican)

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I begin with history.

King Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 B.C.E.) was the last Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian monarch.  King Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes (reigned 559-530 B.C.E.) added Chaldea/Babylonia to his realm in 539 B.C.E.  Belshazzar was never a king, and Darius the Mede never existed.

Daniel 6 exists in the realms of folklore and theology yet not in the category of history.

The practice of depicting a monarch in an unflattering, satirical light is present in Daniel 6.  One may easily point out that the king, being a law unto himself, had the power to change the law again.  Instead, we read of Darius the Mede expressing regret that he could not alter the law he had decreed.

The motif of a foreign monarch glorifying YHWH at the end of a chapter also recurs.

Civil disobedience, another theme in the Book of Daniel, also recurs.  There may be no justice without peace, but neither can peace exist without justice.  The long line of nonviolent resistors to oppression casts the long line of oppressors and their enablers into stark, ignominious relief.  The moral contrast between the two sides is great.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 18, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILDA OF WHITBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS

THE FEAST OF ALICE NEVIN, U.S. GERMAN REFORMED LITURGIST AND COMPOSER OF HYMN TEXTS

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR TOZER RUSSELL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JANE ELIZA(BETH) LEESON, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

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Belshazzar’s Feast   Leave a comment

Above:  Belshazzar’s Feast

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART V

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Daniel 5:1-30 (Protestant and Anglican)

Daniel 5:1-6:1 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

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I begin with history.

Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 B.C.E.) was the last Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian king.  He spent a decade (553-543 B.C.E.) on the Arabian peninsula.  During that time, his son, Crown Prince Belshazzar governed as viceroy and regent.  King Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes (reigned 559-530 B.C.E.) added Chaldea/Babylonia to his realm in 539 B.C.E.  Belshazzar was never a king.  Darius the Mede (Daniel 5:30/6:1, depending on versification) was a fictional character.

The scene in this reading is vivid.  The excesses of the powerful, conquering empire stand in contrast to the justice of God.  The hubris of the powerful, dominant Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian culture contrasts with the realities of the peoples it oppressed.  The mighty empire falling, by the hand of God, to another, relatively benevolent empire should serve as a sobering reminder to many people across the world.

The end of this reading reminds me of Revelation 18–the fall of Babylon, code for the Roman Empire.  Daniel 5:1-30/5:1-6:1 and Revelation 18 ought to prompt us to ask ourselves if we identify with the oppressive, violent powers or with the oppressed. For whom do we grieve?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 17, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUGH OF LINCOLN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT HENRIETTE DELILLE, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE FEAST OF ISABEL ALICE HARTLEY, BAPTIST MISSIONARY TO THE KIOWA NATION

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The Madness of King Nebuchadnezzar II   Leave a comment

Above:  King Nebuchadnezzar II as a Wild Animal

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART IV

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Daniel 4:1-34

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My graduate school training is in history.  I, therefore, recognize and accept that Daniel 4 is ahistorical.  According to ancient historical sources, King Nebuchadnezzar II was never away from office for any extended period of time.  We do know, however, that King Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 B.C.E.), the last Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian monarch, spent a decade (553-543 B.C.E.) on the Arabian peninsula.  We also know that Crown Prince Belshazzar exercised power in his father’s stead during those years.  When we read Daniel 4, we read folklore and theology, not history.

As I keep writing in this series, the Book of Daniel includes elements of satire.  The depiction of King Nebuchadnezzar II as a blustery, dangerous fool in Chapters 2 and 3 fits into this theme.  The image of him insane, naked, and animalistic in a field (Chapter 4) takes the satire one more step.

The sovereignty of God is a prominent theme in the Book of Daniel, as we have seen in Chapters 1-3.  That theme is evident in Chapter 4.  Once more, we read of King Nebuchadnezzar II acknowledging the sovereignty of God.

The sovereignty of God pertains to another theme I have also addressed in the previous post.  To quote Daniel L. Smith-Christopher, corrected for the standards of The Elements of Style (Strunk and White) to remove “the fact that” and create a gerund to make the sentence make sense:

The book of Daniel suggests that…Christians finding themselves under the rule of an oppressive state (whether over or more subtle) does mean that they need to bow to its authority.

The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VII (1996), 76

God is in charge.  Even potentates are subject to divine judgments and standards.  When the laws of God and the laws of governments conflict, one still has a moral duty to obey the laws of God.  One also retains the moral duty to do so by proper methods.

This point–civil disobedience–can easily lead into difficult territory.  I am neither an anarchist nor a right-wing law-and-order, my-country, right-or-wrong partisan.  My moral compass is the Golden Rule, with Jesus as the exemplar.  Therefore, I applaud the conductors of the Underground Railroad–criminals, according to federal law–as moral giants.  I also regard the U.S. federal policy of separating families at the border with moral outrage.  Nobody who supports that policy has any moral standing to lecture me on being pro-life, having family values, and/or keeping the Golden Rule.

One mistake many who seek to follow divine law commit is obnoxiousness.  One ought to act courageously, boldly, and sincerely.  And one should proceed from love.  God is love, after all.  At the end, all must stand before God.  May we, by grace, acquit ourselves as well as possible until then.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 16, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGARET OF SCOTLAND, QUEEN, HUMANITARIAN, AND ECCLESIASTICAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIUSEPPE MOSCATI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PHYSICIAN

THE FEAST OF IGNACIO ELLACURIA AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS IN EL SALVADOR, NOVEMBER 15, 1989

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES KEPLER, GERMAN LUTHERAN ASTRONOMER AND MATHEMATICIAN

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Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the Fiery Furnace, with the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART III

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Daniel 3:1-31 (Jewish, Protestant, and Anglican)

Daniel 3:1-100 (Roman Catholic)

Daniel 3:1-97 (Eastern Orthodox)

The Song of the Three Young Men

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Satire is a feature of the Book of Daniel.  Satire is evident in the uses of humor and in the exaggeration of pomp, circumstance, and numbers.  The portrayal of kings as pompous, blustery, and dangerous people is another feature of Biblical satire.  The two main examples who come to my mind are Nebuchadnezzar II (the version from Daniel 1-4), the fictional Darius the Mede (Daniel 6, 9, and 11), and Ahasuerus from the Book of Esther.

The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego surviving the fiery furnace unsinged and in the company of a mysterious fourth man is familiar.  It is one of the more commonly told Bible stories.  If one overlooks the references to Nebuchadnezzar II, one misses some satirical and theological material.

The story portrays King Nebuchadnezzar II as a blustery, dangerous fool who defeats his own purposes.  (Aren’t we glad such people no longer exist?  I am being sarcastic.)  Verse 15 depicts the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian monarch accidentally invoking YHWH, not any member of the Chaldean pantheon.  And, implausibly, the end of the chapter portrays the king deliberately blessing YHWH.  In other words, King Nebuchadnezzar II was no match for YHWH.

Who was the fourth man?  The Jewish Study Bible suggests that he was an angel.  Much of Christian tradition identifies him as the pre-Incarnate Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity.  I prefer the first option.  Besides, Daniel 3 is a work of fiction.  It is folklore, not history.  And the authors were Jews who died before the birth of Christ.

The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men fall between Daniel 3:23 and 3:24, depending on versification and one’s preferred definition of the canon of scripture.  Set inside the fiery furnace, the additional, Greek verses identify the fourth man as an angel.  

  • The Prayer of Azariah links the suffering of the three pious Hebrews to the sins of their people.  The text expresses communal remorse for and repentance of sin.  God’s punishments are just, the prayer asserts.
  • The Song of the Three Young Men is one of the literary highlights of the Old Testament.  Two canticles from Morning Prayer in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) come from this Greek addition.  I adore the John Rutter setting of part of the Song of the Three Young Men (“Glory to you, Lord God of Our Fathers,” S236 in The Hymnal 1982).  The Song of the Three Young Men calls on all of nature to praise God and celebrates God’s deliverance of the three pious Hebrews.

The question of submission to authority is a thorny issue in the Bible, which provides us with no unified answer.  Many people cite Romans 13:1-7 to justify obedience to authority no matter what.  However, one can point to passages such as Exodus 1:15-22 (Shiphrah and Puah the midwives), Daniel 3, Daniel 6 (Daniel in the lions’ den), Tobit 1:16-22 (burying the dead in violation of a royal edict), and Luke 6:22-26 (from the Woes following the Beatitudes) to justify civil disobedience.  Perhaps the best way through this comes from Matthew 22:15-22.  We owe God everything.  We bear the image of God.  And we ought not to deny God that which belongs to God.  The proper application of that timeless principle varies according to circumstances.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 8:  THE TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JOHN AMOS COMENIUS, FATHER OF MODERN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULÉN AND HIS PROTÉGÉ AND COLLEAGUE, ANDERS NYGREN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN BISHOPS AND THEOLOGIANS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN GOTTLOB KLEMM, INSTRUMENT MAKER; DAVID TANNENBERG, SR., GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN ORGAN BUILDER; JOHANN PHILIP BACHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN INSTRUMENT MAKER; JOSEPH FERDINAND BULITSCHEK, BOHEMIAN-AMERICAN ORGAN BUILDER; AND TOBIAS FRIEDRICH, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH PIGNATELLI, RESTORER OF THE JESUITS

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