Archive for the ‘Daniel 2’ Category

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 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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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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King Nebuchadnezzar II’s Dream of the Composite Statue   Leave a comment

Above:  The Composite Statue

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART II

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Daniel 2:1-49

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The internal chronology of the Book of Daniel goes awry again in 2:1.  One may recall the passage of three years in Chapter 1.  Chapter 2 occurs after the events of Chapter 1.  So, how could the events of Chapter 2 have occurred in the second year of the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar II?  If I were a fundamentalist, I would try to rationalize that contradiction.  Yet I am not, so I do not.  Instead, I ask myself,

What is really going on here?

This is a story about the sovereignty and power of God.  The courtiers (“Chaldeans”) could not interpret the king’s dream vision.  So, he nearly killed them all, including Daniel and his Judahite friends.  Daniel, by the power of God, provided the correct interpretation.  People continued to live.  Daniel became the governor of the province of Babylonia.  His friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (introduced in Chapter 1 and prominent in Chapter 3) administered the province under Daniel’s guidance.

I have found two proposed lists of the four empires in the dream vision.  They repeat in Chapter 7, the vision of the four beasts.  The first list, in order, is:

  1. the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire;
  2. the Median Empire of “Darius the Mede,” a fictional character (Daniel 6, 9, and 11);
  3. the Persian Empire; and
  4. the Macedonian Empire of Alexander III “the Great.”

The minority, alternative 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 Daniel 6, 9, and 11, “Darius the Mede” conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire and preceded King Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes (reigned 559-530 B.C.E.).  In reality, however, Cyrus II conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C.E.

Anyhow, the bottom line in the dream vision is that, after a sequence of increasingly inferior empires, God would finally inaugurate the fully-realized Kingdom of God on Earth.  This has yet to happen.

Civilizations, nation-states, kingdoms, and empires have risen.  Many have also fallen.

Nothing human lasts forever.  To go full Augustinian on you, O reader, much of that which is temporary (even if long-term) is worthy of love.  But we have an obligation to love God the most.  To love something or someone more than we ought is to take love away from God.  It is to commit idolatry.  We may love our countries, but we should never deify them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL SEABURY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF CONNECTICUT AND PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINTS NICHOLAS TAVELIC AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 1391

THE FEAST OF PETER WOLLE, U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP, ORGANIST, AND COMPOSER; THEODORE FRANCIS WOLLE, U.S. MORAVIAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER; AND JOHN FREDEREICK “J. FRED” WOLLE, U.S. MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND CHOIR DIRECTOR

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ROMANIS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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The Food Test   Leave a comment

Above:  Daniel and His Three Friends Refusing the King’s Food

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART I

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Daniel 1:1-21

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The Book of Daniel is an intriguing portion of the Bible.  

  1. Depending on how one defines the canon of scripture, it has either 12 or 14 chapters.  (For the purpose of this series, I have read the long version.)
  2. Most of the book hails from the time of the Hasmonean rebellion, in the second century B.C.E.  Theological developments, historical references, and linguistic clues confirm this conclusion.  Chapters 1-12, except for the Greek additions in Chapter 3, come from the time of the Hasmonean rebellion.  Chapters 13 and 14 are more recent, from either the second or first centuries B.C.E.
  3. The nonsensical internal chronology of the Book of Daniel contradicts ancient historical records and the rest of the Hebrew Bible.  The Book of Daniel is what it is.  It is not history.

So, what is the Book of Daniel? 

  1. It is partially a collection of folklore. 
  2. It is partially a collection of apocalyptic visions. 
  3. It is a book that teaches how to remain faithful to God in the Jewish diaspora during the second and first centuries B.C.E. 
  4. It is a book that affirms many Gentiles. 
  5. In other words, the Book of Daniel is true without being historically accurate.  Truth and accuracy are different concepts.

Daniel 1:1 provides a fixed point within the narrative of the Book of Daniel.  That fixed point is 605 B.C.E., the third year of the reign (608-598 B.C.E.) of King Jehoiakim/Eliakim of Judah.  (For more about King Jehoiakim, read 2 Kings 23:36-24:7; 2 Chronicles 36:5-8; and 1 Esdras 1:39-42.)  Daniel 1:1 also provides the name of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian king, Nebuchadrezzar/Nebuchadnezzar II (reigned 605-562 B.C.E.).  The chronological problem is that Nebuchadnezzar II captured Jerusalem in 597 B.C.E.  If I were a fundamentalist, this would disturb me.  I am not, and it does not.

To quote a spiritual and theological mentor of mine in the 1990s, 

What is really going on here?

What is really going on in Daniel 1?

  1. Daniel and his fellow Judahite servants refused the food King Nebuchadnezzar II offered.  They obeyed the dietary food laws in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14.  The young men also thrived on a diet of vegetables and water.
  2. God also granted Daniel and his fellow Judahite servants more intelligence and wisdom than they had already.  The ability to interpret dreams proved crucial in subsequent chapters.
  3. Daniel and his fellow Judahite servants received new names–identities–yet retained their Hebrew identities.

People base their identities on different standards.  This is a choice one needs to make wisely.  Psychologists and experiences tell us that many people cling to ideas that are objectively false and proven to be so.  These people cling to these falsehoods and ignore evidence because admitting error and changing their minds would threaten their egos.  This is a serious problem.  Whatever one does or does not do affects other people.  If, for example, one votes for Candidate A over Candidate B because one clings to ego defenses and ignores objective reality, one may hinder the common good.  Or, if one, acting out of ego defenses, ignores objective reality and refuses to behave responsibly by having one’s children vaccinated, one can cause other people’s children to become ill.  As I type these words during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people believe misinformation, cling to conspiracy theories, and refuse to wear masks in public places.  They endanger themselves and others.  Facts should matter.

I seek to acknowledge objective reality and to act accordingly.  I also seek to follow my own advice regarding the proper basis of human identity.  The sole proper basis of human identity is the image of God; every human being bears it.  For we Christians, the particular shading is that Jesus, whom we profess to follow.  Despite my advice, I continue to found my ego mainly on my education and intellect.  Education and intellect are wonderful.  They are blessings.  I, like St. Paul the Apostle, know what I ought to do and frequently do something else.

Psychological identity is a complicated, frequently treacherous matter.  If we are spiritually wise, we will have a healthy ego, which we will maintain without excluding anyone God includes.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 13, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MARTYN DEXTER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HISTORIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABBO OF FLEURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRICE OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCES XAVIER CABRINI, FOUNDRESS OF THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF THE SACRED HEART

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Dependence on God, Part I   1 comment

Above:  The Dream of Nebuchadnezzar

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Daniel 2:24, 31-49

Psalm 38:15-22

Revelation 3:14-22

Mark 11:12-14, 20-25

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For in you, O LORD, have I fixed my hope;

you will answer me, O Lord my God.

For I said, “Do not let them rejoice at my expense,

those who gloat over me when my foot slips.

Truly, I am on the verge of falling,

and my pain is always with me.

I will confess my iniquity

and be sorry for my sin.

Those who are my enemies without cause are mighty,

and many in number are those who wrongfully hate me.

Those who repay evil for good slander me,

because I follow the course that is right.

O LORD, do not forsake me;

be not far from me, O my God.

Make haste to help me,

O Lord of my salvation.

–Psalm 38:15-22, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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At first glance the readings David Ackerman has appointed for the First Sunday of Advent do not fit well together.  However, upon further reflection, one might realize that they do.  The message is that we–individuals, institutions, societies–ought to rely on God, not on our own devices.

In David 2 we have an interpretation of a dream.  There are four successive empires–traditionally Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian, Median, Persian, and Macedonian–of declining value.  The fifth in the sequence is the divided empire of the late Alexander the Great.  At the end of that sequence, according to Daniel 2, God’s reign on earth will commence.

O, if only it had!

The Roman Empire is the power in Mark 11.  Jesus curses a fig tree for producing no figs.  The text notes that this happened outside of fig season.  The story, however, is symbolic.  It follows directly from the Triumphal Entry of Jesus and wraps around the cleansing of the Temple.  The fig tree relates to the Temple.  Just as the fig tree is producing just leaves and not small green figs (as it ought to do), the Temple is barren of anything of spiritual worth.  The fig tree is also a recurring Biblical symbol of Israel itself, as in Jeremiah 8:13, Hosea 9:10, Joel 1:7, and Micah 7:1.  One can therefore reasonably read the cursing of the fig tree as a scathing critique of the religious life of Israel.

When we turn to the Church at Laodicea in Revelation 3 we find another scathing critique.  The congregation relies on its wealth, not on God, who literally vomits (although many translations render the verb “spits”) that church out.  The church has succumbed to the temptation to convert material wealth into an idol.

The text from Psalm 38 explains itself.

In Beyond the Lectionary (2013) Ackerman emphasizes

the importance of awakening the insights that God provides

(page 8).

Those insights tell us both individually and collectively not to trust in military forces, in governments, in wealth, or in imagined righteousness when we ought to acknowledge our complete dependence on God.  To do anything other than to rely completely on God is to commit idolatry.  That is a difficult and strong statement, I know.  I also acknowledge that I have long been guilty of this idolatry and continue to be so.  I confess this sin here, in this post, readily.  Fortunately, grace abounds, so all of us have hope.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 28, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHANEL, PROTOMARTYR OF OCEANIA

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2017/04/28/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-of-advent-ackerman/

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The Apocalyptic Discourse, Part I   1 comment

temple-of-solomon

Above:  Temple of Solomon

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 7:1-15 or Daniel 2:1-49

Psalm 17:8-14 (15) or Psalm 83

Matthew 24:1-8 or Mark 13:1-8

1 Corinthians 7:1-40

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Timothy Matthew Slemmons, creator of the Year D project and author of the book in which I find the citations for this series of devotions, sets aside five Sundays for “the Apocalyptic Discourse,” which precedes “the Prelude to the Passion” (four Sundays) and “the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ” (ten Sundays), which leads directly into Christ the King Sunday.  This arrangement presents an opportunity to delve into material usually ignored, minimized, or squeezed into Holy Week.

Holy rituals and the Temple at Jerusalem are not protective talismans that shield us as we commit idolatry, oppress the vulnerable, victimize foreigners, shed the blood of the innocent at holy places, commit adultery, steal, and/or murder, Jeremiah says.  He and other Hebrew prophets agree that proper worship of God entails not just correct ritual but good morality; the first without the second is a mockery of God and the ritual.  Do not trust too much in the Temple, Jeremiah says.  Jesus makes a similar statement about that Temple’s successor.  Both buildings will cease to exist in time, we read.

They did.

The apocalyptic theme continues.  In Daniel the quality of material in the statue from the dream becomes progressively less impressive.  The world of human beings, with their military-based empires, degrades.  One should not trust much in those either.  Neither should one put much stock in marriage, according to St. Paul the Apostle.  According to St. Paul in 1 Corinthians, marriage is a cause for anxiety and distraction from a spiritual orientation during the last days (which he thought were in progress), but at least it is preferable to sinning.

Where, then, should one place one’s trust?  In God, of course.  The two options for this psalm this Sunday are pleas for divine vindication and destruction of one’s enemies (in contrast to the treatment of the Aramean raiders in 2 Kings 6:8-23).  In Year D (2013) Slemmons emphasizes Psalm 83, with,

Cover their faces with shame, O LORD,

that they may seek your Name.

–Verse 16, The Book of Common Prayer (1979),

a rendering, with some variations, common to many translations.  Yet, as I read Psalm 83, I notice that

that they may seek your Name

is out-of-place with the rest of the text, which pleads for their destruction.  One might explain this inconsistency by pointing out that human beings are frequently inconsistent, holding two mutually exclusive opinions simultaneously.  The translation by the late Mitchell J. Dahood, an eminent scholar of Semitic languages, for The Anchor Bible, tilts toward

a coherent exegesis within the immediate context

Psalms II (1968), page 277,

and renders the verse in question thusly:

Fill their faces with shame,

and let your Name, Yahweh, avenge itself.

As a Presbyterian minister I know says,

Translating Hebrew is a bear.

Certainly the apocalyptic mindset and genre thrives during times of difficulty, especially oppression.  We humans tend to seek the destruction of our foes anyway, but more so during times of oppression.  I understand that the deliverance of the righteous by God might entail the destruction of the wicked, especially at times when the oppressors insist on oppressing and not repenting, but the story of capturing Aramean raiders, treating them kindly before repatriating them (2 Kings 6) sticks in my memory.  As I wrote in the post in which I dealt with that account, how we treat others–especially our enemies–is really about who we are, not who they are.

So who are we?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON, ABOLITIONIST AND FEMINIST; AND MARIA STEWART, ABOLITIONIST, FEMINIST, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB AND DOROTHY BUXTON, FOUNDERS OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF MARY CORNELIA BISHOP GATES, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/17/devotion-for-proper-10-year-d/

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The Glory of God, Filling the Earth, Part I   1 comment

Blue Marble Apollo 17

Above:  Blue Marble, December 17, 1972

Image Source = NASA

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave us your only Son

to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light.

By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit,

through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 2:1-19 (Thursday)

Daniel 2:24-49 (Friday)

Psalm 72 (Both Days)

Ephesians 4:17-5:1 (Thursday)

Ephesians 5:15-20 (Friday)

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Thanks be to the Lord GOD, the God of Israel,

for he alone does marvellous things.

Thanks be to the glorious name of God for ever,

his glory fills the earth.

Amen and amen.

–Psalm 72:18-19, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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The prophecy of Daniel 2:44 seems problematic:

And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall this kingdom be left to another people.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

“The days of those kings” refers to the era of the successors of the empire of Alexander the Great.  The conqueror had died after a brief reign.

So his officers took over his kingdom, each in his own territory, and after his death they all put on diadems, and so did their sons after them for many years, multiplying evils on the earth.

–1 Maccabees 1:8-9, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

The last of those successor empires, the Ptolomaic Empire, based in Egypt, had ended in 30 B.C.E., becoming a province of the Roman Republic, which was transforming into the Roman Empire.  What, then, could the divine kingdom of Daniel 2:44 be?  Ancient Jewish speculations offered two possibilities–the Messiah and the people of Israel.  Christian interpretations have included the Messiah and the Church.  The latter is possible if one includes the Roman Empire as a successor kingdom to the empire of Alexander the Great, for Rome did spread Hellenism, the cultural legacy of Alexander, far and wide.

I cannot forget, however, a lament of the excommunicated Roman Catholic theologian Alfred Fermin Loisy (1857-1940).  Jesus promised us the Kingdom of God, Loisy wrote, and all we got was the Church.  If we understand the Kingdom of God as having been present on the Earth in a partially evident way for a long time Loisy’s lament becomes less potent yet remains relevant.  Christian history contains much that brings no glory to God–the Crusades, bigotry, discrimination, slavery, misogyny, legalism, anti-intellectualism, a suspicion of science, et cetera.  Much of that litany of shame exists in the category of current events.  Nevertheless, much of Christian history (as well as the Christian present day) is also positive, in the style of the readings from Ephesians, where we find the theme of imitating Christ.  Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the incarcerated and the hospitalized, welcoming the stranger, et cetera–in short, recognizing the image of God in others then acting accordingly–bring glory to God.  In those and other deeds the partially unveiled Kingdom of God becomes visible and God’s glory fills the Earth.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 20, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 20–THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF HENRI NOUWEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY COLERIDGE PATTESON, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF MELANESIA, AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF NELSON WESLEY TROUT, FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN U.S. BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/09/20/devotion-for-january-7-and-8-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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