So, yesterday I described Daniel in 2 respects: the historical person of Daniel and the storied version of Daniel. What we have in the Scriptures is the storied Daniel, (whose story seems heavily influenced by the Joseph stories in Genesis). I believe that a heroic person named Daniel did exist, even though the only access I have to him is a set of stories. But, that would be true of any number of persons, wouldn’t it? So why am I making such a big deal out of the distinction between the historical Daniel and the Daniel of story?
Because, even though the latter part of Daniel is written as if it were dictated by the historical person Daniel, most scholars agree that the book of Daniel was actually written many, many years after the historical Daniel would have lived. Of course there will always be disagreements over the dating of biblical books, but the textual and historical evidence points to the book of Daniel having been written about 400 years after the historical Daniel would have lived. The general consensus is that the book of Daniel was written some time in the 2nd century B.C.E. The events narrated in the first half of Daniel- the invasion of Israel by Nebuchadnezzar, the deportation and exile, etc., of chapters 1-6- took place centuries before during the 6th century B.C.E. So, if this dating is correct, here are the implications:
-If there were an historical Daniel, a hero of the exile in Babylon, he would have lived about 400 years prior to the book of Daniel being written. He is, at best, a 'remembered hero' as far as our information about him goes.
-Daniel did not write the book bearing his name, like some of the prophets might have; nor did he dictate it to a secretary, like Jeremiah seems to have done (at least in places).
-Whoever did write the book of Daniel is speaking to events that are unfolding right before their eyes; rather than Daniel prophesying the events 400 years before.
So, we might wonder, why would anyone write a book about the beloved hero of old named Daniel- and even cast the second half of the book as if Daniel were giving us the words himself- so many years after the historical Daniel lived? GREAT QUESTION!
And the answer is even better. When the historical Daniel acted heroically, it was during a time of deep despair because Israel had just been blitzed by Babylon. In the 2nd century B.C.E., the same kind of despair was back again. This time it was a Greek general named Antiochus Epiphanes, who had come into Jerusalem and desecrated the temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar of the holiest place. It was almost as if that desolating abomination (remember that phrase, "desolating abomination") was sacrilegious beyond imagination. How could anyone do such a thing and live? So, the same kind of questions that arose when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem in 6 B.C.E. arose again in 2 B.C.E. How can this destruction be? Has God abandoned us? How should we live in this time? The answer for the people suffering from the empire in the 2nd century B.C.E. was to look back at Daniel- the beloved old hero- and to remember his faithfulness, which not only speaks to travails in Babylon, but also to the present travail from Greece. Daniel, once again, shows how to live faithfully under the thumb of the empire.
For those 2nd century Jews whose lives were thrown into chaos by the invasion of Antiochus Epiphanes, there was probably no better story to remember, even to make contemporary, than the story of Daniel, who maintained his faithfulness to God amid the destruction of Jerusalem, the exile, and the apparent victory of Babylon. Tomorrow we will look at how the second half of Daniel (chapters 7-12) fit into this scheme.
[I hope this is not boring you. Even if you disagree with the specifics, remember that what I'm doing is laying out my understanding of some of the significant Scriptures at play in Left Behind Theology.]