Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Daniel - an introduction

Here is the Introduction I wrote for my Ugandan friends: 

Daniel is one of the more debated books of the Old Testament. Although it is properly assigned to this place among the prophets, the questions of authorship and dating are hotly debated and discussed. At the core of the scholarly disagreement is whether it is possible for a prophet or a book to predict the future. If the scholar believes that a person cannot predict the future, they generally assign a late (as late as the Maccabean period – 167 BC) date; however, if the scholar allows for the predictive element, then the book can be assigned a much earlier date (some as early as Ezekiel’s time in the 6th century BC.) The further complicating factor in author and date is the question of literary style. Those who favor the apocalyptic understanding generally date the book in the post- Alexandrian era (3rd century BC.) Those who understand Daniel to be in the older prophetic tradition generally assign a much earlier date. It is possible that the first section (chapters 1-6) was written earlier than the later section (chapters 7-12), and the two were blended together at a later date.
It is difficult to identify the author. The book tells a series of stories about Daniel and his three companions. These four men are Jews living in exile in Babylon. Their stories are the first six chapters of the book. The end of the book is a series of visions attributed to Daniel. One other curious feature of the book of Daniel is that the book was written in two languages: Hebrew, the language of the Jews, and Aramaic, the older language of Aram and the common tongue of the homeland of Abraham.

Daniel can be outlined as follows:

·         Daniel 1:1-21              Daniel as a young man at a foreign court
·         Daniel 2:1-49              Revelation of the future history of five (5) world kingdoms
·         Daniel 3:1-30              God delivers the three young men from the fiery furnace
·         Daniel 4:1-37              Nebuchadnezzar loses and regains his throne
·         Daniel 5:1-31              Corruption punished
·         Daniel 6:1-28              Daniel impresses Darius
·         Daniel 7:1-12:13         Final manifestations

Key learning: God is sovereign over all. Faithful servants and pagan kings are equally under God’s control and influence.

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