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THE ANCIENT OF DAYS — THE SON OF MAN
This expression is treated actively by Wintle, — “He that maketh the days old,” and, consequently, ready to expire or cease. The Deity he supposes to be meant by this term, and refers us for an explanation of the human attributes assigned to the Divine Being, to Dr. Sam. Clarke’s Sermons, volume 1, Discertation 5. Grotius very appositely reminds us that the ancient thrones and since circles had wheels; and Rosenmuller treats them as indicating the velocity with which God beholds and judges all things. Some Jewish writers read thrones were taken away; implying’ the overthrow of the dominions of this world, and the setting up of flint of Messiah. Both Rabbis Levi and Saadias apply this passage to the future prosperity of Israel alone.
OecoIampadius supposes Christ to be here signified as the lamb slain from the beginning of the world, and therefore “Ancient.” After quoting Chrysostom and Basil on the phrase, “The books were opened,” he pointedly inquires, “But what need of books? every man’s conscience will be its own open volume.” The Christian tone of this commentator’s sentiments renders his writings far more valuable than most of those of his own and of succeeding ages. It treats this chapter with his usual skill and spirituality, differing however in some points from the general tenor of these Lectures. It enumerates the four visions of these last six chapters: the first and last of them, he states, relate to the persecutions to arise under Antichrist the second, in Daniel 8, to the profanation of the Temple under Antiochus; and the third, in the ninth chapter, to its devastation under Titus. He does not take the word “kings” for the monarch simply, but includes under the term their counselors, warriors, and ministers of state. “A king” with hint, refers to a monarch’s successors as well as himself. He quotes at length from Eusebius, Evan. Dem., book 15, the well-known passage in which this vision is recorded at full length. His illustrations of the first three beasts is judicious, and we have previously stated (volume 1, page 427) his view of the fourth empire as coinciding with Calvin’s. He refutes the comments of Polychronius and Aben Ezra, who apply the fourth kingdom to Alexander’s successors; and objects to Jerome, and Lactantius, and Ireneus, who treat the ten kings as ten monarchies springing from heathen Rome. The number ten is not taken literally, but mystically, for a perfect number, that is, one made up by adding one and two, and three and four. The ten horns, he thinks, follow the fourth beast, existing during his; own age and leading on directly to Antichrist. He approves of Apollinarius, who interprets the 8th verse of Antichrist, and then explains, very copiously, his sentiments as to where he is to be found. “Very possibly,” he remarks, “the Gregories, the Alexanders, and the Julii, did not displease God so strikingly while occupying the Papal chair: God only is their judge. But during this reign such innumerable enormities are committed as are worthy of the true Antichrist, and thus rebound upon their heads.” He then runs the parallel between Mohamed and the Papacy, and with great accuracy and spirit treats the false prophet as the Antichrist of the east, and the Roman Pontiff as corresponding to him throughout the west. The “eyes of a man” of Daniel 7:8, are explained of the bland and benignant appearance of this insinuating personage, while the blasphemies of his mouth are interpreted of the impious boastings of Mohamed and the Pope. The manner in which both Mohamed and the Papacy have “changed the times,” is amply discussed, and the language of both Daniel and St. John made applicable to the modern history of the religions of the Crescent and the Cross throughout both Asia and Europe.
In commenting on Daniel 7:9, he refers it to the future destination of Antichrist, and comparing’ this passage with St. John, states his view of the three and a half years, or forty-two months, or half-week. Seven is a perfect number representing perpetuity, and God who is perpetually angry stops half way in his course of punishment. Oecolampadius is severe upon the Chiliasts, similar to the Futurists of our day, who expect one personal Antichrist yet to be revealed. Although he calls them “semi-Jews,” yet their solution of this great problem of prophecy may after all turn out to be the right one, and Christendom hereafter may yet vindicate their far-seeing sagacity. The remainder of the chapter is connected with the second coming of Christ to judgment, and the final victory of the saints when the harvest of the world shall be gathered in, and “the righteous shall shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” The introduction of the Antichrist and the Papacy with the Mohammedan imposture, existing as they have done for many years since the first advent, and as it is assumed they will do till the second advent, gives the tone to the comments of Oecolampadius very different from that of Calvin. It becomes highly instructive to compare and contrast them, as in this way we may derive profit from both, and correct our own presumption, if we are tempted to esteem either as necessarily and exclusively perfect.
Daniel 7:9. — “The thrones were cast down” — Authorized Version. Professor Bush agrees with Calvin, volume 2, page 32, in preferring were set, placed, or arranged, bringing forward as his supporters, Jerome, Arias Montanus, the Syriac, Arabic, and Genevan versions, besides Luther’s and Diodati’s. “The saints who are subsequently said to have possessed the kingdom formed the celestial conclave, and sat upon the encircling thrones.” He prefers the meaning, “Permanent of days,” or, “Enduring of days,” to the common rendering “Ancient of days.” Cocccius favors this expression, and also Michaelis, who assigns the primary sense of enduring and abiding to the Hebrew word. See also Job 31:7, and Isaiah 33:18. The designation, enduring of days, undoubtedly carries with it a latent contrast to the many vicissitudes, and the transient nature of the thrones and kingdoms here shadowed forth as the antagonist dominions to that of God everlasting. He then quotes Calvin’s remarks on this verse as “singularly appropriate and striking.” His garment (literally) was as the white snow. The resplendent white of his spotless garments indicated the exquisite equity, justice, and impartiality of his judgments, while the locks of his hair, purer than the washed wool of the fairest fleeces, indicate nothing of the imbecility of extreme old age, but the considerate gravity, the ripened reflection, the mature wisdom, the enlightened experience, the venerable authority, and the calm decision, which are naturally associated with the “hoary head.” Referring to the fairy throne and the burning wheels, he adds, “As the entire gorgeous apparatus described by the Prophet, has reference primarily to a period anterior to new Testament times, when the kingdom of God had not yet obtained that fixedness which is attributed to it in subsequent visions, therefore his throne is represented with the accompaniment of wheels. The scene, he states, “Is a judgment which transpires on the earth in the providence of God, and not a judgment at the end of the world, as often understood by the readers of revelation.”... “The scenery is to be regarded as ideal and not real. It is the celestial shadow of a terrestrial reality. The whole scene, which is impartially described as transpiring in heaven, does really take place in the providence of God on earth, so these judges and co-assessors are really men, who are made agents in executing the divine purposes relative to the overthrow of the anti-Christian dominion represented by the Beast and the Little Horn.” The professor, though differing from Calvin on some points, strongly corroborates his opinions on others. The statements on pages 26 and 28 of this volume are expanded and enforced in various passages in the Hierophant. For instance, on page 109, “That the vision and scene does not refer to what is usually termed ‘the last judgment’ to take place at some future period, and simultaneously with the final resurrection and consummation of all things, is obvious from the whole tenor of the vision. The judgment is a local judgment, and the object of it, not the whole race of men, but a particular despotic, persecuting, idolatrous, and blasphemous power, which the counsels of heaven have doomed to destruction.” This is entirely in accordance with Faber. See Calvin of Proph., volume 2, page 108.
Daniel 7:13 — The Son of Man. He is usually admitted to be the Messiah. Hengstenberg remarks upon our Lord’s reasons for using this designation of himself. He aptly compares various passages in St. Matthew’s Gospel with those of this chapter, and shews how they bear upon the genuineness of Daniel’s prophecies.)
Oecolampadius refutes the notions of the Jews who treat the phrase “the Son of man,” as their own nation. He argues against Rabbi Saadias and the Chiliasts, and after fully upholding the union of the divine with the human natures in Christ, he approves of the instructive comments of Chrysostom and Cyril. His coming to the Ancient of Clays is explained by St. Paul’s assertion, He shall deliver up the kingdom to his Father; and thus the victory of the saints becomes that final triumph of righteousness, which shall be visibly displayed at the second advent of the Redeemer.
The possession of the kingdom by the saints of the most high, (Daniel 7:22,) was interpreted by the early Fathers, of the general spread of Christianity after the first advent. Professor Lee, in replying to Dr. Todd, has collected their testimony to the reign of Christ and his saints, as spread far and wide in the very earliest period of the Gospel history. His list of authorities will support the system of interpretation adopted by Calvin
See Tertullian adv. Jud., page 105. Ed. 1580.
Irenoeus. Edit. Grabe, pages 45, 46, 221, etc.
Justin Martyr. Edit. Thirlby, pages 369, 328, 400.
Cyprian. adv. Jud, Book 2, passim, and De Unit. Eccl., page 108. Edit. Dodwell. Euseb. Hist. Eccl., Book 8, and elsewhere. De, Vit. Const., Book 1, chapters 7, 8, and his other writings.
Fabricii Lux. Sanct. Evan. contains similar extracts from the earliest Fathers to the same purpose.
For the Professor’s own view, see his Treatise on the Covenants, page 112 and following. He is ably supported by Professor Bush, who correctly limits this vision to the first establishment of the reign of Messiah, and the early preaching of the Gospel. The American Professor throws great light on the passage, by a clear and comprehensive criticism on the Hebrew words. His remarks on the Son of man coming with the clouds of heaven, are ingenious. He does not understand the word “clouds” in its ordinary sense, but as denoting “a multitude of heavenly attendants.” He quotes 1 Thessalonians 4:17, from which he concludes that the meaning is not that we shall be caught up into the clouds, but in multitudes. The Son of man being brought to the Ancient of days is said to set forth the investiture of the Son of man with that vice-regal lordship, which he, in the divine economy, held over the nations of the earth and through the perpetuity of time. “The paramount question to be resolved, is that of the true epoch of this ordained assumption by the Messiah of the majesty of the kingdom. He then determines the question exactly as Calvin does, by saying, “This we think is plainly to be placed at the Savior’s ascension.”... “It is in this passage of Daniel that we find the germ of nearly all the announcements of the New Testament, relative to the founding of that spiritual monarchy.”... “Conceiving the clouds then, in the Prophet’s vision, as being really clouds of angels, we shall be better prepared to understand the drift of the New Testament narrative, Acts 1:9. It was by this cloud of celestial attendants that he was brought, in the language of Daniel, to the Ancient of days, for him to receive the seals, as it were, of that high office which he was to fill as head of the universal spiritual empire now to be set up.” There is, therefore, we conceive, no greater mistake in regard to the whole rationale of this prophecy, than to understand the judgment and the coming of the Son of man here mentioned, as the final judgment and final coming of Christ synchronical with an anticipated physical catastrophe of the globe.
Professor Bush quotes Calvin on Daniel 7:12 with approbation, and adds the Rabbinical paraphrase of Jaachiades, in support of their joint conclusions. Vitringa, in his Dissertations on the Emblems of this Prophet, page 504, elicits a different sense. He makes the “life” and the “dominion” identical. Sir J. Newton maintains that the three beasts were, in the eye of prophecy, still living in his day, and were to be sought for where their geographical seat existed at the time of their ascendancy. — Observ. on Daniel, page 31. Although Bishop Newton and others agree with him, there is no foundation for this ingenious conjecture. Mede’s view is different still, and Bush points out “a serious and probably an insuperable objection to it;” while he glides off himself to the “leading despotisms of the East, including perhaps those of Russia and Turkey,” contrary to the sentiments expressed in page 26 of this volume See pages 162, 163.
An important question has arisen among Commentators, as to the import of the word “kings” in Daniel 7:17. Does it refer to persons or to dynasties? Professor Bush argues for a symbolical sense, and quotes Theodotion, who renders it “kingdoms.” It is next asserted, that the term kingdom is not to be applied to “a purely regal form of government,” but to “any form of national existence in which we can recognize in established ruling power.” Havernick remarks, that “kings” here stands in the concrete for dynasties or kingdoms, the representation of kingdoms for the kingdoms themselves. The word “kingship” expresses this idea of Havernick’s better than kingdom. Bush treats it as a denomination potiore, which he aptly translates “a titling from the chief.”
Daniel 7:18. — The Saints of the Most High. This phrase is said by Bush to indicate the Jews, “as forming a part at least of the saints who are to be the possessors of the kingdom here spoken of.” There are strong grounds for believing that the holy people which were to be destroyed and scattered, (Daniel 8:24, and Daniel 12:7,) were the Jews. Daniel’s grief was occasioned, in great measure, by a foresight of the cruel oppressions to which his own people were to be subjected during the dominion of the Beast and Little Horn.” The plural form of the word, which Calvin accurately preserves and notices, is said to recall, “that holy and devoted people who are born from above.” Bush translates sancti altissimorum, the saints of the most High Ones.
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