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5. The Standpoint of the Author

"In Daniel öffnet sich eine ganz neue Welt."—Eichhorn, Einleit., iv. 472.

The author of the Book of Daniel seems naturally to place himself on a level lower than that of the prophets who had gone before him. He does not count himself among the prophets; on the contrary, he puts them far higher than himself, and refers to them as though they belonged to the dim and distant past (ix. 2, 6). In his prayer of penitence he confesses, "Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in Thy Name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers"; "Neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets." Not once does he use the mighty formula "Thus saith Jehovah"—not once does he assume, in the prophecies, a tone of high personal authority. He shares the view of the Maccabean age that prophecy is dead.8484   Dan. ix. 6, 10. So conscious was the Maccabean age of the absence of prophets, that, just as after the Captivity a question is postponed "till there should arise a priest with the Urim and Thummin," so Judas postponed the decision about the stones of the desecrated altar "until there should come a prophet to show what should be done with them" (1 Macc. iv. 45, 46, ix. 27, xiv. 41). Comp. Song of the Three Children, 15; Psalm lxxiv. 9; Sota, f. 48, 2. See infra, Introd., chap. viii.

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In Dan. ix. 2 we find yet another decisive indication of the late age of this writing. He tells us that he "understood by books" (more correctly, as in the A.V., "by the books"8585   Dan. ix. 2, hassepharîm, τὰ βίβλια.) "the number of the years whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet." The writer here represents himself as a humble student of previous prophets, and this necessarily marks a position of less freshness and independence. "To the old prophets," says Bishop Westcott, "Daniel stands in some sense as a commentator." No doubt the possession of those living oracles was an immense blessing, a rich inheritance; but it involved a danger. Truths established by writings and traditions, safe-guarded by schools and institutions, are too apt to come to men only as a power from without, and less as "a hidden and inly burning flame."8686   Ewald, Proph. d. A. B., p. 10. Judas Maccabæus is also said to have "restored" (ἐπισυνήγαγε) the lost (διαπεπτωκότα) sacred writings (2 Macc. ii. 14).

By "the books" can hardly be meant anything but some approach to a definite Canon. If so, the Book of Daniel in its present form can only have been written subsequently to the days of Ezra. "The account which assigns a collection of books to Nehemiah (2 Macc. ii. 13)," says Bishop Westcott, "is in itself a confirmation of the general truth of the gradual formation of the Canon during the Persian period. The various classes of books were completed in succession;33 and this view harmonises with what must have been the natural development of the Jewish faith after the Return. The persecution of Antiochus (b.c. 168) was for the Old Testament what the persecution of Diocletian was for the New—the final crisis which stamped the sacred writings with their peculiar character. The king sought out the Books of the Law (1 Macc. i. 56) and burnt them; and the possession of a 'Book of the Covenant' was a capital crime. According to the common tradition, the proscription of the Law led to the public use of the writings of the prophets."8787   Smith's Dict. of the Bible, i. 501. The daily lesson from the Prophets was called the Haphtarah (Hamburger, Real-Encycl., ii. 334).


The whole method of Daniel differs even from that of the later and inferior prophets of the Exile—Haggai, Malachi, and the second Zechariah. The Book is rather an apocalypse than a prophecy: "the eye and not the ear is the organ to which the chief appeal is made." Though symbolism in the form of visions is not unknown to Ezekiel and Zechariah, yet those prophets are far from being apocalyptic in character. On the other hand, the grotesque and gigantic emblems of Daniel—these animal combinations, these interventions of dazzling angels who float in the air or over the water, these descriptions of historical events under the veil of material types seen in dreams—are a frequent phenomenon in such late apocryphal writings as the Second Book of Esdras, the Book of Enoch, and the præ-Christian Sibylline oracles, in which talking lions and eagles, etc., are frequent. Indeed, this style of symbolism originated among the Jews from their contact with the graven mysteries and colossal images of Babylonian worship. The Babylonian Exile formed an epoch in34 the intellectual development of Israel fully as important as the sojourn in Egypt. It was a stage in their moral and religious education. It was the psychological preparation requisite for the moulding of the last phase of revelation—that apocalyptic form which succeeds to theophany and prophecy, and embodies the final results of national religious inspiration. That the apocalyptic method of dealing with history in a religious and an imaginative manner naturally arises towards the close of any great cycle of special revelation is illustrated by the flood of apocalypses which overflowed the early literature of the Christian Church. But the Jews clearly saw that, as a rule, an apocalypse is inherently inferior to a prophecy, even when it is made the vehicle of genuine prediction. In estimating the grades of inspiration the Jews placed highest the inward illumination of the Spirit, the Reason, and the Understanding; next to this they placed dreams and visions; and lowest of all they placed the accidental auguries derived from the Bath Qôl. An apocalypse may be of priceless value, like the Revelation of St. John; it may, like the Book of Daniel, abound in the noblest and most thrilling lessons; but in intrinsic dignity and worth it is always placed by the instinct and conscience of mankind on a lower grade than such outpourings of Divine teachings as breathe and burn through the pages of a David and an Isaiah.


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