You are hereDaniel in the Futurists’ Den: Part 1
Daniel in the Futurists’ Den: Part 1
by John Evans
Having been informed that Thomas A. Howe refers frequently to my book on the four kingdoms of Daniel in his massive work entitled Daniel in the Preterists’ Den, which was published by Wipf and Stock toward the end of 2008, I recently laid out a goodly sum for this book and have now invested considerable time in perusing its 700 pages. Herein I offer some comments on it, beginning with the observation that if we can credit Howe with having assembled the strongest arguments for rejecting the preterist interpretation of Daniel in favor of the futurist/dispensational view that he favors, then preterists can be confident that the superiority of their approach to understanding Daniel over that followed by their biblically conservative adversaries is overwhelming. Having been informed that Thomas A. Howe refers frequently to my book on the four kingdoms of Daniel in his massive work entitled Daniel in the Preterists’ Den, which was published by Wipf and Stock toward the end of 2008, I recently laid out a goodly sum for this book and have now invested considerable time in perusing its 700 pages. Herein I offer some comments on it, beginning with the observation that if we can credit Howe with having assembled the strongest arguments for rejecting the preterist interpretation of Daniel in favor of the futurist/dispensational view that he favors, then preterists can be confident that the superiority of their approach to understanding Daniel over that followed by their biblically conservative adversaries is overwhelming. I have elected to do this review in two parts because of its length. The review is as long as it is because Howe’s book is very long and deals with subject matter that is, I am confident, of considerable interest to many visitors to this site. Writing a long review gives me the opportunity to take a thorough look at the futurist approach to the exegesis of Daniel. I add that because Howe makes me his most frequently quoted target, I feel a strong urge to respond in detail. Part 2 will be forthcoming shortly.
Thomas A. Howe is an authority on biblical languages at Southern Evangelical Seminary in Matthews, North Carolina. He amply demonstrates his expertise in biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek throughout his book on Daniel, and even someone who profoundly disagrees with his theology but who lacks training in biblical languages--someone like myself--can benefit from his linguistic analysis. In my future writings on Daniel, I shall readily consult Howe with regard to how various passages should be translated.
Howe’s theology, however, is an entirely different matter. He maintains that the prophecies of Daniel 2, 7, 9, and 11-12 all have end-time fulfillments that have yet to be realized and places himself firmly in the futurist camp. This means, among other things, that he insists that in the prophecies of these chapters, there is an enormous historical gap that extends all the way from the first century AD to a time in the future when a revived Roman Empire and its Antichrist will decimate Earth for a while before being overcome by Christ. In essence, his methodology for arriving at this finding is to engage in a lengthy critical examination of the work of several preterist writers on Daniel and to show to his satisfaction that their understandings of Daniel’s prophecies do not accord with the historical record. He also offers a very sketchy critical analysis of the work on Daniel by liberal scholars that suffices, in his judgment, to demonstrate that their interpretations can be dismissed out of hand. By adhering to a rigid view of biblical inerrancy and relying upon the process of elimination, Howe reasons that since neither the preterist approach nor that offered by liberals is acceptable, the futurist perspective wins by default.
Howe employs a broad concept of what it takes to be called a preterist and includes such writers as Gary DeMar and Kenneth Gentry in this camp. His most often cited preterist writer, however, is yours truly, whose book on the four kingdoms is cited 111 times, frequently in connection with my discussions of Philip Mauro, John Noe, and other preterist writers. Howe evidently completed the writing of his book on Daniel without having examined James Jordan’s commentary, which was published by American Vision late in 2007.[i] Indeed, his book lacks any references to the work of Jordan, who has long been one of the leading authorities on Daniel who has placed great emphasis upon first century AD fulfillment. Joining Jordan in the not cited “club” is Kurt Simmons, whose full preterist commentary on Daniel was published at the beginning of this year,[ii] as well as Duncan McKenzie, who has posted various noteworthy preterist-leaning comments on Daniel on the Internet. Here is a list of the preterist or preterist-leaning writers whom Howe does cite, with the number of time cited in parentheses: Philip Mauro (90), Kenneth Gentry (43), John Noe (36), Jessie Mills (26), Don Preston (19), Daniel T. Silvestri (11), Kelly Birks (6), Gary DeMar (6), Max King (6), Milton Terry (4), Ed Stevens (2), Daniel Harden (1), and Brian Martin (1)
Howe frequently references various full commentaries on Daniel by non-preterist writers, though he tends to steer away from those by critical-historical writers. Thus, he cites the work of John J. Collins only five times. Compare this figure with the numbers of citations to the commentaries by Stephen Miller (112), John F. Walvoord (80), Ernest Lucas (75), Leon Wood (65), Edward J. Young (45), John E. Goldingay (30), and James A. Montgomery (14). Gleason L. Archer makes the “cut” four times, while Joyce Baldwin and Allan A. MacRae each does so twice. Not mentioned at all are such notable authorities as Charles Boutflower, William H. Shea, and Donald J. Wiseman
In his analysis of the prophecies of Daniel 2, to which he devotes a “mere” forty-six pages, Howe finds the fourth kingdom--the kingdom of iron--to be Rome, but since he also associates the clay mixed with iron in the feet of the statue with “the instability of the final form of the [revived] Roman Empire” that is to emerge in association with the events following the future Second Coming of Christ (104), his “Rome” is much more than the empire of ancient times. He deals with the problem of reconciling this interpretation with the imagery of the statue by insisting that the proportions of the different parts of the statue do not necessarily correspond closely with historical time and by assuming the existence of a huge historical gap that separates the statue’s feet of iron mixed with clay from the legs proper. He does not seem to be troubled by the fact that nothing in the description of the statue in the text of Daniel 2 is suggestive of such a gap. To the contrary, the materialization of the clay in the feet of the statue simply seems to signify that in the latter part of “the days of those kings” (v.44, NASB), meaning the historical period that includes all four of the kingdoms of the statue, a divisive social group would materialize during the time of the fourth kingdom’s dominance that would prepare the way for social change of a very profound order.
Because it is generally agreed among biblical translators that the bronze portion of the statue includes both its belly and its thighs, it seems logical to assume that the iron portion begins just above the kneecaps. Sensing, I think, that this is a bit of a problem for his contention that the statue’s legs and feet somehow correspond to a historical period running from the time when Rome became politically dominant in the Eastern Mediterranean region to a time that lies in our future, Howe uses his language skill to argue that the description of the bronze portion of the statue allows for the possibility that the Aramaic word that is usually translated as “thighs” in verse 32 is better translated as “loins” in the sense of referring to “the seat of procreative power”(93). This allows him to move the boundary between the bronze and the iron somewhat “north” so as to allow virtually all of the legs to be included in the iron portion of the statue. To emphasize the point, Howe presents sketches of the statue on three different pages in which the solid iron extends all the way from the very top of the legs to below the ankles (93, 118, 122). He does not attempt to portray a gap between the solid iron and the iron mixed with clay.
In my book The Prophecies of Daniel 2 (published last year)[iii] and in articles posted at planetpreterist.com, I have argued that the statue of Daniel 2 can be understood as a historical timeline because the proportions of it allocated to its five distinctive segments correspond remarkably well to the period running from Nebuchadnezzar’s accession to the Babylonian throne (605 BC) to the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ (ca. AD 30). The head of gold matches the Neo-Babylonian kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar and his successors, and the chest and arms of silver correspond to the Medo-Persian Empire of Cyrus the Great and other rulers of the Achaemenid dynasty. The belly and thighs of bronze correspond to the Hellenistic kingdoms beginning with the empire established by Alexander and continuing with the various domains ruled by his generals and their Greek-speaking successors. The iron of the legs and feet corresponds to the period after Rome displaced “Greece” as the dominant power in the Holy Land area until around AD 30. The clay in the feet corresponds to a discordant element that emerged in the Roman Empire that I identify as the people of God, most notably the Jews.
Matching these five different parts of the statue with the historical record with a high degree of confidence is a challenging task because of the difficulty in precisely pinpointing the historical events that correspond to the boundaries of the bronze with the iron and of the solid iron with the mixed iron and clay of the feet. The head of gold corresponds nicely to the period running from the accession of Nebuchadnezzar in 605 BC to the fall of Babylon to the Medes and Persians in 539 BC, while the silver of the chest and arms corresponds equally well to the period from 539 BC to 332 BC, the latter being the year in which Alexander established effective control of the part of the Persian Empire bordering the Mediterranean. Allowing a little extra for the arms, a period of 207 years for the silver kingdom plausibly fits with a period of 66 years for the gold. When we come to the point in history from which to date the beginning of Roman dominance in the Holy Land and the adjacent territory, however, we encounter difficulty.
One could start the onset of Roman dominance as early as 190 BC with the Battle of Magnesia in what is now western Turkey, in which the Romans vanquished the army of Antiochus III (“the Great”), the ruler of the Seleucid Empire and forced him to accept disastrous peace terms. Alternatively, one could begin with a date as late as 146 BC, when Rome annexed the Greek mainland, or even 142 BC, when Hasmonean Judea at last established its full independence (with Roman support) from Seleucid Syria. In between these dates, one could go with the death of the tyrannical Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV, which occurred in either 164 or 163 BC. Of these various dates, I am now inclined to favor 146 BC, which would mean assigning a span of 186 years to the kingdom of bronze. In my view, this period corresponds rather well to the part of the statue encompassing the belly and the thighs. I readily concede, however, that since the Romans intimidated Antiochus IV into abandoning his attempt to conquer Ptolemaic Egypt in 168 BC, that year is also a highly plausible starting date for the iron kingdom.
With regard to dating the arrival of the clay in the feet, one plausible starting date is 63 BC, the year in which Pompey took Jerusalem and established, temporarily as it turned out, Roman authority over Judea. It was not until some years later, however, that the Romans were able to overcome the Parthians and other obstacles sufficiently to gain a secure hold on that land. The Roman Senate proclaimed Herod to be the king of the Jews in 40 BC, but it was not until three years later that he was able to assert actual authority over Judea as a client king of the Roman state. I find it both plausible and convenient to assign the beginning of the historical equivalent of the clay to the year 37 BC. Because I have tended to assign the date of AD 30 to the arrival of the stone that hits the feet of the statue, this means that I assign a period of 66 years to the clay in the feet and toes (no year zero); and if I go with 146 BC as the starting point for Roman dominance, the solid iron portion of the statue is equivalent to 109 years.
In my view, the timeline approach to the statue that I offer provides a plausible and remarkably accurate fit with the lengths of the five different portions of the statue, and I submit that, by contrast, the revived Roman Empire alternative favored by Howe, with its presumed time gap between the legs and the feet, is an affront to both history and logic.
I did not develop my timeline analysis to this extent in my four kingdoms book but I provided enough of it there so that Howe felt that I had provided him with a target, which was to state that Pompey effectively incorporated Judea into the Roman Empire in 63 BC. Howe charges into the opening thus provided to point out that Rome did not technically become an empire until 27 BC; i.e. the beginning of the reign of Augustus Caesar. “At the time of Pompey,“ he triumphantly announces, “Rome was still a Republic”(106).
In general, when I encounter a conflict between form and substance, I opt for substance. As I amply demonstrate in my four kingdoms book, I was well aware when I wrote it that Rome did not formally become an empire until the reign of Augustus. Substantively, however, it had become an imperial regime by Pompey’s day. In any event, I consider it preposterous to entertain the notion that the prophecies of Daniel have the slightest concern with the legal distinction to be made between the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire. I have no doubt whatsoever that the fourth kingdom, the kingdom of iron, is intended to be Rome in both its republican and imperial phases once it became the dominant political force in Judea and the adjacent lands, as it did well before Pompey came to Jerusalem.
On several occasions in his analysis of Daniel 2, Howe endorses the commonly held view that since the four metals of the statue are presented in descending order of value (gold more valuable per unit of weight than silver, etc.), we must interpret the imagery of the statue to be pointing to some kind of societal decline. The silver kingdom is inferior to the gold one, he points out, though he acknowledges that it was not smaller. Perhaps, he suggests, the declining value of the metals points to some kind of inferiority in the conduct of government. Also, he suggests, perhaps the declining value points to a problem of progressively increasing disunity (92).
Absent from Howe’s analysis is any recognition of the fact that the sequence of gold, silver, bronze, and iron appears elsewhere in the literature and mythology of ancient times and predates the Babylonian Exile. In employing the four-metals sequence, the Book of Daniel simply takes advantage of an existing literary motif and gives it a new twist, namely applying it to a statue that serves as a historical timeline. And while it is true that Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar in verse 39 that the kingdom of silver would be “inferior” to his kingdom of gold, in neither Daniel 2 nor Daniel 7 are we told just how the four kingdoms become progressively inferior. I consider it quite possible that the significance of the “inferior to yours” wording in this verse is that Daniel was being “diplomatic” in revealing to his proud king that his kingdom would not endure. It could also be that in this case, “inferior” effectively means “after.”
Howe expends considerable effort in attacking my arguments that (1) the clay in the feet symbolizes the presence of a distinctive people within the domain of the fourth kingdom relatively late in that kingdom’s period of dominance, that (2) this “distinctive people” is to be identified with the Jewish nation, that (3) the striking of the statue by the rock should be understood as a dramatic event whose impact is initially confined to the spiritual realm, and that (4) the removal of the statue’s debris and the growth of the rock into an earth-covering mountain should both be seen as long-term processes. For him, the clay and the rock have yet to appear; the rock’s arrival symbolizes a far more comprehensive event than a change of spiritual authority whose impact would be realized only gradually; and the symbolism of the sudden and complete destruction of the statue must be taken quite literally timewise.
Both Isaiah 64:18 and in Jeremiah 18:5 convey the message that God’s relationship to the house of Israel is comparable to that of a potter shaping clay. Given this, it seems remarkable to me that the notion that the clay in the feet of the statue symbolizes the people of the house of Israel during the period from the reign of Herod the Great to the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ has not been advanced more frequently among the reigning biblical authorities than has hitherto been the case. Howe ignores the relevant passage in Jeremiah, and he dismisses the reference to clay in Isaiah 64:18 by observing that the Hebrew word translated as “clay” in Isaiah is not a cognate of the Aramaic word for “clay” in Daniel 2. Therefore, he reasons, I am wrong to assume that some Jews in the centuries before Christ would have understand the reference to clay in Isaiah as referring to them. Besides, he states, “the Jews have a long history of misunderstanding their own Scriptures” (108-09). I cannot resist noting that the Jews evidently have a lot in common with futurist Christian scholars! I must also note that since it is obvious that many Jews of the first century AD clearly had messianic expectations and we know that both Isaiah and Jeremiah were highly esteemed prophets, it is not unreasonable to believe that some of those Jews must have linked those references to potter’s clay to Daniel 2.
For Howe, “The feet and ten toes of the statue represent a final stage of the Roman Empire,” one “that has not yet appeared on the historical scene” (114). The clay symbolizes neither a group of people nor a kingdom, “but is used to indicate the instability of the kingdom in its final stages” (116). As might be surmised from his frequent reference to the ten toes that the statue presumably has, Howe assumes that the toes must be identified with the ten horns of the fourth beast of Daniel 7. He also seems to believe that there must be some prophetic significance in the fact that the statue has two legs, and he notes that the historical Roman Empire was effectively divided into its eastern and western portions from its inception (117-19). And in his commentary on Daniel 7, he adds the suggestion that the two arms of the statue depict the simultaneous existence of Media and Persia as the two parts of their empire (235). In doing all of this, of course, Howe is reading into the interpretation of the statue considerably more than the text of Daniel 2 provides. I am inclined to argue if the numbers of the statue’s limbs and digits are supposed to have prophetic significance, then the text of Daniel 2 would have explicitly stated that they do.
The text of Daniel 2 admittedly presents the arrival of the stone that hits the statue’s feet as a dramatic and sudden event, and it is easy to see why analysts commonly take the destruction of the statue to be something that occurs quickly and is all-encompassing in its social significance. Here is how Howe summarizes the arrival of the stone and what happens afterward: “The destruction of the statue is presented as a single, sudden catastrophic event. There is no sense of a gradual overcoming of the statue, or a gradual replacing of the statue by the growing stone. The statue is then destroyed, and then the stone grows into a mountain.” Since this raises the question of how long it takes for this growth process to transpire, Howe adds that “the text does not say that the stone gradually grew into a great mountain,” and he finds that there is no reason to assume that the kingdom of God must grow like “manmade kingdoms,” evidently meaning slowly, and that “It is just as reasonable to assume that “the kingdom of God immediately engulfed the whole earth, or did so rapidly, not gradually” (91).
I find it to be noteworthy that Howe chooses not to relate the growth of the stone or rock into an earth-covering mountain to the swords into plowshares prophecy of Isaiah 2 and Micah 4. I urge readers of this article to examine those passages to evaluate how compatible they are with the type of end-time scenario described by Howe in his treatment of Daniel 2. It is true that Howe refers to Isaiah’s presentation of this prophecy once early in his book (54), but he does not attempt to reconcile it with his treatment of Daniel 2. I suggest that he cannot plausibly do so.
I have argued in my writings that the prophecy of the rock of Daniel 2 provides an outstanding example of what I term prophetic abridgement, by which I mean the presentation of prophetic material that looks beyond the immediate future to focus on events that are to occur much later and on historical processes that will require a long time to work themselves out. I find it convenient to compare this concept to the use of a telescope to discern the features of distant celestial objects. The concept of prophetic abridgement or prophetic telescoping is not quite the same thing as that of a prophetic gap that leaps over an interval of time and completely ignores what lies in between. In prophetic abridgement, the details are not eliminated, but they are “telescoped” so that what may appear to the eye (or ear) to be a sudden or compressed development is actually something that occurs over a substantial time period. To my mind, the prophecy of the rock of Daniel 2 is a magnificent example of prophetic abridgement.
Howe ignores the distinction that I draw between a prophetic gap and prophetic abridgement. I must concede, however, that I opened the door for him by using the term “prophetic gap” before explaining that what we have in the prophecy of the rock is a not so much a gap as a process that takes a good deal of time to work itself out and is described in such as a way as to enhance its dramatic impact on readers and listeners. I have suggested in my various writings that it would not have been tactically wise in terms of maximizing the behavioral influence of his prophecies for Daniel to have stated explicitly that the prophecy of the rock would require well over 2,000 years for its complete fulfillment!
Daniel 2:35 states that the materials of the statue “were crushed all at the same time and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors” before being carried away by the wind without leaving a trace. For Howe, this imagery literally demands a sudden and complete destruction of the statue, and he dismisses out-of-hand the idea that John 18:36 (“My kingdom is not of this world.”) supports the ideas that the striking of the statue by the stone symbolizes the establishment of Jesus’ spiritual authority over earthly realms and that the growth of the stone into the mountain points to the gradual expansion of that authority to the point where Christianity indeed reigns supreme over Earth. And against the optimistic outlook that preterists tend to sketch about the growth of Christianity over time, Howe offers the assessment that Christianity is in a state of spiritual decline in which “it is losing ground throughout the world,” while “Islam is becoming a world dominating religious movement” (110).
In my view, the “all at the same time” crushing to which verse 35 refers means that the ministry of Christ abruptly replaced whatever moral authority that had remained in the hands of the earthly kingdoms of the lands in the oikumene of the Old Testament with the spiritual authority of Christ. The text does not indicate that the statue is immediately vaporized, but that it becomes like chaff and is carried away by the wind, which symbolizes the march of history as overseen by God. That the process of removing the “chaff” was to take time is shown by the fact that Daniel 7:12 indicates that after the dominion of the fourth beast is taken away, the other beasts are allowed to continue to live “for an appointed period of time.“
The pessimistic worldview displayed by Howe and many other futurists/dispensationalists strikes me as being not only a losing behavioral strategy but one that is objectively unwarranted. That secularism and other aspects of modernity have undermined the practice of the Christian faith in much of the world is undeniable. It is also true, however, that the number of Christians is on the rise in the world as a whole and that even in the “post-Christian” atmosphere of the nations that have inherited Western Civilization, the practice of the Christianity is changing in promising ways. One of these is that Christians are exhibiting an increasing tendency to question the doctrines embraced by futurists. I can well understand, therefore, why scholars like Howe tend to view the world pessimistically! Their world is indeed crumbling. As for the contention that “Islam is becoming a world dominating religious movement,” I suggest that if one looks beyond the superficial perceptions of our highly secularized mainstream media and academic establishments, it is not at all difficult to arrive at the conclusion that the Islamic world is in a state of turmoil that may well be indicative of an incipient implosion.
Because of the length of this article, I shall avoid a serious look at Howe’s treatment of Daniel 1 and 3-6. I find much in these chapters that I can agree with and even commend. For example, Howe seems inclined to accept the contention that Darius the Mede is also Cyrus the Persian, a position with which I am in accord. On the other hand, I am annoyed by his persistent identification of Israel with the exiles from Judah who were taken to Babylonia. This treatment is evidently standard operating procedure among the many futurists for whom the Jews have continued to be “the chosen people” in some sense who are to be brought to fully accept Christ in the coming time of the end after their numbers have been severely decimated. In my view, the church became spiritual Israel in AD 70.
Howe insists on a very literal version of “biblical inerrancy” that is particularly evident in his treatment of chapters 1 and 3-6. For him, the factual accuracy of the events described in the stories presented in these chapters is never to be questioned. It is also true that he never raises questions about the accuracy with the prophetic material in the other chapters is presented. Coming from a background of long-time biblical skepticism, as I do, I find this confidence to be somewhat disturbing. While I do not doubt the Bible’s divine inspiration and the basic accuracy of its prophetic material, I do not totally rule out the possibility of scribal error or insertions that have at least slightly altered some of its wording from that of the original text. For me, people like Howe come across as the Christian equivalent of the many Muslim theologians who teach that the Quran is the very word of Allah and can never have its language challenged or its meaning altered. By contrast, I regard the Bible as offering a divinely inspired text that has been passed down to us by well-intentioned but fallible men, and I believe firmly in the proposition that there are parts of the Bible whose relevance to modern man is questionable and that there are passages whose correct meaning has proved elusive. One of my favorite verses in Daniel, incidentally, is 12:4: “But you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.” Although I associate “the end of time” with the first century, I fervently believe that our understanding of the Book of Daniel is still increasing.
In analyzing Howe’s seventy-six page chapter on Daniel 7, I shall open with the observation that I find much to commend in his treatment of the first three beasts. For example, he notes approvingly that the four wings of the leopard-like third beast “are usually associated with the increased speed of an already swift animal” and that “most conservative authors tend to hold that the four heads symbolize the four generals among whom Alexander’s empire was divided” (205). His treatment of the fourth beast and the implications of the great judgment scene of verses 9-14 are, however, entirely different matters. Although this beast begins its existence in ancient times, Howe manages to bring it back to life in the future so as to play huge role in the time of the end. As for the judgment scene, He insists that it also has to do with the future.
The terrible fourth beast emerges from the great sea in verse 7 and proceeds to tear its victims apart with its iron teeth, while trampling what remains with its feet, which, we learn in verse 19, have bronze claws. This beast is described in verse 7 as having ten horns. In verse 8, an eleventh horn emerges, “a little one,” which proceeds to uproot three of the ten horns in a growth spurt. This little horn possesses eyes like those of a man and utters “great boasts.” Subsequently, judgment is rendered against the little horn and the beast, and they are vanquished to the dustbin of history in favor of “the people of the saints of the Highest One,” who sets up “an everlasting kingdom” in which He will be served and obeyed by all dominions (v.27). In my judgment, this end result echoes that of the sword into plowshares prophecy of Isaiah 2 and Micah 4.
In his analysis of the ten horns of the fourth beast, Howe dismisses the possibility that they symbolize a succession of ten rulers of ancient Rome; and he takes Jessie Mills[iv] and me to task for identifying the little horn of verse 8 with Vespasian, the general appointed by Nero in February 67 to conduct the war against rebellious Judea. I find his arguments to be totally unpersuasive, but I concede that the case for identifying Vespasian as the little horn is not as ironclad as I would like for it to be.
Vespasian was a military leader who rose to prominence from relative obscurity, and his lowly social origin provides a better explanation for why the eleventh horn starts out being “little” than anything Howe has to offer. In the immediate aftermath of Nero’s death, in June 68, Vespasian sought to remain in the background and at first refrained from openly entering the contest to replace Nero. In rapid succession, Rome went through three emperors--Galba, Otho, and Vitelliius--all of them being military leaders. It was not until the fall of 69 that Vespasian openly challenged Vitellius, and after a short but very bloody struggle that ended in December 69, Vitellius was dispatched and Vespasian became his successor.
According to Howe, the ten horns of the fourth beast should be understood as contemporaneous rather than successive; and while it is true that Galba, Otho, and Vitellius ruled successively, they were, in fact, contemporary rivals. Moreover, relying on the fact that verse 8 indicates that the little horn uproots the three horns while verse 24 offers the interpretation that the little horn is a king who subdues three other kings, Howe insists that Vespasian does not match this description because he was, in fact, a reluctant contender for the throne. (210-13, 230-34, 257-58).
In making his case against Mills and me, Howe overreaches considerably. For example, he quotes Josephus as indicating that “Vespasian had to be forced into accepting the place as Emperor against his wishes and at the point of a sword” (232). He does not inform the reader, however, that Josephus forged a close personal relationship with Vespasian, who in due course adopted him into the Flavian family. Josephus tells the story of how this all came about in Book 3 of The Jewish War. Josephus had been chosen to be the Jewish commander of the town of Jotapata in Galilee. Jotapata came under siege by the Roman forces under Vespasian, and when it fell, Josephus tried to hide but soon fell into Roman hands. He was brought before Vespasian, whom he addressed as the emperor to be and informed that everything that was happening had been foretold by prophecy.[v] Out of this first encounter a close personal relationship was forged between Josephus and both Vespasian and his son Titus, who took over the leadership of the campaign against the Jews when Vespasian announced his availability for becoming emperor and later succeeded his father as emperor.
Vespasian’s lowly social origin helps explain why Nero chose him to lead the war against the rebellious Jews, and it is certainly reasonable to surmise that his initial reluctance to openly enter the contest for the imperial throne reflected a warranted caution. His demonstrated leadership ability had generated much support for him, however, and one can readily surmise that his supporters were working behind the scene during the brief reigns of Galba, Otho, and Vitellius. So while Howe dismisses the notion that Vespasian “uprooted” or “subdued” the three rulers who immediately preceded him, I find myself exclaiming “Not so fast!” I am not at all persuaded that Vespasian was the reluctant emperor that Howe would have us believe he was.
In any event, it is often asserted that Vespasian had personal qualities that do not fit the description of the little horn as being the person who is described as uttering “great boasts” in verses 8 and 20. Neither is it clear that he sought “to make alterations in times and in law” as indicated in verse 25. It is true, however, that he staged a splendid triumphal parade in Rome after the fall of Jerusalem, and I suspect that one could develop a case for believing that he sought to change the “times” and the “law.“ But I concede that the case for identifying Vespasian as the little horn is not airtight, and I shall be glad to look at reasonable alternatives that other analysts may offer. I do not believe, however, that Howe offers a reasonable alternative.
Both Mills and I have suggested that the eleven horns of the fourth beast could be successive Roman rulers beginning with Pompey and ending with Vespasian. Of course, as Howe again points out (222-23, 226-30), Pompey was never emperor, and neither was Julius Caesar. In a particularly imperious comment, Howe sniffs, “although Daniel, as a mere human, might make that mistake, using the term ‘king’ with reference to someone who was not a king, God certainly would not” (222-23). I find this to be a pigheaded comment because the OT employs a rather elastic concept of “king” in which this term is applied to people with ruling authority who were not, in fact, sole rulers. An example in Daniel, of course, is Belshazzar.
From my perspective, Pompey was the first Roman leader with ruling authority who asserted that authority over Judea. If you start with Pompey and add, in succession, Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian, notice who is eleventh in the list. There is, however, a problem, namely that this list omits Marc Antony, who was the Roman ruling authority over Judea for a brief time before being defeated by Octavian/Augustus. Nevertheless, I think this listing is impressive enough so that it needs to be considered a leading candidate for the solution to the identity of the eleven horns.
But Howe will have none of it and persists in maintaining that the eleven horns have to be contemporaneous. He rejects the idea advanced by some writers that the ten horns could be contemporary provincial rulers, pointing out that the text does not state that the horns represent provinces, that neither does it state that that the ten horns are lesser officials than kings who act like kings, and that other ancient world powers also organized their territories into provinces, which means that the ten provinces solution fails to give the ten horns any special significance (258-59). Therefore, argues Howe, since it cannot be shown that the horns of the fourth beast correspond to anything to be found in the history of ancient Rome, they must come into play in the future. Never mind that the ten horns appear to be present on the fourth beast when it makes its appearance in Daniel’s vision as the successor to the leopard-like third beast of ancient history.
As is to be expected in view of this line of argument, Howe assigns the judgment scene of verses 9-14 to the future as well. Naturally enough, he associates the coming of “the One like a Son of Man “ in verses 13-14 with the Second Coming of Christ and the establishment of His millennial kingdom (247). Accordingly, he understands almost all of the explanatory material in verses 17-27 provided to Daniel by the “one of those who were standing by” (v.16) as being applicable only to the future. Unfortunately for Howe, he has erected his futurist edifice on a foundation of quicksand.
Illustrative of the validity of the quicksand metaphor are the mental gymnastics that Howe performs in order to convince the reader that verses 11 and 12 do not mean what they obviously do mean. In verse 11, Daniel states that fourth beast was slain and its body given to the burning fire, and in the next verse he indicates that dominion was taken away from the other beasts, “but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time.” To unenlightened preterists like myself--and, I think, to most other readers, as well--these verses seem to be indicating that the fourth beast is “destroyed” before the other beasts are and that the first three must have exercised some kind of “dominion” during the time of the fourth beast’s dominance. Because Howe insists, however, that the imagery of the prophecy of the rock in Daniel 2 necessitates the sudden and total destruction of whatever remains of all four kingdoms at the same time, this places his interpretation of Daniel 2 in conflict with the evident meaning of Daniel 7. His “solution” to this dilemma is to insist that 7:12 does not mean what it seems to say.
In my writings, I have suggested that although Daniel’s fourth kingdom becomes the militarily and politically dominant state in the oikumene of the lands of the OT, Daniel 2 and 7 should be understood as implying that the first three kingdoms continued to exist in some sense or senses. In particular, I have suggested that they continued to exist as the cultural entities that we call nations and that they may have continued to exist in some sense as political entities as well. Then, after the rock strikes the statue, an event I associate with the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ in the first century, the spiritual authority represented by Christianity exerts its social and cultural impact primarily upon the cultural entities corresponding to the iron, the clay, and the bronze before similarly affecting the entities corresponding to the silver and the gold. In my view, this explanation is consistent with the text of Daniel 7:11-12.
Here, by contrast, is what Howe argues. He concedes that “The text [of 7:12] could be saying that these three beasts are given an extension of influence in the realm of the living, not that they themselves continue to exist,” and he goes on to concede, for example, that the Roman Empire was subject to great Hellenistic cultural influence. But, he insists, the first three kingdoms do not continue to exist as kingdoms, evidently meaning political entities, into the time of the fourth; and when the fourth kingdom is destroyed, so is whatever remained of the influence of the first three kingdoms. And this, he concludes, “is precisely what the statue in Daniel 2 indicates.” Therefore, “once the fourth beast is destroyed, nothing of it or the previous kingdoms remains” (223-253).
In actuality, of course, although Rome succeeded in taking over Greece proper as well as some of the territory that Alexander and his successors had conquered, the biblical lands to the east of Judea generally remained outside the Roman domain, which means that remnants of the first three kingdoms did continue to remain in existence as political entities when Rome was indeed ht most powerful “kingdom” around. Moreover, when you add the point that the concept of “kingdom” employed in Daniel may well be broad enough to accommodate itself to the concept of nationhood, I am convinced that the line of argument offered by Howe collapses. To this I add the observation that the fact that 7:27 refers to the “everlasting kingdom” of “the Highest One” illustrates that one should not insist on applying a narrow definition of the word “kingdom” to the text of Daniel.
End of Part 1
[i]James B. Jordan, The Handwriting on the Wall: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel (Powder Springs, Ga.: American Vision, 2007).
[ii]Kurt M. Simmons, Adumbrations: The Kingdom and Coming of Christ in the Book of Daniel (Carlsbad, N.Mex.: Biblical Publishing Cc., 2009).
[iii]John S. Evans, The Prophecies of Daniel 2 (Xulon Press, 2008).
[iv]Jessie E. Mills, Jr., Daniel--Fulfilled Prophecy (Bradford, Pa.: International Preterist Association, 2003).
[v]Flavius Josephus, The New Complete Works of Josephus, trans. by William Whiston (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1999), The Jewish War, 3.7-8.