You are hereDaniel in the Futurists’ Den: Part 2
Daniel in the Futurists’ Den: Part 2
by John Evans
In this article, I complete my review of Thomas Howe’s book aimed at refuting the preterist approach to the Book of Daniel in favor of the futurist alternative. Accordingly, in the pages that follow, I shall be focusing on those aspects of his treatment of Daniel 8 through 12 that bear most directly on points of controversy between preterists and futurists. That this article is as long as it is stems from my desire to respond adequately to the elaborate arguments Howe presents in his 700-page book (with small print).In this article, I complete my review of Thomas Howe’s book aimed at refuting the preterist approach to the Book of Daniel in favor of the futurist alternative. Accordingly, in the pages that follow, I shall be focusing on those aspects of his treatment of Daniel 8 through 12 that bear most directly on points of controversy between preterists and futurists. That this article is as long as it is stems from my desire to respond adequately to the elaborate arguments Howe presents in his 700-page book (with small print).In his thirty-eight page examination of Daniel 8, Howe argues, correctly in my estimation, that the prophetic horizon of this particular vision does not extend beyond the time of the Seleucid king Antiochus IV, who died in 164/163 BC. Consequently, he refers approvingly to writers who believe that “the appointed time of the end” of verse 19 points to the time of this king’s demise rather than the end time of the other visions in the second half of Daniel, though he leaves open the possibility that the events prophesied in Daniel 8 contain similarities to a later time or times (297-98).
The persecution of Jews by Antiochus IV was an event of great significance in Jewish history. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that Daniel’s prophecies acknowledge its significance. Indeed, it is generally the case that liberals and even many “moderates“ point to the last phase of the reign of Antiochus IV as the fulfillment period for all of the end-time prophecies of Daniel, though some of them allow for the recycling of some of the material in these prophecies through the medium of typology or multiple application.
Howe offers a worthwhile observation in pointing out that the focus on the “Greek Empire” in Daniel 8 serves the purpose of making clear “the distinction between the horn in chapter 8 and the Little Horn in chapter 7,” and he goes so far as to suggest that from the prophetic perspective, “it is important for those who will be alive at the time of rise to power of the horn in chapter 8 that they not mistake these events for the time of establishing of the Kingdom” (270). In other words, Howe holds that it is a mistake to hold that the “little horn” of 7:8 that is the eleventh horn of the fourth beast is also the “rather small horn” that comes from one of the horns of the Greek goat of 8:9 and that the distinction between the two is sufficiently clear so that the Jews subject to the persecution of Antiochus IV should not have assumed [as some evidently did] that the Kingdom of God was to materialize with the demise of that monarch. What a contrast this interpretation is to that of most “mainstream” scholars today!
Howe offers a careful analysis of the “2,300 evenings and mornings” of 8:14 in which he comes down on the side of treating them as twenty-four hour days rather than half that number based on the fact that the sacrifices at the Temple of Jerusalem were made twice daily, once in the evening and once in the morning. Using his linguistic expertise, he
argues that because “there is no conjunction ‘and’ between the words ‘evening” and ‘morning,’ the two are treated as one thing,” which means that they refer to 2,300 single days involving “both an evening and a morning sacrifice” (285). Although I have previously supported the interpretation that “2,300 evenings and mornings” actually mean 1,150 days, I am open to the possibility that Howe may well be correct on this point. The problem is that if we use December of 164 BC as the terminal point for the 2,300 days because this is when 1 Maccabees pinpoints the restoration of the Temple after it had been defiled by Antiochus, it is a challenge to plausibly identify the starting point. Howe points out that a possible solution to this challenge is to have the starting point be the murder of the deposed high priest Onias III, which occurred in the fall of 170 BC at the instigation of Menelaus, who had bribed Antiochus to obtain the office for himself. The solution that he favors, however, is to view the 2,300 days as a round number as opposed to a precise figure and to consider this period of time to be the period when the Jewish religion suffered erosion at the hands of Antiochus beginning in 171 BC and continuing until his death (286). Complicating things is that Howe later recognizes that the death of Onias III may have occurred in 171 rather than 170 BC (371).
Another commendable feature of Howe’s treatment of Daniel 8 is his willingness to entertain the possibility that Daniel 8 refers to the pre-incarnate Christ. For some time now, I have been persuaded that the importance of the “One like a Son of Man” in Daniel 7 suggests that we should expect to find this same divine figure in the other visions of Daniel’s second half. We do find Him in Daniel 9, of course, and I suspect that he appears in the other two visions as well. The passage in Daniel 8 that is most suggestive of such a figure is verse 16: “And I heard the voice of a man between the banks of the Ulai, and he called out and said, ‘Gabriel, give this man an understanding of the vision” (NASB). For me, the man “between the banks” may well be the Christ figure introduced in Daniel 7:13-14, and Howe leans sympathetically toward this understanding (287-89).
Where I find fault with Howe’s handling of Daniel 8 is in his meandering from consideration of its second-century BC setting to comment about how he thinks preterists treat the Jewish faith as of the events of AD 70. It seems odd that after having determined that the time horizon of Daniel 8 does not extend beyond the days of Antiochus IV, Howe chooses to digress into a discussion of the end time of the first century AD. Evidently, he could not restrain himself until a bit later from taking some gratuitous shots at preterists. In doing so, he misrepresents how most preterists regard the Jewish faith.
While it is certainly true that preterists tend to hold that the Old Covenant system of worship associated with Judaism was superseded by the ministry of Christ and the New Covenant as of AD 70, Howe writes as though preterists generally contend that Judaism was destroyed as of that date. For example, consider the following statement: “A serious problem in the Preterist interpretation of this point [the treatment of the end time of the first century AD] is that although Jerusalem was physically destroyed, Judaism itself survived the war of 70 AD” (291). Following this statement, he proceeds to write about the Bar Kokhba Revolt that erupted in AD 132 and how Judaism recast itself into its rabbinic form. Then, after playing the straw man game for a while, he notes, “Of course
the response of the Preterist[s] is that by saying that this [what happened in AD 70] was the destruction of Jerusalem, they are not referring to the physical dissolution of the practice of Judaism . . . [but] the end of Judaism as a spiritual basis for a relationship with God” (293). No kidding!
After flaying preterists for their alleged misunderstanding of how the Bible deals with the Jewish faith, Howe goes on to outline the futurist case for believing that the Jerusalem-based system of worship of the OT must be restored before the Kingdom of God can be installed on Earth. What was ended in AD 70, he asserts, “was not the legitimate sacrificial system, but the corrupt system of the ruling Jewish parties” (295). In due course, he insists, “Israel will indeed return to the land to rebuild their Temple and reconstitute the sacrificial system” (296). Not for him is the idea that with the coming of Christ in the first century, “Israel” is no longer to be equated with the sacrificial system of worship of the OT.
It is with his treatment of Daniel 9 that Howe’s tendency toward verbosity blossoms into full flower. His commentary on this chapter runs to 135 pages (!), most of which are appropriately devoted to the prophecy of the seventy sevens. As is to be expected from a futurist, he offers a lengthy defense of the proposition that there is an enormous gap in historical time between the end of the sixty-ninth seven or “week” and the final seven that extends all the way from the first century AD to the future. This defense essentially involves debunking the efforts of preterists to fit recorded history into the language of the prophecy so as to create room for the argument that since all else fails, this great gap must exist.
Early in Daniel 9 we read that following the fall of Babylon to the Medes and Persians; i.e. “In the first year of Darius the Mede, son of Ahasuerus” (v.1), Daniel observed that the seventy years prophesied by Jeremiah for “the desolations of Jerusalem” (v.2) appeared to be at or near their end, and that he therefore decided to offer prayer and supplication to the LORD in anticipation that the restoration of Judea to the Jewish faithful would now be forthcoming. His long prayer was rewarded by the arrival of Gabriel, who responded by giving him the prophecy of the seventy sevens in verses 24-27. Instead of telling Daniel that the seventy years prophesied by Jeremiah had come to an end, Gabriel began by saying, “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place” (v.24). In other words, Gabriel proceeded to inform Daniel about what was to occur after the authorization of the return to Judea.
Because liberals exhibit a high degree of skepticism with regard to the claim set forth in Daniel 1 that Daniel and his companions were taken to Babylon soon after the Battle of Carchemish, which occurred in the summer of 605 BC, they also tend to dismiss the notion that Jeremiah’s prophecy could have been literally─or almost literally─fulfilled by around the time that Daniel 9 is dated; i.e. 538/537 BC. They tend to argue that the author of Daniel did not believe that Jeremiah’s prophecy had been fulfilled and that he invented the prophecy of the seventy “weeks” as a reinterpretation of it.
Referring to Judah and the neighboring lands, Jeremiah 25:11 states, “This whole land will be a desolation and a horror, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon for seventy years.” The first verse of Jeremiah 25 indicates that the prophet received the word containing this prophecy in the fourth year of the reign of Jehoiakim, which was also the first year of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. Since Jeremiah 46:2 indicates that the Battle of Carchemish also occurred in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, the inference can be drawn that the year 605 BC should at least be given serious consideration as the starting point for the seventy years prophecy.
The starting date of 605 BC seems plausible to Howe, who suggests that “Although this is not precisely 70 years, the number is generally held to be a round number,” which implies that 605 BC is close enough. Howe then suggests that Daniel took the number literally “and understood Jeremiah‘s prophecy to mean that there would be about 70 actual years of literal captivity” (309-10). This is, I believe, a correct interpretation. Howe could have improved on it a little by pointing out that under the leadership of Nabopolassar, Nebuchaddnezzar’s father, the Babylonians had decisively defeated the Assyrians and their Egyptian allies at Haran in what is now southern Turkey in 609 . This victory established Babylonia as the preeminent power in the lands adjacent to Judah. Therefore, it is quite plausible to hold that at the time of the prayer in Daniel 9, the seventy years of servitude to the king of Babylon prophesied by Jeremiah had elapsed.
The seventy “weeks” with which verse 24 famously begins are almost universally understood by biblical scholars to refer to seventy periods of seventy years each, for a total of 490 years. Notice that this long period is equivalent to ten Jubilee periods of forty-nine years each (containing, therefore, seven Sabbatical years in each of the ten) and that ten is treated in the OT as the number of completeness. Whether or not these 490 years are to be taken literally is, however, a matter of intense debate. Moreover, in view of the fact that the remaining verses of the prophecy divide the seventy weeks into successive periods of seven and sixty-two weeks followed by the climactic seventieth week, whether or not the 490 years are to taken as continuous is also debated. And then there is the question of just what is a year in this instance. Is it equivalent to a year of the Julian calendar, or could it be that the prophecy has years of 360 days in mind? These are some of the many questions that have been raised about this amazing prophecy.
And amazing it is that a prophecy was given to Daniel indicating that his people, the people of spiritual Israel, were to be accorded a period of 490 years (with seventy Sabbatical years) in which to complete their particular spiritual mission and that the prophecy proceeds to spell out landmark events that can be plausibly matched with the historical record so as to verify its authenticity. Small wonder, therefore, that scholars who deny that Rome can be Daniel’s fourth kingdom have been particularly set on discrediting conservatives’ claims about the seventy sevens prophecy. Ironically, their efforts have been reinforced to a considerable extent by conservative scholars like Howe, who have insisted on denying that the final “week” belongs to the first century AD.
Part of the controversy over Daniel 9 stems from the issue of which ancient text is to be preferred. Liberals and even many conservatives tend to favor the Masoretic Text (MT), which, of course, is in Hebrew. Some conservatives, however, have tended to favor the Greek text known as Theodotion, which is generally dated to the second century AD and was long favored by Christian authorities. As was demonstrated over eighty years ago by Charles Boutflower, a very strong case can be made for believing that the Septuagint‘s rendering of Daniel 9 has been contaminated by textual insertions designed to force the prophecy of the seventy sevens to appear to have been fulfilled in the time of Antiochus IV and that Theodotion is a much more accurate text.[i] As for the MT, some conservatives have suggested that its version of Daniel 9 has been altered from the original text so as to accommodate a translation that is less messianicly Christian than the original.
Howe comes out swinging vigorously in defense of the MT. He takes me to task for suggesting that the text of the MT did not attain its present form until the ninth or tenth century, and he insists that the Qumran scrolls confirm the essential accuracy of the MT for both Isaiah and Daniel. “What Evans is alluding to,” he writes, “is the fact that the pointing system for representing the vowel sounds was not completed until the sixth to the ninth century.” My line of argument lacks force, he adds, because “the text was stable and fixed many centuries before the vowel pointing system was perfected.” He concedes that liberal scholars have taken advantage of the flexibility provided by the vowel pointing system to alter the apparent meaning of the text, but he insists that such “liberal interpretations of the MT are not necessitated by the text but by the liberal perspective” and that “It is not inevitable that a translation based on the MT will necessarily arrive at a text that supports a liberal interpretation” (315-16).
Howe is an authority on biblical languages, and I know very little about biblical (or modern) Hebrew. I do, however, have a keen nose for scholarly obfuscation, and Howe indulges in it in this case. He does not point out, for example, that a common translation of the MT for 9:25 is the following: “Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time.” Now compare this with the translation of this verse favored by Howe: “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.” I submit that it hardly takes a linguistic authority to discern that the former translation lends itself much more readily to an understanding of this verse that clashes with Christian theology than the latter. I also submit that Theodotion’s version of Daniel 9:25 is much more in line with the translation that Howe provides.
With regard to the question of whether or not the 490 years are to be taken literally, Howe comes down firmly in favor of viewing them as a literal time period. Not for him is the common practice of trying to use the authorization to return to Judah that Cyrus gave to the Babylonian exiles within a year or two after the fall of Babylonia in 539 as the starting date for the seventy sevens. After pointing out that the word “decree” in the translation of verse 25 that he favors does not necessarily mean a formal decree but evidently points to a less formal command, equivalent to an authorization or “word” from the ruling authority (344, 347), Howe rejects the claim that the “decree” issued by Cyrus ca. 538 permitting the Jews to return to their homeland and to rebuild the Temple satisfies the language of verse 25. His argument, with which I agree, is that this “decree” did not address the matter of restoring and rebuilding the city of Jerusalem with the defensive fortifications implied by that language (347, 350-52).
Howe’s choice for the “decree” that satisfies verse 25 is the documentation that Artaxerxes provided to Nehemiah in 445/444 BC (cf. Neh. 2:4-9). As Howe notes, “This ‘word’ to Nehemiah specifically gives permission to Nehemiah to return and build the city” (341). In settling on this “decree” as the proper document for starting the ticking of the prophetic clock, Howe devotes a number of pages to discrediting arguments by me and other writers that the starting date should be the “decree” issued by Artaxerxes to Ezra some years earlier, in 458/457 BC.
In The Four Kingdoms of Daniel, I pointed out that Ezra 7:12-26 gives the text of a letter from Artaxerxes dated 458/457 that essentially grants the priest Ezra and his fellow Jews broad authority over the city of Jerusalem and its temple. This document does not specifically allude to the rebuilding of the city’s fortifications, but it was my contention that the grant of power was so broad as to allow ample room for assuming that the authorization for the full rebuilding of the city was implied. I also suggested that this interpretation receives reinforcement from Ezra 4:7-16, which indicate that opponents of rebuilding petitioned Artaxerxes to require the Jews to desist continuing the restoration of the city’s defensive walls that they had already undertaken (v.12). Artaxerxes granted their request and ordered the rebuilding of the city to stop until he should indicate otherwise (Ezra 4:17-24). He evidently did so, I concluded, when he sent Nehemiah to Jerusalem to oversee the rebuilding of the city and its fortifications. Because Daniel 9:25 does not indicate that there were to be no interruptions to the rebuilding process—to the contrary, it states that the time of rebuilding is to be a time of stress—I endorsed the idea that tapping the “decree” of 458/457 as the “word” to which this verse refers merits serious consideration.[ii]
Howe contends that this line of analysis is without merit and insists that the fact that the letter of Ezra 7 “does not contain a ‘word to rebuild the city’ disqualifies it as a possible reference point.” Only a passage that specifically refers to the building of the city and its wall can satisfy the restriction imposed by Daniel 9:25, he asserts, and this means that only the “decree” issued by Artaxerxes to Nehemiah is acceptable as fulfillment (345). In similar fashion, he argues against the cases presented by John Noē, Roy Anderson, and James Matheny endorsing the “decree” of 458/457 as the appropriate document (356-63).[iii] He bolsters this argument by contending that Ezra 4:7-23 should be assigned to the reign of Ahasuerus (Xerxes I), which ran from 486 to 465; and although the text of Ezra 4:7-23 identifies the reigning monarch as Artaxerxes, Howe identifies this “Artaxerxes” as Ahasuerus (Xerxes) and assigns a date of 486 BC to the episode (346, 363).
Although Ezra 4:6 does indeed mention Ahasuerus, the next verse refers to Artaxerxes and appears to skip past the earlier king's reign to record an incident that occurred during the reign of his successor. In my view, although Ezra 4 indeed provides historical material, it leaps ahead in time past the accounts in the next two chapters in order to develop the theme of the opposition that was encountered by the Jews in their quest to fully restore their capital city. For Howe, however, this thematic interpretation of Ezra 4 evidently has no merit, and he fails to acknowledge its existence.
When you start the running of the seventy sevens from 458/457 BC and assume that the 490 years correspond closely to our 365/366 day calendar years, it becomes a fairly simple task to fit the threefold division of them into continuous periods of seven and sixty-two weeks plus one final week so as to achieve a literal fulfillment that meshes well with the Coming of Christ. The first seven weeks, running from 458/457 to 409/408 can be identified as a time of particular distress during which the greatest obstacles to the rebuilding of the city were overcome. This period goes a little beyond the time of Ezra and Nehemiah and is long enough to be plausibly advanced as allowing sufficient time for the rebuilding to be accomplished, but I do not know of a specific biblical reference point that matches the date of 409/408 BC.
If you take 409/408 BC as the starting point for the period of sixty-two weeks and move forward 434 years, you come to AD 26/27 for the end of this period and the beginning of the seventieth week (no year zero). Inasmuch as AD 26 is commonly offered as the date for the Baptism of Christ and the beginning of His ministry, it is readily understandable why this line of interpretation has enormous appeal to many biblical conservatives, myself included, who would like to think that the 490 years can be accommodated literally into a messianicly Christian reading of the seventy sevens prophecy. If the 490 years are both continuous and literal, then the final week should fit into the period AD 26/27 to 33/34. Howe vigorously contends, however, that the final week cannot be validly accommodated to this time span.
To help the reader appreciate what is at stake here, I present the NASB's translation of 9:26-27, which is also what Howe uses:
“26Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. 27And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”
I suggest that the preterists who have attempted to fit these two verses into the seventy sevens prophecy with 458/457 BC as the starting point tend generally to hold that verse 26 is fully compatible with the belief that the Crucifixion occurred in the middle of the seventieth week and is what the wording “the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing” is about. The “he” with which verse 27 begins is then the Messiah, and the firm covenant that He enters into with the “many” is the New Covenant of preterist theology that came into existence with the Baptism of Christ and ended with the expiration of the 490 years. Although the Jews continued to make sacrifices and grain offerings at the Temple of Jerusalem until AD 70, it is arguable that the Resurrection ended the spiritual function of these gestures, thereby satisfying the reference to them in verse 27.
But what about the language in verses 26 and 27 pointing to war and desolation, extending to the destruction of the city and its sanctuary? The corresponding events evidently did not occur until AD 70. How, then, can you reconcile these requirements of the last seven years with its midpoint being ca. AD 30? Arguably, you can't do it without inserting a gap of almost forty years between the middle of the week and its end. Alternatively, however, there is an argument advanced by such notables as John Noē, Ken Gentry, and Gary DeMar that some events whose forthcoming was determined by the end of the seventy weeks could actually occur somewhat later.
Notice that even if one accepts the idea that some events that were determined or preordained during the seventy weeks actually occurred somewhat later, there still remains the problem of how to reconcile the second half of the seventieth week with the historical record. The solution to this problem that those who favor the interpretation I have summarized here tend to offer is to identify the half week following the Crucifixion with the completion of the “covenant with the many” mentioned in verse 27 and to argue that with the stoning of Stephen and, perhaps, the conversion of Paul, the 490 years allotted to the Jews were concluded. The interval between the end of the 490 years and the destruction of Jerusalem then becomes a transition period during which the displacement of the Old Covenant by the New was fully implemented.
It should be noted that there are many preterists who do not go along with the interpretation that I have offered here. Some prefer to use the decree of Cyrus as the starting point for the seventy sevens and to offer an interpretation that treats their three subdivisions as periods that are not literally forty-nine, four hundred thirty-four, and seven years, respectfully. Others prefer to use the decree of Artaxerxes issued in 445/444 BC as the starting point. But it is the interpretation with the starting point in 458/457 BC on which Howe concentrates his fire and that I tend to favor, and this is why I have chosen to emphasize it.
In his effort to refute this line of interpretation, one of Howe's strongest points is the doubt he raises about the validity of the common assumption that the Baptism of Christ occurred in AD 26 and the Crucifixion in AD 30. He comes down firmly in favor of AD 33 as the date for the Crucifixion, citing the work of Harold Hoehner in support of this date as being definitive (419).[iv] This allows him to set up a timeline in which the starting date for the seventy sevens is 445 BC. Moving forward by sixty-nine sevens or 483 years then gives AD 33, and since Howe insists that the cutting off of the Messiah occurs at the end of the sixty-ninth seven rather than in the middle of the final seven, this allows him to accommodate his timeline to a scenario in which the final seven lies entirely in the future.
Because I claim no expertise with regard to fixing the date for the Crucifixion, I cannot attempt to refute Howe's futurist dating of the seventieth seven by challenging the date of AD 33 for that event. There are, however, plenty of other reasons for doubting the existence of the long gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks. Moreover, I do not at all rule out the possibility of reconciling the “decree” of Ezra 7 with the Crucifixion date of AD 33. Thus, if you use the starting date of 457 BC rather than 458 and you also surmise that an additional year or two may have elapsed before the task of restoring the walls began or that the seven sevens and/or the sixty-two sevens may have been rounded off sufficiently so as to accommodate an extra year or two in the aggregate, you can easily accomplish this reconciliation.
Howe essentially makes his case for the existence of the great gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks by insisting that only the “decree” of 445/444 BC is acceptable for setting the starting date of the seventy sevens prophecy and by attempting to demolish the interpretation of verses 26 and 27 that I suggested earlier. Whereas those who follow the interpretation that I favor tend to view these two verses as paralleling each other time-wise, Howe insists that these verses are strictly sequential. This means, for example, that the destruction of the city and its sanctuary of verse 26 must occur before the making of the “firm covenant with the many” in verse 27 (385-86, 411, 416).
If verses 26 and 27 must be understood sequentially, it follows that since the Messiah is cut off at the beginning of 26, “the prince who is to come” cannot be the Messiah (392-93, 411). Howe holds that “the people of the prince who is to come” are the Romans, who did proceed to destroy the city and the sanctuary in AD 70 (395). This would seem to suggest that this “prince” could well be Titus, but Howe rejects this idea. Following the inexorable logic demanded by his insistence on the sequential nature of these verses, even though the people of this prince are the Romans of ancient times, the prince becomes the “he” at the beginning of verse 27 (396, 412, 416). This means that he has yet to clearly appear on Earth and is to take part in the events mentioned in this verse. In other words, the people of ancient Rome are also the people of the future Antichrist! The implication is that the Roman Empire must somehow be restored. Tellingly, Howe does not attempt to reconcile this reading of the historical tea leaves with the decline in Europe's relative standing in the world that is so evident today.
While preterists tend generally to identify the Messiah of verse 26 as the one who enters into a firm covenant with “the many” in verse 27, Howe's position is that the cutting off of the Messiah occurs at the end of the sixty-ninth week with the Crucifixion, and everything in the next verse pertains to final seven of the future. The “he” who enters in a covenant with “the many” must be the future Antichrist (413), and “the many” are “best taken as a description of the Jewish people as a group, the nation of Israel” (416), whose temple and sacrificial system of worship are to be restored (427, 430). Notwithstanding the great slaughter of Jews that took place in the Jewish War of the first century, whose immensity Howe tends to downplay, “the wing of abominations” and the “complete destruction . . . that is poured out on the one who makes desolate” are not to be found in the events of AD 70. And since the destruction of the city and the sanctuary in verse 26 occurred in the first century while the destruction in the next verse is limited to “the one who makes desolate,” this means that “the prince of Daniel 9:27, like Antiochus, will not destroy the temple, but will desecrate it by presenting a 'detestable thing' upon the altar of God” (502).
By the time he arrived at Daniel's final vision, which is the subject of three chapters in his book, Howe's “pen” was flowing even more freely than before, and his comments on Daniel 10-12 consume 237 pages (!!). I shall spare myself and the reader a detailed examination of this mass of material and focus most of my comments about it on the highlights of his treatment of Daniel 12 and the last ten verses of Daniel 11. The central issue to be examined is whether this portion of the last vision points to the first century as its time of the end or to events that have yet to occur.
With regard to Daniel 10, I must note that Howe expresses doubt that the man in linen is the pre-incarnate figure of Christ (446-49). I am inclined to disagree but shall not explore the issue here. Howe also embraces the concept of Satan as a fallen angel (449-50). Again I disagree but shall refrain from further comment. And in his treatment of the passage in 10:14 in which Daniel is told that the purpose of this final vision is to give him “an understanding of what will happen to your people in the latter days,” Howe comes out strongly in favor of the position that “your people” refers to the nation of Israel, meaning the Jews of the OT, and that the “latter days” of this verse pertain to the future. Therefore, he argues, the “Israel” of the OT must inherit the land God promised to them, and he vigorously criticizes Philip Mauro and (even more so) Don Preston for endorsing the New Covenant view that permits such statements as the promise in Genesis 49:10 that “The scepter shall not depart from Judah” to be understood as allowing the followers of Christ to receive the fulfillment of the promises made by God to the “Israel” of the OT (452-64).
Daniel 11:5 introduces a long account of the interplay between the Ptolemaic and Seleucid ruling families who contested each other for the control of Judea that runs from fairly early in the history of those realms through the time of Antiochus IV. That monarch makes his initial appearance in verse 21 as “a despicable person . . . on whom the honor of kingship has not been conferred.” Verse 24 refers to some of his nefarious actions but notes that these were to persist “only for a time.” Verses 25-27 concern his struggle with “the king of the South and close with the statement that “the end is to come at the appointed time.” Verses 28-35 deal with the deterioration of relations between Antiochus IV and the Jews that set in around 169 BC, and this section concludes with the observation that this struggle is to continue “until the end time,” which is to materialize “at the appropriate time.” This passage in 11:35 parallels 8:19, which refers to the Jews' struggle against Antiochus IV that proceeds until “the appointed time of the end.” Interestingly–and, I think, tellingly–the final ten verses of Daniel 11 contain no such time references. It is Howe's contention, with which I agree, that this difference in treatment stems from the fact that with verse 35, the concern of Daniel 11 with the career of Antiochus IV comes to end (505).
Immediately following “the appointed time of the end” passage in 11:35, the next verse informs us, “Then the king shall do according tgo his own will.” Notice that here there is no statement indicating that “the king” is not the “despicable person” described in the previous fifteen verses. In the ensuing account of the activities of the king of verse 36, it becomes impossible, however, to reconcile the events depicted with the career of Antiochus IV. This is particularly the case from verse 40 on. It is readily understandable, therefore, why some analysts have doubted that “the king” is Antiochus IV.
As Howe duly notes, liberals ascribe to “the Antiochus view” in explaining Daniel 11:36-45. This means that they assume that they were written late in the reign of that notorious king, and since the events described do not correspond well to the last years of his reign, particularly from verse 40 on, “these interpreters usually hold that this is an unsuccessful and inaccurate attempt at prophecy” (508). In this view, therefore, the first thirty-five verses of Daniel 11 are essentially history, while the last ten are false prophecy. Liberals commonly assume that the author or authors of Daniel ventured into this attempt at prophecy because he/they wanted to spur resistance to Antiochus and assumed that such was God's will. And in response to the observation that when it became obvious that the predictions of the last ten verses had not come to pass, the argument, in effect, is that once the Book of Daniel had been widely circulated, further editorial refinements could no longer be made. The book could not successfully be withdrawn from “print.”
For those who believe that there was a genuine prophet Daniel who lived in Babylon in the sixth century BC, the genuineness of other prophecies in the Book of Daniel warrants the presumption that the text running from 11:36 to the end of chapter 12 is also genuinely prophetic. What then becomes at issue is to determine where in history to place the fulfillments. Preterists look to the period following the death of Antiochus ca. 163 BC to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70 while futurists look far beyond the first century AD.
Howe's basic approach to 11:36-12:13 is to make the case for a futurist interpretation by discrediting preterists. Central to his analysis is his effort to dismiss the idea that the king of 11:36 is Herod the Great and that much, if not all, of the material in verses 36-45 applies to him and his era. In view of the major role played by Herod and his family in the events recorded in the NT, if one accepts the claim that many of the prophecies of Daniel look beyond the era of Antiochus IV for their primary fulfillment, it becomes eminently logical to expect to find Herod and those connected to him in Daniel's last vision. This logic, however, is banned from futurist exegesis. As Howe puts it:
“Futurists believe that most if not all of the prophecies of Daniel 11 beginning with verse 36 are yet future. That is, they do not believe that there has been any historical figure to whom these prophecies can be applied. Consequently, since the prophecies have not been fulfilled in the past, and assuming that the Bible is inerrant, Futurists conclude that these prophecies are yet to be fulfilled. This includes the second coming of Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. Like Preterists, Futurists differ among themselves with reference to the details” (518).
Illustrative of Howe's approach is his treatment of the passage in verse 37 indicating that the king “will show no regard for the . . . desire of women,” Howe scornfully dismisses the suggestion offered by Philip Mauro and others, myself included, that this is probably a reference to the desire of Jewish women to become the mother of the Messiah (512-16, 553). Similarly, he dismisses as being unworthy of serious consideration my argument that if Nebuchadnezzar can stand for Babylon and Alexander for Greece, then the figure of Herod could be applied so as to encompass his dynasty and thus allow the entire text of Daniel from 11:36 on to be fitted into the timespan running from when Herod became an important figure in Judea; i.e. ca. 40 BC, to the great events of AD 70. Notice, incidentally, that the timespan that I suggest corresponds closely to that of the clay in the feet of the statue of Daniel 2.
Fitting Daniel 11:36-45 to a futurist hermeneutic requires such mental gymnastics as assuming that verse 40's reference to the king of the North storming against the king of the South “with chariots, with horsemen and with many ships” must somehow be reconcilable with modern weaponry (522). Howe attempts to overcome this hurdle by suggesting that since Daniel was familiar only with an ancient culture, it was necessary to communicate to him in terms that he could comprehend (559). Nevertheless, some might be left wondering if it would not have not been better to have imparted to Daniel some imagery suggesting that the events described were to pertain to the very distant future so as to avoid encouraging false hopes of relief from oppression that could give rise to premature popular uprisings and the shedding of the blood of God's people. And while Howe advises the reader to avoid taking the prophetic language of these verses too literally, he becomes quite literal in referring to the contest between Antony and his ally Cleopatra against Octavian. He correctly notes that the decisive battle between their contending forces at Actium in 31 BC was a naval battle, which, he claims, contradicts the passage in verse 40 referring to horsemen and chariots. In making this observation, however, he ignores the fact that in a passage from my four kingdoms book that he quotes at some length on these same pages, I note that the contending forces in the Actium campaign included land-based armies, that the encounters between these land forces were restricted to men on horseback, and that verse 40 lacks any reference to infantry (585-86).
Howe allocates a good number of pages to the theme of downgrading the historical significance of Herod and his descendants. In doing so, he does not hesitate to distort the historical record. For example, while historians generally credit Herod with often behaving brutally toward his opponents among the more prominent families of Judea and confiscating some of their land for redistribution to his fellow Idumaeans and other supporters, when Howe comments on the passage in verse 39 stating that the king introduced in verse 36 “will parcel out land for a price,” he invokes Josephus to try to absolve Herod from having indulged in this practice (568). He neglects to mention that other sources amply document Herod's tyrannical behavior and his conflicts with the status-conscious members of the Jewish upper class. Neither does he mention the close personal connections between Josephus and the Flavians or the fact that Josephus was a close personal friend and distant relative of Herod Agrippa II, the last descendant of Herod to hold some governing authority in Judea and the neighboring lands.
One more illustration of Howe's skewed treatment of 11:36-45 is his handling of the passage in verse 41 that “Edom, Moab and the foremost of the sons of Ammon” would be rescued from falling into the hands of the king of the North who is introduced in verse 40. In my opinion, a case can be made for believing that this king of the North is a Roman leader, namely Octavian/Augustus. In any event, it is surely relevant to note that the territories to which verse 41 refers had been incorporated into the Arab kingdom of Nabataea by the time of the Herods and was not absorbed into the Roman Empire until AD 106, during the reign of Trajan. In other words, this territory escaped coming under Roman dominion in the first century AD. It is also relevant, I think, to note that this passage about Edom, Moab, and Ammon can hardly be reconciled with the Antiochus view because the lands corresponding to them in the time of Antiochus IV were allied with him against the Maccabeans.
In dealing with verse 41's reference to Edom, Moab, and Ammon, Howe pooh poohs the idea that the term “king of the North” could be applied to a Roman ruler, and he singles me out for attack on this point. Thus, after citing my suggestion that, following verses 36-39, Rome takes the place formerly held by Greece in Daniel's sequence of kingdoms and becomes the kingdom of the North, Howe states that the term “king of the North” has to be limited to the Seleucids and cannot be applied to refer to Greece proper (585). Of course, I did not suggest that the term did apply to Greece proper. Frankly, I regard such criticism as infantile and symptomatic of the desperation that many futurists must feel. In fact, Rome did indeed supplant Seleucid Syria as the dominant “kingdom” in the lands adjacent to Judea. Moreover, when Rome effectively incorporated Judea into its domain, it established its chief administrative center for the area in Syria.
In closing my treatment of Howe's analysis of Daniel 11, I shall note that there are indeed some problems that are encountered when you attempt to apply the material in verses 35-45 to the time of Herod the Great and his descendants. On the other hand, I am confident that enough correspondence exists between these verses and the history of that era so that the “Herodian view” merits serious consideration, and I regard Howe's assertion that “there is no history to which the prophetic descriptions correspond after verse 35” as nonsense. Moreover, given the problems involved in trying to reconcile these verses with either “the Antiochus view” or a futurist scenario in line with what Howe offers, I propose the rendering of a verdict of “no contest.”
Discussing the thirteen verses of Daniel 12 consumes eighty-one pages of Howe's book. The central concern of Daniel 12, is, of course, the time of the end. Accordingly, the challenge confronting Howe is to show that this time must lie in the future, as opposed to being found in the first century AD. Once again, his strategy is to make the case for futurism by trying to show that the historical record and the biblical text cannot be reconciled with the preterist view. And once again he overreaches.
In its entirety, the first verse of Daniel 12 reads as follows: “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found in the book, will be rescued.” In his analysis of this verse, Howe, of course, equates “your people” with the Jewish nation, which he persists throughout his book in identifying with “Israel.” And since he insists that the end time to which this verse refers (“that time”) lies in the future, this means that the “time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time” has yet to be experienced by the Jewish people. Given the devastations inflicted upon the Jews since the Babylonian Exile, including such events as the Jewish War of AD 66-70, the Bar Kokhba Revolt of 132-136 AD, and the Hitlerian Holocaust of the twentieth century, I hate to think what awaits the Jews if Howe is right! Fortunately, I regard the chances of his being right as a logical impossibility.
“As disastrous as the events of 70 AD were for the nation of Israel,” Howe informs us, “they affected only the two tribes that remained in the land after the scattering of the ten tribes in the time of the invasion of the Assyrians” (605). This is a remarkable statement for a biblical scholar of Howe's standing. It ignores the descendants of the ten tribes subjected to exile by the Assyrians who either escaped being exiled or returned to their ancient homeland after being authorized to do so by Cyrus the Great, and it ignores the various other people in Galilee, Idumaea, Samaria, and other lands adjacent to the Judean heartland who had been converted—some forcibly—to Judaism. And Howe then proceeds to further misstate facts by adding that “What the Preterists seem to be saying is that by the destruction of the Temple, the religion of Judaism was destroyed” (605).
What preterists say, of course, is that with the introduction of the New Covenant in the first century AD, Christianity displaced Judaism as the favored faith of God's people. As far as I can see, they exhibit differences of opinion as to just where the adherents of rabbinical Judaism fit into God's scheme of things, and I, for one, do not rule out the possibility that most Jews who retain religious belief will come to embrace Christ as the Messiah, but I do not believe that there is to be a “time of the end” in which enormous destruction has been ordained for the Jewish people.
For Howe, the resurrection promised in 12:2 (“these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt”) applies, of course, to the future time of the end rather than to the first century. In the course of defending this position, he argues that the idea of a future time of the end is consistent with the teaching of the NT, but he avoids serious consideration of passages that are highly suggestive of a judgment to be rendered in the near future (613-21, 653). And in opposition to preterists who emphasize the spiritual nature of the resurrection, he endorses a position that I am inclined to accept, namely that the anticipated resurrection is both physical and spiritual (626-27).
In Daniel 12:7, the man dressed in linen responds to a question from an angelic witness in verse 6, namely, “How long will it be until the end of these wonders?” by answering that “it would be for a time, times and half a time” and that these events were to be completed “as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people.” Howe accepts the common view that “a time, times and half a time” signifies a period of three and one-half years, and he identifies this period as “the second half of the seventieth seven of Daniel's prophecy in chapter 9” (648), which, of course, lies in the future. As for the shattering of the power of “the holy people,” he asserts that the destruction wrought upon the Jews in AD 70 was not extensive enough to satisfy the requirement of this verse (645).
A central tenet of Howe's theological system is that the Jews are ultimately to be brought to a state of repentance and that much of human history is to be explained by their spiritual stubbornness. Illustrative of this point is his commendation of Richard Pratt for, among other things, perceiving Daniel's prayer in chapter 9 to be “a recognition that Israel had refused to repent (652).[v] This refusal to repent continued when Christ came to offer Israel the promised kingdom, writes Howe, and the refusal of His people to accept Him led to the delay of the coming of the kingdom. “The intervening period [the gap between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth weeks] is designed to provoke Israel to jealousy to cause them to repent and return to God” (654).
I shall refrain from commenting about how Howe deals with the preterist handling of the 1,290 and 1,335 days of 12:11-12, respectively, except for noting that he blasts away at the work of John Noē without persuading me that John is on the wrong track. All of what is stated in these two verses is to occur in the future, he assures us; and as “proof” he quotes with approval a statement by John Walvoord that while the abomination referred to by Christ in Matthew 24:15 may well be an allusion to Antiochus IV and Daniel 11:31, the reference to the abolition of the sacrifice and the setting up of the abomination of desolation in 12:11 (quoting Walvoord) “clearly refers to the future stopping of the daily sacrifices, forty-two months before the second advent of Christ” (671).[vi]
In wrapping up his coverage of Daniel 12, Howe presents the following explanation of the 1,290 and 1,335 days. The final week of the prophecy of Daniel 9 is the seven-year period of the Great Tribulation. The midpoint of this week marks the beginning of the periods of days. That the 1,290 days extend 30 days beyond a period of three and one-half years indicates that the extra days are “for the judgment of the nations described in Matt 25:31-46” (675). The extra 45 days to reach 1,335 correspond to the time taken to set up the Millennial Kingdom (677).
At last (!) I have come to the end of my comments about this massive work by Thomas Howe that attempts to repudiate an important part of preterist eschatology. In doing so, I confess to feeling a bit sad that someone with Howe's scholarly credentials would choose to expend so much effort defending what has to be a lost cause. But such is life. I am now even more confident than before that the preterist approach is where the future has to lie for the Christian faith, and I pray to God that the obstacles to its acceptance will be overcome quickly with a minimum of disruption to its growth.
[i] Charles Boutflower, In and Around the Book of Daniel (London: Macmillan, 1923; reprint, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1977),170-78.
[ii] John S. Evans, The Four Kingdoms of Daniel: A Defense of the “Roman” Sequence with AD 70 Fulfillment (Xulon Press, 2004), 372-75.
[iii] John Noe, Beyond the End Times: The Rest of the Greatest Story Ever Told (Bradford, Pa.:International Preterist Association, 1995); Roy Allan Anderson, Unfolding Daniel’s Prophecies (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1975); James F. Matheny and Marjorie B. Matheny, The Seventy Weeks of Daniel: An Exposition of Daniel 9:24-27 (Brevard, N.Car.: Jay and Associates, Publishers, 1990).
[iv] Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1977), 103.
[v] Richard L. Pratt,Jr., “Hyper-Preterism and Unfolding Biblical Knowledge,” in When Shall These Things Be?”, ed. Keith A. Mathison (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R Publishing, 2004), 144.
[vi] John F. Walvoord, Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), 236.