You are hereJames Jordan and the Book of Daniel
James Jordan and the Book of Daniel
by John Evans
James B. Jordan’s long-awaited full commentary on Daniel is now in print and on sale by American Vision as The Handwriting on the Wall. Now that I have read it in its entirety, I herein offer some comments on this important work. Jordan is an outstanding biblical authority with a great capacity for original thinking that allows him to break free from prevailing views. Sometimes, in my opinion, he fails to make a persuasive case for his unconventional ideas, but he often offers real nuggets of exegetical insight that leave me asking “why didn’t I think of that?” In any event, his knowledge of the Bible is so profound and intimidating that even when I think he is wrong, I take it for granted that his arguments should be examined seriously instead of being airily dismissed.James B. Jordan’s long-awaited full commentary on Daniel is now in print and on sale by American Vision as The Handwriting on the Wall. Now that I have read it in its entirety, I herein offer some comments on this important work. Jordan is an outstanding biblical authority with a great capacity for original thinking that allows him to break free from prevailing views. Sometimes, in my opinion, he fails to make a persuasive case for his unconventional ideas, but he often offers real nuggets of exegetical insight that leave me asking “why didn’t I think of that?” In any event, his knowledge of the Bible is so profound and intimidating that even when I think he is wrong, I take it for granted that his arguments should be examined seriously instead of being airily dismissed.With a text that, counting the appendices, runs about 700 pages in length, The Handwriting on the Wall provides detailed commentary on all twelve chapters of Daniel. The book is written in an easy to follow style offering judiciously placed repetitions of earlier statements that will help the reader remember important points without seeming to be monotonous. I have read that Jordan is a very good Bible teacher, and his writing style bears this out. The chapters are well organized so as to make it easy to find particular points in them.
On the other hand, the book lacks endnotes, a bibliography, and indexes, and this is a very serious flaw. Thus, if you want to see where Jordan cites Matthew 24, you have to leaf through it. I recommend to readers that they use highlighting and marginal notes to help them find points that they may want to recheck. This advice presupposes that the book is a “keeper.” It does contain a considerable number of footnotes, some of which are quite informative. Relatively few of them are to the works of other writers, however. Jordan evidently does not believe that most other Danielic scholars are worth citing; and while I am somewhat sympathetic toward that point of view, I am sure that biblical authorities in the academic mainstream will tear him apart for his disregard of proper scholarly form. I hardly think, however, that Jordan is seeking approval from that quarter! As an aside, I am happy to say that although my book on the four kingdoms of Daniel is cited only once, I am quoted with approval (p. 177). Given the number of points on which I disagree with Jordan, I was fortunate.
I estimate that Jordan devotes a total of no more than about seven pages to mainstream opinion on Daniel. “It is not my purpose to bog down the reader with a discussion of various ‘liberal’ or skeptical approaches to Daniel,” he writes on page 6, and he delivers on his promise! Much later (p. 155), in a brief reference to John J. Collins’s massive critical commentary on Daniel, he blasts Collins—correctly, in my view—for operating under the assumption that “the author of Daniel was really stupid” with respect to his dating of the story of Daniel 2. To this I add that critical; i.e. “liberal,” scholars generally assume that the author of Daniel was either unconcerned about historical accuracy or lacked accurate information in some instances. They also tend to assume that numerous alterations were made in Daniel’s original text between the time when some of its stories first circulated—perhaps as early as the fifth century BC—and the date when they believe it attained its final form; i.e. around 164 BC. Such claims are laughable to Jordan, who is convinced that Daniel’s text is so elegantly constructed in terms of chiastic passages, its integration with other books of the Old Testament (OT), and the application of numerical symbolism to particular words that the idea that the book is full of historical inaccuracies and editorial glosses can be dismissed out of hand.
What cannot be dismissed so readily is the possibility that an unknown master of redaction put the Book of Daniel into its final form not long before Jewish rebels led by Judas Maccabeus succeeded, in December 164 BC, in taking Jerusalem from the forces of Antiochus IV, the ruler of the Hellenistic Seleucid kingdom. In my four kingdoms book, I endeavored to deal with this possibility using a twofold approach that combined detailed criticism of mainstream scholarship and its insistence on a second-century BC “end time” in Daniel with a positive assessment of the evidence supporting the belief that the climactic events of Daniel’s prophecies occurred in the first century AD and that Rome, not “Greece,” is the fourth kingdom in Daniel 2 and 7. Jordan skimps on criticism of the evidence that supposedly supports a “Maccabean date” for these events and focuses almost entirely on presenting a very detailed case for tying them to his version of the “Roman sequence” of four kingdoms. He makes numerous observations that I did not make, some of which I wish I had made. In particular, he integrates his analysis of Daniel with the OT to an extent that I can never hope to match. I find much of his analysis to be convincing. His version of the Roman sequence is quite different from what I favor, however, and nothing in his book persuades me that I could be wrong.
In the version of the Roman sequence that I endorse, the third kingdom is the “Greece” that supplanted the kingdoms of Babylonia and Medo-Persia as the dominant political power in the Holy Land with the conquest of the Persian Empire by Alexander the Great in 334-331. This “Greece” included the various Hellenistic kingdoms into which Alexander’s empire dissolved following his death in 323. It was ultimately replaced as the dominant power in the area by Rome. Just when Rome began its “career” as the fourth kingdom is not completely clear. One could go with a date as early as 190 BC, which is when the army of Scipio Asiaticus inflicted a devastating defeat on the force commanded by Antiochus III “the Great” at Magnesia in western Asia Minor. In my judgment, a better date for the beginning of the dominion of the fourth kingdom is either 168 BC, when Roman envoys to Egypt compelled the Seleucid king Antiochus IV to desist from his attack on Alexandria and to leave that country forthwith, or 164 BC, the year when Judea gained effective independence from Seleucid Syria. Rome’s period as the fourth kingdom thus runs, in my view, from about 164 BC until AD 30, the year I favor for the Crucifixion and Ascension of Jesus Christ.
Although Jordan also takes Daniel’s third kingdom to be “Greece” and its fourth kingdom to be “Rome,” his conception of these two kingdoms differs sharply from what I suggest and is one that I had not previously encountered. According to Jordan, Daniel’s “Greece” actually includes republican Rome; i.e. the Roman state as it existed before Augustus Caesar, or perhaps before his great-uncle Julius Caesar acquired full control of the Roman state. His fourth kingdom is thus imperial Rome. This means that he has the period of “Greek” dominance run all the way from Alexander’s conquest of the Persian Empire until whenever it was in the first century BC—and Jordan is not precise about this—that the Roman Republic became the Roman Empire. Because he assigns republican Rome to “Greece,” the time he effectively allots to the fourth kingdom of Daniel is comparatively short.
My study of Daniel has convinced me that the great statue of Daniel 2 must be understood as a kind of timeline in which the proportions of the five different segments of the image correspond to five successive periods in the history of the Holy Land and the nations adjacent to it. These periods are symbolized by the statue’s head of gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, the solid iron portion running from the knees to (presumably) the ankles, and the iron mixed with clay portion composed of the feet and toes. The corresponding historical periods are: (1) the Babylonian period, running from about 605 BC, when Nebuchadnezzar became king, to the fall of Babylon in 539; (2) the Medo-Persian period, running from 539 until 332; (3) the “Greek” period, running from 332 until about 164; (4) the first part of the time of Roman dominance, running from about 164 until the occupation of Judea by Pompey in 63 BC; and (5) the second part of the time of Roman period, running from 63 BC until AD 30. According to Jordan—and on this point I come close to agreeing with him—“the terra cotta [clay] refers to those Jews who sought to join Rome, who in memorable words, when they were forced to choose, declared ‘We have no king but Caesar’” (p. 182).
As I argued in the last article that I posted at planetpreterist.com (“Some Funny Things Happened to the Statue of Daniel 2”), a division of the five segments of the statue along the lines suggested above is the only way to provide a reasonably close match between the statue’s dimensions and historical record. I am confident that this hard fact largely explains why it is that those who insist that Daniel’s end time is to be found in the second century BC simply dismiss the notion that the imagery of the statue is supposed to correspond closely to the historical record. Futurists have, on the whole, been more interested in exploring the notion of the statue serving as a timeline, but they cannot satisfactorily handle the awkward problem of explaining how “Rome” will still be around when the end time finally arrives. Jordan avoids the challenge of extending the life of the statue into the future, but his solution results in a gross time imbalance between the dominion times of the third and fourth kingdoms by implausibly allocating the Roman state partly to the third kingdom and partly to the fourth. Further compounding his problem here is the fact that the time periods he seems to assign to the solid iron and the clay mixed with iron segments of the statue do not conform well to the historical record.
According to Jordan, Daniel 7 allows us to identify the terra cotta or clay in the feet of the statue “as the Herods and Jewish leaders who sustained a love-hate relationship with Rome” (p. 183). Only two pages later, he indicates that the fourth kingdom’s period of dominance came to an end with the Ascension of Christ AD 30, or very shortly thereafter (p. 185). These statements appear somewhat contradictory because descendants of Herod the Great as well as Jewish leaders who allied themselves with Rome exercised authority until the outbreak of the Jewish War in AD 66. Herod the Great did not effectively begin his long reign as Rome’s vassal king of Judea until 37 BC. Therefore, if you assign that year to the beginning of the clay in the feet as you move down the statue, very little time remains for the solid iron segment of the statue even if you push the date for the beginning of the fourth kingdom to as early as 48 BC, the year when Julius Caesar defeated Pompey at Pharsalus. Having only eleven years for the historical equivalent of the solid iron running from the knees to the ankles compared with least sixty-six years (37 BC to AD 30 with no year zero) to the clay of the feet and toes obviously does not work well from the timeline perspective. Making this problem even worse is the fact that Jordan suggests at one point that the fourth kingdom; i.e. imperial Rome, did not displace the third kingdom until Octavian Caesar (Augustus) defeated Mark Antony (p. 605). Since Octavian’s victory over Antony occurred at Actium in 31 BC; i.e. six years after Herod the Great was installed as vassal king, this means that Jordan has the historical equivalent of the clay in the feet materialize before the fourth kingdom comes into existence! I must conclude that his handling of the third and fourth kingdoms simply does not work.
Understandably, Jordan never claims that the statue should be understood as a timeline, and at one point he states that, “taken as whole the statue does not indicate any passage of time” but is to be understood symbolically (p. 179). Above all, he insists, biblical prophecy must be understood theologically, and it is not always to be taken literally. He recognizes, however, that there are instances in the OT, such as the seventy years prophecy of Jeremiah 25 and 29, where the times specified in prophecies are quite literal, but he also points out that in other instances, prophecies are to be understood symbolically rather than literally. In the case of Daniel 2, he tends to favor the symbolic approach. Nevertheless, his statement that “the statue does not indicate any passage of time” is contradicted by the fact that he does indeed recognize that the statue records the progression of history (pp. 184-86). And since the head of the statue refers to the time of Nebuchadnezzar and the historical equivalent of the striking of its feet by the stone occurred around AD 30, we have good reason to assume that the five segments of the statue should be taken quite literally as corresponding to actual periods of historical time. As far as I am concerned, the prophecies of Daniel 2 are both theology and history, and the dimensions of the statue must be understood as a literal forecast of history.
In my own work, I regard the prophecy of the supernatural rock (or stone) that strikes the feet of the statue of Daniel 2, destroys the entire statue, and grows into a great mountain that covers the entire earth as one of the most important prophecies in the Bible. What this prophecy says to me is that Christianity came into being as the realized New Covenant in the first century AD and has since undergone a long process of growth and development that will ultimately give it spiritual dominion over all of Earth. This implies, I am confident, that the process of the rock’s growth corresponds to the “thousand years” of Revelation 20:2-7. This puts me at odds with those preterists who insist that Revelation’s “thousand years” are to be found in the period AD 30-70. So be it.
Jordan does not devote much attention to the prophecy of the rock, and he does not relate it to Revelation 20. Neither does he relate it to the swords into ploughshares prophecy of Isaiah 2 and Micah 4, which is a striking omission in view of the many other instances where he connects passages in Daniel with earlier books of the OT. He assumes that the prophecies of Daniel are almost entirely concerned with what was to happen to God’s people from the time of Nebuchadnezzar to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, and while this assumption is correct, I believe that these prophecies are somewhat more concerned with the future of mankind after that date than he recognizes. I must note, however, that he does recognize that although the prophecy of the rock foretells the spiritual shattering of Rome in the first century, “it took a while (a few centuries) for the wind of the Spirit operating through the Church to blow away all the chaff pieces” (p. 185). For Jordan—and I agree completely—the arrival of the rock must be understood as a spiritual event, as opposed to a change of political dominion, and there is no reason whatsoever to insist that the prophecies of either Daniel 2 or Daniel 7 require the political removal of all four kingdoms before the rock arrives.
I am happy to report that Jordan holds that Daniel’s Darius the Mede is none other than Cyrus the Persian and that he supports this position with sound reasoning. Moreover, he points out that when Daniel states in 5:31 that Darius was about sixty-two years old when he took over Babylonia, “This is the only place in the Bible where the age of a Gentile king is provided.” This suggests to him that there is a link between the sixty-two years of Darius/Cyrus and the sixty-two weeks of 9:25. Because these passages are not parallel, he surmises, the link must be “a typological connection between the 70 years of Babylonian dominance [cf. Jeremiah 25] and the 70 weeks of world-imperial dominance: Seven years before Darius/Cyrus was born, then 62 years, and then a seventieth year during which the events of Daniel 6 took place—Daniel’s tribulation and elevation typologically prophesying those of Jesus during the 70th week” (p. 304). This discernment of a possible typological connection between 5:31 and 9:25 provides a good illustration of Jordan’s ability to discern linkages between biblical passages. I have long wondered why the specific reference to the age of Darius was inserted, and I find his explanation to be plausible.
In Daniel 9:1-2 we are told, in effect, that in the first year of Darius the Mede; i.e. shortly after the fall of Babylon to the Medes and Persians, the prophet Daniel assumed that Jeremiah’s prophecy of seventy years of servitude to the king of Babylon (c.f. Jeremiah 25:11) had been fulfilled. Accordingly, in 9:3-19, Daniel turns to the Lord and utters a long prayer asking forgiveness for the people of all Israel. He is immediately rewarded by the arrival of the angel Gabriel, who then proceeds to utter the astounding prophecy of the seventy weeks or “sevens” of verses 25-29, whose time span appears to be seventy years times seven or 490 years. Operating under the assumption that this “prophecy” was actually written in the second century BC, critical scholars generally hold that its unknown inventor assumed that Jeremiah’s prophecy had never been fulfilled and recast it through the fictitious agency of Gabriel so as to produce an end time that would coincide with the hoped-for demise of Antiochus IV in the near future.
The notion that the author of Daniel did not believe that Jeremiah’s prophecy had been fulfilled with the fall of Babylon in 539 has never made sense to me. I have argued on this site (“The Seventy Years of Daniel 9:2”) that it should be perfectly clear that the author of Daniel knew that Jeremiah’s prophecy had been fulfilled and that the prophecy may well have been fulfilled quite literally. I am happy to write that Jordan adheres to this line of interpretation and presents a strong case for holding that the beginning date for Jeremiah’s prophecy was in the first half of 608 and its terminal point occurred toward the latter part of 539 (pp. 53, 632); i.e. in the prophecy’s seventieth year. Given the strength of the evidence supporting the literal fulfillment of the prophecy and given, as Jordan puts it, “the immense skill and care revealed in this prayer” (p. 450), I am totally in his corner when he writes: “according to the critics, Daniel is a fake book” and that, therefore, the “entire statement [of the critics] about reading Jeremiah is a flat lie, according to the brayings of these ‘scholars’” (p. 451).
Although I came to the reading of Jordan’s book thinking that he rejects the idea that Daniel 9’s prophecy of the seventy weeks was literally fulfilled, after I read his treatment of Jeremiah’s prophecy, I got my hopes up that he would espouse the literal fulfillment of the companion prophecy in Daniel. I was badly disappointed. Jordan is firmly convinced that the “decree” or “word” to which 9:25 refers as authorizing the restoration and rebuilding of Jerusalem can only be the decree issued by Cyrus the Great (2 Chron. 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-2, 6:3-5) that authorizes the return of exiled Jews to their homeland and the rebuilding of the Temple, and he dates the issuance of this decree to both 538 (p. 472) and 537 (pp. 470, 642), though I suspect from the context that his time for the starting point of the seventy weeks is the beginning of 537.
By picking such an early date for the beginning of the seventy weeks prophecy, Jordan sets up a scenario that rules out the possibility that it was literally fulfilled in its entirety. His preferred terminal date is AD 33, which coincides with the stoning of Stephen (p. 474) and strikes me as being quite plausible. This means that the total period he selects for the 490 years of the seventy “weeks” runs too long by about 80 years. After acknowledging that John Calvin’s proposed solution to this discrepancy was to argue that historians had miscalculated the relevant dates, Jordan concedes that the information that we now possess rules out this option. Accordingly, he produces a solution based on Gabriel’s division of the seventy weeks into three distinct periods of seven weeks, sixty-two weeks, and one week (9:25-27). The seven weeks run from 538/537 to 489 and are to be taken literally; the sixty-two weeks run from 489 until AD 26 and are to be understood symbolically; and the seventieth week should probably be understood as literal, running from AD 26 to 33 (pp. 460, 472, 474, 648).
In my view, if you accept that Jeremiah’s prophecy of the seventy years of servitude to Babylon was literally fulfilled, then logically you should approach Daniel’s prophecy of the seventy weeks for the people of Daniel and their holy city (9:24) with the presumption that it, too, must have been literally fulfilled. I am firmly of the belief that Daniel’s prophecy was literally fulfilled and that, therefore, it is a mistake to identify the decree of Cyrus as the “word” or “decree” to which 9:25 refers. It is my position that the decree of Cyrus did not necessarily authorize the rebuilding of the defensive fortifications that would have been essential to a full rebuilding of Jerusalem and that the “word” that allowed the walls and the defensive “moat”; i.e. ditch, to be built was not delivered to the returnees until 458/457 by Artaxerxes I (Ezra 7:12-26). If you take the date 458 BC and then deduct 49 years for the seven weeks of the prophecy during which the city and its fortifications were to be rebuilt during a time of trouble (9:25), you arrive at 409 BC for the end of the seven weeks and—assuming the weeks are continuous—the beginning of the sixty-two weeks. Then, by deducting 434 years (sixty-two times seven) from 409 BC and factoring in that there was no year zero, you arrive at AD 26 for the end of the sixty-two weeks and the beginning of the seventieth week. AD 26 just “happens” to coincide with the commonly accepted date for the beginning of Christ’s ministry.
Regrettably, although Jordan is undoubtedly quite familiar with the calculation in the last paragraph, he does not deal with it head-on in his book. He does, however, indicate that the Artaxerxes of Ezra and Nehemiah is actually Darius I and that the Book of Nehemiah should be dated considerably earlier than is commonly done (pp. 469, 647-48). It is obvious that he takes it for granted that Cyrus authorized the full rebuilding of Jerusalem—which he evidently did not do—and that the letter from Artaxerxes I to which Ezra refers cannot be granted the status of a “decree.” He infers that Cyrus must have authorized the full rebuilding of Jerusalem from Isaiah 44:28 and 45:13, which prophesy that Cyrus will indeed order the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem and not just the Temple. My response is that, yes, his decree did specifically authorize the rebuilding of the Temple, and that action would necessarily have required some construction activity around this facility. On the other hand, in the world of the Holy Land of ancient times, the full rebuilding of a destroyed city would have required the construction of a wall and other defensive facilities before people would have become willing to undertake the private and public infrastructure investments required for a full restoration. A reasonable inference is that since Daniel 9:25 states that Jerusalem is to be rebuilt in troubled times with streets and a “moat,” the rebuilding process necessarily involved the construction of such defensive facilities. Incidentally, Jordan disposes of the “moat” reference by writing that since “Jerusalem did not have a literal moat,” this reference must refer “to the restoration of the baptismal cleansing rites of purification, as required in Leviticus, which people needed to undergo before entering the holy city if they were unclean” (p. 460). On this point, color me skeptical. I think it is more plausible to view the reference to the “moat” as referring to the construction of a defensive ditch outside the walls.
Against preterist interpretations of the prophecy of the seventy weeks that have it being fulfilled in the first century AD, it is commonly argued that the proponents of this theory insert a gap of forty years (actually thirty-six and one-half years) between the end of the first half of the seventieth week and the end of the second half. This gap results, it is said, because the middle of the week to which 9:27 refers coincides with the Crucifixion and Ascension in AD 30 while the destruction of the Temple that occurs in the second half of the week took place in AD 70. According to Jordan—and here I am completely on his side—“the coming of Christ’s vengeance army, the Romans, is not said to happen in the 70th week, but only in a time after the block of 62 weeks,” and the destruction of the city was determined during the seventieth week though it was not actually carried out until some years afterwards (p. 461-63).
Because of space constraints and the complexity of the issues involved, I cannot do justice here to Jordan’s treatment of Daniel’s references to the passages in 8:13, 9:27, 11:31, and 12:11 that allude to what is commonly called “the abomination that causes desolation” and to the related passages in these chapters that have to do with the daily sacrifice at the Temple. It should be noted, however, that Jordan relates the passages in chapters 8, 9, and 12 to events occurring during the time symbolized by the clay in the feet of the statue of Daniel 2; i.e. the era of Herod the Great and his descendants, and that he assigns only 11:31 to the time of Antiochus IV. Moreover, he strongly emphasizes his belief that in all four of these cases, the desecrations and abominations that they mention had to do with the actions of the Temple priesthood. For Jordan, “sacrilege [at the Temple] is never committed by Gentiles” because they had no relevance to the worship system there. “What counts as desecration,” he insists, “is idolatry and sacrilege on the part of the priests” (pp. 466-67).
Soon after he usurped the Seleucid throne in 175 BC, Antiochus IV allowed Onias III, the high priest of the Temple in Jerusalem, to be replaced first by Jason, the brother of Onias, and then by a man named Menelaus. A reasonable surmise is that Antiochus followed a policy of selling the high priesthood to the highest bidder, but it also seems likely that both Jason and Menelaus were more favorably disposed toward Hellenization than Onias III. Onias III was murdered in 171, evidently through the handiwork of Menelaus. When Antiochus was involved in his ill-fated expedition to Egypt in 168, a struggle broke out in Jerusalem between the supporters of Jason and those of Menelaus. Upon his return from Egypt, Antiochus intervened to restore Menelaus, and his forces killed many Jews in the process of establishing control. He also looted the Temple and launched a vicious campaign against the practice of Judaism. He was rewarded for his efforts by the Maccabean Revolt, which succeeded in capturing Jerusalem in December 164. While his forces were losing the struggle for Judea, Antiochus became personally involved in coping with problems along his distant eastern frontier, and he died there around the time that the Maccabees took Jerusalem, or shortly thereafter.
According to Jordan, “Not being part of the priestly people, Antiochus could not defile the Tempe; all he could do was rob it” (p. 575). Therefore, he reasons, the pollution of the Temple to which 11:31 refers could only have been done under the authority of its high priests, namely Jason and Menelaus (p. 581). After Menelaus seized the high priesthood, he notes, that office was never again held by a Zadokite, which means that all who held the position from that time on lacked legitimacy (p. 577).
That Jordan assigns 8:13, with its reference to “the apostasy that causes desolation” (p. 410), to the time period symbolized by the clay in the feet of the statue rather than the time of the third kingdom draws attention to the fact that he also assigns the “small horn” introduced in 8:9 to the later period. This means that, contrary to the generally accepted opinion of both liberals and conservatives, he denies that the small horn symbolizes Antiochus IV. It also means that he holds in common with liberals the belief that the “small horn” of 8:9 is also the “little horn” of 7:8, though he differs from them with regard to where the two horns fit into history. The view that the two are identical contrasts sharply with the prevailing conservative position, which holds that while the small horn of Daniel 8 is Antiochus IV, the little horn of Daniel 7 is a later figure. Unfortunately, more conservatives probably assign to the little horn of Daniel 7 to the future than to the first century AD. In any event, I find Jordan’s position on this matter to be even less persuasive than the liberal position.
In Daniel 8’s account of the kingdoms symbolized by the ram and the goat, we are explicitly told in verses 20 and 21 that the two horns of the ram symbolize the kings of Media and Persia and that the great horn between the eyes of the goat symbolizes a king of Greece. This king is obviously Alexander the Great. Verse 22 indicates that the four horns that replace the broken horn are four kingdoms that will arise in place of the kingdom it represents; verse 9 indicates that another horn, “a small one,” arises from one of the four horns; and verses 23 and 24 state that in the latter part of the time of the four horns, a fierce king will arrive who will cause great destruction among the holy people. From the context it is clear that this evil king is the “small horn” of verse 9.
For Jordan, the four horns that replace the horn that symbolizes Alexander correspond to a succession of four domains that followed him: (1) the entire Alexandrian empire during the few years when Alexander’s son (who was born after his death) was its titular head; (2) the Egyptian kingdom of the Ptolemies during the time when it controlled Palestine; (3) the Seleucid realm after it wrested control of Palestine from the Ptolemies; and (4) Hellenistic Rome, which replaced Seleucid Syria as the dominant power in the area until the time of imperial Rome under the Caesars (pp. 423-24). As I indicated earlier, I deny the validity of allocating the historical Roman state partly to the kingdom of bronze and partly to the kingdom of iron in the imagery of the statue of Daniel 2. Beyond this objection, I add that I believe that it is the clear intention of Daniel 8 to portray the four horns as contemporary successors to the broken horn, and I call attention to the facts that 8:9 explicitly states that the small horn arises from one of the four successor horns. This indicates to me that the other horns are still in existence when it emerges. In addition, I note that 8:23 indicates that the small horn will arise in the latter part of “their” reign, meaning the time of the four kingdoms. This, too, implies that the four kingdoms are contemporaneous.
Jordan fails to address such counterarguments head-on. Instead, after noting that “It is often said that Alexander’s empire broke into four kingdoms, and that this is what is meant here,” he states that the empire was actually broken up into more than four parts, and he dismisses without serious discussion the possibility that four is a symbolic number in this instance (p. 423). What the historical record shows, however, is that in the struggle among Alexander’s generals (the diadochi) for supremacy, there initially was a breakup of the empire into the areas controlled by four generals: Cassander (Greece and Macedonia), Lysimachus (Thrace and most of Asia Minor), Seleucus (Syria, Mesopotamia, and Persia), and Ptolemy (Egypt). Following the death of Lysimachus in 281, most of his territory dissolved into minor kingdoms that lasted into the first century BC, but the fact remains that there was an initial division of Alexander’s empire into four parts. Moreover, I maintain that even if you hold that the number four is used here only symbolically, you can make a stronger case for this position than for holding that the four horns represent the four successive kingdoms identified by Jordan.
But just who—or what—is Jordan’s choice for the little/small horn of Daniel 7 and 8? For Jordan, this figure must be understood as a composite entity, namely “that complex of enemies that includes the Herods with the Jews and Judaizers” (p. 424). Because liberals generally hold that both horns symbolize Antiochus IV while most conservatives have identified Antiochus as the small horn of Daniel 8 and have sought to identify the little horn of Daniel 7 as an individual other than Antiochus IV—who either lived during the first century or (more commonly) will show up in the future—the notion that these two horns symbolize a group of individuals will, I suspect, be a startling one for some readers, and I must confess that it continues to be one that is difficult for me to take seriously. Contributing to my difficulty is Jordan’s identification of the ten horns of the fourth beast who precede the arrival of the little horn as successive Roman emperors, beginning with Julius Caesar and ending with Vespasian, the army commander who was commissioned by Nero (the sixth emperor) in February AD 67 to reconquer Judea (p. 382). If the ten horns are individuals, how can the eleventh horn, who comes up among them in 7:8 and reduces three of the horns to stumps, be a group?
An obvious challenge in identifying the little horn of Daniel 7 is to identify the three kings who, in Jordan’s translation, are “reduced to stumps” in verse 8, fall before the little horn in verse 20, and are subdued by it in verse 24. For some years now, I have tended to favor the view that these three horns symbolize the emperors who followed each other in quick succession after the death of Nero in June 68: Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, the last of whom was succeeded by Vespasian in December 69. I believe we should logically begin the enumeration of the ten horns that I take to literally symbolize a succession of Roman “kings” with Pompey, who brought Judea under Roman domain and laid claim to being the sole head of the Roman state before his defeat by Julius Caesar, and I tend to identify the eleventh horn; i.e. the little horn, as Vespasian. I readily concede that most analysts hold different views about the little horn’s identity. I shall not attempt to meet objections to my interpretation in the present article, though I do insist that it is more plausible than what Jordan offers.
According to Jordan, the little horn does not destroy or eliminate the three horns, “but takes over their manifestation in the holy land” (p. 355). He identifies them as the emperors Augustus, Tiberius, and Claudius, who ceded power, respectively, to three Herods: Herod the Great, Herod Antipas (a son of Herod the Great), and Herod Agrippa I (a grandson of Herod the Great). Each of these Herods, he notes, is portrayed in the NT as an enemy of Jesus and His followers (p. 388). The composition of the little horn is not confined to these three Herods, he insists, because we must understand that they cooperated with wicked Jews to effectively take over and control the behavior of the fourth beast of Daniel 7 “in its relationship with God’s people” (p. 390).
Of course, there were more than three Roman emperors who allowed “wicked Jews” to exercise influence and power in the relationship between the empire and “God’s people.” Specifically, there was the murderous Caligula, who came between Tiberius and Claudius; and there was Nero, who persecuted Christians after the great fire of Rome in 64 and whose wife, Poppea, was favorably disposed toward Judaism. Moreover, I must note that the references to the little horn, particularly in verses 24 and 25, refer to him as “he,” not “it” or “they.” This suggests that the little horn is to be understood as a single individual, but I concede that with my background as a professional economist, I lack Jordan’s capacity for imaginative thinking in the realm of scriptural analysis. In writing this, I am not intending to be sarcastic. I am open to persuasion in this matter. As of now, however, I remain thoroughly unconvinced.
Jordan also draws upon the composite figure concept in his treatment of the “one like a son of man” of 7:13, who, he maintains, “is clearly identified as the saints who possess the Kingdom of God” in verses 18 and 27 and is thus, like the little horn, “a corporate symbol” (pp. 328, 343). This being the case, the “Ancient of Days” of verses 9, 13, and 22 is Yahweh, as personified by Jesus Christ (p. 334). In support of this position, he insists that Christian readers of the NT are mistaken when they assume that when Jesus refers to Himself as “the Son of Man,” He has Daniel 7:13 in view. To the contrary, Jordan assures us, “He is much more likely to be referring to Ezekiel than to Daniel 7:13” (pp. 330-31). Again I must register my dissent. That Christ is deity I do not doubt, but I do not regard Him as being the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7:9.
A collective understanding of the son of man figure of Daniel 7:13 has long been common in mainstream academia, but it has not been Jordan’s version that has garnered support there! Instead, what many liberal academics have held is that Daniel’s one like a son of man symbolizes the Jewish faithful who are to someday dominate the earth. That He could be a messianic individual in the Christian sense, at least in the primary application of Daniel’s symbolism, is an idea that has generally been rejected by the academic cognoscenti. Because so much of Daniel 7 seems supportive of the notion that the son of man is an individual rather than a group of people, however, the collective view has tended to cede some ground to the idea that he could be an angel, specifically Michael, who is mentioned three times in the Book of Daniel (10:13, 10:21, and 12:1) and is presented there as the “prince” who supports Daniel’s people. The belief that Michael is the guardian angel of the Jews appears to be derived in large part from the mention of him in Daniel.
In Jordan’s view—and here I agree with him—Michael is to be understood as the preincarnate figure of Jesus (pp. 428). Moreover—and again I agree—Jordan identifies Michael as the mysterious man in linen who hovers over the Tigris in Daniel 10:4-5 (p. 520); and he takes a similar view of the “man” in 8:15-16 who is above the Ulai River. “Christ [i.e. Michael] is over the waters to direct history” in the visions of both Daniel 8 and Daniel 10-12, writes Jordan, and he then adds this observation: “The water is a Gentile stream . . . and represents the Gentile world. God directs the course of Gentile history from above the waters, and now shows that course of history to Daniel” (p. 416). This, to me, illustrates Jordan at his best. While I agree with all of this, however, I also believe that the one like a son of man of Daniel 7 is the resurrected Christ and that His appearance there sets the stage for His presence in each of the three remaining visions. In Daniel 8 and 10-12, He appears in preincarnate form and is called Michael. In Daniel 9, He is the “anointed one”; i.e. Jesus Christ, who is “cut off” in verses 26-27 in the middle of the seventieth week.
Another area where I find much to agree with in Jordan’s analysis is his treatment of Daniel 11:36-45, which he assigns to the period running from the time of Herod the Great to coming of the kingdom of the Messiah (p. 584). It is in these verses of Daniel 11 that I find that critical scholars simply “run off the rails” in their treatment of Daniel by trying to force a fit between them and the career of Antiochus IV that simply does not exist. A favorite idea among the critics is that the unknown author of Daniel probably wrote the material in Daniel 11 just before the climactic events of 164 BC that brought victory to the Maccabees and that verses 36-45 were a failed attempt at genuine prophecy. Unfortunately for them, it can be shown that these verses can be matched very well with recorded history by looking at the Judea of Herod the Great, who became the vassal king of Judea more than a century after the unlamented demise of Antiochus.
The idea of assigning the fulfillment of the prophetic material in Daniel 11:36-45 to the time of Herod the Great seems to have originated with a Scot named James Farquharson, who published a book on this matter in 1838. Philip Mauro came across Farquharson’s book in 1922 and included positive references to it in a book with the short title of The Seventy Weeks that has become a must read for anyone interested in looking at the first century AD for the fulfillment of the end-time prophecies of Daniel 2, 7, 9, and 11-12. Unfortunately, few mainstream commentators have taken Farquharson and Mauro to heart. With due acknowledgement to the work of these predecessors, Jordan offers an in-depth analysis of Daniel 11:36-45 that I consider to be fundamentally sound though hardly free of problems.
Unfortunately, in analyzing Daniel 11:36-45, Jordan continues to insist that “Hellenistic Rome” is the fourth head of the Greek beast of Daniel 8 (p. 605). My biggest criticism of his analysis of these verses, however, involves his dogmatic insistence that a hypothetical Jewish biblical scholar in the tradition of Ezra (p. 543) would certainly have interpreted the vision of Daniel 10-12 along the lines that he suggests. Thus, when he introduces his discussion of 11:36-45, Jordan states that when his hypothetical “Ezra” comes to these verses, he “will realize that a new section about another king starts in verse 36” and that Michael appears to be the promised Messiah (p. 593). His subsequent analysis makes it clear that he believes that “Ezra” would have understood that 11:36-45 look well beyond the time of the “angry king” that he identifies as Antiochus IV. The problem with his analysis is that it is not at all clear that Jewish scholars from the time of Ezra until the time of Antiochus IV did, in fact, look well beyond that time for the coming of the Messiah. I am persuaded that the available evidence suggests, to the contrary, that following the capture of Jerusalem in 164 BC and the almost simultaneous death of Antiochus, the Jewish authorities tended to look to the immediate future for the fulfillment of all of Daniel’s end-time prophecies, including Daniel 8. In due course, however, when it became clear that the time of Antiochus IV and the Maccabean Revolt could not be squared with the prophecies of Daniel 2, 7, 9, and 10-12, a revised assessment of those prophecies occurred that contributed greatly to the eruption of messianic expectations that occurred in the first century AD.
In Daniel 12:2, the prophet is told by the narrating angel that many who sleep in the dust will awaken, some to everlasting life and others to scorn and everlasting contempt. In the remainder of this article, I shall concern myself primarily with Jordan’s treatment of this verse. This entails commenting on his understanding of the nature of the resurrection described there and the related matter of what he means by “God’s people.” Jordan outlines six possible ways to understand this verse. The first is that it refers to the last judgment of all humankind at the end of history. This must be ruled out, he states, because the last judgment will apply to all people, not many. Then, after quickly alluding to four other alternatives, he comes to what he considers the only credible possibility, “a national resurrection like the one portrayed in Ezekiel 37” (pp. 616-17). This national resurrection is to occur “in the days of Jesus”; i.e. in the first century, at which time “the nation will undergo a last spiritual resurrection, but some will not persevere and their resurrection will only be unto destruction” (p. 618). Although he uses the term “spiritual resurrection,” what he appears to have in mind is a revival of the spirits of the people of God as a functioning flesh and blood community on Earth after the coming of the Messiah (p. 84). He is rather unclear, however, as to the extent to which this “national resurrection” applies to Gentiles.
Ezekiel 37 presents the account of the valley of the dry bones that are restored to life to symbolize the resurrection of all of Israel. In verse 21 the prophet is told that the Israelites will be gathered from all the nations to which they have gone and returned to their own land. In verses 24-28 he is told that “David” will be the king of this Israel and that its people will live in peace under an everlasting covenant. It is easy, of course, to see in this a messianic prophecy in which “David” symbolizes Christ and “Israel” consists of all those people, Jew or Gentile, who accept Him as the Savior of humanity. What Jordan seems to have in mind in his chapter on Daniel 12, however, is the idea that “Israel” essentially consists of a revived Jewish nation that has straightened itself out spiritually.
In historical fact, the nation of Israel passed out of existence permanently in the eighth century BC when it was destroyed by Assyria. The Assyrians evidently carried most of its more prominent residents to other parts of their domain, and I assume that many of the common people were left behind and that the Samaritans were descended, in part, from them. Just how much religious influence the scattered descendants of the ten tribes who comprised the nation of Israel exercised upon the culture of the Near East during the time of the four kingdoms of Daniel no one can know for certain, but I sense that their influence must have been considerable. I am persuaded that numerous references to “Israel” in the Bible, including those in Ezekiel 37, are to be understood as applying to the spiritual descendants of Moses, including Gentiles, who become followers of the Messiah who appears in the dry bones prophecy, which seems to me to look well beyond the first century AD.
At times in his book, Jordan seems to grasp this broader concept of “Israel,” and he writes compellingly about how, from the time of Daniel to the time of Christ, the Jewish people acted as “God’s special nation of priests” (p. 26) to bring God’s Word to an enlarged international commonwealth that he terms the Oikumene. He emphasizes that such Gentile rulers as Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus became part of a larger community of worshipers of the True God. This implies to me that many other Gentiles also must have become such worshipers to some degree. Nevertheless, rather than extend the concept of “Israel” to include such people, Jordan writes that King Josiah of Judah “re-unified the nation of Israel” by conquest and that “the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel often speak of the Kingdom of Judah as ‘Israel,’ for after Josiah, the Kingdom of Judah ruled the entire land.” (p. 44). In doing all this, Jordan leaves me confused, and I suspect that many other readers will be confused as well.
In any event, Jordan’s “national resurrection” is not a resurrection of the dead, and this assessment conflicts sharply with my own view. Jordan concedes that “It is possible that the first resurrection of Revelation 20:4-6 refers to the ascension of the Old Covenant saints to heaven” (p. 617), and he then proceeds to suggest that although Daniel 12:2 does not refer to this event, Daniel 12:13 may well do so. In the latter verse, Daniel is told to go to his rest and that he will rise to receive his inheritance at the end of the days. Jordan’s interpretation means that he views 12:13 as referring to the last judgment that still awaits us. Although Jordan believes that 12:2 cannot refer to a resurrection of the dead because it refers to many who sleep in the dust rather than to all who do so and because he is convinced that that the wicked are not to be subjected to “everlasting contempt” until the last judgment, I prefer to believe that Daniel 12:2 should be understood as allowing the possibility that some people were condemned to “everlasting contempt” in the first century and are not to be judged again.
In this article I have avoided Jordan’s treatment of the time, times and half a time of 7:25, the 2,300 evenings and mornings of 8:14, the time, times and a half of 12:7, the 1,290 days of 12:11, and the 1,335 days of 12:12. In recognition of the fact that this article has become rather lengthy, my remarks about Jordan’s treatments of these time periods will be very brief. In each of these five cases, I am confident, he will encounter searching criticism of his view. I shall refrain from such criticism, and with the exception of the 2,300 evenings and mornings of Daniel 8, I shall not offer an opinion.
Daniel 7:25 states that the “saints” are to be given over to little horn for “a time, times and half a time,” a period that commentators tend to believe means three and one-half years. Jordan objects, however, that “there is no reason to take it as a reference to years, nor is there any reason to take the plural as only two” (p. 397). In his opinion, the “time” refers to “a general time during which the True Jerusalem is being built” and applies to the period of Jesus’ ministry, which ended with His death and resurrection. The “times” began at Pentecost and continued until the outbreak of Great Tribulation of the Apostolic Church that began in 64 with the persecution of Nero. The half a time is the Great Tribulation itself, which ran from 64 until the Romans began their assault against the little horn as embodied by the Jewish religious establishment in 67. The cutting short mentioned in Matthew 24:22 makes this last period a half time (pp. 398-99).
Daniel 12:7 has a time period similar to that of 7:25, but it is in Hebrew rather than Aramaic. According to Jordan, the “time” or (better) “set-time,” of 12:7 “is mentioned in 11:27, 29, and corresponds to the tribulation under Menelaus and Antiochus Epiphanes, the time after the initial shattering of the High Priest.” The “set-times” probably refer to the periods of the Hasmonean (or Maccabean) rulers and the Herodians, which correspond, respectively, to the times of Hellenistic Rome and Imperial Rome. The half a set-time is “the Great Tribulation that follows right after the coming of Michael” (p. 625).
With regard to the 1,290 days and 1,335 days of 12:11 and 12, Jordan assures us that they allude to the time of the Egyptian captivity as recorded in Exodus 12:40-41, namely 430 years. After noting that 1,290 equals 430 multiplied by three, he suggests that the larger number symbolizes three periods of 430 “days” each that correspond to three new Egyptian captivities: (1) the period of Antiochus Epiphanes, (2) the Hasmonean period; and (3) the Herodian or little horn period. The 45 additional days needed to reach the total of 1,335 as given in Daniel 12:12 are the Great Tribulation.
In Daniel 8:13-4 we are told that there will be a period of 2,300 evenings and mornings during which a rebellion that causes desolation will result in the surrender of the sanctuary and a host will be trampled underfoot. At the end of this time, the sanctuary is to be restored. Both liberal and conservative biblical scholars have tended to assume that the events described take place during the time of Antiochus IV. Some have taken the 2,300 to signify that number of actual twenty-four hour days. Others, however, have pointed out that at the Temple in Jerusalem, the day was considered to begin with the evening prayer and there was also a prayer in the morning. Because there were two prayers daily, the reasoning goes, the 2,300 evenings and mornings actually point to a period of 1,150 days. I personally have favored the latter view and have argued that this period conforms to the period of time during the Maccabean Revolt during the years 167 to 164 BC when services at the Temple were actually suspended.
Because Jordan places the time of Daniel 8:13-14 in the days of the Herodian little horn, he rejects the alternatives suggested in the last paragraph and opts for a complicated explanation that, in my judgment, is ingenious but implausible. In the first place, as I have explained earlier in this article, I reject the idea that the small horn of Daniel 8 is anyone other than Antiochus IV. Therefore, I reject his finding that “the prophesied evenings-mornings begin in or around AD 64” (p. 437). I also reject his contention that the 2,300 evenings and mornings should be taken symbolically rather than literally (p. 436).
Jordan has succeeded to a greater extent than any other writer on Daniel whose work I have read in demonstrating an ability to look at this great prophetic work from the perspective of the people who lived before the time of Christ. At times, however, I think he forgets that the Bible was also written for people who would live long after Christ died on the cross. The Handwriting on the Wall is a book that I think every serious OT scholar should own and read. It is my hope that it will help materially to bring about a badly needed reorientation of scholarship away from liberal bias that has for too long influenced the world’s understanding of Daniel. It is also clear to me, however, that it is going to take more than Jordan’s book to accomplish what needs to be done.
John S. Evans