Teddy

Daniel Chapter 7: A New Perspective

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  1. Teddy

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    Daniel Chapter 7: A New Perspective

    (2003)



    Within conservative biblical scholarship circles, there is a core consensus on the interpretation of Daniel’s Chapter 7. What has be written by various authors can be easily summarized into two paragraphs as follows:


    First, the churning great sea is the Mediterranean Sea as all the major classical world empires arose or operated in the rim regions of the Mediterranean Sea.


    Second, the four beasts arising from the great sea are interpreted as representatives of successive world empires; namely,

    Lion -- Neo-Babylonian Empire,

    Bear -- Medo-Persian Empire,

    Leopard -- Greek empire, and

    Fourth beast -- the Roman Empire.


    However, about the fourth beast we meet two divergent opinions. One group of evangelical scholars understand the ten-horns (along with the little horn) as fulfilled prophecy during the classical Roman period, in particular in events that took place circa 70 AD, when the Romans destroyed the Jewish Second Temple and exiled the Jews from their homeland.


    However, many other conservative protestant[1] scholars teach that the ten horns and the little horn activities will manifest in the last days, in the few years just prior to Christ’s Second Coming. They teach that the fourth beast will manifest in the form of a Revived Roman Empire, and the neo-Roman Empire of the last days, they say, will be led by the little horn (i.e., the antichrist). In this regard, there have been a few who have pointed out that the modern-day European Union is the precursor for the revived Roman Empire and that it will soon give rise to the antichrist.


    Here I present an alternative approach to the interpretation of Daniel Chapter 7. This new line of interpretation is based on one assumption - God gave Daniel a vision-dream and visions and dreams are full of symbols and metaphors. Therefore, one need primarily focus on understanding the symbolism and metaphor which makeup Daniel's vision-dream. However, critics could be quick to point out that this approach is fraught with grave dangers. They will point out that the exercise can easily turn into a very subjective or spiritualizing mode of interpretation. In the absence of an absolute standard or guideline to check the veracity of the meaning provided by decoding the symbols and types, they argue, everything will rest on the amount of trust one can put on the person who offers this form of interpretation. They suspect subjectivity and whims t overwhelm the exercise.


    The answer to this fear is three-fold. First, we have to accept as a fact that Divine inspired dreams and visions are always symbolic in their nature. Second, God in the Bible uses ample typology, symbols, and metaphors to transmit His message. Therefore, we cannot escape using the method of decoding of symbols and deriving meaning from metaphors. Third, so far, the supposed safe methods of literalism and the historical method have not given us any all-agreed meaning to Daniel’s visions and dreams. For these main reasons,one can begin to demand that a symbolic interpretation of Daniel Chapter 7 need be undertaken, an exercise which at the same time will be responsible and scriptural. The following interpretation on Daniel Chapter 7 is presented that responsibility in mind.


    The Alternative Perspective

    Barely any dream or vision from God is literal. Rather, the dreams and visions we receive from God come to us presented in the form of symbols and metaphors. Therefore, we have to exercise due diligence through meditation or reflection to arrive at the true meaning of a God-given dream or vision. While trying to interpret a God-given vision or dream, we need to pay attention to every nuance of symbol and metaphor that makes up the dream or vision.[2]


    1). First, since Daniel Chapter Seven is a dream-vision, its proper interpretation should first start by accepting the symbolic most of the objects and actions presented. This rule equally applies in deciphering the symbolism implied in the nature and activities of the four beasts, whose description make up the bulk of the vision narrative. This point cannot be overemphasized in arriving at the correct interpretation of Daniel’s dream. For example, C.S. Lewis notes readers usually miss the symbolic message of animal stories:

    The literary symbols are more dangerous because they are not easily recognized as symbolical.”


    2). Secondly, the prevailing view is that the four animals in the vision represent the four successive world empires, namely— Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greek, and Roman empires. This understanding is seriously flawed because in this vision, Daniel never associates any beast with any world empire as he usually does in the rest of his book. Therefore, Chapter 7 should be treated as an exception to the rule. Chapter 7 vision should be interpreted free from any association with any classical historical event.


    3). Thirdly, the new mode of interpretation rejects the traditional idea that the four beasts represent four succeeding empires. Instead, this interpretation claims that the four beasts represent four political organizations (or, forces) which will be contemporaneous, meaning that they interact with each other on the political stage. This proposition can be easily deduced from the account the vision gives. For example, it is stated that the fourth beast (and the little horn) fights and then overcomes the other three beasts. In order this to be true, naturally, the other three beasts have to be alive at the time the fourth beast (and its little horn) exercise power (Dan 7: 12, 19, 23).

    [to be continued.]


    [1] This teaching is common among evangelical, Pentecostals, and Charismatics churches.

    [2] Dreams and visions are given in cryptic form, needing proper interpretation. For example see, the Joseph related dreams found in Genesis chapters 3740 and 41, and the vision of Peter (Acts. 10: 9-16). See the following passages for a sample for a general understanding of the purpose of God in using symbolism to convey His prophetic message: - Num. 12: 6-8; Ps. 78: 2; Pr. 1: 5-6, 25:2; Is. 29: 9-12; Hos. 12:11; Matt. 13: 10-12; 34-35.