Not Feeling Horny

I’ve been watching a little bit of World Cup action over the last few days, and I just want to go on the record in support of a ban on the vuvuzela. In case you’ve been living under a rock–or just don’t have cable–the vuvuzelas are those plastic horns that South African fans blow at the soccer matches. Sounds like fun, right? Wrong–they blow them constantly, an incessant buzzing of ten thousand huge bees.

This has become a serious problem for FIFA for three reasons. First, the buzzing is overwhelming for TV spectators–I can’t watch the games with sound anymore. One French channel is now offering vuvuzela-free broadcast using digital filters. Second, the players have trouble communicating with each other and the benches, because they can’t hear. Third, fans constantly blowing horns can’t cheer, and other fans don’t even bother to cheer over the blaring. No cheering means no dynamic from the crowd, no swell of sound as one team moves the ball down the field or gets a key chance.

Anyway, that’s my two cents. I wish FIFA would ban them from the games, but it looks like that won’t happen.

On the subject of horns, I was reading Daniel 8 yesterday and thinking about the various opinions on how to date the book. Daniel 8 contains the vision of the ram and the male goat. The male goat defeats the ram, but its great horn breaks into four smaller horns. The rest of the vision is concerned with the blasphemies and desecrations of the little horn.

Verses 1-14 contain the vision, and verses 15-27 provide the interpretation. According to the angel Gabriel, the ram with two horns represents Persia and Media, and the goat represents Greece (Yawan). The interpretation clearly points to Alexander the Great as the goat’s great horn, and his four generals as the smaller horns. The Seleucid kings are the little horn.

This interpretation is widely accepted by conservative and liberal scholars alike. There is significant divergence of opinion about the conclusions that should be drawn about the background of the book from this chapter. Critical scholars presuppose that predictive prophecy is not possible, and so can they date this portion of the book no earlier than the Maccabean period (160s BCE). Many conservative scholars presuppose Danielan authorship, and so they date the book in the early Persian period (late 500s BCE).

I would like to question both of these presuppositions. I embrace the Book of Daniel as Scripture and wholeheartedly believe its message, which is that God is sovereign over all world events. As an evangelical, I believe in God’s sovereignty and the truth of Scripture. Does this mean, however, that I must embrace Danielan authorship? Is there a way to read this book faithfully as Scripture if it were written in the Maccabean period?

I believe that God gave some people predictive visions, and so I cannot preclude the possibility of early authorship. However, many factors mitigate that possibility. The 12 chapters of MT Daniel seem to be a composite work, containing different languages (chs. 1, 8-12 in Hebrew; chs. 2-7 in Aramaic) and vastly different genres (narrative, vision, penitent prayer). The LXX versions of Daniel include two other stories (Susanna, Bel and the Dragon), another prayer and a song. Critical study would lead us to the conclusion that this is a collection of Daniel-related traditions that were brought together at a quite late date.

Why do evangelicals feel the need to question this conclusion? Are we afraid that acknowledging that Daniel 8 was written about current events (the Maccabean revolt) would detract from the divinity of Scripture? We have other examples from the OT prophets and from Revelation of biblical writers interpreting current world events through the lens of God’s sovereignty and expressing the state of the world in apocalyptic language.

Do you agree? Are evangelicals required to hold onto Daniel 8 as predictive prophecy, or is there another way to be faithful to the text of Scripture and the God who gave it to us?

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About Benj

I’m a native North Jerseyan, living and learning in Eastern Europe…an Old Testament professor and former liturgist…husband to Corrie…father to Daniel and Elizabeth…eldest sibling to three, brother-in-law to Josh and Hannah…uncle to Marshall.
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5 Responses to Not Feeling Horny

  1. Susan Giffone says:

    If the book claims Daniel as its author, it is either telling the truth or it is lying. If it’s lying, it’s not holy scripture. Therefore, if the book is holy writ, we ought to accept Daniel as the author.

    • thinkhardthinkwell says:

      The book doesn’t claim Danielan authorship. It does say, “I, Daniel, had such and such a vision…” Do we have to believe that, even when it’s historically incredible? Think about Jude’s quotation of “Enoch.”

      I guess the question is not whether Scripture is true but how Scripture is true.

  2. Ben T. says:

    I suppose this is akin to discussions related to authorship of the Pentateuch. Could we speak in terms of “Primary Danielic Authorship” and still be within the bounds or orthodoxy?

    Nailing down authorship will always be of primary importance to those in the grammatical-historical crowd. If we read Daniel for its predictive prophecies, then of course it needs an early date. How can we be sure, though, that this is the right way to read Daniel?

    Next, you should consider suggesting that David didn’t author Psalm 51. Let the fireworks begin…

    Oh, and I agree with your sentiments on the horns. They’ve gotta go.

    • thinkhardthinkwell says:

      @Ben: I see you chose a different adjective to mean, “pertaining to Daniel.” Fine. Be that way.

      I think strict inerrantists really don’t know what to do with pseudepigraphical writings. They discard the non-canonical pseudepigrapha solely on the basis of their pseudepigraphical nature: this can’t be in the Bible, because the authors were “lying.” But the ancients clearly didn’t perceive these works as falsehoods–they put words in the mouths of ancient figures 1) to honor the ancient heroes, 2) to legitimize their own positions, and 3) to shape the community’s view of its own story and life.

      Reading prophecy with the newspaper in your other hand is surely not the right way to read Daniel. However, the message of the book really does get a boost if you think that a 6th-5th-century Daniel wrote predictions that came true. It’s not a hill I’m willing to die on, though, at this point–not just for the sake of inerrancy.

      Did you hear that the Marlins gave out vuvuzelas at the game last week? Yeah–didn’t go over so well.

  3. Pingback: Best of 2010 | think hard, think well

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