Daniel in the Critic's Den - Chapter 10 - SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION

Chapter 10 - SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION

IT will be obvious to the intelligent and thoughtful that unless the conclusions recorded in the preceding chapter can in some way be disproved or got rid of, there is an end of the Daniel controversy. The reader, therefore, will be interested to know what reply Professor Driver has to give to them.
After noticing the solution of the Seventy Weeks proposed by Julius Africanus, the father of Christian chronologers, he proceeds "This view has been revived recently, in a slightly modified form, by Dr. Robert Anderson, according to whom the 'year' of Daniel was the ancient luni-solar year of 360 days; reckoning, then, 483 years (= 69 'weeks '), of 360 days each, from I Nisan, B.C. 445, the date of the edict of Artaxerxes, Dr. Anderson arrives at the 10th of Nisan in the 18th year of Tiberius Caesar, the day on which our Lord made His public entry into Jerusalem (Luke xix. 37 if.). Upon this theory, however, even supposing the objections against B.C. 445 as the terminus a quo to be waived, the seventieth week remains unexplained."
There is one objection, I admit, to the B.C. 445 date; it violates the canon of interpretation, that Scripture never means what it says! But waiving that point, the only criticism which the highest scholarship has to offer upon my scheme is that it leaves the seventieth week "unexplained."
His reference is to The Coming Prince, or The Seventy Weeks of Daniel, 5th ed. The first edition of the book appeared in 1880 : the ninth is now current. The scheme has thus been before the public for many years; and during that time every detail of it has been subjected to the most searching criticism, both here and in America; but neither error nor flaw has been detected in it.
This objection would be irrelevant even if it were well founded. But as a matter of fact the book to which Dr. Driver refers his readers deals fully and in much detail with the seventieth week. One of the blunders of this controversy is that of supposing that the era of the seventy weeks was to end either with the advent or the death of Christ. Here the language of Daniel is explicit: the period "unto Messiah the Prince" was to be, not seventy weeks, but sixty-nine weeks. The crucifixion is the event which marks the end of the sixty-ninth week; the seventieth week ends with the restoration of the Jews to prosperity and blessing. Those who regard that week as cancelled hold an intelligible position. And the same may be said of those who maintain that it still awaits fulfilment. But the figment that a prophecy of temporal and spiritual good for the Jews was fulfilled by their rejection and ruin is one of the very wildest vagaries of interpretation.

Another amazing vagary of the same type is that Dan. ix. 27 means that our Lord made some sort of seven years' covenant with the Jews at the beginning of His ministry, and that it was broken by His death. See Tile Coining Prince, ch. xiv., and especially pp. 182, 183.

Upon this point three different opinions prevail.
By some the restoration of the Jews is dismissed as a dream of Hebrew poetry. Others consider that the Jewish promises were finally forfeited by the rejection of Christ, and now belong to the Gentile Church. And others again are bold enough to believe that God will make good every promise and every prophecy the Bible contains, but that the realisation of the distinctive blessings of the favoured nation is postponed until the close of this Gentile dispensation. I am not ashamed to rank myself in this third category; and following the teaching of the Ante-N icene Fathers - for this is precisely the sort of question as to which apostolic tradition is least likely to have been corrupted - to hold that the seventieth week, and the events pertaining to it, belong to the future.
But what bearing has all this upon the point at issue? The question here is whether the vision of the seventy weeks was a mere human prediction or a Divine prophecy. The popular view of the matter appears to be that, as the advent of Christ was expected about the time when He actually appeared, there was nothing extraordinary in a chronological forecast of the event. But this betrays a strange misconception and confusion of thought. True it is that the advent of their Messiah was a hope universally cherished by the Jews - a fact which, as I have urged, proves the error and folly of denying the Messianic interpretation of the 9th of Daniel. But if His coming was expected nineteen centuries ago, the hope was based on these very visions. For, apart from Daniel, Scripture contains no hint of a time limit within which the advent was to take place. Apart from Daniel, indeed, the theory was plausible that it would herald the dawn of the seventh millennium of the world's history - an epoch which, by the Jewish calendar, is even now in the distant future. But here is a book which specifies the precise date of the presentation and death of Christ, and the prediction has been fulfilled Had it been fulfilled within the year, the result might well stagger unbelief. And if the apparent margin of error had been a month, the explanation would be obvious and adequate, that Nehemiah does not record the day of the month on which the edict was signed. But, as a matter of fact, it was fulfilled with absolute accuracy, and to the very day.
Let us for a moment ignore the controversy about the date of Daniel - whether in the second century B.C., or in the sixth, and confine our attention to this simple issue: Could the prediction have been a mere guess by some learned and pious Jew? If we refer this question to a mathematician he will ask what data there were to work upon; and on hearing that there were none, he will tell us that in such circumstances the chance of accuracy would be so small, and the probability of error so great, that neither the one nor the other could be expressed arithmetically in figures. The calculation, in fact, would become lost in infinity.
I would not be understood as urging this. I presume the banquet at which the edict was issued took place on New Year's day. Nehemiah began to build the walls on the third day of the fifth month (Neh. vi. 15). Ezra's journey from Babylon to Jerusalem occupied precisely four months (Ezra vii. 9), and in "the unchanging east" Nehemiah's journey from Susa would have occupied as long. I conclude, therefore, that he set out in the beginning of Nisan.

And this being so, any attempt to dismiss the facts and figures set forth in the preceding chapter as being accidental coincidences is not intelligent scepticism, but a crass misbelief which is sheer credulity.
And this brings us back again to the question, What is the character, and what the credentials, of the book which contains this most marvellous vision? The critics themselves admit that the authority of the Book of Daniel was unchallenged by Jews and Christians alike for at least two thousand years. It was not that the question of its claims was never raised; for Porphyry the Neo-Platonist devoted to the subject one of his discourses against the Christians. But Porphyry's attack evoked no response in the Christian camp until modern German infidelity began its crusade against the Bible. The visions of Daniel afforded an unanswerable testimony to the reality of inspiration, and their voice had to be silenced. No matter to what date the 53rd chapter of Isaiah be assigned, the sceptics would reject the Messianic interpretation of it.
But if it can be proved that the visions of Daniel were written in the sixth century B.C., scepticism becomes an impossible attitude of mind. Therefore, a propagandism designed to degrade the Bible to the level of a human book found it essential to prove that Daniel was written after the events it professed to predict.
To attain this end all the great erudition and patient subtlety for which German scholarship is justly famed, were prostituted without reserve; and the attack of the apostates was an immense advance upon the attack of the Pagan. "Apostates," I say advisedly, for in its origin and purpose the movement was essentially anti-Christian. In course of time, however, men who had no sympathy with the aims of the rationalists were led to adopt their conclusions; and in our own day the sinister origin of the movement is in danger of being forgotten. Its obtaining recruits among English scholars of repute is a matter within living memory.
First, then, we have the fact that the Book of Daniel, regarded as a classic, is a work of the very highest character, and that the attack upon it originated in the exigencies of modern rationalism. But secondly, the critics admit, for the fact is indisputable, that the Book of Daniel has entered more closely into the warp and woof of the New Testament than any other portion of the Hebrew Scriptures. And if they do not admit as unreservedly that it comes to us expressly accredited by our Lord Himself, it is because the "Higher Criticism" is purely destructive, and therefore violates at times the principles on which all true criticism rests. But whether they admit it or not, it is none the less certain. And as Keil justly says: "This testimony of our Lord fixes the seal of Divine confirmation on the external and internal evidences which prove the genuineness of the book." And in view of these overwhelming proofs of its genuineness, if Hebrew scholars were agreed that its language was not that of the sixth century B.C., but of a later time, true criticism would seek for an explanation of that fact. But even those Hebraists who reject the book contradict one another on this very point; and so Professor Driver falls back on the alleged presence of two Greek words in the text as settling the whole question. But in the circumstances this is but a travesty of true criticism, and proves nothing save the critic's want of practical experience in the art of sifting and weighing evidence. The case of the philologist having thus collapsed, the critic still further shakes our confidence in him by turning aside to borrow from the German rationalists a farrago of objections upon minor points. Some of these prove on inquiry to be either sheer blunders or mere quibbles, and most of them are so petty that no competent tribunal would listen to them, save in the absence of evidence worthy of the name.

I do not say this by way of complaint. Regarding the Book of Daniel as no more than a classic, he treats it, of course, on that footing. I recognise the difference between what he has written on this subject and such productions, e.g., as the article in Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible, of which he is one of the editors; or the article in Professor Cheyne's rationalistic Encyclopaedia Biblica. Were Porphyry the Pagan to come to life again he might without reserve put his name to those articles, and to many another article in both these works. If this is the sort of food supplied to divinity students nowadays it is no wonder that so many of them either lapse to rationalism or take refuge in the superstitions of mere religion.

If any should think that in my reply to Professor Driver I have treated these minor points of criticism too lightly, I would plead the advice once given by a great advocate, always to ignore the petty details of an opponent's evidence if his case can be shattered on some vital issue. There is not one of these difficulties and objections to which I have not given full and fair consideration, and a reply to them will be found in these pages. But, I repeat, I am prepared to stake the whole case for Daniel on the two issues I have specified, namely, the inclusion of the book in the canon, and the fulfilment of its great central vision in Messianic times.
Behind these is the fact - which in itself ought to satisfy the Christian - that the book bears the express imprimatur of our Divine Lord.
And we have the further fact that its visions are inseparably interwoven with the Christian revelation and with the whole scheme of unfulfilled prophecy. But this last topic I do not now discuss. These pages are not addressed to students of prophecy, for no student of prophecy doubts the genuineness of Daniel. But prophecy fulfilled has a voice for every man; and as Professor Driver's treatise is addressed to men of the world from their own standpoint,1 I have here, waiving the vantage ground of spiritual truth, appealed to the judgment of all fair and reasonable men.
Ptolemy the astronomer was a "Higher Critic." The belief had long prevailed that the sun was the centre of our system; but he had no difficulty in proving that this traditional belief was untenable. Once he got men to consider the matter from their own standpoint all could see the absurdity of supposing that the earth on which they lived and moved was flying helter-skelter round the sun. And nothing more was needed but to keep the mind occupied with the many apparent difficulties of the hypothesis he opposed, to the exclusion of all thought of the few but insurmountable difficulties of the theory he advocated. The professors and experts were convinced, the multitude followed suit, and for more than a thousand years the puerilities of the Ptolemaic System held sway, with the sanction of infallible science and the blessing of an infallible Church.
The allegory is a simple one. There is a "Ptolemaic System" of studying the Bible, which is now struggling for supremacy. Let us, following the rationalists, insist on shutting out God, and dealing with the Bible from the purely human standpoint, and then we need but to weary our minds by the consideration of seeming difficulties of one kind, while we ignore overwhelming difficulties of another kind, and the victory of that false system will be assured. For the capacity of fairly considering both sides of a controversy is not common, and the habit of doing so is rare. Therefore it is that the best judge is not the legal expert, but the patient, broad-minded arbitrator, who will calmly hear both sides of a case, and then adjudicate upon it without prejudice or passion. This brings me to my closing appeal; and I address it specially to those who are accustomed to take part in any capacity in the proceedings of our courts of justice. Once again, I ask them to remember that the question here at issue is essentially one for a judicial inquiry, and that if they possess experience of such inquiries their fitness for the task is greater than usually belongs to the professional scholar, however eminent. Philologists of high repute will tell them that the Book of Daniel is a forgery. Other philologists of equal fame will assure them that it is genuine. Let them set the opinion of the one set of experts against that of the other; and then, turning to consider the question on broader grounds, let them fearlessly decide it for themselves, uninfluenced by the glamour of great names.
The religious revolt of the sixteenth century rescued the Bible from the Priest: God grant that the twentieth century may bring a revolt which shall rescue it from the Professor and the pundit.