A Little Help With Daniel 11:1–12:4: Three Aids for Reading This Challenging Chapter

bible 2Daniel 11 is a challenging passage of Scripture. Primarily, its difficulty rests in the fact that modern, Western readers do not know the history that stands between Daniel and Jesus. Such historical ignorance of about 550 years makes a crucial difference in knowing how to understand this long and complex passage. This is especially true with respect to Antiochus IV, who defiled the Jerusalem in 167 BC by offering unclean sacrifices on the altar, producing what Daniel calls the abomination of desolation. Both Daniel and Jesus speak of this event, and only when we understand how Daniel 11 points to this historical event, based upon God’s heavenly decrees (i.e., the book of truth in Dan. 10:21) can we rightly interpret this passage.

Indeed, Daniel’s prophecies are so precise, many scholars believe that Daniel must have been written after the fact.[1] Such a reading stands, however, on a commitment to explain away elements of predictive prophecy. By contrast, those who believe God inspired the Word of God have no little trouble letting the text speak. Scripture teaches us that God has declared the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:10) and that nothing occurs by accident. Rather, God has decreed in eternity what will take place in time. In fact, Daniel 10:21 speaks to this very thing, when the angel of the Lord states, “But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth . . .”

As stated, Daniel 11 is a small portion or reflection of God’s eternal and immutable decree. In answer to Daniel’s prayers and his longing to see the temple of God rebuilt, God sends a fourth and final vision in Daniel to strengthen him and show him what will come next. Daniel 11, therefore, is a history that begins in the days of Daniel (535 BC) and runs until the days of Christ and his resurrection. In fact, as I preached two Sundays ago, I believe that Daniel 12:1–3 is fulfilled (better: has begun to be fulfilled) in the resurrection of Christ. And thus, Daniel 11 gives us a vision of history that runs for more than 500 years and that has implications even to our own day, as the resurrected Christ continues to raise people from the dead.

Still, to understand Daniel 11 in context, we might need a little help. In what follows, I offer three such ‘helps.’ First, I offer a link to the sermon I preached on Daniel 11. Second, I share below an account of a make-believe prophet of America that might provide insight into how we should read Daniell 11. Third and last, I’ve included a PDF of the notes I gave to our church when I preached on Daniel 11. They give a play-by-play of the historical turns in Daniel 11:2–35. Then, drawing on the work of Mitchell Chase, they offer an attempt to read Daniel 11:21–35 as parallel to Daniel 11:36–12:3. I believe Mitch has found a number of key connections in the text which confirms this approach to the chapter. I outline these in the PDF as well. May these resources be a help to you. Continue reading

Reading the Minor Prophets Together: Ten Observations from Paul House’s ‘The Unity of the Twelve’

12By 1990 there was no consensus on the structure of the Minor Prophets. Observing this fact, Paul House, in his book The Unity of the Twelve, surveyed the way scholars looked to chronology and regional location as possible ways “the Twelve” were ordered. Such approaches were significantly lacking, however, and so he concluded: “It is probable that historical research has not successfully uncovered the structure of the Twelve because that structure is governed by literary principles” (67).

In conversation with literary critics and scholars employing methods of canonical criticism, House shows why we should read the Twelve as more than 12 similar but separated oracles. Rather, by examining the structure and plot of the Twelve we can come to a clearer understanding of the unified message that the Minor Prophets is seeking to convey.

As others have observed in the Psalms, there is an intentional ordering in the Minor Prophets, better termed The Twelve. Historically, these 12 books are always found together and typically in the same order (63). For that reason, a unified study of their message is valid and valuable. And Paul House’s book, though technical, is an important for helping read and understand the Minor Prophets.

To get a sense of his argument and how the twelve prophets are unified, let me share some of his observations—first on the structure of the Twelve, then on the plot of the Twelve. Continue reading

If Dietrich Bonhoeffer Were Your ‘Doktorvater,’ or, Seven Qualifications for Ministerial Students

seminaryIn doctoral studies doktorvater is a term for the direct supervisor who oversees your research and writing. It is not surprising that aspiring seminarians seek out a program based on the possibility of working under such a supervisor. For historically, it has often been the case that rising disciples take on the theology and ecclesial habits of their doktorvater.

Sadly, in seminary life there are many students who go through their studies without such a ‘father in the faith.’ Paul House has written about this trend in contemporary theological education, and his book about Dietrich Bonhoeffer is aimed at correcting it. I am sympathetic to his argument, as my forthcoming book review at TGC will show. In what follows I want to consider once slice of what seminary training with Bonhoeffer might have looked like.

Seven Requisite Qualities for Studying Under Dietrich Bonhoeffer

For now, I am especially intrigued by the program of study instituted by Bonhoeffer. What would it have been like to have Dietrich Bonhoeffer as your doktorvater? Based on Paul House’s book, Bonhoeffer’s Seminary Vision (44–45), here are seven things it might have entailed and what Bonhoeffer would have expected.

  1. Submissive to the Word. “Candidates would be committed persons, individuals who knew that their calling ‘demands the entire person. It demands a life under the word of God. Everyday must stand under the discipline of the word.'”
  2. Self-disciplined. Candidates must “foster daily habits of Bible reading, meditation, and holy living.”
  3. Willingly submissive to church authority. Candidates must “pledge themselves to brotherhood with one another and obedience to the church authorities.”
  4. Loyal Allegiance to Christ over Country. “As a citizen [in Nazi Germany], a candidate would ‘serve the truth alone and understand himself to be accountable only to the word of God.'”
  5. A Diligent Student of the Word. “‘The candidate should make it his duty to read a section of the New Testament and the Old Testament daily in the original language. The expectation is that by so doing, he will come to know the entire New Testament and important parts of the Old Testament in the original text and will have worked through several texts with scholarly aids (concordance, dictionaries, commentaries).” [emphasis mine]
  6. An Apt Theologian. “A candidate was to have ‘thorough acquaintance with the confessional writings of his church and be completely accountable with regard to them.” Additionally, “since the church [i.e., the German United Church] had both Lutheran and Reformed congregations, the directors wanted pastoral candidates to be familiar with both confessional traditions.”
  7. Pastorally-Discipled. “Each candidate was to have spent some time as an apprentice with a fellow pastor who prayed with him and guided his work.”

All in all, the men whom Bonhoeffer sought to train were those who gave themselves to the Word and gladly submitted themselves to Christ, his church, and the pastors of those flocks. Moreover, in the face of Hitler’s reign in Germany, Bonhoeffer was looking for those men who would stand against the grain of national opinion. To be a servant in Christ’s church, Bonhoeffer believed one had to be an apt theologian, student of the word, and disciple of the church, while at the same time not seeking a position among the world.

For Contemporary Application

In historical context, the training Bonhoeffer offered only lasted a few years. Beginning in 1935, the Third Reich shut down his school in 1940. Because many of his pupils would be drafted into Germany’s army, most of them never reached the fields of pastoral service. Nevertheless, his labors were not in vain. His two most influential books, Life Together and The Cost of Discipleshipwere born in these seminary years and addressed to men in seminary contexts.

One can hope that in the days ahead, as theological education becomes more imperiled and the costs of pastoral ministry increase, more pastor-theologians will see the need for such educations models. Already, this trend is beginning in schools like Bethlehem Seminary and Beeson Divinity School. Without denigrating larger schools (of which I owe my whole theological training), it is my hope that schools—large and small—will take serious the call to develop godly servant leaders, not just enlist large numbers of graduates.

Scripture reminds us that the qualifications for pastoral ministry are high (1 Tim 3:1–7; Titus 1:5–9), which means that the standards and structures for theological education should be equally high. Though this kind of standard may shrink enrollment, it may in the end raise up a stronger band of brothers. This, House argues, was Bonhoeffer’s vision for training gospel ministers, and it is one that we should seriously consider as we plan and pray to train the next generation.

May God be pleased to raise up a generation of stalwart biblical stewards. And may he at the same time, raise up local, pastor-led, church-centered theological schools to do such training.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Continue reading

Redemption in the Key of D(avid): A One-Page Guide To Reading the Psalms Canonically

Yesterday I taught through the Psalms.  150 Psalms in about an hour.  It was a fast-paced survey of how the Psalter moves…

from the suffering and glory of the historical David in Psalms 1-72
to fall of David’s house and Israel’s exile because of their covenant breaking in
Psalms 73-89
to a YHWH-centered interlude in
Psalms 90-106 which promises redemption and recovery of God’s people because of God’s covenant faithfulness and steadfast love…
to finally the messianic hope of another greater David to come in
Psalms 107-150.

Overall, reading the Psalter as one glorious story of redemption– “Redemption in the Key of D(avid),” you might say– is an illuminating and I would argue the most biblical way to read the Psalms.

It is evident that the Psalms are more than the ancient Israelites equivalent to a WOW Worship CD.  It is not a random compilation of the best hits from the Temple.  The (chrono)logical arrangement of the Psalter is impressive. As Old Testament scholars are helping us see, the content of the Psalms tells us the story of redemptive history, looking back to the David of history and anticipating the eschatological David to come who is God himself (Psalm 110:1; cf Psalm 45:6,).  In other words, while each Psalm is captivating in its own right, set in its own historical, put together,  it becomes evident that a larger story is being told.

To help my church and anyone else who is interested, I have put my notes online, which include a one page outline of the Psalter according to its canonical arrangement.  If it can serve you as a helpful ‘bookmark’ or ‘roadmap,’ please print it out and stick in your Bible to help see how the Psalms fit together to point us to Christ.

It is amazing to see Christ in all of Scripture, and anything that pastor-teachers can do to show how all the Bible leads to Christ will always encourage the faith of our people.  Here are the notes:

Psalms: Redemption in the Key of D(avid)
A Canonical Reading of the Psalter
.

For more on this subject see, John Walton’s JETS article (1991), “Psalms: A Cantata About the Davidic Covenant,”Paul House’s chapter on the Psalms in his Old Testament Theology, and Stephen Dempster’s section on the Psalms in Dominion and Dynasty. I bet Jim Hamilton will also have a great chapter on this when his book, God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment comes out this Fall.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss