The caution against interpreting images also applies to numbers, which are often used in a symbolic manner.
The Archangel Michael defeating Satan – Guido Reni
Whether it be the “time, times, and half a time” of Daniel 7 or the “seventy weeks” of Daniel 9 or the one thousand years of Revelation 20, the original readers would probably have recognized some of these as symbols, and not literal figures. This is the nature of apocalyptic literature.
Take, for instance, the seventy weeks (or seventy sevens) of Daniel 9. Is this 490 literal years? If so, where does this fit in history? Antiochus Epiphanes? The first or second coming of Jesus Christ? The Roman Empire? Take your pick, or choose from a dozen or so interpretations.
These interpretations of the seventy weeks all have one thing in common: they can distract us from the primary message of Daniel’s visions: God has determined the time when He will put an end to sin and suffering.
About Corey Sharpe
Where do we get our beliefs?
Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology.
From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ.
Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles.
I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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