Does Daniel Predict the Future? – Go Back in Time, Not Forward

“In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.” Daniel 7:1

Image

The Vision of Daniel, William Drost

I am back from hiatus, and ready to wrap up this blog series.  I have been suggesting some warning signs, to guard against misunderstanding Daniel’s visions.  

One way we can guard against misinterpreting the images in Daniel is to imagine ourselves as one of the original hearers (or readers).  For example, in 7:13 Daniel sees the son of man riding in the clouds.  This may confuse modern readers, or some may see this as a literal event.  The original audience would have a clearer understanding of this ‘cloud rider.’  

‘Cloud riding’ can be found throughout the Old Testament.  God led Israel through the wilderness as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21).  God appeared to Israel in a cloud many times (Exodus 13:21 19:16; Leviticus 16:2).  God is described as a cloud rider in Psalms 68 and 104.  The prophets Isaiah and Nahum also describe God this way.  In fact, many surrounding cultures described their gods as cloud riders.  

The point here is that while certain images may at first confuse us, they often made sense to the original hearers.  

The lesson here is that Bible interpretation often requires some homework.  There are resources to help us understand Scripture in its original context: commentaries, study Bibles, pastors and teachers.  Still, the basic message of Daniel’s visions can be understood by all modern readers: Even when it looks like evil controls the world, God is in control and will win the struggle.  

Outlandish speculations and predictions are all too common.  To prevent these, it helps to remember that these images and language come from ancient history. 

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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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3 Responses to Does Daniel Predict the Future? – Go Back in Time, Not Forward

  1. julie says:

    I agree it.s important to understand original intent. I also need application for my life today

  2. Ann Denbow Simmons says:

    Good morning:
    I believe that it is important to understand the original intent of the scripture but to also place it into the period of time that it was written and to whom it was written for, By studying and knowing the when and who I find it will helps me to understand the why and how. The Bible is such a fascinating and life important book that it is impossible for me to read without trying to fully understand and comprehend what God is trying to tell me or what knowledge God is offering me in His words.
    Every circumstance in our lives can be found within the books of the Bible. The fact that the books in the Bible are in Chronological order helps us to note Gods importance and actions throughout the history of man. The Bible for me is not only the full words of God but also the history of God’s interaction with man from the beginning of time.

  3. Janice says:

    Sorry I have been behind in the blog comments, but I agree with Ann and Julie. Too many people feel the Bible is just full of words like Ann said, but it is so full of life lessons. I wonder why more people feel they don’t need to study it more. I am going to comment on the blog about Jesus being married on this comment too. I really don’t care what they find. I just know that Jesus died for my sins and I will have eternl life because of Him.

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