Showing posts with label Daniel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Daniel. Show all posts

Monday, September 5, 2016

Highlighting the rapidity of disaster

Commenting on the book of Daniel, Theodoret, bishop of Cyrus (423-457 A.D.), clearly interpreted the "abomination of desolation" mentioned in Daniel's prophecy as foreshadowing a future, first century fulfillment of the "abomination of desolation" mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 24:15. This, of course, is another example of what I've been showing throughout this series: the early Christian Church saw Jesus clearly prophesying about the Jewish wars and the factions which resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

Theodoret wrote: abomination of desolation on the temple: as a result of this sacrifice not only will the other sacrifice cease but as well an abomination of desolation will be inflicted on the temple--that is, that formerly venerable and fearsome place will be made desolate. A sign of the desolation will be the introduction into it of certain images forbidden by the law; Pilate was guilty of this by introducing into the divine temple by night the imperial images in violation of the law. The Lord also in the sacred Gospels foretold to his holy disciples, "When you see the abomination of desolation..." He said this to highlight the rapidity of the disaster about to overtake them.1

Likewise, in his commentary on the twelve prophets, Theodoret makes similar connections. When discussing the prophecy Zechariah about the Lord's feet standing on the Mount of Olives (14:4), he describes the fulfillment of such promises as the victory given to Jesus as the Lord of armies, even of the Roman armies as they surrounded the apostate, anti-Christian Jews during the siege of Jerusalem. He wrote:

"On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is opposite Jerusalem from the east." From where he ascended into heaven, from there he gives the victory to those fighting against the Jews. He then says the mountain would be divided into four parts, one going to the east, one to the west, one to the north, and one to the south. ...By "mountain" he refers to the cohort of the enemy divided for the purpose of besieging Jerusalem, some occupying its eastern part, some its western, others guarding the north, others the south.2 

1. Robert C. Hill, trans., Theodoret of Cyrus: Commentary on Daniel (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2006), 257-8. Cited in Francis X. Gumerlock, Revelation and the First Century: Preterist Interpretations of the Apocalypse in Early Christianity (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press; 2012) pp. 174-175

2. Ibid. p. 203. Theodoret of Cyrus, Commentary on the Twelve Prophets. On Zech. 14:4.

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Divine Council in Psalm 82

Commenting on Psalm 82, verses one, six, and seven, Allen P. Ross1 writes:

God stands up in the divine counsel; in the midst of the gods he judges.
I said, "You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you. Yet you shall die like a man, and fall like one of the princes."

    A third view accounts for the term "gods" and the reference to morality by including the spirit world in judgment. Accordingly, the human judges, who cannot be excluded from the interpretation of the psalm, are agents of supernatural beings who were assigned to different regions to ensure that justice would prevail (1 Kings 22:19-22; Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6; Dan 7:9-1-, 10:13, 20-21). The psalm may be set against the background of the religions of the ancient world, divine assemblies of lower gods who met to determine the course of worldly events. The psalmist would not have accepted the idea that they were viable gods, but rather that they were supernatural beings, or angels, who formed a heavenly court (meaning an assembly of supernatural beings appearing before God to receive their orders; see Job 1 and 2, in which assembly even Satan was present). These angelic beings were given the responsibility of overseeing the proper functioning of human society (see Deut. 32:8-9).2 However, many of them failed to comply with the divine commission and became the forces of evil of these nations represented by their gods (e.g. Ezek. 28:11-19; and Daniel 10). Their will was administered by human agents; they were responsible for the people they put in place and used. Because their failure to administer justice, they would receive an ungodlike punishment--death. 
    This explanation would account for the idea of a divine council mentioned in the psalm, as well as the judgment that these "gods" would die like humans. The psalm would then form a strong polemic against the pagan world in which the spirits that controlled countries were considered to be divine, and their agents, here human judges, considered to have divine authority.3

1.  For the credentials of Allen Ross and his bio, see
2.  Not only do these verses (Deut. 32:8-9) in the Dead See Scrolls agree with the reading, "sons of God", but in the Greek version they agree as well: "When the Most High divided the nations, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the nations according to the number of the angels of God; and his people Jacob became the portion of the Lord, Israel was the line of his inheritance."
3.  Allen P. Ross, A Commentary on The Psalms, Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2013) pp. 715-6, 718-9.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

St. Jerome's Preterist Interpretation of "the Antichrist" and "lawless one" (2 Thessalonians 2:5-8

Commenting on Jeremiah 25:26, Saint Jerome notices the likeliness of Jeremiah camouflaging a reference to "Babylon" with the Hebrew name "Sheshach." Even the ESV translation notes this by translating the actual Hebrew word, Sheshach, as "Babylon." 

A cursory glance at modern english versions of the Bible will illustrate this translational difference. The ESV translation reads, "…and after them the king of Babylon shall drink", whereas the more literal NASB translation reads, "…and the king of Sheshach shall drink after them."

I point this out not because Jerome's familiarity with ancient Rabbinic literary procedures is particularly noteworthy or unique to commentators of his day, but because from this specimen of Jeremiah's writings he deduces that prophets sometimes wrote cryptically for their own safety and for the safety of those who discern their warnings and take refuge in Christ because of it. According to  Jerome, even the apostles sometimes wrote cryptically to protect themselves and the faithful flock of Christ from soon-coming judgment upon the land. In this regard, Jerome's following comments about the apostle Paul's language in 2 Thessalonians 2:5-8 are particularly noteworthy, especially in light of the myriads of bizarre futurist (especially dispensational) interpretations of it in the 20th and 21st centuries. Instead of interpreting Saint Paul's words about the "lawless one" and its association with "the antichrist" of John's letters as entirely future to his own generation, Jerome follows a contemporary preterist interpretation of both these cryptic descriptions, which he thinks Paul's audience (i.e. Jewish converts of Thessalonica) would have understood. He writes:
I think that it was prudent for the holy prophet to hide the name of Babylon, lest he openly stir up against himself the madness of those who were besieging Jerusalem and who were ready to seize him at any moment. We read that the apostle did this same thing against the Roman Empire, writing about the antichrist:
Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you this? And you know what is restraining him (understand: "the antichrist") now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will slay with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the appearance of his coming.
By "he who now restrains" he means the Roman Empire. For until the Roman Empire is destroyed and taken "out of the way," the antichrist will not yet come, as it says in the prophecy of Daniel. But if he had chosen to say this openly, he would have foolishly stirred up the frenzy of persecution against Christians and the nascent church.1

1.  Jerome, Ancient Christian Texts: Commentary on Jeremiah; Thomas Oden and Gerald Bray, editors [Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic; 2011], pp. 156-7

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Cultivating the Kingdom (Matt. 13:24-43)

Continuing where we left off in this series, we arrive at the next section of Matthew chapter thirteen's literary structure (as found here in layout #2). Jesus begins this next section with three parables about cultivating the kingdom (verses 24-33). The first parable describes weeds, or "tares" according to the KJV (v. 24-30). The second parable describes a mustard seed (v. 31-32). The third parable describes leaven (v. 33). All of these parables are about "the kingdom of heaven," which I discussed in detail in an earlier post (here). 

The first thing of interest to us should be the difference between the parable of the Sower (in the previous section) and this parable of the weeds. In the parable of the Sower, the seed sown is the "word of the kingdom" (v. 19), but in the parable of the weeds the seeds are "the sons of the Kingdom" (v. 38). The parable of the Sower transitions from sowing the message of Christ's kingdom on earth to his disciples cultivating that message in the world.  

In the parable of the weeds, seeds are sown within the Sower's field. When the crop starts bearing fruitfulness the Sower's servants come to him and ask where the weeds come from. His answer is that an enemy had done so. However, in order to preserve the fruit from his sowing, both wheat and weeds are then left to grow together until harvest time. 

In verses 36-43 (section C2) Jesus explains to his disciples what this imagery is all about. The one sowing the seeds is the Son of Man, Jesus (12:37; cf.  8:20; 9:6; 10:23; 11:19; 12:8, 32, 40). The seeds are Christ-following Israelites, the children of the Kingdom (v. 38). The enemy planting weeds is Christ's adversary, Satan. The harvest, contrary to modern eschatological daydreams, is not at the end of the physical universe or the end-times of global human history. The harvest is "the end of the age" (v. 39). The age referred to here is the age in which Jesus' disciples lived, the end of the age in which the old covenant was administered, the end of the age in which heaven and earth met together in a Temple in Judea. The reapers of this harvest are said to be "angels," messengers commissioned from above to administer the Lord's sentence upon evildoers, gathering out of the kingdom "all causes of sin and all law-breakers" (vv. 39-41). The destiny of such law-breakers is the fiery-furnace where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (v. 42). The righteous, however, will fulfill the prophecy of end times described in Daniel 12:3. They will "shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matt. 13:43). "Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness in the heavenly-expanse (Hebrew, raqia)... like the stars forever and ever" (Dan. 12:3; cf. raqia in Gen. 1:6-8, 14-17).

The next two parables about the mustard seed and leaven follow along this same trajectory. "The Kingdom of Heaven," Jesus says, is "like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field." The Kingdom of heaven grows incredibly large, larger than all the garden plants, extending even to the point in which others are attracted to it, like birds of the air which come and nest at home in its branches (v. 31-32). The Kingdom of Heaven is also said to be "like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened" (v. 33). Three measures (Greek, saton) of flour is about thirty liters of flour, which implies that an astonishingly immense bread-baking operation is about to take place in the Kingdom of Heaven. If the growth of the Kingdom of Heaven is like leaven hid inside this immense amount of flour, the most obvious implication of this Kingdom coming near is its subsequent rise in proportion to the immensity of the flour itself. The Kingdom of Heaven may start out out small, but when it leavens this mountain of seeds ground into flour the Lord will have prepared enough bread to feed the world.    

In verses 34-35 (section B2) Matthew explains why Jesus spoke to the crowds in nothing but parables. Matthew says, 
This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: 
"I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world."
This quotation comes from Psalm 78:2, a Psalm that reviews much of Israel's exodus, especially Yahweh's faithfulness to his covenant through every act of Israel's stubborn rebellion during that exodus. Psalm 78 says that Yahweh established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a Law in Israel, which He commanded their fathers to teach to their children, so that generation after generation would set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments (Ps. 78:5-7). But Israel repeatedly rebells against Yahweh, testing Him and acting treacherously toward Him (vv. 56-57). They did not keep Yahweh's covenant, and refused to walk according to His Law. They forgot His works and even the wonders He has shown them (vv. 10-11). But instead of utterly casting off Israel altogether, Yahweh shows them loyal love, generation after generation. Yet they sinned still more against Him (v. 11). They did not believe in Yahweh or trust His saving power (v. 22). Therefore that generation died in the wilderness at Yahweh's hand (v. 31). Only when Yahweh killed them did others among them seek Him earnestly (v. 34). But even still, their heart was not steadfast toward Him. They flattered Him with their mouths and lied to him with their tongues (vv. 36-37). Yet Yahweh, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them all. He restrained His anger often and did not stir up all His wrath (v. 38). Instead he chose the mustard grain-sized tribe of Judah and built His sanctuary-kingdom there, a sanctuary wherein the "high heavens" and earth would meet (vv. 68-69). He also chose David His servant and took him from the sheepfolds to guide them with his skillful hand (vv. 70-72). It is all of this which Matthew quotes from, saying that Jesus' parables to the crowds of Israel fulfill the parabolic history of Israel presented in this Psalm. Its as though the people of Israel are again about to go through another exodus, led by the Son of David. 

Up to this point in Matthew's gospel, the sheep of the house of Israel are lost and perishing because of the corrupt leadership in Israel. In chapter thirteen, Jesus is presented as the greater son of David, the greater Solomon, to guide Israel with his skillful hand, even speaking wisdom to them in parables. But to begin to know Wisdom, and to understand His words of insight and His proverbs about the exodus awaiting that generation, they must fear the Lord (Prov. 1:1-7; 9:10). Only fools would despise such wisdom and instruction. Like Israel under Solomon's reign, the crowds of Jews before Jesus are instructed in parables--parables which describe the end of that age, the generation in which Israel lived at that time. Wisdom incarnate is presented before their very eyes, uttering parables out of His mouth, and that message is nothing new to the Israel of faith. Interestingly the Masoretic (Hebrew) text of Psalm 78 says that Yahweh speaks parables to Israel about those things which they have heard and known, and their fathers had told them. Matthew quotes from the Septuagint (Greek) text of Psalm 78 instead, paraphrasing it a bit too, and he describes Yahweh speaking parabolically about what has been hidden from the foundation of the world. What's the deal? Has Israel heard and known the wisdom of Yahweh revealed in this Psalm, or has it been hidden from them since the beginning? 

In a sense, both are true, because not all of Israel is the Israel of faith. All are God's covenant people, but not all of Israel was faithful and obedient to God's covenant. But perhaps Matthew is paraphrasing Psalm 78 to refer to the Kingdom of Heaven near to Israel in the days of Jesus. That kingdom would incorporate all nations through the seed-sowing of faithful Israelites. Israel had heard and known, and their fathers had told them, but Jesus was forming a new Israel for himself, a new Israel which incorporated Gentiles that had Wisdom hidden from them since the foundation of the world. 

By speaking in parables, Jesus leaves his Jewish audience with proverbs to ponder. Would they too flatter Him with their mouths and lie to him with their tongues? Would they too forget His works and the miracles He showed them? 

Jesus, being compassionate, would atone for their iniquity and would not destroy that entire generation. He would give Israel 40 years to repent before destroying their city and their precious temple, thereby ending the old covenant administration. Only the fools who despised Wisdom would be destroyed. But among the mustard grain-sized seed which feared the Lord, would there be an immense growth. The Lord would tabernacle in the midst of those people and there, in Him, heaven and earth would meet.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Eusebius' Proof of the Gospel

Eusebius, the Roman historian and Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine who lived from 263A.D. to 339A.D., is famous for writing works on early Church history and the life of Constantine. But there is another work which he wrote which is not very famous in our current generation, primarily because it's hard to find an english translation of the original Latin manuscript. That work was called Demonstratio Evangelica. Translated into English, that title means "The Proof of the Gospel." In Eusebius' Proof of the Gospel, he describes a number of historical events in connection with Jesus' prophecy as recorded in Matthew 24 and Luke 21. Commenting on those prophecies of Jesus, Eusebius writes:

But who would not be surprised at the fulfillment of a prophecy which revealed that the Jewish people would undergo these sufferings in the days of the Lord? For as soon as Jesus our Lord and Savior had come and the Jews had outraged Him, everything that had been predicted was fulfilled against them without exception 500 years after the prediction: from the time of Pontius Pilate to the sieges under Nero, Titus and Vespasian they were never free from all kinds of successive calamities, as you may gather from the history of Flavius Josephus... For after the coming of our savior Jesus Christ, their city, Jerusalem itself, and the whole system and institutions of the Mosaic worship were destroyed; and at once they underwent captivity in mind as well as body, in refusing to accept the Savior and Ransomer of the souls of men, him Who came to preach release to those enslaved by evil demons, and giving of sight to those blind in mind.1
And from that time a succession of all kinds of troubles afflicted the whole nation and their city until the last war against them, and the final siege, in which destruction rushed on them like a flood2 with all kinds of misery of famine3, plague4 and sword5, and all who had conspired against the Savior in their youth were cut off.6
When, then, we see that was of old foretold for the nations fulfilled in our day, and when the lamentation and wailing that was predicted for the Jews, and the burning of the Temple and its utter desolation, can also be seen even now to have occurred according to the prediction, surely we must also agree that the King who was prophesied, the Christ of God, has come, since the signs of His coming have been shown in each instance I have treated to have been clearly fulfilled.7

1.  Eusebius, The Proof of the Gospel, translated by W. J. Ferrar [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1981] 2:26-27
2.  Dan. 9:26
3.  Matt. 24:7
4.  Luke 21:21
5.  Luke 21:24
6.  Eusebius, The Proof of the Gospel, translated by W. J. Ferrar [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1981] 2:138  (c.f. 2:403)
7.  Ibid.  2:147

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Who is Michael the Archangel?

In Kenneth Gentry's audio lectures on the book of Revelation, aptly titled The Divorce of Israel, he discusses a few things about Michael the Archangel which I had never considered previously. He notes that Revelation 12:7-9 describes, in symbolic language, a war in heaven between Michael and the Dragon, Satan. According to Gentry, Michael appears most famously in Dan 10:13, 21 and 12:1 where he is presented as the defender of the Church against her enemies.  Interestingly, we learn in the New Testament that this is the exclusive task of the Son of God (Eph 1:19-23; Eph 5:23; Mt 16:18). A similar impression is left with the "angel" or "messenger" of the Lord in Exodus 3:2, 8, and Judges 6:11-17.

Furthermore, in Jude 9, “Michael” is called the “archangel,” which means "the ruler of angels" in Greek. Interestingly, elsewhere in Scripture we learn that Jesus is the one who comes with "his angels" in the glory of his Father (Matt. 16:27). In Matthew 13:41 we find again that Jesus will "send his angels" and gather out of his kingdom all lawbreakers. Elsewhere we are also told that he will send out "his angels" with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from one end of heaven to the other (Matt. 24:31). In Paul's letter to the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 4:16), he mentions that "The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel...". Paul says elsewhere that, "when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels," he will grant relief to those who have afflicted his people (2 Thess. 1:7). 

Drawing from the well of Old Testament allusions, it also seems as though this very same archangel--this ruler of the angelic hosts--is the one who confronts Joshua in the promised land (Joshua 5:14-15). 

Finally, Gentry argues, the Hebrew meaning of “Michael” is significant. Michael means “who is like God?” and is based on Exodus 15:11 and Psalm 89:6-7, which suggests that this one who performs the task of God's Son and is the ruler of all angelic hosts is also a distinct messenger of God's likeness (cf. Ps 35:10; 71:19; 113:5; Isa 40:18, 25; 44:7; 46:5; 49:19; Jer 50:44). There truly is no other like God, yet Michael is like the Son of God, the Ruler of angels, the messenger of Yahweh.