In seminary I realized that my personal library was lacking in an important area for any minister of God’s word, that is, biblical commentaries. Gratefully, I was able to use some graduation gifts to (partially) remedy this problem. One commentary I purchased was John Goldingay’s on the book of Daniel.
I started reading through it in conjunction with my regular Bible reading and hope to put together some posts on what I’m learning. While I’ve only made it through the introduction thus far, already two observations Goldingay made stuck out to me.
First, he traced the diverse history of interpretation of the book of Daniel. This diversity is largely due the habit people in every era seem to have of interpreting the events prophesied of in the book as being fulfilled in their own days. Similar to the way some read the book of Revelation, these apocalyptic texts are often read side by side with the morning newspaper. And while this is not necessarily a condemnable practice – admittedly, it is in some ways understandable due to the ambiguous and, at times, bizarre visions – neither is it a commendable strategy for biblical interpretation.
Second, while our Protestant Bibles put the book of Daniel among the Prophets, in the Hebrew Scriptures it was included, not among the Prophets, but among the Writings (e.g. Esther, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, etc.). Goldingay pointed out that the arrangement of the Hebrew Scriptures suggests a slightly different reading of the book than the prophetic reading we customarily give it, namely, a pedagogical one. While a prophetic reading is not inappropriate (for even our Lord did so – Matt. 24:15), this observation is a matter of emphasis. We do well to recognize that even the prophetic elements are not meant to merely fill our imaginations with God’s intervention in the future, but to change our hearts as we live today.
I hope these observations help you in your own Bible reading. And stay tuned for more lessons from Daniel!