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Conclusion to Daniel

Jerome's quotation of Porphyry with which we began this section illustrates the role that proper understanding of genre can play for faith. Jerome wrote to counter Porphyry, who viewed the book of Daniel (because of its pseudonymity and ex eventu prophecy), as a pious fraud. (It is no accident that Jerome's defense was translated by Gleason Archer, who is a strong defender of the literalist way of reading of the Bible.)

The book of Daniel, like the book Jonah, has sometimes been used as a test case for faith in the literal meaning of the Bible. The nineteenth-century Christian author, E. B. Pusey, voiced these sentiments in an echo of Jerome:

The book of Daniel is especially fitted to be a battlefield between faith and unbelief. It admits of no half-measures. It is either Divine or an imposture. To write any book under the name of another, and to give it out to be his, is, in any case, a forgery, dishonest in itself and destructive of all trustworthiness.38 E. B. Pusey, Daniel the Prophet (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1885), 75.

While biblical scholarship has essentially confirmed Porphyry's view that Daniel is pseudonymous and was written substantially later than when it is set, these features do not undermine the book's credibility or theological value. In this respect Porphyry was wrong—Daniel is not a pious fraud. But the attempts by Jerome, Archer, and others to defend the historicity of the character of Daniel in the sixth century are also misguided. Both perspectives fail to recognize that the book of Daniel simply makes use of the conventions of the genre of apocalyptic literature, which were widely accepted at the time of its writing. Understanding this allows the reader clearly to see the book's message in its original setting and then to apply that message appropriately to other settings. The book of Daniel was designed to encourage Jews suffering persecution. The abiding message of hope that it offers is that God is in control of time and human affairs and that God has a long-range plan that will reward the faithful and righteous and guarantee the destruction of evil.

Notes:

38. E. B. Pusey, Daniel the Prophet (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1885), 75.

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