Exploring the Book of Daniel
Apocalypticism is in vogue. Whether one looks within the covers of a popular barometer of the Zeitgeist, such as the Saturday Review, glances through the program of a Society of Biblical Literature meeting, or ponders over the new releases from the publishing houses, there is ample evidence that apocalyptic has come out of a long eclipse . . . a growing number [of people] have experienced the crisis sociologists find at the base of every apocalyptic movement: the collapse of a well-ordered world view which defines values and orders the universe for a people, thrusting them into the uncharted chaos of anomie and meaninglessness. (Hanson 1971, 454)
For Christians, apocalypticism has always been in vogue. In the words of Käseman, “apocalyptic was the mother of all Christian theology” (JTC 6, 1969, 40). The kingdom of God is not of this world. The world system is antithetical to Christian values. Christians wait for a better order that is possible only through the advent of the divine. Their prayer is “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven;” the prayer taught by our Lord Jesus has present and future implications.
The symbolism of apocalyptic has aroused considerable fascination about a coming world order. This is expressed in the title Ratlos vor der Apokalyptik (Perplexed by Apocalyptic), a polemical review by Klaus Koch (1972). Christians have created numerous scenarios of the chronology of events leading to the end of the world. For the Anabaptists, one of the most regrettable was the attempt of John of Leiden (Jan Beuckelson) to set up the thousand-year millennium at Münster (1534), which ended in one of the bloodier massacres of those tortuous times.
The end of the world may be imagined in terms of environmental catastrophe, divine intervention, or the determinism of fate. Apocalypse in the Bible viewed the end as a new beginning; Endzeit wird Urzeit in the conception of Mowinckel. This course will examine the origins and genre of apocalyptic expression to understand the future as Daniel presented it, both for his people and for the end of the society as we know it. It will include the New Testament use of Daniel and note parallels to the Apocalypse of John.
The commentaries of John Calvin are valued and sold to this day, but they do not include Revelation because Calvin never claimed to understand it. Much more is now known of the function of apocalyptic, which begins in the later prophetic period of Israel. This course will develop an understanding of the literary background of apocalyptic, the groups that supported it, and how it functioned for the people of faith in the redeemer of Israel. It will examine the literary structure of Daniel and the various systems of interpretation that have been used in developing an eschatology based on Daniel, including a review of Darby and the interpretive influence that followed. The course will provide an exposition of the message of Daniel.
Apocalyptic brings together a variety of literary and ideological features that provide a powerful expression of faith and hope for the future. This course will explore the function of metaphors and deep convictions of apocalyptic to appreciate more fully this potent expression of faith for those who have lost all hope in this world. The course is intended to inspire and develop Christian faith and hope.
Apocalyptic has repeatedly generated predictions for the end of the world. Apocalyptic has also sustained the faith of the severely persecuted. Korean Christians, severely persecuted by the Japanese following the First World War, were sustained in faith and hope through a focus on apocalyptic. Currently in much of North America apocalyptic is engaged to establish political positions on the conflict between Palestinians and the state of Israel. This course is to enable students to engage constructively in applying apocalyptic literature to Christian eschatology and faith.