Daniel 8 (the eighth chapter of the Book of Daniel) tells of Daniel's vision of a two-horned ram destroyed by a one-horned goat (an allegory for the transition from the Persian to the Greek eras in the Near East), followed by the history of the "little horn," which is Daniel's code-word for the Greek king Antiochus Epiphanes.
The subject of the vision is Antiochus' oppression of the Jews–he outlawed Jewish customs such as circumcision, dietary restrictions, and Sabbath observance, made ownership of the Torah scroll a capital offense, and built an altar to Zeus in the Temple (the "abomination of desolation"). His program sparked a popular uprising which led to the retaking of Jerusalem and the Temple by Judas Maccabeus (164 BCE).
- 1 Summary
- 2 Composition and structure
- 3 Genre and themes
- 4 Interpretation
- 5 Historicist views
- 6 See also
- 7 Appendix
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
In the third year of Belshazzar, king of Babylon, Daniel in a vision sees himself in Susa, which is in Elam. In his vision he sees a ram with two horns, one greater than the other; the ram charges to the west, north and south, and no other beast can stand against it. Daniel sees a male goat with a single horn come from the west without touching the ground and strike the ram and destroys it. At the height of his power the goat's horn is broken and in its place four horns grow.[Dan. 8:5-8] One of the horns is small but grows great and prospers in everything it does, throwing stars down to the earth, stopping the daily sacrifice, destroying the sanctuary and throwing truth to the ground.[Dan. 8:9-12] Daniel is told the vision will be fulfilled in 2,300 evenings and mornings, when the sanctuary will be cleansed.[Dan. 8:13-14] The angel Gabriel appears and tells Daniel that this is a vision about the time of the end.[Dan. 8:15-19]
Composition and structure
It is generally accepted that the Book of Daniel originated as a collection of folktales among the Jewish community in Babylon and Mesopotamia in the Persian and early Hellenistic periods (5th to 3rd centuries BCE), and was later expanded by the visions of chapters 7-12 in the Maccabean era (mid-2nd century). Modern scholarship agrees that Daniel is a legendary figure; it is possible that his name was chosen for the hero of the book because of his reputation as a wise seer in Hebrew tradition.
One of the peculiarities of the book of Daniel is that it begins in Hebrew at chapter 1, switches to Aramaic for chapters 2 to 7, and then back to Hebrew at chapter 8. It has been suggested that this transition means that Daniel 7 and 8 were written by different persons, but although there are stylistic differences between the two chapters,they are parts of a composite whole, so that even if composed by a group, both chapters together are a coherent literary work.
The structure of the chapter can be described as follows:
I. Introduction: date and place (verses 1-2);
II. Vision report: ram, he-goat, angelic conversation (3-12);
III. Epiphany (appearance) of interpreter: circumstances and desire for interpretation, epiphany (15-17);
IV. Interpretation: circumstances, interpretation of images, concluding statement by the angel (18-26);
V. Concluding statement of visionary's reaction, v.27.
Genre and themes
The Book of Daniel is an apocalypse, a literary genre in which a heavenly reality is revealed to a human recipient; such works are characterized by visions, symbolism, an other-worldly mediator, an emphasis on cosmic events, angels and demons, and pseudonymity (false authorship). Apocalypses were common from 300 BCE to 100 CE, not only among Jews and Christians, but Greeks, Romans, Persians and Egyptians. Daniel, the book's hero, is a representative apocalyptic seer, the recipient of the divine revelation: has learned the wisdom of the Babylonian magicians and surpassed them, because his God is the true source of knowledge; he is one of the maskil, the wise, whose task is to teach righteousness. The book is also an eschatology, meaning a divine revelation concerning the end of the present age, a moment in which God will intervene in history to usher in the final kingdom.
Daniel 8 conforms to the type of the "symbolic dream vision" and the "regnal" or "dynastic" prophecy, analogous to a work called the "Babylonian Dynastic Prophecy"–a more extensive example appears in Daniel 11. For its sources it draws on Daniel 7, which supplies the symbolism of the "little horn" and the "holy ones" (angels), as well as on the Book of Ezekiel, which provides the location by a river and the epiphany of the angel, and on the Book of Habakkuk with its concern with the "end of time." The "little horn" which casts some of the stars to the ground recalls Isaiah 14:12 and Lucifer, which in turn presupposes the Ugaritic (Canaanite) myth of Attar's attempt to take the throne of Baal.
Chapter 8 is about the actions of the world-powers at the "end-time". The course of history is pre-determined, and Antiochus is merely playing a role in the unwinding of God's plan. Daniel 8 is thus a reinterpretation and expansion of Daniel 7: where chapter 7 spoke only cryptically of the change-over from the Medo-Persian empire to the age of the Greek kings, chapter 8 makes this explicit; by the same token, chapter 8 speaks cryptically of the "little horn," whose story will be taken up in detail in the following chapters.
Daniel 8 is an interpretation of the author's own time, 167-164 BCE, with a claim that God will bring to an end the oppression of the Jewish people. It begins with the Greek conquest of the Persian empire, touches on the rise of the four Greek successor-kingdoms, and then focuses on the career of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who took the throne of Seleucid Syria in 175 BCE. While the details which led to Antiochus' conflict with the Jews are obscure, it appears that there was a revolt in Jerusalem, he sent troops to suppress it, and as a result the daily Jewish sacrifice was stopped and the Temple polluted. The date for this is usually given as 167 BCE. The attempt to wipe out traditional religion and culture inevitably provoked a reaction, and the Jews, led by Judas Maccabee and his brothers, won sufficient military victories over the Seleucids to take back and purify the temple three years later.
The ram, the he-goat, the great horn and the four new horns
The ram and he-goat are interpreted explicitly as the kings of Persia and Greece. It is generally agreed that they are drawn from the constellations that preside over Persia and Syria in Hellenistic astrology. Scholars are also agreed that the goat's first horn (the horn which is broken) is Alexander the Great, and the four horns which then arise are the four generals who divided his empire. The detail that the goat does not touch the ground as he attacks the ram may reflect the speed of Alexander's conquest.
The "little horn" and his war on God
The "little horn" which arises from the four horns is Antiochus Epiphanes. It "grows in power to the south and to the east and towards the beautiful land," reflecting Antiochus' campaigns in Egypt (169-168 BCE), Persia (166 BCE) and Palestine (the "beautiful land"). "Truth was flung to the ground" by the little horn as it tramples the land: this is probably a reference to the Torah, the Law of Moses.
Daniel 8:13's "holy ones of the Most High" clearly means angels, although sometimes in the Hebrew Bible it seems to refer to the Israelites. Stars were commonly identified with angels in ancient Israel, and in 8:10 the reader is told that the little horn "grew great ... and some of the host of the stars it cast down to the ground and trampled upon them," indicating that Antiochus fights against the "heavenly host" of God's angels. Indeed, he "aspired to be as great as the Prince of the host," God himself.
Daniel is the only book in the Hebrew Bible which gives names to angels. Gabriel may have received his because he "has the appearance of a man" (Hebrew gaber); he appears here as a messenger and interpreter of God's message, the same role he was later given by the author of Luke's annunciation scene (Luke 1:19,26). Michael is depicted as Israel's guardian angel and a warrior. The prominence given these divine beings in Daniel is typical of Hellenistic Jewish literature, but much more restricted than in contemporary works such as First Enoch.
The 2,300 evenings and mornings
In verse 13 Daniel overhears two "holy ones" (angels). One asks" "For how long is this vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over the sanctuary and host to be trampled?" and Daniel is informed that it will be "for 2,300 evenings and mornings." The "evenings and mornings" refer to the twice-daily sacrifice, so that the number is 1,150 days. This is contradicted (twice in one sentence) at the end of Daniel 12, which says that "from the time the regular burnt offering is taken away ... there shall be 1,290 days; happy are those that persevere and attain the 1,335 days" (Daniel 12:11-12): the different numbers, first 1,150 days, then 1,290, finally 1,335, are presumably revisions made when the earlier numbers passed without fulfillment.
The period in question was initially the duration of the desecration of the Temple, but 1,150 days is slightly less than three and a half years, while the desecration lasted only three years. It seems likely that the focus of the author shifted from the desecration and re-dedication of the Temple to the end of history, which would be marked by the resurrection of the dead: the final number in Daniel 12:12 is followed by the instruction to Daniel to "go your way and rest; you shall rise for your reward at the end of days."
(The interpretation of the 2300 evenings and mornings as equivalent to half that number of days–1150 days–appears to be the most common, but C.L. Seow, a leading Daniel scholar, takes it to mean 2300 full days. This would be equivalent to about seven years; assuming that the end-point is the re-dedication of the Temple and restoration of sacrifices in 164 BCE, the starting point would then be the murder of the high priest Onias III in 171, another notable year in the events leading up to the desecration).
Background: Daniel and Christian eschatology
The Book of Daniel, and along with Revelation, formed one of the foundations of Christian eschatology.[Notes 1] The authors of the Gospels identified Jesus with Daniel 7's "one like a son of man", and by the 3rd century CE the stone of Daniel 2 and the fourth figure in the furnace in Daniel 3 were interpreted as Christ, the fourth kingdom of Daniel 7 was Rome, and the "little horn" was the Antichrist (his identification as Antiochus was denied by Saint Jerome in a famous exchange with the pagan philosopher Porphyry). Daniel's timetable was reinterpreted to fit Christian expectations: the prophecy of 70 weeks in Daniel 9:20-27, for example, was commonly held to end either with the life and death of Christ or with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE.
In the Middle Ages dissident Catholics identified the pope as the Antichrist, and for Martin Luther the Fourth Empire was Rome, living on as the German Empire, while the "little horn" included Mohammed, Antiochus, and the papacy, depending on which chapter of Daniel involved. In the 17th century the English Puritans interpreted their struggle in terms of God's army (themselves) battling the Antichrist (the pope) and his ally (the king), and the Fifth Monarchy Men took their name and ideal of government from Daniel 7.
As late as the 18th century no less a figure than Isaac Newton could still read Daniel as a coded prediction of the future, but already this approach was in decline. A few 17th century scholars had begun saying that Daniel referred only to Antiochus, and in the 19th century this and the 2nd century date of the book became the scholarly consensus. Nevertheless, the traditional "historicist" interpretation continues in popular culture, and conservative scholars continue in its defence.
For over two thousand years readers have speculated as to the meaning of the themes running through the Book of Daniel:
- The four kingdoms: In Daniel 2 Nebuchadnezzar dreams of a giant statue of four metals identified as symbolising kingdoms, and in Daniel 7 Daniel sees a vision of four beasts from the sea, again identified as kingdoms. In Daniel 8, in keeping with the theme by which kings and kingdoms are symbolised by "horns", Daniel sees a goat with a single horn replaced by four horns. Secondary symbols are involved with each: the statue is smashed by a mysterious stone which grows into a mountain, and the fourth beast has ten horns and an additional human-like horn, identified as a king. Further imagery includes Daniel 7's Son of Man (more accurately "one like a son of man), the "holy ones of the Most High," and the eternal Kingdom of God which will follow the four kingdoms and the "little horn."
- Chronological predictions: Daniel predicts several times the length of time that must elapse until the coming of the Kingdom of God. A prophecy of Jeremiah is reinterpreted so that "70 years" means "70 weeks of years", and the last half of the last "week" is defined as "a time, times, and half a time," then as 2,300 "evenings and mornings," with further numbers of days at the very end of the book.
- The "anointed one cut off": Daniel 9 makes two references to an "anointed one," which has had major implications for Christian eschatology. Daniel 9:25 says: "Until there is an anointed ruler will be seven weeks"; in the next verse Daniel 9:26 says: "After the sixty-two weeks the anointed one shall be cut off." Scholars take these as references to the high priest Joshua from the early Persian era and to the high priest Onias III, murdered in the 2nd century, but Christians have taken them both to refer to the death of Christ, which then provides a fixed point for calculating the time to the end of the world.
- The "abomination of desolation": This is mentioned in Daniel 8, 9 and 11. In the New testament this was taken to refer to the eschatological future and the destruction of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14), and later still it was interpreted as the Antichrist.
- Martydom and resurrection: Daniel 11 tells how the "wise" lay down their lives as martyrs at the end-time persecution for resurrection into the final kingdom. Daniel 3 (the story of the Fiery Furnace) and Daniel 5 (Daniel in the lions' den were read in this light, providing a prototype for Christian martyrdom and salvation through the centuries.
The prophecy of 2,300 days in Daniel 8:14 plays an important role in Seventh-day Adventist eschatology. The 2,300 days are interpreted as 2,300 actual years using the Day-year principle. According to the Adventist teaching, this period starts in unison with the Prophecy of Seventy Weeks in 457 BC and ends in 1844 AD. It was thought that the end of this period would bring the End of Days as advocated by the Millerite movement at the turn of the 19th century.
|Chapter||Parallel sequence of prophetic elements as understood by Historicists|
Clay & Iron
God's unending kingdom
left to no other people
|Daniel 7||Winged Lion||Lopsided Bear||Four headed /
|Iron toothed beast
|Son of man comes in clouds
Gets everlasting dominion
And gives it to saints.
|Daniel 8||Two-horned Ram
Four Winds (Greece)
A Master of Intrigue
|Cleansing of Sanctuary
Leads to -->
|(Kingdom of God)|
Most Adventist groups in the Millerite tradition hold similar beliefs about the Great Apostasy as do those of other Restorationist types of Christian faith. Some of these, most notably the Seventh-day Adventist Church, have traditionally held that the apostate church formed when Bishop of Rome began to dominate and brought heathen corruption and allowed pagan idol worship and beliefs to come in, and formed the Roman Catholic Church, which teaches others traditions over Scripture, and to rest from their work on Sunday, instead of Sabbath, which is not in keeping with Scripture.
Seventh-day Adventists teach that the Little Horn Power which as predicted rose after the breakup of the Roman Empire is the Papacy. In 533 A.D. Justinian, the emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, legally recognized the bishop (pope) of Rome as the head of all the Christian churches. Because of the Arian domination of some of the Roman Empire by the barbarian tribes, this authority could not be exercised by the bishop of Rome. Finally, in 538 A.D., Belisarius, one of Justinian's generals routed the Ostrogoths, the last of the barbarian kingdoms, from the city of Rome and the bishop of Rome could begin establishing his universal civil authority. So, by the military intervention of the Eastern Roman Empire, the bishop of Rome became all-powerful throughout the area of the old Roman Empire.
Like many reformation-era Protestant leaders, the writings of Adventist pioneer Ellen White speak against the Catholic Church as a fallen church and in preparation for a nefarious eschatological role as the antagonist against God's true church and that the pope is the Antichrist. Many Protestant reformers such as Martin Luther, John Knox, William Tyndale and others held similar beliefs about the Catholic Church and the papacy when they broke away from the Catholic Church during the reformation.
Ellen White writes,
- His word has given warning of the impending danger; let this be unheeded, and the Protestant world will learn what the purposes of Rome really are, only when it is too late to escape the snare. She is silently growing into power. Her doctrines are exerting their influence in legislative halls, in the churches, and in the hearts of men. She is piling up her lofty and massive structures in the secret recesses of which her former persecutions will be repeated. Stealthily and unsuspectedly she is strengthening her forces to further her own ends when the time shall come for her to strike. All that she desires is vantage ground, and this is already being given her. We shall soon see and shall feel what the purpose of the Roman element is. Whoever shall believe and obey the word of God will thereby incur reproach and persecution.
The Baha'i Faith interprets the prophecy of the 2300 days and the 70 weeks in the same manner as the Seventh-day Adventists, with the period ending in the year 1844. In Baha'i belief, 1844 marked the end of the old world and the start of the millennial period. This meant the end of the Islamic age, the end of the prophetic cycle of all religions, and the inauguration of the common era where the fulfillment of prophecies would occur for all religions. For the Baha'i, the promise of the return of God's Messenger was fulfilled in this year by the appearance of the Báb, followed 19 years later by Baha'u'llah.
Methodist theologian and historicist Adam Clarke proposed an alternative to the 1844 date as used by Seventh-day Adventists and followers of Bahá'í Faith. Clarke viewed Daniel 8 as a separate vision from Daniel 7. In his 1831 commentary on Daniel 8:14, he states that the 2,300-year period should be calculated from 334 BC, the year Alexander the Great began his conquest of the Persian Empire. His calculation ends in the year 1966, where he links to Daniel 7:25.
|Interpretations of the symbols of Daniel 8 by Biblical expositors from the 1st to 19th centuries|
- Eschatology: Concerning the "end-time". See Carroll, 2000, p.420.
- Bandstra 2008, p. 452.
- Bandstra 2008, p. 449.
- Aune 2010, p. 15-19.
- Collins 1984, p. 29,34-35.
- Collins 1984, p. 28.
- Redditt 2008, p. 176-177,180.
- Collins 1984, p. 87.
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- Crawford 2000, p. 73.
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- Carroll 2000, p. 420-421.
- Collins 1984, p. 86-87.
- Kratz 2001, p. 100.
- Towner 1984, p. 121.
- Knibb 2001, p. 18.
- Towner 1984, p. 115-116.
- Grabbe 2010, p. 6-10.
- Grabbe 2010, p. 16.
- Brettler 2010, p. 213.
- Towner 1984, p. 119.
- Hammer 1976, p. 85.
- Hill 2009, p. no pagination.
- Collins 1998, p. 104-105.
- Collins 1998, p. 105.
- Towner 1984, p. 117.
- Collins 2013, p. 85.
- Collins 2013, p. 86.
- Seow 2003, p. 125.
- Rowland 2007, p. 344.
- Lucas 2005, p. 156,158.
- Lucas 2005, p. 156.
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- Collins 2001, p. 1.
- Lucas 2005, p. 157.
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- Some Answered Questions by 'Abdu'l-Baha (Chapter 10)
- Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, CLXVI
- Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, XXV
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- After table in Froom 1950, pp. 456–7
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- After table in Froom 1948, pp. 528–9
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- After table in Froom 1946, pp. 744–5
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lists ten commentators of the 'Syrian Tradition' who identify the fourth beast of chapter 7 as Greece, the little horn as Antiochus, and – in the majority of instances – the "saints of the Most High" as Maccabean Jews.
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