“The far more serious ground of alarm is that, if the horizon of Daniel’s Messianic kingdom was merely Maccabaic or temporal, it suggests a similar construction for kindred passages in the Gospels, and raises the question how far the horizon of these latter was eternal- Considering the vast number of features in the Gospels and the Apocalypse, which seem to identify Christ’s second coming with the fall of Jerusalem, and to shut up the completion of the promises within the range of a renovation of society, or the establishment of better sentiments and reformed institutions in the world, have we any longer a Gospel to preach, not merely of “the coming age,” but of life eternal ? Does the whole story resolve itself into the Idea bursting its mould, and developing a new one; the thought of God fulfilling itself in many ways ? I can neither think such questions trivial, nor follow those who resolve them in a merely temporal sense.” (Rowland Williams, p. lix)
“To the first of these theories it has been objected that the second advent of Christ was not so much the destruction of Jerusalem, as an event connected with that destruction ; and that the sublime description of his coming with all the holy angels with him in power and great glory scarcely finds an adequate fulfilment in the scenes, terrible as they were, which accompanied the overthrow of the Jewish state and polity.
It must be conceded that the objection is not without weight; and that after making due allowance for Oriental phraseology and rhetorical figure, something more was intended by the coming itself and the unearthly scenes with which it is said to be accompanied, than the destruction of Jerusalem and the subsequent establishment of Christianity. However momentous the ruin of their city might have been to the Jews, it could not have materially affected the Gentile converts to whom the warnings relating to the advent were principally addressed ; and it is evident that S. Barnabas, in the epistle ascribed to him, and such of the apostolical fathers as wrote after the event, did not see in the destruction of Jerusalem the coming of Christ in his kingdom.”
“No reasonable ground appears to us for doubt, in the face of such testimonies, that there was an original Daniel, whose remarkable life and superlative wisdom laid the foundation of the present narrative. But an acceptance of the reality of Daniel’s personal existence does not involve any conclusion as to the authorship and age of the book in which, for the most part, his history is recorded. Evidence of a powerful, and as we think, unanswerable kind, points to a later period than that of the Babylonian Captivity as the time of authorship, and brings down the date of the book in its present state to an age subsequent to the events therein described. This, while it does not invalidate the general history, is likely to have some influence upon the way in which its particulars may be interpreted. It transforms the book from a declaration by anticipation of things yet future into an historical relation of past occurrences.1 It excludes the predictive element altogether. It assigns limits for its interpretation beyond which criticism dares not pass, and demands that its meaning shall be sought in the past, and not in the future. As a preliminary, then, of the utmost importance towards a correct interpretation, it will be necessary to state the arguments on which we build the theory of a late authorship for the book of Daniel. If these shall be found trustworthy we may reject schemes of interpretation which have repeatedly been found fallacious, for those pointed out by criticism and the necessities of the case. And in so doing we shall be guilty neither of rashness nor of a want of due regard to the Sacred Record. ” To suppose that we can serve God’s cause by shutting our eyes to the light; much more to suppose that we can serve it by asserting that we see what we do not see, because we wish to see it, is simply intellectual atheism.” (pp. 3,4)
“A satisfactory proof, that a Judaic kingdom, as of the Asmonean princes, however magnified in presentiment, was more intended by the writer than such a spiritual and eternal kingdom as God set up by Christ in the hearts of faithful men, may be found in chap. ii. 44, ” the kingdom shall not be left to another people.” This is the stumbling-block of national Messianism, which Christ destroyed by inverting it, and by disappointing the expectation of which He in part, if not principally, shocked the feelings of his nation (Luke iv. 28 ; Luke iii. 8; Acts xxii. 22).”
“We are not ashamed to confess our inability to reconcile the proximity under which these phenomena are announced with the actual course of events. We seem to be painfully conscious of the existence of a serious discrepancy between the latter-day anticipations of the New Testament and what might be considered their due and legitimate fulfillment: a conviction arising not from a superficial or deceitful handling of the sacred text, but from a reverent and careful examination, extended over many years, of this particular question ; and we think it the part of exegetical consistency to endeavour to grapple with it, before we stereotype with too great confidence traditional opinions which appear unable to stand the test of searching and out-spoken criticism. ” (p. 288)
“The non-fulfillment, however, of these Messianic expectations within the time appointed for their accomplishment need not detract from the perfection of that inimitable teaching whose “remedial, and reconciling, and sanctifying, and self-sacrificing, and sorrow-assuaging, and heaven-aspiring words were addressed to the universal human heart;” neither should it be suffered to weaken the obligation, or impair the authority, of a single moral precept which commends itself by its intrinsic worth as the perfect law of love and liberty to mankind.” (p. 295)
WHAT OTHERS HAVE SAID
The Theological Review (1866)
His conclusions, which substantially agree with those arrived at in the articles referred to, may be briefly stated in his own words (p. 29):
“To recapitulate—1. The diversity of languages in which the book is written ; 2. The place it occupies in the Hebrew Canon ; 3. The use of Greek words ; 4. The style of the book differing from the writings of the captivity; 5. The historical character of the book extending to, but not beyond, the age of Antiochus Epiphanes; 6. The seemingly marvellous narrations and historical inaccuracies which have aroused suspicion from the earliest times;—are so many distinct and strong reasons for affixing a date later than that usually assigned to the book of Daniel . …. It may not perhaps be unreasonable to infer that it is partly a compilation and re-arrangement of more ancient annals, and partly the original composition of some learned and pious Jew, who lived at a period subsequent to the scenes it describes—probably whilst his countrymen were still engaged in their patriotic struggle against Demetrius, and following up the advantages they had won from Antiochus Epiphanes. At this juncture, when the issue of the contest hung doubtful in the balance, the writer of this remarkable book throws the weight of prophetic influence into the scale, and by recounting the heroic endurance of the sainted martyrs of their race, oracularly animates the holy people to perseverance in the strife. With this view he avails himself of the prestige of a character celebrated in Jewish story, and enunciates his historico-prophetic visions under the name and authority of Daniel.”
Mr. Desprez’s book, both in the moderation of its tone and the scientific character of its procedure, contrasts most favourably with Dr. Pusey’s unhappy work on the same subject, which nevertheless is being rapidly bought by students of orthodox theology—an evil omen for the prospects of sound Biblical criticism in England ! We observe with pleasure that Mr. Desprez is about to publish a similar work on ” John, or the Apocalypse of the New Testament,” and shall await its issue with interest.” (The Theological Review, Vol. III, Numbers 12-15, p. 309-310)
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