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How the Visions and Incidents Found in Daniel Would Encourage the Jews to Remain Steadfast in Following the Covenant

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Daniel, a book in the Old Testament of the Bible, is listed with the Major Prophets by Christians and with the Writings (Ketuvim) by the Jews. It comprises six stories of the trials of Daniel and his companions while they served at the court of Babylon, as well as four visions of the end of the world. The book takes its name, not from the author, who is actually unknown, but from its hero, a 6th century Jew

Internal evidence indicates that the book was written during the Maccabean wars (167 - 164 BC). Daniel is a form of Apocalyptic Literature rather than prophecy; it is cast in symbolic imagery about the end of time and is attributed to an earlier authority. The book was intended to encourage Jews in the face of religious persecution by the Hellenistic kingdom of the Seleucids and their Jewish sympathizers. Daniel contains the only certain Old Testament reference to bodily Resurrection, presents a form of the Son of Man tradition influential in the Gospel traditions about Jesus Christ, and was a primary source for the visions of the New Testament Book of Revelation.

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Daniel, the main character from whom this book gets its name, was probably only a teenager when he arrived in Babylon in 605 B.C. The Hebrew words used to describe him, the internal evidence of chapter 1, and the length of his ministry, seem to make this clear. He continued in office as a public servant at least until 538 B.C. (1:21), and as a prophet at least until 536 B.C. (10:1). Thus the record of his ministry spans 70 years, the entire duration of the Babylonian Captivity. He probably lived to be at least 85 years old and perhaps older. A second major revelation of the Book of Daniel is God's sovereignty in the future. He has shown us that He is sovereign over the past in history, and now He asks us to believe that He is sovereign over the future in prophecy. The major subjects of prophecy in this book are three. The first general subject of prophecy in Daniel is humanity in general. He told us how He would direct the affairs of Gentile world powers in the future. He did this by comparing nations to the parts of a man's statue, and to various beasts. What He showed Daniel about Gentile world powers under the man's statue (ch. 2) revealed their external manifestations primarily: their relative power and glory. What He showed Daniel about them under the figures of wild animals (chs. 7 and 8) revealed their internal character primarily: their haughtiness, brutality, aggressiveness, vileness, etc. Note that these were all wild animals and birds of prey, symbolizing their hostility toward one another. The second general subject of prophecy in Daniel is the Israelites

This is a particular element within humanity, namely: Israel. God also told us how He would direct the affairs of His chosen people in the future. Essentially He will do this in two stages, both of which were future from Daniel's perspective in history, but only one of which is future from our perspective. The first stage, or near future, involved Israel's affairs culminating in a great persecution under a Greek ruler: Antiochus Epiphanes (9:23-26; 11:2-35). This persecution happened in the second century B.C. The second stage, or far future, involved Israel's affairs culminating in a greater persecution under a Roman (Roman-like?) ruler: the Antichrist (9:27; 11:36-45). This would happen in the far future. Daniel struggled to understand this revelation because these two antagonists were both future from his perspective. God did not specify that they would be separate individuals. We can understand this revelation more easily than Daniel could, because one antagonist has appeared and the other has not yet appeared. Similarly, the Old Testament prophets struggled to understand God's revelation about the two advents of Christ (Isa. 61:1-2). From our perspective, we now understand that He had always predicted two advents of Messiah, and that we live between them. The third general subject of prophecy in Daniel is God Himself. It is God's sovereign control over time and space that He stressed in the Book of Daniel. However, two sub-revelations help us appreciate Yahweh's sovereignty, namely: His wisdom, and His power.

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In the New Testament, the reproaches addressed to Jews are not as frequent or as virulent as the accusations against Jews in the Law and the Prophets. Therefore, they no longer serve as a basis for anti-Jewish sentiment. To use them for this purpose is contrary to the whole tenor of the New Testament. Real anti-Jewish feeling, that is, an attitude of contempt, hostility and persecution of the Jews as Jews, is not found in any New Testament text and is incompatible with its teaching. What is found are reproaches addressed to certain categories of Jews for religious reasons, as well as polemical texts to defend the Christian apostolate against Jews who oppose it. The fact that the New Testament is essentially a proclamation of the fulfilment of God's plan in Jesus Christ, puts it in serious disagreement with the vast majority of the Jewish people who do not accept this fulfilment. The New Testament then expresses at one and the same time its attachment to Old Testament revelation and its disagreement with the Synagogue. This discord is not to be taken as “anti-Jewish sentiment”, for it is disagreement at the level of faith, the source of religious controversy between two human groups that take their point of departure from the same Old Testament faith basis, but are in disagreement on how to conceive the final development of that faith. Although profound, such disagreement in no way implies reciprocal hostility. The example of Paul in Rm 9-11 shows that, on the contrary, an attitude of respect, esteem and love for the Jewish people is the only truly Christian attitude in a situation which is mysteriously part of the beneficent and positive plan of God. Dialogue is possible, since Jews and Christians share a rich common patrimony that unites them. It is greatly to be desired that prejudice and misunderstanding be gradually eliminated on both sides, in favour of a better understanding of the patrimony they share and to strengthen the links that bind them (Sabbath: Gn 2:1-3)

But it must be admitted that many of these passages are capable of providing a pretext for anti-Jewish sentiment and have in fact been used in this way. To avoid mistakes of this kind, it must be kept in mind that the New Testament polemical texts, even those expressed in general terms, have to do with concrete historical contexts and are never meant to be applied to Jews of all times and places merely because they are Jews. The tendency to speak in general terms, to accentuate the adversaries' negative side, and to pass over the positive in silence, failure to consider their motivations and their ultimate good faith, these are characteristics of all polemical language throughout antiquity, and are no less evident in Judaism and primitive Christianity against all kinds of dissidents (Damascus Document 6:19; 19:33-34).

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In brief, there are many lessons in this passage

Humility, repentance, asking for mercy, appealing to God's own interests, reputation, and glory. But the one that strikes me especially from this passage is that, as an intercessor, I cannot just pray for another. When praying for my own nation, people, or church, I must identify with their sins and confess them as mine. Taking on the sins of another as a mediator -- that is the role of an intercessor, and of Christ our Lord.The new Persian rulers wanted the prayers of their conquered peoples, and so cooperated with the return and rebuilding process. You may find that a chronology of this period will help you make sense out of some unfamiliar history.

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Sabbath: Gn 2:1-3

Damascus Document 6:19; 19:33-34

Discourse of John Paul II in the synagogue of Rome, 13-4-1986: AAS 78 (1986) 1120

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