Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Introduction to the Book of Daniel: The following information comes from Lawrence Boadt’s Reading the Old Testament (Paulist Press, NY, 1984. The text claims to take place in 6th c. BC but there are mistakes in identifying king’s names. The consensus of scholars is that the author is probably from the 2nd c. BC, but that he “creates a character of long ago and puts into his mouth as predictions all the important events that have already happened right up to the author’s own time. . .” (509).
Importance of the book: In Christian circles, it resonated especially references to the “Son of Man” and the apocalyptic vision. In it we see the first explicit teaching about a “divine promise that the just person will rise after death to a life of happiness with God” (511). See 12:2 - It projects a coming kingdom of God that will be brought about by a heavenly yet human figure, the Son of Man.” (511), This figure differs from the Messiah who would be an anointed Davidic king (Isaiah 7-11, Ezekiel 33-48, and Zechariah). The early Church took it to mean Jesus was the eschatological savior whose victory would come only after his own death and resurrection.
Daniel (chapters 7-12) represents a new type of literature for Israel. It continues the work of prophecy in a new form - obscure and symbol-driven. Here God is the master of events and has a plan revealed through special people or visions – it did not see reform coming from “human conversion” but rather from direct intervention in power for the good and upright.
“Apokalypsis” means uncovering or revelation. Apocalyptic literature expresses the hopes of minorities (sects) in that they differed from the official story that stressed living in the world according to the Law. These sects despaired that the ideal Davidic restoration and restoration could be achieved in the world. They suffered active persecution. They used famous ancient leaders to express these hopes – they are “authorities” to be trusted instead of the present priestly leaders. The revelation is secret and must be kept secret. Prophetic context conveyed authority. Real authors are anonymous. They are pessimistic about man’s ability to make positive change but very optimistic about God power and intention to do what must be done to bring justice and faithfulness to this world. Dualism is common and final struggle at the end. Confidence is placed in divine intervention. Vision is cosmic. There are intermediary beings like demons and angels and there is hope in a resurrection of the dead and establishment of a new kingdom either in heaven or on earth. God will reign over the just and the wicked will perish.
Daniel 1 – The Lord delivers Jerusalem into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar during the reign of Jehoiachim. Jehoiachim, son of King Josiah was born Eliakim but the Babylonians changed his name. He had been installed as king of Judah by Egypt’s Pharaoh Necho after his brother Jehoahaz refused to pay a tribute to Egypt.
The chief eunuch of the Babylonian king selects a number of promising boys from among the captives to train for service; Daniel is one of these young men. The boys are given Chaldean names. Daniel was called Balteshazzar; Hananiah was called Shadrach; Mishael called Meshach and Azariah called Abednego.
Daniel uses his wits to convince the king’s attendant not to force unclean foods on them. “God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom. And God gave Daniel the special ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams” (1:17).
Daniel and his friends become favorites of the king and remain in his service until the Persians take over with King Cyrus.
From Leadings: A Catholic’s Journey Through Quakerism -
“What Did I Say?”
But among my other friends, especially those who were or had been Catholic, a sense of bafflement typically greeted my announcement that I was contemplating a return. How could I reconcile the antithetical approaches each took to worship and church order—the extravagant “outwardness” of Catholic religiosity with the utter inwardness of Friends; the authoritarian, hierarchical order of the Catholic Church versus the democratic and egalitarian order that reigned among Friends? Others wondered how I could possibly consider going back to a church that was so “antiwoman” and so “out of touch” with the needs of our time—population control, the need for changes in our sexual mores, and so on. One friend accused me of going back just for the security Catholic authoritarianism offered. My husband felt I was romanticizing the alleged “unity” the church had had in the early days and being completely unrealistic in thinking that it might ever attain such unity on this earth. None of this mattered in the end. God just wanted me to go back. I was sure.
I did not go back because I thought the Church had everything right. I did not go back because I thought I would be completely satisfied with the Christian community I found there or the degree of faithfulness I would find among Catholics at large. I went back because I believed God wanted me to go back, and as a Friend I would have proved unfaithful had I failed to obey his voice.