WHY THE CRITICS ASSAIL THE BOOK OF DANIEL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-10-67 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas; and this Tijuana brass is announcing the grandest, greatest, most glorious fall program any church ever faced in the history of Christendom. I have had a deep intuitive persuasion that this year, this fall, God would do for us beyond anything He has ever done for any church since He blessed the seven churches in Asia [Revelation 1:11]. And today is a harbinger, a promise, of that glorious visitation from heaven.
For seventeen years and eight months, I preached through the Bible. I started at Genesis 1:1 and went clear to the last benediction in Revelation 22:22. And as I went through the Bible, I became slower and slower in the study. In the Old Testament, I went through rapidly; but as the days passed, I began to preach more and more sermons in the passage that was before me. I preached two years in Matthew, two years in Acts; I preached a solid year in the ninth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, and would still have been preaching there I suppose had I not felt that I was going to die before I got through the Bible. I preached two years in the Revelation. Now as I went through the Bible, and especially the Old Covenant, I felt a great interest and longing to go back to some of those books in the Old Testament and study them meticulously and fervently and deeply, and to preach through them, all through, every verse, every word, every syllable. I wanted to do that in the Book of Deuteronomy; I wanted to do it in the Psalms; I wanted to do it in Isaiah, and especially did I desire to do that in the Book of Daniel.
Well, as the days passed since the completion of preaching through the Bible, Mr. Zondervan of the Zondervan Publishing House in Grand Rapids, Michigan, asked me if I would not prepare and deliver a series of sermons on Daniel. And he said, “Any number that you preach, any number, we will publish them volume by volume by volume; however many sermons you deliver, we will publish them in the Zondervan Publishing House.” I took that as a sign from God, first in my heart, I very much wanted to preach through Daniel, to study it, to prepare these messages and to deliver them on Daniel; then when Mr. Zondervan asked me to do it, I took that as a confirmation from heaven that God would be pleased if I tried.
So I began the study. I thought I would start delivering the messages last fall, but I didn’t feel prepared. I put it off till the wintertime; then when the wintertime came, I put it off to the spring; then when the spring came, I put it off till last summer. And it is now that I feel somewhat ready to begin this study in the Book of Daniel. I hope, I could earnestly pray that you’ll be able to follow the series; it will be a long series. I pray you’ll be able to follow it every Sunday; if you’re not able to be here, that you can listen to the message on radio or on television. The title of the first message today is Why the Critics Assail the Book of Daniel. Then next Sunday the title of the sermon is Daniel in the Critic’s Den. And then the next Sunday is How the Critics Fare in the Fiery Furnace. Now, the message today is Why the Critics Assail the Book of Daniel.
Not in anywise as a text or as a passage that I shall expound, but just as an introductory word, Daniel 1:17: “And Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.” Now the subject: Why the Critics Assail the Book of Daniel. There is not a liberal theologian in the world, not one, that accepts the Book of Daniel; and most of the theologians of the world are liberal. There is not a liberal theologian in the world—and Dallas is full of them—there is not a liberal theologian in the world that accepts the Book of Daniel. They deny its authenticity and its integrity. They look upon the Book of Daniel as spurious, as a forgery; they avow that its contents are pure fiction. Why this vicious and unswerving, unwavering attack on the Book of Daniel? The answer is very simple, and we shall follow it through the message this morning. Why does the liberal theologian assail the Book of Daniel? Because it is his purpose to take out of the Bible all that is miraculous and all that is supernatural. It is their purpose to make of this Holy Book a human book like that produced by men in other faiths, in other philosophies, and in other religions.
And in order to implement that purpose, to destroy the supernatural and the miraculous in the Bible, they begin with the Book of Daniel for two reasons. First: Because they think that the Book of Daniel is the most vulnerable; it is the most easily attacked, and to them, destroyed. Second: no matter how the rationalist might explain away every other miracle in the Bible, as long as the Book of Daniel stands his skepticism becomes ridiculous and inane. The Book of Daniel must be destroyed if the miraculous and if the supernatural is taken out of the Word of God.
Now, I want to speak for a few minutes on prophecy in the Bible. First: prophecy runs through the Bible like a great gulf stream from shore to shore. To my amazement, one of the scholarly authors I read avowed that two-thirds of the Holy Scriptures are prophetic, either in type, symbol, or in outright prediction. And he further avowed that one-half of those prophecies are yet to be fulfilled. So the Bible is fundamentally and really a prophetic Book. Prophecy in the Bible is not incidental; it is foundational and primary and central!
Second: the Bible is unique; it is separate and apart in this; that it contains prophecy! The religious books of no other religions in the world have in them prophecy. And the reason for it is very plain and patent: if the human authors of these sacred books of other religions were to purpose to predict the future, their missed guesses, their miscalculations, their unfulfillments, their errors and their mistakes would make them appear grossly ignorant and inane. Only God knows the future; and no other religious sacred book in the earth purports to prophesy the future except the great Lord God through this Book that I hold in my hand. And, in no small measure do the Holy Scriptures use prophecy, prediction, as a foundation for the authority and inspiration and authenticity of their message. For example, the Lord Jesus said to His disciples, “And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe” [John 13:19].
No man knows the future; if you know it five minutes, I can make a millionaire out of you almost overnight. If you know what will happen five minutes ahead of the time, I can take you to the stock market, buy this stock, five minutes later sell it, or ten minutes later sell it; and you’ll be rich overnight. If you know the future five minutes, just a little while, just enough to buy the stock, see it run up, sell it, get this one, buy it, see it run up, sell it, buy that one, see it run up, sell it, just like that. There’s not any man in the earth who knows the future; it is only the prerogative of God to know the tomorrow. So, prediction, prophecy, is a foundational argument for the authenticity of the message that God delivers. And Jesus used it: “I am telling you,” He said to His disciples, “what is going to happen so that when it happens, you may be confirmed in the faith” [John 13:19].
Now, that same thing was used by Moses in the definition of a prophet. How do you know a true prophet and the word that he delivers, that it is from God? So Moses writes: “And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken” [Deuteronomy 18:21-22]. God’s not lying to us when He says thus-and-so, and that-and-so, and yonder-and-so. God is truth [John 14:6-7]; and God knows the future. And if this prophet who purports to be a prophet says God predicts so-and-so, and the thing falls to the ground, he’s not a prophet, for God doesn’t make mistakes. The prophet hath spoken it presumptuously when he predicts and it doesn’t come to pass. It is God that reveals the secret things. For example, Daniel stood before King Nebuchadnezzar and said, “O king, the great mighty God hath made known unto you the things that shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation is sure” [Daniel 2:45]. That is God. Prophecy is a manifestation of the truth, and the revelation, and the presence, and the purpose, and the plan of God, and only He can reveal it.
Now, a prophet and prophecy is twofold: it is hortative, it is sermonic, it is homiletical, it is exhortative, it is exhortation; prophecy is a man standing up to deliver a message. And prophecy is, second, also predictive. It is hortative: it is appealing to the people to love God and give their lives to the Lord; it is hortative. And it can be also predictive; that is, a prophet is a forth-teller, he is a pleader for God. And he can also be a foreteller, predicting things that God has revealed. The prophet has divine insight; he understands the events of the day, and he delivers God’s message in the hour. A prophet has divine insight. A prophet can also have divine foresight. God reveals to him the future. And the message the prophet delivered was not a deduction of human reasoning; but it was a revelation imparted to him by the Holy Spirit. As 2 Peter 1:21 avows, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” Now, in the likening of prophecy to a great river through the Bible, there are times when it broadens and when it deepens into veritable seas. And twice is that especially true: once in the Old Testament, in the Book of Daniel, and once in the New Testament, in the Apocalypse, the Revelation.
Now, how is it that it would be possible to attack prophecy? Here it is written on the page, clear, plain; and here in the after years, and the after years, and the after years, it is fulfilled. How could you attack a thing like that? It is said here plainly, written on the page; and here it is fulfilled in the after centuries. How do you get rid of a phenomenon like that? Well, it is easy to see how the critic who assails the Bible—he’s taking the supernatural out of the Word of God, he’s ridding the Holy Scriptures of the miraculous, he’s making it just like any other human book—it is easy to see how he gets rid of the miraculous in the Bible.
For example, the critic will say: “So the story reads,” he avows, “that Israel went through the Red Sea, and the seas parted” [Exodus 14:21-22]. “Actually,” the critic says, “it was not a Red Sea, like we know over there between Sinai and Egypt, it was a “Reed” Sea, R double-E D. It was a swamp, and they just waded through it, walked through it like any other army would do, nothing miraculous about it.” Same thing as they would say about the manna that God sent down from heaven to feed His children in the wilderness” [Exodus 16:14-15]. “There was no manna from heaven; they ate the oozings of a desert plant, and it was nutritious enough to keep them alive; nothing miraculous about it.” Just as they would say about Elijah on Mount Carmel when he prayed and God answered by fire from heaven [1 Kings 18:24-39]; the critic would say, “Nothing miraculous in it at all, it just happened to be that when Elijah got through praying a thunderbolt of lightening came down and struck the altar, that’s all.” And about the resurrection of Jesus [John 11:43-44]: “He never actually was raised from the dead; the disciples had hallucinations and visions, and they just thought they saw Him raised from the dead.” Same thing about the miraculous conversion of the apostle Paul [Acts 9:1-18] on the road to Damascus: “He didn’t actually see the Son of God, nor was there anything miraculous in what happened to him. He was hit by a sunstroke”; or as most of them say, “He had an epileptic fit.” Most of the critics think of Paul as being an epileptic.
So with all of the de-supernaturalizing of the Word of God; they take every miracle and they rationalize it away; and there’s nothing miraculous left. It’s just plain human cause and human effect. But how do you do that to prophecy? Here it is written on the page, and here it is fulfilled centuries later. How do you attack prophecy? Porphyry showed the way; and we’re going to get acquainted with Porphyry.
Porphyry was born in 233 AD in Tyre, Syria. He studied for a while under Origen, the greatest intellect among the church fathers, in Caesarea, from which fact they surmised that he might at one time have been a Christian. In any event, when he left Origen, the church father, the greatest intellect among them, he went to Rome and studied there under Plotinus, the world-famed Neo-Platonic philosopher. And Porphyry became a passionate disciple of his master; and he popularized the Neoplatonic philosophy throughout the Roman Empire. Porphyry was a pagan and a heathen; and he defended polytheism and the national gods and the worship of idols in the temples. But Porphyry, along with his fellow Neoplatonists, felt that the mortal enemy of Hellenic Greek speculative philosophy and of the national gods, the multiplicity of gods, he felt that the mortal enemy of speculative Greek philosophy and of polytheism was Christianity. So Porphyry took upon himself to write fifteen books that he entitled Against the Christians. Now Porphyry was one of the most distinguished scholars of all time. He had a marvelous gift in research in philosophical erudition. And in those fifteen books Porphyry attacked Christianity in a different way. Because of his ability for research and because of his vast learning, the attack of Porphyry against the Christian faith was made against the sacred books on which Christianity was founded. Porphyry attacked the Bible the Christians used; which in that time was mostly the Old Testament, the Septuagint. So rabid was Porphyry, and so vicious was his attack, that he became known as the most rabid and vicious of all of the enemies of the Christian faith.
Now in those fifteen books that he wrote against the documents, the sacred literature, the books that the Christian used, the Bible, naturally he came to Daniel; and it was against Daniel that he focused the main brunt of that attack. And this is the way that he did it: being learned, and scholarly, and erudite, and able to go into all the researches of the languages of the past, Porphyry said, this heathen pagan philosopher, said that there never was a Daniel, he never existed. There never was such a prophecy written, as it is purported to have been written in the exile in the sixth century BC, about 535 BC, but rather it is a forgery, it is a fiction, he said. And it was written in the time of the Maccabees, about 165 BC, hundreds of years after all of those things had already come to pass, and that the prophecy of Daniel is nothing other than a spurious writing that some unknown Jew took upon himself, and made it as though he had written it four hundred years before and outlined all of those periods of history that followed after. This was the attack of Porphyry, the heathen pagan philosopher, against the Christian faith.
Now, it was an insult, it was an insult to the Christian community. And in 448 AD Emperor Theodosius II publicly burned the works of Porphyry, and thereafter it had no effect upon the mainstream of Christianity for centuries and centuries and centuries; that is until, until the birth of German rationalism, and until there came into the world the phenomenon of the school of the higher critics who took the Bible and sought to make of it just another human book.
Now Satan has no new tricks; he has no new approaches, he has no new ideas. What Satan does today is the same thing he did yesterday; it’s the same thing he did in the beginning when he started to destroy the Adamic race. Satan has no tricks that are new; it’s the same thing over and over again. Nor is he able to attack the Christian faith in any new way; he just repeats the same thing over and over again. There is not a modern attack against the Christian faith that was not made by Celsus in 150 AD. This modern day of science, everything that’s said against Christian faith, was said by Celsus, scientific and all, in 150 AD. It is the same thing with the higher critic today. What he did was he went back to that heathen, pagan philosopher Porphyry in his vicious and merciless attack against Christ and the Christians and the books of the Christians. And the higher critic merely mouths and re-mouths and says and re-says those same things that Porphyry said in 268 AD. And to my amazement at least, the attack of Porphyry against Christianity and against the Book of Daniel has been received, and accepted, and authenticated, and believed by every liberal Christian theologian in the world! There is no exception; there is not a liberal theologian in the world but that believes exactly what the heathen, pagan Porphyry said about the Book of Daniel. You wouldn’t think that a merciless and cruel enemy of Christianity, who sought to destroy and uproot it, you wouldn’t think that he would be a paragon of modern Christian theologians. Such is the depravity of this present theological world.
“Now pastor, why should we be concerned?” For these reasons. First: because Jesus called Daniel a prophet. That’s why I had you read the passage in the great apocalyptic discourse of our Lord in Matthew 24. Jesus did not say, “Daniel the deceiver.” Jesus did not say, “Daniel the forgerer.” Jesus did not say, “Daniel the spurious writer.” But Jesus said, “Daniel the prophet” [Matthew 24:15]. Jesus said Daniel was a prophet; that’s the first thing. Second: the prophecies of Daniel are the basic foundational introduction to the Christian religion and the Christian faith. The prophecies of Daniel are the introduction to all prophecy in the New Testament, and most especially to the Apocalypse. The Revelation in the New Testament is nothing other than an expanding and an expatiation upon the prophecies of Daniel. Daniel is foundational to the Christian faith as we know it and believe it, and as it is written here in the Book.
I copied, for example, out of Sir Isaac Newton, one of the great scientists of all time, who discovered the law of gravity; he wrote a book entitled Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of Saint John. And on page ten of that book, Sir Isaac Newton writes, and I quote, “Whosoever rejects the prophecies of Daniel does as much as if he undermined the Christian religion, which, so to speak, is founded on Daniel’s prophecies of Christ.”
I repeat, first, Jesus said Daniel was a prophet [Matthew 24:15]; second, the prophecies of Daniel are foundational to the New Testament, to the Christian faith, to the revealed religion of our Lord. Third: the Book of Daniel is a classic in itself. Read it, read it again, reread it, and you will feel in it the voice and the veritable presence of God. The attack on Daniel comes out and is founded on the exigencies and the necessities of rational criticism; that’s where it is born.
They can do away with the miracles in the Bible by their natural humanistic explanations that I have referred to: no fire from God on Elijah’s altar, just happened to be a bolt of lightning [1 Kings 18:24-39]; no resurrection of Jesus from the dead, they were hallucinations of the disciples [Matthew 28:1-7]; no conversion of the apostle Paul, he was an epileptic [Acts 9:1-18]. They can do away by rationalizing the miracles. No matter how you might date the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, no liberal theologian in the world would ever accept it as being messianic in its description of the Lord Christ [Isaiah 53:1-12]. They can humanize and do away with every miracle in the Bible, but they cannot destroy the supernatural and the miraculous in the Bible as long as Daniel stands. For if Daniel said these things in the sixth century BC and they came to pass in the centuries thereafter, we have here an insurmountable evidence of the intervention and the revelation of Almighty God. So they must destroy Daniel, and that’s why the farrago of attack against that mighty prophet.
Third—I have said why it concerns us: one, Jesus called Daniel a prophet; second, the prophecies of Daniel are foundational to all of the prophecies of the New Testament. Third: I have said Daniel has in it God theopneustos, the God-breathed presence, and to read it is to feel God speaking, and that the attack against it lies in the necessities, in the exigencies of rational criticism; they have to destroy it to take the supernatural out of the Bible.
Fourth, and last: when you destroy prophecy, you destroy the Christian religion as we know it, and as it is revealed in the Book. When you make this Book, when you lower this Book to the common denominator of any other human book, you destroy Christianity as God has revealed it to us. For you see, the Christian faith is a self-revelation of God, a self-disclosure of God [John 1:18, 14:9]. Job cried saying, “No man by searching can find God” [Job 11:7]. You can look through your telescope forever, you’d never know God. You can look through your microscope forever, you’d never know God, you’d never know His name, you’d never know His redemptive love. You can study scientific manuals forever, you’d never know God. The only way we can ever know God is through a self-disclosure, a self-revelation of the Lord. And this Bible is not a man searching for God; this Bible is God searching for man! It is the Lord God reaching down from heaven to reveal Himself in love, and grace, and mercy through Jesus Christ to a lost Adamic race. And when we take the supernatural out of the Bible, and when we take the miraculous out of the Bible, and when we take the prophetic out of the Bible, and when we take God’s self-disclosure out of the Bible, you have nothing left but another system of philosophy that may not be any better than those that have died in the centuries past.
It is fundamental and foundational to the Christian faith: prophecy, and the self-revelation of God [Romans 10:17]. And it was on that great foundation—that God spake, and men heard, and these things came to pass—that those first apostles stood in the power of the Holy Spirit and delivered the message of the Son of God [1 John 1:1-3].
I need not remind you, you know the Bible that in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Luke, as the two went on the way to Emmaus [Luke 24:13-26], and it says, “And the Lord Jesus, beginning at Moses and all of the prophets, expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” [Luke 24:27]. That’s God’s way of authenticating the truth of the Christian message.
I need not remind you in the tenth chapter of the Book of Acts, when Simon Peter stood in the household of Cornelius, that Simon Peter said, “And to Him, to the Lord Jesus Christ, give all the prophets witness, that through faith in His name we might receive remission of sins” [Acts 10:43].
I need not remind you of the twenty-sixth chapter of the Book of Acts, when Paul stood in the court in Caesarea before King Herod Agrippa II and said to the king, “Believest thou the prophets? O king, I know thou believest” [Acts 26:27].
And that wonderful verse I quoted twice already, 2 Peter 1:21: “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” And as the great revelator in the Apocalypse wrote, “For the Spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus” [Revelation 19:10]. Every prophet took his stand and said, “This is He. Look, He is coming. This is He. Look, He is coming. This is He. Look, He is coming!” Moses, Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Malachi, “Look, He is coming!” “To Him give all of the prophets witness” [Acts 10:43]. And they spake not by human deduction or human reasoning, but their message was imparted by the Holy Spirit of God. And the witness of the prophets is the great authentication of the Christian faith.
And what God hath done in these centuries past in bringing His Word to fulfillment, God will yet do in that other half of the prophetic Word that is yet to be fulfilled. And these days, when we gather in this holy place and open that Book, we shall read together what God hath shown of the today, and of the tomorrow, and of the glorious consummation. That’s Daniel’s great sweep of the ages; he’s the prophet of the times of the Gentiles, and he sweeps to that marvelous consummation when the Lord Messiah, the Ancient of Days, shall come, and the kingdoms of the world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ; and He reigns forever and ever, amen and amen [Revelation 11:15].
We must close. May God bless us as we study, and as we begin, and as we sit at the feet of the Holy Spirit and let Him teach us these marvelous revelations and disclosures of the ages. Now we must sing our song, and while we sing it, you to give your heart to the Lord; you to accept the Lord as your Savior; a family you, coming into the church; a couple you, or just one somebody you, while we sing this song of appeal, into that aisle and down to the front, make it now, come this morning. There’s a stairway on either side at the front and the back, and there’s time and to spare; come. The throng in this balcony, come, and welcome. In the press of people on this lower floor, into that aisle and down here, stand by me. “Here I am, pastor, and here I come. I choose today, and here I am.” Make it now, come now. On the first note of the first stanza come; do it. While we stand and while we sing.