Why the Critics Assail Daniel
September 10th, 1967 @ 8:15 AM
WHY THE CRITICS ASSAIL THE BOOK OF DANIEL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-10-67 8:15 a.m.
Now the title of the sermon this morning is Why the Critics Assail the Book of Daniel. And the title of the sermon next Sunday will be Daniel in the Critic’s Den. And the title of the sermon the following Sunday will be How the Critics Fare in the Fiery Furnace. Now the sermon today, the first one, the beginning one, the introductory one: Why the Critics Assail the Book of Daniel.
In the seventeenth verse – and this is no text, it will not be expounded, it is just reading it as a little introductory background – in the first chapter of Daniel verse 17, "And Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams" [Daniel 1:17].
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. They all look upon it, without exception, they all look upon it as a spurious forgery and a fraud. They deny its authenticity, and its inspiration, and its authority. I repeat: there is not a liberal theologian in the world, not one, that accepts the Book of Daniel; they all look upon it as a forgery and a fraud. Now why this vicious and unwavering attack on the Book of Daniel? The answer lies in this. It is the purpose of the rationalist to take out of the Bible the supernatural and the miraculous. It is their purpose to reduce the Bible to the common denominator of any other human book. But that would be impossible, to take the supernatural out of the Bible, and the miraculous out of the Bible, and to reduce it to the common denominator of any other human book, that would be impossible unless something is done about the Book of Daniel. So when the critic assails the inspiration of the Word of God, and the miraculous supernatural in the Word of God, he begins with the Book of Daniel, and that for two reasons: first, because he thinks it is the most vulnerable, it is the most easy to attack; and second, as I have said, no matter how a critic might deny or explain the miracles in the Bible, as long as the Book of Daniel stands, his case is futile and fruitless. Daniel must be destroyed if the miraculous and the supernatural in the Bible is denied.
Now I want to speak for a few minutes about prophecy in the Bible, in the Word of God. First, prophecy is not incidental to this Book, this Holy Bible; prophecy is woven into the very warp and woof of God’s Holy Scriptures. Prophecy is like a great Gulf Stream that moves from shore to shore through the entire Word of God. One of the authors that I studied said, and this is an amazing thing for a scholar to say – he said, "Two-thirds of the Bible is prophecy, either in type or symbol or in prediction." And then he added, "And one-half of those prophecies have yet to be fulfilled." That’s the first thing to say about it: the Bible, from beginning to end, is mostly prophecy. Second thing: the Bible is unique in this. There is no other religious book in the world that contains prophecy. The reason is very simple. Had their human authors tried to prophesy, their misguesses and their miscalculations, and their unfulfillments, and their errors, and their mistakes, would have made them look ludicrous and ridiculous. The only sacred book in the world that has prophecy is the Bible, the Word of God. Now in no small part does the Bible found its authority and its authenticity and its inspiration on prophecy. For example, the Lord Jesus said, "And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe" [John 14:29]. Jesus is saying, "I am telling you these things that are going to happen so that when they happen you might be assured that I am the Messiah, the Christ, and I deliver the Word of God" [John 13:19]. Now look at Moses as he spake of the definition of a prophet:
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; but that prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.
A true prophet of God in delivering his message, God says, it will come to pass. And that is the way God says you can know a true prophet. Well, these men who speak in other religions, and who write sacred books in other religions dare not prophesy, because they are human and do not know the future. And had they tried to write prophecies it would have been of all things inane and ridiculous. But God knows the future; and when God speaks to one of His prophets about what is coming to pass, God says you can tell a true prophet by this fact, that it will come to pass [Deuteronomy 18:21-22]. God knows the future. Even as Daniel said to Nebuchadnezzar, "O thou great king, the Almighty God hath revealed unto thee these things that shall surely come to pass" [Daniel 2:45].
Now prophecy is twofold, it is two kinds: prophecy is hortative, and it is predictive. The prophet had insight and foresight. The prophet was a forth-teller, he was a preacher, he delivered a sermon, he exhorted the people; but the prophet was also somebody who foretold, who predicted things in the future. And the message of the prophet was not a deduction of human reason, but it was a message imparted to him by the Holy Spirit. Even as Peter wrote in 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."
Now when we speak of prophecy as being a great river running through the Bible, there are times when it spreads out and when it deepens into veritable seas. And two instances of that is found first in Daniel, and second in the Revelation.
Now we shall address ourselves to the critics’ attack against the Book of Daniel. How could you attack prophecy? How would you do it? How would you go about it? Here it is written in the page of the Bible, and here in the centuries and the years that followed after it is fulfilled. How would you attack that? How would you assail it? Now it is easy to see how the critic can assail the miracles in the Bible. For example, when the Bible says that the children of Israel went through the Red Sea [Exodus 14:21-22], why, the critic says, "That was not the Red Sea as you have over there between Sinai and Egypt. That was the Reed, that was the Reed Sea – it was just a shallow swamp. And they went through it, just like any other army could go through a swamp."
The critic will say about manna, the bread that came from heaven that God gave the children of Israel to eat in the wilderness [Exodus 16:14-15], the critic will say, "It was not manna, a miraculous thing from heaven; it was just the oozings of a desert plant. And being nutritious, they were able to eat it."
The critic would say of that marvelous answer by fire from heaven when Elijah prayed on Mount Carmel [1 Kings 18:24-39], the critic would say, "There was nothing miraculous in it at all; it just happened to be at that particular moment a bolt of lightening came down out of heaven before it rained."
And the critic would say, "Jesus did not really rise from the dead. His disciples had hallucinations and visions; and they just thought that He rose from the dead and that they saw Him."
And the critic will say – about the glorious conversion of the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus [Acts 9:1-6] – they will say, "He did not actually see Christ; he had a sun stroke"; or as most of them say, "He had an epileptic fit." Most of the critics think that Paul was afflicted with epilepsy.
Now I can understand that, as you can, easily. To take a miracle in the Bible and to rationalize it away, I can understand. But how do you take prophecy and take that out of the Word of God? For here it is written on the page, and here it is fulfilled centuries, maybe, later. Now how do you attack that? Well, Porphyry showed us the way; and I want to introduce you to Porphyry.
Porphyry was born in 233 AD. And he studied – he was born in Tyre in Syria in 233 AD – and he studied for a while under Origen, the greatest of the church fathers, in Caesarea from whence it is supposed that at one time Porphyry was a Christian. Now Porphyry left Caesarea and Origen and went to Rome, and studied – from 263 to 268 – studied five to six years, under Plotinus, who was the world’s greatest Neoplatonic philosopher. And as Porphyry studied under Plotinus, he became a passionate disciple of his master, and he popularized the teachings of Neoplatonism in the Roman Empire.
Now in the Neoplatonic system, Porphyry defended polytheism, and the multiplicity of gods and the national religions, and the Hellenic Greek speculative philosophical system. And as he did that, he felt, along with his fellow Neoplatonists, that the greatest enemy of Neoplatonic philosophy was Christianity. Now Porphyry was one of the greatest scholars and one of the most gifted students of all time. So Porphyry felt called upon to oppose and to attack Christianity. And in that dedication Porphyry wrote fifteen books that he entitled Against the Christians.
Now because he was a marvelous philosophical and scholastic researcher, and a gifted and talented student, he made his attack – as he wrote those fifteen books against the Christians, he made his attack – against the sacred books that the Christians used, against the Bible. So, in those books that he wrote in attacking Christianity and in attacking the sacred books of the Christians, Daniel came under fire. And he was the first one who took the Book of Daniel, and with great scholastic learnedness and in deep research going back and back, Porphyry came up with the explanation that Daniel is not prophecy at all; it was not written by Daniel, it was not written in the sixth century, in about 535 BC as it is supposed to be; it was not written in the exile, but that Daniel was a spurious forgery, and that its contents are pure fiction, and that it was written in the days of the Maccabees, about 168 BC, over four hundred years after it was purported to have been written; and that its prophecies are not prophecies at all, but that all of the events had already happened and that the spurious forgerer took the name of Daniel and made as though he were writing four hundred years before.
Now such a thing as that, such an attack as that, was an insult to the Christian faith; so in 448 AD Emperor Theodosius II publicly burned the works of Porphyry; and for hundreds and hundreds of years thereafter nothing ever came out of Porphyry’s attack, it never affected the mainstream of Christianity, until, until the birth of German rationalistic criticism in the last century. An when the German rational critic began to attack the Bible and to take the supernatural and the miraculous out of the Word of God, his attack centered in the Book of Daniel; and what he did was he went back to the days of the Neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry, and repeated the words of Porphyry in his attack against the Christian faith.
Now Satan has no tricks, he has not new ideas; he’s been doing the same thing ever since the beginning of the creation, since the garden of Eden [Genesis 2:8-3:24]. Just like the attacks against the Christian faith itself, there’s not a modern attack against Christ or the Christian faith that Celsus did not write and deliver in 150 AD. That’s one of the most amazing things to me in this earth! There are no new attacks against the Christian faith; everything that is said, scientific or otherwise, against the revelation of God and God’s Christ and God’s Book was said by Celsus in 150 AD, a hundred fifty years after Jesus Christ lived and died.
The same thing about the attack against Daniel; there are no new words, there are no new tricks, there are no new presentations. What the rationalist critic did was to go back to what Porphyry, the heathen, pagan, Neoplatonic philosopher said in 265 BC. And he just parroted what Porphyry said centuries ago. And to the amazement, to me, to the amazement as I look at the scholastic and academic world, to the amazement to me it is this: that without exception, every liberal theologian in the world today, without exception, believes what Porphyry said about the Book of Daniel; that it is a spurious forgery, that it is not prophecy, but it is history made as though it were in the prophetic mold delivered four hundred years before, when actually it is pure unadulterated fiction.
Well, how does that concern us? It concerns us in these following ways. First: I cannot forget – and that’s why I had you read this passage of Scripture today – I cannot forget that Jesus called Daniel a prophet. You remember reading that in the passage out of the apocalyptic discourse you read together in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Matthew? "The prophet Daniel," Jesus did not say, "The forgerer, Daniel"; Jesus did not say, "The spurious writer, Daniel." But Jesus said, "The prophet, Daniel" [Matthew 24:15]; and I cannot forget, first, that Jesus called Daniel a prophet.
Second: the prophecies of Daniel are the introduction to the New Testament, and especially the prophetic element in the New Testament, and most especially the Book of the Revelation. The Book of the Revelation is based upon the prophecies of Daniel. And when you destroy Daniel, you destroy the prophetic in the Bible and in the New Testament. For example, I copied a word from Sir Isaac Newton, who discovered gravity. Sir Isaac Newton in his volume Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of Saint John, on page ten he says, and I quote Sir Isaac Newton, one of the greatest scientists of all time, I quote – he said, "Whoever 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" – end quote.
Third: I’m speaking now of why this concerns us; first I said because Jesus called Daniel a prophet, and was Jesus mistaken? Could He be mistaken? Second, because the prophecies of Daniel are the foundation of the prophetic element in the New Testament, and especially of the Revelation. Third: the Book of Daniel is a classic beyond compare. Read it; and I pray all of us will during these days, over and over again; read it. And when you read it you have a sense of the voice and the presence of God, which makes me know that the attack against Daniel is founded in the exigencies and the necessities of rational criticism.
Whatever the miraculous in the Bible, they’ll find some natural cause for it. However you might date the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, they would deny the messianic interpretation of it. But how are you going to deny the supernatural and the miraculous in the Word of God if Daniel was written, as it says, in the sixth century BC, and these things that followed after were fulfillments centuries later?
As long as Daniel stands, there is no attack against the supernatural in the Word of God that could succeed. So Daniel must be destroyed; and the destruction of the prophecies of Daniel lies, I say, in the necessities and the exigencies of rational criticism.
Now at last: when you destroy prophecy you destroy the Christian faith. It is something else, it is something other, it is not biblical or scriptural when you destroy the prophetic in the Christian faith. The Christian religion is a revealed religion. It is a self- disclosure of God. Job says, "No man by searching can find out God" [Job 11:7]. We can think and think, and study and study, and probe and probe, but we could never know God. The only way we know God is in God’s self-disclosure; and that self-disclosure is a supernatural, miraculous record and revelation that we have in this Book. But if I destroy that self-revelation and that disclosure, I make of the Christian faith nothing other than man’s search for God; like all of the other philosophical and religious systems of the world, I reduce the Christian religion to that of any other kind. And I reduce this Bible to that of a common human denominator with every other book in the world. And Christianity is unique, it is separate, it is apart, it is holy and high and exalted; the Christian faith is the disclosure of God seeking a lost, undone, dying mankind. And that record of disclosure is found in the supernatural, miraculous revelation of God in the Bible. And that is its prophetic content.
I close, I must. Do you not remember the Lord Jesus in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Luke as He talked to those two on the way to Emmaus? [Luke 24:13-35]. And the Bible says, "And the Lord Jesus beginning at Moses and all the Prophets expounded to them the things concerning Himself out of Moses and all of the Prophets" [Luke 24:27]. And do you remember Simon Peter’s sermon to Cornelius and his household in the tenth chapter in the Book of Acts, "And to Him, to the Lord Jesus, give all the prophets witness, that through faith in His name we might have remission of sins" [Acts 10:43]. And do you remember the appeal of the apostle Paul before Herod Agrippa, King Agrippa II in the court at Caesarea? King Agrippa, he said, "Believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest" [Acts 26:27]. And he founded his apology, his case, his appeal for the Christian faith, "on the prophets." Even as that glorious quotation in 2 Peter 1:21: "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, it is not a human deduction; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." And as John the Revelator wrote in the nineteenth chapter of his book, the Apocalypse, "For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" [Revelation 19:10]. As these days unfold we shall sit at the feet of God Himself, who speaks to us of today, and tomorrow, and the years and the centuries, and finally of the vast unfolding of the triumphant consummation when Jesus, the Lord Messiah, shall come again. And the kingdoms of the world become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; And He reigns, visibly, openly, personally forever and ever [Revelation 11:15]. Oh, what a marvelous vista lies before us!
Now we must sing our song of appeal. And while we sing it, somebody you, give himself to the Lord. A family you, coming into the fellowship of the church; one somebody you, a couple you, while we sing the song, as the Spirit of the Lord shall press the appeal to your heart, come, come and stand by me. "Here, pastor, I give you my hand, I give my heart to God." Or, "I want to put my life in the fellowship of this dear church, and here I come, here I am." Do it now; on the first note of the first stanza, come, come, come now, while we stand and while we sing together.