In a previous blog entry, I tore apart an attempt by a Christian apologist online to defend the Book of Ezekiel regarding its prophecies of the city-state of Tyre. My expose was so damaging that the writer eventually took down the web page I attacked.
Now I will take on another target, the Book of Daniel.
According to the story in the book, at one point King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a dream and asked his advisors to interpret it, but none of them could. Instead, a Jewish captive, Daniel, came and was able to interpret it.
2:31 Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. 2:32 This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, 2:33 His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. 2:34 Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces.2:35 Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.
2:36 This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king.
2:37 Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. 2:38 And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold.2:39 And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth. 2:40 And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise.2:41 And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay. 2:42 And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. 2:43 And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.2:44 And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. 2:45 Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.
So there are four parts to this great image:
The gold head, which is Nebuchadnezzar himself.
The chest and arms made of silver, referring to a kingdom inferior to that of Nebuchadnezzar.
The belly and thighs of brass, which would rule most of the known lands, thus being far greater than Babylon ever was.
And the legs of iron, representing a kingdom that would rise brutally to dominate the world and then fall apart soon afterwards, never able to reunite.
Taking the passages in the Book of Daniel for what they say, the obvious interpretation of this prophecy is:
The head of gold was the Babylonian Empire at its height under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar.
The silver part was Babylon’s decline under Nebuchadnezzar‘s incompetent successors, leading to the city being conquered by the Persians.
The brass part represents the Persian Empire, which ruled over far more land and people than Babylon ever did.
After the Persians tried to conquer the city-states of Greece, the Greeks retaliated under Alexander the Great by overthrowing the Persians in only a few short years and then afterwards Alexander died before even returning home from his many conquests. His empire was then divided between several of his generals.
And yet Christians commonly interpret that dream as follows:
D.The Interpretation of the Dream (2:36-47).The interpretation presents the foreordained succession of major world powers that would dominate the region, the known world, until the kingdom of Messiah. Themost likely interpretation for the four metals is that the gold is Babylon, the silver was Persia, the bronze was Greece, and the iron was Rome.What must be observed is the decreasing value of the metals, from gold down to iron,and iron mixed with clay, indicating a deterioration in the wealth and value of the empires. But with the decreasing value there is an increasing strength to the metals, from gold to iron, untilthe iron is mingled with clay. And these metals seem also to reflect the nature of these empires: gold was in abundance in Babylon, especially in the temples; silver was representative of Persia, known among other things for its coins; bronze was common for Greek weapons and helmets and the like, but iron was true of Rome.Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon was the ideal type of government, which is why he isaddressed as king of kings–yet under the authority of God. He had complete authority, and ruled by law which could not be challenged. His city, they believed, was prepared in heaven by gods and descended to the plains of Shinar (contrast Rev. 19), He is the antithesis of the Messiah, who will have complete authority and rule by
law, the law of God, but whereas Nebuchadnezzar was a proud and wicked king, Jesus will be righteous. Babylon remains in the Bible as the anti-kingdom, from Genesis 11 through Revelation. This form of it, the Neo-Babylonian Empire, ruled only from 605 to 539. The second empire was Persia–inferior to Babylon, perhaps because the king did not have the authority that the Babylonian kings did. It was supreme, however, for nearly two centuries, which made it stronger than Babylon. The kings spent a good deal of their time off in Asia and the Aegean fighting Greeks.The third empire was Greece, beginning with the conquests of Alexander who crushedPersia in 333. The Greek empire was divided at the death of Alexander among his four generals, and they maintained regional power only until Rome began annexing the lands in 190 B.C. As a Republic Rome was considered inferior to the powerful and extravagant monarchies of antiquity, but as the iron empire it was able to crush every other nation. Rome reached its great extent in the time of Trajan (98-117) when the empire extended through ancient Assyria and into Rumania. The last stage of the Roman or Iron Empire is characterized by clay. With the ten toes and the clay as the symbols, the text indicates that the last stages of the Roman world will be characterized by a loose federation rather than a single realm; this coincides with the ten horns of later visions. The iron may represent the remains of the old Roman culture, and the clay its inherent weaknesses. The mixture of iron and clay suggest confusion and coming destruction. Iron and clay may co-exist, but they can never combine to form one substance. Some have suggested that the third empire wasAlexander’s, which lasted only 12 years, and that the fourth kingdom was the separate parts of his empire, which eventually led to this federation among his generals to form the Seleucids and Ptolemies. But that does not fit the text well, for the fourth empire is supposed to be the strongest of them all.
That last sentence in the passage above is as IRONIC as it gets!
Why do Christians claim that the second empire was Persia, the third empire was Greek and the fourth was Roman, despite this interpretation violating the clear meanings of the texts in the book itself? Because of the actual ending of the dream as described by Daniel:
2:34 Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. 2:35 Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.
2:44And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. 2:45 Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.
In Christian minds, the Roman Empire MUST be the fourth kingdom of iron for one simple reason: Jesus, the founder of the Christian church, was born in the days of the Roman Empire, and the Christian church is assumed to be represented by the stone which destroys the kingdoms of men and rules the world forever.
The insistence that the Book of Daniel is a genuine book of history and prophecy rather than fictional stems from a direct reference to it by Jesus himself.
If Daniel was not a real prophet, Jesus made an invalid statement. proving he was himself not infallible.
But while Christianity did take over the Roman Empire, it did not proceed to dominate the whole world; although it has grown to become the most popular religion in the world, it has also fractured into thousands of divisions. A new religion called Islam later rose to challenge it and man-made empires have continued to rise and fall around the world ever since.
More to the point, Jesus specified that all the events regarding his return would occur while the generation that saw him alive still existed. But that did not happen either.
The simple truth is that the Book of Daniel didn’t have a damn thing to do with Christianity or Jesus, and any claim that it did is a lie, period. It was fictional war propaganda made to encourage Jews to revolt against Greek rule, and nothing more.