Email Correspondence| Did Daniel 12 Speak of Antiochus Epiphanes?

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Did Daniel 12 Speak of Antiochus Epiphanes

Daniel 12 and Antiochus Ephanes?

The common scholarly opinion today is that Daniel was an ex eventu prophecy. That means that Daniel was actually written in days of Antiochus Epiphanes (second century BC), and spoke of events of that day and time in the form of prophecy. I recently engaged in a bit of correspondence in regard to this subject, and specifically the question of whether Daniel 12 foretold the resurrection. Below is an edited version of that correspondence.

The correspondent said:

<I do not read Daniel 12 in light of the events around 70 AD.  Chapters 8-11 in Daniel have been retelling the suffering of the people at the hands of the Greeks (175-164 BC). As you may remember from Sunday, I mentioned that most all scholarship now understands the ‘four kingdoms’ as Babylon, Medes, Persians, and Greeks.  In other words, the final enemy in Daniel is the Greeks who were currently oppressing them.   Josephus recounts the perils of that day; these events parallel much of what the writer of Daniel recounts in 11:29-35.

In my mind, I do not see a need to jump in chapter 12 all the way to AD 70.  I think that portion of Daniel was written to the Jewish community during that period (under Antiochus Epiphanes).  As a result, the question is “what is being said to that community of faith.”  As I mentioned in question 1, I think Daniel 12:1-3 is meant to encourage the faithful that even if they die in their faith that is not the end of the story.  God will restore the glory to his people; they will be like the “brightness of the  sky” (v. 3). >

Here is my (edited and revised / expanded) response concerning the application of Daniel to the days of Antiochus Epiphanes:

While one could argue that the immediate application of Daniel was the Antiochan situation (which I am not personally inclined to), there is no doubt that Jesus and the NT writers appeal to Daniel 12 repeatedly.See Matthew 13 / Matthew 24, etc. where Jesus directly cites Daniel 12.

This leaves us one of three choices:
1.) They were wrong in their application. Are we to believe that the NT writers misapplied Daniel? Or, were they simply trying to find contemporary meaning in ancient events and applying to their time the events of that long past time? In this situation there was no true prophecy at all. It should be recognized that in many critical scholars, there is a presuppositional view that there is no such thing as true prophecy, since the idea of the inspiration of the Spirit is rejected.

Was Antiochus Ephiphanes a Type or Shadow of the End?

2.) The NT writers were saying the Antiochan events as typological of their day (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:11). The literal translation of this text is– as Paul looks back at OT events: “They were types of us.” So, if one insisted that Daniel 12 actually spoke of the events of the time of Antiochus Ephanes, this would mean that Jesus and the NT writers saw those horrendous days as typological of their own day. We do know without doubt by the way, that the NT writers did view the OT events as typological of their own day. Of course, this meant that they saw those OT events as– in some manner– prophetic of their first century day.

Incidentally, there is little doubt of the impact of the days and horrendous events of Antiochus Epiphanes on Jewish thought. Many rabbis did in fact, see those days as a portent of the true last days. This cannot be discounted.
3.) Or, Daniel actually did directly foretell the events of the first century. I definitely lean to this view: that Daniel was a genuine oracular and writer of prophecy, and that he foretold the “last days events.

There are several reasons for thinking this:

1.) Daniel said that ‘at that time” there would be great tribulation, such as had not been since the beginning of the world, or ever would be.” The fact is that the Great Tribulation did not occur in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes. Now, one might say that this is typical hyperbolic, prophetic language, and there is some merit to this. However, back to point # 2– Jesus does cite Daniel and apply it to his day.

2.) Daniel said that the events he wrote of would be fulfilled  “when the power of the holy people is completely shattered.” Now, Israel’s only “power” was her covenant with YHVH! She had no great military might. No great numerical forces. Israel’s only power, he only true power, was her covenant relationship with God, and that was not broken in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes!

3.) The time of the end, foretold in Daniel 12:4 did not take place in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes. The end of the age did not come.

Daniel 12 (and Daniel 9) Not Fulfilled in the Days of Antiochus Epiphanes

I think Brant Pitre has made a succinct and sufficient rebuttal of the claim that Daniel 12– which is parallel to Daniel 9 of course– was fulfilled in the days and events of Antiochus Epiphanes. Noting that Daniel 9 foretold the total destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple (symbols of the “power of the holy people), Pitre notes:  “While the destruction of both the Temple and city is quite explicit in the text of Daniel, it is routinely downplayed by proponents of the “Antiochus Epiphanes” interpretation of Daniel 9 (since, I would suggest, it is the Achilles heel of that interpretation).” (Brant Pitre, Jesus, the Tribulation and the End of the Exile, (Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2005)304, n. 188).  So, if one applies Daniel to the days of Antiochus Epiphanes, the indisputable fact is that neither Daniel 9 or 12 were fulfilled in those days. And this raises an interesting question:

If Daniel 9 and 12 were written ex eventu— after the events described in those texts– then why in the world did “Daniel” include events that did not take place? Would that not have revealed him to be a “false prophet”? If he was writing after the events described, why did he fail to write of those past events more accurately? Why describe those past events as the total destruction of the city and Temple when in fact neither the city or the temple was totally destroyed by Antiochus Epiphanes?

So, for these reasons and more, I do not readily accept the view that Daniel 12 spoke ex eventu of the days of Antiochus Epiphanes.

I am currently working on a book on whether Daniel 12 foretold the final resurrection at the end of the age. This book will be an in-depth examination of this subject. Be sure to watch for it in the (hopefully) near future. In the meantime, be sure to get a copy of my book Seventy Weeks are Determined…For the Resurrection, which is chock full of helpful information on the proper interpretation of Daniel’s prophecy.

70 Weeks of Daniel
A study of Daniel 9 and the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.