Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My favourite commentary on Daniel

The Handwriting on the Wall: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel by James B. Jordan

I have been teaching on the Book of Daniel at PTC this semester, and this book has been very helpful in my preparation and study.

I first started reading Jordan about ten years ago. His biblical studies are always stimulating, often novel, sometimes rather weird. His Biblical Horizons newsletter is online, and I particularly recommend "Eldership and Maturity" (Parts 1 and 2) and "Concerning Colors, Architecture, and Sacraments."

In this commentary on Daniel, the most important thing is that Jordan takes the text seriously. This naturally leads him to take an early date for the book, and means that he has to part ways with the majority of scholars on various points of interpretation.

The most unusual contribution he makes to the study of the book is seeing King Herod at different points. This starts in the vision of the statue in chapter 2. The legs of the statue are iron, while the feet are iron and clay. The iron is traditionally taken to be Rome, which Jordan accepts, but whereas the iron + clay is usually interpreted as the declining Roman empire, Jordan takes it to be the mixture of Romans and Jews who sought to join Rome (p. 182), exemplified in Herod. That is, the iron and clay mixture is the one ruling Palestine in the first century, and so this explanation makes the best sense of Daniel 2:44, "In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed."

Jordan tends to see Herod everywhere in the Book of Daniel - the little horn in chapter 7, the horn in chapter 8 and the king in Daniel 11:36-45. I disagree with the first two identifications, but at this point in time I agree with Jordan's interpretation of Daniel 11.

The book contains some interesting appendices, one comparing Joseph and Daniel, and another (based on this article) suggesting that the words Jesus wrote in John 8:6 are the words mene, mene, tekel, parsin from Daniel 5:25.

The Handwriting on the Wall is my favourite commentary on the book of Daniel.

John Dekker.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Rather hokey ten years on

Boiling Point: Monitoring Cultural Shifts in the 21st Century by George Barna and Mark Hatch

"Prediction is very difficult," Niels Bohr allegedly said, "especially about the future." Well, this book aims to predict the future. It was written in 2000, and describes what the world will be like in 2010. And it's kind of hokey. The most obvious thing it fails to predict is 9/11, but it also misses the rise of social media and user-generated content.

The authors do mention terrorism, actually. They talk about electronic terrorism, chemical terrorism and "traditional, violent terrorism, especially at the hands of extreme religious groups" (p. 298). But it's still a far cry from predicting the way that radical Islam has shaped the last decade.

They have some interesting economic predictions: debt fiascos will be exposed in Russia and other "kleptocracies" (p. 277). Well, it hasn't really been Russia, but rather Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain. The authors also get all premillennial with electronic money ("a number of respected Christian financial experts" contend that "the emergence of electronic money signals the start of the global system the antiChrist will use to force many into submission", p. 273) and one world government (p. 301) .

I was particularly interested in their predictions in regards to the church scene. They asserted that "at least three major denominations are likely to experience splits during the decade in reaction to the structural, theological and methodological stands of the denomination" (p. 254). Well, the Anglican Church in North America is an obvious fulfillment of this, but there aren't really any others, unless one counts Grace Presbyterian Church in New Zealand.

They also predict that "dozens of church association" will emerge, and that "it will not be uncommon for churches to trumpet their affiliation with such associations rather than their connection to old-line denominations." The rise of the church networks is an important feature of the current Christian scene. It is certainly the case that some congregations are affiliated with a church network and a denominations,
(Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky, for example, is affiliated with both Acts 29 and the Southern Baptist Convention) but I'm not sure how many churches are "trumpeting" their association with a church network at the expense of their denominational affiliations.

The book is an interesting read, and provides food for thought. The authors are to be congratulated for their insight in many areas, and their courage in having a go at predicting the future. It makes one wonder what the world will be like in 2020.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Books John read in 2011, Part 1

I have finished 30 books in January to March this year, including seven that were on my list of 20 books to read.

  1. Three Men on the Bummel by Jerome K. Jerome

  2. Smoke on the Mountain: An Interpretation of the Ten Commandments by Joy Davidman

  3. Norstrilia by Cordwainer Smith

  4. Already Gone by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer

  5. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

  6. Four Faultless Felons by G. K. Chesterton

  7. Why Johnny Can't Preach by T. David Gordon

  8. Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner

  9. Poincare's Prize by George Szpiro

  10. La Vita Nuova by Dante

  11. Apocalyptic, Ancient and Modern by D. S. Russell

  1. The City Without a Church by Henry Drummond

  2. Our Descent from Israel by Hew B. Colquhoun

  3. The Gryphon by Nick Bantock

  4. Psmith, Journalist by P. G. Wodehouse

  5. Rebekah by Orson Scott Card

  6. Black & Tan: A Collection of Essays and Excursions on Slavery, Culture War, and Scripture in America by Douglas Wilson

  7. The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne

  8. Finding God Beyond Harvard by Kelly Monroe Kullberg

  9. Creation revealed in six days by P. J. Wiseman

  10. Golden Buttons: Christianity and Traditional Religion among the Tumbuka by Stephen Msiska

  1. The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University by Kevin Roose

  2. The Museum at Purgatory by Nick Bantock

  3. The Next Christendom by Philip Jenkins

  4. Antique Maps by Douglas Charles Gohm

  5. A Son to Me: An Exposition of 1 & 2 Samuel by Peter Leithart

  6. And Thereby Hangs a Tale by Jeffrey Archer

  7. The Masters by C. P. Snow

  8. The Pastor as Minor Poet by M. Craig Barnes

  9. Beyond Capricorn by Peter Trickett