"The Latter Days" in Daniel

C McC Mc Posts: 4,137

This phrase appears in the book of Daniel and a similar one ("The time of the end"), what do they mean? Are the events in Daniel's time and/or beyond his time? The four major schools of interpretation to unpack these events:

1.     Historical-critical -- Interpreters who do not consider the book of Daniel as true prophecy written in the sixth century B.C. by Daniel. It sees the book of Daniel as a situation of the Jewish people under the persecution of Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

2.     Preterist -- Limit the fulfillment of its prophecies to the time period from the time of Daniel (6 century B.C. to Christ's first coming or to the end of the Roman Empire.

3.     Historicists -- The school of interpreters. It views Daniel as the author of the book. prophecies of Daniel cover the entire historical period from Daniel’s days to the final eschaton without any gap or interruption.

4.     Futurist-dispensational -- accept Daniel’s authorship of the book in the sixth century B.C. They expect that in the future a personal Antichrist will appear who will fulfill what is said of the Little Horn in Dan 7 and of the king of the North in Dan 11:36-45.

  • This school is divided into two groups
    • Those who believe that there is a gap in the fulfillment of the prophecies of Daniel from the first coming of Christ to seven years before his second coming (Dispensationalists).  
    • Those who think that from the destruction of the Roman Empire (the fourth beast in Dan 7:8) to the appear­ance of the Little Horn (the Antichrist) there will be a number of kingdoms (the ten horns) which are successors to the Roman Empire (Futurists).

At times, there is some overlapping. For example: Preterists, Futurists, and Historicists all believe that the author of Daniel lived in the sixth century. 

  •  Historical-critical scholars do not.  
  • Preterists, Futurists, and Historical-critical scholars all apply Daniel 8 to Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Historicistsgenerally do not. 

The phrase "Latter Days" refer to different periods in the history of Israel (endtime) in the OT:

  • “Eschatological” (“doctrine of the last things”) e.g., Deut 4:30; Jer 23:20; 30:24.
  • Others are NOT, e.g., Deut 31:29; Jer 48:47; 49:39

Let’s be clear: "Eschatology” can be view as:

  • Narrowly: The end of history and the beginning of the time of eternal salvation. 
  • Broadly: "To a future in which the circumstances of history are changed to such an extent that one can speak of a new, entirely different, state of things without, in doing so, necessarily leaving the framework of history". [Th. C. Vriezen,"Prophecy and Eschatology," VT, Sup 1 (1953): 223].

"Latter Days" of Dan. 10:14 and "Latter Days" of Dan. 2:28 [distant future] are the same. Both phrases refer to the future which began in the time of Daniel and which reaches down to the time of the Messianic kingdom. "The time of the end" in Dan 8:17; 11:35,40; and 12:4,9, are the same. Some see these phrases to mean:

1.     The time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.) and his attacks on the religion of the Jews.

2.     Before the second coming of Christ. 

3.     A dual-fulfillment sees both events contained in the prophecy.

The questions are, the phrase, "Latter Days" does it means:

  • First or the second appearance of the Messiah?
  • The future in general, or 
  • Does it refer to both?

In the NT, "the last days" are placed in a basic or natural Christological setting and the expression becomes an idiom for the Messianic or Christian age (Acts 2:17; Heb 1:2).

Extra-biblical information of the two phrases, "the latter days" and "the time of the end" can contribute to understanding of these expressions in the book of Daniel and in the OT.

Bring further enlightenment to the subject matter. CM


Sources:

  • S. R. Driver, The Book of Daniel. CBSC (Cambridge: University Press, 1901), xlvii.
  • Andre Lacoque, The Book of Daniel (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1979), 7.
  • Moses Stuart, A Commentary on the Book of Daniel (Boston: Crocker and Brewster, 1850), 65
  • Samuel Lee, An Inquiry into the Nature. Progress, and End of Prophecy (Cambridge: University Press, 1849).
  • Edward J. Young, The Prophecy of Daniel (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1949), 149, 163, 249. 
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