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The Handwriting on the Wall: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel Hardcover – January 1, 2007
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About the Author
James B. Jordan is a theologian and author, and considered by many to be the very best Bible teacher on the planet and is one of the most studied interpreters of the Bible today. He is director of the Niceville, FL, based Biblical Horizons, a think-tank dealing with Biblical liturgy, commentary and theology. Jordan receive his B.A. from University of Georgia in Comparative Literature, and attended Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS, before earning a M.A. and Th.M. from Westminster Theological Seminary in PA. After his 1982 ordination in the Association of Reformed Churches, he served alongside Ray Sutton as associate pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Tyler, TX, where he was also Director of Geneva Ministries and Geneva Divinity School. In 1993, Jordan received a D.Litt. from the Central School of Religion for his dissertation on the dietary laws of Moses. Since 2000, Jordan serves in Russia as head of the Department of Biblical Studies at Biblical Theological Seminary in St. Petersburg, where he teaches Old Testament and Eschatology.
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First, let me say that Jordan’s preterist interpretation of Daniel is an enormous accomplishment, perhaps greater than all other works on Daniel with the exception of John Calvin’s preterist commentary. At 800 pages, I bought a copy only after the price had dropped under $40 from another site. It is well worth the price as a resource to students wanting to go deeper in the preterist study of Daniel. I read Jordan’s Handwriting only after I was about 75 percent finished with my own book, which I will self-publish in early 2017. This commentary on every verse of Daniel goes into great detail and often explains the hermeneutic process of his own thinking about the prophecy.
One interesting feature is that Jordan muses on what the scribe Ezra must have thought about Daniel when restoring, redacting and revising the Hebrew canon in the fifth century BC. As a resident of Babylon who returned to Jerusalem with the Judeans in 457 BC, Ezra must have become acquainted with a copy of the Daniel scroll somewhere within the previous 80 year time period after Daniel completed the book in 535 BC. He must have seen that the prophecies of the Persian kings were coming to pass with the restoration of the Temple. But Ezra lived prior to the events of Daniel 11, the Greek Third Kingdom period and the Roman Fourth Kingdom. Jordan imagines that the scribe Ezra is doing the interpretation of the later chapters of Daniel without understanding their fulfillment. This is a useful exercise. It would be like imagining what and the Christians of the first century must have thought about the Book of Revelation shortly after it was written – although we have no record of that.
Second, the reservations I have about Jordan’s interpretation, although very limited, only reinforced my idea that much work on Daniel still needs to be done from a preterist perspective and only strengthened my resolve to get my own book finished and into print. The two main disagreements are that I believe he places too much emphasis on Herod the Great as the figure described as the “little horn” of Daniel 8 rather than Antiochus Epiphanes, which is almost universally understood. He also sees Herod in Daniel 11:36-45 – rather than the whole line of Caesars as Calvin and others have thought. Then he inexplicably shifts to the Roman Caesars, when interpreting chapter 12. I find that view as having some merit, but ultimately irrelevant to the overarching purpose of the Book off Daniel which is to point to the time of the coming of the Messiah,” in the days of these kings” (Daniel 2:44). Herod is an important character and does represent several fulfillments of biblical prophecy – historically and as a typological figure. However, he is out of place in comparison to the major history markers of the Fifth Vision, Cyrus, Alexander, Antiochus Epiphanes, Julius Caesar, Nero and Vespasian. While Herod’s persecutions of the Jews and of the infant Jesus himself was notable, Herod was a “king” of a small province, not the ruler of a world empire. Again, this view has some support and has been posed by a number of commentators, but Jordan is quite dogmatic in insisting that Herod is a major figure prophesied in Daniel.
Jordan also employs a method of interpretation he calls “interpretive maximalism.” That is, he will discover a typology, a poetical structure, a pattern of meaning or a symbolic scheme repeated throughout the Bible. Then he will seek to impose that in unusual applications throughout the entire Bible. This is sound in some cases as "Scripture interprets Scripture." But in other cases, I wonder if he alone is seeing this. For instance, he uses the chiastic structure of Genesis 1 to interpret the structure of Daniel 11. I used this portion of his commentary in comparison to my own outworking of the structure of Daniel 11. Again, this has great merit, but many critics have thought Jordan sees things that simply are not intended in the text. I explained in my book that the patterns of thought parallels utilized in Hebrew poetry are indeed useful in understanding the rising and falling episodes off Daniel 11. However, I am concerned that this can often become “forced” and influenced by subjective whims and reading into the text rather than drawing out the intended meaning.
All that being said, I agree with the vast majority of Jordan’s interpretation. Where I disagree, there is little unanimity among scholars. So Jordan’s work is indispensable to those who want a fuller treatment of a preterist view of Daniel – especially in the historical narrative of the book. Hopefully, Handwriting is just the beginning of a larger body of scholarship on the preterist view of Daniel.
If you want a good preterist view on Daniel, see John Calvin FIRST, then go to Jordan if this book is still affordable. Or you can order my soon coming book.
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 suggesting that the words Jesus wrote in John 8:6 are the words "mene, mene, tekel, parsin" from Daniel 5:25.
In many places Jordan brought out ideas that others had not. (I say this carefully knowing that "new" things can be dangerous in theological discussions.) The ideas presented were not novelties, but things that were generally overlooked by other commentators.
In this work, Jordan does a lot with numbers. This may or may not be helpful to folks. I was not, personally, benefitted greatly by them. And, in fact, sometimes thought it "a bit much." However, the places he does this can be easily skipped (usually).
All-in-all, I highly recommend this work for a deepened understanding of Daniel.