An appeal to a liberal theologian about Daniel's plea for repentance

Written in response to an article written in Scandanavian Journal of the Old Testament.
'Daniel's Prayer for Jerusalem: Reading Daniel 9 in a Diaspora Context'
2021, Vol.35, No. 1, 95-110,

Date: 05/12/2022 00:10 (GMT+00:00)

Subject: Daniel 9

Dear Frederik Poulsen,

I was passed your 2021 article in Scand.J..O.T. by a dear friend and feel impelled to reply to it.

As a retired physician I have often had to deal with confused and difficult patients, who despite very clear & urgent needs, fought against their own best interests to their own detriment. Reading your article brings back some unhappy memories.

Daniel's prayer of repentance is the urgent need of our two nations, as a lay preacher, I have often found its waters deep, reviving & refreshing in the desert of London's spiritual scene.

The thrust of your paper is the faint concession that the author may have written from exile, rather than from Jerusalem or Judaea. This acknowledgement is welcome. Yet it is steeped in inimical assumptions to the author or as you twice suggest, authors. How critically have you examined your other presuppositions?

Is your dating of authorship as Maccabeen based on any historical evidence, apart from the a priori but unprincipled belief that predictive prophecy is not possible? You only cite unconvincing reflection from other scholars about the quality of Hebrew in chapter 9, compared to the narrative sections, and a rather patronising comment about repetition in the prayer - have you never repeated a request in prayer? This is the slimmest ground to base an extremely serious allegation upon.

What is this allegation? That to 'depict' a man of integrity and example pleading earnestly for righteousness, you posit a fraudster or a team of counterfeiters pretending to be that author. Then you assume that 50 or so years later, when the Essene community study Daniel's text, they are wholly taken in. So wholly taken in, that they write commentaries on Daniel's text. This is not only deeply cynical, it's unrealistic, ahistorical and fantastically unlikely.

You claim a prophecy which you claim is 'very challenging' was cooked up to prop up a struggle to the death against Seleucid armies. Forgive me, but when the Danes were savagely invaded, would they have drawn solid comfort from contemporary mythmakers about a fictional, if pious, King Arthur-like character, from their medieval history? I have more respect for your countrymen than to think so.

You also cite a claim Darius, son of Ahasuerus, the Mede, is such an invention, a 'space filler'. I would have expected the embarrassment of claiming the same for Belshazzar's only to be proven absolutely mistaken, would have deterred incautious arguments from silence of this nature. But here they are again, the prejudice against the historical Daniel continues, as the prejudice against the historical David, Solomon, Hezekiah, and so many other heroes of Israel's history who preceded him has continued, despite the collapse of the cases against them.

Ezekiel 14.14,20; 28.3, also recognises Daniel as an outstanding contemporary, who is presumably also part of the Maccabean fraud factory, whom the Essenes, despite their intense suspicion of the outside world have also been duped by, the fraudsters your colleagues have invented and whose invention you have supported.

You suggest Daniel's inventor copied from Nehemiah and Ezra. It doesn't even seem to have occurred to you, that they might have imitated and been inspired him during the troublous times בְצוֹק הָעִתִּֽים, precisely because they knew he wrote prospectively, and not by simulation centuries later. There are huge contrasts between the three prayers, Ezra and Nehemiah primarily reflect relief & thanks for the grant of narrow refuge ( פְּלֵיטָה יָתֵד בִּמְקוֹם קָדְשׁוֹ Ez.9.8) and the regathering of exiles from ends of the earth (Neh.1.9), both anxious to see preservation and completion. Daniel has only the unfulfilled promise to assure him, pleads for its fruition and receives an extraordinary & unexpected response - after rebuilding the city and the sanctuary will be utterly polluted & destroyed, hardly words a comforting propagandist would dream up as the climax of his prediction of the future, if they had already happened. All Daniel's comfort comes from the deeper fulfilment of the Temple pattern in Messiah and His atonement by death, which Moses, David & Solomon yearned for (Ex.25.40, 1 Chr.28.11), an expectation never made explicit even amongst the Maccabees. You really think the contemporary fraudster, you imagine, was more spiritual than they?

Do you not see how utterly cynical a statement like 'Letting Daniel utter a prayer full of biblical references also serves to cast him as one who is immensely familiar with the scriptural traditions of his homeland' seems? He was immensely familiar, not because he was cast so, by fraud, by those barely familiar with the basics of integrity, but because he was deeply steeped in the expectation of these texts from childhood.

This is not an academic, scientific or historical position, it's a fictional partisanship, fuelled by mere blind unbelief. It's no more objective & no less tendentious than Pravda or Tass. However it is much more harmful. Pravda didn't deal much with the keys of the Kingdom, or of the desperately needed repentance Daniel pleads for. Our countries' citizens literally perish for lack of them. Self harm, drunkeness, eating disorders, family breakdown and its many consequent harms increasingly fill my emergency department with shipwrecked lives. Who is primarily responsible for this? Not society, but the false theologians who despise Divine Inspiration, deny it and oppose it. So is the analysis of the Messiah and His Apostles, Mk.9.50, 2 Tim.3.5, 2 Pet.2 & Jude 4-10.

I plan to publish my comments. I could write much, much more, but time forbids. I am an empiricist by training, if there are objective observations or facts to refute this position, not secondary quotes or a priori dogmatic assumptions, I am of course interested in seeing your candour. I mean you no harm, I am afraid, like my dear patients, you have become your own and your own countrymen's worst enemy - better a recognisable invader, than an underminer within. Stop it now!

Yours sincerely,

Charles Soper