The Penultimate Comment on the Little Horn of Daniel 8
Winston McHarg’s Response to Clifford Goldstein’s “The Little Horn of Daniel 8” | 16 March 2018 |
THE PARALLEL NATURE OF THE VISIONS – THE MISSING ROMAN BEAST.
Goldstein finds a major key for the meaning of the little horn of Daniel 8 in the parallelism of chapters 2,7 and 8. While stressing the similarities he ignores several major dissimilarities. The most obvious is the total absence in the eighth chapter of the main and most horrific beast of the seventh chapter. Where in the eighth chapter is the Roman Beast? Only the Medo-Persian and Greek beasts occur in the eighth chapter. There is no Roman Beast. This is massively out of parallel with the seventh chapter. True the little horn is mentioned but A HORN IS NOT A BEAST. In Daniel beasts represent empires, horns extensions of empires. The little horn of chapter 8 is clearly an extension of the Geek Empire. Goldstein would have us believe that the mighty Roman Empire (and its papal extension) which in chapter 7 is described as a mighty and separate beast is here represented by a mere horn arising out of a wind!! How believable is that? It is no wonder that almost all non Adventist commentators agree that the little horn comes forth from the Greek Empire.
DIFFERENT HORNS. Another significant difference, not addressed by Goldstein, is the significant differences between the conspicuous horns of the seventh and eighth chapters. The most obvious being in regard to their beginnings. The horn of the seventh chapter emerges on the head of the Roman beast and uproots three other horns. The horn of the eighth chapter (if we accept the winds theory) emerges beastless from a wind. There are other significant differences. It is clear however that we should be wary of any interpretation that equates the main horns of the seventh and eighth chapters. The horns of the seventh and eighth chapters are (at least initially) very separate entities.
THERE IS A BETTER PARALLEL CHAPTER. Goldstein, while drawing our attention to limited parallels with the visions of the second and seventh chapters fails to mention the final vision. Scholars have long time recognised the remarkable parallel between the vision of chapter 8 and that of the eleventh chapter which covers much the same ground as chapter 8. Various Persian and Grecian kings, including Alexander the Great, are referred to but all are dealt with briefly with just one or two verses. As the vision moves towards its climax Antiochus is once again centre stage and no less than fifteen full verses are devoted to him (see 11:21-35). Antiochus is clearly no minor player in the eleventh chapter and that conclusion only further confirms his presence in chapter 8 .
TIME OF THE END. The vision of the eighth chapter is said to be for “the time of the end” (8:17) The question of course is what exactly is meant by “the time of the end”. We of course read these words through Adventist eyes. Time of the end for many of us means 1798 and onwards. We also know that expressions like “the latter days” and “the last days” often have several applications (see Hebrews 1:2 and Acts 2:17) and the same may be said of this expression. Certainly the words are enlarged upon by Gabriel when he says “I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation” (Dan.8:19). Leading conservative scholar E.J.Young says, “The indignation amounts to being a technical term for designating the wrath of God and His displeasure; cf. Isaiah 10:5,25; 26:20 and he is not alone in concluding “it is the end of the OT period and the ushering in of the New”. Such an understanding fits in perfectly with an Antiochus IV fulfilment. It should be clear that the meaning of “time of the end” may be open to some interpretation. Putting that fact aside I would remind Mr Goldstein of what I have said clearly in my paper i.e.that most conservative commentators see Antiochus as a prototype of the final antichrist and in this sense the little horn of Daniel 8 will indeed have a final end time application.
“GREAT”, “VERY GREAT” AND “EXCEEDING GREAT”.
Goldstein attaches great importance to the ascending order of these comparatives found in the KJV and is dismissive of any interpretation that allows the relatively minor Antiochus to be described as “exceeding great”. Several things could be said in this regard. Firstly these words are found in the symbolic portion of an apocalyptic vision. Hyperbole is of the very nature of Apocalyptic and a degree of caution is required when interpreting such comparisons. The prophet is simply describing what he is seeing in vision, he is not interpreting the meaning. It is significant that the interpreting angel makes no attempt to compare the relative might of the powers described. Our own Bible Commentary cautioned long ago, “It cannot be argued that yether (Dan.8:9) represents a greater degree than meod. Any excelling greatness in Rome over that of Greece must be proved historically, not on the basis of these words.” SDABC 1955 ed, p 841. Finally,it should be obvious that the visions of Daniel are concerned with the religion and people of God. They are not concerned primarily with the relative military and political might of world powers but rather with how these powers relate to God’s truth and His people. It is in relation to his near obliteration of Gods truth and people that Antiochus is said to succeed. Even Alexander the Great and Rome did not attempt to totally eliminate the religion and people of God as Antiochus did. Think about it. This was Satan’s great attempt in the period immediately before our Lord’s incarnation to eliminate the truth and people of God from whom the Saviour of the world would soon emerge. Is it likely that that horrific attempt, still commemorated by the Jews, would be totally unmentioned in holy writ?
OUT OF A WIND? AN ARGUMENT OF DESPERATION.
“…but when he was strong, the great horn was broken, and instead of it came up four conspicuous horns towards the four winds of heaven. Out of one of them came a little horn…” Dan.8:8,9
The Adventist evangelists of my youth had charts depicting the little horn emerging from one of the four horns of the Greek beast. Growing Awareness that the Roman Empire emerged outside of and to the far West of the fourfold Greek division led to the formulation of a modified understanding centring on the winds rather that the horns. Goldstein assures us that Adventist scholar William Shea “makes a powerful argument, based on Hebrew syntax, that the text discloses the origin clearly enough: it came out of one of the four winds of heaven. That is from one of the four directions of the compass.” However premier Adventist Hebrew scholar Raymond Cottrell looked at this theory some time ago and concluded, “It is more consistent with context, the vision symbols and Gabriel’s explanation in verses 22-3 that the little horn represents a king in one of the four kingdoms (not in one of the four winds), to consider the horns of verse 8 as the antecedent of the word “them” in verse 9.” It would be interesting to get the opinion of non Adventist Hebrew scholars on this crucial question ( is Adventism prepared to go to Babylon for an alternative opinion?). I am not aware of any commentary or non Adventist scholar who would support the “coming out of a wind” position.
THE “COMING OUT OF A WIND” UNDERSTANDING ONLY GETS US INTO A HIGHLY UNLIKELY (LUDICROUS?) SCENARIO.
If we grant, for the sake of discussion, that the horn came out of one of the winds what is the result? There is still no Roman Beast. There is only a horn and this horn arrives floating in mid air. This beastless horn is supposed to be the equivalent of both the great nondescript beast of Daniel 7 and also its papal extension. Is this likely? How believable is that?
To me the reference to the four winds appears to be simply an incidental detail telling us merely that Alexander’s kingdom was split in various directions. The horns are central in that they are specifically described as being “conspicuous” and “towards the four winds of heaven”. That the winds are only a passing detail is further reinforced by the fact that no actual compass direction is given as was given in describing the direction from which the Greek beast emerged. (See 8:5) obviously the direction was unimportant. If the intention of the passage is to tell us that the horn didn’t emerge from one of the 4 horns then it does not succeed. There are much better ways to convey this message: a simple statement to say it emerged from the “far West” would suffice or an even better way would be to include what we would expect if the Adventist understanding were correct – the presence of the missing Roman Beast described so graphically in chapter 7 thus eliminating all ambiguity and chance of misunderstanding.
IN THE LATTER TIME OF THEIR KINGDOM.
Goldstein says that this detail could not fit Antiochus because he was “eighth in a line of twenty kings”. This is misleading because of the simple fact that different kings reigns last for different periods. The early kings during the heyday of the kingdom would tend to live and reign for longer, the later ones during the waning of the kingdom would tend to be eliminated and thus succeeded more rapidly. Apart from these random thoughts the facts are that Antiochus IV did arise chronologically in the latter half of “their” (i.e.the whole four) kingdom. Chronologically it was well past the half way mark for for the overall existence of the four divisions and well past the peak of their power as is evidenced by Antiochus’s humiliation by the Roman legate in Egypt and the collapse of two of the four soon after.
HE SHALL BE BROKEN WITHOUT HAND.
Goldstein sees in these words only a supernatural divine judgment which could not possibly be fulfilled in the life of Antiochus. However,“broken without hand” could mean several things and supernatural elimination is not required by these words. They could simply mean that he was not killed in battle or by assassination. All agree that Antiochus died a premature death not brought upon him by man. This would adequately fulfil the words of the prophecy although a final day supernatural fulfilment is not to be ruled out if we see him as a prototype of the final antichrist.
WHO DEFILES THE SANCTUARY? IS IT THE LITTLE HORN OR THE SINS OF THE SAINTS?
It is highly significant that neither Goldstein nor Moore in their responses to my paper attempt to seriously address my first and primary argument-that of the context. What has an investigative judgment got to do with the attack of the little horn and the question of verse 13? It is crystal clear that it is the little horn that defiles the sanctuary. Our traditional understanding ignores this context and switches to the theme of an IJ in which it is the sins of believers that defile the sanctuary. How can this be? This remains a massive question for our traditional understanding.