How Did the Jews Understand Daniel?

17 Jul
Understanding Daniel

from Google Images

Jesus claimed that the Law and the Prophets were until John (Luke 16:16), and Isaiah spoke of an age, or the time of the Jews’ service, coming to an end in Isaiah 40:2. Isaiah’s prophecy is at the heart of the reason for John’s ministry (Luke 3:4-5; cf. Isaiah 40:3-4). The end of this period marked the beginning of the time when the Kingdom of God was preached (Luke 16:16). In a previous blogpost I argued that the age that came to an end is represented in Daniel’s Seventy Weeks Prophecy as the time of the building of the Temple and the waiting for the Messiah, comprising 483 years (cf. Daniel 9:25).

Daniel 9:25  Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.

Some modern Jews have argued that Daniel 9 doesn’t speak of the Messiah, but a messiah and the prophecy was fulfilled when the Temple was rededicated cir. 165 BC. However, this is not the conclusion of some rabbis throughout Jewish history. For example: Rabbi Moses Abraham Levi said regarding the time of Messiah’s coming:

“I have examined and searched all the Holy Scriptures and have not found the time for the coming of Messiah clearly fixed, except in the words of Gabriel to the prophet Daniel, which are written in the 9th chapter of the prophecy of Daniel”[1]

In the 12th century, Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon (Maimonides), one of the most respected rabbis in history, and a man who rejected the messianic claims of Jesus of Nazareth, said regarding Daniel’s seventy weeks prophecy:

“Daniel has elucidated to us the knowledge of the end times. However, since they are secret, the wise (rabbis) have barred the calculation of the days of Messiah’s coming so that the untutored populace will not be led astray when they see that the End Times have already come but there is no sign of the Messiah”.[2]

Speaking of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks prophecy, Rabbi Judah, the main compiler of the Jewish Talmud wrote: “These times were over long ago”[3] Moreover, some even deny Daniel was a prophet, and he isn’t even listed among the prophets in the Hebrew Bible. The argument is that Daniel is never called a prophet, nor are his visions called prophecy.[4]

Nevertheless, the same word that refers to Jeremiah as a prophet in Daniel 9:2 is connected to Daniel and his prophecy in Daniel 9:24. Moreover, the argument in its essence doesn’t hold true, because Hosea, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Malachi are never called prophets. Not only so, but Amos even denies he is a prophet or a son of a prophet (Amos 7:14), yet each one of these are listed among the prophets in the Hebrew Bible.

Josephus speaks of Daniel as a prophet and makes reference to Roman dominion of the Jews as an interpretation of the destruction of Jerusalem in Daniel’s prophecy at Daniel 9:26:

“Daniel also wrote concerning the Roman government, and that our country should be made desolate by them. All these things did this man leave in writing, as God had showed them to him, insomuch that such as read his prophecies, and see how they have been fulfilled, would wonder at the honor wherewith God honored Daniel; and may thence discover how the Epicureans are in an error, who …determine that God exercises no providence over human affairs; for if that were the case, that the world went on by mechanical necessity, we should not see that all things would come to pass according to his prophecy.”[5]

Thus, we are able to see that the modern arguments we hear today, which seek to not only remove Daniel as a prophet, but also deny the obvious meaning of the book, are either inconsistent in what they conclude, or they are contradicted by what scholarly Jews throughout history have written concerning Daniel.


[1] The Messiah of the Targums, Talmuds and Rabbinical Writers, 1971.

[2] Igeret Teiman, chapter 3, p.24.

[3] Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 98b and 97a

[4] Babylonian Talmud: Megillah 3a; Bava Batra 14b

[5] Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, (10.10.11.

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Posted by on July 17, 2016 in Gospel of Luke


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