Email Question: Daniel 12:4 means what?

Blog-reading friends, I thought this email was worth sharing today. I added a footnote here, which was not included in my email response.~Bryan

“But you, Daniel, keep the words secret and the book sealed until the time of the end. Many shall be running back and forth, and evil [KJV=Knowledge] shall increase” Dan 12:4.

Email Question: Daniel 12:4 means what? Is this really talking about our technologically advanced times in which we live and the business of our world today?

Thank you for your email. There is much I could say here, but time this evening does not allow. I almost feel that I am doing you a disservice, because within academia this is a very complex discussion. Nevertheless.

First, the Hebrew text of Daniel chapters 8—12 fall into the Second Temple period.Therefore, this section of the book was likely written in the 2nd Century BCE in order to encourage those who were undergoing persecution by the Seleucids under Antiochus IV Epiphanes (i.e., there is a near consensus among Hebrew Bible scholars that chapters 7–12 should be read as pseudepigrapha from the Seleucid period). More specifically, between 167 and 164 BCE, the Hebrew chapters 8—12 were added—i.e., the text of Daniel went through a periods of development (Hebrew–Aramaic–back to Hebrew). However, there is much discussion on this within the guild as well. Even so, the immediately historical context and meaning of this verse likely had to do with contemporary persecution (of that time, not sometime in our future).

It is also important to note that common to “Jewish Hermeneutics” is that apocalyptic Jews likely thought the text had multiple meanings. They were not always concerned with the historical meaning, but the meaning in which they were able to derive from it for their existing events. Those who would say Daniel has one fixed meaning and only one fulfillment are one and the same with those who typically attempt to fit Daniel’s text into some fixed future fulfillment scenario. Likewise, those whose habit is to point out the nature of promise and fulfillment, by claiming that Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) promises found their “direct-fixed” fulfillment in the New Testament need to also be “somewhat” corrected. While this is true in some sense, the hermeneutical situation is much more complex. In my opinion, it is more appropriate to say that Old Testament prophecies found their “ultimate significance” in the New Testament, in contrast to the idea that there was always one intended fixed meaning or fulfillment for Old Testament passages. This naïve misunderstanding of Jewish Hermeneutics is why so many modern-day prognosticators holding to various forms of eschatology are the mockery of Biblical scholarship.

Nevertheless, with this “ultimate significance idea” in mind, in Matt 24 Jesus alluded to Dan 12 three times. He predicted the time of the end (Dan 12:4, 9, Matt 24:2–3, 14). He alluded to the unparalleled time of tribulation (Dan 12:1,, Matt 24:21). He spoke of the Abomination of Desolation (Dan 12:11, Matt 24:15). There is no doubt that in Mat 24, Jesus (according to the writer) was drawing on Daniel’s prediction—and Jesus said all of these things would be fulfilled in His generation (Matt 24:34). But, I admit, my explanation here is an oversimplification and there is a much wider discussion that includes other issues, e.g., parousia delay, etc.

So in my opinion, whatever the Danielitic writer was referring to, it is NOT sometime still in our future. Hope this helps. Sorry for the brevity of my response.



“The Hebrew of Daniel has little in common with the exilic period. Rather, it falls in the range of Second Temple Hebrew.” Moreover, “between 167 and 164 BCE the Hebrew chapters 8–12 were added, and chapter 1 [most likely, but not necessarily] was translated to provide a Hebrew frame for the Aramaic chapters. The glosses in 12:11–12 were added before the rededication of the temple. Additionally, the Aramaic of Daniel sometimes shares some affinities with the Aramaic forms found in “texts from the Dead Sea,” which means these have a final redactionary form that belongs to the Maccabean period. See, John Joseph Collins, Frank Moore Cross, and Adela Yarbro Collins, Daniel: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), 20. See also, Frank M. Cross, “Discovery of the Samaria Papyri,” BA 26, no. 4 (1963): 110–21.

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