Was Jesus Wrong on Purpose?

Was Jesus Wrong on Purpose? December 29, 2014

Mike Skinner shared some interesting thoughts on Mark 2:25-26 from the late Bill Placher:

“Is this all a joke? A mistake? By Jesus? By Mark? Mark so rarely misremembers texts that I doubt he is doing so here. I infer, then, that the point of his reply is to show that these Pharisees, eager to burden the common people with the details of the Law, are actually so ignorant of Scripture that they do not notice one misquotation after another. Such matters have not altogether changed, and those who quote a particular biblical passage as a means of condemnation often turn out not to know its context or relation to other biblical texts.” (William Placher, Mark (Belief: A Theological Commentary on the Bible)

Readers of this blog will know both that I am open to not only the Biblical authors but Jesus himself having been genuinely mistaken. Human beings inevitably are. And Skinner misses the fact that Matthew does drop the reference to the incorrect high priest. Nevertheless, sometimes people are intentionally wrong, for a variety of reasons, including to show up lack of knowledge on the part of one’s interlocutors.

What do readers of this blog think? Which of the following seems to best fit the evidence?

  1. The story is historically authentic, and Jesus was simply wrong.
  2. The story is historically authentic, and Jesus was intentionally misrepresenting the story in 1 Samuel 21.
  3. The story is historically inauthentic, and Mark was simply wrong.
  4. The story is historically inauthentic, and Mark was intentionally misrepresenting the story in 1 Samuel 21.

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  • Mike Skinner

    Thanks for pointing out that Matthew drops the reference – I missed that. Do you think Matthew did this to cover up the apparent mistake (assuming you buy into Markan priority)?

    • Yes, that seems to be the most likely reason that Matthew dropped that detail.

  • Gary

    You mean 1 Sam 21?

    • Well, I couldn’t very well have a post about intentional mistakes without including an intentional mistake to see who was paying attention, could I? 😉

      2 Samuel 8 is of course a text where Abiathar is mentioned.

      Now that you’ve spotted it, I should probably go back in and change it…

  • DonaldByronJohnson

    I think the story is authentic and Jesus is correct, but can be misunderstood. There are 2 ways to understand the phrase “the time of Abiathar, the high priest”. The first is the time he was high priest and the second is the life time of Abiathar, who was high priest. Since the former is obviously not correct, use the latter meaning. The ISV translates it this way to avoid possible confusion.

    ISV Mar 2:26 How was it that he went into the House of God during the lifetime of Abiathar the high priest and ate the Bread of the Presence, which was not lawful for anyone but the priests to eat, and gave some of it to his companions?”

    • Scott P.

      That would be a very strange way of phrasing it. It would be like saying “do you remember the American Civil War, in the time of President Tyler” or “do you remember the 1929 Stock Market crash, in the time of President Nixon.”

      • DonaldByronJohnson

        It might sound strange to us, but this is an ancient text referencing an even older time. Jesus is using phrases that identify the Scripture text he is referencing. Could he have used different terms, sure. Was he WRONG to use the terms he used, I do not think so.

        • When you are wiling to reword the text in an attempt to preserve the text’s supposed inerrancy, you have already lost. Why twist the text to get it to be what you think it ought to be, rather than honestly accepting the implications of what the text actually says?

          • DonaldByronJohnson

            I do not think it is rewording the text and I think I am honestly accepting what the text says. One can think it is rewording if one thinks there is one right way to understand the words and that is the one that makes Jesus say something wrong. I start from a different assumption, that Jesus knows what he is saying and that the authors faithfully recorded it, but we can misunderstand it. P.S. I do not believe in inerrancy, at least as it is commonly taught.

        • Jim

          How do you know that Jesus was actually literate and could read? Is it possible that Jesus was working from memory of an OT story that he learned at synagogue but just remembered some parts incorrectly. Sometimes reading a fourth century Nicene understanding of Jesus back into the 1st century implies Jesus could read/write and knew the complete OT inside and out, but this may be anachronistic.

          • DonaldByronJohnson

            Jews memorized Scripture and Jesus was a scholar.

          • Jim

            I don’t think it’s a proven fact that the Jews of the early 1st century CE had large portions of the OT (as we have it) memorized nor that Jesus was a scholar. In fact the gospels seem to indicate that those with scribal literacy were quite puzzled at Jesus’ understanding – the implication being Jesus wasn’t a trained scholar to the best of their knowledge. There is not even enough info on which synagogue Jesus attended and how extensive their library (beyond the Torah) actually was.

            Now I’m not emphatically claiming that he wasn’t a scholar (I don’t know either way), but rather that I don’t think that there is clear historical evidence either way on this issue. Logic seems to point to someone from a low- to mid-class family in rural Galilee would in general have little opportunity to become a scholar.

          • DonaldByronJohnson

            The Galil had more rabbis in this timeframe than even Judea. One can tell that Jesus was a scholar as he used scholar’s terms, but sometimes we today do not recognize them as such and thus we can misunderstand the text. As always context is key and this includes cultural context.

          • Jim

            What is somewhat hard for me to consider wrt your comment is that the gospels were written in Greek (and likely by non-eyewitnesses). I’m not experienced in this area at all (Aramaic/Hebrew to Greek interconversion), but I don’t know how you can extract that Jesus used “scholarly terms” in his native Aramaic that would be easily recognized in the Koine Greek gospel accounts, especially if Jesus never wrote anything himself that could be analyzed for scholarly content. Once again, I have no expertise in this and maybe someone here could offer an explanation.

          • Dan

            Jesus is said to have opened a scroll to a specific section and read from it in the synagogue. So yes he could read.

          • The fact that Luke depicts Jesus in this way does not automatically mean that this depiction corresponds to historical reality. Chris Keith’s work on this subject ought to be consulted by anyone interested in the topic.

          • Dan

            I will have to read that work.

          • Jim

            This occurs in only one version of this synagogue story (Luke, I think). A good treatment of this is Chris Keith’s “Against the Scribal Elite”

          • DonaldByronJohnson

            I think the discussion about Jesus being literate is not really relevant to the original point. The questions were whether Jesus made a mistake and if so was it perhaps deliberate. It may seem obvious to many that Jesus made a mistake, but I do not think he did. In any case, he references the relevant Scripture to his audience to make his argument. What many do not see if how his ref. makes his argument work, that is a much more interesting discussion.

          • Jim

            Agreed, so I’ll refrain from any further comments along this line. I was originally just posing that Jesus was quoting from memory an OT story he had heard and just remembered some details incorrectly.

          • DonaldByronJohnson

            http://www.craigaevans.com/evans.pdf is a paper claiming the evidence is that Jesus was literate.

          • Jim

            Yup, and IIRC Keith references this paper in his book.

          • Jim

            Yeah I know that earlier I said I would leave the literacy issue alone … but I skimmed the Evans paper again as it’s been a few years since I first read it. Evans concludes “In the end it is a question of probability not proof.” I take this as an admission by Craig Evans that the issue is not totally resolved.

    • The name of the priest was not the only thing that the story gets wrong in Mark. As Skinner says,

      “Jesus seems to be referencing a tale found in 1 Samuel 21:1-6. The problem is that Samuel’s version of this story is significantly different from Jesus’ version. In Samuel’s narrative, David was by himself. There is no mention of hunger. David does not enter the house of God. The priest was Ahimelech, not Abiathar.”

    • david

      KJV…in the days of. Think you are right on the money sir. This happened during “his day”. David spoke with Abiathars son. He is there for bread…um, he is hungry. In his negotiations, he mentions the young men with him. Are you guys just manufacturing inconsistencies…or is it the bible version y’all read from?

      • It may well be a factor that many of us are not reading one of the translations aimed at customers who think that the Bible should be an inerrant harmonious whole, as those translations tend to “fix” such problems and hide them from the reader’s view. And some of us are not dealing with any particular translation but with the Greek text. Paying close attention to what the story says is not “manufacturing inconsistencies.”

  • Gary

    A reach, but I like Richard Elliott Friedman’s “Who Wrote the Bible”, and it’s conspiracy of North and South, Shiloh and Aaron priests, and the eventual two high priests selected by David, Abiathar from the North and Zadok from the South.
    In-your-face answer by either Jesus or Mark, considering:
    1 Sam 22:16 “And the king said, Thou shalt surely die, Ahimelech, thou, and all thy father’s house.
    20 And one of the sons of Ahimelech, the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped, and fled after David.
    23 Abide thou with me, fear not; for he that seeketh my life seeketh thy life: for with me thou shalt be in safeguard.”
    So… Both David and Abiathar’s house survived. And Jesus being supposedly descended from David, and maybe a new high priest from the North…
    OK, crazy but fun.

    • Mo Kip

      Friedman’s “The Bible with Sources Revealed” helps demonstrate some of the development of that thesis by coding the Pentateuchal texts to their respective documentary sources. Fascinating to see what shows up from the northern “source” field (Elohist material) and how the later compositions reflect the tensions of north and south. His commentary is insightful.

  • Gary

    As someone said, “Do you remember the Civil War?” The North shall rise again.

  • Andrew Dowling

    I think the dialogue is primarily the creation of the author . .who was wrong. So #3 most probable for me.

  • I agree with Andrew. I find it very doubtful that Jesus would have made such a public mistake without being called on it eventually. Seems more likely to me another invented story (like others) meant to portray Jesus stumping the Pharisees. In which case, the error is Mark’s, and he was called on it eventually, hence the erasure in Matthew.

    On the other hand, when Jesus prophecies the coming of the son of man on clouds of glory within the lifetime of his disciples – that seems like exactly the sort of error an apocolyptic prophet would make. Apocolyptic prophets like Harold Camping still make such errors today.

  • Ken Schenck

    I suppose it could be broadly historical and Mark have mistakenly represented it.

  • DollarMan54

    This is a very interesting post. I just read an amazing little book written from the perspective of the Pharisees on the nature of Jesus, called: Jesus: The Quantum Physician. It is on Amazon. I would be interested in feedback.

  • Jose Bague

    It could also be a historically authentic conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees but Mark was inaccurrate because he was writing a rough draft and for some reason he did not correct this.

  • AmbassadorHerald

    I vote for #5, “The story is historically authentic, Jesus was correct, and Mark was correct.” So to answer your question, no, Jesus was not wrong on purpose. I point you to Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible:

    “Verse 26. [i]Abiathar the priest[/i]. From 1Sa 21:1, it appears that Ahimelech was high priest at the time here referred to. And from 1Sa 23:6, it appears that [i]Abiathar[/i] was the son of [i]Ahimelech[/i]. Some difficulty has been felt in reconciling these accounts. The probable reason why Mark says it was in the days of [i]Abiathar[/i], is that Abiathar was better known than Ahimelech. The son of the high priest was regarded as his successor, and was often associated with him in the duties of his office. It was not improper, therefore, to designate him as high priest, even during the life of his father, especially as that was the name by which he was afterwards known. [i]Abiathar[/i], moreover, in the calamitous times when David came to the throne, left the interest of Saul, and fled to David, bringing with him the ephod, one of the peculiar garments of the high priest. For a long time, during David’s reign, he was high priest, and it became natural, therefore, to associate [i]his[/i] name with that of David; to speak of David as king, and Abiathar the high priest of his time. This will account for the fact that he was spoken of, rather than his father. At the same time this was strictly true, that this was done in the days of Abiathar, who was afterwards high priest, and was familiarly spoken of as such; as we say that General Washington was present at the defeat of Braddock, and saved his army; though the title of [i]general[/i] did not belong to him till many years afterwards.”

    • Anything can be harmonized if you force it hard enough.

      • AmbassadorHerald

        The question is, is this harmonization reasonable or unreasonable?

        • It is clearly forced, trying to get the text to say something it doesn’t, because of a doctrine about Scripture which is being allowed to trump what Scripture actually says.

          • AmbassadorHerald

            But it works and preserves Jesus Christ’s divinity, which is core doctrine of Christianity. Without this doctrine, there is no Christianity. Jesus must be God to forgive sins, there is no other way. God must be perfect, or He is not God.

          • The authors of the Synoptic Gospels didn’t think Jesus was God, and Matthew explicitly shows that the crowds understood God to have given the authority to forgive sins to human beings. And so you are apparently happy to be at odds with the Biblical texts in what you deem essentials.

          • AmbassadorHerald

            Then explain to me this passage, and also why no one was able to answer and never dared to ask anything more.

            Matthew 22:41-46 (KJV)

            While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying, “What think ye of Christ [Christos—The Anointed Messiah]? Whose Son is He?”

            They say unto Him, “The Son of David.”

            He saith unto them, “How then doth David in spirit call Him Lord [Kuros—Master], saying, “The LORD [Yahweh—The Eternal] said unto my Lord [Adonai—The Messiah], ‘Sit Thou on My right hand, till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool?’ [Psalm 110:1]” If David then call Him Lord, how is He his son?”

            And no man was able to answer Him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask Him any more questions.

          • You think that the affirmation of the divinity of Christ is found in Matthew in the form of a riddle?!

          • AmbassadorHerald

            It was good enough for Jesus, and stumped those who wished to reject His divinity. You reject His divinity too, so Jesus is speaking to you as well.

          • Simply assuming that you have grasped the point of the riddle, one that there is no evidence for elsewhere in Matthew, is obviously not going to seem persuasive.

          • Michael Wilson

            James, their is a school of thought that Jesus said this to dispel the idea that the messiah was of the line of David. But if the riddle is to mean the Messiah is the son of God, wasn’t that the old Judean understanding of the King? If Jesus understood the Messiah as Daniel did, as the spiritual embodiment of the righteous servants of God, then this saying might apply to that entity, a being not merely a person from the line of David, but the corporate spirit of the holy people, below God but greater than David.

          • That’s an interesting suggestion. One could also suggest that, if Jesus knew the Similitudes of Enoch, he may have believed that the coming Son of Man was a celestial figure, who would become united with the descendant of David and thus make him greater than his father David.

          • AmbassadorHerald

            You both do realize that the simplest answer is the one that Jesus Christ = The Messiah, The Messiah = Adonai, Adonai = Yahweh, Yahweh = God Eternal. The principle of Ockham’s Razor says that this understanding is most probably correct. This I what the text says, without a revision as you both are trying to do.

          • You fail to realize that what seems obvious to you in light of later Christological developments would never have occurred to first century Jews who took monotheism for granted.

          • AmbassadorHerald

            Christianity is still monotheistic, that hasn’t changed. But, just because this person or that person would not come to the right conclusion does not mean the right conclusion is wrong. For example, we know things today which were largely re-discovered by Galileo at a time when the understanding of European culture could not conceive of them. In the same way, God is beyond human understanding, so no matter who you talk to, God will be greater than what they can grasp. There is not a single Christian who can truly comprehend a triune being, yet we must believe this because God revealed it to us. You cannot say that just because I will never know how to build a car engine, that the way a car engine works is not real.

          • So your claim is that Judaism in Jesus’ time was trinitarian but the evidence has been lost? One can believe anything one wishes if one is happy to posit that all the evidence to support one’s views has been lost…

          • AmbassadorHerald

            No, I’m saying that they did realize that God was triune, and that we still have the evidence today. Which is why the Pharisees could not answer the riddle, because they knew if they did, they would be elevating Jesus to God-hood and they refused to accept that truth. God told us right in Genesis and beyond that He was not a singular entity.

            Genesis 1:26—And God [Elohim] said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness: …”

            Genesis 3:22—And The LORD God [Yahweh Elohim] said, “Behold, the man is become as one of Us, to know good and evil: …”

            Genesis 11:7—[And The LORD {Yahweh} said,] “Go to, let Us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”

            Isaiah 6:8—Also I heard the voice of The Lord [Adonai], saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?”

            Also, Elohim is actually a plural noun in Hebrew, so we should read it as “Gods”, but the plural noun is always used with a singular verb, indicating this multi-entity was but a singular being. Plus, if you did not notice above, we actually have three names for God and all three speak of an “us”—The Trinity.

            As for the ancient Jewish writings which confirm they knew of The Trinity in Jesus’ lifetime, we need to look at the Targums and the Zohar. I present a simple example below, but there are many others. This was written shortly after the sack of Jerusalem in 70 AD and is completely Jewish in nature, not at all Christian.

            Zohar, vol. ii. P. 43, versa., 22—“How can they (the three) be One? Are they verily One, because we call them One? How Three can be One, can only be known through the revelation of the Holy Spirit.”

          • It is extremely unlikely that the Zohar was composed when you say it was. I also find the “quotation” from it is only on certain kinds of websites that are aimed at evangelizing Jews, and so can you find a clear reference with a citation that will allow me to look it up in a published edition of the work?
            https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/Zohar.html

            And everyone knows that it is possible to read the Trinity into the Hebrew in the way that you do – especially when someone doesn’t know that Semitic languages use plurals to indicate categories – “kings” meaning “kingship,” “prostitutes” meaning “prostitution,” and “gods” meaning “deity.” But a doctrine such as the Trinity is something that would need to be spelled out, in connection with the emphasis on worshiping one God alone, to avoid confusion given the subject’s importance as enshrined in the first commandment. And so positing that it is “implicit” is not going to be persuasive, for reasons that should be obvious.

          • John Thomas

            I agree with you. Zohar as far as I understand is considered a pseudoepigraphical work. Even though it claims to be written by Simeon bar Yochai who lived in 70 CE and transmitted since, it was first brought to light only by Moses de León who lived in 13th century Spain and many think that he might have composed it and claimed to have received it through transmission. Even if he received it, it most likely have been composed around 7th to 8th century CE.

          • AmbassadorHerald

            Honestly, this argument has been heard about Scripture books too and we have evidence to counter those claims, so just because you bring this claim forwards doesn’t make it true. But, even if the Zohar is not as old as it is supposed to be, you didn’t explain why a completely Jewish book would speak of the Trinity, in a religion which you all claim was never Trinitarian. Plus, you did not counter the two Targums which also speak of the triune nature of God, both written slightly before Jesus’ birth.

          • John Thomas

            I did not intend to make any comment about content of Zohar. I only agreed with Dr. McGrath regarding what I found based on my research on opinion of scholars in regards to the dating of Zohar. I have nothing to comment about the contents of Zohar or Targum as I have not read the books cover to cover and it will be unfair on my part to comment on something that I have not read.

          • Can you kindly provide citations from online or printed editions of the Zohar and the specific Targumim you have in mind? You seem to be getting your information second hand from apologetics sites, and the “quotes” and allusions you provided do not seem to reflect what these works actually say.

          • AmbassadorHerald

            I am getting my information from a hard-cover book. It’s actually two books in one by Dr. Grant R. Jeffery, “The Signature of God—Astonishing Biblical Discoveries” and “The Handwriting of God”, originally published in 1996 and 97 but combined in 99. The Targum of Jonathan (Jerusalem Targum) and the Targum of Onkelos are the Targums he speaks of. As a result, I have no idea what is or is not online, but since you have been telling me, you have done far more research into cyberspace than me. If you have not found an online edition, there probably isn’t one.

            I will let you know that I do not appreciate you calling Christians who desire to reach our Jewish brothers for The Messiah liars. Just because you do not want to follow Jesus Christ, believe in The Trinity, or accept Scriptural Inerrancy, that does not make those of us who do liars.

          • Were you never taught that you shouldn’t judge a book by (the hardness of) its cover? 🙂

            If you reproduce here the full citations from the Zohar and the Targumim, I can look them up in print editions that I have access to even if they are not online. The point is to get the precise references so that they can be looked up. The “quotation” from the Zohar does not appear in the form you gave it in any online edition of that work.

          • AmbassadorHerald

            Based on my own search for online editions of the Zohar, there doesn’t seem to be a full 23 Volume anywhere. They all appear to be single volume abridgments or maybe just the first volume. You can buy a complete one in hard copy but that is it. If you want the citations, you can get them at this webpage I found that is an online copy of the chapter I am looking at in my hands.

            http://www.grantjeffrey.com/article/chphnwr.htm

            What do these read as in your copy?

          • That the Zohar, reflecting medieval Judaism, ahould interact with the existing Trinitarian doctrine of Christians is not surprising.

            When the ancient Targums use memra or refer to the Angel of YHWH, those are ideas also attested in Philo of Alexandria, Apocalypse of Abraham, and so on. Those ideas clearly influenced the author of the Gospel of John. But it would he a mistake to read later Trinitarian ideas back into the Jewish sources.

          • AmbassadorHerald

            You did not answer my question: What do these read as in your copy? Earlier you said it did not read as I had posted, now you seem to confirm that it does.

            Also, the Jewish Virtual Library describes the story about Moses ben Shem-Tov de León’s wife as “incredible”. Similarly, there are tales of how Charles Darwin recanted his theory of Evolution on his deathbed, but does that make that story true? No, there is no evidence to support that he recanted besides a rumor. Does that mean the tale of Moses ben León’s wife reporting her husband forged the document is any more accurate? No, it too may be a simple desperate lie designed to start a rumor. Jews who had rejected the Trinitarian beliefs because Christians had latched onto it so tightly would want to discredit the Zohar’s authenticity.

          • You can find the relevant passages in online editions of, and articles about, the Zohar. The wording of the translation you cited was different and so I could not find the relevant passage at first.

            The mistakes in Aramaic, influence of Spanish, and lack of any knowledge of the Zohar prior to the discovery all point clearly to a medieval date. Those considerations have nothing to do with any alleged desire to discredit the work.

          • AmbassadorHerald

            Well, I already explained I could not find one. I have now done another search with the same results, only volume 1 or single volume editions are available. If you have a source then why can you not link me to it or even copy-paste the quotes so I can compare? You don’t even need to manually type it out like I did from the book (was not aware it was online).

          • If you are looking for the Zohar online, these sites have it:

            http://www.zohar.com/terms/zohar_body/127

            http://www.kabbalah.info/engkab/the-zohar/download-the-zohar#.VWyOK9K6fow

            http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/zdm/

            The Jewish Encyclopedia articles about the Zohar and the Trinity are also both useful.

          • AmbassadorHerald

            It still seems the second two links are not complete Zohar’s, however the first one might be upon a closer look. I have made an account to read it, but I have no idea where Volume 2 begins, or Volume 3, all the way to 23. It would be easier if people in articles would cite the volume’s name not just the number or if this website were to at least put in parenthesis where each volume begins. That is why I assumed it was not the entire Zohar to begin with. I can see the versa’s though.

          • Michael Wilson

            Yes, similar lines of thought. I’ll have to look through simlitudes again. I’m not sure what messiah represented there. I would expect that their were several schools of thought among jewish Mystics about the messiah.

          • Michael Wilson

            But I’m not aware that Jesus makes use of Enocian material. He does use son of man to refer to a coming judge like Daniel. And Revelation makes heavy use of Daniels imagery. Of course Jude uses Enocian material, but I’m not sure how central that was. It’s any ones guess how those ideas cross fertilized. It’s certaily interesting study for me.

          • Michael Wilson

            Sorry about going on, slow day at work. But I am biased toward the idea of a corporate son of man as it places the existence of the Christ more in the living community of believers and less on Jesus of Nazereth the man, who is in a since an icon of the messiah, but not its totality.

          • It would be really interesting to explore the notion that Jesus’ identification of himself with the corporate Son of Man figure from Daniel contributed to Paul’s view of Jesus as a corporate figure, whose body those who are “in Christ” constitute.

          • John Thomas

            The actual phrase used by the writer of book of Daniel is “someone like son of man”. It makes perfect sense as all the beings he describes prior to that are beasts of different varieties. So in contrast to the beasts, now emerges a being that looks like a human being. But then, at the point of interpretation, the writer interprets “son of man” as those holy ones of Most High. But I agree with you that writer of Similitudes of Enoch seem to describe “son of man” as one eschatological figure. Maybe concept of “son of man” developed to mean something else during the intertestamental period. But I believe that use of “son of man” in gospel accounts can be reinterpreted as to involving all the righteous ones of God as one body in around 80% of instances while in remaining instances Jesus seem to be saying about himself when he used that phrase. This is my impression, I maybe wrong.

          • Michael Wilson

            I haven’t had a chance to re read Simlitudes, but I remember from some work I did examining the demonic in Revelation that the boundry between symbolic images and beings is not the clear. The vision in the mind of the prophet is more than a literary device but a description of the spritual reality behind a corporeal thing. The Roman empire is physically what historians say it is, but spiritually it is the dragon. I suspect that Daniel’s Prince of Persia is like wise spiritually a demon but corpereally the Persian empire, not just a ghost that favors Persians.

          • John Thomas

            Based on internal evidence, book of Daniel has been dated by historians to some year after 167 BCE when Antiochus IV Epiphanus desolated the Jerusalem temple. One of the major events that also occurred around that period was the Zadokite priesthood that existed till then was transferred to the lackeys of Antiochus and legitimate priests either went into exile or into Egypt. Even though Hasmoneans eventually were able to reestablish Jewish kingdom, they themselves established as both high priests and kings. So there was a resentment among many Jews for not giving the high priesthood back to Zadokite priests and these people formed communities studying scriptures and hoping that God would intervene and give the authority back to Zadokite priesthood and this could have been the beginning of Qumran and Essene communities and their Teacher of Righteousness will most likely be the Zadokite priest who lost the priesthood. If that is right, it makes perfect sense to assume that this book might have been written by someone in such community, as they would naturally portray the strong neighboring kingdoms as beasts and since they themselves are weak, God will intervene on behalf of them with help of archangels like Michael and hand over the kingdom to them, holy ones of God.

          • Michael Wilson

            Interesting John. One of my goals is to examine Jesus and earlier apocalyptics not just as works he may have read or heard but as continuing communities. How did they understand the works they produced apart from contemporary popular views or later jewish and christian interpretation