Sunday, September 12, 2010

Antiochus Epiphanes

Paul Tobin says, “Modern scholars are now in agreement that Daniel was written a year or two after 167 BCE. Why did the author of Daniel do this? Obviously the answer is that if he could present some of his ‘postdictions’ as accurate, people would give more credence to his book and to its predictions of the future. The one ‘real’ prediction in it that could be verified–the location of the death of Antiochus IV [Dan 11:45]–has been shown to be completely off the mark,” TCD, 165.

John Loftus says, “Sparks argues that when we consider the prophecies in the book of Daniel, it becomes clear that they are ‘amazingly accurate and precise’ up until a certain point where they ‘fail.’ He wrote: ‘Scholars believe that this evidence makes it very easy to date Daniel’s apocalypses. One merely follows the amazingly accurate prophecies until they fail. Because the predictions of the Jewish persecutions in 167 BCE are correct, and because the final destiny of Antiochus in 164 BCE is not, it follows that the visions and their interpretations can be dated sometime between 167 and 164 BEC,’” ibid. 341n37.

Let’s compare these breezy assertions with some real scholarship to the contrary:

“Most critical scholars as well as a few evangelicals interpret [Dan] 11:36-45 as applying to Antiochus. According to this interpretation, 11:36-39 depicts in general terms Antiochus’ religious hubris. Then 11:40-45 is an attempt by the Maccabean-era author of Daniel to write genuine predictive prophecy concerning the end of Antiochus’ reign. Since 1:36-45 does not mention Antiochus’ eastern campaign in 165 BC, the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem in 165, or Antiochus’ death in 164, critics often hold that this passage’s unsuccessful attempt at accurate predictive prophecy serves to date Daniel 10-12 to about 165 BC,” A. Steinmann, Daniel (Concordia 2008), 536.

“Yet there are several problems with a simple identification of the king in 11:36-45 with Antiochus IV. First of all, there is no indication that Antiochus exalted and magnified ‘himself over every god,’ did ‘not favor the god of his fathers,’ or honored ‘a god whom his fathers did not know’ (11:36-38). Antiochus had his coins inscribed “King Antiochus, God Manifest,” so he did claim to be a god. However, at the same time, some of these coins bore the likeness of Zeus on the reverse, while other coins depicted Apollo, so he venerated some other gods. Moreover, Antiochus was known for his devotion to the Greek gods in general, and in Jerusalem he most likely had erected a statue of Olympian Zeus and ordered sacrifices to be offered to it. He also promoted the worship of Dionysius in Jerusalem (2 Macc 6:7). Polybius reports that (in 166 BC) Antiochus held a festival at Daphne where he honored ‘all the gods or spirits mentioned or worshipped by people.’ In addition, Apollo was honored on the festival’s coinage,” ibid. 536-37.

“Second, there is no agreement by critics as to what the phrase ‘desire of women,’ refers (see the second textual note on 11:37). Critics generally take it to refer to one of the pagan gods whose cult was especially popular with women. Since the late nineteenth century, critics have tended to view this as a reference to Tammuz/Adonis (cf. Ezk 8:14), although some have claimed Dionysius was intended. The problem with this is that there is no evidence that Antiochus ever discouraged women from expressing their natural affection for men or suppressed the cult of either of these gods. He promoted Dionysius in Jerusalem itself 2 Macc 6:7),” ibid. 537.

“Given these problems, a recent critical commentator [John Collins] has claimed that the author engaged in ‘deliberate polemical distortion, to depict the impiety of the king in the most extreme terms possible’ and was ‘probably indulging in polemical exaggeration.’ However, that ‘solution’ raises a problem of its own. If the text is an inaccurate distortion or exaggeration, how can we know that is what the author intended and that the modern interpreter is correct in assuming that the text was about Antiochus? Could it be that instead of the text distorting the facts about Antiochus, it is the modern interpretation that is wrong and that distorts the text?” ibid. 537.

“An evangelical scholar [Joyce Baldwin] who holds that these verses are about Antiochus admits: ‘Although the chapter finds its first fulfillment in the character and reign of Antiochus IV, the matter does not stop there.’ However, this too raises another problem. If the text is not adequately fulfilled by Antiochus, could it be that this ‘first fulfillment’ is more in the perception of the interpreter than the intention of the author of Daniel? How can we assume that the author has engaged in hyperbolic polemic that only partially applies to Antiochus when it is also possible that there is no extreme distortion or exaggeration in the text and that it instead refers to someone else? How does one distinguish between some type of double application intended by the author and a mistake by the interpreter in attempting to have the passage apply to more people than the author intended?” ibid. 537.

“It is most likely that the author never intended 11:36-45 to be about Antiochus. Even scholars who apply these verses to Antiochus admit that 11:40-45 do not fit what is known about Antiochus from other historical sources. So it is very probable that it is the Antiochene theory, and not some distortion of him by the author of Daniel, that is the cause of these problems. The attempt to rescue the Antiochene interpretation of 11:36-45 by resorting to the theory that extreme polemics distort its depiction of Antiochus is more special pleading than reasoned exegesis. The author accurately predicts historical facts about other Greek rulers in his polemics against them elsewhere (e.g. 11:11-12,17-18 about Antiochus III). Those other polemics do not distort the depiction of the other kings so as to make the identifications of those kings problematic for scholars of any stripe. Even though Antiochus IV was the most reviled Hellenistic king among Jews because of his blasphemous actions and sacrilegious policies, the polemic against him in 11:21-35 does not distort the portrait of him. The identity of the king of the north in 11:21-35 clearly was Antiochus IV, as all scholars easily conclude,” ibid. 538.

“The traditional Christian interpretation understands 11:36-45 as applying to an eschatological king, which in NT terms is the Antichrist or ‘the man of lawlessness’ (2 Thes 2:3-13)…There are two plain indications in the text that the king who is the focus in 11:35-45 is not the same as the king of the north in 11:21-35. First, 11:35 ends with the notice that the persecution of Antiochus will refine God’s people ‘until the time of the end.’ From that, it is reasonable to infer that the prophecy will begin a discussion about ‘the time of the end,’ in keeping with the catch-concept organizing principle which is evident elsewhere in this fourth vision (chapters 11-12). In fact, three more times in the final part of the vision the timeframe is called ‘the time of the end’ (11:40; 12:4,9). Nowhere else besides these four verses (11:35,40; 12:4,9) does the fourth vision refer to ‘the time of the end.’ Earlier examples of a sudden shift to a later time support this view of the shift between 11:35 and 11:36. Earlier the prophecy skips from a Persian emperor who stirred up Greece to a Greek king (11:2-3) and from the breakup of the Greek Empire into four kingdoms (‘toward the four winds of heaven’) to only two of those kingdoms and their kings, the king of the north and the kind of the south (11:4-6),” ibid. 538-39.

“Second, 11:36 introduces the king in a unique way. He is simply referred to as “the king.” No Hellenistic king prior to 11:36 is ever referred to simply as “the king,” even when he has been recently mentioned. For example, 11:25 refers to the northern king’s designs ‘against the king of the south’, and then the next clause in the same verse does not refer to the southern king as “the king,’ but instead as ‘the king of the south’ again. Alexander the Great is called ‘a warrior king.’ Various Seleucid kings are always called ‘the king of the north’ (11:6-8,11,13,15). Various Ptolemaic kings are always called ‘the king of the south’ (11:5-6,8,11,14,25 [twice]),” ibid. 539.

“Therefore, there are good indicators that there is a change of both timeframe and subject between 11:35 and 11:36. When ‘the king’ is introduced at 11:36, it is after the transition to the end times (11:35b) and he is introduced in a unique, dramatic way. This signals that this king is not a Hellentistic king, but an eschatological king who will arise at ‘the time of the end’ (11:35,40; 12:4,9),” ibid. 539.

“But what about the verbal ties between the king in 11:36 and the descriptions of Antiochus in chapter 8 and earlier in chapter 11? As this commentary suggests elsewhere, Antiochus is depicted throughout the visions in Daniel as foreshadowing the Antichrist,” ibid. 539.


  1. This is very helpful, thankyou. The ESV Study Bible also says similar to this.

    Random question, why is this blog called Triablogue? What does it mean?

  2. Halo,

    It was named before my time, but I guess it has to do with a play on the word "trialogue" which is like a "dialogue" except "di" = two, while "tri" = three. And then the "logue" -> "blog" play on words.

    On, and if any think that "trialogue" is not a real word, you can read this.

  3. In light of the fact, at the beginning with a most supreme and powerful stance, we frail and feeble ones of God's Grace would be called upon to battle devils in our generation too, Daniel 2:44, it makes perfectly good sense to me that there would rise words written with such a keen and clear sense of Satan's thought, he again would work his charms of deceit by those two, too, Tobin and Loftus, writing what we read they wrote, above.

    What I find remarkable is how perspicacious the Elect Angels come across as being in appearances speaking the Words of the Lord, when sent to those elected to have an audience with them, to convey His messages and just how that effect affects the frail feeble soul so elected, to think it is the Lord Himself, present, speaking, that, that way that Satan himself employs upon us is clearly not understood, as our dear living brother, the Apostle Paul, wrote of him, so writing in 2 Corinthians 4:2-4 or 2 Corinthians 11:12-15 that way.

    Their job is to deceive us before the end. Our job is to not be deceived before ours!

    This thread is a helpful study to clear up the deception and establish the Truth! It is not an easy thing to grasp, so reading it a few times clearly, helps distill the vapors in the air!