From Whitla’s introduction to Isaac Newton, Observations Upon The Prophecies Of Daniel and The Apocalypse Of St. John – Back to Table of Contents of the Introduction
LET us glance for a brief moment at that portion of the history of the Jews which relates to the personality of Daniel and the date and authenticity of his book. I shall trouble you as little as possible with dates and will use only round numbers. Nebuchadnezzar invested Jerusalem about 600 B.C. in the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, and then commenced the period known as the ” Servitude.” He allowed the conquered king to remain in Jerusalem and only carried away Daniel and a few other royal youths of the Jewish Court to Babylon. Eight years afterwards, the Jews having proved rebellious, there was a second siege, and most of the inhabitants of Jerusalem were carried with their king to Babylon. This commences the period known as the ” Captivity.” Nebuchadnezzar placed the wicked and treacherous King Zedekiah on the Jewish throne to rule over the remaining worthless remnant, who sank into base idolatry. A third siege followed, and the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, its inhabitants, its Temple, by sword and fire; they left the whole land of Judea a barren wilderness. From this dates the period of the ” Desolations ” (587 B.C.), which lasted seventy years, as prophesied by Jeremiah, and the fulfilment was to the very day.
The Jews began to return after the decree of Cyrus, who had conquered Babylon, and finally the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt by Nehemiah (445 B.C.). From this period onwards we have practically no Bible history of the Jews. There is thus a chasm of silence from Malachi till the advent of Christ. It was not only a dumb period of
70 four to five hundred years in Jewish history, but it was a time of silence with God : He ceased to speak to His people through any prophet. Our own countryman, Archdeacon Charles of Westminster Abbey, has shown by his elaborate researches into the Apocryphal books that this so-called silent period was a time of intense religious activity and expectation, especially in the regions about Galilee, which contained numerous schools of seers.
The Jewish people remained after the time of the return from the Captivity under the rule of the kings of Persia till the rise of the Greek Empire as foretold by Daniel. Alexander the Great, from about 330 B.C., and his generals and their descendants became the masters or rulers of the earth, including of course the Jews. Under the various Greek kings of Syria and Egypt the Jews enjoyed great favour and free liberty to worship and carry out the various ceremonial ordinances of their religion till the advent of the descendant of one of them Antiochus Epiphanes (176164 B.C.). When this monster of wickedness and cruelty ascended the Syrian throne and reversed the policy of all his predecessors, he persecuted the Jews with great severity, forbade the rite of circumcision to be performed, compelled them to eat swines’ flesh, and when they resisted he besieged Jerusalem, defiled the Temple, and set up a statue of Jupiter on the Altar there. His oppressions led to the rising of the Jews and the Maccabean wars, when the Jewish people under Judas Maccabeus retook the city of Jerusalem and cleansed the Sanctuary (165 B.C.). Soon after this the Jews may be considered as a free nation more or less, and were ruled over by the descendants of the Maccabeans, either as High-priests or Kings, for 100 years till Pompey captured Jerusalem for the Romans. About a quarter of a century afterwards finds Herod King of Judea, which brings the history down to the advent of Jesus Christ. A great deal of interest surrounds the personality of the wicked Antiochus Epiphanes in connection with the book of Daniel, as the Higher Critics contend that it was in the time of his reign that the book was really written. The eleventh chapter of Daniel deals with the various wars between the predecessors of Antiochus, and the prophecies are so marvellously precise that some of the more moderate critics find great difficulty in believing that they were issued before the events. In this connection we have the edifying spectacle of one set of the critics complaining that Daniel’s prophecies are so vague as to be unintelligible, whilst another set maintain that they are so specific and precise as to be utterly incredible.
From what we have seen of the methods of the German critics and of those English Biblical scholars who blindly follow their lead, it becomes obvious why the book of Daniel is singled out for attack by every rationalistic writer who refuses to acknowledge the supernatural. This book contains a minute narrative of some of the most striking miracles recorded in the Bible, and a whole series of prophecies so marvellously precise in the date of their fulfilment that, if its genuineness can be proven, the whole case for the German Higher Criticism falls to pieces.