The issue is not whether a divinely inspired prophet could have foretold the events which took place under Antiochus Epiphanes 400 years before. The question is whether this possibility carries any probability: is it the most satisfactory way to explain what we find in Daniel? Modern critical scholarship has held that it is not.Tom's timely post coheres with what I have been arguing here (especially in Dating Game VI and Dating Game VII) with reference to the predictions of the temple's destruction in the Gospels. Allow me to quote from a section of my forthcoming SBL paper (31-32 in the current draft):
- John J. Collins, Daniel, First Maccabees, Second Maccabees, with an Excursus on the Apocalyptic Genre (Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1981): 11-12.
One of the standard arguments against the idea that Mark shows knowledge of the destruction of Jerusalem is the reassertion of the text’s own character here as prediction. In his Introduction to the New Testament, David A. DeSilva suggests that “The primary reason many scholars tend to date Mark’s Gospel after 70 CE is the presupposition that Jesus could not foresee the destruction of Jerusalem – an ideological conviction clearly not shared by all.” But this kind of appeal, while popular, tends not to take seriously the literary function of predictions in narrative texts like Mark. Successful predictions play a major role in the narrative, reinforcing the authority of the one making the prediction and confirming the accuracy of the text’s theological view. It is like reading Jeremiah. It works because the reader knows that the prophecies of doom turned out to be correct. It is about “when prophecy succeeds”.My concern about the popular appeal to what Jesus could or could not have done is that it does not take seriously the real issue, which has nothing to do with making a judgement about the historical Jesus. Rather, it is about observing the literary function of successful prophecy in the narrative in which it appears. The prediction only gains traction because the reader is saying, "Hey, yes! I know what that's about!" The issue is parallel to the one discussed here by Tom Wrong, and I am grateful to have his Daniel discussion to inform my own. James McGrath weighs in on Exploring our Matrix, with similarly helpful observations.