Chapter 5: The Prophecies of Daniel Unsealed, part 1
Mystery Babylon and the Stone Kingdom, part 13—Introduction to Higher Criticism
We shall begin in Daniel, chapter 12, today. I am continuing in our series of studies called Mystery Babylon and the Stone Kingdom. Those are two subjects which the church-at-large knows very little about. Even among those of us who have been life-long Bible students, these subjects present many difficulties.
Towards the end of chapter/lecture #4 in this series, we read one of the key passages dealing with Mystery Babylon—a passage in Revelation, chapter 17. In that passage we found that the apostle John was totally befuddled as to what the vision meant, and so an angel tells him (obviously, I am paraphrasing), “Aw, don’t fret about it, John, I will explain it to you.” And so the angel says: “The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth…” and so on.
And then after we hear the angel’s explanation, I don’t know what John did, but I know that most of us are still scratching our heads, and we would like to say to that angel, “You call that an explanation!” In the book of Daniel, chapter 12, we find that Daniel had seen a number of visions and he, like John, was very perplexed. We read these words in
Daniel 12:8 And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things?
9 And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.
10 Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand
Bible scholars and Bible students alike are almost unanimous in understanding that verse 9 applies to many of the visions and prophecies in the book of Daniel, not merely to the few verses of chapter 12, because remember, there were no chapter divisions in the Bible until just a few hundred years ago.
And indeed, the book of Daniel has puzzled and perplexed saints and scholars for centuries. This blog series is entitled Prophecies of Daniel Unsealed. If that title sounds as though I am being egotistical or trying to puff myself up as some great one who has been given unique and special revelation, I can assure you that it is not meant that way. With that title I am simply pointing out these facts.
- The meaning of Daniel’s prophecies would in fact be sealed and closed to the understanding of believers for many centuries.
- There would come a time, however—the “time of the end”—when the prophecies would be unsealed. Parenthetically, is it possible there could be more than one so-called “time of the end?”
- It is a logical conclusion, therefore, that if we can read and study the book of Daniel, and we can look at what has happened in history, both past and recent, and if we can then make good sense out of the visions and prophecies of Daniel, then we know that we are at the time of the end.
And this leads me to vent on a little pet peeve of mine. But I am not venting simply for the sake of blowing off steam. By venting, I am trying to instruct and persuade the flock of the importance of a particular discipline in one’s spiritual life. And what is that discipline?
Well, I have heard this numerous times and in numerous places over the years. It is when I hear people say things like, “Well, I don’t care about history, and I don’t care about current events.” A few people have even told me to my face, and they are even proud of themselves when they say, “I don’t read any books except the Bible.”
Both these attitudes smack to me of two things: one, it is a spiritual haughtiness, and number two, it is intellectual laziness. Don’t get me wrong. I think we all ought to spend significant time reading and studying the Bible, but how in the world can you even begin to make sense of any of the prophecies in Daniel, Revelation, and all the other prophets, unless you study history along with it.
It has been said many times, history is His Story. Like many of you, I would dare say, we love learning true history, because as we study and learn and understand history unfolding, we are seeing God’s Word confirmed and unfolding. It is both intellectually stimulating and spiritually encouraging.
Because it strengthens our faith. When we observe how our Father is faithful and true to His Word throughout the centuries, we can, therefore, face the future with boldness because we have the assurance, based on His track record, that our Father’s Plan will be fulfilled exactly as He has foretold it.
And so at this point, we are going to begin to delve deeply into the sections of the book of Daniel which concern Mystery Babylon and the Stone Kingdom. We will see if we can interpret them in a way which makes sense in light of what we know to be true in history. I want to preface this, however, by first dealing briefly but decisively with an issue of great importance concerning the book of Daniel.
It is the issue of the veracity and the inspiration of the book of Daniel. Back in the late 1700s there arose the term and the scholastic discipline called Higher Criticism. In theology there are two types of criticism: higher and lower.
Now do not be under the impression that the word criticism here necessarily means that the scholars are looking for ways to find fault and tear down the Bible at every turn. If you recall from earlier in this series, I explained the need for us to be critical thinkers, to understand how to do critical thinking. And that means to judge, discern and analyze issues and information in such a way which leads to correct conclusions.
In theology, lower criticism is synonymous with the term textual criticism and it deals with the minutiae of the manuscripts of the Bible in a bona fide attempt to determine what the original manuscripts must have read. And there is much more to it than that. But lower criticism, textual criticism, is a very necessary part of Bible scholarship.
Higher criticism, on the other hand, deals with the authorship of the books of the Bible. Note that, higher criticism deals with who wrote the various books of the Bible, and also when they were written, and with what process or how they were composed.
In other words, was it stitched together by someone at a later date than is generally believed. And so ultimately, the Higher Critics assumed to themselves the right to determine the authority or validity of entire books or large sections of the Bible.
In my opinion, as judged by the fruit, Higher Criticism is where wicked men have infiltrated the universities, theological schools, seminaries and Bible colleges, beginning back in the late 1700s and have used the pretext of so-called Higher Criticism to tear down the authority of Scripture and cast doubt on its veracity and divine inspiration at every turn.
Although theologians from Germany have borne the blame for the origins of Higher Criticism, and they certainly were foremost amongst them, at least one scholar makes the case that it had its origin in English Deism.
After all, he said, it was the mid-17th century English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, who promoted the idea that the Pentateuch was compiled from earlier sources. We will not investigate the minutiae of Higher Criticism here. But you needed to understand what it is before we move on.
I dealt with this whole realm of biblical criticism and of the inspiration of the Scriptures in my 20-lecture series called, Which Bible? Which Version? which is described more fully here.
But with that much information on Higher Criticism as background, I now want to tell you a personal story which leads directly to the issue at hand concerning the book of Daniel. Back in 1987, I had written my first book, entitled Television, VCRs and Christians. It is no longer in print.
Shortly thereafter, I was invited to speak about the subject at several venues, two of which were in Ohio. As best I recall, this may have been in the spring of 1988, because it was during that speaking tour that I first met a very delightful lady with a wonderful spirit named Bonnie Gaunt. Both Bonnie and I had been among those invited to speak at one particular conference.
But it had also been arranged for me to speak in a little town in western Ohio near to where I was born and where most of my first, second and 18th cousins, thrice removed, 😊 still reside. That particular county, and a couple neighboring ones in Ohio are approximately 99.9% Roman Catholic.
As some of you know, I went to a boarding school Catholic seminary for high school. In Catholicism, they have numerous so-called orders of priests. For example, we are all familiar with the Jesuit order.
Then there is the Dominican Order which was responsible for that heinous reign of terror called the Inquisition. Moreover, there are the Benedictines, the Franciscans and many, many more. But the seminary that I attended was run by the Catholic order called the Congregation of the Most Precious Blood.
Had I continued in training for the Catholic priesthood (a 13-year process), I would have spent my last four years before ordination at St. Charles Major Seminary which is located in that very county where I was born.
In fact, it is only a ten-minute walk from the church where my parents were married. Furthermore, it is only a couple miles down the country highway from that small town where I was scheduled to speak. I was not the only speaker.
Travelling with me was another man whom some of you may remember. He was a fine man, very brilliant, and he was a veritable expert on the Federal Reserve and our “money” system, a man by the name of Bruce McCarthy. (As of this blogpost, Bruce had passed away a couple years ago.)
Well, the venue for the meeting was the social hall of the Knights of St. John. And that building was located just a few yards down the road from the rectory of the Catholic parish. For non-Catholics, the rectory is simply what they call the house where the priest lives who is in charge of that particular parish.
As we arrived in town a couple hours before the meeting, I was delighted to learn that the priest in charge of that parish was Fr. Joseph Pax. Because, it just so happened that Fr. Pax had been my Latin teacher back in the minor seminary.
And if I can ignore humility for a moment for the sake of the story, the truth is that our heavenly Father has blest me with always being a good student in foreign languages. I have had two years of French, two years of German, a year of Spanish, three years of Greek and one year of Hebrew, and I always got high marks. (Now don’t expect me to be an expert today, because we all know that if you don’t use it, you lose it.)
Back at the seminary in the mid-1960s, Fr. Pax had taught me Latin for my sophomore, junior and senior years, and again, all humility aside so that you understand, I was his favorite student. In my junior year, the seminary started an award program for Latin scholarship, no runners-up, just one winner each year, and my name was on the plaque for both years.
So that when I heard that Fr. Pax was now right there in the rectory what did I do? Well, although it was 1988, and it had been 21 years since I had seen him, when Bruce and I knocked on the door, and I introduced myself and Bruce, Fr. Pax beamed such a huge smile, and his eyes lit up with absolute delight. Of course, he remembered me.
How pleased he was to be able to see one of his favorite students again after 21 years! So the three of us sat down to visit at his dining room table and we reminisced for a few minutes. He asked if I were married and yes, I was, and my wife and I had four children and so forth with the small talk for a while.
And then he asked me what brought us out to this little town. Bruce, meanwhile, did not know Fr. Pax from Adam, and so he sat like a statue the whole time, just observing and not saying one word. And so I told Fr. Pax that I had written a book and was there to speak at the social hall about the subject of television and Christians.
And somehow, I naively thought that when he learned that I was still a Christian, but just not of the Roman Catholic variety anymore, that that would be okay with him. But I was about to get another lesson about the power and the grip that Roman Catholicism still holds over the minds of men. Because it was not okay with him that I had left the Catholic church! His countenance changed drastically.
Over the next few minutes, it gradually began to become clear to me that he now considered me an enemy—his former favorite student notwithstanding. But in the course of the increasingly heated discussion that followed, I brought up one more fact that I—again naively—thought he might be pleased to know, and that was that although I did not end up in the Catholic priesthood, I did end up in ministry (part time in 1988). And I told him the name was Stone Kingdom Ministries.
He was already showing anger, his face was getting flushed, and his voice was rising in volume, and he asked me where I came up with that name. Trying to remain pleasant and not really wanting this visit to end badly, I began to explain that the name came from the book of Daniel, chapter 2.
Without pausing, I went on to elaborate how Daniel had interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream such that it prophesied about a succession of empires which would rule the world until such time as the Stone Kingdom of Jesus Christ smashed them all to bits and the Stone Kingdom would then stand forever.
With that statement, Fr. Pax then went on the attack by saying, “Well, that’s a bunch of nonsense because it has been shown that Daniel is a myth, and he did not write the book of Daniel and furthermore, it was not written until about a century and a half before Christ, hundreds of years after the mythological Daniel was supposed to have lived.
“The so-called prophecies of Daniel,” Fr. Pax bellowed on, “were written after Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome had already come to power. They wrote it to make it look like prophecies, and then that stuff about the Stone Kingdom never has and never will come to pass.”
To say that I was shocked and stunned would be the biggest understatement since Noah said, “Do you think it will rain?” I had already gained some vague knowledge of Higher Criticism by that time, but it suddenly dawned on me that this man, this priest, did not believe in the inspiration of the Bible.
Instead, he was a follower of the anti-biblical pronouncements of the Higher Critics. Of course, it is now crystal clear to me why Catholic clergy and Catholic scholars must denigrate the book of Daniel and Revelation, and we will get to that in due course.
Well, from that point, the conversation quickly came to a close as he told me in no uncertain terms that I was not welcome in his house. He practically chased us down the hall through the living room and out the front door. This was a big old house, beautiful in its craftsmanship and it had this big, thick, wood-framed, front door with thick, beveled and leaded glass covering most of its surface.
As Bruce and I had scarcely cleared the door jamb, he slammed that door so hard, I was surprised that even that thick glass did not break. Still somewhat in shock and stunned amazement over this revelation of the true mindset of a Catholic priest that I once admired, Bruce and I headed for the car and began driving around just to discuss it and for me to try to regain my composure.
Within about 15 minutes, we decided we had better find a phone booth and call our local host, the one who had made the arrangements for us to speak and fill him in on what had happened. This was in the days before cell phones, you understand. When we reached him, he was glad we called because he had some urgent news to tell us.
It seems that the person in charge of the social hall of the Knights of St. John had just called our host to inform him that the hall was not going to be available for James Bruggeman and Bruce McCarthy.
Well, it didn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out how that had come about. Fr. Pax must have slammed that door and immediately picked up the phone and ordered his Catholic parishioner to cancel our use of the hall.
As I said, the county where I was born was roughly 99.9% Catholic, so we scrambled over into the next county and into a little town down the highway, where our host quickly arranged for us to use the upper room of a bar for our meeting. So while the folks downstairs were imbibing alcoholic spirits, upstairs we were imbibing of the Holy Spirit. Praise the Lord!
(Another postscript as of this blogpost, Fr. Pax passed away quite a few years ago now.) Obviously, the reason I shared this personal story was to lead to a discussion of just how far and wide the poison of Higher Criticism has spread over the past two centuries. It is still going strong today.
If you have ever heard of the so-called “Jesus Seminar,” that is an ongoing project of the modern Higher Critics. You see, it has not only infected Roman Catholicism, but most of the mainline Protestant denominations, and certainly all the liberal denominations have embraced it.
So limiting our discussion at this point to only the veracity of the book of Daniel, how does a true Bible believer counter those charges? Well, one method is to show that the prophecies in the book of Daniel have continued to line up with events from secular history. Q.E.D. regarding the necessity of studying history! (To be continued.)