Apocalyptic Daniel 7 and Fantasy

Monday, October 28th, 2013, 08:10 WIB

 Robert SetioThere is veritable explosion of attention in recent years toward Apocalyptic literature. However, socio-political perspectives dominate the attention. Known as an apocalyptic text, Daniel 7 includes peculiar, rattling and elliptical similes. There are those similes in a dream of Daniel, the leading character of the episode who is also the primary disposition of the whole book. Daniel had been from the very beginning presented as a man with various benevolences, including the benevolence of decrypting vision (khazon) and dream (khalom) (Dan 1.17). There are evidences of the talent, like the story about Daniel’s ability to translate the dream of the kings Nebuchadnezzar (Ch. 2 and 4). Furthermore, the story of Belshazzar (Ch. 5) is a very important part among apocalyptic parts of the book (Chs. 7-12). In this sense, as the dreams of the foreign rulers, it was Daniel himself who received obscure and disturbing dreams and visions.

According to Seow, there is parallel between the story of the Ancient One and Canaanite mythology about the rebellion against El, the highest God. However, he disagrees with any equation of the two stories. In this sense, there is no indication of a battle took place between the gods and ended with the triumph of El the story of Daniel. God does not show his engagement in a fight as manifested by the Ancient One. Moreover, there is no opposition about highly superior God. In other words, Seow does not see that to read the story of Daniel, there is prerequisite of a background in Canaanite mythology. Additionally, there is an intention to compare the two stories.

Dr. Robert Setio presented this enlightening topic at the ICRS-CRCS Wednesday Forum on 23 October 2013. Dr. Setio is a lecture on the First Testament Hermeneutics and Theology at the Faculty of Theology, Duta Wacana Christian University, the Centre for Religious and Cross-cultural Studies (CRCS) and the Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies (ICRS), Gajah Mada University. He is a former minister of Indonesia Christian Church (GKI) East Java. He holds Ph.D in Biblical Studies from Glasgow University and received the grant from the government of United Kingdom (ORS) and Glasgow University. His recent writings are “Contributions of Christian Education for Eradication of Corruption in Indonesia,” “Contextualization, Postcolonialism, and Hibridity,” “Recent Issues Concerning Theological Education in Indonesia,” and “Biography as Contextualization”. He is now the Chairperson of the Association of Theological Schools in Indonesia (Persetia).

In his intereting talk, Dr. Setio brilliantly and thoroughly examines the dream world of Daniel 7 as fantasy. Furthermore, he emphasized that there is distinctive and unique language in the dream-images of Daniel. The language can be read with the assistance of both literary criticism and psychoanalysis. The Muslim street-artist, Popok Tri Wahyudi describes ten illustrations to show that these readings are made in an on-going conversation with the biblical text. Reflecting on the presence/absence of God in Daniel, Dr.Setio concludes that we cannot deduce clear-cut theological claims from this apocalyptic text. For instance, the historical contexts of apocalyptic texts, such as Dan 7, are difficult to be explained. This is because the texts do not provide sufficient information about necessary historical factors.

Dr. Setio convincingly described that the general principle of the Book of Daniel is very close to misery. However, the biblical scholars limitedly consider the Book of Daniel speaks about the Jewish’s experiences of the difficulty when they were ruled by foreign powers, especially during the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes.  The indication of the Jews’ misery is extremely neglected in the texts eventhough they are there. This is because Daniel’s friends–Sadrach, Mesach and Abednego–did not follow the king’s orders to pray before the golden statue that he set up, they were thrown into a blazing fire (Dan 3:20-27). Moreover, they escaped the death sentence remarkably. Daniel himself also had a similar experience when he was not interested to protect himself for praying to his God and not consider the king as a god (Dan 6). Then, Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den because of his insubordination. However, he survived miraculously like his friends. (admin,che)