Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Sabbath School Insights No. 5, Qtr 2-07

Special Insights No. 5

Second Quarter 2007 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“The Bible for Today”

(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)

When the Rocks Cry Out

It must be painful for intelligent people to endure staying in a church which has suffered public exposure of its early history as fraudulent. It would be painful likewise for us Seventh-day Adventists to be happy if our emphasis on the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation were proven false by proof that Daniel was written in the second century B.C. instead of the 5th as the book claims. We attach great importance to Daniel and the Revelation; but if historical and archaeological evidence seriously compromised the historicity of Daniel, for example, that would be embarrassing for us!

But thank God for the numerous archeological discoveries that have continuously upheld the historicity of the Bible in general. The stories are fascinating.

Many Sunday-keeping Evangelical Christians also treasure historical and archaeological evidence that upholds the Bible. An example is the popular work of Josh McDowell in several volumes, Evidence That Demands a Verdict—invaluable support, and we Seventh-day Adventists rejoice to share the benefits of such prodigious research. Many college and university students are Christians as the result.

But there are archaeological discoveries that in particular rejoice the hearts of Seventh-day Adventists. Therefore we take special interest in discoveries that relate to Daniel. Many even of Christian people regard the stories of Daniel as pious myths (the lions’ den, the fiery furnace, etc.; they are just too miraculous!), and at the same time of course they tend to disparage the prophetic chapters of Daniel.

Let’s note an example of how God has quietly stayed in the background and permitted the critics to have their day ridiculing the “simple-minded” who believe Daniel’s stories.

For example, consider King Belshazzar in Daniel 5:

(a) Unbelievers ridiculed us, saying that the ancient Greek historians recorded no Babylonian king with that name. Therefore “Daniel 5 is a myth.”

(b) Then in 1861 H. F. Talbot published a prayer in cuneiform inscriptions he had found of Nabonidus praying for Bel-shar-user, his eldest son. But it didn’t say he was king. But it did prove that the ancient Greek historians had missed something!

(c) Then in 1882 G. Pinches published a text from the Nabonidus Chronicle that listed Belshazzar as “commander-in-chief of the army,” and he was “regarded as king.” But it still didn’t say he was actually king. God, who inspired the book of Daniel, kept quiet; He let the critics rave on.

(d) Finally, in 1924 Sidney Smith published the clear cuneiform statement that Nabonidus had “entrusted the kingship” to his eldest son, Belshazzar.

(e) But did the critics admit they had been wrong? R. H. Pfeifer of Harvard said, “We shall presumably never know how our unknown [second century] author learned ... that Belshazzar, [mentioned only in Babylonian record] ... was functioning as king when Cyrus took Babylon.” Dr. Pfieffer: Daniel was there, that’s why!

There is also a tiny detail that supports our Seventh-day Adventist pioneers in their study of Daniel that is little understood today. The 1844 leaders (Loughborough, Smith, Andrews, James and Ellen White, for example) believed that William Miller was right in seeing the prophet’s “the daily” of 8:11-13, 11:31, and 12:11 as an Exilic idiom that referred to paganism. Could that have been a term coined during the Babylonian 70-year captivity? Now, a discovery in the cuneiform inscription on the Cyrus Cylinder (line 7) uses a similar expression in describing paganism. This is not yet complete proof, but it is interesting.

Another fairly recent discovery finds that the Hebrew verb rum translated in the KJV as “take away” instead literally means “lift up,” “exalt.” This is a meaning consistent with the exaltation of paganism into “the little horn” which Ellen White describes as “incorporated” into Romanism (The Great Controversy, p. 50).

The Hittites are mentioned in the Bible (for example, Gen. 15:20) but were never found in secular history; hence, said the critics—“they must be a myth.” The Hittites finally were unearthed as a vast, widely scattered political people.

In comparatively recent times (the 1970’s) the Ebla Tablets were found—25,000 that contain much information that abundantly supports Biblical data. The confirmatory tales are so overwhelming that it seems God lets us be tempted to become triumphalists!

And therein lies a danger: that we Christians become proud of the certainties of our faith. Then we shut some sensitive hearts against the real truth: they hear us proclaim our faith with argumentative “amazing facts” that convince the head but miss the heart appeal.

It’s the meek and lowly in heart who “hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Matt. 5:5). The stories may interest people for a time, as Paul’s preaching in the Agora in Athens interested the crowds there. His evangelistic campaign there had apparently limped with meager results as our campaigns so often do (Acts 17:33, 34).

But the presentation of “Christ and Him crucified” does move hearts, and when Paul came to Corinth he told the people he had learned that truth while he was in Athens (1 Cor. 2:1, 2).

Robert J. Wieland


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