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Why Jews Do Not Include Daniel Among the Prophets

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Archives / 1933 / January

 

 

Why Jews Do Not Include Daniel Among the Prophets

F.C. Gilbert

By F.C. Gilbert

 

The books of the Old Testament are not listed by the Hebrew people as they are arranged by Christians. But in the days of the Saviour the general divisions of the Old Testament were the same as are recognized by the seed of Abraham today. The Old Testament Scriptures are divided into three parts: The Law, or Torah; the Prophets, or Nebhiim; and the Scriptures (Writings), or Kethubhim.

By the law, or Torah, the Jews generally wish to be understood to mean the five books of Moses. But to the devout orthodox Jew, this word "law" (Torah) comprehends vastly more. It includes all the rabbinical writings which have been handed down orally since the days of Moses, Joshua, and the elders who followed Joshua. In the Talmudic work entitled, "Yad Hachazaka" (the Strong Hand), we find the following:

"All the commandments which were given to Moses were given with their explanation, for it is said, 'I will give thee tables of stone and the law and the commandment.' Ex. 24:12. `The law,' this is the written law, 'and the commandment,' this is the explanation thereof. And he has commanded to fulfill 'the law' according to the 'commandment.' And the commandment is that which is called the Oral Law."

In the book entitled, "Ethics of the Fathers," Chapter I, it is written:

"Moses received the law from Sinai, and he delivered it unto Joshua, and Joshua delivered it to the elders, and the elders delivered it to the prophets, and the prophets delivered it to the men of the Great Synagogue."

This law which the Talmudists claim was passed from one class of men to the other, is the traditional or oral law. All these writings are called Torah by devout Jews. But it must be clearly understood that the foregoing teaching is rabbinical, traditional, without divine authority.

The Jews do not include the book of Daniel in the second part, the "Prophets." This book has not been counted among the writings of the prophets for many centuries. But from statements made by the Saviour, Jesus recognized Daniel as a prominent prophet. (See Matt. 24:15.)

According to the first chapter of the book of Mark, Jesus Himself referred to the writings of the prophet Daniel to prove that He was  Messiah. Mark 1:14, 15. There is no doubt that the teaching of the apostles after the ascension of the Saviour wielded a strong influence in Jerusalem and in Judea in favor of the Jews' reading and studying the book of Daniel. The prophecy of the ninth chapter of this book so clearly, vividly, and vitally points to the advent of the Messiah that its teaching cannot be gainsaid nor overthrown.

The book of Daniel was accepted among the Jews in the days of the Saviour as of prime importance. Thousands of the people accepted the gospel in Jerusalem, and became valiant missionaries in carrying the message to other sections of the Near East. Their influence spread, and rabbinism rapidly waned in Palestine. When the Jewish hierarchy moved its seat of learning from Jerusalem to Pella, after the overthrow and destruction of the Holy City, as foretold by the Saviour, dominating Jewish authorities concluded that stringent measures must be taken to curb the influence of the followers of the Nazarene.

It is interesting to observe that until this time there was no Hebrew grammar. The application the disciples made of Old Testament teachings to Jesus as Messiah forced the Jewish scholars to consider the necessity of reducing the Hebrew language to a science. By degrees, rules of grammatical technique were introduced into the Jewish schools, until a saying became common among devout Jews that the Epicurians (a repulsive term applied particularly to Jewish Christians) had invented an Old Testament of their own, and they interpreted certain passages of Scripture to suit their own pleasure.

The book of Daniel, however, was studied but little. In the second century of the Christian era the scores, yes, even thousands of oral sayings of the sages of the previous centuries were collected by an eminent scholar, Rabbi Judah, who was given the title, the Nasi (prince). This man divided these oral teachings into twelve sections. This voluminous collection is the ground work of the Gemarrah, a commentary of the Mishna, and the Mishna is in turn the commentary of the Old Testament. The Jewish wise men felt it absolutely essential to fasten the Jews within rabbinical bounds of Scripture exegesis. The rabbis maintained that the Am Haratzim (the illiterate or unscholarly) were not able to understand or to explain the writings of the Bible. It was therefore necessary for the people to refer to the sayings of the sages and the wise men for intelligent knowledge of the Scriptures.

The rabbis taught that a child should begin the study of the Pentateuch at five; the prophets at ten, and from the time of confirmation, which is the age of thirteen, he should increase in knowledge of the Mishna and Gemarrah. From this time on he should study the Scriptures less; for these same men declared: "The law, Torah, is compared to water, while the oral law is like wine."

Thus by a gradual process the writings of the prophet Daniel were almost entirely eliminated from their curriculum, yet the Jewish leaders felt they must not cast aside this holy book, since it was written by a man they had been taught was a man of God. A vast amount of favorable tradition has been written about Daniel, in order that the pupil should maintain respect for his writings. It was at last decided that the book of Daniel should be listed among the writings of the Kethubhim, Scriptures.

Washington, D. C.

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