Diversity In Public Schools? – An Essay

At its inception, American education was primarily Christian in nature. Many children in colonial America memorized the Westminster Catechism and parts of the Bible. Indeed, 98% of the Founding Fathers identified with a Protestant denomination (Thomas, 2006, 53). But in mid 1800s, the proposition that nature was created by a supreme, all-powerful being was being challenged with the theory that all life evolved from simpler life forms. Charles Darwin was a major proponent of this theory through his 1859 work The Origin of Species (Thomas, 2006, 58) and since its publication evolutionary philosophy has seeped its way into each and every discipline, so that the uniformitarian view of origins has become the only view taught in public school classrooms today. This, however, begs the question: Was this beneficial for the public educational system in America? I believe the answer is no, and that the public school system should permit different viewpoints to be taught in the classroom setting.

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Method Behind the Madness

Hey all, I just wanted to share a little something with you that I penned when I first started writing this blog. I call it my “writing mission statement,” because I needed to have some tangible reasons to be writing, besides it being something that I simply enjoy doing. I thought I would share it so that you guys can understand where I’m coming from when I write something for this blog. Thank you all for taking time out of your busy lives to read my material. It matters immensely to me.

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After a long night of fruitless work on the Sea of Galilee, my tired crew and I returned to shore for some rest. But before we headed back home, we stopped at the market for a little sustenance. I bought two loaves of bread and sat down on a low wall facing the sea that my life depended on. A crowd had gathered around and sat at the base of the hill as a man stood up to speak. Thinking of nothing better to do, I listened to what the man had to say.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven . . .” he began. What? I thought. Why would they be blessed? But he continued to speak blessings upon people unworthy of blessings. I was perplexed at the meaning of these words, so I moved closer to where he stood.

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The Old Testament Book of Daniel

Note: I wrote this overview of the Book of Daniel for a class I had last year.

Outline: The Old Testament Book of Daniel

I. The Preparation of Daniel and His Friends (1:1-21)

II. Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream and Daniel’s Interpretation (2:1-49)

III. The Fiery Furnace (3:1-30)

IV. Nebuchadnezzar’s Second Dream and Daniel’s Interpretation (4:1-37)

V. The Writing on the Wall (5:1-31)

VI. The Lions’ Den (6:1-28)

VII. Vision of the Four Beasts (7:1-28)

VIII. Vision of the Two Kingdoms (8:1-27)

IX. Daniel’s Prayer and Vision of the Seventy Weeks (9:1-27)

X. Message of Encouragement (10:1-11:45)

XI. Troubles and Victory (12:1-13)

(Arnold and Beyer, 418).

 

The Old Testament Book of Daniel

Author:

Traditionally, the prophet, exile, and advisor of the Babylonian and Persian period of the Israelite captivity at the time of Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus, Daniel, is given credit for the authorship of the book of which he is the main protagonist and which bears his name (Harrison, 858). Throughout the vast majority of the book’s existence, both Jewish and Christian scholars associated the book of Daniel with the Hebrew captivity described above. In general, internal evidence is cited as the main evidence for this position. For example, in chapters 6-12 of Daniel, comprising of the latter half of the book, the author speaks in first person: “In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me—to me, Daniel—after the one that appeared to me the first time (Dan. 8:1, NKJV),” providing a substantial argument for Daniel as the author of the book of his namesake (Hill 23-4).

However, intellectuals belonging to the latter end of the nineteenth century and into the dawn of the twentieth century voiced serious opposition to the long-accepted authorship of this prophetic book (Hill 24). The objections brought about by these scholars essentially reduce to three main categories: prophetic errors, historical discrepancies, and language inconsistency (Harrison 862-65).

The argument from prophecy dates back to the third century AD Neoplantonian philosopher Porphyry. Liberal scholars from the turn of the twentieth century repeatedly acknowledged Porphyry as a major source for their unconformity. This argument, that Daniel was written by some unknown Jew during the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes to strengthen the resolve of the Jews during the Maccabean era, stems from the liberal view that the men who penned the words of the Bible could not have been so detailed in their prophecy unless it was an instance of vaticinium ex eventu, prophecy written after the event (Hill 24). Yet if one has ever read through the book of Daniel, it is not a simplistic book by any means, for even the prophecies given within were not even understood by the prophet himself (Dan. 12:8), much less a Maccabean Jew who supposedly fabricated the entire account (Harrison 862).

Secondly, these dissenters ceaselessly assert Daniel to abound with historical misnomers, such as the assertion that Ben Sira, author of the apocryphal book of Sirach, never makes mention of Daniel in his poem praising the heroes of Israel (Sir. 44:1-50:24). Liberal scholars assume that this means that Sira had never heard of Daniel or his book, and therefore Daniel had to have been written after Sirach (i.e., after 180 BC). Curiously, Sira also omits references to Job, Ezra, Mordecai, Asa, and Jehoshaphat as well, while mentioning other characters from these books (Harrison 864). One example is that Sira notes Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and Nehemiah, but fails to recognize Ezra, even though records of all four of these men can be found in the book of Ezra (Crenshaw 689). Ultimately, the book of Daniel is well-represented in the Qumran manuscripts, thereby confirming that a Maccabean Jew could not have been the author (Harrison 861).

Realizing the erroneous nature of these views, many contemporary scholars consider the book of Daniel to be a compilation of multiple works composed by unnamed Jewish pseudepigraphers who amassed their works into one volume shortly after the Maccabean era ended around 160 BC. Once again, the scholars who adhere to this view (even including some evangelicals/conservatives), fail to recognize the discoveries at Qumran as formidable evidence opposed to their position on the matter, as well as the other circumstantial and internal evidence presented in the book of Daniel itself and conclusions which can be drawn directly from the text of the book (Hill 25).

Audience:

Conservative estimates for the date of Daniel conclude the author’s central audience was the Hebrew presence exiled in Babylon. Because a good portion of the book is written in Aramaic, it contains Persian-linked words, and the Greek linguists who translated early versions of the Septuagint struggled to understand the meaning of some of the language employed in Daniel. It is likely that the book was written around the time of Persian rule in Mesopotamia and therefore was written to encourage the Hebrew captives (Hill 27).

The liberal view suggests, as has been aforementioned, that the book of Daniel was written to Maccabean purists as an example for resisting the amoral authority and living a holy lifestyle amongst pagans. It was to encourage the Maccabees in their quest for freedom from Roman oppression. On the contrary, this hypothesis fails to account for the archaeological evidence from Qumran that suggests an earlier date and consequently an earlier audience for the book of Daniel, as well as the other historical indicators considered in the discussion of the proper authorship of Daniel (Harrison 861).

Date of Authorship:

Traditionally, the book of Daniel was considered to have been written in the 6th century BC by Daniel. Evidence supporting this theory mainly derives from the discovery of fragments from the book of Daniel among the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran, which suggest that the book of Daniel could have been composed in its current form no later than the 4th century BC, whether by Daniel himself or by another editor shortly after his death (Harrison 861-62).

The first contestant of the customarily assigned date was Porphyry, a Neoplatonist. Since his arguments were transcribed in the 3rd Century AD, the consensus among dissenters has not digressed much from Porphyry’s original theses. As previously mentioned, he concluded that the book of Daniel was written by an unknown Jewish Maccabean author to bolster the confidence of the Jews in revolt against Syrian oppression under Antiochus IV Epiphanes. However, the evidence for this proposition is dismantled through further investigation of the internal and historical evidence relevant to the book (Harrison 861-62).

Theme:

Although slightly scattered in its contents, Daniel does have one common theme associated with each part of its fascinating progression of events. While Daniel provides excellent insight into life during the exilic period, the main purpose of the book is to magnify the sovereignty of God over all creation. Within the book it is blatantly obvious that God is in control of every situation that Daniel and his friends face. From using Babylon to bring deserved judgment on Judah (Jer. 20:4) to ushering in the Persian empire to punish the failure of the Babylonian kings to recognize His sovereignty (Dan. 5:30-31), God is easily seen in the book of Daniel working behind the scenes to fulfill His ultimate purpose in history (see Dan. 4, 8).

“Other prophets of the Old Testament knew that Yahweh, the God of Israel, was sovereign over the whole world . . . But Daniel illustrated this fact in graphic new ways. Through both stories and visions, Daniel demonstrated the lordship of God over the whole world . . . This truth was meant to provide great comfort for exiled Israelites living in a foreign context (Arnold and Beyer 420),” writes Bill Arnold. “Without a doubt the principal theological theme of the book is the sovereignty of God,” Stephen R. Miller concludes. “Every page reflects the author’s conviction that his God is the Lord of individuals, nations, and all of history (Butler 387-88).” Yet another example of this viewpoint can be found in W. Sibley Towner’s words, “The unswerving affirmation of the sovereignty of God over all human sovereignties … is a theme in the first chapter and continues to be proclaimed vigorously throughout the book (Towner 22).”

Main Characters:

Besides God, the central character in the book of Daniel is obviously Daniel himself. Before he was captured and taken to Babylon, Daniel was of noble descent (Dan. 1:3). When he arrived in Babylon, he was installed as a wise man by aides of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (Dan. 1:4) and continued to serve the nobility even after the Persian takeover (Dan. 1:21). Daniel was given the Babylonian designation Belteshazzar (Dan. 1:7) to discourage his nationality and religion, but Daniel remained faithful to God during trials (Dan. 1:8). Though threatened with death on multiple occasions (Dan. 2:14, 6:16), he trusted in God and God delivered him from the dastardliest of situations (Owens 85-6).

Not only was Daniel a wise man of Babylon, but he also filled the role of prophet of God. In the first six chapters of Daniel, glimpses of this facet of his life are evident through his interpretation of dreams and signs such as Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the multilayer statue (Dan. 2) and his translation of the “writing on the wall” (Dan. 5). In the latter half of Daniel (Dan. 7-12), we see that Daniel is privileged to receive visions of the future from God. Much like the signs Daniel interprets in the historical part of the book (Dan. 1-6), these visions contain prophecies regarding future kingdoms and rulers (Wilson and Harrison, 859).

Another notable player in Daniel’s narrative is the colorful character of Nebuchadnezzar. As one reads through the book of Daniel, the arrogance, vanity, and occasional humility are all displayed by the diverse man Nebuchadnezzar. He was the conqueror of Jerusalem (Dan. 1:1-2), recipient of the dream of the statue of kingdoms (Dan. 2), mastermind of the golden image on the plain of Dura (Dan. 3), and the king humbled to exile until his recognition of God’s sovereignty (Dan. 4). His interactions with Daniel and his Judean colleagues comprises the main body of the historical narratives in the book of Daniel, chapters 1-4 (LaSor 508).

Finally, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (i.e., Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego) play a significant part in the book. Like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were exiles from Judah (Dan. 1:6), determined that they will not defile themselves with the king’s delicacies (Dan. 1:8-16), served in the court of Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 1:19). However, one episode in which Daniel is conspicuously missing is that of the golden statue in chapter 3. Here, the three friends again decide that they will not sin by worshipping false gods and are subsequently cast into a heated furnace by Nebuchadnezzar, but miraculously emerge unscathed by the unrelenting flames. This is the last we hear of Daniel’s three compatriots in the book, however, and they fade into history (see Dan. 1-3).

Main Teachings:

One of the main teachings that the book of Daniel stresses is the importance of humility. It is obvious within the pages of the book that God requires even the greatest of mankind, like Nebuchadnezzar, to submit to His ultimate authority (Dan. 4:37) such as in the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Dan. 2), God’s awesome display of power through His miraculous deliverance of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego (Dan. 3), and most effectively His act of banishing the king of Babylon because of his pride (Dan. 4) (Arnold and Beyer 418).

Also central to the message of Daniel is Judeo-Christian citizenship. Daniel and his three friends demonstrate this teaching plainly in their interactions with the state and God. They serve the king to the best of their ability, even being promoted for their faithful service (Dan. 2:48, 3:30, 5:29, 6:3), but when their lord’s commands conflicted with the commands of their heavenly LORD, they chose to obey Yahweh rather than the king (Dan. 1:8, 3:16-18, 6:10). This is a pristine illustration of how God intended citizenship to be (Arnold and Beyer 419).

In addition, the book of Daniel also provides us an excellent example of the sovereignty of God. In the words of R.K. Harrison,

Its purpose is to show how by His providential guidance, His miraculous interventions, His foreknowledge and almighty power, the God of heaven controls and directs the forces of nature and the history of nations, the lives of Hebrew captives and of the mightiest of the kings of the earth, for the accomplishment of His divine and beneficent plans for His servants and people (Harrison 861).

Significant Theologies:

Because many conclude that Daniel features apocalyptic overtones, the book is rich in eschatology, the study of the end times (Arnold and Beyer 416). Daniel 7-12 includes many future prophecies about rulers such as Antiochus IV Epiphanes and other Seleucid and Ptolemaic rulers up until the time of Christ’s birth, but the “end of the vision includes reference to the eschatological end featuring a book upon whose pages are recorded those destined for deliverance (12:1). Additionally, this section contains the first clear reference to resurrection in the biblical tradition,” writes J. Todd Hibbard (Hibbard, 45).

“Daniel has the most developed angelology in the Hebrew Bible,” states E.C. Lucas quite bluntly. Daniel 7 and 10 deal heavily with God’s influence on the human world through his angels and of the struggle between light and darkness. Because of this, we see God’s transcendence over world events, yet also His tendency to work through humans to accomplish his plans (Lucas 122).

As a supplement to both of the aforementioned theologies of Daniel, it is also worth noting that the book places a heavy influence on the kingdom of God. Through a careful reading of Daniel the idea that God is sovereign and His faithful followers will eventually reign victorious with their King is quite repetitive. Each time Daniel and his friends stand up to human authority in order to obey God, they are rewarded in some way or another (Arnold and Beyer 422).

Relationship to Israel:

Because Daniel is so rich in its presentation of God as Almighty over all, the book relates to God’s people by reminding them of their place in His plan. Though the Israelites exiled to the Diaspora were in dire straits, they should not fail to realize God’s ultimate plan to restore them to prosperity if they chose to seek him (Jer. 29:11-13) (Arnold and Beyer 420). In addition, Daniel provides us with an excellent exposé on the Israelite captivity. It is one of the best records of the exile found in the entirety of the Scriptures and therefore worth mentioning. Besides, why would liberal scholars tirelessly try to discount the historicity of Daniel if they didn’t think it was even remotely an accurate representation of Israelite history (Lucas, 113-15)?

Canonicity:

Though much disputed by scholars of the day, Daniel does contain substantial internal evidence that it should be included in the canon. If we consider Daniel to be historically accurate, then the visions that God gave Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Daniel himself actually occurred and Daniel was also able to interpret those given to his superiors through the power of God. If God Himself revealed to Daniel these things, Daniel is thus the word of God and should be regarded as such.

Externally, the only objections to Daniel’s being placed in the canon is the problem of where it should be placed in the canon. Due to its dualistic presentation, Jewish tradition placed the book within the subsection of the Writings, including Esther, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles, while the editors of the LXX categorized it under the Major Prophets, there has been much debate as to where it belongs in the canon, not necessarily whether or not it should be included in the canon (Hill 38-9).

Bibliography:

Arnold, Bill T. and Bryan E. Beyer. Encountering the Old Testament, general editor, Walter A. Elwell, 3rd ed. Baker Publishing Group, 2015, pp. 415-28.

Crenshaw, James L. “The Book of Sirach.” Esther, Additions to Esther, Tobit, Judith, 1 & 2 Maccabees, Book of Wisdom, Sirach, Introduction to Apocalyptic Literature, Daniel, Additions to Daniel, 2015, pp. 551-694. The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, general editor, Leander E. Keck, vol. 6, Abingdon Press, 1996-1999. 10 vols.

Harrison, R. K. “Daniel, Book of.” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley, rev. ed., illustrated, vol. 1, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979, pp. 859-66.

Hill, Andrew E. “Daniel.” Daniel – Malachi, 2008, pp. 19-212. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Revised Edition, general editors, Tremper Longman III & David E. Garland, vol. 8, Zondervan, 2008. 13 vols.

LaSor, W.S., “Nebuchadrezzar; Nebuchadnezzar.” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley, rev. ed., illustrated, vol. 3, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979, pp. 506-08.

Lucas, E. C. “Daniel: Book of.” Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets, edited by Daniel G. Reid, InterVarsity Press, 2012, pp. 110-23.

Miller, Stephen R. “Daniel, Book of.” Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, edited by Trent C. Butler, rev. ed., illustrated, Holman Bible Publishers, 2003, pp. 386-88.

Owens, J. J. “Daniel.” Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, edited by Trent C. Butler, rev. ed., illustrated, Holman Bible Publishers, 2003, pp. 385-86.

Hibbard, J. Todd. “Apocalypticism.” The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Theology, edited by Samuel E. Balentine, vol. 1, Oxford University Press, 2015, pp. 42-7.

Towner, W. Sibley. “Daniel, Book of.” The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, edited by Katharine Doob Sakenfeld, vol. 2, Abingdon Press, 2007, pp. 15-23.

Wilson, R. D., and R. K. Harrison “Daniel.” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley, rev. ed., illustrated, vol. 1, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979, pp. 858-9.

Band made, Hand made

The Ongoing Concept - HandmadeThe adrenaline-infused, heavy-metal[1], punk sound of The Ongoing Concept has certainly been altered since the band’s 2010 inception. The quartet have distinguished themselves by incorporating folk instruments such as banjos, mandolins, and ukuleles into their raucous, screamo, creative song repertoire. Songs such as “Cover Girl” feature an organic intro with stomps, claps, and a banjo jam. This is still the band’s ultimate goal, but the approach is slightly different on their 2015 effort Handmade. Building all the wooden instruments from scratch for this release[2] (hence the name), it provides an entirely different facet for the ensemble.

Handmade (2015): 10 songs, 31 minutes

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