14 July 2009

re:creation in daniel 7

Cf. James D. G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered. Christianity in the Making, Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 729f.

In the first volume of Dunn's exploration into the origins of Christianity he briefly covers the quite important Daniel 7, one of the primary texts behind Israel's restoration and messianic concepts. This chapter has been combed over many times before, not just by the kooks with end-times charts and television programs, but by biblical scholars who recognize the importance of this passage to understand more fully the gospel narratives. Dunn's assertion in this volume is that Daniel 7 is told with the creation narratives in mind: that the scene unfolding in apocalyptic narrative is based upon the Jewish telling of Genesis.

While I am a bit undecided on a few pieces of what this may or may not entail, there are some solid reasons why this is an attractive approach.

1. The doctrine of creation is bedrock in the traditions of Israel, and it would make sense that the story of creation would be overshadowing the narrative of restoration.

2. Apocalyptic typically uses the creation story as a way of pointing to the way creation ought to be - that it was made this way and will eventually return to that way. This also fits into the typical cyclical presentation of history which is also also found in apocalyptic.

3. The images themselves make a point which is doctrinally based upon the creation narrative. This is in some sense a combination of points 1 & 2 above, but is the necessary link to make Dunn's assertion plausible. That man and woman were to be over creation is paralleled in the apocalyptic language of Daniel 7 with the messianic figure rightly ruling over all of the nations.

The parallelism thus works, and there is good reason to see the overshadowing of creation in the restoration narrative of Israel. So I have little problem agreeing with Dunn that this is mostly "an adapted creation myth." But there might be some implications (which I will not take space for here) which I am still working out. But for now, I thought this was a significant piece for restoration theology which might be overlooked (as his footnotes for this section also hint). In the end, the restoration narrative is the retelling and re-achieving of the initial creation. This thread is, I believe, constant throughout Jewish restoration theology.

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