[b-hebrew] "Desire of Women" in Heb. Text of Dan. 11:37

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Tue Nov 14 18:06:18 EST 2006

On 11/14/06, Harold Holmyard wrote:
> Dear Yitzhak,
> > Both of you are reading these verses with a theological message, and that
> > theological message may be appropriate for you and those who abide by
> > your theological beliefs.
> HH: The Bible is a theological message.

This short statement makes various assumptions.  First, I don't know what
Bible you are referring to.  Probably not the Hebrew Bible, because you later
quote Hebrews on the one hand, and suggest that my doubting the sources
of the book of Ezra is a theological position.  The next issue is that the
statement assumes that the Bible's theological message and the book of
Haggai's theological message are one and the same.  The various Bibles
were put together years after the book of Haggai.  The choice whether to
include books, including Haggai, carries with it a theological message that
is different than that current during the authorship of Haggai.  The Samaritans
which did not include the book of Haggai in their canon at all obviously had
different considerations in mind.

> >   That theological message and set of beliefs must
> > be set aside, however, and the verses interpreted in their proper context to
> > understand what Haggai was talking about.
> HH: The theological message may be taken from the text rather than
> imposed on it.

The problem is when you use claims such as:

> HH: The Jews of the first century saw the world shaking predicted by
> Haggai as an event still in the future.

Now, putting aside whether the Jews of the first century did indeed hold
this point of view, the fact is that this point of view is necessarily separate
from Haggai, whose prophecy relates to events several hundred years
earlier, and was probably authored several hundred years earlier.  That is,
unless you are suggesting Haggai is a first century composition.  When
you suggest that the theological message may be taken form the text
but then go ahead to view the text as any part of a specific canon, the
theological message used is that of the entire canon you are using.  If
that canon happens to be the Christian Bible, then it is the Christian
theology that you are using.

> >    Haggai was speaking to a
> > people who did not know of a third temple, who did not expect a third
> > temple, who did not expect the Davidic line of kings to be interrupted.
> HH: The Davidic line of kings had already been interrupted. The fact
> that these people were not expecting a third temple is not determinative
> because biblical prophecy sometimes speaks of events hundreds or even
> thousands of years in advance of the fulfillment.

Well, can you show that Haggai's theology assumes that prophecy sometimes
speaks of events thousands of years in advance of fulfillment or is it your
theology and had you lived in the 201st century, you'd have believed that
prophecy can speak of events tens of thousands of years in advance?  In
fact, can you show that Haggai's theology assumes that prophecy can speak
of hundreds of years ahead when not saying so explicitly, and so when he
speaks of Zerubbabel, he is in fact speaking symbolically of someone years
hence?  For example, the book of Kings was conceivably authored before
Haggai in entirety, because it does not mention the Persian conquest.
1 Kings 13:2 brings forth a prophecy that would not come to pass for
hundreds of years, but the prophecy is not symbolic at all.  When 1 Kings
11:29-39 is symbolic, it clearly explains the symbolism.  So why would
Haggai think that all of a sudden, God is speaking in symbolism, that does
not need to spelled out, of a period hundreds of years hence, that does not
need to be spelled out, using a person who was an existent person at that
time as the medium by which to pass the prophecy?  It is akin to a political
commentator writing an analysis and probable forecast regarding the President
of the United States, and yet when years later some particulars of that forecast
don't seem to you to have taken place, you'd conclude that the commentator
was speaking symbolically of some period thousands of years later and using
the President only symbolically.

I think this is enough for now.  Let me just point out that when I said "the
meaning of the prophecies" I meant, "The meaning, as the author of the book
of Haggai, understood them."  Also, skepticism about the historical reality
underlying the Biblical claims is not a theological position.  Theology is the
study of the divine and the study of history does not need to be related to
the study of the divine (unless that is a theological position you hold).  So
the position that the book of Ezra must be historically accurate because it is
in the divinely sanctioned canon of books is a theological position.  But the
view that the book of Ezra is not necessarily accurate is not a theological
position.  To put the point further, the book of Hebrews may be in your
theological view, a 1st century book allowing us to see the views of the Jews
at that time.  But for me, it is just a book, and you'd have to show me that
it was composed in the 1st century, that it was representative of the views of
Jews, and that the particular passage you are quoting is original to that book
and are not a later addition by, just for example, 3rd century Christians.
Similarly, if you claim the existence of a Medo-Persian empire, you're going
to have to show that there was a Medo-Persian empire, not by relying just
on the book of Daniel as it is preserved in manuscripts from the 1st BCE and
onwards, but by evidence from the Persian period itself.  If you simply rely
on theological positions to show that these two "facts" are true, then you
are speaking to a rather limited audience -- those who accept the entire
Christian Bible as authoritative and also accept that the interpretation you
hold for the book of Daniel is historically accurate.

Yitzhak Sapir

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