Did Paul dare to be a Daniel? If you’re expecting a sarcastic lambasting of that expression, then I’m sorry to disappoint (that will have to wait for another post!). Getting back to the question, Benjamin Gladd, professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, would answer “yes”; in in fact, in From Creation to New Creation Gladd goes even further and says that Paul consciously himself “as a Danielic figure…someone who wades in the stream of Danielic behaviour” (p272-3). As in, Paul saw himself much like Daniel and hinted at it in his letters.
In “Dare to be a Daniel” – the final chapter in From Creation to New Creation – Gladd makes his case as follows:
- Establishing the popularity of Daniel in Judaism and early Christianity
- Detailing two characters who identified themselves as Danielic figures (Josephus and Qumran’s Teacher of Righteousness)
- Two thematic connections between Paul and Daniel
- Two allusions in Paul’s writings to the book of Daniel
The former two points serve as supporting evidence, because if Daniel was a very popular figure and others identified with him then it is more likely that Paul did so too. The latter two points are where the real evidence lies, so I’ll summarize some of his points below.
Gladd highlights a few thematic similarities between Paul and Daniel, perhaps the most significant being their shared role of “declaring and administrating revealed mysteries or eschatological revelations” (p264). One would naturally identify the Apostle John with Daniel in this regard, but when we recognize the proliferation of mystery (μυστήριον) in Paul’s writings it is not so far fetched to see him in a similar light. Of the 28 occurrences of “mystery” in the New Testament, 21 come from Paul, and “scholars are in general agreement that the NT use of the term originates from apocalyptic Judaism, particularly Daniel” (p264). Daniel is the only OT character who receives and mediates “mysteries”, and Paul also sees himself as doing the same.
- “Mystery” in Daniel: Daniel 2:18, 19, 27, 28, 29, 30, 47
- “Mystery” in Paul: Rom 11:25; 16:25; 1 Cor 21:1, 7; 4:1; 13:2; 14:2; 15:51; Eph 1:9; 3:3, 9; 5:32; 6:19; Col 1:26; 2:2; 4:3; 2 Thess 2:7; 1 Tim 3:9, 16
we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory (1 Cor 2:7, NASB)
the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (Eph 3:2-10)
Paul sees himself and the other apostles and prophets as having received the mystery of Christ and being charged with stewarding and announcing that mystery.
In addition to thematic similarities, Gladd highlights two allusions to Daniel in Paul’s writings.
Daniel 2:20-23 in the Greek (LXX) and Rom 11:33 contain very similar words and conceptual backgrounds, so much so that “Daniel’s praise becomes Paul’s…Paul alludes to the hymn of Dn 2 in order to underscore God’s unparalleled wisdom and power in his dealings with Israel” (p270).
The story of Daniel in the lion’s den is familiar even to those with little Biblical knowledge, and Paul appears to draw on it as well in 2 Tim 4:17. The same Greek words are present in both passages, and when 1 Maccabees 2:60 refers to Daniel, it uses the exact same 4-word Greek phrase as Paul. In addition to the Greek similarities, the backgrounds are parallel. Both trusted God for deliverance from impossible situations and both experienced God’s reassuring presence (Dn 6:22; 2 Tim 4:17). Paul’s soon appearance in Roman court reminded him of Daniel facing the lions!
At first I thought this wouldn’t be persuasive, but now I am on board! The thematic similarities are strong, the allusions interesting, and I suspect there’s more to be found. I look forward to Hidden but Now Revealed, which Gladd is co-authoring with G.K. Beale and is coming out later this year.
So who cares? Paul saw himself as a Daniel figure, big deal. Well, this insight actually has several ramifications; one being a good defence those who believe the apostles didn’t consider their writings authoritative (more on this).