30 Days in the Bible, Day 28: Daniel 9:1-3
The way we got the Bible we have today is a fascinating study. We use the word “canon” (from the Greek kanon, measuring rod) to describe the official collection of books recognized as Scripture. The Biblical canon formed first from the recognized Jewish canon we now call the Old Testament, then from a collection of writings recognized as inspired written by apostles and their associates which we call the New Testament. Together they make up the full “canon of Scripture.”
Some of the books of the Bible were recognized as authoritative revelation from God very early. We saw in an earlier study how Joshua was told by the Lord to read and meditate on the Law just given a few decades before to Moses. Here in Daniel we see another instance of a Biblical book gaining recognition as Scripture at an early date.
Jeremiah was active as a prophet prior to the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon in 586 BC, and he lived for some years after that in Egypt. He had begun prophesying during the reign of King Josiah, probably around 626 BC. This was approximately 20 years before Daniel was taken captive to Babylon. It is possible that Daniel had heard Jeremiah speak, or at least knew about him, before he went to Babylon.
In our passage about 70 years have passed since then. Daniel read from the prophecy of Jeremiah, and found there indications that the Jewish captivity was coming to an end. He also recognized the book of Jeremiah as part of the Scriptures at that early date. This gave him confidence that what Jeremiah had written was true.
This recognition of a book less than a century old as part of God’s Word (along with the way Daniel’s prophecies were so accurately fulfilled) so bothers some scholars that they try to date the book of Daniel to some 200-300 years later. To do so, they have to deny that the Daniel of the Bible was a historical figure, and that the events of Daniel were just fictional stories designed to make a point. Yet the historical value of Daniel was not challenged until well after it was accepted by the Jews as part of their Scriptures.
The Bible which we have today grew as books such as Jeremiah were recognized to have an authority that went beyond their human authorship. Books that were included in the canon were seen to be inspired, and they were often widely used even prior to being included on any official list. The church did not create the Bible, but took the canon of the Jews and added to it those books that were considered inspired by God. (While I don’t want to oversimplify the direction the process of canonization took, it is far less complex than it is often implied to be by those who wish to cast doubt on the authority of the Bible.)
When we read the Bible today, it is to us an ancient book, dating back anywhere from 1900-3500 years depending on which book you are reading. But we must remember that these books were written, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, in times when their words needed to be heard, and that the people of God, Jewish and Christian in turn, heard the Lord’s voice through them. May He speak to us as vividly as we come to the Word today.