Review of Greg Beale’s The Use of Daniel in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature and in the Revelation of St. John

by Vern S. Poythress

[Published in In Westminster Theological Journal 47 (1985): 348-50. Used with permission.]

G. K. Beale: The Use of Daniel in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature and in the Revelation of St. John.  Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1974.  xiv, 349.  Paper.


Gregory K. Beale’s book on Daniel and Revelation is a revision of his doctoral dissertation at the University of Cambridge.  It undertakes a massive examination of the allusions to Daniel and use of Danielic structures and themes in Qumran, 1 Enoch, 4 Ezra 11-13, 2 Baruch 36-42, and Revelation.  The discussion proceeds slowly because of the mass of data and the number of minutiae that are weighed.  But the results, I judge, are worth the effort, in particular in their illumination of the Book of Revelation.

In the first place, Beale shows convincingly that Daniel as a whole, and Daniel 2 and 7 most of all, is structurally the most dominant source behind Revelation 1, 4-5, 13, and 17, as well as for several themes and features of Revelation as a whole.  The cumulative effect of this is to open the door to detecting the existence of more subtle and less obvious allusions to Daniel along side of the most obvious.

Next, Beale’s investigation has highlighted some literary techniques in Revelation that are not so often recognized.  Beale shows that Daniel itself, later Jewish apocalyptic, and Revelation employ irony in many cases in descriptions of eschatological conflict.  The forces of evil are mocked by describing their defeat in terms earlier used to describe their temporary triumph (e.g., Rev 16:6).  As Beale points out (p. 322), the destruction of evil forces is then an application of the OT lex talionis, “just as he has done, so shall it be done to him” (Lev 24:19).  Likewise, the triumph of God and his people may deliberately be described in vocabulary similar to that used in describing the earlier apparent triumph of the beast.

This principle of irony is potentially a most fruitful interpretive insight from Beale’s work, because of its prevasive presence in Revelation.  It occurs above all in the antithetic contrasts between the forces of evil and the forces of God.  Even the repeated phrase about “he who conquers (overcomes)” appears to be an ironic reflection on the way the beast overcame the saints in Dan 7:21.  We may hope that Beale will later give us a book developing the implications of these ironies beyond what he has had space for here.

Two other interpretive insights also deserve attention.  First, Beale argues (pp. 275-78) that the revelatory framework of Rev 1:1 is molded specifically on the pattern of Dan 2:28-29,45.  The language of the two passages is indeed similar, and the contents of both visions concern the cosmic conflicts of the end times.  Now if Rev 1:1 is related to Dan 2:28-29, the key phrases “soon take place” (Rev 1:1) and “the time is near” (Rev 1:3) of Revelation correspond to the “latter days” of Dan 2:28.  The latter days of Daniel 2 are broadly the time of fulfillment of God’s kingdom purposes, which can be identified as the period from the first coming of Christ onwards (cf. Mark 1:15).  Hence Rev 1:1-3 hints that the prophecy of Revelation applies broadly to the whole interadvent period rather than finding fulfillment in a purely preterist or purely futurist manner.

Second, Beale notes that the apocalyptic visions of Daniel 2, 7, 8, 9, and 10-12 are parallel visions, covering roughly the same time period from different points of view.  The pervasive allusions to Daniel 2 (and other parts of Daniel) through the book of Revelation lend some weight to the view that the cycles of visions of Revelation are likewise cases of “synchronous parallelism” (recapitulation), rather than being locked in strict chronological succession (pp. 283-85).

Though the technical nature of much of Beale’s book will restrict its readership, the major interpretive conclusions deserve wide attention.

Vern S. Poythress

Westminster Theological Seminary

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania