The Four Kingdoms Of Daniel -- By: John H. Walton

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 29:1 (Mar 1986)
Article: The Four Kingdoms Of Daniel
Author: John H. Walton


The Four Kingdoms Of Daniel

John H. Walton*

A consensus exists today in evangelical circles concerning the identity of the four kingdoms introduced in Daniel 2 and elaborated in Daniel 7. Reference Bibles such as the NASB do not hesitate to insert paragraph headings in Daniel 7 identifying the sections as dealing with the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman empires respectively. This is not even a recent consensus, for Luther remarked that “in this interpretation and opinion all the world are agreed, and history and fact abundantly establish it.”1 It is not surprising then that few evangelical scholars would question the NASB decision and that most evangelicals would be unaware of any alternatives.

Indeed, the only alternative that has received any degree of scholarly defense is the position that marks the four kingdoms as Babylonian, Median, Persian and Greek. While this view has gained a consensus in nonevangelical circles, it is patently not an evangelical option because it suggests that in lining up these four kingdoms the assumed second-century author of Daniel simply made a mistake.

So the evangelical consensus is easily explained: There is a scarcity of defensible alternatives. At this point, however, one must begin to wonder about method. If there are truly no alternatives, then the conclusion may stand by default if by nothing else. Ideally, though, it is to be preferred that an hypothesis be established as correct by evidence rather than simply accepted as correct by forfeiture. Therefore several questions must be addressed. How has the present strong consensus developed? What positive evidence exists? Are there any viable alternatives?

I. The Development Of The Consensus

H. H. Rowley has done a very thorough study of the history of interpretation of this passage.2 There is no need to duplicate that work, but making use of his data and adding to it where necessary yields the following summary.

E. J. Young has condensed the argument for the Roman view3 to two basic points:

*John Walton is assistant professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

The real reason why the Roman view came to the ascendancy in New Testament times is due to 2 facts:

1) Our Lord identified Himself as the Son of Man, the heavenly figure of Daniel 7, an...

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