The Origin Of Daniel’s Four Empires Scheme Re-Examined -- By: Ernest C. Lucas

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 40:2 (NA 1989)
Article: The Origin Of Daniel’s Four Empires Scheme Re-Examined
Author: Ernest C. Lucas


The Origin Of Daniel’s Four Empires Scheme Re-Examined1

Ernest C. Lucas

Since the work of Swain2 it has been widely held that the four empires scheme found in Daniel 2 and 7 originated in Persia. Thus Winston says, ‘Embedded in its [Daniel’s] second and seventh chapters is a four-monarchy theory which derives unmistakably from Persian apocalyptic sources’.3 The scheme is also found in some of the Sibylline Oracles, where it is combined with a division of history into ten periods. In Daniel 7 there is a series of ten kings, though this is not emphasized as a ten-fold division of history. The ten-fold division of history is also attributed to Persian influence. For example, Collins4 says, ‘The division of history into ten periods ultimately derives from Persian religion, but is also found widely in Jewish apocalyptic’. Before discussing the origin of these two schemes we will survey their occurrence in the Sibyllines.

I. The Four Empires And Ten Periods In The Sibyllines

Sibylline Oracle 4 in its final form is usually dated soon after the latest event it records, namely the eruption of Vesuvius (AD 79), which is presented as God’s response to the sacrilege of the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple (vv. 115–134). However, Flusser5 and Collins6 argue that embedded in the

final form of the book is a much older oracle. Its core is found in verses 49–101. Here the Sibyl speaks of ten generations divided amongst four world empires—the Assyrian, Median, Persian, and Macedonian. These are allotted six, two, one, and one generations respectively. The build-up leads the reader to expect the final judgement and/or the divine kingdom to appear after the tenth generation. Instead Rome appears and the survey of history continues until AD 79.

It looks as if an oracle written before the rise of Rome, and presenting Macedonia as the last great world power, has been re-used with verses 102–51 added as a sequel. It may be that the original conclusion of the early oracle lies behind the present ending in verses 173–92, as Collins suggests. Flusser sees the beginning of the original oracle in verses 1–3, 18–23, 48. The four nations referred to in the oracle indicate its provenanc...

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