Daniel, Aristotle, and the End
About four centuries before Christ, the Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote
about "the end," meaning the final purpose of things, that to which "all
things aim." For Aristotle, "the end of the medical art is health, that of
shipbuilding a vessel, that of strategy victory, that of economics wealth."
Applying this principle to humanity, he said that the end of humanity, its
ultimate purpose, is "happiness"—that which we seek "always for itself
and never for the sake of something else."
Not a bad conclusion for someone working without revealed knowledge. But
although happiness can certainly be a laudable goal, it hardly answers the
crucial questions about the end and purpose of life, especially when that
life always ends in the grave, where the issue of happiness is, indeed, rather
In contrast to Aristotle, the prophet Daniel (a few hundred years earlier)
also wrote about "the end" but from a radically different perspective. For
Daniel, the end wasn't found within humans themselves as some natural result
of who and what they were; instead, the end was something brought about by
the supernatural intervention of an all-knowing, all-powerful God who promised
that "the end"—meaning the end of this world—was, in fact, the
beginning of a new one. In short, while Aristotle looked within humanity
for its end, Daniel (as do all the Bible writers) puts the end in something
that transcends humanity, and that is the God who first created humanity.
How thankful we should be, too, because if our "end," our purpose, were limited
only to ourselves, it hardly seems worth the effort to reach that end. Why
expend all the energy and pain of eking out an existence here, only to have
it all culminate in death? In contrast, Daniel shows that "the end" is, really,
a new beginning.
Of course, one of the great purposes of the Bible is to show us not only
what our ends are but how we can reach those ends. The book of Daniel, our
topic for the next three months, fulfills a unique role in helping us do
just that. In it are impressive prophecies that, perhaps better than anywhere
else in Scripture, help establish a firm and rational foundation for our
faith in the One who, through the work of Jesus Christ, has assured us our
end: eternal life in a new creation
Whether through the stories (where we are shown God's intervention in the
lives of individuals) or through the grand, sweeping prophecies (where we
are shown God's sovereignty over the world), the book of Daniel not only
reveals the presence of God in our world but, in a sense, helps prove that
existence and intervention.
Daniel belongs to what is called "apocalyptic" literature. "Apocalyptic"
comes from the Greek apokalypsis, meaning "an unveiling" or "a revelation."
The apocalyptic books of Daniel and Revelation describe, by means of symbolic
visions, important stages of human history. But even more so, they reveal
to us "the end"—that is, the end of all things as they are now but not
what they will be forever.
the Christian Era, the stories and prophecies of Daniel have inspired poets,
artists, and philosophers. They have given comfort and hope to the weary;
yet, at the same time they have challenged the minds of historians and
Above all, the book has shown that our world is not an iceberg drifting toward
some unknown and unforeseen end but that, behind the scenes and in ways we
cannot imagine or now understand, our God is working to bring all things
to a grand and glorious conclusion.
"As we near the close of this world's history, the prophecies recorded by
Daniel demand our special attention, as they relate to the very time in which
we are living."—Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 547.
Even Jesus Himself points us specially to Daniel, saying, "When ye therefore
shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet,
stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)"
24:15; see also
Considering the importance of the book of Daniel, it shouldn't be surprising
that the enemy would hate it and has gone to extraordinary lengths to weaken
its impact. For instance, though Daniel himself in various chapters dates
his writing, higher critical scholars dismiss those dates as fabrications,
placing the book hundreds of years later and focusing it on events that are
not the concern of Daniel. In this way, by arguing that Daniel wrote after
the events he described, scholars weaken the impact of the book and the powerful
prophecies within it. After all, anyone can write history; only inspiration
can tell the future. As Seventh-day Adventists, we must firmly reject the
humanistic attempts to undercut the supernatural origins of these writings.
This quarter's Bible study guide was written by Gerhard Pfandl, an associate
director at the Biblical Research Institute at the General Conference. A
native of Austria, where he pastored and taught for almost twenty years,
Dr. Pfandl also worked for several years in California and Australia. He
is married and has two grown children. A longtime student of Daniel, he is
more than qualified to teach us about a book that so powerfully and convincingly
reveals an end that Aristotle—with all his knowledge—never could
have imagined or even dared to hope for.
(all lessons may
School Study Helps
Jerry Giardina of Pecos, Texas, assisted by his wife, Cheryl,
prepares a series of helps to accompany the Sabbath School lesson. He includes
all related scripture and most EGW quotations. Jerry has chosen the "New
King James Version" of the scriptures this quarter. It is used with permission.
The study helps are provided in three wordprocessing versions
Word; RTF for our MAC friends (this
is now a zip file); and HTML (Web Pages).
Last updated on September 3, 2004
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