DANIEL’S WISDOM EDUCATION IN JERUSALEM & BABYLON part 3 of 4

wisdom traditionThis is the third of four posts that consider Daniel’s wisdom-based education in Jerusalem and Babylon. The approach I am taking is not that of “Daniel the prophet” but of “Daniel the statesman-diplomat.” In this post we will consider some little known, but highly significant, aspects of his wisdom-based training.

When people, especially Christians, think about how Daniel was educated they typically think “Babylon,” where his education would most likely have included gaining knowledge of what today we call occult, or esoteric, or irrational, beliefs and practices. In the old-world Middle East, professionals in astrology, divination, magical customs, and dream interpretation were integral to the royal court and its politics. Their opinions were turned in to the king as commonly and normally as any cabinet secretary today would send in his or her reports to a president or a prime minister.

This is not the place to enter into that discussion, except to acknowledge that an array of scholarship makes that conclusion credible. Apparently, then, Daniel and the three other budding Jewish scholars from Jerusalem were put through a course of studies in the Babylonian royal court that no card-carrying Evangelical today would entertain!

(The sarcastic polemic against the entire government of Babylon in Isaiah chapter 47 implicates the esotericists whom the king of Babylon relied on to shape the policies that Isaiah denounced. This indicates how systemic the irrational sciences were in the policies of that government.)

There is another view, which I have only heard from Christians. As devout Jews, Daniel and his three friends would never have allowed themselves to be taught “occult” subjects – given the stern warnings in the torah against such practices. But that conclusion is not supported by the Daniel chapter 1 text nor indicated by modern scholarship. This, I think, has to do with their sticking points, a topics to be explore in a future post.

The Jewish and Christian way to understanding this situation can be found in the fact that the book of Daniel never shows any of the four, at any time, practicing what their Scripture condemns. That is, it is one thing to know something about “the occult,” as many respected Christian apologists do; it is quite another thing to put what you know into practice as a believer in it. In short, as the book makes clear, Daniel’s guidance comes not from divination or the stars but from God. In other words, Daniel and his three Jewish friends did not have faith in the esoteric practices, as their Chaldean colleagues would have had.

What is not usually known, however, but what is in fact highly significant, is that their studies in wisdom, in both Jerusalem and Babylon, would have included foreign languages and literature and what today we call public affairs, political science, military history, international relations, and much more. Of course we cannot know infallibly what they were taught, but modern scholarship has reached consensus on a number of areas. We will explore these important areas of their wisdom education in the next post. Their relevance to today is pretty amazing.

©2014 by Charles Strohmer

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