Man's view of cosmology changed in the mid eighteenth century, 2,300 years after Daniel's remarkable vision of the ram and the he-goat.
The period is called the Enlightenment, a time when the old world-view, with its closed-shell universe, was discarded. Along with the changed cosmology, men everywhere turned away from an oppressive Church-dominated system, and embraced science and discovery.
About this time, Isaac Newton's Principia was published in various languages. Previously it was available only in Latin, and was understood by only a relatively few mathematicians, and the conclusions were not generally accepted. Some of the scholars considered them to be inconsistent with the cosmology of the scripture.
Foremost in publicizing Newton's work were Francios Marie Arounet, better known as Voltaire (1694-1778) [See biography], who published an English exposition of Newton, and his mistress, Emilie de Breteuil, Marquise du Chastelet (1706-1749) [See biography], who translated Newton's Principia into French. Both French and English editions of Voltaire's Elements of Sir Isaac Newton's Philosophy were published in 1738. Voltaire thought Newton's discoveries were too important to remain in obscurity. He wrote:
Newton's Philosophy has hitherto seemed to many as unintelligible as that of the Ancients; but the darkness of the Greeks proceeded from their having in reality no light at all, while that of Newton arises from his light's being too remote from our eyes. He has discovered truths; but he has searched for, and placed them in an abyss, into which it is necessary to descend, in order to bring them out, and to place them in full light.
The story of Newton contemplating the falling apple is due to Voltaire.
In Russia, Mikhail Vasilievich Lomonosov (1711-1765) introduced Copernican cosmology and Newton's theory at the Academy of St. Petersburg, where he was professor of chemistry. He became a founder of Russian science. He helped found Moscow State University in 1755.
Soon after 1750, Galileo's writing was taken off the Church's Index of Forbidden Books.
James Ferguson published Astronomy Explained by Sir Isaac Newton's Principles in 1756. He claimed astronomy provided strong evidence of creation, because the mechanical principles which governed the universe showed it could not be eternal.
The return of a great comet in 1758 as predicted by astronomer Edmund Halley (1656-1742) [See biography] on the basis of Newton's theory was a stunning confirmation of the new science. It was Halley who financed the publication of the original edition of Newton's Principia.
Musician William Herschel (1738-1822) [See biography] of Hanover migrated to England in 1757, having fled from the French occupation, and became interested in astronomy. His improved telescope and diligent observations led to the discovery of the planet Uranus in 1781. He demonstrated the sun's motion through space, and discovered over 800 multiple stars, and more than 2,500 nebulae and star clusters in his lifetime.
Here is what the text of Daniel 8:10-12 says: the little horn of the male goat. The goat represents the Greek empire, and the little horn represents Antiochus IV, king of Mesopotamia, Syria, and Palestine in the second century BC. This little horn extended itself towards the south (Egypt) and towards the east (Mesopotamia) and towards the holy land (Jerusalem), and grew great, and very tall, even growing to the height of the stars; he cast down to the ground the following:
the host of heaven,
the place of God's sanctuary, and
Each of the above were said to be cast down and trampled by the little horn. Daniel's prophecy also says the "constant" [Hebrew: 'tamiyd', translated "daily"] was taken away by the little horn; I suggest the term "constant" refers to the earth's diurnal rotation, the knowledge of which was suppressed.
All of this was referred to as the "transgression of desolation" by the angelic messenger in Daniel 8:14. After 2,300 days, or "evening-mornings," the "sanctuary" would be cleansed. God's sanctuary in heaven was cleansed 2,300 years after Daniel saw his vision. The 2,300 days represent 23 centuries, that were fulfilled in the mid-eighteenth century.
The table below presents an interpretation of Daniel 8:10-12. The column at left lists the four items cast to the ground by the little horn.
Item cast to the ground
The creation account was changed so that stars were included in the things created on day 4.
The host of heaven
Refers to the sun and moon, planets, comets, constellations, etc., which were all located within the "firmament" by the changes.
The place of God's sanctuary
The place of God's sanctuary refers to heaven itself. In the geocentric cosmology of the Greeks, the stars were considered to be fixed to the inside surface of the heavenly sphere or firmament, considered to be a rotating shell centered upon the earth. Being equated with the earth's crust, the place of God's sanctuary was figuratively cast to the ground.
By his alterations to the scriptures, Antiochus corrupted Bible cosmology. This led to general rejection of belief in the divine authority of the Bible after the scientific revolution in the mid-eighteenth century.
The period of 2,300 days, or evening-mornings, mentioned in Daniel 8:14, is the duration of Daniel's vision about the mysterious "abomination which makes desolate." Jesus referred to this prophecy as having a future fulfillment; see Matthew 24:15. To understand, we need to determine what was made desolate, and what caused the desolation.
The prophecy of Daniel 8:14 makes it clear that the sanctuary was desolated, by the little horn of the he-goat. The ram Daniel saw in the vision was the kingdom of the Medes and Persians. The he-goat which came from the west and attacked the ram was the Greek empire. Its first king, represented by the prominent horn between the eyes of the goat, was Alexander the Great. This great horn was broken, and in its place arose four horns. Alexander's kingdom was divided after his death into four territories, depicted by four horns of the goat. These are listed in the following table.
One of the four horns was the Seleucid empire in the region of Syria and Mesopotamia, which had its capital at Antioch. The little horn which arose out of one of the four horns, and extended itself towards the east, and the south, and the holy land, and grew great, and extremely tall, represents Antiochus IV, son of Antiochus the Great.
What is the sanctuary referred to in Daniel's prophecy? Although most interpreters have supposed it was the temple in Jerusalem, Daniel was one of the Jews taken to Babylon as a captive, and when he wrote, there was no longer a temple in Jerusalem, and the city lay in ruins. After the exiles returned, a new temple was built in Jerusalem, and Antiochus IV desecrated this temple by erecting a pagan idol in it, but the time period involved did not correspond to exactly 2,300 days. 1 Maccabees 1:54 says the 15th day of the month Chislev, in year 145 of the Seleucid kingdom, was the date the temple was desecrated by Antiochus. It was rededicated on the 25th Chislev, in the year 148; 1 Maccabees 4:52. There is no way to fit the 2,300 days of Daniel's prophecy into this interval, and so, if the sanctuary Daniel referred to was the Jerusalem temple, his prophecy seems to have failed.
The Jerusalem temple was a shadow or a type of the Church, as shown by the teaching of Paul in Ephesians 2:20-22. While it seems unlikely that the New Testament Church could be the sanctuary referred to in Daniel's prophecy, it may be the temple Paul was referring to when he wrote about the "man of sin" in 2 Thessalonians 2:4, who sits in the temple of God.
Another possibility is that the sanctuary referred to in the vision was not the Jerusalem temple, or even the temple site, but heaven itself. Heaven is also called God's sanctuary in scripture. For example, Psalm 102:19 says, "For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the LORD behold the earth..."
Heaven is called the dwelling place of God in many scriptures. Isaiah 66:1 refers to heaven as God's throne, the earth his footstool. The reference to stars, and the host of heaven, in Daniel 8:9 clearly means things up in sky. But how could anything Antiochus IV accomplished make heaven desolate? Of course, it could not, in a strictly literal sense; but his policies may have influenced man's beliefs about cosmology.
Daniel's prophecy depicts the little horn (the Seleucid king Antiochus IV) of the goat (which represents the Greek empire) growing to the height of the stars, and casting them to the earth, and trampling them. This is certainly a figure. I interpret this as depicting the acts of the little horn, promoting the geocentric cosmological ideas of the Greeks. By the introduction of alterations to some of the cosmological passages of scripture, Antiochus caused the crust of the earth to become identified with the rigid sky of the Greek cosmology, so the Bible was made to present a false cosmology, so our Bibles contain references to the rigid heavenly "firmament" and "waters above the firmament", etc.
Coin depicting Antiochus IV, with enthroned Zeus holding Nike on the reverse. The legend reads "Of king Antiochus, the God Made Manifest." [Figure from A.B. Cook, 1914, Zeus, Cambridge University Press. p. 1189]
This identification of the earth's crust [Hebrew: 'raqia'] of Genesis 1, with the heavenly firmament, meant in effect, the sun, moon, and stars were all relocated on the inside of the earth's crust! So the stars were "cast to the earth" in symbol, by redefining raqia.
The enigmatic "waters above the firmament" (Genesis 1:7) came about as a result of the earth's crust, being identified with the sky, by the insertion of the phrase "and God called the firmament Heaven" in Genesis 1:8, and by numerous alterations in other parts of the scripture which supported and disguised this change.
Many Bible scholars assume Daniel's vision refers to Antiochus desolating the temple site at Jerusalem. Translators usually include the word sacrifice in the text in verses 12 and 13. These verses say the 'daily' or 'constant' was taken away by the little horn. The Hebrew word here is tamiyd which means perpetual or constant. The word sacrifice in these verses is italicized in the KJV, indicating that the word was inserted by translators, and is not present in the Hebrew. However, if the true interpretation of Daniel's prophecy is cosmological, the 'constant' or 'daily' which was taken away probably refers to the knowledge about the earth's diurnal rotation. Its being taken away means this understanding was stamped out or suppressed by the little horn.
The introduction of statements supporting the geocentric cosmology of the Greeks into the scriptures, and their influence, was evidently the "abomination" referred to by Daniel. The presence of statements supporting a flawed cosmology has discredited the Bible in the eyes of many people, and caused great confusion amongst Christians.
The duration of the desolation is specified; the angelic messenger says, in vs 13, "How long will be the vision concerning the Constant, and the transgression of desolation, to give the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?" The reply is, "Unto 2,300 days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed."
The vision of the "transgression of desolation" or, to paraphrase, "the transgression that makes the sanctuary desolate," during which "the Constant was taken away," spans 2,300 days. The start date is not mentioned, but the answer "unto 2,300 days" implies the period began when the words were spoken by the angelic messenger. Daniel says he received the vision in the third year of Belshazzar. Obviously, since there were centuries between the time of Belshazzar and the time of Antiochus IV, the 2,300 days must be interpreted as something other than literal days. They could represent years, for example; in that case, they would represent 23 centuries.
If the 2,300 days are taken to mean years, the period ends in the mid eighteenth century, or around 1750 AD.
The sanctuary which was cleansed at that time was the physical universe. Heaven was "cleansed" or "justified" when men discovered the true structure of the universe, and the solar system. This was the scientific revolution. It was probably the most important development in man's history since the crucifixion of Christ, and the establishment of the Church in New Testament times.
The old idea of geocentricity was abandoned and the concept of a rigid heavenly firmament, needed in the geocentric theory to hold the stars fixed in place, was dissolved, and passed away into oblivion, 23 centuries after Daniel's vision. The planetary spheres, and the complicated system of equants and epicycles of Ptolemaic cosmology were swept away like old cobwebs, and replaced by the knowledge of the earth's rotation. This fulfilled the prophecy of Peter, in 2 Peter 3:10, "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with great noise..." The heavens of Peter's time passed away, with great commotion, about 1750 AD. The "great noise" Peter refers to depicts the rise of skepticism and the abandonment of faith in the divine authorship of the Bible, by many.
The rigid rotating firmament, and all the planetary spheres of the old cosmology were abolished, when the true structure of the universe and solar system was discovered. The theory of universal gravitation and the laws of motion as explained by Isaac Newton were published around the world. It was the time of the "enlightenment." The first volume of Diderot's Encyclopedie was published in 1751.
Coin depicting Antiochus IV, bearded, in the
likeness of Zeus Olympos. Zeus with Nike on
the reverse. [Figure from A.B. Cook, 1914, Zeus,
Cambridge University Press . p. 1191]
The great tragedy was that because of corruptions introduced in the hellenistic period that were initiated by Antiochus IV, the Old Testament scriptures appeared to support the geocentric worldview, and so the Bible was discredited along with the old cosmology.
Scholars who had not understood Daniel's prophecy assumed the problematic cosmological statements in the Bible were original. If there had been no corruption, scripture taught a cosmology that intelligent scientific men now found to be untrue! This was the background to the rising tide of skepticism and disbelief which accompanied the scientific revolution that swept over the world.
Daniel's prophecy about the 2,300 days, when understood as referring to the duration of the false belief in the rigid sky, and the introduction of this idea into the scriptures by Antiochus IV, was accurate. It exposes the nature of the corruptions introduced by Antiochus and his agents, so we can now identify them. The message of scripture is restored to its original truth and purity. This self-correcting mechanism in the scriptures is a remarkable confirmation that the truth revealed in the Bible comes from God.
The Jews and Hellenization: Hengel and his Critics by Lester L. Grabbe
Jew and Gentile in the Ancient World by L.H. Feldman (Review)
Astrology in Judaism in Late Antiquity by Lester J. Ness
Copyright © 1998 by Douglas E. Cox
All Rights Reserved.