Book Review: Joe Sprinkle, Daniel (Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary)

Sprinkle, Joe M. Daniel. Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2020. xix+470 pp.; Hb.; $49.99. Link to Lexham Press

Joe Sprinkle’s commentary in Daniel is the first Old Testament volume in Lexham’s Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary. Originally three New Testament volumes were published by Broadman & Holman as the Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation series. Lexham has repackaged those volumes and added three new commentaries on Joshua (David G. Firth), Psalms (James M. Hamilton) and Daniel. The series introduction indicates forty volumes are slated for the series.

The commentary series uses the text of the Christian Standard Bible (Broadman & Holman) although the exegetical commentary itself is based on the Hebrew and Aramaic text of Daniel. As might be expected from the original publisher, although the authors of the series come from a variety of backgrounds, they all affirm inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture (xv). Since the series intends to do biblical theology, the commentary is divided into sections exegesis and theology. Similar to the Two Horizons Commentary published by Eerdmans, theological issues rise from the exegesis of the text. Unlike the Two Horizons Commentaries, The EBTC volumes do not use the methods of Theological Interpretation of Scripture, and there is less interest in broader canonical issues (although Hamilton’s Psalms commentary may address canonical issues).

In the forty-four-page introduction to Daniel begins with a brief overview of the structure before launching into a spirited defense of the traditional view of Daniel’s authorship and historicity (pp. 6-40). Sprinkle was a student of Gleason Archer and he expands on his mentor’s arguments, concluding that “Daniel contains real history and genuine predictive prophecies” (40). For Sprinkle, “rejecting the critical view of the book is essential to preserving its theological and practical value” (345).

There are several points in the commentary which illustrate Sprinkle’s view that Daniel contains genuine prophecies. The third kingdom is the “Greek kingdom of Alexander the Great” and the four heads are the diadochi, the four successors who divided Alexander’s kingdom. Sprinkle prefers to call the fourth kingdom is “Rome and beyond” since the Roman empire has long since ceased to exist (177-78). To call the fourth kingdom a “revived Roman empire” is “special pleading.” Nevertheless, this fourth kingdom is a Rome-like kingdom. Since Revelation draws on Daniel 7, Sprinkle says, “Rome is at most a prototype of what this terrifying kingdom will be like” (178). The “one like a son of man” in Daniel 7:14 refers to the divine messiah (184-86) and observes similarities to other messianic texts such as Psalm 110 and Isaiah 9.

The little horn in Daniel 7 is not the same as the little horn in Daniel 8 (195). Antiochus IV “foreshadows the antichrist typologically.” He argues Revelation 13 draws on the imagery of fourth beast and the little horn in Daniel 7 (196). Antiochus IV is an illustration of the “biblical theological pattern in which kings and kingdoms exalt themselves against God” (226).

Regarding the seventy weeks of Daniel, Sprinkle rejects the view the seventy weeks lead up to Antiochus IV, but he is also unconvinced by the classic dispensational view which leaves a “awkward parenthesis” of two millennia between the sixty-ninth week and the seventieth (268). He leans towards E. J. Young’s view of the seventy weeks as a general time period from Cyrus’s decree to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70 (273).

As is well-known, Daniel 11 contains accurate predictions of the movements of the Ptolemy and Seleucid empires but does not accurately predict the fate of Antiochus IV. Sprinkle does not think Daniel 11:36-45 is a failed prophecy. He argues this section of Daniel 11 describes neither Antiochus IV nor Roman activity in first century Palestine, but rather Daniel 11:36-45 describes eschatological events (322).

The body of the commentary runs nearly three hundred pages. Although there is no indication of a new chapter, each unit begins with a reprint of the exegetical outline for the unit. An English translation is provided, followed by a brief paragraph placing the unit in context. Sprinkle then moves through the section verse by verse, commenting on the syntax and lexical issues and historical issues where necessary. Hebrew, Aramaic and occasional Greek appear in the commentary’s body without transliteration. Some knowledge of Hebrew is helpful but not necessary. He occasionally comments on suggested repointing of Hebrew or (more often) Greek translations of Daniel, but he usually concludes the Masoretic text is correct (see p. 299, for example). Sprinkle concludes his exegesis of each chapter with a summary entitled “Bridge.” Here he makes a few observations on the context of the section within Daniel and in a larger canonical context.

The last section of the commentary is Biblical and Theological Themes. At just under one hundred pages, Sprinkle traces several theological issues raised by Daniel. Almost forty pages are devoted to God, divided into a section on his attributes and his relationship to his people. Although there is much to say about angels in the book, only five pages discusses what Daniel contributes to a biblical theology of angels. Since Sprinkle dates the book early, he does not relate Daniel’s view of angels to developing Jewish theology in the Second Temple period. Sprinkle surveys what Daniel says about the Messiah and relates this material to other Old Testament texts and New Testament interpretations of those texts. For example, following Hippolytus, she relates the “stone cut without human hands (Dan 2:34-35) Psalm 118:22, a text Jesus quotes and applies to himself (Luke 20:17-18). For Sprinkle, Jesus is Daniel’s stone (401).

Finally, Sprinkle summarizes Daniel’s “Theology of History.” Daniel demonstrates that God has sovereignty directed history and has set appointed precise times for events to occur (421). Much of this section concerns eschatology, including a description of the antichrist (1 John 2:18) or man of lawlessness (2 Thess 2:3-4) drawn from the arrogant little horn (Daniel 7). Antiochus IV Epiphanes is the prototype of this evil, eschatological figure and a study of his character based on Daniel 8 and 11 “provides insight into what the antichrist might be like” (425).

Conclusion. Joe Sprinkle’s commentary is a fine example of a conservative evangelical commentary which takes Daniel as containing predictions of future events, some of which have been realized, others remain unfulfilled. Even if one disagrees with his conclusions on the historicity of Daniel, his exegetical notes are very good and will be helpful for understanding what the text of Daniel says.

NB: Thanks to Lexham Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

10 thoughts on “Book Review: Joe Sprinkle, Daniel (Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary)

  1. “Regarding the seventy weeks of Daniel, Sprinkle rejects the view the seventy weeks lead up to Antiochus IV, but he is also unconvinced by the classic dispensational view which leaves a “awkward parenthesis” of two millennia between the sixty-ninth week and the seventieth (268). He leans towards E. J. Young’s view of the seventy weeks as a general time period from Cyrus’s decree to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70 (273).”

    I’m glad that he thinks this. It’s sadly rare to have someone believe this and not be a preterist at the same time.

    However, I think Daniel is a classic example where those who believe Daniel is divinely inspired are inconsistent and will reject books “outside the canon” using arguements that they would ignore when accepting Daniel. (In short, they will follow the secular scholary views against the book if it’s outside their biased canon, but reject the secular scholary views when it comes to accepting a book that they want in their canon. They don’t judge each book with the same standards or independently.)

    • He is certainly futurist in most of the book, there is a future antichrist in Daniel 7 and 11:39-45, for example. But he does not think the classic Sir Robert Anderson math calculations are correct.

      On the second part of your comment, I thin it is remarkable that inspiration/inerrancy requires a historical Daniel to have predicted Antiochus or the progression of the kingdoms. To me, if Daniel is in fact apocalyptic literature, and “history as prophecy” is a common feature of apocalyptic, then can’t Daniel be an inspired, inerrant apocalyptic book written after the events of the Maccabean revolt? No one things “a sower went out to sow his seed” in the parables is an actual historic event because of the genre of parables. Daniel can be a divinely inspired apocalyptic book with all the features one expects in 1 Enoch or 2 Baruch.

      You are right Tobit and Judith are routinely bounced from the protestant canon for historical inaccuracy, but Daniel gets a pass.

      • ” To me, if Daniel is in fact apocalyptic literature, and “history as prophecy” is a common feature of apocalyptic, then can’t Daniel be an inspired, inerrant apocalyptic book written after the events of the Maccabean revolt?”

        I contend very heavily with this view of any authentic prophetic book. This would imply that God was incapable of raising up authentic prophets, so he had to invent fictitious books far after the fact with a fake characters that pretended they got it right , because no one could actually predict the future. I think it’s clear the book of Daniel is either an actual historical book, or the author was trying to deceive people into thinking it was an actual historical book. Based on how Matthias uses it in 1 Maccabees, he obviously thought it was a real historical book, and it would seem the same with Jesus. I don’t think you can compare Jesus’ parables with the book of Daniel as an acceptance of this, it would be more like comparing Jesus’ parables with the dreams in Daniel though.

        I think the authors of all the apocalyptic writings, whether they are actually fake or real, intended for people to believe that it was a real dream given to the person that the book claimed. And those that accepted them really thought they were real. Contrary to some sort of theory circulating in academic circles, there’s is absolutely not a single shred of evidence that anyone who used those writings actually thought those writings were ficitious; and those that thought they were fictitious clearly never accepted them as canonical. The Qumram community clearly believed that many of those writings were authentic, and they themselves believed that they still had the gifts of prophecy. Jude clearly believed that the actual Enoch, seventh from Adam, wrote Enoch, and both he and Peter believed the events in it were real, right alongside other events in Genesis.

  2. Nice review. Does he discuss the Apocryphal portions?

    Woodrow Nichols

      • I really wish that people would explain which groups consider those parts of Daniel to be canonical or non-canonical. Because all Christians (with a few minor exceptions) from the time of the apostles until the reformation considered those parts of Daniel to be canonical. The Protestant branch is the first group, after nearly 1600 years to propose that conclusion, and even they continued to use them without almost any distinction between it and the rest of the bible for another 200 years. Every single ancient version includes them. So it’s strange that people have come to state so definitively that those parts of Daniel are universally non-canonical simply because they had the random chance to have become a Christian in a group that doesn’t use them, whereas if they had by chance been born in 1000AD or in another region of the world, they would be calling them canonical, and many times using the exact same arguments that causes them to think they are not today.

      • They do have the fairy tale about them. Thanks for the info.

        Woodrow Nichols

  3. I find it interesting that Alexander the Great is prophesied from the book of Daniel as the third kingdom. Thanks for sharing.

Leave a Reply