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.