J. Paul Tanner, Daniel (EEC)

Tanner, J. Paul. Daniel. Evangelical Exegetical Commentary. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2020. xxii+803 pp.; Hb.; $49.99. Link to Lexham Press

In the 122-page introduction to Daniel, Tanner suggests the primary theme of Daniel is the revelation of Israel’s future in relation to gentile kingdoms, now that the nation has gone into exile, and the exaltation of Daniel as a channel through which God will reveal his will. The book establishes God is sovereignly in control of the nations under whom Israel is being disciplined, but also that Israel will be ultimately restored and blessed in the messiah’s Kingdom after the nation has undergone tribulation and suffering imposed by the Antichrist (113).

Tanner, DanielTanner divides the book into two major sections based on the language. Chapter one is the historical setting of the book, followed by an Aramaic section (chapters 2-7) and a Hebrew section (chapters 8-12). As is often observed, there are clear parallels between chapters two and seven, three and six, and four and five. He compares Lenglet (1972) and Gooding (1981) and suggests an “interlocking literary pattern” which recognizes this parallelism, but also includes chapter 7 in the second half of the book (the four visions).

Tanner devotes the largest section of the introduction to date and authorship. For Tanner, Daniel wrote the book shortly after 536/535 BC, in its entirety (39). The bulk of this unit deals with objections to this traditional view. He deals with twelve historical inaccuracies, along with linguistic, theological, and literary objections. The most difficult historical objection is the identity of Darius the Mede. He surveys five possibilities offered by various commentators. First, Darius is an alternative name for Cyrus (Wiseman). Second, Darius refers to Ugbaru or Gobaru, (Shea). Ugbaru conquered Babylon prior to Cyrus entering the city, then Cyrus appointed him to rule Babylon. Third, Darius is another official by the name Gobaru, but not Ugbaru (Waltke). Fourth, Darius refers to Cambyses II (Boutflower). Tanner advocates for a fifth position, that Darius is a throne name for Cyaxares II. This was Calvin and C. F. Keil’s view and, more recently, Anderson and Young in a 2009 BibSac article. This view accepts Xenophon’s assertion that a Median king, Cyaxares II, was the head of the government when Cyrus led the army against Babylon. Herodotus does not mention Cyaxares. Oddly, he cites seven points taken from a 2015 Wikipedia article favoring Xenophon over Herodotus. Although these are valid points, it seems strange to see Wikipedia cited in a professional commentary.

In addition to dealing with arguments against the traditional view of Daniel’s authorship, he makes nine positive arguments in favor of the traditional authorship. For example, Matthew 24: 15 Jesus implies Daniel is the author of the book. He argues 1 Enoch 14:18 alludes to Daniel 7:9-10. The problem, of course, is which came first, Daniel or Enoch? In addition, Accepted Daniel into their Canon seems to imply an earlier date. A date in the second century B.C. would mean Daniel was immediately accepted into the canon just after it was written, which Tanner thinks is unlikely.

The introduction also includes a survey of the historical context of the book. This section deals with the chronology of the end of the kingdom of Judah and a survey of Babylonian and Persian history, as well as the conquests of Alexander the Great and Judah under the Roman Empire. (There is a helpful summary chart on page 105). He also has a short section on the religious context of Babylon. This includes descriptions of some Babylonian gods, and the practice of magic and divination.

In the commentary’s body, each unit begins with a brief introduction and textual notes followed by a Tanner’s translation and extremely detailed footnotes. These notes include lexical and syntactical issues behind the translation and comparisons to various versions of the Septuagint. The commentary itself is verse by verse, but since all the technical details appear in the footnotes to the translation, the commentary itself rarely deals with Hebrew or Greek text. Tanner provides an efficient and readable commentary.

The commentary must deal with matters of interpretation of prophetic details. Tanner doesn’t excellent job laying out all the positions possible, with footnotes literature on the various positions. I will provide several examples of this to illustrate his method. Commenting on “one like a son of man” in Daniel 7:13-14, he begins with the translation of the phrase in both the Old and New Testaments and compares this to phrase the use in the Parables of Enoch. He then summarizes four views: the son of man is a human, a collective or personification, the son of man is an angel, or the son of man is the Messiah. The last is Tanner’s view: the son of man is Jesus, or at least Jesus understood himself to be Daniel’s son of man.

Since Tanner has previously written several articles on the “seventy sevens” in Daniel 9:24-27, this is a lengthy section in the commentary. Tanner summarizes this data in a helpful appendix, comparing seven views on almost every detail of this prophecy in pre-critical and critical scholarship. Tanner calls his own view “Messianic postponement view” using a “prophetic-year calculation.” The seventy weeks begin with Artaxerxes’s authorization to rebuild Jerusalem in 444 B.C. The first sixty-nine weeks end with the crucifixion of Jesus in A.D. 33 and the anointed one is Jesus. The last seven is a future seven-year period before the return of Christ (the great tribulation). The “prince to come” is the antichrist (as opposed to Antiochus IV, Titus, etc.) This is all very consistent with traditional dispensational interpretations, as represented by Robert Anderson, John Walvoord, and Dwight Pentecost. But Tanner is also similar to Gleason Archer, Stephen Miller (NAC), or Leon would except for how the years are calculated.

With respect to the interpretation of Daniel 11-12, Tanner argues Daniel 11:2-12:4 are predictions of the near future, now historically fulfilled. Daniel 11:2-20 deals with the Persian Empire up to Antiochus, 11:21-35 concerns the reign of Antiochus (his rise to power, vv. 21-24; the rivalry with Egypt, vv. 25-28, the persecution of the Jews, vv. 29-35). Antiochus is a biblical type illustrating “the evil and sinister persona that will characterize the future Antichrist (684). The problem for Daniel 11 is the fulfillment of 11:36. For most scholars, Daniel is suddenly inaccurate: Antiochus does not die in the way described in these verses. For most of critical scholarship, this means that Daniel was written shortly before and Antiochus died, which is why the details are not quite right. For Tanner and most evangelicals, verse 36 is where the text “leaps forward in time” (685). Once again, Tanner surveys four views for these verses, summarizing them in a handy chart (689) with examples of scholarship for each.

There are several excurses throughout the commentary of “additional exegetically comments.” These deal with technical aspects that may not be of interest to every reader. For example, he has four pages on the placement athnach of the in Daniel 9:25.

The final two sections in each unit are comments on the biblical theological implications followed by application and devotional implications. Neither of these sections is lengthy, the quote devotional implications in quote are brief meditations on the theology of the section. Since this is not an application commentary, these application comments do not dominate the commentary.

Each unit ends with any detailed “selected bibliography,” although these are anything but brief. Virtually all the literature written in recent years appears in these bibliographies. These bibliographies make this an invaluable resource for anyone studying the book of Daniel.

For some readers, Tanner’s dispensationalism and commitment to a traditional view of the authorship and date of the book will be enough to reject this commentary as serious scholarship. This would be a mistake. The extremely detailed footnotes on the text of Daniel concerning both textual criticism, lexical and transition translation history are incredibly valuable. The amount of detail on Hebrew and Aramaic syntax in the notes makes this one of the best exegetical commentaries available. The substance of Tanner’s commentary will valuable even if one disagrees with his conclusions.

As with other volumes of this series, Lexham published the commentary simultaneously in print and in the Logos Bible Software. Tanner’s commentary first appeared in the Logos Library in 2020. The print edition was not available until February 2021. Reading this commentary using the Logos Bible Software (or the iOS app) is enjoyable because it obscured the footnotes. Readers who do not want the exegetical detail will not be distracted by the footnotes. The ability to copy and paste the bibliographies will benefit students developing their own bibliographies as they study sections of Daniel. The Logos book takes advantage of all the resources of the software, including tagging cross references and links to other resources when available.

To date, thirteen commentaries of the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary are available to Logos users, with forty-four volumes planned. Since the series was launched, Lexham redesigned the covers and named Andreas Köstenberger editor for the New Testament. Logos users can purchase all thirteen volumes at 20% off through the Lexham website or subscribe to the series and receive new volumes as they are published.


Review of other commentaries in this series:


NB: Thanks to Lexham Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book, both in print and Logos format. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

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