chapter  3
Horizons of time
Pages 2

The metaphysical truth of the nocturnal dream does not overcome these diverse and transformative facts of life in full daylight. With the spatial world shrouded in a veil of realities that keep the universal

message of the prophecy confined to its current believers, the fulfilment of its promise must be deferred to the dimension of time. God – the one and only, the god, God – has not yet revealed Himself to everybody; the history of mankind is part of the unfolding process. The God who was with Joseph in his captivity has protected Daniel and his compatriots in Babylon and Persia, and just as He appears to open the hearts of their new rulers to the words of His prophets, He will make His truth manifest to all mankind once these terrestrial empires have been laid to dust. Other Biblical prophets begin to reveal similarly expanding horizons of faith, and given that Daniel appears to have felt little concern about spending the rest of his life in Persian service, one feels inclined to conclude that the postponement of the apocalyptic promise to an unspecified future serves to maintain a state of religious ambiguity similar to the Persian syncretism. Until the dream of Nebuchadnezzar has come true, the realities of everyday life in this diverse world will not interfere with the prophecy, nor be infested with fear of the shattering future it has predicted.

The Book of Daniel is set in the seventh and sixth centuries BC, but most likely written at a far later date, in the mid-second century BC. 13 The intermittent period is marked by an historical shift: the Persian Empire ceases to exist, first arrested in its expansion by an alliance of Greek city-states at its Mediterranean outskirts, and finally shattered to dust in just a few years by their new Macedonian ruler, Alexander the Great. The youthful conqueror embarks upon a military quest from Egypt to India and prepares a campaign into the Arabian Peninsula when he dies at Babylon in 323 BC, leaving a political muddle that extends from Iran to the Mediterranean. Whereas the whole region we now refer to by the term Middle East has

been a cultural crossroad since the dawn of history, the Greek element is often perceived to add a cultural dichotomy between West and East that will resound in the historical consciousness of later ages. This is conditionally true but generally misleading. The era following the conquests of Alexander is characterised by a cultural integration no less multidirectional than the Persian one, and the Eastern Mediterranean in particular remains a borderland far more complex than implied by geodetical abstractions. If anything, the historiographical prerogative and cultural memory reveal a geopolitical shift

westwards: the dissemination of the Greek classics will be lasting, while the literary heritage of the ancient Mesopotamian world – to which Daniel once directed his prophetic message – will sink into oblivion. However, this development is itself the result of a long process of transmission and reception, not the inevitable outcome of a young dreamer and his deeds, which later on will often drop all moorings to historical reality and ascend to the heaven of heroic tales.14