Unless God supernaturally intervenes, translation work is not an exact science.
Yes, the ESV has some poorly translated spots here and there, but no more than most others. Except in the case of Dan 9:25 ESV, Dan 9:26 ESV. (Compare with Dan 9:25, 26 KJV) That isn’t just a poor translation; it’s bad! Yet, even there, there are arguments, coming mostly from liberal Christian and Jewish Hebrew scholars that make a case for it to be translated precisely as it is in the ESV. This translation has “given great occasion to the enemies” of the messianic interpretation.
That translation made the anti-missionaries happy, giving legitimization by Christian translators to what Jewish Hebrew scholars have been protesting all along. Of course, speaking from a strictly “technical” linguistic standpoint, it can also be JUST as legitimately translated the way KJV, NKJV, NASB, and nearly every other Christian translation in history has translated it UNTIL the ESV came along and makes this massive concession and capitulation to what Jewish scholars have been insisting all along to be the result of Christian bias, tampering with the text, giving it a forced, “unnatural” meaning. But unnatural to who?
They argue that it is the Christian who has the vested interest to “force” the text to yield a meaning that would be unnatural unless one was already predisposed to see in it one Messiah rather than two. For Jews who have no such vested interest (?), it is argued that one should see two messiahs, not Israel’s long awaited anointed Davidic ruler of ancient promise, but two priestly figures or anointed leaders, one after the first seven weeks (49 years) and another after the 62 weeks (434 years), with the latter anointed leader killed, usually by some usurper.
So what’s the tiebreaker between (some would argue) equally technical options? Well, it’s context! context! context!
But how one is inclined to see the context becomes the decisive question. Who then is willing to ask what would seem the “natural” and I think decisive question concerning the context? What is the burden of the context? Ask yourself; would Daniel be expecting an “end” (consummation) to the times of the Gentiles and Israel’s everlasting deliverance from exilic suffering, not to mention his own personal resurrection at the “END” of the final week? Would he be expecting all of this to take place WITHOUT a single reference to the appearance and death of the “curse reversing seed of the woman”, AKA the Messiah, son of David Son of God? This is what we’re asked to believe. Even the Son of Man in Dan 7 is to be interpreted simply as a metaphor for a corporate human figure symbolizing the kingdom of the saints in contrast to the beast-like kingdoms of carnal man.
Is the cutting off of the anointed prince there in Dan 9:26 just some priest that got killed by some usurper. This is the typical understanding of interpreters less “interested” to see Jesus or the Davidic Prince of Israel in this passage.
Or is this Isaiah’s suffering Servant, “cut off” (Isa 53:8) in substitutionary atonement for His people’s transgressions? Scholars just can’t figure out why this death of this particular anointed leader should just happen to fall exactly one week (7 years) before the end. But what end? The answer of liberal scholars has always been to see this as the death of Onias III and the seven years the “approximate” time of the 2300 days of Antiochus’ persecution of the Jews.
Or, is the “end” in view the “grand” end and climax of the covenant in Israel’s deliverance and the resurrection of the righteous? How about the same “end” that is mentioned all throughout the rest of the book? How about THAT end?! That’s an effective point in dialogue with Jews, Christians, and Joe unbeliever, but not pragmatic liberals. Here too, they will say, yes, this is exactly the “end” that a pseudonymous Daniel had in mind. He simply ventured a prediction that didn’t come to pass as expected.
Pseudo-Daniel’s predictive blunder permits liberal biblical criticism firm certainty that the book is to be dated circa 168 B.C. Why? Because this is where the pseudonymous author, presenting history as prophecy up to this point, now ventures to make an actual prediction concerning Antiochus’ end and the resurrection of the maskilim that simply failed to happen.
Still, somehow, such an obviously discredited “pious fraud” survived and made its way, not only into the Hebrew canon in the first century A.D., but into the library of the Essenes of the Qumran community in the second century B.C.
These were the contemporaries and successors to the history of the Maccabean struggle that saw Antiochus’ persecution as fulfillment, but also knew his end came about in a way that was completely contradictory to the end described of the the little horn / vile person of Daniel’s prophecy. And this is not even to mention that no resurrection happened, and Israel soon fell back under the power of Rome. How then does such obviously failed prophecy make it into canonical acceptance, as revered by even near contemporaries of when the liberals date the book?
You can see the assault of the powers of the air in their dread of this book’s contents and what this portends for their end. As Travis so often says, “and therein lies the problem!” 🙂
Why all the fuss and confusion? You’ll guess my usual answer, but “It’s the mystery, Watson!” Always the mystery! Closed up and sealed till the time of the end!
Not too often, but very occasionally, how we see the big picture will determine translational decisions for weal or for woe. Can we even conceive that God deliberately left us just enough rope to hang ourselves with if we are not very careful, believing that not one jot or tittle can pass without perfect, detailed fulfilment of every line of the sacred trust. This is no less true, even in the pious, most often completely sincere science / art of translation.
I believe that here too God has “hid these things from the wise and prudent”. To arrive at the truth that God Himself has hidden within the text takes a miracle of mercy. It doesn’t come naturally, and great learning is no advantage where the secrets of God are concerned.
By sovereign design, He has put these difficulties right in the text for His purposes in mercy and judgement and so none can glory. He has done just that in a few places throughout scripture, particularly where the sealed vision of eschatology is concerned.
Many fail to see beyond the partial, albeit sometimes quite remarkably parallels in history to insist on a much more precise and exhaustive fulfillment in the future at the end. Yet there are many instances of this telescoped perspective of blending the near and the far in Hebrew prophecy. We see this particularly in Dan 8 & 11 for just one example, but even somewhat in the Olivet prophecy.
This phenomenon of a double horizon in prophecy works as a kind of decoy, hiding and obscuring from the hasty scholarly mind the necessity of a more thoroughly detailed and exhaustive fulfilment at the end, repeating what took place in real pattern and principle on the near horizon, but now in much more exhaustive, fuller precision of detail at the end. Here we stand!