ALL SAINTS’ DAY OBSERVED
Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18
1 In the first year of King Belshazzar of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head as he lay in bed. Then he wrote down the dream: 2 I, Daniel, saw in my vision by night the four winds of heaven stirring up the great sea, 3 and four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another.
15 As for me, Daniel, my spirit was troubled within me, and the visions of my head terrified me. 16 I approached one of the attendants to ask him the truth concerning all this. So he said that he would disclose to me the interpretation of the matter: 17 “As for these four great beasts, four kings shall arise out of the earth. 18 But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom for ever — for ever and ever.”
The Book of Daniel is part of the Prophets in the Christian Bible and is placed after the three Major Prophets and before the 12 Minor Prophets. In the Hebrew Bible, Daniel is not included with the Prophets and instead is part of the Writings. It is placed after Esther and before Ezra and Nehemiah (all of which are included among the Historical Books in the Christian Bible).
The Jewish Study Bible suggests that this different treatment of Daniel arose because the First (and early Second) Century Rabbis were aware that early Christianity saw a prefiguration of the Christ and resurrection in the Book of Daniel. Accordingly, it was not placed with the Prophets.
The Book of Daniel has two distinct parts. Chapters 1 to 6 are six “court legends” — stories of Daniel in the Court of the Babylonian Kings and the Persian Kings before, during and just after the Exile (587-539 BCE). Because these kings are presented as ignorant (but not malevolent), scholars date these six chapters to the time when Judea was under the generally benevolent rule of the Persians (539 to 333 BCE) and the Greeks (333 to 281 BCE).
Chapters 2 to 7 of the Book were written in Aramaic rather than Hebrew. (Aramaic was the common language of the Middle East from the time of the Babylonian Exile until the Hellenistic period.) The folktales in these chapters emphasized personal piety and divine intervention and provided encouragement to Jews living under foreign rule.
Chapters 7 to 12 were written later – during the oppression of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 BCE) whose desecration of the Temple led to the Maccabean Revolt in 167 BCE. These chapters contain four apocalyptic visions told in the first person. They depict hostility to foreign governments and presented visions of situations so dire that an external intervention (such as by God) was needed to put things right. Like other apocalyptic writings, the Book of Daniel used strong images to describe the conflict between good and evil. In the first six chapters, Daniel was an interpreter of dreams, but in the second part he was presented as a visionary himself.
Today’s reading was set in 553 BCE (v.1), and Daniel’s dream “foretold” (with 20-20 hindsight), a vision coming out of “the great sea” (v.2), a symbol of chaos. The dream saw the conquest of Judea by four “beasts” (v.3) – generally seen Babylon, Media, Persia, and Greece (v.17). The mixed natures of the beasts implied uncleanliness as understood in Leviticus – a lion with wings (v.4), a bear with tusks (v.5), a leopard with wings and four heads (v.6), and a beast with 11 horns (v.7).
In the omitted verses, Daniel saw “one like a human being [bar adam] coming with the clouds of heaven” (v.13) – language that developed into the phrase “Son of Man.”
The “holy ones” (v.18) who received the kingdom are interpreted by The New Oxford Annotated Bible as either the heavenly court or as the Jews persecuted by Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
11 In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14 his is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20 God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22 And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Ephesus was a large and prosperous city in what is now western Turkey. In the Acts of the Apostles and 1 Corinthians, Paul is said to have visited there. In Ephesus, there were Jesus Followers who were Jews and Jesus Followers who were Gentiles, and they did not always agree on what it meant to be a Jesus Follower. This letter was intended to unify them.
Because the letter contained many terms not used in Paul’s other letters and gave new meanings to some of Paul’s characteristic terms, most scholars believe that this letter was written by one of Paul’s disciples late in the First Century. The first three chapters are theological teachings, and the last three chapters consist of ethical exhortations.
In the verses before today’s reading, the author celebrated his vision of the Church and began working his way up to the main theme of unity. This unity between Jews and Gentiles was part of God’s eternal plan to unify them through the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. He referred to the Christ as eternal and preexisting (“from the foundation of the world” in v.4).
This portion of the letter that is today’s reading was addressed to Gentile Jesus Followers (“you” in verse 13, as shown in 2:11 referring to them as uncircumcised and 3:1 referring to them as Gentiles).
The Jewish Annotated New Testament sees “the word of truth” (v.13) as referring to both the gospel and to the Christ (“believed in him”) – just as the Prologue to the Fourth Gospel referred to the Christ as the Logos/Word. The JANT also notes that the “seal of the Holy Spirit ” (v.13) was a sign of ownership.
The author spoke of the love of the Jesus Followers for “all the saints” (v.15). The Greek word is “hagioi” and is understood as “holy ones” or those set apart and sanctified by God through faith in the Christ. He gave thanks for the faith of the community and prayed that the “eyes of their hearts” will be enlightened (v.18). The reference to the Christ at the right hand of God (v.20) is derived from Psalm 110:1.
20 Jesus looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22 “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.”
24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26 “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
27 “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
The Gospel According to Luke is generally regarded as having been written around 85 CE. Its author also wrote the Acts of the Apostles. Both books were written in elegant and deliberatively crafted Greek and presented Jesus of Nazareth as the universal savior of humanity. Both emphasized the Holy Spirit as the “driving force” for events.
The Gospel followed the same general chronology of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as the Gospel of Mark, and more than 40% of Luke’s Gospel was based on Mark. The other portions of Luke include (a) sayings shared with the Gospel According to Matthew but not found in Mark and (b) stories that are unique to Luke such as the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Presentation in the Temple, the Prodigal Son, and the Good Samaritan.
Today’s reading is called the Sermon on the Plain (“he stood on a level place”) (v.17) and is comparable to (but different from) Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) and Matthew’s Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12). As The New Oxford Annotated Bible points out, the Beatitudes of Luke focus on economic and social conditions, not spiritual states as in Matthew.
For example, Luke said “Blessed are you who are poor” whereas Matthew’s version said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Both conclude “for yours is the kingdom of heaven (Matt) or God” (Luke). Because Matthew was writing for a Jewish audience, he rarely used the word “God” in the Gospel.
Unlike Matthew who expressed nine “Blessings,” Luke expressed four “Blessings” and four “Woes” which are the antitheses of the Blessings. The NOAB sees the Blessings and Woes eschatologically and says that “the early status of those addressed will be reversed in the divinely determined future.”
The reading’s concluding verses articulated a Commandment of Love that is similar to the expression in Matt. 5:38-48. It demands love of one’s enemies, non-violent responses to violence, unhesitating charity toward those less fortunate, and an expression of the “Golden Rule” to do to others as you would have them do to you.
The Jewish Annotated New Testament compares Luke’s “Golden Rule” with that of Hillel. Hillel was born (according to tradition) in Babylon c.110 BCE and died in 10 CE in Jerusalem (so he lived 120 years just as Moses did (Deut. 34:7). He was a Jewish religious leader, sage and scholar associated with the development of the Mishnah and the Talmud.
He is popularly known as the author of two sayings: (1) “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And being only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” and (2) the expression of the ethic of reciprocity or “Golden Rule”: “That which is hateful to you, do not do unto your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary; now go and learn.”