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The book of Daniel was written by Daniel in the years following the fall of Jerusalem and the exile of the Jews. 

One of the more striking features of the book is that it is split neatly into two halves.  The first half contains six discrete stories of Daniel and his buddies (Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah), and how they navigate their overlapping loyalties to their God, their people, and their new rulers.  The second half deals with vivid and explicit visions by Daniel.  I remember someone telling me early on in my Bible-reading career to read the whole book, but be prepared for “some crazy stuff that may be hard to understand” during the latter half.  We’ll see how that warning holds up when we get there.

One of the elements of that latter half that I’m eager to discuss is the role that symbolism plays in the Bible.  Daniel will speak symbolically about the future, says the ESV Study Bible.  Depending on how you understand that (and if you believe it) it will have implications on the inerrancy of scripture, on taking the Bible literally, and on the authenticity of many of the historical narratives.  It’s not an area where I feel all that comfortable taking a firm stand because I don’t know that much about it.

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