Names of God – part 52
The Ancient of Days
40 Blogs of Lent: 22
This is the only name in this series which is taken from the Aramaic language, rather than Hebrew, and also the only one from a apocalyptic book.
Apocalyptic books differ from prophetic books in the Jewish tradition. Prophesy is about telling what God is saying to a people in a given time and place, the prophet is speaking into the present time. Protest may have a secondary meaning of foreseeing the future, but this is not the main focus of the prophet. In the same way a book of a prophet may contain apocalyptic parts, but that is not their main concern.
This distinction is lost on many Christians, as the book of Daniel is included among the prophets in a Christian Bible. In the Jewish Scripture, Daniel is in the writings because Daniel is an apocalyptic book and, unlike the other prophets, is about the future.
I have heard people say that God is not depicted in the Bible as an old man on a cloud, but here he is, the Renaissance artists took inspiration from this when doing their paintings, but that does not mean we have to take this literally. Apocalyptic is a descriptive but not literal form of writing, it is better not to get bogged down in details when reading apocalyptic parts of the Bible.
The book of Daniel is in the Writings in Hebrew Scripture and it is best understood, I believe, in this way. God in ancient in a way because he existed before time itself. But that is not Daniel’s meaning. We have a saying that with age comes wisdom, and this is what we have here, God is the most wise, compared to us the only wise one. All wisdom has its root in God.
The hymn writer Walter Chalmers Smith got it right in the great hymn Imortal Invisible. As we sing these words in faith we grow in confidence to approach God our Father, the only wise.
Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.