The curriculum – Canadian History With New Eyes, seeks to show our stories as a continuum of God’s story. We believe that our national and individual stories had their birth in a Biblical account that is fairly well-known to Christians – the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream by Daniel.
We invite you to follow the trajectory of the dream which led to:
– Christ fulfilling Daniel’s prophecy of the kingdom made without hands
– to the Romans building roads so the gospel could spread to Europe
– to the apostasy of the church
– to the light of the Reformation
– to the Reformation in France
– to a Huguenot King on the throne
– to Huguenot noblemen sent to establish settlements here in Canada
– to the influence of Christianity in laying the foundations of Canadian society
– to 2021.
500 Years At A Time
Bruce Gore, a retired adjunct History professor from Whitworth University in Spokane Washington, helps us in a four-part series, to look at the broad sweep of history for 500 years at a time from the time of Daniel to the 15th century where our video-story course, Canadian History With New Eyes: The French Connection, begins.
We will trace God’s providence in connection with the empires that dominated at that time.
There are four premises that undergird our chronological curriculum
1) All of time is connected from Genesis to today.
2) Our current world history is bound up in Daniel Chapter 2.
3) God is the One Who sets up and brings down nations.
4) God uses People. People perform Actions. These Actions are recorded as Events.
The Events and the People are taught individually or together as History.
Every Christian can find his story, written in God’s story.
The First 500 Years: From Daniel Chapter 2 to Christ’s Birth
In our interview, Mr. Gore starts with Babylon where Israel was in bondage. He agrees that it’s a bit of a reach to say that Canada is somehow contemplated in Daniel Chapter 2. It does not mention Canada or the United States or any of the modern political entities in the world today. But there is something in this chapter that certainly points in their direction.
When we appreciate the direction that is suggested in that chapter, and in a great deal of the Old and New Testament, we can have a certain sense of our own story. We will understand why things are the way they are and instinctively deduce where they may be going.
Daniel Chapter 2 involves the story of Nebuchadnezzar, who was a famous King in the Old Testament. He is a Babylonian, he was a pagan, he wasn’t a believer (unless it took place very late in his life), he was a great conqueror.
Among the nations he conquered was Israel. As a result of a protracted siege and the collapse of Jerusalem, many people were hauled away into exile in Babylon where they remained for 70 years.
During those years that the people of God were in Babylon, some remarkable things happened, one of which early in that period was that Nebuchadnezzar had a great dream… more of a nightmare because it was so vivid that he woke up in a cold sweat. He was really disturbed by it. He wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. There he was in the middle of the night with this great picture in his mind that he had seen in his night vision.
The picture was of a great statue, a great kind of human statue. It was large, and it had a distinctive character because there were several ‘stories’ to this statue. It had a head of gold. but a chest of silver. It had an abdomen of bronze, and finally the legs and feet were iron mixed with clay.
We don’t know if the text is actually ambiguous in the book of Daniel as to whether or not Nebuchadnezzar knew he had the dream but couldn’t remember it, or more likely, he remembered it, but he wasn’t willing to disclose it to his wise man. They were supposed to be so famous for their ability to interpret mysteries and dreams.
He put the impossible test to those who were his wise men and said, “Okay, you guys, I want you to tell me not only the meaning of the dream, I want you to tell me the dream. And that’ll be the way I’ll know for sure that you actually are giving me something I can rely on”. Well these wise men were at a complete loss. The king was about to launch the extermination of the whole class of wise men and magicians etc, in Babylon.
It was in that context that one of the exiles from Israel, a young man named Daniel stepped up and said, “Well hold the vote here. Before you wipe us all out, give me a chance to take a run at this”.
Daniel went back, of course, and consulted with his three friends whose Babylonian names were Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. And God revealed to Daniel what this dream was, and indeed what it meant. That really is the beginning of the story of Daniel, because in some ways, that particular vision is revisited in other ways.
It becomes a kind of substructure of the way of viewing history. We’re interested in it not simply because it is interesting in its own right, but because it says to us something that Daniel Chapter 2 itself reflects rather specifically, and that is that God is the God of history. God is not just a casual observer.
The idea is certainly that God is the original creator of these things, but he’s also ordained the way in which the story plays out. God takes credit for the things that happened in history, even those things that seem rather negative or difficult or challenging, or even evil. Nevertheless, God says, I’m working these things out for a great, good purpose.
When we look at Daniel Chapter 2, we see four stories connected with this statue. And Daniel is told as he interprets the dream that each of these stories stands for a great Gentile civilization.
Remember, Israel up until the exile, had been an independent nation. It had been able to rule itself and establish its own laws, but because of disobedience, judgment came and now, Israel was going to be subservient to external political forces.
And that’s really what this statue is communicating – that Israel is no longer going to be an independent kingdom, but it’s going to be subservient to these Gentile powers. And the powers are going to roughly organize themselves around four great empires:
The Dream & World Powers- Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome
The first was Babylon, followed by Persia, and that would be followed by Greece, and then finally Rome. Each of the four layers in this statue, were depicting something of those Gentile powers.
Really, the subtext to the story is not simply that God had ordained that those powers should be there and to rule for some time, but that each one of them made a distinct contribution. And that that contribution became part of the shape of the people of God. Each one left their thumbprint on the way in which the story of God’s people would unfold. We need to look at each one of the Empires and ask ourselves the questions, ‘What did the Persians do? or what did the Greeks do? Each power contributed to the influence surrounding the birth of Christ and the development of the Christian movement.
Babylon was responsible for what’s called the diaspora – the dispersion of the Jewish people into lands not their own. Looking at the timeline, in or around 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar defeated Jerusalem and the Jewish nation. Earlier, other tribes of Israel had been deported.
They were under the control of the Babylonians and Babylonian governors. Essentially all those left in Israel were poor people who were basically tilling the land, but didn’t have any kind of organized political state. From that time on from the year 586, right up to the present day, the majority of Jewish people in the world have never lived in the State of Israel. That ended in 586. And it never changed.
Babylon itself as an empire didn’t last for more than about 150 years, and other powers came through. And so there continued to be a kind of disruptive power and influence that further distributed the Jewish people around the world.
The Persians defeated Babylon which had dispersed the Jews all over the kingdom of Babylon. The Persians dispersed them further within their kingdom – all 127 provinces from India to Egypt. (See Esther 1:1 ) Even though Cyrus gave permission for them to return, the majority never did. They’d come back eventually, but never a majority.
It’s very much the case that by the time of the New Testament, virtually every significant nation in the world had a Jewish population within it. That became part of what drove the movements that we call the Christian faith because the earliest converts to the Christian faith, we’re Jewish people… not many of them, but a very vocal minority.
And in some ways the spread of the Christian faith was precisely because there were so many Jewish people who recognized Christ and became the great missionaries in their own land, speaking the language, knowing the culture, and communicating the truth of the Christian faith.
We see evidence of that in Acts Chapter 2:5-12. On the day of Pentecost, Luke tells us that there were Jewish people from many nations and then he lists all of these nations. They all spoke the native language of their nation, which is why speaking in tongues was so amazing. They were all hearing the truth of God in their own native tongue, whether it was Parthia or some parts of Cappadocia, or Rome or Greece, all of those various places where they had basically grown up and become part of the culture of that place.
The Dispersion Changes HOW Worship Was Done
A couple of things about Babylon and the dispersion. The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 586. The Jewish religion had always been ‘temple-centric’ and now the Jewish people had no temple. They could no longer have a temple-centric religion so something happened in the Babylonian exile that was quite remarkable and very important for later history.
Jewish-related religion became Torah-centric. And at that point the importance of the written scriptures was immensely elevated. Up until then, the temple has been where all the action happened.
Jewish people no matter where they were, began to organize their religion much more profoundly around the written scriptures -The Law/Word. That’s why Scripture says of Christ, ‘The Word became flesh and dwelt among us’. The institution where the scriptures were held up and taught was called the synagogue.
Out of the Babylonian era came the synagogue system and the Torah-centric religion. That’s one way in which the Jewish people were influenced by Babylon.
Well, Cyrus the Great came through In 539, and conquered Babylon. He authorized the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem and to resettle the land. But only a minority do so – a sizable minority but only a minority. They came back to Jerusalem, they began to live in that region, they rebuilt the temple – a much more modern one than had been destroyed years earlier. They restored worship.
Now you have Jerusalem being a place where there is a temple and the temple is not nearly as dominant in its importance as it was before. Worship was now on two tracks: there was a temple-centric, temple worship (with the Sadducees and Priests), and a Torah-centric (with the Pharisees and the Law), not antagonistic to each other but important to the Jewish faith. Jesus shows up in that system that characterized Jewish life at the time.
We see evidence in the New Testament that the Pharisees were the descendants of the Torah-centric religious faith, whereas the Sadducees were more the heirs of the temple-centric religious faith. It’s no surprise the Sadducees tended to be the priestly class and very important to them was the sacrifices of the temple and they made a lot of money off of it by the time of Christ.
But the Pharisees were more interested in the place of the law and the tradition associated with it – the tradition, the rules and regulations of Talmud and other Jewish writings.
We have a little bit of tension, even in the New Testament between those two tracks, the Sadducees and the Pharisees. Of course, Jesus shows up not really signing off on either one of them (but certainly a priest) .
The Persians were a dominant power for a couple of hundred years, but eventually they fell prey to a brilliant Greek general whose name was Alexander the Great.
Alexander was able to defeat Darius III in the late three hundreds. A new culture, the Greek culture spread like fire. No one expected that Greece, which was considered to be like an outback tiny little nation to the west, was going to become a threat to the whole world.
But Alexander brilliantly, with a fairly small army was able to essentially spread his Greek power and influence throughout the world. What did that do? It did a couple of things. The entire ancient world becomes a sort of ‘Greek overlay’ in terms of its Greek culture and Greek language.
Up until this time every region focused on their own language but now every region became bilingual. Everybody still had their native tongue, but it was expected that you would grow up learning Greek. So the Greek language was distributed around the ancient world, wherever a person lived it was assumed that you would speak Greek. That had a way of uniting the entire world.
Finally, Rome made the final contribution by uniting the world culturally, linguistically, and politically. That was not done by Alexander because Alexander the Great died too young. The lands he held were eventually broken up among his four Major Generals. There was no unity to speak of.
Rome was able to unite the world politically, and in that connection built an elaborate road system that extended from one end of its kingdom to the other and made travel quite safe. By ancient standards travel had never been as safe or as rapid as it was because of Rome.
While none of these Gentile powers were known for their faith in the God of Israel, nevertheless, they all contributed to the conditions created to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah in the first century.
The Little Stone
In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the little stone represents that climactic moment in Daniel Chapter 2. This huge statue which looks so powerful and irresistible is nevertheless victimized by a tiny little rock. It was hewn out of a mountain – without hands.
In other words, that kind of supernatural little stone, tossed toward the statute, rolled across the ground, bumped this statue on the big toe (it doesn’t say that in Daniel Chapter 2) – that little rock, which you would think would have had no impact whatsoever, nevertheless hits that statue with such a jolt.
The giant statue began to crumble and shake and eventually disintegrated and was blown away like so much tinsel blowing in the wind. And Daniel 2 says, What God does in the days of those kings (referring to the kings of Rome), is to establish his own kingdom. That kingdom is built in the work of Christ.
Christ of course, ushers in the New Covenant and establishes a foundation for His kingdom. That was the main subject upon which Jesus Christ preached – His kingdom. And that kingdom has been growing from the day Jesus established it in the great events of the gospel till now.
So the point is that when we think about history from the first century on, we’re seeing a world at that time that was shaped by prior powers, reported to us in Daniel 2 and elsewhere, but preparing the way for the advent of the kingdom of Christ. And of that Kingdom there is no end. That Kingdom has continued to grow and grow as in Daniel 2, and it’s growing to become a mountain that would dominate the whole world.
And we as Christians, firmly believe that we’re in a process of seeing the kingdom of Christ grow from generation to generation, from age to age, down through History until finally a time comes when the knowledge of God covers the earth as the waters cover the sea. We’re not there yet, but we’re on our way.
Daniel Chapter 2 helps us understand, not only how we got to the time of Christ but exactly what has been happening since that time in Canada, the United States, in other parts of the world… toward a great and glorious conclusion of recognizing Jesus. The dream tells us many things but I think at least it tells us this, that God is not restricted in his work in history, to people who are great believers in Him.
Daniel Chapter 2 drives home the point multiple times, that God is the God of history and even those who are unbelievers, who discount, who reject, who are not interested in Biblical truth, are nevertheless used by God all the time for his purposes.
Nebuchadnezzar was a pagan and yet God called Nebuchadnezzar ‘My Servant – he’s doing what I want him to do, whether he recognized it or not’. Whatever else we learned from that dream, history tells us that God isn’t limited in the devices he uses to accomplish His purposes. He allows us to be a part of this story.
Parallels: ‘Little’ Navarre, ‘Little’ Scotland and Canada
The tiny French nation of Navarre (before France became unified) had the greatest impact on the French Reformation. The French Protestants were persecuted and were led in the French Wars of Religion by Navarre’s Queen, Jeanne d’Albret, whose son, Henry IV sat on the throne of France. He was responsible for sending the first settlers to New France – men who had fought with him in the French Wars of Religion. This was another little stone that had a huge impact on Canada’s history. Henry’s portrait hangs in the Senate foyer.
A similar story involved Scotland and their influence because of the Protestant Reformation. Calvin’s influence took root more in Scotland than anywhere else. Scotland was transformed from a kind of outback nation to the most civilized advanced nation in the world for a time. Because of the Protestant Reformation, Scotland was the first country in the world to have a literacy rate of over 90%.
Scotland was this region in Northern England. No one thought much about it until those transforming effects of the Reformation.
In the book entitled ‘How the Scots Invented Canada’ Ken McGoogan chronicles the effect of the Scots on the shaping of Canada. They had a huge influence in the fur trade, and their contribution was responsible for making Montreal, for a time, the economic engine of Canada.
Watch for: How Canada is Connected to Daniel Chapter 2 (Part 2) in a few weeks.