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Prophecy of Seventy Weeks

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The Prophecy of Seventy Septets (or literally 'seventy times seven') appears in the angel Gabriel's reply to Daniel, beginning with verse 22 and ending with verse 27 in the ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel,[1] a work included in both the Jewish Tanakh and the Christian Bible; as well as the Septuagint[2]. The prophecy is part of both the Jewish account of history and Christian eschatology.

Text

In chapter nine, Daniel records that an angel appears to him in response to his prayer and makes a proclamation regarding the timing of important events in the future of the people of Israel.

Mesorah Heritage Foundation translation

The Mesorah Heritage Foundation translation from Hebrew is as follows: Gabriel clarifies

22 He made me understand and spoke with me. He said: Daniel, I have gone forth now to teach you understanding.
23 At the beginning of your supplications a word went forth, and I have come to relate it, for you are beloved. Contemplate this matter and gain understanding in the vision.
24 Seventy septets have been decreed upon your people and upon your holy city to terminate transgression, to end sin, to wipe away iniquity, to bring everlasting righteousness, to confirm the visions and the prophets, and to anoint the Holy of Holies.
25 Know and comprehend: From the emergence of the word to return and to rebuild Jerusalem until the anointment of the prince will be seven septets, and for sixty-two septets it will be rebuilt, street and moat, but in troubled times.
26 Then, after the sixty-two septets, the anointed one will be cut off and will exist no longer; the people of the prince will come will destroy the city and the Sanctuary; but his end will be [to be to be swept away as ] in a flood. Then, until the end of the war, desolation is decreed.
27 He will forge a strong covenant with the great ones for one septet; but for half of that septet he will abolish sacrifice and meal-offering, and the mute abominations will be upon soaring heights, until extermination as decreed will pour down upon the mute [abomination].

American Standard Version translation

The American Standard Version reads as follows:

24 Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy.
25 Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the anointed one, the prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: it shall be built again, with street and moat, even in troublous times.
26 And after the threescore and two weeks shall the anointed one be cut off, and shall have nothing: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and even unto the end shall be war; desolations are determined.
27 And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one that maketh desolate; and even unto the full end, and that determined, shall wrath be poured out upon the desolate.

New International Version translation

The New International Version reads as follows:

24 "Seventy 'sevens' are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.
25 "Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven 'sevens,' and sixty-two 'sevens.' It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.
26 After the sixty-two 'sevens,' the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.
27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him."

Disputed clauses

Verse Hebrew text
(JPS 1917 Version)
ASV KJV NIV
Dan 9:24 and to anoint the most holy place.

It is claimed by Christians that this refers to the anointing of Jesus[3] but this is disputed by Jewish and modern scholars since the English translations omit the word "place" or "Holy of Holies" (Mesorah Heritage Translation)[4]

and to anoint the most holy. and to anoint the most Holy. and to anoint the most holy.
Dan 9:25 unto one anointed, a prince, (no definite article)

It is claimed by Jews for Judaism that it does not read "the Messiah the Prince," but, having no article, it is to be rendered "a mashiach ["anointed one," "messiah"], a prince," and that the word mashiach is nowhere used in the Jewish Scriptures as a proper name, but as a title of authority of a king or a high priest.[5]

Christians claim that both Messiah and Prince are titles not names. The anointed one according to them is both Messiah and Prince.

unto the anointed one, the prince unto the Messiah the Prince until the Anointed One, the ruler
Dan 9:25 unto one anointed, a prince, shall be seven weeks; and for threescore and two weeks, it shall be built again,

Unlike modern English, the earliest Hebrew text, as reflected in the Dead Sea scrolls, was not written with punctuation. It used syntactic markers to structure discourse. One such marker is the conjunction waw which indicates consecutive order of events.[6] So 7 weeks is followed by 62 weeks. 7 wks + 62 wks + 1 wk = 70 wks. (When the Masoretic text was developed, the scribes included punctuation marks to help underline the syntactic structure of Hebrew discourse.)

unto the anointed one, the prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks:

The Hebrew text makes explicit that "seven weeks" and "sixty-two weeks" are separate durations. The first referring back to the time from the word to restore till the anointed prince, while the second refers to the time Jerusalem will remain rebuilt. This is how the earliest editions of the King James Version (1611–1785) represent the text. The Masoretic text makes the same meaning explicit through punctuating the verse so there can be no doubt.

However, in 1785, an annotated edition appeared which added an explanatory note to the verse suggesting that "a colon should be placed at the end of this sentence", that is after the seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. The motivation for this note was that the prophecy is then "justly allowed to be one of the noblest…in the Old Testament, as it is one of the strongest proofs against the Jews, in favour of Christianity… since it determines the very time Christ was to come into the world, enter into his ministry, and be cut off for the sins of the people." 13 years later in 1798 the suggested emendation moved out of the explanatory note and into the text[7].

Dan 9:27 And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week; and for half of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the offering to cease; and upon the wing of detestable things shall be that which causeth appalment;

SDA historicists argue that the "he" refers to the "anointed one" in verse 26. Biblical scholars of the Daniel & Revelation Committee argue that both Hebrew grammar and common chiasmic literary structure together indicate which he is which.[8]

Dispensationalists and other scholars dispute this interpretation. According to Arnold Fruchtenbaum, the rules of the Hebrew grammar indicates that a pronoun must go back to its nearest antecedent. The nearest antecedent to the pronoun "he" in verse 27 is "the prince who shall come" in verse 26. So the "prince who shall come" is the same as the "he" who makes the covenant.[9]

And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one that maketh desolate And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, He will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation

Literary structure

HIstoricist William H. Shea[8] notes that verses 25-27 form a chiasm:

A. Daniel 9:25a (ASV)
Jerusalem Construction:
Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem
B. Daniel 9:25b
Anointed one:
unto the anointed one, the prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks:
C. Daniel 9:25c
Jerusalem Construction:
it shall be built again, with street and moat, even in troublous times.
D. Daniel 9:26a
Anointed one:
And after the threescore and two weeks shall the anointed one be cut off, and shall have nothing:
C'. Daniel 9:26b
Jerusalem Destroyed:
and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and even unto the end shall be war; desolations are determined.
B'. Daniel 9:27a
Anointed one:
And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease;
A'. Daniel 9:27b
Jerusalem Destroyed:
and upon the wing of abominations shall come one that maketh desolate; and even unto the full end, and that determined, shall wrath be poured out upon the desolate.

Context

According to the Book of Daniel (9:1), the vision takes place soon after Darius (who may or may not be the same person as Cyrus II, the Persian who controlled Babylon either at the time of the prophecy or shortly later) began his rulership over Babylon. Prior to this, Belshazzar ruled over Babylon; previously, Nebuchadnezzar II, had besieged Jerusalem while Daniel was a youth. In his introduction (Daniel 9:2), Daniel relates that he had read the prophecy foretold by the prophet Jeremiah, which stated that after the holy city of Jerusalem, considered God's home by Jews, lay in desolation for 70 years, the king of Babylon would be punished and the Jews would return to Jerusalem.

Daniel, aware of this writing and believing that the fulfillment was near, describes how he prayed for the Kingdom of Israel, asking God to have mercy on his rebellious people. Chapter 9 verses 20–23 describe an encounter in which the angel Gabriel came to share the vision.

There are several interpretations which could constitute the 70 years period mentioned in Jeremiah 25 and 29. There are several events that may signify the beginning of "desolation" as well.

The following are three separate starting points in the captivities of Judah.

  • The 1st captivity of Judah started around 605 BC. In the aftermath of the Battle of Carchemish Nebuchadnezzar takes a party of Jews captive, signaling the beginning of the destruction of Jerusalem. This is the captivity mentioned in Daniel 1:1 when Daniel and his companions were taken captive.
  • The 2nd captivity of Judah started in 597 BC. Nebuchadnezzar conquers Jerusalem, but leaves it standing, taking only certain groups of people captive after the Judeans refuse to pay taxes or tribute to Babylonia and then he appoints Zedekiah, the previous king's uncle, as the governor, signaling the beginning of Babylonian control over Judea. This 2nd captivity started the period of Ezekiel's captivity. (Ezekiel. 40:1)
  • The 3rd captivity of Judah started in about 587 BC, when Jerusalem and the Temple were burned down by Nebuchadnezzar's army, leaving them in complete desolation. Only a few of the poor were left in Jerusalem at this time. This destruction took place in the 19th year of Nebuchadnezzar. (Jeremiah 52:12-16)

There are several periods of 70 years during this captivity time frame. Only one likely fulfills the criteria of Jeremiah 25 & 29. That fulfillment is the 70 years period of time between the 1st captivity of Judah and the release of the Judean captives by Cyrus of Persia. (2 Chronicles 36:22; Ezra 1:1, 7; 3:7; 4:3, 5; 5:13, 17; 6:3, 14; Isaiah 44:28; 45:1;)

  • This 70 years counts from the Battle of Carchemish (1st captivity of Judah) until Jerusalem was allowed to be reconstructed by the Decree of Cyrus around 537 BC.[10] To make up for the several years' difference (605 to 537 is 68 years) some propose adjusting of the chronology slightly, or count 70 lunar years (lunar years being slightly shorter than solar years), or propose that 70 was a rounded number under inclusive reckoning. Others shift the termination event until the rebuilding actually began, one or two years later.
  • Some other 70 year periods are as follows:
  1. From the destruction of Jerusalem in the 19th year of Nebuchadnezzar until the Temple was fully rebuilt in the sixth year of Darius I, producing a time frame of 586-516 BC or 70 years. (Jer. 52;12-14; Ezra 6:15)
  2. The 70 year period of Divine indignation mentioned in Zechariah 1:12. This period of 70 years ended in the 2nd year of Darius I (Hystaspes) 520 B.C. This Divine anger began when the glory of God left the Temple and Jerusalem. According to Ezekiel 8-10 this took place in the 6th year and 6th month of his captivity or the 2nd captivity of Judah, which would have been the year 590 B.C.

Meaning of "weeks"

One principal debate regarding the words in the prophecy deals with the meaning of weeks. The Hebrew word shevu`ah (שבועה) or "week" is based on the Hebrew word sheva` (שבע), meaning "seven." Secondly, in this instance the Hebrew word is in the male gender when normally the female version is used. There are three major interpretations.

  1. A large majority of theologians believe each seven represents seven years. Millennialists hold this view. Amilennialists who hold this believe the final fulfillment to have already happened; some premillennialists hold that an anacoluthon exists between the first 69 weeks and the last week (widely believed to be the Tribulation period also mentioned in Revelation). Some believe that the gap is over now that the nation of Israel has gained Jerusalem as its capital.
  2. The Jewish Publication Society study bible and modern scholars like J. A. Montgomery also consider the seven to be seven years, but place the fulfillment of the prophecy in the person of Antiochus Epiphanes and consider the book of Daniel to have been written during that time in an effort to engender resistance against the oppression of Antiochus.
  3. Various commentators (e.g., some conservative amillennialists, Orthodox Jews) believe that the seventy weeks represent, to one degree or another, an indefinite time scale that cannot be used for definite prediction. Some Orthodox Jews hold the fulfillment to be in the 70 AD destruction of the temple. Philip Mauro believed the first 69 weeks to be 69 sevens of years, but the last to be an indefinite period.[11]
  4. Few hold that the weeks in question are sets of 7 days. Some Christians have proposed such theories, but no such theory has gained any degree of acceptance. However, Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6 offer "one day for a year" to interpret those time prophecies, and such a theory works within the mould of the Seventy Weeks prophecy if one takes into account Artaxerxes' decree occurring in 457 B.C.

Timing of the decree

One aspect of the 70 weeks prophecy is that it specifies a specific starting point in history before the countdown, as it were, begins. In this case it is an edict to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple in Jerusalem. Five edicts concerning reconstruction in Judaea are recorded in the Bible.

  • A decree permitting rebuilding of the 2nd Temple (Ezra 1:2-4) issued by Cyrus in the first year of his reign (539-536 BC, depending on reckoning system)
  • A decree restarting the construction of the 2nd Temple after a lull and confirming Cyrus' earlier decree (Ezra 6:3-12) granted by Darius in his second year (520-518 BC for Darius Hystaspes, 422-420 BC for Darius Nothus)
  • A decree authorizing the use of certain articles for the temple rites and giving certain rights to Ezra and the Jews (Ezra 7:12-26) issued by an "Artaxerxes" in his seventh year. (459-457 BC for Artaxerxes Longimanus, 398-397 BC for Artaxerxes Memnon)
  • A decree authorizing the reconstruction of the city of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:4-9), granted by an “Artaxerxes” in his 20th year. (446-444 BC for Artaxerxes Longimanus, 385-384 BC for Artaxerxes Memnon)
  • A divine decree issued by God in the 2nd year of Darius I (Hystaspes) commanding Joshua and Zerubbabel to restart construction on the Temple and Jerusalem. These divine commands were witnessed by the two prophets Haggai and Zechariah. (Ezra 6:14, Zechariah 1:16)

Many Christian interpreters, following Sir Robert Anderson and/or Harold W. Hoehner, have held that only the decree of Artaxerxes Longimanus explicitly allows for the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem. However, this particular idea does not actually have strong scriptural support. The Bible itself is arguably more directly supportive of the decree of Cyrus or Darius being the key initiating edict (see Isa. 44:28;45:13 Zech.1:16, Ezra 6:14), with many Jews adhering to this same belief.

Other authors have speculated the decree, in a divine prophecy, could be a divine command, which God's responses to Ezra's (several months after his decree was issued) or Nehemiah's prayer (in the month of Kislev the year before his decree was issued) would presumably represent. Jeremiah's prophecies of desolation at the fall of Jerusalem are also supplied as an opening date. Here it is said that the first seven weeks end at the Cyrus decree (exactly 49 years after the Fall of Jerusalem).

Division between the periods

In the prophecy the 69 weeks prior to the last are separated into a set of seven sevens and another set of sixty-two sevens. There is little description in the prophecy to enlighten one as to why the division is there in the first place. Some, such as Edward Young, suggest that the first set of 49 years represents the gap between one decree and another. His viewpoint is that the first decree by Cyrus represents the beginning of the prophecy, and the decree by Darius is represented by the second part of the prophecy (admittedly, this would force 49 years to lie between 538 BC and 520 BC, but Young does not hold that the years are definite measures of time)…

Another viewpoint is that the first seven set of seven years represents the time it took to clean out Jerusalem and restore the city. This is John Walvoord's supposition, but he does not consider it particularly important in the grand scheme of things.

A composite interpretation involves the identification of the Ezra decree's progenitor with Artaxerxes. Then, there are 49 years between Nehemiah's decree and Ezra's decree. Since Nehemiah's decree was followed by a start to rebuilding and Ezra's decree was followed by the end of the temple building and the dedication of the new temple, the two events can also stand as the endpoints of the restoration period.[12]

Fulfillment

A variety of opinion is present as to possible fulfillment of the prophecy. However, some scholars still believe that no intelligible specific fulfillment exists. Among these is Edward Young.

Scholarly viewpoint

AntiochusIVEpiphanes

Coin of Antiochus Epiphanes. Reverse shows Apollo on an omphalos. The inscription ΑΝΤΙΟΧΟΥ ΘΕΟΥ ΕΠΙΦΑΝΟΥ ΝΙΚΗΦΟΡΟΥ means ("of Antiochus, God Manifest, Bearer of Victory").

Modern Biblical scholars, the Jewish Encyclopedia,[13] the Jewish Publication Society study bible, the Catholic New American Bible[14] and some Evangelical Christian scholars (Vanderwaal, Goldingay, Lucas) all concur that it was an ex eventu prophecy fulfilled in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. The "anointed," the "prince," mentioned after the first seven times seven units, must be Cyrus, who is called the anointed of the Lord in Isa. xlv. 1 also. He concluded the first seven weeks of years by issuing the decree of liberation, and the time that elapsed between the Chaldean destruction of Jerusalem (586) and the year 538 was just about forty-nine years. The duration of the sixty-two times seven units (434 years) does not correspond with the time 538-171 (367 years); but the chronological knowledge of that age[13][15] and the historical knowledge of the author was not very exact.[16] This is all the more evident as the last period of seven units must include the seven years 170-164.[17] This week of years began with the "cutting off of an anointed one" (9:26)— referring to the murder of the legitimate high priest Onias III (compare Lev. iv. 3 et seq. on the anointing of the priest) in 170 BC; the "destruction of the city" (9:26) refers to the destruction of Jerusalem and the desolation of the Temple in 168 BC by the forces of Antiochus (1 Macc 1:29-39); the "unto the end of the war" (9:26) refers to the end of the Sixth Syrian War when Antiochus vented his anger on Jerusalem after suffering a humiliating defeat against Egypt (cf Daniel 11:30); the "strong covenant" (9:27) refers to a treaty between apostate Jews and Antiochus; the "cessation of sacrifice and offering" (9:27) refers to the decree of Antiochus suspending temple offerings in 167 BC; the "abomination that causes desolation" (9:27) refers to the altar of Zeus which Antiochus set up in the temple; and the anointing of the Holy of Holies (9:24) refers to the reconsecration of the Temple in 164 BC.[18]

An account of these events is found in Daniel 8, Daniel 11 and in the intertestamental book of 1 Maccabees (1:10-63, 4:26-59).

Other Jewish viewpoints

Rashi explains that this scripture passage refers to the 70 years of exile that have passed from the destruction of the First Temple until this vision, and the entire 420 year period of the Second Temple. Rashi believes it refers to Agrippa II (whom he believes to have died at the time of the Temple's destruction.) There is an opinion that the "anointed" here is actually Joshua ben Jozadak, the High Priest who was one of the first Jews to return from Babylon to Israel and restore the sacrificial service in the Temple. Others say that the "anointed" is Zerubabel, who led the return to Israel. As he was of royal pedigree, he is called "anointed" (every Jewish king was anointed). Rabbi Saadia Gaon understands it as a reference to the Temple service of Kohanim that will come to an end with the destruction of the Second Temple.

According to Jews for Judaism, the sixty-two weeks mentioned in Daniel 9:25 are correctly separated in the original Hebrew from the seven weeks by the punctuation mark 'atnach which is omitted in the King James Version. By creating a sixty-nine week period, which is not divided into two separate periods of seven weeks and sixty-two weeks respectively, Christians reach an incorrect conclusion, i.e., that the Anointed one will come 483 years after the destruction of the First Temple. The 'atnach is the appropriate equivalent of the semicolon in the modern system of punctuation. It thus has the effect of separating the seven weeks from the sixty-two weeks: ". . . until an anointed one, a prince, shall be seven weeks; then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again. . ." (9:25). Hence, two anointed ones are spoken of in Daniel 9, one of whom comes after seven weeks, and the other after a further period of sixty-two weeks… The first "anointed" is Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1) whose decree to rebuild Jerusalem comes forty-nine years after the destruction of the city and the Temple, which is the time when an "anointed one" (Daniel 9:25) is to come to fulfill the prophecy (586-49=537 BC). The second segment of the Seventy Weeks period, sixty-two weeks in length, covered by verse 26, culminates in 103 BC (586-49-434=103 BC). Verse 26 indicates that "after sixty-two weeks an anointed one shall be cut off." This "anointed one" is the High Priest Alexander Yannai (103-76 BC) who came to power just at the end of the sixty-two week period in 103 BC and was the last of the important Hasmonean leaders. The phrase "after sixty-two weeks" indicates the time frame during which the "anointed one shall be cut off," that is, suffer karet, "excision." The penalty accompanying karet is here aptly described as "to have nothing," or "be no more." This punishment is given to Alexander Yannai infamous for his unjust, tyrannical, and bloody rule. He is notorious for his open violent animosity against the Pharisees and his brazen rejection of the Oral Law. For example, Josephus records that Alexander Yannai fought against the Pharisees for six years, "and . . . slew no fewer than fifty thousand of them" (Jewish Antiquities XIII. 13. 5. [373]). He also "ordered some eight hundred of the Jews to be crucified, and slaughtered their children and wives before the eyes of the still living wretches" (Jewish Antiquities XIII. 14. 2. [380]).[19][20][21]

Christian viewpoints

Christian Eschatology
Eschatology differences
Christianity portal

Sir Isaac Newton called the seventy weeks the 'cornerstone' of the Christian religion [22]. Many Christian commentators hold that the 69th week reached its fulfillment during the life of Jesus Christ, although there is little consensus regarding whether it points to his birth, baptism, transfiguration, triumphal entry, crucifixion, or some combination of these events. There are three schools of thought on how the 70th week should be interpreted. Historicists hold that the 70th week was fulfilled in the ministry and death of Jesus while Preterists believe that the 70th week was fulfilled in the Destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. By contrast, the Futurist school places an indefinite period of time between the 69th week and the 70th, the latter of which is viewed as a future 7 year tribulation period.

Futurist school

Dispensationalist interpretation

Dispensationalists typically hold that a 'hiatus', which some refer to as a 'biblical parenthesis', occurred between the 69th and 70th week of the prophecy, into which the "church age" is inserted (also known as the "gap theory" of Daniel 9). The seventieth week of the prophecy is expected to commence after the rapture of the church, which will incorporate the establishment of an economic system using the number '666', the reign of the beast (the Antichrist), the false religious system (the harlot), the Great Tribulation and Armageddon.[23]

Controversy exists regarding the antecedent of he in Daniel 9:27. Many within the ranks of premillennialism do not affirm the "confirmation of the covenant" is made by Jesus Christ (as do many Amillennarians) but that the antecedent of "he" in vs. 27 refers back to vs. 26 ("the prince who is to come"—i.e., the Antichrist). Antichrist will make a "treaty" as the Prince of the Covenant (i.e., "the prince who is to come") with Israel's future leadership at the commencement of the seventieth week of Daniel's prophecy; in the midst of the week, the Antichrist will break the treaty and commence persecution against a regathered Israel.[24] The 70th Week Prophecy of Daniel is affirmed by most dispensationalist groups to refer to the Jewish people, not exclusively to the Church which they believe would violate the biblical literalism of the scripture and distort the hermeneutics of the passage:
Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city
Daniel 9:24a
They see the assignment of the Seventy Week Prophecy of Daniel to the Church (i.e., the "New Israel of God") as an attempt at supersessionism on the part of those eschatologies which assert that the nation of Israel plays no future prophetic role.

Dispensationalists consider the attribution of Jesus Christ as the "he" in Daniel 9:27 who "breaks covenant" with the Jewish people to be a critical element of Bible prophecy. Some claim that such a designation borders on heresy in that "Jesus Christ does the work of Antichrist?". They claim that assigning the breaking of the covenant to the past distorts the chronological order of the text, and denigrates the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Historicist school

Jehovah's Witnesses interpretation

Jehovah's Witnesses place strong emphasis on the prophecy of 70 weeks. They believe that the beginning of the seventy weeks occurred in 455 BC (the decree of Artaxerxes in his 20th year for Nehemiah).

They believe Artaxerxes' reign began in 474 BC, after Xerxes reigned 21 years starting from his coregency of 495-486 BC. Based on their conclusions about Artaxerxes, they arrive at 29 AD (the baptism of Jesus) for the end of the 69th week. They associate the middle of the 70th week with Jesus' execution confirming the end of the temple's sacrificial system, which they associate with the traditional belief that the 4 inches (10 cm) thick curtain between the Holy and Most Holy Places in the temple was ripped from top to bottom. They associate the end of the 70th week with the announcement of the gospel to the Gentiles in 36 AD. However, dated Babylonian tablets that substantiate the longer reign of Artaxerxes according to the original study were re-dated closer to the conservative date and there are no tablets dated between the conservative date of the end of his reign and the extended years of Artaxerxes as suggested by Jehovah's Witnesses.

Carl Olof Jonsson, a former Witness, states:[25]
Either the Watch Tower Society conceals the real facts about these two tablets, or they have done very poor research on the matter. The first tablet, designated "A. 124" by Thompson in his Catalogue from 1927, is not dated in the accession-year of Xerxes (486/485), as Thompson indicated. This was a copying error by Thompson. The tablet is actually dated in the first year of Xerxes (485/484 BC). This was pointed out as far back as in 1941 by George G. Cameron in The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literature, Vol. LVIII, p. 320, ftn. 33. Thus there was no "overlapping" of the two reigns.

The second tablet, "VAT 4397", published as No. 634 by M. San Nicolo and A. Ungnad in their work from 1934, was dated by them to the fifth month ("Ab"). It should be noted, however, that the authors put a question mark after the month name. The sign of the month on the tablet is damaged and may be reconstructed in several ways. In the more recent work by Parker and Dubberstein, Babylonian Chronology, published in 1956, where the same tablet is designated "VAS VI 177", the authors point out that the tablet "has the month sign damaged. It might be IX [9] but more probably is XII [12]." (Page 17) The original guess by Nicolo and Ungnad is dropped altogether. As Darius died in the 7th month, a tablet dated to the 9th or 12th month in the accession-year of his successor is quite all right."

Rolf Furuli—one of Jehovah's Witnesses—reviewed data from about 7,000 business tablets from the New Babylonian Empire, concluding that just over half of the evidence that Parker and Dubberstein uses has no real value.[26] He stated that "A comparison of 1450 cuneiform tablets dated in the reigns of the Persian kings reveals tablets for most of the kings that contradict P&D's scheme." He goes on to say:[27]

The most trustworthy cuneiform evidence consists of dated business tablets. ... A comparison of these tablets suggests a different chronology compared with the one advocated by P&D. The business tablets demand that Bardiya (Gaumata, who probably is the "Artaxerxes" of Ezra 4:23) ruled for 18 months between Cambyses and Darius I. Thus the accession year of Darius I is pushed one year forward. There are strong reasons to believe that Xerxes was co-regent with Darius I for 11 years. (Evidence: 1) Tablets are dated to the accession year of Xerxes before the last tablets of the 36th year of Darius I, 2) drawings and inscriptions make the two equal and give them the same titles, 3) different titles used by Xerxes after his 11th year, 4) the pattern of intercalary months is the same in the last 11 years of Darius and the first 11 years of Xerxes). The reign of Xerxes is pushed back 10 years (11 years of the co-regency minus the 1 year of Bardiya). Thus the accession year of Artaxerxes I is taken as 475 B.C.E., ten years before 465, which is advocated by P&D. This means that the 20th year of Artaxerxes (Neh. 2:1) is 455 B.C.E. The business tablets may indicate that Artaxerxes I ruled 51 years or even through his 51st year and a few days into his 52nd year. Thus the reign of Darius II is pushed forward one year (Xerxes II/Sogdianos may have ruled a short time between Artaxerxes I and Darius II).
Seventh-day Adventist interpretation
Ezrachonology

Beginning of the 70 Weeks: The third decree in 457 BC marks beginning of 70 weeks. King reigns were counted from New Year to New Year following an 'Accession Year'. The Persian New Year began in Nisan (March-April). The Jewish civil New Year began in Tishri (September-October).

TwentySevenAD

Ending of the 70 Weeks: Tiberius Caesar began ruling in the Fall of 13 AD. Thus his 15th year began in the Fall of 27 AD which also marks the baptism of Jesus. This is precisely 69 weeks (i.e. 483 years) after 457 BC fulfilling the prophecy to the very year. The Gospel went to "My people" for 490 years, then it went to the Gentiles also.

2300days

The 2300 day prophecy time line.

Coming out of the 19th century Millerite movement, Seventh-day Adventists placed strong emphasis on understanding the historical fulfillment of the 70 weeks and the 2300 day prophecies.

The 70 weeks prophecy starts with the decree (by Artaxerxes in his 7th year) that allowed for Jerusalem to be restored and rebuilt.[28] Two previous decrees only dealt with the construction of the Temple,[29][30] Artaxerxes' 7th year began in 457 BC as counted by the Jewish civil calendar.

The length of the prophetic 69 weeks[31] is 483 prophetic days.[32] Citing other prophecies where a prophetic day represents a literal year,[33][34] Seventh Day Adventists, following the Millerite lead, set the 483 prophetic days to 483 literal years. Thus, the ending year of the 69 weeks is calculated as 457 BC plus 483 years, to arrive at 27 AD.

Daniel 9:25 states that the Anointed One, the Messiah, would come at the end of the 69 weeks which ended in 27 AD. In Luke's narrative, Jesus began his ministry after his baptism by John.[35] John began baptizing in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar,[36] which began, according to history, in 27 AD. Thus the ministry of Jesus began in 27 AD precisely at the end of the 69 weeks.

After the 69 weeks the "Anointed One will be cut off."[37] After the end of the 69 weeks, Jesus died on the cross confirming the first Biblical covenant—"He will confirm a covenant with many for one seven."[38]

Daniel 9:27 says "In the middle of the seven he will put an end to sacrifice and offering." Jesus was baptized in the Fall of 27 AD and died in the Spring (Easter) of 31 AD—3 1/2 years later. At the time of Jesus' death the 4 inch (10 cm) thick curtain between the Holy and Most Holy Places in the temple was ripped from top to bottom[39][40][41] signifying the end of the earthly temple's sacrificial system. Type had met anti-type.

The stoning of Stephen and the conversion of Saul marked the beginning of the gospel to the Gentiles. The 70 weeks were for "My people",[42] i.e., the Jewish nation. At the end of the 70th week in 34 AD, Paul began taking the gospel to the Gentiles also.

Besides being concerned with the Anointed One, the 70 week prophecy also talks about the restoration of Jerusalem and its destruction again. In about 536 BC, the first returning Jewish exiles began work on reconstructing the Temple. After much opposition by local governments, the work began in earnest in about 520 BC. It was finished in 515 BC. The city was somewhat restored, but it was not until 444 BC that the walls were completed by Nehemiah amidst raids by opposition parties.[43]

In 70 AD, not long after Jesus' crucifixion and the Gospel going also to the Gentiles, the Temple was burned down and Jerusalem destroyed by Roman armies under the leadership of future Emperor Titus son of Emperor Vespasian (the people of the prince to come). As Jesus predicted, 'not one stone would stand on another,' the massive Temple foundation stones were pried apart by soldiers to get melted Temple gold that had run down cracks.

According to Seventh Day Adventist eschatology, the 70 weeks were decreed (or cut off, Heb. chathak) for the Jewish people from the 2300-day prophecy of Daniel 8:14. The 70 weeks, therefore, marks the first part of the 2300-day prophecy.

The 2300 days are said to end in 1844, calculated from the same starting point as the 70 weeks: 457 BC plus 2300 years to yield 1844 AD. Although the Millerites originally thought that 1844 represented the end of the world, those who later became Seventh Day Adventists reached the conclusion that 1844 marked the beginning of a divine pre-advent judgment called "the cleansing of the sanctuary".

Other interpretations

One traditional chronology of the 69 weeks has been done from Ezra's decree in 458 BC to AD 26, the alleged date of Christ's baptism, a span of 483 solar years. Some have used other methods to determine the chronology, some exact to the day.

Sir Robert Anderson used lunar data to fix the date of the first day of the first month of the twentieth year of Artaxerxes (the day implied in Nehemiah) to March 14, 445 BC. He showed that, based on various apparent references to the Great Tribulation both as three and a half years and also as 1260 days, 360 days could be fixed as the length of what he called a "prophetic year". He fixed the end date to April 6, 32, which he offered as the date of the Triumphal Entry. Alva McClain and others have since concurred with this viewpoint. There have been objections raised to some of Anderson's calculations. For instance, later calculations have confirmed that Anderson was off by one day, as the opening date was a Friday, but the closing date a Sunday, something that could not happen in a whole number of seven-time periods (keeping in mind that in any given whole seven-time period, the closing date will always be shifted by one day from the opening date [for example, counting seven complete days from Noon on a Tuesday will end on Noon on a Wednesday]). Also, Babylonian records appear to show a leap month in 445 BC (so Nisan 1, the date of the decree, should be one month later on April 13). Moreover, Sunday, April 6 was almost certainly not Nisan 10, and more likely Nisan 6, with Passover eight days later on Monday the 14th. Furthermore, even if we took Anderson's start and end day to be correct, it has been proven that his calculations are incorrect by 3 days due to his lack of understanding in regards to Julian and Gregorian dates.[44]

Harold Hoehner set forth revisions to Anderson and gave an opening date of March 4, 444 BC (the one year shift being due to a different accession date of Artaxerxes) with the end of the 69 weeks on March 30, 33. The same errors with Anderson's calculations also plague Hoehner's, for he miscalculated the length of a year. The leap month means that Nisan 1 probably occurred on April 3 or 4. Ron Bigalke Jr. set forth revisions to Anderson and Hoehner based on the year of Artaxerxes succession as August 465 BC which Hoehner timed as December 465 BC. According to Bigalke, the end of the 69 weeks may be March 26, 33. However, this event loses its significance as the Triumphal Entry, for it does not occur on Sunday as church tradition dictates, nor on Monday as some new interpretations report. Bigalke did indicate the problem of a 26 March date since it would be too soon before Jesus' arrival in Bethany and the Passover. He stated that Hoehner did admit the possibility that Artaxerxes may have given permission to Nehemiah later than 1 Nisan. Bigalke's conclusion was if the starting date was 5 Nisan (which Hoehner left possible) then the number of days would be an exact 173,880 days.

The 19th century theologian Nathaniel West offered a completely different Christian solution and utilized internal biblical evidence to begin the prophecy with the decree of Cyrus (see Isa. 44:28, 45:13) and end the 69th week with the birth of Jesus' rather than with Jesus' Triumphal Entry. This solution has recently been further developed and defended by T.T. Schlegel.

An alternative to the "mainstream" interpretations is presented by R.C. Newman[45] This paper interprets the "seventy sevens" in the Daniel 9:24–26 prophecy to be seventy shemittot (or Sabbatical) Cycles. Sabbatical years begin on 1 Tishri (and not 1 Nisan) of every seventh year; with the Jubilee year also beginning on 1 Tishri and being completed every (49 + 1 =) 50 years (b. Nedarim 61a; b. Rosh Hashannah</I> 9b</I>). As such, the decree to rebuild Jerusalem during the twentieth year of Artaxerxes I would have occurred in the first of these "seventy sevens"; and the Messiah would have been "cut off" in the sixth-ninth of these "sevens."[46]

See also

Notes and references

  1. Scherman, Rb. (Ed.), 2001, p.1803
  2. http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/nets/edition/40-daniel-nets.pdf
  3. Daniel's 70 weeks
  4. Jewish Study Bible Notes Comments 2004 (Reform/Conservative): Seventy weeks [of years], that is 490 years, the true prediction of Jeremiah according to this interpretation (see v.2 and n.). This interpretation is based on reading a single word in Jer. 25. 11-12 in two different ways, as “shav’uim” (weeks) and “shiv’im” (Seventy). Such close textual study and revocalization of texts for interpretive purposes would characterize later rabbinic interpretation. Holy of Holies anointed, finally accomplish by Judas Maccabee in 164 BC (1 Macc. 4.26-59), shortly after the final editing of Daniel.
  5. Jews for Judaism FAQ #43
  6. Waw has two basic functions, one as a simple co-ordinating conjunction (as found between "sixty" and "two", ששים ושנים), the other as an interclausal conjunction in a large syntactic group. If the waw at the beginning of "sixty-two weeks" attached it to the preceding "seven weeks", there would be no way of attaching the following clause. The sixty-two weeks belong to the following clause and the waw before it connects the clause to what precedes it, giving the discourse its consecutive order of events. See Bruce Waltke, M. O'Connor, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, Winona Lake, 1990, pp.634-5.
  7. Ostervald, et al., The Holy Bible…with Annotations (London: Harrison, 1785) ad loc Dan 9:24
  8. 8.0 8.1 William H. Shea, "The Prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27", in Holbrook, Frank. ed., The Seventy Weeks, Leviticus, and the Nature of Prophecy, 1986, Daniel and Revelation Committee Series, Vol. 3, Review and Herald Publishing Association
  9. Rise and Fall of the AntiChrist, Arnold Fruchtenbaum, p 5
  10. The date of 537 B.C. for the first year of Cyrus is based on the work of Ptolemy. Ptolemy does not give specific astronomical data to fix the date of the 1st year of Cyrus as he does with many of the other Babylonian and Persian kings. The Babylonian dynastic tablet gives 194.3 years from Yukin-Zira to the overthrow of Nabonidos. The 1st year of Yukin-Zira is astronomically fixed to the year 731 B.C. This then would make the overthrow of Nabonidos in the year 537 B.C. and the 1st year of Cyrus as ruler of Babylon in the year 536 B.C. Which would then would make the 2nd year of Cyrus (when the 2nd Temple foundation was laid - Ezra 3:8) 70 years from the 1st captivity of Judah.
  11. The Philip Mauro Archive
  12. Herb Vander Lugt (1994) (pdf). The Daniel Papers. RBC Ministries. http://www.rbc.org/uploadedfiles/Bible_Study/Discovery_Series/PDFs/the_daniel_papers.pdf. Retrieved 2009-03-21. "According to Barnes and several other trustworthy Bible commentators, the historian Prideaux declared Nehemiah's last action in rebuilding the city occurred in the 15th year of the Persian ruler Darius Nothus (423 - 404 B.C.). His 15th year was the 49th year from the 457 B.C. decree. Josephus seems to support this idea in his remarks about the death of Nehemiah" 
  13. 13.0 13.1 Jewish Encyclopedia Online
  14. New American Bible
  15. The Seder 'Olam Zuṭacomputed the Persian rule to have lasted fifty-two years, ed. Meyer, p. 104
  16. The literary guide to the Bible, Robert Alter, Frank Kermode, p. 345
  17. see "Rev. Et. Juives," xix. 202 et seq.
  18. Ronald S. Wallace. The Message of Daniel (BST). InterVarsity Press. 
  19. Jews for Judaism FAQ #119
  20. Jews for Judaism FAQ, #120
  21. Jews for Judaism FAQ, #43
  22. Who's Afraid of the Old Testament God? By Alden Thompson; Pacesetter Bible School; 1989, p120 http://books.google.com.au/books?id=-IN0xiGo1gAC&pg=PA120&lpg=PA120&dq=corner+stone+daniel+9+isaac+newton&source=bl&ots=GWghWlL2Dq&sig=sBGrkfhYv_QGcKBfeTJotBWKGS0&hl=en&ei=37hTS5b6Co-OkQWkkJCxCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&ved=0CBUQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=&f=false
  23. J. Dwight Pentecost. Things to Come. Zondervan Publishing House. 
  24. Sir Robert Anderson, The Coming Prince (ISBN 0-8254-2115-2)
  25. THE 20TH YEAR OF ARTAXERXES AND THE "SEVENTY WEEKS" OF DANIEL Carl Olof Jonsson, Göteborg, Sweden, 1989. Revised 1999, 2003. http://user.tninet.se/~oof408u/fkf/english/artaxerxes.htm as of 07-07-08
  26. Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian and Persian Chronology Compared with the Chronology of the Bible
  27. The Babylonian Exile of the Jews – The Bible Versus the Traditional Chronology607539 vs 587
  28. Ezra 7:15-26
  29. Ezra 1:2
  30. 6:3&verse=31&src=! Ezra 6:3 31
  31. 7 weeks + 62 weeks=69 weeks
  32. 69 weeks * 7 day/week = 483 days
  33. Numbers 14:34
  34. Ezekiel 4:5-6
  35. 3:21-23&verse=31&src=! Luke 3:21-23 31
  36. 3:1-2&verse=31&src=! Luke 3:1-2 31
  37. 9:25&verse=31&src=! Daniel 9:25 31
  38. Daniel 9:27
  39. Matthew 27:51
  40. Mark 15:38
  41. Luke 23:45
  42. Daniel 9:24
  43. Nichol, F., ed., 1954, SDA Bible Commentary, chronology chart, pg. 326-327
  44. Sir Robert Anderson and Daniel 9
  45. R.C. Newman et al., "Public theology and prophecy data: Factual evidence that counts for the biblical world view," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 46/1 March 2003, 79–110.
  46. For a list of in what span of years these Sabbatical Cycles occurred in Jewish history, see Benedict Zuckermann, Jahresbericht des jüdisch-theologischen Seminars, Breslau, Germany. 1857.

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