When was Daniel's "70 Weeks" first applied to Jesus?

by jwfacts 12 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • jwfacts

    There are two main understandings of the 70 weeks in Daniel 9

    1. That is applied to Antiochus IV Epiphanes and the sacking of Jerusalem in 168BC
    2. That it foretold the coming of the Messiah

    When was this first seen to be a prophecy regarding the coming of the Messiah? Was it before or after the event? Were any Jews expecting the Messiah in 30AD based on understanding this as a prophecy?

  • deaconbluez
  • Leolaia

    Oooooh, this is a topic I've wanted to do a thread on for a long time, "the history of interpretation of Daniel 9". Some day I'll do it.

    There weren't just two interpretations of this prophectic survey of history but rather a dizzying array of them in Jewish and Christian exegesis. There were many kinds of christological understandings as well. It is important to recognize that there were three different figures in the passage in the MT: (1) the "anointed ruler" of v. 25, (2) the "anointed one" who is cut off in v. 26, and (3) the coming ruler in v. 27, whereas in the translation of LXX OG, (2) was not construed as a person, and in the translation of Theodotion, (1) and (2) were also conflated together chronologically. Because of this, some took (3) to be the actual messianic figure, while others (at the latest stage in the exegesis) took a combination of (1) and (2) to be the messianic figure, while others took (2) to signify the activity of the messiah while (1) an entirely different figure, whereas the oldest level of interpretation wasn't messianic at all (with the word "anointed" pertaining to the high priesthood). Some writers, such as Josephus, had multiple interpretations in view. It is with good reason that Montgomery called the interpretation of Daniel 9 "a dismal swamp". So you've got Hasemonean interpretations focused on Alexander Jannaeus or other priest-kings, you've got Herodian interpretations that saw King Herod the Great as the "coming ruler", you've got other interpretations that saw Vespasian as the "coming ruler" (and messiah), etc. etc.

    When you get to the earliest christological interpretations in the late second century, you still have some elements of the oldest layers of interpretation. So (1) the "anointed ruler" was regarded as Joshua son of Jozadek and (2) the removal of the chrism pertained to the activity of Jesus. It is remarkable that (1) was still distinguished from (2) in these early interpretations, even tho the Greek translation cited was the version of Theodotion which already conflated (1) with (2) chronologically. This suggests that the first christological interpretation was modified from earlier Jewish interpretations that still recognized that (1) and (2) were separate. It was not until the third century AD when the two were finally conflated in the interpretation itself and Joshua ben Jozadek was no longer considered the "anointed ruler" at the end of the first 7 weeks. This allowed interpreters to start the first 7 weeks at a time much later than Joshua ben Jozadek, such as the time of Nehemiah. The modern JW interpretation (shared in other Christian circles), of course, sees (1) and (2) as the same figure. The NWT also overtranslates the Hebrew as "the Messiah" (which makes a certain messianic understanding inevitable) when "an anointed one" is more faithful to the text.

    Were any Jews expecting the Messiah in 30AD based on understanding this as a prophecy?

    There is some evidence that around the time Jesus was born, the Herodians saw Daniel 9 as a prophecy of Herod as a messiah, as the Gentile "coming ruler". There is a story about the priests counting down the years, fearing what would happen -- if Herod would destroy the Temple as the prophecy foretold. Herod's subsequent efforts to rebuild the Temple, of course, were probably relevant to these expectations. After the Romans took control of directly governing Judea, I think the expectation turned to the Romans. I have no doubt that in AD 40, Caligula was probably believed to have been the "coming ruler", as he planned to put an idol in the Temple. Josephus, who was pro-Rome and saw Vespasian as the messiah, is generally thought to have regarded Vespasian as the "coming ruler", whose armies devastated the Temple. It is important to note that all of these expectations saw the real messianic figure in (3), partly due to a conflation between this figure and the messianic figure from Genesis 49:10. If Daniel 9 was seen as a messianic prophecy, it was one that predicted that the coming ruler of Judea would be a Gentile. That was what was believed at the time. So those who believed in a Jewish messiah would probably not have seen Daniel 9 as pointing to a messiah. The idea that the messiah would instead be (2), i.e. the anointed one that is cut off, was not attested until much, much later. In fact, in the two Greek translations, OG LXX and Theodotion, (2) wasn't even a person but rather a chrism.

    Edited to add: To answer your question more specifically, virtually nothing in http://momentin.com/images/70weeks/SeventyWeeks.jpg corresponds to what is known of Jewish exegesis of the "seventy weeks" passage from the time of Jesus.

  • jwfacts

    DeaconBluez - the image you provided is interestingly different to anything I have ever seen. It is typical of Protestant theology in its attempt to apply a meaning to co-relate to the time period of the person that puts forward the interpretation. However, how is a "gap period" justified?

    Leolaia - good point, there have been numerous interpretations, and you highlight many I was not aware of.

    earliest christological interpretations in the late second century

    Are any of these writings available, such as in the Ante Nicene Fathers?

    What do you think the writer of Daniel was referring to by this prophecy?

  • Rooster

    This was 1st attempted by Noah & then later by Korah.

  • a Christian
    a Christian

    I believe that most people who insist on believing that the words recorded in Daniel 9:24-27 are referring to events which took place during the reign of Antiochus IV do so because of their possession of a very strong anti-supernatural bias. In other words, they can't believe that this passage of scripture is a messianic prophecy because they don't believe the Bible contains any prophecy, or that such supernatural activity is even possible. That being the case, they are left to believe that this passage of scripture must refer to events which took place long before the time of Christ and must have been written after the events being referred to took place, not centuries before they occurred.

    Those who do not posses such an anti-supernatural bias are usually willing to consider the possibility that Daniel 9:24-27 is indeed a messianic prophecy. However, those who have long considered it to most likely be such have also long struggled with its proper application.

    I long ago considered the "Gap" interpretation that has here been suggested and found it to be a very poor fit.

    The Watchtower Society's interpretation is also problematic. For it insists, against the testimony of all historians, that Artaxerxes came to the throne of Persia in 474 BC. They do so to support their interpretation of Daniel's 70 weeks prophecy. (Dan.9:24-27) They say that since Daniel prophesied that 69 weeks (of years) would pass between the issuing of a decree to rebuild Jerusalem and the coming of the Messiah, that decree must have been given 483 years before 29 AD, the year they assign to Christ's baptism. And because 483 years before 29 AD was the year 455 BC, they say 455 BC must have been the 20th year of Artaxerxes, the year in which the Bible tells us such a decree was issued. (Neh. chapter 2 )

    However, all serious historians now assure us that Artaxerxes began to rule the Persian empire in August of 465 BC. And they tell us that Artaxerxes' 20th year of ruling Persia took place in 445 BC, not in 455 BC as the Watchtower Society says.

    If these historians are correct in their dating of Artaxerxes' reign, and I believe they are, and if Daniel 9:24-27 is a messianic prophecy, and I believe it is, how can we reconcile this apparent historical conflict? I believe we can do so by paying close attention to something the first century Jewish historian Josephus wrote on this subject matter. Josephus recorded that Nehemiah "came to Jerusalem" not "in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes" as the Bible seems to say, but in his "twenty and fifth year." (Ant. XI, 5, 7)

    The fact is that the Bible does not actually say that Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem in Artaxerxes' 20th year. It only tells us that Artaxerxes then gave Nehemiah permission to do so. While Josephus, on the other hand, tells us of the time that Nehemiah actually "came to Jerusalem." This allows us to understand that Nehemiah did not return to Jerusalem and give his command to begin rebuilding that city until Artaxerxes' 25th year as king of Persia, which would have been in the year 440 BC, even though the Bible seems to indicate that Nehemiah issued his command five years earlier, in Artaxerxes' 20th year as king of Persia, which is now understood to have taken place in the year 445 BC. (Neh. 1:1-6)

    Concerning this matter, in his book, "History Of Israel" (third edition, 1981, pg. 381) John Bright tells us, "The Bible gives us the impression that Nehemiah set out at once, accompanied by a military escort (Neh.2:9). But Josephus (Ant. XI, 5, 7), who follows the Septuagint text, the first part of which is preserved in 1 Esdres, places his arrival only in 440. Though assurance is impossible, this may be correct. If Nehemiah first went to Babylon and collected Jews to accompany him, as Josephus has it, and then having presented his credentials to the satrap of Abah-nahara, attended to the procurement of building materials before proceeding to Jerusalem, as he possibly did since work was begun soon after his arrival, the date is not unreasonable."

    Other scholars agree with Bright's assessment of Josephus' probable accuracy in this matter. For instance, Sigmund Mowinckel, a highly regarded Scandinavian bible scholar, believes that Josephus used a separate Greek version of Nehemiah that in several respects differed from that preserved in the LXX. He argues that Josephus' chronological information on the Persian kings was not his own calculations or mistakes, but was quoting from this now lost Greek version of Nehemiah. On Josephus' statement about the 25th year of Artaxerxes, Mowinckel says that his figures may very well be the original ones. He writes, "In my opinion the balance [of evidence] is in favor of [the figure] '25'." (Vol. 3, p.45 of Studien zu dem Buche Ezra-Nehema, Vols. 1-3, Oslo, 1964)

    It is also possible to reconcile the "25" figure provided to us by Josephus and the "20" figure provided to us by Nehemiah by understanding something that I learned by studying the chronological information recorded in the books of Kings and Chronicles. By doing so I learned that Bible writers did not count a king's years of reign in which his right to rule was being legally contested. If Nehemiah counted the years of Artaxerxes' reign in this way we have reason to believe that he would not have counted the first five years of his rule. If he did not, then the "20th" year of Artaxerxes as reckoned by Nehemiah would have been his "25th" year as reckoned by Josephus and by modern day historians. If Nehemiah reckoned the reign of Artaxerxes in this way, when he told us that he was allowed to return to Jerusalem to begin its rebuilding in Artaxeres' "20th" year he would have been referring to the same year Josephus was referring to when he told us that Nehemiah came to Jerusalem in Artaxerxes' "25th" year. In such a case both men would have been referring to the year 440 BC.

    But what reason do we have for believing that Nehemiah may not have counted the first five years of Artaxerxes' reign because he knew their legality was then being contested?

    Historians tell us that Artaxerxes ascended to the throne of Persia in a very unusual way. He did so following the murder of his father Xerxes. In order to gain the throne for himself Artaxerxes blamed his father's murder on the rightful heir to the throne, his older brother crown prince Darius. He and his supporters, the real murderers, then had Darius unjustly executed. This much we know. And since we know it we can assume that many of Persia’s royal family then also knew it.

    Under those circumstances, Artaxerxes' legal right to rule Persia during the first few years of his reign would have certainly been disputed by anyone who considered himself to be the legitimate heir to Persia’s throne. Immediately following Xerxes’ murder Artaxerxes' other older brother Hyspases, who was then away governing the Persian Province of Bactria, and Xerxes' own full brother Achamenes, who was then away governing Egypt, both would have known that they then held the legal right to Persia's throne, ahead of Artaxerxes. At that time many of their friends and family would have certainly supported their claims to be the rightful heir to Persia’s throne.

    Since this was the case, Artaxerxes would not have gained full unchallenged control of the Persian empire until the year 459 BC. For it was in that year that Achamenes was killed in a battle in Egypt, and it was only shortly before then that Artaxerxes killed his older brother Hyspases in what is known as the Bactrian revolt. So, with these things in mind, it appears that it was not until 459 BC, when both of his legitimate rivals for Persia's throne were finally out of the way, that Artaxerxes finally secured full legal control of Persia’s throne.

    And if that is the case, if Nehemiah counted the years of Artaxerxes' reign beginning with his first uncontested year of rule, he would have counted the year 459 BC as his first year and the year 440 BC as his "20th" year, the year in which he came to Jerusalem and ordered that its rebuilding begin.

    But how does understanding that Nehemiah may have reckoned the reign of Artaxerxes differently than we do today, in a way that equated his 25th year with his "20th" year, and differently than Josephus did who said that Nehemiah gave his order to begin rebuilding Jerusalem in Ataxerxes' "25th" year, help us to make sense of Daniel's "Seventy Weeks" prophecy?

    As most students of Bible prophecy know, Daniel's "seventy weeks" are generally understood as referring to seventy weeks of years (seventy sets of seven years) totaling a period of 490 solar years. But the Jews used a lunar calendar! Their years were lunar years, not solar years. And, despite the fact that the Jews adjusted their lunar calendars by adding a thirteenth month to them every few years to prevent them from falling too far out of sync with the solar year, the fact remains that a "year" to the Jews always meant a lunar year, not a solar year. And a week of years to the Jews would have meant seven lunar years. And seventy weeks of years to the Jews would have meant 490 lunar years, not 490 solar years.

    Now, since one lunar year contains 354.367 days, 490 lunar years contain 173,639.83 days. And 173,639.83 days divided by 365.2425 (the number of days in a solar year) equal 475.40 solar years. With these things in mind, I have come to conclusion that Daniel's "seventy weeks" were a period of 475.4 years which ran from 440 BC to 36 AD. I believe those 475.4 years began at the time Nehemiah gave his "commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem" (Dan. 9:25 KJV; Neh. 2:17,18). And I believe those 475.4 years ended at the time God acted to "confirm the [new] covenant with many" by pouring His Holy Spirit out on Gentiles for the first time (Dan. 9:27 KJV; Acts 10). I believe the "many" here referred to were the "many nations" God promised Abraham that he would one day become the father of. (Gen. 17:4) Thus, I see no need to rewrite history, as the Watchtower Society does, in order to understand Daniel's "70 weeks" prophecy.

    For the facts of history, together with a knowledge that the Jews used a lunar calendar, combine to show that, just as Daniel prophesied, the Messiah appeared in the fall of the year 29 AD. At that time Jesus Christ was "cut off" from his people and, quite literally, "had nothing for himself." (Dan.9:26) For he then began a forty day long fast in the wilderness. Then, after three and a half years, in the middle of Daniel's seventieth week, Christ's sacrificial death brought an end to the Jewish system of sacrificial offerings.(Dan. 9:27) Finally, three and a half years later, at the end of Daniel's "Seventy Weeks" Christ "confirmed a covenant with many" (Dan.9:27) when he, for the first time, poured out his Holy Spirit on non-Jewish people. This confirmed the fact that God intended for the good news of Jesus Christ to be preached to all people on earth, just as Christ said that it would be. (Math. 24:14)

    With these things in mind, I believe we can now properly understand Daniel's "70 weeks" prophecy in the following way:

    First, 7 weeks (49 lunar years, 47.54 solar years) from the spring of 440 BC brings us to the late autumn of 393 BC. By this time Jerusalem's rebuilding had been completed. (Dan.9:25)

    Second, after another 62 weeks (434 lunar years, 421.07 solar years) in the autumn of AD 29 Jesus of Nazareth became the “Messiah” spoken of in Dan. 9:25, 26 when he was anointed with the waters of baptism by John and Holy Spirit by God. Immediately following this event Jesus spent forty days fasting alone in the wilderness. During this time, in fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy, Jesus was totally "cut off" from his people and quite literally "had nothing for himself." (Dan. 9:26)

    Third, "in the middle of” this prophecy's 70th week, on April 3rd, April 5th and May 14th of 33 AD, Jesus' sacrificial death, resurrection and ascension to heaven successfully "put an end to sacrifice and offering." (Dan. 9:27)

    Fourth, at the end of this prophecy's 70th week, in about mid-September of 36 AD, in further fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy, God's Holy Spirit was poured out on the first non-Jewish people.(Acts 10) This was done in order to "confirm a covenant with many." (Dan. 9:27) The "many" here referred to were the "many nations" God promised Abraham that he would one day become the father of. (Gen. 17:4)

    By the way, I am certainly well aware of the fact that the Jews added a second month of Adar to the tail end of their lunar calendars every few years to make sure that their lunar calendar never fell too far out of sync with the solar year. However, this does not change the fact that, to the Jews, "a year" normally meant 354 days. For that is the number of days which one of their calendars normally contained. Their calendars usually consisted of six 29 day months and six 30 day months. So, to the Jews a “year” was a lunar year, and a week of years (literally a “seven” of years) was seven lunar years. And “seventy” “sevens” of lunar years = 490 lunar years, none of which are by nature solar-adjusted.

  • Leolaia
    Are any of these writings available, such as in the Ante Nicene Fathers?

    Yes, you can find them among the writings of Hippolytus, Clement of Alexandria, Julius Africanus, Eusebius, Jerome, and other writers. These sometimes present alternative interpretations which incorporate older pre-Christian interpretations. Other pre-Christian interpretations can be found in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Josephus. Later Jewish sources, such as the Seder Olam, also cast light on how it was interpreted in some Jewish circles in the first century. The oldest christological interpretation of Hippolytus (setting aside the earlier Christian interpretations in the gospels that related it to the fall of Jerusalem, as did Josephus) preserves much of the older (more original) Jewish understanding of the passage. He wrote with respect to the coming of the "anointed ruler" in Daniel 9:25:

    "Having mentioned therefore seventy weeks, and having divided them into two parts, in order that what was spoken by him to the prophet might be better understood, he proceeds thus, 'Until khristos the prince there shall be seven weeks,' which make forty-nine years. It was in the twenty-first year that Daniel saw these things in Babylon. Hence, the forty-nine years added to the twenty-one, make up the seventy years, of which the blessed Jeremiah said: 'The sanctuary shall be desolate seventy years from the captivity that befell them under Nebuchadnezzar; and after these things the people will return, and sacrifice and offering will be presented, when khristos is their prince.' Now what khristos does he mean but Joshua son of Josedek, who then returned with the people and in the 70th year upon the rebuilding of the temple offered sacrifices according to the Law? For all kings and priests are called khristoi" (Hippolytus, On Daniel 2.13-14).

    So here Hippolytus makes the first 7 weeks run during the exile itself, starting with the declaration of the prophet Jeremiah that there would be a return from exile and a rebuilding of the city. Then the "anointed ruler" who appears at the end of the first 7 weeks is Joshua son of Josedek, who is the first high priest after the exile. Joshua restores the "anointing" of the Holy of Holies which then continues for 62 weeks until "the chrism is removed". That act he attributes to Jesus Christ, whose death caused the Temple veil to be rent asunder -- a sign that the "chrism" had departed the Temple. Hippolytus pointed to a symmetry in his interpretation, that the chrism was restored and then removed at either end of 62 weeks by two khristoi named "Jesus" (making Jesus ben Jozadek prefigure Jesus Christ). The problem posed by this interpretation, however, is the final week. Earlier interpretations tried to make the entire 490-year period end with an expected desolation of Jerusalem, whether by Vespasian's forces in AD 70, or by King Herod back in c. 40 BC, or the aftermath after the death of Alexander Jannaeus in 76 BC. So Hippolytus was the first to propose a deferred week, placed into the future as a final eschatological week with an intervening "gap". Because the church in the fourth and fifth centuries took a dim view to continued apocalyptic speculation, the paradigm that finally prevailed placed the fulfillment of the entire prophecy in the past, rejecting the continued use of Daniel 9 as fodder for new eschatological expectations.

    What do you think the writer of Daniel was referring to by this prophecy?

    I believe a fully accurate understanding is impossible because the wording is a bit garbled in places, but the intended reference of the oracle as a whole is quite explicable if you follow the rules of exegesis, e.g. take care to observe the literary structure of the passage, how it fits into its context, how elements in the passage are linked to the other parallel visions in the book, and finally how the passage utilizes OT intertexts and how it compares to other cognate apocalyptic surveys of history from roughly the same period (cf. especially the Animal Apocalypse of 1 Enoch, which is especially close to our passage in meaning and form, as well as the Apocalypse of Weeks in the Epistle of Enoch, and the series of ten jubilees in the Testament of Levi). First, you need to have a good understanding of what the text says itself, and unfortunately most Christian translations follow the Theodotion version rather than the MT and also render words in ways that imply more than they say. Here is a pretty good rendering of the Hebrew (with the garbling of "upon their place" emended):

    "Seventy weeks are decreed for your people and your holy city, until crime is stopped, sins brought to full measure, guilt expiated, everlasting justice introduced, the prophetic vision confirmed, and the Holy of Holies anointed (w-lmshch qdsh qdshym). Know, then, and understand this: from the utterance of the word regarding the rebuilding of Jerusalem to the coming of the anointed leader (mshych ngyd) there will be seven weeks. Then during sixty-two weeks it will be rebuilt, with its streets and moat, but in a time of distress. After the sixty-two weeks an anointed one (mshych) will be cut down, when the city is no longer his; and the soldiers of a coming prince will ruin the sanctuary (h-qdsh). Then the end will come like a flood, and until the end there will be war. For one week he will make a strong alliance with many; for half a week he will abolish sacrifice and oblation and upon their place will be an appalling abomination, until the decreed ruin is poured out upon the appaller" (Anchor Bible).

    Note here the division of the 70 weeks into three periods: 7 + 62 + 1. I could give a very long analysis to support my interpretation (which is similar to how most contemporary scholars understand the passage), but unfortunately I don't have the time to do this today, so let me just say briefly that I believe the interpretation that does the most justice to the structure, context, parallels, and early exegetical history of this passage is as follows:

    • The chapter directly follows the discussion of the cessation of worship in the sanctuary in ch. 8 and the author is especially concerned with how long the sanctuary will remain defiled. The answer to this question is elaborated in ch. 9, which locates this recent defiling of the sanctuary in time within an apocalyptic survey of history beginning with the exile. The defiling of the sanctuary in ch. 8 is seen as the last of a series of "desolations" (plural) of Jerusalem. The angel not only tells Daniel when and how long the defiling would occur, but he also explains WHY it occurs.
    • The reason why the temple was defiled so long after the return from exile is because "the whole of Israel flouted your Law and turned away, unwilling to listen to your voice; and the curse and imprecation written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have come pouring down on us because we have sinned against him" (Daniel 9:11). What law is that? The one in Leviticus 26 (which itself is alluded several times in Daniel's prayer) that warns that if God has to bring forces to destroy the sanctuary and scatter the people across the nations, he will "punish them sevenfold for their sins" during which time "they must atone for their sins". So in ch. 9 of Daniel, the prophet expects that the 70 years of exile and servitude prophesied by Jeremiah was near at an end, but the angel Gabriel comes and tells him that he is wrong -- instead of 70 years, the nation will have to wait 490 years for the foretold blessings to be realized. That is the "sevenfold punishment" of Leviticus -- the nation must endure seven periods of 70 years, which add up to ten jubilees. Thus, he says that 70 weeks of years are decreed for expiating sin and for anointing the Holy of Holies. This anointing pertains to the Temple, the one that was desolated at the beginning of the 70 weeks of years and the one that was desolated again at the end of the 70 weeks of years.
    • Since Jeremiah's 70 years are being expanded into 490 years, the first 7 weeks are reckoned as the exile itself. The author interprets their start as "from the utterance of the word (mn mts'dbr) regarding the rebuilding (lbnwt) of Jerusalem", and this is thedbr-yhwh "word of Yahweh" mentioned in v. 2 that came to the prophet Jeremiah to return and rebuild Jerusalem at the end of the 70 years, cf. Jeremiah 17:14-15, where Jeremiah yearns for the "word of Yahweh" to be "uttered on my lips" (dbr-yhwh ... mwts' shpty), 25:11-12, where Jeremiah predicts a servitude and destruction for 70 years, 27:22 and 29:10-11, where Jeremiah predicts a return from exile after the 70 years, and 30:18 and 31:38-40 where Jeremiah delivers the word of Yahweh regarding the rebuilding of Jerusalem and its temple. The author of Hebrew Daniel possibly has in mind ch. 32-33 of Jeremiah, which dates itself to the 18th year of Nebuchadnezzar (i.e. 587 BC), when the dbr m't yhwh "word from Yahweh" came to Jeremiah, announcing that after the exile "I will bring them back to this place and make them live in safety" (32:37) and "I will restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem and build (bntym) them again as they were before" (33:7).
    • The first 7 weeks (a jubilee) thus transpire between the fall of Jerusalem and the coming of Joshua ben Jozadek in 538 BC. This is the first jubilee of the series and is marked off by the coming of an "anointed ruler"; this reflects the notion of 49 years of slavery followed by a jubilee of redemption in Leviticus 25, as well as the reference to Joshua and Zerubbabel as the "sons of oil" in Zechariah 4:14. References to the priests as "anointed ones" can be found in such places as Leviticus 4:3 and 2 Maccabees 1:10, and the high priest is called ngyd "ruler" in Jeremiah 20:1, 2 Chronicles 31:10, 13, and Nehemiah 11:11 (as "ruler of the House of God"). With the coming of Joshua ben Jozadek as the first "anointed ruler" after the exile, the anointing of the Holy of Holies began and lasted for the next 62 weeks -- as the author of the passage construes it (cf. Exodus 29:36, 30:26-29, 40:9, Leviticus 8:10-11, and Numbers 7:1 on the high priest anointing the tabernacle and the altar).
    • Then come the 62 weeks which correspond to the post-exilic period, during which time the city "will be rebuilt, with its streets and moat, but in a time of distress". So within the period following 538 BC, the city of Jerusalem was rebuilt and expanded but it was also a "time of distress" (btswq h-`tym), and this corresponds nicely to the bulk of ch. 11 of Daniel, which decribes the turbulent era of Persian wars with Greece, and then followed by the everending struggle for hegemony between Syria and Egypt, with Judea caught in the middle. The author however has overestimated the actual length of the period by about 70 years. This is to be expected since he used a stereotyped period of time (found in many other apocalyptic surveys of history) that was determined not through historical chronography but through an exegesis of Leviticus that multiplied Jeremiah's 70 years into 490 years. The author also shows a rather vague knowledge of the Persian period in comparison to the detailed knowledge of the Seleucid period in ch. 11, so we need not necessarily assume that his knowledge of the chronography of the Persian period is the same as our own (indeed, there is quite a bit of variation in estimating the length of the period between the Animal Apocalypse, the second century BC Jewish historian Demetrius, Josephus, and the Seder Olam).
    • Then at the conclusion of the 62 weeks, "an anointed one will be cut down, when the city is no longer his". This refers to the assassination of the last Zadokite high priest Onias III in 171 BC (2 Maccabees 4:33-35), who had already been deposed of his office (hence the city has "no longer his"). The parallel to this in ch. 11 is the reference to Onias III's demise in 11:22, and the same event is paralleled in the Animal Apocalypse in 1 Enoch 90:8. This brought an end to the era of the legitimate priesthood and marked the beginning of the final desolation decreed for the Temple (during the final, 70th week). The week starts with the "coming ruler" making "a strong alliance" or "covenant" with the polloi "many". This corresponds with the pact Antiochus IV made with the Jewish Hellenizers in Daniel 11:30 and 1 Maccabees 1:11-15, 43, 52. 1 Maccabees mentions this pact being made just prior to Antiochus' first campaign to Egypt, and this fits with week-long (7 years) covenant made with the many by the "coming ruler" in Daniel 9. Then in 170 BC, Antiochus invaded Egypt in a campaign, the first stage of which ended with the victory near Pelusium and the second with the conquest of Egypt (cf. Daniel 11:25-27, 1 Maccabees 1:16-19), and on his return Antiochus plundered the Temple and burned the city (cf. Daniel 11:28, 1 Maccabees 1:21-28, 2 Maccabees 5:11-20).
    • This final week however is subdivided into two 3 1/2 periods, with the final 3 1/2 period having "the soldiers of a coming ruler ruin the sanctuary", such that "for half a week he will abolish sacrifice [the Tamid] and oblation and upon their place will be an appalling abomination". This wording is practically identical to 11:30-31 which says that "forces of his will take their stand and ruin the sanctuary, they will abolish the sacrifice [the Tamid] and set up the appalling abomination". This wording is identical to the event in 1 Maccabees 1:45-54 which notes that, after "banning holocausts and sacrifices and libations from the sanctuary", "the king erected the desolating abomination above the altar" on Chislev 15 in 168 BC (cf. 2 Maccabees 6:1-2 which refers to the same event, when Antiochus dedicated the Temple to the Olympian Zeus). This is the same event from ch. 8, in which the little horn "abolished sacrifice [the Tamid] and overthrew the foundation of the sanctuary and the army too, and it put abomination on the sacrifice and flung truth to the ground" (8:11). The period of 3 1/2 years is roughly parallel to the 3 1/2 times of 7:25, the 2,300 evening and morning Tamids of 8:14, the 3 1/2 times of 12:7 (which expire when the king meets his end), and the 1,290 days in 12:11 from the time the sacrifice (the Tamid) is abolished and the appalling abomination is erected to the time the king is put to death. The actual length of time the sanctuary was defiled and the abomination was in place was about 3 years (ending on Chislev 15, 165 BC), and Antiochus died the following spring -- 7 years after the assassination of Onias III in 171 BC. Josephus thus wrote:
      "Daniel wrote that he saw these visions in the plain of Susa, and he informs us that God interpreted the appearance of this vision after the following manner: He said that the ram signified the kingdom of the Medes and Persians, and the horns were those kings that were to reign in them ... that the he-goat signified that one should come and reign from the Greeks ... and that from among them there should arise a certain king that should overcome our nation and their laws, and should take away our political government, and should spoil the Temple, and forbid the sacrifices to be offered for three years. And indeed it so came to pass, that our nation suffered these things under Antiochus Epiphanes, according to Daniel's vision" (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 10.11.7).

      So the main thing, in contrast to later reappropriations of the seventy weeks prophecy, is to recognize that what is related in ch. 9 is parallel to similar visions in ch. 7, 8, and 11-12. They each tell the same story, but with different emphases and language. But if you link up the parallels between the diferent visions, I think you get a consistent picture that reflects the interpretation given here. Of course, I had to omit tons of supporting evidence from the structure of the passage and other parallels, as well as evidence from the earliest interpretations of the passage (although you can see how Hippolytus still incorporates much of the early understanding). And the interpretation given here is not perfect, and as I said, I don't think we can ever know 100% what the author meant. But I think this is the best explanation in explaining all the evidence, it is faithful to the rest of the book and the spirit of this kind of apocalyptic survey (found in very similar form in the Dead Sea Scrolls, in the Animal Apocalypse, and in the Testament of Levi), and it avoids the contrivances found in later interpretations (some of these include conflating the first two time periods together, treating a portion of the text as parenthetical, coming up with ingenious attempts at computing the time periods, detaching the final 70th week and placing it in the far future, etc.). The main reasons why this understanding was abandoned and other interpretations sought are that (1) the Hasmoneans failed to realize the blessings foretold by Jeremiah and Jerusalem continued to be ruined by the Gentiles, and (2) later chronography indicated that the length between the return from exile and the time of Antiochus IV was not 62 "weeks", and so another Antiochus-like figure was expected. That is why Alexander Janaeus was thought to be the "anointed one" that was cut off and King Herod was thought later to be the "coming ruler"....those were due to different chronographical reckonings of the intervening 62 weeks. Josephus has several different chronographical reckonings of the period which may in fact reflect different attempts by earlier chronographers to apply the 62 weeks of Daniel 9.

  • jwfacts

    Thanks A Christian and Leo for the very detailed answers.

  • jose45xyz


    Anybody of you know if i can find in the internet the 2 books online of josephus ?

    Thank you in advance


  • Leolaia

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