This time, however, I’ve found his posts to be quite useful for sparking thought and they also provide a good bit of relevant background data, and I don’t feel the need to try to try to refute the few areas we disagree on.
Eschatology is a very divisive thing in modern Christiandom, and sadly so. I say “sadly so” because in my opinion it’s about the least important systematized Christian doctrine. The broad outline is not trivial, of course—but then every view holds the broad picture to be the same: in the end, Jesus wins. I’m talking about the particulars: whether someone is premillennial, postmillennial, or
One thing about eschatology is clear, and that’s that eschatology isn’t very clear at all. The proof of that is found not only in the wide variety of doctrinal positions, but also in the fact that there don’t seem to be much “connective tissue” between the various sub-levels of positions. True, there are general trends. For instance, preterism doesn’t seem to be all that popular amongst dispensational circles (mostly due to the fact that dispensationals tend to be premillennial, whereas preterists tend to be a- or postmillennial). However, it’s still not unheard of to have a dispensational preterist.
In fact, if we randomly assigned various labels from eschatology, I doubt most people would say, “Wait a minute, those views don’t go together.” In other words, someone could say they’re a post-trib amillinial dispensationalist and another could say he’s a pre-trib covenantal historical premillinialist and none of us will cry out that it's a contradiction. On the other hand, have someone say, “As a Calvinist, I hold to Libertarian Free Will” and you’re going to see sparks fly.
As I said, this shows me that Biblical teaching on eschatology is not very clear at all. Now since I believe in the perspicuity of Scripture, someone might ask me why that wouldn’t cause tension in my view. Well, I believe that the Bible is clear on the subjects that it needs to be clear on—the important issues. And in the issues where the Bible is less clear, then it is not as vital that we know what’s put forth.
Now that is not to say that it’s pointless, or that somehow eschatological texts are somehow “less Scripture.” But God Himself prioritizes within Scripture, holding some things to be more important for us to know than others. Indeed, in the end, He withholds certain things from us, saying that the secret things belong to Him alone.
So when it comes to eschatology, I have no qualms whatsoever at saying, “I have no confidence at all in my understanding of this particular passage.” That said, it doesn’t hurt to hash things out, to think about Scripture amongst fellow believers, and try to gain some further understanding. So long as we don’t become sola eschatologists then we’re fine.
With that in mind, I want to share the comments (typos and all) that I left on William’s post about the 70 weeks of Daniel:
Part of the problem with the numbers involved is the fact that Hebrew numerology was just plain weird (as far as modern Americans are concerned). For example, look at how Matthew displayed the geneology of Jesus so that there would be 14 generations from Abraham to David, 14 from David to Babylon, and 14 from Babylon to Christ.One potential objection that I want to address would be the charge that if we say that we cannot come to a full understanding of the 70 weeks in Daniel, then it was pointless for God to inspire that passage. Let us suppose that it is impossible for us to ever learn what was meant there, not just in practice but in theory too. Does that make the passage pointless to us now?
BTW, if we take 490 (as 70 x 7) and divide by 14, we get a generation of 35 years. That seems almost twice as long as a "typical" generation, especially when you consider that under the Roman empire the average life expectency was only around 30 (for instance, one site claims: "On average, the life expectancy at birth of women was between 20 and 30 years and that of men a bit higher").
So, with that in mind, it's quite plausible that the 70 weeks (or "weeks of years") in Daniel may have little to nothing to actually do with length of time, and a whole lot more to do with some Hebrew numerological concepts.
Further, our modern concept of time is very foreign to the ANE mindset. For one thing, today we measure things to fractions of a second, and we've structured our lives on strictly following a rigid clock; but back then, there were no clocks. Best you got was a sundial, or maybe a water-drip or hourglass type of a thing. But our fascination with time and getting things exact wasn't something shared by shepherds. This means that there can be an aweful lot of "rounding" going on, and it wouldn't have concerned anyone.
Combining numerological ideas with this rounding "error rate" (for lack of a better term) has some interesting applications. For us today, we usually round to the nearest 100, 500, or 1000 when speaking of years. So we say Christ came 2000 years ago, even though it's probably about 2014-2016 by now. Or we say that the Reformation started 500 years ago. Etc. These numbers are the kind we gravitate toward.
But consider the case of 500. If you were predisposed to considering multiples of 7 to be "holy", it might very well be that you'd round 500 to 490, so it would by 70 x 7. So something happening 500 years from now, perhaps, you'd say was happening in 70 times 7 years. This isn't a violation or an error anymore than us saying Christ came 2000 years ago is an error. It's a rounding principal.
For reasons such as these, I don't take the numbers in Daniel as requiring literalistic interpretations. That said, I do find it interesting that you can get a count that gets fairly close to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD; but I just don't have any confidence in any of those interpretations in the end.
(Again, this is all my opinion and I don't begrudge anyone's disagreement.)
By the way, William, one other thing that may be of interest to you in your studies here is the use of Hebrew codes. By this I don't mean the nonsense that was profligated by "The Bible Code" a decade ago. Instead, I mean such things as the "atbash" (i.e., "Sheshach" standing for "Babylon"). This shows that the Hebrews did have a rudimentary (for our times) system of encryption. And it's also important to remember that Daniel was in the Babylonian courts (albeit as a POW, but he was still trained as a wise man) and so could have been familiar with Babylonian encryption techniques too. I haven't had time myself to delve into any of that in detail, but depending on how much work you want to do it's a possible path to search too. :-)
I argue that it does not render the passage pointless for at least two reasons. First, we know that the passage meant something to Daniel. When the passage was penned, it had immediate significance to that audience. Even if we are unable to discern what that meaning is, it tells us that God worked through Daniel for His purposes. And secondly, it shows us that God is proactive and responds to His people’s prayers. He doesn’t abandon them in captivity in a foreign country. He is there, with them. Both of these concepts are demonstrated, even if full interpretation is impossible. And I don’t believe it is impossible in theory, even if perhaps in practice we will never figure it out this side of heaven.