Friday, October 17, 2014

70 weeks

24 “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator” (Dan 9:24-27).
I'm going to discuss several different interpretations of this passage.
1. There's the liberal interpretation, which relates this to the Antiochean crisis in the mid-2C BC. This suffers from some basic problems:
i) It's predicated a the secular assumption that there is no God who reveals the future.
ii) It identifies the character who's "cut off" as Onias III. However, even on liberal dating schemes, that's off by over 70 years. Liberals salvage that identification by blaming the anachronism on the the anonymous author of Daniel, who was confused. Of course, that's a circular argument. Their identification is inconsistent with the evidence. So they preemptively discount falsifying counterevidence.
iii) Antiochus never destroyed the temple or the city (of Jerusalem). And that's hardly an incidental detail.
iv) Likewise, what does the "strong covenant" refer to in his career? 
v) Ironically, liberals have their own gap theory, when they split the seven weeks from the sixty-two weeks. Likewise, they split the "prince" and "anointed one" in vv25-26a into two different figures. Nothing necessarily wrong with that, but it disqualifies them from attacking amils and premils who draw similar distinctions. 
2. Some interpretations think there are two characters in view. A protagonist and an antagonist. This, in turn, has two basic variations:
i) Jesus is the protagonist, while Titus and Hadrian are the antagonists. Titus and Hadrian destroy the temple and/or the city (of Jerusalem).
ii) Jesus is the protagonist, while a future Antichrist is the antagonist.
3. Apropos 2(ii):
On this view, Dan 9:26 refers to 1C events while v27 refers to still future events. The "covenant" is a treaty or nonaggression pact which the Antichrist makes with the Jews on his rise to power. He later reneges on the deal. 
What are we to make of this interpretation? 
i) I think proponents are correct to believe that the 1C events did not exhaust Dan 9:24-27.
ii) There's nothing inherently ad hoc about positing temporal gaps. Both amils and premils do this. Arguably, that's clearly in view in Daniel, at one point or another. As one scholar notes:
But you notice between verse 2 and 3 there is an unmentioned interval of over 150 years. Daniel simply passes from Xerxes who attacked Greece, to Alexander the Great, who destroyed the Persian Empire. Daniel skips over 150 years without any reference to it. 
…in chapter 2, chapter 7, and chapter 9 he [E. J. Young] is very much against the idea of an unmentioned interval between two great events. But here he assumes a jump of at least two thousand years without it being mentioned between verse 11:35 and 36…Young, without saying so, assumes an unmentioned interval of at least 2000 years at this point between Antiochus Epiphanes and the Antichrist.
Of course, making allowance for temporal gaps doesn't justify posting temporal gaps without sufficient exegetical justification.
iii) However, both 9:26 and 9:27 share a common "desolation" motif. "Desolation" in v27 is a carryover from "desolation" v26. It seems arbitrary to split them up.
In addition, it's artificial to drive a wedge between "city and the sanctuary" in v26 and "sacrifice and offering" in v27. Those are clearly interrelated concepts. Jerusalem and the temple are where sacrifice and offering take place. 
iv) In addition, if we correlation Dan 9:24-27 with the Olivet Discourse, Jesus is, in part, answering a question about the Second Temple. The Herodian temple. That's the frame of reference. Not a Millennial temple.
v) Proponents of this view tend to flip back and forth. V24 is mainly about the future, although "atoning for iniquity" is about the past (i.e. the Crucifixion). Vv25-26 shift back to the past (i.e. the public ministry of Christ) while v27 shifts to the far future. It's a very choppy interpretation, which breaks up the flow of the passage. Not just gaps, but reversals.
In fairness, though, prophecy might include flashbacks and flash forwards. 
vi) There's nothing inherently wrong with the idea that the Antichrist might make a temporary treaty with the Jews. However, the text itself doesn't say that or imply that. In addition, I think that's out of context (see below).
4. Some interpretations think there's just one character in view throughout. That has two basic variations:
i) Christ is the consistent referent.
ii) The Antichrist is the consistent referent.
5) Apropos 4(ii), this suffers from a couple of basic problems:
i) It shares some problems with #3. 
ii) Arguments for the messianic interpretation militate against it (see below).
Apropos 4(i), on this view:
i) The Crucifixion moots the sacrificial system. In effect, the city and sanctuary are destroyed by his definitive redemptive death. At that point they've outlived their rationale. 
ii) The Crucifixion is the abomination of desolation.
iii) The "strong covenant" refers to the new covenant, foretold by Jeremiah (Jer 31). And we know that Jeremiah's oracles were on Daniel's mind (Dan 9:2). 
iv) There's a pun between "cutting" a covenant (an idiomatic term for making a covenant) and the Messiah who is "cut off" (i.e. crucified).
v) The church age is the 70th week. It began in the past, but the ending is future. 
6) I think elements of (5) are very appealing. But it suffers from some weaknesses:
i) Why would we favor a figurative interpretation when the temple and the city were actually razed by Titus and Hadrian's forces? The wording of the oracle, combined with subsequent events, invites a literal interpretation.
ii) Although, taken by itself, the Crucifixon is uniquely "abominable," in what sense would the Crucifixion be a sign or advance warning to flee Jerusalem and head for the hills decades ahead of time? It makes no sense of how that functions in the Olivet Discourse. 
7) It's possible to combine some details of these different interpretations.
i) For instance, who destroyed Jerusalem? Literally, that was Titus and Hadrian. Yet they were agents of God. So God destroyed it. And the Jews brought it on themselves. So they destroyed it–when they repudiated the Messiah. From that moment on, its doom was a foregone conclusion. And there's a sense in which Jesus destroyed it by rendering it obsolete.  
ii) Just as Antiochus was a type of Roman emperors or a type of Antichrist, Roman emperors can be a type of Antichrist. 
Likewise, one can view the fall of Jerusalem as a type of endtime deliverance and judgment. 


  1. If you read Mt. 24 again you will see the frame of reference is Christ second coming and "the end". it is not speaking about the 2nd temple destruction. Presumably a third temple is in view. The 70th week is divided up into 2 periods of 3.5 years and deals with the ethnic Jewish nation according to the text of Daniel.
    Also, according to Lev. 23 the festivals were "the times of The Lord". Both Passover and Pentecost have been fulfilled but the autumn feast/fast cluster has not. They include wrath: Trumpets, Yom Kippur: Day of the Lord, Sukkot: 4th Temple Millenium all with a focus on ethnic Israel. 2Thess. 2 speaks of these very events as future beyond the 2nd temple destruction. In no way was 2Thess. ever fulfilled with the end of the 2nd Temple.

    1. i) To begin with, you need to avoid a false antithesis. It's not a forced option between either being about the destruction of the 2nd temple or the future coming of Christ. It can be both. Indeed, the disciples pose both questions.

      ii) The lead-in is explicitly about the destruction of the 2nd temple. That's one frame of reference.

      iii) If "presumably a third temple is in view" "if you read Mt 24," then show where that's in view in Mt 24.

      iv) You're propping up your interpretation of Mt 24 by appeal to your interpretation of 2 Thes 2. But that begs the question. And, once again, it posits a false antithesis between past and future events. Among other things, that disregards typology–which is both past and future.

      v) Likewise, the interpretation of Daniel's 70-week prophecy is highly contested. You can't just stipulate your preferred interpretation of Dan 9 to leverage your preferred interpretation of Mt 24.

    2. In regard to the Third Temple reference: “So when you see the abomination of desolation—spoken about by Daniel the prophet—standing in the holy place (let the reader understand) [Mt. 24.15]. The "holy place' is the reference to the third temple. This was clearly future of which the previous Antiochus Epiphanes one was typical.
      So what if Dan. 9 is contested? There is only one correct way to view it in the end, it can't be many ways, it can only be one reference. I'm saying the futurist (PreMil) takes into account all the other references to Daniel's prophecies (including the 70 weeks, but not limited to only ch.9) better than competing views.

    3. i) You're *asserting* that Mt 24:15 refers to the third (millennial) temple, but you have yet to show how you derive that from either Matthew or Daniel.

      ii) Once you admit that Antiochus was a type of the Antichrist, that doesn't select for any particular antitype, be it 1C or future.

      iii) Likewise, once you grant typology, why insist "there can only be one reference"? What makes you think typology can't involve a one-to-many correspondence?

      iv) *Asserting* that your interpretation of the 70 weeks is correct is unimpressive. There are many adjustable variables:

      a) What's the terminus ad quo of the decree?

      b) Was the decree a human decree (e.g. Cyrus, Artaxerxes) or a divine decree? That affects the timing.

      c) Are the weeks literal intervals, rounded intervals, or symbolic intervals?

      d) What's the relationship between seven sevens, sixty-two sevens, one seven, and mid-week? Is it literal or schematic? Is it continuous or interrupted?

      You can't just dictate that your interpretation is right.

  2. One of the exegetical issues is what "the end" refers to in context.

    1. The End: the end of the age and Christ's coming (Mt. 24.3). Jesus doesn't answer the "when" question in regard to the stones being toppled. He only answers the 2nd coming question so as to be crystal clear that the explicit OT prophecies will be fulfilled. The first coming prophecy was mostly implicit (sacrificial system) while the Day of the Lord was overt in the OT. The disciples were wondering about The Day of the Lord.

    2. Actually Jesus did also answer "when" the stones would be toppled also: armies surrounding and embankment (Lk. 19.41-44 and Lk. 21.20-24). The "Time of the Gentiles" is obviously not part of the "seventy weeks for your people". So the cluster of events that affects the Jews is at the end of the "Times of the Gentiles" and marks the beginning of the 70th week. The realization of "everlasting righteousness" is clearly after the 70th week.

    3. i) You assert that "the end" refers to the end of the age and Christ's coming. However, Robert Stein argues that "the most natural referent to 'the end' in the expression 'the end is still to come' (Mk 13:7) is the destruction of the [Herodian] temple, which is the question of the disciples (Mk 13:4) that Jesus is answering in Mk 13:5-23." Jesus, the Temple, and the Coming Son of Man, 79.

      You're free to disagree, but it's not as if your explanation is obviously right and his is obviously wrong.

      i) The first question of the disciples wasn't simply a "when" question but a "what" question in reference to the 2nd Temple. Mt 24:3 refers back to vv1-2: "Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2 But he answered them, 'You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.'"

      That's the context.

      "Actually Jesus did also answer 'when' the stones would be toppled also: armies surrounding and embankment (Lk. 19.41-44 and Lk. 21.20-24)."

      i) Which uses the language of siege warfare. Ground troops besieging fortified cities. That makes sense in a 1C context.

      It makes no sense in a modern setting. You can't just project that antiquated picture into the far future unless you update military technology. The invention of the cannon already rendered fortified cities obsolete–not to mention the advent of bombers, attack helicopters, cruise missiles, predator drones, &c.

      ii) What makes you think the "times of the gentiles" can't refer to the church age. Historically, gentiles have in fact been dominant during the church age. So why assume that must refer to the distant future?

      iii) You're equivocating on "everlasting righteousness." That can have its *inception* in the 1C.