Written By Thomas Perez. August 16, 2017 at 10:20am. Copyright 2017.
The prophecy of the “Seventy Sevens” in Dan 9:24-27 has produced a variety of interpretations throughout the history of Christian interpretation. It also differs from that of the Jewish interpretation. However, we will examine both; Jewish and Christian interpretations. We will do this in order to determine if early Jewish interpretation of the seventy sevens was more uniform or just as diverse as Christianity. In order to do this, we will look at the Septuagint, 1st and 2nd Maccabees, 1 Enoch, Jubilees, Josephus, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the earliest Christian interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27. But before we do, we must understand how to read the passage itself correctly, especially the last two verses (vs. 26-27) which we will focus our attention on – the man of sin, the lawless one, the Antichrist, and his/it’s number 666.
The Passage: Daniel 9:24-27 (Taken From the King James Version)
24. Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.
25. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.
26. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: 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 unto the end of the war desolations are determined.
27. 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, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.
The same passage, esp Vs. 24 in Hebrew…
What Does it Mean?
Verse 24 contains a summary or a table of contents, if you will. A summary of six objectives. 1. To finish transgression, 2. To make an end to sins, 3. To make reconciliation, 4. To bring in an everlasting righteousness, 5. To Seal up the vision, and 6. To anoint the Most Holy.
How to Read It: We Will Use the Term Sevens Instead of Weeks for Better Clarification
A week (1 seven) in the Bible is often referred to as week of years – each day in a week, which is 7, means 7 years, not days (Gen 29:18-28). Therefore, the prophecy of 70 Weeks (Sevens) = 490 years (Vs 24).
Seven sevens = 49 years. Sixty two sevens = 434 years for a total of 483 years (Vs 25) thus far, with the remaining seven (1 week = 7 years) cited in verse 27. The prophecy began with the Persian Empires permission to restore and rebuild Jerusalem’s walls, city and temple by king Artaxerxes’ 1st permission in 458BC and his 2nd decree in 445BC.
Compelling is the fact that by starting with the date of 458BC, the first Decree of Artaxerxes, and by using solar years (365 days) you come to the beginning of the ministry of Jesus Christ. However, if you start with the date of 445BC, the second Decree of Artaxerxes, and use prophetic years (360 days – 30 days to a month) you come to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. No matter where you start with the prophecy, it seems to always end up pointing to Jesus. To be precise the Encyclopedia Britannia sets the date March 14, 445BC.
Thus 490 (70 sevens) – 49 (7 sevens) = 441 – 434 (62 sevens) = 7 (1 week)
445BC – 49yrs = 396BC – 434yrs = (-) a 38yr old Jesus who was born in 5BC, is “cut off” – crucified. That is exactly 33AD. Or if you prefer the 444BC decree with a 4BC date of birth, then He was crucified at the age of 39 in 33AD. Either way, the prophecy seems to point to Him.
The last week is debated. Is it considered a prophecy for the last days – a gap period between the 69 & 70 week – known as the Church Age? Some say; “there is no gap” between the 69th and 70th week (seven). Citing; “all was fulfilled when Jerusalem and it’s temple fell in 70AD” in fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy. However, I leave that to you, the reader, to decide. But this much is certain, the only thing the Jews have in Jerusalem today is their “Wailing Wall” – all of what is supposedly left of their temple area after the fall of 70AD.
This is a picture confirming that a week in Scripture is in fact considered 7 years…
1. The Septuagint and the Theodotion:
The Septuagint is the only known earliest source perserving the entire oracle of Daniel’s seventy sevens prophetic utterance. Other sources cite or allude to particular references contained therein. Let us take a look into those sources and see what they had to say concerning the seventy sevens.
However, there were/are two different versions of the book of Daniel, known as stated above, as the Septuagint and the Theodotion. The Septuagint was a product of its time when Jews found themselves at the mercy of the Ptolemies in Egypt and Seleucids in Syria. Due to such subjugation, the Jews recognized several prophetic passages of Scripture concerning a deliverer, a Messiah that will one day free them from their oppressors like Moses did centuries before. This gave them hope for a Messianic expectation. Passages of Scripture, along with the passages found in Daniel 9:24-27, gave them all the proof they needed to keep that hope alive. But the translation of Dan 9:26 seems to be a case in point. Both, the Old Greek and Theodotion, translate Dan 9:26 with χρῖσμα (anointing) rather than χριστός (anointed one). The identity of the anointing is not obvious, but, whatever it is, it will not last. Since the identify is not known, all futile attempts to pinpoint who this figure is, whether it is Jesus or not, is useless at this time.
The passage of Daniel or the translators did not indicate a removeral of a Messianic figure but rather the cessation of a ritual function or office. However, the word clearly seems to go beyond the evidence. Who else but a χριστός would perform a ritual function or occupy an anointed office? Still, the translation of Dan 9:24-27 seems to delicately maintain a Messianic hope without raising too much fervor on the part of Jews living in foreign lands or too much suspicion on the part of the rulers under whose authority they were living under. It is highly probable that χρῖσμα could have been used deliberately instead of χριστός in order to tone down, but not necessarily deny, the Messianism. The Old Greek says that ἀποσταθήσεται χρῖσμα ϰαὶ οὐϰ ἒσται (the anointing will be removed and not be). Theodotion has ἐξολεθρευθήσεται χρῖσμα, ϰαὶ ϰρίμα οὐϰ ἒστιν ἐν αὐτῷ (the anointing will be destroyed and there is no judgment in it). These renditions may choose the word χρῖσμα in order to speak indirectly about a χριστός that suffers unjustly at the hands of others, whether Jews or Gentiles. Theodotion alone has a reference in Dan 9:25 to an anointed one who leads (χριστοῦ ἡγουμένου), but his willingness to use this expression suggests that he, in v. 26, was not trying to separate offices on the one hand from officers on the other.
The six objectives pertaining to the removal of sin and the establishment of righteousness bear witness to the hope not only of the author but also of the translator. The Old Greek renders the sixth objective as εὐϕρᾶναι ἅγιον ἁγιων (to gladden a holy of holies) instead of χρῖσαι ἅγιον ἁγιων (to anoint a holy of holies). The translator or an earlier copyist may have mistakenly or deliberately transposed two Hebrew letters to read (to bring joy) instead of (to anoint). Still, εὐϕρᾶναι conveys the jubilant purpose of the seventy sevens. Perhaps the translator deliberately made a play on the Hebrew words in order to express his confidence that the desecration of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar and Antiochus IV would not be the last memory of God’s house. During the course of the seventy sevens, sorrow will turn to joy as the temple becomes a place that the righteous God of Israel (Dan 9:14) can inhabit again. Knowingly or not, the translator or copyist captured the jubilee theme of the seventy sevens.
Even so, vs. 26-27 in the Old Greek and Theodotion anticipate more defilement and destruction. Both versions add the word ἱερὸν (temple) before βδέλυγμα τῶν ἐρημώσεωυ (abomination of desolations) and thus make an explicit association of the desolations with the temple. If these Greek translations were produced after the Antiochene Crisis, which is true of Theodotion, then they may have read their Hebrew Vorlage in view of the continuing trouble for Jews after the Maccabean resolution of the Antiochene Crisis. The end of that calamity may have marked the terminus ad quern of the seventy sevens and so yielded a sense of jubilee, but the translators knew that the six objectives of Dan 9:24 still awaited full realization.
This observation may explain the additional seventy sevens in vs. 26 and 27 of the Old Greek version (7+70+62+1). Indications suggest that the Old Greek’s translation reflects a theological reading after the Antiochene Crisis. The additional seventy years push the realization of the six objectives of Dan 9:24 into the more distant future. For the translator, the Antiochene Crisis has become a “prelude” to or a “type” of the end of sin and the establishment of righteousness. Moreover, the Septuagint translators of Dan 9 lived after Antiochus IV and no longer felt threatened by him. For this reason, he altered the numbers of the seventy sevens and muted the apocalyptic Messianism of the original writer who lived during the Maccabean Crisis. It is hard to say which group of scholars has the better explanation, but the history of interpretation after the Maccabees indicates that the Antiochene Cisis was not always considered the sole referent of the prophecy. Whether intended or not, the additional seventy years in the Old Greek invited application of the seventy sevens to later events.
2. 1st and 2nd Maccabees
The books of 1st and 2nd Maccabees record the events of what is known as the Antiochene Crisis, the Maccabean resistance and the Hasmonean restoration. In 1st Macc 1:54; Antiochus IV built an “abomination of desolation” (ᾠϰοδόμησανβδέλυγμα, ἐρημώσεως). Upon doing so, Antiochus massacred thousands of Jews (2nd Macc 5:11-14, 23-26). He forbade the Jews from practicing their faith and thus threatened them with death if they refused to obey. Needless to say; many disobeyed and we’re killed. Antiochus also found another way to stop the Jews from worshipping as they pleased. He not only set up an abomination of desolation, but he also built multiple alters to sacrifice pigs and other unclean animals, burning unlawful incense, burning copies of the books of the law and killing circumcised babies and their whole families (1st Macc 1:43-61). This is very similar to Daniel’s prophecy (Dan 9:27, 11:31). For all intent and purposes, it is Daniel’s prophecy fulfilled as seen within this time frame of typological exegesis. Moreover, persecution of the Jews reached an abhorrant climax when Antiochus IV built an alter on top of G-d’s alter and slew swine upon it, dedicating it and the Jerusalem temple to Zeus (2nd Macc 6:1-7). He broke down the walls that separated the sanctuary and Holy of Holies from the common court. Debauchery was everywhere (1st Macc 4:38, 2nd Macc 6:4 – as in the days of Ezekiel). This is the earliest interpretation of Daniel’s seventy sevens, especially when viewed with 11:31 and 12:11. It is quite clear that the writer of Maccabees considers Daniel’s prophecy to be the Antiochene crisis as stated in 1st Macc 1:54. However, it does not take into consideration the six objectives stated in Daniel 9:24.
3. The Book of Enoch:
Although the book makes no mention of the prophecy, it does allude to it. 1st Enoch originated during the period of the seventy sevens, and as such offers commentaries on conditions during that time. The comparisons and similarities are strikingly apparent. Dan 9:24 pertains to sin. 1st Enoch thunders against all manner of sin; celestial and terrestrial (1 En 98:1). Enoch anticipates the establishment of righteousness and the restoration of pure worship (1 En 10:16-22). This restoration is not limited to Jewish worship. The whole world has been cleansed. The most holy place expands to the far reaches of the Earth (1 En 10:18-20, 26:1, and chapters 28-36). The equivalent of Daniel’s six objectives have come to friuition.
The “Animal Apocalypse” in 1 En 85-90 reviews history from creation to the Antiochene Crisis. The book uses animals allegorically like Daniel did to represent empires. Seventy Shepard’s = Seventy Weeks. Four kingdoms = Babylon, Person, Ptolemies and Seleucids over the sheep (God’s people) – 1 En 89:-59-90:19. It offers commentaries on the events of the seventy sevens between the rise of Babylonian Empire to Antiochus IV (1 En 79:72-90:5). The temple, as viewed from Enoch, was looked upon less favorably (1 En 89:73). The Jews took advantage of one another. Becoming the “have’s and have not’s.” They took advantage of one another. And as such, the Jews were often oppressed by their Gentile (non-Jewish) rulers (1 En 90:2-4).
Enoch describes 58 shepard’s that ruled over God’s people – the Babylonians, Persians and Ptolematic eras (1st En 90:1,5) – twelve shepard’s during the Seleucid years (1 En 90:17) – for a total of 70. The books of Daniel and Enoch influence one another, although the former was written first. They both share an expectation of Jubilee. But not just for the people of God, the Jews, but for all of humanity, first through judgement and then restoration by means of the White Bull (1 En 90:20-27, 28-36). It is a time where God rejoices with humanity (1 En 90:37-38). 1 En 90 and Dan 9 are parallel in reference to Israel’s bleakness. But it was part of a stretch in history of judgement and righteous vindication. For even the word “Redeemer” means as a kin to avenge, one who takes revenge. But in what manner, and to what extent, is this revenge accomplished? The written material is twofold; as in Isaiah’s proclamation of the acceptable year of the Lord and His judgement. Or it could be the other way around; judgement first and then the acceptable year of the Lord.
Enoch 90:9-12 describes Judah Maccabean as a ram. The ram who defends his people against the Seleucid army of Antiochus IV. The ram is not the same as the White Bull stated above (90:37). The ram brought temporary relief (Dan 11:34). The White Bull is an expectation of someone greater than the ram, even a descendant of David who acts as the Good Shepherd of Ezekiel 34. While Daniel only describes a Messianic exhile of sorts in 9:27, Jeremiah and Ezekiel thunders an explicit hope in the full restoration of the Davidic throne through Messianic expectations. However, Daniel, instead, annouces that G-d will smash human kingdoms in Dan 2:22. A belief shared in Enoch. Thus fulfilling the expectation of the White Bull and expansion of holiness to every corner of the Earth in Enoch, Jere 23:5 & Ezek 34:23.
And then we have the “Apocalypse of Weeks” (1 En 93:1-10, 91:11-17). The Apocalypse of Weeks is 10 weeks instead of 70 weeks. It counts 10 weeks that are followed by an eternity of weeks. The weeks are unspoiled righteousness (1 En 91:17). It reviews the Biblical history from Enoch to the final judgement of sin, which is most likely the Antiochene Crisis. The first 7 weeks are jubilee that anticipate an eternity of weeks after the 10th week. However, evil is still present after the 7th week. The 8th, 9th and 10th week describes what appears to be an eschatological age, where evil is overcome by righteousness. Similarly then, like Daniel’s seventy weeks, Enoch’s 10 weeks offer hope, the elimination of sin and the establishment of righteousness over a long stretch of time. In my opinion, the Jews needed this assurance and the people of G-d today need it also in our time.
4. The Book of Jubilees:
The book was supposedly written during Moses’ time. It reports the history of the world and of Israel in Genesis 1 to Exodus 12. It can be called a “rewritten Bible.” Some scholars date the book between the death of Antiochus IV and the rise of the Hasmonean kingdom. The book celebrates their jubilees between Gen 1 and Ex 12. At that point the Jews had not the land, but was merely promised it by G-d. The 50th jubilee representes the Exodus/return of G-d’s people to the promised land (Jub 50:2-3). It is an overlay of prophetic fulfillment and anticipation at the same time.
The author adopted the jubilee structure because of the needs of his readers whose situation had something in common with the message of Gen 1-Exod 12. That situation had to do with a feeling of alienation from the Promised Land (Jub 49:18-22, 50:5). Jub 10:27-34 states that they are not to share the land with any nation. Similar to the Ptolemies, Seleucids and Hasmonians who reigned in their land and controled them, the book encourages a “taking back” to restore righteousness, to restore a jubilant jubilee. The book represents a return to the land. And although the Jews were in it, they were not free. They longed to be independent. To many Jews, Hellenized Jewish leaders were no different than the Gentile rulers over them (Jub 23:29, 50:5). To the true Jew, alienation from the land and a jubilee of true restoration remained an idea. Living in the land did not constitute a true jubilee.
Hasmonean apostasy and injustice ran rampant at the highest levels of government and discouraged the general populace from remaining faithful to God’s law (Jub. 23:16-21). The sentiments are also echoed by many who saw the writings Hosea and Micah as quite applicable during their time. Jub 1 and 50 and the eschatological section of Jub 23:24-31 indicate the promise of Jubilee. It is through the keeping of the law that a proper life can be lived in preperation of the jubilee hope. The book of Jubilees can now be seen as an eschatological book upon which the prophets have joined through the machanism of proper ethics.
The book of Daniel and Jubilees manifest the concern for keeping the law. But they also recognize that they have lost their inheritance. For Jubilees, the people are still in Egypt. While for Daniel, the people are still in Babylon, on the event of their 2nd Exodus. Both books inform Jews in the second century BC that they must return in faith to the promises of G-d and to His obedience. But this time, it is not only in the physical sense, but of the spirit, from a sincere heart. A worship from the inside out.
5. Flavius Josephus:
Josephus writes; “In the very same manner Daniel also wrote concerning the Roman government, and that our country should be made desolate by them.” A reference to Daniel 9?
Modern readers of Josephus have to keep in mind that he wrote to two audiences-one Jewish and the other Roman-and that he wanted to convince both of his loyalty. He evidently tried to review Jewish history in such a way as to not upset his Roman patrons. Never mentioning the eventual triumph of G-d’s Kingdom. However, he does mention the stone that smashes Nebuchadnezzar’s metallic statue in Daniel, but only with reference to it’s past and present, not it’s future. A future which has no place for Rome. He must have felt confident that his Roman readers will not consult the book of Daniel and discover the unfavorable relation that an Israelite prophet received about the kingdoms of the world including Rome.
What is seen in Josephus are the parallel similarities and typologies between Antiochus IV and Rome, which both, at different times in history, desecrated the Jewish temple. He recognized the former and the latter as two distinct, yet similar, patterns in history – past and present, as seen in his day. For Josephus, it would seem that typological applications was just as much of an explanation to him than it’s predictions.
6. The Dead Sea Scrolls:
During this time, as in the writings of Enoch and Jubilee, a self realization of one personal relationship with G-d became essential. Many became sectarians, distancing themselves from the established politically corrupt Jewish order under the influence of the Gentles. The Essenes and Zealets were such people. The Essenians were concerned with the spiritual aspects of life and the law, while the Zealets were politically motivated. The Essenians settled in the wilderness, seeking to enhance their separation from the world and their corrupt religion of political Hellenized Jews. Most of them settled in Qumran to practice their Torah without interference.
It is during this time that they wrote many documents. A total of eight manuscripts with the text of Daniel were found in caves 1, 4, and 6 at Qumran. None of these manuscripts, however, preserves Dan 9:24-27. But they do contain Daniel’s prayer of confession found in cave 4. However, the citation “the constellation of the years up to their seven-year periods” (1QS 10.7-8) seem to indicate Daniel’s Seventy Weeks. However, it is still unclear whether the writer was referring to the Seventy Weeks. But this much is certain, the Qumran community understood where it stood theologically with reference to the book of Jubilees (11QMelchizedek).
They considered the high priest, Jonathan Maccabee, and other subsequent high priests as wicked members of a political system of a religion tainted by the sins of omission. The system had abandoned their religion in favor of political and cultural expediency. Yet they saw both; the Jews and Gentiles as the reason for all their troubles during and after Daniel’s Seventy Sevens. They saw the need of Daniel’s prayer to be answered immediately. The writer of 1QH 10, dependant upon G-d for atonement, may have seen a correlation between Daniel’s 9:24 objectives as something to be realized in his time. Other similarities are found in Dan 9:18, 1QS 3.20, 11.9-10, 11:11-15). The writer knows that, though he was predestined to walk in righteousness in 1QH 3.20, he can not atone for his sins as recorded in 1QH 15.16-18, 18.16-21. However, the passage is not without hope. It indicates that G-d must act first, and by doing so, precede human performance (1QS 12:35-37).
11Q Melchizedek expresses hope for atonement and the end of the 10 Jubilee periods mentioned before. In 11Q vs. 18, Melchizedek says; “that the messenger of Isa 52:7” is “the anointed of the spirit about whom Daniel spoke.” The anointed one of Dan 9:26 seems to be in view. Whereas the anointed one of Dan 9:25 is arguably Ezra, the anointed one of Dan 9:26, as suggested by 1 Macc 1:54, is Onias III. There is a combining of 11QMelchizedek with the reference to the one whom G-d anoints in Isa 61:1-3. He evidently expects a recapitulation of Messianic suffering in the near future. This suffering will somehow bring comfort to others who have been afflicted. It blantantly obvious that the writer of the Dead Sea Scrolls saw the term “anointing” as “the anointed.”
In retrospect, the Qumran community saw and anticipated the Davidic throne in 4QFlor, linking Melchizedek in Gen 14 and Psa 110 with intercession between G-d and man, thereby representing the aspects of full restoration in spite of their alienation; both, physical and spiritual. Furthermore 11QMelchizedek indicates a desire for full widespread faithfulness to the covenant. To accomplish this, they saw two anointed ones – a true descendant of David to ursup the Hasmonean rulers, and a priestly anointed one to oversee the sacrificial system of atonement for the people. The passage in 14:18-19 seems to parallel with Daniel’s six objectives in Dan 9:24. So then, the Jubilee in the Qumranic community were read with both views in mind. But as to the time when both views were to be fulfilled, the indications seem to suggest both events as running separate, as stated in 1QS 12.35-37 prerequisite.
To the Christian, they are separated by a 1st and 2nd coming, often referred to, as mentioned earlier, a gap. Within this gap, the Church age is prevalent. It is said that this age lies between the 1st and 2nd coming of “an anointed” one, or “the anointed.” However, eschatological differences with reference to the time of the 2nd coming of Christ among Christian scholars exist today. To state the obvious, they knew that the resolution of the Antiochene Crisis had not eliminated all sin or brought full inheritance. Like Dan 9, the Qumran community expressed its hope for the future in terms of jubilee periods. Whether explicitly stated or not, these periods would usher in what amounted to the realization of the six objectives of Dan 9:24.
7. The Earliest Christian Interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27
Hippolytus writes the first known Christian commentary on Daniel. For him, Dan 9:24-27 originally pertained to the Antiochene Crisis during the second century BC. Given the persecution the early Church was receiving, later readers saw a recapitulation of Antiochus IV in a future Antichrist. The prophecy became a reoccurring pattern of persecution, oppression, sin, and abominations. Due to Hippolytus’ Saviour being put to death upon a cross, he anticipated and combined the Antiochene and Dispensational interpretations of Daniel’s seventy sevens – most likely borrowing the idea from Jewish parallelisms. He, however, was not the first person to apply the seventy sevens to more than one context.
Jesus and the Gospel writers did the same (Matt 24:15, Mark 13:14). They had already modeled typological exegesis. Of course both; Jesus and the Gospel writers, knew that the passages in Dan 9:24-27 was in reference to Antiochus IV. Neither would they be that ignorant to attribute the passages of Daniel 9 to Rome or it’s Emperor. Neither did they think that the abomination of desolation (Dan 9:27, 11:31, 12:11) was in reference to it. They knew that the writer of Daniel was talking about the Antiochene Crisis. Nevertheless, it would seem to indicate that they read Daniel typologically and saw in their day a repetition of the pattern of unbelief and worldliness that the writer of Daniel had applied to Hellenistic Jews during the reign of Antiochus IV.
In other words, they expected a replay of the Antiochene Crisis. Another desolation would occur again at the hands of a Gentile army, this time, Rome. For it was Rome who, under General Titus, that destroyed the last Jewish temple in 70AD. The Seleucids and Romans, though totally independent, represented historical typological related administrations of divine judgment. This typology may be what Jesus, the Gospel writers and Hippolytus want the reader of Daniel and the Gospels to understand. Thus the reasoning behind many eschatological views of thought today, with Antiochus (the past) and a future Antichrist to come, one who would come into the world scene long after 70AD.
It is now become obvious that Jesus, the Gospel writers or Hippolytus did nothing new. It was a precedent long before them. With that in mind where does that leave us today in reference to the “abomination of desolations” and the rest of Daniel’s prophecy? Well, to find out the answers to those questions, we must begin to look at the last prophetic book written; the book of Revelation, particularly chapter 13:18. Who, or what is the Antichrist. Who is, or what is the “abomination of desolations?”
The term “Abomination of Desolation” spoken by Jesus (Matthew 24:15) is synonymous with Daniel’s “abomination of desolation,” and his little boastful and blasphemous horn of Daniel 7. It is also synonymous with St. Paul’s; the “Man of Sin,” and “the Lawless One,” (II The 2: 1-9), St. John’s Antichrist (I Jn 4:3) and his Beast, it’s image, symbol or number – 666 (Revelation 13).
To be Continued in Part 2.