DANIEL 9 24-27

Missionary Christians tend to get quite emphatic about these verses.  They say, "It predicts the time of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem to the DAY.  To the EXACT DAY", and then they jab their finger in the air or pound the table to show how certain they are.

Of course, since no one knows for sure when Jesus entered Jerusalem, no one can know that a prophecy correctly predicts it.  There are other problems.

The verses describe "seventy weeks", i.e. seventy groups of seven years, 490 years, starting with "the command to restore and to build Jerusalem" (v 25) and ending with the time for Israel to "finish the transgression, and to make and end of sins" and other things (v 24).

King James Version

Jewish Publication Society -- 1917 Translation

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. 24 Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sin, and to forgive iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal vision and prophet, and to anoint the most holy place.
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. 25 Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem unto one anointed, a prince, shall be seven weeks; and for threescore and two weeks, it shall be built again, with broad place and moat, but 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. 26 And after the threescore and two weeks shall an anointed one be cut off, and be no more; and the people of a prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; but his end 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. 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; and that until the extermination wholly determined be poured out upon that which causeth appalment.'

Christians agree that the verses PRECISELY predict Jesus entering Jerusalem (or maybe the crucifixion), but they can't agree how. One Christian webpage says the starting point is 458 BCE, while another says only 445 BCE will do.  A third says the phrase "cut off" refers to Jesus' crucifixion, while a fourth says it means Christ's leaving heaven.

In other words -- missionaries, get your act together before you come preaching to Jews.

Though there is really no need to refute them (since they refute one another), I'll discuss the modern missionary position as it described by the Jews for Jesus types and others on the web, and I'll give the Jewish response to their claims.  If I misstate specifically what THESE claims are, let me know.

To make this 490 year span come out right, the missionaries do several things (as Dave Barry says, I am not making this up); 1) they choose an unlikely starting point, 2) they ignore the end point, 3) they invent a new system of writing numbers, 4) they invent a new kind of year, and 5) they add a word not in the original text.  That they interpret many Hebrew words and phrases differently than Jews do is legitimate.  But that list of 1 through 5 -- well, read the explanation below and decide for yourself.

Let's discuss the individual items:

1) Starting date:  Daniel's says "from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem", which is what Cyrus (whom Isaiah refers to as "the Lord's Messiah") had commanded in 538 BCE (see Is. 44:28).  But Cyrus's order is too early for the missionaries (some even admit this is their reasoning), so they say the Daniel verse refers to the order in 445 BCE by one of Cyrus' successors, Artaxerxes, to resume the restoration which had already begun, but had been temporarily interrupted.

This is possible, but not likely.

2) Ending date: Missionaries say the phrase "after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off" refers to Jesus' entrance to Jerusalem. If that occurred in the 69th week -- better yet, let's use the word "septad" to avoid confusion -- then all those wonderful things (end of sin, everlasting righteousness, etc) should have come about a long time ago, certainly before the Romans leveled Jerusalem.  Obviously this has not happened.  So how could Jesus' death have occurred in the 69th septad of Daniel's predicted time span?

Missionaries say that "the clock was stopped".  Daniel doesn't mention any stoppage of the clock.  Try telling that to your mortgage company.

3) Numbering: Part of verse 25 in the KJV reads " ... seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built ..."  Note the punctuation.  The KJV is combining the numbers 7 and 60 and 2 into one number -- 69 to get the 69 septad prophecy.  (Note that the JPS separates these into two numbers -- 7 and 62, each indicating a different event.)

The KJV usage is unprecedented.  The Tanach (and everyone else) gives numbers almost the same way as English -- sixty and nine. You literally never see something like "seven and sixty and two."  To make the prophecy fit, missionaries have invented a new numbering system for the Tanach.

4)  Duration of a year: 69 septads equals 483 years.  If you start at 445 BCE, this would take you to 39 CE, seven years after when most people think that Jesus entered Jerusalem.  However, if you subtract 5 days for each year -- that is 2,415 days -- which is converted to about 6.5 years (bear with me) -- that takes you back to about 32 CE.  In other words, if you say that a year is only 360 days long, then the time works out.  So they say that the septads that Daniel speaks of are composed -- not of normal years -- but of 360 day years, and call these "Biblical years."

Nothing corresponds to a 360 day year.  It is longer than standard Jewish year (of 12 lunar months) which is 354 days and is shorter than a solar year or a Jewish leap year (which is 13 lunar months.)  Such a year could not have been used in Biblical times because the festivals, which are at least in part agricultural, would have gotten out of sync with the seasons.

What can this 'Biblical year' be other than an invention? When you set your own intervals, you can make anything come out.

5) Adding to the text: KJV verse 25 says -- "from the ... commandment to restore ... Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince"; the JPS says -- "from the ... word to restore ... Jerusalem unto one anointed, a prince,"   KJV says "the Messiah" while JPS says "one anointed." The Hebrew word "moshiac" can mean either (though in the Bible it is usually "an anointed."  The problem with the KJV is the use of the specific adjective "the".  "The Messiah, the Prince" certainly sounds like one very specific person, like Jesus.  But the Hebrew text does not have "the." (in Hebrew, the prefix of the letter 'hay')  The Hebrew words are "mashiac nageed" -- an anointed prince, of whom there were many. KJV has added a word not in the text.

So what do the verses refer to?  Probably the Hanukah story.  The Bible (i.e. Hebrew Scripture, also known as the Tanach) is divided into three parts - Teachings (Torah), Prophets and Writings (forgive me if you already know these details.) What surprises many is that Daniel is in the Writings section, not in the prophets. There is a wisdom in Daniel, but not the same kind of wisdom as in the prophets (for that matter, the wisdom of the prophets is not always what people think, but I digress.) In particular, Daniel is not a history book. Chapter 1 and Chapter 6 which give royal successions at odds with standard histories and with the history of the rest of the Bible, show from the start that Daniel is not a history book. For this reason, there is no need to calculate specific dates and try to make the 70 septads work out - and, in fact, no one has been able to make them work out without serious violations of the principles of mathematics.

Let's talk about Antiochus's reign. Everyone knows he was a cruel SOB, but what many don't realize was the extent of the abomination he perpetrated. He used the Holy Temple to sacrifice pigs and to make sacrifices to Zeus. Americans, with our tradition of separation of church and state, will have difficulty understanding how horrifying these activities were to the Jews of that time. Suffice it to say that Daniel's prediction "to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sin, and to forgive iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal vision and prophet, and to anoint the most holy place" is not an exaggerated way to describe the hanuka - dedication (actually rededication) of the temple. It's a specific national event, not a messianic or end of times prophecy.

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