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FOCUS ---------------------------------------------------------- 1

INTRODUCTION ---------------------------------------------------- 1

THE SEVENTY SEVENS ------------------------------------------------ 4


Jewish vs. Early Christian Interpretative View ----------------------------------------------------6

Messianic vs. Non-Messianic Interpretative View ------------------------------------------------8
Traditional (or Historicist) vs. Dispensationalist View -------------------------------------------9
Sabbatical Year View ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 12
Key Considerations in Attempting to Interpret the Prophecy ---------------------------------- 13
To Whom Was Gabriel Addressing This Prophecy? ------------------------------------------- 14
Six Restoration Goals ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 14
Terminus a Quo ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 16
Terminus Ad Quem --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 21
Time of Daniel’s Writing -------------------------------------------------------------------------- 22
Extant Texts and TranslationDifficulties of Daniel --------------------------------------------- 23
Hebrew Text Difficulties and Grammatical Considerations ----------------------------------- 24
CONCLUSION ----------------------------------------------------- 28

BIBLIOGRAPHY --------------------------------------------------- III


As Bible scholars can attest, prophetic writing in the Old Testament is abundant.

Prophets of Israel and Judah through the centuries spoke of coming judgment but also of

future restoration and ultimately the arrival of God’s kingdom on earth and with it His

complete and perfect reign, restoring righteousness and justice. For believers today, especially

those on the dispensational side of the theological divide, these prophecies continue to hold an

immense draw, as many prophetic utterances made thousands of years ago are yet to be

fulfilled, or at least believed to not yet have been ultimately fulfilled. Shelves in Christian

bookstores, full of books on Bible prophecy, attest to the ongoing interest. Daniel’s 70 weeks

prophecy, as told in Daniel 9:24-27, is one of these prophetic passages and deemed to be of

great eschatological significance. Yet, as this paper will show, learning the many facets of the

debate surrounding this passage will ultimately guide students of Daniel into a very careful

examination of the prophetic utterance that may or may not result in a clearly defined personal

conviction and ultimately in the adoption of a particular eschatological viewpoint. As such,

this paper will not attempt to find the definitive answer to interpreting Daniel’s Seventy

Weeks prophecy, but rather will seek to equip the reader with insights allowing the

development of his or her own interpretive standpoint based on the background information

collected and insights gained.


When discussion in Christian circles turns to topics concerning eschatology, invariably

the 70 weeks prophecy, part of the Old Testament book of Daniel, enters the picture. Daniel, a

student of the writings of the pre-exilic prophet Jeremiah, had come to the realization that if

his assumption was correct that the 70 year exile period, which the Jewish people were

currently enduring in Babylon and which had been predicted by the prophet, was truly

depicting a literal number of years, it was coming to an end. He had turned to the Lord in

prayer to seek forgiveness for his people and to understand God’s plan for Israel. As he was

praying, Gabriel, the angel of the Lord, appeared to him and shared with him what the future

held in store for the people of Israel and for the city of Jerusalem.

The short passage of Old Testament writing, reflecting Gabriel’s words to Daniel and

recorded in Daniel 9:24-27, is possibly one of the most diversely interpreted passages in

prophetic writing, yet it holds a very powerful attraction to students of the Scriptures,

especially those with an interest in eschatological topics. Very fittingly, Professor George A.

Barton, a Harvard educated professor of Semitic languages at the University of Pennsylvania,

in 1898, wrote that the book of Daniel “has attracted students of all sorts as a candle does

moths on a summer night, and though many have singed their wings, few have imparted to

their successors a sufficient dread of their painful experience to deter others from flying

towards the attractive but fateful candle.”1 This attraction continues into the 21st century.

So what exactly did Gabriel share with Daniel when he came to visit him while Daniel

was seeking the Lord in penitent prayer in Babylon? To enhance the understanding of the

points under discussion in this paper, the passage under examination reads as follows in the

English Standard Version (ESV) 2:

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.

George A. Barton, “The Composition of the Book of Daniel,” Journal of Biblical Literature 17, no. 1 (1898):
Choosing a Bible translation to cite here poses distinct problems in and of itself as the reader will discover in
the course of this paper. The English Standard Version (ESV) is one of the most recent Bible translations, has
been highly recognized in its scholarly effort and was first published in 2001.

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.”3

It is apparent from simply reading the text at hand that this passage requires careful

investigation. Indeed, many text critical and interpretive aspects of the text of Daniel 9:24-27

have to be considered in an attempt to interpret Gabriel’s words to Daniel.

In order to gain an initial understanding of the difficulties while looking at this text in

only one language space, the reader should take the time to glance quickly at the differences

between various English Bible translations. In the ESV translation, cited above, v.26 indicates

a clear break between the first seven sevens and the following sixty-two sevens with an

“anointed one” coming after the first seven. However, in another popular English Bible

translation, the New International Version (NIV), the same verse indicates the seven and

sixty-two sevens are a homogenous unit, not interrupted by the arrival of an “anointed one”.

Through a review of the existing interpretive views and a closer look at some of the

elements critical to the text, the reader will be guided to reach his or her own conclusion. As

scholars through the centuries have not been able to agree on one interpretation of this text,

the outcome aimed at in the pages of this paper is to equip the reader with sufficient

understanding of some of the interpretive issues of this difficult passage.

The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Da 9:24-27.


The construct ‫שׁ ְבעִים‬

ִ ‫שָׁ ֻבעִים‬, or “seventy sevens”, of which Gabriel speaks in Daniel

9:24 is one of the first expressions in need of clarification in any critical review of this

passage. What exactly is this supposed to tell the reader attempting to find meaning in this

text? As Leon Wood explains, the literal translation ‫שׁ ֻבעִים‬

ָ is indeed “sevens” and does not

specify a particular unit of time, such as days, weeks, months, or years. However, it can be

argued – and has been generally accepted as such – that the meaning here is “weeks of years”.

As Wood points out, the word here is used in a participle form, meaning “to be made up of

seven parts”. In addition, he writes, while the word is used with the meaning of a week with

seven days in other Scripture, such as Gen. 29:27-30, it cannot be understood in this manner

in the context of Daniel. Daniel knew based on 2 Chronicles 36:21 that Israel’s punishment in

exile was based on their non-observance of Sabbath rests, with the seventy years of exile

being based on seventy sevens of years, meaning 490 years, of Israel’s disobedience of God’s

Sabbath year requirement.4

Ernest C. Lucas, in comparing texts in Daniel to other Old Testament texts, notes that

there seems to be a parallel between the symbolic understanding of Jeremiah’s ten sabbatical

cycles as described in 2 Chronicles 36:20-21 and an interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27 since

Daniel referenced back to Jeremiah in Daniel 9:2. The Jewish exiles would have been very

familiar with the jubilee cycles of 49 years, or seven sabbatical cycles.5

Leon Wood, A Commentary on Daniel (Grand Rapids, MI: The Zondervan Corporation, 1973), 247.
Ernest C. Lucas, “Daniel”, in Theological Interpretation of the Old Testament: A Book-by-Book Survey, ed.
Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Craig G. Bartholomew and Daniel J. Treier (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House
Company, 2005, 2008), 236.

As such, the generally accepted interpretation of the “seventy sevens” is that of weeks

of years, or 490 years. However, as this paper will show, these years are not always

interpreted as literal years.


Stephen R. Miller in the New American Commentary consolidates the interpretation

of the 70 weeks prophecy into four major interpretive views, which also ultimately represent

the considerations represented in this paper:

1) The “seventy sevens” cited by Gabriel are literal years with the sevens representing

weeks of seven years each, or a total of 490 years, 2) the “seventy sevens” represent a

symbolic time period, which concludes in the first century A.D. with Jesus’ death, burial and

resurrection but leaving the final 3 ½ years largely unaddressed, 3) they represent a symbolic

period of time ending with the return of Jesus Christ in the second coming, and finally

4) Gabriel’s 70 weeks are literal blocks of time that terminate with the second coming of

Christ. In this view, while the first sixty-nine weeks have been fulfilled at Christ’s first

coming, there is a gap, the present church age, and the final week will commence with the

Antichrist making a covenant of peace for seven years, which will be broken three and one

half years into this seventieth week of years.6

The new ESV Study Bible, in its footnotes associated with Daniel 9:24-27, condenses

this further into three major interpretive views: “(1) the passage refers to events surrounding

Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.); (2) the 70 sevens are to be understood figuratively;

and (3) the passage refers to events around the time of Christ”.7 However, the second view

Stephen R. Miller, vol. 18, Daniel, Includes Indexes., electronic ed., Logos Library System; The New
American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, c1994), 253.
The ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 1607.

proposed here can be considered a generalized view, combining Miller’s second and third


Scholars may differentiate these views using somewhat differing terminology. In order

to ease the understanding of the many interpretive approaches to the Daniel 9:24-27 text, it is

best to draw a couple of dividing lines, or rather subsets. In broad strokes, interpretive views

can be grouped into sets by looking at various aspects such as Jewish vs. early Christian

views, messianic vs. non-messianic views, and traditional vs. dispensationalist views. A side-

glance shows another interesting perspective, albeit generally not often found in scholarly

literature, of evaluating Daniel’s “seventy weeks” based on the sabbatical year system of

ancient Israel. Each of these subsegments will then be reviewed and evaluated in greater detail

in the respective sections of this paper.


Jewish sages have interpreted this passage in Daniel, as a passage in the Hebrew

Scriptures, from a clearly different angle than their Christian (and thus post first advent of

Christ) counterparts. J. Paul Tanner recently investigated whether the seventy weeks were

read as a Messianic prophecy by Jewish and Christian scholars. He points out that Jewish

sources written prior to the earliest Christian sources included chronologies referring to some

prophetic passages, including Daniel’s seventy weeks. The Essene community also attempted

a dating of Daniel’s prophecy and attached the date for the beginning of its fulfillment with

the return from exile and ending 490 years (seventy sevens of years) later between 3 B.C. and

2 A.D. This raised Messianic expectations for the seven years preceding this time period, as

the Messiah would arrive after the first sixty-nine weeks. 8

As Tanner highlights, there is also evidence for non-messianic Jewish interpretations,

primarily based on a strained translation in the Septuagint, which speaks of an anointing being

removed and the kingdom of the Gentiles destroying both city and temple. Dating the

beginning of the prophetic fulfillment to the starting time of the Seleucid rulers, dated at 311-

310 B.C., the calculation culminates in 172-171 B.C., which marks the murder of Onias III,

high priest during the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The disastrous fall of Jerusalem in 70

A.D. and the destruction of the temple readjusted Jewish perspectives of the fulfillment of

Daniel’s seventy weeks in these events. It also led to a shift to non-Messianic interpretation of

the passage, as evidenced by writings of Josephus and the Seder Olam Rabbah, a Jewish

chronology composed in about 160 A.D. 9

Regarding Christian perspectives, Tanner writes: “Early church fathers commonly

embraced a messianic interpretation of the passage and sought to prove a chronological

computation for the time of Messiah’s coming based on this prophecy”. 10

Early Christian views began to develop in the late second century A.D. with Irenaeus’

Against Heresies. Tanner lists Clement of Alexandria at the beginning of the third century,

Hyppolytus, Julius Africanus and Origen in the third century, and Eusebius, Apollinarius of

Laeodicea and Julius Hilarianus in the fourth century and finally Jerome and Augustine in the

early fifth century as early interpreters of Daniel’s seventy weeks prophecy. 11

J. Paul Tanner, “Is Daniel's Seventy-Weeks Prophecy Messianic?: Part 1,”Bibliotheca Sacra 166, no. 661
(April - June 2009): 182-183.
Ibid., 181.
Ibid., 185.

Tanner concludes “all the early church fathers, along with Jewish scholars, interpreted

each ‘week’ as a period of seven years and applied this quite literally”. His study finds that

the early church fathers – with the exception of Hilarianus who held to a fulfillment with

Antiochus IV Epiphanes – held to beliefs centered around a messianic fulfillment.

Furthermore, they all agreed that the “most holy” referenced in Daniel 9:24 pointed to a

fulfillment in Jesus Christ. As to a completion of the fulfillment of the prophecy, one further

key agreement found by Tanner highlights that most of these early Christian writers believed

the seventy weeks to have reached a conclusion in the first century A.D. A few held to a

position anticipating a future fulfillment in the second advent of Christ.12


Interpretations of Daniel’s seventy weeks within Christian scholarly research can also

be divided along the lines of whether or not a Messianic prophecy is believed to be contained

within this text.

Those holding to a Messianic perspective typically come from a conservative

backgrond, representing scholars of both premillenial and amillennial convictions. As Tanner

points out, differences within the Messianic interpretations here hinge on details, such as the

number of references to Messiah in the text, how the beginning and end dates of the prophecy

are to be interpreted and what the timing sequence of the sixty-ninth to the seventieth week

is. 13

Walvoord agrees here by saying that “all Christological interpretations tend to

interpret the first sixty-nine sevens as literal. The departure comes on the interpretation of the

Ibid., 198.

seventieth seven.”14 There are, of course, also great discussions among conservative scholars

as to the starting point of the fulfillment of the first sixty-nine weeks of the prophecy recorded

in Daniel as well as its endpoint marking completion. This will be discussed in greater detail

later in this paper.

John F. Walvoord uses the terms “Christological” vs. “non-Christological” as a

dividing line and subdivides non-Christological views into those that represent a liberal

critical view and those with a conservative amillennial view. While liberal scholars do not

believe, that Daniel was written in 6th century B.C., but rather in 2nd century B.C., those

holding to a conservative amillennial conviction see the time units given in this passage as not

literal years, but rather periods of time. 15

Critical scholars typically see a fulfillment of the prophecy within the Maccabean era

(dating to 2nd century B.C.). As Miller writes, in their thinking “they are literal years

extending through the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes.”16


Views differ quite significantly between adherents of each of these two interpretive

subsegments on the “when” of both beginning and end of the prophecy, and whether the time

periods are to be read symbolically or literally. Even within the two broader camps, there are

significant differences in interpretation.

Observing an interpretive problem with a fulfillment of the prophecy in the second

century B.C., Joyce Baldwin writes that “commentators who argue that Antiochus Epiphanes

John F. Walvoord, Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation (Chicago: The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago,
1971), 219.
Ibid., 216.
16 Miller, 253.

fulfilled this prophecy are at a loss to account for the fact that he destroyed neither the temple

nor the city of Jerusalem, though undoubtedly much damage was done (1 Macc. 1:31, 38).17

Donald Fairbarn provides insights into the view that Irenaeaus and Hyppolytus held

that a gap would be inserted between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week and that the final

week would take place at the end of time when Christ returns. He cautions, however, to view

this as a supporting argument for the similarity between Irenaeus and Hyppolytus and modern

dispensationalism, as there were significant differences in the early church’s eschatology,

primarily the absence of a perspective of suffering and tribulation dispensationalist thinking

brings with it.18

Walvoord argues that Daniel took a literal approach to the seventy years prophesied by

Jeremiah as being the length of the Jewish exile to Babylon and hence was in prayer seeking

God’s plan for the end of this time. He writes that “even though Daniel was fully acquainted

with the symbolic form of revelation which God sometimes used to portray panoramic

prophetic events, his interpretation of Jeremiah was literal and he expected God to fulfill His

word.” As such, the argument supports also a literal understanding of the seventy sevens

following in Gabriel’s prophetic statement.19

In their commentary on Daniel, Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland add that

some scholarly reviews of the Old Testament text suggest “the referent of the ‘decree’ (Heb.

Dabar, ‘word’) is more logically associated with the words of Jeremiah’s oracles”. They point

Joyce Baldwin, Daniel: An Introduction & Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1978), 171.
Donald Fairbarn, “Contemporary Milennial/Tribulational Debates: Which Side Was the Early Church On?” in
A Case for Historic Premillenialism: An Alternative to”Left Behind”Eschatology, ed. Craig L. Blomberg and
Sung Wook Chung (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009), 118-19.
Walvoord, Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation, 205.

to the similarities between Jeremiah 29:10 and Daniel 9:25, again a statement that supports

the view that Daniel had a quite literal fulfillment in mind.20

Since Dispensationalists insert a gap, the church age, between the sixty-nine sevens

and the final sevens, Walvoord counters an objection that such a gap is not common in

Scripture, voiced by scholars who see the seventy weeks as uninterrupted, by citing Ironside:

Dr. Ironside shows a number of instances of parentheses in God’s program: (1) The
interval between the “acceptable year of the Lord” and the “day of vengeance of our
God” (Isa 61:2-a parenthesis already extending more than nineteen hundred years. (2)
The interval between the Roman empire as sympolized by the legs of iron of the great
image of Daniel 2 and the feet of ten toes. Confer also Daniel 7:23–27; 8:24, 25. (3) The
same interval is found between Daniel 11:35 and Daniel 11:36. (4) A great parenthesis
occurs between Hosea 3:4 and verse 5, and again between Hosea 5:15 and 6:1. (5) A
great parenthesis occurs also between Psalm 22:22 and 22:23 and between
Psalm 110:1 and 110:2. (6) Peter in quoting Psalm 34:12–16 stops in the middle of a
verse to distinguish God’s present work and His future dealing with sin (1 Pet 3:10–12).
(7) The great prophecy of Matthew 24 becomes intelligible only if the present age
be considered a parenthesis between Daniel 9:26 and 9:27. (8) Acts 15:13–21 indicates
that the apostles fully understood that during the present age the Old Testament
prophecies would not be fulfilled, but would have fulfillment “after this” when God
“will build again the tabernacle of David” (Acts 15:13). (9) Israel’s yearly schedule of
feasts showed a wide separation between the feasts prefiguring the death and
resurrection of Christ and Pentecost, and the feasts speaking of Israel’s regathering and
blessing. (10) Romans 9–11 definitely provide for the parenthesis, particularly the
figure of the olive tree in chapter 11. (11) The revelation of the Church as one body
requires a parenthesis between God’s past dealings and His future dealings with the
nation Israel. (12) The consummation of the present parenthesis is of such a nature that
it resumes the interrupted events of Daniel’s last week.21

As the paper will show, many interpretive problems keep this discussion alive.

Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Daniel - Malachi, 8th ed.
(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 170.
John F. Walvoord, “Is the Seventy Weeks of Daniel Future?”, in Dallas Theological Seminary, Bibliotheca
Sacra Volume 101 (Dallas Theological Seminary, 1944; 2002), 101:47-48.


Robert C. Newman disagrees with most of his peers’ approaches to an understanding

of the seventy weeks prophecy. He believes that there is a much more natural approach to

understanding the words of Gabriel to Daniel. Like Lucas, he sees an influence of the books

of the Hebrew Scriptures, here Exodus and Leviticus, on Daniel’s understanding of the

seventy sevens. Daniel was aware of the non-observance by the Jews of the land’s sabbath

year rest cycles being the cause of the 70 year exile imposed on his people now in Babylon.

Newman postulates that Daniel was thus conditioned to think in the context of a

“seven-year land use cycle and the period of seventy such cycles during which Israel had

disobeyed this command.” He also points to the Talmudic writings pointing to the arrival of

Messiah with such a seven year period. This reasoning leads Newman to propose a sabbatical

year calculation of the seventy-weeks. 22

Newman’s interpretation takes into account the difficulties of the Masoretic

disjunctive mark in v. 26, which is discussed in detail later, but holds that the seven and sixty-

two weeks are to be seen as a unit despite the phrasing. He explains that the first seven weeks

may be seen as possibly marking the completion of the rebuilding of Jerusalem. In his

calculation, the sixty-ninth week falls into the sabbatical cycle of A.D. 27-34. Newman

counters the question arising regarding the language, which seems to indicate that the

Messiah is to be cut off after the sixty-ninth week, by pointing out that this can be attributed

Robert C. Newman, “Daniel's Seventy Weeks and the Old Testament Sabbath-Year Cycle,” Journal of the
Evangelical Theological Society 16, no. 1 (Winter 1973): 231.
Ibid., 232.

to Jewish use of language, citing the differing uses within the same gospel (Matthew and

Mark) of “after three days” and “on the third day” as such an example.24

While this approach is a departure from the conventional interpretive views, it has not

been picked up in scholarly thought, yet it is the one that places the most weight on coupling a

symbolical understanding of the language with an attempt to place what it describes into a

chronological timeframe.


Several aspects need to be reviewed in earnestness by those attempting to interpret the

Daniel 9:24-27 passage. These considerations will greatly influence the interpretation of other

elements within the text.

One question, which needs to be addressed is who constituted the target group of

Gabriel’s words. Was it addressed strictly to a Jewish audience? Was Gabriel speaking this to

Jews and Gentiles? To the Church?

Inspecting the six distinct purposes announced by Gabriel will lead also unveil very

different scholarly understandings of their purpose and fulfillment in the course of the seventy

weeks. This facet also needs to be reviewed to add to the reader’s understanding.

Another critical question which can and will influence any interpretation is that of the

dating of the fulfillment of this prophecy. In particular the question of when its starting date,

or terminus a quo, falls, and when fulfillment of all six declared purposes was or will be

achieved, meaning its point of completion and therefore the end date of the prophecy, or

terminus ad quem.

Ibid., 233.

An additional consideration comes in the text critical view held by liberal expositors

that Daniel was not written in the sixth century B.C., but rather by a writer in the second

century B.C. who would have had a historical view while writing, rather than a prophetic one.

Finally, the Masoretic as well as the Septuagint text hold difficulties that need to be

investigated, in particular pertaining to meaning or interpretations of individual words or

expressions and marking in the text.


As Miller notes, the specific nature of Gabriel’s statement to Daniel makes it clear that

the prophecy was addressed to the Jews (“your people”) and the city of Jerusalem (“your holy

city”). Miller lists Young, Keil and Leupold as examples of scholars who are seeking for a

more symbolic meaning. Bowing to a view that Israel no longer plays a future role in God’s

plan, they interpret the references in the text to refer to “spiritual Israel”, represented in this

view by the Church, and understand the “holy city” to stand for the heavenly Jerusalem

depicted in Revelation. Miller very clearly expresses that the text of Daniel 9:24-27 does not

support such an interpretation due to the very clear descriptors. In particular, “this revelation

was an answer to Daniel’s prayer, which concerned the Jewish people”, and as such could not

be applied to anything but the Jewish people.25


In disclosing God’s plan to Daniel, Gabriel stated six important purposes, which

would be fulfilled as the seventy weeks ran their course. Walvoord points out that no

explanation is given to help with interpretation and lists the six major objectives Gabriel

25 Miller, 258.

announced to Daniel: “(1) ‘to finish transgression,’ (2) ‘to put an end to sin,’ (3) ‘to atone for

wickedness,’ (4) ‘to bring in everlasting righteousness,’ (5) ‘to seal up vision and prophecy,’

and (6) ‘to anoint the most holy.’”26

In general, Walvoord interprets these six purposes to only be fulfilled with the second

coming of Jesus Christ, but points out that especially the final aspect, “to anoint the most

holy” has the highest degree of difficulty in interpretation. While some have interpreted this to

refer to the millennial temple as described in the book of Ezekiel, others see this being

fulfilled through the arrival of the New Jerusalem. Again, Walvoord interprets either of these

to refer to end time events.27

J. Randall Price and Thomas Ice state that the six distinct purposes are clearly linked

to a prophecy applying to the Jewish people, not the Church. As such, “these six goals have

not been fulfilled in the church age; rather, they apply to the Jewish nation in the age to


Price, in another article, writes that these six restoration goals have experienced a

partial fulfillment in Jesus’ first advent, but will see their ultimate fulfillment with His second

coming. Since Israel rejected Jesus as their Messiah, the spiritual redemption offered in His

first advent allowed for the inclusion of Gentiles and will await what Price calls “a second

phase of the messianic program to apply spiritual redemption to Israel nationally.”29

John F. Walvoord, Major Bible Prophecies: 37 Crucial Prophecies that Affect You Today (Grand Rapids, MI:
Zondervan Publishing House, 1991), 168.
Ibid., 169.
J. Randall Price and Thomas Ice, “Seventy Weeks of Daniel”, in The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible
Prophecy, eds. Edward Hindson and Tim LaHaye Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House, 2004.
J. Randall Price, “Seventy Weeks of Daniel in Dispensational Interpretation,” World of the
20DISPENSATIONAL%20INTERPRETATION.pdf (accessed March 28, 2009), 1.

Donald K. Campbell sees a fulfillment of the first three purposes with the first coming

of Christ: “Sin was to be restrained and put to an end by atonement. Only the death of Christ

could and did accomplish these things.” However, he believes that the promises of everlasting

righteousness, a sealing of vision and prophecy and a rebuilt temple (Campbell’s

interpretation of the “anointing of the most holy”) have to be future events since “history

knows no such age.”30


To address the starting point of the seventy sevens , the question of whether this

passage is approached from a symbolical or a literal perspective has to be answered. Yet even

those who support a symbolic fulfillment seek to find the starting point.

In his message to Daniel, Gabriel conveyed to him that a decree ordering the

rebuilding of Jerusalem would be the starting point of the seventy weeks’ fulfillment. Most

scholars agree on four decrees as possibilities of the starting date of the prophecy, or terminus

a quo. Lucas, as quoted by Longman Tremper III and David E. Garland in their commentary

on Daniel, even cites seven possible decrees31, but this paper will focus on the four most

commonly recognized possibilities.

The Scriptures give us insights into these decrees. The first one is the decree of Cyrus

from 538 B.C., which permitted the Jews to return for the rebuilding of the temple in

Jerusalem. This event is described in 2 Chronicles 36:20-23; Ezra 1:1-14 and Ezra 6:1-5. The

second decree is the one given by Darius in 519 B.C. , who confirmed the decree of Cyrus, as

Donald K. Campbell, Daniel: Decoder of Dreams (Wheaton, IL: SP Publications, Inc., 1977), 106.
Ernest.C. Lucas, "Daniel," (Apollos Old Testament Commentary 2; Downers Grove, Il.: InterVarsity Press,
2002), quoted in Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Daniel -
Malachi, 8th ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 170.

described in Ezra 6:6-12. A third decree is spoken by Artaxerxes and is established as

occurring in the seventh year of his reign, and is described in Ezra 7:11-26. The final decree is

the one given to Nehemiah, also by Artaxerxes. This is described in Nehemiah 2:1-8. In a

clear departure from the earlier decrees, Artaxerxes word to Nehemiah authorized the

rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem. This decree was given in the 20th year of Artaxerxes’

reign, however scholars have held differing opinions whether this occurrence took place in the

last month of 445 B.C. or rather in the first month of 444 B.C.32

J. Dwight Pentecost describes one of the most well known chronology attempts for

Daniel 9:25-27, the work done by Sir Robert Anderson in 1909, with the words “no more

careful study has been made of the problem of the seventy weeks of Daniel.” 33 As Pentecost

explains, Anderson had taken great pain to arrive at a starting point for the fulfillment of the

prophecy and from there find a literal interpretation that matched up with Christ’s time on

earth. His research and calculation gave him a starting date of March 14, 445 B.C., which

represents the 1st of Nisan in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes. His ending date is the 10th of

Nisan when Jesus enters Jerusalem in a triumphal fashion on Palm Sunday, April 6, 32 A.D.

The period between those dates is 476 years and 24 days, or 173,880 days, which Anderson

explains represents the 483 years (69 x7) based on prophetic years of 360 days, rather than

calendar years of 365 days. 34

As mentioned before, scholarly debate has offered two dates for the 1st of Nisan in the

twentieth year of the reign of Artaxerxes. Hoehner determined that while the report to

John F. Walvoord, The Prophecy Knowledge Handbook: All the Prophecies of Scripture Explained in One
Volume (Wheaton, IL: SP Publications, Inc., 1990), 253.
J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1958),
Ibid., 246.

Nehemiah, recorded in Nehemiah 1:1, occurred in Chislev of 445 B.C (November/December

445 B.C.)., the actual decree of Artaxerxes, which we read about in Nehemiah 2:1, did not

occur until Nisan 444 B.C. (March/April 444 B.C.).35 This offset by one year, a refinement of

Anderson’s work, also brought the end of the sixty-ninth week to 33 A.D., a year accepted by

many scholars as a possible date for Christ’s crucifixion, while 32 A.D., as proposed by

Anderson’s chronology, has been ruled out.36

Agreeing with the 444. B.C. date as being the correct starting date, Walvoord,points

out that while debate among scholars continues on the terminus a quo question, “the most

plausible explanation is the 444 B.C. date because this works out precisely to the fulfillment

of the prophecy and also coincides with the actual building of the city.”37

Floyd Nolen Jones, who researched Old Testament timelines and developed a

chronology from them, supports this view by reviewing the three first decrees. In his and

other scholar’s opinions, these decrees solely addressed the rebuilding of the temple, but not

of the city of Jerusalem. He highlights Ezra 4:1-4, which tells us that the Jews were forced to

stop rebuilding the temple as they were in parallel rebuilding the city without having the

authorization to do so. He concludes that the first three decrees thus do not meet the

conditions of Daniel 9:25.38

Harold Hoehner also speaks in support of this interpretation and proposes that the

words “to restore and to rebuild” (in Hebrew ‫ ) ְלהָשִׁיב ְו ִלבְנוֹת‬mean that Jerusalem was restored

to its original state. In addition, the words “plaza and moat” (in Hebrew ‫)רחוֹב ְוחָרוּץ‬,
ְ in his

Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: The Zondervan
Corporation, 1977), 128.
Ibid., 137
Walvoord, The Prophecy Knowledge Handbook, 253.
Floyd Nolen Jones, The Chronology of the Old Testament (1993; repr., Green Forest, AR: Master Books,
2007), 206.

view, highlight just how advanced the restoration of Jerusalem was. The first term indicates

“a plaza, street, or square, ‘the broad spaces, generally just inside the city gates, the centre of

city life’”, while the second term suggests a trench or moat was dug around Jerusalem.

Hoehner shares that, still visible in the walls around the city, “a great cutting in the rock along

the northern wall” can be found, which seems to suggest a defensive structure or wall. All of

these seem to suggest that a complete rebuilding of the city was in view in Gabriel’s

pronouncement39, which would be in line with Artaxerxes’ second decree.

While scholars have pointed out that the earlier decrees would also have implicitly

contained a permission to reconstruct housing for the returning Jews as they were rebuilding

the temple, Renald Showers makes a convincing argument that Scripture proves that a

complete restoration of Jerusalem did not happen until after the second decree by Artaxerxes

described in Nehemiah40. In particular, Nehemiah 1:3 speaks of Hanani giving a report to

Nehemiah upon his return from Judah that “the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its

gates are destroyed by fire”41. A letter sent to Artaxerxes, described in Ezra 4:8-16, asks the

king to have all building stopped in order to avoid rebellion. Showers argues that “in light of

this, if any of the three earlier decrees had permitted the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls,

then Artaxerxes could not have issued this later decree forbidding the rebuilding of the


Miller observes that the distinct separation of the seven sevens and sixty-two sevens

suggests that a significant event would take place after the first seven sevens. If one then

Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: The Zondervan
Corporation, 1977), 116.
Renald E. Showers, The Most High God (Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc., 1982),
The Holy Bible : English Standard Version,, Ne 1:3.
Showers, 122.

follows the premise of some scholars, such as Archer, Wood and Payne, who believe that the

starting point of the seventy weeks happens with the decree of Artaxerxes to Ezra in 458 B.C.,

the year 409 B.C. becomes important (458 B.C. + 49 years = 409 B.C.). According to Miller,

the Elephantine Papyri list someone other than Nehemiah as governor of Judah, which

suggests that Nehemiah may have finished his rebuilding effort by 409 B.C.43

Robert Chisholm takes another approach and reaches further back in time to identify

the terminus a quo by making the point of identifying the decree with Jeremiah’s prophecy of

the destruction of Jerusalem, which Daniel was undoubtedly very familiar with. He references

Jeremiah 30:18, a passage which dates to a point of time between 597-586 B.C. Using this as

the starting point, Chisholm postulates, would allow for Cyrus to be the “anointed ruler” that

was to arrive after seven weeks, between 548 and 539 B.C. Supporting his point, Chisholm

cites Isaiah 45:1, in which Cyrus is called “anointed one”. Chisholm goes on to say that this

may also allow for the “anointed one” in v.26b to not have to be identical to the “anointed

one” of v.25.44

In light of Showers’ argumentation, the rebuilding of Jerusalem could not have taken

place with Jeremiah’s prophecy as the terminus a quo. However, Chisholm does raise one

point that bears further consideration: the timelines suggested by several scholars, which

begin with the second decree of Artaxerxes as the starting point, cannot offer a sufficient

answer as to what specifically may have happened after the seventh week, and why this would

be so clearly separated in Scripture. The Hebrew text poses a further problem in interpreting

this verse, which will be discussed later.

Miller, 265.
Robert B. Chisholm, Handbook on the Prophets, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 312-15.


Just as the starting point of the seventy weeks has caused major scholarly discussion,

the ending time, the terminus ad quem, has also found many interpretations. Much of the

discussion centers around whether the six distinct purposes have already been fulfilled, have

been partially fulfilled or will yet be fulfilled at the second coming of Christ. Another

important aspect of consideration in this discussion is the acceptance of Daniel 9:24-27 as

being a prophecy directly given to the Jewish people or not.

Dispensationalists will argue that these six outcomes have not yet been fulfilled for the

Jewish people and will not be until the second coming of Christ. Covenant theologians on the

other hand will argue that Jesus’ first coming already accomplished these goals and apply the

fulfillment to the view that the Church has now become the focus of God’s plan. As an

example, J. Barton Payne will argue that fulfillment of the first stated purpose of Daniel’s

seven weeks, the restraining of transgression, has already occurred. He writes “the Holy Spirit

would ‘convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness and judgment… because the ruler

of this world has been judged’ (John 16:8, 11)- even though this restraining gospel would be

denied further hearing in Jerusalem after about A.D. 33 (Acts 9:1) at the close of Daniel’s

490-year period. Yet so often conservative interpreters of both the classical and dispensational

viewpoints have missed these historical fulfillments of the first stated purpose of the seventy


Price counters this thought by writing that “if the seventieth week immediately

succeeds the sixty-ninth week historically, then the expected restoration must be applied to

the Church as the new Israel.” In Dispensationalism, a clear distinction is made between how
J. Barton Payne, “The Goal of Daniel's Seventy Weeks,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 21,
no. 1 (March 1978): 114.

God deals with Israel and how He deals with the Church. As such, Price continues, a

“prophetic postponement”, gap or parenthesis has to take place after the sixty-ninth week.46


The book of Daniel is so incredibly accurate in its prophetic statements about historic

events, which its readers today can view in the rear view mirror of history, that beginning in

the late nineteenth and twentieth century, scholars began to challenge its authorship by

Daniel, which was until then accepted. They found their argumentation in the views of

Porphyry who in the late third to early fourth century A.D. wrote that a Palestinian Jew wrote

the book of Daniel in the period of the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes.47

Modern liberal scholars today assign authorship of the book of Daniel to either a

pseudepigraphical Jewish writer writing shortly after the Maccabean crisis of the time around

160 B.C. or a writer writing slightly earlier, missing accuracy in the prediction of Antiochus

IV Epiphanes’ death.48

Adding to this interpretation is the Septuagint translation, which Desmond Ford calls

“sadly mangled, being twisted so as to fit the events associated with Antiochus Epiphanes.”49

Conservative scholars uphold the sixth century B.C. authorship of Daniel in what

Walvoord calls “almost universal recognition”. He adds that three text passages in Ezekiel

(Ezekiel 14:14, 20; 28:3) confirm the historicity of Daniel himself. In addition, Jesus Himself

J. Randall Price, “Seventy Weeks of Daniel in Dispensational Interpretation,” World of the
20DISPENSATIONAL%20INTERPRETATION.pdf (accessed March 28, 2009), 1.
Longman and Garland, 24.
Ibid., 25.
Desmond Ford, In the Heart of Daniel: An Exposition of Daniel 9:24-27 (Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2007), 23.

referred to Daniel as “Daniel the prophet” in the Olivet Discourse found in Matthew 24:15

and Mark 13:14.50


As Miller points out, both Hebrew and Aramaic texts of Daniel have been preserved,

allowing a deep level of scholarly review of original texts. However, of note is that no extant

targums of Daniel exist. While the textual variations found in the Hebrew and Aramaic texts

are insignificant, the textual variations found in the Septuagint (LXX) prove to be much more

problematic. Both the Theodotian and the LXX exist, however already with Origen it became

clear that the Theodotian appears to be modeled much more stringently along the lines of the

Hebrew text. On the other hand, the LXX has insertions of passages, which are now

considered apocryphal and are outside of the accepted Protestant canon, such as Susanna, and

Bel and the Dragon. 51

Miller further notes that Jews in Palestine did not view these passages as inspired.

Indeed, the Qumran fragments of Daniel also do not include them. It appears that these texts

possibly originated with the Alexandrian origin of the LXX translation. The Qumran texts are

notable as they prove the transitions with Daniel from Hebrew to Aramaic and omit texts

found in Daniel 3:24-90 in the Greek, Syriac and Latin translations.52

Looking at the text from a perspective of modern translation and highlighting the

difficulties surrounding the translated texts, Ernest C. Lucas points out that the “Messianic

interpretation is based on the translation of v.25 adopted in the NIV” and believes that “the

NRSV translation is the more natural of the two." He suggests that the language construct of
Walvoord, Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation, 11.
Miller, 48.

'seven weeks and sixty-two weeks' makes extremely limited sense unless there is a

noteworthy event happening after the seven. In addition, as he highlights, the fact that 'sixty-

two' is repeated in v. 26, speaking of an anointed one being cut off, seems to strengthen the

view that these two periods are distinct from each other and separated by an event or person

entering the scene of history.53

The brief glimpse into some of the issues surrounding the original texts and their

translations will be expanded upon below by listing some additional difficulties in translation.


Debate is ongoing in academic circles reviewing the Daniel 9 passage as to whether

the term “decree”, as used in the NIV and NASB, is the right translation of the Hebrew word

‫ דָּ בָר‬and thus applied correctly. Both RSV and ESV translate ‫ דָּ בָר‬as “word”. Other

translations such as NKJV and NET use the term “command”. A clear understanding here is

critical as some scholars argue that the second decree given by Artaxerxes cannot be deemed

a true decree. A counter argument given is Nehemiah 2:9, providing clear evidence of King

Artaxerxes’ sending letters and soldiers of the royal army with Nehemiah: “Then I came to

the governors of the province Beyond the River and gave them the king’s letters. Now the

king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen.”54

A particular challenge in the text arises through the Masoretic inclusion of an atnach,

or a text mark often placed to indicate the end of a first thought, under ‫שׁ ְבעָה‬
ִ (seven) in verse

25. This, in effect, necessitates an interpretation of the “anointed one” arriving after the first

Ernest C. Lucas, "A statue, a fiery furnace and a dismal swamp: a reflection on some issues in biblical
hermeneutics", Evangelical Quarterly 77, no. 4 (October 2005): 291-307, ATLA Religion Database with
ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed March 25, 2009), 297.
The Holy Bible : English Standard Version, Ne 2:9.

seven weeks. Thomas McComiskey points out that English Bible translations are not

consistent in their translation, but notes that some of the reasons proposed for these variations

in translation may be related to the late timing of the Masoretic marking. In addition, the

translations reflecting an earlier status, such as the Theodotian, Vulgate and Syriac, do not

reflect this separation, but rather combine the seven and sixty-two weeks, and finally, the

Masoretes may have sought to avoid Christian Messianic interpretations. McComiskey holds

against these arguments that early Christian exegesis, even while using the Theodotian for

interpretation, had interpreted this passage with a distinct break between seven weeks and

sixty-two weeks.55

The New English Translation (NET) Bible comments on its choice to neglect this

Masoretic text (referred to here as MT) marking:

The accents in the MT indicate disjunction at this point, which would make it difficult,
if not impossible, to identify the “anointed one/prince” of this verse as messianic. The
reference in v. 26 to the sixty-two weeks as a unit favors the MT accentuation, not the
traditional translation. If one follows the MT accentuation, one may translate “From the
going forth of the message to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until an anointed one, a
prince arrives, there will be a period of seven weeks. During a period of sixty-two
weeks, it will again be built, with plaza and moat, but in distressful times.” The present
translation follows a traditional reading of the passage that deviates from the MT

O. Palmer Robertson notes that “some reason must be given for the breakdown of

Daniel’s seventy sevens into three periods consisting of seven sevens, sixty-two sevens and

one seven.” Simply looking at this issue from the perspective of doing a calculation of years

does not give justice to this break-up of segments of sevens. Robertson believes that there has

Thomas Edward McComiskey, “The Seventy 'Weeks' of Daniel against the Background of Ancient Near
Eastern Literature,” Westminster Theological Journal 47, no. 1 (Spring, 1985): 47:1, 19-20.

to be some consideration given to the symbolic meaning while considering the chronological


Commenting on the difficulty of ignoring the separation between the expressions

“seven weeks” and “sixty-two weeks”, as expressed by the Masoretic symbol indicating a

break in the text, Chisholm states:

There seems to be no point in saying 'seven weeks and sixty-two weeks' unless
something is going to happen after the seven. Moreover, the repetition of 'sixty-two' in
v. 26, 'After the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off', also suggests that the
two periods of seven and sixty-two are discrete ones, separated by something.57

The text indeed poses an interpretive problem here, and again the challenge is to

review one’s own starting point of looking at the text. If a personal conviction – and possibly

desire – leads the reader to discount the Masoretic marking as anti-Messianic late additions,

acceptance of the singular unity of the phrase becomes possible. On the other hand,

Chisholm’s point is a strong one – and one that is not easy to answer by looking for an

anointed one after the first seven sevens in history.

Other Hebrew interpretive issues are of no lesser importance and impact than the one

discussed above. While these cannot possibly be discussed in the pages of this paper, two

terms in particular need to be mentioned nevertheless: ‫ק ֹדֶ שׁ ָק ָדשִׁים‬, translated typically as “holy

of holies”, but lacking a definite article in this instance. As such, this may not refer to a

physical building, such as the temple described by Ezekiel, but can also be applied to a person

as Keil and Delitzsch point out: “According to 1 Chron. 23:13, Aaron and his sons are

O. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Prophets (Philippsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2008).
Lucas, 297.

sanctified as ‫”ק ֹ ֶדשׁ ָק ָדשִׁים‬.58 This, of course, leaves the possibility of the term applying to Jesus

Christ rather than the temple Ezekiel writes about or the New Jerusalem.

Tim Meadowcroft notes in this context that the indefinite form of the term occurring in

Daniel 9:24 also occurs as a definite expression in other portions of Old Testament writing. In

its definite form, it typically refers to the holy of holies within the temple, but not exclusively.

It can also refer to objects, such as vessels used in temple worship. The indefinite form in

Ezekiel takes on the additional context of extending its meaning from the holy of holies, or

most holy place, to land surrounding it, such as the temple mountain. Meadowcroft further

notes that the Essene community rules used the term as a descriptor for a group of people,

“the most holy assembly”. As can be seen from this brief discussion, this term can be

interpreted more broadly than originally assumed.59

In addition, the term ‫מָ שִׁי ַח‬, is typically translated as “anointed”, but not always in a

Messianic meaning, e.g. Isaiah 45:1 uses this term to describe Cyrus as the Lord’s anointed.

Again, this leaves room for interpretation as to whether there is one “anointed one”, in the

Messianic interpretation fulfilled in Jesus Christ, or whether these verses speak of multiple

anointed ones, in particular when this discussion is coupled with the interpretive problem

surrounding the Masoretic text marking in v.26. A lengthy discussion around this term can be

found in Meadowcroft’s article, which demonstrates the difficulty to pinpoint the “anointed

one”. 60

Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson,
2002), 9:722.
Tim Meadowcroft, “Exploring the Dismal Swamp: The Identity of the Anointed One in Daniel 9:24-
27,” Journal of Biblical Literature 120, no. 3 (Autumn, 2001): 429-
49 (accessed March 3, 2009).

There are several more Hebrew terms in this passage of Daniel, which have been the

topic of discussion in scholarly circles. Again, this paper can only touch on some of the

highlights of the difficulties in interpretation.


Investigating the prophetic statements made by Gabriel to Daniel while in exile in

Babylon is certainly a most worthwhile and important pursuit, while at the same time highly

challenging. As such, it needs to be a part of any investigative scholarly undertaking in the

realm of eschatology. Research for this paper showed that there is an almost never-ending

flow of scholarship that has been done on just this four-verse passage in the book of Daniel

through the years. The aspects reviewed in this paper, the major interpretive views and some

of the key points of discussion, truly only touch what is visible of the scholarly “Daniel

iceberg” above water. Certainly interest in this dramatic passage of Daniel will not fade,

especially in light of the current geo-political climate; as Desmond Ford points out, “Daniel

9:24-27 is ever relevant, and ever new.61”

While the author personally found it difficult to arrive at a final conclusive viewpoint

on Daniel 9:24-27, Joyce Baldwin’s expression of hope for future fulfillment of a restoration

of complete righteousness upon Jesus Christ’s second and final return seems like the

consideration of ultimate relevance. Baldwin writes: “From the author’s perspective the first

coming of Christ is the focal point of the forward look, though the second coming in judgment

is also envisaged.… It is in the light of the New Testament that we have learnt to separate the

first and second comings of Christ, and with the help of His teaching to realize that there is a

Ford, 93.

recognizable pattern in history which His followers do well to note and expect to see worked

out in the events of their own lifetime.”62

Baldwin, 171


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