The Fall of Rome shows the Book of Daniel to be true prophecy.

This article discusses the Fall of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century AD; often abbreviated as the “Fall of Rome.”

SUMMARY OF THIS ARTICLE

PURPOSE: TO PROVE THAT DANIEL IS TRUE PROPHECY

Daniel the prophetsThe Book of Daniel claims to been written in the 6th century before Christ as a prediction of future events.  Many theologians, however, do not believe that Daniel is true prophecy. They argue that Daniel describes past history in the form of prophecy.  However, that would mean that Daniel is a fraud. The purpose of the current article is to support the view that Daniel is true prophecy by showing that it correctly predicted HOW the Western Roman Empire would fall in the fifth century after Christ.

FALL OF ROME PREDICTED

Consider HOW Daniel predicted the Fall of Rome would occur:

The vision of Daniel 2 presents the Roman Empire as the iron legs of an image of a man, followed by “feet partly of iron and partly of clay.” The feet “will be a divided kingdom.”

Daniel 7 depicts the Roman Empire as a fourth beast that will be “dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong.” “It devoured and crushed and trampled down.”  Eleven horns grow out of it.  These are eleven “kingdoms” are equivalent to the “divided kingdom” in Daniel 2.

These prophecies predict that:

      • The Roman Empire will be very cruel;
      • It will be subdivided into many kingdoms; and 
      • These kingdoms would be a continuation of the Roman Empire. 

The purpose of the current article is to show that historians confirm these three facts. 

FOUNDING PRINCIPLES OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE

The vast Roman Empire was a unity of many different nations; enforced by violence.  The emperors and Roman aristocrats became very wealthy by looting other nations.  

DECLINE AND FALL OF ROME

It is possible to identify major milestones or events in the decline of the Roman Empire, but it is more important to identify the underlying trends. 

The first major trend was the immigration of Germanic tribes into the Empire throughout the 4th and 5th centuries.  The immigrants did not intend to destroy the Roman Empire or to replace it with something new, but to become part of it and to enjoy the benefits offered to citizens of the Roman Empire.  They sought permission to settle in Roman territory, and Imperial Authorities also granted such permission.  However, severe conditions were set for them which made them second class citizens. 

The second major trend was that many ‘barbarians’ were recruited into the Imperial Forces.  To make things worse, the ‘barbarians’ eventually controlled the Roman military machinery.  Some of them became top generals.  Since the real power of the Empire always was its army, the top general in the Roman Army often became the emperor.  For ‘barbarians’ to become to top generals, therefore, meant that ‘barbarians’ effectively became the real rulers of the Western Empire, even though they were not allowed to become emperors.  The consequence was that the emperors in the West Roman Empire in the 5th century became mere figureheads.

‘CATASTROPHIC’ FIFTH CENTURY EVENTS

‘Barbarians’ sacked Rome in 410 and again in 455.  They deposed of the last Western Emperor in 476.  These major events did NOT CAUSE the Empire to fall or decline.  These events should rather be seen as indications of how weak the Empire has become by then.  These ‘catastrophes’ subdivided the Empire into separate political entities.  But, what really happened? 

Firstly, it was not foreign armies that sacked Rome in 410 and 455, or that deposed the last Roman Emperor in 476: It was the Gothic component of the Roman Army that revolted.

Secondly, it was the severe conditions under which the ‘barbarians’ were allowed to reside in the Empire that triggered these ‘catastrophes’. 

Thirdly, the Goths did not aim to replace the Roman Empire with something new. Their demand was to be treated as equal citizens; as part of the Empire.

Fourthly, the Empire approved the ‘Barbarian’ Rule. After Odoacer conquered Italy in 476, the Eastern Emperor Zeno granted Odoacer the title of patrician, effectively recognizing his rule as King of Italy in the name of the Eastern Empire. A few years later, Zeno appointed the Ostrogoth Theodoric the Great to be king of Italy. 

The Western Roman Empire, therefore, did not come to an end in 476, when Odoacer deposed the last emperor.  Deposing the emperor was simply a formality that aligned outward form to existing reality, for the ‘barbarians’ were already in control of the Western Empire since soon after the beginning of the fifth century.  Roman power, practices, economy, and culture continued after Odoacer deposed the emperor.  Even the Roman Church, whose bishops were appointed by and accountable to the emperor, was allowed to continue to function. 

CONTINUATION OF WESTERN ROMAN EMPIRE

After the ‘barbarians’ assumed control of the Western Roman Empire, there always remained a desire and pressure to reunite the empire:

In the fifth century, after the Western Roman Empire was divided into many fairly independent ‘nations’, the Roman Church played a cohesive role between the ‘barbarian’ nations and the Empire.  

In the sixth century, to strengthen the Church in Rome, and to strengthen Roman control of the Western Empire through to church, Justinian I neutralized some of the Arian ‘barbarian’ nations.  This resulting in the Byzantine Papacy; about two centuries during which the Eastern Roman Empire controlled the nations in the West through the church.

Francia at its greatest extent in 814

The Kingdom of the Franks (481–843), which at its greatest expanse covered much of the previous Western Roman Empire, actually was a continuation of the Roman Empire.  

The civilization of Medieval Europe emerged from a SYNTHESIS between the Graeco-Roman world and the Germanic civilizations penetrating the Roman Empire.

CONCLUSION

In summary, over centuries, ‘barbarians’ migrated into the Empire and were absorbed into the Empire.  Many of them were recruited into the Imperial Forces until they controlled the military machinery.  From that point forward, the ‘barbarians’ were the real rulers of the Western Empire, but they were still treated as second class citizens. In the fifth century, they rebelled against their Roman overlords and took by force what the Empire was not willing to award them voluntarily, namely permanent residency and equal rights. 

The Western Roman Empire did not fall in the fifth century.  The ‘barbarians’ did not replace the Roman Empire with a different political system.  They did not drive the Graeco-Roman population or the Roman church out of their territories.  Their purpose was to remain part of the Empire.  What happened, in reality, was that the ‘barbarian’ immigrants wrestled control of the Empire from the original Graeco-Roman population. 

The ‘barbarians’ simply contributed to an ongoing process of transforming Roman institutions. It was a complex cultural transformation of Rome, rather than the Fall of Rome.

PROVES DANIEL AS TRUE PROPHECY

This confirms Daniel’s prophecies:

Daniel predicted that the Roman Empire will be very cruel: The vast Roman Empire was a unity of many nations, held together by violence; by military force.  “It devoured and crushed and trampled down.” 

Daniel predicted that Rome will be subdivided into several kingdoms.  It is amazing that Daniel could predict, a thousand years before it happened, that the fourth empire would not be conquered and replaced by another mighty empire, but would be subdivided.

Daniel predicted that these kingdoms would be a continuation of the Roman Empire: The substance of the Roman Empire continued in the kingdoms that arose from it; particularly in the form of The Evil Eleventh Horn.

– END OF SUMMARY –

PURPOSE – TO VALIDATE DANIEL

IS DANIEL A FRAUD?

The Book of Daniel itself claims that it was written in the 6th century before Christ (e.g. 12:4).  It presents itself as a prediction of future events.  For example, the book explicitly refers to “the kingdom of Greece” (9:20-21; cf. 11:2), which only became a ‘world empire’ in the fourth century BC (see Alexander the Great). 

However, many, perhaps even most, theologians do not believe that God knows the future.  Many accept that God knows everything, but argues that the future does not yet exist, and is therefore not knowable.  The point is, if true prophecy does not exist, then Daniel is a fraud, for then it was written after the events it pretends to predict. 

The article Daniel is not a Fraud presents much evidence from within Daniel (internal evidence) and from outside Daniel that argues against the view that Daniel is a fraud. 

Correctly predicts the Fall of Rome

In the fifth century, the vast territory of the Western Roman Empire was divided into several independent ‘nations’, each controlled by a different ‘barbarian’ group, such as the Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Vandals, Burgundians, Alans and the Sueves, Lombard or Huns.

The purpose of the current article is to provide further evidence of the reliability of the Book of Daniel by showing that it correctly predicts HOW the Roman Empire will fall in the fifth century after Christ.  Copies of the book of Daniel are available that have been dated undeniably to the second century BC.  If Daniel correctly predicts events in the fifth century AD, then it is a true prophecy, and God does know the future.

DANIEL 2 – DIVIDED KINGDOM

The vision of Daniel 2:30-35 depicts the history of mankind using an image of a man, consisting of various metals:

Daniel explained the head of gold as the Babylonian empire (v38).  The phrase “another kingdom” in verse 39 indicates that the head of gold does not refer to King Nebuchadnezzar himself, but to his entire empire.

The other parts of the man are identified in the article series on the Prophecies of Daniel as follows:

        • The “breast and its arms of silver” represent Medo-Persia.
        • Its “belly and its thighs of bronze” represent Greece.
        • The “legs of iron” are the Roman Empire.
        • The “feet partly of iron and partly of clay” is a historical period after the Roman Empire came to an end.

All these kingdoms are destroyed by the Return of Christ (v34, 44-45).

The important point, for the current article, is the difference between what happened after these empires:

The first three empires are replaced by the next empire.  For example, “After you there will arise another kingdom” (v39-40).

But the fourth empire becomes divided.  The iron of the legs continues into the feet, but the feet are a mixture of iron and clay.  “It will be a divided kingdom” (v41). “It will have in it the toughness of iron” (v41). In other words, the nature of the Roman Empire will continue after the demise of that empire. See Daniel 2 for a more detailed discussion.

DANIEL 7 – ELEVEN HORNS 

Daniel 7 elaborates on the prophecy of Daniel 2.  It presents the same four empires, but now as beasts of prey.  We focus on the fourth beast, which is the same as the fourth metal (iron) in Daniel 2.  The fourth beast is not identified as any known animal but is described as “dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong” (v7). “It had large iron teeth” (v7), which is the same metal as the fourth empire in Daniel 2.  “It devoured and crushed and trampled down” (v7), which describes its cruel nature.

Eleven horns grow out of that fourth beast.  These are eleven “kingdoms” (v24) into which the Roman Empire subdivides.  (See Daniel’s evil horn.)  These eleven horns are equivalent to the “divided kingdom” in Daniel 2.

These prophecies contain at least the following predictions concerning the Roman Empire:

It will be very cruel. It “devoured and crushed and trampled down.”

Second, while the previous ‘world’ empires (Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece) were all replaced by another single large empire, but the Roman Empire will be subdivided into many empires.

Third, since the eleven horns grow out of the fourth beast, they are a continuation of that beast.

HISTORIANS CONFIRM THESE PRINCIPLES

Lately, I have been studying the development of the Trinity doctrine, from the very earliest church fathers, through the fourth, fifth, and later centuries.  In the process, I read up on the Fall of Rome, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that historians confirm the three principles above.  The purpose of the current article is to reflect on the Fall of Rome, as explained by historians.  The goal is for the reader to understand that the Empire did not really fall but simply was transformed and continued to exist even into the Middle Ages. 

For that purpose, much of the information in this article is a summary of Wikipedia’s articles about that period, particularly the articles about the Events and the Historiography of the Fall of Rome, but also a summary of many other Wikipedia articles. The Events article has an excellent animated map showing the growth and decline of the Roman Empire.  The events described by the Wikipedia articles are summarized on this website by the article on the Decline and Fall of Rome

FALL OF ROME

ORIGINATING RATIONALE

The vast Roman Empire was a unity of many different nations.  These nations were not held together by culture or religion or economy.  It was a unity that was enforced by violence.

Rome became prosperous, not through trade or manufacturing, but by looting other nations.  The Roman Empire reached its peak in the 2nd century. There-after, when it no longer expanded, and therefore no longer was able to derive wealth from looting other nations, it started to decline.  It slowly declined over many centuries. 

IN-MIGRATION

It is possible to identify major events in its decline, but it is more important to identify the underlying trends.

The Roman Empire conquered the previous Greek (Macedonian) Empire and established an empire that was much larger than the Greek Empire.  Still, there always were areas and peoples outside of the Roman Empire which it was not able or interested to conquer.

The first major trend was the migration of Germanic tribes from outside its borders into the Empire.  Historians mention the year 376 and the Crossing of the River Rhine in 406 as decisive events, but throughout the 4th and 5th centuries, in what is known as the Migration Period, large numbers of ‘barbarians’ migrated into Roman territories.  It was one of the first signs of weakness, for it means that the Empire became unable to repel invading ‘barbarians’. 

What did the immigrants want?

Henri Pirenne published the “Pirenne Thesis” in the 1920s. This thesis remains influential to this day. It holds that the Germanic ‘barbarians’ migrated into the Empire not to destroy it or to replace it with something new, but to take part in its benefits, and thus they tried to preserve the Roman way of life.

They sought permission to settle in Roman territory, and Imperial authorities also granted such permission, on certain severe conditions.  As early as 376, Emperor Valens allowed Goths to settle within the borders of the Empire.

Second Class Citizens

‘Barbarians’ were accepted into the Empire, but as second class citizens; as cheap labor or even as slaves.  Alaric, for example, through his siege of Rome in 408, liberated 40,000 Gothic slaves in Rome.  As another example, it was the foederati that revolted and deposed the last emperor in 476. Foederati were ‘barbarians’ whom the Roman Empire allowed to stay in the Empire in exchange for military assistance. 

There always remained friction and even hatred between the original Graeco-Roman inhabitants of the Empire and the increasingly dominant ‘barbarian’ peoples.  At times, the Graeco-Romans massacred the ‘barbarians’.  For example:

In 400, the citizens of Constantinople massacred 7000 armed Goths and as many of their people and their families as they could catch.

In 408, the western Graeco-Roman population massacred tens of thousands of wives and children of Goths serving in the Roman military.

RECRUITED INTO THE ARMED FORCES

The second major trend was that many ‘barbarians’ were recruited into the Imperial Forces.  For example, the great Roman General Stilicho urged Roman soldiers to allow their slaves to fight beside them.  And, after he defeated the Gothic invaders, he drafted 12,000 prisoners from the defeated invaders into his service.

One may speculate about the reasons for this dangerous practice, for its armed forces were the basis for the Empire’s power.  Perhaps the armed forces were insufficiently funded, and only second class citizens, such as these ‘barbarians’, were willing to work for such low wages.  Other historians estimate that the Graeco-Roman population in the Western Empire declined, and became too small for the size of the army required by the Empire.  Therefore the Imperial Forces became dependent on the service of Goths. 

Goths became Top Generals

A related trend was that the ‘barbarians’ eventually controlled the military machinery.  They became generals and even top generals.  For example:

Gainas was a Goth but was promoted to magister militum (literally, master of the military) in the Eastern Roman Empire.  For a few months in 399, he was in control of Constantinople; the Eastern capital. 

Stilicho’s mother was Roman but his father was a Vandal cavalry officer. Nevertheless, after Theodosius died in 395, Stilicho came to be the commander-in-chief of the Roman armies in the west.  Few years he became the most powerful man in the Western Roman Empire. 

Alaric also was a Goth but Theodosius appointed him as leader the army’s 20,000 Gothic troops.  After Alaric became a threat to the eastern capital, the emperor appointed him as magister militum (master of the military).

Fifth Century Western Emperors were figureheads.

The real power of the Empire always was its army.  As stated, the Empire was a unity of many different nations which was enforced by violence.  Consequently, in the Roman system, the top generals often became emperor:

For example, both Constantine the Great and Theodosius, two key emperors in the fourth century, first earned their reputations as top generals. 

As another example, in 475, Orestes, the Magister militum (master of the military) in the west, drove the emperor out of Italy and proclaimed his own young son Romulus as emperor.

For ‘barbarians’ to become to top generals, therefore, was a most significant development.  It means that ‘barbarians’ have progressively become the real rulers of the Western Empire.  

Note that the examples above (Gainas, Stilicho and Alaric) are all from the few years after Theodosius’ death.  It is perhaps true to say that the ‘barbarians’ were in control of the Western Empire as from Theodosius’ death.

The consequence was that the emperors in the West Roman Empire in the 5th century became mere figureheads: The military power came to reside in the hands of ‘barbarians’, but they were not allowed to become emperor.

When Odoacer—a Germanic chieftain—deposed the last emperor in Italy (Romulus Augustus) in 476), he chose neither to assume the title of Emperor himself nor to select a puppet emperor.  This confirms that the position of Emperor in the West no more had any value.

MAJOR EVENTS OF THE FIFTH CENTURY

‘Barbarians’ sacked Rome in 410 and again in 455.  They deposed of the last Western Emperor in 476.  These major events did NOT CAUSE the Empire to fall or recline.  They should rather be seen as indications of how weak the Empire has become by then. 

Under Theodosius, the entire Roman Empire—east and west—was still controlled by a single emperor.  He died in 395.  Fifteen years later, Rome was sacked.  The decisive events of THOSE 15 YEARS WERE A TURNING POINT in the history of the Roman Empire.  But the causes of these events have existed for much longer. 

A separate article discusses the causes of the Fall of Rome.  These must include Theodosius’ decree that his two underage sons would rule the Empire after his death.  These boys were not capable of keeping the nations of the vast empire united, which was a very difficult task.

The major events of the fifth century divided the Empire up into separate political entities.  The question is, what really happened?  Did the ‘barbarians’ replace the Roman system, or did they remain part of the Roman system?  Did they seek to control the Empire or did they merely want to have equal rights with the Graeco-Roman population? 

Not Foreign Armies

Firstly, it was not foreign armies that sacked Rome in 410 and 455, or that deposed the last Roman Emperor in 476: It was a part of the Roman Army that rebelled.  It was, namely, the Goths in the Roman army that rebelled.

To become equal citizens

What triggered these decisive events? 

It was after the massacre of tens of thousands of wives and children of Goths serving in the Roman military that the Gothic soldiers defected to Alaric, and they sacked Rome in 410.

It was the foederati, under Odoacer’s leadership, that deposed the last Western Roman Emperor in 476 because they were no longer willing to suffer the harsh conditions set for them to remain in Italy. 

Furthermore, what motivated the Goths? The following are indications that the Goth rose up—not to make an end of the Roman system, but to be treated as equals with the Graeco-Roman population:

In 399, the Ostrogoths in the Eastern Empire demanded to be allowed to settle within the boundaries of the Empire.

The Visigoths laid siege to Rome in the years 408 to 410 to secure rights to settle within Roman territory.

Our second conclusion is therefore that the Goths did not aim to replace the Roman Empire with something new but to be treated as equal citizens with the Graeco-Roman population, as part of the Empire.

The Empire approved the ‘Barbarian’ Rule.

It has been traditional to refer to the year 476, when Odoacer—a ‘barbarian’ soldier and statesman—deposed the last western emperor, conquered Italy and proclaimed himself ruler of Italy, as the Fall of Rome.  However, the following indicates that this is not an appropriate view of history:

After Odoacer conquered Italy, the Eastern Emperor Zeno granted Odoacer the title of patrician, effectively recognizing his rule as King of Italy in the name of the Eastern Empire.

Odoacer issued coins with both his image and that of the Eastern Emperor Zeno. 

In 484 Zeno appointed the Ostrogoth Theodoric the Great to be king of Italy.  Zeno, thereby, turned one troublesome, nominal vassal against another. Theodoric invaded Italy in 489 and by August 490 had captured almost the entire peninsula.

Peter Brown concluded that the Ostrogothic rulers of Italy considered themselves upholders of the Roman tradition.

JB Bury (see Odoacer) wrote that 476 stands out prominently as an important stage in the process of the division of the Empire into different parts, but that it is not more important than other similar events, such as:

The largely powerless but still influential Western Roman Senate continued to exist in the city of Rome under the rule of the Ostrogothic kingdom.

The Goths did not drive the Graeco-Roman people out from their territories.  Not did they persecute the previous citizens: The two groups existed fairly peacefully on the areas conquered by the ‘barbarians’.

The Roman Empire did not Fall.

The Western Roman Empire, therefore, did not come to an end in 476, when Odoacer deposed the last emperor.  Deposing the emperor was simply a formality that aligned outward form to existing reality, namely that the ‘barbarians’ were already in control of the Western Empire since the beginning of the fifth century.  The ‘barbarians’ were no longer scared of the Eastern Roman Empire but still submitted to it.  Roman power, practices, economy, culture, and religion continued after the emperor was deposed.  

CHURCH IN ROME

There are at least two reasons why the ‘barbarians’ should have made an end to the Church in Rome. 

Firstly, the Church was part of the State.  Separation of Church and State is a modern concept.  After Christianity was legalized in 313, the emperors became the real heads of the church and the church became part of the Roman Government.  Bishops received their appointment and duties from the emperors and were accountable to the emperors. 

Secondly, in those years, Christology was the main controversy in the church. The Church in Rome accepted Nicene Christology but the Goths were Arian Christians.  In the fourth century, the emperors persecuted people with opposing Christological views. 

Despite these factors, when the ‘barbarians’ took control of the Western Empire, they allowed the Nicene Church in Rome (the Papacy) to continue unhindered in their areas.  One may ask why, but it is at least an indication that the ‘barbarians’ did not intend to destroy or replace the Roman system.  Rather, they continued it, and the Church in Rome was part of the system which they continued.

ROMAN EMPIRE MORPHED INTO THE MIDDLE AGES

After the ‘barbarians’ assumed control of the Western Roman Empire, there always remained a desire and pressure to reunite the empire.

The Roman Church played a cohesive role.

In the fifth century, after the Western Roman Empire was divided into many fairly independent ‘nations’, the Roman Church played a cohesive role among the ‘barbarian’ nations.  The Church was better organized than the ‘barbarian’ nations and the bishops continued to play a political role, even though they now had to depend on the Arian ‘barbarian’ nations for military protection.

In the sixth century, to strengthen the Church in Rome, Justinian I neutralized some of the Arian ‘barbarian’ nations.  This resulting in the Byzantine Papacy; about two centuries during which the Church in Rome was both protected and controlled by the Eastern Roman Empire (also called the Byzantine Empire).  To some extent, Roman control was re-established in this period, namely that the Byzantine Empire ruled the nations in the West through the church.

The Frankish Empire continued the Western Empire.

The Pirenne thesis was published in the 1920s. It remains influential to this day and has been supported by recent historians such as François Masai, Karl Ferdinand Werner, and Peter Brown.  This thesis:

Regards the rise of the Kingdom of the Franks (481–843) as a continuation of the Roman Empire.  (This empire was the largest post-Roman barbarian kingdom in Western Europe and the predecessor of the modern states of France and Germany.  The greatest expansion of the Frankish empire was secured by the early 9th century.  By this point dubbed as the Carolingian Empire.)

Validates the crowning of Charlemagne (AD 800), one of the main kings of the Franks, as the first Holy Roman Emperor as a successor of the Roman Emperors. 

Morphed into the Middle Ages

The Pirenne thesis also concludes that the Roman world underwent a gradual (though often violent) series of transformations, morphing into the medieval world.  In other words, the transformed Roman Empire continued right into the Middle Ages.

The French historian Lucien Musset argued that the civilization of Medieval Europe emerged from a SYNTHESIS between the Graeco-Roman world and the Germanic civilizations penetrating the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire did not fall or decline; it just TRANSFORMED. The same applies to the Germanic populations which invaded it.

Late Antiquity – Period of Transition

Traditionally, historians spoke of the Fall of the Western Roman Empire as the marker of the end of the Ancient Era and the beginning of the European Middle Ages.  Since historians have largely turned away from the idea that the Roman Empire fell, accepting instead Pirenne’s thesis of the CONTINUITY of the Roman Empire before and after the Germanic invasion, more recently they have defined a period which they call Late Antiquity. This is the period of transition from classical antiquity to the Middle Ages, with the roots of MEDIEVAL culture contained in Roman culture.  They see a gradual process of TRANSFORMATION, with no clear breaks, occurring over centuries. 

Brown proposed that Late Antiquity stretches more or less from the 3rd to the 8th centuries. 

CONCLUSIONS

In summary, what happened, over centuries, is that ‘barbarians’ migrated into the Empire.  They were absorbed into the Empire and its culture and many were recruited into the Imperial Forces until, eventually, they controlled the military machinery, soon after Theodosius died in 395.  From that point forward, the ‘barbarians’ were the real rulers of the Western Empire.  They were still treated as second class citizens; often without the assurance of permanent residency. But they continued to tolerate figurehead emperors for some centuries before they deposed the last emperor in 476.  They successfully rebelled against their Roman overlords and took by force what the Empire was not willing to award them voluntarily, namely permanent residency.  This was a gradual (though often violent) process of decline over centuries. 

The ‘barbarians’ did not intend to replace the Roman Empire with a different political or legal structures and they did not drive the Graeco-Roman population or the Roman church out of their territories. Their purpose was to remain part of the Empire.  The nations into which the Roman Empire was divided, continued Roman culture and economy in most parts of the former Western provinces into the 6th century and beyond (Historiography). 

The Western Roman Empire, therefore, did not fall.  What really happened was that the ‘barbarian’ immigrants wrestled control of the Empire from the original Graeco-Roman population.

Observing the cultural and archaeological continuities between the Roman Empire and the post-Roman Germanic kingdoms, Fustel de Coulanges (1875–89) argued that the ‘barbarians’ simply contributed to an ongoing process of transforming Roman institutions. (Histoire des institutions politiques de l’ancienne France)

Bowersock (2001), similarly, described the process as a complex cultural transformation, rather than a fall. (Bowersock 2001, pp. 87–122)

CONFIRM DANIEL’S PROPHECIES

Daniel describes the fourth beast as “dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong.” “It devoured and crushed and trampled down” (v7).  The Roman Empire was a unity of many nations, held together by violence; by military force.

In Daniel 2, the fourth “iron”-empire goes over into the “divided kingdom” of the feet.  In Daniel 7, eleven horns (kings – v24) come out of the fourth empire.  “Horns” in Daniel do not represent individual kings, but empires, each consisting of a series of kings (8:20-22). (For a detailed discussion, see the article series on the prophecies of Daniel, including Daniel 2, Daniel 7, and the Evil Horn.)  The fourth empire in Daniel, therefore, subdivides into ten + one kingdoms.  (The number “ten” should be understood as “many;” not as exactly ten (cf. 1:20).  The Roman Empire did divide into many different empires.  The exact number varied continually.  Since previous empires were conquered by a new empire, it remains amazing that Daniel could predict, centuries before it happened, that the fourth empire would not be conquered by another mighty empire, but that it would subdivide.

Since the eleven horns grow out of the fourth beast, they are a continuation of that beast.  Historians confirm that the Roman Empire, in reality, did not fall or decline, but continued right into the Middle Ages.  This was particularly in the form of The Evil Eleventh Horn. In Revelation that horn is the Sea Beast (13:1).  It received a deadly wound (13:3), but in the end-time, an image to the beast will be made and come alive (13:14-15).  In other words, the culture of the Roman Empire will be revived, and it will again devour and crush and trample down (Dan. 7:7). 

ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES

Christology of the persecuted church (First 300 years)
 – Introduction
 – Polycarp
 – Justin Martyr
 – Ignatius of Antioch
 – Irenaeus
 – Tertullian – work in progress

 – Origen – work in progress
 – These ancients referred to Jesus as our god.
Fourth Century (State Church)
 – Council of Nicaea – A.D. 325 
 – The Nicene Creed Interpreted 
 – Fourth Century Arianism 

 – What did Arianism believe in the fourth century?
 – Long Lines Creed – one of the creeds during the Arian period
 – Death of Arianism – Emperor Theodosius
Fifth Century
 – Fall of the Western Roman Empire;
 – Why the Roman Empire fell;

 – Roman Church grew in strength despite Arian domination 
 – The Fall of Rome proves Daniel as a true prophecy. Current article
Middle Ages

 – The massacres of the Waldensians

Other Daniel Article Series

Articles on Revelation that build on the Daniel Articles

The Liberal-Critical Interpretation of the 490 years in Daniel 9

The book Daniel was written during the Babylonian Empire in the sixth century BC and contains very precise predictions of the later Medo-Persian and Greek Empires.  The Liberal Critical view of the Bible, which dominates the academic centers of the world, makes the a priori assumption that knowledge of the future is impossible.  It, therefore, must show that Daniel was written after the events it predicts.  Its solution is that Daniel was written during the second century BC crisis under Antiochus IV and that Daniel contains no accurate predictions of events beyond than time.  But then, Daniel 9 predicts 490 years from the decree to restore Jerusalem until Antiochus, while there are less than 400 years between the Babylonian Empire and Antiochus.  These scientists, therefore, propose creative solutions. 

This article explains the critical interpretation of Daniel 9, phrase by phrase, but also provides objections to it.

The point of departure

Holy BibleThe point of departure in the critical perspective is:

(1) That the book of Daniel was written during the persecution of the Jews by the Greek king Antiochus IV, somewhere between 168 and 163 BC.
(2) That all the visions in Daniel, even Daniel 9, describe the conflict under Antiochus.
(3) That the prophecies in Daniel are actually recorded history in the form of prophecy.

Antiochus desecrated the temple and killed many Jews.  But soon the Jews, through the Maccabean revolt, were able to defeat Antiochus’ army, run them out of their country and rededicate their temple.  The prophecy of Daniel 9 ends with the accumulation of desolations. In Daniel 9 there is no indication of a rededication of the altar.  For this reason critical scholars propose that the book of Daniel was put in its final form prior to the success of the revolt and prior to the restoration of the sanctuary services.  On this basis critical scholars believe they are able to date the compilation of the book precisely.

Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city (9:24)

490 yearsThe 490 years must not include the 70 years.  Since Critics must fit the 490 years of Daniel 9 before the time of Antiochus, they must start the 490 years as early as possible.  They therefore start with the destruction of Jerusalem. But this was also when Jeremiah’s 70 years start.  In other words, Jeremiah’s 70 years of desolation are made part of the 490 years (the seventy weeks).  For the following reasons the seventy weeks should not include the 70 years:

Firstly, the Daniel 9 prophecy was received at the end of the 70 years.

Secondly, the 70 years were years of covenant curse, while the 490 years were years of covenant renewal.  The 70 years were years of exile, which was the covenant curse for disobedience.  The promise of the 490 years renewed the covenant.  As stated by 9:24, “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city”.  It is not logical to include the 70 years of covenant curse into the 490 years promised “for your people and your holy city”.

Thirdly, the Jewish calendar was divided into weeks of years in which the seventh and last year was a Sabbath year during which the land had to rest.  The promise of 70 weeks is Daniel 9 is based these weeks of years.  God used the Sabbath years to measure Israel’s obedience.  The covenant promises and curses, recorded in Leviticus 26, linked the exile to the weeks of years.  It warned Israel that they would be in exile one year for every Sabbath year not observed.  During exile “the land will enjoy its sabbaths” (Lev. 26:34-35; cf. 2Ch 36:21).  After Israel went into exile, God sent a message to Israel through Jeremiah that the exile would be 70 years.  In other words, the 70 years of exile were the penalty for 490 past years of disobedience.  The 70 years were not part of the 490 past years of disobedience.  Neither should the 70 years be part of the new cycle of 490 years.

For a further elaboration of these principles, please read The Covenant in Daniel 9.

To finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness … (9:24)

Daniel 9 goalsThe interpretation does not fit the goals.  Why would a faithful Jew, compiling the book of Daniel in the second century, during the period of temple desecration under Antiochus, give these 6 goals for the 8 events predicted in the prophecy?   It would require substantial creativity to find application for goals such as “to make an end of sin” and “to bring in everlasting righteousness” (9:24) to the time of Antiochus, particularly on the basis of the critical assumption that Daniel was written prior to the success of the Maccabean revolt.

The conflict in the time of Antiochus IV was more of the nature of a civil war between pro-Hellenistic and anti-Hellenistic Jewish factions than it was a conflict with an external oppressor.  “The severest condemnation of the writer of I Maccabees goes, not to the Seleucid politicians, but to the lawless apostates among his own people” (The introduction to I Maccabees in the NAB).  It is difficult to see how a second-century writer could link the goals listed in 9:24 a Jewish civil war.

From the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (9:25)

Decree to restore JerusalemCritical scholars believe that the second-century writer of Daniel obtained the idea of the 70 weeks from Jeremiah’s prediction of 70 years of captivity (Jer. 25:11-13; 29:10), referred to in Daniel 9:2.  The standard critical approach is that the 70 weeks of years is a reinterpretation of Jeremiah’s prophecy.  Consequently, critical scholars begin the 490 years with the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC.

No decree – But then the 490 years do not start with such a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, as required by 9:25, but with the destruction of Jerusalem.  There was no “decree” which speaks of a rebuilding of Jerusalem at that time.

Critics therefore propose that the announcement by God through Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:1-2, 11-12; 29:10) was the “decree” (NASB) specified by Daniel 9:25, but Jeremiah received this word from God 19 years earlier (in 605 BC – year one of Nebuchadnezzar Jer. 25:1, 12).  Furthermore, Jeremiah’s prophecy was not a “decree to rebuild and restore Jerusalem

Until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks (9:25)

Masoretic TextIn the Critical Interpretation Cyrus is the messiah in this verse and he appears at the end of the first seven weeks (49 years).  In the NASB, quoted in the heading above, the Messiah appears at the end of 7 and 62 weeks, but critical scholars rely on the Masoretic punctuation—as for instance used in the RSV—which places the appearance of the messiah in verse 25 at the end of the first 49 years.  Critical scholars obtain support for this view from Isaiah 45:1, where Cyrus is called the anointed of the Lord:

Thus says the LORD to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held“.

(The Hebrews word translated messiah in the NASB is mashiach, and means anointed, and is translated as “anointed one” in some translations (e.g. RSV).)

.  The next year Cyrus issued a decree allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple.  In the critical interpretation the first seven weeks are then the period from the Chaldean destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC to Cyrus’s decree of liberation for the Jews in 538 BC.  From 586 to 538 is 48 years, which is only one year short of the required 49 years (7 x 7).

There is only one messiah. – In the Critic’s view, there are two messiahs: The messiah of 9:25 is Cyrus and the messiah in 9:26, who will be cut off, is the Jewish high priest Onias III.  (See below.)  However:

According to the discussion of the punctuation in the article When does the Messiah Appear, there is no messiah after the first seven weeks.  There is only one messiah, and he appears after 7 + 62 weeks.

Two different messiahs in two consecutive verses are unlikely.  9:25 and 9:26 must refer to the same person because both are described as “messiah”.

Why 49 years, and not 70? Critics view the 490 years as a reinterpretation of Jeremiah’s seventy years.  If that was true, should the first subdivision of the 490 years not be 70 years, rather than 49?

Then after the sixty-two weeks, the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing (9:26a)

As stated, the Masoretic punctuation has two messiahs in the prophecy of Daniel 9; one after 49 years and another one that is cut off 62 weeks (434 years) later (9:26).  Critical scholars use this punctuation and identify the first messiah as Cyrus and the second as the Jewish High Priest Onias III, who was murdered in 171/0 BC.  They find support in the fact that priests are called “anointed” in Leviticus 4:3 and following. In this view, Daniel 9 does not refer to Jesus at all.

Onias was no messiah – The Bible uses the term “messiah” exclusively for people that rescue Israel from danger.  Cyrus might be described as a messiah, but Onias was no messiah.  He did not rescue Israel from anything.  Antiochus IV replaced him as high priest with his more liberal brother Jason. A few years later, in 171/0, he was killed.  It was only 4 years later that Antiochus IV desecrated the temple.

Onias was not cut off “after the sixty-two weeks”.  According to the NASB translation of Daniel 9:25 the messiah appears at the end of “seven weeks and sixty-two weeks” (9:25) and is cut off some undefined period “after the sixty-two weeks” (9:26).  But in the critics’ scheme the messiah (Onias) disappears (is cut off) immediately at the end of the 483 years.

Does not fit the timelineThe second division (the 62 weeks), in the critical interpretation, extends from Cyrus (539/8 BC) to Onias (171/0 BC).  This is only 367 years, 67 years short of the predicted 434 years (62 x 7).  Consequently, the full period of 490 years is actually only 586-164 = 422 years.  Critics believe that 9:24-27 is history written down after the events, in the form of prophecy.  If this was true, then one could rightly expect that the “prophecy” would fit the figures of 49 + 434 + 7 years (7 + 62 + 1 weeks) perfectly, but this difference is accepted by scholars on the assumption that the chronological knowledge when Daniel was written, was not very exact.

Daniel is historically accurate.  It should be noted that the book of Daniel indeed contains amazingly accurate historical information (although poorly known during the later pre-Christian centuries).  For example:

The author of Daniel is correct in his description of Nebuchadnezzar as the builder of Babylon (4:30).  RH Pfeiffer was compelled to concede, “We shall presumably never know how our author learned that the new Babylon was the creation of Nebuchadnezzar, as the excavations have proved.”

The author was correct in his knowledge that Belshazzar, mentioned only in Daniel and in cuneiform records, was functioning as king when Cyrus conquered Babylon in 539 BC.

On the basis of cunei­form evidence, the vexing chronological problem between Daniel 1:1 and Jeremiah 25:1; 46:2 has been solved without any discrepancy.  (See the article Is the Book of Daniel a Fraud? for more information.)

These exam­ples show that the writer of Daniel knew history quite well, and would not have made such a massive mistake with the dates.

The people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary (9:26b).

Antiochus IVAntiochus did not destroy the sanctuary.  In the critical interpretation Antiochus Epiphanes is this “prince”, but Antiochus never destroyed the sanctuary.  He turned it into a temple of his own god.  Neither did Antiochus destroy Jerusalem.  He destroyed only part of Jerusalem and massacred many of its inhabitants.  A second-century author would have seen with his own eyes that Antiochus did not destroy the temple, but only defiled it (1Macc.1:30-31, 39).

And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week (9:27a)

In the critical interpretation, this “firm covenant” is the cooperation between Antiochus and the Hellenizing Jews.  The Hellenizing Jews are the Jews that adopted Greeks customs at the expense of Jewish customs.

Prince of the covenant – Surely the “prince of the covenant” in 11:22 must be the same as the prince that confirms the covenant for one week (9:27).  But in the critical interpretation the one that makes a firm covenant in Daniel 9 is Antiochus, while Antiochus kills the “prince of the covenant” in Daniel 11.

Antiochus did not make a seven-year pact with anybody.  Critics argue that Antiochus made an agreement with the Hellenizing Jews for one week, but Antiochus IV did not conclude or confirm an agreement with anybody for one week.  His general support for the pro-Seleucid faction cannot be limited to one week.  For instance, he replaced Onias with his pro-Seleucid brother a number of years before Onias was killed.

But in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering (9:27b)

In the critical interpretation Antiochus is also the one who put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering in the middle of the last week (9:27).  Antiochus did stop the Jewish sacrifices.  According to the book of 1 Maccabean the “desolating sacrilege“—a heathen altar—was erected on the great altar of burnt sacrifice on December 4, 167 BC (15 Kislev, 145; 1 Maccabees 1:54).  This was about in the middle of the seven years after Onias was murdered.  In the critical interpretation the abomination of desolation, mentioned elsewhere in Daniel, is assumed to be this heathen altar which Antiochus Epiphanes erected in place of the Lord’s altar for burnt offering (see I Macc. i. 54). (Jewish Encyclopedia).

Jesus put the abomination in His future.  Critics limit the events of Daniel to the time of Antiochus, but Jesus put the abomination of desolation Daniel’s prophecies in His future (Mat 24:15).

Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand)” (Mat 24:15)

Daniel’s prophecies, therefore, cannot be limited to the time of Antiochus, approximately 200 years before Jesus spoke.  For many people this is sufficient evidence against the critical interpretation.  Daniel is the only Bible book which Jesus by name recommended that we understand.

End of the 490 years

Judas Maccabeus
Judas Maccabeus

In the critical interpretation the last week concludes with the rededication of the altar of sacrifice by the victorious Judas Maccabeus.  This is the “anointing of a most holy place” listed as one of the purposes of the seventy weeks (9:24).  The altar of sacrifice was rededication on December 14, 164 BC (25 Kislev, 148; 1 Maccabees 4:52), exactly 3 years after the first heathen sacrifice in the temple.

But do the critics not also say that Daniel was written before the success of the Maccabean revolt?  How would the uninspired writer know about the rededication?  And why would Daniel 9 then end in the accumulation of desolations?  Why does Daniel 9 not mention the rededication?

Why an end?  If the book of Daniel was completed before the end of the 490 years, and if the writer did not foresee the success of the Maccabean revolt, why would he postulate a period of 490 years?  The Critical Interpretation fails to explain what end the writer has in mind.  What was envisaged after the end of the 490 years?

Review of the timeline

The standard critical timeline, discussed above, is as follows:

586 BC: The destruction of Jerusalem and the start of the 490 years
538 BC: The liberation for the Jews and the end of the first 49 years (7 weeks): This was 48 years later; not 49.
171/0 BC: The murder of Onias III and the end of the second 434 years (62 weeks): This was 368 years later, not 434.
167 BC: Abomination of desolation
164 BC: Temple rededicated

One proposed variation on the critical schema is as follows:

The first 7 weeks are from the Captivity in 587 BC until 538 BC: Exactly 49 years.
The next 62 weeks (434 years) are from the date Jeremiah prophesied in 605 BC (Jeremiah 25:11-12) to Onias’ death in 171 BC: Exactly 434 years

The advantages of this proposal are:

It exactly fits the 49 and 434 years required by the prophecy.
It starts the 62 weeks with a “word” (KJV).

The disadvantages are:

(1) Jeremiah 25:11-12 does not speak of the rebuilding of Jerusalem at all.
(2) The first two divisions (7 + 62) run parallel to each other rather than in sequence.  Israel therefore never received its promised 490 years.
(3) The wording of 9:25 requires “seven and sixty-two weeks” (that is, 69 weeks) and not just 62 weeks from “the word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” until Messiah the Prince.

Anchor Bible Commentary
Anchor Bible Commentary

A slight variation from the standard critical schema is proposed by the influential Anchor Bible Commen­tary by Hartman and Di Lella.  They do not start the 490 years with the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC, but with Jeremiah’s later announcement, as recorded in 29:10, which they date to 594 BC.  Otherwise, they remain with the standard critical schema.  The benefit of this proposal is that the 490 years do not start with the destruction of Jerusalem, but with a “word”, as required by Daniel 9.  However:

(A) Jeremiah 29:10 was also not a “word to rebuild and restore Jerusalem” (Daniel 9:25 KJV).  Jeremiah 29:10 only speaks of bringing back exiles to Judah.
(B) From 594 BC to 538 BC is 56 years, not 49 years.  Hartman and Di Lella suggest that 56 years is “sufficiently close to the quasi-artificial figure of ‘seven weeks’ of years.  Not everybody would accept the 7 weeks as “quasi-artificial.”
(C) The second section remains too short.  The full period from 594 BC to 164 BC is only 430 years; 50 years short of the required 490 years.

Conclusion

The critical interpretation is today the standard view of modern liberal scholarship, but it is not an unbiased interpretation.  Critical scholars believe that the Bible developed through a process of evolution, with various people over the centuries editing the text.  They also believe, as a priori assumption, that knowledge of the future is impossible.

But the book of Daniel claims that it was written in the six century before Christ, and contains amazingly accurate predictions of the history after the sixth century.  Liberal scholarship must, therefore, prove that Daniel was written after these events.  Their solution is that it was written during the crisis under Antiochus IV and that the book only focuses on that conflict.   All the prophecies of Daniel are interpreted as referring to that conflict; even Daniel 9.

But if one counts 490 years back from the time of Antiochus you arrive at the year 655 BC; 50 years before the Babylonian exile.  At that time there was no “decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.”  Therefore critics have creative solutions to shorten the 490 years, as discussed above.  No critical scheme reaches 490 years.   There is no critical scheme of interpretation that is able to harmonize 9:24-27 with actual history.

A separate article is available which contains more than sufficient evidence that Daniel must have been written in the sixth century BC, and therefore must be inspired prophecy.  See Is the Book of Daniel a Fraud?

Articles in this series

1.   Summary of all Daniel 9 articles
2.   Introduction
3.   When will the Messiah Appear? – Discussion of punctuation
4.   Daniel 9 does not describe the same crisis
as the other prophecies in Daniel.

5.   Where do we find Jeremiah’s 70 years in history?
6.   With which decree do the 490 years begin?
7.   Daniel’s prayer is part of the prophecy.
8.   Daniel 9 extends God’s covenant with Israel.
9.   Who confirms the covenant in week 70?
10. What is the real sequence of events?
11. The 490 years came to an end when they stoned Stephen.
12. Nehemiah gives context to Daniel 9.

13. List of articles
Four interpretations of Daniel 9
     Liberal-critical interpretation

     Consistent Symbolical Interpretation
     Dispensationalism and Daniel 9
     Historical Messianic Interpretation