The Consistent Symbolical Interpretation of Daniel 9

EXCERPT: Except for Daniel 9, all Daniel’s prophecies are symbolic. But in the Consistent Symbolical view, Daniel 9 prophecy is also symbolic. Jerusalem, for example, is understood to symbolize the church. But this interpretation has some serious shortcomings.

A summary of this article is available HERE.

Some contemporary Evangelical scholars adopt this view. This view believes that Daniel is divinely inspired and reliable. It also believes that the anointed one, who is “cut off” (v26). refers to Christ and the purposes of the 70 weeks, as listed in Daniel 9:24, are fulfilled in Him. Therefore, this may also be called the symbolic messianic view.

In the Consistent Symbolic interpretation, the time periods are not literal but symbolize different periods of time in redemptive history:

The first division of 7 weeks begins with the edict of Cyrus in AD 538 and ends with the first advent of Christ.

The second division of 62 weeks is the period of the Christian church; from the First to the Second Advent.  It extends from the construction of Jerusalem—interpreted as “spiritual Jerusalem,” which is the church—down to the final consummation at the end of time.

The third division of one week is the last period of history—the time of tribulation caused by the Antichrist. The goal of the Antichrist is to destroy “the city and the sanctuary;” that is, the church. It causes the visible church to disappear for a time.  This period begins with the advent of the Antichrist and ends with his defeat at the Second Advent of Christ.

The consistent symbolical interpretation emphasizes generalities rather than details in history and interpretation:

The “strong covenant” made with many for one week refers to the New Covenant which Jesus institutes with his death and resurrection.

The last words, “until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator” describes the final destruction of evil.


This interpretation has some serious shortcomings:

The time periods overlap: The third division is made a part of the second division. The final one week occurs in the closing portion of the second division.

Daniel’s prayer was motivated by his desire to learn when the desolation of Jerusalem—the symbol of his nation—will end.  If Gabriel gave him a prophecy in which the periods of time are merely vague symbols of future dispensations, then Daniel did not receive an answer.  Daniel 9:25a is specially formulated as a reference to a particular time:

from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks

The numbers 62, 1, and 3½ are not typical symbols in apocalyptic literature and should, therefore, be interpreted literally.

Rebuild JerusalemJerusalem is the literal city. There is no exegetical evidence anywhere in the book of Daniel to support the view that Jerusalem should stand for anything other than the actual city of Jerusalem. The Jerusalem of Daniel 9:2 and 9:16 is the literal capital city of the Israelites.  The “inhabitants of Jerusalem” in Daniel 9:7 are physical Israelites.  The “city” in Daniel 9:18 can only be the physical city of ancient Israel. Accordingly, the “holy city” and the Jerusalem of Daniel 9:24-25 cannot refer to anything other than that to which the reader constantly has been pointed.

Why no eternal kingdom?  If the 70 weeks end with the defeat of the Antichrist, why does the prophecy not say anything about the eternal kingdom, as the other prophecies in Daniel do (Dan 7:13-14, 27; 12:1-3)?  Why does Daniel 9 rather end in the multiplication of desolation?

Israel or the church? While the prophecy seems to allocate the 490 years and the goals to Israel, it is fulfilled in the church

These weighty objections have drawn few interpreters in recent years to adopt the consistent symbolical interpretation.


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