How did the early church fathers interpret Daniel 9?

ABSTRACT: This article discusses Jewish views and surveys the interpretations of 12 Christian writers of the first four centuries. The purpose is to determine how their views compared to those of modern interpreters. It shows that there was a strong consensus among the early church fathers that Daniel’s seventy weeks prophecy was fulfilled in Christ.

PURPOSE

This is a summary of a scholarly article by Paul Tanner. For more detail and references, please see that article.

Most critical scholars do not see the Messiah in Daniel 9. They believe that the prophecy was fulfilled in the second century B.C., in the time of Antiochus IV.

Jewish exegetes tend to see the fulfillment of this passage with the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70.

In contrast, although the church fathers of the first four centuries after Christ differed over the details of interpretation, this article shows that there was a strong consensus among them that Daniel’s seventy weeks were fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Just a disclaimer not mentioned by Tanner: According to Daniel 12:4, the prophecies of Daniel will only be understood in “the end of time.”

JEWISH INTERPRETATIONS

While the modern translations say that the Messiah will be cut off after the 62 weeks (Daniel 9:26), the pre-Christian Old Greek translation stated that “the anointing will be taken away” after 139 (years). Then “the kingdom of the Gentiles will destroy the city and the temple with the anointed one.” This was then interpreted as 139 years after the beginning of the Seleucid era (311–310 B.C.), bringing us to 172–71 B.C., that is, the approximate year of the murder of the high priest Onias III during the troublesome times of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. It seems, therefore, as if, in the centuries after Antiochus IV, the Jews interpreted the passage to refer to Antiochus IV and the translators adapted the translation accordingly.

The Essenes were a mystic Jewish sect that flourished from the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century CE. For them:

    • The promised Messiah is the Messiah of Israel; the Son of David.
    • The 70 weeks began with the return from the Exile.
    • The 70 weeks (490 years) will expire between 3 B.C. and A.D. 2.
    • The Messiah will arrive in the preceding 7 years.

There is, therefore, evidence for both a messianic and nonmessianic interpretation of the 70 weeks prophecy before the Christian era. However, the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70 decisively altered the Jewish interpretations of Daniel 9:24–27. Beckwith concludes:

“Up to A.D. 70, … the different reckonings of the seventy weeks … must have existed among the rabbis as three rival interpretations. After A.D. 70, however, when the Messiah had not come as expected, but the desolation also foretold in Daniel 9:26–27 had, it was natural to tie the end of the seventy weeks to A.D. 70 and also to adopt a non-messianic interpretation of the prophecy.” (Beckwith, “Daniel 9 and the Date of Messiah’s Coming,” 536.)

For example:

Josephus, a historian and a member of the priestly aristocracy of the Jews, who lived from 37 A.D. to about 100 A.D., viewed the fulfillment of the prophecy in the events leading up to A.D. 70.

The Jewish chronological work, Seder Olam Rabbah, which was composed about A.D. 160, and which provides a chronological record that extends from Adam to the Bar Kokhba revolt of A.D. 132–135, claims that the seventy weeks were seventy years of exile in Babylon followed by another 420 years until the destruction of the second temple in A.D. 70.

CHRISTIAN WRITERS

JUSTIN MARTYR

Early Christian writers often used the 70-weeks prophecy to prove to the Jews that Jesus is the promised Messiah. For that reason, it is strange that Justin Martyr (ca. A.D. 153–165) never made a reference to Daniel 9 in his apologetic work Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, though he made fourteen other references to Daniel.

IRENAEUS

The earliest clear Christian reference to Daniel 9:24–27 is by Irenaeus (ca. A.D. 180). He did not explain the 490 years or the 7 years or the 434 years or the Messiah in Daniel 9:25-26. What he did was to interpret the little horn of Daniel 7 as the Antichrist and to associate the little horn’s period of dominance (“a time, times, and half a time” – Dan 7:25, 12:7) with the last half of the 70th week. On the basis of Matthew 24:15, he interpreted Daniel 9:27 as that “the abomination of desolation shall be brought into the temple” when the Antichrist literally goes into the Jewish temple for the purpose of presenting himself as Christ.

CLEMENT

Clement of Alexandria (ca. A.D. 200) was the first Christian writer to explain the time periods in Daniel 9, although he was a bit vague about the details. For him:

    • The “most holy” one (Dan 9:24) is Jesus Christ.
    • The 490 years began with Cyrus.
    • The first seven weeks (49 years) were the period of the construction of the temple.
    • The 62 weeks led up to the first advent of Christ.
    • The final week includes Nero’s erection of an “abomination” in Jerusalem as well as the destruction of the city and temple in AD 70.

Clement, therefore, included both Jesus Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem in the 490 years. But this implies a gap between the first 69 weeks and the last week.

TERTULLIAN

Tertullian (ca. A.D. 203) had a unique explanation of the time periods. Instead of three periods for the seventy “weeks” (7 + 62 + 1), he has only two: 62½ and another of 7½. For Tertullian:

    • The “anointing” of the “most holy” (Dan 9:24) refers to Christ.
    • The first period of 62½ weeks (i.e., 437 1/2 years) was the period from Darius (when Daniel received the vision) until the birth of Christ.
    • With His first coming, “vision and prophecy” were “sealed” (Dan 9:24 – i.e., there is no longer a vision or a prophet to announce His coming).
    • The final 7½ (i.e., 52½ years) refer to the time from the birth of Christ until the first year of Vespasian (Roman emperor from AD 69 to 79) when Herod’s temple was destroyed.

Tertullian therefore, by making certain calculation errors, was able to include both Jesus Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem in the 490 years. Therefore, he did not need a gap as Clement did.

HIPPOLYTUS

Hippolytus (A.D. 202–230) wrote the first extant commentary on Daniel. For Him:

    • The “anointing of “the most holy” in Daniel 9:24 refers to the anointing of Christ in His first coming.
    • The first seven weeks were the 49 years before Joshua, the high priest. The Messiah in verse 25 is this Joshua.
    • This was followed by 62 weeks (434 years) from Joshua, Zerubbabel, and Ezra until Jesus Christ.
    • The Messiah in verse 26, who was cut off, is Jesus Christ.
    • The final week will be a future period of seven years in which the Antichrist will come to power. Then Elijah and Enoch will appear as the two witnesses (Rev 11:3-4).
    • This means that a “gap” of time will separate the first 69 weeks and the final “week.”

Hippolytus, therefore, interpreted the Messiah as Jesus Christ but, similar to modern Dispensationalism, interpreted the final week as a future period of seven years when the Antichrist will rule. This type of interpretation follows from the assumption that the crisis in Daniel 9:27 is the same as the crisis caused by the little horn of Daniel 7. One of the articles on this website has concluded that this is an incorrect assumption and that, while Daniel 9 deals with Israel and the 490 years allocated to her, the other prophecies in Daniel deal with all nations and all time (see, same crisis?).

JULIUS AFRICANUS

For Julius (writing after A.D. 232):

    • The 490 years began with Artaxerxes’ second decree in the twentieth year of his reign (444 B.C.).
    • The seventy weeks came to an end when Christ was baptized and entered into His public ministry (A.D. 28–29). Therefore, the entire seventy weeks were fulfilled by the time of the first advent of Christ.
    • From 444 BC to 28 AD is only 472 years (475 in Julius’ calculation); not 490. To make it fit, Julius claimed that the Jews, on the basis of moon months, reckoned a year as 354 days. This reduces the 490 to 475 literal years.

Julius did not explain how the 70th week relates to his view.

ORIGEN

For Origen (after A.D. 215):

    • Daniel’s seventy weeks-prophecy was fulfilled in Christ.
    • The seventy weeks began with Darius the Mede.
    • The Messiah in Daniel 9:25 is Jesus Christ.

In his commentary on Matthew, Origen had a different interpretation in which:

    • The “weeks” are “weeks of decades” rather than “weeks of years.”
    • There are 4,900 years from Adam to the end of the last week.

Origen also espoused extensive allegorical interpretations. For example, he said:

    • “The going forth of a word to restore” refers to God’s command at Creation.
    • “To restore and rebuild Jerusalem” refers to Christ’s coming.
    • The Messiah in verse 26, who was cut off, refers to the high priesthood, and the “cutting off” was the termination of the Hasmonean line by Herod the Great.
    • The final week is the seventy years extending from the Day of Pentecost.
    • The “middle of the week” was the destruction of the temple and the city.
    • The “prince who is to come” was the Jewish king of that time (apparently Agrippa II).

It is, therefore, a bit difficult to pin Origen down non this matter, but it is clear that he saw the prophecy as fulfilled in the first century A.D.

EUSEBIUS

The church historian Eusebius Pamphili (ca. 260–ca. 340) gave an extended discussion of Daniel 9:20–27 in his Demonstratio evangelica (book 8, chap. 2):

FIRST 69 WEEKS

    • The 490 years began with the completion of the temple in the second year of Darius (516-515 B.C.).
    • The 69 weeks concluded in the days of King Herod and the Roman emperor Augustus in 36–32 B.C.
    • The Messiah was cut off (v26) when the last of the “high priest-governors” was removed with the death of John Hyrcanus II, who was murdered by Herod in 30 B.C.
    • The destruction of the city and sanctuary was fulfilled in a metaphorical sense with Herod the Great and then literally by the Romans in A.D. 70.

LAST WEEK

    • The covenant in the seventieth week is the New Covenant inaugurated by Jesus Christ.
    • The first half of the week was the 3½ years of His public ministry.
    • He will put a stop to sacrifice” (Dan 9:27) was fulfilled at His death, when the veil in the temple was rent in two and the sacrifices were removed (i.e., from God’s point of view, they were no longer viewed as valid).
    • The second half of the week was fulfilled in Jesus’ post-resurrection period.
    • The “abomination” in Daniel 9:27 was fulfilled when Pilate brought the images of Caesar into the temple by night.

This interpretation seems to require a gap between the first 69 weeks and the last week.

APOLLINARIS

For Apollinaris, bishop of Laodicea (ca. A.D. 360):

    • The seventy weeks was the time between the two advents of Christ.
    • The 70th week would occur at the end of the world. At that time, the Antichrist would be manifested, literally enter the temple (2 Thess. 2), and issue a decree outlawing the offering of sacrifices.

In other words, Apollinaris was expecting the return of Christ within a hundred years of the time he wrote. As stated under Hippolytus, in the view of this website, this type of interpretation confuses Daniel 9:27 with the crisis of the little horn of Daniel 7.

JULIUS HILARIANUS

Hilarianus (A.D. 397) was “the first patristic writer to adopt a non-Messianic interpretation of the Seventy Weeks.” (Knowles, “The Interpretations of the Seventy Weeks of Daniel in the Early Fathers,” 155.) For Hilarianus:

    • The seventy weeks extended from the first year of Darius to the end of the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes in the second century B.C.
    • “The anointed one the prince” in verse 25 refers to Zerubbabel who was the leader of the first return of the Jews.
    • The event that marks the middle of the week is the pollution of the temple by Antiochus which introduced the abomination of desolation in the form of heathen images in the temple.

In advocating this Maccabean view, however, Hilarianus is essentially alone among early church fathers.

JEROME

Jerome (A.D. 407) wrote a significant commentary on the Book of Daniel. In his discussion of Daniel 9:24-27, he declined to offer an interpretation of his own and was content to quote from or summarize the positions of several earlier church fathers.

AUGUSTINE

Without interpreting the time periods, Augustine (A.D. 407-430) wrote:

“All of the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks was fulfilled at Christ’s first advent; therefore, it is not to be expected that the events will occur again at the second advent.”

SUMMARY

Justin Martyr (A.D. 153–165) did not mention Daniel 9.

Irenaeus (A.D. 180) mentioned it but did not interpret the time periods or the Messiahs.

Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 200) included both Jesus Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem in the 490 years. His interpretation implies a gap between the first 69 weeks and the last week.

Tertullian (A.D. 203), by making certain calculation errors, was able to include both Jesus Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem in the 490 years without a gap.

Hippolytus (A.D. 202–230) interpreted the Messiah as Jesus Christ but, similar to Dispensationalism, interpreted the final week as a future period of seven years when the Antichrist will rule.

Julius Africanus (A.D. 232) proposed that the full 490 years came to an end with Jesus’ baptism.

For Origen (A.D. 215), the Messiah in Daniel 9:25 is Jesus Christ and Daniel’s seventy-weeks prophecy was fulfilled in Christ.

The church historian Eusebius (A.D. 314–318) interpreted the first half of the week as the 3½ years of Jesus’ public ministry and the second half as fulfilled after Jesus was resurrected. In the middle of the ‘week’, He “put a stop to sacrifice” (Dan 9:27) through His death.

Apollinaris of Laodicea (A.D. 360) regarded the seventy weeks as the time between the two advents of Christ. The 70th week would be a period at the end of the world when the Antichrist will literally enter the temple and issue a decree outlawing the offering of sacrifices.

Julius Hilarianus (A.D. 397) was the first patristic writer to adopt a non-Messianic interpretation of the Seventy Weeks. For him, the event that marks the middle of the week was the pollution of the temple by Antiochus which introduced heathen images in the temple.

Jerome (A.D. 407) simply summarized the positions of several earlier church fathers.

Augustine (A.D. 407-430) stated that the 70 weeks were fulfilled at Christ’s first advent.

CONCLUSIONS

From the literature that is available, some vital conclusions can be drawn:

(A) WEEKS OF YEARS

All the early church fathers, along with Jewish scholars, interpreted the “weeks” as weeks of seven years and applied this quite literally.

(B) HISTORIC-MESSIANIC

Of the 12 Christian writers surveyed above, 3 (Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Jerome) did not offer interpretations. Of the remaining 9, all but one of them held to some form of messianic interpretation of Daniel’s prophecy, meaning that the prophecy referred to Jesus Christ. The exception was Hilarianus who held to fulfillment in the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes in the second century B.C. Of the 8 messianic interpretations:

Two (Apollinaris and Hippolytus) opted for a messianic-eschatological position in which the Messiah is Jesus in His first advent but the last week is some future point beyond the first century, such as the reign of Antichrist.

The remaining six all favored a messianic-historical position, meaning that the entire seventy weeks were fulfilled at some point in the first century A.D.

In conclusion, although they varied greatly in their details, there was a strong consensus among the early church fathers that Daniel’s seventy weeks prophecy was fulfilled in Christ.

(C) A GAP

Three of these early Christian writers required a gap between the first 69 weeks and the last week:

Clement proposed that the 62 weeks led up to the first advent of Christ and the final week includes the destruction in AD 70.

For Eusebius, the 69 weeks concluded in the days of King Herod in 36–32 B.C. and the last week was the years before and after Jesus died.

Hippolytus viewed the final week eschatologically – at the time when the Antichrist will reign.

OTHER ARTICLES

Introduction to the Daniel 9 Prophecy and its Four Interpretations

ABSTRACT: Daniel received the prophecy at a time when Israel was in captivity and Jerusalem in ruins. The prophecy gave Israel seventy weeks of years (490 years) to fulfill six goals, including to solve the sin problem for the whole human race. Particularly, the crisis of the final seven years is interpreted very differently by the different schools of thought, including as:

    • Antiochus IV, 168 years before Christ (liberal),
    • Jesus Christ in the first century AD (traditional), or
    • An end-time Antichrist (Dispensationalism).

A summary of this article is available HERE.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

Jerusalem destroyedDaniel received the prophecy in Daniel 9 in 538 BC. At that time, Israel was in captivity in Babylon and Jerusalem and the temple were in ruins.

The first 19 verses of the chapter record Daniel’s prayer. He prayed for Jerusalem, the sanctuary, and for his people (Dan 9:16, 17, and 19).

While he was still praying, the angel Gabriel appeared (Dan 9:21) and gave him this extremely compact prophecy. It is contained in only four verses (Dan 9:24-27) but is critical for our understanding of end-time events.

PURPOSE OF THE 70 WEEKS

The prophecy begins in verse 24 with the announcement that 70 weeks have been decreed for Israel and for its capital city (Jerusalem) to fulfill six wonderful goals, namely, to:

    • Finish the transgression,
    • Make an end of sins,
    • Make reconciliation for iniquity,
    • Bring in everlasting righteousness,
    • Seal up the vision and prophecy, and to
    • Anoint the most Holy. (KJV)

In other words, the purpose of the 70 weeks, allocated to the Jewish nation, seems to include solving the sin problem of the entire human race. These goals would have brought great joy to Daniel.

WEEKS OF YEARS

Israel had two types of weeks. They had weeks of days like we still have today but they also had weeks of years. Every week of years consisted of seven years in which the seventh was a year of rest; a Sabbath for the land (Lev 25).

It is generally agreed among Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant scholars alike that the “weeks” in Daniel 9:24 are weeks of years and not weeks of days. The following supports this conclusion:

Firstly, the word for “week” occurs six times in Daniel 9:24-27; each time without qualification. The only other place in the book of Daniel where this word “week” occurs, is immediately after this prophecy, and there it is qualified as “of days” (Dan 10:2, 3 see YLT). That Daniel felt that qualification was necessary when a week of days was indicated, suggests that, when he used the word without qualification in Daniel 9:24-27, it means weeks of years.

Secondly, during the “seventy weeks,” the city was to be rebuilt. Seventy weeks of days are less than 1½ years and is too little time to rebuild a city. It took several decades to rebuild the city. Therefore, these must be weeks of years.

(3) The 490 years are a promise by God to renew His covenant with Israel after the exile and, in the covenant, God used weeks of years to measure time (see Extend Covenant). This also implies that these are weeks of years.

Since these are weeks of years, the 70 weeks are equal to 490 years. No day-for-a-year symbolism is required to convert days into years. It is notable that the other prophecies in Daniel use much symbolism, such as beasts representing empires, but Daniel 9 does not seem to use symbols at all.

Daniel was obviously very glad to receive this prophecy as an assurance that God would restore Israel to their country and their capital. What must have puzzled him is the time limit of 70 weeks that the angel announced.

VERSE 25

The remaining three verses describe the events through which the six goals above were to be fulfilled.

Verse 25 contains a “from … until”-statement:

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

This means that the 490 years will begin with “the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.” The Messiah Prince would appear 69 weeks (483 years) after that decree. Daniel did not pray for either these wonderful goals or for “Messiah the Prince.” It is implied that these wonderful goals would be fulfilled through the Messiah.

No specific event marks the end of the first 7 weeks (49 years) but because this would be 49 years after the decree to restore Jerusalem, most commentators assume that the restoration of the city was then completed. This is confirmed by the poetic pattern of the prophecy, as will be explained later.

VERSE 26

Verse 26 says that two things will happen “after the sixty-two weeks:”

      • The Messiah will be cut off (killed) and
      • The people will destroy the city

If we deduct 7+62 weeks from the promised 70 weeks, only one week remains. Verse 26, by listing things that will happen “after” the 62 weeks, does not say whether they will happen during or after the 70th week. But since verse 24 says that a full 70 weeks have been determined from the city, it may be assumed that the city will not be destroyed during the 70 weeks but either at the end of or after the 70th week.

VERSE 27

Verse 27 refers to “one week.” The 70 weeks are sub-divided into three sub-periods:

      • 7 weeks (49 years),
      • 62 weeks (434 years), and
      • 1 week (7 years):

Verse 27 says two things will happen during the 70th week:

      • For the full week, “he” will “make a firm covenant.”
      • In the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice.”

INTERPRETATIONS

It is a sad fact that this wonderful prophecy is interpreted very differently by the different schools of thought within Christianity. J. Barton Payne, Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997), 383-389, points out that there are basically four different kinds of interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27:

(1) the liberal,
(2) the traditional (also known as the historic-messianic interpretation),
(3) the dispensational, and
(4) the symbolical interpretations.

Particularly the final seven years are interpreted very differently by the different schools of thought. In the Critical Interpretation, the final week describes the work of Antiochus IV, 168 years before Christ. In the traditional interpretation, it describes the seven years around Christ’s death. In Dispensationalism, this is the work of the Antichrist during the 7 years prior to Christ’s return:

MESSIANIC-HISTORICAL

The historical messianic view was held by many throughout church history. While not all of the details are worked out the same way, Calvin, Luther, and many others, including contemporary scholar E. J. Young, held a form of this view. For this reason, Ellicott’s Commentary refers to is as “the traditional interpretation.”

Proponents regard the Book of Daniel as inspired and reliable and understand the prophecy to be primarily about the coming of Christ.

The following summarizes the messianic-historical interpretation:

The 490 years are an extension of God’s covenant with Israel that began with Artaxerxes’ first decree in 458/7 BC (Ellicott).

During the first period of 49 years, Jerusalem should be rebuilt.

The first 49+434=483 years came to an end with Jesus’ baptism in AD 26/27, where He was anointed by the Holy Spirit. (Ellicott proposes A.D. 25.)

The last seven years began with His baptism, which was also the beginning of His ministry on earth.

3½ years later, or in the “midst of a week,” He was killed, causing “sacrifice and the oblation to cease” (v27) in terms of significance. These sacrifices pointed forward to His death and, after He died, no longer had any meaning.

Allicott’s major criticism of this view is that it means that the 490 years came to an end 3½ years after Jesus died. He says that there is no indication in the New Testament that lead us to suppose that Israel’s probation continued for another 3½ years after Jesus died.

However, this website shows that God’s covenant with Israel did not end when Jesus died. God continued to send the Holy Spirit with power but to JEWS ONLY. God’s 490-year covenant with Israel came to an end in 33/34 AD when Israel rejected the Holy Spirit by persecuting His Spirit-filled disciples. After this, the Holy Spirit and the gospel were sent to Gentiles also.

Therefore, the final seven years stretch from 26/27 to 33/34 AD, with the crucifixion “in the middle of” these seven years.

During those seven years, Jesus Christ confirmed God’s covenant with Israel, first through His personal ministry for 3½ years before His death, and then, for a further 3½ years after His death, by sending God’s Holy Spirit to Israel only.

Since 490 years were decreed for Jerusalem (Dan 9:24), Jerusalem was not destroyed during those 490 years, but only about 40 years later in 70 AD.

This interpretation is called Messianic because it understands the Messiah to be the one who confirms the covenant for the seven last years. It is called historical because the full 490 years are interpreted as past history.

DISPENSATIONALISM

ORIGIN

John Nelson DarbyDispensationalism is often linked with the teachings on prophecy by John Nelson Darby (1800-1882)—from the 1830s on—and the Plymouth Brethren of Ireland. Scofield (1843-1921) of the United States was influenced by Darby and presented the view of seven dispensations from Eden to the new creation in the notes of the widely used Scofield Reference Bible.

Evangelical Christians today extensively hold to the Dispensationalism view on eschatology, in spite of its relatively recent origin.

TEACHING

In Dispensationalism:

The 490 years began with the second decree of Artaxerxes I (Neh 1-2) in 445/4 BC. 

The first 483 years came to an end with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem a few days before His death.

The 490 years are not viewed as continuous, but a huge “paren­thesis” or “gap” is inserted between the first 483 years and the final seven years. The entire “church age” is a gap during which the prophetic clock has stopped ticking.

The final seven years are the seven years before the Christ’s return, commencing with the rapture of the church. The rapture includes the resurrection of dead saints and the translation of living saints. They will be removed secretly from earth.

During the 70th week, the Antichrist – a prince of a revived Roman Empire – will oppress the Jews and bring upon the world a 3½ year tribulation during the latter half of the seven years.

IMPORTANCE OF DANIEL 9

The importance of the 70 weeks-prophecy for Dispensationalism can hardly be exaggerated. The other eschatologies are able to survive when their views on Daniel 9 are proven false, but Dispensationalism eschatology stands or falls on its interpretation of Daniel 9.

CONSEQUENCE

Dispensationalism’s interpretation of Daniel 9 dominates its interpretation of Revelation. It identifies Revelation 4:1 as the rapture at the beginning of the last seven years. Consequently, the rest of Revelation describes the events of the last seven years or later.

LIBERAL-CRITICAL VIEW

Critical scholarship emerged during the period of “higher criticism” of the later 19th and early 20th centuries and is the dominant view in academic circles today. Most proponents of this view do not believe that the Bible is God’s authoritative and reliable revelation. They also do not believe in miracles or in prophecies. In their view, the Bible is simply the product of the evolution of human thought. Therefore, they attempt to discern the “true authors” behind the Biblical text.

Since they do not believe in prophecy, and since the prophecies in Daniel mention the Medo-Persian and Greek empires by name, critical scholars argue that Daniel was written after these empires had come to power. Given that other ‘propheciers’ in Daniel agree with history, critical scholars believe that the book of Daniel was written during the mid-2nd century BC by an unnamed Jew who was seeking to provide a theological explanation of their current conflict with the Seleucids (Greek Empire) in general and the desecration of the Temple by Antiochus Epiphanes (167 BC) in particular.

In the standard liberal interpretation, the 490 years began with the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC. The first 49 years came to an end with Cyrus’ decree in 538 BC, which allowed the Jews to return to Judah. At the end of the next 434 years, Onias III was the messiah that was “cut off” (murdered) in 171/0 BC. During the last seven years after Onias’ death, the Greek king Antiochus IV destroyed Jerusalem and put a stop to sacrifices. At the end of the seven years, after the successful Maccabean revolt, the temple was rededicated in 164 BC.

For an evaluation of the Liberal interpretation of Daniel 9, see the Liberal Interpretation.

SYMBOLIC

Except for Daniel 9, all Daniel’s prophecies are symbolic. But in the Consistent Symbolical view, Daniel 9 prophecy is also symbolic. For example, Jerusalem symbolizes the church. The time periods are also interpreted as symbols: The first 7 weeks end with Christ’s first advent, and the 62 weeks is the period of the Christian church. And the final week symbolizes the end-time rule of the Antichrist.

This view believes that Daniel is divinely inspired and that the purposes of the 70 weeks, as listed in Daniel 9:24, are fulfilled in Christ. Therefore, this may also be called the symbolic messianic view. For a further discussion, see The Consistent Symbolical interpretation.

The purpose of this commentary is to determine which is the correct interpretation.

OTHER ARTICLES