Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gleanings from Daniel [18]

An Introduction to Daniel's Seventy Weeks

I have come to a critical juncture in my study of Daniel, but before I lay out my exposition of Daniel 9:24-27 and the 70 weeks, I believe it may be helpful to quickly survey how the main hermeneutical systems within Bible-believing evangelical circles interpret this section of Scripture. The 70 Weeks of Daniel is a major eschatological passage. How a person interprets the vision will have theological ramifications on other portions of Scripture that may reference Daniel 9.

Leaving off critical and liberal approaches, I believe there are primarily two hermeneutical systems that concern our study as faithful, Bible loving evangelicals. I define them as the Reformed covenant view, and for the sake of keeping the discussion clear and any confusion to a minimum, the Dispensational view.

Just as a side note, I do recognize Dispensationalism comes in a variety of flavors. (as does the Reformed covenant position). I pointed this out in a recent post. I will say I have heavy Reformed sympathies, especially as my theology pertains to the soteriological doctrines. I part company when it comes to ecclessiology and eschatology and how I understand the outworking of God's decrees and the purpose of His will, but that is a discussion for some other post.

I will also point out that I cannot possibly cover every nuance to this passage with this brief post. I recognize individuals within both theological camps may break down the exposition to this passage differently. People are welcome to quibble with me in the comments. I want merely to hit the salient points of disagreement so as to build a frame work on which to outline my personal study.

The Reformed Covenant View:

Beginning first with the Reformed covenant view of Daniel 9, there are two recognizable interpretations of the passage from that perspective. First, is what could be called a symbolic view of the prophecy. The 70 weeks reflect real events, but the "weeks" are not at all meant to be understood as chronological time. These "weeks" are not "weeks" of years, or what would be 7 year intervals, but they are periods of undetermined time that reveal events pertaining to God's People, the Redeemed in Christ both Jew and gentile, extending from the rebuilding of Jerusalem, up to the first coming of Christ, and beyond to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and the Bar Kokhba rebellion in 135 A.D. and eventually to the Second Coming of Christ. With this view, the emphasis of the 70 weeks is God dealing with His redeemed throughout redemptive history and the comfort the work of God's Messiah brings to those redeemed.

The next view is what I would consider a literal view of the prophecy. Reformed covenant proponents of this perspective recognize the 70 weeks as real, literal seven year periods that are meant to be chronological. The 70 weeks are divided into three periods, 7 weeks of years, or 49 years; then 62 weeks of years, or 434 years; and then one final week of 7 years. Representatives of this position will place the starting date for the 70 weeks either at 458 B.C. with the decree of Ezra to rebuild the temple or 445 B.C. with the decree of Nehemiah to rebuild the city, and the first 49 years end when Nehemiah and Ezra finish their work. The next group of 434 years extend to Christ's first coming with some proponents believing they end with the baptism of Jesus in either 26 or 27 A.D.; or they end with Christ presenting Himself as Israel's Messiah at the Triumphal Entry during the final week of His life in 33 A.D. The final 7 years are understood as ending with Stephen's stoning in Acts 7, an act that solidified Israel's rejection of their Messiah.

Highlighting particular exegetical points:
The Reformed covenant view understand Jesus Christ to be both "the prince" or "Messiah" who is to be cut off as described in verse 26, and the "prince" mentioned in the next clause who is described as having a people who come to destroy the city. The idea being that the Jews, or the people of the prince who is to come (Jesus Christ), bring their own destruction upon themselves by rejecting their Messiah and hence solidifying God's wrath against the nation as played out in 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. The destruction of the temple put an end to sacrifices for the OT sacrificial system just as Daniel states.

Oddly, it is at this point many Reformed covenant folks allow the final week of 7 years or at least the last 3 1/2 years of the final week (42 months), to be understood as figurative and non-literal. For example, Kim Riddlebarger argues the final 3 1/2 years is, per the Apostle John's comments in Revelation 12:14, speaking to the time of "tribulation" Christ's Church will endure before Christ's Second Coming.

The Dispensational View

Dispensational proponents approach Daniel 9:24-27 much differently than their Reformed counterparts; yet there are a few similarities. For instance, in the same manner many Reformed covenant interpreters believe the 70 weeks represent periods of literal, chronological 7 years, so too do Dispensational interpreters. They would believe the first set of 7 weeks represent the 49 years of Ezra and Nehemiah's ministries to rebuild the temple and Jerusalem beginning in 445 B.C. and continuing until that work is completed. The next 62 weeks cover the 434 years of intertestimental history (a good portion of which I believe is revealed in Daniel 11) until the first coming of Jesus Christ and the termination with Christ being cut off at the Crucifixion.

It is at this point, however, where Dispensational interpreters depart dramatically from the Reformed covenant interpreters. Where as the Reformed covenant interpretation sees a fulfillment of these final 7 weeks shortly after the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ or perhaps understand the final week as non-literal, Dispensationalists believe those final 7 years are yet future, awaiting fulfillment at the time of the end. That final week sets into motion significant historical events that culminate in the Return of Jesus Christ, the restoration of Israel, and the establishment of God's Kingdom on Earth. That means the Reformed view rejects the idea of an extended gap of time (2,000 years at least at this point) existing between the completion of the 69 weeks and the final week. Dispensationalists, on the other hand, believe a gap has to exist because specific exegetical factors revealed throughout the other portions of Scripture warrant the understanding of a gap of time.

Highlighting particular exegetical points:
Rather than understanding the Messiah who will be cut off and the "prince of the people who will come" as being one and the same in the person of Jesus Christ, Dispensationalists understand there to be two individuals: Jesus Christ and then an eschatological anti-Christ figure who has been revealed elsewhere in Scripture. "The prince of the people who will come" identifies this anti-Christ figure with the last beast in Daniel's prophecy in chapter 7 or the iron legs in chapter 2. The Roman empire was the last beast figure, and "the people who will come" alludes to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D brought upon Israel by the Roman armies of Titus. This destruction initiates the determined desolations mentioned at the end of 9:26, which I believe indicates the marker for the "gap" of time between the 69th and final 70th week. Thus, this "prince" spoken of in 9:26 is identified with the last beast that will be a final, major empire in the last days before Christ's Return.

Now, my Reformed covenant friends will often write how their perspective is theologically superior because they consider their view Christological or Christo-centric. In other words, their interpretation of Daniel's 70 Weeks focuses upon the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the Cross and His deliverance of God's people both Jew and gentile from the ineffective works of the OT sacrificial system. Daniel 9 is meant to reveal how God will bring to an end the OT sacrificial system in the work of Jesus Christ. Dispensationalists, they argue, place the focus of Daniel 9 away from Christ's cross work and back to the Jewish people who represented a religious system destined to be done away with by God Himself. Hence, Dispensationalists completely miss the clear, historic redemptive element of this prophecy.

I, however, respond as one from a dispensational perspective that the Reformed covenant folks overstate their view. My position is no less "Christological" as theirs. I clearly see a focus with Daniel's prophecy upon the redemptive work of Christ. It is this work that fulfills the purpose of these appointed 70 weeks as stated by the angel in 9:24. Yet, other significant exegetical factors within Daniel's 70 week prophecy coupled with further revelation given in other portions of Scripture does not allow for an exclusive, "Christological" hermeneutic as the Reformed covenant contend. This is what I hope to demonstrate in my study.

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Blogger Tom said...

I never quite understood the whole "my interpretation is more Christological" argument, given by any group. Isn't the idea to accurately exposit the passage, rather than trying to figure out which view has more of an emphasis on the cross? IOW, isn't accurately interpreting the passage -- regardless of our opinion of "how much" it points to the cross -- more Christological than anything else?

Looking forward to your series. BTW, are you going to get to Dan 12:11-12? I never quite got that and how it "fits in."

In Christ

6:26 AM, December 14, 2010  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

To be fair, they would argue that to exposit the text correctly IS to see this emphasis on the cross. They would say the better approach to the text is to read it in light of the greater revelation of the NT. Other factors would include identifying the NT Church with the OT redeemed, faithful Israel and how the NT Church fulfills the promises of the OT to Israel.

Yes. I do plan to hit on chapter 12.

7:06 AM, December 14, 2010  
Blogger Lynda O said...

From what I've observed, the Reformed "Christological" view is really more of a First Coming-Christological emphasis, in which they try to "fit" all of scripture (wrongly) into the events of Christ's First Coming. I like how J.C. Ryle often explained it, that scripture shows us BOTH the cross and the crown, and the Church has largely erred in focusing too much on the cross and neglecting the future event, the crown. In "Holiness," chapter 20, for instance, Ryle emphasized how we should look for Christ throughout the Old Testament -- and listed several OT illustrations (types -- events, people, institutions, etc.) as pointing to Christ. Fully half of the examples he mentioned were from Christ's Second Coming (the crown), and (only) half relating to the cross.

11:10 AM, December 14, 2010  
Blogger Pierre Saikaley said...

Riddlebarger, in his "Case For Amilleniallism" accuses of Premillenialists of badly erring in interpreting Daniel 9:27 to be referring to the Antichrist instead of Christ.He writes,

”In order to make this fit into their interpretative scheme, dispensationalists insist that Messiah is cut off after the sixty-two sevens” p.153.

However, he fails to note that Dispensationalists “insist” on this not because they’re forcing their theology on the bible, but because the bible itself “insists” on it by it’s very God-breathed word for word direct rebuttal of Riddlebarger’s claim: “And AFTER the sixty-two sevens Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself” Daniel 9:26. (Emphasis mine)

4:20 PM, December 16, 2010  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Riddlebarger's take on Daniel fails on many levels. The fact he switches hermeneutics in mid-stream speaks volumes to the fact he is defending a particular theology, not attempting to do exegesis.

5:57 PM, December 16, 2010  
Blogger Peter said...

Hi I am new to your site but I am extremely interested in the Daniel 9 prophecy. It seems to be the backbone of all of bible prophecy. I am somewhat new to the amill v premill disagreement but I do have a question. From the premill perspective of this passage, there seems to be a lot of interpretations and even translations for v26.

Is it possible that all throughout this passage is infact referring to Christ and not the anti-christ. In which case Jesus died in the middle of the seven and there remains 3 1/2 weeks. I ask that for a number of reasons.

First a lot of other passages refer to 42 months o 1260 days etc. Many times that is the time frame, this is the only passage in the bible we get 7 years from. Also if Jesus died after 69 weeks aren't we still on the clock of 70 weeks. How can he die after 69 weeks and yet there still be remaining a full week? The passage indicates only 70 weeks left, so in order for him to die on that 70 weeks it would have to be at least 5 days into the last week no?

Does it make sense to base just 42 months left much like the rest of the bible says 42 months with no other refereces to 7 years. I know that changes rapture timing etc. but I am just trying to fully understand this passage first. Thanks.

3:51 PM, February 02, 2011  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

The idea that the prince in the passage is Christ is the standard amillennial or postmillennial perspective. I happen to disagree with it for a number of reason I will outline in forthcoming posts on the passage. Let me post the remainder of my study of Daniel's 70 weeks prophecy here over the next few weeks and we can see if that will help clarify your questions.

5:35 PM, February 02, 2011  

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