Is Daniel’s Seventy-Weeks Prophecy Messianic? Part 1 -- By: J. Paul Tanner

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 166:662 (Apr 2009)
Article: Is Daniel’s Seventy-Weeks Prophecy Messianic? Part 1
Author: J. Paul Tanner


Is Daniel’s Seventy-Weeks Prophecy Messianic? Part 1

J. Paul Tanner

J. Paul Tanner is Middle East Director, BEE World, Bullard, Texas.

The seventy-weeks prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27 has been one of the most notorious interpretive problem passages in Old Testament studies. As Montgomery put it, “The history of the exegesis of the 70 Weeks is the Dismal Swamp of O.T. criticism.”1 Early church fathers commonly embraced a messianic interpretation of the passage and sought to prove a chronological computation for the time of Messiah’s coming based on this prophecy. This approach has been favored by many conservatives—both premillennial and amillennial—down through the centuries. Advocates of the messianic view differ over the details of interpretation (e.g., the number of times Messiah is referred to in the passage, the termini of the calculations, or how the final seventieth week relates to the first sixty-nine), but they agree that this passage is one of the most astounding references to the Lord Jesus Christ and the time of His first advent.

On the other hand some writers see no reference to Messiah in this passage. This includes most critical scholars, who typically favor a Maccabean fulfillment (i.e., in the second century B.C.), and Jewish exegetes, who—although differing about various details—tend to see the fulfillment of this passage with the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70 and/or its aftermath.

The purpose of these two articles is not to provide an exhaustive exegesis of the passage from an evangelical standpoint, as numerous examples of this abound in the literature.2 Instead this

first article surveys how Daniel 9:24-27 was understood in the early centuries of the church through the early part of the fifth century, and the second article will assess the messianic and nonmesssianic views and how they relate to understanding the word מָשִׁיחַ (“messiah” or “anointed one”) in verses 25 and 26.3

Pre-Christian Interpretations

The earliest Christian reference to the seventy-weeks prophecy seems to be the rather brief remark found in The Epistle of Barnabas (ca. A.D. 100) in its discussion of the “spiritual temple” in the heart.You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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