Some time ago, I had an interesting conversation with a professor who teaches at a conservative Christian college. He wanted to “straighten me out” about the interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27—the portion of Scripture that contains the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks—that I expound in my books Daniel Unsealed, He Is The One, and The Messiah Prophecy. He assumed that I had not read and studied the literally hundreds of Daniel expositions available in the commentaries and study Bibles in print today, since he proceeded to recount the traditional interpretation of Daniel 9 to me as if I was a first-year seminary student.
The traditional exposition of Daniel 9 he shared with me uses a Persian decree and substitutes seven years for each “week” in the prophecy. Rather than point out that his interpretation has many chronological details that do not fit either the biblical text or documented history (that’s the big “secret” about older Daniel interpretations no one seems to want to discuss, the chronology doesn’t add up), I decided to focus on a serious weak point in his exposition, to see if I could get him to begin to examine his traditional interpretation with open eyes instead of repeating by rote the errors in Daniel interpretation handed down through the decades in seminaries, commentaries, and sermons.
As is customary in all traditional interpretations of Daniel 9:24-27, at least those running around in conservative Bible-believing circles today by such luminaries as Matthew Henry, Albert Barnes, John Nelson Darby, C. I. Scofield, Sir Robert Anderson, Arno C. Gaebelein, Clarence Larkin, H. A. Ironside, John F. Walvoord, Leon J. Wood, and Edward J. Young, to name but a few who are well-known among conservative Bible believers, the professor had essentially ignored the seven-week division of the seventy weeks recorded in Dan. 9:25, lumping the seven weeks in with the 62 weeks to form a unit of 69 weeks, which he then interpreted as a time period of 483 years in duration.
Forgetting the other errors in his exposition, I zeroed in and asked him to step back and explain the meaning of the seven weeks, as follows … What year in history did the seven weeks begin? What year in history did the seven weeks end? What events in history marked the beginning and end of the seven weeks? Where are the starting and ending events documented in the biblical and/or historical record?
It’s been ten years since I made my challenge, and the professor has yet to respond. The reason he hasn’t responded is that he can’t. His traditional exposition of the seven weeks beginning with a Persian decree offers no explanation about what they mean. All he can do, at best, is to give an approximation of how the seven weeks were fulfilled based on guesswork. Some Daniel expositors guess that the seven weeks end when the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt (they speculate that happened in 409 BCE), but they offer no documentation from either the Bible or recorded history to back up the chronology of their guess. As the late Dr. Leon Wood of Grand Rapids Bible Seminary, who favored that interpretation in his commentary on Daniel, wrote, “Details are lacking for certainty.”
However, that is not good enough. The Bible and its prophecies are based on certainty. Such “approximate exegesis” is not the way the chrono-specific predictive prophecies in the Bible are meant to be interpreted. At best it is just a way of saying “we really don’t know what it means.” Instead of guessing, as a Bible-believer I say that those divisions were not given by God just to fill up space in the prophet Daniel’s notes when he wrote down the prophecy. God divided the seventy weeks into sub-divisions of seven weeks and 62 weeks in verse 25 for a specific purpose. Since God gave the prophecy for our edification, the divisions of the weeks, including the seven weeks, must be fully explained and documented in history in any legitimate exposition of Daniel 9:25.
And, it should be apparent to any Bible-believing person, if an expositor cannot correctly explain the seven weeks in Daniel 9:25, that inability calls into question his or her exposition of the entire prophecy of the Seventy Weeks in Daniel 9:24-27. Such is the case with ALL modern expositions of Daniel 9. Check your study Bible and you will see what I mean. If it doesn’t explain the seven-week division with special chronological meaning of its own, with documented specific starting and ending events, then it is merely guesswork. On the contrary, I do explain the meaning of the seven weeks in my books Daniel Unsealed, He Is The One, and The Messiah Prophecy, and I give specifics. The seven weeks represent seven Pentecosts (in Hebrew, “weeks”), one each year, that are aligned with the seven-year Sabbath cycle observed by ancient Jews from 42 BCE to 36 BCE, thus locating the prophecy about the Messiah in history with certainty). See chart of The Seventy Weeks.
In my book Daniel Unsealed, I add this observation in the Conclusion:
“Of course, the interpretations [of the Daniel prophecies] set forth in this book, inasmuch as they fully explain the chrono-specific prophecies in Daniel by matching their biblical texts to events documented in history, constitute a challenge to the field of biblical eschatology. Bible-believing Bible scholars (and, fortunately, there are still a few of them around) will need to reexamine basic assumptions about their sequence of end-time events, and do so without using a framework of future events from the Danielic prophecies to build upon. That process will be troubling for the most conservative eschatologists among us, especially when they realize that some of their more cherished eschatological assumptions may have to be adjusted as a result.
For non-Bible-believing Bible scholars (and, unfortunately, there are all too many of them around), the actuality of revelatory predictive prophecy validated by later fulfillment in history, a sure sign of the reality of divine providence, will now have to be incorporated into their anti-theistic academic approaches to biblical exposition. Sadly, even with the overwhelming evidence provided by the Danielic prophecies and their fulfillments, admitting the concept of transcendence into the halls of academia may be considered too risky for those biblical scholars who choose to remain wise in the eyes of their peers.
As for Jewish scholars and religious professionals, the challenge offered by the new interpretations presented in this book will be even greater still. The chronological preciseness of the prophecy in Daniel, chapter 9, demands that serious consideration be given to the evidence that Jesus, in whose name Jews have been unjustly persecuted and killed for almost two-thousand years, was, is, and will again be the Anointed One foretold by Moses and the prophets in the Tanakh.
Indeed, it is quite possible, even probable in your author’s opinion, that the chrono-specific predictive prophecies in Daniel have been unsealed at this point in history especially for the edification of the Jewish people, to allow them to understand the Holy One of Israel in the manner that the Scriptures ordain that they will acknowledge and worship him at the time of the end.”
As long as the incorrect interpretations of the chrono-specific predictive prophecies in the Book of Daniel continue to be taught in seminaries and preached from pulpits around the world, the power of God’s Word will be diminished accordingly. Here and now, I am calling on all Bible scholars, professors, preachers, teachers, and anyone else who expounds Daniel to publicly admit that the traditional interpretations of the prophecies in Daniel cannot be supported from the biblical text and the documents of history, not both at the same time. And, I invite each of you to read and study the new and correct interpretations of the Danielic prophecies that I have set forth in my commentaries on the Book of Daniel.
If you want to consider ten more examples of incorrect chronology arising out of 19th-century Christianity and now being taught in conservative seminaries and preached from Bible-believing pulpits, see my book Errors in Time.