Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Oh That 70th Week

The dispensationalist premillennial view of the seventy weeks of Daniel, the cornerstone of their eschatology, results from one slightly tortured piece of exegesis. Take a look at the familiar passage:
24 "Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place.
25 "So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.
26 "Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.
27 "And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate."(Dan 9:24-27)

The decree to rebuild Jerusalem, mentioned in verse 25, is reasonably assumed to come from Artaxerxes in 445 BC (Neh 2:1-8). There is general agreement for treating each week as seven years (perhaps of only 360 days, but that is a detail). The point of the prophecy is so that one might discern, at least roughly, when to expect the Messiah, namely after sixty nine weeks, or 483 years, which is in the ball park (especially with 360 day years, but no matter).

The problem with the premillennial view comes in the all-important seventieth week, and it is twofold:

  1. Dispensationalism views the seventieth week as starting just after the rapture, at the onset the "great tribulation" wherein the antichrist has made a pact with Jerusalem, only to renege on the deal halfway through the week (3 ½ years). However, as we all know, the rapture has not yet occurred. This means the dispensationalist pre-trib pre-mill view has the first sixty-nine weeks as continuous, while for some reason there is a (two-thousand years and counting) gap between week sixty-nine and seventy, a gap that receives no mention whatsoever in scripture.
  2. The second problem is related to the first. The subject "he" in verse 27 is taken to be the antichrist, or the "prince" of verse 26. However the general rules of grammar hold that if a subject is ambiguous, then it is assumed to be the subject of the previous sentence. The antecedent of "he" in verse 27 is "the Messiah" of verse 26, not the "prince". Much like the construct:

    The man took the dog out in the morning. He picked up the newspaper.

    Here, absent further elaboration, we are compelled to assume that the "he" who picked up the newspaper was the man, not the dog.
For postmillennials and amillennials the "he" in verse 27 is Christ (You gotta love it, some say it’s Christ, some say its antichrist) and the half-week refers to Christ’s roughly 3 ½ year ministry. There is no "gap" between weeks sixty-nine and seventy.

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