Did First Century Jews try to calculate Daniel’s 70 Weeks? If so what was the result?
As we announced in the last blog article about the identity of Darius the Mede (SEE LINK HERE), we have published my fourth and MOST IMPORTANT BOOK, 70 Times 7.
The book is one of the most radical and controversial eschatology books in the last ten years. It seems to refute many facets of our current understanding of Daniel’s prophecy. If that prophecy is the foundation of nearly all our interpretations of end time prophecy (and it is), disputing that understanding shakes up nearly every aspect of our insight of what is to come. This means that it refutes some of what I have previously taught and some of what nearly all other prophetic teachers have espoused. Needless to say, I’d like you to read and consider what this book has to say. You can learn more about this book at this link (READ HERE).
The following article is another sample of some of the new biblical interpretations available in the book.
The Mystery of Daniel’s 70 Weeks
The 70 Weeks Prophecy is rather unique. Given its importance, you would imagine that the Old Testament prophets and the writers of the Epistles would have each made reference to it, especially because it is the only prophecy that foretells the timing of the First Coming of Jesus. We can almost imagine the Apostle Paul alluding to it:
“But when the first 69 weeks were accomplished, God sent forth his son . . .” (fabricated quote of Paul)
But that is not what the Apostle said. He wrote, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son” (Gal. 4:4 ESV). In fact, Paul, Peter, John, and James never allude to these “weeks” mentioned by the prophet Daniel. The New Testament Epistles are completely silent on the “weeks.” Not only are the Epistles silent on this prophecy, but the other Old Testament prophets never refer to these mysterious 70 Weeks either.
You and I must ask why that is. If the 70 Weeks Prophecy is the most important prophecy in the Bible, what could have been God’s purpose for excluding it from being fully explained and referred to in the Old Testament and the Epistles? I mean, if I were living at the time of Peter and Paul, it would have been my “go to” prophecy to prove that Jesus was the Messiah. In fact, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the ancient rabbis pronounced a curse on all those who attempted to calculate the timing of the coming of Messiah based on the 70 Weeks Prophecy:
A Sage said: “May the curse of heaven fall upon those who calculate the date of the advent of the Messiah, and thus create political and social unrest among the people.”
— Sanhedrin, 97b
Some of our Rabbis, in a further attempt to keep us from Daniel, even state that Daniel was wrong. — Alfred Edersheim
Obviously, the rabbis feared that the 69 “weeks” of the prophecy had already past and that the 70 Weeks Prophecy was a direct link to and proof of the messiah-ship of Jesus. It was likely for this reason that they forbid calculating the first coming. In chapter six, we will discover that even the Jewish calendar was altered to avoid the obvious link between the 70 Weeks Prophecy and its fulfillment in Jesus.
The apostles would have known this concern of the Jewish authorities and would have realized what a powerful tool a fully realized prophecy like this could have been in the first century. However, Peter, who spoke the first sermon on Pentecost, never referred to it. John, who wrote the Book of Revelation, which contains over 500 known references to the Old Testament, doesn’t refer to this amazing prophecy one time. This is especially significant because most Christians believe the Book of Revelation is the Bible’s best account of the “Tribulation” or the seven-year period of time derived from the 70 Weeks Prophecy — the 70th Week of Daniel!
I have to conclude from this analysis that the 70 Weeks Prophecy is intentionally absent in the Epistles and in Revelation. I assume God didn’t want it fully explained at that point in time. None of us know the mind of God, and any attempt to figure out why the Lord did not inspire the writers of the Epistles to refer to the 70 Weeks Prophecy is conjecture.
However, we can guess. And in Chapter One of 70 Times 7, I present a theory why the Epistles and Old Testament are silent.
Did the Jews Calculate the 70 Weeks?
However, the references above clearly demonstrate that the Jews were attempting to calculate the prophecy. And these historic quotes are not the only references.
The Roman historian Tacitus made these comments about the first century Jews:
In most [of the Jews] there was a firm persuasion, that in the ancient records of their priests was contained a prediction of how at this very time the East was to grow powerful, and rulers, coming from Judea, were to acquire [a] universal empire. – Tacitus
Notice that Tacitus reported that most Jews believed in a prophecy that predicted a Jew would rule the world, and that it would happen at a specific time. His contemporary, Suetonius, reported that this belief had spread “all over the Orient (Middle East).” Not only did the Jews believe in this prophecy, but Josephus tells us they acted on it; that it was the primary driving force in causing them to revolt against Rome in AD 70.
But now, what did most elevate them in undertaking this war was an ambiguous oracle that was also found in their sacred writings, how “about that time, one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth.” The Jews took this prediction to belong to themselves in particular; and many of the wise men were thereby deceived in their determination. – Josephus
So not only did the first century Jews believe in the 70 Weeks Prophecy, they believed in it enough to go to war with the most powerful nation on earth. That is faith — misguided faith — but faith all the same.
There is also biblical evidence that the first century Jews had probably calculated the 69 Weeks and were watching for Messiah the Prince. In the Gospel of John, we see that prior to Jesus’s baptism, the Jewish authorities came to John the Baptist inquiring about Messianic issues:
The Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” (John 1:19-21 NASB)
Why were they inquiring if John was the Messiah or even Elijah (who was to proceed the Messiah)? Was it that they had been counting the 69 Weeks and they thought this might be the year that the Messiah was to arrive?
And there were false messiahs previously. In the Book of Acts, Rabbi Gamaliel had this to say about false messiahs:
For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. (Acts 5:35-37 NASB)
Judas of Galilee was a potential messiah candidate in 4 BC . Obviously, Theudas predated that era. Might these men have used the 70 Weeks Prophecy to support the case for being the messiah?
Did the prophecy influence the Magi who visited Jesus when he was a toddler? They may have been aware of the most likely end point of the prophecy. They then assumed that a man beginning his reign as King of Kings at 30 years of age would be born in a certain year. Is that why they watched the sky with special interest in that year?
Jesus, himself, seemed to expect that the Jews would have recognized him, in part, because this was the time of his visitation.
They will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation. (Luke 19:44 NASB, emphasis mine)
Jesus clearly expected the Jews of his day to recognize his First Coming. In fact, their subsequent punishment in AD 70 was predicated on their lack of recognition. How did he expect them to recognize the time of visitation? Possibly a major way was for them to calculate the 69 Weeks to Messiah. Just as Gabriel expected Daniel to understand the prophecy, Jesus expected the first century Jews to understand it as well.
They could only calculate this countdown if they understood the starting point, the ending point, and what the Weeks consisted of. In 70 Times 7, we present logical and likely answers to those questions.
So if many first century Jews missed the obvious, that Jesus was the Messiah, why did they later go to war, a suicidal war, based on this prophecy? We have no indications that they were following a messianic leader. No, it probably means that they realized they had reached the latest possible date for fulfillment of the prophecy. Perhaps they hoped their messiah would arise during the war; that the war would cause him to reveal himself.
Obviously, that did not happen. But, this concept that they likely felt AD 70 was the latest possible date for the prophecy offers us an amazing clue to validate the theory we will present in chapter six of 70 Times 7.
So we invite you to pick up a copy of 70 TImes 7 and explore this fascinating intersection of history and Scripture. Not only do we suggest a brand-new solution to the mystery that seems to perfectly solve the 70 Weeks (unlike all other previous solutions), it also provides a timetable for the historic celebration of Jubilee and sabbatical years!