Author: Ron Graham
Daniel’s Seventy Weeks
—Weaknesses of the Day-Means-Year theory
In our previous lesson we saw that there is no hint in scripture of a "parenthesis in prophecy" where the prophecy clock was stopped for 2000 years. To help you grasp the problem of the stopped-clock theory better, let’s look at the famous "70 weeks" of Daniel 9.
1 The Day-Means-Year Theory
Daniel makes certain references to time periods such as...
- the 70 weeks of Daniel 9:25 (the topic of this lesson),
- the "time, times, and dividing of times" in Daniel 7:25
- the periods of days In Daniel 12:11-12
It is often asserted, even taken for granted, that in these passages a "day" or a "time" really means a year.
In order to support this day-means-year theory, certain verses are taken out of context on the ground that God "hid" them in the text of the Old Testament as clues to crack Gabriel’s "code" in Daniel. Such texts are: Leviticus 25:8, Numbers 14:34, Ezekiel 4:5-6, Daniel 4:33-34. There is no warrant for misapplying these scriptures to change Gabriel’s symbolic "seventy weeks" into a literal 490 years.
Attempts to correlate the symbolic numbers in visions mathematically with actual length of the times and seasons they represent causes a great deal of confusion.
2 The Gap Theory
According to premillennial teaching, the first 69 of Daniel’s 70 weeks were consecutive but not the 70th. Premillennialists say...
- The 69 weeks means 483 years and bring us to the time of Christ
- However 70th week (the final 7 years) did not then come to pass
- Instead, the prophecy clock stopped
- There began a gap or "parenthesis" in prophecy
- The 70th week has waited about 2000 years to occur in our generation
In this way, premillennialists cut the 70th week out of the past and paste it into our own time.
3 Problems With the Theories
Now for further explanation, I will summarise seven serious problems with the theories we are discussing. You might have to read these remarks more than once because they are not all that easy to grasp...
As previously mentioned, the "day means year" theory is supposedly derived from texts in which days meant years (Leviticus 25:8, Numbers 14:34, Ezekiel 4:5-6).
Note however, that in those texts, the days that represented years were real days in which real events took place to symbolize future years and events.
Regarding Daniel’s seventy weeks, premillennialists don't cite 490 real days nor any real events in them. Therefore their treatment of the passage is arbitrary and not in the pattern or principle of the "day means year" texts.
The day-means-year theory is not consistent with the premillennial view that prophecy should be taken literally. The term "seventy weeks" is not taken to mean a literal 490 days. Rather it is taken as code for 490 years.
Jesus placed the 70th week’s "abomination of desolation" in the siege and destruction of Jerusalem which occurred in AD 70 (Matthew 24:15; Luke 21:20). This is too late to fit the day-means-year theory.
The starting point of the 70 weeks is "From the issuing of a decree to rebuild Jerusalem" 1 (Daniel 9:25). However the date of that decree (536 BC) is far too early to fit the day-means-year theory.
Some say that the date given above is wrong by the number of years required to make the date of Cyrus's decree fit their scheme. This makes the day-means-year theory depend on a “corrected” chronology. Theory is built upon theory just to preserve the unnecessary idea of a day-means-year code.
In fact, the historic dates are always going to be questionable and it is unwise to make an interpretation of prophecy depend upon them.
The prophecy in Daniel gives no indication that the 70th week is disconnected from the 69th week by 2000 years. There is nothing to support the idea that, whilst the 69 weeks led up to Christ’s first coming, the 70th week is different and leads up to his second advent, not his first.
There is nothing to support the claim that "after the 62 weeks" (Daniel 9:26) means 2000 years after. This is an invention.
If Jesus failed the first time, why might he not fail the second time, making another parenthesis and a yet another advent necessary?
The idea that God’s clock of prophecy stopped unexpectedly 2000 years ago, and is only now starting to tick again, is an idea that relegates the church of Christ to a stop-gap rather than recognising the church as the true kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13-20; Ephesians1:18-23).
The Decree to Rebuild Jerusalem
The phrase in Daniel 9:25, "From the Issuing of a decree to rebuild Jerusalem" presents a problem to interpreters because there were several decrees.
Cyrus gave the original decree around 536 BC (Ezra 1.:l). Isaiah predicted this more than a century earlier (Isaiah 44:28). Ezra seems to say that Jeremiah had also predicted it (Ezra 1:1-2).
Under the Persian constitution this decree by Cyrus could never be revoked (Daniel 6:8). Successors of Cyrus were therefore bound to keep it in the law books.
Cambyses shelved it circa 530 BC (Ezra 4).
Darius dusted it off (Ezra 6). In his reign the temple was rebuilt about 516 BC (Ezra 7:15).
Artaxerxes Longimanus issued decrees supporting Ezra about 458 BC and Nehemiah about 444 BC in their rebuilding of Jerusalem's wall (Ezra 7, Nehemiah 2). The city was far from rebuilt yet lacking even houses (Nehemiah 7: 4).
So in a century of decree-making, it's anybody's guess which decree Daniel meant.
Longimanus's decree in 458 BC is not very significant as the decrees went, but it is favoured by premillennialists because its timing seems to be right when they work out their sums: change the 69 weeks of Daniel 9 to 483 days, call them 483 years, subtract them from 458 BC and you get 26 AD.
That is around the time of Christ’s peak of activity. There is enough uncertainty about the exactness of the dates that you can juggle a year or two if need be.
However there's no reason to ignore the original and primary decree made by Cyrus, and arbitrarily choose a secondary and less important decree —except to shore up the unfounded theory.
Some say that the dates given above are wrong by eighty or more years, and correcting this error places the starting date at Cyrus’s decree. This makes the day-means-year theory rest on an argument about dates in profane history, rather than about what the scriptures actually say.