Hard Evidence for a Supernatural Book, Part 7: Trifecta!
Read the series.
So we’ve seen that Daniel’s specific prophecy of the rise and fall of Alexander the Great was at best very unlikely to have been written after Alexander’s death in 323 BC; and if Daniel describes Antiochus IV in chapter 11, then the skeptic’s position is even less likely. Daniel is accurately predicting future events, not faking it.
What say we go ahead and dispense with the skeptic’s position? How about if we demonstrate that it’s just impossible?
OK, at your insistence.
Daniel makes another prophecy. He speaks of a series of “weeks” yet to come (Daniel 9.25-27). After 7 weeks, followed by 62 weeks, Messiah shall “be cut off” (v 26). Now, that’s a surprising statement, because Messiah is pictured in much of the OT as a victorious king (1Sam 2.10; Ps 2.2; 20.6; Hab 3.13); the term is metaphorically applied more than once to strong kings (2Sam 22.51; Ps 132.17; Isa 45.1). What’s this about being “cut off”?
And when will it happen? At the end of 69 “weeks,” Daniel says. Most interpreters take the word week (which is just the Hebrew word seven) to refer to a period of 7 years (compare Gen 29.27). That would make 69 weeks a period of 483 years.
So Daniel says Messiah will be “cut off” 483 years after something. After what? After “the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem” (Dan 9.25). When was that?
Well, there were actually several events that he might be referring to. We already know that Cyrus gave the Jews permission to return to Jerusalem in 538 BC. That proclamation included the commandment to “build the house of the Lord God of Israel … which is in Jerusalem” (Ezra 1.3). So that could be it, though it doesn’t include a command to build the city itself.
In 458 BC, Artaxerxes gave Ezra permission to take more Jews back to Jerusalem (Ezra 7.11-26) and to set up the priestly (Ezra 7.17) and judicial systems (Ezra 7.25-26). Artaxerxes also doesn’t mention building the city, but he does specify that Ezra can use treasury money for anything else that seemed good to him (Ezra 7.18), including but not limited to “whatever else is required for the house of your God” (Ezra 7.20).
In 445 BC the same Artaxerxes also gave Nehemiah permission to return to Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2.5-8). We know that Nehemiah used this trip to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls (Nehemiah 2.17).
So which one is it?
There are well-regarded scholars who argue for each of these. But I’d suggest that the middle one seems most likely. Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the walls in 445 seems to presume that there’s already something worth protecting inside. And Ezra’s large group of returnees (Ezra 2.64-65) surely would have built sufficient housing.
So what’s 483 years after 458 BC? Somewhere around AD 35.
I say “somewhere around” because getting more precise than this is little difficult, for at least three reasons. First, we use a solar year (365.25 days), and most of the ancient world used a lunar year (360 days) with various adjustments as needed for accuracy, so coordinating our calendar with the Babylonian and Hebrew calendars involves some work. Second, there’s some discussion among scholars over whether the verb “cut off” might refer to an event other than Messiah’s physical death. And finally, scholars disagree over the year of Jesus’ death; common assertions range from AD 30 to AD 36. So this is as close as we’re going to get with any degree of certainty at this point.
But seriously. Are we going to ignore the fact that Daniel predicted the date of Messiah’s death? What are the odds of that?
And what about the skeptic’s standard fallback? Prophecy is impossible, so the passage must have been written after the fact and passed off as an earlier document. Not even the skeptics attempt that one here, because it’s just impossible. The book of Daniel was certainly in the Hebrew Scriptures before the death of Christ; Jesus even refers to this very passage from Daniel (Dan 9.27; also Dan 11.31) in his Olivet Discourse (Matt 24.15) and refers to another passage (Dan 7.13) in his trial before Caiaphas (Mat 26.64).
So. A specific, numeric prophecy of a significant event, fulfilled.
Again, you can reject the Bible if you want to. You can consider it merely an ancient writing of an interesting but misguided people. But you cannot do so—legitimately—without dealing with the evidence.
Reposted with permission from Danolinger.com.
Dan Olinger Bio
Dr. Dan Olinger has taught at Bob Jones University since 2000, following 19 years as a writer, editor, and supervisor at BJU Press. He teaches courses in theology, New Testament, and Old Testament, with special interests in ecclesiology and the Pauline Epistles.
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