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Fulfillment of Daniel's Sixty-nine Week Prophecy

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In previous articles, Biblical and secular, historical evidence was examined to demonstrate Christ's crucifixion was not on a Friday, but rather it was a Thursday. Further data was explored to determine that A.D. 31 was the actual year of His death.

However, there is still another Scriptural test. For A.D. April 31 to be the acceptable date of the crucifixion, it must be true to Daniel’s seventy weeks prophecy. Daniel 9:24-26a says:

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself.

This prophecy refers to the death of the Messiah and predicts that it would occur seven weeks and then another sixty-two weeks after the commandment to rebuild Jerusalem was issued. When Daniel wrote this prophecy, Jerusalem lay in ruins, having been destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar years earlier. Daniel himself was a captive from a previous invasion (Daniel chapter 1) and he was now in the service of Darius the Mede. (Daniel 9:1)

Scholars agree the meaning of the term “weeks” is seven years. So, Daniel is being told that Messiah will be cut off after seven weeks (or seven sets of seven years) and sixty-two weeks (or sixty-two sets of seven years). This totals to sixty-nine sets of seven years, which comes out to 483 years.

From Nehemiah chapter 2, it is known that in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, a decree went out to rebuild Jerusalem. Due to archeological finds of tablets that date Artaxerxes’ reign not only with Babylonian dates, but also with astronomical observations that allow his reign to be pinpointed in time with science, historians are confident that the twentieth year of Artaxerxes’ reign was the year 445 B.C. [1] So it would seem that all one would have to do is add the 483 years of Daniel’s prophecy to 445 B.C. to determine the predicted date of when Messiah would be cut off. But it’s not that simple, for the modern, 365-day calendar year has to be adjusted to a Jewish prophetic year, which is only 360 days.

The length of the prophetic year is revealed in Revelation 12:6.14:

And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days … And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.

Here, the term “time” is equal to one year. So a time (1 year), plus times (plural, so 2 years), plus half a time (half of a year) equals 3 ½ years. Considering a prophetic year is 360 days, then 3 ½ years times 360 days gives 1,260 days – exactly what is written in verse 6. (See another example in Daniel 12:12 as it relates to the prophecy given in Daniel 9:27.)

Therefore, to understand Daniel’s prophecy correctly, one must determine how many days are in 483 prophetic years. Well, 483 years times 360 days is 173,880 total days. This has been documented in great detail, most notably by Sir Robert Anderson in his book The Coming Prince. Anderson used the passage from Nehemiah as his starting point of the beginning of Daniel's prophecy. With the assistance of the Royal Observatory, Anderson discerned that the first of Nisan in 445 B.C. was March 14th. After adding 173,880 days, Anderson came up with A.D. April 6, 32, which would have been Palm Sunday that year. That perfectly satisfied Anderson for his purposes as he held to the traditional belief that Jesus was crucified on Friday. (See Chapter X of The Coming Prince for his reasoning.)

But since the crucifixion could not have been on a Friday, Anderson’s A.D. 32 conclusions must be dismissed and a different beginning point must be determined for a reason that is logical and can be supported by both the Scriptures and secular history.

The first thing that should be considered is Nehemiah’s accounting of time. Could he be referring to a year other than 445 B.C.? It's very probable because of the difference between Jewish and Babylonian regnal years.

In Babylon, the years of a king’s reign were counted from the first new year’s day after he became king, but in Israel, the year he became king was also included in the reckoning. [2] The Rabbis explained this difference of accounting in the Mishnah. They described the first of Nisan as, “The new year for kings and festivals.” The basic meaning of this statement is that the reign of a Jewish king was always counted from the first of Nisan. In other words, if the king had ascended to the throne on the first of Adar (the last month of the year and the month just before Nisan), one month later it would be considered that he was entering his second year. [3] The Mishnah makes it a point that the Jewish system was done deliberately to distinguish them from all other nations. [3]

As an example from history, Nebuchadnezzar was crowned the new king of Babylon on September 7, 605 B.C. When Nisan 1, 604 B.C. came around, the Babylonians would have said that he was in the first year of his reign, while the Jews would have reckoned it as his second year.

For a Scriptural example of this, in chapter 1, Daniel recorded, “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.” But prior to the siege, Jeremiah in chapter 25 said of the year of Jehoiakim’s reign, “The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that was the first year of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon.” Jeremiah indicated this was the fourth year of Jehoiakim, while Daniel has it as the third year. Thus, Jeremiah, writing in Israel, counted four years, while Daniel, writing in Babylon, used the Babylonian system of reckoning and so did not count the part of the year in which Jehoiakim ascended to the throne.

Take a hypothetical example from today. It’s late in the season and a player on your favorite sports team gets injured, so a new player is added to the team’s roster. The season ends and everyone goes home. A few months later, the new season begins and the new player returns and remains on the team. Even though he has not reached his one-year anniversary with the team, most fans would say that he is in his second year.

Now, back to the seventy weeks. Nehemiah stands before King Artaxerxes on the month of Nisan. In Babylonian reckoning, it’s the 19th year of Artaxerxes, but for the Jews, it’s his 20th year. Nehemiah (who would have been familiar with both ways of reckoning the reign of a king) and was more than likely writing for those whom he governed in Israel, (especially when you consider the book of Nehemiah was written in Hebrew and not in Aramaic or Persian) would have used the system common to them. Therefore, using the Jewish system, he would have reckoned King Artexerxes’ 20th year one year earlier than secular historians do (since archeology uses the Babylonian records), and that would mean that the decree went forward to rebuild Jerusalem in 446 B.C.

In 446 B.C., the 1st of Nisan fell on March 25th. Tradition has it that if the day of the month is missing in Jewish writing, then assume the first of the month. But does that mean the decree went forth on that day? Nowhere in the Bible does Nehemiah specify that the decree went forward on the 1st of Nisan. He only states, “it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king.” And even then, he is speaking of when he was performing his duties as cupbearer when he “took up the wine, and gave it unto the king.” He presents his petition to go to “Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it,” after the king asks him why his appearance was so sad. It would take letters to formalize the decree and, as with any bureaucracy, those letters would take time to produce. There is also no reason to believe that the conversation he had with the king in 2:7,8 occurred on the same day as the events in 2:1-4. Nehemiah would have to consider exactly what he wanted the king to grant, how long he would be gone; the letters would have to be written and approved by Nehemiah; and only after that would the original and archival copies be brought to the king for his approval and signature/seal. Of course, you can’t just bring a document to the king anytime you want. He has official and personal travel, other duties and festivals he must attend, and many other matters of government to oversee. So, it is no stretch to believe that the actual decree was not signed until the 12th of Nisan (or April 5, 446 B.C.).

Before you dismiss the possibility of the decree not being signed until the 12th of Nisan, look at another Biblical example that will give credibility to this analysis. The passage comes from the book of Esther. Esther lived during the reign of King Ahasuerus, better known as King Xerxes. His son was the Artaxerxes during Nehemiah’s time and it would be reasonable to believe that the administrations of both kings were run similarly.

In Esther 3, the Bible says:

In the first month, that is, the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of king Ahasuerus, they cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman from day to day, and from month to month, to the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar … Then were the king’s scribes called on the thirteenth day of the first month, and there was written according to all that Haman had commanded unto the king’s lieutenants, and to the governors that were over every province, and to the rulers of every people of every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language; in the name of king Ahasuerus was it written, and sealed with the king’s ring (Esther 3:7,12).

Notice here that the day of the month is not given at the first mention of the month of Nisan, so as with the passage from Nehemiah, it is assumed they cast the lot on the first of Nisan. And then notice that the actual decree wasn’t written and sealed until the 13th of Nisan. Therefore, it is highly probable that the signing of Nehemiah’s decree was delayed – possibly until the 12th of Nisan.

By using a computer program on the Internet, the number of days can be calculated between April 5, 446 B.C. and April 26, 31 A.D. [4] The difference? It is exactly 173,880 days or the 69 weeks in Daniel’s prophecy! Thus, 483 prophetic years after the decree was signed, Jesus Christ, the Messiah was cut off, but not for Himself. Even though sinless, He was crucified for the sins of the world in A.D. 31 on a Thursday.

{1] Carl Olof Jonsson, “The 20th Year Of Artaxerxes And The "Seventy Weeks" Of Daniel”, Christian Freedom Association, 2003, http://user.tninet.se/~oof408u/fkf/english/artaxerxes.htm

[2] Grace Ministries English Study Bible, first edition, notes to Daniel 1:1, pg. 1135

[3] Harav Yitzchak Ginsburg, “The Month of Nisan: Head Over Heels”, Authentic Jewish Mysticism and Thought, http://www.inner.org/times/nisan/E68-06B28.php

[4] “Calendar Stats”, The Shepherd’s Page, http://www.abdicate.net/cal.aspx

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