In my blog post today on Lee Harmon's Revelation: The Way It Happened, I'll be talking about the most difficult passage in Lee's book. I'll use as my starting-point Daniel 9:24-27. That passage says the following (according to the King James Version):
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: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy
the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood,
and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.
And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the
midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to
cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it
desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be
poured upon the desolate.
A significant number of
people who interpret this passage believe that a day here actually means
a year, and thus the seventy weeks are 490 years. You start counting
at "the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build
Jerusalem". People have different opinions about what that was, and
thus at what year we should start the count. Was it Ezra's
decree in II Chronicles 36:22-23 and Ezra 1:2-4 that allowed Jews to
return to their homeland, making the starting-year 538 B.C.E.? Was it
Artaxerxes' decree in Ezra 7 permitting Jews to return to their homeland
and to beautify the Temple, making the starting-year 458-457 B.C.E.?
Was it Artaxerxes' permission for Nehemiah to go to Jerusalem to rebuild
the city walls (Nehemiah 2:5-8), placing the starting-year at 445-444
B.C.E.? Or was it Jeremiah's prophecy that Jerusalem would be rebuilt,
putting the starting-year at around 597 B.C.E.?
458-457 B.C.E. starting-year works out best for a number of Christians,
for the count ends up in the first half of the first century C.E., which
was when Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again. For these
Christians, Jesus Christ was the Messiah the prince of Daniel 9:25, and
the Messiah who is cut off in Daniel 9:26. There are
Christians who even argue that Jesus was the one of Daniel 9:27 who
would cause sacrifices to cease, since Jesus, through his atoning death,
nullified the need for animal sacrifices. A number of
Christians regard Daniel 9:24-27 as a prophecy about Jesus
Christ----more, an exact prediction of when Jesus Christ would come and
What if you start your count with any of the other
starting-years? Where do you end up? Well, they take you to dead ends,
as Lee Harmon on his blog discusses in this post.
They're dead-ends in the sense that nothing spectacular happened at
those times. There was no Messianic sort of figure who died in those
A number of historical-critics argue that the
ending-point for Daniel 9 was intended to be the second century B.C.E.,
which was when Antiochus IV Epiphanes was desecrating the Temple,
prompting the Maccabees to revolt. The Messiah (or Anointed One) who is
cut off in Daniel 9:25 is often interpreted within this scenario as the
priest Onias III. The destruction of the city and the abomination of
desolation are interpreted in light of what Antiochus IV did.
This interpretation makes a degree of sense, for Daniel 7-12 does appear
to concern the time of Antiochus IV, for a variety of reasons. The
problem is that you don't end up in the time of Antiochus IV when you
count off from any of the proposed starting-years, the years decreeing
the rebuilding of Jerusalem. One attempt to solve this problem
is to say that the Jews in this case did not keep good track of time:
that they didn't know exactly how many years there were between the
decree and such events as the Messiah being cut off and the abomination
of desolation. Another solution I have heard is that the 490 years are
not literal but are formulaic or perhaps symbolic. Lee in this blog post offers
yet another proposal: that some of the years are concurrent (occurring
simultaneously) rather than consecutive (occurring one after the
other). According to this view, the forty-nine years (seven weeks) of
Daniel 9:25 are between the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E. and
Cyrus' decree around 537 B.C.E. that the Jews could return to
Jerusalem. The 62 weeks, or 434 years, of Daniel 9:25 are the time
between Jeremiah's prophecy of Jerusalem's restoration, which Jeremiah
made around the year 597 B.C.E., and 167 B.C.E., which is the time of
Antiochus IV. So the 49 years and the 434 years overlap. My problem,
however, is that I don't understand why Lee starts the count for the 49
years at 586 B.C.E., the year of Jerusalem's destruction. My impression
from Daniel 9:25 is that the count for the 49 years starts from the
decree to rebuild Jerusalem, not the year that Jerusalem was destroyed.
so the 490 years do not fit the Antiochus IV interpretation all that
well. Many conservative Christians would say that the 490 years fits
the Jesus Christ interpretation perfectly! But there are problems here,
which Lee discusses in Revelation: The Way It Happened.
So you start your count with Artaxerxes' decree in 458-457 B.C.E. The
Messiah, according to Daniel 9:25, comes 483 years later, which is 25-26
C.E., the time when Jesus was alive on earth. The thing is, near the
end of these 490 years from the decree to rebuild the Temple, something
else is supposed to happen: the destruction of the city and the
sanctuary. There are many Christians who apply this to the
destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.----"Christ fulfilled Daniel 9!",
they proclaim, "since Christ was crucified, and later Jerusalem and the
Temple were destroyed!" But there is a serious mathematical problem,
here. Daniel 9:24-27 appears to present the destruction of Jerusalem
and the sanctuary as occurring right after the Messiah has been cut off,
not over four decades later. If we interpret the destruction
of the city and sanctuary in Daniel 9:26 in reference to the events of
70 C.E., then we have more than 490 years: we have 528 years! But the
text says 490 years is allotted for all these things to take place.
In Lee's book, a Christian named Samuel and his son Matthew discuss these issues.
Matthew says that he heard from his tutor that Daniel 9:24-27 was about
Antiochus IV's desecration of the Temple, and the Jews' subsequent
purification of it. In this scenario, the events of Daniel 9:24-27 are
in the past, and they took place in close proximity with one another, as
the text seems to present. We then get into some speculation:
Perhaps the events of 70 C.E. did take place very soon after the death
of Jesus, but it was Jesus son of Ananus, the one in Josephus' Wars of the Jews 6:300ff (see Chapter 5 here) who predicted the fall of Jerusalem, four years before it happened.
don't think that Jesus son of Ananus would work as the Messiah of
Daniel 9, since he doesn't fit the 490 years. Again, 70 C.E. (or even a
few years earlier than that, which was when Jesus son of Ananus
preached) is much too late! In any case, it's when Lee talks about
Jesus son of Ananus that things start to get confusing. Lee
disagrees with the view that Jesus of Nazareth in Mark's Gospel was
"nothing more than a composite of several wartime historical characters"
(page 176), for Paul talks about Jesus decades prior to the Jewish
wars; thus, Lee believes that there was a historical Jesus of Nazareth.
But Lee does seem to argue that Mark's depiction of Jesus of Nazareth
was, on some level, based on John of Ananus, and Lee lists similarities
between the two: they were believed to be possessed by a demon,
they preached at the Temple, they "declared woes upon Jerusalem and the
temple", they were scourged, and they were silent when they were
chastened and when they appeared before an official. Moreover,
Lee appears to be suggesting that there are other Jesuses behind the
Jesus of New Testament theology: there is the high priest Jesus (or
Joshua) in the Book of Zechariah, who was one of the original two
witnesses, and there was Jesus son of Gamala, who could have been one of
the inspirations for the two witnesses in the Book of Revelation. Remember
that the two witnesses in Revelation 11 are killed, rise again
three-and-a-half days later, and go to heaven, and this is followed by
an earthquake. This sort of thing happens to Jesus in some of the
Gospels: he dies, rises from the dead three days later, and
ascends to heaven, and Matthew's Gospel mentions some earthquakes going
on during these events. I'm not sure whether Lee's on to
something, or if what we're seeing are mere coincidences or floating
motifs that are being applied to different people.
But let's get back to Daniel 9! Samuel
in Lee's book interprets Daniel 9:27 in this manner: we have the final
week of the seventy weeks, and this is seven days, or actually seven
years. The first three-and-a-half years are the events of the Jewish
war around 70: the abomination of desolation and the destruction of
Jerusalem and the Temple. The second three-and-a-half years are when
Jesus restores the Temple. Samuel refers to a saying that
appears on the lips of Jesus in John 2:19: "Destroy this temple, and in
three days I will raise it up" (this saying appears in a slightly
different form in Mark's Gospel, which is earlier; see Mark 14:58;
15:29). Samuel interprets this to mean that Jesus would rebuild
the Temple three years (remember, a day equals a year in Daniel 9)
after its destruction, which is similar to how he sees Daniel 9:27.
There are two questions that one can ask.
First, wasn't Jesus in John 2:19 referring to his own resurrection on
the third day, with the Temple representing his body? But that was in
the Gospel of John, which was later than the Book of Revelation, and was
also later than the setting for Samuel and Matthew's conversations in
Lee's book. Samuel does not know about this. According to Lee, Samuel
does not even know the stories about Jesus' bodily resurrection or
appearances. These stories would first appear in the Gospel of Matthew,
which has not been written yet. (The child Matthew has not yet grown up and written it.)
The Gospel of Mark, after all, simply ends with the tomb being empty,
and the women not telling anyone because they were afraid.
Second, Matthew in Lee's book asks: If Jesus were to rebuild the temple three or three-and-a-half years after its destruction, why hasn't he yet? The setting for Samuel and Matthew's conversations is nine years after the destruction of the temple.
Samuel replies that he doesn't know, but he speculates that the city
may have been rebuilt in heaven: it's already built, but it hasn't come
down to earth yet!
At this time, I'd like to quote the hardest passage in Lee's book. It's on pages 179-180:
did the Gospel of John come up with this idea, this alternative
interpretation of rebuilding the Temple? Well, in a curious way, it
parallels Revelation, which hints at an oral tradition, and some of
Paul's writings also compare our bodies to the Temple of God. Note that
Revelation actually specifies precisely three and a half days
(years?) before the resurrection of the three priests, which better fits
the vision of Daniel, if his 'rebuilding of the Temple' depicts the
resurrection of the body of Jesus. Daniel divided his final 'week' into
two three-and-a-half day/year periods. Jesus, the peasant prophet, and
Jesus, the resurrected priest, come together to tell the story of Jesus
of Nazareth, each contributing three and a half years/days to perfectly
fulfill the final week of the prophecy of Daniel, and John,
Revelation's author, can safely forget about the restoration of the
Temple promised in Daniel and Mark from then on."
I've read this
paragraph a number of times, and I still don't get it! Lee's still a
talented writer throughout the vast majority of this book, however.
And, even if I don't understand that one paragraph, I enjoyed reading
his discussion on Daniel 9:24-27, and the tangents where that led him.
The extreme improbability of one's own life
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