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It is generally supposed that a week means a week of years, or seven years; for the Jews counted their years as well as days by sevens, the seventh being the sabbatic year. Levit. xxvi. 8.-The latter part of the time evidently applies to Antiochus, in whose days many Israelites "made a covenant with the heathen," by means of a licence obtained from the king, 1 Macc. i. 11-15. He occupied Jerusalem from the year 143 Seleucidæ, or of the kingdom of the Greeks, to 149 (B.C. 170-164), which might be about seven years, or a week of years; in the midst of which time, or towards the end of 145 (B.C. 168), the sanctuary was laid waste, "the abomination of desolation set upon the altar, and idol altars builded on every side," ver. 54. Compare these two verses with ver. 30-35, xi. Dan., which have been shewn to apply to Antiochus. It appears also from ch. xii. that the writer expected a great deliverance and a resurrection to come soon after the death of Antiochus, which agrees with the bringing in of everlasting righteousness in ver. 24; consequently the death of Antiochus is about the date to which the seventy weeks extend. The decree of Cyrus to rebuild the temple, which was considered to apply also to the city, (compare 1 Ezra with 1 Esdras iv. 63) was given B.C. 536, from which to the death of Antiochus we have 372 years. Since the writer calls this interval 70 weeks, or 490 years, we must conclude that he used a different chronology from ours.
What he meant by the Messiah or anointed prince is difficult to explain, since there was no person in Jewish history, from Cyrus to Antiochus, to whom the description applies. It seems probable that he meant an allegorical representative of the Jewish nation, in the same way as he speaks in the next chapter of the prince of Persia and the prince of Grecia; the term Messiah, or anointed, being applied to the prince of the Jews, to signify his superior holiness. As the coming of the prince of Grecia, x. 30,
appears to signify the beginning of the sovereignty of the Macedonians, so the coming of the anointed ruler, or of the rule of the anointed (ws XPIOTY nyoμevy), and his being cut off,* may signify the political regeneration of the Jewish nation under Nehemiah till its apparent extinction by Antiochus. During that interval Jerusalem was rebuilt, but the times were troublous. It is true that seven weeks, or forty-nine years, from B.C. 536, bring us to B.C. 487, which year was not distinguished by any remarkable event, being twenty years before the return under Ezra. But here again we must be content to remain in ignorance, from our not knowing the chronology used by the author.
It is not worth while to drag the reader through the endless commentaries on this prophecy: its difficulty is multiplied by the numerous readings both of the words and numbers which the different versions supply. Michaelis made a laborious investigation of these ; and by taking three successive periods of seventy weeks of years, seventy single years, and sixty-two years, he makes the desolation coincide with the beginning of the Jewish war, A.D. 66. But he admits that, in order to make even this explanation cohere, he was obliged to select several unusual readings, depending each on isolated manuscripts, and to adopt the somewhat improbable hypothesis that the years were lunar instead of solar years. He offers his explanation also as a very doubtful one.†
The point chiefly interesting to us is, whether the prophecy agrees with the time of Jesus Christ.
* Theodotion's version, which is that inserted in the modern copies of the Septuagint, gives εξολοθρευθήσεται χρισμα, the anointing shall perish.
† Jam ergo, si lubet, accipe a me, non versionem, sed dubitationes de Danielis vaticinio.-Mich. on Seventy Weeks, p. 5.
Now, from the decree of Cyrus Deduct 7 weeks or 49 years, and we are not near to Jesus Christ; take the 7 weeks and 62 weeks together, as some readings do, and deduct 69 weeks, or
a year which has no relation to Jesus Christ.
Sir Isaac Newton dates the commandment at Ezra's return with a body of Jews in the seventh year of Artaxerxes, or 4257 of the Julian period; 490 years, and we have
70 weeks, or 490 years, supposing them lunar years, are equal to 475 solar years
4747 or A.D. 34, when (or in A.D. 33) Christ was crucified. And he makes ver. 25 refer to a rebuilding yet to come, and a second coming of Christ.
Others follow Africanus in dating from the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, when Nehemiah came to Jerusalem B.C. 445
which is within a few years of the common date of Christ's death.
But in these explanations it is obvious that the date of the decree is fixed arbitrarily, in order to make the 70 weeks, or 69 weeks, fall in with Christ's death. For it is unnatural to suppose that any other decree could be meant than that of Cyrus, which was given at the time when Daniel is said to be praying.
The text concerning the cutting off of the Messiah is not quoted by the Apostles, which would lead us to suppose that our common reading does not give the sense received in their time. But even if it were the true reading, it might be applied to any other pretender to the
messiahship who was put to death, as well as to Jesus. And this is the only coincidence worth noticing. For Jerusalem was taken and profaned many times; and the description of the actions of Antiochus must naturally apply in part to those of the Romans. But the desolation which they made under Titus was not immediately after the cutting off of Jesus Christ, but thirty-seven years later.
The strong internal evidence that the prophetic parts of Daniel were written about the time of Antiochus is not counterbalanced by any external evidence, as may be seen in the review of the arguments on this point in the fourteenth chapter of Bishop Newton's Dissertations.
Although we be convinced by this examination of the book of Daniel, that it contains no prophecies concerning Jesus Christ, we can at the same time perceive how the disciples were led to draw from it, especially after the fall of Jerusalem, a strong confirmation of his claims. They knew little or nothing concerning Antiochus, and therefore parts of the book seemed to point to the events of their own day, which did in reality somewhat resemble those in the time of Antiochus. Moreover, Jesus himself assumed the title of Son of Man, given to the allegorical representative of the Jewish nation, in Daniel. Add to this the text which admitted of the sense that the Messiah was to be cut off, and we need not be surprised that more searching critics than the Apostles should have considered this book as the sure word of prophecy. But to the reader who will take the trouble to compare one part with another, in the manner here pursued, it is left to determine whether such a conclusion does not rest upon a total perversion of the real meaning of the book.
WHETHER JESUS FORETOLD HIS OWN DEATH AND
MATTHEW says, xvi. 21, xvi. 21, "From that time forth," (viz. soon after Herod sought to apprehend Jesus,) began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders, and chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day." And again, xx. 17, "And Jesus going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, Behold we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him and the third day he shall rise again." Similar predictions occur, Matt. xvi. 24, xvii. 22, xxvi. 2, xxvi. 32. "But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee." Mark viii. 31, ix. 9, 31, x. 32, xiv. 28. Luke ix. 22, 44, xiii. 33, xviii. 31. John vii. 8, viii. 28, &c.
This was speaking so plainly that we cannot imagine how the disciples could have misunderstood him. However firm might have been their first expectation of a temporal messiah, they must have been strangely inattentive not to be prepared for things of which they had been warned so often and so clearly. As the history stands, they seem to have treated the admonitions of Jesus on such interesting points with a carelessness almost irre