~Daniel to the Nines~
Daniel 9 is one of the top two passages in the missionary arsenal. Although Isaiah 53 is their favorite go-to passage, there’s enough ambiguity that some Jews still do not seem to see Jesus in the text. With Daniel 9, though, we appear to have a clear date for his arrival and, possibly, his crucifixion.
Here’s how the King James Version (KJV) has the passage (verses 24-26), and although the KJV alters the text a little bit, it’s still a good source for our specific purpose today:
“ 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…”
In my experience, Christians will present this verse to declare that the Messiah had to arrive before the destruction of the Second Temple and usually stop there. Presumably because there is math involved and because we need to establish timelines, it’s not a passage many wish (or are able) to discuss in depth. Therefore, we need to examine this as simply as possible to determine if Jesus fits the passage, assuming we accept the Christian assertion that this speaks of the Messiah.
It’s important to understand that many prominent Christian apologists (such as Dr. Michael Brown) understand that the seventy “weeks” terminate with the destruction of the Temple in 70CE, which is how normative, classical Judaism understands the timeline as well. With that as our common ground, let’s examine the passage again:
“…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”
Summarily, 483 years after a given starting point, the Messiah (literally, “anointed one”) will arrive.
“And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself…”
And after a period of 434 years will this person be killed.
Again, for this article we are not dealing with translations or punctuation. Often the Christian who presents this passage will have little familiarity with Hebrew to understand the difference. Our goal is to clarify the passage using their understanding.
If we use the KJV, we see that although the period discusses a 70 “week” period (490 years), there appears to be some ambiguity: where do the 62 “weeks” in verse 26 belong? Are they the same 62 “weeks” from verse 25 or are they a different set? If we were to say that they are different than the previously-mentioned 62 “weeks,” then we have two serious problems.
First, this interpretation would suggest that the Messiah (who arrives after 69 “weeks” and dies after another 62 “weeks”) should have lived 434 years before dying. Should the Christian insist that this speaks of Jesus, then either he was born well before Herod (from Matthew 2) or the census of Quirinius/Caesar Agustus (Luke 2), or that he died well after the destruction of the Second Temple.
The second complication is that if this is a legitimate reading of the text, then we have a period of time much longer than 490 years (7 weeks + 62 weeks + 62 weeks + 1 week = 924 years), and the angel clearly told Daniel that it would be only 490 years, ending with that horrible time in 70CE.
Another possible reading is from the NIV, which reads, (verse 26) “after the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death….” The use of the word “the” before “sixty-two” indicates that these sixty-two are the same as the previous sixty-two (which is actually consistent with the Hebrew text, by the way). We then have two more questions to consider regarding the Christian view.
One question is simple: If these are the same 62 weeks, why does verse 25 combine them with the seven weeks? Verse 26 doesn’t say “after the sixty-nine weeks,” or even “after the sixty-two weeks and seven weeks;” it only mentions the sixty-two. This suggests that there are in fact three distinct periods making up the full 70 weeks: seven weeks, sixty-two weeks, and one week.
The second question is a little more complex. As stated above, Jews and most Christians agree the 490 years ends in the year 70. However we look at the timeline (69 and the same 62 or 69 and a new 62), the anointed one is to be cut off immediately before the final week commences, meaning that this anointed one should have died about the year 63. However, no one will say that Jesus lived that long: conservative estimates have Jesus dying before the year 35.
Thus, according to Christian readings of the text, we have a serious conundrum. Christians would have to argue that either A) Jesus was born 400 years before the gospels say he was, B) Jesus lived more than 400 years and was still alive when the Temple was destroyed, or C) that Jesus died in the year 63CE.
However we look at it, Jesus could not have been the subject of Daniel 9.