In my debates with anti-supernaturalists, when challenged to produce evidence for the supernatural, I have responded with Daniel's prophecy of the 70 `weeks' (Dn 9:24-27) as proof that Naturalism is false and Christianity is true!
[Above: The prophet Daniel, Michelangelo (1475-1564), Sistine Chapel]
In 605 BC Daniel was carried off to Babylon as a youth with members of the Jewish royalty and nobility (2Ki 24:1; Dn 1:1-6). Then in 586 BC the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and its temple (2Ki 24:17-25:21). The prophet Jeremiah had predicted that Jerusalem would become desolate and its people taken captive to Babylon for seventy years, after which Babylon would itself be made desolate and after the seventy years, and those carried off into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon would be brought back (Jer 25:11-12; 27:22; 29:10).
After Babylon itself fell to the Medo-Persians under Cyrus (Dn 5:1-31; 6:28) in 538 BC, it being nearly 70 years since the beginning of Jerusalem's destruction by the Babylonians in 605 BC, the aged Daniel prayed to God that His promise through Jeremiah "that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years," would be fulfilled (Dn 9:1-2), and in response God sent the angel Gabriel to Daniel to reveal to him the prophecy of the 70 `weeks' (Dn 9:20-23).
Liberal and other naturalistic (i.e. anti-supernaturalistic) scholars, realising that Daniel's prophecies, especially of events that transpired in the Maccabean period (167-164 BC), are so accurate, and since genuine predictive prophecy is impossible (on their naturalistic premises) they must be vaticinia ex eventu (prophecies after the event). However, the linguistic and archaeological evidence is decisively against this. Also, the historians Josephus (c. 37-100 AD), Tacitus (c. 55-120 AD) and Suetonius (c. 69-130 AD) , recorded that the Jews were expecting the fulfillment of a prophecy of a ruler to arise in the first century AD, and Daniel's 70 `weeks' seems to be what they had in mind.
The prophecy of the 70 `weeks' has three main components: 1) a starting point (terminus a quo) "From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem" (Dn 9:25); 2) a period of 70 `weeks' comprised of 7 + 62 + 1 `weeks' that would elapse from the starting point; and 3) an ending point (terminus ad quem) after the 69th `week' when "the Anointed One [Heb. Messiah], the ruler, comes", and is then "cut off" with the subsequent destruction of Jerusalem and the temple (Dn 9:26). Since the ending point 3) is a product of the starting point 1) and the time unit 2), all three components are here analysed under the three main claimed starting points.
STARTING POINT: "the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem" (Dn 9:25)
There are three main candidate decrees (Heb. dabar,"word") which have been claimed as starting points:
1. The decree of the first year of Cyrus I in 538/537 BC (2 Chr 36:23; Ezr 1:1-4. cf. Isa 44:28; 45:13). However, that decree refers only to the rebuilding of the temple, not of the city of Jerusalem. Also, if each `week' is seven years (see below), then 7 + 62 = 69 `weeks' to the coming of the Messiah is 483 years from 538/537 BC, i.e. 55/54 BC. But no Messiah came then, nor was Jerusalem or the temple destroyed soon after. Daniel would then have been a false prophet (Dt 18:21-22) and his book would not have been included in the Jewish Scriptures and we probably would never have heard of him. So that decree does not fit the Biblical or historical facts and therefore should be rejected. There is also the decree of the second year of Darius I Hystaspes in 520/519 BC (Ezr 4:24-6:15), but this was merely a confirming of Cyrus' decree that the temple be rebuilt.
2. The decree of the seventh year of Artaxerxes I Longimanus in 458/457 BC (Ezr 7:7-26). This decree included permission for "any of the Israelites ... including priests and Levites, who wish to go to Jerusalem with" Ezra, to go (v.14); Ezra to take with him "silver and gold" (vv.15-16) "to buy ... offerings ... and sacrifice them on the altar of the temple ... in Jerusalem" (vv.17, 21); Ezra "may then do whatever seems best with the rest of the silver and gold, in accordance with the will of ... God" (v.18. My emphasis); "articles ... for worship in the temple" (v.19); "anything else needed for the temple of ... God ... from the royal treasury" (v.20); "the treasurers of Trans-Euphrates ... have no authority to impose taxes ... on any of the priests ... or other workers at this house of God" (vv.21, 24); "Ezra ... [to] appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice ..." (v.25); with penalties up and including "death, banishment, confiscation of property, or imprisonment." (v.26). This all-embracing decree to "restore" (socially and religiously) and "rebuild" (physically) Jerusalem, included rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem: "The king had granted him [Ezra] everything he asked" (Ezr 7:6-7. My emphasis) and Nehemiah 13 years later in 445/444 BC was surprised and disappointed to hear that Jerusalem's wall and gates were still in their broken down and burned state (Neh 1:1-3). So while Ezra had authority to rebuild the city, it seems he was too busy with social and religious restoration to arrange for it to be done.
Also, if each `week' is seven years, then 69 `weeks' to the coming of the Messiah is 483 years from 458/457 BC, i.e. 26/27 AD. This is precisely the years of Jesus' baptism in 26 AD and the commencement of His public ministry in 27 AD (Mt 3:13-4:17; Mk 1:14-15)! A starting point of 457/458 BC would also fit the first seven `weeks' or 49 years to 408 BC, being the period of the rebuilding and restoring of Jerusalem covered in the books of Ezra-Nehemiah .
3. The decree of the twentieth year of Artaxerxes I Longimanus in 445/444 BC (Neh 2:1-4:23; 6:1-16) This decree was for permission for Nehemiah to take leave of absence and purchase a supply of timber to rebuild Jerusalem's wall and gates, not to restore and rebuild the city of Jerusalem itself. It really is just an enlargement and renewal of Artaxerxes' original decree to Ezra. The KJV's "the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times" (v.25) is a mistranslation, the Heb. harus rendered "wall" by the KJV was later found to mean "trench" or "moat". So there seems to be no good reason to focus exclusively on rebuilding Jerusalem's wall as though that is the same as "to restore and rebuild Jerusalem" (my emphasis).
Moreover, if each `week' is seven years, then 69 `weeks' to the coming of the Messiah is 483 years from 445/444 BC, i.e. 39/40 AD which is far too late for the coming of Jesus and indeed well after Jesus' crucifixion in 30 AD.. There have been two main attempts which each "involve an unusual chronological artifice" to try to shorten the time units to make this later starting point fit the historical facts of Jesus' life. The first uses 360-day "prophetic years", to arrive at "the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem" in 33 AD. But apart from the fact that there is no evidence of the Jews ever using anything other than ordinary 365-day solar years in their calendar, this is three years after the most likely year of Jesus' crucifixion in 30 AD, let alone His coming in 26/27 AD. Also, the first seven `weeks' following a 445/444 BC starting point does not correspond to the 49-year period of Ezra-Nehemiah 457/458 to 408 BC, since it starts well into that period. The second main attempt to reconcile a 445/444 BC starting point with significant events in the life of Jesus, is Robert C. Newman's Sabbath-year cycles. This suffers from the same problems of the 360-day year, with an additional problem that, as Newman acknowledges, "Daniel says `after the sixty-two weeks Messiah will be cut off,' whereas by our calculation the crucifixion occurs on the 62nd week (the 69th, adding the first seven)", that is "28-35 AD".
The second starting point, that of the decree of the seventh year of the Medo-Persian king Artaxerxes I Longimanus in 457/458 BC to Ezra, fits all the facts, both Biblical and historical. It was an all-embracing general decree to "restore and rebuild Jerusalem" itself, socially, spiritually and physically. It does not resort to "an unusual chronological artifice" but uses ordinary solar years. Also, only that decree as the starting point, makes sense of the first seven `weeks', being the period of the restoring and rebuilding Jerusalem under Ezra-Nehemiah.
Moreover, only that decree of 457/458 BC matches the historical facts of: 1) Jesus' public coming in His baptism and commencement of His public ministry at the end of the 69th `week', which was 26/27 AD; 2) then His being "cut off" at His crucifixion in 30 AD; 3) His confirming a new "covenant with many" by His death (Jer 31:31; Lk 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25; Heb. 8:8; 9:15; 12:24) which also 4) "put an end to [Old Testament] sacrifice and offering"; and finally 5) the consequent destruction of "the city and the sanctuary" by the Roman army led by Titus Vespasian in 70 AD. The Jewish historian Josephus, who survived that destruction of Jerusalem, realised that it was a fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy (evidently of the 70 `weeks') and therefore Epicureanism (Materialism-Naturalism) was false:
"And indeed it so came to pass, that our nation suffered these things under Antiochus Epiphanes, according to Daniel's vision, and what he wrote many years before they came to pass. In the very same manner Daniel also wrote concerning the Roman government, and that our country should be made desolate by them. All these things did this man leave in writing, as God had showed them to him, insomuch that such as read his prophecies, and see how they have been fulfilled, would wonder at the honor wherewith God honored Daniel; and may thence discover how the Epicureans are in an error, who cast Providence out of human life, and do not believe that God takes care of the affairs of the world, nor that the universe is governed and continued in being by that blessed and immortal nature, but say that the world is carried along of its own accord, without a ruler and a curator; which, were it destitute of a guide to conduct it, as they imagine, it would be like ships without pilots, which we see drowned by the winds, or like chariots without drivers, which are overturned; so would the world be dashed to pieces by its being carried without a Providence, and so perish, and come to nought. So that, by the aforementioned predictions of Daniel, those men seem to me very much to err from the truth, who determine that God exercises no providence over human affairs; for if that were the case, that the world went on by mechanical necessity, we should not see that all things would come to pass according to his prophecy."
Jesus is the only claimed Jewish Messiah who went on to found a world religion, yet it just so `happened' that Daniel six centuries before in 538 BC accurately predicted (using the most reasonable starting point and time unit): 1) the very year of the commencement Jesus' public ministry (26/27 AD); 2) His death in the middle of the 70th week (30 AD); 3) the establishment of a new covenant (the New Testament) by it; and 4) the consequent destruction of Jerusalem and the temple soon afterwards (70 AD). This is proof, beyond any reasonable doubt, that Naturalism is false and Christianity is true!
 See also my in-progress online project, "Daniel's prophecy of the seventy `weeks' (Dn 9:24-27)."[return]
 By "proof" I do not mean in a mathematical sense of "absolute certaintly" but in the scientific sense of "confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent" (Gould S.J., "Evolution as Fact and Theory," in "Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes," , Penguin: London, 1984, reprint, p.254).[return]
 By "Naturalism" I here mean both Materialism (matter is all there is = there is no God); and Naturalism (nature is all there is = there is no supernatural).[return]
 By "Christianity" I here mean, historic, orthodox, `mere' Christianity, "the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times" (Lewis, C.S., 1952, "Mere Christianity,"Fount: London, 1997, reprint, p.vi).[return]
 Hill, A.E. & Walton, J.H., 2000, "A Survey of the Old Testament," , Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, Second Edition, p.455; Barker, K., ed., 1985, "The NIV Study Bible," Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, p.1300.[return]
 Hill & Walton, 2000, p.455; Barker, p.1300.[return]
 Barker, 1985, pp.1164, 1169-1170.[return]
 "Darius the Mede" was either Cyrus' general Gubaru (Gobryas) who captured Babylon and governed it as Cyrus' viceroy (Archer, G.L., 1964, "A Survey of Old Testament Introduction," Moody Press: Chicago IL, 1966, p.372); or it was an alternative name of Cyrus himself (Thompson, J.A., 1982, "The Bible and Archaeology," , Eerdmans: Grand Rapids MI, Third Edition, p.200; Baldwin J.G., "Daniel: An Introduction and Commentary," Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester UK, 1978, p.27).[return]
 Finegan, J., 1964, "Handbook of Biblical Chronology," Princeton University Press: Princeton NJ, p.212.[return]
 La Sor W.S., Hubbard, D.A. & Bush, F.W., 1982, "Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament," Eerdmans: Grand Rapids MI, 1987, reprint, p.671.[return]
 Unger, M.F., 1966, "Unger's Bible Handbook: An Essential Guide to Understanding the Bible," Moody Press: Chicago IL, p.391; Millard A.R., 1986, "Daniel," in Bruce F.F., ed., "The International Bible Commentary," , Marshall Pickering/ Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, Second Edition, 1994, reprint, p.865.[return]
 This does not help the anti-supernaturalists explain away Daniel's 70 `weeks' since its fulfillment is in the first century AD, but they cannot claim it is any later than the second century BC, because the book of Daniel is in the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which was completed during the third and second centuries BC (Unger, M.F., 1969, "Unger's Bible Dictionary," , Moody Press: Chicago IL, Third edition, p.1147; Archer, 1964, p.38).[return]
 The language of Daniel is similar to known 5th and 6th century BC Hebrew and Aramaic (Harrison, R.K., 1969, "Introduction to the Old Testament,"Tyndale Press: London, 1970, reprint, p.1125; Hill & Walton, 2000, p.454). There are only three Greek loan words (Dn 3:5-15) and they are names of musical instruments, and there are Persian administrative loan words where their Greek counterparts would be expected if Daniel was composed in second century Palestine that had been under Greek rule since Alexander's conquest in 333 BC (Archer, 1964, p.375; Harrison, 1969, pp.1124-1126; Harris, R.L., 1957, "Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible: An Historical and Exegetical Study," Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, p.149).[return]
 "The evidence of the LXX and Qumran indicates that Daniel was in existence in its full form, and had been distributed over a relatively wide area, prior to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes [167-164BC]." (La Sor, et al., 1982, pp.666-667).[return]
 "But now, what did the most elevate them in undertaking this war, was an ambiguous oracle that was also found in their sacred writings, how, `about that time, one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth.' The Jews took this prediction to belong to themselves in particular, and many of the wise men were thereby deceived in their determination. Now this oracle certainly denoted the government of Vespasian, who was appointed emperor in Judea. However, it is not possible for men to avoid fate, although they see it beforehand. But these men interpreted some of these signals according to their own pleasure, and some of them they utterly despised, until their madness was demonstrated, both by the taking of their city and their own destruction." (Josephus, "Jewish War," 6.5.4, in Whiston, W., 1999, "The New Complete Works of Josephus," Kregel Publications: Grand Rapids MI, Revised Edition, p.899).[return]
 "The majority were convinced that the ancient scriptures of their priests alluded to the present as the very time when the Orient would triumph and from Judaea would go forth men destined to rule the world. This mysterious prophecy really referred to Vespasian and Titus, but the common people, true to the selfish ambitions of mankind, thought that this mighty destiny was reserved for them, and not even their calamities opened their eyes to the truth." (Tacitus, "The Jews," 5.13, in Wellesley, K., 1995, "Tacitus: The Histories," , Penguin: London, Revised, p.288).[return]
"An ancient superstition was current in the East, that out of Judaea at this time would come the rulers of the world. This prediction, as the event later proved, referred to a Roman Emperor, but the rebellious Jews, who read it as referring to themselves, murdered their Governor, routed the Governor of Syria when he came down to restore order, and captured an Eagle. To crush this uprising the Romans needed a strong army under an energetic commander, who could be trusted not to abuse his considerable powers. The choice fell on Vespasian. He had given signal proof of energy and nothing, it seemed, need be feared from a man of such modest antecedents. Two legions, with eight cavalry squadrons and ten auxiliary cohorts, were therefore dispatched to join the forces already in Judaea; and Vespasian took his elder son, Titus, to serve on his staff." (Suetonius, "Vespasian: Aftrerwards Deified," X.4, in Graves, R. & Grant, M., 2003, "Suetonius: The Twelve Caesars," , Penguin: London, Revised).[return]
 Newman, R.C., 1988, "The Time of the Messiah," in Newman R.C., ed., "The Evidence of Prophecy: Fulfilled Prediction as a Testimony to the Truth of Christianity," Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute: Hatfield PA, Fourth Printing, 1998, p.111; Newman, R.C., 1997, "Fulfilled Prophecy as Miracle," in Geivett, R.D. & Habermas, G.R., eds., "In Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case for God's Action in History," Apollos: Leicester UK, p.223; Newman, R.C., 2002, "The Time of the Messiah," , IBRI Research Report #9.[return]
 The Heb. shebu`im here is literally "sevens." (Harris, R.L., Archer, G.L. & Waltke, B.K., eds, 1980, "Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament," Moody Press: Chicago IL, 1992, Twelfth Printing, p.2:899). The Heb. here is masculine, whereas the normal gender of seven, as in a seven-day week, is feminine, thus indicating that time units other than ordinary seven-day weeks is here intended (Archer, G.L., 1982, "Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties," Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, p.289). Clearly ordinary weeks of seven days cannot be intended, because then after 70 weeks (i.e. about a year and four months) Daniel would have been discredited as a false prophet (Archer, G.L., "Daniel," in Gaebelein F.E., ed., "The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Daniel and the Minor Prophets," Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, 1985, Vol. 7, p.121).[return]
 Harris, et al., 1980, p.1:393; Archer, 1982, p.289.[return]
 Archer, 1982, p.290; Pusey E.B., "Daniel the Prophet. Nine Lectures, of the University of Oxford. With Copious Notes." Funk & Wagnalls: New York NY, 1885, p.189.[return]
 538/537 BC-483=55/54 BC.[return]
 This does not fit the liberal anti-supernaturalists' preferred "Anointed One," the High Priest Onias III, who was killed over a century later in 172 BC, and their preferred desecration of the temple by Antiochus IV Epiphanes which was in 167 BC (Millard, 1986, p.865; Lindsell, H., ed., 1964, "Harper Study Bible," Revised Standard Version, Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, p.1313).[return]
 Finegan, 1964, p.212.[return]
 Pusey, 1885, pp.188-189.[return]
 Finegan, 1964, p.213.[return]
 Archer, 1982, p.290.[return]
 Archer, 1985, p.114.[return]
 -458/457 BC +1+483 = 26/27 AD. The +1 is to adjust for there being no year zero between 1 BC and 1 AD (Newman, 1988, p.117; Archer, 1985, p.114)[return]
 Finegan, 1964, p.298; Pusey, 1885, p.189; Archer, 1964, p.387; Archer, 1982, p.291.[return]
 Lindsell, 1964, p.1313; Davis, J.D., 1966, "A Dictionary of the Bible," , Baker: Grand Rapids MI, Fourth Edition, p.163; Boice, J.M., 1989, "Daniel: An Expositional Commentary," Baker: Grand Rapids MI, p.100.[return]
 Archer, 1982, p.290; Archer, 1985, p.114.[return]
 Pusey, 1885, pp.188-189.[return]
 Harris, et al., 1980, p.1:326; Millard, 1986, p.864.[return]
 -445/444 BC +1+483 = 39/40 AD.[return]
 Finegan, 1964, p.300; Archer, 1985, p.114.[return]
 Davis, 1966, p.163.[return]
 Archer, 1985, p.115; Harris, 1957, p.151.[return]
 McDowell, J., 1988, "Evidence That Demands a Verdict," , Here's Life Publishers: San Bernardino CA, Revised Edition, Twenty-Ninth printing, Vol. I, p.173.[return]
 Archer, 1985, pp.115, 120.[return]
 Archer, 1985, pp.115-116; Finegan, 1964, p.300.[return]
 See note 31.[return]
 Newman, 1988; Newman, 1997, pp.223-224; Newman, 2002.[return]
 Newman, 1988, p.118 (emphasis in original). Newman argues that this is "a conventional Jewish idiom in which `after' means `after the beginning of'." But if "After the sixty-two 'sevens'" could mean "after the beginning of the sixty-two 'sevens'" then it could mean anytime within the sixty-two 'sevens'. So whatever "after" may mean in Jewish idiom elsewhere, here "After the sixty-two 'sevens'" must mean after the end of the "sixty-two 'sevens'", i.e. after the 69th `week', in the 70th `week'.[return]
 Young, E.J., 1949, "A Commentary on Daniel," The Banner of Truth Trust: Edinburgh, 1978, reprint, pp.206-221.[return]
 Josephus, "Jewish Antiquities," 10.11.7, in Whiston, 1999, p.357. My emphasis.[return]
 Newman, 1997, p.224.[return]
Copyright © 2005, Stephen E. Jones. All rights reserved.
Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol)