THE SEVENTY WEEKS
A great variety of opinions have been published upon this interesting period; it would be impossible to enumerate them all, and it will be sufficient to allude to those which illustrate Calvin's assertions. The titled author of "The Times of Daniel" writes as follows, -- "I endeavored to shew in the chronology that there were two periods of seventy years, -- one, the service of Babylon, the other the desolation of Jerusalem, and that the desolation's terminated with the first year of Darius Nothus. I hope to establish presently that the termination of each of these periods is a fresh epoch," page 400. "The decree dates from the time of Daniel's prayer. The command came forth, therefore, in the first year of Darius son of Ahasuerus," page 402. He then strongly approves of the rendering of the passage by Hengstenberg. "Seventy weeks are cut off over thy people and over thy holy city." Exactly Calvin's use of the preposition super. And he adds, most Commentators observe that "cut off" is used figuratively for determined. Mede is also quoted to the same effect, works, fol. page 497. I am still able to follow Dr. Hengstenberg in the following clause, "to restrain transgression and to seal sin." All senses of the verb, says he, unite in that of restraining. To seal sin, holds forth God's judicial hardening of persons in sin. This passage, the Duke thinks, was fulfilled "before the passover, in the year a.d. 67." The terminus a quo is said to be the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, whose date is given in Ptolemy's Canon An. Nabonassar 325, which, according to the method of verifying the date here used, is b.c. 424, "which, added to the year when apostasy was no longer restrained, a.d. 66, makes 70 weeks or 490 years." Original views of the "sealing" and the sixty-two weeks are also proposed, to which we can only refer: see pages 410-422. The closing calculation, that "we may look for the cleansing of the sanctuary a.d. 1877," is so adverse to the interpretation of these Lectures, that we must be content with this passing allusion to it.
The opinions of certaii1 celebrated writers upon this point are here collected. Clement of Alexandria, according to the late Bishop of Lincoln, page 383, explains it thus: "The Temple was rebuilt in seven weeks: then, after an interval of sixty-two weeks, the Messiah came. then, after an interval of half a week, Nero placed an abomination in the Temple of Jerusalem: and, after another half-week, the Temple was destroyed by Vespasian." Theodoret closes the period three years and a half after the suffering of Christ: "and so they begin the last week at the baptism of Christ," says Willet. He quotes Zonaras, tom. 1, Annal., who commences the period at the 20th year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, and ends the 62 weeks at the death of Hyrcanus. From this point to Christ's baptism they reckon seven weeks more, and then in the midst of the last week, Messiah was slain; so there remained afterwards three years and a half for the preaching of the Gospel. Eusebius begins the 69 weeks in the sixth year of Darius Itystaspes, and ends them in the first year of Herod, about the death of Hyrcanus. He begins the 70th week at Christ's baptism, and ends the period three years and a half afterwards. Tertullian, by beginning in the first year of Darius, counts 490 years, to the destruction of Jerusalem.
OEcolampadius confesses this passage to be one of the most difficult in Scripture, and can scarcely satisfy himself with any solution. He rather unwisely introduces chronological tables of the events of Scripture, from Adam to the time of the Herods. "With Christ," he says, "is the fullness of the times and the completion of the seventy weeks." He quotes the expressions of Jewish authorities, and refers to the cruelty of Herod, and the anointing of Jesus as Messiah. "They are not weeks of days, or of jubilees, or of ages," he asserts, but of years. They most probably begin at either the first year of Cyrus, or the second of Darius. He calculates it both ways: the first period closing at the death of Antiochus the brother of Alexander, and the other at the reign of Herod. He afterwards adopts the division of this period into three parts, and explains his method of reckoning the seven weeks. The question is discussed with great judgment, and its perusal will amply repay the attentive student of this remarkable prophecy.
J. D. Michaelis has elucidated this subject, in a letter to Sir John Pringle, which the English reader will find noticed in the Monthly Review, O. S., volume 49, page 263 and following. Dr. Blayney, in a Dissertation, Oxford, 1775, 4to, contradicts the Professor's opinions: see Monthly Review, O. S., volume 52, page 487 and following. John Uri also published at Oxford, 1788, an "Interpretation, paraphrase, and computation of this passage." Faber's well-known Dissertation, London, 1811, only needs to be mentioned to be valued; while that of Dr. Stonard, London, 1826, is exceedingly elaborate, being a masterly scholastic work. Dr. Wells has prefixed to his "Help to the Understanding of Daniel," some observations on the chronology of this prophecy. From him we learn the different methods of Scaliger, Mede, and Bishop Lloyd, while his own paraphrase and his solution of some of the difficulties in the schemes of preceding writers, are worthy of attentive perusal. Willet presents us with "The several interpretations of Daniel's seventy weeks dispersedly handled before, summed together," in his 55th question on this chapter, and continues the subject through the ten succeeding questions. From his comments, we ascertain the views of J. .Lucidus, lib. 7, De emendatione teenporis, Osiander, Junius, Montanus in apparat., lib. Dan., and others. His remarks on Calvin are worthy of notice here. "M. Calvin beginneth these years in the first year of Cyrus, and endeth them in the sixth of Darius the son of Hystaspes, the third king of Persia; but this cannot be; for they that give the most years unto Cyrus and Cambyses, allow but the one 30 and the other seven; excepting only Luther, who following Eusebius De Demon. Evan., giveth to each of them 20 years. Then add the six years of Darius, they will make but 43. How, then, can the seven weeks be here fulfilled? Beside, that Darius, in whose sixth (year), the Temple was re-edified, called Darius of Persia, was not Darius Hystaspes the third king of Persia; but before this Darius, three other kings are named Cyrus, Assuerus, Artashasht, Ezra 4:6, 7." This reference to Calvin occurs in his 58th question, -- "When the term of seven weeks, that is 49 years began and when it ended," page 323, Edit., 1610. One remark of Wintle's is most important, as its correctness vindicates Calvin from every charge of inconsistency in his interpretation of these prophecies. "The original word rendered weeks throughout the prophecy, strictly signifies sevens, which word is adopted in Purver's translation, and may be referred either to days or years." Professor Jahn also adopts the same correct and simple translation, and his satisfactory criticism is found in his Appendix to Enchir. Hermen., Fasc. 1, page 124 and following. Vienna, 1813. The subject is also discussed by the present Editor, in his Norristan Prize Essay for 1834, page 81.Dathe also, in his Prophetic Majores, Edit. 3d., Halae, 1831, translates as follows, "The seventy, yea the seventy, are drawing to a close." The only difference in the original is in the pointing of the Masorets; and thus the chronology which they introduced, requires all the ingenious apparatus of the profound astronomy of Sir Isaac Newton to reconcile it with the historical facts. See his Observations on the Prophecies of Daniel, part 1, chapter. 10. Archbishop Seeker has dwelt much on this point, and every commentator on the Prophet has treated it with more or less wisdom and discretion. Wintle is on the whole very judicious. Professor Lee's translation of the passage, and explanation of the Hebrew words, is exceedingly valuable. His exegetical comments admit of some variety of opinion as to their value. The seventy weeks, says he, were not "to be considered chronological in any sense, but only to name an indefinite period, the events of which, as in most similar cases, should make all sufficiently clear," Bk. 2, chapter 1, page 160. This chronological period, and the dependent minor divisions, are ably treated by Rosenmuller, who has devoted more than usual space to their illustration. He quotes some of the best opinions of the most celebrated German writers, and throws great light upon the historical points connected with the inquiry. See his comments on this chapter. 9, pages 313-324.
Broughton has quoted largely from Jewish Rabbis; he treats Daniel's prayer as a compendium of theology, and applies Gabriel's answer to the baptism, miracles, and life of our Lord.
Professor Stuart, whom we have already quoted, has treated this subject with great precision by commenting critically on the Hebrew words. He adopts the rendering seventy sevens, or "seventy heptades are determined upon thy people. Heptades of what? of days or of years? No one can doubt what the answer is. Daniel had been making diligent search respecting the seventy years; and in such a connection, nothing but seventy heptades of years could be reasonably supposed to be meant by the angel." An argument is also drawn from the double gender of the plural of this word, which is noticed by Ewald, Gram. Heb., section. 373. London, 1836. Many other arguments in favor of its general sense of "sevens" are added, implying that the connection only determines whether years or days be intended. Professor Bush brings forward the opposite views to those of Stuart, and discusses the subject with the utmost exactness of Hebrew criticism. Mede should also be consulted, works, Bk. 3, chapter. 9, page 599. Hengstenberg treats the form of the word as rarticipial and indicating a septenized period, like hebdomas in Greek, septimana in Latin, settimana in Italian, and semaine in French. Views in accordance with these are found in "The Morning Watch," volume 5, page 327. London, 1832. This article is the more worthy of perusal, as it presents us, in an intelligible English form, the criticism of Professor Jahn, extracted from his Appendix ad Enchiridion Hermeneutica, Fasc. 1, page 124 and following. Edit., Vienna, 1813. The English translation of the passage, in accordance with Jahn's critical exposition, is worthy of notice, particularly by those readers who wish to keep before their minds the most valuable explanations which have ever been published by British, Continental, and American Divines.