In the prophecy of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks, we have a curious gap between the 69th and 70th Weeks. The 69th Week concludes with “the coming of the Messiah, the ruler” and then includes two additional events: The Messiah is first “cut off” and then Jerusalem and the Temple are destroyed. Then the 70th Week begins with its own starting point: A covenant made with “the many” by the prince whose people destroyed the Temple (i.e., the Romans). The sequence of events as given in the prophecy allows for the possibility that the 70 Weeks are not all contiguous–and history has borne out that possibility.
Many have scoffed at this “gap theory,” but the gap is clearly implicit in the prophecy itself. First, Dan. 9:26 clearly places both the crucifixion and the destruction of Jerusalem that occurred in 70 ce between the 69th and 70th weeks. This would give us a gap of at least 38 years between the two. Secondly, the 69th week has a stopping point, the coming of the Messiah King, and the Seventieth Week has its own independent starting point, when “the prince who is to come” confirms a covenant with many for the seven years of its duration. A stopping point and subsequent starting point would be completely unnecessary without a gap between the two.
A few, like Ernest Gentile, have agreed that there is indeed a gap, but place that gap in between the midpoint and the second half of the Seventieth Week (Triumph, pp. 235-239). However, we can find no indication of a gap between the halves of the final week in the text—there is no new starting point to be found there—as we can see the implied gap between the 69th and 70th. Further, his understanding is derived in part from the same misconception that plagues the amillennialist interpretations of this passage: The idea that the Messiah did away with all sacrifice and offering when He offered Himself as our guilt offering. We will return to this issue shortly; for the moment, it is enough to note that while He undoubtedly transformed the sacrificial system, He did not remove it altogether.
This “gap theory” of the Seventieth Week is by no means a new interpretation, as some have contended. Irenaeus alludes to a future Seventieth Week in his writings (Heresies. Book V, chapter 25.3). Hippolytus expands on this idea:
For he says, “I shall make a covenant of one week, and in the midst of the week my sacrifice and libation will be removed.” For by one week he indicates the showing forth of the seven years which shall be in the last times. And the half of the week the two prophets, along with John, will take for the purpose of proclaiming to all the world the advent of Antichrist, that is to say, for a “thousand two hundred and sixty days clothed in sackcloth.” (Appendix, 21)
Victoranus also indicated that the Seventieth Week was yet future when he wrote,
“They shall tread the holy city down for forty and two months; and I will give to my two witnesses, and they shall predict a thousand two hundred and threescore days clothed in sackcloth.” That is, three years and six months: these make forty-two months. Therefore their preaching is three years and six months, and the kingdom of Antichrist as much again. (Revelation, chapter 11.3)
Admittedly, other Church fathers believed that all Seventy Weeks had been fulfilled (cf. Stromata, Book I, ch. 16), so the above quotes should not be taken as universal agreement among the Ante-Nicean church fathers on this matter. But it’s obvious that the idea of a gap between the 69th and 70th Weeks is not a new teaching.
Many Christian authors try to place Yeshua’s ministry within the 70th Week. They believe the “coming of Messiah” at the end of the 69th Week to be the start of Yeshua’s ministry, and put His Sacrifice at the midpoint. This idea fails on three main points: First, it is evident from John’s record of three Passovers in Yeshua’s ministry that it lasted a little over two years, not three-and-a-half. Second, Yeshua’s sacrifice did not end sacrifice and offering, even for those who believed in Him. We see, for example, in Acts 21 that taking Nazrite vows and making the requisite sacrifices to conclude the vows was normal among the Nazerenes even over two decades later. And third, in every other place in Daniel that the taking away of the sacrifice occurs, it is a wicked act by the enemy of God and His people–Antiochus IV and/or the final Antichrist–not a good act by the Holy One.
I’d originally meant to go into the Olivet Discourse in this post, but I think I’ll save that for next time to keep it relatively short. Until then,