First of all, my apologies for the lack of updates the last couple of days. I’ve had some sort of sinus or upper respiratory infection and haven’t been all that straight-thinking. Anyway, here is the latest podcast, continuing where the last one left off, and just to be nice, here are the notes to go with.
I’ve previously talked about the 70 Weeks in the context of discussing prewrath rapturism here and here, and of course I left more notes in last week’s podcast announcement. This week, I spent more time discussing the math of the 70 Weeks as well as the Jewish interpretations of it.
On the Jewish calendar issue: The overwhelming consensus of historians is that the Persian Empire lasted 208 years (I think I accidentally said 204 in the podcast; my apologies if I did) while the traditional Jewish chronology allows for only 52 years. The difference was probably due to a misinterpretation of Daniel’s 70 Weeks which presumed that there would be 490 years between the destruction of the two temples, meaning that the time period from Cyrus (70 years after the fall of the First Temple) to the destruction in 70 CE would be only 420 years. The rabbis ended up collapsing the timeframe in part because the Biblical narrative is not entirely clear at this point, moving into the so-called “silent years,” and because a number of Persian kings shared the same name (Artaxerxes being very popular).
One interesting take on the debate is found in “A Y2K Solution to the Chronology Problem” by: Sheldon Epestein, Bernard Dickman and Yonah Wilamowsky.
In general three approaches have been taken to address the chronological differences, i.e. Historical dating is in error; the Talmud’s chronology is in error; the Talmud purposely manipulated the dating to achieve some important objective. . . . The third approach accepts the correctness of the historical count but asserts that the חכמי התלמוד did not mean for their new chronology to be taken literally. For example, Rabbi Schwab theorized that “our Sages—for some unknown reason—had ‘covered up’ a certain historic period.” He suggested that, based on the instructions in Daniel 12:4 to obscure the date of mashiach’s arrival, the Chachamim didn’t want people to predict the time of the coming of the Messiah and therefore made deliberate changes to the dating system.
That’s one possibility that I could see many of my Christian and Messianic brethren latching onto. However, the authors go on to refute it on the grounds that the Talmud contains extensive speculation as to the timing of the arrival of the Messiah, and then present a different conclusion. The Talmud says regarding the chronology of the world:
The Tanna debe Eliyyahu teaches: The world is to exist six thousand years. In the first two thousand there was desolation; two thousand years the Torah flourished; and the next two thousand years is the Messianic era, but through our many iniquities all these years have been lost. (b.Sanhedrin 97b)
Conventional dating puts the writing of the Mishnah at 200 CE, or 2200 years after the Torah began to flourish under Abraham. Epstein et. al. propose that the real reason that the sages rearranged the dates was to put the Mishnaic (Tannaic, to those up on your rabbinic timeframes) period within the time Torah flourished in order to give the sages who passed it down prophetic authority:
In summation, we are suggesting that in promulgating its view of world history, D’Bei Eliyahu were employing the chronology presented by Rebbe Yosi bar Chalafta. This chronology was designed and chosen because the two thousand years of Torah end with the writing of the Mishnah.
An interesting perspective. Those who wish to pursue it further can read the linked .pdf. I’m posting it here as a matter of curiosity, and also to show that Jewish scholarship is by no means united in accepting the shortened Persian period. See also this Ask the Rabbi post.
In any case, let me close out by laying out the math on the 69 Weeks. The “non adjusted” view generally holds that the prophecy began with the decree of Artaxerxes to ‘Ezra, 458 BCE (Ezra 7:11-16) which provided a general release of the Jews to allow us to return to Judah, and provided gold and silver to go towards the Temple. If we add 483 years to 458 BCE we come to 26 CE (remember, there is no year zero). This is problematic when we consider Luke’s (3:1) statement that John the Immerser didn’t start his ministry until the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar, which would be in 28-29 CE, but the proponents of this view will argue that we should count from the date of Tiberius’ co-reign with Augustus. That’s problematic for other reasons, but let’s move on.
We could also attempt to count 483 years from the decree of Artaxerxes to Nehemiah, in Nisan of 445 BCE (Neh. 2:1-8) This is the only decree of the four that provides specifically for the rebuilding of the rebuilding of the city itself, the walls in particular. This would bring us to the year 38 CE, which if Yeshua’s sacrifice were 32 CE (which is supported by Luke’s dating) would put it within the 69th Week, but not right at the end of it.
However, we note that in Scripture, there seems to be a hinted-at calendrical adjustment. Compare these three descriptions of the same period of time described in Dan. 7:25 and 12:7, and Rev. 11:2-3, 12:6-14, and 13:5:
3 ½ “Times” / 1260 days = 360 days per “Time”
3 ½ “Times” / 42 months = 12 months per “Time”
1260 days / 42 months = 30 days per month
Personally, I find that to be utterly amazing. I have no problem with calculating the 69 weeks by normal years, since that still works as a general indicator of the Messiah’s coming, but to have the adjusted total come to the very day Yeshua first allowed Himself to be publicly proclaimed the Son of David is amazing.
Next week, we start getting into the seven seals. I hope you’ll join me then.
- New Podcast, the Haredi, and Egypt’s Dossier Part 2 (returnofbenjamin.wordpress.com)
- Lost and Found: Jewish law and literature via “lost objects” (jewishexperienceonline.com)