This post is helpful background to understanding a certain error that has crept into modern eschatology. A seemingly trivial point actually has profound Christological application. But before we get to the application, the error has to be corrected.
This article is a follow-up to a previous one detailing the reasons why I believe 454 BC is the beginning of Daniel’s 70 Weeks. That article is found here:
Wrong dates don’t usually lead to bad theology. But in the case of Archbishop William Ussher and his dates that did happen. Or at least, let us say, it needlessly obfuscated an already complicated problem. However, as we shall see, the original obfuscation started happening thousands of years before Ussher.
But first the more recent error: In 1701, thanks to a well-meaning scholar, Church of England’s Bishop William Lloyd, the English Bible began to be side-noted with dates. These dates were based on Ussher’s chronology of a half-century earlier. Throughout the Bible Lloyd faithfully followed Ussher dates – – – except where he didn’t. Case in point is the passage that describes, as I had earlier written, the permission that starts the 70 weeks of Daniel 9. This is Nehemiah 2. Ussher sets this permission that Artaxerxes grants to Nehemiah as 454BC. However Lloyd sets the date at 445BC.
This error has both a Fruit and a Root.
The fruit is that more recent Bible editions – most famously, that of C.I. Scofield – followed this innovation of Lloyd’s. And many other reference Bibles and authors have since followed Scofield’s lead. This date is now the most common one put forth for the permission in Nehemiah 2. The result is that, given the math …
490 – 445 – 1 = 44 AD,
or, shaving off the last week,
482 – 445 – 1 = 36 AD,
the end point is clearly beyond the usually accepted time for Christ’s earthly ministry.
This needlessly causes scholars to look elsewhere for the starting point of the seventy weeks; usually either Ezra 7 (same king, earlier date) or Ezra 1 (earlier king, Cyrus, much earlier date).
The ones who settle on Cyrus are then forced to part what God has joined together – the seventy weeks – contrary to any Scriptural example or precept. This is where the unscriptural gap is introduced, and stop-watch chronology. Sir Robert Anderson, knowing that the math did not add up, added an innovation of his own: a 360-day year! Though the Jews did use months of 30 days, never do we read of a whole year of 360 days, and especiallly not larger spans of time entirely made up of these artificial – and fictional – units of time. But Sir Anderson needed to tweak the dates to finesse the endpoint to the time of Christ’s earthly ministry.
The Root came much earlier.
I wrote “needlessly” above because that is exactly what all this is. This brings me back to the original, root mistake that happened well over two thousand years ago.
Once again we have a very careful historian, like Ussher. And once again we have a later generation of less careful historians covering up the tracks of the first; to the point where the testimony of the first – Thucydides, a contemporary of the actual events he writes – is discounted, or even forgotten, in the shuffle of time.
The importance of all this – and of the previous article – is that the Seventy Weeks prophecy has all been fulfilled in the time of Christ’s earthly ministry. No further fulfillment is looked for.
Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy panned out in a remarkably straightforward way. The dates – once the correct beginning point is determined – lead very neatly to Christ’s earthly ministry.
The Jews of the first century understood this. This is why we had a larger influx of them in Jerusalem in the time of Christ’s ministry. Read more on this in Pierce’s editor comments in Ussher’s Annals. I think Josephus also mentioned this.
To get these dates right leads to a proper understanding of the the full fulfillment of the 70 Weeks Prophecy in that first century.
It also necessarily leads to a better understanding of this present kingdom we are in now.
It also undermines much of today’s (misnamed) eschatology, replacing it with, well, “Mere Christianity”.