T. R. Birks on the time periods of prophecy 2
In the following, T. R. Birks’ discussion of the time periods of prophecy is continued. He exposed the weaknesses in the arguments of futurist S. R. Maitland.
Thomas Rawson Birks, 1810-1883: First elements of sacred prophecy: including an examination of several recent expositions and of the year-day theory
London, W. E. Painter, 1843.
THE YEAR-DAY THEORY CONTINUED.
From the nine general indications of a figurative meaning which occur in these sacred numbers, let us now proceed to examine the special evidence for the year-day system. This also branches into several distinct arguments, which may be exhibited in succession, and the objections by which it has been endeavoured to overthrow them.
1. The prophecy of the seventy weeks has always held the foremost place in the direct arguments for the year-day system. The reasoning is very simple in its nature. The word week, or shabua, is used elsewhere in Scripture to denote seven days; but in this prophecy it denotes seven years. Hence the words of time are enlarged beyond their literal or usual sense, in the proportion of a year to a day. And since all these predictions of time bear one common character, occur in the same prophets, and have the same general object, they ought to be explained by one common rule. In the one instance, which is decisively fulfilled, the proportion holds of a year to a day; and therefore it must be applied, in consistency, to all the rest.
Two different replies, and on contradictory grounds, have been made to this argument. First, Dr. Todd, with some hesitation, and Mr. Tyso and Mr. Govett more boldly, deny the fact. They assert that the prophecy is still future, and will be accomplished in weeks of days. But this view has been already sufficiently refuted. All internal and external evidence, and the consent of nearly every expositor, whether Jewish or Christian, in every age of the Church, unite to condemn it as a rash and fruitless attempt to innovate in this cardinal prophecy of our Lord’s sufferings.
Mr. Maitland, therefore, with more wisdom, and Mr. Burgh also, allows the fulfilment of the prophecy in terms of years. But he rejects the other premise of the argument, and maintains that the word shabua is perfectly ambiguous, and denotes merely a seven, whether of days or of years. By this means the argument seems, at first sight, to be effectually turned aside. Mr. Maitland endeavours to strengthen his reply by the further remark, that the Jews did not commonly employ the word shabua to denote seven days, but mentioned the number of days in full; and that the Misnic writers do employ the same word week repeatedly, without any distinctive addition, to denote seven years. A collateral controversy arose with regard to the Hebrew points, and their influence in determining the true sense; but it is needless to attempt a summary, since the main subject was left entirely unaffected.
Now, in reality, it matters very little to the argument whether we receive or reject the proposed translation. Let us examine the question on either view.
1. First, let us grant that a shabua, according to its derivation, may denote equally a seven of days or a seven of years. Mr. Maitland and Dr. Mac Caul, who agrees with him on this point, allow that it is used only as a word of time, and occurs in these two senses alone. It is also clear, from the nature of the intervals, that it must have been far more frequently employed to denote the shorter period; and, in fact, no instance occurs in Scripture, beside this prophecy, where it has any other meaning.
What, then, will be the state of the argument? Of the two senses, a seven of days and a seven of years, the former will be the most frequent and usual–the latter occasional and comparatively rare. The two differ from each other in the proportion of a year to a day. The prophecy rejects the shorter and adopts the longer reckoning. Now if the terms of the other periods in Daniel were stated in the usual and literal expressions, this analogy would not be enough to warrant us in extending them on the same scale. But this is not true in one single instance. Their form is such as in every case to imply a meaning distinct from the bare letter, and longer in duration. If so, on Mr. Maitland’s own hypothesis, the seventy weeks supply just the key which is needed, and warrant our interpreting the others on the maxim of a day for a year.
2. But this reasoning is ex abundanti. For, after all the laboured efforts of Mr. Maitland to overturn it, the argument of Mede, repeated by Mr. Faber, continues unimpaired. The question is is “not the etymology of the word shabua, but its use.” In every case where it occurs elsewhere in Scripture, which is about ten times, it denotes a week of days. It is clearly quite irrelevant to say that the sacred writers more often use the phrase seven days to denote the same period. The question is not whether skabua or another phrase is more frequently used for a common week; but whether skabua is employed in the Scripture for seven years, except in this prophecy. No such instance can be found. And hence it follows, that the meaning of seven years, which it bears in this place, is not by the ordinary rules of grammar, but by an extraordinary rule of prophetic applications, in which a miniature period is used as the grammatical veil for a larger interval of time.
The argument from the usage of the Misnic writers is equally unavailing. The Jews have generally understood this prophecy of weeks of years. And hence their usage of the word, in later times, would naturally be affected by the prophecy itself. So a hundred passages might be found in Christian divines where the word week is used to denote seven years, by a phraseology derived from this very passage. And Jewish writers would be still more likely to fall into such a mode of expression, from the national ordinance of the shemittahs, or sabbatic years.
The proof seems therefore as firm as ever. The phrase, had it occurred elsewhere, and by the common usage of Scripture, would have denoted weeks of days: but, in fact, it denotes weeks of years. In the one case, which has been clearly fulfilled, the prophetic sense of the words of time is larger than their common meaning elsewhere, in the proportion of a day to a year. Extend this maxim consistently to the others, and the necessary result is the year-day interpretation.
3. There is, however, another circumstance, which seems to have met with no distinct notice, and which greatly confirms the previous reasoning. Four terms are employed in almost every nation, in the ordinary calendar of time–the day, the week, the month, and the year. These form a natural and ascending series, by which all periods are most conveniently expressed, and complete the system of popular and colloquial measurement of time. The case was evidently the same among the Jews as with ourselves. Now of these four periods, the day, the month, and the year (Dan. xii. 11; Rev. ix. 5, xi. 2, ix. 15), occur elsewhere in these dates of the symbolical prophecies. But the week occurs here only. It is evidently needful to complete the system; and being added, it does complete a regular calendar of sacred and prophetic times. But the week, whether we render it a week or a seven, does not denote a common week, but a period of seven years. And since it forms one element in this fourfold ascending scale, it does, by a natural inference, raise all the others in the same proportion. The prophetic dates, which otherwise would remain a heap of disjointed fragments, by this key become at once united into a consistent and harmonious scheme, mysterious yet definite, and combining the precision of a human calendar with the magnificent grandeur of a divine revelation.
This gradation of the prophetic periods will be more apparent, if we subjoin them in regular arrangement, according to the terms in which they are conveyed.
(1). Three days and a half twice repeated (Rev. xi.)
Tribulation often days (Rev. ii. 10).
Twelve hundred and sixty days (Rev. xi., xii.)
Twelve hundred and ninety days (Dan. xii. 11).
Thirteen hundred and five and thirty days (Dan, xii. 11).1).
(2). A week and half week (Dan. ix. 27).
Seven weeks (ix. 25).
Threescore and two weeks (ix. 25).
Seventy weeks (ix. 24).
(3). Five months (Rev. ix. 5, 10).
Forty and two months (Rev. xi. 2, xiii. 5).
(4). Day, month, and year (Rev. ix. 15).
A time (***)–(Rev.vi. 11, x. 6).
A time, times, and half (Dan. vii, 25, xii. 7, Rev. xii. 14).
[(5). Six hundred and sixty-six, unit undetermined (Rev. xiii. 8).
Two thousand three hundred, the same (Dan. viii.14)].
There are all the marks in this list of a connected and regular series. And since the weeks are sevens of years, the conclusion can scarcely be avoided, that the others also are to be reckoned, consistently with this pattern, and on the same scale.
II. The sentence on Israel in the wilderness is a second testimony, equally distinct, to the same principle of interpretation. It will be convenient to quote the passages at length.
Num. xiii. 25. “And they returned from searching of the land after forty days.”
Num. xiv. 33, 34. “And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness. After the number of the days, in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years; and ye shall know my breach of promise.”
1. The nature of the evidence contained in this passage has been placed in a clear light by Mr. Faber, in the “Provincial Letters.” The twelve spies, chosen one from each tribe, represented in miniature the nation of Israel. And this explains, it may be added, why the whole congregation are said to have searched the land. That search, lasting through forty days, represented also in miniature the forty years of their wandering in the wilderness. Each day in the search represented a year of wandering; and the miniature period was a typical prophecy of the forty years’ journeying which ensued.
We have thus, from the lips of God himself, the clear relation established in this notable instance of chronological prophecy, that while the spies represented the nation, a day should represent a year. Now the difference between a type and a symbol lies in this point only, that a type is a real, and a symbol an unreal or ideal, representative of a real object. In the type, the spies, who were real persons, represented the whole nation; and the forty days of their search, a real period, represented the real time of the stay in the wilderness. In the visions of Daniel or St. John the ten-horned beast, or the sun-clothed woman, unreal figures, represent an empire, or the Church of Christ; and twelve hundred and sixty days, or forty-two months, an unreal period grammatically suggested, represent the true period designed, of as many years. The analogy, therefore, contained in this Scripture history, is precise and complete. It supplies us, from the lips of the All-wise God himself, with a distinct scale, by which to interpret every prophetic period which bears the internal marks of a suggestive character, as a miniature representation of some larger period.
2. A reply to this argument has been attempted by several authors, as Mr. Tyso, Dr. Todd, Mr. Maitland, Wagenseil, and Bengelius. Their remarks are so much alike, that it is needless to classify them minutely.
(1). First, it is objected (Eluc., p. 73), that in this case the prophecy is first given in years, and great stress is laid on the observation. But this is futile in the highest degree. The passage is adduced as a divine key to elucidate others which bear marks of a secret sense, not visible on their surface, the nature of which must be determined from other sources. And it is objected, that the key is not as obscure as the passages which it is to unfold. Surely nothing can be more irrelevant than such reasoning.
(2). Next, it is said that in Daniel there is no intimation that days are put for years, as there is in the text before us (Eluc., p. 66). This is the former objection, with its parts reversed. It is first argued that the key is not as difficult as the cipher; and next, that the cipher is not as plain as the key. It is clear, however, that such a direct statement would have defeated the very end for which the periods are supposed to have been expressed in this peculiar form.
(3). Further, Mr. Maitland and Dr. Todd quote the argument of Wagenseil, to refute the assertion of Sir John Marshain–dies pro anno sumi potest, juxta propheticam loquendi morem. But the whole of the reasoning, as Mr. Faber has shown, is wide of the real question; which relates, not to the grammatical sense of the word, but to the representative power of the thing. The closing remark in the extract virtually yields all that is maintained–dies ad annum significandum physice, ut ita loquar, adhibitur, non grammatice. Now for physically, an obscure phrase, let us in Numbers put typically, and in Daniel symbolically; and this becomes the exact opinion of the Protestant interpreters.
3. The objections are, however, more fully stated by Mr. Maitland in his “First Enquiry,” and his reply to Mr. Cuninghame. The nature of the argument is so easily obscured, that it is desirable to examine these objections in detail. Mr. Maitland reasons as follows:–
(1). “I am quite at a loss to understand how passages, where it is declared and explained that a certain number of natural days were appointed to represent or prefigure the like number of natural years, should be called an express warrant for the mode of reckoning which translates the word day by the English word year. In Numbers and in Ezekiel the phrase is ‘a day for a year, a day for a year’–a mode of expression which leaves no doubt of the writer’s meaning, and which absolutely requires yom and skanak to be taken in their literal sense for natural days and years. If the days during which the Israelites searched the land had been natural years, and the years which they were to wander prophetic years as they are called, each consisting of three hundred and sixty natural years, the analogy would be good and the warrant express; but what colour is here given to our interpreting a day or year otherwise than literally?” (Enq., p. 20).
These remarks imply a strange misconception of the theory opposed: for its essential character lies in maintaining, not a direct change in the ordinary meaning of the terms, but a process of analogical suggestion, by which a shorter period represents a longer; the contest or other circumstances having first led us to suspect a hidden sense, and the passage in Numbers forming the key to its precise character. The reasoning, then, is completely irrelevant; and does not touch the real question in debate.
(2). The real point of the objection is, however, more visible in the following extract, taken from the other pamphlet:–
“When my opponent says, ‘If the beasts were not literal, but symbolical, must we not suppose that the days were not literal, but symbolical?’ The proper answer, I believe, is–”What days? When you speak of the beasts I know what you mean, for you admit that Daniel saw certain beasts; but when you speak of “the days,” I know not what days you refer to, for your system admits of no days: you take (if I may so speak) the word “goat” to mean the thing “goat,” and the thing “goat” to represent the thing “king;” but you take the word “day,” not to represent the thing “day,” but at once to represent the thing “year.” And this is precisely the point which distinguishes this case from that of Ezekiel, which has been so often brought forward as parallel to it.’ The whole matter lies in this, that the one is a case of representing, the other of interpreting.
“A goat, not the word goat, represented a king. A day, that is, the word day, is interpreted to mean a year.
“In Ezekiel, a real day, not the word day, represented a real year. In the Apocalypse it is a mere interpretation of the word day, to mean a year, without any pretence that certain real days represented certain real years” (Reply, &c., pp. 106-108).
The contrast which it is sought to establish in these paragraphs, however plausible it may seem, vanishes on close examination.
“It is admitted that Daniel saw certain beasts.” “A goat, and not the word goat, represented a king,” Was it then a real goat, or were they real beasts? No one admits this, or ever once dreamed of such a view, neither Mr. Maitland himself, nor his opponents. The goat and the beasts were unreal. They were images before the eye of the prophet in the night vision, but had no answering external reality.
Again, “your system (it is said) admits of no days; you take the word day, not to represent the thing day, but at once to represent the thing year.” Now this assertion must be understood either mentally, of the process of thought, or externally, of their historical reality. If taken in the former sense, it is manifestly untrue. The very expression, the year-day system; the fact that so large a number of writers maintain the literal period to be the real meaning; the analogies to which the advocates of the year-day appeal–all prove alike that the word day is interpreted of the thing day, and the thing day is then viewed as representing the thing year.
But the assertion, perhaps, is meant in the latter sense; and the days are affirmed to have no external and historical reality. The reply is self-evident, that exactly the same is true of the goat and the beasts. These, too, have no external historical reality. When and where were they born, and when did they die? or to what natural species did the ten-horned beast belong? Clearly they had no other than a mental existence. There is thus an exact parallel in the two cases, and not, as Mr. Maitland argues, a total contrast. The beasts were conceptions visually suggested to the eye of the prophet, and nothing more; and days, the in like manner, were conceptions suggested by the words of the vision to his ear. The only difference is in the sense by which the mental image is conveyed; for it is plain that a day, when used as a symbol, must be mentioned, and could not appear visibly to the eye.
The only reply to this argument of any apparent weight must be the allegation that the days, &c., occur in the interpretation of the visions, and not among the symbols themselves. But in the dates of the Apocalypse the exact reverse is true; they all occur imbedded in the midst of the symbols. The verses Dan. xii. 11, 12, are the only case to which the remark applies; and these are introduced by a double notice that they have a hidden meaning. “The words are closed and sealed till the time of the end.” “None of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.”
Let us suppose, for illustration, that a merchant, leaving his family, should put in their hands a note of instruction for their guidance, to be opened and read after his departure, and closing with such words as these: “You will not understand what I tell you for some time to come. I am sailing to India, and intend to be absent there ten days, and then to return. The wise among you will understand.” At first this would appear simply mysterious and unaccountable. But when six or seven years had elapsed, without further tidings, except of his safe arrival, it might be natural and reasonable to suppose that he had secretly purposed to remain absent ten years. The illustration is imperfect, because of the many casualties which may frustrate the designs of men, but it may help to explain the warrant in this case for the symbolical meaning.
The circumstances, then, under which these dates are given, suggest the notion of some peculiar and recondite sense, but give no precise key to its nature. The passage in Numbers, like the prophecy of the seventy weeks, supplies the key which was wanting, and yields a firm basis for the maxim, that a day is used to represent a natural year.
III. The typical siege of Ezekiel is a third main argument by which the year-day theory is sustained. And here, also, it will be desirable to give the words of the text.
Ezek. iv. 4-9. “Lie thou also on thy left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it; after the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon it thou shalt bear their iniquity. For I have laid upon thee the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days; so shalt thou bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. And when thou hast accomplished them, lie again on thy right side, and thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days; I have appointed thee a day for a year, a day for a year. Therefore thou shalt set thy face toward the siege of Jerusalem, and thine arm shall be uncovered, and thou shalt prophecy against it. And behold I will lay bands upon thee, and thou shalt not turn thee from one side to another, till thou hast ended the days of thy siege. Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentiles, and millet, and fitches, and put them in one vessel, and make thee bread thereof, according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie on thy side; three hundred and ninety days shalt thou eat thereof.”
The argument from this passage exactly resembles the last. Ezekiel, like the spies, is a type of the nation of Israel; his recumbent posture, of their degradation by national sin; and the days represent an equal number of years, to be completed before the consummation of judgment. The only difference between this and the prophetic days is the difference between a type and a symbol. Ezekiel was a real person representing the nation; the woman (Rev. xii.) is an unreal emblem denoting the Church of God. The days in Ezekiel were actual days, representing the same number of years; and the days in the Apocalypse are unreal days, mentally suggested by the letter of the passage, representing the same number of years. The analogy, in this as in the former instance, is full and complete; and the seventy weeks, as has been shown, point to exactly the same conclusion.
The objection to this argument is various in form, but in little besides, and chiefly rests on a total misconception of the year-day theory.
1. First, it has been roundly asserted (Rev. Lit., p. xviii.) that the instance is “nothing at all to the point;” that it was “merely the exhibition of a past fact;” and that “there is not an atom of prophecy in this part of the transaction.”
This is bold and confident, but, unhappily for the conclusion, it is quite untrue. The prophecy was in the fifth year of Jehoiachim’s captivity, or about July, B.C. 594. The three hundred and ninety years, according to Usher, whose view Mr. Faber adopts, occupy the interval B.C. 974-584. Perhaps more exactly, they reach from the accession of Rehoboam to the fall of the temple, B.C. 976-587. Hence this prophetic type was given at least seven years before the completion of the predicted time. And here it must be observed that the true object of the prediction was not the events to occur during the continuance of those years, but the siege by which they would be finished, and the nation led captive from the land.
The case is just similar with the other type of the forty days, and the forty years of Judah. They must either close, like the former, at or just after the fall of the first temple; or else, which is possible, denote the interval of forbearance before the fall of the second temple, A.D. 30-70. In either case, their termination, the predicted event, was future when the type was given. It thus appears that the objection itself is, in fact, entirely devoid of truth.
2. There are next several remarks quoted by Mr. Maitland from Bishop Horsley, for which the reputation of the writer claims a notice by no means due to their own weight or justice:–
“Where shall we find, in any of the sacred writers, one indubitable instance in which day is put for year? Is it when we are told that the day of temptation in the wilderness was forty years? or when we are told that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day? Certainly, it might be concluded, with more colour of reason, from the first passage, that a day is forty years; or a thousand years from the second, than it is inferred from Ezekiel and Daniel that it is a year.”
“How is it to be inferred (from Ezekiel) that a day in prophecy always signifies a year; or indeed ever, except in this instance, where the signification lies not in the word, but in the action publicly exhibited? It might, as I think, with equal reason, and by the same analogy, be concluded, that the word ironplate, wherever it occurs in the writings of the prophets, is to be understood figuratively of the wall of a city; for the iron-plate of Ezekiel is as much a type of the wall of Jerusalem, as his forty days of forty years. Nothing, therefore, can be concluded from this passage of Ezekiel concerning any figurative sense of the word day in the prophetic writings, or in any other passage. Indeed, as a word, it is here used without any figure at all for that portion of time which we generally mean by a day.”
This able and learned, but self-confident author, seems here to be equally at fault in his assertions and his reasonings.
(1). The whole triumphant inquiry depends on a misconception, as if a day were said to be grammatically translated by a year. This has been justly and forcibly exposed by Mr. Faber. In fact, all the advocates of the year-day theory presuppose the mental suggestion and intervention of days in the interpretation of the times, just as much as the ideal intervention of beasts in the prediction of empires. The objection is thus, in its foundation, a building of sand.
(2). There are three plain instances in which a day is put for a year, that is, to represent it, one in Numbers and two in Ezekiel; besides the not less conclusive instance of the seventy weeks.
(3). To say that there is more colour of reason for concluding that a day is forty, or a thousand years, is an exaggeration quite unworthy of the writer. There are three instances in the first case, and only one each of the two others. What is of still more weight, the analogy of the year-day does not rest on a bare unit, but is exhibited in three numbers of considerable size–forty, three hundred, and ninety, and forty days. In each of the others it is a single unit only, where loose metaphors might have a more natural place. It would be more exact, then, to say that the evidence for the year-day system is four hundred and seventy times as great as for either of the others.
(4). The objection is still more unfounded for a second reason. We have strong scriptural grounds to believe that a day does in several passages really signify and represent a thousand years; and this opinion has prevailed in the Church from early times. The bishop could, therefore, scarcely have chosen an objection more destructive to his own cause.
(5). The other remarks hardly deserve a reply. When a passage shall be found in which three hundred iron plates are declared to represent three hundred walls, or forty iron plates to represent forty walls, or ten, or five, or even two, in the same manner, we may bow to the conclusion. We will then freely consent to the propriety of expounding the word by the wall of a city, in every place of the prophets where the bishop requires us–a concession doubly safe, since not one single passage of the kind is to be found.
(6). But “how is it inferred that a day always in prophecy denotes a year?” I answer, few or none assert that it does. The assertion is limited to specific passages, which bear on their face, when compared with each other and the context, the mark of some hidden meaning. Some proofs of this have been offered in the former chapter, and more will presently be given. The texts in Numbers and Ezekiel presuppose, in their application, the general presumptions in favour of some secret meaning. They then supply us, from two distinct sources, with a divine pattern of symbolical time, which exactly corresponds, like a key to the lock, with the mysterious passages; lends a precise and simple rule for their exposition; and, by the triple coincidence, turns the presumptive evidence into a moral demonstration.
IV. Another argument may be drawn from the words of Christ himself, as given in St. Luke’s Gospel.
Luke xiii. 31-33. ” The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence, for Herod is seeking to kill thee. And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, behold I cast out devils, and I do cures to-day and to-morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. Nevertheless, I must walk to-day and to morrow, and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.”
These words must be explained either in a definite or an indefinite sense. Taken indefinitely, they teach us that our Lord was to continue His works of mercy for a little season longer, in spite of all the malice of Herod; and that none could take away His life till He himself resigned it in the appointed scene of His death, at Jerusalem.
But this does not appear to be the whole meaning. There is a precision in the phrase which in this view alone would be unexplained. Three days are twice mentioned distinctly–to-day, to-morrow, and the third day; to-day, to-morrow, and the day following. The words thus repeated clearly leave the impression of a definite interval of time.
Now the incident occurred in the last journey of our Lord, but several weeks before His sufferings and resurrection. They cannot, therefore, admit a definite sense with a literal interpretation. On the other hand, our Lord’s ministry, commencing with a passover, closed at the passover, after an exact interval of three years. The words of this passage would therefore exactly describe the continuance of that ministry: the three days importing the three years. The completion of the third was to be marked by the death of our Saviour at Jerusalem, and His resurrection the time when He was perfected. And there was thus also a close connexion between the predicted time and the events; for the third year would be closed by the passover, which could be celebrated only at Jerusalem, and was the appointed season of our Lord’s death, without which the types could not have been fulfilled.
These four examples, of which the three first are demonstrable, and the last has at least a high probability, form a scriptural basis for the year-day theory. Once in Numbers, and twice in Ezekiel, a day is expressly taken to represent a year. The principle is continued in the seventy weeks, where a term, always taken elsewhere in Scripture for weeks of days, is demonstrably used for periods of seven years. The analogy is continued in the last passage, where three days are twice mentioned in detail, as defining the whole extent of our Lord’s ministry. Let us now consider the internal evidence to be drawn from the prophetic dates themselves,
V. The time, times, and dividing of a time, are the first of the periods to be considered, and one which contains many distinct proofs to refute the shorter reckoning, and confirm the year-day exposition.
1. And, first, its peculiar form must be noticed. If the short reckoning were true, no reason can be given why the times should not be expressed in the most customary form. On the other hand, the year-day theory requires that a shorter term should be merely suggested to the mind in the representation of a longer period, and suggested in such a way as to hinder us from resting in the typical phrase as the true meaning.
Now such exactly is the term before us. It doubtless suggests to the mind, by comparison with other texts, three years and a half. But it is not the usual or literal expression for that period. Twice alone does that interval occur elsewhere (Luke iv. 25; James v. 17), and in both it is expressed by its natural phrase, three years and six months. The same is true in every similar case. St. Paul abode at Corinth one year and six months (Acts xviii. 11). David reigned in Hebron seven years and six months (2 Sam. ii. 11). He was with the Philistines a year and four months (1 Sam. xxvii. 7). The form in which the periods of time are expressed is thus invariably the same. And hence, though three years and a half are suggested to the mind by this phrase, there is nothing in the words which fixes it to this sense. This has not, in truth, any more claim to be the literal meaning than one thousand two hundred and sixty years.
2. But, secondly, the fundamental term, a time, implies, rather than excludes, the wider sense. The natural series of words of time consists of a day, a week, a month, and a year. The three first are retained in the prophetic calendar; but the last of them is replaced by this general expression–a time, which takes the lead of all the others. It occurs in the first of these dates, and in two, or rather three others, on which the rest chiefly depend. Now this substitution could not be without meaning. It leaves the analogy among the different periods unbroken ; but at the same time it sets loose this fundamental period, so as to be at liberty, even by the common rules of language, to receive a larger signification.
This argument becomes much stronger, when we consider the actual use of this same term in other passages. It is of frequent recurrence in the Old Testament, and is employed to denote periods of various lengths, and even extending to many years. It meets us first in the narrative of the creation: “Let them be for signs and for seasons”–where it is distinguished alike from days and years. It is frequently used to denote the appointed time of all the feasts of the law (Lev. xxiii. 2, 4, 37, 44; Num. ix. 2, 3, 7, 13; x. 10, xv. 3). It is employed with regard to the fall of Pharaoh Hophra, and the restoration of Israel, “Pharaoh hath passed the time appointed” (Jer. xlvi. 17). “The time to favour Zion, the set time, is come” (Psalm cii. 13). “The vision (of the coming of Christ) is yet for an appointed time” (Hab. ii. 3). In these, and several other passages, an extensive interval is clearly implied; and the fundamental idea is one which has no respect to the length or shortness of the period, but simply to its fixed and determinate character. It is plain how completely these two marks, that it is at once indefinite and determinate, make it a suitable term to form the basis of a prophetic chronology on the year-day system.
3. The different terms used to denote the same period are a further proof that it cannot denote three natural years and a half. The same interval occurs seven times over. Twice it is mentioned as a time, times, and a dividing of a time; once as a time, times, and a half; twice as forty-two months; and twice as twelve hundred and sixty days. A comparison of these passages will show that they all relate to the same period. Yet the expression is varied in this remarkable manner; and in all these variations is never once expressed by the natural and literal phrase. How can we explain this remarkable feature, but by supposing it to indicate a mysterious and hidden sense? The Holy Spirit seems, in a manner, to exhaust all the phrases by which the interval could be expressed, excluding always that one form, which would be used of course in ordinary writing, and is used invariably in Scripture on other occasions, to denote the literal period. This variation is most significant, if we accept the year-day system, but quite inexplicable on the other view.
But there is one further circumstance which deserves notice in this variation, and which confirms the existence of a mystical and hidden sense. In the Revelation, the times and the days are used in connexion with the Church and the witnesses; but the months in connexion with the Gentiles and the wild beast. This distinction of the periods, measured by the sun and the moon, just corresponds with the frequent metaphors of Scripture, in which Christians are described as children of the light and of the day; and unbelievers as children of night and darkness. If the expression denoted literal days, this mystical reference would be heterogeneous: but if they are symbolical, days for years, then this moral significance is in harmony with their general character of sacred emblems.
5. The ambiguity of the phrase, even in its numeral value, tends to the same conclusion. It is plain, that a time, times, and the dividing of a time, in point of grammar alone, might denote four times and one half, or five times and one half, or four times and one third. It is only by comparison with the other forms of the same period in the book of Revelation, that even the numerical meaning can be certainly ascertained. In other words, it was impossible to know certainly that the time, times, and half, denoted 1,260 days, either natural or prophetical, until the prophecy of the seventy weeks had been both given and fulfilled, in which weeks of days represent weeks of years. So that, in fact, the direct key to the symbolical meaning was provided before even the number of the contained units in the period had been distinctly revealed.
VI. The dream of Nebuchadnezzar throws a further light on the same truth. The prophet tells us that the monarch “was driven out from among men, and seven times passed over him;” till at length his understanding returned to him, and he became a worshipper of the true God.
The seven times in this case, by general consent, denote seven years. And hence it has often been argued that the time, times, and a half, must denote three years and six months. Thus in the “First Enquiry:”–
“In ch. iv. 16, 23, 25, 29, we read of “seven times” during which Nebuchadnezzar was to be excluded from his kingdom. Here it is admitted that a time means a year, and therefore we might naturally expect the three times and a half should mean three years and a half. Yet, without the slightest hint of any change of style in the author, we are to suppose Daniel using the same word in ch. iv. to signify one year, and in ch. vii. to signify three hundred and sixty years, and this merely because, in one case he speaks of an individual, and in the other of a community” (pp. 13, 14).
However natural this inference may appear at first sight, a more full consideration of the two passages will lend us a powerful argument for just the opposite conclusion.
1. First, in the case of Nebuchadnezzar himself, how do we learn that the time of his madness was seven years, rather than seven days, or seven months, or seven sabbaths of years? Not clearly from the grammatical force of the term, which might denote any of these periods, no less than seven years. It is an inference drawn conjointly from the context and from the outlines of the monarch’s history. The length of his reign and the reason of the case forbid us to lengthen the seven times into forty-nine years. On the other hand, the whole scope of the chapter equally excludes the shorter periods of seven days or seven weeks. Hence the only interpretations possible are seven months, or seven years; and the latter is generally allowed to be the true sense, from no abstract grammatical, but as most consonant with the majestic grandeur of the whole description, or for other indirect reasons of the same kind.
Let us now turn to the second passage, and these reasons are at once reversed. The same motive which, in the case of the monarch, compels us to reject the meaning, seven days, or seven weeks, in the case of an empire, which has lasted almost, or more than, two thousand years, compels us to reject also the meaning, three years and a half. This would be, in the history of the monarchy, less than seven weeks in the history of Nebuchadnezzar. The just inference to be drawn, even on this ground alone, is the exact opposite of that which suggests itself on a superficial view.
2. But the argument from this previous mention of the times may be carried a step further. The whole account of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream has clearly a typical character. The prophet had before said to him “Thou art this head of gold.” Now the great image prefigured the whole course of Gentile dominion, from the time of the prophet to the glorious reign of Messiah. Of this Gentile power Nebuchadnezzar, as the head of gold, would be the natural representative. Accordingly, the two chapters of his history which follow bear the clearest marks of a typical meaning. The worship of the image and the persecution of God’s faithful witnesses have both of them an exact counterpart in the book of Revelation, (ch. xiii.) The bestial debasement of the monarch equally answers to the long degradation of worldly power, the joint effect of idolatry and of ambitious bride; until at length the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of Christ. And, in strict harmony with this view, the next vision exhibits to us the four empires under the debased emblem of the beasts of prey, which before had composed the bright and terrible image.
The dream of the monarch has thus a close connexion, as a typical history, with the vision of the four beasts. The king himself represents the succession of imperial sovereignty, till the kingdom of Christ is come. The seven times which passed over him must therefore denote the whole period of debasement in the Gentile kingdoms, from the times of Nebuchadnezzar to their full redemption. The time, times, and dividing of a time, which in terms is half the length, will evidently correspond, not to the personal, but to the typical duration of these seven times. The whole period, from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar to the present day (B.C. 606-561, to A.D. 1843), is a little more than twenty-four centuries. And hence, on this ground alone, we might presume that the time, times, and a half, are more than twelve hundred years. We are thus led, independently, to just the same conclusion which flows from the year-day interpretation.
This inference is strengthened by one further remark. If the whole interval from Nebuchadnezzar’s reign be divided into two equal portions, the division will fall A.D. 618-641. The latter half, therefore, falls exclusively within the times of the fourth or Roman empire, and soon after the time when its division into separate kingdoms was first completed. This is a pointed coincidence with the broader features of the prophecy: for in the vision, also, the time, times, and a half, are all included in the period which follows after the ten horns have arisen.
The dream of Nebuchadnezzar, it thus appears, whether we confine ourselves to the simpler ground of direct criticism, or extend our survey to the typical import, yields a decisive argument in favour of the year-day exposition.
VII. The vision of the evening and the morning is the next passage which contains a prophetic number, and supples fresh evidence for the protracted reckoning.
1. The text, according to the usual construction of the words, will be translated as follows:–
“How long shall be the vision of the daily sacrifice and of the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he answered, and said, Unto evenings and mornings two thousand three hundred; and the sanctuary shall be cleansed.”
“And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told thee is true; wherefore shut up the vision; for it will be for many days” (viii. 26).
It is plain at once that this is not the usual and literal expression for a space of between six and seven years. There are only three instances in all Scripture history where a period of above forty days is expressed in days only (Gen. vii. 3; Neh. vi. 15 ; Est. i. 4). And it is without any precedent in Scripture, or in common usage, that periods of more than one year should be thus described. When we add to this the peculiar phrase, evening-morning, or evenings and mornings, the strange form in which the message is couched becomes still more apparent. The first idea which it would suggest to any thoughtful reader would be an inquiry into the reason of so unusual and singular a phraseology.
Now the test of the two systems has already been shown to consist in this very point. If short, literal periods were designed, no reason can be given why they should not be expressed in the most simple, usual, and literal form. We might then expect to have found them three years and six months, three years and seven months, three years eight months and a half, six years three months and twenty days. But if terms, which suggest at first sight shorter periods, were used as mental emblems of longer intervals, we might expect that the form of the statement would be peculiar, and bear indications on its surface of a secret meaning–indications not so strong as to compel an immediate discovery, but convincing and powerful when the lapse of ages had opened the way for a juster view of the divine counsels. The words of the present text are just of this kind; inexplicable on the literal theory, but deeply expressive when the explanation of the year-day is received.
2. A closer observation of the passage appears to supply a still more direct proof. The words evening and morning are in the singular number, and precede the numerals. Now in the Hebrew idiom, when the noun follows mixed numerals, it may be in the singular, but when it precedes them it is always in the plural number. By mixed numerals are meant those of unlike dimensions, where tens are joined with units, or thousands with hundreds. To this rule, I believe, not an exception occurs in the Hebrew Scriptures. The words occur again near the close of the chapter–”The vision of the evening and the morning (not the evenings and mornings) which was told thee is true.”
The words in question, it would thus appear, are not plural, but singular, or denote some one period called an evening and morning, and which must either refer to the whole course of the vision or to the time of its close. This last view of its meaning is confirmed by the words of the prophet Zechariah, where the cleansing of the sanctuary is described (Zech. xiv. 6, 7): “It shall be one day, which shall be known unto the Lord, not day nor night; but it shall come to pass that at the evening time it shall be light.”
Hence we may infer, with high probability, that the evening-morning, like the coming of Messiah the Prince (Dan. ix. 25), describes the limit or closing term of the vision, when the sanctuary shall be cleansed. The numeral 2,300 will therefore stand alone, and require a word of time to be supplied. And in this case the laws of common usage forbid us to supply the word days with so high a number, and require us to interpret the unit as a year, and the whole period as 2,300 years.
3. But there are other reasons quite independent of this version, and which would retain their whole force, if it could be proved erroneous. And, first, the included events prove the wider range of the prophecy. These consist of two parts–the restored daily sacrifice, and a second desolation afterwards to follow. But the time of the restored sacrifice alone, before the fresh desolation, in eluded several centuries, and hence the whole period must be a term, not of days, but of years.
The probable reply to this argument would be, that the whole interval refers to the time of desolation only. But this is a departure from the direct and natural force of the expression. For, in the words of the Celestial Speaker, two distinct subjects are inquired into–the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation which treads down the sanctuary.
4. The connexion with the seventy weeks leads to the same conclusion. There is plainly a close correspondence between the two visions. The seventy weeks are said to be cut off for certain distinct objects ; and this implies a longer period from which they are separated, either the course of time in general, or some period distinctly revealed. Now the previous date includes two events–the restoration of the sacrifice, and the desolation. The first of these is identical in character with the seventy weeks, which are a period of the restored polity of Jerusalem: and hence the most natural of the cutting off is that which refers it to the whole period of the former vision. The seventy weeks are thus separated from the whole interval for the duration of the restored polity until the coming of Messiah, upon whose rejection the predicted desolation, the second part of the main period, begins to be fulfilled. And since the seventy weeks are thus only a part of the numeral period 2,300, the unit of time in the latter must be a natural year.
It may be observed, in passing, as a presumptive confirmation of this view, that the excess of 1,810 years the difference of these periods), reckoned from the usual date of the Passion or the fall of Jerusalem, brings us to the time A.D. 1843-1880; and thus corresponds with those many signs which now intimate to the Church the approaching restoration of Israel.
5. The words of the angel, near the close of the chapter, lead to the same inference: “Shut thou up the vision, for it shall be for many days.” These strictly answer to the former inquiry and its answer–”How long shall be the vision? Unto two thousand three hundred days.” The vision inquired into begins with the numeral period; and the same vision is not after, but for or unto many days. Hence the many days are not before, but after the commencement of the numeral period. This cannot be, if the number denotes less than seven years; but is exactly fulfilled, if the space designed by it is twenty-three centuries.
6. There are two or three objections which have now to be removed. And, first, Mede himself, who applies the vision to Antiochus, has the following remarks:–”When the angel (he says) means days, in Daniel, he expresseth it therefore not by days, for so it were doubtful; but by evenings and mornings (viii. 14), when he speaks of the persecution of Antiochus.”
On this Mr. Maitland observes, with truth, that if such were the object, the end has not been answered, since almost every modern writer does understand the prophet to mean years. Yet even this mistake of Mede, when its cause is traced, yields perhaps an indirect confirmation of the year-day system.
The basis of that theory lies in assuming that the dates were not designed to be understood long before the time of the fulfilment, or so as to impede the lively expectation of Christ’s kingdom. They were to be helps to a discernment of the times, when the Church had been long exercised by delay. Now the earliest date which could be assigned to the twelve hundred and sixty days would be the Nativity or Passion; and to the two thousand three hundred days, the time of Daniel. Hence their earliest close, interpreted as years, would be at the beginning of the thirteenth and eighteenth centuries. If, then, the numeral period two thousand three hundred had been expressed exactly in the same form with the others, it must either have delayed the understanding of them for five centuries, or have been itself prematurely revealed, and defeated the wise purpose for which the times had so long been kept hidden. Accordingly, we find that, from the end of the twelfth to that of the sixteenth century, the twelve hundred and sixty days were more and more widely understood as years, while the other period was still interpreted of days only. But when the lapse of time had removed from this date also the temporary cause of concealment, it began to be expounded consistently with the rest, and all the prophetic dates were compacted into one common system, on one simple and harmonious basis of interpretation.
7. The argument for the shorter estimate of this period is stated with all the force, perhaps, of which it is capable, by Mr. Maitland, in the “Second Enquiry,” p. 63:–
“Let the matter be as contrary as it may to the ‘usages of chronical calculation,’ surely the case is not mended by supposing the days to be years. If it would be strange to find three years and a half spoken of as twelve hundred and sixty days, surely it would be stranger still, and more contrary to all known ‘usages of chronical calculation,’ to speak of twelve hundred and sixty years as twelve hundred and sixty days, or forty-two months, or three times and a half. How long a step the reviewer may wish to take I really know not; but it must carry him to some point not obvious to most readers, if it ‘leads’ to the substitution which he maintains. We may generally either make or find a mystery in plain words, if we desire it; but really it does not seem so very wonderful that a period of such importance should be stated in various terms of years, months, and days; and when I find such ‘masses of time’ as one hundred and fifty days, and one hunched and eighty days, I do not feel incredulous that days may be days, though the number be twelve hundred and sixty.”
This reasoning has two parts. It is implied that the mode of expression is in harmony with the usage of Scripture; and that if it were otherwise, the case is only made worse by the year-day exposition.
But, in reality, the two passages to which Mr. Maitland refers are the only texts in all Scripture where a period of more than two months is expressed simply in days. Not one instance can be found of a space longer than a year so expressed, except the passages in debate. The form of expression is, therefore, in every one of these texts (Dan vii.25, viii. 14, xii. 7, 11, 12; Rev, xi. 2, 3, xii. 6, 14, xiii. 5), quite unique and peculiar. Except the five months of the first woe, not one of the passages involving these dates is expressed in the most usual and literal manner.
But the year-day, it is argued, only increases the difficulty. The departure from the common forms of language then becomes wider than it was before. The remark is delusive, and only obscures the real question. The strangeness of the expression being once proved, our choice lies between a mystery which means nothing, and a mystery which has a plain and definite cause in God’s providence, and a key not less plain and definite, and three times repeated, in God’s holy word. Who would hesitate which alternative to choose? In one case, the departure from the usual form has a sufficient explanation, a great and important object; on the other view, it has no explanation whatever which can satisfy any thoughtful mind.
8. The opinions of Josephus and Aben Ezra have also been adduced to confirm the shorter reckoning. The argument, however, is worthless. The same reasons would operate on Jewish as on Christian writers, to hinder the early apprehension of the true interval. Yet that the Jews were early impressed with the existence of some hidden meaning in these dates, is clear from Justin in the second century. They expounded the time, times, and half, as if the unit were a hundred years. Mr. Cuninghame has also shown, from Abarbanel, that the general consent of Jewish interpreters of a more modern date is entirely opposed to the opinion of Aben Ezra. So far as the argument has any weight, it leans, therefore, to the side of the longer computation.
On the whole, even if we retain the usual version, there is a concurrence of strong reasons which fix the true meaning of the period to be, not six years, but twenty-three centuries; while if the proposed translation be just and sound, as resting on a constant law of Hebrew idiom, then the question would be decided at once, and the time cannot be days, but must be years only.
VIII. The oath of the angel, in the last vision of Daniel, and all the attendant circumstances, are in full accordance with the conclusions already drawn, and offer decisive evidence against the contracted exposition.
1. First, the solemnity of the oath itself almost requires the larger interpretation. It is difficult to understand the purpose of its introduction if the times thus predicted are not one six-hundredth part of the whole interval revealed; for the whole stress of the revelation is made to rest on this annunciation of the time. And it is scarcely possible to trace, on this view, any reason for so impressive and solemn an introduction to the message. But when we remember how entirely the Gentile dispensation was hidden from the Jewish Church, and what a long and mysterious break it has interposed before the fulfilment of the great national promises; the statement, that 1,260 years were certainly to intervene, would answer to the dignity of the event, and be of such importance to the Church as might well account for the grandeur of its introduction.
2. Next, the inquiry which is made, when taken in connexion with the prophecy to which it refers, implies the same truth. The vision reaches, demonstrably, from the time of Cyrus, B.C. 534, to the still future resurrection. Now when, in connexion with this sacred history, a celestial spirit puts the question, how long shall it be to the end of these wonders? there is no reasonable construction of which the words are capable by which three years and a half could be the true answer. The very form and aspect of the inquiry shows that it must refer to some main portion of the included time, and not to a millesimal fraction of the whole.
But the words of St. Peter (1 Pet. i. 12), which seem clearly to refer to this very passage, make the conclusion still more obvious. The reason assigned why the meaning was concealed from Daniel is, that it related to the Christian dispensation. If the period of time here intended were three years and a half, there would be no perceptible connexion between the fact of its concealment and the reason thus assigned, But if it be a prediction of 1,260 years, to elapse before the close of Israel’s dispersion, the knowledge of its meaning would have implied an acquaintance with the whole mystery of Israel’s rejection and the calling of the Gentiles.
3. The connexion of these times with the Jewish dispersion is another feature which helps to fix their true meaning, “When he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.”
Now it is very conceivable that a short period of three years and a half might serve to limit and define the years of Israel’s dispersion. But surely it is most unlikely that a period of eighteen centuries should foe viewed as defining the close of a shorter period of three and a half literal years. The words of the oath, by every maxim of common reason, imply that the predicted times were commensurate with those of the dispersion, and formed at least the principal part of them. The aspect which the statement assumes is that of a limitation on a time which might else have seemed unlimited. The strange and mysterious power described is not to prevail without a bound assigned; the restoration of Israel is to be the signal of its fall, and of the completion of its appointed dominion. All this agrees only with the larger interpretation.
4. A still more decisive proof may be drawn from the words which follow, upon the renewed inquiry of the prophet: “Go thy way, Daniel; for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.” The sealing refers plainly to the oath which has just preceded, and to the revelation of times which it contains. Now the words thus sealed contain the duration of the period, but not the date of its commencement. And hence the duration implied in the phrase time, times, and an half, was not to be understood till some distant age of the Church. This is strictly true on the year-day theory; but is not true if the words denote simply three natural years and a half.
IX. The supplementary dates, at the close of the same vision, are equally distinct in the proofs they furnish of the same general truth. The periods of 1,290 and 1,335 days are the first of the disputed passages in which the shorter reckoning has any claim to be more literal than the other; while in all those which follow the dates occur in the symbolical parts, and not in the explanations. And here there are no less than four cautions on the face of the passage, to keep us from resting in the bare letter. First, the peculiar form, as already noticed, which is without Scripture precedent, that periods of such length should be expressed in days only. Secondly, the words by which they are prefaced: “None of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.” The meaning, then, was not to be evident at first sight, but would require the exercise of spiritual wisdom. Thirdly, the two periods are a supplement to the times previously mentioned, and which had already received a key to their true meaning in the vision of the seventy weeks. Finally, the assurance, that the prophet should stand in his lot in the end of these days, naturally implies that those days are themselves of a longer continuance than might appear from the letter of the prophecy.
But these verses supply us with another argument, which results from a close examination of the periods themselves.
In the first place, both these numbers are extensions of the time, times, and a half, which, reckoned as in the book of Revelation, are twelve hundred and sixty days. There are thus two successive additions of thirty and forty-five days.
Now it is difficult to conceive that the Holy Spirit would overlook the whole course of God’s providence, to reveal the events of four years only. But it is still more unnatural to suppose that this whole book of prophecy should close with a prediction of thirty and forty-five literal days, and this without any event expressly assigned to them. There arises, on this hypothesis an unavoidable feeling of incongruity, which forbids us to rest in such an exposition.
On the contrary, the year-day interpretation restores these passages at once to their natural dignity, and invests them with a deep practical importance. The first interval will then correspond with a natural generation; and the second, with the space from the Exodus to the first season of rest in the land of promise (Josh. xiv. 7-11).
There is thus a peculiar and beautiful significance restored to the close of the prophecy. Just as in our Lord’s discourse the last generation before the fall of Jerusalem was marked out by an especial notice, so, on this view, are the two latest generations in the Gentile Church. And the very same interval of time, which marked the transition from the bondage of Egypt to the actual possession of Canaan, will here be applied to the days in which the Church of Christ enters on its higher inheritance, and will be linked with that word of promise–”Blessed is he that waiteth and cometh to the thousand three hundred and thirty-five days.” The allusion to the lot in the closing words of the vision, when its connexion is thus traced with the typical history of Caleb (Josh. xiv. 1-14), shines forth also with a redoubled beauty.
X. The cyclical character of the prophetic times is a further proof of the year-day system, which deserves a short notice before passing from the dates of Daniel to those of the Revelation. It seems to have been first unfolded by M. de Chesaux, a French writer, purely as a curiosity of science; but it is Mr. Cuninghame who has revived attention to this interesting topic. Though unable to concur in the whole superstructure which he has reared on this basis, the first principles, I believe, are both true in fact, and form a remarkable and collateral confirmation of the figurative view of these prophetic times. Two or three remarks will perhaps make the subject plain to general readers, so far as it bears on the present argument.
1. On the fourth day of creation it was announced as the divine purpose in the appointment of the heavenly luminaries–”Let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and for years.” The division of time was one main purpose of their institution as lights in the firmament. The word rendered seasons is the same which here denotes the times, and there is consequently a tacit reference to that original ordinance of God.
The revolutions of the sun and the moon have thus, in every nation, formed the basis of the calendar. The day, the month, and the year, are the first elements on which it depends. If the natural month and year had been each a complete number of days, or a simple fractional part, the calendar would have been quite simple. But this is not the case, and hence the various intercalations used to bring them into agreement.
Where the calendar is adapted to the sun only, its construction is very simple. The Julian year is a close approximation, and the Gregorian is practically correct for some thousands of years.
But in the sacred calendar of the Jews, and those of Greece and the eastern nations, the motions both of the sun and of the moon enter into the reckoning. And hence arise mixed calendars; more natural, since they are fitted to the motions of both the natural lights of heaven, but more complex in their adjustment.
The most natural mode of adjustment is by taking the nearest integer of the lower period contained in the higher, and making this the unit for the next higher denomination, intercalating where necessary.
Thus the natural month is nearer thirty than twenty-nine days. Therefore thirty days will be the calendar month, and the unit of every reckoning where months occur.
Again, the year is nearer twelve than thirteen calendar months. Therefore twelve calendar months will form the calendar year, and five days are intercalated to complete the whole number.
2. Now just as the day and the month were taken for the basis of these shorter periods, so may the month and year be taken as the basis of higher intervals. These give us cycles, or periods of complete years, which are almost exactly a complete number of natural months.
The intervals of years which most fully possess this character, adopting the most exact scientific measures of the lunar month and solar year, are 11, 19, 30, 49… 315, 334, 353, 687, 1,040 years. After this limit the increasing accuracy of the series is limited by the moon’s acceleration, and the uncertainty of our measures of time.
Now from this series there result several interesting conclusions which bear on the present question.
The period of nineteen years, though not directly recognized in the Jewish calendar, formed the basis of that used by the Greeks, and was not less an integral element of it than the month or the year. Now the very next period to this, in the above series, is thirty years; which, on the year-day theory, is the prophetic month, and has thus a real existence as a cycle, no less than the natural month of thirty days, to which it bears a close analogy.
The next period is that of forty-nine years; which, according to the dates in Josephus of sabbatic years, and the more probable view of the sacred text, is the interval from jubilee to jubilee; and therefore is fundamental in the Hebrew calendar. This will be a second scriptural instance, like the prophetic month, of a luni-solar cycle adopted for a higher unit, composed of a complete number of years.
Let us now pursue the analogy a step further. As twelve common months of thirty days, form a year of three hundred and sixty days, which, with five days intercalated, make the solar year ; so twelve prophetic months of thirty years will form a time of three hundred and sixty years, exceeding by seven only the very exact luni-solar cycle of three hundred and fifty-three years; which forms a kind of natural unit in the series.
Again, a time, times, and a half will compose a period of one thousand two hundred and sixty years. And this is exactly four times the accurate cycle three hundred and fifteen years, and, therefore, partakes itself of the same cyclical character.
The most perfect cycle, perhaps, which can be certainly ascertained, in consequence of the moon’s acceleration affecting the higher periods, is one thousand and forty years. Now, on the year-day theory, this is exactly the difference between the two grand numeral periods of one thousand two hundred and sixty and two thousand three hundred years.
Finally, the highest prophetic period, two thousand three hundred years, is itself a cycle = 1040 + 4 + 315, and is, perhaps, the only secular cycle, composed of centuries only, that is known to exist.
From these remarks it appears that the prophetic month of thirty years, and the time composed of twelve such months, have a scientific character, though less distinct, yet of the very same nature with those of the common month and year. It appears also that the two main periods of one thousand two hundred and sixty and two thousand three hundred years are cycles, and that their difference, one thousand and forty years, is the most perfect cycle certainly ascertained. The interval of one thousand two hundred and ninety years is also a cycle, and that of one thousand three hundred and thirty five is defective only by one single year.
These remarks seem to prove that the year-day interpretation, besides its direct scriptural evidence, has a further and collateral support in the analogies of science. The same principles of the intersection of the solar and lunar periods, by which the units of the ordinary calendar are determined, when carried further up the ascending series of time, produce, even from the abstract relations of the celestial periods, the larger but corresponding units of thirty and three hundred and sixty years, or the prophetic month and time.
And surely, in the view which is thus unfolded, there is a simple grandeur which harmonizes with all the other features of these inspired predictions. A fresh light is thrown upon the words of the Psalmist, where the same word is employed as in these mysterious dates–”He appointed the moon for seasons.” We are raised out of the contracted range of human reckonings to a lofty elevation of thought, and catch some glimpses of that mysterious wisdom by which the Almighty blends all the works of nature and of providence into subservience to the deep counsels of His redeeming love. A divine ladder of time is set before us, and, as we rise successively from step to step, days are replaced by years, and years by millennia; and these, perhaps, hereafter, in their turn, by some higher unit, from which the soul of man may measure out cycles still more vast, and obtain a wider view of the immeasurable grandeur of eternity. When we reflect, also, that the celestial periods by which these cycles are determined, are themselves fixed by that law of attraction which gives the minutest atom an influence on the planetary motions, what a combination appears in these sacred times of the most contrasted elements of Omniscient wisdom! Human science sinks exhausted at the very threshold of this temple of divine truth. It has strained its utmost efforts in calculating the actual motions of the Moon and the Earth; but the determining causes which fixed at first the proportion of their monthly and yearly revolutions have altogether eluded its research. Yet these elements of the natural universe are linked in, by these sacred times and celestial cycles, with the deepest wonders of Providence, and the whole range of Divine prophecy. How glorious, then, must be the inner shrine, lit up with the Shechinah of the Divine Presence, when the approaches themselves reveal such a secret and hidden wisdom!
Every one of the passages in Daniel thus yields distinct evidence in favour of the year-day system. And when these various indications are compared together, and combined with the truth which has just been unfolded, of the connexion of these numbers with the natural cycles of science, the proof seems the highest almost of which such a subject is capable, and forms little short of the convincing power of a mathematical demonstration. In the following chapter the inquiry will be pursued further, in connexion with the Apocalyptic visions.