Home > Daniel's 70 Weeks > Are the events of 70 AD included in the 70 weeks?

Are the events of 70 AD included in the 70 weeks?

September 8, 2011

In his Commentary on Daniel 9, James Burton Coffman claimed that the 70 weeks prophecy was completely fulfilled in 490 years; the final week was fulfilled by the ministry of Jesus, his death and resurrection, and by the preaching of the gospel in Jerusalem in the following three and a half years. But the 70 weeks were to include events that do not fit within that time frame, such as the war, the flood, the desolations, the destruction of the city and the sanctuary, the ending of sacrifices and oblations, and the judgment of the one causing desolation. The abomination of desolation standing in the holy place was yet future for Jesus. Those events are excluded from the scope of the 70 weeks, according to preterist interpretations, that claim the 70 weeks terminated in or about 34 AD.

Coffman struggled with the fact that these events are excluded from the scope of the 70 weeks in his interpretation; he argued that the prophecy alludes to references Jesus made to the judgments that would come upon Jerusalem. He wrote:

Since, therefore, Jesus Christ himself related this vision to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, that settles it; and we may therefore reckon the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D. as an event that was indeed accomplished within the prescribed “seventy weeks” of this vision. That is what these verses actually say.

But while he recognized that the prophecy requires that the events of 70 AD are included in the 70 weeks, Coffman’s explanation ends the 70 weeks in 34 AD. How is that possible? Coffman wrote:

As Keil said, “Most of the church fathers and the older orthodox interpreters find prophesied here the appearance of Christ in the flesh, His Death, and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70.” That this is indeed the true interpretation is plainly indicated by the words of Jesus Christ who definitely applied “the abomination” spoken of by Daniel as an event that would occur in the siege of Jerusalem, as prophesied by Christ repeatedly in Matt. 24; Mark 13; and Luke 21. Furthermore, Christ warned the Christians that, “When therefore ye see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, then let them that are in Judea flee unto the mountains” (Matthew 24:15,16). Many Christian commentators have pointed out that the Christians indeed heeded that warning. Eusebius tells how the Christians fled from Jerusalem when the Romans most unpredictably lifted their siege, a fact that even Josephus noted. No Christian is said to have lost his life in the final destruction of Jerusalem.

Coffman recognized that references to the destruction of Jerusalem in Daniel 9:26 and to some kind of desolation in verse 27 were problems for his interpretation. In C. F. Keil’s interpretation, the 70 weeks extend to the end of the age, so the events of 70 AD are included. Coffman ruled out the dispensational notion of gaps within the time span of the 70 weeks. He began the seventieth week at the start of the ministry of Jesus, and ended it seven years later. He appealed to “the language of the prophets” to explain it. He wrote:

Nevertheless, it is perfectly clear that the 69th week takes us to “The Prince” who can be none other than the Christ. The cutting off of “the prince” followed quickly upon the appearance of Christ in his ministry; and although the destruction of Jerusalem which is mentioned in Dan. 9:26 as something to be accomplished within the seventy weeks, it is not necessary to suppose that the seventieth week needed to be extended unduly to reach the actual terminal date of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Christ indeed prophesied the total destruction of the city repeatedly, declaring that not one stone should be left on top of another within the temple complex itself, that her enemies would come and cast a trench about her and dash her little ones in pieces within her. True to the language of all the prophets, what God (or Christ) prophesied would happen was spoken of in the past tense, as something already done. That is why the destruction of Jerusalem was to be accomplished (in that sense) within the actual terminus of the seventy weeks.

In Coffman’s explanation, the war, the flood, the desolations, the destruction of the city and the sanctuary, the ending of sacrifices and oblations, the judgment of the one causing desolation, all mentioned in the prophecy, must be sought outside of the scope of the 70 weeks. In his view, the events are replaced by prophecies of Jesus that refer to them! But I doubt that Daniel’s prophecy meant that a prediction would be repeated. While the prophecies of Jesus may have mentioned some of the events included in the seventy weeks prophecy, repeating Daniel’s prophecy is not a fulfillment of it.

Another problem with Coffman’s approach is that nothing the apostles wrote or said in the New Testament supports the idea that the seventy weeks were fulfilled in their lifetime. Rather, the evidence discredits this idea. Hebrews 8:13 says, “In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.” The Jerusalem temple, and the old system of Levitical sacrifices, were about to end, which means they had not yet ended. The sacrifices did not end at the crucifixion, but in the Jewish war, culminating in the destruction of the temple, in 70 AD. Daniel said that the sacrifices would end in the midst of the final week, which tends to discredit the preterist interpretation. Arguments claiming the prophecies of Jesus substitute for the actual events fail in the case of the abolition of sacrifices, as there is no specific prophecy referring to it.

Yet another objection to the preterist explanation of the 70 weeks is that it implies the 70 weeks end in a huge disappointment; it is very much like what we used to call a “shaggy dog story,” a long winded tale with a pointless or absurd punchline. In preterist interpretations, when the 70 weeks end, no one notices.

  1. Steve
    September 11, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    Adam Clarke’s Commentary – Daniel – Chapter 9

    Daniel, understanding from the prophecies of Jeremiah that the seventy years’ captivity was now terminating, pours out his soul in fervent prayer to God, and earnestly supplicates pardon and restoration for his captive people, 1-12. When thus supplicating God in behalf of Israel, the angel Gabriel is sent to inform him of the seventy prophetic weeks, or four hundred and ninety natural years, which should elapse from the date of the edict to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple to the death of the Messiah, 20-27; a prophecy most exactly fulfilled by the event, according to the computation of the best chronologers. Dean Prideaux states the commencement of these seventy prophetic weeks to have been in the month Nisan, in the year of the Julian period 4256, which corresponds with A.M. 3546, B.C. 458, according to the Usherian account. How awfully are the Jews blinded, who, in contradiction to so clear a prophecy, still expect the Messiah who was cut off, and, after suffering, is entered into his glory!

  2. August 17, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    The prophecy in Daniel 9 states that “desolations are determined” during the 70th week not that the desolations would take place within the 70th week. It’s the very thing that Jesus said in Matthew 23: “your house is being left to you desolate.” The desolations took place within a generation just as Jesus warned (Matt. 24:34).

  3. August 18, 2013 at 7:03 am

    In his prayer Daniel refers to “thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain,” in Dan. 9:16. The 70 weeks prophecy which he was given applies to the holy city, and to God’s “holy mountain,” about which he prayed.

    The earthly Jerusalem which was destroyed in 70 AD was not God’s holy mountain; otherwise it would not have suffered destruction. Instead, when Jesus ascended to heaven, after his resurrection, and was “made Christ,” Jerusalem and mount Zion were raised up, and established at the top of the mountains, above the hills, as Isaiah had foretold in a famous prophecy.

    This was necessary because when Jesus was made Christ, he fulfilled all the promises about the Messiah, who was to reign forever on the throne of David, in Jerusalem, over all Israel.

    Isaiah 2:1-3
    The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
    And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
    And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

    Mount Zion and Jerusalem became spiritual. The author of Hebrews said that Mount Zion “cannot be touched.” [Heb. 12:18, 22]

    In the New Testament the church is the holy city Jerusalem, not the earthly city, which Paul said has been cast out. [Gal. 4:30]

    Peter said Jews who reject the gospel and deny that Jesus is the Christ are “destroyed from among the people;” implying they are no longer Israel. [Acts 3:23] Paul described them as branches broken off from their olive tree. [Rom. 11:17]

    After Pentecost, the OT prophecies about Jerusalem apply to the heavenly city, not the earthly one. Daniel’s prophecy of the 70 weeks spans the whole time from the decree of Cyrus to the end of the present age. The 70 weeks did not end in the first century as preterists claim. They ignore the fact that Isaiah’s prophecy about Jerusalem was fulfilled when Jesus was “made Christ.”

    From the decree of Cyrus, seven weeks of leap years span 133 years. There are 7 leap years or 7 extra months in 19 years, so 19 years is a “week” of leap years. This is the first section of the 70 weeks. The second section is 7 periods of 62 years or 434 years. The first two sections of the 70 weeks point to 28 AD, and to the ministry of Jesus. His ministry began the 70th week, and was the first half of it, three and a half natural years.

    The units of the first two sections of the 70 weeks, and half of the third section, are natural units, but the units of the last half-week are not natural earth-years, because they apply to the heavenly city, and no longer apply to the earthly one. The last half-week is a figure of the whole age of the church, referred to as “a time, two times, and a half.” The period that applies to the heavenly city is unlike the times in the previous part of the prophecy, because the heavenly city is spiritual. Earth years and earth days do not apply.

    When Jesus referred to “this generation,” he included himself in it. It is a unique generation, because it has not passed away. Jesus remains alive, and as long as he lives, his generation continues to exist.

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