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