Home > Daniel's 70 Weeks, Preterism > Auberlen’s analysis of the seventy weeks

Auberlen’s analysis of the seventy weeks

September 12, 2011

Preterists frequently point to Jews of the first century, saying that their sufferings in the Roman siege must have occurred because they rejected Jesus Christ, their promised Messiah. But if that is the case, what can we conclude from events during the history of the German nation during the last century, and of other nations, that seem equally horrible?

In preterist interpretations the covenant mentioned in Daniel 9:27, that Christ was to confirm for one week, is limited to the first century. Lutheran theologian K. A. Auberlen (1824-1864) supported that view. He wrote, “We must seek the second half of the last week, and thus the final point of the seventy weeks, in the apostolic age, between three and four years after the death of Christ. This point appears at first sight still more vague and obscure than the terminus a quo.

Jews in the first century excused themselves from Christ’s covenant, saying he did not fulfill the prophecies in the way that they hoped. The covenant is the message of the gospel. Jesus was the “messenger of the covenant.” In the New Testament the church is described as Christ’s spouse; Paul wrote, “For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” [Ephesians 5:30] This being so, how can a Christian not be of Israel?

Modern preterists excuse themselves from the covenant mentioned in Daniel 9:27, saying that it was limited to seven literal years, and meant only for Jews. Auberlen said of the Jews, “But when the people rejected Him also, it was inwardly dead; from that day, as it was with our first parents from the day of the fall, it was already an accursed fig tree, a branch cast away and waiting only for the fire of judgment, a carcase round which the eagles must of necessity soon gather (Mark xi. 12, etc.; John xv. 6; Matt. xxiv. 28). Thus the Acts of the Apostles, and it is worthy of all notice, turns away from the Jews after the chapter which records the death of Stephen (viii.), and describes how the gospel passed over gradually to the Gentiles.”

Do similar judgments fall upon Gentiles who reject Christ’s covenant? Is it really true that the covenant was only for ethnic Jews? Auberlen spoke of the “people of the covenant” as them; i.e., the Jews; he did not include himself as a participant.

Auberlen wrote: “The angel mentions also the execution of the decree of the divine judgment in Israel by the Roman world-power under Titus, but this does not strictly belong to the seventy weeks, and is also not narrated in the New Testament.”

This seems incorrect; Daniel 9:27 includes the statement, “and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease,” which puts the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD in the midst of the 70th week. Below is Auberlen’s analysis of the 70 weeks prophecy. [1]


The seventy weeks are mentioned by Gabriel, not only as a continuous whole (ver. 24), but they are separated into three very unequal parts (ver. 25-27): 7 + 62 + 1. This reminds us at once of a similar analysis which we find vii. 25; xii. 7; a time, times, and a half. We see that Apocalyptic writings delight in such chronological divisions. But this general remark only leads us to inquire why this analysis is made here.

The text itself leads us to consider the last week first, for it is not only the most minutely characterised, but the most distinctly separated from the rest. While the seven and the sixty-two weeks are mentioned together in ver. 25, and in ver. 26 we are merely told what is to take place after them; the seventieth week is prominently brought forward in ver. 27. We have already seen that it is a time of confirming the Covenant, more particularly a time of the revelation of the New Covenant at Jerusalem, where the Messianic salvation is to be offered to the people of Israel. As the Sabbath dedicated to God succeeds the working days and concludes the week, so the seventieth week is the consummation of the preceding days of small things. To the period of the sixty-nine weeks is allotted the task of restoring and building Jerusalem, and thus preparing a place for the Messiah where He can accomplish His work (ver. 25, 26). This is a working day’s labour when compared with the Sabbatic work of confirming the Covenant. The Messianic time is the holy festival and Sabbath day of Israel’s history, in which God yet once more offers to the people nil His mercies, but in which also the history of Israel comes to its temporary conclusion. This parallelism between the seventy weeks and the seven days of a week, is suggested and indicated by the text, in which the whole is viewed from the idea of weeks (…).

It is more difficult to discover the reason for the separation of the first seven weeks. The text assigns them no peculiar character, but mentions them together with the sixty-two weeks, as a time of restoration and of the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Hengstenberg takes the … (ver. 25) to be parallel to the … and as terminus intermedius in this way, that the angel meant seven weeks until the rebuilding of the city would be finished, and from that time till the Messiah, sixty-two weeks. He endeavours to prove from Herodotus and other profane writers, that Jerusalem was restored to be a large city after above forty-nine years, or, according to his chronology, in the year 406 B.C. But apart from the precarious and unsatisfactory character of this mode of argument, such a solution of the question is impossible, on purely exegetical grounds, as has been clearly pointed out, for example, by Wieseler. For not only would the use of … be unintelligible in this connection, but it also would be meaningless, unless the … etc., were to be taken twice, as seems indeed to be Hengstenberg’s inclination, but which is most unnatural. All the arguments which, with his usual tone of confidence, he advances in defence of his explanation (Christol., p. 454), have so little cogency, that we can only expect to see here again the right view of the prophecy made assailable to the enemy by unneeded violent proofs (Hitzig, p. 172). On the contrary, we must admit that the text contains no material reason for the first portion of seven weeks. They are, to speak generally, brought forward as the fundamental part of the period of restoration. If we wish to understand more about them, we must turn to the consideration of the inward significance of the number seven, which at the time of his Christology, Hengstenberg neglected, while in his more recent works, he exaggerates the symbolism of numbers. The last week may give us a hint for understanding the reason of the especial prominence given to the first seven. As the seventieth week is separated from the rest as a period of revelation, so it may likewise be with the seven weeks. And this conjecture will derive confirmation, if we bear in mind the inward dignity of the number seven to which we have already directed attention in our remarks on the week of salvation.

The analysis of the seventy weeks is based on the principle of the number seven. They end with seven years; they begin with seven times seven. The number seven, it is well-known, has a mystical and symbolical significance throughout Scripture, and especially throughout prophecy, which, however, in no way lessens its chronological value. It is the sum of the number of God, three; and the number of the world, four, and is thus the number of the divine in its relation to the world, of the inward perfection of God, as manifested and viewed in His manifold works and judgments. Where this number prevails, there God is revealed, and vice versa. The inward objective foundation of this law lies in the seven spirits of God, who are the mediators of all his revelations in the world (Rev. i. 4, iii. 1, iv. 5, v. 6). The outward manifestation of the dignity of this number begins as early as the first book and first chapter of the Old Testament, where the work of creation is divided by it, whilst it prevails throughout the whole of the Apocalypse, the last book of the New Testament. Ten, again, is the number of what is human, worldly; it represents the fulness of the world’s manifold activity and development. We may illustrate this by examples taken from our book, where the world-power issues in ten heads and ten horns (ii. 41, 42, vii. 7, 24). The number seventy is ten multiplied by seven; the human is here moulded and fixed by the divine. For this reason the seventy years of exile are a symbolical sign of the time during which the power of the world would, according to God’s will, triumph over Israel, during which it would execute the divine judgments on God’s people. And in the seven times seventy years, or seventy weeks, the world-number ten is likewise contained; the people of God is as yet under the power of the world; it is as yet, for the most part, a time of affliction and distress (…, ver. 25); but the number of the divine is multiplied by itself, and so receives an essential increase of strength; God’s people and kingdom in the world, experience in this time a revival. And yet more than this. God reveals Himself still more immediately and fully in the seventy weeks; for, in the beginning, a period of seven times seven years is specially mentioned, in the end a period of seven. As we find the revelation of the New Testament plainly promised in the latter, so that of the Old Testament, then still in progress, is signified in the former.

We have pointed out above, that the revelation of the Old Testament concludes with the restoration of the Israelitish Theopolis, which had now but to wait for the coming of the bridegroom, the Messiah. We have further pointed out, that the restoration was effected by Ezra, Nehemiah, and Malachi, whose lives and labours extend over a period of about half a century, that is, seven weeks (comp. Preiswerk, p. 278). The three men just mentioned were the last whose writings were received into the canon of the Old Testament; with them, sacred history, the history of revelation under the Old Covenant, ceases—a fact which was well-known to the Jewish people, as we saw from the passage of Josephus, already quoted (c. Ap. i. 8). Lest it should seem, on account of these relations of numbers, that because the seven weeks contain the number seven multiplied by itself, whilst in the last week this number occurs only in its first power, therefore the final period of revelation under the Old Covenant is invested with a higher dignity than that of the New; the angel at once dispels such an illusion, first, by hastily passing over the seven weeks, while he enters into a minute description of the last week; and, secondly, by taking the seven weeks into conjunction with the sixty-two, as belonging to the time of distress, thus making the seventieth week, both by its prominent position and the minute picture of its events, stand out clear, in sublime and unrivalled dignity. On the other hand, we see the seven weeks plainly separated from the sixty-two weeks, in order to show the peculiar fundamental character of the time of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Malachi, as distinguished from the centuries that followed; to point out the difference between the last remnants of the revelation of the Old Testament and that period which enjoyed no revelations at all. The Athnach may have had that place, where we are astonished to find it, in order to point out the marked distinction more strongly, to heighten the emphasis which lies on the seven weeks, and to arrest the reader’s thought and attention. This accent is often found, not at the chief division of the verse (e.g. ver. 2), where it separates between the verb and the object, but (namely, Dan. xi. 5; Ezek. xxxiv. 19; Ps. xxxvi. 8, lxxxiv. 3; Prov. vi. 26) where it separates between the verb and the subject, in order that stress may be laid on the latter, and a kind of antithesis gained (comp. Hengstenberg, S. 464). However, we advance this opinion on the Athnach in our passage only as a supposition; we are, moreover, not bound by the accents, and especially in a chapter concerning the Messiah, where a false accentuation may have sprung from erroneous views of the passage, and from Jewish prejudices of the Masorites. But, however this may be, so much is expressed by the passage, that the revelation of the Old Testament, in its last two shoots, would, on the one hand, be far below the glory of that of the New, and on the other hand, essentially above that of the period without revelation. We find here, at the same time, an indication of the typical relation between the first seven prophetic weeks and the last—between the preparatory salvation after the captivity and the full Messianic salvation—an indication which, it is well-known, has been further developed by the prophets after the exile. But, as we remarked before, the sixty-two weeks intervene as a time without revelation, and full of trouble; for sixty-two is a number altogether without relation to the significant fundamental numbers, and thus designates, and at the same time in contrast to the two divine numbers by which it is enclosed—a period insignificant, and without divine revelation. The relation of the seven weeks, the sixty-two, and the one to each other, is like that of the evening red, the night, and the clear day—a day, it is true, to be succeeded for Israel by a yet darker night. Yet even into the first night there falls a time of great affliction, the time of Antiochus Epiphanes.

What a marvellous and keenly penetrating glance do these words of the angel throw into the succeeding centuries! How wonderfully do they unveil the most decisive crisis of the development of the kingdom of God, even by the mere symbolism of numbers! The history of salvation is mysteriously governed by these holy numbers. They are, so to say, the skeleton, the scaffolding, of the organic edifice. It belongs to our task, to the task of prophetic theology, to enter into their deep significance. The offence taken at the chronological intimations of our chapter, and of Daniel and the Apocalypse in general, will vanish when they are seen from this point of view. They are not merely outward indications of time, but indications of nature and essence. Not only nature, but history, is based in numbers. Scripture and antiquity put numbers as the fundamental forms of things, where we put ideas. Mathematics is also philosophy and metaphysics. Doubtless, we will be astonished, some future day, to discover how simple, after our complex and far-fetched systems, are the fundamental lines on which are based the relations and development of the world. The ancients, with simpler minds, saw deeper into the essences of things. But, in truth, we must believe in revelation, in the full, objective, superhuman sense of the word, before we can understand a prophecy like that under our consideration. Numbers occur, most frequently in that form of revelation, where the supernatural, the immediately divine, is in the foreground, viz. in the Apocalypse. The most supernatural revelation leads us the furthest into the natural, and furnishes us with the clearest hints concerning the mysteries of nature and history; for the God of revelation is no other than the God of creation, the preserver and ruler of the world.

A clear light is thus thrown on the analysis of the last week into two parts. That last time of salvation for many in Israel, during which the old sacrifices and the Old Testament economy in general, is to cease, was brought about, as we know, through Jesus Christ and His apostles. By the division of the week into two halves, Daniel is reminded of the period of three and a half years already known to him (vii. 25). He knows from this source, that this is the time in which the power that opposeth itself to God arrives at its culmination, during which “the saints of the Most High are given into the hands of the enemy.” But this number does not, like ten, designate the power of the world in its fulness, but a power opposed indeed to the divine (which unfolds itself in the number seven), yet broken in itself, powerless, and whose highest triumph is at the same time its defeat. For, immediately after the three and a half times, judgment falls on the victorious powers of the world (vii. 25, 26). This is the wonderful character of the last week, that, though God reveals Himself in the fulness of His covenant mercy, yet the world is in power. The Holy One of God is in the world, not in glory, but as one given into the hands of the world-power; He is there as Maschiach, but not yet as Nagid. As long as He is on earth, He is tormented by the sin and enmity of the world, and, in the end, He is delivered into the hands of sinners, who put Him to death. But while the world thinks it has triumphed, judgment has passed on it, its power is broken (John xii. 31). The death of Jesus falls in the middle of the last week; His prophetic life, including the time of His precursor John, who ushered in the Messianic period, lasted about three years and a half. If, as is just, the work of the Baptist be taken into account, we shall not make the fulfilment of prophecy depend, as Hengstenberg makes it, on uncertain chronological data. That the Old Testament sacrifices and economy were abolished by the offering up of the New Testament sacrifice on the altar of the cross, was tangibly shown by the rending asunder of the veil of the temple, for it stood in most intimate connection with the sacrifices; as the door leading into the Holy of holies—the dwelling of Jehovah—the blood of the sacrifices of atonement was sprinkled against it, and on the great day of atonement, had to be carried through it (Lev. iv. 6, 17; xvi. 2, 15). 2 We regard this event as a fulfilment of our prophecy, just as earlier we claimed in that sense the superscription over the cross. Sacrifices and oblations ceased in fact and essence from that day; though they were outwardly brought for a few decennia after the death of Christ. The heavenly eye which we see throughout that the angels possess, and which sees into the heart of things and men, regarded the service of the hardened, stiff-necked, and self-righteous people, as becoming more and more an idolatrous abomination. Here we find that law of a supernatural estimate, an estimate of events according to their essence which we have met already, and shall presently meet again. That this law does not interfere with the accuracy of our earthly chronology, has already been proved.

We must seek the second half of the last week, and thus the final point of the seventy weeks, in the apostolic age, between three and four years after the death of Christ. This point appears at first sight still more vague and obscure than the terminus a quo. And here we observe again, the necessarily enigmatical character of prophecy, which we have already shown the dignity of revelation demands, and without which prophecy would be degraded to the level of prediction and soothsaying. As we found the beginning of the seventy weeks connected with an important event which the word of God itself points out to the careful investigator, so, in like manner, shall we find the end. A period of about from three to four years—we have no chronological data of greater accuracy—must have elapsed after the death of Christ, during which the gospel was preached exclusively to Jews, and during which the congregation of Christians stood in favour with all the people (Acts ii. 47; v. 13, 14). But then persecutions broke out on the side of Israel against the apostolic church; Stephen fell as the first martyr (Acts vii.). The respite given to the people after the three years’ active ministry of Christ, was now at an end (Luke xiii. 6-9), and the Jews made the measure of their sins, which they had already filled by the murder of the Messiah, flowing and running over (Matt, xxiii. 32-38). The last and highest revelations of mercy were to be vouchsafed to Israel before judgment could overwhelm them; not merely the Son of God, but the Holy Spirit was to visit them (comp. Matt. xxi. 33-41, with xxiii. 34). But when the people rejected Him also, it was inwardly dead; from that day, as it was with our first parents from the day of the fall, it was already an accursed fig tree, a branch cast away and waiting only for the fire of judgment, a carcase round which the eagles must of necessity soon gather (Mark xi. 12, etc.; John xv. 6; Matt. xxiv. 28). Thus the Acts of the Apostles, and it is worthy of all notice, turns away from the Jews after the chapter which records the death of Stephen (viii.), and describes how the gospel passed over gradually to the Gentiles. This remarkable book is thus, by its entire historic view, which Michael Baumgarten has so beautifully developed in its holy and deep symmetry, an eloquent witness for the fulfilment of our prophecy, and serves the same purpose in regard to the terminus ad quem, as Ezra and Nehemiah serve for the terminus a quo. The angel mentions also the execution of the decree of the divine judgment in Israel by the Roman world-power under Titus, but this does not strictly belong to the seventy weeks, and is also not narrated in the New Testament. The absence of this narrative in both places is to be explained by the same reason. Israel, after having rejected salvation, ceased to be the subject of sacred history, and became that of profane history alone.

The ninth chapter—such is our result—reaches, with its prophecy of both salvation and judgment, till the close of the first Messianic period, till the rejection of Christ by Israel and the consequent rejection of Israel by Christ, “till the temporary interruption of the history which began in Abraham, by that judgment on the people of the covenant which Titus was called to execute.” From this time the kingdom of God is taken from Israel and given to the Gentiles (Matt. xxi. 43), until the second coming of the Messiah, when the covenant people will be converted, and take its place at the head of humanity (Matt, xxiii. 39; Acts i. 6, 7; vii. 3, 19-21; Rom. xi. 25-31, 15). This second coming of the Messiah in glory, and the restoration of the kingdom of Israel connected with it, Daniel beheld in the seventh chapter. The intervening period between the two Messianic epochs, or between the destruction of Jerusalem and the conversion of all Israel, which forms for the people of the covenant a great parenthesis, filled up by the fourth monarchy, is veiled from Daniel in considerable obscurity, on account of his Old Testament and Israelitish standpoint. And it is this very parenthesis which we shall see filled up by the Apocalypse of St John.


1. Karl August Auberlen, Magnus Friedrich Roos: The prophecies of Daniel and the revelations of St John: viewed in their mutual relation, with an exposition of the principal passages. T. & T. Clark, 1856. pp. 131-141.