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Kenneth Gentry and the seventy weeks

July 2, 2012

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. has discussed the dispensational interpretation of Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy in a series of blog posts. In Dispensationalism’s difficulty with Daniel he points out that dispensational theology is dependent upon its position on the 70 weeks, which introduces uncertainty because Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy is notoriously difficult to interpret.

In What are daniel’s seventy “weeks”? Gentry stated that the 70 weeks is 490 years, and then reviewed biblical evidence that he felt supported his statement.  He claimed: “The seventy weeks represent a period of seventy times seven years, or 490 years.” In my view, that approach is simplistic and obscures the possibility that different kinds of units are employed in each of the three sections, the 7 weeks, 62 weeks, and 1 week. If the units of the 70 weeks are the same in all three section, why are they divided into three sections?

Edward J. Young said no satisfactory proof exists for the assumption that the weeks are seven years. E. W. Hengstenberg assumed weeks of seven years, but T. F. D. Kliefoth and C. F. Keil abandoned that position. Young wrote: [1]

Most expositors find here a week of 7 years duration, a total of 490 years. To support this, various expedients are adopted, but the most convincing is an appeal to the years of Jer. “A reference to these is sufficient to show that seventy ordinary weeks cannot for a moment be thought of. For what comfort would it have afforded to Daniel, if he had been told that, as a compensation for the seventy years of desolation, the city would stand for seventy ordinary weeks, and then be destroyed again? Moreover Daniel himself must have been able to perceive, from the magnitude of the events, which were to take place during this period; that something more was intended than ordinary weeks” (Hengstenberg).

But this appeal to the years of Jer. does not prove that weeks of years are intended, and in fact, there is no satisfactory proof of this position. Keil, therefore, correctly, I believe, follows Kliefoth in the assumption that the reference is to “an intentionally indefinite designation of a period of time measured by the number seven, whose chronological duration must be determined on other grounds.”

Hengstenberg would understand the word time before seven, thus, a time of 70 sevens. This, however, is unnecessary. The s. is decreed shows that the phrase is to be taken in a collective sense. We might paraphrase: “A period of sevens-even 70 of them–is decreed.” The 70 sevens are thus to be regarded as a unit.

Gentry denies that the 70 weeks contain any gap, but insisting that the 70 weeks are 490 years invokes a gap between the end of the 70 years of Jeremiah’s prophecy and the start of the weeks, and one could also say that his position requires another gap following the expiry of the 70th week, which he presumably believes occurred in about 34 AD; it places the gap or parenthesis of dispensationalism after the 70th week instead of before.

Gentry believes the ministry of Christ began when the 69th week was completed, and the final week included the ministry of Jesus, the crucifixion, and the preaching of the gospel among the Jews for three and a half more years.

In The covenantal structure of the seventy weeks Gentry quoted snippets from works by Meredith Kline and E. J. Young, but paid no attention to how they interpreted the 70th week in which Christ confirms the covenant. Both men, IMO, presented more enlightened and comprehensive views of Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy than Gentry; Young resisted the idea that sevens are necessarily seven years. He provided the following summary of the prophecy in the 9th chapter of Daniel. [2]

In response to his prayer, Gabriel announces to Dan. that a period of sevens–the exact length of the seven is not stated–in fact, seventy of them, has been decreed for the purpose of accomplishing the Messianic work. This Messianic work is described both in negative and positive terms; negative–restraining the transgression, completing sin and covering iniquity; positive–bringing in everlasting righteousness, sealing vision and prophet and anointing a holy of holies.

Dan. therefore is to know and understand that from the going forth of a word to restore and build Jerusalem unto an anointed one who is also a prince (i.e., a royal priest) is seven sevens and sixty and two sevens. We are not told when this word went forth from the Lord but the effects of its issuance first appear in the return from bondage during the first year of Cyrus. This period is divided into two. The first period of seven sevens is evidently intended to include the time from the first year of Cyrus to the completion of the work of Ezra and Nehemiah, and the second that from the completion of the work of Ezra and Nehemiah unto the first advent of Christ who alone can be described as an anointed one, a prince. During this entire period the city will be completely rebuilt, although this will be accomplished during times of distress and affliction.

After the expiration of these two periods, two events are to occur. Whether or not these two events fall within the 70th seven is not immediately stated. One of them is the death of the Messiah and the other follows as a consequent, the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Roman armies of Titus.

For the period of the 70th seven the Messiah causes a covenant to prevail for many, and in the half of this seven by His death He causes the Jewish sacrifices and oblation to cease. His death is thus seen to belong within the 70th seven. Consequent upon this causing the sacrifices and oblation to cease is the appearance of a desolator over the pinnacle of the Temple, which has now become an abomination. Upon the ruins a determined full end pours out. This event, the destruction of the city, does not, therefore, take place within the 70 sevens, but follows as a consequent upon the cutting off of the Messiah in the 70th seven.

The question naturally arises, What marks the termination of the 70 sevens? In answer it should be noted that the text does not say a word about the termination. The terminus ad quem of the 69 sevens is clearly stated, namely, an anointed one, a prince. No such terminus ad quem, however, is given for the 70 sevens themselves. It would seem, therefore, that the terminus ad quem was not regarded as possessing particular importance or significance. No important event is singled out as marking the termination. All schools of interpretation, therefore, are faced with the difficulty of determining what marked the close of the 70 sevens. And all schools discover this event upon the basis of considerations other than those presented in the text. The text says nothing upon the subject. Therefore, we may safely follow the text. When the 70 sevens come to a conclusion, we do not know.

For that matter, the text is somewhat vague about the terminus a quo of the 70 sevens. It speaks merely of the going forth of a word. It appears that the principal emphasis is not upon the beginning and ending of this remarkable period but upon the mighty events which were to transpire therein, events which have wrought our peace with God. The passage is Messianic through and through. Well will it be for us, if we too, in our study of this supremely important prophecy, place our emphasis, not upon dates and mathematical calculations, but upon that central Figure who was both anointed and a prince, who by being cut off has made reconciliation for iniquity and brought in the only righteousness that is acceptable with God, even His own eternal righteousness.

Nothing is said in the New Testament about the termination of the 70 weeks occurring in the lifetime of the apostles. If it had occurred in the year 34 AD, surely they would have reported it. Meredeth Kline concluded that the final half of the 70th week spans the entire age of the church. He wrote: [3]

In the course of the climactic seventieth week, masiah nagid, the anointed priest-king, would make the covenant prevail both in renewal and in judgment. Cut off in death, Messiah would make priestly reconciliation for iniquity, so perfecting sacrifice forever and instituting the new covenant. Then exercising His royal heavenly rule over all the nations, Messiah in the midst of the seventieth week would send forces of destruction against the Jerusalem temple, so making the old ritual system cease and bringing the old covenant to its end.

When we survey the fulfillment of Gabriel’s prophecy from our vantage point, it appears that the last half of the seventieth week is the age of the community of the new covenant, disengaged from the old covenant order with whose closing days its own beginnings overlapped for a generation. In the imagery of the New Testament Apocalypse, the last half week is the age of the church in the wilderness of the nations for a time, and times, and half a time (Rev. 12:14). Since the seventy weeks are ten jubilee eras that issue in the last jubilee, the seventieth week closes with the angelic trumpeting of the earth’s redemption and the glorious liberty of the children of God. The acceptable year of the Lord which came with Christ will then have fully come. Then the new Jerusalem whose temple is the Lord and the Lamb will descend from heaven (Rev. 21:10,22) and the ark of the covenant will be seen (Rev. 11:19), the covenant the Lamb has made to prevail and the Lord has remembered.

In Daniel and the command to “restore” Gentry considered whether the 70 weeks began at the decree of Cyrus, and concluded that they do not. His problem, in my view, is a slavish commitment to the idea that all the weeks in Daniel’s prophecy are 7 years, although there is nothing in scripture that requires it. Gentry selects the seventh year of Artaxerxes I, 457 BC, as the start date. He made no mention of Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 44:26-28 that bears directly on the question and clearly identifies Cyrus as the one who would give the word to build both the temple and the city of Jerusalem.

In The focus of Daniel 9:24 Gentry points out that each of the items listed in Daniel 9:24 as being accomplished in the 70 weeks “have to do with events surrounding Christ’s first advent and his redemptive work.” This idea was developed futher in Daniel’s goal and christ’s work.

Gentry discusses the controversial gap or parenthesis between the 69th and 70th weeks in Is there a gap in the seventy weeks? In both the dispensational view, and in Gentry’s view, the destruction of the temple is not included in the 70th week. Gentry wrote:

The goal of the Seventy Weeks is not the AD 70 destruction of the temple, which Daniel does not mention in Daniel 9:24. That destruction is a later consequence of certain events that will occur within the seventy weeks. The actual act of God’s reserving judgment (v 24) occurs within the seventy weeks; the later removal of that reservation does not. No necessity at all for a gap exists.

In Daniel’s prophecy, however, the destruction of the temple is included in the last week, and it is actually “in the midst” of it; “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease.” [Daniel 9:27a]

Gentry’s position seems quite precarious; while he seeks to destroy the dispensational interpretation, his own view, of which we catch only fleeting glimpses in his posts, is equally vulnerable.

In The dispensational covenant in Daniel’s 70 weeks Gentry discussed the covenant that Christ confirms in the 70th week. Although he cited Romans 15:8, where Paul stated: “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers,” Gentry was vague about what covenant is meant in Daniel’s prophecy. He believes that it includes the crucifixion. Gentry wrote,

The parallelism with verse 26 indicates that the Messiah’s death directly relates to the covenant’s confirming. he is “cut off” but “not for himself” (v 26a), for he “confirms the covenant” for the “many” of Israel (v 27a). His “cutting off” brings the covenant’s confirmation, for “without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Heb 9:22).

Gentry’s view of confirming the covenant seems rather narrow. It would be helpful to consider that Paul identified the promises to Abraham with the gospel in Galatians 3:8, and said that the “seed” mentioned in the promises is Christ. [vs. 16]

Malachi 3:1 refers to Christ as “the messenger of the covenant.” Jesus confirmed the covenant for three and a half years during his earthly ministry, and continues to confirm it to the present day. The final half of the 70th week applies not to the earthly city, but to the heavenly one.

When Jesus rose from the grave and ascended to his Father’s throne, the mountain of the Lord’s house was exulted to the top of the mountains as foretold in Isaiah 2:2. Since then, the time units in the prophecy are no longer earth days, earth months, or earth years or leap years, as they were for the previous portion. Units of time, as well as units of space, must be spiritual, when applied to spiritual things. The dimensions of the wall of the holy city in Revelation 21:17 are specified in terms of “cubits of an angel.” These are not regular cubits, or else, why would he specify that they were angelic? The same principle applies to time.

The final half of the 70th week applies to the whole time that Christ confirms his covenant with the church, the beloved city, built by God, without hands. The duration of her preparation is not given in earthly units of time, but as a symbolic three and a half years, the time, times, and a half, a symbol of the whole age of the church, which completes the week in which Christ confirms his covenant, which is an everlasting one. [Hebrews 13:20]

References

1. Edward J. Young. The Prophecy of Daniel: A Commentary. W. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1949. pp. 196-197.

2. Ibid., pp. 220-221.

3. Meredith G. Kline. The Covenant of the Seventieth Week. In: The Law and the Prophets: Old Testament Studies in Honor of Oswald T. Allis. ed. by J.H. Skilton. [Nutley, NJ]: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1974, pp. 452-469.

 

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