Home > Book of Genesis, Olivet Discourse, The 2,300 days, The firmament, The Gospel > F. W. Farrar and the 2,300 days

F. W. Farrar and the 2,300 days

November 8, 2012

In the Olivet Discourse where Jesus responds to the question about the sign of his coming and the end of the age, Jesus focused upon seeing the abomination of desolation mentioned in the prophecies of Daniel. Scholars have long debated what he meant. In Daniel chapter 8, a prophecy is described that refers to 2,300 days, and its meaning would only be understood at the “time of the end.” [Dan. 8:17] When Jesus referred to one of the prophecies of Daniel in connection with the “sign” of the end time, he must have meant that when Daniel’s prophecies are understood, that would be the sign of his coming that the disciples requested.

Frederic William Farrar

Frederic William Farrar (1831-1903) was an Anglican churchman and scholar. He was the archdeacon of Westminster Abbey and the Dean of Canterbury. He was the author of a critical work on Daniel’s prophecies, The book of Daniel [London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1895].

Farrar doubted that Daniel really lived in ancient Babylon. On Daniel 8:1, he wrote: [p. 252]

This vision is dated as having occurred in the third year of Belshazzar; but it is not easy to see the significance of the date, since it is almost exclusively occupied with the establishment of the Greek Empire, its dissolution into the kingdoms of the Diadochi, and the godless despotism of King Antiochus Epiphanes.

The seer imagines himself to be in the palace of Shushan: “As I beheld I was in the castle of Shushan.”

The date mentioned in verse 1, the third year of Belshazzar or about BC 553, is crucial for understanding the 2,300 days mentioned in the vision, which extends from the date of the vision itself: “unto 2,300 days.” But the “days” are not literal days; they are symbols of a much longer time period, and are best interpreted as years, so Daniel’s prophecy really alludes to 23 centuries. The date in which it was given is significant, because it points to a time 23 centuries in the future. But like other nineteenth century critics, Farrar discounted the possibility that Daniel is genuine prophecy. He described the vision as follows: [p. 254]

Lifting up his eyes, Daniel sees a ram standing east ward of the river-basin. It has two lofty horns, the loftier of the two being the later in origin. It butts westward, northward, and southward, and does great things. But in the midst of its successes a he-goat, with a conspicuous horn between its eyes, comes from the West so swiftly over the face of all the earth that it scarcely seems even to touch the ground, and runs upon the ram in the fury of his strength, conquering and trampling upon him, and smashing in pieces his two horns. But his impetuosity was short lived, for the great horn was speedily broken, and four others rose in its place towards the four winds of heaven. Out of these four horns shot up a puny horn, which grew exceedingly great towards the South, and towards the East, and towards “the Glory” i.e., towards the Holy Land. It became great even to the host of heaven, and cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and trampled on them.

He even behaved proudly against the prince of the host, took away from him “the daily” (sacrifice), polluted the dismantled sanctuary with sacrilegious arms, and cast the truth to the ground and prospered. Then “one holy one called to another and asked, For how long is the vision of the daily [sacrifice], and the horrible sacrilege, that thus both the sanctuary and host are surrendered to be trampled underfoot?” And the answer is, “Until two thousand three hundred ‘erebh-bôqer, evening-morning; then will the sanctuary be justified.”

Daniel sought to understand the vision, and immediately there stood before him one in the semblance of a man, and he hears the distant voice of some one standing between the Ulai–i.e., between its two banks, or perhaps between its two branches, the Eulaeus and the Choaspes–who called aloud to “Gabriel.” The archangel Gabriel is here first mentioned in Scripture. “Gabriel,” cried the voice, “explain to him what he has seen.” So Gabriel came and stood beside him; but he was terrified, and fell on his face. “Observe, thou son of man,” said the angel to him; “for unto the time of the end is the vision.” But since Daniel still lay prostrate on his face, and sank into a swoon, the angel touched him, and raised him up, and said that the great wrath was only for a fixed time, and he would tell him what would happen at the end of it.

Farrar thought the horn of the goat growing up to the sky, and casting stars to the ground, and trampling upon them, and casting the truth to the ground, all referred to the afflictions endured by Jews in the time of Antiochus IV, and struggled to fit the time period of 2,300 days into the history of that time. He dismissed the angel’s statement, “for unto the time of the end is the vision.” Events of a political nature, and the temporary desecration of the Jewish temple in the second century BC could hardly be very significant at the end of the present age. Farrar wrote: [p. 259]

With one only of the four kingdoms, and with one only of its kings, is the vision further concerned–with the kingdom of the Seleucidæ, and with the eighth king of the dynasty, Antiochus Epiphanes. In this chapter, however, a brief sketch only of him is furnished. Many details of the minutest kind are subsequently added.

He is called “a puny horn,” because, in his youth, no one could have anticipated his future greatness. He was only a younger son of Antiochus III. (the Great). When Antiochus III. was defeated in the Battle of Magnesia under Mount Sipylus (B.C. 190), his loss was terrible. Fifty thousand foot and four thousand horse were slain on the battlefield, and fourteen hundred were taken prisoners. He was forced to make peace with the Romans, and to give them hostages, one of whom was Antiochus the Younger, brother of Seleucus, who was heir to the throne. Antiochus for thirteen years languished miserably as a hostage at Rome. His father, Antiochus the Great, was either slain in B.C. 187 by the people of Elymais, after his sacrilegious plundering of the Temple of Jupiter-Belus; or murdered by some of his own attendants whom he had beaten during a fit of drunkenness. Seleucus Philopator succeeded him, and after having reigned for thirteen years, wished to see his brother Antiochus again. He therefore sent his son Demetrius in exchange for him, perhaps desiring that the boy, who was then twelve years old, should enjoy the advantage of a Roman education, or thinking that Antiochus would be of more use to him in his designs against Ptolemy Philometor, the child-king of Egypt. When Demetrius was on his way to Rome, and Antiochus had not yet reached Antioch, Heliodorus the treasurer seized the opportunity to poison Seleucus and usurp the crown.

The chances, therefore, of Antiochus seemed very forlorn. But he was a man of ability, though with a taint of folly and madness in his veins. By allying himself with Eumenes, King of Pergamum, as we shall see hereafter, he suppressed Heliodorus, secured the kingdom, and “becoming very great,” though only by fraud, cruelty, and stratagem, assumed the title of Epiphanes “the Illustrious.” He extended his power “towards the South “by intriguing and warring against Egypt and his young nephew, Ptolemy Philometor; and “towards the Sunrising” by his successes in the direction of Media and Persia;  and towards “the Glory” or “Ornament” (hatstsebi) i.e., the Holy Land. Inflated with insolence, he now set himself against the stars, the host of heaven i.e., against the chosen people of God and their leaders. He cast down and trampled on them, and defied the Prince of the host; for he

“Not e’en against the Holy One of heaven
Refrained his tongue blasphemous.”

His chief enormity was the abolition of “the daily” (tamîd) i.e., the sacrifice daily offered in the Temple; and the desecration of the sanctuary itself by violence and sacrilege, which will be more fully set forth in the next chapters. He also seized and destroyed the sacred books of the Jews. As he forbade the reading of the Law of which the daily lesson was called the Parashah there began from this time the custom of selecting a lesson from the Prophets, which was called the Haphtarah.

It was natural to make one of the holy ones, who are supposed to witness this horrible iniquity, inquire how long it was to be permitted. The enigmatic answer is, “Until an evening-morning two thousand three hundred.”

The obvious meaning of this requires that the period began immediately, when the words were spoken. But Farrar apparently thought Daniel was a contemporary of Antiochus IV. He supposed the period referred to was a lapse in the regular temple offerings, and he applied it to the duration of the desecration of the temple initiated by Antiochus. Below, Farrar discusses whether the 2,300 “evening-mornings” refer to a period of 2,300 days, or half that time, 1,150 days. Like other scholars he was frustrated because neither period fits the events recorded about the history of the period. Farrar wrote: [p. 262]

Daniel is bidden to hide the vision for many days, a sentence which is due to the literary plan of the Book; and he is assured that the vision concerning the “evening-morning” was true. He adds that the vision exhausted and almost annihilated him; but, afterwards, he arose and did the king’s business. He was silent about the vision, for neither he nor any one else understood it. Of course, had the real date of the chapter been in the reign of Belshazzar, it was wholly impossible that either the seer or any one else should have been able to attach any significance to it.

Emphasis is evidently attached to the “two thousand three hundred evening-morning” during which the desolation of the sanctuary is to continue.

What does the phrase “evening-morning” (‘erebh-bôqer) mean?

In ver. 26 it is called “the vision concerning the evening and the morning.”

Does “evening-morning” mean a whole day, like the Greek νυχθημερον, or half a day? The expression is doubly perplexing. If the writer meant “days,” why does he not say “days,” as in xii. 11, 12? And why, in any case, does he here use the solecism ‘erebh-bôqer (Abendmorgen), and not, as in ver. 26, “evening and morning”? Does the expression mean two thousand three hundred days? or eleven hundred and fifty days?

It is a natural supposition that the time is meant to correspond with the three years and a half (“a time, two times, and half a time”) of vii. 25. But here again all certainty of detail is precluded by our ignorance as to the exact length of years by which the writer reckoned; and how he treated the month Ve-adar, a month of thirty days, which was intercalated once in every six years.

Supposing that he allowed an intercalary fifteen days for three and a half years, and took the Babylonian reckoning of twelve months of thirty days, then three and a half years gives us twelve hundred and seventy-five days, or, omitting any allowance for intercalation, twelve hundred and sixty days.

If, then, “two thousand three hundred evening-morning” means two thousand three hundred half days, we have one hundred and ten days too many for the three and a half years.

And if the phrase means two thousand three hundred full days, that gives us (counting thirty intercalary days for Ve-adar) too little for seven years by two hundred and fifty days. Some see in this a mystic intimation that the period of chastisement shall for the elect’s sake be shortened. Some commentators reckon seven years roughly, from the elevation of Menelaus to the high-priesthood (Kisleu, B.C. 168: 2 Macc. v. 11) to the victory of Judas Maccabaeus over Nicanor at Adasa, March, B.C. 161 (1 Macc. vii. 25-50; 2 Macc. xv. 20-35).

In neither case do the calculations agree with the twelve hundred and ninety or the thirteen hundred and thirty-five days of xii. 12, 13.

Entire volumes of tedious and wholly inconclusive comment have been written on these combinations, but by no reasonable supposition can we arrive at close accuracy. Strict chronological accuracy was difficult of attainment in those days, and was never a matter about which the Jews, in particular, greatly troubled themselves. We do not know either the terminus a quo from which or the terminus ad quem to which the writer reckoned. All that can be said is that it is perfectly impossible for us to identify or exactly equiparate the three and a half years (vii. 25), the “two thousand three hundred evening-morning” (viii. 14), the seventy-two weeks (ix. 26), and the twelve hundred and ninety days (xii. 11). Yet all those dates have this point of resemblance about them, that they very roughly indicate a space of about three and a half years (more or less) as the time during which the daily sacrifice should cease, and the Temple be polluted and desolate.

Turning now to the dates, we know that Judas the Maccabee cleansed (“justified” or “vindicated,” viii. 14) the Temple on Kisleu 25 (December 25th, B.C. 165). If we reckon back two thousand three hundred full days from this date, it brings us to B.C. 171, in which Menelaus, who bribed Antiochus to appoint him high priest, robbed the Temple of some of its treasures, and procured the murder of the high priest Onias III. In this year Antiochus sacrificed a great sow on the altar of burnt offerings, and sprinkled its broth over the sacred building. These crimes provoked the revolt of the Jews, in which they killed Lysimachus, governor of Syria, and brought on themselves a heavy retribution.

If we reckon back two thousand three hundred half-days, eleven hundred and fifty whole days, we must go back three years and seventy days, but we cannot tell what exact event the writer had in mind as the starting-point of his calculations. The actual time which elapsed from the final defilement of the Temple by Apollonius, the general of Antiochus, in B.C. 168, till its repurification was roughly three years. Perhaps, however for all is uncertain the writer reckoned from the earliest steps taken, or contemplated, by Antiochus for the suppression of Judaism. The purification of the Temple did not end the time of persecution, which was to continue, first, for one hundred and forty days longer, and then forty-five days more (xii. 11, 12). It is clear from this that the writer reckoned the beginning and the end of troubles from different epochs which we have no longer sufficient data to discover.

It must, however, be borne in mind that no minute certainty about the exact dates is attainable. Many authorities, from Prideaux down to Schürer, place the desecration of the Temple towards the close of B.C. 168. Kuenen sees reason to place it a year later. Our authorities for this period of history are numerous, but they are fragmentary, abbreviated, and often inexact. Fortunately, so far as we are able to see, no very important lesson is lost by our inability to furnish an undoubted or a rigidly scientific explanation of the minuter details.

Farrar discounts the prophecy of Daniel. He says the 2,300 days refers to the events in the time of Antiochus, but he is uncertain whether it means 1,150 days or 2,300 literal days. His approach mimics that of other critics of his own age and depicts Daniel as a fraud.  His tone is sometimes haughty, and scornful. In his interpretation the prophecy has no meaningful application to the time of the end. He dismissed the idea that the book of Daniel contained any predictions at all. This is evident from his statement on p. 37: “How lofty and enduring are the lessons to be learnt alike from its historic and predictive sections we shall have abundant opportunities of seeing in the following pages. So far from undervaluing its teaching, I have always been strongly drawn to this Book of Scripture. It has never made the least difference in my reverent acceptance of it that I have, for many years, been convinced that it cannot be regarded as literal history or ancient prediction.”

Farrar missed the whole point of Daniel’s prophecy in chapter 8. But he was not living in the end time, to which Jesus referred, when he mentioned the abomination of desolation in his Olivet Discourse. Jesus said, “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains.” [Matt. 24:15-16] The mountains are symbolic of the promises of God. The time when Daniel is correctly understood would be the end time that the disciples asked about, when the wise will understand. [Dan. 12:10] In Daniel 8:17 the angel said, “Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision.” The 2,300 days are not literal days; the period began when the vision was given, and spans 23 centuries from the mid 6th century BC to the mid 18th century AD.

The events portrayed in the vision have a cosmological significance. Stars and the truth cast to the earth, and the place of God’s sanctuary which was cast down, are the starry heavens. In the scriptures, changes were introduced by Antiochus IV, that redefined the ‘raqia’ of Genesis 1:8. Originally the creation account said the earth’s rocky crust was formed on day 2. This was changed, to disguise the true account, and make it conform to the geocentric ideas of the Greeks. That is what the 2,300 evening mornings or days refer to. The phrase evening mornings may be a link to Genesis 1. Here, the KJV refers to “firmament of heaven” several times. If the “firmament” was always heaven, it would be redundant to use the phrase “firmament of heaven.” The chapter became overloaded with the word “firmament,” because of the fraud initiated by Antiochus IV and his Jewish supporters in the 2nd century BC.

In Genesis 1, the statements that God named some of the things he created were introduced. None of these are genuine. In particular, the statement “And God called the firmament Heaven” is fraudulent. The Greeks worshipped the rigid heaven as a god, and the chief of their gods, Zeus. This underlies the introduction of the statement that “God called the firmament Heaven” in Genesis 1. Apostate Jews promoted this change in the scriptures in the following centuries. Early Christian scholars who admired the Greek cosmology were deceived by it. The apostle Peter wrote, “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” [2 Peter:3:5-7]

Peter understood that the earth was made, in the midst of the primeval waters, on day 2, not the sky.

The 2,300 days is 23 centuries, and the prophecy points to the duration of the flawed geocentric cosmology. In the mid 18th century it was overthrown, because of the discoveries of astronomers, and the work of men like Kepler, Galileo, and Sir Isaac Newton. They developed the ideas that led to the scientific revolution. In about 1750, there was a great “enlightenment.” Men all over the world realized the earth revolves on its axis, not the sky. The rigid firmament was abolished, along with all the imaginary planetary spheres. This fulfilled Daniel’s prophecy of the 2,300 days.