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The Chronology of the Bible
By Philip Mauro
The Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9 - When do they Begin and End?
Some questions of deepest interest arise in connection with the period covered by our last chronological table; but they are question of interpretation of Scripture, rather than questions of chronology. All expositors are agreed (so far as we are aware) that the message brought by Gabriel to Daniel gives the measure of years, from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem, unto the Messiah, the Prince, as sixtynine sevens of years, that is, 483 years. But there is much difference of opinion as to, firsit, which decree it was from which the time began to run, and second, what event it was in the lifetime of our Lord to which the 483 years reached. It is manifest that, unless those two points (the beginning and the ending of the 483 years) can be established with certainty, we cannot continue our chronology down to the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, and the dated line so carefully preserved for 3500 years would fail to reach its objective. But, after much study of the entire subject, we are convinced that the Scriptures do not leave us in uncertainty as to those necessary matters of fact, but that, on the contrary, both events are marked and dated with unusual exactitude. Furthermore, it has become quite clear to us that the differences of opinion, to which we are referred, have arisen altogether from the fact that some of our able chronologists and expositors have adopted the mistaken estimates of Ptolemy as the foundation of their systems of dates, instead of grounding themselves upon the chronology of the Bible. Having committed themselves to a chronological scheme which makes the era of the Persian Empire about 80 years too long, they have been compelled to construe the statements of Scripture in such wise as to force them into agreement with that scheme; and inasmuch as the measure of 483 years from the first year of Cyrus would, if Ptolemy's table be accepted, come short, by many years, of any event in the lifetime of Christ, one must either abandon that table, or else must search for a decree of a Persian king, many years nearer to Christ, to serve as the starting point of the Seventy Weeks of Daniel. The trouble, therefore, is not because of any uncertainty in the Scriptures, but that expositors have turned aside from the Scriptures, and have accepted for the 500 years immediately preceding the coming of Christ, a defective chronology based upon heathen traditions.
In another place we have discussed at considerable length the many interesting questions that have arisen concerning the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks, so we shall not go extensively into that subject here. It is appropriate, however, that the main reasons for the conclusions we have reached should be set forth with sufficient fullness to enable the readers of this book to examine them in the light of Scripture.
Our main conclusions are:
First, that the canon of Ptolemy is untrustworthy as a basis for a system of chronology, its statements being not authenticated in any way; and that, therefore, it should be rejected as unworthy of our confidence, even if it did not come into conflict with the statements of Scripture;
Second, that "the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem," from which the prophetic period of Seventy Weeks began to run (Dan. 9:2 5), was the decree of Cyrus the Great, referred to in Ezra 1:1-4;
Third, that the 483-year period of Daniel 9:25, reaching "unto the Messiah, the Prince," ended at the baptism of our Lord, in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar, when He was thirty years of age. . .
The words "unto the Messiah the Prince" indicate the goal towards which the long chronological line of the Bible had been steadily advancing. In the days of Daniel the voice of prophecy was about to cease, and the inspired history of God's ancient people was about to come to an end. But, before the sacred record closed, the last stage of the chronology of the Old Testament was made known to "Daniel the Prophet," and by him was recorded in "the Scriptures of Truth." From the going forth of the decree of Cyrus, unto the greater Deliverer, of whom Cyrus was a remarkable type, was to be a stretch of sixtynine "sevens" of years.
The words "unto the Messiah" tell us with all requisite clearness and certainty to just what point in the life-time of Jesus Christ the measure of 69 sevens (483 years) reaches. The word Messiah (equivalent to the Greek Christos) means "the anointed." We ask, therefore, where, in the earthlife of our Lord, was He anointed and presented to Israel? The answer is clearly given in the Gospels and Acts. It was at His baptism in Jordan; for then it was that the Holy Ghost descended upon Him in bodily shape as a dove; and then it was thatJohn the Baptist bore witness to Him as the Son of God, and the Lamb of God. As the apostle Peter declared: "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power" (Acts 10:38); and from that time He gave Himself to His public Messianic ministry as a "minister of the circumcision."
To this important matter we have also the Lord's own testimony. For, after His return in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, where, according to Isaiah 9:1,2, the " Great Light" was to arise (see also Mat. 3 :12-16), He went on the Sabbath day into the synagogue in Nazareth, and read from the prophet Isaiah these memorable words: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor"; and then, having sat down, and the eyes of all being fastened intently upon Him, He said, "This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears " (Luke 4 :16-21) . Thus the Lord declared Himself to be at that time the "Anointed" One, that is the Messiah.
John the Baptist was sent to "bear witness" of Christ, and "that He should be made manifest to Israel" (John 1:6,7,31). this special ministry of John was discharged by him at the time of Christ's baptism. When, therefore, the Lord Jesus had been "anointed" with the Holy Ghost, and had been "made manifest to Israel" by the witness of John, then the words of the prophecy "unto the Anointed One" were completely fulfilled. From that great and wonderful event, down to the day of His death, He was constantly before the people of Israel in His Messianic character, and was devoting Himself continuously to the fulfilling of His Messianic service, in going about doing good, manifesting the Father's Name, doing the Father's works, speaking the Father's words, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, cleansing the lepers, raising the dead, and preaching the glad-tidings of the Kingdom of God.
Indeed, even before He announced Himself in the synagogue in Nazareth as God's "Anointed One," He had plainly said to the woman of Samaria (when she spoke of "Messias, Who is called Christ") "I that speak unto theee am He'' (John 4:25,26). Moreover, to the Samaritans who came out to see Him upon hearing the woman's report and her question "Is not this the Messiah?", He so fully revealed Himself that they were constrained to confess Him, saying, "We have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ (the Anointed One) the Saviour of the world" (v.42).
Again, the purpose, as well as the effect, of the ministry of John the Baptist's public testimony toChrist is clearly revealed by the words of those who, upon hearing that testimony, followed Him. We read that "One of the two who heard John speak and followed Him (Jesus) was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first Qndeth his own brother and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ" (John 1:40,41).
In these Scriptures the Holy Spirit has caused the important fact that Jesus was the Anointed One to be stated both in Hebrew and in Greek, so that the significance of it should not be lost. That "this Jesus is the Christ" is the great point of apostolic testimony (Acts 17:3); and it is the substance of "our faith," for "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God" (I John 5:1,4,5). It is also the Rock-foundation upon which He builds His church (Mat. 16:18; I Cor. 3:11).
Thus the Spirit of God has been pleased to give us proof upon proof that, from our Lord's baptism and manifestation to Israel, He was, in the fullest sense, the Messiah or the Anointed of God. Manifestly there was no previous event in the earthly lifetime of our Lord which could be taken as meeting in any way the words of Gabriel. And it is equally clear that no subsequent event could be taken as the fulfillment of those words. For there was, and could be, no subsequent occasion when the Lord was any more the "Anointed One" than when the Spirit descended upon Him at His baptism. Thus the Scriptures absolutely shut us up to the Lord's baptism, as the occasion when He was Anointed, and presented to Israel in His Messianic office. His baptism then marked the termination of the 69 weeks of Daniel 9 : 2 5, and the beginning of the 70th week from the starting point of that prophecy.
But, on top of all the foregoing evidences is the culminating proof found in the fact that this epoch (His baptism), and this alone, is formally dated in the Scriptures (and in the most conspicuous way), and His age at the time is stated. For in Luke 3:1-3 the era of the preaching and baptism of John is given with extraordinary minuteness, which certifies to us that this era has a place of special importance in connection with the chronology of Scripture as a whole. It is an impressive fact that both the decree of Cyrus, and the baptism of John -- that is to say, both the beginning and the ending of the sixty-nine weeks -- are set forth with great particularity, and that they are given with reference to the reigns of Gentile rulers. One is given as occurring " in the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia," and the other "in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. . ." This is an indication that the things which were to be consummated within the time-limit of seventy weeks were not matters which concerned the Jews only, but were of world-wide interest, having to do with the salvation of Gentiles as well as Jews. God's dealings theretofore had been matters of Jewish history; but now, beginning with the voice of one crying in the wilderness, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord," a new era was beginning, one in which God's dealings were to be matters of world history. It is appropriate, therefore, that we should have at this point a change from terms of Jewish to terms of Gentile chronology.
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