A Preliminary Plea for Tolerance in Non-Essential Eschatological Matters
Few areas of theological study ignite such heated controversy as eschatology. Sadly, on account of eschatological differences, Christians all too often hurl harsh, bitter invectives against those whom they would claim as their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Such behavior, not to mention the doctrinal divisions, both damages the public witness of the Body of Christ and significantly hinders the proclamation of the Gospel. In the words of the Apostle James, My brothers, this should not be (James 3:10). As believers in Christ, we must be able to lock arms together on all essential matters of the Christian faith, while agreeing to disagree in non-essential or disputable matters. We must remember that famous statement of Rupertus Meldenius, In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity. When we fail to do so, we stand in violation of Christs command to love one another as He loved us, an outworking of the second greatest commandment (John 13:34; Matt 22:39). As long as we accept the absolute essentials of orthodox Christian eschatology, we can agree to disagree with fellow believers on such eschatological questions as the timing of the rapture, the issue of the millennium, or the Seventy Weeks prophecy. If we are unable to respectfully differ in Christian love with fellow believers on these (and other) disputable matters, we, including this author, have absolutely no business communicating our eschatological opinions.
How Then Should We Interpret Daniel 9:24-27?
The Seventy Weeks prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 has been described as one of the pivotal prophecies of the Bible. John Calvin stated that this prophecy has been variously treated and almost torn to pieces by the various opinions of interpreters, that it might be considered nearly useless on account of its obscurity. But, in the assurance that no prediction is really in vain, we may hope to understand this prophecy, provided only we are attentive and teachable according to the angels admonition, and the Prophets example. This highly complex and amazingly accurate prophecy predicts such astounding events as the return of the Jews to Israel following the Babylonian Captivity, the coming and crucifixion of the Messiah, a covenant with the many, and the destruction of Jerusalem.All Classical Dispensational writers assert that this prophecy is the key to understanding biblical prophecy. For instance, one has written, the most natural exegesis of Dan 9:24-27 provides an indispensable key to the correct understanding of much NT prophecy (e.g., Matt 24:15-22; Mark 13:14-20; Rev 11:2-3; 12:6, 14; 13:5). In addition, these individuals argue that the final week of the prophecy refers to a seven-year period that precedes Christs physical return to the earth. Amillennial theologians typically maintain that the prophecy terminates either with the destruction of Jerusalem carried out in A.D. 70 or the future consummation (i.e. the eternal state). Which interpretation is correct? Although elements of each interpretation are to be commended, apparently no one interpretation is entirely correct. So then, how should we interpret Daniel 9:24-27? Can it be interpreted more accurately? The aim of this particular article is to establish that the consistent use of a Christotelic hermeneutic demonstrates that Daniel 9:24-27 foretells the coming and crucifixion of the Messiah, the establishment of the New Covenant, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the ultimate or eternal Jubilee.
Messiah the Prince
So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress (Dan 9:25). The central figure of Daniel 9:24-27 is the individual designated as Messiah the Prince. The Hebrew couplet from which this phrase is translated is מָשִׁיהַ נָגִיד (māîaḥ nāgîd). Messiah or anointed one (māîaḥ) is derived from the Hebrew verb מָשַׁח (māaḥ) meaning to spread a liquid or anoint. In the Old Testament, messiah is used of the patriarchs (2 Chr 16:19-22; Ps 105:15-17), the high priest (Lev 4:3, 5, 16), the king of Israel (1 Sam 2:10, 35; 12:3, 5; 24:6; Ps 2:2), Cyrus the Great (Isa 45:1), and the eschatological Messiah (Dan 9:25-26; also Ps 2:2). The second Hebrew word in the phrase (נָגִיד nāgîd) can be translated as chief, leader, sovereign, or prince. Peter Gentry comments on the usage of this particular word:
There is a good reason why the future king is referred to in vv. 25 and 26 by the term nāgîd, ruler, rather than by the term melek, the standard word in Hebrew for king .In short, nāgîd communicates kingship according to Gods plan and standards whereas melek communicates kingship according to the Canaanite model of absolute despotism and self-aggrandizement. That is why the term nāgîd dominates in the passage on the Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7) and is also the term used here.
So, who can this figure be? Although māîaḥ and nāgîd only occur together in noun form in Daniel 9:25, nāgîd occurs with the Hebrew verb to anoint (māaḥ) in the following texts: 1 Samuel 9:16; 10:1; 2 Samuel 5:2-3; 1 Kings 1:34-35; and 1 Chronicles 11:2-3; 29:22. Each of these verses is a reference to the king of Israel! Thus, Messiah the Prince must refer to the Lord Jesus Christ, the true king of Israel.
The Christotelic Chiasm of Daniel 8:112:4
The chiastic structure of the second half of the Book of Daniel also favors a Christotelic interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27. The term chiasm (or χίασμός, chiasmos) indicates a diagonal arrangement and is itself derived from the Greek verb χῖάζω(chiazō) which means to mark with two lines crossing like a Χ [chi].  Brad McCoy notes that a chiasm is an important structural device found in ancient literature and oratory. He also offers the following helpful definition for a chiasm: the use of inverted parallelism of form and/or content which moves toward and away from a strategic central component. In other words, a chiasm is a literary device whose parallel words, phrases, or even themes resemble the shape of the Greek letter χ (chi). Furthermore, the nexus or center point of a chiasm functions as the point of special emphasis (cf. verses 14-15 in the thematic chiasm of Gen 3:1-24).
A. The Serpents Lie Adam & Eve eat from Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil (3:1-6)
B. Adam & Eve clothe themselves with fig leaves (3:7-8)
C. God Confronts Adam (3:9-12)
D. God Confronts Eve (3:13)
E. God Curses the Serpent Promised Seed of Woman (3:14-15)
D God Curses Eve (3:16)
C God Curses Adam (3:17-19)
B God clothes Adam & Eve with animal skins (3:19-21)
A Gods Declaration God denies Adam & Eve access to the Tree of Life (3:22-24)
Daniel 8:1 to 12:4, which constitutes the greater part of the second half of Daniel, is arranged as a large thematic chiasm.
A. Vision of Future Gentile Kings and Kingdoms (8:1-27)
B. Darius the Mede (9:1-2)
C. Daniels Distressed Prayer (9:3-19)
D. Angelic Messenger Daniel Commended (9:20-23)
E. The Seventy Sevens and the Messiah (9:24-27)
D Angelic Messenger Daniel Commended (10:1-11)
C Daniels Terror Comforted(10:12-21)
B Darius the Mede (11:1)
A Vision of Future Gentile Kings and Kingdoms (11:2- 12:4)
Clearly, Daniel 9:24-27, which is a prophecy about Jesus Christ, occupies the center point of the chiastic structure. This fact stronglyconfirms the validity of and necessity for a Christotelic interpretation of the prophecy. In other words, from a literary perspective, the chiasm structurally demonstrates that Christ is not only the nexus of Gods plan in redemptive history but also the ultimate goal or end of Gods Word. Furthermore, it is no mere coincidence thatmany of the primary themes of the Book of Daniel emerge in these four verses: Gods sovereignty over human history, renewal of Yahwehs covenant with Israel, the coming of the Messiah, and the consummation of Yahwehs covenant with Israel.
[Part 2 of this article will be published in early February 2013]
This quotation of James 3:10 is from the New International Version.
Although frequently attributed to Augustine of Hippo, Schaff notes that the theological axiom appears for the first time in German, A.D. 1627 and 1628 and has recently been traced to Rupertus Meldenius, the otherwise unknown divine. Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. VII: Modern Christianity and the German Reformation (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1910; reprint 1974), 650.
The absolute essentials of orthodox Christian eschatology require that a believer accept the following: a future, bodily return of the Lord Jesus Christ; a future, bodily resurrection of all believers for glory; a future, bodily resurrection of all unbelievers for reprobation; a future, final judgment for believers and unbelievers; and the eternal state, consisting of both an eternal hell for the reprobate and the eternal New Heavens and New Earth for believers. As long as a believer accepts these fundamental elements, his or her eschatology may be considered orthodox.
Respectful disagreement excludes (but is not limited to) the following: ad hominem attacks; pithy, yet cutting, statements or responses; name calling of any sort; guilt-by-association arguments; fallacious accusations; derogatory remarks; disagreements which focus on individuals and not the facts at hand; etc. Whenever a Christian believer resorts to any of the aforementioned examples of disrespectful/adversarial argument, he or she displays a significant lack of Christian love, a significant lack of character, and a significant lack of scholarship.
Merrill F. Unger, The New Ungers Bible Dictionary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988), 277.
John Calvin, Commentaries on the Book of the Prophet Daniel, trans. Thomas Meyers (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979), 195.
John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 962.
Kenneth L. Barker, Premillennialism in the Book of Daniel, TMSJ 4/1 (1993): 33. Randall Price writes that of all Daniels prophecies, the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks provides the indispensable chronological key to New Testament prophecy. Randall Price, The Seventy Weeks of Daniel (accessed on 11 September 2009; available from http://www.worldofthebible.com; Internet), 1. John F. Walvoord writes the following: Daniel received in his third vision [the Seventy Weeks prophecy] a detailed chronology of Israels future, culminating in the Second Coming of Christ. Because of the revelation given through Daniel, both concerning the times of the Gentiles and the program of God for Israel, the prophecies of Daniel are the key to understanding the major prophecies of Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments. John F. Walvoord, Every Prophecy of the Bible: Clear Explanations for Uncertain Times by One of Todays Premier Prophecy Scholars (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 1999), 242.
Marvin Rosenthal, The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1990), 107. See also Barker, Premillennialism in the Book of Daniel, 25-26; Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal, The Feasts of the Lord (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 173-4; John F. MacArthur. The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 962; Robert Van Kampen, The Sign of Christs Coming and the End of the Age (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1992), 510; and Walvoord, Every Prophecy of the Bible, 258.I recognize that Rosenthal, Howard, and Van Kampen (technically not Classic Dispensationalists) hold to a pre-wrath rapture, whereas MacArthur and Walvoord hold to a pretribulation rapture. However, all teach that the final week of Daniel 9:24-27 refers to a seven-year period which precedes Christs return in glory.
Peter J. Gentry, Daniels Seventy Weeks and the New Exodus, SBJT 14.1 (2010): 41.
Kim Riddlebarger, A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2007), 156.
The word Christotelic results from the combination of two Greek words: Χριστὸς (Christos Christ) and τέλος (telos end or goal). Thus, a Christotelic hermeneutic views the Lord Jesus Christ as the ultimate goal or end of Gods Word and seeks to consistently interpret all Scripture in view of this great truth. Furthermore, this particular method of interpretation emphasizes three principles: 1) the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ is the nexus of Gods plan in redemptive history, 2) all Scripture either refers to Christ directly (e.g. the Gospel narratives, messianic prophecies), refers to Christ typologically, or prepares the way for Christ by unfolding redemptive history which ultimately points to His person and work (e.g. the Flood, the calling of Abraham), and 3) the New Testament Scriptures must have interpretive priority over the Old Testament (OT).
A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament [HALOT], ed. William L. Holladay (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1971; reprint 1988), 218-9. See also Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament with An Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic [BDB] (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), 602-3; and Gesenius Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures, trans. Samuel P. Tregelles (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979), 515-16.
HALOT, 226. See also BDB, 617; and Gesenius, 531.
Gentry, Daniels Seventy Weeks, 33.
Henry G. Liddell and Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, rev. Henry Stuart James and Roderick McKenzie (Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1968), 1991.
Brad McCoy, Chiasmus: An Important Structural Device Commonly Found in Biblical Literature, CTSJ 9 (Fall 2003): 18.
Ibid. See also Merriam-Websters Collegiate Dictionary defines chiasm in the following manner: an inverted relationship between the syntactical elements of parallel phrases. Merriam-Websters Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed. (Springfield: Merriam Webster, 1993), 197.
McCoy states: Since chiasm involves the parallel inversion of corresponding components in a particular discourse, resulting in a component of the overall unit, a recognition of chiastic structure leads the interpreter properly to appreciate the pivotal function and the emphatic importance of that central thought unit. McCoy, Chiasmus, 31.
For another arrangement of this chiasm see Gentry, Daniels Seventy Weeks and the New Exodus, 27.