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What were the beliefs regarding the total fulfillment/non total fulfillment of Daniel's 70 weeks prophecy before the Scoffield bible era?

I am especially interested in those who believed there was either 1 week or a half week left at the "end before Christ" returned.

However, I am also interested in those who believed the prophecy was totally fulfilled.

NOTE: I am looking for both early 1st century to Scofield bible opinions.

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  • Do you mean for this to be equivalent to those who believed that Daniel's prophecies were fully fulfilled? Sep 30, 2018 at 13:33
  • Good question. None I'm aware of.
    – SLM
    Sep 30, 2018 at 14:32
  • This may need to be narrowed some, as Daniel contains numerous historical prophecies. Do you want to know specifically about the 70 weeks prophecy, for example?
    – Bit Chaser
    Oct 1, 2018 at 3:00
  • Disciple, yes i was. I wanted to know if we have any writings that talk about the 70 weeks. Specifically them not already being fulfilled
    – Crisett
    Oct 1, 2018 at 3:04
  • I edited the question to be more specific.
    – Crisett
    Oct 1, 2018 at 3:05

2 Answers 2

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Up until about the time of John Darby circa 1850, Christians believed the 70 weeks of Daniel had been fully completed. There was no "gap" theory.

Introductioin

In looking for an answer, it often helps to review what others who came before the current time thought about the 70 weeks or 490 years of Daniel 9:24-27. This is not to say whether or not their calculations were accurate in terms of starting and ending dates, but rather it is only to answer whether they thought the 70 weeks had been completed. We will see in fact a variety of starting and ending dates in their answers; however, we will find that yes, they all thought the 70 weeks had been fulfilled in the 1st century. None were looking for some sort of temporally disconnected one week (7 years) or 3 ½ years that remained to be fulfilled. This is so up until the mid 1800’s.

The focus of this post will not attempt to address the implications for the modern believer who might be looking for some future fulfillment yet to come, but rather, simply to answer the question whether the 70 weeks of Daniel have been fulfilled or not.

Historical Review

We will consider a number of early Christians who delved into Daniel.

Julius Africanus wrote about 220 CE and influenced Eusebius and other historians. He believed that all 70 weeks had been fulfilled in Christ’s time.

  1. It is by calculating from Artaxerxes, therefore, up to the time of Christ that the seventy weeks are made up, according to the numeration of the Jews [literal versus prophetic year]. Julius Africanus, XVI, From Fragments of the Chronography as quoted by Schaff http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf06.v.v.xvi.html

Athanasius of Alexandria was opposed Arianism and promoted consubstantiation between God the Father, Son, and Spirit. He wrote around 350 CE. He argued that the full 70 weeks was fulfilled to answer accusations that Messiah was yet to come; some were still looking for Christ.

Perhaps with regard to the other (prophecies) they [those still expecting a future fulfillment of the 70 weeks] may be able even to find excuses and to put off what is written to a future time. But what can they say to this, or can they face it at all? Where [Daniel 9:24] not only is the Christ referred to, but He that is to be anointed is declared to be not man simply, but Holy of Holies; and Jerusalem is to stand till His coming, and thenceforth, prophet and vision cease in Israel. Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word, chapter 39 http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf204.vii.ii.xxxix.html

Tertullian wrote about 200 CE and is considered the father of Latin Christianity understood the 70 weeks as completely fulfilled by the coming of Christ and destruction of the Temple in 70 CE.

Accordingly the times must be inquired into of the predicted and future nativity of the Christ, and of His passion, and of the extermination of the city of Jerusalem, that is, its devastation. For Daniel says, that “both the holy city and the holy place are exterminated together with the coming Leader, and that the pinnacle is destroyed unto ruin.” Tertullian, An Answer to the Jews, chapter VIII http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf03.iv.ix.viii.html

There are other early commentators such as Hippolytus, Origen, and others. Basically, regardless of their starting and even ending points, they all understood that the 70-week decree was fulfilled.

Origen circa 220 CE

The weeks of years, also, which the prophet Daniel had predicted, extending to the leadership of Christ, have been ful­filled. https://ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf04/anf04.vi.v.v.i.html

And according to Daniel, seventy weeks were fulfilled until (the coming of) Christ the Ruler. https://ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf04/anf04.vi.v.v.ii.html

Clement of Alexandria wrote circa 200 CE

From the captivity at Babylon, which took place in the time of Jeremiah the prophet, was fulfilled what was spoken by Daniel the prophet as follows: “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people, and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to seal sins, and to wipe out and make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal the vision and the prophet, and to anoint the Holy of Holies. Know therefore, and understand, that from the going forth of the word commanding an answer to be given, and Jerusalem to be built, to Christ the Prince, are seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; and the street shall be again built, and the wall; and the times shall be expended. And after the sixty-two weeks the anointing shall be overthrown, and judgment shall not be in him; and he shall destroy the city and the sanctuary along with the coming Prince. And they shall be destroyed in a flood, and to the end of the war shall be cut off by desolations. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week; and in the middle of the week the sacrifice and oblation shall be taken away; and in the holy place shall be the abomination of desolations, and until the consummation of time shall the consummation be assigned for desolation. And in the midst of the week shall he make the incense of sacrifice cease, and of the wing of destruction, even till the consummation, like the destruction of the oblation.”2071 That the temple accordingly was built in seven weeks, is evident; for it is written in Esdras. And thus Christ became King of the Jews, reigning in Jerusalem in the fulfilment of the seven weeks. And in the sixty and two weeks the whole of Judæa was quiet, and without wars. And Christ our Lord, “the Holy of Holies,” having come and fulfilled the vision and the prophecy, was anointed in His flesh by the Holy Spirit of His Father. In those “sixty and two weeks,” as the prophet said, and “in the one week,” was He Lord. The half of the week Nero held sway, and in the holy city Jerusalem placed the abomination; and in the half of the week he was taken away, and Otho, and Galba, and Vitellius. And Vespasian rose to the supreme power, and destroyed Jerusalem, and desolated the holy place. And that such are the facts of the case, is clear to him that is able to understand, as the prophet said. https://ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf02/anf02.vi.iv.i.xxi.html

Future View

The typical starting point for when the “gap” theory between the 69th and 70th week was introduced sources to John Darby, a founder of the Plymouth Brethren. He wrote in the 1830’s. Aside from the historic view, there were others near that time, but still before him, who disagreed with Darby; they were men like Matthew Henry (c1700), John Calvin (c1550), and Sir Isaac Newton (c1700), and bibles like the Geneva Bible. They maintained the “fulfilled historic” view, rather than the “future view”.

From Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Daniel Chapter IX, section III, to wit,

"1. The times [Daniel's 70 weeks] here determined are somewhat hard to be understood. In general, it is seventy weeks, that is, seventy times seven years, which makes just 490 years. The great affairs that are yet to come concerning the people of Israel, and the city of Jerusalem, will lie within the compass of these years. ... It does serve still to refute and silence the expectations of unbelievers, who will not own that Jesus is he who should come, but still look for another. This prediction [Daniel's 70 weeks] should silence them, and will condemn them; for, reckon these seventy weeks from which of the commandments to build Jerusalem we please, it is certain that they have expired above 1500 years ago; so that the Jews are for ever without excuse, who will not own that the Messiah has come when they have gone so far beyond their utmost reckoning for his coming. " http://www.ccel.org/ccel/henry/mhc4.Dan.x.html

And then there is this from John Calvin.

After the grace of Christ had been obstinately rejected, then the extension of abominations followed; that is, God overwhelmed the temple in desecration, and caused its sanctity and glory to pass utterly away. Although this vengeance did not take place immediately after the close of the last week, yet God sufficiently avenged their impious contempt of his gospel, and besides this, he shews how he had no longer need of any visible temple, as he had now dedicated the whole world to himself from east to west. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom25.iv.xxxviii.html

Sir Isaac Newton also believed the 490 years were fulfilled.

For by joining the accomplishment of the vision with the expiation of sins, the 490 years are ended with the death of Christ. https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/newton_isaac/prophecies/daniel10.cfm

The key verse that was changed to allow the change from “fulfilled” to “future” was to whom the “he” referenced. Again, prior to Darby, no one thought the “he” referenced anyone but Messiah.

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, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. Daniel 9:27 (bold mine)

Prior to Darby, all of the writers referred the “he” to Messiah. But Darby believed it referred to the prince who destroyed the city in 70 CE or Titus or more generally the Romans. Thus he looked for some sort of revived Roman Empire consisting of 10 states (toes).

Cyrus I. Scofield picked up the new teaching and published it. Since the Scofield Reference Bible of 1917, this theory has gained in popularity. Another person who picked up the new tradition was Sir Robert Anderson who published The Coming Prince.

Conclusion

Up until about 1850, all the research points to the fulfillment of the 70 weeks of Daniel. After Darby, even though his contemporaries argued against the gap idea, the belief in a future fulfillment was popularized.

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Paul Tanner wrote a scholarly article discussing the views during the first 400 years. In summary:

SURVEY OF VIEWS

Justin Martyr (A.D. 153–165) did not mention Daniel 9.

Irenaeus (A.D. 180) mentioned it but did not interpret the time periods or the Messiahs.

Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 200) included both Jesus Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem in the 490 years. The final week includes Nero’s erection of an “abomination” in Jerusalem as well as the destruction of the city and temple in AD 70. This implies a gap between the end of the first 69 weeks (the time of Jesus) and the last week (the time of the destruction of Jerusalem).

Tertullian (A.D. 203), by making certain calculation errors, was able to include both Jesus Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem in the 490 years without a gap.

Hippolytus (A.D. 202–230) interpreted the Messiah as Jesus Christ but, similar to Dispensationalism, interpreted the final week as a future period of seven years when the Antichrist will rule.

Julius Africanus (A.D. 232) proposed that the full 490 years came to an end with Jesus’ baptism.

For Origen (A.D. 215), the Messiah in Daniel 9:25 is Jesus Christ and Daniel’s seventy-weeks prophecy was fulfilled in Christ.

The church historian Eusebius (A.D. 314–318) interpreted the first half of the week as the 3½ years of Jesus' public ministry and the second half as fulfilled after Jesus was resurrected. In the middle of the ‘week’, He “put a stop to sacrifice” (Dan 9:27) through His death.

Apollinaris of Laodicea (A.D. 360) regarded the seventy weeks as the time between the two advents of Christ. The 70th week would be a period at the end of the world when the Antichrist will literally enter the temple and issue a decree outlawing the offering of sacrifices.

Julius Hilarianus (A.D. 397) was the first patristic writer to adopt a non-Messianic interpretation of the Seventy Weeks. For him, the event that marks the middle of the week was the pollution of the temple by Antiochus which introduced heathen images in the temple.

Jerome (A.D. 407) simply summarized the positions of several earlier church fathers.

Augustine (A.D. 407-430) stated that the 70 weeks were fulfilled at Christ’s first advent.

CONCLUSIONS

From the literature that is available, some vital conclusions can be drawn:

(A) WEEKS OF YEARS

All the early church fathers, along with Jewish scholars, interpreted the “weeks” as weeks of seven years and applied this quite literally.

(B) HISTORIC-MESSIANIC

Of the 12 Christian writers surveyed above, 3 (Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Jerome) did not offer interpretations. Of the remaining 9, all but one of them held to some form of messianic interpretation of Daniel’s prophecy, meaning that the prophecy referred to Jesus Christ. The exception was Hilarianus who held to fulfillment in the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes in the second century B.C. Of the 8 messianic interpretations:

  • Two (Apollinaris and Hippolytus) opted for a messianic-eschatological position in which the Messiah is Jesus in His first advent but the last week is some future point beyond the first century, such as the reign of Antichrist.
  • The remaining six all favored a messianic-historical position, meaning that the entire seventy weeks were fulfilled at some point in the first century A.D.

In conclusion, although they varied greatly in their details, there was a strong consensus among the early church fathers that Daniel’s seventy weeks prophecy was fulfilled in Christ.

(C) A GAP

Three of these early Christian writers required a gap between the first 69 weeks and the last week:

  • Clement proposed that the 62 weeks led up to the first advent of Christ and the final week includes the destruction in AD 70.
  • For Eusebius, the 69 weeks concluded in the days of King Herod in 36–32 B.C. and the last week was the years before and after Jesus died.
  • Hippolytus viewed the final week eschatologically - at the time when the Antichrist will reign.

For more detail, see here.

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