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I was pleasantly surprised to see the popularity of Daniel's seventy weeks prophecy held by Christians across multiple denominations in an recent question about "the fulness of time". In it, one day in prophecy, is interpreted as one year, and predicts the year of Jesus' ministry and death.

For those who hold this view, what is the basis for some to then interpret Daniel's 1260 day prophecy as days and not years?

Would it not be more consistent to continue the interpretation that one prophetic day is equal to one calendar year, as per other Christian Historicist understandings?

As background, 1260 days is equal to 42 months (42 x 30 days), and is equal to a time, times and half a times (360 + 360 x2 + 180 days)

"the women fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and three score days." Rev 12:6

"And to the women were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness in to her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time" Rev 12:14

"But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months. And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth." Rev 11:2-3

"And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time." Dan 7:25

"And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months." Rev 13:5

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    while I have no current opinion/belief on this matter, it does say day instead of year (Rev 9:15 says year)
    – depperm
    Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 16:18
  • @depperm - I am struggling to understand how your comment relates to the above question.
    – user43409
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 0:36
  • "continue the interpretation that one prophetic day is equal to one calendar year, as per other Christian traditions" What is this prophetic tradition? I've never heard of it, other than as a complete misunderstanding of 2 Peter 3:8.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 3:56
  • @curiousdannii interpreting 1260 days as years a common historicist application in the 1800s. See Day year principle 1260 year prophecy section en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day-year_principle. If you have never heard it, then you have some investigating. God has repeated this specific time frame 7-8 times in the Bible.
    – Beestocks
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 11:39
  • @Beestocks Okay, I have heard of it in the context of the 70 weeks. And I've also heard of the so-called "prophetic month", though I'm unconvinced it's Biblically supportable. In any case, your question seems to be reversing where the burden of proof should be. "Day" far more often means a day.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 11:44

2 Answers 2

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Why do some Christians interpret Daniel's 1260 day prophecy as days and not years?

Whether a day is interpreted as a literal day or as a year depends on the context. Interpreters looked at the 70 sevens of the Daniel 9 and almost unanimously decided it cannot be literal days, but it could be years. (However, some interpreters duck the whole issue and go for an indeterminate length of time.)

With the 1290 days (Daniel 12:11) and 1335 days (Dan 12:12), though, the context suggests actual days. How could an individual patiently wait for the coming of 1335 years? (Dan 12:12)

Daniel 8:14 says 2300 "evening-mornings": some think that means 2300 days, and some, such as William Hendriksen, think it means a total of 2300 sacrifices, half in the morning and half in the evening making 1150 days.

Hendriksen then says this is the exact number of days that the sacrifices stopped in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes, though where he gets that information I do not know.

On the best evidence, the Temple was desecrated on the Seleucid Calendar date of 15 Kislev 145 (1 Maccabees 1:54) which is 6th Dec 167 BC, Julian date; and was cleansed on the Seleucid Calendar date of 25th Kislev 148 (1 Maccabees 4:52) which is 14th Dec 164 BC, Julian date.

This actually amounts to 1104 days (not 1150 days).

The conversion of Seleucid Calendar dates to Julian dates is taken from "Babylonian Chronology - 626 BC to AD 75" by Richard A. Parker and Waldo Dubberstein. See also "From Abraham to Paul - A Biblical Chronology" by Andrew Steinmann, page 217.

A time, times, and half a time

"A time, times, and half a time" (Dan 7:25, 12:7, Rev 12:14) is introduced in the book of Daniel. It is seen again in the book of Revelation in figures relating to three and a half years, such as "forty two months" (Rev 11:2, 13:5) and "one thousand two hundred and sixty days" (Rev 11:3, 12:6). These are all symbolic references to the same time period, where, it is true, each month is spoken of as having thirty days.

What does it mean? The best explanation I know is summarised here:

The three-and-a-half symbol has a structure of one, two, and a half. What the "one time" represents (a period of tribulation), the "two times" also represents except that there is a doubling, intensifying or prolonging. Likewise the "half a time" represents the same thing again, but there is a limiting or cutting short. https://www.simplybible.com/f919-revln-three-and-a-half-symbol.htm

All that needs to be added is that it is our Lord God, our loving heavenly Father, who will cut short these periods of tribulation. These periods are not outside of God's control, but he is allowing them to fulfil his purposes. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church, and the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).

Sometimes "a time, times, and half a time" is converted to days. So in Daniel 9:27 there is a week made up of two periods of three and a half days, and in Revelation 11:9-11 we have two references to a period of three and a half days.

In all cases, whether for years or days, "three and a half" is a symbolic period which refers to a period of suffering or persecution. It may also refer to a period of chastening of God's people for particular sins.

[In the days of Elijah the people suffered (an actual, non-symbolic) three and a half years without rain (Luke 4:25, James 5:17).]

In all of these cases trying to turn these periods from symbolic years or days to literal years or days is inadmissible. If I divide 1260 apples for 360 people I will never get a certain number of oranges. It is misleading to call these "prophetic years", it is probably better to call them "symbolic years", or "symbolic days": the length of time cannot be calculated, all we know is that they will be times of trouble, persecution and suffering.

It is noteworthy that 1290 days is one month longer than the symbolic three and a half year period of 1260 days, and 1335 days is 75 days or two and a half months longer. I think it follows that these numbers are symbolic days only... it is inadmissible to try to turn these periods - 1260, 1290 and 1335 days - into actual lengths of time.

It also suggests that the week in Daniel 9:27 consisting of two periods of three and a half days is a symbolic week.. it is inadmissible to try to turn this week into a specific length of time. Rather, it is identifying a period of intense persecution, double trouble, for the people of God. This would fit neatly with the view that the final 70th week in Daniel 9:25-27 is the entire Gospel Age, starting with the Word of the Lord coming to John the Baptist (Luke 3:1-3) and ending with the Second Coming of our Lord. [In Daniel 9:24 the 70th week is part of an actual length of years, but not in Daniel 9:25-27.]

The coming of the Kingdom of God, far from being a period of great dominion of God's people, in its first phase up to the Second Coming of our Lord, will be a period of persecution, sometimes intense, for God's people.

Blessed is he that waits and comes to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days (Daniel 12:12).

Finally, it should be added that our Lord's earthly ministry - when he came to suffer and die, and suffered, being "despised and rejected of men" - is usually believed to have lasted more than three years, i.e. a time, times, and half a time. It might be his heavenly Father revealed to him how long his ministry should be. However, it is conceivable that the man Christ Jesus gathered how long his ministry should last, and therefore which passover should be his last, from the symbolic use of three and a half years for a period of suffering or persecution in the book of Daniel and from the literal three and a half years without rain in the life of Elijah.

Of all the periods of "a time, times, and half a time" the most terrible of suffering and persecution was the ministry of our Lord and Saviour who "came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many".

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  • Context is a good point. Not able to wait patiently could still suggest either way, perhaps that is precisely why the book was sealed until the last days (Dan 12:4, 12:9) until there should be "time no longer" Rev 10:5-7 (vs. Dan 12:7).
    – Beestocks
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 12:06
  • About "This actually amounts to 1104 days (not 1150 days)." An explanation for this: The sacrifices stopped before the king erected the desolating abomination upon the altar. Dan 8: 11,14 and 1 Macc 1:45 talk about stopping sacrifices and Dan 11:31 and 1 Mac 1:54 talks about the desolating abomination.
    – Jan
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 8:41
  • @Jan - Thanks for this. Unfortunately, Maccabees does not say when the sacrifices stopped, so we cannot know the number of days. Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 11:18
  • @Andrew - Daniel 8:11-14 tells that there are 1150 days without sacrifices. The abomination at at 15 Kislev 145 was possibly 46 days after the sacrafices were stopped. You calculate as if the 1150 days start at 15 Kislev and that is not the case I think.
    – Jan
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 15:04
  • @Jan - I understand. But if a prophecy gives a specific amount of time then I would be looking for that exact amount, else the prophecy cannot be said to have been fulfilled. I appreciate it might have been 1150 days.. we just don't know. Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 21:38
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As you have proposed, there is a large body of Biblical interpretation that taps the well known "year for a day" (symbolic) principle that was used in the 70 week prophecy of Daniel. Those who believe this tend to favor applying a restrictive view of "hermeneutical consistency" to other related passages as well. But, there is another sizeable school of interpretation - the "literalist" view - that holds to a literal (and less restrictive) view of interpretation (i.e. interpreting things "literally" first unless otherwise suggested by the context of the passage). Those who advocate this view, consider there to be no such rigid requirement for "hermeneutical consistency" because BOTH (literal and symbolic) principles are used together, with purpose and flexibility, throughout the Bible. In addition, there are weightier considerations to be used as a guide as well - such as whether one takes a "futurist or historicist" view of Bible prophecy.

As above, others hold to a "literalist/futurist" view, not only for greater flexibility and fidelity to scripture, but precisely because of the multiple terminologies that you cited - "As background, 1260 days is equal to 42 months (42 x 30 days), and is equal to a time, times and half a times (360 + 360 x2 + 180 days)". These time periods are rendered in multiple ways (not just as "days"). In fact, those and other similar but related day spacing (1260, 1290, 1335, and 2300 days) all fit together exactly when applied to the Hebrew "appointed" feast days (when spaced 3 1/2 or 7 years apart). In so doing, God's "appointed feast days" can also be viewed prophetically as the necessary framework for God's future "end times".

Below is a link to a (literalist/futurist) timeline that I researched few years back. I made it to illustrate a "hypothetical" 7 year timeline between the two total solar eclipses in the US (2017 and 2024) and the astronomically precise "Revelation 12 sign" (which formed on September 23, 2017) - i.e. by incorporating them as "signs in the Sun, Moon, and Stars". I currently view the relevance of the "Revelation 12 sign" as potentially being the actual "initiation signal" for the end-time tribulation period - where it serves as being a true "sign" in the Sun, Moon, and Stars (using a literalist/historicist/futurist interpretation). More recently, I recognized the need to revise it further, extending it to include the "Middle East" eclipse of 2027 (total eclipse of Aug 2, 2027). It has now become a 10 year period - by adding a three year "gap" into the middle and extending it to Yom Kippur of 2027. However, the previous 7 year version still serves to illustrate the flexibility and use of the multiple elements of interpretation together - "literal, historic, futurist, and symbolic".

hypothetical Daniel's imeline

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  • You believe you have calculated when Christ will return? Commented Apr 7, 2022 at 11:47
  • Hi there. Well, I would say there is a very good probability that it will be surrounding the fall feasts of 2027. If you are familiar with Stellarium software, it would be easier for me to show you the "signs". There are a load of signs in the "sun, moon, and stars" during the 77 days prior to Yom Kippur of 2027. - from July 26/27, 2027 to October, 11, 2027 to be exact...
    – user22542
    Commented Apr 7, 2022 at 14:54
  • You asked about "calculations". All of the evidence and "guidelines" that I use are well known among Evangelical Christian circles although not all Christians are aware of them or use them. Suffice to say that my earlier 7 year timeline uses all of the Biblical time periods interpreted as literal days - that is the best description I can offer - made through observations and calculating day spacing between events and feasts etc.
    – user22542
    Commented Apr 7, 2022 at 15:10
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    Does this trouble you, "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only."? Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 13:00
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    No. I am not predicting any exact "day or hour". I am only assuming that Yom Kippur is the appropriate "feast day" corresponding to the "Day of the Lord". I do believe we are given plenty of information - to exercise "the honor of kings" and "search out a matter". I also assume we are expected to be ready when the "call goes out at the midnight hour". I think you understand this.
    – user22542
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 14:29

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