The Parenthesis of Time Between the Sixty-ninth and Seventieth Weeks
The results of our investigation thus far may be summarized briefly as follows: First, the "weeks" of the prophecy are weeks of years, not days. Second, the length of each of these prophetic years is 360 days. Third, the entire period of "weeks" began with the "commandment" to rebuild Jerusalem, which was Issued by Artaxerxes on March 14, 445 B.C. (Nehemiah 2:1-8). Fourth, from this date to the appearance of Messiah as the "Prince" of Israel was exactly 69 weeks of years, or 483 years (Daniel 9:25). Fifth, at the end of these 69 weeks of years, to the very day, April 6, 32 A.D., our Lord Jesus Christ rode up to Jerusalem on the "foal of an ass" in fulfillment of the well-known prediction of Zechariah (9:9). Thus we have in past history a complete demonstration of the chronological exactness of Daniel's prophecy up to the Seventieth Week.
We now turn our attention to this final "week" of the prophecy. And here the first point to be determined is the exact chronological relation of the Seventieth Week to the Sixty-nine Weeks which precede it. On this question expositors have split into two absolutely distinct schools of interpretation, so radically different that the results reach far into the field of New Testament eschatology. The one school holds to what I shall call the "Continuous" interpretation, and the other to the "Gap" interpretation.
According to the "Continuous" view, the whole period of the Seventy Weeks is continuous and unbroken. There is no break anywhere. The Seventieth Week follows the Sixty-ninth without any gap in time. Obviously, if this theory be correct, the Seventieth Week is past, having come to an end somewhere early in the Book of Acts. Adherents to the theory are not wholly agreed as to details, but the most important group believe that Christ died in the middle of the Seventieth Week and therefore this last Week must have ended three and one-half years after the Cross. One curious interpretation takes the 1260 days of the last half of the Seventieth Week, changes these days into years, and thus prolongs the period for 1260 years! But without taking such unwarranted liberties with the Word of God, there is no way for adherents to the Continuous interpretation to prolong the Seventieth Week beyond seven years after the death of Christ, or about 39 A.D. Regardless of minor differences, therefore, it should be clear that according to the Continuous view the whole prophecy of the Seventy Weeks has been fulfilled for over nineteen hundred years, and the future contains nothing comprehended within the scope of the prophecy.
On the other hand, according to what I have called the "Gap" interpretation, the Seventieth Week does not immediately follow the Sixty-ninth Week, but there is a great parenthesis of time between these two which has already lasted for over nineteen hundred years, and therefore the Seventieth Week still lies in the future. At first sight, to those not familiar with certain characteristics of Messianic prophecy, this will seem a very startling view. And some have earnestly denounced it as a violent expedient of interpretation. What right, they ask, do we have to sunder this final week from the first sixty-nine and arbitrarily push it nineteen centuries into the future? How can such a method be justified? In reply, we must admit immediately that the objectors are wholly within their rights in demanding some good reasons for this method of interpretation. And unless such reasons can be given, we should not expect men to accept it. But there are plenty of convincing reasons. In fact, the deeper one pushes into the prophetic Word, he greater in number and importance do these evidences appear.
1. Such a gap in time before the Seventieth Week is implied by the most natural reading of the prophecy.
This seems so clear to me today that it is hard to understand how along with many others I could have missed the point so long. But doubtless, like the average English reader, I came to the passage with what the late Dr. M. G. Kyle like to call "our Anglo-Saxon passion for a continuous chronology," a thing in which the Oriental mind was not greatly interested. And it is quite possible that no one would ever have thought of making the last "one week" continuous with the first Sixty-nine Weeks had it not been for the language of verse 24, where we read that "seventy weeks are determined." And having read this expression - Seventy Weeks - we at once jumped to the conclusion that all seventy were continuous and then carried this erroneous impression throughout the reading of the rest of the prophecy.
But let the student now read carefully the analysis of the "weeks' in verses 25-27 forgetting, if possible, the expression of verse 24, and notice the order of events. First, in verse 25 we have a period of Sixty-nine Weeks ending with a definite historical event, the appearance of Messiah the Prince. Then, after these Sixty-nine Weeks * come two other events, the death of Messiah and the destruction of the city. And after these two events, we come to the final one week in verse 27. [* Note: It is not "after threescore and two weeks" but "after the threescore and two weeks" that Messiah is "cut off." That is, He is cut off after "the" Sixty-two Weeks which follow the first "seven weeks," or after a total of Sixty-nine Weeks. Omission of the definite article in the Authorized Version has obscured the meaning. Obviously, however, Messiah could not be cut off seven weeks before He appeared!] If we follow the order of the record strictly, both the death of Messiah and the destruction of Jerusalem are placed between the Sixty-ninth and the Seventieth Weeks of prophecy. This leads directly to a second important argument:
2. A gap in time between the Sixty-ninth and Seventieth Weeks is demanded by the historical fulfillment of the two predicted events of verse 26.
These events were the death of Messiah and the destruction of Jerusalem, and both of them are placed after, not within, the Sixty-nine Weeks. Now, it is a well-known fact of history that in the year 70 A.D., Titus, the Roman, destroyed the city of Jerusalem and its sanctuary in one of the most frightful sieges of all time. And since it is certain that the first Sixty-nine Weeks came to an end not later than 32 A.D., the destruction of the city took place nearly forty years "after" the close of the Sixty-nine Weeks. Yet in the record of the prophecy, the destruction of the city is placed before the last week. Therefore, the very historical fulfillment of this one detail of the prophecy, upon which practically all are agreed, demands a gap of at least thirty-eight years, and thus provides an infallible clue to the problem which has puzzled so many interpreters. For if even so much as one year is allowed between the last two weeks, the principle of the "gap interpretation" is admitted. And if, as we have seen, there must be at least thirty-eight years, we have no a priori reason for denying that there may be nineteen hundred. This argument is based squarely on the rock of prophecy already fulfilled, than which there is no safer guide as to what we may expect from prophecy which is yet unfulfilled.
~Alva J. McClain~
(continued with # 6 - "The Fulfillment of the Tremendous Events in verse 24 cannot be found anywhere in known history")