Does martyred Stephen solve the Daniel 9 Prophecy?
One evening, I received a call from an old friend exclaiming that there was a “Seventy Weeks Documentary” showing on a Christian Channel. I switched the box on, and was instantly impressed seeing a contemporary studio hosting three renowned presenters, all gathered around a discussion table unpacking the most debated prophecy. Well, after listening for some 27 minutes, the bias interpretation finally became clear which stance these theologians advocated. Although they presented the gospel in a unique and compelling way (which I think is admirable), their argument had no backbone.
I name this particular viewpoint “INTERPRETATION SEVEN” (as in my book) as it is a recently standalone literal interpretation asserting the years 457 BC to 33 AD.
Those that argue for this viewpoint claim:
· that the “going forth of the commandment” (v25) begins with Artaxerxes’ letter as mentioned in Ezra 7:1-26 in the 457BC.
· It is then argued that Daniel 9’s prophecy begins from the restarting the project to rebuild and restore the Temple and Walls during the time of the Persian Empire. Therefore, the “seven weeks” (i.e. 49 years) are seen as the “troublesome times” of restoration during the years 457 BC to 408 BC.
· The “62 weeks” follows on from this marker to conclude at the date when Jesus Christ began His public ministry in 26 AD (i.e. 408 BC to 26 AD = 434 years).
· The “last seven years” is said to start from the beginning of Jesus' ministry (26 AD) and conclude at the death of the first martyr Stephen (33 AD). It is argued that in the “middle of this seven year” period (3.5 years from 26 AD) that Messiah Jesus offers Himself on the cross (being “cut off”) which consequently ceases the demand for all temple sacrifices… followed by another 3.5 years that Stephen is martyred in 33 AD. Stephen is also said to represent the Church being persecuted.
Those that argue against this particular viewpoint say that:
· Firstly, the “seven weeks” that is seen as the “troublesome times of restoration” during 457 BC to 408 BC has no historical proof. There is nothing recorded in history to suggest that these are the dates in either biblical literature or any other historical evidence (e.g. Apocrypha). None!!!
· Secondly, scripture states that there was only 7 years of “troublesome times” followed by a silent “seven years” which is a total of 14 years… and not the “49 years” argued (refer to Ezra 4 & Ezra 7).
· In other words, what these theologians have done is to take an event from the Book of Ezra and put it forward in time so as to make their interpretation work for them by extending the 14 year sequential events of Ezra to 49 years.... What's with that, because 14 years does not equate to 49 years!!??
With trying to move events forward in time, these theologians forget that when examining the actual date when King Artaxerxes ‘legislated’ the rebuilding of the Temple, Ezra states that this was written in Artaxerxes’ seventh year of reign (Ezra 7:7), and that this was the same year that Ezra came up from Babylon (Ezra 7:8), and that this was also King Darius’ first year of reign (Ezra 4:24; 6:15). Consequently, this does not position the date in 457 BC as argued, but rather in 522 BC, giving this interpretation an inaccuracy of 65 years. (Check it out yourself… you’ll see!!!).
Additionally these theologians (who are still not convinced) will for some reason quote Zerubbabel, Haggai and Ezra so as to substantiate the Temple building process... but once again, they forget that this construction work started in 534 BC (the Temple foundations began two years after King Cyrus gave the decree), ending four years later in 529 BC.... and restarted again in 520BC (under King Darius) and ended in 516 BC. Followed by Nehemiah, who started building the Temple Walls in the 20th year of King Artaxerxes in 509 BC, and ended twelve years later in 497 BC (King Artaxerxes 32nd year). In other words, Zerubbabel's Temple was finished years away from the supposed 457BC.
· Thirdly, there is no biblical timeline that suggests that Stephen was martyred seven years from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. None!! In fact there is not even mention that Stephen was even martyred 3.5 years after Jesus’s death. None!! Not even an implication!!!
· And fourthly, there are several arguments surrounding the dates of Jesus. Especially when these theologians conveniently forget John 2:20 which clearly states that the “end” of Jesus’ ministry was “46 years” from King Herod’s decree (which Herod started building in 21 BC). Therefore, Jesus did not die in 29/30 AD as argued, but rather in 25 AD (21 BC + 46 years = 25 AD).
· Nevertheless, I may have listened further if these theologians argued that when Jesus was “cut off”, that this marker hereby “ended” the 490 years inaugurating the “sealing of the vision”. However they seem to be arguing that Stephen’s death “ended” the prophecy and that his being “cut off” was more significant than Jesus !!!??? Really, Stephen's death was the source for Leviticus atonement which "sealed the vision" ... I don't think so!!
· Furthermore, despite advocating a literal 490 year timeframe, if we take into account the true markers of history…. it is observed that “Interpretation Seven” does not promote a literal 490 year timeframe, but rather circa 555 years in total (i.e. 522 BC to 33 AD).