This essay is the third in a series of studies dealing with translation issues related to the very controversial text of Daniel 9:25-27. I recommend that if you have not read the previous essays, read them before you continue reading this essay about the seventy weeks of Daniel.
The first essay, Fairbairn v. Fairbairn, deals with the issue of interpretation of biblical texts. The issue focuses on how people can interpret the same biblical text in different ways.
The second essay, Rereading Daniel 9:25-27: The Coming of the Messiah, deals with the issue of how to translate the word mashiah and nagid in Daniel 9:25. The conclusion of the study was that the text requires the translation “an anointed one,” and “a prince.”
This translation of the text was affirmed in a comment made by Lingamish in his blog Definiteness in Hebrew. In that post, Lingamish wrote:
“Wayne at Better Bibles referenced Dr. Mariottini’s blog on Daniel 9:25. According to Dr. Mariottini’s argument, the lack of an article in verse 25 is evidence that Daniel isn’t referring to ‘the’ annointed [sic] one but to ‘an’ annointed one.”
“I just happened to be sitting at a workshop next to Dr. Stephen Levinsohn and asked him about definite articles in Hebrew. He said that generally in introducing a participant in Hebrew you would expect to not have an article on the first reference. Subsequent reference to the participant would have the article. So the example in 9:25 does not necessarily demonstrate that Daniel wasn’t referring to a specific annointed one. However, in verse 26, Daniel again refers to the annointed one without the article, and in Dr. Levinsohn’s view this was evidence to support the proposition that Daniel was referring to an undefined ‘annointed one.’”
I want to thank Dr. Stephen Levinsohn for his affirmation. In the present essay, I want to deal with another issue of translation: the seventy weeks of Daniel. The King James Version translates Daniel 9:25 as follows:
“Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.”
According to this translation, “the Messiah” shall come after 69 weeks (7 weeks + 62 weeks). Then “the Messiah” shall be cut off at the end of the 62nd week (v. 26).
The same approach is taken by the Holman Christian Standard Version. The HCSV reads: “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince will be seven weeks and 62 weeks.”
The problem with these two translations and others that follow the same reading is that they do not take into consideration the Hebrew accentuation of verse 25. The issue of Hebrew accents is difficult, but a few words can clarify the issue.
In Hebrew there are two types of accents and they act as punctuation marks. The strong accents serve as stops (periods), colons, and semicolons. One of these accents is called the athnah. The function of the athnah is to mark the first half of a verse and serves as a strong break within a sentence.
The Hebrew text contains an athnah under the Hebrew word for “seven”, which in the text closes the first period of sevens. Thus, in Hebrew the accent makes a separation between the two periods of weeks. If the translator of the KJV had followed the Hebrew accentuation, the translation of Daniel 9:25 would read as follows:
“Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time.”
This is the translation adopted by the English Standard Version (ESV). The Revised Standard Version and a few other translations have adopted similar reading. Notice that the coming of the anointed one comes at the end of seven weeks, not at the end of sixty-nine weeks.
The difference between the ESV and the KJV is that the ESV follows the Masoretic Text (MT) while the KJV follows the Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Theodotion text.
The issue among interpreters is which text reflects the original reading of Daniel 9:25. Those who advocate Theodotion do so because his translation was finished in the second century A. D., while the Masoretic text found its final form in the ninth or tenth century A. D. Many people believe the Masoretes changed the text to avoid the Messianic interpretation of Daniel 9:25, whereas Theodotion’s translation supports the Messianic view.
Those who take the traditional translation of Daniel 9:25, represented by the King James Version and other translations, are led to believe that “the Messiah,” “the Prince,” was killed at the end of the 69th week. Since the “Messiah,” and the “Prince,” are interpreted to be Jesus, then the dates are calculated so that the conclusion of the 69th week ends in A. D. 32, the year that Christ died.
But this calculation leaves the last week, the 70th week of Daniel unfulfilled. This is where the dispensationalism of Scofield enters in. Since the 70th week does not fit historically, dispensationalists talk about “The Great Parenthesis.” As one proponent of the theory wrote:
“Between the sixty-nine and the seventieth weeks we have a Great Parenthesis which has now lasted over nineteen hundred years. The seventieth week has been postponed by God Himself, who changes the times and the seasons because of the transgression of the people.”
According to this view, the reason the last week was postponed was because when Christ died on the cross, “the prophetic clock stopped” until the age of the church comes to an end.
This infusion of ideas into Daniel 9:25-27, a process that is called eisegesis, is what leads people into dispensationalism. Eisegesis is the process of interpreting the Bible in which the interpreter tries to make the Bible say something that is in accordance with some pre-existing idea about a particular issue or doctrine.
Those who use eisegesis to interpret the Bible generally are not willing to allow the Bible to be understood as it was intended by the original writer. Rather, those who infuse ideas into the Bible are trying to prove something they already believe in.
People who use eisegesis can find aliens and astronauts in the Old Testament. They can also find America and Russia, Gorbachov and Saddam Hussein, the rapture and the tribulation, and a host of others things that are not in the Bible.
So, who was the anointed one of Daniel 9:25? In order to answer this question, there are several things that must control the interpretation of the text. Again, using the text of the ESV, the identification of the anointed one must fall within these guidelines:
First, an anointed one, who is also a prince of the community, must come at the end of the first seven weeks: “Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks” (v. 25a).
Second, after the coming of the anointed one, Jerusalem would be built again: “Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time” (v. 25b).
Third, at the end of the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be killed: “And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing” (v. 26a).
Fourth, after the death of the anointed one, the people of a prince shall destroy the sanctuary: “And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator” (vv. 26b-27).
When the biblical text is taken at face value, the text speaks of two anointed ones and two princes. Also, when the biblical text is taken at face value, the dispensationalism of Scofield, the Great Parenthesis, the seven year tribulation and all the other issues related to this doctrine, are found to have no biblical basis.
As for the identity of the one who was a prince and an anointed one, I leave that for those who write commentaries. My intent was only to demonstrate how a biased translation of a text can lead people astray. Translators have a responsibility of being neutral in their translation of the biblical text.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary