How do we find true wisdom?
Does the Old Testament give us the time of Jesus's coming?
Last week we saw that in the Tanakh, the Jewish Old Testament, Daniel was not classified as a prophet. This week we are going to ask, Why?
Daniel was very much a man of his day and although interpretations were for the future, he also spoke to the people of his day. And, despite the fact that his prophecies were for the future and not for the present, prophecies they still were. No greater authority than Jesus himself confirms the standing of Daniel. In Matthew 24:15 he calls him "... the prophet Daniel ..."
But, of course, that most revered Jewish commentator, Rashi, and the rabbis don't share in our confidence in Jesus as the final word.
Rashi lived at a time when State "Christianity" was at its most rampant and violent, particularly in its attitude towards the Jews. His latter years were saddened by the massacres which took place during the first Crusade, in which he lost relatives and friends, many killed after refusing to convert to Christianity. He had every reason to be most unsympathetic to the Christian religion and would consider the denial of Daniel as a prophet as a key victory, particularly as Daniel is considered by Christian scholars as the key to New Testament prophecy.
Why would this be? The fact is that, within the Book of Daniel, there are a number of prophecies that can be said to be fulfilled by Jesus Christ or his Church. If indeed this was so, then Rashi and other Jewish commentators would be very aware of this, even if a few prophecies could be considered ambiguous or contentious. The last thing they would want would be for Jews to read the Book of Daniel as a prophetic book and come to some uncomfortable conclusions.
Perhaps the most telling prophecy was that in Daniel 9:20-27. First the pre-amble:
"While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the LORD my God for his holy hill - while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. He instructed me and said to me, "Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the message and understand the vision: "Seventy 'sevens' are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy."
Then the bombshell:
"Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven 'sevens,' and sixty-two 'sevens.' It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two 'sevens,' the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary ..."
What this couple of verses is giving us is firstly a timetable for the appearance of the Anointed One, then a glimpse into what will be in store for him and finally the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple after his demise (his "cutting off").
The Anointed One will appear after a period of seven "sevens" and sixty-two "sevens" since the order to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. There's more unpacking to be done here than a Royal house swap!
The Anointed One, the ruler, is none other than the promised Messiah. This is easy, as both expressions mean the same thing. The English word Messiah is simply a translation of the Hebrew Mashiach, meaning "the Anointed One".
Now as for these numbers, it's all a bit convoluted, isn't it?
Firstly, we need to understand what is meant by "sevens". In the English translation of the Hebrew text (known as the Masoretic text), the word used is actually translated as "week". So we have seven weeks, then sixty two weeks. Now these are not actual weeks of days, what we have here is known as a shemittah cycle, a seven year period that parallels a seven day week, particularly the seven days of creation. There is nothing controversial about this usage here, it is a standard Jewish understanding, so "sevens" means "weeks" means "seven years". For the last word on this, read Leviticus 25:8, where it talks of "seven Sabbaths of years" as a period of 49 years, a Sabbath being the seventh day of the week.
With that understanding we can return to the verses ... but not yet. More next week ...
(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book 'Jesus Man of Many Names')
A Lib Dem candidate who was due to stand in the upcoming election...