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I have recently been looking into possible dates for the beginning of Jesus' ministry. I believe that Daniel's weeks of years prophecy refers to when Jesus begins His ministry (I used to errantly believe it marked the year of His death). The prophecy states that there would be 69 weeks of years until the Messiah. 69 weeks of years equals out to 483 years. The prophecy states that the timer (if you will) begins when the decree to rebuild Jerusalem is given.

My question is, when was this decree given? What decree concerning the Jews is referred to by the prophecy? Also, please explain how you know that the decree you mention in your answer is the correct decree. You may want to explain how you know the year is correct.

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The problem is that three decrees were issued, and people have to choose which one marks the commencement date from which to count. The decrees were made by three Persian Emperors: Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes in the years BC 538, 520 BC, and 457 BC respectively. Since it requires 483 years from the decree until Messiah, let us examine each one of them to see which one is correct.

Cyrus the Great was the founder of the Persian Empire; it was he who conquered Babylon in 539 BC. Earlier prophets had spoken of this monarch even before he was born, and one would assume his decree must have been the one referred to. Indeed, the prophecy of Isaiah concerning Cyrus was stunning in its own right, for he was mentioned by name two hundred years before his birth. The historian Josephus records that when Cyrus was shown the words concerning himself, he was so impressed by ...

... the divine power, that an earnest desire and ambition seized upon him to fulfil what was so written. So he called for the most eminent Jews that were in Babylon, and said to them that he gave them leave to go back to their own country to rebuild their city Jerusalem and the temple of God, and for that he would be their assistant. (Antiquites, Josephus, book X1, chap 1)

Notice, “rebuild the city and temple ...” Both aspects were included in the decree, although, the temple was naturally of first importance. Cyrus’ decree fits the description, but our problem is that when we add 483 years to 538 BC, we arrive at a year of no particular significance. Did an anointed prince appear in 55 BC? No, nothing of interest happened at all.

The second decree was issued by Darius, and his name brings to mind an earlier story of the king who had Daniel thrown to the lions. He carried out the punishment, not because he wanted to, but because the law of the Medes and the Persians could not be revoked! This famous incident provides an unexpected clue to understanding which decree should be associated with the prophecy of the ‘weeks’. It reminds us that decrees did not change from one emperor to the next and shows that Darius’ decree was not a new one at all; it was really a repeat of Cyrus’, re-decreed in accordance with Persian law.

Nevertheless, when we add 483 years to 520 BC, we still arrive at a year where nothing of significance happened - 37 BC. Obviously the countdown does not begin with Darius either.

Artaxerxes was the third. Nearly sixty years elapsed from Darius during which time the temple was completed, but rebuilding of Jerusalem’s infrastructure had to wait until he ratified the decree again in his seventh year. According to Hebrew reckoning, this date was 457 BC, (458 BC on the Babylonian calendar) and Ezra says it happened on the “first day of the first month in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes.” (Ezra 7:7-26) Now, when we count forward 483 years from 1 Nisan 457 BC, it comes out at 1 Nisan AD 27 - the time Jesus began his public ministry. When one considers how Daniel first predicts the decree nearly a century before it happened, then proceeds to telescope another 69 weeks further, we find a supernatural fulfilment of the ‘times’ in Jesus of Nazareth. This ‘coincidence’ defy the odds and provide powerful testimony to the identity of the Christ.

Even so, the original question remains. What of the other two decrees? Actually, all three are correct. This is even stated in Ezra 6:14:

"And the elders of the Jews built and prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. They finished their building by decree of the God of Israel and by decree of Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerxes king of Persia."

This clear statement of scripture cuts right through the endless arguments, books and debates claiming one decree is the ‘most correct’ and all others are wrong etc. The simple truth is they are the same decree; they are all correct. The prophet Daniel makes it quite clear that his vision follows the earlier prophecy of Jeremiah, and when understood in that context we see a single decree issued in series and linked together in logical order. First, Cyrus issued the decree when Babylon fell just as Jeremiah said it would. Second, Darius’ proclamation came between September - December 520 BC, marking the completion of Jerusalem’s seventy-year desolation. Third came Artaxerxes’ decree in the year 457 BC.

When we count from here, we find the beginning of Jesus' ministry in early AD 27. This calculation is also consistent with the crucifixion date of AD 30 as preferred by many scholars today.

  • Downvote came from me. A period of 69 is not mentioned anywhere in Daniel 9. There are two distinct periods of 7 and 62. Please see my answer. – Jack Oct 6 '18 at 20:32
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It is popularly understood that Daniel 9:25

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.

Began in Nehemiah 2:1-6

And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been before time sad in his presence. Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid, And said unto the king, Let the king live forever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire? Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers' sepulchres, that I may build it. And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.

Artaxerxes made the decree in the month of Nissan 445 B.C. Using a 360 day year having 12, 30 day months, Sir Robert Anderson calculated the end of the sixty-ninth week to fall on Palm Sunday, just before Christ's crucifixion.

Sir Robert Anderson says in The Coming Prince

The Julian date of that 10th Nisan was Sunday the 6th April, A.D. 32. What then was the length of the period intervening between the issuing of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem and the public advent of "Messiah the Prince," — between the 14th March, B.C. 445, and the 6th April, A.D. 32? THE INTERVAL CONTAINED EXACTLY AND TO THE VERY DAY 173, 880 DAYS, OR SEVEN TIMES SIXTY-NINE PROPHETIC YEARS OF 360 DAYS, the first sixty-nine weeks of Gabriel's prophecy.

Sir Robert Anderson's formula pp.55-56 The Coming Prince

The 1st Nisan in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes (the edict to rebuild Jerusalem) was 14th March, B.C. 445. The 10th Nisan in Passion Week (Christ's entry into Jerusalem) was 6thApril, A.D. 32. The intervening period was 476 years and 24 days (the days being reckoned inclusively, as required by the language of the prophecy, and in accordance with the Jewish practice).

But 476 x 365= 173, 740 days

Add (14 March to 6th April, both inclusive) 24 days

Add for leap years 116 days

Equals a total of 173,880 days

And 69 weeks of prophetic years of 360 days (or 69 x 7 x 360) 173, 880 days.

It may be well to offer here two explanatory remarks. First; in reckoning years from B.C. to A.D., one year must always be omitted; for it is obvious, ex. gr., that from B.C. 1 to A.D. I was not two years, but one year. B.C. 1 ought to be described as B.C. 0, and it is so reckoned by astronomers, who would describe the historical date B.C. 445, as 444. And secondly, the Julian year is 11m. 10 46s., or about the 129th part of a day, longer than 'the mean solar year. The Julian calendar, therefore, contains three leap years too many in four centuries, an error which had amounted to eleven days in A.D. [1752] when our English calendar was corrected by declaring the 3rd September to be the 14th September, and by introducing the Gregorian reform which reckons three secular years out of four as common years; ex. gr., 1700, 1800 and 1900 are common years, and 2000 is a leap year. "Old Christmas day" is still marked in our calendars, and observed in some localities, on the 6th January; and to this day the calendar remains uncorrected in Russia.

  • Does Anderson take into account leap years? – A Child of God Apr 4 '17 at 16:54
  • He does, on page 56 of The Coming Prince you can see his formula. The link is in my answer. God bless brother. – N.Ish Apr 4 '17 at 16:57
  • @A Child of God, added that to my answer. – N.Ish Apr 4 '17 at 17:04
  • Also, is there a possibility of an earlier decree? When Ezra was allowed to rebuild the Temple, he was given resources to rebuild it and to do whatever else he needed to do. Nehemiah was disappointed that Jerusalem was still destroyed, so would the decree given to Ezra be considered as a decree to rebuild the city as well as the Temple? – A Child of God Apr 5 '17 at 13:46
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    Figured out the typo. An extra 7 was added to the date. – A Child of God May 13 '17 at 16:52
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Daniel tells you when this decree was given. Context is critical to understand this. All the following is quoted from Young's Literal Translation.

What started Daniel's conversation with Gabriel?

Daniel 9:1

In the first year of Darius, son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, who hath been made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans,

in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, have understood by books the number of the years, in that a word of Jehovah hath been unto Jeremiah the prophet, concerning the fulfilling of the wastes of Jerusalem – seventy years;

...

Daniel was reading Jeremiah 25:9-13 where it says the same thing it says here - God sentenced the land of Judah to destruction for 70 years.

Afterward Daniel was moved to pray, and what does he pray about for 16 verses?

Daniel 9:3-19

...

and I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes.

And I pray to Jehovah my God, and confess, and say: ‘I beseech Thee, O Lord God, the great and the fearful, keeping the covenant and the kindness to those loving Him, and to those keeping His commands;

we have sinned, and done perversely, and done wickedly, and rebelled, to turn aside from Thy commands, and from Thy judgments:

and we have not hearkened unto Thy servants the prophets, who have spoken in Thy name unto our kings, our heads, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.

‘To Thee, O Lord, is the righteousness, and to us the shame of face, as at this day, to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, who are near, and who are far off, in all the lands whither Thou hast driven them, in their trespass that they have trespassed against Thee.

‘O Lord, to us is shame of face, to our kings, to our heads, and to our fathers, in that we have sinned against Thee.

‘To the Lord our God are the mercies and the forgivenesses, for we have rebelled against Him,

and have not hearkened to the voice of Jehovah our God, to walk in His laws, that He hath set before us by the hand of His servants the prophets;

and all Israel have transgressed Thy law, to turn aside so as not to hearken to Thy voice; and poured on us in the execration, and the oath, that is written in the law of Moses, servant of God, because we have sinned against Him.

‘And He confirmeth His words that He hath spoken against us, and against our judges who have judged us, to bring in upon us great evil, in that it hath not been done under the whole heaven as it hath been done in Jerusalem,

as it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil hath come upon us, and we have not appeased the face of Jehovah our God to turn back from our iniquities, and to act wisely in Thy truth.

And Jehovah doth watch for the evil, and bringeth it upon us, for righteous is Jehovah our God concerning all His works that He hath done, and we have not hearkened to His voice.

And now, O Lord our God, who hast brought forth Thy people from the land of Egypt by a strong hand, and dost make for Thee a name as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly.

...

Pay extra attention to this part:

...

‘O Lord, according to all Thy righteous acts, let turn back, I pray Thee, Thine anger and Thy fury from Thy city Jerusalem, Thy holy mount, for by our sins, and by the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Thy people are for a reproach to all our neighbours;

and now, hearken, O our God, unto the prayer of Thy servant, and unto his supplication, and cause Thy face to shine on Thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake.

‘Incline, O my God, Thine ear, and hear, open Thine eyes and see our desolations, and the city on which Thy name is called; for not for our righteous acts are we causing our supplications to fall before Thee, but for Thy mercies that are many.

O lord, hear, O Lord, forgive; O Lord, attend and do; do not delay, for Thine own sake, O my God, for Thy name is called on Thy city, and on Thy people.

Daniel started this chapter reading Jeremiah’s prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem and how long before the destruction would end. Daniel then prayed to God about the destruction of Jerusalem and begged him to bring the destruction to an end. And then what happened?

Daniel 9:20-24

...

And while I am speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin, and the sin of my people Israel, and causing my supplication to fall before Jehovah my God, for the holy mount of my God,

yea, while I am speaking in prayer, then that one Gabriel, whom I had seen in vision at the commencement, being caused to fly swiftly, is coming unto me at the time of the evening present.

And he giveth understanding, and speaketh with me, and saith, ‘O Daniel, now I have come forth to cause thee to consider understanding wisely;

at the commencement of thy supplications [again, what was Daniel praying about?] hath the word come forth, and I have come to declare it, for thou art greatly desired, and understand thou concerning the matter, and consider concerning the appearance.

‘Seventy weeks [sevens] are determined for thy people, and for thy holy city, to shut up the transgression, and to seal up sins, and to cover inquity, and to bring in everlasting judgment [ancient justice], and to seal up vision and prophet and to anoint the holy of holies.

...

Here is an excerpt from Gesenius Lexicon that shows the "everlasting judgment" should be "ancient justice". Notice he says it has to have this meaning - and then he says it can't have this meaning.

Gesenius showing "everlasting judgment" should be "ancient justice"

And that bring us to the verse you asked about - Daniel 9:25 (the edits are mine):

...

And thou dost know, and dost consider wisely, from the going forth of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem till Messiah the Leader [anointed prince] is seven weeks [sevens], and sixty and two weeks [sevens]: the broad place hath been built again, and the rampart, even in the distress of the times.

...

There is such a strong tradition saying that this must refer to Jesus Christ that even Robert Young did not translate this literally in his literal translation. For instance, the word "Messiah" only shows up in these two verses (Daniel 9:25-26) and Psalms 2. (In King James, the word Messiah is only used in Daniel 9-25-26.) Everywhere else that Hebrew word (משיח) appears, Young translated that word into "anointed". He should have done that here too.

Also, there is no definite article - no "the" (in Hebrew, no ה) - in that phrase. It should just be "anointed leader" or "anointed prince", not "the anointed leader/prince".

In addition, Gabriel said the 7 sevens was "from the going forth of the word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem" to the anointed leader. Which word was Gabriel referring to? The same word that started this scenario.

Read Daniel 9:2 again:

...

in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, have understood by books the number of the years, in that a word of Jehovah hath been unto Jeremiah the prophet, concerning the fulfilling of the wastes of Jerusalem -- seventy years;

...

The same Hebrew word (דבר) is translated into "word" in verse 2 and 25.

Daniel tells you when this word went forth. It went forth when Jerusalem was destroyed! There would be 70 years between when Jerusalem was destroyed and then rebuilt, but 7 sevens into it - or 49 years into it - an anointed leader would come on the scene. Who was that?

Isaiah 44:26-28, 45:1

...

Confirming the word of His servant, The counsel of His messengers it perfecteth, Who is saying of Jerusalem, She is inhabited, And of cities of Judah, They shall be built, and her wastes I raise up,

Who is saying to the deep, Be dry, and thy rivers I cause to dry up,

Who is saying of Cyrus, My shepherd, And all my delight He doth perfect, So as to say of Jerusalem, Thou art built, And of the temple, Thou art founded.

Thus said Jehovah, To His anointed, to Cyrus, Whose right hand I have laid hold on, To subdue nations before him, Yea, loins of kings I loose, To open before him two-leaved doors, Yea, gates are not shut:

...

Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians around 585 BC. Cyrus took power around 536 BC. That is a 49 year difference. And it was in the first year of his reign that he decreed the Jews could return to their land.

2Chronicles 36:22

...

And in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, at the completion of the word of Jehovah in the mouth of Jeremiah, hath Jehovah waked up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, and he causeth an intimation to pass over into all his kingdom, and also in writing, saying,

'Thus said Cyrus king of Persia, All kingdoms of the earth hath Jehovah, God of the heavens, given to me, and He hath laid a charge on me to build to Him a house in Jerusalem, that is in Judah; who is among you of all His people? Jehovah his God is with him, and he doth go up.'

Also Ezra 1:1-4:

And in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, at the completion of the word of Jehovah from the mouth of Jeremiah, hath Jehovah waked up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, and he causeth an intimation to pass over into all his kingdom, and also in writing, saying,

'Thus said Cyrus king of Persia, All kingdoms of the earth hath Jehovah, God of the heavens, given to me, and He hath laid a charge on me to build to Him a house in Jerusalem, that is in Judah;

who is among you of all His people? His God is with him, and he doth go up to Jerusalem, that is in Judah, and build the house of Jehovah, God of Israel -- He is God -- that is in Jerusalem.

'And every one who is left, of any of the places where he is a sojourner, assist him do the men of his place with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, along with a free-will offering for the house of God, that is in Jerusalem.'

...

After this period of 7 sevens (49 years), there would be another period of 62 sevens (434 years) in which the broad place (plaza) and the walls/moat would be rebuilt. Josephus says Pompey had a hard time filling in the moat to conquer Jerusalem and take the temple because of its immense size. Strabo says the moat was 60 feet deep and 250 feet wide. The city walls and the moat around the walls were huge. It would have taken some time to finish them, especially with all the political turmoil that nation had to deal with in that interval.

If this paragraph breaks the rules for this site we can take it out, but I realize a lot of people who read this might have a hard time agreeing with this because, like Gesenius, they have a very ingrained belief that this passage must refer to Jesus Christ. If you are one of those people (I was one of those people), consider all the places in the New Testament where Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, and Paul highlight a prophecy that Jesus Christ fulfilled. Those men expend a great deal of effort to prove that He fulfilled even small details like riding the donkey and identifying the city He was born in, but never - not once - do any of them ever point to how Daniel 9 applies to Jesus Christ. My answer does not say Jesus Christ is not the Messiah - the Anointed. My answer does say the anointed leader mentioned in Daniel 9 refers a different anointed person (Cyrus).

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Thank you for the question and focusing on Jesus ministry. The problem is that the people look first for a human decree or edict - we know it is God who wills things to happen. Even though Cyrus the Great says he will build Jerusalem (Isaiah 44:28), it is not him who starts the ball rolling. In the similar way that David wanted to build the first temple for God, but it fell for Solomon to do it, here we see that it fell for Darius I to push out the decree, Ezra 6:1-12.

I Darius have decreed it. Let it be carried out with diligence. Ezra 6:12

In 521 BC the altar had been built and 522 BC the work started on the temple and establish Jerusalem. Remember that the temple was centre of Jerusalem and Israel, it ensured that the Jews kept themselves pure and that they did not defile the land, a reason they were 'vomited out' of the land in the first place.

Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the foreigners residing among you must not do any of these detestable things, for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you. Leviticus 18:24-28

The link between defilement of the people and its effect on the land is picked up by the prophet Haggai in 521 BC (Haggai 2:10-19), which is ends:

“From this day on I will bless you.” Haggai 2:19

As I pickup later, Haggai's compatriot, Zechariah shows Jesus was there right at the start of Daniel 70 sevens, but if we first look closely we see the word ‘ḏā·ḇār’ is key to the verses in Daniel 9 that point to Jesus coming, the Seed dying and opening the way to eternal life.

Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ Daniel 9:25 NIV

The word will goes out – Daniel 9:25 (this is the start of the ‘sevens’) דָבָ֗ר (ḏā·ḇār)

Obviously, something more than just the physical restoring and rebuilding of Jerusalem is envisaged here. These words are working on two levels - the Old Covenant way established on the Law ending with Jesus fulfilling the Law and the New Covenant way through the promise to eternal life. The typical interpretation of the seventy sevens focuses on the Old Covenant way, but parallel to this is a new interpretation based on the New Covenant way. This new interpretation is detailed in the context of the Jewish return from exile in Babylon and the unfolding revelation given to Daniel.

The Greek word 'Logos' reflects concept of the arabic word 'Memra' describing the sense of the creative or directive word or speech of God manifesting His power in the world of matter or mind [1]. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word 'dabar' means speech or word, reflects a purpose in a deed or thing accomplished [2]. The Septuagint, the oldest translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, uses the terms 'Rhema' and 'Logos' as equivalents and uses both for 'Dabar' [3]. 'Dabar' is used in Genesis 15:1, Genesis 15:4 & 18:14 referring to the word promising and blessing with an inheritance to Abraham seen in the Seed, Jesus.

After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” Genesis 15:1

Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” Genesis 15:4

Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” Genesis 18:14

In Genesis 15:1 The Word of God, 'Dabar-YHWH' - God speaks often to people and in many different ways. The Word of God, however, typically conveys formal messages and mostly to prophets. The Word of God gains a pivotal status in the New Testament when he "becomes flesh" in Jesus Christ, now known by the Greek translation Logos.[4]

Even though God says of Cyrus

'He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, "Let it be rebuilt," and of the temple, "Let its foundations be laid."' Isaiah 44:28

It is just Cyrus saying this, but he does ‘shepherd’ the flock back for this purpose.

So I suggest looking at:

‘I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt. And the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem,’ declares the LORD Almighty. Zechariah 1:16

In 522 BC the altar was built 'on its foundations' Ezra 3:1-8 NIV

We know that it wasn’t much later that the temple was built in the 2nd year of Darius I.

But this is just one factor. God is much more interested in the flock than just bricks and mortar (although both point to the everlasting kingdom – the myrtle trees in Zechariah’s vision was a symbol for something that will stay forever). For this there is also the reversal of the decree in Esther so that freedom is declared for his people around 473 BC.

This then is how I map out the dates.

enter image description here

There is far more that can be put here as to why these dates are correct, but here are the links to my website which is under construction that should hopefully answer your questions. Some hard questions are answered - like 'When Jesus was born?', 'When did Ezra live?', 'What are the kingdoms in Daniel 2' - constituting a Paradigm Shift that makes for a much clearer understanding of scripture, and keep Jesus at the centre.

Jesus the Word https://math777.wixsite.com/divisionsofhistory/the-word

Jesus birth and death https://math777.wixsite.com/divisionsofhistory/jesus-birth-and-death

522 BC https://math777.wixsite.com/divisionsofhistory/exile

The return, 522 BC and the role of the Persians https://math777.wixsite.com/divisionsofhistory/return

Summary of Daniel https://math777.wixsite.com/divisionsofhistory/daniel

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