Bible Question:

I have recently become interested in Daniel 9 and the 70 weeks. I have read that the general consensus is that the decree referred to is Artaxerxes' decree to Nehemiah. Now I have been given a book which states that the decree must have been the first one issued by Cyrus, because Isaiah 45:1 states that the Lord would tell Cyrus to rebuild the Temple and Jerusalem. Now, this date does not result in a good correspondence with Jesus' ministry or death (536 BC + 483 or 490 years). The author of this book (Jerusalem: Peace or Desolation by Peter Cohen, a South African, references a book called “The Wonders of Bible Chronology” by Philip Mauro and says that we actually have no reliable chronology to know the date when Cyrus would have issued the decree. Peter Cohen says “There is the traditional Jewish chronology which counts the years from the creation of man. There is also the chronology constructed by Ptolomy which is generally accepted by secular historians. However, as Mauro points out, not only does it lack corroboration from other sources, but it is contradicted by Josephus..., by the Persian traditions preserved by Fidusi, and by the Jewish traditions preserved by the Seder Olam. But most importantly the canon of Ptolomy is in conflict with the chronology of the Old Testament. He goes on to say that apart from the writings of Ptolomy, there would be no secular chronology worthy of any consideration prior to Alexander the Great...” He goes on a bit more and explains how a biblical chronology has discrepancies of 60 to 80 years with secular dates, but he basically states that Jesus died in the middle of the 490th year; but unfortunately we do not know the exact date from which to compute the number of years. People probably had better chronologies back then. The Rabbis even expected a Messiah to come around then and at the end of the first century were moaning that he was meant to come but didn't and all. We take it on faith that Cyrus gave the decree at the time that would make chronological sense. Do you know about this? Do you agree? There are many different viewpoints, some arguing that the 70th week is just before Jesus comes back, some saying that Jesus died in the middle of the seventieth week (this book proposes that viewpoint, and defends it from scripture) but this is the first book I have seen that states that we should compute the date from Cyrus' decree and that people can't know when the decree was issued. Please could you enlighten me on this! I am really trying to consolidate this in my mind!

Bible Answer:

Mr. Philip Mauro’s booklet was written in A.D. 1933. The information available to him when he wrote the book was incomplete. Our current information is much better.

Temple or Jerusalem?

There are five key passages in the Old Testament that predict the rebuilding of Jerusalem or the temple, but Isaiah 45:1 is not one of them. Isaiah 45:1 does not refer to either Jerusalem or the temple. It is possible that Isaiah 44:28 is the passage he wanted to reference.

It is I who says of Cyrus, “He is My shepherd! And he will perform all My desire.’ And he declares of Jerusalem, ‘She will be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation will be laid.'” (NASB) Isaiah 44:28

It is important to read this passage carefully. Please note that this passage does not say that Cyrus will issue any decree. God only says that Cyrus is His shepherd, the city will be built, and the foundations of the temple will be laid. When we read scripture it is important to be exact. Why? Because 2 Chronicles tells us that Cyrus issued a decree to rebuild the temple. No comment is made about rebuilding the city.

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia – in order to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah – the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may the LORD his God be with him, and let him go up!'” (NASB) 2 Chronicles 36:22-23

Ezra 1:1-2 and Ezra 6:3 also tell us that Cyrus issued a decree to rebuild the temple. No comment is made about the city. It was King Artaxerxes who issued the decree to rebuild the city.

And it came about in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes . . . And I said to the king, “If it please the king, and if your servant has found favor before you, send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.” . . . And I said to the king, “If it please the king, let letters be given me for the governors of the provinces . . . and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress which is by the temple, for the wall of the city, and for the house to which I will go.” And the king granted them to me because the good hand of my God was on me. (NASB) Nehemiah2:1, 5-8

The following link will provide a list of key scriptures that discuss the decrees of both King Cyrus and King Artaxerxes. King Cyrus’ decree of 538 B. C. only authorized the rebuilding of the temple but it was the decree of King Artaxerxes in 444 B.C. that authorized the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem.

The Wonders of Bible Chronology

We have been able to confirm that Philip Mauro is the author of “The Wonders of Bible Chronology” and we understand his view of Daniel 9:25, in part. It is unfortunate that he rejects the Ptolomy chronology and accepts Josehpus’, Seder Olam’s, and Fidusi’s chronologies. Josephus, Seder Olam, and Fidusi lived many years after King Cyrus and King Artaxerxes. Josephus lived during the first century of our Lord.

Tradition claims that the Seder Olam (Seder Olam Rabbah) was written by Tannaitic Rabbi Yose ben Halafta who lived somewhere between A.D. 200-300. Seder Olam spans events from Genesis to the building of the Second Temple. The chronology of the book is based on the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament. It was written almost 800 years after the book of Daniel was written and about 700 years after the time of Cyrus and Artaxerxes. The book is not a secular chronology and was written too many years after the time of Cyrus and Artaxerxes to be dependable.

Josephus wrote several well known books entitled “Antiquities of the Jews” and the “Wars of the Jews.” He was born in A.D. 37. Consequently, his chronologies are about 600 years after Daniel.

Insufficient information exists about Fidusi to make a comment. Ptolomy’s Canon basically accounts for the chronology of the Babylonian empire, rather than being an exhaustive chronological account from the time of that empire to Jesus Christ. Consequently, I would recommend a very excellent and scholarly book entitled “Handbook of Biblical Chronology” by Jack Finegan. The book has extensive documentation and references. The ancient chronologies are not dependent on Ptolomy’s canon. In fact, Ptolomy’s canon does not even appear in his book.

Conclusion:

Historical data implies that Mr. Mauro (1859-1952) was a Christian, and says that he rejected the idea that Daniel 9:25 pointed to the time of Jesus Christ’s death . However, his information is incomplete and inaccurate. There is also another excellent book on this subject entitled, “Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ” by Harold W. Hoehner which you may want to consider.

Reference Links:

Prophecy of Daniel’s 70 Weeks
Why is Daniel’s prophecy in 9:25-27 so vital to understanding the future?
What is the correct calculation of Daniel’s 69 Weeks?