When Napoleon Bonaparte was born in France in 1769, the world did not care nor was the world looking for his birth. But in 1793, the world began to notice him after he defeated the British army at the city of Toulon, France. The victories in his famous career are now recorded in the pages of history books. The births of other men such as Greece’s famous philosopher Socrates, Egypt’s priest Mantheo, India’s religious leader Gandhi, and China’s Shi Huangdi (221-204 B.C.) of the Oin dynasty, who built the Great Wall of China were not expected. But there is one birth and one death that should have been expected because it had been predicted for about 500 years. The prophecy was not a general one. It did not predict that Messiah would just die sometime. It predicted His death within one month. The prophecy did not apply to someone who would die in some country, or to just anyone who would die in Jerusalem. It applied to only one person – a Jew who would die before the date of April 1, A.D. 33. The prophecy is found in Daniel 9:24-26a.
Daniel’s Prophecy of 70 Weeks
The early church father Jerome reports in his commentary on the book of Daniel that Eusebius, Hippolytus, Apollinarius and Tertullian believed that Daniel 9:24-26 was a prophecy about the coming Messiah. The prophecy refers to seventy weeks. After the sixty-ninth week the prince or Messiah would die. It is important to note that the term “weeks” refers to a period of seven years, as will be explained later. Additionally, Jerome states that there were Jews who agreed that the end date of the prophecy of sixty-nine “weeks” occurred near the time of Jesus.
Julius Africanus, another early church father, reported that Phlegon had stated, “And the calculation makes out that the period of seventy weeks, as noted in Daniel, is completed at this time.” In Julius Africanus’ The Extant Fragments of the Five Books of the Chronography of Julius Africanus, we discover that he attempted a calculation of Daniel’s sixty-ninth weeks and concluded that the prophecy pointed to Jesus Christ. We will discover that this prophecy of Daniel is like a pointer that specifies a date after which the promised Messiah would die. In fact, the prophecy predicts that the Messiah would die after sixty-ninth “weeks.” No one today and no one at the time the prophecy could have qualified to be the Messiah. Here is the first part of this incredible prophecy.
Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place. (NASB) Dan. 9:24
The expression “seventy weeks” refers to “seventy weeks of years” or “seventy periods of seven years.” There is wide agreement among many scholars that this is the correct interpretation of the phrase “seventy weeks.” This interpretation is supported by Daniel 9:2, where we are told that Daniel was reading the scroll of Jeremiah and discovered that the time was approaching for the Jewish captives to return to Palestine. We discovered in our study of Daniel 1 that Nebuchadnezzar had taken a group of Jewish captives from Palestine to Babylon in 605 B.C. Daniel 9:1-2 reveals that almost 70 years had elapsed since then, and it was about time for them to return to Palestine. God had allowed them to be deported because of the sins of their kings. The length of the deportation was determined by the number of sabbatical years that they had failed to observe (2 Chronicles 36:21; Jer. 34:12-22). God had commanded them to allow the land to be dormant every seventh year (Lev. 25:4-5, 27-46). But they had failed to observe the command for seventy sabbath years over a period of 490 years. Note that a Sabbath occurs only on the seventh day of each week. Consequently, God allowed their captivity to last for 70 years. Daniel would have understood the reference to “seventy weeks” in the prophecy to be 490 years.
Genesis 29:20-30 makes it clear that it was customary among the ancient Jewish people to refer to a “week” as another way to refer to seven years. Genesis 29:20 tells us that Jacob served Laban for seven years in order to marry Rachel. Unfortunately, Laban was dishonest and refused to give Rachel to Jacob on his wedding night, even though she was the one for whom he had labored. Instead Laban gave Jacob his oldest daughter Leah. Jacob did not discover the problem until the morning. If we look at verse 30, we discover that Laban offers Rachel, his younger daughter, to Jacob if he will serve another “week.” Then at the end of the verse we are told that this “week” is “seven years.” This example demonstrates that the term “week” did mean “seven years” in the proper context.
We agree with many early church fathers, Jewish rabbis and modern writers, that the expression “seventy weeks” refers to “seventy periods of seven years” or “490 years.”
Daniel 9:24 provides a summary of the Prophecy Of seventy weeks or 490 Years. First, we are told that transgression and sin would be eliminated and atonement would be made for iniquity. This refers to the Messiah’s death on the cross (Isaiah 53). Then we are told that everlasting righteousness would occur, vision and prophecy would end and the Holy of Holies would once again exist (“anointed”). That refers to the Messiah’s earthly, millennial. We will explore this more in our next study.
Sixth-Nine Week Prophecy
The prophecy of 70 weeks contains three prophecies. The first prophecy is the focus of this study. It is a prophecy that refers to a period of 69 weeks. The last two will be explored in the next study.
So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing . . . (NASB) Dan. 9:24-26a
Here we are told that the prophecy of 69 weeks (7 weeks plus 62 weeks) starts on the date a decree is issued to restore and rebuild the city of Jerusalem and ends when Messiah the Prince is cut-off and has nothing, that is, dies.
In order to understand this prophecy, we will perform three calculations in reverse order starting with the end date and concluding with the start date. That is, we will determine the end date or the fulfillment date of the prophecy. Next, we will determine the length of time predicted by the prophecy between the start and end dates. Then we will determine the start date of the prophecy.
End Date of The Prophecy
Now we ask, “When did Jesus Christ die?” We will start by determining when He was born, then how long He lived, and finally when he died. It has been commonly believed and taught that Jesus was born in 6 B.C. or 4 B.C. But recent facts indicate that He most likely was born in 2 B.C. We derive this conclusion from historical data, the gospels, and from the statements recorded by the early church fathers who agree that Jesus was born about 2 B.C.
Birth of Christ. Those who believe that Jesus was born in 6-4 B.C. do so because they believe that Herod the Great died in 4 B.C. Herod the Great was the king who was alive at the time that Jesus was born. He was the one who killed the children under 2 years of age in Matthew 2. Jack Finegan has recently published a monumental book that strongly indicates Herod the Great did not die in 4 B.C. but around 1 B.C.
Historical data reveals that Herod died just after a full lunar eclipse. A lunar eclipse occurred on January 10, 1 B.C. It was total and lasted longer than the lunar eclipse in March 13, 4 B.C. Josephus and astronomy support this claim. He also suggests that the governor Quirinius of Luke 2:2 reigned in 3-2 B.C.
If we look at the reigns of other kings, governors, and the tenure of Israel’s chief priests around the time Jesus lived, we discover that Jesus had to be born sometime around 3-2 B.C. Early church fathers such as Eusebius, Hippolytus of Rome, Irenaeus, Julius Africanus, Origin, and Tertullian all claimed that Jesus was born about 3-2 B.C. The Jewish historian Josephus also adds his weight to the date. Collectively, this information suggests that Jesus was born 3-2 B.C.
Length of Jesus’ Life. Now how long did Jesus live after His birth? The apostle Luke helps answer the question when he tells us that Jesus started His ministry at about the age of 30 years.
And when He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age . . . (NASB) Luke 3:23
This means that Jesus could have started His ministry when He was 29 years of age or maybe when he was 31 years of age. This gives us a range of dates for the start of His ministry from 27 A.D. to 30 A.D. (remember there is only one year from 1 B.C. to 1 A.D.). Since Jesus’ ministry lasted somewhere between three to four plus years, Jesus’ ministry could have lasted until He was 30 years or 34 A.D. of age.
Date of Jesus’ Death. Our first clue as to the time of Jesus’ death comes from John 2:20 where we are told that construction on the temple had already been in process for 46 years. Since construction of the temple started in 20 B.C. that means that Jesus’ ministry occurred after A.D. 27/28. Since Jesus ministered while Caiaphas was the high priest from A.D. 18 to A.D. 37 and Pontius Pilate was governor from A.D. 26 to A.D. 36 we conclude that Jesus’ ministry years and His death could have occurred between A.D. 30 and A.D. 36. However, it is highly doubtful that He lived past A.D. 34 given the year of His birth and the length of His ministry.
Now on what day did Jesus die? This will help us determine the year of His death. The New Testament tells us that Jesus died on a Friday or the day of preparation for the Passover or the day before the Jewish Passover.
Second, we have already discovered from Dan. 9:24 that a “week” in this passage refers to a seven year period. Consequently, the 69 weeks refers to 483 years (69 weeks x 7 years/week).
When Pilate therefore heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your King!” They therefore cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he then delivered Him to them to be crucified. They took Jesus therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. (NASB) John 19:13-17
Luke 23:44-46 says that Jesus died at the sixth hour or at 3 p.m. in the afternoon. The following passage also reveals that Jesus died on the eve of the Sabbath or Friday.
And behold, a man named Joseph, who was a member of the Council, a good and righteous man (he had not consented to their plan and action), a man from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who was waiting for the kingdom of God; this man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. And he took it down and wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever lain. And it was the preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. (NASB) Luke 23:50-54
That is, He died on a day before the Sabbath and on a Passover Eve. The apostle John calls this day a high day for it was both a Sabbath and the Passover.
The Jews therefore, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. (NASB) John 19:31
This means that when Jesus died, He died on the eve of Passover which starts on Nisan 14 as the sun sets (Ex. 12:6-14; Lev. 23:5; Num. 9:5, 28:16-17) and on a Friday afternoon before the Sabbath, which starts at 6:00 p.m. The Jewish Passover continues into Nisan 15 and occurs during a full moon. Thus one can verify the accuracy of the dates with astronomy.
A sophisticated astronomy software or a quality Jewish/Gregorian calendar converter can be used to determine when Nisan 14 occurs on a Friday during a full moon between the years of A.D. 26 to A.D. 36. The results show that Nisan 14 occurred on a Friday in only three years: A.D. 26, A.D. 33 and 36. A full moon did not occur on any Friday that was also the eve of the Passover in A.D. 30, 31, 32, 34 or 35. It is important to note that the monthly calendar for Nisan in the year A.D. 34 and 35 are identical to that in A.D. 31 and A.D. 32, respectively. That means Nisan 14 did not occur on any Friday between A.D. 30 and A.D. 35, except in the year A.D. 33. That leaves only one year in which Jesus could have died – A.D. 33. Therefore, Jesus died on April 1, A.D. 33 in the Gregorian calendar. In the Julian calendar the date is April 3, A.D. 33 and in the Jewish calendar it is Nisan 14, 3793.
We have demonstrated that Jesus’ birth and life span most likely continued until A.D. 33. Astronomy and the calendars indicate that the most likely date for Jesus’ death is Nisan 14, A.D. 33.
Elapse Time Of The Prophecy
Now we need to know how much time was predicted to occur between the start and end dates of the prophecy. The predicted time of the prophecy is given by the statement “seven weeks and sixty-two weeks,” because Daniel 9:25-26 has told us that from the start date, “issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild the city of Jerusalem”, to the end date, “until Messiah the Prince is cut-off and have nothing” is a sixty-nine week period of time.
First, note that the reader should understand that the phrase “sixty-two weeks” in verse 26 follows the already mentioned seven weeks. Some have attributed special significance to the “seven weeks” period or 49 years, but the book of Daniel does not tell us. It is only guess work to conclude otherwise. Therefore, 69 weeks has elapsed when we are told that “Messiah the Prince is cut-off and have nothing.”
Second, we have already discovered from Dan. 9:24 that a “week” in this passage refers to a seven year period. Consequently, the 69 weeks refers to 483 years (69 weeks x 7 years/week).
At the end of the 483 years, the prophecy goes on to say that the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing. The Hebrew word that is translated as “cut-off” can also mean “to kill, to eliminate, or to permit to perish.” The wording of the Hebrew text is also important. The phrase “have nothing” is actually one word that means “not.” The message is clear. The Messiah will die after the 69 weeks. He will cease to exist. He will be “not.” This means that the Messiah will die 483 years after the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.
Now we must convert the 483 biblical years into our present twentieth century Gregorian calendar since the start and end dates we will use for the prophecy will be in the Gregorian calendar. A biblical year contains 30 days per month or 360 days per year. This fact can be determined by comparing Genesis 7:11 and Genesis 8:4. In Genesis 7:11 we are told that the great flood that occurred during Noah’s life started on the second month and the seventieth day. Genesis 8:4 tells us that the flood ended on the seventh month and the seventieth day, and Genesis 7:24 says that the flood lasted for 150 days. Since we are told that the flood lasted for five months as well as 150 days this means that the biblical calendar contains 30 days per month or 360 days per year.
Now if we multiply 483 biblical years by 360 days per year we obtain 173,880 days. This is the number of days from the start of the prophecy to the end of the prophecy. We had to perform this calculation in order to convert the 483 biblical years into our calendar which is the Gregorian calendar. Now we want to determine how many Gregorian years these days represent. Since there are 365.24219879 days in a Gregorian year we will divide the 173,880 days by 365.24219879 and we discover that the 483 biblical years equals 476 years and 24.7 days or 25 days in our current calendar. Therefore, the predicted time from the start to the end of the prophecy is 476 Gregorian years, and 225 days.
Start Date of The Prophecy
When was the decree given to which Daniel is referring? Is it Cyrus’ decree of 538 B. C., Artaxerxes’ decree in 457 B.C., or Artaxerxes’ decree of 444 B.C.? There are advocates for each one. We shall consider each separately.
Cyrus’ Decree of 538 B.C.– The decree of 538 B.C. was issued by Cyrus, the first king of Persia. He issued the decree during his first year as king (2 Chron. 36:22-23). Most advocates for this decree admit that the decree as described in 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 does not include a directive to rebuild the city but only the temple. To believe that the city is included assumes facts not stated in the text.
Consequently, some refer to Isa. 44:26-28 to support their claim that the decree included the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Unfortunately, Isaiah 44:28 does not make it clear whether God is simply saying that Cyrus is “My shepherd” and that he would rebuild the city and the temple, or if God is simply stating a series of facts. There is ambiguity in the text.
The Isaiah 45:13 passage is probably the strongest passage supporting the concept that Cyrus’ decree might have included the rebuilding of the city, but the question must be asked what does “rebuild the city” mean and when was the rebuilding to occur? At first this might appear to be dancing around the issue and an attempt to avoid the obvious; but it is very clear in Nehemiah 2:11-17, which occurs later in time since Artaxerxes ruled after Cyrus (Neh. 2:1), that the city is desolate and the walls were “broken down.” The Hebrew text in Neh. 2:13 states explicitly that the walls and gates were in utter ruin. Nehemiah 2:17 is also very significant since it states that Jerusalem is desolate and the gates burned by fire. The Hebrew word for “is desolate” can also be translated as “to lay waste” or “to lay in ruins.” If Cyrus’ decree included rebuilding the city and the walls, why is the city in ruins during Artaxerxes reign? It is very possible that Isaiah 45:13 simply means that during the Medo-Persian empire Jerusalem will be rebuilt. Therefore, Cyrus the Great’s decree of 538 B.C. is rejected.
Artaxerxes’ Decree of 457 B.C. – Artaxerxes I reigned after Cyrus from 464 to 424 B.C. He was the sixth king. Artaxerxes’ decree of 457 B.C. as given in Ezra 7:11-27 does not refer to a rebuilding of any city but to a decree allowing Ezra and others to return to Jerusalem for the purpose of worship. Some have claimed that Ezra 9:9 indicates that the 457 B.C. decree did include the rebuilding of the city, but once again a careful examination reveals that Ezra had a thankful heart for the Persian kings allowing them to rebuild the temple.
Artaxerxes’ Decree of 445 B.C. – Nehemiah 2:1-8 states that Artaxerxes I issued a decree to rebuild Jerusalem.
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 beyond the River, that they may allow me to pass through until I come to Judah, 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) Neh. 2:1-8
Only in Neh. 2:1-8 and the following verses in the book of Nehemiah provide solid evidence that this decree was issued for the purpose of rebuilding the city and the walls. Notice that Nehemiah 2:17 clearly states that the city was desolate.
Then I said to them, “You see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates burned by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we will no longer be a reproach.” (NASB) Neh. 2:17
Nehemiah 3 indicates that the Fish, Old, Valley, Refuse, Fountain, Water, Horse, East, Inspection, and Sheep gates and walls were all rebuilt. The rebuilding activity of the gates and walls are mentioned one-by-one. Nehemiah 4 describes the rebuilding of the wall and Neh. 6:15 says that the wall was finally completed. Then Nehemiah 11:1 tells us that the rest of the people were to be brought to the city so that it could be repaired. Why would Artaxerxes issue another decree if one had already been issued in 538 B.C. or 457 B.C? This implies that the 538 B.C and 457 B.C. decrees were not edicts to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. Further, the wording of Nehemiah 2 and the following chapters clearly refer to the rebuilding of the city and the wall. In summary, Nehemiah 2:1-8 documents the existence of the utter ruin of the city and dilapidated walls, and the decree to build the city and its walls.
What is the date of the decree that Artaxerxes issued in Nehemiah 2:1-8? To answer the question, we will start by noting that Artaxerxes started ruling Persia in 465 B.C. Since Nehemiah 2:1 indicates the time is the 20th year of Artaxerxes we might assume that the date is 445 B.C. In reality the date is 444 B.C. since the Babylonians and Medo-Persians referred to the first year that a king sat on the throne as his ascension year. The means that 445 B.C. was actually the king’s ascension year. It was not counted as part of the reign of Artaxerxes (compare Jer. 25:1 with Dan. 1:1 and 2:1). The second year that a Persian king sat on the throne was considered the first year of his reign.
Therefore, when Ezra says the decree was issued in the 20th year of King Artaxerxes, it is actually the 21st year in which Artaxerxes ruled the Persian empire or 444 B.C. Therefore, Artaxerxes issued the decree that Daniel 9:25 refers to for the restoration and rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem in approximately Nisan 3317, in the Jewish calendar, or March 5, 444 B.C. in the Gregorian calendar.
It should be noted that Neh. 2:1 does not specify a day within the month of Nisan that the decree was issued. Some claim that the first day of the month should be considered as the default day when the day is not specified. But there is no supporting evidence. The absence of a specific day in the date given in Neh. 2:1 seems to suggest that the date is an approximation. In fact, the preposition in within the phrase “And it came about in the month Nisan” can have a wide range of meanings. It can sometimes mean “before or near.” It can also function as a marker of a position in proximity or near vicinity to another object.
It has a very wide range of meanings. Consequently, the date in Neh. 2:1 appears to be an approximation. That is the decree could have been given before or after Nisan. This conclusion is strongly supported by the fact the Jewish calendar was not accurately updated until modern times.
The Jewish Calendar. Today, the Jewish calendar starts on Nisan 1 and ends on Adar 30. That is, Nisan is the start of the Jewish new year ad come comes before the month Chislev or Kislev. But in the time of the prophet Nehemiah Chislev or Kislev preceded the month Nisan in the Jewish calendar, as Nehemiah 1:1 and 2:1 reveal (see the chart labeled “5th Century Jewish Calendar).”[17, 18, 19]
It is important to note that the year 444 B.C. is a leap year or an intercalary year in the Jewish calendar. The Jewish year is 3317. In an intercalary year an additional month is added to correct the Jewish calendar which is based on the lunar orbit and not the solar year. Consequently, an additional month was and is added periodically and the name of the added month is Adar 2 or Veadar. The Jewish calendar’s intercalary cycle is a 19-year cycle composed of twelve common years and seven leap years. The insertion of the extra month of Adar 2 or Veadar occurs in the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th and 19th years of the cycle. Consequently, calculations that will soon be performed are more difficult in the Jewish calendar. This is another reason to perform the calculations in the Gregorian calendar.
The decision to add the additional month, Adar 2 or Veandar in an intercalary year was made mid-Nisan after human observation determined that the calendar was not correctly synchronized with the agricultural cycle and the Passover would not occur on a full moon. As a result, an additional month was added to correct the calendar mid-Nisan. The month of Nisan was renamed as Adar 2. Adar 2 had 29 days. Nisan would then occur once again after Adar 2 was completed. The Jewish Encyclopedia reports the following,
Every two or three years, as the case might be, an extra month was intercalated. The intercalation seems to have depended on actual calculation of the relative lengths of the solar and lunar years, which were handed down by tradition in the patriarchal family. Moreover, it was possible to judge by the grain harvest. If the month of Nisan arrived and the sun was at such a distance from the vernal equinox that it could not reach it by the 16th of the month, then this month was not called Nisan, but Adar Sheni (second).
On the evening before the announcement of the intercalation the patriarch assembled certain scholars who assisted in the decision. It was then announced to the various Jewish communities by letters. To this epistle was added the reason for the intercalation. A copy of such a letter of Rabbi Gamaliel is preserved in the Talmud (Sanh. xi. 2).
The country people and the inhabitants of Babylonia were informed of the beginning of the month by fire-signals, which were readily carried from station to station in the mountain country. These signals could not be carried to the exiles in Egypt, Asia Minor, and Greece, who, being accordingly left in doubt, celebrated two days as the new moon.
When Nehemiah 2:1 records that in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign that he issued the decree to rebuild and restore Jerusalem, it is important to understand that it was an intercalary year. Consequently, an additional month was inserted between Adar and Nisan after the month Nisan had already started. Consequently, Nisan 1 would occur again after Adar 2, in the same year. This raises an important question. To which date does Nehemiah 2:1 refer? Did the prophet Nehemiah refer to the Nisan 1 that occurred before the month of Adar 2 or Veadar was inserted, or does Nisan 1 refer to the month of Nisan that followed the insertion of the month Adar 2.
Date Conclusions. Which Nisan did the prophet use? It is important to note that Nehemiah was living in Babylon at the time Artaxerxes’ decree was issued. Therefore, did he know that the calendar had been updated by the religious leaders in Jerusalem? Which Nisan did he use? The decision is important since it creates a 29 day variation in the timeline.
Now we have two options to consider:
1) Nehemiah Used The Correct Nisan 1. If the prophet Nehemiah referred to the correct Nisan, the one that occurred after the intercalary month of Adar 2 was inserted, then Nisan 1 would correspond to March 28, 444 B.C. Then if we add 476 years and 24.7 days we arrive at April 22 A.D. 33. This date occurs 21 days after Jesus’ crucifixion. We have already discovered that Jesus died on Nisan 14 or April 1, A.D. 33.
Clearly the Neh. 2:1 date of the decree is an approximation since it does not specify the exact day. That means the start date of Daniel’s prophecy of seventy weeks is an approximation pointing to the year and month in which the Messiah would die and not necessarily the exact week, as is commonly assumed. However, the Sanhedrin tract of the Talmud reveals that the above calculation might be wrong since the calendar was not always updated correctly.When Nehemiah 2:1 records that in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign that he issued the decree to rebuild and restore Jerusalem, it is important to understand that it was an intercalary year. Consequently, an additional month was inserted between Adar and Nisan after the month Nisan had already started. Consequently, Nisan 1 would occur again after Adar 2, in the same year. This raises an important question. To which date does Nehemiah 2:1 refer? Did the prophet Nehemiah refer to the Nisan 1 that occurred before the month of Adar 2 or Veadar (Adar 2) was inserted, or does Nisan 1 refer to the month of Nisan that followed the insertion of the month Adar 2.
Clearly the Neh. 2:1 date of the decree is an approximation since it does not specify the exact day. That means the start date of Daniel’s prophecy of seventy weeks is an approximation pointing to the year and month in which the Messiah would die and not necessarily the exact week, as is commonly assumed. However, the Sanhedrin tract of the Talmud reveals that the above calculation might be wrong since the calendar was not always updated correctly.
But we are not . . . to suppose that Nisan was always officially fixed by the strict astronomical rule just mentioned. The actual practice is . . . represented by the Talmudic tract Sanhedrin, 10b-13b, according to which the Sanhedrin, when considering whether to intercalate or not, might have regard to the state of the roads, the bridges, and the Passover ovens, to the possibilities of pilgrims who had already started arriving in time for the Passover, to the growth of the kids, lambs, and pigeons, of the corn and of the fruit, and to the number of days that had to elapse before the equinox. According to some rabbis, intercalation was to be avoided in a year of famine or in a sabbatical year, and a court might be influenced by the fact that the next year would be, or the last had been, a sabbatical year. We must, therefore, allow some margin of uncertainty in selecting the month which we are to regard as having been Nisan in a particular year.
The Talmud reveals that variations did occur in the Jewish calendar. It is important to note that our calculations assume that the Jewish calendar was correctly updated such as we accustomed to in Gregorian Calendar. Consequently, the error of 21 days might not exist at all. Either way, the prophecy was fulfilled within the 483 biblical years or 476 Gregorian years and the month of Nisan.
2) Nehemiah Used The Wrong Nisan 1. If the prophet Nehemiah referred to the original Nisan 1, that occurred before the intercalary month of Adar 2 was inserted in the Jewish year of 3317, then his Nisan would have been shifted backward by 29 days since Adar 2 has 29 days. Consequently, if we assume Nisan 1 in Neh. 2:1 is the start date it would correspond to the first day of Adar 2, 3317 or February 27, 444 B.C. Then if we add 476 years and 24.7 days, we arrive at March 24, A.D. 33 or Nisan 5 in the Jewish year of 3793. The date of Nisan 5, 3793 corresponds to the Wednesday before Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem which occurred on Monday, Nisan 10. Then later in the week on Friday, Nisan 14, Jesus, “Messiah the Prince,” was crucified and died. The Gregorian date is April 1, A.D. 33. The Julian date is April 3, A.D. 33.
In conclusion, it is proposed that the start date is Nisan 444 B.C. and the end date of the prophecy points to the month of Nisan A.D. 33 – the month in which before Christ died. Jesus died on Nisan 14 or April 1, A.D. 33. In order for this to be true, the Messiah had to be alive before the fulfillment date of the prophecy in order to die. No one before that month or after that month qualifies to be the Messiah – only Jesus qualifies! That was a narrow window in history in which the Messiah could arrive and Jesus came during that window. Jesus was and is the Messiah.
Daniel predicted that the Messiah would die 500 plus years before it happened. Other prophecies predicted that the Messiah would suffer (Isaiah 53), be pierced with a sword, be scourged, die alongside thieves, and be buried in a rich man’s grave.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions . . . and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth . . . His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth. But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief . . . and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors. (NASB) Isaiah 53:5-12
All these things happened to Jesus just as this 500 year old prophecy predicted. Why did Jesus die? He died for our sins. But that alone is not what Easter or Resurrection Sunday is all about. Resurrection Sunday is about Jesus’ return to life after being dead. Another prophet predicted this almost 1,000 years before Jesus,
. . . Neither wilt Thou allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay. (NASB) Ps. 16:10
Jesus was and is the Messiah.
One Easter, the pastor Dr. Gordon, brought an old rusty birdcage and sat it next to the pulpit. As he started his sermon that Easter morning, he held up the bird cage and said, “You might be wondering why this is here. It is not normal to have a bird cage here. Let me tell you the story behind it. Several days ago I was watching a little boy in tattered and torn blue jeans with a dirty T-shirt, cap off to the side, whistling, walking down an alley, and swinging this bird cage. Clinging to the bottom of the cage were little field sparrows he had caught. So I stopped him and asked, ‘Say, sonny, what do you have there?’ He said, ‘Oh, I’ve got some birds.’ What are you going to do with them?’ I asked. ‘Oh, mess around with them, tease them, and something like that.’ ‘Well I asked, ‘when you get tired of them, what are you gonna do?’ He thought for a moment and said, ‘Well, I have a couple of cats at home and they like birds. I think I will just let them have the birds.'”
Dr. Gordon’s heart went out to the little birds so he made the lad an offer. “How much do you want for the birds?” Surprised, the boy, said, “Mister, these birds are no good.” “Well,” Dr. Gordon said, “regardless, how much would you like for them?” The little fellow said, “How about two bucks?” I said, “Sold!” So he reached in his pocket and peeled off two dollar bills. The little boy shoved the bird cage forward, pleased with his good fortune.
When the boy left, the pastor walked a good distance away, lifted open the cage door and said, “Shoo, shoo.” And he shoved the birds out of the door and they flew free. The bird cage was a symbol of the human race trapped by sin and going to hell. Jesus Christ came as the prophecies predicted and paid the price for our freedom. He has made it possible for us to be set free.
We need to “move our wings.” We need to turn to God, believe in Jesus Christ, and seek His forgiveness.
1. Gleason Archer. Jerome. Commentary on Daniel. Wipf & Stock. 2009. pp. 94-110.
3. Julius Africanus. Chronography, 18.
4. Julius Africanus. Chronography, 16, 18.
5. Gleason Archer., Ibid.
6. Finegan, Jack. Handbook of Biblical Chronology. Hendrickson Pub., 1998, p. 301
7. Flavius Josephus. Jewish Antiquities 17, 156-191
8. Verified with the astronomy software Starry Night
9. Ibid., Finegan,. p. 302-306.
10. Verified with the astronomy software Starry Night
11. Jewish Calendar Conversions in One Step (stevemorse.org/jcal/jcal.html)
12. Edwin R. Thiele. The Mysterious Numbers of The Hebrew Kings. Kregel. 1983. p. 43-45, 180.
13. Harold W. Hoehner. Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ. Academie Books. 1977. p. 138, footnote #72.
14. Gesenius, W., & Tregelles, S. P. (2003). Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (p. 97). Bellingham, WA.
15. Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
16. Harris, Archer and Waltke. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Moody Press. 1980. p. 87..
17. Jewish Calendar Conversions in One Step (stevemorse.org/hebrewcalendar/hebrewcalendar.htm)
18. Ibid. Thiele. p. 53.
19. Horn and Wood, ‘The Fifth-century Jewish Calendar at Elephantine,’ Op. Cit. , p. 1-20.
21. Jewish Encyclopedia (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/3920-calendar-history-of)
22. Richard A. Parker and Waldo Dubberstein’s Babylonian Chronology 626 B.C-A.D. 75 (2nd ed.; Providence, 1956, p. 26
23. .K. Fotheringham, “The Evidence of Astronomy and Technical Chronology for the Date of the Crucifixion,” Journal of Theological Studies 35. 1934. pp. 146-62