Saturday, April 3, 2010

God’s Grace in the Law of Moses: A study of John 1:14-18

What is the purpose of the law in the OT? There are some today who would say that for Israel under the Mosaic covenant, the law is the way to salvation. In his book Destined to Reign, Joseph Prince, a prosperity preacher[1] from New Creation Church (Singapore),[2] implies that God designated two ways of salvation in the biblical covenants; one based on the law, and the others based on God’s grace. According to Prince, the people of Israel were previously under the Abrahamic covenant of grace.[3] But at Mount Sinai, the people have “placed themselves under the law” by exchanging covenants, “from the Abrahamic covenant which is based on grace, to the [Mosaic] covenant which is based on the law.”[4] Prince argues that under the Mosaic covenant of law, salvation is “dependent on your doing, your ability to keep the law and your ability to make yourself righteous.”[5]  But in the new covenant of grace, “God does not assess us based on our performance, but on His goodness and faithfulness.”[6]
Prince does not seem to be aware that the law is an instrument of the Holy Spirit who uses it to instruct believers to understand and to do God’s will.[7]  For him, preaching the law will inevitably result in the church lacking “the power to overcome sin,” thus causing sin to be “on the increase”[8] To support his argument, Prince uses a number of proof texts to set the law over against grace. One of these texts is Jn. 1:17 from the KJV: “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”[9] In his interpretation of Jn. 1:17, Prince argues that the law is “impersonal” and the giving of the law “implies a sense of distance,” whereas grace is “personal,” and its coming in the person of Jesus Christ points to a “relationship.”[10] Nevertheless, Prince qualifies his interpretation by admitting that the law is “holy, just and good” because “[i]t is from God Himself.”[11] For Prince, the sole purpose of the law is so that “the world would have the knowledge of sin, and recognize their need for a Savior.”[12]
In this study, I will seek to determine as to whether John intends to set the law over against grace in Jn. 1:17. For some interpreters, they would immediately go over to the Pauline epistles to interpret John. It has long been recognized that the apostle Paul does not have a simple approach towards the law. For instance, while Paul clearly affirms that he upholds the law (Rom. 3:31), yet he also says that the law has been abolished (Eph. 2:15). Paul’s complex approach, however, does not necessarily mean that the rest of the NT writers approach the law in the same manner as Paul did. It is important that we do not make the mistake of reading the non-Pauline writings with Pauline spectacles. Rather, we should allow the NT writers to be themselves. For this reason, Paul’s polemic against the law should not be read into Jn. 1:17, but the surrounding context of the verse, that is, Jn. 1:14-18, should be examined. Like many books in the NT, numerous OT allusions can be found within the Gospel. Thus, this study will explore the various words and expressions within Jn. 1:14-18 that alludes to the OT in order to draw out the meaning of Jn. 1:17. 
Text and translation of John 1:14-18
14 Κα  λόγος σρξ γένετο κα σκήνωσεν ν μνκα θεασάμεθα τν δόξαν ατοδόξαν ς μονογενος παρ πατρόςπλήρης χάριτος κα ληθείας. 15ωάννης μαρτυρε περ ατο κα κέκραγεν λέγων· οτος ν  / ν επών / επον·  πίσω μου ρχόμενος μπροσθέν μου γέγονεντι πρτός μου ν. 16 τι κτο πληρώματος ατο μες πάντες λάβομεν κα χάριν ντ χάριτος· 17 τι  νόμος δι Μωϋσέως δόθη χάρις κα  λήθεια δι ησο Χριστο γένετο.18 θεν οδες ώρακεν πώποτε· μονογενς θες  ν ες τν κόλπον το πατρς κενος ξηγήσατο.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt/tabernacled among us, and we saw his glory, glory as only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John is bearing witness about him and has cried out, saying: “This was he whom I spoke; he who comes after me has came before me, because he was before me.” 16 For from his fullness we all received, even grace in place of grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, the grace and the truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only begotten God who is into the bosom of the Father, he made known.   
Lexical and theological analysis of σκηνόω (“to dwell”)
The first word to be examined in this study is the verb σκήνωσεν (“he dwelt”) in v. 14. The lexical form of the verb is σκηνόω (“to dwell”), which is derived from the root σκηνή (“tent”).[13] In the Septuagint (LXX), σκηνή occurs about 435 times, mostly corresponding to the Hebrew word אֹהֶל (“tent”).[14] The  word אֹהֶל usually refers to the tabernacle,[15] a portable construction that was erected in the midst of the camp during Israel’s wilderness experience.[16] The construction of the tabernacle (σκηνή) is quite elaborate, comprising of “the holy place and the holy of holies; in the latter was the ark of the covenant.”[17] During the wilderness period, the tabernacle serves several purposes for the people of Israel: 1. as “the place where God dwells in the midst of his people” (Exod. 25:8); 2. as “the place of the divine revelation” (Exod. 25:22); and 3. as the place where “sacrifices are offered and atonement is made” (Exod. 29:38–43; 30:7–10).[18] In Exod. 40:34-35, the people saw the cloud of God’s presence settled (שָׁכַן) on the tabernacle and the divine glory (LXX: δόξα) filled it.
In light of this, it is not coincidental that John chooses the words σκήνωσεν (“he dwelt”) and δόξαν (“glory”) to describe the Word-made-flesh in v. 14.[19] By writing the phrase  λόγοςσρξ γένετο κα σκήνωσεν ν μν (“the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”), John is not merely indicating that Jesus “entered into a new dimension of existence through the gateway of human birth and took up his residence among men.”[20] But John is also announcing here that Jesus is the new tabernacle who came to dwell among the people. Like the tabernacle in the wilderness, Jesus, during his earthly ministry, has “moved with his disciples as their first Paraclete or Counselor.”[21] The people of Israel have seen the divine glory of Jesus (i.e. θεασάμεθα τν δόξαν ατο, “we saw his glory”) through his signs (Jn. 2:11; 11:4, 40) and in his death and exaltation (7:39; 12:16, 23; 13:31-32).[22] Just as σκηνή is associated with the divine presence in the wilderness, John is associating σκηνόω with the divine presence on earth. Thus, instead of simply rendering σκήνωσεν as “he dwelt,” the verb should best be rendered as “he tabernacled” or “he tented” so as to bring across its OT nuances.
Lexical and theological analysis of πλήρης χάριτος κα ληθείας (“full of grace and truth”)
The expression πλήρης χάριτος κα ληθείας (“full of grace and truth”) in v. 14 contains two significant words: χάρις (“grace”) and λήθεια (“truth”). While λήθεια occurs 25 times throughout the Gospel, χάρις, on the other hand, occurs four times in vv. 14-17 and does not appear in the rest of the Gospel. According to the BDAG lexicon, χάρις has several usages: 1. as “a winning quality or attractiveness that invites a favorable reaction”; 2. as “a beneficent disposition toward someone”; 3. as a “practical application of goodwill”; 4. as an “exceptional effect produced by generosity”; and 5. as a “response to generosity or beneficence.”[23] In the LXX, χάρις typically corresponds to the word חֵן (“favor, grace”),[24] while λεος (“tender mercy”) corresponds to חֶסֶד (“lovingkindness, steadfast love”).[25] In the OT, חֶסֶד is used with reference to “compassionate acts performed either spontaneously or in response to an appeal by one in dire straits.”[26] It has been observed that “in the later speech of the OT there is a remarkable merging of חֵן and חֶסֶד in which חֶסֶד loses its earlier distinctiveness in favour of the meaning of חֵן and furthermore that the later translators with increasing firmness connect חֶסֶד and χάρις.[27]
In the Exodus narrative, the people of Israel had experienced God’s χάρις (“grace”) on a number of occasions. It is important that God’s χάρις on the people of Israel be seen in a covenantal context. While the people were being oppressed in Egypt (Exod. 1:8-14), God demonstrated his χάρις by delivering them from their bondage to slavery (14:30). They were not delivered because of their obedience, but because God remembered his covenant with Abraham and his descendants (2:23-25; 6:1-9; cf. Gen. 17:7). While they were hungry and thirsty in the wilderness, God again demonstrated his χάρις by giving them manna and water (16:1-17:7). In Exodus 19, God alluded to the Abrahamic covenant[28] he had with them and promised to make them his “treasured possession” (v. 5).[29] Because they are his people,[30] God gave them the law to safeguard their covenantal relationship (Exod. 20-23).[31] And in Exodus 24, God ratified the covenant with the people  (vv. 1-11), not to annul the Abrahamic covenant (Gal. 3:17), but to confirm the Abrahamic promises.[32] However, in Exodus 32, the people sinned against God by worshipping a golden calf (vv. 1-10). But God demonstrated his χάρις by not destroying them (v. 14), but by renewing the covenant with them (Exod. 34).[33]
John may have Exod. 34:5-7 in mind when he uses the expression πλήρης χάριτος κα ληθείας.[34] Exodus 34 covers “the giving of the new stone tablets,” “the making of the covenant,” and “the listing of demands that spring from the covenant.”[35] In vv. 5-7, Moses was on Mount Sinai where the cloud of God’s presence descended, and God’s glory passed in front of Moses while proclaiming: “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger,and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.” The italicized expression is from the phrase וְרַב־חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת, which the LXX translates as κα πολυέλεος κα ληθινς. It is significant the word חֶסֶד, which is related to χάρις (“grace”), is found in this Hebrew phrase. Also, the LXX translation contains the word ληθινς (“trustworthy”), which is from the same word group as ληθείας. These similarities between Exod. 34:5-7 and Jn. 1:14 strongly indicate that John was seeing the same glory as Moses did in the Word-made-flesh.[36] John is telling his readers in v. 14 that God’s “steadfast love and faithfulness” has finally found ultimate expression in the sending of God’s only begotten Son.[37] 
Theological analysis of θεν οδες ώρακεν πώποτε (“no one has ever seen God”)
In view of the Exodus allusions in v. 14, it is quite likely that the phrase θεν οδες ώρακεν πώποτε (“no one has ever seen God”) in v. 18 would be alluding to Israel’s wilderness experience as well. Here in v. 18, John is reminding his readers of the episode where Moses saw God’s glory (Exod. 33-34). When Moses was on Mount Sinai, he was not allowed to see God (Exod. 33:20). The consistent assumption throughout the OT is that “God cannot be seen, or, more precisely, that for a sinful human being to see him would bring death” (Deut. 4:12; Ps. 97:2).[38] While Moses “is said to have spoken ‘face to face’ with the Lord, but that is the Hebrew way of saying that there was a personal communication between God and a human being” (Exod. 33:11).[39] Thus, when John adds that God has made Jesus Christ known (i.e., κενος ξηγήσατο, “he made known”), he is saying that the coming of the Word-made-flesh has finally “broken the barrier that made it impossible for human beings to see God.”[40]
Syntactical and theological analysis of χάριν ντ χάριτος (“grace in place of grace”)
There are a variety of interpretations offered for the phrase χάριν ντ χάριτος, which is frequently rendered as “grace upon grace.” This phrase, which occurs in v. 16, is immediately followed by v. 17 with an explanatory τι (“for” or “because”). The main point of contention among exegetes lies with the meaning of the preposition ντ.[41] Among the various interpretations of the phrase, the most important ones are as follows:
1.  The preposition ντ means “corresponding to.” The idea here is that “grace, i.e. the grace which the Christian receives, in some sense corresponds to the grace of Christ.”[42] There are, however, some difficulties with this interpretation. For one thing, there is nothing in the literary context to support this meaning. It is important to note that v. 17 begins with the conjunction τι (“for”), which is used to explain the preceding verse.[43] But by rendering ντ as “corresponding to,” this interpretation “does not adequately treat the way v. 17 is cast as the explanation of v. 16.”[44] Moreover, the preposition ντ has never bears the meaning “corresponding to,” except in certain compound words (e.g., ντίτυπον, which means “copy, antitype, representation”).[45]
2.  The preposition ντ means “in return for.” This usage is found several times in the NT (e.g., Matt. 5:38; Rom. 12:17; 1 Thess. 5:15; 1 Pet. 3:9). The idea here is that “one grace is given in return for another.”[46] However, the idea of grace being given “in return for” something else hardly seems consistent with the NT in general and to John in particular. In fact, the NT understanding of grace is “something freely given by God to those who do not merit it.”[47] Augustine tried to get around this by suggesting that the first χάρις meant “eternal life” and the second “faith.”[48] But John is not talking about future χάρις, but about grace “we all received” (μες πάντες λάβομεν). Such an interpretation is clearly “alien to the context, and ignore(s) the connection between v. 16 and v. 17.”[49]
3.  The preposition ντ means “upon” or “in addition to.” This is the most popular interpretation among scholars today. Modern translations adopt this understanding by rendering the phrase χάριν ντ χάριτος as “grace upon grace” (NEB, RSV) or as “one blessing after another” (GNB, NIV). The idea here is that God’s grace is in inexhaustible supply; that is, “fresh grace replaces grace that is used up or consumed and will go on doing so perpetually.”[50] John Calvin, who holds to this view, believes the text is saying that “we are watered with the graces which were poured out on Christ.”[51] While this interpretation appears to fit with the context of the Prologue, it is, on closer examination, quite unlikely that this is actually John’s point. In fact, there is no parallel to this usage of ντ in all of Greek literature,[52] which uses the preposition έπί (“on, upon”), not ντ, for such meaning.[53]
4. The preposition ντ means “instead of” or “in place of.” This is the most common usage of ντ at all periods.[54] This usage is not only commonly found in the LXX (e.g., Gen. 22:13), but in the NT as well (e.g., Matt. 2:22; Lk. 11:11). While few modern scholars have taken ντ in Jn. 1:16 in this sense,[55]there were, however, several leading Church fathers who held to this view.[56] The idea here is that “the grace and truth that came through Jesus Christ is what replaces the law; the law itself is understood to be an earlier display of grace.”[57] Thus, Jesus is presented here as “the climatic eschatological revelation of God’s covenant love and faithfulness.”[58] This is by far the most convincing interpretation. Furthermore, this interpretation “picks up and supports the other echoes of Exodus 34-35 which have been detected in the Prologue, including the motifs of ‘seeing God’, of his presence or shekhinah (symbolized by the pillar of cloud), and of his glory as he partially reveals himself on Mount Sinai to his servant Moses, who had found favour with him.”[59]
Many modern scholars reject this interpretation, believing that grace in the NT is generally opposed to law (cf. Rom. 6:14).[60] In their objection, they presupposes that “the two halves of v. 17 are set over against each other,”[61] thus assuming that they are dealing with a case of antithetic parallelism. However, their presupposition is clearly flawed, as there is no adversative conjunction in the Greek; that is, no άλλα or δε (“but”).[62] Moreover, while it is true that Paul often contrasts grace and law, John, on the other hand, “alludes to Moses and the Law in a neutral or clearly affirmative manner” later in the Gospel.[63] In response, some scholars have argued that the Gospel is “deeply opposed to the law, and could not possibly have seen it as a display of God’s grace.”[64] Their argument is “largely based on two references to ‘your Law’ (8:17; 10:34),” understood as John’s way of distancing himself from the law.[65] However, their reading of the texts is flawed, as in both instances “the authority of the law is accepted, and serves as the justification of something Jesus himself was teaching.”[66]
There is a remarkable number of allusions to Exodus in Jn. 1:14-18. First of all, by telling his readers that the Word “dwelt among us” and that he “saw his glory,” John recalls Exod. 40:34-35 where the cloud of God’s presence settled on the tabernacle and the divine glory filled it. Second, by calling the Word-made-flesh “full of grace and truth,” John is recalling Exod. 34:5-7 where the cloud of God’s presence descended, and God’s glory passed in front of Moses. And third, by telling his readers “no one has ever seen God,” John is alluding to the episode in Exod. 33-34 where Moses saw God’s glory. These various allusions together indicate that the coming of Jesus Christ is the climatic eschatological fulfillment of Israel’s wilderness experience.
John is also describing this eschatological fulfillment in Jn. 1:17. As this study has shown, the law was given to Israel as a sign of God’s grace to safeguard their covenantal relationship that was established since Abraham. Just as the law is never set over against grace in the Exodus narrative, John does not set the law over against grace in the Gospel. Rather, John alludes to the law in a neutral or clearly affirmative manner. Thus, in Jn. 1:17, the contrast is not between law and grace, but between “two climactic moments in time: first, the grace of the [law] was mediated through Moses; second, grace and truth have been personified in Christ.”[67] This grace and truth that came through Jesus Christ has now replaced the law, which is an earlier display of grace.

[1] In response to the label “prosperity preacher,” Joseph Prince, Destined to Reign: The Secret to Effortless Success, Wholeness and Victorious Living (Harrison House, 2007), 23, remarks that “there is no such thing as a ‘prosperity gospel,’” but there is “only one gospel in the Bible.” Prince further adds that believing this gospel “will result in health and prosperity. In fact, the gospel of Jesus Christ leads to blessings, success, healing, restoration, protection, financial breakthroughs, security, peace, wholeness and MUCH MORE!”
[2] For more information on New Creation Church, see its website:
[3] Prince, 225, believes that “[b]efore the law was given, [the people of Israel] were under grace and nobody was punished even when they failed.”
[4] Prince, 222-223, believes that the people of Israel exchanged covenants because of their “statement of pride” in Exod. 19:8. Prince appears to hold to the 1917 Scofield Bible’s interpretation of the Exodus narrative, which states that “[t]he Dispensation of Promise ended when Israel rashly accepted the law” (See the 1917 Scofield Reference Notes on Gen. 12:1). This interpretation, however, does not appear in the later 1967 Scofield Bible. Instead, the 1967 Scofield Bible stresses that it is “exceedingly important” to observe that the “law is not here proposed as a means of salvation but as a means by which Israel, already redeemed as a nation, might through obedience fulfill her proper destiny” (O. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Covenants (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1980), 211-212).
[5] Ibid., 24.
[6] Ibid., 225.
[7] Willem A. VanGemeren, “The Law is the Perfection of Righteousness in Jesus Christ,” in Five Views on Law and Gospel, ed. Stanley N. Gundry (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 53, notes three uses of the moral law: 1. Usus elenchticus. The law as an instrument of righteousness warns, convicts, and condemns sinners of their unrighteousness; 2. Usus politcus. The law has the power to restrain us by reminding us of the consequences of our disobedience; and 3. Usus normativus. The law is an instrument of the Holy Spirit by which he teaches believers to understand and to do God’s will.
[8] Prince, 121.
[9] Ibid., 12 and 25.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Prince, 16, remarks that “the law is holy. It is not from the devil. It is from God Himself.”
[12] Ibid.
[13] Berne Wilhelm Michaelis, “σκηνή, σκνοςσκήνωμασκηνόωπισκηνόωκατασκηνόωσκηνοπηγίασκηνοποιός” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kitteland Gerhard Friedrich, trans. Geoffrey. W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964-c1976), Electronic ed., Libronix.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ibid.
[16] See Exod. 38:21; Num. 3:25.
[17] R. J. McKelvey, “Temple,” in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, ed. T. D. Alexander and Brian S. Rosner (Downers Grove: IVP, 2000), 806.
[18] Ibid., 806.
[19] Andreas J. Köstenberger, “John,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, ed. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 422, observes that “[t]he reference to 1:14 to Jesus taking up residence among God’s people resulting in the revelation of God’s glory (the first occurrence of the term doxa in this Gospel) also harks back to OT references to the manifestation of the presence and glory (kabod) of God, be it in theophanies, the tabernacle, or the temple.”
[20] Merrill C. Tenney, “John,” in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed., Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), Electronic ed., Pradis.
[21] Gerald L. BorchertJohn 1-11, New American Commentary vol. 25A, ed. E. Ray Clendenen (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996), 120.
[22] D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, Pillar New Testament Commentary, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 128.
[23] “χάρις” in BDAGBibleworks 7.
[24] E.g., Gen. 6:8.
[25] E.g., Gen. 19:19.
[26] Joel B. Green, “Grace,” in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, ed. T. D. Alexander and Brian S. Rosner (Downers Grove: IVP, 2000), 524.
[27] Göttingen Walther Zimmerli, “חֶסֶד” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, trans. Geoffrey. W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964-c1976), Electronic ed., Libronix.
[28] W. J. DumbrellCovenant and Creation (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1984), 81, observes that prior to Exod. 19:5, “there has been no mention in the earlier Exodus material of a covenant as specifically established by the Exodus event itself.” Dumbrell notes that “[s]ince Exod. 6:4 has referred to the Exodus event as being in fulfillment of the patriarchal covenants,” the phrase “to keep my covenant” in Exod. 19:5 “also points in that direction.”
[29] Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., “Exodus,” in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), Electronic ed., Pradis, rightly points out that the presence of אִם(“if”) in Exod. 19:5 “did not pave the way for Israel's declension from grace into law anymore than an alleged presence of a condition paved an identical fall for the patriarchs (Gen 22:16-18; 26:5) or for David (2 Sam 7:14-15; 1 Kings 2:4; 8:25; 9:4-5; Pss 89:30-37; 132:11-12).”
[30] Cf. “my people,” in Exod. 3:7, 10; 5:1; 6:7; 7:4, 16; 8:1, 20, 21, 22, 23; 9:1, 13, 17; 10:3, 4.
[31] VanGemeren, 28, notes that “[t]he law was God’s means of shaping Israel into a ‘counter-community,’” enabling the godly to “know how to reflect God’s love, compassion, fidelity, and other perfections.” Robertson, 173, notes that the Mosaic covenant was “never intended to suggest that man by perfect obedience could enter into a state of guaranteed covenantal blessedness.” William DyrnessThemes in Old Testament Theology (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1977), 100, rightly notes that “Israel does not keep the law in order to become God’s people, but because they already are.”
[32] VanGemeren, 28, rightly points out that “[t]he Mosaic covenant is not antithetical to the promises made to Abraham, nor is the Mosaic covenant a substitute for the Abrahamic covenant. Rather, the Mosaic covenant is a confirmation of the promises made to the patriarchs” (Exod. 3:16).
[33] Kaiser notes that this making of a covenant in Exod. 34 “is not to be understood as the instituting of a second covenant in vv.10-27 but is best seen as a renewing of the same covenant after the events of chapter 33.”
[34] Carson, 129, remarks that while some may object that the word πολυέλεος is used instead of χάρις in Exod. 34:6, it is “not impossible that John, working directly from the Hebrew, simply preferred [χάρις].”
[35] Alan Cole, Exodus, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, ed. D. J. Wiseman (Leicester: IVP, 1973), 226.
[36] Carson, 129.
[37] Köstenberger, 422.
[38] Carson, 134.
[39] Borchert, 124.
[40] Carson, 134.
[41] The preposition ντ has been used in several ways: 1. indicating that one person or thing is, or is to be, replaced by another; 2. indicating that one thing is equivalent to another; 3.indicating a process of intervention; 4. indicating the reason for something; and 5. indicating result, with the implication of being a replacement for something (“ντ” in BDAGBibleworks7).
[42] Ruth B. Edwards, “χάριν ντ χάριτος (John 1.16): Grace and the Law in the Johannine Prologue,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament, no. 32 (1988): 5.
[43] Cleon L. Rogers Jr. and Cleon L. Rogers III, The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 178.
[44] Carson, 131.
[45] Carson, 131 and Edwards, 5. Carson notes that the word ντίτυπον (“antitype”) may literally be rendered “counterblow,” meaning “a blow corresponding to another one.”
[46] Ibid.
[47] Edwards, 4.
[48] Ibid.
[49] Carson, 131.
[50] Beauford H. Bryant and Mark S. Krause, John, College Press NIV Commentary, ed. Jack Cottrell and Tony Ash (Joplin: College Press, 1998), Electronic ed., Libronix.
[51] John Calvin, “The Gospel According to John: Volume First,” in Calvin’s Commentaries, trans. William Pringle, Electronic ed., Libronix.
[52] Edwards, 5, notes that almost all who defend this interpretation would appeal to Philo—De Posteritate Caini 145—which is literally translated: “Therefore God, having always held back (έπισχών) his first gifts, before those who received them became glutted and insolent, and having husbanded (ταμιευσάμενος) them, distributes others instead of them (άντ εκείνων) and a third supply instead of (αντί) the second, and continually new gifts instead of (αντί) older ones, sometimes different, sometimes the same.” However, Edwards, 6, points out that there are problems with using Philo: a) Philo speaks of ‘graces’, χάριτες, in the plural; John of χάρις in the singular; b) Philo is not talking about an accumulation of gifts, but the replacement of one kind of gift for another; c) the whole thought of Philo is very different from that proposed for the Gospel Prologue: John, on this interpretation, is emphasizing the superabundance of God's grace; while Philo is stressing God's wisdom in dispensing it carefully and not giving to people more than they can cope with.
[53] See for example, Sir. 26.15: χάρις έπί χάριτι γυνή αίσχυντήρα (“a shamefast woman is grace upon grace”) (RV). Edwards, 5, remarks: “[I]f John meant έπί, why did he not write έπί like BenSirach? Why coin a new usage?”
[54] Edwards, 3.
[55] Ibid., 4.
[56] Edwards, 7, notes that this interpretation is “found in Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, Origen, and Theophylact, and also adopted by Jerome, linguistically the most learned of the Latin Fathers.”
[57] Carson, 132.
[58] Köstenberger, 423.
[59] Edwards, 10. The word shekhinah is used to denote the dwelling or settling presence of God, and is derived from שָׁכַן, which means “to settle” or “to dwell.”
[60] Edwards, 7.
[61] Carson, 132.
[62] Edwards, 8, observes that “[g]rammatically and structurally the two halves of the verse are exactly balanced: each consists of a nominative noun or noun-pair, a modifying prepositional phrase with διά, and a main verb in the aorist tense.”
[63] Edwards, 8, notes that “nowhere else in John or the Gospels do we find a direct contrast between ‘grace and truth’ and the Law.” Edwards, 8-9, observes that “later in this chapter we find the disciple Nathanael saying, ‘We have found him of whom Moses wrote in the law and of whom the prophets wrote also’ (1.45). In ch. 6 Jesus is seemingly identified with the prophet like Moses of Deuteronomy 18; in ch. 5 he reproaches unbelieving Jews: ‘If you believed in Moses, you would believe in me; for he wrote of me’ (5.45-47). In all these cases Moses is clearly seen as pointing towards Jesus. In ch. 7 the Jews are actually reproached for not believing Moses (7.19; cf. 7.22£); in 10.34 Jesus refers to the Law as the word of God, saying that Scripture cannot be broken. In 8.17 he uses the Mosaic dictum that the testimony of two men is true, to argue for the truth of his own testimony and that of the Father. In Jn 3.14 Moses' lifting up of the serpent in the wilderness is seen as a type ofJesus' own lifting up on the cross. In ch. 6, Jesus’ gift of himself as the bread of life is compared with God’s gift of manna to the Israelites through Moses in the wilderness.”
[64] Carson, 132.
[65] Ibid.
[66] Ibid.
[67] Daniel I. Block, “The grace of Torah: the Mosaic prescription for life (Deut 4:1-8; 6:20-25),” Bibliotheca sacra 162, no. 645 (2005): 14.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Examining the Dispensational Parenthesis Theory of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks Prophecy

During my studies in seminary, I had, from time to time, been challenged by dispensationalists to explain away the seventy weeks prophecy found in Daniel 9:24-27, one of the key passages used in defense of dispensationalism. Of all their biblical proof texts, Daniel 9:24-27 is perhaps the most critical text of them all. The interpretation of this passage, according to prominent dispensationalist scholar John F. Walvoord, “constitutes one of the determining factors in the whole system of prophecy.”[1] Within dispensationalist circles, this passage has been used to make sense of other prophetic texts such as the Olivet Discourse and most of Revelation. Walvoord calls this passage “the sine qua non of any student of prophecy.”[2]
Before I began my study of Daniel 9:24-27, I must admit that I do not have much of an interest in this passage. Due to its difficulty, I have put off studying it for quite some time. One scholar calls it “the most difficult text” in the book of Daniel.[3] Also, as one who is Reformed and amillennial, end-times predictions seem to be a needless waste of time to me. However recently, curiosity finally got the better of me. I thought it’s perhaps about time now that I settle this issue once and for all.
I would like to say from the outset that while I am in disagreement with dispensationalism, the purpose of this study is not to review or to critique the entire dispensational system. Rather, my purpose is to highlight the exegetical issues within the dispensational parenthesis theory so as to benefit those interested in this area of eschatology. Also, to restrict the scope of this study, although there are four major interpretations of this passage, I will focus only on the parenthesis theory here.
This study will be divided into four sections. In this study, I will, first of all, provide my translation of Daniel 9:24-27 from the Hebrew text. Next, a brief overview of the four major interpretations will be given. Following this, I will give a detailed explanation of the dispensational parenthesis theory. And lastly, I will discuss six exegetical issues that I have discovered in the course of my research.
Hebrew text and translation of Daniel 9:24-27
24 שָׁבֻעִים שִׁבְעִים נֶחְתַּךְ עַל־עַמְּךָ וְעַל־עִיר קָדְשֶׁךָ לְכַלֵּא הַפֶּשַׁע [כוּלַחְתֹּם] [קוּלְהָתֵם] [כחַטָּאֹות] [קחַטָּאתוּלְכַפֵּר עָוֹן וּלְהָבִיא צֶדֶק עֹלָמִים וְלַחְתֹּם חָזֹון וְנָבִיא וְלִמְשֹׁחַ קֹדֶשׁ קָדָשִׁים׃
25 וְתֵדַע וְתַשְׂכֵּל מִן־מֹצָא דָבָר לְהָשִׁיב וְלִבְנֹות יְרוּשָׁלִַם עַד־מָשִׁיחַ נָגִיד שָׁבֻעִים שִׁבְעָה וְשָׁבֻעִים שִׁשִּׁים וּשְׁנַיִם תָּשׁוּב וְנִבְנְתָה רְחֹוב וְחָרוּץ וּבְצֹוק הָעִתִּים׃
26 וְאַחֲרֵי הַשָּׁבֻעִים שִׁשִּׁים וּשְׁנַיִם יִכָּרֵת מָשִׁיחַ וְאֵין לֹו וְהָעִיר וְהַקֹּדֶשׁ יַשְׁחִית עַם נָגִיד הַבָּא וְקִצֹּו בַשֶּׁטֶף וְעַד קֵץ מִלְחָמָה נֶחֱרֶצֶת שֹׁמֵמֹות׃
27 וְהִגְבִּיר בְּרִית לָרַבִּים שָׁבוּעַ אֶחָד וַחֲצִי הַשָּׁבוּעַ יַשְׁבִּית זֶבַח וּמִנְחָה וְעַל כְּנַף שִׁקּוּצִים מְשֹׁםֵם וְעַד־כָּלָה וְנֶחֱרָצָה תִּתַּךְ עַל־שֹׁםֵם׃
24 Seventy “sevens” is decreed[4] upon your people and upon your holy city, to finish[5] the transgression, and to seal up sins, and to make atonement for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophet, and to anoint the holy of holies.
25 That is,[6] you will know, and you will consider, from the going forth of the word to return and to build Jerusalem until an anointed [one], a ruler,[7] [is] seven “sevens.” And sixty-two “sevens,” a city square and a moat will return and will be built,[8] even in the distress of the times.
26 And after the sixty-two “sevens,” an anointed [one] will be cut off and nothing to him. And the people of the ruler who is coming will destroy the city and the holy [place], and its end [will be] with a flood. And until an end [there will be] war, determining[9] desolates.
27 That is,[10] he will confirm a covenant to the many [for] one “seven.” And the half of the “seven,” he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And upon the wing of detestable things,[11] making desolate until[12] complete destruction, and that which is determined will pour forth upon the desolate.[13]
An overview of the four major interpretations of Daniel’s seventy weeks prophecy[14]
Interpreters of Daniel’s seventy weeks prophecy primarily differ with each other on how the seventy “sevens” in Daniel 9:24-27 are to be interpreted. These seventy “sevens” are basically divided into three groups: seven “sevens,” sixty-two “sevens,” and a final “seven.” In many translations, the word שְׁבֻעַ (“seven”) is translated as “week.” Throughout this study, I will be using the words “seven” or “week” interchangeably to refer to the word שְׁבֻעַ.

Seven “sevens”
Sixty-two “sevens”
Final “seven”
1st interpretation (literal years)[15]
From Jerusalem’s destruction (586 B.C.) to Babylon’s fall (539/538 B.C.)
From Babylon's fall to the high priest Onias III (170 B.C.)
Antiochus IV Epiphanes's persecution in 170–163 B.C.
2ndinterpretation (symbolic years)
From Cyrus’s decree allowing the return of the Jewish exiles (538 B.C.) to the time of Ezra and Nehemiah (approx. 440–400 B.C.)
From about 400 B.C. until the first advent of Christ
From the first advent of Christ until an unspecified point sometime after Christ’s earthly ministry but before the destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70.)
3rd interpretation (literal + symbolic years)[16]

From Cyrus’s decree or Artaxerxes I’s decree to Ezra (458 B.C.) until the first advent of Christ
From Christ’s earthly ministry until the persecution of the church by the Antichrist.
From the Antichrist’s persecution of the church until the end of the age
From Cyrus’s decree or Artaxerxes I’s decree to Ezra until the completion of Jerusalem (ca. 409 B.C. or ca. 396 B.C.)
From about 400 B.C. until the first advent of Christ
From Christ’s earthly ministry until the end of the age
4th interpretation (dispensational literal)
From Artaxerxes I’s decree to Ezra or his second decree (445 B.C.) until the completion of Jerusalem
From about 400 B.C. until the first advent of Christ
From the Antichrist’s covenant with national Israel to the 2nd advent of Christ and the establishment of his earthly millennial kingdom

Explanation of the parenthesis theory
The parenthesis theory of the seventy weeks prophecy is firmly rooted within a system of biblical interpretation called dispensationalism. Dispensationalist scholars, who hold to this theory, believe that the primary focus of Daniel 9:24-27 is on “the history of Israel and the city of Jerusalem.”[17] In v. 24, the angel Gabriel tells Daniel that six goals are to be accomplished in seventy “sevens.” They are: 1) to finish the transgression; 2) to seal up sins; 3) to cover iniquity; 4) to bring in eternal righteousness; 5) to seal up vision and prophet; and 6) to anoint the holy of holies. Dispensationalist scholar J. Dwight Pentecost believes that while “[t]he basis for the first three was provided in the work of Christ on the cross, but all six will be realized by Israel at the Second Advent of Christ.”[18] According to the prophecy, these six goals are to be fulfilled in “seventy ‘sevens’” (שָׁבֻעִים שִׁבְעִים). Because dispensationalist scholars interpret the word שְׁבֻעַ (“seven”) as a reference to a period of seven years, they believe these six goals are to be accomplished within 490 years.
In the prophecy, Gabriel divides the seventy “sevens” into three periods: seven “sevens” (49 years), sixty-two “sevens” (434 years), and a final “seven” (7 years). Concerning the first two periods, dispensationalist scholars believe that they run consecutively without any parenthesis or gap in between. According to them, the first period refers to “the time in which the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem, permitted by Artexerxes’ decree, was completed (444-395 B.C.).”[19] As for the next period of sixty-two “sevens,” they believe that it extends up to “the introduction of the Messiah to the nation Israel.”[20]
The final period of “seven,” unlike the first two periods, is treated differently. Dispensationalist scholars believe a parenthesis exists between the sixty-two “sevens” (69th week) and the final “seven” (70th week). For them, the final “seven” does not take place immediately after the second period of sixty-two “sevens,” but will take place sometime in the indeterminate future. Their primary argument for this theory hinges upon the Hebrew preposition אַחַר (“after”) in v. 26. They believe that since v. 26 does not explicitly state that the Messiah was crucified in the 70th week, but after the 69th week, there is a parenthesis implied between the 69th week and the 70th week.[21]
According to Pentecost, this parenthesis begins “on the day of the Triumphal Entry just before Christ was cut off, that is, crucified.”[22] Dispensationalist scholars believe that Jesus had offered the kingdom to Israel, but he was “rejected by Israel.”[23] As a result, Israel had been “temporarily set aside in the plan of God.”[24] In the meantime, God institutes a “new program for the church,”[25] which ushers in the age of the church. Thus, the past two thousand years, from the time of Christ to the present, represent the parenthesis in v. 26.
This parenthesis, dispensational scholars believe, will not last forever. According to one dispensationalist writer, “[w]hen God’s purposes for the church are over, God will restore Israel back to their original place which will bring immense blessing to the Gentile nations.”[26] But before this could happen, the events in v. 27 must take place. Dispensationalist scholars believe that v. 27 describes the final “seven” (70th week), which begins when “the covenant between Israel and the Antichrist is signed.”[27] During the latter half of the 70th week, “there will be a terrible time of tribulation for Israel and the world,” where “God will use this trial to bring Israel and countless others to saving faith.”[28] This 70th week will end with “Christ’s second coming and the establishment of his earthly kingdom, which will last a thousand years.”[29]
Exegetical issues with the parenthesis theory
Dispensational exegetes presuppose a number of things when they interpret the seventy weeks prophecy of Daniel. First, they presuppose a parenthesis exists between the 69th week and the 70th week. Second, they adopt a principle of hermeneutical separation between Israel and the church, presupposing that they are two peoples of God with separate destinies. Third, they presuppose that the numbers in the prophecy are intended to be used only in a non-figurative sense. Finally, they presuppose that all of the events described have to take place chronologically. As this section will demonstrate, there are several exegetical issues when these presuppositions are held. The issues are as follows:
1. There is no exegetical warrant for imposing a parenthesis between the 69th week and the 70th week. When defending the parenthesis theory, dispensational scholars typically insist the presence of the preposition אַחַר (“after”) in v. 26 proves that there is a parenthesis between the 69th week and 70th week. Dispensationalist scholar Robert H. Gundry argues that if the 70th week is supposed to follow immediately after the 69th week, “the text would have read ‘during’ or ‘in the midst of’ the seventieth week, as it does in verse twenty-seven concerning the stoppage of the sacrifices.”[30] Also, to support the idea of a parenthesis, Walvoord lists twelve instances of parentheses in the Bible where God “stopped the clock of fulfillment only to resume the progress of fulfillment later.”[31]
Nevertheless, Walvoord’s attempt to demonstrate similar instances of parentheses is hardly proof that a parenthesis exists in Dan. 9:24-27. Non-dispensational scholars are quite unanimous in agreeing that there is no exegetical warrant for imposing such a parenthesis in v. 26.[32] Tim Meadowcroft and Nate Irwin comment that to do so would be “an arbitrary and uncontrolled imposition on the text.”[33] According to O. Palmer Robertson, “the minute exegetical possibility resting on an unusual interpretation of the common word after appears as a rather precarious base for establishing a two-thousand-year-long gap in world history.”[34]
In fact, the fallacy of appealing to the preposition אַחַר in v. 26 can be demonstrated from a similar passage. In Hosea 6:2, the writer uses two expressions מִיֹּמָיִם (“after two days”) and בַּיֹּום הַשְּׁלִישִׁי (“on the third day”) to refer to the same day. If the dispensational exegete is consistent in his exegesis of all biblical texts, he would have to apply the same rule that he uses for Dan. 9:24-27 to Hos. 6:2. That is, a parenthesis has to be imposed between the 2nd day and the 3rd day. Obviously, such an interpretation is incorrect, as it is evident from the passage that the expressions מִיֹּמָיִם and בַּיֹּום הַשְּׁלִישִׁי both refer to the same day in which God will “revive” and “raise up” his people. Even dispensationalist scholar Robert B. Chisholm acknowledges this interpretation when he notes that both are “equivalent expressions,” which “refer to a short period of time, indicating they expected the revival to occur soon.”[35]
2. The parenthesis theory does not allow for the first three goals in verse 24 to be realized during the seventy weeks. Dispensationalist scholars believe that the events in v. 26 point to Christ’s crucifixion and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70. Some dispensationalist scholars, such as Pentecost and R. D. Culver, believe that Christ’s crucifixion relates to the first three goals in v. 24.[36] Others, such as Stephen R. Miller and Gleason L. Archer, believe that only the third goal is related.[37] While v. 24 states that all six goals are to be accomplished within the seventy weeks, it should be noted that, according to the parenthesis theory, Christ’s achievement of some of these goals falls not within these weeks but in the parenthesis that comes after the 69th week and before the 70th week. Recognizing this exegetical loophole, some have argued back in response that while the basis of these goals “was laid at the death of Christ,” “the full effecting comes only at the second coming.”[38]
Their answer to this loophole, however, is quite unsatisfactory, especially when other interpretations of this passage understand these goals to be inaugurated within the seventy weeks of Daniel. For the dispensational exegete, Christ’s atonement is crucial to the fulfillment of the first three goals in the earthly millennial kingdom. Pentecost believes that Christ’s atonement is the basis for bringing to an end Israel’s sin of disobedience, removing Israel’s sin, and providing for “God’s final atonement of Israel when she repents at Christ’s second coming.[39] If, as the dispensational exegete believes, that the seventy weeks constitute God’s program for Israel, then it is somewhat strange that the heart of God’s program took place outside the scope of his program.
3. The relationship between the atoning of iniquity and eternal righteousness and the cessation of sacrifice and offering indicates that the man in verse 27 is not the Antichrist. The expression צֶדֶק עֹלָמִים in v. 24 is made up of a singular construct noun (צֶדֶק) and a plural absolute noun (עֹלָמִים). While most translations render this expression as “everlasting righteousness,” dispensationalist scholars prefer to translate it as “righteousness of ages.” This is done so as to interpret the word עוֹלָם (“everlasting”) as an age or time period.[40] Because they believe this seventy weeks prophecy pertains only to Israel, they believe that צֶדֶק עֹלָמִים refers to the period of the earthly millennial kingdom, which will be “characterized by righteousness,”[41] and will “continue for eternity.”[42]
Exegetically, this interpretation of צֶדֶק עֹלָמִים as a period of righteousness cannot be sustained. For one thing, the word עוֹלָם is never used in the OT to signify a time period whereby the period is characterized by the meaning of the construct noun.[43] Also, the use of the word צֶ֫דֶק (“righteousness”) in v. 24 recalls the earlier usage of the derivative words צְדָקָה (also translated as “righteousness”) and צַדִּיק (“righteous”) in the prayer of Daniel (vv. 7, 14, 16, 18). Since the words צְדָקָה and צֶ֫דֶק in Daniel’s prayer are used to denote the idea of God’s righteousness over against Israel, this strongly implies that צֶ֫דֶק in v. 24 refers to God’s righteousness as well.[44]
Dispensationalist scholars also believe that the man in the phrase יַשְׁבִּית זֶבַח וּמִנְחָה (“he will put an end to sacrifice and offering”) in v. 27 is the Antichrist.[45]But when viewed from the larger context of redemptive history, the phrase יַשְׁבִּית זֶבַח וּמִנְחָה corresponds nicely with the expressions וּלְכַפֵּר עָוֹן (“and to make atonement for iniquity”) and צֶדֶק עֹלָמִים (“and to bring in everlasting righteousness”). Thus, while Daniel prophesies the bringing in of “everlasting righteousness” (LXX: δικαιοσύνην αἰώνιον), the apostle Paul proclaims the revealing of the “righteousness of God” (δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ) through the gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:17). While Daniel prophesies the “atonement of iniquity” (LXX: ἀπαλεῖψαι τὰς ἀδικίας), the writer of Hebrews tells about God’s mercy towards iniquities (ἀδικίαις) through the atonement of Christ (Heb. 8:12; cf. 2:17). Because of Christ’s atonement, sacrifice and offering in the old covenant have become obsolete (Heb. 8:13).
4. The parenthesis theory’s understanding of sealing vision and prophecy during the seventy weeks leaves some prophecies unfulfilled. In the parenthesis theory, the seventy weeks are supposed to end with the establishment of the earthly millennial kingdom. During these seventy weeks, six tasks are to be accomplished, which includes the sealing of vision and prophecy (וְלַחְתֹּם חָזֹון וְנָבִיא, v. 24). For the dispensational exegete, the sealing of vision and prophecy refers to the fulfillment of all prophecies, with no additional prophecy given.[46] Because the sealing of vision and prophecy is to be accomplished within the seventy weeks, this means all prophecies have to be fulfilled by this period as well.
At this point, the parenthesis theory seems somewhat inconsistent with the broader framework of dispensational eschatology. If the dispensational exegete looks closely at his overall eschatological timeline, then he would see that the fulfillment of prophecies does not merely end with the millennial kingdom. There are, in fact, some prophecies left to be fulfilled after the millennial kingdom. One could take, for example, the prophecies of God’s final judgment and the new heavens and new earth. If, as the dispensational exegete believes, that all prophecies have to be fully realized during the seventy weeks, then the dispensational exegete has to face the awkward problem of having prophecies take place even after the seventy weeks have ended.
5. Verse 27 does not chronologically take place after verse 26, but verse 27 is simply a repetition and elaboration of verse 26. The dispensational exegete has to understand that although the וְ conjunction is often used to express temporal sequences (i.e., “and”), it can have multiple functions. One of its functions is the epexegetical function (i.e., “that is”), which clarifies and expands the preceding verse.[47] For example, it is quite obvious, as the above translation has shown, that the events in v. 25-27 are an elaboration of v. 24. Here in v. 25, the initial וְ conjunction functions epexegetically to expand v. 24.
Likewise in v. 27, the initial וְ conjunction has that same function. The events in v. 27 do not take place after v. 26, but rather, they are an elaboration of the events in v. 26. This is proven by the verbal correspondences between v. 26 and v. 27. As J. Barton Payne rightly observes, both verses talk about “the completeness of the city’s ‘end,’ of its ‘desolations,’ and of its suffering and warfare that is ‘determined’”[48] These similar phrases strongly suggest that the same situation is in view, rather than two separate situations as the parenthesis theory teaches.[49]
6. The covenant in verse 27 likely refers to God’s established covenant with Israel. According to the parenthesis theory, the subject in the phrase וְהִגְבִּיר בְּרִיתלָרַבִּים (“and he will confirm a covenant to the many”, v. 27) is the Antichrist, who would one day make a peace treaty with national Israel.[50] There are indications in v. 27, however, that this covenant is not new. For one thing, even though the word בְּרִית (“covenant”) is used in v. 27, it is rather significant that the verb כָּרַת (“to cut”), typically used for the making of a covenant, is absent here.[51] Instead, the verb גָּבַר is used in its place. This verb has the basic idea of being strong, or prevailing over.[52] In v. 27, this verb occurs with a hiphil stem, having the meaning, “to confirm.”[53] The use of this verb, instead of the usual כָּרַת, thus illustrates that the covenant in v. 27 is not at all new, but has already been established in the past.[54]
Moreover, it should be noted that the equivalent LXX phrase for וְהִגְבִּיר בְּרִית לָרַבִּים is the phrase κα δυναστεύσει  διαθήκη ες πολλούς, which may literally be translated as, “and the covenant will be powerful for many.” In this LXX phrase, the nominative article  (“the”) is evidently being used in a par excellence sense so as to refer to a covenant that is recognizable to Daniel’s audience.[55] Such a recognizable and well-established covenant, it seems, poses a problem for the dispensational exegete, as the parenthesis theory talks about a completely new covenant being made between the Antichrist and national Israel.  
The identity of this covenant in v. 27 could simply be derived from the literary context within the chapter. In Daniel 9, there is a noticeable presence of covenantal language being used in Daniel’s prayer. In vv. 1-19, Daniel prayed to God for “the restoration of Jerusalem, the temple, and his presence among his people.”[56] In his prayer, Daniel has included the fact that “Israel has repeatedly broken God’s covenant, and the covenant must be renewed.”[57] According to Kim Riddlebarger, “[t]he theme of both Daniel’s prayer and Gabriel’s answer was YHWH’s covenant with Israel, especially that God would bring to pass everything that he had promised.”[58] Thus, when the word בְּרִית (“covenant”) appears in v. 27, there is no question in the minds of Daniel’s audience as to the identity of this covenant.[59]

[1] John F. Walvoord, “Is the Seventieth Week of Daniel Future?,” Bibliotheca sacra 101, no. 401 (1944): 30.
[2] Ibid.
[3] A remark by Joyce Baldwin cited by Stephen R. Miller, Daniel, The New American Commentary vol. 18. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2001), Electronic ed., Libronix.
[4] In this verse, the verb נֶחְתַּךְ is a niphal perfect third person masculine singular. In “חָתַך” TWOT Lexicon, Bibleworks 7, it is noted that “[t]his verb appears only in the passive stem (Niphal), and only in Dan 9:24.” It is further noted that its root word means “cut,” thus most translations render the verb in Dan. 9:24 as “decreed.”
[5] In v. 24, the verb כָּלָה (“to finish”) also appears in v. 27 as a noun כָּלָה (“complete destruction”).
[6] The initial וְ conjunction functions epexegetically in this verse.
[7] The words מָשִׁ֫יחַ (“anointed”) and נָגִיד (“ruler” or “prince”) are used twice in this passage: in v. 25 and in v. 26. C. F. Keil and F. DelitzschCommentary on the Old Testament  (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2002), Electronic ed., Libronix, comment that the phrase מָשִׁיחַ נָגִיד is “not to be translated an anointed prince,” as in Hebrew, “[t]he adjective is always placed after the substantive.”
[8] It should be noted that the words תָּשׁוּב֙ (“it will return”) and רְחֹ֣וב (“city square”) are feminine, while the words וְנִבְנְתָה֙ (“and it will be built”) and וְחָר֔וּץ (“and a moat”) are masculine. Thus, an alternate and probably more meaningful translation could be: “a city square will return and a moat will be built.”
[9] In Dan. 9:26 and 27, the verb חָרַץ (“to determine”) occurs in the same form (i.e. niphal participle feminine singular).
[10] As in v. 25, the initial וְ conjunction functions epexegetically in this verse.
[11] It should be noted that the word שִׁקּוּץ is often used to refer to idols (e.g., Deut. 29:16; 2 Kgs. 23:24; Jer. 4:1; 7:30). Some translations render שִׁקּוּצִים֙ (“of detested things”) as “of abominations.”
[12] The וְ conjunction is probably used as a hendiadys, and is thus translated as “until.”
[13] Some translations choose to emend שֹׁמֵֽם (“the desolate”), rendering it as מְשֹׁמֵ֔ם (“the desolator”). However, J. Barton Payne, “The Goal of Daniel's Seventy Weeks,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 21, no. 2 (1978): 112, points out that “since the standard transitive form for ‘desolator’ (cf. 11:31) occurs just six words earlier, it would appear that the normal intransitive meaning should be retained here at the close of the verse (cf. 9:18, 26).”
[14] The primary source of data for the following table is from Miller’s explanation of the four major interpretations.
[15] Clyde T. Francisco, “The Seventy Weeks of Daniel,” Review & Expositor 57, no. 2 (1960): 127, observes that “[m]ost scholars today, therefore, would say that the author is concerned with the Maccabean period and sees the consummation of history immediately upon the defeat of the hated Antiochus Epiphanes, who devastated Jerusalem from 171 until 165 B.C.”
[16] Miller observes two variations of this interpretation.
[17] [17] J. Dwight Pentecost, “Daniel,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. John F . Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983-c1985), Electronic ed., Libronix. See alsoWalvoord, 42-43.
[18] Pentecost.
[19] Pentecost.
[20] Pentecost.
[21] Walvoord, 40, argues: “Is it not utterly inexplicable that the prophecy of verse twenty-six should be stated after the sixty-nine week, if in matter of fact it is during and after the seventieth week? Does not the way in which the truth is stated infer that the events occur after the sixty-nine week but before the seventieth week? If so, a parenthesis is called for, allowing for all events in their proper place and for a fulfillment of the seventieth week in the future.”
[22] Pentecost.
[23] Miller.
[24] Paul N. BenwareUnderstanding End Times Prophecy, revised and expanded (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2006), 105.
[25] Pentecost. Miller remarks: “Just as God focused his attention on the Jewish people for about two thousand years, these past two thousand years his attention has been focused on the Gentiles.”
[26] Benware, 105.
[27] Ibid., 296.
[28] Miller.
[29] Ibid.
[30] Robert H. Gundry, The Church and the Tribulation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973), 190.
[31] Walvoord, 47-48.
[32] Thomas E. McComiskey, “The seventy ‘weeks’ of Daniel against the background of ancient Near Eastern literature,” Westminster Theological Journal 47, no. 1 (1985): 36, observes that “there is no clear exegetical warrant for positing a gap within the structure.” Clyde T. Francisco, “The Seventy Weeks of Daniel,” Review & Expositor 57, no. 2 (1960): 135, also notes that “[t]here is no indication given that the seventy weeks are not consecutive.”
[33] Tim Meadowcroft and Nate Irwin, The Book of Daniel, Asia Bible Commentary Series, ed. Bruce J. Nicholls (Singapore: Asia Theological Association, 2004), 176.
[34] O. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Prophets (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2004), 344.
[35] Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., “Hosea,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. John F . Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983-c1985), Electronic ed., Libronix.
[36] See Pentecost and R. D. Culver, Daniel and the Latter Days (Westwood: Réveil, 1954), 157.
[37] See Miller and Gleason L. Archer, Jr., “Daniel,” in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), Electronic ed., Pradis.
[38] Culver, 157.
[39] Pentecost.
[40] See Pentecost and Archer.
[41] Pentecost.
[42] Miller.
[43] In its plural form, the word עוֹלָם (“everlasting” or “ancient”) is only used in one other passage in the OT (i.e., Psa. 145:13). Here in Psa. 145:13, the word is paired with a construct noun in the expression מַלְכוּת כָּל־עֹלָמִים (“everlasting kingdom”). It is quite obvious that the word is not used to signify a time period (i.e., a period characterized by “kingdom”). But in its singular form, the word, when paired with a construct noun, occurs many times, with the words: generations (Gen. 9:12; Isa. 51:9); covenant (Gen. 9:16; 17:7; 17:13; 17:19; Exod. 31:16; Lev. 24:8; Num. 18:19; 2 Sam. 23:5; 1 Chr. 16:17; Psa. 105:10; Isa. 24:5; 55:3, 61:8; Jer. 32:40; 50:5; Ezek. 16:60; 37:26); possession (Gen. 17:8; 48:4; Lev. 25:34); God (Gen. 21:33; Isa. 40:28); hills (Gen. 49:26; Deut. 33:15; Hab. 3:6); name (Exod. 3:15; Isa. 56:5; 63:12); statute (Exod. 12:14, 17; 27:21; 28:43; 29:9; Lev. 3:17; 7:36; 10:9; 16:29, 31, 34; 17:7; 23:14, 21, 31, 41; 24:3; Num. 10:8; 15:15; 18:23; 19:10, 21; Ezek. 46:14); due (Exod. 29:28; 30:21; Lev. 6:11, 15; 7:34; 10:15; 24:9; Num. 18:8, 11, 19; Jer. 5:22); priesthood (Exod. 40:15; Num. 25:13); redemption (Lev. 25:32); mound (Deut. 13:17; Jos. 8:28); slave (Deut. 15:17; 1 Sam. 27:12; Job 40:28); days (Deut. 23:7; 32:7; Isa. 63:9, 11; Amos 9:11; Mic. 5:1; 7:14; Mal. 3:4); arms (Deut. 33:27); way (Job 22:15; Psa. 139:24); king (Psa. 10:16; Jer. 10:10); doors (Psa. 24:7, 9); quiet (Psa. 73:12); years (Psa. 77:6); reproach (Psa. 78:66; Jer. 23:40); dead (Psa. 143:3; Lam. 3:6); kingdom (Psa. 145:13); boundary (Prov. 22:28; 23:10); house (Eccl. 12:5); rock (Isa. 26:4); burnings (Isa. 33:14); joy (Isa. 35:10; 51:11; 61:7); people (Isa. 44:7; Ezek. 26:20); salvation (Isa. 45:17); lovingkindness(Isa. 54:8); sign (Isa. 55:13); ruins (Isa. 58:12; 61:4; Jer. 25:9; 49:13); exaltation (Isa. 60:15); light (Isa. 60:19, 20); paths (Jer. 6:16); ways (Jer. 18:15); insult (Jer. 20:11); pregnant (Jer. 20:17); ignominy (Jer. 23:40); devastation (Jer. 25:12; 51:26, 62; Ezek. 35:9); love (Jer. 31:3); sleep (Jer. 51:39, 57); enmity (Ezek. 25:15; 35:5); high places (Ezek. 36:2); life (Dan. 12:2, 7); aversion (Dan. 12:2); doings (Hab. 3:6). Even with these many occurrences, עוֹלָם is also not used to signify a time period.
[44] John E. GoldingayDaniel, Word Biblical Commentary vol. 30 (Dallas: Word, 2002), Electronic ed., Libronix, observes that the words צְדָקָה (“righteousness”) and צַדִּיק (“righteous”) in Dan. 9:7, 14, 16, 18 denotes “the idea that Yahweh was in the right over against Israel.”
[45] Pentecost believes that the Antichrist “will terminate all organized religions” in order to “cause the world to worship him.”
[46] Miller proposes that the sealing of vision and prophecy means that “these forms of revelation would be closed” and “God will someday set his seal of authentication upon every truly God-given revelation (‘vision and prophecy’) by bringing about its complete fulfillment.”
[47] Bill T. Arnold and John H. ChoiA Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 147, note that when the וְ conjunction functions epexegetically, it “clarifies, expands, or paraphrases the clause that precedes it. Thus, it can be translated as the expression “that is.” See for example, 2 Sam. 14:5; Isa. 44:1; Exod. 24:7; 1 Sam. 17:40.
[48] Payne, 109. See the following for comparison:

Verse 26
Verse 27
“… an anointed [one] will be cut off and nothing to him.”
“… he will confirm a covenant to the many [for] one ‘seven.’ And the half of the “seven,” he will remove sacrifice and offering.”
“And the people of the ruler who is coming will destroy the city and the holy [place], and its end [will be] with a flood.”
“And upon the wing of detestable things, making desolate until complete destruction.”
“And until an end [there will be] war, determining desolates.”
“… and that which is determined will pour forth upon the desolate.”

[49] Ibid.
[50] See Pentecost on Daniel 9:27a. Miller also suggests that the phrase וְהִגְבִּיר בְּרִית לָרַבִּים  means “the Antichrist, on behalf of his empire, will make a treaty with the nation of Israel.”
[51] See for example, Gen. 21:27, 32; 26:28; 31:44; Ex. 23:32; 24:8; 34:10, 12, 15, 27; Deut. 5:2, 3; 7:2; 29:13; 31:16; Jer. 11:10; 31:31, 32, 33; 32:40. Also, it is significant that even though the verb כָּרַת is used in v. 26, it is not used in v. 27.
[52] “גָּבַר” in Theological Workbook of the Old TestamentBibleworks 7. It is noted that in Arabic, “the basic meaning of the root is ‘to rise, raise, restore,’ with the idea of being strong, or prevailing over coming only in the derived stems. That the Hebrew may share a similar range of meaning is seen in the Hithpael where the idea is not so much to make oneself prevail over God, as it is to raise oneself up in arrogance and stand in his face (Job 15:25; 36:9; Isa 42:13).”
[53] “גָּבַר” in Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament)Libronix. Also, see the hiphil meaning of “גָּבַר” in BDB Hebrew lexicon.
[54] Kim RiddlebargerA Case for Amillennialism (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2003), 155, points out that the use of the verb גָּבַר means that “the covenant in verse 27 was not being made de novo but was a covenant… which already existed.”
[55] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 222, notes that the par excellence article is “frequently used to point out a substantive that is, in a sense, ‘a class by itself.’”
[56] Willem A. VanGemerenInterpreting the Prophetic Word (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), 350, observes that Daniel’s prayer consists of four elements: “(1) Israel’s rebellious attitude to the Law and the Prophets, (2) Yahweh’s righteousness in judgment, (3) the fulfillment of the curses, and (4) the hope in renewal of divine mercy and grace.”
[57] Riddlebarger, 151.
[58] Riddlebarger, 151. Tremper Longman III, Daniel, NIV Application Commentary, ed. Terry C. Muck (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 230, similarly comments that theme of the covenant stands “at the heart of Daniel’s prayer.” Robertson also notes that according to Meredith Kline, what is striking about Daniel’s prayer is “the repeated use of the covenant name of God (YHWH), along with the repeated use of adonay, the ‘characteristic designation of the dominant party in the covenant.’”
[59] There is a confirmation of a covenant in redemptive history when Jesus made the new and everlasting covenant. In Matt. 26:28, Jesus said: “For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Also, it is interesting that Jesus uses the word πολύς (“many”), which is also used in the LXX translation of Daniel 9:27 (i.e., “and the covenant will be powerful for many”). Walvoord, 42, however, disagrees that the covenant in v. 27 refers to the new covenant. He argues that this covenant cannot be the everlasting new covenant since it is “broken before it runs its course, i. e., at the end of the first half of the week.” In his argument, Walvoord erroneously assumes that v. 27 chronologically takes place after v. 26. Of course, this is not at all the case, as covered in point 5 of this section.