Tuesday, April 24, 2018

God’s Decree to Create: A Necessity?

The following question was posed in the Reformed Baptist Fellowship and Theology Forum:

“I've been reading James Dolezal's, All That Is In God and also listening to John Webster's Heyward lectures on creation. Both agree that as Webster puts it, "the beginning of creation is no beginning for God" and brings about no change in him. Dolezal has a chapter explaining how God is Eternal Creator. Webster emphasises that God is perfect fullness without creation and that creation was wholly superfluous, and that God was free not to create. I struggle to see how God can be described as Eternal Creator and also be free not to create. If the will of God flows inevitably from the being of God, does that not mean that God is not free in anything, but had to do all that he has in fact done? Can anyone help with this? Am I misunderstanding Dolezal's argument?”
There seems to be two questions that we are considering here. Firstly, was it necessary for God to will to create? Or, to put it in another way, was God’s decree to create necessary?

Secondly, was Creation itself (i.e. the world) necessary? Does the world necessarily exist?
On first impression, the two questions appear to be quite similar. If God decrees to create in His eternity, immutability, aseity, and goodness, the world must necessarily exist. But was God free to will to create, or was He compelled to create out of His nature and being? Here, Muller is helpful:

“Aquinas makes a basic distinction between the necessity to create and the necessity, once the work of creation is viewed as belonging definitively to the will of God, of creating the world in a certain manner. He also divides this second necessity into two questions relating to ends and means. Thus, first, the divine determination to bring the world to its full realization—the eternal idea which God has in his mind concerning the world—is a counsel freely formed, an idea freely conceived. The object and end of God’s willing is his own goodness—the glory of God rests in a sense on his power to create or not to create. In a derivative sense, however, creation is necessary even if no necessity is placed on the will of God from without. Since discrete ideas cannot be separated out of the mind or essence of God—so that the content of the divine mind is simple and equal to God himself—the eternally free will to create and the eternally realized idea of the creation must result in the world itself. For God’s eternal mind and will are immutable: the world must necessarily exist, but this is a necessity of the consequence or of supposition, resting upon the divine counsel or decision to create.”[1]
Thus, Aquinas makes a distinction between necessitas consequentis (i.e. “the necessity to create”) and necessitas consequentiae (i.e. “the necessity, once the work of creation is viewed as belonging definitively to the will of God, of creating the world in a certain manner”). Allow me to explain this with simple propositional logic.

Let us take a proposition that P = I will work tomorrow. And allow us to consider a simple conditional sentence with the form “If P, then P”. A sentence with this structure is true by virtue of its logical form. If I will work tomorrow, then I will work tomorrow. This logical form of the sentence is then necessarily true since it is logically true for every case of that P. Hence, it is necessary that, if I will work tomorrow, then I will work tomorrow.
To put it succinctly:

Necessarily (If P, then P)
or

(1) Nec (P-->P).
In (1), only the implication between the antecedent and consequent is necessary (also called implicative necessity). Both the antecedent and consequent can be contingent and not necessary. This implicative necessity is also known as the necessitas consequentiae (the necessity of the consequence). For those who remember their lessons in conditional sentences for Greek grammar: if the protasis is true, then the apodosis is guaranteed by means of implicative necessity. But both the protasis and apodosis can be contingent and not necessary.

The necessitas consequentis (the necessity of the consequent) can be written as:
(2) If P-->Nec P.

In this case, the consequent itself (or apodosis) is necessary. If I will work tomorrow, it is then necessary that I will work tomorrow – which is not true!
(1) does not imply (2), nor does (2) follow from (1). Even if I will work tomorrow, it is a contingent event and not logically necessitated. Confusing (1) and (2) is to confuse necessitas consequentiae with necessitas consequentis, what logicians would call a modal fallacy.

Taking this understanding and applying it to our topic at hand, we have the following propositions to consider.
(3) It is necessary that: If God wills to create, then God wills to create.

The antecedent, which Muller states as the “divine determination to bring the world to its full realization” is contingent in the sense that it “is a counsel freely formed, an idea freely conceived.” Muller continues to explain that, “there is in any will a certain necessity and a certain freedom. Aquinas looks to the analogy of the human will. Certain things are willed necessarily or governed by the nature and the end, the goal, of the person—yet the person freely chooses the means by which he effects that end. This argument also applies to God: for in the act of creation God necessarily wills his own absolute goodness as the end or goal of all his willing. Yet God freely chooses, without any necessity, the means by which he will communicate his goodness to creation. He freely chooses those things and means which lie outside of his nature and refer to the contingent order of nature.”[2]
To elucidate this further, what Aquinas is saying is that the end or goal of the things willed (Creation, for example) is necessarily governed by God’s nature, “for in the act of creation God necessarily wills his own absolute goodness as the end or goal of all his willing.” Yet God freely chooses the means by which His goodness is communicated to His creation. With His “eternally free will to create,” “the object and end of God’s willing is his own goodness—the glory of God rests in a sense on his power to create or not to create.”[3]

Proposition (4) is, however, not true where:
(4) If God wills to create, then it is necessary that God wills to create.

Remembering that no necessity is placed upon God’s will from without, God’s necessity to create is correctly termed as a necessity of the consequence “insofar as, de potentia ordinata, God has bound himself to the counsel of his will.”[4] God in His eternity, immutability, aseity and perfection decrees to create. God’s willing to create was not necessary in a logical sense, that is, God was not compelled out of a logical necessity to create. It is instead a necessity of the consequence (necessitas consequentiae), or as how the Reformed Scholastics would put it, conditional necessity.
Now to answer the question, “Was Creation of the world necessary? Does the world necessarily exist?” Creation itself is necessary “in the derivative sense” as Muller aptly puts it, and therefore is a necessitas consequentiae by virtue of God’s decree and will. “For God’s eternal mind and will are immutable: the world must necessarily exist, but this is a necessity of the consequence or of supposition, resting upon the divine counsel or decision to create.”[5]

Again, “there is no necessity that God decree what he decrees; but, granting the divine decree, God is bound to his own plan and promises. Therefore, the fulfillment of the divine plan and the divine promises is necessary, but by a necessitas consequentiae.”[6]
It is also important to note that, in creating, God contingently wills all that is contingent. His will to create is directed ad extra onto contingent objects (e.g. time, space, and matter), and hence, His creation is the contingent manifestation of His divine will and does not emanate from His being or substance. So Creation is not necessary in the sense that God is necessary – a necessary being and the First Cause (necessitas absoluta), but is a necessity of the consequence of God’s decree to create.

Van Asselt writes, “If the decision of the divine will is directed to contingent objects ad extra, then God’s will is contingent, too. In other words, God contingently wills all that is contingent. Created reality, therefore, is the contingent manifestation of divine freedom and does not necessarily emanate from God’s essence. For if this were the case, all things would coincide fundamentally with God’s essence, and the actual world would be an eternal world and the only one possible world.”[7]


References


[1] Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy;  Volume 3: The Divine Essence and Attributes (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 59–60.
[2] Ibid., 60.
[3] Ibid., 59.
[4] Ibid., 60.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms : Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1985), 200.
[7] Willem J. van Asselt, “‘The Abutment against Which the Bridge of All Later Protestant Theology Leans’: Scholasticism and Today,” in Introduction to Reformed Scholasticism, ed. Joel R. Beeke and Jay T. Collier, trans. Albert Gootjes, Reformed Historical-Theological Studies (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2011), 199.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Daniel 9:24-27 and the Parenthesis Interpretation of Dispensationalism and Bible Presbyterianism

Introduction

After a brief survey of the traditional interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27, we shall now consider the parenthesis interpretation adhered to by both Dispensationalists and Bible Presbyterians. The parenthesis interpretation “regards vss. 24 and 27 as both referring to events which are still entirely future.”[1] This, as we have noted previously, produces an end-time schema which is a drastic departure from the eschatology found in the Reformed confessions.

When we peruse the Bible Presbyterians’ understanding of Daniel 9:24-27, we find a striking similarity between their interpretation and the Dispensational parenthesis understanding of the seventy weeks.

The Events of Daniel 9:24 Still Future?

Conservative scholars generally agree that the first three goals of Daniel 9:24 are fulfilled by the vicarious, substitutionary death of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the timing of the fulfillment of the last three goals that is controversial. Dispensationalists regard Daniel 9:24-27 as a prophecy concerning earthly, national Israel. As one of the ramifications of their theological-hermeneutical system, the literalistic Israel/Church distinction is read into the prophecy of Daniel. As a consequence, Dispensationalists and Bible Presbyterians insist on finding a nationalistic, Jewish fulfillment of Daniel’s seventy weeks.

Concerning the fourth goal mentioned in Daniel 9:24, Kenneth Barker writes,

“If “everlasting righteousness” based on the atoning work of Christ is to be brought in for Israel as a nation, it must be brought in while Israel is still constituted as a nation, i.e., before the eternal state begins. The only possible point in time when this could occur and remain within the time parameters offered (i.e., within the 490 decreed years) would be at the end of the Great Tribulation and at the inception of an earthly kingdom.”[2]

In this understanding of the fourth goal, “to bring in everlasting righteousness,” Barker sees a parenthesis of more than 1900 years between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy. The 70th week is reinterpreted to be the seven years Tribulation period.

The sixth goal, “to anoint the most Holy,” is understood as referring to the Holy of Holies, or the Jewish temple. Once again, the over-literalistic hermeneutics of Dispensationalism demands a literal, earthly temple as the subject of anointing. Barker explains,

“If the anointing of a holy of holies in Daniel 9:24 refers to a temple, its provenance must be earthly, inasmuch as there is no temple in the New Jerusalem (cf. Rev. 21:22). The only possible point in time for the anointing of an earthly temple must be late in the Great Tribulation or early in a millennial kingdom . . . If the Temple of Ezekiel 43 is to be taken as millennial, it becomes a likely candidate for this event.”[3]

According to Allis,

“The special reason that Dispensationalists must insist that vs. 24 refers to the future is quite clear. If the fulfillment of the prophecy is still incomplete, and if the predictions relating to the 69 weeks had their fulfillment centuries ago, then the 70th week must be still future. Hence there must be an interval between the end of the 69th week and the beginning of the 70th week; and the entire Church age can be regarded as forming a parenthesis at this point.”[4]

The Triumphal Entry of Jesus as the Terminus Ad Quem of the Sixty-Ninth Week

It is notable that Timothy Tow, the principal of Far Eastern Bible College, concurs with dispensationalist Alva J. McClain that the 69th week ends with the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. After elaborating on a labyrinthine mathematical deduction conceived by McClain concerning the date (32 AD) of the terminus ad quem of the first sixty-nine weeks, Tow exclaims, “Does this not fit with the date arrived at by McClain that Christ rode a donkey on Palm Sunday into Jerusalem? Before Holy Week was consummated, our Lord was cut off but not for himself, by crucifixion!”[5] From McClain’s mathematical calculations, Tow apparently thinks that Christ’s triumphal entry clearly marks the terminus ad quem of the 69th week.[6]

But Daniel 9:25a only reads, “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks.” The phrase “unto the Messiah the Prince” nowhere suggests that the terminus ad quem is marked by the triumphal entry of the Messiah. In fact, there is no exegetical basis for this interpretation based upon a literal understanding of this text. According to Young,

“[The Prophet Daniel] therefore was to look for the one who at the same time was both an anointed one and a prince (the definite article is missing) and when such a one appeared, the prophecy would be fulfilled.”[7]

Apart from McClain’s arithmetic of Byzantine complexity, Tow ignores the fact that the text (Daniel 9:25) does not specifically refer to the triumphal entry as the terminus ad quem of the sixty-ninth week. Allis reminds us that the exegetical basis for such an interpretation is tenuous at best. He argues that,

“The word “prince” (nagid) is far too indefinite an expression to warrant such an inference. For that matter, the words of the annunciation to Mary (Lk. i. 32) would justify us in regarding these words as referring to the birth of “the Son of the Highest,” who was acclaimed by the angel as “Christ the Lord”; or they might refer to the baptism, at which He was declared to be God’s “beloved Son.’”[8]

Nonetheless, it is obvious that Far Eastern Bible College follows McClain’s parenthesis interpretation faithfully, including his arithmetic.

The Cutting-Off of Messiah Not in the 70th Week

A study of Timothy Tow’s commentary on Daniel elucidates that he places the “cutting-off,” or the crucifixion, of the Messiah in the church age parenthesis, and not within the 70th week. This is because Bible Presbyterians do not understand the 70th week as being immediately sequential to the antecedent sixty-nine weeks. Between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel is posited an indeterminable time gap, known as the church age parenthesis.[9]

The Gap Theory

Dr J. O. Buswell, according to Dr Jeffrey Khoo, clearly understood a “time gap” between Daniel 9:26 and 9:27. Khoo writes,

“The Second Coming will be preceded by a literal seven-year tribulation period that consists of two halves of three and a half years each. The 70th week will commence at the signing of a peace covenant engineered by the Antichrist between Israel and her enemies (Dan 9:27).”[10]

In accordance with Khoo’s understanding, a time gap of more than 1900 years precedes the 70th week. Towards the end of the parenthesis Church Age, the 70th week “will commence at the signing of a peace covenant engineered by the Antichrist.” In the Dispensationalist’s end-time schema, the indeterminable time gap is essential for the entire premillennial system. “If the gap theory cannot be proved from a study of this messianic prophecy [of Daniel 9:24-27], then there is no validity to dispensationalism, and the entire end-time system called dispensationalism must be rejected. Because dispensationalists understand this, they must devise a way to create a gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks.”[11]

Oddly, the duration of this time gap is almost 2000 years - twice the duration of the entire earthly Millennium propounded by Dispensational Premillennialists, and four times longer than the time frame of Daniel’s prophecy of 490 years. Despite the Bible Presbyterian’s insistence upon a literal hermeneutics, there is no “literal” or obvious hermeneutical basis for the interposition of an indefinite time gap between Daniel 9:26 and 9:27. Dispensationalists and Bible Presbyterians should at least bear the burden of proof in their exegesis.

In describing the Bible Presbyterian tradition of a consistently literal hermeneutics, Charles Seet proclaims,

“God had given the Scriptures to us in a clear, simple and straightforward manner. The message is meant to be accessible to the rank and file who belong to God. No special class of people such as prophets, teachers, theologians or scholars stands between the people and the message. All of this argues for a principle of interpretation that brings the meaning of the Bible within the grasp of the rank and file of the people of God. This principle, clearly stated, is that of taking the Scriptures in their literal and normal sense, and understanding that this applies to the whole Bible, including passages on eschatology. If the plain sense of such a passage makes good sense, there is no need for us to seek some hidden or symbolic meaning.”[12]

According to Seet’s “literal and normal” hermeneutics, the “rank and file who belong to God” should be able to decipher an indeterminable time gap between Daniel 9:26 and 9:27 without the assistance of “prophets, teachers, theologians or scholars”. This time gap of almost two millennia should be undeniably obvious to any reader.

Seet continues his tirade against non-literalists,

“As you can see, those who do not interpret this passage literally, take quite a lot of liberties with the text, making it mean things that are not natural to the plain sense of the text. The plain meaning of the text is therefore ignored in favour of a hidden, cryptic message, which only those who are qualified can understand.”[13]

According to Seet’s hermeneutics, those who do not interpret prophetic passages literally “take quite a lot of liberties with the text.” In fact, he alleges that unless one understands prophecy “literally,” one is inadvertently practicing eisegesis. This includes making prophetic texts mean “things that are not natural to the plain sense of the text.” But Seet begs the question: Is the time gap of almost two millennia between Daniel 9:26 and 9:27 considered the “plain sense of the text?” After the fulfillment of the first 69 weeks of years in chronological sequence and continuity, Seet’s eschatological schema demands an unnatural, abrupt postponement of the 70th week. In reality, the “rank and file who belong to God” will view such a gap as “a hidden, cryptic message,” which only a forced eisegesis will spawn.

Seet would do well to heed the advice of Jeffrey Khoo, who perceives that a “dualistic way of interpreting the Scriptures is due to . . . presuppositional bias. . . . The spiritualising method of biblical interpretation is fallacious. It fails to allow the text to say what it actually means (exegesis), but imposes upon the text what the interpreter wants it to mean (eisegesis).”[14]

The necessity of a chronologically sequential fulfillment of the seventy weeks will become apparent when we consider the background of Daniel 9:24-27. In Daniel 9:1-19, the prophet Daniel prayed that Yahweh would restore Jerusalem and the temple. Daniel prayed, “O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us (Dan. 9:16).”

Daniel had understood (Dan. 9:2) from the prophecy of Jeremiah (Jer. 25:11-14) that Israel would go into captivity to Babylon for seventy years. When the angel Gabriel answered Daniel’s prayer in 9:20-27, the seventy years of captivity was drawing to a close. According to Daniel’s understanding, the seventy years of Jeremiah’s prophecy was intended to run consecutively and sequentially. It is obvious that Daniel would not have expected God to place an indeterminable time gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth years of Israel’s captivity. He was anticipating the restoration of Jerusalem at the end of seventy consecutively running years.

DeMar explains,

“The seventy-year period of captivity as described in Jeremiah 29:20 is a pattern for the “seventy weeks” in Daniel 9:24. “Therefore, as Jacques Doukhan has pointed out, ‘The seventy weeks’ prophecy must be interpreted with regard to history in as realistic a way as Daniel did for the prophecy of Jeremiah.’” From this alone we can conclude that since the seventy years of captivity were consecutive with no gap or parenthesis, the “seventy weeks” must also be consecutive, seeing there is nothing in the text to make us think otherwise. Daniel bases his prayer for restoration to the land on the certainty of the re-establishment promised by God when the seventy years were completed (Jer. 29:10).”[15]

Therefore, just as Daniel understood the seventy years of Israel’s captivity as chronologically sequential earth years, we must interpret the seventy weeks of years (Dan. 9:24-27) as running consecutively without interruption. As God had promised that Israel would go into captivity for seventy years, it would be unreasonable to say that God had kept His word if a time gap is arbitrarily posited between the sixty-ninth and seventieth years of Israel’s captivity. After all, God had specified that Israel would be held captive for only seventy years, and not more.

DeMar argues,

“Could God have placed a “gap” between the sixty-ninth and seventieth years of Israel’s captivity, adding, say, a hundred years and still maintain that He had kept His word? There is no way He could have done it and remained a God of truth. But what if God came back and said, “I didn’t actually add any years; I just postponed the final year by means of a ‘gap’ of 100 years. The ‘gap’ consisting of 100 years, which you assume to be additional years, should not be calculated in the overall accounting.” This would mean that 170 years would have passed. Using “gap logic” the Bible could still maintain that Israel was in captivity for only seventy years. Let’s call this what is it: nonsense.”[16]

Oswald Allis, likewise, criticizes the dispensational understanding of Daniel 9:24-27:

“Is it credible that this prophecy, which speaks so definitely of 70 weeks and then subdivides the 70 into 7 and 62 and 1, should require for its correct interpretation that an interval be discovered between the last two of the weeks far longer than the entire period covered by the prophecy itself? If the 69 weeks are exactly 483 consecutive years, exact to the very day, and if the 1 week is to be exactly 7 consecutive years, is it credible that an interval which is already more than 1900 years, nearly four times as long as the period covered by the prophecy, is to be introduced into it and allowed to interrupt its fulfillment? It would seem to be obvious that the more definite and precise the chronology of the weeks is held to be, the more difficult must it become to regard the insertion of a quite indefinite and timeless interval into it as permissible or possible.”[17]

Covenant theologians should all the more believe in a covenant-keeping God. It is ridiculous, to say the least, to argue that God can delay the fulfillment of a prophecy, and still be called a covenant-keeping God. The crux of the matter is not whether such a delay in fulfillment can be theologically – and perhaps, euphemistically – labeled as a parenthesis, a postponement, or a gap. If a prophecy is not fulfilled within its determined time frame, then such a prophecy is considered false and unfulfilled. It is strange that Bible Presbyterians, who are professedly covenant theologians, contend that God can insert an indefinite time gap between the last two weeks of Daniel’s prophecy, and yet maintain the integrity of the prophecy which has a specific time frame of 490 years. Ironically, the time gap or delay is almost four times as long as the specified time frame itself: a delay of more than 1900 years.

This insertion of an indeterminable time gap is a self-contradictory violation of the Bible Presbyterian’s supposedly literal hermeneutics. Yet, the entire dispensational premillennial schema is dependent upon the parenthesis interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27.

The Jewish Prophetic Clock Theory

In his commentary on Daniel, the Principal of Far Eastern Bible College, Reverend Timothy Tow, wrote:

“While Daniel was thinking that the consummation of 70 years exile according to Jeremiah’s prophecy would usher in the Messianic Kingdom, God rather revealed what would happen to Israel in 70 x 7 prophetic years hereafter. A new Day indeed was coming when the Messiah shall judge this sinful earth and bring in righteousness, but not until 70 x 7 prophetic years had passed. . . . What Daniel actually said in Hebrew was “seventy sevens are determined”. This is to say God was telling him it would not take seventy years but seven times seventy to consummate His saving work with Israel. This was a cryptic way of saying, 490 years. . . . With the cutting off of the Messiah the “prophetic clock” seemed to have stopped ticking. In Daniel’s “prophescope” what is in the distant future is brought into focus, viz the last or seventieth week.”[18]

It is indubitably clear that Tow believes that the Jewish clock “stopped ticking” sometime during the First Advent of Christ. Allis explains that “Dispensationalists are fond of the illustration of a clock. The ticking clock, they tell us, represents “Jewish” time. The mystery parenthesis is “time out.” God only counts time in dealing with Israel, when the people are in the land.”[19]

Some dispensationalists go further, and add that this Jewish clock will only tick when the nation of Israel is governed by God. But where in the text of Daniel 9:24-27 do we find an exegetical basis for this time clock? It is apparent that not only the theological-hermeneutical system of the Bible Presbyterians is similar to Dispensationalism, but even their exegeses of critical prophetic texts are similar to that of Dispensational exegetes.

Allis reasons that, according to history, the nation of Israel was in their land for almost 40 years after the clock had allegedly stopped ticking i.e. when Christ was “cut-off.” The Israelites were dispersed only at A.D. 70, when the city of Jerusalem was ravaged by the Roman army. Whether one asserts that the clock stopped at the Triumphal Entry, or at the crucifixion of Christ, there are almost 4 decades to account for, in which the nation of Israel was still in their land after the Jewish clock had supposedly stopped. Therefore, it cannot be that the clock ticks only when Israel is in their land.

On the other hand, if one argues that the clock ticks only when Israel is governed by God as a theocracy, we must ask if this condition was fulfilled during the 69 weeks of Daniel’s prophecy. Allis explains,

“The last theocratic king of the House of David had lost his throne full 50 years before the edict of Cyrus and nearly 150 years before the decree of Artaxerxes. “The times of the Gentiles” are regarded by Dispensationalists as beginning with Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem. Hence this entire period was distinctly not a period when Israel was “governed by God.” If the clock represents “Jewish” time, with Israel in the land and governed by God, how then could it tick at all during the entire period from 445 B.C. to A.D. 30?”[20]

Therefore, whether one holds to “the edict of Cyrus” or “the decree of Artaxerxes” as the terminus a quo of Daniel’s seventy weeks prophecy, one has to agree that there is no theological or exegetical basis for the Jewish ticking clock theory.

It is notable that Dr Jeffrey Khoo, the Academic Dean of Far Eastern Bible College, apparently rejects the notion that “the present church age is a ‘parenthesis’ or ‘intercalation’ during which God has temporarily suspended His primary purpose with Israel.”[21] In his other writings, Dr Khoo emphasizes that Bible Presbyterians “categorically reject . . . [the dispensational] theological grid.”[22]

As the academic dean of the only Bible Presbyterian seminary in Singapore, statements made by Khoo certainly have weight and significance. Despite the aforementioned emphatic declarations, the students in Far Eastern Bible College are being taught that a church age ‘parenthesis’ exists between Daniel’s sixty-ninth and seventieth week.[23] As Tow had succinctly written, “With the cutting off of the Messiah the “prophetic clock” seemed to have stopped ticking.”[24]

Consistent with the dispensational understanding of Daniel 9:24-27, the prophetic clock for Israel “stopped ticking” at the end of the sixty-ninth week of Daniel’s prophecy. Khoo reminded us that the 7 years of Tribulation, according to Bible Presbyterian understanding, is “the 70th week of Daniel (Dan 9:27).”[25] This is when the prophetic clock for Israel starts ticking again. Given the evident discrepancies in his writings, I am sure that Khoo was not trying to convey an impression of equivocation, or worse, confusion. It is, indeed, unfathomable how Khoo and Tow can justify the placement of an indeterminable time gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week of Daniel’s prophecy, and at the same time, repudiate the ‘parenthesis’ theory of dispensational ecclesiology. Surely the dispensationalists appear more candid and consistent in this aspect.

No plain or literal reading of Daniel 9:24-27 will allow the dispensationalist or Bible Presbyterian “to insert a period of time between the feet and the toes of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue (Dan. 2:40-43) and between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week of the prophecy outlined in Daniel 9:24-27.”[26] This is an egregious violation of the consistently literal hermeneutics of Dispensationalism, “in order to make the dispensational system work.”[27]

Allis aptly concludes,

“In short, the clock does not run on Jewish time or on Gentile time. It stops at the triumphal entry and resumes ticking at the rapture simply because the exigencies of the Dispensational theory require it, because room must be found for the entire Church age . . . .”[28]

Who Confirms the Covenant in Daniel 9:27: Christ or Antichrist?

What is the identity of the person who confirms or makes firm a covenant with many in verse 27? Dispensationalists and Bible Presbyterians believe that this person is the eschatological Antichrist. John Walvoord writes,

“[T]his refers to the coming world ruler at the beginning of the last seven years who is able to gain control over ten countries in the Middle East. He will make a covenant with Israel for a seven-year period. As Daniel 9:27 indicates, in the middle of the seven years he will break the covenant, stop the sacrifices being offered in the temple rebuilt in that period, and become their persecutor instead of their protector, fulfilling the promises of Israel’s day of trouble (Jer. 30:5-7).”[29]

So according to Dispensationalists and Bible Presbyterians, the Antichrist will make a covenant with many during the seven years Tribulation. The Mosaic ritual of sacrifice will be restored, but in the middle of the seven years Tribulation period, the Antichrist will break the covenant, abolish the temple sacrifices, begins his reign of terror, and persecute the Jews. This begins what Dispensationalists call the Great Tribulation (Matt. 24:21; Rev. 11:2-3).

Tow agrees with Walvoord that it is Antichrist, and not Christ, who confirms the covenant in verse 27. Tow writes,

“With reference to that prince earlier mentioned, he would be the Antichrist, the last World Dictator: “He shall confirm the covenant with many for one week.’”[30]

As maintained by Dispensationalists, “the prince that shall come (Dan. 9:26)” is the person who will confirm the covenant with many in verse 27. “It is argued that “prince” is the subject of the verb “confirm” because it is nearer to it than is the word “anointed (one).” But this argument is more than offset by the fact that the subject of the verb “destroy” is not “prince” but “people” (“and the people of the prince, the coming one, shall destroy”). If the nearest subject must be regarded as the subject of the verb “confirm,” it should be “people” not “prince.”[31]

Dispensationalists agree that “the people of the prince that shall come (Dan. 9:26)” refers to the Roman army under General Titus. If the Dispensationalist insists that “the prince that shall come” must be the subject of the verb “confirm” in verse 27, then the Antichrist must be Titus himself, or Titus redivivus.

Gentry concurs with Allis that,

“The indefinite pronoun “he” does not refer back to “the prince who is to come” of verse 26. That “prince” is a subordinate noun; “the people” is the dominant noun. Thus, the “he” refers back to the last dominant individual mentioned: “Messiah” (v. 26a).”[32]

Young reminds us that “the prince (verse 26)” is not even the subject of a sentence. Grammatically, “the people” are in a more prominent position than “the prince.” In fact, “the phrase of the prince in vs. 26 is in such a subordinate position that it is extremely unlikely that we are to regard it as antecedent of “he will confirm.” Furthermore, this entire passage is Messianic in nature, and the Messiah is the leading character. The general theme of the passage, introduced in vs. 24, is surely Messianic.”[33]

Meredith Kline argues that God’s covenant with Israel forms an overarching redemptive-historical grid which undergirds Daniel 9:24-27. He writes,

“The whole context [of Daniel 9:27] speaks against the supposition that an altogether different covenant from the divine covenant which is the central theme throughout Daniel 9 is abruptly introduced here at the climax of it all.”[34]

According to Kline, the form and content of Daniel 9, as well as the concept of God’s covenant with Israel, anticipates a prophecy about the messianic consummation of the very same covenant God made with the Jews. Therefore, when we read of a covenant in 9:27, it is clear what this covenant is. Besides, the language throughout Daniel 9 supports the identification of the person who shall confirm the covenant in verse 27.

In Daniel 9:26, we read that the Anointed One will be cut off. Even the verb karat, which is translated “cut off (verse 26),” has a covenantal allusion. Kline writes,

“There is an interesting link between the Messiah and the covenant in verse 26.  His death is there described by the verb karat, the verb regularly employed for the act of ratifying a covenant by a cutting ritual which portrayed the curse of the covenant oath.  The statement about the covenant in verse 27 is then in clear continuity with the covenantal allusion in verse 26.  Gabriel here assures Daniel that the cutting off of the anointed one (vs. 26) would not mean the failure of His mission but, on the contrary, its accomplishment.”[35]

The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament further elucidates thatthe most important use of the root [word karat] is “to cut” a covenant bĕrı̂t.”[36] In fact, “the word here is pregnant with theological meaning. A covenant must be cut because the slaughter of animals was a part of the covenant ritual. . . . Genesis 15 is a significant passage in this regard. The Lord made (cut) a covenant with Abram (v. 18) involving a mysterious ceremony. Animals were cut in half and the parts laid opposite each other.”[37] Thus, there is no doubt that the verb karat has strong allusion to the covenantal promise of Yahweh.

Although the usual verb used for making a covenant, karat, was used in verse 26, it is paramount for us to note that a different verb higbir was used instead in Daniel 9:27. Kline reminds us that this verb higbir means to “make strong, cause to prevail.”[38] This understanding of the verb higbir imposes another difficulty for the futuristic interpretation of Daniel 9:27. Dispensationalists would have us believe that it is the Antichrist who makes a covenant de novo with the nation of Israel. But the use of higbir strongly implies that the covenant in 9:27 is not a new covenant, but a confirmation or enforcement of a pre-existing covenant. Obviously, this covenant is a reference to the covenant of grace which Yahweh had made with the patriarch Abraham, which is now being confirmed by the Messiah with the believers of Israel.

In view of the context of the entire passage in Daniel 9:24-27, verse 27 “may properly be taken to mean that during the brief period of His earthly ministry Jesus fulfilled the terms of the ancient covenant made with the seed of Abraham (cf. Rom. xv. 8), that He secured its benefits to “many,” that is “to the believers in Israel,” for the period up to the stoning of Stephen, or perhaps, in mercy, until the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, at which time the “new covenant,” which was in fact only the full unfolding of the old covenant and made no distinction between Jew and Gentile, went fully into effect through the destruction of the temple and of Jewish national existence.”[39]

Conclusion

With the understanding that the Messiah is the subject of the verb “confirm” in verse 27, we can now safely deduce that the prophecy of Daniel’s seventy weeks had been fulfilled in the First Advent of Christ. The traditional messianic interpretation is superior to the parenthesis interpretation because, firstly, it does not necessitate the introduction of a covenant which is completely foreign to the redemptive-historical grid intrinsic to Daniel’s prophecy. Secondly, the hermeneutics of the traditional interpretation is consistent with the analogy of faith. The understanding that 9:27 refers to the abolishing of sacrifice and oblation by Christ’s atoning death is in accordance with New Testament revelation, viz. Hebrews 10:9-14. Thirdly, it does not require the reinstitution of the Jewish cult of temple sacrifice, only to be terminated by a Titus redivivus.

Most importantly, the traditional interpretation adheres more closely to the plain or normal meaning of the text. There is no need of an indeterminate time gap between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy. “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city (Dan. 9:24).” The seventy weeks of years are given by God as a measuring time frame for the prophecy. If the parenthesis theory is correct, then all concepts of time and measuring are made redundant for the fulfillment of prophecy. In fact, time itself may become irrelevant for the fulfillment of any prophecy. By virtue of this erroneous hermeneutics, prophecy can be made to appear as being fulfilled within any specified time frame. This, I believe, is the most serious weakness of the parenthesis interpretation.

References


[1] Allis, Prophecy and the Church, 115.
[2] Kenneth L. Barker, “Evidence from Daniel,” in The Coming Millennial Kingdom: A Case for Premillennial Interpretation, eds. Donald K. Campbell and Jeffrey L. Townsend (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1997), 145.
[3] Ibid., 145-146.
[4] Allis, Prophecy and the Church, 116.
[5] Timothy Tow, Visions of the Princely Prophet: A Study of the Book of Daniel (Singapore: Christian Life Publishers, 1995), 94.
[6] McClain’s calculations are reproduced in Tow and Khoo, Theology for Every Christian, 402-404.
[7] Young, Daniel, 204.
[8] Allis, Prophecy and the Church, 116. Allis also repudiates the mathematical methods of deduction used by Sir Robert Anderson and others in pp. 116-117.
[9] See Tow, Visions of the Princely Prophet, 93. In Tow’s diagram “The Seventy Weeks of Daniel,” the Messiah is cut-off after the 69th week, during the Church Age parenthesis. Also see Tow and Khoo, Theology for Every Christian, 404. Here, Tow and Khoo unequivocally state, “Between the 69 weeks and the final 70th week, there is an interval: a period of God’s patience (2 Pet 3:9). But when the time is up, the 70th week will commence with the Antichrist making peace with Israel (Dan 9:27), and finally conclude with the battle of Armageddon (Rev 16:16).”
[10] Khoo, “Dispensational Premillennialism in Reformed Theology: The Contribution of J. O. Buswell to the Millennial Debate,” 712- 713.
[11] DeMar, Last Days Madness, 329.
[12] Charles Seet, “Premillennialism,” The Burning Bush 3, no. 2 (1997): 98-99.
[13] Ibid., 99.
[14] Khoo, “Amillennialism Examined,” 4.
[15] DeMar, Last Days Madness, 330, quoting Jacques Doukhan, “The Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9: An Exegetical Study,” Andrews University Seminary Studies 17 (Spring 1979): 8.
[16] Ibid., 330-331.
[17] Allis, Prophecy and the Church, 118.
[18] Tow, Visions of the Princely Prophet, 90, 94, emphasis mine. Rev Timothy Tow is also the Lecturer in Systematic Theology of Far Eastern Bible College.
[19] Allis, Prophecy and the Church, 118.
[20] Ibid., 119.
[21] See Khoo, Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology, 28-29 under section on dispensational ecclesiology.
[22] See Khoo, Dispensationalism Examined, 12. Cf. idem, Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology, 46.
[23] See Tow, Visions of the Princely Prophet, 93-94. The Church Age as a ‘parenthesis’ is clearly intimated in the diagram entitled “The Seventy Weeks of Daniel” on p. 93. The ‘Church Age’ is placed between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week of Daniel’s prophecy. Also see Tow and Khoo, Theology for Every Christian, 404.
[24] Tow, Visions of the Princely Prophet, 94. Also see Tow and Khoo, Theology for Every Christian, 404.
[25] Khoo, Fundamentals of the Christian Faith, 133.
[26] DeMar, Last Days Madness, 326.
[27] Ibid.
[28] Allis, Prophecy and the Church, 119.
[29] Walvoord, The Prophecy Knowledge Handbook, 257.
[30] Tow, Visions of the Princely Prophet, 94.
[31] Allis, Prophecy and the Church, 121.
[32] Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, 334.
[33] Young, Daniel, 208-209.
[34] Kline, “The Covenant of the Seventieth Week”, 463.
[35] Ibid.
[36] Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (1980), s.v. “kārat.”
[37] Ibid.
[38] Kline, “The Covenant of the Seventieth Week”, 465.
[39] Allis, Prophecy and the Church, 122.