Ellen White's Unquestionable 70-Week Timeline
By Dirk Anderson, July 2009
Much of Seventh-day Adventist eschatology is based upon their understanding of the time-frames of Daniel's 70-week prophecy. Ellen White explains in The Great Controversy:
The 2300 days had been found to begin when the commandment of Artaxerxes for the restoration and building of Jerusalem went into effect, in the autumn of 457 B.C. Taking this as the starting point, there was perfect harmony in the application of all the events foretold in the explanation of that period in Daniel 9:25-27. Sixty-nine weeks, the first 483 of the 2300 years, were to reach to the Messiah, the Anointed One; and Christ's baptism and anointing by the Holy Spirit, A.D. 27, exactly fulfilled the specification. In the midst of the seventieth week, Messiah was to be cut off. Three and a half years after His baptism, Christ was crucified, in the spring of A.D. 31. The seventy weeks, or 490 years, were to pertain especially to the Jews. At the expiration of this period the nation sealed its rejection of Christ by the persecution of His disciples, and the apostles turned to the Gentiles, A.D. 34. The first 490 years of the 2300 having then ended, 1810 years would remain. From A.D. 34, 1810 years extend to 1844. "Then," said the angel, "shall the sanctuary be cleansed." All the preceding specifications of the prophecy had been unquestionably fulfilled at the time appointed. 1
Mrs. White concludes by saying these prophecies were "unquestionably fulfilled at the time appointed." While it is true that these prophecies were unquestionably fulfilled, there are a lot of serious questions about Ellen White's appointed times for their fulfillment. Elsewhere on this web site David Hill challenges Ellen White's starting date of 457 BC. This article will focus primarily on the supposed crucifixion date of 31 AD, and the seventy-week termination date of 34 AD.
Was Christ baptized in 27 AD?
The 27 AD baptismal date is high unlikely for several reasons. According to Luke 3, John the Baptist began preaching in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar. Tiberius began reigning jointly with his father in the Autumn of 12 AD. He reigned jointly for two years, and in 14 AD become the sole emporer. Roman historians did not typically start the clock until the Roman emperor was reigning soley. Therefore, Colin Humphreys informs us the most probable starting date for the reign of Tiberius "was September 17, AD 14 to September 17, AD 15, so that the fifteenth year of his reign was from September 17, AD 28 to September 17, AD 29."2 Since Luke was writing to a Roman audience, he probably followed Roman practice of starting the clock from Tiberius' sole reign using the Roman calendar. Even if Luke started it with the joint reign of Tiberius, the earliest possible starting date for John's ministry would be Autumn of 27 AD. Even with this early start date, in order for Jesus to be baptized in 27 AD, Jesus would have had to have come to John for baptism almost immediately after John started preaching. However, it is more likely John preached for at least a year, if not longer, before he baptized Christ. In Desire of Ages, Ellen White describes some events that transpired in John's ministry prior to the baptism of Christ that indicate a rather long elapsed time:
In light of these events, it seems highly improbable that Jesus was baptized in 27 AD. John likely started his ministry around 29 AD, and Jesus was most likely baptized around 30 AD.
Did Christ die in 31 AD?
John 19:31 tells us that Jesus died on the preparation day for a "high Sabbath". This "high Sabbath" was the annual Passover, which was celebrated on the first day of the feast of unleavened bread. On the Jewish calendar, the Passover falls on Nisan 15. On the evening of Nisan 14, the day before the Passover, the traditional Passover lamb was eaten. Ellen White informs us that Christ died on Nisan 14, the same day that the Passover lamb was slain and eaten.
They had gathered to celebrate the Passover. The Saviour desired to keep this feast alone with the twelve. He knew that His hour was come; He Himself was the true paschal lamb, and on the day the Passover was eaten He was to be sacrificed.3
Mrs. White then informs us that on the Sabbath day after Christ died, the Passover day (Nisan 15) was observed:
The body of Jesus was hastily placed in the tomb because of the near approach of the Sabbath, that the disciples might keep the day according to the commandment. The two Marys were the last at the sepulcher. This was a never-to-be-forgotten Sabbath to the sorrowing disciples, and also to the priests, rulers, scribes, and people. The passover was observed as it had been for centuries, while the antitypical Lamb, which it prefigured, had been slain by wicked hands, and lay in Joseph's tomb.4
Ellen White even goes so far as to give us the exact day of the Jewish Calendar upon which Christ died:
These types were fulfilled, not only as to the event, but as to the time. On the fourteenth day of the first Jewish month, the very day and month on which for fifteen long centuries the Passover lamb had been slain, Christ, having eaten the Passover with His disciples, instituted that feast which was to commemorate His own death as "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." That same night He was taken by wicked hands to be crucified and slain.5
Now that we have established that according to Ellen White, Jesus died on the Friday before Passover (Nisan 14) and rested in the tomb on the subsequent High Sabbath (Nisan 15), we can cross-reference these dates with the Jewish Calendar and determine if these events occurred in 31 AD.
Pilate was governor of Judea between 26 AD and 36 AD. During that time period, Nisan 14 fell upon a Friday on only two years:
On 31 AD, Nisan 14 fell upon March 27, a Tuesday. Therefore, Jesus could not have died in 31 AD.7
Further evidence for a 33 AD date is based upon Peter's statement in Acts 2:16-20 that Joel's prophecy had recently been fulfilled. Part of Joel's prophecy refers to "a moon of blood". Can astronomy prove that the moon turned to blood in 33 AD?
A "moon of blood" is a term also commonly used for a lunar eclipse because of the reddish color of the light refracted onto the moon through the earth's atmosphere. ...
According to NASA, there were no lunar eclipses on any of the possible crucifixion dates in 31 AD.9
Did the 70-week Prophecy Terminate in 34 AD?
No one knows exactly when Stephen was stoned, but scholars have dated it between 33 AD and 36 AD. Regardless of this, the more important question is: Was the stoning of Stephen the terminating point of the 70-week prophecy? Daniel 9:24 states that...
Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city...
Nothing of significance happened to either the Jewish people or the city of Jerusalem when Stephen was stoned. Many Christians fled Jerusalem after the stoning of Stephen, but the Apostles stayed (Acts 8:1) and the Jerusalem church continued witnessing there until all the Christians fled Jerusalem just prior to 70 AD. So, Christians continued evangelizing Jews, the Jerusalem Church continued to be the most prominent base of Christianity (Acts 15), and even Paul, the missionary to the Gentiles, made it his first goal to convert Jews wherever he went. Notice the following accounts paraphrased from Acts:
Therefore, it is apparent that the status of the Jewish people did not change after the stoning of Stephen. In addition to all this, Daniel 9:27 says:
...he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease...
While it is true that the sacrifices were no longer efficacious after Christ died, they nevertheless continued until the destruction of the temple in 70 AD.
God's termination of the Old Covenant, and the ensuing destruction of Jerusalem and the Sanctuary of His covenant, did not occur until 70 AD. The book of Hebrews was written about 65 AD10, and Hebrews 8:13 describes the Old Covenant as "becoming" obsolete and about ready to vanish:
It is obvious from this passage that the Old Covenant, although still in existence and binding upon the Jews, was soon to be terminated, leaving only the New Covenant that was instituted by Christ on the Cross. Within a few short years of when this verse was written, the Old Covenant literally "vanished away" when the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD. The Book of the Law, containing the Old Covenant, was taken away by Prince Titus to Rome as a war trophy.11 This literal removal of the Book of the Law from the Temple symbolizes the termination of God's Old Covenant with the Jews. The captivity of the Jews, and the destruction of the temple and city of Jerusalem provide a much more meaningful termination of the 70-week prophecy than does the stoning of Stephen. The destruction of Jerusalem by the prince, Titus, is even alluded to in Daniel 9:26:
...and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.
This cataclysmic event, impacting every Jew on earth, is a much more fitting termination point than the stoning of a single disciple that had no noticeable impact on either the Jews or their city.
Based upon the evidence presented above, it is highly improbable that Christ died in 31 AD. Furthermore, Ellen White's 70-week starting date, baptism date, and termination date are all questionable. The evidence is abundant that Ellen White's time line is not beyond question. In fact, it is beyond belief!
Your questions answered
Question: I admit Ellen White's time frame does not match up exactly with historical events. But I have not seen any other methods that match perfectly either. So tell me, Brother Anderson, what is the correct interpretation?
First of all, we should be clear that this timeline was not invented by Ellen White. It was one of the predominant interpretations of this passage during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The problem is that scholarship within the last century has proven that this timeline is highly unlikely.
Secondly, you are correct that some of the other proposed timelines have equal, if not greater, problems. It is beyond our scope to discuss the pro's and con's of all the different approaches, but material is readily available on the internet.
The evidence is overwhelming that the seventy-week probationary period commenced at the end of the 70-years of captivity, when Cyrus, God's annointed one, decreed the restoration of Jerusalem in 537 BC. (If you doubt this, see David Hill's article) There is also ample evidence the probationary period terminated in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem, the temple, the ending of the sacrificial system, and the dispersion of the Jews. The problem is, that turns out to be a period of over 600 years.
There are two responses to that.
First, it is possible that Daniel was giving us symbolic time periods which emphasized the number "7" and these times are not to be taken too literally. We can rest assurred that he was correct about every event in Daniel 9:24-27. Everything happened just as he predicted, even in the same order as he said it would.
The second response demands closer inspection of the passage. The passage breaks up the 70-week prophecy into three parts: 62-weeks, 7-weeks, and 1-week. The 1-week is further divided into two 3.5-year parts. Why is it broken thus into pieces? Is it necessary for the 70-weeks to be continguous? Or can we allow for breaks between the periods? Did God intend to make the prophecy non-contiguous to keep people "on their toes" about when events would happen? Could it be that the 62-weeks and 7-weeks transpired prior to Christ's baptism, and then the first half of the week transpired between his baptism and death? And could the second half of the 1-week have taken place in the 3.5-year war and tribulation that transpired just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD?
It is the author's personal opinion the parts of the 70-week prophecy are non-contiguous, but follow in sequential order, beginning in 537 BC and ending in 70 AD. Perhaps there are other answers, but one thing we know for certain is that modern scholarship has shown that Ellen White's interpretation is improbable.
1. Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy (1911), p. 410.
2. Colin J. Humphreys, The Mystery of the Last Supper: Reconstructing the Final Days of Jesus (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 64-65. Note: There are other calendars that could have been used to calculate the date. Humphreys provides the three below on page 65:
Humphreys concludes: "Thus the earliest possible date for John the Baptist to have started his ministry is autumn AD 28."
3. Ellen G. White, Desire of Ages, p. 642.
4. Ellen G. White, The Spirit of Prophecy Volume 3 (1878), pp. 186-187.
5. Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 399. Note that Jesus and the disciples ate the last supper on Thursday evening. Jesus was arrested later that evening. In reading this quote, one might think that Nisan 14 occurred upon a Thursday; however, it must be remembered that Jewish days begin at sunset. Therefore, Nisan 14 began when the sun set on Thursday evening. Thus, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal very early on the day of Nisan 14.
6. Colin J. Humphreys and W.G. Waddington, "The Jewish Calendar, A Lunar Eclipse, and the Date of Christ's Crucifixion", http://www.tyndalehouse.com/TynBul/Library/TynBull_1992_43_2_06_Humphreys_DateChristsCrucifixion.pdf, extracted July 19, 2009. Dr. David Reagan, "The Resurrection of Jesus in Prophecy", http://www.raptureready.com/featured/reagan/dr14.html, extracted July 19, 2009. See also the following reference posted on the CARM forum: (Ref: Table 179, Jack Finegan, The Handbook of Biblical Chronology (Revised Edition; Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1998) ISBN 1-56563-143-9).
7. Colin J. Humphreys and W.G. Waddington, "The Jewish Calendar, A Lunar Eclipse, and the Date of Christ's Crucifixion", Tyndale Bulletin, 43.2 (1992), p. 335. (see link in #5 above)
8. Wikipedia, "Crucifixion darkness and eclipse", http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion_darkness_and_eclipse, extracted July 19, 2009.
9. NASA "Catalog of Lunar Eclipses", http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/LEcat5/LE0001-0100.html.
10. Daniel B. Wallace, "Hebrews: Introduction, Argument, and Outline", http://bible.org/seriespage/hebrews-introduction-argument-and-outline, extracted July 20, 2009.
11. "But for those that were taken in the temple of Jerusalem...the golden table...the candlestick also...and the last of all the spoils, was carried the Law of the Jews." Josephus, Jewish War (VII.5.5). According to James Ussher in his Annals of the World, the Jewish Law was deposited in the Roman Palace, p. 880.
Category: 1844 Movement
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