Was Jesus’ Arrival Accurately Predicted in the Bible? By Don Olson – Revisited

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This post goes back to 2016 but it is still a valid one, put forth for your consideration.

Zechariah 9:9 NIV
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

In 538 BC, the angel Gabriel gave Daniel a prophecy pinpointing when the Messiah would arrive. “Know and understand this,” Gabriel told him (Daniel 9:25). While Daniel may have understood it, somewhere along the way that insight has been lost. Old Testament scholars have long been debating the prophecy’s meaning, but one scholar, Harold Hoehner, had a particularly astounding interpretation.1

While in Babylon, Daniel read the Scriptures, learning that Jeremiah had foretold both the Babylonian captivity and the Israelites’ return to their homeland after 70 years. In response, Daniel confessed the sins of the nation in prayer, inciting the angel Gabriel to visit and deliver this message:

Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.2

Breaking Down the Daniel Prophecy

In taking a closer look at the Daniel passage, one thing is clear: it is about the Messiah. We see that the term “Messiah,” or “Anointed One,” is capitalized. It is also clear that a formula of sorts is provided to calculate when the Messiah will appear. The difficulties come in interpreting the formula. One such difficulty is determining the meaning of “weeks,” which is used in a number of translations. (NIV uses the term “sevens” instead of “weeks.”) In ancient Hebrew, “weeks” had a number of meanings, which scholars can determine by the context. The context in the Daniel passage shows that “weeks” means “seven units.” Using this definition, we can calculate when the Messiah will arrive: (7 x 7) + (62 x 7) = 49 + 434 = 483 years.

The prophecy further says that after the Messiah arrives, he will be “put to death and will have nothing.” The word “after” is very important. After the Messiah arrives, he will be put to death. Jesus’ crucifixion fulfills that prophecy.

We now know that the Messiah would arrive 483 years in the future. But does the prophecy specify a beginning date? The prophecy tells us: “From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.” So, who ordered this decree to restore Jerusalem, and when was it ordered? There are several possibilities, but the decree that best fits the evidence was made by the Persian king Artaxerxes to Nehemiah on March 5 of 444 BC (Nehemiah 2:1–8). (In this article, a number of biblical dates are used, all of which have been under debate by scholars for hundreds of years. Harold Hoehner makes a strong case for each of the dates. For those details, please refer to Hoehner’s book Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ.)

Before we can make some calculations, we need to know how Daniel’s civilization counted time—by a solar year or a lunar year. A solar year has 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds, or 365.2422 days. A lunar year has exactly 360 days: 12 months of 30 days. [A lunar year has 12 rotation periods, or lunar months, which equal 354.367 Earth days (12 x 29.53059). However, ancient peoples rounded off the lunar month to 30 days. Thus, their lunar year would equal 360 days (30 days x 12).] Since the lunar year was commonly used in ancient biblical times, it makes the most sense to use the lunar year in calculations.

We must also decide how to define the arrival of the Messiah. Do we use Jesus’ birthdate, the date he began his ministry, the date of his crucifixion, or some other date? The date that many scholars have accepted as the time of the Messiah’s arrival is Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The reason for choosing this date is that this is when Jesus publicly declared that he was the Messiah. Before then, he told only select people, like his disciples, and he often reminded them to keep his identity secret. History chronologists have estimated that Jesus’ triumphal entry fell on Monday, March 30, AD 33.

Calculating Gabriel’s Formula

Now we’re ready to do some math to determine if Gabriel did in fact predict Jesus’ arrival. We’ll start by determining how many days are in 483 lunar years: 360 x 483 = 173,880 days. Next, we’ll convert those days back into solar years: 173,880 ÷ 365.2422 = 476.068 years. After converting the decimal part (0.068) to days (0.068 x 365.2422 = 24.8 days), the time prophesized for the Messiah to arrive comes out to be 476 years and 25 days.

Adding this number to March 5, 444 BC—the date on which the decree to rebuild Jerusalem was issued—brings us to March 30, AD 33, the very day of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Is this match not remarkable? The remarkable accuracy of the predictions in the prophecy in Daniel [assuming the estimates are correctly interpreted and accurate] supports the truth of the prophecy, which in turn builds confidence in the authority and reliability of the Bible.

By Don Olson
Don C. Olson earned a PhD in analytical chemistry from Purdue University in 1961 and currently works as CEO of Global FIA, Inc. in Fox Island, WA.

Endnotes

  1. For an excellent book on understanding this prophecy, see: Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977).
  2. Daniel 9:25–26.
  3. Harold Walter Hoehner (1935-2009) was an American biblical scholar and was professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary.

SourceReasons To Believe:was-jesus-arrival-accurately-predicted-in-the-bible/

Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!

11 comments

  1. Bruce, my take-away…I have gone through most of my life rounding the numbers up or down (about 20 yards away, it’s been 15 years since I last saw you, We will be there around 7-ish?). God is exact. His timing is exact, He does not say “I believe we have 400 million followers on earth” He knows each of us and the hairs on our head and what we are thinking. Neither will it be a mistake when he says to some “who are you? I don’t know you!” Or “Well done good and faithful servant…come on in!”

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    • Couldn’t agree with you more. 1 Cor 13:9-12 comes to mind: “For we know in part and prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away with. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I also have been fully known.” Funny, I was thinking about this, this morning as it relates to the differing opinions on Creationism. Blessing Gary!

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  2. A very interesting article. In the softest voice, I leave this reply to confirm that I definitely have confidence in the authority of the Bible. However, I do not have confidence in (quoting from the article) “assuming the estimates are correctly interpreted and accurate” The question put forth in the title of this article is “Was Jesus’ Arrival Accurately Predicted in the Bible?” A very sensational title, to which my inner most spiritual being answers – why pose this question, unless it’s necessary for the salvation of a lost soul? If that be the case, then Evangelism along with Apologetics would be used. I believe Jesus arrived in the perfect fullness of time, and that settles it for me. I love “Apologetics” but it is a very tricky arena. I’m hoping my response is part of the desired conversation. I notice that the NIV translation of the Bible was quoted, This leads to the fact that copious translations of the Bible, and other religious readings are on the market. All well and good, as long as the reader leaves the door open for the Holy Spirit to bring understanding. I prefer the King James Bible, because most often what the Holy Spirit gives me from the King James does not always mesh with a translation. Keep up the good work. You sure got me going on this thesis. Blessings!

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    • Your comments are always welcome Mary and please note that I posted this particular post “for your consideration”. Nothing carved into stone, but I found it interesting. I understand and agree with your observations about different translations etc. The vast majority of what the author identified came from Harold Walter Hoehner (1935-2009), who was an American biblical scholar and was professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. That doesn’t engrave it into stone either but it does add a certain weight to what is being asked to possibly consider. I appreciate you keeping me on my toes! Blessings!

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  3. Good post. I originally planned this week to start studying up various passages in the book of Daniel but alas this week got too busy (both away from WordPress and also personal study projects). So its good to read this and makes me more determine next week to study on book of Daniel selected passages

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