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Scripture, and the birth, appearance in the temple, baptism, or crucifixion of our Lord.
These three maxims are also recognized by most of the Futurists themselves. Mr. Maitland, however sceptical with regard to the four empires, and Mr. Burgh, with regard to the Syrian and Egyptian kings, are here content to abide by the old landmarks. Dr. Todd, Mr. Tyso, and Mr. Govett, are the only dissentients. The Lecturer, indeed, offers his doubts with some degree of hesitation; and as they are confined to a single note, it is needless to dwell upon them further. But Mr. Tyso rejects boldly every one of the principles which have been commonly received. He contends that the period consists of weeks of days; and that the first advent and the fall of Jerusalem are not once mentioned, but that the whole is still future. Views so preposterous might, perhaps, at any other time, have been safely passed by, as not deserving a refutation; but there seems at present to be a theological influenza of prophetic scepticism; and since more than twenty pages of the “Elucidation" are occupied with this argument, it may be useful to expose the real emptiness of the reasoning they contain.
I. The first aim of the writer is to set aside the reference of the prophecy to the first advent. "I believe (he says) that the primary reference is to the second advent, and that the weeks are common weeks, consisting of seven days." The expressions of verse 24 are applied, without much difficulty, to the actual reconciliation and righteousness of the Jewish nation in times to come; but the words in verse 26 are harder to explain away. Mr. Tyso, therefore, proposes a new translation, without the sanction of any Hebrew scholar. "After the threescore and two weeks, Messiah shall be made a covenant." His reasons are these. The
Hebrew verb to cut is regularly used by them in the phrase, to make a covenant. Now, in eleven places (1 Sam. xi. 2, xx. 16, xxii. 8; 1 Kings viii. 9; 1 Chron. xvi. 16; 2 Chron. v. 10, vii. 18; Neh. ix. 38; Ps. ev. .9; Is. lvii. 8; Hag. ii. 5), Mr. Tyso alleges that it is used alone, without the word berith, in the same meaning. Hence he infers that there is no reason why it should not be used in this sense in the passive form.
This argument admits of a very short answer.
1. First, the verb occurs in Kal about eighty-seven times in the phrase, to make a covenant, and about thirtyfive times in the primary sense, to cut off. But in the passive or niphal, it occurs near seventy times in the sense, “to be cut off," and never once in the proposed meaning, "to be made a covenant." Scripture usage is, therefore, decisive against this original version; and no one can be allowed to tamper with the word of God, by introducing a new translation, without any warrant of Scripture or of sound criticism, purely to serve a turn.
2. Next, where usage is so constant, every thoughtful person will naturally suspect that there is a reason for this contrast between the active and passive form. And such a reason evidently exists. The Hebrew verb in the active form can only acquire the sense, to make a covenant, by an ellipsis of the word berith. Hence, if the phrase were to appear in the passive form, the same word berith would necessarily appear as the subject of the verb. But this is never the case, here or elsewhere. The proposed rendering is, therefore, without a shadow of warrant, either from reason or Scripture usage. The reference to the first advent, and to the cutting off or death of Messiah, is thus demonstrably certain.
II. The want of historical exactness in the interval, on the hypothesis of weeks of years, is made the next argument. The four decrees of Cyrus, of Darius, and
of Artaxerxes, to Ezra and Nehemiah, are each of them in error, Mr. Tyso maintains, by forty-six, twenty-eight, thirty-two, and forty-five years, which he reckons from their date to the vulgar era of the nativity. This objection, however, involves three or four surprising mistakes of a very obvious kind.
1. The errors are here reckoned by the interval to the vulgar era. But there is no ground whatever for assuming this standard, since all chronologers agree that the true date of the nativity is from two to five years earlier.
2. Next, it is assumed that the seventy weeks are expressly declared to terminate at the coming of Christ. But, even if we grant that the birth of the Saviour is the limit intended in the twenty-fifth verse, it is plain that the interval must be seven, sixty-two, or sixty-nine weeks, and not seventy.
3. It is objected further, that "commentators have reckoned unto the death of Messiah the Prince; so that, according to their theory, his advent predicted in this verse takes place at his departure !"
This objection is equally groundless. The resurrection, or ascension, which occurred within a few days after the crucifixion, is a natural date for the Princedom of Messiah, if not the most natural. It is expressly described as such in Scripture (Acts v. 31). Nor does the prophecy close the seventy weeks by the coming of Messiah, but by the reconciliation for iniquity, and the bringing in of everlasting righteousness.
4. Again, the objection assumes that the natural meaning of the words "until Messiah the Prince" is the same as “until the birth of Christ." But this is by no means clear. The words bear a more natural interpretation, "until Messiah be Prince”—that is, until he shall visibly assume the office of a leader. This is the
view which most commentators adopt, and which seems the true interpretation.
III. Another difficulty alleged is the want of correspondence between the Persian decrees named in Scripture and the words of the prophecy. The decree of Artaxerxes, it is affirmed, was only for the service of the temple, and not for the rebuilding either of the temple itself or of Jerusalem.
This objection arises entirely from the neglect of a more close consideration of the prophecy. The exact rendering of the words in the twenty-fifth verse, is "from the going forth of a command to cause to return, and to build Jerusalem." Now the Jerusalem which is caused to return cannot be the stones or outward structures, but must be the people its inhabitants, who are so frequently called by that name (Isa. i. 21, iii. 8; Lam. i. 7, 8). The rebuilding of Jerusalem must, therefore, be explained in the same manner, and refer mainly to the people and civil polity, not to the material dwellings. This is confirmed by the mention afterwards of the street and rampart, as if to show that external restitution would accompany and complete the civil restoration. Now, in this sense, to which the prophecy clearly leads us, the decree of Artaxerxes will be found to answer most minutely to the description. No words could more punctually and fully express a rebuilding and restoration of the civil polity of Jerusalem.
IV. Mr. Tyso further objects that only seven weeks are stated in the prophecy to elapse before the coming of Messiah the Prince. He argues that the accents require us to place a full point before the sixty-two weeks, and quotes Dr. Stonard and Sir Isaac Newton for authorities. Two reasons are urged in favour of this change the Hebrew accents, and the strange mode of numeration, if sixty-nine weeks are described as seven
weeks and sixty-two. But these reasons are both very insufficient, though advanced by so distinguished a writer as the last. The Hebrew accentuation was fixed after the second dispersion, when Jewish hostility to the Gospel was at its height; and, therefore, on such a passage as this, can have no weight. On the other hand, the early versions, Theodotion, Symmachus, Aquila, and the Septuagint, the Syriac, the Arabic, and the Vulgate, all agree in the punctuation of the English Bible. The strangeness of the numeration disappears entirely, if the seven weeks and the sixty-two are immediately connected with distinct and characteristic events, as appears to be the case from the following words. And, besides these clear reasons for retaining the actual punctuation, the change will turn the prophecy into an inexplicable enigma, either on the hypothesis of Mr. Tyso, or any other.
V. But, finally, the discrepancies of interpreters form the palmary argument which is to prove the whole prophecy unfulfilled. Mr. Tyso produces for this end a formidable list of twenty-two varieties, proposed by different authors.
This table, however, is surprisingly inaccurate and delusive. Several authors are described as varying in their dates of the periods, who, in truth, entirely agree. Thus Sir Isaac Newton and Mr. Habershon are given as two distinct varieties, when the latter professedly adopts Newton's period without a change. The case is exactly the same with Dean Prideaux and Mr. Faber, whose views entirely accord on the date and extent of the main period.
Again, writers are introduced who have no claim whatever to appear, The first name is that of “Maramensis," an anonymous writer in the Investigator, and a Futurist; who, to compensate for making all the