Daniel’s Seventy Weeks prophecy is a popular and intriguing passage. It serves as an important element in dispensational eschatology and theology. Unfortunately, it creates great difficulties for the system, one of which is its important role in dispensationalism.
The chronology Daniel provides in his prophecy of the Seventy Weeks (Da 9:24–27) is a linchpin in the dispensational system. This is unique in that it is not crucial to any of the other millennial systems. And this weakens the dispensational apologetic. A postmillennial view of Daniel’s great prophecy is much more coherent and satisfying, even if less significant for postmillennialism as a system.
John Walvoord comments that the “interpretation of Daniel 9:24–27 is of major importance to premillennialism as well as pretribulationism.” And as such, he continues, it “provides the indispensable chronological key to Bible prophecy.”  (By “Bible prophecy” he means “dispensationalism.”)
Indeed, “the dispensational view depends on the validity of interpreting the Seventieth Week eschatologically.”  This is because it is “the major biblical prophecy about future events related to the nation of Israel.”  Dispensationalists believe that Daniel 9 involves “prophetic postponement” which “is a distinct tenet of dispensational interpretation.”  Thus, famed Reformed scholar O. T. Allis correctly observes that “the importance of the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks in Dispensational teaching can hardly be exaggerated.” 
Dispensationalism’s depending on Daniel 9 is unfortunate for two reasons.
First, historically: This passage is extremely difficult to interpret. J. A. Montgomery calls the prophecy “the Dismal Swamp of Old Testament criticism.”  Young concurs: “This prophecy is one of the most difficult in the entire OT” and “the interpretations are almost legion.”  Baldwin warns that this prophecy is “the most difficult text in the book.”  Miller agrees: “these are four of the most controversial verses in the Bible.” 
Second, theologically: This “extremely important prophecy” is the most difficult for dispensationalists to make credible to those outside of their system. Even dispensationalist Robert Culver admits: “The difficulty of the verses that now lie before us is evident.”  “Premillennial writers of two or three generations ago were very far apart on the details. Much of the same diversity appears in premillennial contemporary writers.”  Kenneth Barker confesses: “It is quickly admitted that these verses are among the most difficult to interpret in Daniel.” 
In fact, Daniel’s Seventy Weeks prophecy leads dispensationalism into one of its most strained peculiarities: the doctrine of the gap theory of the Church Age. The dispensational “interpretation requires a prophetic postponement (older writers referred to this as a ‘gap’ or ‘parenthesis’) between the events of verses 26 and 27.” I will study this destructive flaw in a later post.
Though dispensationalists eagerly point to Daniel’s Seventy Weeks as a major cornerstone of their system, they would be better just employing it as a possible element supporting it. We will see how this prophecy generates further problems for dispensationalism.
1. Walvoord in LaHaye, Popular Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy, 356.
2. Dictionary of Premillennial Theology, 77–78. Emph. mine.
3. Prophecy Study Bible, 1011.
4. Randall J. Price in Willis, Issues in Dispensationalism,160.
5. Allis, Prophecy and the Church, 111.
6. Montgomery, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Daniel, 400.
7. Eerdmans Bible Commentary, 699.
8. Joyce G. Baldwin, Daniel (TOTC) (Downers Grove, Ill: Tyndale, 1978), 163.
9. Stephen R. Miller, Daniel (NAC) (Nashville: Broadman, 1994), 252.
10. Culver, Daniel and the Latter Days, 144.
11. Culver, Daniel and the Latter Days, 144.
12. Barker in Campbell and Townsend, Case for Premillennialism, 143 n39.
13. Dictionary of Premillennial Theology, 77.