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Think Spot – Validating the Christmas Story

In Daniel 9:24-27, we have one of the Bible’s most difficult passages. It might well describe an end-time tribulation of seven years if the one who confirms a seven-year covenant (or peace treaty) is the Beast of Revelation. On the other hand, a different result comes about if reading the passage as a chiasm (a series of parallel lines of text clustered around a central thought), as does Joe Sprinkle in his 2020 commentary on Daniel.

Here, the construction and destruction of Jerusalem (in 9:25a and 9:27b) are clustered around descriptions of the Anointed One (in 9:25b and 9:27a), and then another pairing regarding Jerusalem (in 9:25c and 9:26b), with the death of the Anointed One the structural centrepiece (in 9:26a). On this reading, the covenant is confirmed by Jesus in the middle of a seven-year period.

That seven years is the last of Daniel’s seventy periods of seven years (i.e. 490, since Daniel’s seventy ‘weeks’ are weeks of seven years, according to Leviticus 25:8). It probably points to a timeline originating in the 458 B.C. decree of Artaxerxes to rebuild Jerusalem (Ezra 7) and therefore to Jesus’ ministry commencing in A.D 26, with the crucifixion being in A.D. 30 and the final seven-year period ending with the spread of the church in Acts 8.

Tracing back thirty years from A.D. 26 (as required by Luke 3:23), Jesus’ birth is 5 B.C. (and, as for all necessary calculations here, there is no ‘year zero.’) We know that Herod’s death was in 4 B.C. and his killing of the infants up to two years of age (Matthew 2:16) was his means of being sure of comfortably including Jesus. In Luke 3:1, the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar also marks the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in A.D. 26, allowing for a two-year co-regency with Augustus in A.D. 12-14. (John 2:20 description of the Temple’s forty-six-year life also supports this dating).How incredible to see that multiple biblical texts affirm the Christmas story. At a time when people remain unconvinced of the relevance of Jesus, it is important that the Christian Church can attest to the life-changing power of Jesus who was the hinge of history on that first Christmas. It was also the one in which he surely came to be the very real and necessary source of eternal life for our friends, family, and community.

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