(Torment of the Interpreters)
DANIEL 12:11-12

“Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand. And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days.”

Within the past year I have concluded a study of what I believe to be the proper interpretation of the 1290 and 1335 days (to be reckoned as years) mentioned in the passage above – a passage that has caused tremendous difficulties for Biblical scholars for centuries. It is my conviction that the proper interpretation of this passage has profound implications for the times in which we live and should be of the greatest interest to all students of the Bible and of prophecy. 

Those who are not familiar with the study of prophecy may not fully appreciate the significance of what it means to come to a satisfactory interpretation of this passage. E. B. Elliott in his Horae Apocalypticae – his classic commentary on the chief prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, spoke of the ‘difficulty felt by all expositors of prophecy’ when they encountered this passage. The Pulpit Commentary calls it a ‘Veritable crux interpretum’ ; that is ‘the interpreters cross’ or ‘the torment of the interpreters’. I challenge anyone who doubts this to study the voluminous amounts of commentary and wild speculations which have been written in order to come to a satisfactory understanding of the passage.

Before examining the passage, it might be helpful to examine the interpretations which have been offered.  These generally fall into one of the five following categories.

1) The removal of the daily sacrifice, the setting up of the abomination of desolation, and the time periods referenced in the passage were fulfilled in the history of the Jewish nation during the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century BC.   The Jews, being severely persecuted during this period of Syrian rule witnessed the desecration of their religion and temple under the reign of this tyrant.

Many scholars believe that the time periods of 1,290 and 1,335 days have reference to the deliverance of the Jews from this oppression during the Maccabean revolt in 165 BC. 

The interpretation is problematic because scholars have been unable to apply the time periods in question to any specific events in the history of the Maccabean Revolt or in the final downfall of Antiochus Epiphanes.  Scholars generally admit that the prophesied overthrow of the tyrant in Daniel chapters 11 and 12 does not match at all match the known facts about the final years of Antiochus’s reign and his death.

2) The removal of the daily sacrifice and the setting up of the abomination of desolation refer in some way to Jesus’ earthy ministry or possibly the crucifixion. While a novel approach, the 1,290 and 1,335 prophesied days have never been successfully applied to specific events in the ministry, life, death, and resurrection of our Savior.

3) The removal of the daily sacrifice and the setting up of the abomination of desolation refers to the rise and reign of the papacy. This interpretation is usually offered by those of the historicist school of interpretation and fails for two main reasons: First, it is difficult to see how the rise of the papacy could in fact be the ‘Abomination of Desolation’ when both Jesus and Daniel (Dan 11:31) connect it directly to the desolation of the Jewish nation and the removal of their daily sacrifice. Second, once again the time periods cannot be applied in any meaningful way in either literal days, or prophetic years from the rise of the papacy.

4) The daily sacrifice and the setting up of the abomination of desolation refer to the desolation of a future rebuilt Jewish temple by an antichrist still to come. This interpretation is impossible. Jesus connected the ‘abomination of desolation’ with the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple that was standing in the first century. The entire discourse of Matthew 24 was given in answer to the disciple’s question about when the temple would be destroyed.

5) The removal of the daily sacrifice and the setting up of the abomination of desolation refers to the desolation of the Jews in the first century. It is beyond question that Jesus did in fact connect the ‘Abomination of Desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet’ with the desolation of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans. But once again these time periods have never been satisfactorily applied to that period of the first century. Some have tried to connect the 1290 and 1335 days to either the start of the Jewish war (66 AD) or the end of it (70 AD) but have failed to find any meaningful application. Attempts to apply the 1290 and 1335 days as prophetic years dating from that period have also failed.

The Pulpit Commentary sums up this difficulty

“As we have already said, if we take the profanation of the temple, 25th Casleu, 145 Seleucid era, as our starting-point, it is impossible to fix any great deliverance or any event of importance which happened some three years and seven months after. Antiochus may have died seven months after the news arrived of the reconsecration of the temple; but we have no data. As above stated, the death of Antiochus wrought but little alteration in the condition of the Jews. If we regard the days as literal days, there is one period that nearly coincides with the twelve hundred and ninety days—our Lord’s ministry upon the earth. It is difficult to understand how our Lord’s commencing his ministry was the removing of the daily sacrifice. Yet in the “heavenlies” it might be so. Further, we sometimes reckon “from” a period to come, as we can say, “We are yet—weeks from harvest, midsummer, or Christmas.” So the Crucifixion as the fulfilment of all the sacrifices of the Law may be regarded as their removal. Certainly in his crucifixion was the real abomination which maketh desolate set up. It suits the next verse. From our Lord’s crucifixion to his ascension there would be exactly forty-five days if, as is commonly believed, his ascension, as his resurrection, took place on a Sunday. This, however, is merely a thought thrown out. If we take the date indcated by our Lord, the war against the Jews, dating from Vespasian’s march to Ptolemais in the beginning of A.D. 67 to the capture of the temple and the cessation of the daily sacrifice (Josephus, ‘Bell. Jud.,’ vi. 2. 1), is not far off twelve hundred and ninety days. From this to the final capture of the city is close upon forty-five days. If we, however, take a day for a year, then another series of possible solutions are before us, all more or less faulty. One has the merit of postponing the solution to a date still future. The capture of Jerusalem by the Arabs in A.D. 637 is made the starting-point; if we add to that twelve hundred and ninety years, we have A.D. 1927. The Mohammedan power may have fallen by that time; anything may have happened then. All these various solutions, all more or less unsatisfactory, prove that no solution is possible.”

This is not an imaginary problem and should concern any serious student of the Bible. The ‘rationalist’ school of interpretation which began to rise in the 19th century and exists today in many universities and seminaries teaches that the book of Daniel is in fact a forgery written by a second century BC Jew living during the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes. They believe that the author of Daniel ‘guessed’ at the fate of Antiochus and ‘got it wrong’! Thus, to them, these time periods of 1290 and 1335 days are nothing more than the failed speculations of a prophetic pretender.

Now, there are those who will contend that the solution which I am about to offer is nothing more than my own ‘opinion’, ‘private interpretation’, or just one more wild speculation. I will let the reader judge. I cannot change anyone’s mind, but in light of the attempts at interpretation mentioned above, I ask that you open your hearts and minds and prayerfully consider what follows.

I believe the solution to 1290 and 1335 days of Daniel 12:11-12 to be as follows:

1) Jesus has the final say on what the ‘abomination of desolation’ is. This abomination is mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 24, and Mark 13, and by cross reference is defined in Luke 21.

The surrounding of Jerusalem by armies in the first century and its subsequent desolation at the hands of the Romans is referred to by Jesus as ‘the abomination of desolation’. This is as solid a scriptural fact as can be determined and should be beyond dispute. Since the 1290 and 1335 days of Daniel 12:11-12 commence in some way from this epoch, then any proper interpretation must deal honestly with this fact.

Comparing Matthew 24 with Luke 21:

Mat 24:15-16 “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) (16) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains” 

Luk 21:20-21 “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains” 

2) ALL passages which refer to the ‘abomination of desolation’ concern the Jewish nation and NOT the Christian Church. The prophecies in Daniel and the gospels clearly refer to the ‘taking away of the daily sacrifice’, the destruction of the Jewish temple, and the desolation of Jerusalem.

Since the 1290 and 1335 ‘days’ of Daniel 12 are connected with these events, then these also concern the Jewish nation, and not the Christian church. Any attempt to properly interpret these periods must deal with this fact.

3) We must then look for specific and not vague fulfillments of these time periods in the history of the Jewish people and the city of Jerusalem.

4) We will reckon the 1290 and 1335 ‘days’ of Daniel 12 as so many years based on the precedent of the ‘seventy weeks’ prophecy of Daniel 9, in which 70 weeks were equal to 70 ‘weeks’ of years, or 490 years, as is the nearly unanimous opinion of most interpreters.

5) Logically then, the time periods reckoned as 1290 and 1335 years, cover centuries of history and in some way mark events in the desolation of Jerusalem and the fate of the Jewish people, the beginning of which is connected with the destruction and desolation of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans as prophesied by Jesus. Read the rest of this entry »