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The “Seventy Week Ministry” Theory

Torah Calendar News 2024
Torah Calendar News 2024

Traditional theology tells us Yeshua’s ministry lasted for some 3-1/2 years, from the season of the feasts of the seventh month (e.g., Yom Kippur) to Yeshua’s sacrifice at the Passover in the first month. As we saw before, Yeshua was probably killed on the 4th day of the week (i.e., a Wednesday), and was raised three days later, either on the Sabbath, or on the transition between the Sabbath and the first day of the week. This would fit Daniel 9:27, which tells us the Messiah was to be cut off in the middle of the week (וַחֲצִי הַשָּׁבוּעַ).

Daniel 9:24-27
24 “Seventy weeks (of years) are determined for your people and for your set-apart city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Set-apart.
25 “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. The street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times.
26 “And after the sixty-two weeks, Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined.
27 Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate.”
 (24) שָׁבֻעִים שִׁבְעִים נֶחְתַּךְ עַל עַמְּךָ וְעַל עִיר קָדְשֶׁךָ לְכַלֵּא הַפֶּשַׁע ולחתם [וּלְהָתֵם קרי] חטאות [חַטָּאת קרי] וּלְכַפֵּר עָוֹן וּלְהָבִיא צֶדֶק עֹלָמִים | וְלַחְתֹּם חָזוֹן וְנָבִיא וְלִמְשֹׁחַ קֹדֶשׁ קָדָשִׁים:
(25) וְתֵדַע וְתַשְׂכֵּל מִן מֹצָא דָבָר לְהָשִׁיב וְלִבְנוֹת יְרוּשָׁלִַם עַד מָשִׁיחַ נָגִיד שָׁבֻעִים שִׁבְעָה | וְשָׁבֻעִים שִׁשִּׁים וּשְׁנַיִם תָּשׁוּב וְנִבְנְתָה רְחוֹב וְחָרוּץ וּבְצוֹק הָעִתִּים:
(26) וְאַחֲרֵי הַשָּׁבֻעִים שִׁשִּׁים וּשְׁנַיִם יִכָּרֵת מָשִׁיחַ וְאֵין לוֹ | וְהָעִיר וְהַקֹּדֶשׁ יַשְׁחִית עַם נָגִיד הַבָּא וְקִצּוֹ בַשֶּׁטֶף וְעַד קֵץ מִלְחָמָה נֶחֱרֶצֶת שֹׁמֵמוֹת:
(27) וְהִגְבִּיר בְּרִית לָרַבִּים שָׁבוּעַ אֶחָד | וַחֲצִי הַשָּׁבוּעַ יַשְׁבִּית זֶבַח וּמִנְחָה וְעַל כְּנַף שִׁקּוּצִים מְשֹׁמֵם וְעַד כָּלָה וְנֶחֱרָצָה תִּתַּךְ עַל שֹׁמֵם

Verse 24 speaks of “seventy weeks” being determined for the Jews and for Jerusalem. Traditional scholarship tells us that this phrase refers to ‘seventy weeks of years’, or seventy times seven years (490 years). Then, as we also explain in the Nazarene Israel study, when verse 25 then speaks of “seven weeks and sixty-two weeks”, it refers to sixty nine ‘weeks of years’, or 483 years. This was how many years there would be from the time when the Jews returned from the Exile in Babylon until “Messiah the Prince” (Yeshua) would come.

According to most historical accounts, the command for the Jews to return to Babylon was given in approximately 457 BCE. After four hundred and ninety years we reach approximately 26 CE, which is when many scholars believe Yeshua’s ministry began. The question at hand, however, is whether Yeshua’s ministry lasted for three-and-a-half years, or whether it lasted only for seventy weeks. Both sides make a good argument.

Proponents of a three-and-one-half year ministry tell us that when verse 27 tells us that Yeshua would make a covenant for one week, it meant seven years (seven being a number signifying perfection, and completion). However, when Yeshua was cut off in the middle of the week (bringing and end to sacrifice and offering in the Temple), it meant not only that He was killed on the 4th day of the week, but also that He was cut off at the 3-1/2 year mark of what should have been a seven-year ministry.

Daniel 9:27
27 Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.

However, there is also a case to be made for a seventy week ministry. The themes of ‘seventy’ and ‘seven’ run all throughout Scripture, with Yeshua even using the phrase ‘seventy times seven’ to illustrate the concept of perfection with (regards to forgiveness).

Mattityahu (Matthew) 18:21-22
21 Then Kepha (Peter) came to Him and said, “Adon, how often shall my brother sin against me,
and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
22 Yeshua said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

Some scholars feel it makes more sense that Yeshua’s ministry lasted seventy weeks, than three-and-one-half years. In order to demonstrate their argument, we will follow the chronology in the Book of Yochanan (John).

In John Chapter One we meet Yochanan HaMatbil (John the Immerser/John the Baptist), who testifies that Yeshua is the Son of Elohim. As we will see later, this is probably the same general timeframe that Yeshua was immersed, and that the Spirit descended upon Him, and His ministry began.

Yochanan (John) 1:29-34
29 The next day Yochanan saw Yeshua coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of Elohim who takes away the sin of the world!
30 This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’
31 I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”
32 And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him.
33 I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Ruach HaQodesh (Holy Spirit).’
34 And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of Elohim.”

We know from the synoptic accounts (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) that Yeshua was then in the wilderness forty days and forty nights. However, according to the Seventy Week Ministry Theory, the sequence of events follows the feasts, and progresses quickly.

At the start of John Chapter Two, Yeshua turns water into wine and then goes to Kephar Nahum (Capernaum) for a few days.

Yochanan (John) 2:12
12 After this He went down to Capernaum, He, His mother, His brothers, and His disciples; and they did not stay there many days.

Next, Yeshua went up to Jerusalem for the Passover.

Yochanan (John) 2:13
13 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Yeshua went up to Jerusalem.

Yeshua stays in the Jerusalem area all during John Chapter Two, and is still in Jerusalem in John Chapter Three. There He meets with Nicodemus, and explains that one needs to be born again spiritually.

Yochanan (John) 3:1-3
1 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
2 This man came to Yeshua by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from Elohim; for no one can do these signs that You do unless Elohim is with him.”
3 Yeshua answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of Elohim.”

In John Chapter Four, Yeshua leaves Jerusalem and heads north for the Galilee by way of Samaria. It is at this time He meets the Woman at the Well.

Yochanan (John) 4:3-6
3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee.
4 But He needed to go through Samaria.
5 So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.
6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Yeshua therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

Yeshua then witnesses to the townspeople for two more days, and then departs.

Yochanan (John) 4:43
43 Now after the two days He departed from there and went to Galilee.

Once Yeshua reaches the Galilee, He performs two miracles, including raising a certain nobleman’s dead son.

Yochanan (John) 4:52-54
52 Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.”
53 So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Yeshua said to him, “Your son lives.” And he himself believed, and his whole household.
54 This again is the second sign Yeshua did when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.

Then in Chapter Five it is time for the next feast, which according to the Seventy Week Ministry Theory would have been Shavuot (Pentecost).

Yochanan (John) 5:1
1 After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Yeshua went up to Jerusalem.

Proponents of a three-and-one-half year ministry dispute that this was Pentecost. They emphasize that Scripture does not say which feast this was. This becomes a critical point in John Chapter Six, where most Greek translations (and also the Peshitta) tell us that it was almost time for the Passover.

Yochanan (John) 6:4-6
4 Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near.
5 Then Yeshua lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?”
6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.

If it was feast time, ordinarily we would expect to see Yeshua heading for Jerusalem. Traditional scholarship tells us the reason Yeshua did not go up to Jerusalem was that the Pharisees were seeking to kill Him, and it was not yet His time to be sacrificed. However, this is precisely the point where proponents of a Seventy Week Ministry take issue. Those advocating a Seventy Week Ministry agree that the Pharisees were seeking Yeshua’s life (see John 7:1), but they also point out that verse 4 does not exist in many of the most ancient Greek texts. Therefore they argue that it does not belong there, and it cannot be used as the foundation for doctrine. (John 6:4 does appear in the Peshitta: however, at the time of this writing, while I believe in a Semitic inspiration, I no longer believe that the Peshitta is the originally inspired text.)

It seems plausible that John 6:4 was added to the text later. There are other known and suspected alterations and emendations to Scripture, both in the Tanach (the ‘Old Covenant’) and the Brit Chadasha (the Renewed Covenant). Some other known or suspected passages that are absent in some of the most ancient manuscripts include Mark 16:9-20, John 7:53-8:11, 1st John 5:7-8, and others. Further, if one removes the reference to the Passover at John 6:4 the Seventy Week Ministry Theory seems to make perfect sense: John appears to be chronicling Yeshua’s ministry after the timing of the Israelite feasts.

If John 6:4 originally read “Now a feast of the Jews was near”, could that feast have been Yom Teruah (the Day of Trumpets)? And if so, then could it be that the Transfiguration on the Mount took place ten days later (on Yom Kippur)?

Marqaus (Mark) 9:1-6
1 And He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of Elohim present with power.”
2 Now after six days Yeshua took Kepha, Yaakov and Yochanan, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them.
3 His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them.
4 And Eliyahu (Elijah) appeared to them with Moshe (Moses), and they were talking with Yeshua.
5 Then Kepha answered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moshe, and one for Eliyahu” —
6 because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid.

And is it possible that the reason Kepha suggested that they make three tabernacles in Galilee was because the Pharisees in Jerusalem sought to kill Him, and it was not yet His time to be sacrificed?

Yochanan (John) 7:1-2
1 After these things Yeshua walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him.
2 Now the Jews’ Feast of Tabernacles was at hand.

John then tells us that Yeshua went up to the feast, but in secret (John 7:10). Upon His arrival, Yeshua breaks a large number of rabbinic ‘fence laws’ (tachanot and Ma’asei) by healing people on the Sabbath. Because Yeshua breaks these man-made fence laws (without ever breaking Yahweh’s Torah), the Pharisees wrongly declared that He was not of Elohim, since in the Pharisaic/Orthodox mind, breaking rabbinic tradition is the same as breaking Yahweh’s Torah.

Yochanan (John) 9:13-16
13 They brought him who formerly was blind to the Pharisees.
14 Now it was a Sabbath when Yeshua made the clay and opened his eyes.
15 Then the Pharisees also asked him again how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.”
16 Therefore some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from Elohim, because He does not keep the Sabbath.”

A few months later it is time for the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah). Yeshua goes up to Jerusalem, and shows that He is the light of the world.

Yochanan (John) 10:22
22 Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter.

So far the sequence has been following the feasts. Now Yeshua gets ready to go up to Jerusalem for the final Passover, at which He is offered up in sacrifice.

Yochanan (John) 11:55-57
55 And the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went from the country up to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves.
56 Then they sought Yeshua, and spoke among themselves as they stood in the temple, “What do you think — that He will not come to the feast?”
57 Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a command, that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it, that they might seize Him.

The concept that John chronicled a seventy week period of time, following the feasts as milestones seems to make a lot of sense, provided that John 6:4 is understood to be a later addition to the text.

Yochanan (John) 6:4-6
4 Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near.
5 Then Yeshua lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?”
6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.

But why would anyone alter Scripture? What would be their motivation? Consider that if John 6:4 was added to the text, then it would not only strengthen the idea of a three-and-one-half year ministry, but it would also seem to support the idea that Yeshua did not keep the Torah. The Torah commands all males to go up to Jerusalem three times a year (e.g., Deuteronomy 16), and if Yeshua had stayed in the Galilee during the Feast of the Passover, then He would have given us all an example of knowingly violating the Torah, proving that the Torah was not really all that important (Elohim forbid).

While the ‘Seventy Weeks’ concept is very appealing, it is not without challenges. As we saw earlier in the chapter on the Jubilees, Luke 3:21-23 tells us that Yeshua’s ministry began shortly after He was immersed, when He was about thirty years of age.

Luqa (Luke) 3:21-23
21 When all the people were immersed, it came to pass that Yeshua also was immersed; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened.
22 And the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”
23 Now Yeshua Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age….

In Judaism, it is traditional to take a mikveh (immerse or ‘baptise’ oneself) just before Yom Kippur, as Yom Kippur is the most set-apart day of the year. Notice also that Yom Kippur falls only five days before the feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles). As we show in the chapter on Hanukkah, Yeshua was probably born on the first day of the Feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles). If Yeshua’s immersion took place the day before Yom Kippur, then Yeshua would have been “about thirty years of age” when He began His ministry. However, it takes a minimum of seventy-three, and easily seventy-six weeks to go from Yom Kippur one year to Passover two years later, depending on the sighting of the Aviv barley and the new moons.

Further, Daniel 9:24 says nothing about Yeshua’s ministry lasting for seventy weeks, and there are no obvious prophetic implications for a ‘Seventy Week’ ministry. Daniel only says there would be seventy weeks of years in between the time the command went forth to rebuild Jerusalem (circa 457 BCE), until Messiah the Prince appeared and began His ministry: it says nothing about its duration.

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