Daniel 9:24-27 takes us from rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls through the coming of the Messiah. When did the rebuilding of Jerusalem begin? Nehemiah 2:1 records that the Persian King, Artaxerxes, gave Nehemiah permission to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in the “year 20” of his reign. Establishing exactly when this happened has created confusion for over 2,000 years.
The first universal history of mankind by Diodorus of Sicily in his Library of History records Artaxerxes coming to the throne of all of the Persian kingdom in 464 BC. It now seems firmly established from historical Persian Empire texts, that Diodorus was correct. King Xerxes, Artaxerxes Father, was assassinated in August 464 BC and Artaxerxes succeeded him by December. Using this date, Artaxerxes twentieth year would be 444 BC. However, this date does not point forward to the ministry of Jesus and the ten-year gap has created considerable mischief – including the “7 years of tribulation.”
With the correct date that recognizes the 20th year of Artaxerxes as 454 BC, the 70th week of Daniel runs from autumn 29 AD to autumn 36 AD. How is this problem of using 444 BC vs. 454 BC resolved?
Evidence comes from a Greek writer who was a contemporary of Nehemiah. He describes the escape to Persian-controlled Asia Minor (Turkey) of a Greek traitor named Themistocles: Thucydides, Peloponnesian Wars 1.137: “…he
Artaxerxes was the local Persian ruler, whose territory included Jerusalem. Themistocles was ostracized somewhere between 476 BC and 471 BC. “We may say that to place the ostracism of Themistocles in the period between 476/5 and 471/0 receives strong support from the ancient testimony and an intelligent understanding… I should not press the synchronism more closely than this.” [Lenardon, Zeitschrift Für Alte Geschichte (1959)] Other scholars have more narrowly placed this as between 474 and 472 [Ure, J. of Hellenic Studies, (1921)] Recently M. Steinbrecher (1985) has further established an accepted chronological frame-work consistent with the date 474 BC for Artaxerxes becoming the ruler of a Persian territory which included Jerusalem.
Both Nehemiah and Thucydides would begin counting 474 BC as Artaxerxes advancement to power, hence, his twentieth year would be 454 BC. There is no “seven weeks of tribulation” gap – all 70th week concluded with our Lord’s ministry, Christ was “cut-off” by crucifixion in the midst of the week, but through God’s grace, an additional 3 ½ years of special favor was given to the Jews before Cornelius became the first Gentile convert.
Note: The man of sin and the antichrist are referring to the same system, a counterfeit Christ. Great reformers like Wycliffe, Hus, Luther, and Tyndale believed the papacy system (no one person) was the antichrist. Papacy had already tortured and killed hundreds of thousands of believers. It was not until the Catholic Counter-Reformation that the Jezuit priest Francisco Ribera (in 1590) popularized the idea that one single man would be the antichrist and that he would come in the future.