Grammatical Misreadings

Daniel 925 basic

Oh, No!  Not a Grammar Lesson!

As an English Professor and a Writing and Composition teacher, I found that some of the worst problems students had writing correct standard English essays related to pronoun errors, of which there are many different kinds. For example, the following sentence contains a pronoun problem,”My professors, Dr. Walden and (her/she), both require midterm examinations.”  Which pronoun is correct?

Another pronoun problem is a vague or ambiguous pronoun reference:  “Aiden was constantly bullying Kaden because he felt superior to everyone.” The pronoun “he” in this sentence is difficult to interpret.  Does the pronoun refer to Aiden?  Does it refer to Kaden? 

Of course, in conversation, if the listener is uncertain of a pronoun’s meaning, usually that person shows a questioning expression or asks for clarity.  These remedies cannot occur in a written text, however, for the author is probably not present to offer explanations.

Other pronoun problems have to do with pronoun case (I/me, they/them, etc.) or plurality (singular or plural).

For example, the sentence “Somebody left their credit card on the table in the restaurant,” has faulty pronoun  agreement.  The word “somebody” is singular, but the pronoun that refers to this word is plural, their. This kind of error is very common in conversation, in formal speeches, and even on television, with news and sports broadcasters continually using the wrong pronoun.

Once again, we are accustomed to this kind of error in informal conversation, but the problem occurs when students write the way they talk, leading to misreadings and misunderstandings in a written text.  

Based on our own language practices and conventions which may often be imprecise or incorrect, we may often misread a written text because of our own misunderstandings of how language works.

A Grammatical Misreading

One prophetic passage in the Book of Daniel contains a passage that has been not only misread, I believe, but also misinterpreted, leading to a number of false teachings that are not only distracting, but also even blasphemous, perhaps.  This is the passage:

“Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.  And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.” (Daniel 9:24-27)

This passage has been used by many Bible teachers to conclude that “the prince who is to come” is the “Anti-Christ,” who will bring an end to Temple sacrifices in the middle of the future Tribulation period in a  rebuilt Temple, ultimately bringing about a complete destruction of the Holy Place.  These events all occur during the seven-year “week,” or seven years, that ends the Tribulation period.

The passage is interpreted to mean that this “prince” will make a covenant with Israel for seven years, but in the middle of the seven years he will break the covenant and bring about the end of all sacrifices and lead the world to a complete destruction, to be followed by Christ’s Second Coming.  This is a false conclusion, I believe, because of what the rest of the Scriptures relate about Christ’s sacrifice.

The Problem Pronoun

The problem in the verse is derived from the pronoun “he” in the beginning of verse 27:  “And he will make a firm covenant…”

Does this pronoun refer to Messiah the Prince, or does it refer to the “prince who is to come” who will destroy the city and the sanctuary?

The Bible commentaries are clearly divided, all because of this ambiguous pronoun.  Even some translations of the Bible into English compound the misunderstandings, writing into their versions their own views of the pronoun’s meaning.

Usually, in Standard English grammar, which describes how the language works in its correct form, the pronoun refers to the  noun that is closest to the noun it is substituting for in order to avoid ambiguity.  This would mean that the “prince who is to come” is the one intended.  

Using this method doesn’t work for the Hebrew language, however, since its meanings do not depend on word order like English.  Hebrew  is an “inflected” language, which means that the order of the words does not determine the meaning. Instead, changes in the forms of the words, usually the endings, are made to reflect meanings.  As a result, the meaning is the same even when the word order changes.   

Discovering the correct interpretation of a Scriptural passage means not just considering grammatical rules, but also the full scope of the Word of God, particularly the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.  A number of significant scriptural interpretations must be brought forth to understand this passage completely.

First of all, there is nothing in Gabriel’s message in Daniel 9 to lead to the conclusion that a two-thousand year interval comes between the 69th and 70th weeks in the prophecy.  If it did, this gap obviously would means that the Temple would have to be rebuilt and sacrifices would need to be re-instituted in order for the “prince who is to come, the “Anti-Christ” to destroy them.  These are both conditions that dispensationalist teachers believe must occur soon.  Instead, all of the conditions listed in verse 24 (“to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place“) must wait until future events transpire in present-day Israel.  However, all of these conditions were completed when Jesus said “It is finished” when He was dying on the cross.

Second, the Scriptures are clear concerning how the sacrifices in the Temple ended.  When Christ was crucified, the “veil of the Temple” (Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45) was “rent” or torn, referring to the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple.  This veil was vital in the structure of the Temple, for it was not only formidable (according to Early Jewish tradition the Temple veil was as thick as a man’s hand, although this measurement may be an exaggeration), but also symbolic of the separation between God and humanity.  Due to Christ’s sacrifice, therefore, this veil was no longer necessary to demonstrate this separation.  Instead, the division between God and humanity no longer existed, again as a result of Christ’s final sacrifice.  The Apostle Paul explains it this way: 

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),  and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  (Ephesians 2:4-6) 

Why would God want sacrifices reintroduced in another Temple when His own Son, Jesus, was the perfect sacrifice for sin?

Third, the sacrifices offered under the Old Covenant were only a shadow of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice; therefore, they were all inadequate, as it says in Hebrews: 

For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.  Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins?  But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year.  For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (Hebrews 10:1-4)

The sacrifice made by Jesus Christ is fully sufficient, as it says later in the same chapter in Hebrews:  

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22)

Even to suggest that sacrifices and offerings in a rebuilt Temple in the upcoming years will be the fulfillment of God’s plan for Israel is a false teaching, therefore.  Instead, this is a more correct interpretation of verses 26 and 27 in Daniel 9: 

Then after the sixty-two weeks [the 69th week, which is 7 plus 62] the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come [most likely the future Roman Emperor Titus in A.D. 70] will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. And Messiah the Prince will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week [the 31/2 years of Christ’s public ministry] He will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate [again Titus], even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.

What must we believe?

This interpretation ultimately simplifies all of the elaborate schemes, schedules, charts, and continually revised predictions of the dispensationalist teachings. 

First, we must see that there is no Seven-year Tribulation in the future, merely the continued times of tribulation that Jesus promised His followers:  “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  

Second, our focus needs to be not on believing for a rebuilt Temple or the politics of the people living in national Israel except to pray for their salvation, that these people will be again “grafted” on to the Olive Tree that the Apostle Paul describes in Romans, Chapter 11:

And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural  branches be grafted into their own olive tree? (Romans 11:23-24)

In addition, like all of the Early Church, we too must await the coming of Jesus the Bridegroom, “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:13-14).  

This passage refers not to a “rapture” of the Church, but instead to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

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  1. Biblical Mysteries Revealed » The Kingdom of God: Revelation, Part V — July 1, 2015 @ 8:42 am

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