The Middle of the Week
Daniel 9:27 speaks of the final “week” in which the Messiah would make a covenant with “the many.” We then learn that “in the middle of the week He will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering.” Many theorize that this refers to an “Antichrist” putting a stop to the sacrifices against the will of God. They point to the examples of Antiochus Epiphanes in 168 B.C. and also the Romans in 70 A.D., whose destruction of the temple put an end to sacrifice.
But this prophecy is about the seventieth week in Daniel from 26-33 A.D. During that time, the animal sacrifices were not interrupted in the temple. The cessation of sacrifice, then, was something that God decreed from the divine court—not something that actually occurred on earth.
The week started with the Spring feasts in 26 A.D. The middle of the week, or 3½ years later, was the time of the Autumn feasts in 29 A.D. It so happened that Jesus was baptized by John at that time to begin His ministry. The date of Jesus’ baptism cannot be established by any direct statement in Scripture or in history. We must date it according to the time that John’s short ministry began, because John was about six months older than Jesus.
When the angel told Mary that she was to be impregnated by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35), he also told her that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant “in her sixth month” (Luke 1:36). John was born about the time of Passover the following year, and Jesus was born on the feast of Trumpets later that same year (2 B.C.).
Thirty years later, John began to minister as a full-fledged rabbi (John 3:26). The date of his ministry is given in Luke 3:1, 2,
1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, 2 in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness.
The Reign of Tiberius
The reign of Tiberius Caesar is very well known to historians. Tiberius was the adopted son of Augustus Caesar. Augustus died on August 19, 14 A.D. precisely 56 years (to the day) since the beginning of his political career, which began on August 19, 43 B.C. The coincidence of dying on the 56th anniversary of his political career made the date of his death notable to many historians of that time.
Even so, there are some today who try to date Tiberius’ reign a few years earlier by citing his co-regency while Augustus was old. But Tiberius never attempted to establish the start of his reign before the death of Augustus. The coins of the day, bearing Tiberius’ picture, are all dated to show that the year of Tiberius’ reign began with the death of Augustus in 14 A.D.
So the 15th year of Tiberius is from August of 28 to August of 29 A.D. John began to minister when he turned thirty in April (Passover) of 29. Six months later, when Jesus turned thirty (Luke 3:23), He came to John to be baptized. This was in September of 29 A.D.
The Birth of Jesus
If Jesus reached thirty years of age six months after John’s thirtieth birthday, then He was born in September of 2 B.C. Can we prove that this was the year of His birth? Yes, most certainly, both by astronomy and by history.
The common mistake is to say that He was born in 4 B.C., when, in fact, it was impossible for Him to be born in that year. The mistake was perpetuated by a footnote in the writings of Josephus, where Josephus tells us that about two weeks before Herod died, he dismissed Matthias from the high priesthood and executed a rebellious rabbi by the same name (Matthias). Josephus tells us in Antiquities of the Jews, XVII, vi, 4,
“But Herod deprived this Matthias of the high priesthood and burnt the other Matthias, who had raised the sedition, with his companions, alive. And that very night there was an eclipse of the moon.”
The editor’s incorrect footnote (from the 1800’s) reads:
“The eclipse of the moon (which is the only eclipse of either of the luminaries mentioned by Josephus in any of his writings) is of the greatest consequence for the determination of the time for the death of Herod an Antipater, and for the birth and entire chronology of Jesus Christ. It happened March 13th, in the year of the Julian period 4710, and the fourth year before the Christian era.”
Unfortunately, the editor applied this event to the wrong eclipse. We know that Herod died shortly afterward, allowing Joseph and Mary to return from Egypt not long after Herod had killed the children in Bethlehem. But if Herod truly had died in late March of 4 B.C., as the editor suggests, then how could it be said that Jesus was born six months later toward the end of the year 4 B.C.?
If Herod died in March of 4 B.C., then he would not have been alive to kill the children in Bethlehem many months later after Jesus was born. So Jesus was not born in 4 B.C., and neither was the eclipse of March 13, 4 B.C. the one where Herod deposed the high priest and burnt the other Matthias at the stake for sedition.
We must find another lunar eclipse that fits the history. That eclipse occurred on January 9, 1 B.C.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem 3½ months earlier in September of 2 B.C. Joseph and Mary remained in Bethlehem for three months, and then the Magi arrived bearing gifts from afar. The next day the Magi returned to their country by another way, and Joseph took his family to Egypt to protect Jesus from the wrath of Herod. They fled to Egypt in late December of 2 B.C., and Herod immediately killed the children in Bethlehem. Two weeks later, he executed Matthias on January 9.
Even as Moses was three months old when he was taken into the house of Pharaoh for his protection (Exodus 2:2), so also was Jesus taken to Egypt for his protection at the same age.
The point is that if Jesus had been born in September of 4 B.C., then He would have turned thirty years of age in September of 27. He would have been baptized by John in the 17th year of Tiberius, and He would have been crucified 3½ years later in April of 31 A.D. But none of this was true. Jesus was born on the feast of Trumpets, September 29, 2 B.C. For further evidence of this, see my book, When REALLY Was Jesus Born?
Since Jesus was born in September of 2 B.C., then He came to John for baptism shortly after His 30th birthday in September of 29 A.D. (Keep in mind that there was no “year zero” when our modern calendar was invented in 526 A.D. They went directly from 1 B.C. to 1 A.D. Hence, Jesus turned thirty in 29, not in 28 A.D.)
The Sacrifices Cease in the Middle of the Week
When Jesus came to John for baptism, He was presented as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). This was John’s great revelation which he decreed from the divine court. That decree put an end to animal sacrifice, at least from a legal standpoint. Of course, the priests on earth remained unaware of the heavenly decree, and so they continued sacrificing until 70 A.D., when the Roman War put an end to their sacrifices.
Gabriel’s revelation about the middle of the week was not a statement about the common practice in the temple, but was a revelation about a decree issued by the divine court. Gabriel’s main purpose in speaking to Daniel was to reveal decrees. The seventy weeks began with a decree to rebuild Jerusalem in 458 B.C. It ended with a decree establishing the New Covenant in 33 A.D. The middle of the final week (Sept., 29 A.D.) established a decree to end animal sacrifice.
History itself shows us how to interpret this event in the middle of the last week. By studying history, we find that Jesus was baptized at that time. Baptism is a type of death and resurrection, as Paul shows in Rom. 6:3. Jesus’ baptism presented the Lamb of God, who was to be killed as the final Sacrifice 3½ years later. In that sense He was to be inspected until the fourth day, for every Passover lamb was inspected for four days before being killed on the preparation day for Passover (Exodus 12:3, 6).
So also God gave the nation four years to inspect their Passover Lamb and to come to a decision as to whether He was suitable or not. This is the underlying purpose of the last half of the seventieth week.
The Day of Atonement
When we study the laws regarding the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16, we find that Jesus was fulfilling those prophecies on the day He was baptized. We understand that Jesus turned thirty on the feast of Trumpets (7/1), and on the Day of Atonement (7/10) He came to John for baptism.
The Day of Atonement runs parallel to the feast of Passover. In this case it is noteworthy that the Passover lambs were selected on the tenth day of the first month, while the two goats were selected on the tenth day of the seventh month. In this case Jesus was selected on the Day of Atonement and was baptized by John while the priests were killing the first goat in the temple. His baptism also was the moment He was selected to be killed 3½ years later at Passover.
After His baptism, “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matt. 4:1). This was in accordance with the law’s instructions regarding the second goat on the Day of Atonement. Whereas the first goat was to be killed, the second was to be led into the wilderness “for Azazel,” for Lev. 16:8 literally reads,
8 And Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats, one lot for Yahweh and the other lot for Azazel.
Azazel literally means “goat god.” Azaz means “goat,” and el means “god.” It is a satyr, or faun, pictured as half man and half goat. The only reason it has been translated “scapegoat” is because the translators did not understand its prophecy, nor did they connect it to Jesus who was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. The law itself offers no explanation for this, so it was hardly possible to know how this prophecy should be fulfilled until Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
Jesus’ baptism, then, was designed to present Him as the first goat “for Yahweh.” When the Spirit led Him into the wilderness “for Azazel,” Jesus was sent there to be tempted by the devil. Lev. 16:21 says that the second goat was to be sent into the wilderness “by the hand of a man who stands in readiness.” The KJV reads, “by the hand of a fit man.” The Hebrew word translated “fit” or “in readiness” is ittiy, which means “timely, ready.” The root word is eth, which is usually translated “time” and sometimes “season.”
In other words, the man who was to lead the second goat into the wilderness was one who was on time, and his actions prophesied of a precise time that the Messiah would also be led into the wilderness “for Azazel.” Timing was important, and so the Messiah fulfilled this prophecy in a timely manner when the Holy Spirit (the “fit man”) led Him into the wilderness.
When He was baptized, Jesus was thirty years and ten days old. In fulfilling the prophecy as the first goat, He was presented as the One who would die for the sins of the people as the final Sacrifice. As the first goat, He also cleansed the sanctuary when He brought His own blood into the sanctuary in heaven, even as the high priest had brought the blood of the first goat into the Most Holy Place to reconcile the sanctuary. Lev. 16:20 says,
20 When he finishes atoning for the holy place, and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall offer the live goat.
In other words, the blood of the first goat was used to make atonement for the sanctuary. But as it turned out, as Heb. 9:24 tells us, this was fulfilled in the temple in heaven, rather than the temple in Jerusalem. It was done legally at Jesus’ baptism, and it was concluded at the time of Jesus’ actual death and resurrection.
After being baptized to fulfill the prophecy of the first goat, Jesus was then led into the wilderness to fulfill the prophecy of the second goat. His baptism caused a decree from heaven to end animal sacrifices in favor of the greater Sacrifice. His forty-day temptation in the wilderness foreshadowed the forty Jubilee cycles in which the Church would be tempted in the centuries that followed.