Daniel’s End Times Prediction: Take Two

Daniel’s End Times Prediction: Take Two March 27, 2014

Daniel Prophecy 70 WeeksWait a minute—another interpretation of Daniel 9? This is apparently a pretty malleable text, which doesn’t give much confidence in clear and unambiguous prophecy in the Bible.

In fact, it’s worse than that. Wikipedia has a long list of scholars and amateurs (expand the “List of Historicist Biblical Expositors”) who weighed in with their interpretation of the evidence. This has been fertile ground for the imaginative Christian for two millennia.

(For the first Christian interpretation of Daniel 9 go here, and for the first post in this series, go here.)

Christian interpretation #2

This is the Dispensationalist interpretation (which gets into the Rapture, premillennialism, Revelation as prophecy, and so on). I summarized Daniel 9:24–7 in a previous post, so go there if you need a refresher on the steps in that prophecy.

With this interpretation, start the clock with the Decree of Artaxerxes to rebuild the Temple given to Nehemiah in 444 BCE (Nehemiah 2:1–8). If we count ahead as before using the 7 weeks + 62 weeks (–444 + 483 + 1 = 40 CE), the final week would be 40–47 CE. This is obviously too late to align with any popular dates.

The clever (or desperate) solution is to declare a “prophetic year” to be twelve 30-day months, creating a 360-day year. Supporters defend this by pointing to several verses where round numbers are used (42 months are equated with 1260 days, for example).

If this is correct, our years have been too long. They need to be scaled by 360 (days in a “prophetic year”) divided by 365.25 (days in a Julian year). Our 483-year jump is now only 476 years, and the final week begins in 33 CE. If we say that Jesus died in this year, we have the Anointed One dying at the right time (again assuming that we can add 7 weeks to the 62 weeks).

But what about that final week? Proponents of this hypothesis imagine an unspecified amount of time before this Tribulation Period starts, though the prophecy says nothing about this. If we allow this, however, the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE can explain the reference to destruction. But that has its own problems: the “ruler who will come” who destroyed the Temple is the one in the final week, so the Tribulation must’ve already happened in the first century, which means no rapture or tribulation in our own future.

Some proponents go so far as to imagine that this prophecy accurately predicts the crucifixion to the day. To those prophecy enthusiasts, I ask if anyone decoded the puzzle before the event. If it’s clear to you, some of the smart Jews of that time must’ve figured it out. They had almost five centuries, after all. And if not, I wonder what possible use this undecipherable prophecy could’ve had. (For a detailed slap-down of this claim of to-the-day accuracy, I refer you to Sandoval.)

But this interpretation don’t work so good either

Problem 1: We still have the initial verse saying that the atonement is at the end of 70 weeks. Christian theology says that the death of Jesus is the atonement, but this interpretation of Daniel demands that the final week is still in our future.

Problem 2: The “prophetic year” is nonsense. The Jewish calendar alternates between 29- and 30-day months, giving a 354-day year, and it has a complicated mechanism that adds months to keep it in sync with the solar year. Yes, there are Bible verses that give time spans of days that, if precise, would point to a 30-day month. No, there is no reason to think that a special, grossly wrong calendar was ever used. Do those who argue for the prophetic year use it to calculate the millennium as only 985 years? Do they scale time periods used in other prophecies? Consistency, please.

Problem 3: A floating final week isn’t what the prophecy says. There was no gap after the 7 weeks; why imagine one after the 62 weeks (I mean, besides that you’re trying to shoehorn the facts into your presuppositions)?

And most of the problems from the previous attempt apply as well. It makes no sense of the 7 week/62 week distinction, there is no justification for picking this start date out of the alternatives, and it ignores the evidence in Daniel that the final week was roughly 171–164 BCE.

Looking back to Daniel chapters 11–12, the prophecy discussed earlier, we saw the same idea of half of a 7-year period. Clearly, chapter 9 is yet one more interpretation of the same time period, and we need to bring in Antiochus Epiphanes, the Seleucid Snidely Whiplash.

Reinterpreting the end as being during the time of the Maccabean Revolt makes a lot more sense of the text. We’ll do that next time.

 To surrender to ignorance and call it God
has always been premature,
and it remains premature today.
— Isaac Asimov

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  • David Chumney

    I started reading Daniel 9 while I was in college many years ago, at a time when my religious beliefs remained very traditional. In a religion course that focused on the apocalyptic literature of the Bible, I wrote my term paper on the “Seventy Weeks” of Daniel 9, comparing different Christian interpretations. As our professor introduced us to the historical-critical approach to the Bible, I soon discovered that all of these later Christian re-interpretations of the text had simply ignored what it had meant in its original context. That was a very important milestone in my life, and I will always remain grateful to that professor for taking the time and making the effort to help us understand the methods of historical criticism. You’re doing for readers here what that professor did for us years ago. Keep up the good work!

    • 🙂

    • Thin-ice

      Now, David, we can’t have that kind of nonsense creeping into our analysis of Daniel 9. Otherwise, all those 40-foot panoramas of the End Times that John Hagee puts up behind him as he preaches will be completely wasted. (Kind of like John Hagee himself!)

  • RichardSRussell

    Why is it that I find myself far more intrigued by the unlikely friendship between Legolas and Gimli son of Gloin than by this tedious piece of badly written fiction?

  • Pofarmer

    As you said, they would add a month to balance the calendar. Calendars, after all, were set off the equinoxes. It’s probably the oldest way of telling time there is, and much ancient architecture used it.

  • Pofarmer

    Middle boy gets in my truck after school today. 7th grader. “Fr. X is crazy.” O.k, why? “He said a kid in St. Louis got possessed by a Oija board. Of all the dumbassed crazy, idiotic things……..” The rant went on for a while. “By the way, what’s a oija board?” So we had a little chat. He didn’t know exactly what it was, but his bullshit detector went off immediately. I was quite proud of him. Sad thing is, I’m sure his mother would be horrified. And she wonders why the kids won’t talk to her about “stuff.”

    • wtfwjtd

      Holy Moses, the religious are still pushing that BS? I remember some goober in the ’70’s and ’80’s called Mike Warrenke, who made a fat living convincing gullible religious people he used to be some Satan-priest and he spewed all kinds of nonsense stories like this. I figured it was way out of style by now, but I guess I figured wrong. Sheesh, some people will believe anything–and just look at this Daniel 9 crap, it’s just SSDD.

      • Well, yeah. ‘Cause Harry Potter is Satanic. Or magical.

        Well, whatever it is, it’s not Christian, that’s for sure.

        • Pofarmer

          Oh, this is the guy who had Harry Potter and The Hunger Games removed from the school library. Just had a bday party with our youngest. Talking to one of the moms a little about kids, and her daughter isn’t fitting in to high school very well. Well, surely, it couldn’t be because the church has the kids freaked the fuck out!

        • wtfwjtd

          So you’re saying that they use these fake demon stories to freak kids out? Wow, that IS twisted.

        • Pofarmer

          No, I just think that these kids don’t have a clue what to expect. They pray before class, they pray before lunch, they pray in the halls, they go to church every day, and then parents put them in youth group Sunday afternoons. I don’t think they know how to relate and function.

        • Pofarmer

          One of the kids in my sons class is a really sharp boy. Interested in robotics and stuff. He said he is probably going to stop watching Cosmos because it “attacks God” too much. Sar.

        • Greg G.

          If he wants to prevent kids from growing up to believe magic and witchcraft are real, he should ban the Bible.

        • wtfwjtd

          This Warrenke guy was eventually exposed as a fraud, but I don’t think it mattered much to the hard-core faithful. He said the coo-coo stories were all true, so they must be, right? Those damned liberal reporters, they started checking things and wanting silly stuff, like, ya know, *evidence* , none of which was forthcoming of course.

      • Pofarmer

        I dunno, this new group of Catholic priests is bad news. The zeal of the Evangelicals with all the supernatural crazy of the Catholics. And it seems like they have sorted for the true believers. Guy has a Doctorate of theology, and is some kind of Canon Lawyer with the diocese.

    • MNb

      Replace “possessed” by “obsessed” and it does makes some sense.

    • RichardSRussell

      You may have explained this before, but why do you send your kids to a school like that? And do they expect you to pay extra for this load of crap to boot?

      • wtfwjtd

        Richard, I think that Pofarmer is under some pressure from his significant other, who thinks it’s very important to send the kids to this school. In other words, he’s under the influence of influence.

      • Pofarmer

        Wife, Catholic,(has gotten increasingly religious) Me, moderate, presbymethyterian, O.K. Catholicism drove me batshit insane, before I became an Atheist(it’s still a hard label for me to use on myself). School started out not so bad, has gotten progressively more Catholic(bad). Public schools are a mess from a discipline standpoint. I am stuck. 13 and 14 yr olds no longer wish to be Catholic, but the boys and I can’t figure out how to break it to Mom without destroying her. So, they vent to me about school, and I try to help them, and we put off the SHTF day for a little longer.

        • busterggi

          You could offer to make supper for her and serve bbq’d baby.
          Worked for me.

        • MNb

          “it’s still a hard label for me to use on myself”
          Oh, but that’s silly. If you don’t like the label atheist then take another one. The day I went from agnost to atheist exactly nothing happened but the way I perceived myself. Labels are just labels; what matters is the content.

        • wtfwjtd

          I’ve found that labels are more important for other people than for me. For example, many times if the subject of religion comes up around here, I refer to myself as a “non-believer”. When the veracity of Christianity is the topic, I prefer to call it a “man-made religion” rather than a “false religion” or “fraud”. It doesn’t seem to rankle people quite so much.

        • MNb

          Nothing wrong with “non-believer”. Or if you like Thomas Covenant: “unbeliever”.

        • Someone had a good observation on labels. He imagined a conversation with a Christian.

          “I’m a freethinker,” he said to the Christian.

          “Me, too.”

          “OK, then I’m an agnostic. I don’t know for sure.”

          “Neither do I.”

          After trying out a few more labels with similar results–humanist, skeptic, naturalist, friend of science, etc.–he finally said: “OK: then I’m an atheist.”

          The Christian had no response. That’s our distinction. Since then, I’ve always favored “atheist” as my own label.

        • MNb

          Hmm, I probably would have asked: if you’re a skeptic, do you doubt god? If yes, why do you call yourself a christian? Similar for naturalist: if you’re a naturalist, does this mean god belongs to nature? If not, why do you call yourself a naturalist? Etc.
          I think that more interesting than stretching things like your “someone” did.

        • Yes, you could challenge their self-labeling, but the point is that “atheist” is one label they will reject all by themselves. I don’t have to argue them out of it, as I would have to do with “skeptic” or “naturalist,” for example.

          “Atheist” is the one label that they will happily leave to me, and that makes it (to me) the label to choose. There can be no confusion about what the issue is.

        • MNb

          I guess I don’t like the idea of christians deciding how I see myself and which label I use for it.

        • RichardSRussell

          Jesus, that’s fucked. You have my sincere sympathies.

          Have you ever tried pleading the poverty angle to get out of the Catholic schools simply because you’ve got other, better things you could be spending the money on? It has the great advantage of being true (since practically anything you pick would be a better use of your money than parochial-school tuition), it just doesn’t happen to be the primary motivation. But no need to mention that.

        • That’s a good point. The kids have to get out into the wide world at some point. A Catholic bubble to shield them from reality won’t work forever.

          But of course I don’t know what your public school option looks like.

      • Pofarmer

        Let me iterate a little story. about a year ago last fall, we went to see a marriage counselor. The lady is talking about our religious beliefs. At that time I had been reading Bart Ehrman and a little Richard Carrier and Robert M. Price and was still barely protestant, I suppose. Maybe could have been saved. So, anyway, we are talking about our religious beliefs and I say that one of the things that drives me crazy. is the deification of Mary by the Catholic Church. The lady says, “Well, I don’t really understand that.” And my wife starts in “Well, Mary is in heaven sitting beside Jesus and praying for us, and it’s very important that we pray to her and love her and ask for her blessings all the time.”: And the Counselor just kind of has this wide open look of “WTF just hit me?” And she looks at me. And she starts talking about how religion is really to make us feel easier about death, and……. and my wife is having none of it. So finally it comes down to, she looks at me and says “Can you respect that.” And I’m just kinda like, “Well, what else can I do.” And she asks my wife, and my wife is like, crying almost sobbing, “I don’t know, he used to believe in God and now he doesn’t and I just don’t know if I can love him any more.” And there have been instances since where she’s accused me of leading the kids toward hell, pleasant stuff like that. But, if I say anything like, “Do you really think that.:” then I’m “persecuting” her.

        • wtfwjtd

          I feel for the two of you Pofarmer, I really do. I’d be lying if I said I understand, because I don’t. I can try and put myself in your place, and it’s definitely a tough one, no doubt about that.
          I do understand, sometimes there is more to belief than we realize. For example, family can have a big influence, it’s a lot harder to get out if one has family nearby, and that family is hard core (I do understand this very well, unfortunately).
          It ain’t much, but all I can offer is, try to keep talking, and try and keep the pace slow and low-key, just taking one day at a time.

        • Pofarmer

          Thx. Her family is a little ways off, but very hard core. I didn’t realize it when we got married, but her mom goes to mass every day.

        • I usually think of more extreme Protestant sects as the source of the crazy in America, but it’s helpful to remember that Catholics have their own special brand.

        • Pofarmer

          Read Patheos Catholic for an idea of the flavor. They have been perfecting their crazy for a long time. Sorry for stealing your post. This is a unique group here.

        • No worries. Figuring out how Christians think and what they use (or not) to support those beliefs is helpful.

        • wtfwjtd

          My wife was telling me about a news article a few days ago. The report was an 8-year-old girl was kicked out of a Catholic school because she “looked and acted too much like a boy”, whatever that means. I guess she has short hair, and liked sports, and other “boy” stuff.
          I’d like to say I’m surprised, but I’m really not. When I was a kid growing up in the hard-core fundie environment, we got the full treatment–the self-loathing, you’re a dirty, rotten sinner, you’re a worthless piece of shit that’s going to burn in hell, etc etc etc. To top it off, they used this tripe from Daniel and stuff like Matt 23 to constantly remind us that Jesus was going to return,and blow up the world anyway, so there’s no need making any plans to attend college, or get married, or plan any kind of future for yourself. It’s no wonder we had very low self-esteem, and other psychological problems . It was bad enough for us, getting it 3 times a week, but if that’s what these kids are getting at school 5 days a week, that’s even worse. I really feel for them, it could take them years to de-program themselves and build any kind of self-esteem and healthy self-image. I know some kids who never were really able to shake it, who are now close to my age, who still struggle with these issues. A real tragedy, and a constant reminder to me that “religion poisons everything.”

        • Pofarmer

          I see a lot of self esteem problems in these kids. If the child is shy, it makes it worse. I can see why these school kids would be such easy pickings for the wrong priest.

        • wtfwjtd

          Ugh, I hadn’t considered that angle, a very disturbing thought indeed.

        • Pofarmer

          Yeah, there’s just so much I don’t get. My wife was off work yesterday and we were working cattle and doing various things. Anyway, I was still working out side and running around and she fixed supper early. Had to go into town to let the dog out for some friends who were out of town for the evening. I couldn’t figure out why she wanted supper done so early, or why it took her so long to let the dog out, she had left the house a little after 7:00, and didn’t get back till almost 9:00. I didn’t think much about it until this morning, then it hit me, she went to church(she’s working today.) She wanted to eat an hour before church(she didn’t quite make it) then to let the dog out and come home. At least she didn’t drag the boys along last night, so that’s progress. I dunno, my life is weird. It’s no big deal, but it’s interesting. She feels she has to sneak around to go to church. That has to be hard. But, to me, it also speaks of addictive behavior, but I don’t dare say that. Devout, and addicted, seems to me a very fine line.

        • wtfwjtd

          Absolutely no doubt, obsessive-compulsive people are drawn to religion like a moth to flame. That describes my parents perfectly when I was growing up, and sadly for me they had to pick one of the most extremist cults of protestantism around–the Nazarenes. This is par for the course though, as my experience has found since then. The more rule-bound, the more rigors and routines, the stronger the attraction for the obsessive-compulsive, even to the point of self-destruction. I don’t know where devout ends and addiction begins, but as you said, it’s a very hard distinction to make much of the time.

        • Pofarmer

          My wife’s father is really obsessive compulsive. He worked on aviation electronics for McDonnell Douglas, so it was one of those things that actually probably helped him in that career. Her Mom is very low self esteem and neurotic. This has also been passed on to some of the grand kids, probably because they are exposed to many of the same factors, in addition to any genetic factor. I think it’s pretty obvious, but get poo-pooed quickly if I mention it. And the thing is, the kids KNOW their mom is border line crazy, but they idolize her for her ‘faith”, which is probably little more than a way for her to deal with her neuroses, which very well may have been caused by that same “faith”. . There is a statue or picture of Mary in every fricking room. It’s to the point it makes me uncomfortable. I don’t know much about the Nazarenes. There is a Nazarene, compound/church about 25 miles away, but I don’t know that I’ve ever really interacted with them. We have a big 7th Day Adventist school and so forth not too far away. Some bible literalist types in town who don’t let women wear pants, A smattering of Jehova’s witnesses, bunch of Amisn and Mennonites.

        • wtfwjtd

          “they idolize her for her ‘faith”, which is probably little more than a way for her to deal with her neuroses, which very well may have been caused by that same “faith” ”

          Yes, there’s a vicious circle going there, a frightening thing to behold.

          Nazarenes were an offshoot of Methodists, the Methodists weren’t “strict” enough on certain things apparently. They didn’t go for any of the robes, or hierarchy stuff, but they retained most of the misogynistic stuff, and kinda doubled down on it actually. They also had this “two works of grace” bit, a person must get “saved” and “sanctified” in order to make the pearly gates. Attendant with this, of course, was a list of rules a mile long–prohibitions on alcohol, dancing, gambling, and the usual restrictions on women’s clothing and appearance. Note, these weren’t optional rules, these were issues of morality, and violation was considered a sin worth of burning for eternity in hell. Just the kind of thing that an obsessive-compulsive personality would love–but of course, no one could ever measure up, or keep all the rules, so the guilt, fear, purge cycle begins anew. It is a great way to control people, especially those with low self esteem, keeping them in fear and self-loathing keeps them coming back for more. They always thought that Catholicism was the crazies who were all concerned only about keeping the rules, whereas they were “enlightened” and “free” in the “spirit of God”. Talk about the blind leading the blind! Man, the stories I could tell…

        • Pofarmer

          “Man, the stories I could tell…”

          Would be interesting. Seems like too many have them. And, there’s always rules, Lot’s and lots of rules. My SIL was Baptist, here family are Baptist missionaries. She married and had a child young to a very wrong man, I imagine for that reason. Shortly after she wnd my BIL were married she converted to Catholicism. She said that one of the things she liked about it that there was a list of rules you could follow and know that you were saved. I’m not sure she noticed the rules never end. If you “achieve” one thing, there is always lot’s more to do. Never mind the dissonance that other groups have other rules, entirely different, that the believe you have to follow to be saved, etc, etc.

        • (Reminds me of a joke. A young couple go to their religious leader for training to get married. The question of sex comes up. They ask about various positions–man on top, woman on top, and on and on. The leader says that all of these are OK.

          Finally, they ask, “What about sex standing up?”

          “On no,” he says, “that could lead to dancing!”)

        • wtfwjtd

          Ha, they were probably Nazarenes!

        • What section of the U.S. are we talking about here?

          Keep in mind that kids change quickly. Maybe it’s best to take a long-term view–things will be a little weird now, but your goal is to get them to be responsible and capable adults.

        • Pofarmer

          Central MO.

        • About 5-10 years ago, I read about American Christians converting to Islam because it was even more strict.

          When politicians and Fox News tell people that the sky is falling, it seems to me that that pushes people into religions that promise to be a refuge and get you on the path to heaven.

        • Pofarmer

          “When politicians and Fox News tell people that the sky is falling,”

          Any mass movement. People that aren’t stirred up aren’t easily swayed one way or the other. That’s why I’ve tuned most everything other than local news out. Much of what is broadcast seems to be designed to stir people up one way or the other. I think it was Castalliano who mentioned the the Eric Hoffer book on Mass Movements. It really is quite good.

        • wtfwjtd

          You ever see a show on TV called “doomsday bunkers”? There is a booming business in building back yard survival bunkers for paranoid types that just know that society’s SHTF moment is any day now. We’re talking people spending life savings, large amounts of money on these things. It sounds like the same mentality, just channeled in a different way.

        • MNb

          “it also speaks of addictive behavior”
          As I learned long ago this is a premature conclusion; it’s also quite condescending. Or does she show withdrawal syndrome if she doesn’t go?
          Rather you fail to recognize her own difficult position here. She feels she doesn’t get support from you; rightly or wrongly, that doesn’t matter. She also feels she will lose her sons. Given her belief, where else can she go?
          If you want your marriage work (if you don’t rather get a divorce, but you ruled out that option yourself) you should make clear you’re OK with her practicising her belief and thus going to church. If my better half would decide to start praying five times a day (she says she isn’t ready for it yet) I would support her.
          Instead of complaining about her religious behaviour you should worry about the need she feels to hide it. You cannot expect empathy from her if you don’t show any for her.
          Once again: if you want your marriage to work you’ll have to agree to disagree and is only possible with an active positive attitude from both sides.
          Next time offer: “hey, shall I do this for you, so that you can go to church?” If you’ll get a positive reaction you’ll know you still have a chance. If you don’t you’ll know it’s over, but still have the moral high ground.

        • Pofarmer

          Intellectually, I know you are correct, but I’ve endured enough pain because of that institution I have a difficult time supporting anything to do with it.

        • MNb

          “And there have been instances”
          When it comes to your sons I can help you with some advice, but here I am standing with a mouth full of teeth (ie gobsmacked), as we Dutch say.

        • Pofarmer

          Any advice would be appreciated. I just tell my boys to think for themselves and make up there their own minds. Told my middle boy today that for the time being he has to respect his mothers wishes. There are going to be some unpleasant conversations coming up, and I suppose I am the cause of them. Who knows what they would think without my unbelief.

        • MNb

          “I suppose I am the cause of them.”
          No. Categorically and absolutely no. You’re not. My son had some unpleasant conversations with his mother (a muslima converted to christianity) too when he was 13, 14. She tried to impose her christian views upon him, but totally failed. They both told me (we were on good speaking terms again by then) that these “conversations” ended with him shouting (13, 14 years old kids can be assholes) in her face “but I’m an atheist!” Of course she told him it was because of my bad influence, but I can guarantee you it wasn’t. She knew he had become an atheist well before I learned about it, simply because he waited quite long to tell me. It was quite a shock for me, albeit a pleasant one.
          From that age on kids are totally capable of figuring things out for themselves, unless they have been so indoctrinated from all sides that questioning certain things has become too dangerous emotionally and socially. But as soon they realize that there are several conflicting options they are going to investigate and think for themselves. Both your wife and you only can guide this process, raise interesting points, point out illogic and wrong facts (which they will check for themselves).
          So I strongly advise you to encourage them to investigate their mother’s beliefs as well and seriously so. Leave the choice to them.

        • Pofarmer

          The hard thing coming up is Catholic Confirmation. It’s a big deal in her family, and neither of my boys wants to go through with it. My opinion would be just roll with things till you get out of the house, but, once you are confirmed, the Catholic Church thinks it “has” you. I don’t want that weight hanging over their head. OTOH, if they really want to go through with it, that’s o.k. too. Yeah, like Joe Biden says, this is gonna be a big fuckin deal.

        • MNb

          Leave the choice to them. Explain them it will make their mother happy (my son went to church with his mother once and was totally bored) and that confirmation is just one of the seven sacraments, so it’s not a big deal in itself. Some clown uttering a few ritual words won’t harm anyone. My marriage has been blessed too; I couldn’t care less.
          The big problem rises when they have to lie for it. But that might also provide a cop out. I looked the thing up and learned that Confirmation only is possible if 1) your boys are in a state of grace (ie without sin) and 2) if they express the credo.
          Explain this to your wife first and propose to discuss the issue with the priest or pastor. When doing so defend the case of your sons by stressing that they can’t fulfill those two demands and don’t want to lie, which is a sin in itself. Also explain that you don’t really object the sacrament, but support your sons in being honest.
          The family of my wife wanted me to marry in mosque. So I patiently explained that I didn’t want to start my marriage with a lie. In the end they understood.

        • Pofarmer

          It’s funny that you speak of being honest. It’s important to me to be honest to myself and others. My wife would prefer that I lie to her about this stuff rather than be honest, but I can’t do it. The boys are in a spot right now where they can’t be honest with there mother. It’s a tough spot for them, and I think she knows, but isn’t being fully honest with herself about it. My middle boy has had trouble sleeping at night and being in his own bed. Talked to another mother the other night(same one with the freaked out daughter) and her middle son has very similar issues. Think about it, these kids pray all the time. They pray the hail Mary at least once a day. “Holy Mary Mother of God, Pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death, Amen.” From the first time I heard it, I though it was about the creepiest fucking thing I’d ever heard. These poor kids are surrounded with so much mystical bullshit, I don’t think they can tell fantasy from reality, their entire day is framed in a fantasy world. I’ve been having long talks with my boys about what scholarship of he bible says, what is real and what is not. My middle boy and I have been talking about what to fear and what not to, and how to sort out and rationalise beliefs. For the first time in a long time I think he stayed in his own bed all night last night. These poor kids are taught fear from a very early age, and most of them hear little or nothing at home that contradicts the Church, because the parents are afraid too. The boys are going through now and figuring out which kids are biblical literalists, which ones are a little more liberal, etc, etc. It’s been interesting watching them go through this process.

        • wtfwjtd

          It’s not much consolation, but it seems like the 12-14 age is a pretty tough one for kids–and by extension, their parents–to go through, even in the best of circumstances. We experienced the Year of Death(multiple relative and friend deaths, including my father), just as my daughter was entering this period, and it was pretty tough on all of us. That was 4 years ago, things have smoothed up a bit since then. She was forced to face some of life’s toughest issues at a young age, luckily we are all level-headed enough to realize that sticking our heads in the sand wouldn’t have helped.
          You, your wife, and your kids are in a period of major upheaval and transition in your lives right now too, and it’s obviously hard on everybody, for different reasons. Just something to recognize, and keep in mind, as you move forward.

        • wtfwjtd

          It seems like I remember reading on Hemant’s blog here a while back, people were actually asking to be removed from the Catholic church’s babtism rolls. The church did this for a while, but then they quit doing it because 1) they couldn’t keep up with the overwhelming response, and 2) The large numbers of people doing it were embarrassing. A big fucking deal indeed.

        • Pofarmer

          Can’t copy on this damned ipad. The indoctrination thing is the worst. My wife can’t question anything Catholic without winding up in a ball of tears. She has finally figured out that the Catholic sexual teachings may not be the best ever, but I dare not point it out, and I don’t think she can really admit it to herself.

        • nakedanthropologist

          I’m a former Catholic. My whole family is Catholic, and my father converted to Catholicism when I was in fourth grade. I was actually an alter server at his baptism/confirmation ceremony. You’re in a really tough situation with your wife, and I sympathize. The way I handled my parents was by saying something to the effect of, “I’m not sure if I totally believe this, and I don’t want to lie to God and say that I do when I don’t”. It’s definitely not a perfect solution, and it took my mom some time to accept that. I was in my teens when this happened, and luckily my parents didn’t force me to go to church when I didn’t want to (although they did send me to Catholic elementary and middle school). I don’t know if this approach will work with your significant other, as she sounds very emotionally attached to her faith. I’m 30 now, and my immediate family knows I’m an atheist, although my extended family is still in the dark (I just want to avoid the drama).

        • Pofarmer

          Thx, there won’t be any easy way to break it to her family, and they will obvously know if they don’t go through confirmation, because they all know what’s going on. She wondered why my middle boy was so mad yesterday, and it was because of the no meat thing. He’s mad when she makes him go to church, especially after he’s already been five days. At some point, she is going to have a major blow up with him when I can no longer keep things smoothed over. I no longer go to mass as it actually gives me the heeby jeebies. I had a minor panic attack at Christmas, I think, when her whole family and grandkids and all started saying the Hail Mary before a meal. Just wigged me out. “These people actually believe this shit dies something.” Type feeling.

        • I’ve heard some deconversion stories where the last thing to go is the idea of hell. They know God doesn’t exist intellectually, but they can’t get rid of the visceral fear of hell. (What a lovely religion!)

          Hell for her and the kids might be what has such a hold on her. Perhaps, with time, she can be more of a cultural Christian, like Jewish atheists who have a Sabbath meal every Saturday.

        • nakedanthropologist

          This is true for me. It’s only recently that I could call myself an atheist – even in my own head. Going through deconversion was/is a very slow process for me, and the fear that God would punish me for doubting was always with me. I constantly asked myself, “What if God is real and knows that you’re doubting him? What if he punishes me? What if he makes me sick or blind again? (I used to be blind, but have had lots of corrective surgeries, but it could still reoccur in the future due to the chronic illness I have.) The fear of hell and punishment is very real for many believers, and for me, it did linger.

          Edit: I sympathize with Pofarmer. I did my master’s degree at the Catholic University of America, and during my two years at that university is when I really started to lose my faith. I remember going to church on Ash Wednesday, to try to renew my faith through Lent. I had a panic attack right there in the basilica, during the homily, and had to leave. The priest who has doing the mass gave me the dirtiest look you can imagine, but I didn’t care – I just wanted out. I haven’t been back to church ever since.

        • Pofarmer

          We’ll see. I got her to agree to read “letters from Earth.” Mark Twain hits some of Thomas Paines high notes, but he’s a little more readable IMHO. I can handle christian in the “God loves us” mode. This fumdamentalst schtick is wearinv on me fast.

        • Perhaps you could share books. She reads a sensible secular book, and you read something she thinks supports the supernatural claims of Catholicism. And then some gentle discussion. And then repeat.

          Just an idea.

        • Pofarmer

          I am wanting to read “Parenting beyond belief” but haven’t gotten it yet. Anyone read it? I actually emailed the author, and he replied back a couple times and seemed really level headed and nice. I have read some things about Catholicism that she has brought home. The problem is, I get to the first instance of misuse of Aristotelian metaphysics, or the first bunch of “Natural law”, and my brain locks up. I have tried to discuss things like this with her and I don’t think she really gets it. It’s hard to go from a “faith” position, to a “philosophical” position sometimes. I said that I wish she would go cold turkey on Church attendance for a month, and see how that felt. Didn’t get a positive response.

        • MNb

          “I said that I wish …”
          That’s not very constructive as this comes close to violating her own individual rights.

          “I have tried to discuss things like this”
          Don’t. It’s a waste of time. There is no way you’ll ever win this, ie achiever your goal. You should focus on the values that are essential for you – that’s why I brought up honesty. She might wish that you and your sons lie, but because of the 10 Commandments she can’t admit it. So here you have a chance to get what you want.

        • Pofarmer

          Thank you.

        • The Thinking Commenter

          Letters From Earth is a bit patronizing and kludgy. I would suggest maybe Demon Haunted World.

        • Pofarmer

          I have Demon Haunted World, Why people believe weird things,and Dragons in Eden. Maybe start with those.

        • One other thought: show them the analogy of the map of world religions vs. the map of science. The map of world religions is full of various colored regions, but there is no map of world science because it’d all be one color. Any disputes (Utah was probably in the “cold fusion works” camp for a couple of years) are quickly resolved.

          This undercuts the idea of a religious authority. There can be a scientific consensus, but there is no religious consensus–not on the identity of God, not on why he made us, not even on the number of gods.

        • Wow–that’s harsh. At least with the counselor, you had the small satisfaction of knowing that she was intellectually more on your side of the debate.

          I’m sure this tension is replayed in a million homes in America, though having company won’t help much.

          Christians can point (with some justification) to good they do in the world, but they conveniently omit the harm. Like this.

          I think this has already been mentioned, but I imagine that modeling the worldview of an ethical freethinker (or whatever you consider yourself to me) will be the best thing for the kids.

          When your wife worries about the kids’ souls, you might mention the example of the grandmother.

          Related topic: Christians are concerned about young Christians going to college and coming out without their faith. But what does that say about their faith if it’s that easily dissolved by reason and inquiry?

        • Pofarmer

          “But what does that say about their faith if it’s that easily dissolved by reason and inquiry?”

          I think it’s not only that, but I think for many it’s the first time that they haven’t been constantly inundated with messages over and over and over. They finally get a break and can actually think.

  • SparklingMoon

    If we say that Jesus died in this year, we have the Anointed One dying at the right time (again assuming that we can add 7 weeks to the 62 weeks).
    Old Testament is a book of religion that was descended for the people of Israel and they had received generation to generation a guidance of their prophets to understand the real message of its verses. Their translation and interpretation is a right source to understand the real message of its verses . There is Jewish translation of these verses of Daniel : “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and for your holy city for putting an end to the transgression, for making an end of sin, for forgiving iniquity, for bringing in everlasting justice, for setting the seal on vision and prophet, and for anointing the Especially Holy Place. (25) Know, therefore, and discern that seven weeks [of years] will elapse between the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Yerushalayim until an anointed comes. It will remain built for sixty-two weeks [of years], with open spaces and moats; but these will be troubled times. (26) Then, after the sixty-two weeks, the Anointed One will be cut off and have nothing. The people of a prince yet to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary, but his end will come with a flood, and desolations are decreed until the war is over.”

    This reference of ‘cut off’ is not about the death of Jesus but indicates a cut off God’s revelation for this city of Jerusalem. This city was holy or anointed one because of descention of God’s revelation . Angle Gabriel who brings revelation had informed in clear words ”Seventy weeks have been decreed…. for setting the seal on vision and prophet, and for anointing the Especially Holy Place”. Religious history has proved the truth of this revelation of Gabriel as after the moving of Jesus for other ten tribes after the incident of cross then this city had been cut off for ever the blessing of God’s revelation and there remained ”nothing” neither prophet nor revelation that could make it again a holy or anointed one.

    As God had made a covenant with Prophet Abraham ”And I will make of thee a
    great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing (Genesis 12:2-3) and He fulfilled it through his both sons; Ishmael and Isaac. This covenant had been started, first, with his son Isaac and He sent a lot of prophets from his progeny (during the time of about two thousand years). Jesus was the last prophet who appeared for Israel and then God closed his covenant with the people of Israel and stopped to send prophets as angle Gabriel revealed to Daniel : (9:24)”Seventy weeks have been decreed…. for setting the seal on vision and prophet, (9:24)

    Many prophets appeared after Daniel among the people of Israel to warn them and converted their attention to improve their moral condition otherwise there ‘will have nothing’ but they went on to reject these prophets and even tried to kill them. This attitude of their remained continue till they had been given the sign of their transgression: the fatherless birth of their Messiah .This sign of fatherless birth of Jesus was to realize them the end time of God’s covenant with them as their transgression had made them deprive of forever to have a prophet from their progeny. This sign was also a warning, whereby a mother gave birth without the participation of a father. It was as if Jesus was left with only one of the two roots necessary for being an Israelite. This was an indication that the next Prophet would not partake even of this root and now the covenant of God made to Abraham would be transfered to his other son, Ishmael. It was prophet of Islam who appeared (after Jesus) from the progeny of Ishmael with a universal guidance to fulfill the needs of whole mankind.

  • Kodie

    I’m finding this puzzle a little hard to follow by now. One of my favorite types of Christians are the ones who try to solve the bible like a mystery code, they are funny to me. Anyway. Some impressions:

    These people are always looking forward to the next visit from god. It can be vague or literal or whatever. Weeks as weeks, weeks as years, years as actual revolutions around the sun, and years as some kind of estimate or trying to fit reality into a neat round number and sweeping the leftover days under the rug. Nobody knows.

    Around the story of Jesus, I just assume there were people who were trying to rush it along. It should have been here by now. Maybe a few years early or late, they just went ahead and invented a messiah. At this moment, I am inclined to believe it was a marketing ploy from people who know their sources and don’t count on anyone knowing how to count or having read it themselves. The advertising team of MMLJ and their client Paul came up with the latest new thing. At the time of Daniel, whoever actually wrote it pulled some distant time ahead out of his literal butt. 62 weeks, give or take 7, meaning “I don’t know and I don’t want to mark a firm prediction on the calendar; it’s far enough in the future that maybe you’ll have forgotten what I said by then”.

    But just like preachers of today warn their congregations that Jesus and the story of Revelation is coming “soon”, most of them shy away from making an actual prediction because they really do not know. Of course, should it happen, they will be able to point back at “soon” as a prediction. And, of course, it will not happen, they will be able to say “in the scale of time, 1000 years is “soon”. Their words and predictions will live beyond them and some future human will consider any of them a true prophet. Every bad disaster or catastrophic fatal event is a “sign”. Everything in the bible is a “sign”. These people are looking for clues in a storybook to get answers to a mystery is like when you watch The Wizard of Oz to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. That deep coincidence feeling has to mean something, so they attach it to what they want it to mean. They think it’s all connected and we’re all in this epic tale that means we’re more than little ants crawling on the earth looking for a picnic to steal. There’s so much sameness all through history that if you associate one event with another, it can seem like a prediction or warning. The bible is so full of human experiences and ideas, not all of which are foreign to us today, that it serves the people who believe it is breathed by god as a story that can tell us exactly what we’re doing these days if you scan it for similarities.

    As for the wording of the prediction, I was also thinking of poetic numbers described like “Four score and seven years ago,” or “four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.” 7 and 62 is a little weird but if they regard 7 as a good number, I don’t know why he didn’t just say 70 weeks. Close enough, or 7 and 60. When people pull statistics out of their butt, a non-round number makes it believable. Making a vague prediction, 62 AND 7 gets the 7 there and… what’s some non-round number that makes it sound more authoritative and yet far enough away that people will forgive a few weeks here or there, or lose count, or forget entirely. The whole business is built on demonstrations and parlor tricks like this, and the confirmation bias that makes people force wrongness into right-the-whole-time. It has to match up no matter what, so the errors can be waved away.

    • wtfwjtd

      “That deep coincidence feeling has to mean something, so they attach it to what they want it to mean. They think it’s all connected and we’re all in this epic tale that means we’re more than little ants crawling on the earth looking for a picnic to steal.”

      Yes, people are always looking for patterns in things, trying to figure it out and think that they can use what they think they know to predict the future with great accuracy. The fact that they have to perform some rather serious contortions of data, and some rather nonsensical leaps of logic aren’t a problem, just so we make it fit, somehow, and discard what doesn’t as unimportant. It gives some folks a warm, fuzzy feeling of comfort, I guess.

      “Around the story of Jesus, I just assume there were people who were trying to rush it along. It should have been here by now. Maybe a few years early or late, they just went ahead and invented a messiah.”

      That’s funny, because the book of II Timothy has harsh words for those who think the messiah as already came and went. “Keep waiting people, if you think it’s happened already, well, you’re wrong, because I say so” seems to be the writer’s main line of argument. Ok, 2k years later, still waiting, now what? Why, wait a little longer, of course. Any day now….

      • Pofarmer

        If you read II Timothy as apologetics, answering questions that must have been being asked. It makes perfect sense. I imagine the doubters were asking many of the same things we ask today.

        • wtfwjtd

          Yep, and getting the same answers. The more things change, the more they stay the same…

    • These people are always looking forward to the next visit from god.

      Reminds me of Mother Teresa. Ignoring all the harm she did, it sounds like she was in mental pain in her later years. She was basically asking God, “What do I gotta do to get some reaction out of you? Anything? Hello … ?” Kind of sad.

      I have a secular interpretation of Daniel 9 tomorrow that makes a lot more sense of the text than these Christian ones, IMO.

      • Pofarmer

        When you look at Mother Theresa against Sai Baba, it really makes her look bad. Mother Theresa didn’t refer patients for treatment who could have been saved(India had Universal health care at least in her later years), such as the boy talked about in Christopher Hitchens’ piece who had a kidney infection, but was just laying suffering from it until it was too late to be treated. Sai Baba started hospitals to give free surgeries to the poor. He may have been a crank, but he set up a system that could help people. Mother Theresa simply let them suffer in somewhat less squalor than they would have been in at home, generally providing substandard “care,” while also crusading against birth control in one of the poorest and most overpopulated cities on the planet. The thought that she will someday be a “saint” ought to give everyone pause.

      • wtfwjtd

        I’ve read where MT is said to have had doubt in her later years, but forged ahead anyway. I need to do a bit more research though, I’m not sure what to make of the stories surrounding her at this point.
        A secular interpretation that makes more sense than the religious one? Who woulda thought… Anyway, I look forward to it!

        • Pofarmer

          There are a couple of Christopher Hitchens videos on Youtube where he talks about her letters and etc.

        • wtfwjtd

          I’ll look that up, thanks.

        • Mother T. wrote this about her lack of faith: “[it makes me] suffer untold agony.”

          Also: “The damned of hell suffer eternal punishment
          because they experiment with the loss of God. In my own soul, I feel the terrible pain of this loss. I feel that God does not want me, that God is not God and that he does not really exist.”

          As an aside, you’ve probably heard this story (as told by her):

          One day I met a lady who was dying of cancer in a most terrible condition. And I told her, I say, “You know, this terrible pain is only the kiss of Jesus–a sign that you have come so close to Jesus on the cross that he can kiss you.” And she joined her hands together and said, “Mother Teresa, please tell Jesus to stop kissing me.”

          It’s incredibly that she would cheerfully tell this story.

        • wtfwjtd

          Daniel Finke on his blog talks about how as a Christian you don’t really believe what you say you believe, otherwise you would act in ways that sensible, ethical people would consider cruel and immoral. Sounds like she crossed the line–not being able to see the suffering in front of her, because she took her religous belief(especially as it related to the so-called “afterlife”)too seriously. That is a travesty.

        • Pofarmer

          I often wonder at the end, where she says she only hears emptiness, if she was operating out of fear, inertia, a sense of obligation to the Church? Just imagine if she had transferred that theistic doubt into humanist action.

        • Good point. Focusing on others helps put one’s own issues in perspective.

        • “All Westboro was was evangelical Christianity minus polite behavior.”

          (from a Frank Shaeffer interview on Point of Inquiry 3/24/14)

        • Pofarmer

          About this idea of suffering as divine, and I am getting this mainly from a book titled “The Gospel of Ireland” which I find somewhat dubious in the later chapters. Anyway. Apparently, the monks/Christians in Alexandria Egypt in the very early days were so poor that they couldn’t give offerings to God, so they fasted instead, and gave their own suffering as an “offering” to God, so to speak. This theology then got pushed and changed until you have the fucked up theology of the Mother Theresa gang, where any suffering brings us closer to God, and we should, in fact, seek out suffering.

        • wtfwjtd

          I think that the idea of suffering bringing us closer to God, and getting a bigger “afterlife” reward for it, are pretty ingrained in most religions these days. It’s a great way to appeal to the poor and disenfranchised, which makes it a wonderful tool for controlling the masses.
          The danger, of course, is in taking things too far. Just look at the self-inflicted beatings of Martin Luther, for example. Man, that is some major, fucked-up theology! Or, as you were talking about the MT crowd, they are capable of looking right past other people’s suffering, for the sake of accomodating this crazed belief.

        • And they say that Christianity isn’t a works-based religion!

        • Kodie

          You get what you get, and keep rolling that die until it comes up “closer to god”.

        • I hadn’t heard that source. Thanks.

        • Pofarmer

          I don’t know how good of a source it is, the guys are admittedly amatuers who set out to show how the theology of Ireland changed the Catholic faith and therefore the world. Some interesting history, there, but in the end even they had to admit that the reformation and Enlightenment gave us the modern world. In a convoluted way, they try to attribute it to the theology if Thomas Aquinas.

  • Scott_In_OH

    To those prophecy enthusiasts, I ask if anyone decoded the puzzle before the event.

    I know the post is a few days old, and the thread has gone in several (good) different directions, but I wanted to point out that this is the crux of the prophecy matter. After an event happens, anybody can make old words sound like they predicted it. The question is whether the people who wrote, heard, or studied those words originally predicted the event beforehand. And in this case, not only did ancient Jews not predict it, but modern Jews still don’t believe it. Oughta put some doubt in our minds, I think.