The Early Church Fathers and Daniel’s 70th Week

[as reprinted and revised from various authors]

            Dispensationalists depend heavily for their rapture theory on there being a gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week in Daniel 9:24-27. This gap, they say, stretches thousands of years to the present time. But a logical reading of this text, as well as cross-referencing to Daniel 12 and Matthew 24, ties fulfillment of the seventieth week by AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. The prophecies of Daniel end with the “power of the holy people being shattered” and the “cessation of the daily sacrifices” at the “time of the end” per Daniel 12. There is a discernible gap in the text of Daniel 9, but it is limited to the approximately forty-year period between the cross and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Thus, dispensationalism is highly suspect. In this essay, we will examine what the early church fathers believed about Daniel’s seventieth week.


Written anonymously around 100 AD, the “Epistle of Barnabas” is the earliest extra-Canonical source we have. Although not included in the Canon of the New Testament, it is an incredibly early documentation of the early Church’s beliefs about the last days. And although the authorship is disputed, we will refer to Barnabas as the author.

The Epistle of Barnabas sets forth the common view held by the early Church that the seventieth week of Daniel ended with the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, as Messiah’s Day dawned and Christ’s Church was born. Barnabas writes, “For it is written, ‘And it shall come to pass, when the week is completed, the temple of God shall be built. . . in the name of the Lord.’ I find. . . that a temple does exist. Having received the forgiveness of sin. . . in our habitation God dwells in us. . . This is the spiritual temple built for the Lord.” (Epistle of Barnabas, 16:6)

Barnabas uses the expression “the week,” but does not mention Daniel. Yet scholars agree from the context that this is definitely a reference to Daniel’s seventieth week. And it is assumed by many scholars that the prophecy of Daniel’s seventy weeks was so well known and so widely expounded in the early Church that it needed no further explanation.

This early Christian writer connects Daniel’s vision of seventy weeks with the prophecy of Haggai 2:7-9 and the building of a “spiritual temple,” the church. The author of the Epistle of Barnabas obviously believed that Daniel’s seventieth week was fulfilled when the Old Temple was destroyed and the new “spiritual temple” was initially established. Writing around AD 100, he clearly believed the seventieth week of Daniel was already complete.

It seems clear from this passage in the Epistle of Barnabas that less than a century after Christ’s passion (remember that according to Daniel, the Messiah would be cut off in the middle of the seventieth week), it was the widespread belief of the Church that the seventieth week of Daniel was completed. It is certain that Barnabas placed the end of the seventieth week no later than AD 70. His mention of the building of the Church (which was able to grow largely unimpeded after AD 70) makes it probable that Barnabas saw 67 to 70 AD and the destruction of Herod’s Temple as the end of the Jewish or Old Covenant Age and the dawning of Messiah’s Day. As David B. Currie writes in his book, Rapture, The End-Times Error That Leaves The Bible Behind, “He (Barnabas) assumes his readers will agree that the events of ‘the week’ led to the building of the Church.” (Page 422)


Within a century of Barnabas, Clement became bishop of Alexandria until his death. Clement taught that the blessings of the New Covenant required the end of biblical Judaism within the seventy weeks of Daniel. Clement writes of the destruction of the temple by the Romans in AD 70 in the prophetic language of Daniel’s seventy weeks, “Vespasian rose to the supreme power (Emperor of Rome) and destroyed Jerusalem, and desolated the holy place” (STO, XXI, 142-143).

Clement of Alexandrea believed the Jewish Age, the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel and the great tribulation were behind, not ahead of the Church. He also believed that the Olivet Discourse was fulfilled in the events of the Jewish/Roman War.

ORIGEN (185-254 AD):

A student of Clement of Alexandrea, Origen agreed that the destruction of the temple by the Romans in AD 70 marked the end of the Jewish Age and the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy regarding the seventy weeks. Origen writes, “The weeks of years up to the time of Christ the leader that Daniel the prophet predicted were fulfilled” (TPR, IV:1:5).

Like Clement, Origen also believed the Jewish Age, the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel, and the great tribulation were behind the Church, not ahead of it.

TERTULLIAN (c. 160 – c. 225):

In AD 203 Tertullian wrote his famous treatise Against the Jews. This early Church father also taught that Daniel’s seventieth week had been fulfilled in AD 70: “Vespasian vanquished the Jews. . . and so by the date of his storming Jerusalem, the Jews had completed the seventy weeks foretold by Daniel” (AAJ, VII; CID).

Contrary to modern postponement preachers and teachers, Tertullian believed the Jewish age, the abomination of desolation, and the great tribulation was behind, not ahead of the Church.

EUSEBIUS (c. 260/265 – 339/340):

            Eusebius, known as the father of church history, was the bishop of Caesarea from 313 to 340. He also understood the seventieth week to have been completed before AD 70. In his position as church historian, it is likely that Eusebius reflected the views of others in the early church, whose writings are no longer extant. I read all of Eusebius’ writings as background research for my book, CHRISTIAN HOPE THROUGH FULFILLED PROPHECY. It can be reasonably concluded that Eusebius believed that all of the following things were fulfilled by AD 70:

  • the Second Coming of Christ (at least in some sense)
  • the Great Tribulation
  • the Abomination of Desolation
  • the Day of the Lord
  • the Days of Vengeance and judgment upon Israel
  • the “time of the end”/end of the “world”
  • the ushering in of the new covenant/kingdom of heaven
  • the Great Commission (gospel having been preached to the whole world)

ATHANASIUS (c. 296/298 – 373):

Athanasius was bishop of Alexandria from 326 to 373 AD. Like the early church fathers before him, he also taught that the seventy weeks of Daniel culminated and the Jewish Age ended in AD 70: “Jerusalem is to stand till His coming (Daniel’s reference to Messiah’s appearing in His First Advent), and thenceforth, prophet and vision cease in Israel (the end of the Old Covenant or Jewish Age). This is why Jerusalem stood till then. . . that they might be exercised in the types as a preparation for the reality. . . but from that time forth all prophecy is sealed and the city and Temple taken.” (INC, XXXIX:3-XV:8).

Athanasius clearly reflects the view of the entire early Church: once the Messiah had come, the role of the temple in Jerusalem would be ended. “Things to be done, which belonged to Jerusalem beneath. . . were fulfilled, and those which belonged to the shadows had passed away.” (FEL, IV:3-4).

This important early Church father clearly believed that the Jewish age ended in AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.

IRENAEUS (130-202) and HIPPOLYTUS (170 – 235):

Irenaeus and his pupil Hippolytus are the only two writers from the early Church period who believed in a still-future fulfillment of Daniel’s seventieth week. They both placed the seventieth week at the end of the gospel age, and so are the first interpreters to postulate a significant gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks (AG, V). But Irenaeus, in particular, is known to have made various historical errors in his teaching. Both men predicted a specific date for the second coming that has long since come and gone. So, their interpretations are suspect.

But their belief in a future seventieth week was never widely accepted! St. Jerome specifically pointed out that the number of years in their system did not coincide with the historical events they purported to cover. He wrote, “If by any chance those of future generations should not see these predictions of his (Irenaeus) fulfilled at the time he (Irenaeus) set, then they will be forced to seek for some other solution and to convict the teacher himself (Irenaeus) of erroneous interpretation” (CID).

David B. Currie points out in his scholarly work, “As a point of history, the views of Irenaeus did give seed to premillennialism. But the early fathers of the Church strongly and universally denounced this concept. The early Church understood the presumptuous-parenthesis theory that rapturists employ. . . but they resoundingly rejected it.” (David B. Currie, Rapture, page 425)

The prevailing view of the early Church fathers was that Daniel’s vision of the seventy weeks was fulfilled in AD 70. It deserves repeating why they believed this: Daniel 12 marks “the time of the end” when the “power of the holy people would be shattered” and the “daily sacrifice taken away”—clearly AD 70. The final or seventieth week began with the baptism of Jesus and his presentation to Israel by John the Baptist. The Messiah was cut off in the middle of the seventieth week when Jesus was crucified. Jesus clearly taught in Matthew 24 that the abomination of desolation and the great tribulation spoken of by Daniel were fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans in AD 70.

These events marked the end of the Jewish age and the dawning of Messiah’s Day.

JOSEPHUS (37-100)

            Though not a Christians, Jewish historian Flavius Josephus also believed that Daniels 70 weeks were fulfilled in the first century. He stated: “And indeed it so came to pass, that our nation suffered these things under Antiochus Epiphanes, according to Daniel’s vision. And what he wrote many years before they came to pass. In the very same manner Daniel also wrote concerning the Roman government, and that our country should be made desolate by them.” [1]


As put by David B. Currie: “The early church understood the presumptuous theory that rapturists employ in this vision, but they resoundingly rejected it. The most prevalent understanding of the early church leaves no room in Daniel for a future seven-year Great Tribulation, which means Daniel’s timeline of future events leaves no room for the rapturist system.” (Rapture, page 425)


Except for the information about Eusebius, this essay was originally written by Bishop George Kouri as found here:

I have shortened the essay a bit from the original, and have added additional material from the book Rapture: The End-Times Error that the Leaves the Bible Behind by David B. Currie, Appendix 1, The Early Church Fathers, pages 421-426:

See also my “Introduction to the book of Daniel” here:

[1] Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, The New Complete Works of Josephus, Book 10, Chapter 2.7 (276), p. 357.

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