The Riddle of the Seventy Sevens
Matthew 18:21-22: A Preterist Commentary: Summary and Highlights
In Matthew 18:21-22, Jesus answers Peter’s question about how often to forgive with a riddle whose solution points to the year in which Christ would be killed for the remission of sins. See the following Preterist commentary on Matthew 18:21-22 for a detailed explanation of the underlying meaning and amazing fulfillment of Jesus’ seemingly simple reply.
The following may seem unbelievable. However, all information is taken from unbiased historical records and is easily verifiable. Sources listed at the end.
The Riddle of the Seventy Sevens
21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
A Preterist Commentary on Matthew 18:21-22: Jesus answers Peter in a Riddle whose Solution reveals the Year God forgave the Sins of the World.
In some ancient manuscripts Jesus’ reply is slightly different: “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven times.” It is likely that the latter reading is more true to the original manuscript. The seventy sevens in Jesus’ reply is a direct allusion to Daniel 9:24: “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness . . . .” When Peter asks Jesus how many times he is to forgive his brother, Jesus answers in a riddle whose solution reveals the year in which God would forgive the sins of the world.
A Preterist Commentary on Matthew 18:21-22: The Meaning of the Seventy Sevens . . .
The units used in Daniel 9 are Jewish years. Therefore, the sevens in this verse are seven Jewish years.[i] Ancient Jews charted time with two separate calendars, one dictated by the moon’s rotation around the earth and the other by the earth’s rotation around the sun.[ii] The months of the lunar year alternate between twenty-nine and thirty days with twelve months in a year. Thus each year averaged 354 days. In order to prevent seasonal overlap, approximately every three years another month was added to the calendar. In this prophecy, Daniel uses the lunar calendar to predict the year in which the Messiah would be crucified and God would forgive the sins of the world.
In Daniel 9:25, Daniel is told that the countdown of the seventy sevens would begin at the decree to rebuild Jerusalem. This order was issued by King Artaxerxes in 444 B.C. According to this prophecy, the Jewish priests would have 70 X 7 or 490 years from the issuing of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem in which to offer animal sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin.
After every forty-nine years, the Israelites celebrated a Year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:40). This year was to be announced on the tenth day of the seventh month, the Day of Atonement. It was only on this day that the high priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies. Once inside, the high priest would sprinkle the blood of a goat and a bull inside the Most Holy Place. This was done as an offering for the sins of Israel (Leviticus 16, Exodus 29). This act would announce the fiftieth year, also known as the Year of Jubilee. During this year, all debts were to be cancelled (Leviticus 25:8-17). The seventy sevens or 490 years are ten Years of Jubilee. According to Daniel 9 and Matthew 18:21-22, on the tenth and final Year of Jubilee, God would cancel mankind’s debt of sin.
In Daniel 9, the prophet reveals the final year in which God would accept the blood of bulls and goats as an offering for the sins of his people. Keep in mind that Daniel is thinking in Jewish years. In this prophecy, Daniel uses the 354 day lunar year. Converting 490 Jewish lunar years into modern years is a simple calculation:
Therefore, there were to be 475 years from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem in 444 B.C. until the high priest was to make his final acceptable sacrifice on the Day of Atonement. The final year in which God would honor the blood of bulls and goats as a sin offering was to be A.D. 32:
475 years – 444 B.C. = A.D. 31.
Because there is no year zero, one year must be added to the total:
A.D. 31 + 1year = A.D. 32
This would be the final year in which “your people [the Jews] and your holy city [Jerusalem]” were “to atone for wickedness.” As stated earlier, after every 7 X 7 or 49 years there was to be a Year of Jubilee in which all debts were to be cancelled and all slaves were to be set free (Leviticus 25:8-10). The Year of Jubilee began on the fiftieth year. Therefore the next year, A.D. 33, was the tenth and final Year of Jubilee. On this special Year of Jubilee, God “set the captives free,” canceling the debt of sin that had enslaved humanity since the time of Adam.
According to Daniel 9, after the high priest offered the last acceptable animal sacrifice for sin in A.D. 32, a new high priest was to be anointed. The first high priest, Aaron, was anointed with oil before he began his ministry (Exodus 29:1-7). This oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit. Having been anointed with the Holy Spirit at his baptism, Jesus, the new high priest, offered his own blood as a sin offering in A.D. 33, the tenth and final Year of Jubilee. According to the Gospel accounts, immediately after Jesus breathed his last, the curtain blocking the entrance to the Most Holy Place was torn (Matthew 27:51). The fact that the curtain had been torn indicates that Jesus had entered the Most Holy Place, something only the high priest was allowed to do (Hebrews 9:7). Having entered the Holy of Hollies, Jesus offered his own blood as a permanent sacrifice, one that would not have to be repeated year after year.
During this final Year of Jubilee, the Messiah fulfilled the hope of the prophets freeing mankind from their bondage to sin and bringing forgiveness to all God’s people both past, present and future. This perfect sacrifice fulfilled the prophetic meaning of the Law making the continued practice of animal sacrifice obsolete. But did Jesus actually die in A.D. 33?
A Preterist Commentary on Matthew 18:21-22: Daniel Correctly predicts that the Messiah was to be killed in A.D. 33.
There are several things to consider when answering this question. According to the Gospels, Jesus died during the reign of Pontius Pilate. Pilate ruled from A.D. 26 to A.D. 36. Therefore, Jesus must have been crucified within this ten year period. Assuming Jesus died on a Friday on the fourteenth of Nisan,[x] according to modern astronomy, the only years during Pilate’s reign in which the fourteenth of Nisan certainly fell on a Friday were in A.D. 30, A.D. 33 and A.D. 36.[xi] A.D. 36 seems to be the least plausible of the three options because it assumes that Jesus had a six year ministry, an assumption with no supporting evidence in the Gospel accounts.[xii] At the opposite extreme is the year A.D. 30. Though supported by many scholars, this date also has its weaknesses. According to Luke 3:1-2, John the Baptist began his ministry on the fifteenth year of Tiberius’ reign which corresponds with A.D. 28 or A.D. 29. If Jesus died in A.D. 30, this leaves a ministry of only about one year despite the fact that the Gospel of John lists the passage of three Passovers throughout the course of Jesus’ ministry (John 2:13; 6:4; 11:55). A ministry of just over three years better explains the evidence. This leaves A.D. 33 as what seems to be the most likely year of Jesus’ crucifixion.[xiv]
In Matthew 18:21-22, Jesus tells his disciples to forgive seventy times seven times. In this response, the disciples are given the impression that they are to forgive abundantly. But there is more to this answer than meets the eye. Jesus’ answer also conveys a message about when he would die for the sins of the world and God would no longer accept the blood of animals for the forgiveness of sin. In other words after A.D. 33, God would no longer forgive the Jewish people if they failed to repent and turn to Jesus. According to Matthew 18:22, the disciples were to forgive seventy times seven times as God had in Daniel 9:24.
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Interested in THE PRETERIST VIEW OF ESCHATOLOGY, or are you a PRETERIST struggling with a prophecy or verse? It DID happen just like the Bible says! If you liked this essay, see PRETERIST BIBLE COMMENTARY for a detailed explanation of the FULFILLMENT OF ALL MAJOR END TIME PROPHECIES IN THE BIBLE. The more unbelievable the prophecy, the more amazing and miraculous the fulfillment!
Also see Historical Evidence that Jesus was LITERALLY SEEN in the Clouds in the First Century. For an explanation of how the end of the age and its fulfillment during the Jewish War mirror Genesis 1-3; how the Bible teaches that the resurrection of the dead is a resurrection of heavenly bodies to heaven, not a resurrection of perfected earthly bodies; and how the resurrection is a mirror opposite of the fall see How the Jewish War and Resurrection to Heaven Mirror Genesis and the Fall; and How Preterism fixes the Age of the Earth Problem and unravels the Mysteries in Genesis.
[i] Another example in which sevens are used as years is found in the Book of Jubilees 11:16.
[ii] Tamsyn Barton, Ancient Astrology, rev. ed. (New York: Routledge, 1995), 14.
[x] Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977), 65-93.
[xi] Ibid., 99-100.
[xii] Ibid., 101.
[xiv] For a more detailed discussion of the evidence in favor of an A.D. 33 date for the crucifixion of Christ refer to: Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977), 95-114.
Matthew 18:21-22: A Preterist Commentary: Conclusion
As stated in the above Preterist commentary on Matthew 18:21-22, Jesus answers Peter’s question about how often to forgive with a riddle whose solution points to A.D. 33, the year in which Christ was killed for the remission of sins.