Sir Robert Anderson- Photo of Sir Robert Anderson, unknown photographer
Sir Robert Anderson 1841 - 1918
Sir Robert Anderson Video
Yet another Irishman (of Scottish extraction) with connections to the Brethren. Sir Robert Anderson was born in Dublin in 1841. He is remembered as being the Assistant Commissioner at Scotland yard from 1888 until his death in 1918. One of the cases he worked on was that of Jack the Ripper.
Sir Robert was known as an excellent investigator and wrote on subjects related to his criminal investigations. He was also a devoted evangelical Christian and wrote many books and pamphlets on the subject of the bible and bible prophecy. Probably the most famous was his book "The Coming Prince". In this work he addressed the issue of Daniel's 70 weeks (Daniel chapter 9) and put in place the building blocks of our understanding of this passage.
Daniel's Seventy Weeks.
In Daniel's prophecy of the 70 weeks Daniel is talking about a time period leading up to the return and "cutting off" of the Messiah who we now know as Jesus. Sir Robert understood the weeks to be weeks of years. I.e one week was seven years and seventy weeks was 490 years. The Messiah was to be cut off after 69 weeks with a seven week period remaining to be fulfilled at an unspecified time. Therefore we have a period of 483 years (69 x 7) to consider. One of the great questions was when did this time period start. Basically, Daniel 9:24-27 states that from the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem there will be 69 weeks until the Messiah is cut off.
[Dan 9:25 KJV] 25 Know therefore and understand, [that] from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince [shall be] seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.
The initial decree
There are at least four possible starting points for the 69 weeks.
1. The Decree of Cyrus. 539 BC. Ezra 1:1-4. [Ezr 1:3 KJV] 3 Who [is there] among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which [is] in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he [is] the God,) which [is] in Jerusalem.
2. The Decree of Darius. 519 BC. Ezra 5:3-7.[Ezr 5:7-8 ESV] 7 They sent him a report, in which was written as follows: "To Darius the king, all peace. 8 Be it known to the king that we went to the province of Judah, to the house of the great God. It is being built with huge stones, and timber is laid in the walls. This work goes on diligently and prospers in their hands.
3. The Decree of Artaxerxes to Ezra. 457 BC. Ezra 7: 11-16. [Ezr 7:11-13 ESV] 11 This is a copy of the letter that King Artaxerxes gave to Ezra the priest, the scribe, a man learned in matters of the commandments of the LORD and his statutes for Israel: 12 "Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven. Peace. And now 13 I make a decree that anyone of the people of Israel or their priests or Levites in my kingdom, who freely offers to go to Jerusalem, may go with you.
4. Decree of Artaxerxes to Nehemiah. 444 0r 445BC. Nehemiah 2:1-8.[Neh 2:1, 8 KJV] 1 And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, [that] wine [was] before him: and I took up the wine, and gave [it] unto the king. Now I had not been [beforetime] sad in his presence. ... 8 And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which [appertained] to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me.
All these dates are disputed but Sir Robert settled on the decree of Artaxerxes to Nehemiah as the correct starting point, the reason being that it was the only decree which fulfills Daniel's prophecy of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. The other three decrees only relate to the rebuilding of the temple. He does not mention Isaiah 44:28 which other writers have cited.
[Isa 44:28 KJV] 28 That saith of Cyrus, [He is] my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.
This seems to fit the bill as it talks about rebuilding Jerusalem. Consequently many writers see the decree of Cyrus as Daniel's starting point. However the question here is who is speaking. In verse 26 it is the Lord who is saying that Jerusalem is to be rebuilt. In verse 28 He calls Cyrus his shepherd but it could be argued that it is the Lord who is restating that Jerusalem shall be rebuilt. In the actual decree that Cyrus makes in Ezra 1:3 only the House of the Lord is mentioned.
The Date of the Decree
Having fixed on the decree of Artaxerxes to Nehemiah as the starting point of the 69 weeks Sir Robert then attempted to ascertain the date of this decree. He reckons on the month of Nisan 445 BC as being the 20th year of Artaxerxes as per Nehemiah 2:1
[Neh 2:1 KJV] 1 And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, [that] wine [was] before him: and I took up the wine, and gave [it] unto the king. Now I had not been [beforetime] sad in his presence.
Sir Robert goes on to say in chapter 10 of his book: -
"...but no other day being named, the prophetic period must be reckoned, according to a practise common to the Jews, from the Jewish New Year's Day. The seventy weeks are therefore to be computed from the 1st Nissan B.C. 445."
Sir Robert had assistance from the Astronomer Royal at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich London and was able to fix the date on the Julian Calendar.
"In B.C. 445 the new moon by which the Passover was regulated was on the 13th March at 7h. 9m. A.M. and accordingly the 1st Nisan may be assigned to the 14th March."
So we now have a start date of 14th March 445 BC and a time period of 483 years which should bring us to the date of the Messiah's "cutting off".
How Long is a year?
Sir Robert devoted chapter 6 of his book to explaining the Prophetic Year. He argued from the bible that in prophecy a year is a perfect year of 360 days. That is 12 months of 30 days each. this can be seen in the several places in scripture. See the section of this site entitled "The 360 Day Prophetic Year" for more details. The Jewish calendar was based on the cycles of the moon and Sir Robert believed that in God's perfect order of things a month was always thirty days and a year was always 360 days.
"... the prophetic year is not the Julian year, but the ancient year of 360 days."
The consequence of this in terms of Daniel's 69 weeks was that the time period was 69 weeks of years (483 years) with each year having 360 days. the total period being 483 years x 360 days which equals 173,880 days.
The Final Calculation
So, we now have a start point of 14th March 445 BC and we have a time period of 173,880 days. Sir Robert calculated that if you added those days to the starting date it would bring you to 6th April 32 AD. This was what he believed to be the date of Christ's entry into Jerusalem.
There has been endless discussion of this date but one thing that can be said is that Sir Robert Anderson, with his investigative mind, put in place a framework for understanding biblical prophecy that has been followed ever since.