In reading books by various authors, I have encountered something called the 360 day prophetic year. It seems that because the book of Revelation speaks of times, time and half a time (Rev. 12:14), a period of 42 months (Rev. 11:2), and a period of 1260 days (Rev. 12:6), a conclusion has been reached by simple arithmetic that God keeps time by a 360 day year. Neither scripture nor the Jewish calendar supports this. Because I believe that during the tribulation people will be counting the days, this page will address this issue in depth.
The issue centers around Daniel’s prophecy of the seventy weeks. Dan 9:25-27 says, "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. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate."
The word week is the Hebrew word shabuwa and it is defined as: sevened. In other words, dividing time into groupings of seven. These time groupings could not be understood to refer to literal seven day periods because the rebuilding of Jerusalem would have to occur in a period of forty-nine days – impossible. But forty-nine years? Oh yes.
The prophecy contains three counts of time: A. from the going forth of the commandment to restore Jerusalem until it was restored would be seven weeks (7 x 7 years = 49 years); B. from the time the city was restored until the presentation of Messiah would be sixty-two weeks (7 x 62 years = 434 years); and C. the final seven years which are yet to come. The first two time periods of the prophecy cover a total of four hundred eighty-three years.
The Coming Prince by Sir Robert Anderson (my paperback copy: Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49501, reprinted 1987) has been cited in nearly every book that I have read that addresses this subject. Sir Robert made a valiant attempt to prove that the first sixty-nine weeks (483 years) of Daniel’s prophecy were fulfilled by Jesus to the exact day. Sir Robert begins by calling on tradition that Abraham (page 68) used the three hundred sixty days year which he had known in his Chaldean home, but he neglects that, at least at the time of the prophet Daniel, the Babylonian priests added intercalary months as needed, meaning they did not use a strict three hundred sixty days calendar. He then (page 70) counts days from the carrying away into Babylon in 589 B.C. and the return in 520 B.C., divides his answer (which is not derived by simply deducting 520 from 589) by three hundred sixty days and comes up with seventy years. I don’t know what dating system he used for his beginning date, but it seems pretty certain that it was based on something other than a calendar that calculated three hundred sixty day years since the creation, and it did not account for the intercalary months which the Jewish people have apparently always used. The argument presented was a good example of circular reasoning: he presented his theory, built upon it, then used what was built to prove his theory. We are indebted to him for his effort because the book does contain a lot of interesting information regarding historical dating, however, the method used in the calculation was confusing and inaccurate, and commenced from the wrong starting date.
Dan. 7:25 and Rev. 12:14 both use the expression time, times and half a time regarding the last half of the tribulation. It is accepted that this equals 1 year + 2 years + ½ year for a total time of 3½ years. Rev. 12:6 uses twelve hundred sixty days for the same time period, and Rev. 11:2 assigns it a duration of forty-two months. When these different counts of time for the second half (only) of the tribulation are taken together, the result is a three hundred sixty day year made up of twelve months of thirty days each. From this simple calculation comes the three hundred sixty day prophetic year.
Abraham is also cited as using a Chaldean three hundred sixty day year, and computations have been done from Gen. 7 & 8 that seem to show that Noah calculated years in the same manner. I have no argument with how Noah computed his years, but the Jewish understanding is that Abraham used a lunisolar calendar.
In the final analysis, both Noah and Abraham lived before the law was given, and the law (Deut. 16:1) commanded, "Preserve the month Abib…" Because there is no recorded previous commandment regarding the keeping of the calendar, I think we must look at the written word to interpret and determine prophetic times. Based on the law, the Jewish people have, since the time of Moses, used a calendar that involves seven out of every nineteen years being leap years, and each of those leap years contains an entire added month. Due to leap year patterns, the count of days given in Revelation for the last half of the tribulation fits beautifully into this calendar, but that does not confirm that Israel or prophetic scripture uses a three hundred sixty days year.
Sir Robert multiplied the 483 years of Daniel’s prophecy by three hundred sixty days and came up with a total of 173,880 days until the prophecy would be fulfilled at Passover, 32 A.D. However, the prophecy was given in terms of years, not days, and Israel never did keep time by a three hundred sixty day year: they adjusted their lunar calendar to the solar seasons and those years averaged 365.25 days each, exactly the same as ours.
If Israel did use a three hundred sixty day year, they would have missed the coming of Messiah by almost seven years (5.25 missing days x 483 years = 2535.75 days divided by 365.25 days = 6.94 years) and should never have been expected to recognize the time of his coming. This three hundred sixty days prophetic year is actually asking Israel to count DAYS for four hundred seventy-six years while the prophecy was given in terms of YEARS and while the nation was using a different, God ordained, calendar. I think we have to reject this idea, especially if we want to understand the calendar of the final, still unfulfilled, seven years of the prophecy. May God forever bless Sir Robert for his effort: it has blessed a lot of people since it was published in 1894. But we are living in the final generation and Daniel wrote that at the time of the end knowledge would be increased. We need to gain a better understanding of the times.
If Jesus was born in 4 B.C. (See Chronology, New Testament; Ungar's Bible Dictionary), entered his public life at age thirty (Luke 3:23), and ministered for 3½ years before being crucified at Passover, we are then looking for a period of four hundred eighty-three actual years that would end in 30 A.D. thus would have to begin in 453 B.C.
Based on the work of Sir Robert, most commentators agree that the command to restore Jerusalem was given by the Persian king Artaxerxes Longimanus on Nisan 1 in the twentieth year of his reign (445 B.C.). The scripture cited in support is Neh. 2:1-8. In reading the passage, we find that Nehemiah made a request of the king that he might rebuild Jerusalem and the king granted his request. Nehemiah asked for and received letters from the king to the governors ‘beyond the river’ requesting conveyance and timber. However, missing from the passage is any royal commandment or decree whatsoever: Nehemiah made certain requests and the king graciously granted them. But Daniel clearly said that a commandment would go forth.
The book of Ezra contains four actual decrees dating from the Persian time period: three positive and one negative. BUT FIRST…..
Isaiah prophesied from 760-698 B.C. In the year 712 he was inspired to write (Isa. 44:28) about the God "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 is an extraordinary prophecy because it called Cyrus by name one hundred seventy-six years before he became king of Persia. Isa. 45:4 states that God would call Cyrus by name for Israel’s sake: I believe to enable them to identify the time spoken of by Daniel.
This prophecy states that Cyrus would speak a command (thou shalt) regarding both Jerusalem and the temple. This same man would give both commands.
Cyrus gives the (first positive) command to rebuild the temple in Ezra 1:1-4, historically dated at 536 B.C. While the passage speaks of building the temple, there is no mention of building the city, but the city is named as the place where the temple was to be built, which means that the city would also need to be built. In fact, all three of the positive decrees regard building the temple and none specifically refer to building the city. Therefore, based on Isaiah and Daniel, I think it is reasonable that the decrees regarding rebuilding the temple also refer in a larger sense to Jerusalem itself.
The decree recorded in Ezra 1 is given eighty-three years too early to be the total, sole fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy.
In Ezra 4 the next king, Artaxerxes, receives a letter of complaint from his rulers on the other side of the river. These rulers asked the king to suspend work on the building of Jerusalem, "the rebellious and bad CITY" (vs. 12). Artaxerxes goes into the royal archives and discovers that, just as the complaint said, Jerusalem had in the past made insurrection against kings. As a result, Artaxerxes suspends rebuilding of the CITY (vs. 21 - negative decree) until such time as he gave a different command, which he never did. The command of this Artaxerxes stopped what Cyrus’ command had begun, which must be seen as the building of the city.
Ezra 5 records that the people of Jerusalem sent the next king, Darius, a letter asking him to search the archives for Cyrus’ original decree and reinstate it. Ezra 6:1-12 records that in 519 B.C. King Darius found and confirmed Cyrus’ decree to rebuild the temple. This (second positive) decree is still sixty-seven years too early, but notice the decrees are connected.
Ezra 7:11-26 records that in 457 B.C. Darius’ successor, also named Artaxerxes, made a decree that the temple should be beautified. This is the third positive decree.
Backing up to Ezra 6:14 we read this: "And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia."
Notice that while three separate kings are mentioned, the verse states that together they only gave one commandment, and further, that this was God’s commandment: BUILD! (the Artaxerxes named in Ezra 4 could not be the same king referenced in this verse because that Artaxerxes stopped the building.) This had to be the command referred to by Daniel because the Artaxerxes in Neh. 2:1-8 did not give a command. Further, since scripture records in one verse that all three kings gave one command, all three commands are connected and the counting of the four hundred eighty-three years would have to begin with the decree given by the final king.
Notice further that according to Ezra 6:14 Haggai and Zechariah (the son of Iddo Ezra 5:1) were prophets at the time. The book of Haggai contains God’s complaint that the Jews were living in "cieled houses" while the temple lay waste. They obviously were concentrating on building something other than the temple at Jerusalem. Zechariah’s ministry is first mentioned at the time Darius was king, i.e. in about 520 B.C. There is a Zechariah listed among those who went from Babylon to Jerusalem with Ezra in 457 B.C. If this is the same Zechariah he would have been at least 83 years old at the time.
Zechariah wrote a book that bears his name. The book was apparently written at two different times: chapters 1-8 in about 518 B.C. and chapters 9-14, according to Ungar’s, later than 480 B.C. The last six chapters of Zechariah prophesy the first and second advents of Jesus: what would happen at the end of the four hundred eighty-three years and, still later, at the end of the final seven years.
If these prophecies were recorded in 457 B.C., it is most interesting to find this written in Zech. 9:9: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass." In this verse Zechariah precisely described Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Nisan 10, 30 A.D., the event that would mark the end of Daniel’s four hundred eighty-three years. That prophecy may have been given the same year the countdown began. If so, it would have confirmed that it was time to start counting.
The king giving the final command was Artaxerxes and the command was dated at 457 B.C., four years too early for a four hundred eighty-three year fulfillment. However, our Gregorian calendar is based on the birth of Jesus. B.C. means Before Christ and A.D. means Anno Domini (in the year of our Lord – NOT after death). Historical dating since the determination of our calendar indicates that the birth of Jesus occurred in 4 B.C. rather than in 1 A. D. (Click here for article) Those four years difference impact every date in our calendar: they should be deducted from years B.C. when calculating elapsed time across the change of the era.
On a number line, the moment of Jesus’ birth is set at zero, to the left of zero is the year 1 B.C. and to the right is the year 1 A.D. Jesus was thirty years old (Luke 3:23) when he entered his public ministry, ministered for three and one-half years, and was crucified. If Jesus was born at zero, then he would have died in 34 A.D. Dan. 9:25-26 prophesied that a total time period of four hundred eighty-three years would elapse from the going forth of the command to rebuild Jerusalem until the death of Jesus. That command went forth as recorded in Ezra 7:9 and the historical date for the event was set at 457 B.C. Using the same calendar that we use today, on a number line these facts would appear as follows:
To find the elapsed time, add the dates together: 457 + 34 = 491 years. This is eight years too many to fit the prophecy in Daniel.
At a later time it was discovered that Jesus was not born at the time set as zero, he was born in 4 B.C.
This impacts dates in our calendar as pertaining to the fulfillment of prophecy. If Jesus was born in 4 B.C. and lived thirty-four years, then his death did not occur in 34 A.D., it occurred in 30 A.D.
We now have an elapsed time of four hundred eighty-seven years from the going forth of the Command to the death of Jesus. This is still four years too many to fulfill Daniel’s prophecy. But if we look at number lines 2 & 3 we find that the date of Jesus birth was moved four years to the left. The Command, which was DATED as occurring four hundred fifty-seven years before the birth of Jesus was actually GIVEN only four hundred fifty-three years before the birth, therefore 457 B.C. is no longer our beginning point for calculating the elapsed time of the prophecy. Instead, we must reassign the year 457 as the year 453 B.C.
Using the reassigned date of 453 B.C. as the year the command went forth, we end up with a new number line for the fulfillment of the prophecy. When we again add the beginning and ending dates of the prophecy we get four hundred eighty-three years elapsed time from the going forth of the Command until the death of Jesus, exactly as prophesied by Daniel.
As is illustrated above, when the four years error are deducted from the historical date of the command, we end up at 453 B.C., exactly where we need to be in order for the four hundred eighty-three years of the prophecy to end in 30 A.D. When making this calculation I do not drop one year for the missing year zero: if a year is dropped we end up with 1 B.C. and 1 A.D. occupying the same year. Zero is not a year, it is an hour: the time of Jesus’ birth.
We can get closer to actually proving the date. Ezra 7:9 states that Ezra began to leave Babylon for Jerusalem on the first day of the first month. This would be Nisan 1. Ezra carried with him the decree of Artaxerxes, the third king, so this would be the day that the command referred to by Daniel went forth thus the day that we start counting the four hundred eighty-three years of the prophecy.
As previously stated, since the giving of the law Israel has used a lunisolar calendar which in ancient times was established by direct observation and today is based on a nineteen-year calculated cycle which very closely approximates the ancient calendar. Twelve of the nineteen years are regular years of 353-355 days each, and seven are leap years of 383-385 days each. The following chart covers an actual 19 year Jewish calendar cycle (Tishri 1 - Elul 29) for the Jewish years 5739 through 5757.
In order to get as close as possible to the actual amount of time, the above total includes a decimal of .75 (the additional eighteen hours from the first to the third year of our Gregorian calendar). Based on research of the Jewish calendar, the decimal is legitimate so I have included it here and will also use it in further computations.
To find the average number of days in each year we divide the 6939.75 days by the 19 years. The result is 365.25 days, exactly the same length as our calendar year.
The placement of any given year in the nineteen year cycle can be determined by dividing the Jewish year by 19. The remainder is the year of the cycle. For example, the Jewish year 5765 covers September 16, 2004 through October 4, 2005. Dividing 5765 by 19, the answer is 303 with a remainder of 8. Therefore the Jewish year 5765 is the eighth year of the cycle. (This calculation should be done by hand - using a calculator will result in a fraction with at least twelve digits to the right of the decimal.)
We have already seen that the command prophesied by Daniel was given in 453 B.C. When we add those 453 years to 2005 A.D. we get a total of 2458 years. If we subtract 2458 years from the Jewish year 5765 we get the Jewish year of 3307 as the year the command went forth. 3307 divided by 19 = 174 with a remainder of 1, so the year 3307 (453 B.C.) was the first year of a cycle. This is important because in the Jewish calendar cycle, years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 19 are leap years. From the chart above we can calculate that the average length of regular years is 354 days and the average length of leap years is 384 days.
I will number the following computations so they can be easily matched with the final addition.
The total number of days are as follows:
176,418.07 days divided by 365.25 days equals exactly 483.00 years.
Whether one counts the sixty-nine weeks by days or years, when we go forward four hundred eighty-three years from Nisan 1, 453 B.C. to Nisan 10, 30 A.D., the day of the triumphal entry, we discover that Jesus, Messiah the Prince, was presented to Israel exactly four hundred eighty-three recognizable years TO THE DAY, from the going forth of the command as recorded in Ezra 7:9 and exactly as prophesied in Daniel. We can absolutely rely on the accuracy of the Holy Bible.