I have a most lousy copy of “On The Incarnation” by St. Athanasius. If you see the Forgotten Books reprint of this for sale anywhere (www.forgottenbooks.org), forget it and get this book published by someone else. It is digitally remastered from an older manuscript. The letters are faded from light to dark making this an annoying read. Fr. James Purdie was going to let me borrow a better version from his library. But, I had already ordered this when I met with him last month. Next time, I will ask to borrow from him before I waste my money and eyesight. I will have to read this book again as I doubt I got half of what Athanasius was teaching.
Oh, but I did get one lesson from this great saint that threw me for a loop! In the 39th section of the book, Athanasius refutes the Jews looking for a Messiah other than Jesus by referring to the prophet Daniel. Daniel Chapter 9:20-27, the angel Gabriel reveals to the prophet the time of the Seventy Weeks between worship at the temple in Jerusalem until the temple is desecrated by the an abomination in the temple. Notes in the Orthodox Study Bible interpret the Seventy weeks to mean 70 weeks of years (70 x 7), or 490 years. Using the works of Hippolytus, a bishop of Rome 170-235 AD, the temple was commissioned to be rebuilt in 458 BC. The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ happened in 30 AD. This is in the time frame of the Seventy Weeks or 490 years (488 years to be exact). Athanasius argues using Daniel 9:24- 25:
Seventy weeks are cut short upon thy people, upon the holy city, for a full end made to sin, and for sins to be sealed up, and to blot out iniquities, and to make atonement for iniquities, and to bring everlasting righteousness, and to seal vision and prophet, and to anoint the Holy of Holies; and thou shalt know and understand from the going forth of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem unto Christ the Prince.
Of course, I knew of the other Messianic prophecies that are repeated such as Isaiah 7:14 and Micah 5:1 that are repeated in the Gospel of Matthew. But, I have never had this Daniel prophecy explained like this. And unlike our modern-day “end-of-the-world experts,” Athanasius, Hippolytus, and similar scholars are the fathers of Christian doctrine. No wonder the Orthodox Bible ends the Old Testament with Daniel and then goes into the Gospels. Jesus falls into the prophetic chronology with the angel Gabriel announcing Christ first to the prophet and then to Mary.
Of course, you Orthodox Christians can explain this far better than me. I do not claim to be an expert. I am not even a catechist (yet). But, seeing this chronological, prophetic proof of Christ, I have some questions about my own Protestant faith:
- Why did Martin Luther and other leaders change this chronological pattern between Daniel and the Gospels?
- Why don’t we teach this prophecy of the Seventy Weeks as part of our defense of faith?
- Why don’t we make our parishioners aware of this prophecy, at least during Advent?
- Of what profit is it to ignore the writings of Athanasius ( who gave us our first creed and New Testament canon), Hippolytus, and other ancient writers in exchange for the likes of John Hagee, Jack van Impe, and other prophetic “scholars?”
I hope to see Fr. James this week while I am in Hampton on business. I will re-read “On The Incarnation” again as soon as I get my hands on a better copy. And I will continue to ask questions.