The Lord said, “No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. – John 3:13-15
Many bible commentators of Daniel 9 often look to messianic fulfillment of Daniel 9 verse 27 as Christ being “cut off” and putting an end to the sacrifices and libation followed by the 70 AD Roman desolation of the temple. Others often associate the verse also with a different “antichrist” future prince to come which would later build an abomination of desolation type of idle structure on the temple mount. However, the older Septuagint translation offers to us a wonderful perspective that may actually reveal the raising of the Christ sacrificial body on the cross and the establishment of the blood of the New Covenant which would bring and of sin and everlasting righteousness through the Holy Eucharist. And what better fitting way to examine this prophecy on the elevation of Christ upon the Cross than on the feast day of the The Elevation of the Venerable and Life-Giving Cross on September 14th.
The following analysis from the Septuagint provides a possible implicit statement of the crucifixion and its implications in this verse are shown below. The Septuagint text, which is the oldest version of Daniel known to exist written in Greek, seems to indicate a possible “raising up” of the messiah on the cross in Daniel 9:27. Let’s first examine a transliterated version of Daniel 9:27 from the Greek Septuagint:
27 καὶ [and] δυναμώσει [to strengthen] διαθήκην [covenant] πολλοῖς [many], ἑβδομὰς [seven] μία [one]· καὶ [and] ἐν [in] τῷ [the] ἡμίσει [half] τῆς [the] ἑβδομάδος [seven]ἀρθήσεταί [to lift up] μου [My] θυσία [sacrifice] καὶ [and] σπονδή [libation], καὶ [and] ἐπὶ [upon] τὸ [the] ἱερὸν [temple] βδέλυγμα [abomination] τῶν [the] ἐρημώσεων [devastation], καὶ [and] ἕως [even as] συντελείας [completion] καιροῦ [time] συντέλεια [end] δοθήσεται [to give] ἐπὶ [upon] τὴν [the] ἐρήμωσιν [desolation].
Now, the noticeable difference is the word “to lift up,” which is usually translated as “take away” or “cut off” in many of the English Bible translations. Let’s expand upon this word.
ἀρθήσεταί is a verb which is future tense, passive, indicative and singular from the root word αἴρω. Passive means the subject is receiving the action. Indicative means the action of the verb is actual. There are five definitions, so to speak.
- to lift up, take up, pick up
- to look up (in prayer)
- to lift up and carry along
- to lift up and carry away, remove
- to take away, remove (no suggestion of lifting up)
Therefore, the Daniel 9:27 translation of the Septuagint show to the reader that Daniel wished to reveal the statement “to lift up My sacrifice and drink offering” instead of the more common interpretation of “taken away.” And we know the word “libation” was often defined to be a drink poured out as an offering to a deity. The verse would then read like this:
“And to strengthen covenant many seven one and in the half the seven to lift up My sacrifice and libation and upon the temple abomination the devastation and even as completion time end to give upon the desolation.”
The definition of ἀρθήσεταί used here in Daniel 9:27 is most critical in understanding this verse from the Septuagint translation. And the ramifications because of this new understanding of the text would be significant for the biblical scholars who study Daniel’s prophecies. How can we know for sure which definition was intended by the Greek translator back in the third century B.C.? The answer can be found in the pages of the New Testament. In the Gospel of John, the author indicates that Jesus used this word twice. How was this critical word used under a different construct?
John 3:14 – “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up”
John 12:34 – “The people answered Him, “We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever; and how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?”
The words, “lifted up,” highlighted in the verses above are the translated equivalents into English of the very same Greek word, ἀρθήσεταί, used in the Greek Septuagint version of Daniel 9:27. Was John aware of the connection between Jesus and the prophecy of Daniel? In other words, was Jesus “My sacrifice and drink offering” who was lifted. The conclusion we arrive to is, that Daniel 9:27 is a reference to the not only the lifting up on the Cross, but also the “body/sacrifice” and “blood/libation” or Christ proclaimed during the Last Supper. And every Sunday, this very act is commemorated at the climax of the Divine Liturgy. The Anaphora is what we call the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist. It means ascension (the lifting up). “Anaphora” is a Greek word (ἀναφορά) meaning a “carrying back” or a “carrying up“, and so an “offering“. We are called to “Stand aright, stand in fear, be attentive, that we may offer the Holy oblation in peace.” That is, the Holy Spirit is about to descend and turn the wine and bread into the Blood and Body of Jesus Christ. What is about to take place is not some kind of symbolic theatrical performance but a replication of the same exact Sacrifice and Drink Offering of Jesus Christ on Golgotha.
It is certainly not out of the question that Daniel would have made an explicit reference to the Cross and the Holy Eucharist in this most complex and important prophecy of the Old Testament, the Seventy Weeks, in order link how the raising of the sacrifice of Christ would fulfill the six conditions stated in verse 24: “to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy”. The Seventy Weeks prophecy’s central theme is to establish the Blood of the New Covenant for the forgiveness of sins and to make reconciliation for iniquity. For it was Jesus Christ, or savior, who ascended to Golgotha, was nailed to the Cross, sacrificed, and died our salvation. He lies on the altar as the slaughtered lamb “who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). This sacrifice and libation is expressed by the priest during the Divine Liturgy:
“Take eat this is my Body which is broken for you, for the forgiveness of sins.”
“Drink of it all of you; this is my Blood of the new Covenant which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
These are the same words Christ used at the institution of the Holy Eucharist during the Mystical Supper. And it is none other than the Septuagint text which reveals to us the Mystery which would occur during the middle of the final seven years of the 490-year prophecy. And that Mystery is the sacrifice of the Lord who would “be lifted up.”
Matthew 26:26-28 – “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, spoke a blessing and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
After examination of the Septuagint text, we come to the conclusion that Daniel intended to reveal that the “anointed one” would be raised up in a similar fashion as Moses raised up the serpent in the wilderness, and as a result of this act the messiah would put an end of the old style Temple sacrifices and drink offering. This “lifting up” of God’s sacrifice (body) and Drink Offering (blood) is directly linked to the blood of the New Covenant given by Jesus at the Last Supper and ultimately, confirmed and sealed with his death on the cross for the remission of our sins. Or, as Daniel describes in 9:24, his death would “make an end of sins, and make reconciliation for iniquity. Lastly, this verb ἀρθήσεταί from the Septuagint translation of Daniel 9 offers further evidence that Jesus Christ IS the fulfillment of this greatest messianic prophecy of the Old Testament, and serves as further proof of the authenticity of the Greek Septuagint. This authenticity Jesus would also testify to in John 12:23 when the Greeks came to speak with Jesus and he said: “Now the time has come for the son of man to be glorified.”
By the might of the precious and life-giving Cross, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy upon us and save us. Amen!