A "punctuation" error in Daniel 9?


Somebody sent this question in, with some apparent confusion over the nature of the Hebrew text:

Hi Glenn,

I’ve enjoyed your site for some time now, and you’ve managed to answer many queries that I have had over my faith since becoming a Christian, so thank you for all the work you’ve done, I have really appreciated it.

However, a statement someone posted regarding Daniel 9, particularly verse 25 onwards that ran as follows:

‘There were various mix-ups when the editors of the King James bible were busy "copying" the Torah. First up, Daniel 9:25 should not read "the messiah the prince", but "an anointed one, a prince". Cyrus in this case (Isaiah 45:1, 13 and Ezra 1:1-2). Second, the KJB seemed to have zero regard for punctuation. The verse should not be read as (9:25) "the emergence of the word to...rebuild Jerusalem until the anointment...will be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks:...", but rather as follows, "the emergence of the word to...rebuild Jerusalem until the anointment...will be seven septets, and for sixty-two it will be rebuilt". To read it as the KJB version would be to combine the 7 septet period with the 62 septet period.’

I think the person (he’s Jewish) as possibly mis-interpreted, as I know from your site that many rabbis from the inter-testament periods, the first century and beyond (including Maimonades) have seen it as referring to the Messiah.  However, I have not seen anything on the index or context dealing directly with this point, and I haven’t found it deal with directly elsewhere yet.  I was hoping you could help me out, as I would like to be able to respond and encourage the writer to consider that Jesus just might be the Messiah.

If you have dealt with it elsewhere (and I just didn’t spot it, which is quite likely with me J) could you point me to that section.

Thank you for your time, 

God bless

I did a brief interaction with the  quoted material:

See my comments below:

‘There were various mix-ups when the editors of the King James bible were busy "copying" the Torah. First up, Daniel 9:25 should not read "the messiah the prince", but "an anointed one, a prince".

Everybody know that ‘messiah’ means ‘anointed’, and that the messiah is an ‘anointed leader’. The best modern Jewish translation (i.e. JPS) is representative:

“You must know and understand: From the issuance of the word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the [time of the] anointed leader is seven weeks; and for sixty-two weeks it will be rebuilt, square and moat, but in a time of distress. And after those sixty-two weeks, the anointed one will disappear and vanish.”

This is just no big deal—the words are interchangeable


Cyrus in this case (Isaiah 45:1, 13 and Ezra 1:1-2).

This is speculation/interpretation. The text doesn’t say ‘Cyrus’ there, and Jewish interpreters understood this to be otherwise: (From the Jewish Study Bible):

“In the context of the other historical references, however, the anointed leader probably refers to either Zerubbabel or the high priest Joshua, while the anointed one is most likely the high priest Onias III…”

And the earliest Jewish translation of the passage (the LXX) makes the same points:

“And thou shalt know and understand, that from the…until messiah the prince there shall be seven weeks, and sixty two weeks: and then the time shall return, and the street …”

Your friend is somewhat out-of-step with traditional Jewish exegesis of the verse.


Second, the KJB seemed to have zero regard for punctuation.

There is no real punctuation (esp. commas) in the Hebrew bible / Masoretic text. Here is a picture of the interlinear on 25/26 (reads from right to left):



The verse should not be read as (9:25) "the emergence of the word to...rebuild Jerusalem until the anointment...will be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks:...", but rather as follows, "the emergence of the word to...rebuild Jerusalem until the anointment...will be seven septets, and for sixty-two it will be rebuilt". To read it as the KJB version would be to combine the 7 septet period with the 62 septet period.’

Your friend has added the word ‘for’ in front of ‘sixty-two’. But it is not explicit in the text. The JPS translates it that way, but so does several Christian translations (NRSV, WBC), but it should be noted that most Hebrew sentences BEGIN with a verb. So, when verse 25 moves from the word “two” to “be restored”, that would TYPICALLY mean to start a new sentence after the “two”. In other words, there would be an English punctuation-period (or strong semi-colon, introducing a new clause) after the ‘two’, and “Be Restored” would be the start of another sentence or thought. This is how the more literal translations handle this—in standard Hebrew syntax fashion: “There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall,” [NKJV] and “and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.” [NASV]

And we have already noted that the JPS understands septads as weeks (and I have an entire article on the Tank on that).

But the three divisions of time ARE separate periods, but some of them are consecutive. So, one interpretation puts it as:



But encourage your friend to move away from the KJV and work with more modern translations anyway (such as the NKJV, NIV, NAS, NRSV, etc--most stuff with an "N" on the front...smile). He (or she) will be able to interact with the verse and its message from the Lord more freely that way.

I hope this helps—glenn miller


The Christian ThinkTank...[http://www.Christian-thinktank.com] (Reference Abbreviations)