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Questions On Doctrine


Scholarly Precedents for 1844 Ending of 2300 Year-Days



What scholarly support can Seventh-day Adventists cite for holding, not only that the 2300 days of Daniel 8:14 are symbolic and therefore stand for 2300 actual years in fulfillment, but especially that they end in 1844? Does not your position differ from both fundamentalists and modernists, as well as from Jews and Roman Catholics? Was not your variant concept an innovation first devised by a layman, William Miller? What reputable scholars, if any, have ever supported such a conclusion?


We believe our view to be the logical conclusion and climax of nearly a thousand years of progressive application of the year-day principle to the symbolic time periods of Bible prophecy. Its progenitors and champions have embraced literally hundreds of illustrious Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant scholars. The intent of the 2300 days of Daniel 8:14 has intrigued men for more than a thousand years.

There are seven progressive steps, or principal advances, that form the historical antecedents of our present position. These compass two millenniums and include some of the greatest scholars of the centuries, as


well as involving all major faiths. (The digest that follows is based upon complete documentary evidence appearing in the four-volume set The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, by L. E. Froom.)                       

1. Early Church Stressed Seventy Weeks of Years.—Early churchmen expounded the 70 weeks of Daniel 9 as weeks of years, or 490 years. These included Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Julius Africanus, Eusebius Pamphili, Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Theodoret, Polychronius, Isidore of Pelusium, Theodosius, Miletenus, Andronicus, and Prosper of Aquitaine. And this position has long been the general view among both Catholics and Protestants.

2. Year-Day Principle Applied By Midieval Jews to All Symbolic Time Periods.—Medieval Jewish scholars were the first to apply the year-day, principle to the day periods of Daniel.—the 1290, 1335, and 2300—as year-days, leading to the "far-off days," at the "time of the end." Beginning with ninth-century, Nahawendi, and then tenth-century Saadia, Jeroham, and Hakohen, we come to eleventh-century Rashi, who regarded the 2300 as full years. Then we find four, twelfth-century and two thirteenth-century scholars including Nahmanides, teaching the same. And three fourteenth-century rabbis, Abravanel in the fifteenth century, and others in the sixteenth century, paralleling the Protestant Reformation, provide a total of twenty-one Jewish expositors, spread over Palestine Persia, Syria, Babylon, France, Spain, Algeria, Portugal Italy, Turkey, Poland, and Germany.


3. Medieval Catholic Scholars Parallel Jewish Year-Day Reckoning.—Beginning in 1190, with the renowned Joachim of Floris, of Calabria, Italy, the year-day principle was first applied to the 1260 days as the years of the symbolic woman, or church in the wilderness. And in the thirteenth century Joachimite scholars in Italy, Spain, France, and Germany similarly applied the year-day principle to the 1260, 1290, 1335, and 2300 days. For example, about 1292 Arnold of Villanova said that the 2300 days stand for 2300 years, counting the period from the time of Daniel to the Second Advent. Here is his express statement: "When he says, 'two thousand three hundred days' it must be said that by days he understands years. . . . In that vision by days are understood years."

Better known to most church historians is the illustrious Nicholas Krebs of Cusa, Roman Catholic cardinal, scholar, philosopher, and theologian, who in 1452 declared that the 2300 year-days began in the time of Persia. His Conjecture Concerning the Last Days (1452) declares that the 2300 year-days extend from Persia to the consuming of sin at the Second Advent, possibly between 1700 and 1750.

4. Correct Termini of Seventy  Weeks Established..—In the German Reformation Johann Funck (1564) first correctly placed the seventy weeks (490 years) as reckoned from the seventh year of Artaxerxes, from 457 B.C. to A.D. 34. In this he was soon followed by other Protestant scholars in various lands, such as Cappel in France, and Bullinger in Switzerland. Scores of interpreters have since held the Artaxerxes—decree date (457 B.C.) as the beginning of the seventy weeks of years. The list soon included Colonial American scholars as well. (A large group held the


same view in the early nineteenth century—in Britain, on the Continent, and in North America. And since then, such expositors as Doderlein, Franc, Geier, Pusey, Auberlen, Blackstone, Taylor, and Boutflower have concurred, as well as Roman Catholics such as Lempkin.)

5. Tillinghast Includes Seventy Weeks Within 2300.—In the century after the Protestant Reformation, many Protestant expounders from English theologian George Downham (died 1634) to British barrister Edward King in 1798, declared the number 2300 involved the same number of years. John Tillinghast (died 1655) ended them at the second advent and the 1000-year reign of the saints. Tillinghast was the first to assert the 70 weeks of years to be a lesser epoch within the larger period of the 2300 years. He did not begin them together. But he declared the 70 weeks to belong within the 2300 years.

6. 2300 Years Embraces All Lesser Periods.—Heinrich Horch of Germany declared that the 2300 years is the master, over-all period, and includes all lesser time periods. Thomas Beverley, of Britain, believed it led to the second advent, the end of the world, the resurrection, the breaking of antichrist, and the millennium. Brilliant scholars in Britain and Germany—such as Lowth, Whiston, Bishop Newton, Fletcher, Horch, and Giblehr—looked for the church's deliverance, the destruction of antichrist, the establishment of Christ's kingdom to follow upon the close of this period.


Some Colonial and early national American writers—such as Congregational theologian Cotton Mather, Governor William Burnet, Episcopalian rector Richard Clarke, Postmaster General Samuel Osgood, and Harvard librarian James Winthrop—believed that the period would end with the fall of spiritual Babylon, the "rest that remains," the kingdom of God, the world's "midnight," the smiting of the nations, the millennium, or the end of the world.

7. Petri—2300 Years Begin Jointly With seventy Weeks.—Johann P. Petri (died 1792), Reformed pastor of Seckbach, Germany, in 1768 introduced the final step in the progressive and logical series of seven principles leading to the inevitable conclusion and climax—that the 490 years (70 weeks of years) are the first part of the 2300 years. He began them synchronously, 453 years before the birth of Christ terminating the 490 years in A.D. 37, and the 2300 years in 1847. Hans Wood, of Ireland, likewise made the 70 weeks the first part of the 2300 years. Soon men on both sides of the Atlantic, in Africa, even in India and other countries, began to set forth their convictions in similar vein.

Scores in Early Nineteenth Century Fix on 1843, '44, or '47

In the first third of the nineteenth century a tremendous revival of study took place concerning the prophecies pertaining to the approaching end of the age. A number of European scholars in Britain, on the Continent, and even in India—from John A. Brown in 1810, to Birks in 1843—published their convictions that the 2300 years would end about 1843, '44, or '47. These three dates represent essentially the same reckoning, with the death of Christ in the midst, or at the end,


of the seventieth week of years, with the 2300 counted from the same starting point as the 70 weeks. The differences are mere matters of computation or of placing Christ's birth in 1 or 4 B.C.

In North America a paralleling group of scholars holding high posts in various denominations—all prior to William Miller—from William C. Davis (1810) on, likewise looked to 1843, '44 or '47 as destined to introduce some great event or period—the advent, the judgment scene, or the millennial reign of the saints, or the effusion of the Spirit preceding Christ's coming. These included Dr. Joshua L. Wilson, moderator of the Presbyterian General Assembly; Protestant Episcopal Bishop John P. K. Henshaw, Alexander Campbell, founder of the Disciples Church, several college presidents and professors, judges, congressmen, physicians, pastors of outstanding churches, and editors of several religious journals.

It is both interesting and significant that more than sixty men in the early nineteenth century, scattered over four continents, and located in twelve different countries—including even a Roman Catholic supreme court justice, Jose de Rozas of Mexico City—looked to 1843, '44, or '47 as the terminus of this epochal period. And nearly all of them published their expectations before William Miller's first book appeared in Troy, New York, in 1836.

Such is the impressive historical background, and scholarly non-Seventh-day Adventist precedent, revealed in the record. We consequently feel that our position—that the 2300 year—days of Daniel 8:14 extend from 457 B.C. to A.D. 1844—has ample precedent.


So, in common with many before us, we, as Adventists, hold that the closing date was to announce important events clustering around the great judgment day and the closing events of the age. (The basis of our fixing upon the 2300 years as extending from 457 B.C. to A.D. 1844 appears under Questions 24 and 25.)

Ours Not a Discovery, but a Continuation

Our reason for accepting as rational, logical, and exegetically sound the interpretation that places the terminus of the 2300 years in 1844 is not based on the imposing array of scholarly expositors cited, but the fact remains that we have this supporting host of expositors, without a parallel in the annals of prophetic exposition.

That is why we feel that if we are to be censured, then, in simple fairness and justice, similar charges of unreasonableness should be placed against that illustrious company of accomplished Biblical scholars who have held essentially the same view, and who held honored posts in the leading Protestant communions. They are recognized, outstanding Christian scholars. And we, as Adventists, continue to take our place in that great line of serious-minded prophetic expositors of the centuries, clasping hands with the brilliant, godly company of exegetes before us. They are our spiritual ancestors in this exposition, and we their logical successors and continuators. If we find ourselves differing with most fundamentalists and all modernists, that is because they have abandoned the historicist position—the one group for futurism, and the other for preterism. Our view represents the position once held by


their spiritual ancestors. We do not base our doctrine on the authority of our predecessors; we find our own basis in a study of Scripture and a comparison of fulfillment in history. But we are here answering the question about our precedents in exposition, and we feel honored to stand in this distinguished line.

To conclude: From facts here adduced, it becomes evident that our position on the reckoning of the 2300 year-days is not an innovation. It is in harmony with positions long since held, but which others have let slip. It cannot rightly be called an invention, a discovery; it is, in reality, a continuation and restoration of prophetic truths and principles progressively adopted over the centuries. We are therefore not introducers of new positions, but are sincere champions of old historic positions developed by the Christian church of the ages.

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