1844 - Is It Prophetic?

By Robert Brinsmead, abridged from Judged by the Gospel

The pioneers, for the most part, were young and inexperienced. Most rejected the Trinity, and thought Christ was a created being.4The pioneers were certainly not right on everything.

Recently, I listened to a presentation by [Adventist Theologian] Raymond F. Cottrell at a meeting of the Adventist Forum. He told publicly what he had been discussing privately for almost 30 years, and it was an amazing story. In the 1950s, as an editor of The SDA Bible Commentary, Elder Cottrell tried to defend the SDA interpretation of Daniel 8:14. He resented Dr. Donald Barnhouse's comment that the investigative judgment idea had not a Bible text to support it. But after laboring with Daniel 8:14, using the original languages and the historical-grammatical method of interpretation, Cottrell found that he could not substantiate the Adventist position. At the suggestion of F. D. Nichol he sent a questionnaire to twenty-seven leading Adventist scholars and found that they too had no adequate biblical defense for it. Some expressed the thought that Daniel 8:14 had nothing to do with its context and that the inaccurate word cleansed, which had lead the pioneers to connect Daniel 8:14 with the cleansing of the sanctuary in Leviticus 16, was simply a fortunate accident.

A committee appointed by the General Conference met for five years but could not resolve the issues. A minority admitted that the Adventist position could not be proved from the Bible. The majority wanted to solve the problem by ignoring context and language altogether

At the meeting of the forum Elder Cottrell declared that despite exhaustive efforts he could not prove the SDA view from the Bible. (In the 1950s, Don F. Neufeld of the Adventist Review had reached the same conclusion.) Cottrell does not want to abandon the traditional teaching. In fact, he desperately wishes to retain it. But he believes it solely on the say-so of Ellen White. (It is doubtful that anyone is really satisfied with such a "solution." How can we preach a message to the world if we cannot prove it from the Bible?)

Context and Language

Daniel 8. Our present task is not to interpret 8:14 but to determine what the passage and the context are saying. Common sense ought to dictate that we should not try to interpret a thing before we understand what is being said.

  1. Daniel 8 describes the work of the little horn. In Dan. 8:13 this evil power is called the desolating trespass.

  2. The desolator focuses his attack on the sanctuary. His great trespass consists in removing the "regular burnt offering." The Hebrew simply uses the word tamid. It is a word frequently used in the Old Testament and simply means "continual," "regular," "perpetual," "always." Most translations supply the word "sacrifice" or "burnt offering"--hence, daily sacrifice or regular burnt offering. We concur with these translations for two reasons:
    • The context is about the sanctuary.
    • The Hebrew word tamid is usually used in connection with the continual services of the sanctuary, especially to designate the evening & morning burnt offerings (Ex. 29:38,39,42; Num. 28:3,4,6,8,10,15,23, 24,31; 29:6.11,16.19,25, 28.34,38; 1 Chron. 16:40; Ezra 3:3-5).

    Two Hebrew expressions are used with almost monotonous repetition to describe the burnt offering--"regular" (tamid) and "morning and evening." Instead of calling it the "regular morning and evening burnt offering," a Jew could call it the "regular" or the "morning & evening."5

  3. Daniel 8:13 (NEB) addresses the question, "'How long will the regular offering be suppressed?"'
    Daniel 8:14 answers this question: "'It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated."' That is to say, 2,300 regular offerings will be suppressed.

    The Hebrew doesn't say 2,300 days but 2,300 evenings mornings. This isn't discussing evenings and mornings as in Genesis 1, where evening means the dark part of the day and morning means the light part. Daniel 8:14 is discussing the evening and morning burnt sacrifices.

    The answer to the question of how long the regular evening & morning offerings will be suppressed is that 2300 sacrifices will be suppressed; then they will be restored.

Several difficulties now confront the traditional Adventist interpretation of Daniel 8:14.

  1. It is doubtful that the 2,300 evening and morning sacrifices are equivalent to 2,300 days. While some scholars argue that they are, most believe that 2,300 sacrifices (one for each evening and morning) are the equivalent of 1,150 days. Contextually and linguistically, those who prefer 1,150 days have the stronger argument. Evidence from Daniel 9 and 12 also favors 1,150 days.

    Those who prefer the expression "2,300 days" would be wise to be modest in their claim. The biblical rule is that "A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses" (Deut. 19:15; cf Matt. 18:16). There is no further witness in the Bible that the period of Daniel 8:14 means 2,300 days. The ardent traditionalist may wish to accept it by a leap of faith. This, however, will not be the only required leap.

  2. The rule that a day in prophecy is equal to a year is incapable of proof. Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6 are more pretexts than proof-texts. They do not say what we have traditionally tried to make them say. There are many instances in Bible prophecy where a day means a day and a year means a year. The Bible prophesied that Abraham's children would be afflicted 400 years and that the Jews would be in captivity 70 years. Here, days are days and years are years.

    The "seventy weeks" of Daniel 9 cannot prove the year-day principle, because the expression is actually "seventy 'sevens"' (Dan. 9:24 NIV). We know that Daniel 9 is talking about "weeks of years," not "weeks of days," but this knowledge comes from the context, not from the word.

  3. The formula "a day for a year" was not used by the New Testament, nor by the early Christians. It was first suggested by a medieval Jewish scholar, and only later adopted by some Christian expositors.6 It reached its zenith of acceptability in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

    Since the New Testament repeatedly declares that Christ is coming "soon," "in a very little while," and that the last days have already arrived, the early Christians could not have understood that a day in prophecy, represents a year. If Christ had returned in the first century, as the first Christians expected, the year-day principle couldn't have worked.

  4. If proving that a day=a year is beset with difficulties, what shall we say about proving that 2,300 sacrifices equal 2,300 years? Perhaps we need another leap of faith!

  5. But a great difficulty now confronts the traditional Adventist prophetic schema. A straight-forward reading of Daniel 8:14 suggests that we should begin numbering the 2,300 suspended sacrifices from the time the desolator took them away. "'How long will the regular offerings be suppressed?'. . . The answer came, 'For two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings"' (Dan. 8:13, 14, NEB).7

  6. The King James Version of Daniel 8:14 states, "Then shall the sanctuary be cleansed." The Hebrew word, here, literally means "justified" or "vindicated." The RSV has "restored," and the NIV has "reconsecrated." "Cleansed" is not the best translation, but it is acceptable if "cleansed" is used in the juridical sense of "to justify."

    In the context of Daniel 8:14, "cleansing the sanctuary"' means cleansing it from the pollution of the desolator (see Dan. 11:31 for a parallel scripture). To introduce into Daniel 8:14 the idea of cleansing the sanctuary from the confessed sins of the saints is not only a diversion but contrary to the context.8 The sanctuary is defiled not by the confessed sins of the saints, but by the evil actions of the little horn. (Even in the Old Testament tabernacle, which the Adventist interpretation brings in at this point, what defiled wasn't confessed sins but covenant-breaking and unconfessed sin.)

Daniel 9. Traditional Adventism links Daniel 8 (the 2300 evenings-mornings) with Daniel 9 (the seventy weeks).

Daniel was troubled because he could not understand the vision of Daniel 8 concerning the desolation of the sanctuary. Daniel begins with a reference to Jeremiah's prophecy of the seventy-year desolation of the sanctuary and the city of Jerusalem. Daniel felt that Jeremiah's 70-year period was nearing fulfillment; he therefore prayed for a speedy restoration of the desolate sanctuary (Dan. 9:17).

In answer to Daniel's prayer the angel Gabriel introduced the prophecy of the "seventy 'sevens"':

Seventy sevens are decreed for your people . . . to finish transgression . . and to anoint the most holy [place]. Daniel 9:24.

This verse is a wonderful prophecy of six great things to be accomplished within the time decreed. We must here confine ourselves to the points relevant to the present discussion.

  1. First we consider the meaning of the seventy "sevens." The word is simply shabua, which means "a seven"; it is context that shows that what is demanded in Daniel 9 is years. Its "seventy 'sevens'" therefore do not prove, as is often asserted, that a day in prophecy equals a year; "day" is nowhere implied or stated.

  2. The "seventy 'sevens"' is an obvious play on the seventy years of Babylonian captivity. The glowing promises of the prophets, especially of Isaiah 40-66, had led the Jews to anticipate that the seventy years would end in a great eschatological deliverance. The prophets spoke of the coming exodus from Babylon in decidedly eschatological language. But compared to the glowing promises of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, the return from Babylon would in fact be very modest. Worse, the kingdom was not restored, and the Jews were still oppressed by Gentile powers. Daniel was informed that the eschatological salvation would take place not at the end of the seventy years, as originally predicted, but at the end of seventy times seven years.

  3. The prophecy declares that the "seventy 'sevens' are decreed for your people." The word "decreed" is from the Hebrew word hatah. This is the only time this word is used in the Old Testament. Translators agree that it means "determined" or "decreed." In New Hebrew it can mean "cut," "cut off;" or "decide." It might be permissible to use "cut off" if it has the same sense as "determined."

  4. Adventists take the word to mean "cut off from," and say that the seventy sevens must be cut off from something. They then say the only thing it can be cut off from is the 2,300 "days." But:
    • The word's primary meaning is determined, or decreed There is no required meaning of "cut off from" at all.
    • Even if one were to insist on the word as meaning "cut off from," the 70 sevens could be "cut off" from the general passage of time. It isn't true that the only thing from which 70 sevens can be "cut" is the 2300 evenings-mornings.
    • Finally, the prophecy never says that the 70 sevens are cut off from the 2,300 evenings mornings. If they were, a fact so vital to understanding the prophecy would surely have been mentioned.

  5. The 70 sevens, according to Adventists, are cut off from the beginning of the 2300 evenings-mornings: thus the two periods begin together. A stronger case however can be made for the two ending together. Dan. 8:14 (NIV) says that the sanctuary would be reconsecrated at the end of the 2,300 evenings and mornings; Dan. 9:24 says that the sanctuary would be anointed at the end of the 70 "sevens. "9

  6. The expression "to finish the transgression" indicates that Daniel 8:14 and Daniel 9:24 are concerned with the same event. The Hebrew does not read "to finish transgression" but "to finish [or restrain] the transgression [hapesha]." The definite article indicates that this passage is referring to a particular transgression: that of Daniel 8:12-13. Here the little horn is called "the desolating trespass" or "the trespass which causes desolation." In other words, "to finish the transgression" means to stop the little horn, the desolator, from suppressing the regular evening and morning burnt offerings. Then the sanctuary will be "reconsecrated" (Daniel 8:14) or "anointed" (Dan. 9:24), and the evening and morning sacrifices will resume.

  7. Daniel 9 then divides the 70 sevens into 7 sevens, 62 sevens and 1 seven. The entire period is said to begin from "the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem" (Daniel 9:25).

    SDAs have traditionally said that this decree was issued by Artaxerxes in 457. Actually, two decrees preceded it. The first and foremost was issued by Cyrus about 536 BC. A second, issued by Darius about520 BC, was really only a reaffirmation of the decree of Cyrus. The decree of Artaxerxes, about 457 BC, was the most insignificant of all.

    Daniel 9:25 literally reads "from the going out of the word [dabar] to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem." It would be reasonable to think that this word referred to the divine word given to the prophets concerning the rebuilding of Jerusalem (Isa. 55:11; Jer. 25:11; 29:10). The traditional Adventist interpretation at this point must make two assumptions: (a) that the "going out of the word" means the issuing of a decree by a Persian king; (b) that this decree was not the decree of Cyrus but of Artaxerxes.

    Artaxerxes, however, did not issue a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. The traditional interpretation must read into Ezra 7 what isn't there.

    Gerhard Hasel, in an article in Ministry, tried to defend the traditional interpretation. But Dewey M. Beegle underscored the weakness of Hasel's arguments.

    Hasel thinks the proper starting point is the order given Ezra by Artaxerxes I in 457 BC.
    A copy of the official letter is found in Ezra 7:11-26. But the letter has not one word about building anything. Ezra "the scribe skilled in the law of Moses" (7:6) is authorized to take a group of exiles back to Palestine. He is given money to buy animals for sacrificing in the temple, and he is entrusted with the spiritual oversight of the Jews. He will teach those who are ignorant of the ways of God, and will judge those who are disobedient.
    Where does Hasel find a basis for his claim? He refers to Ezra 4:7-23 where it is reported to Artaxerxes that the Jews are "finishing the walls and repairing the foundations of Jerusalem" (4:12). Hasel comments:
    "If this report comes from a time later than [Ezra's decree], then one may safely conclude that the decree issued in 457 BC related to the restoration and rebuilding of Jerusalem" (The Ministry, May 1976, p 15).
    But one cannot "safely" come to Hasel's conclusion. It is sheer assumption, for there is no evidence that Artaxerxes ever authorized Ezra to rebuild Jerusalem.
    Hasel makes a second try by referring to the report which Nehemiah received, thirteen years after the edict of Ezra, about the broken walls and burned gates of Jerusalem Neh. 1:3). "This implies," he comments, that previous to this "the city had been rebuilt." It implies nothing of the kind. The battered walls and gates reported to Nehemiah were the rubble left from Nebuchadnezzar's destruction. The returning exiles built the temple and constructed homes in an area cleared of debris, but they did little with the wall system. Attempts to rebuild walls were interpreted by ancient kings as fortification in preparation for revolt, and they seldom authorized it. The Jews needed walls to protect themselves from raids and harassment by their neighbors. But these enemies were there to check what was going on and so the unofficial attempts to rebuild the walls were stopped before much could be accomplished.
    A third try by Hasel is Ezra's thanks for God's love in granting "some reviving to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judea and Jerusalem" (Ezra 9:9). The whole context is spiritual and has nothing to do with a physical wall. (There was no wall around Judea.) Ezra had brought the law of Moses and taught the people a way of life. That was a "wall of protection" for the Jews of Jerusalem and Judea, even though they lacked a physical wall.
    Hasel makes a fourth try by quoting Ezra 6:14, which refers to the "decree of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes." Then he comments: "Ezra considered the third decree to be the culmination of the three decrees." The verse is actually talking about the completion of the temple in 515 BC, and has nothing to do with Ezra.
    Hasel is building his foundation on four broken reeds, and instead of supporting his theory they puncture it. Or to put it another way, if you add four zeroes you get zero. There is not a bit of evidence that in 457 BC there was a decree ordering the rebuilding of Jerusa1em. Hasel has done as thorough a job as possible under the circumstances. This critique of his views should not be taken as an attempt to "hassle" him. The examination is really a refutation of all conservatives who try to start the 490 years in 458 or 457 BC.10

  8. Only one Persian king in the Bible is said to rebuild Jerusalem, and that is Cyrus:
    [God] says of Cyrus, "He is My shepherd and 'will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, 'Let it be rebuilt."' "I will raise up Cyrus. . . He will rebuild My city..." Isa. 44:28, 45:13.

  9. Daniel 9:27 says, "In the middle of that 'seven' [the last seven years] he will put an end to sacrifice and offering." The SDA interpretation said this means the cross in AD 31 made the early temple sacrifices obsolete. The context, however, reads: "The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary . . . He [the same he] will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And one who causes desolation will place abominations on a wing of the temple." The passage is discussing the desolator, not the Messiah. It says just what Daniel 8:11-13, 11:31 and 12:11 say: the desolator will replace the evening-morning sacrifice with an abominable sacrilege.

    From the time the evening and morning sacrifice is suspended to the time it is restored (Dan. 8:14) would be about 3.5 years, or 2,300 evening and morning sacrifices. The 1,150 days of Daniel 8:14 and the 1,260, the 1,290, and the 1,335 days of Daniel 12:7-13 are all nearly this length of time, and all refer to the same general period.


4 See LeRoy Edwin Froom. Movement of Destiny Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Assn., 1971), pp. 165-179.

5 William Miller deduced that tamid referred to paganism: an interpretation appropriated by the pioneers and by Mrs. White. (Early' Writings, p.75) Second-generation SDA Bible students began to recognize that tamid actually referred, as most translators indicated to the burnt offerings. EW 75--although shown in vision--is mistaken. Significantly. Ellen White in later years made no effort to defend the "pagan" view, nor allow those who contended for it to use her vision.

6 According to Froom, the earliest year-day exponent was the Karaite Jew, Benjamin Ben Moses Nahawendi (eight-ninth century), who calculated the 2300 year-days from the destruction of Shiloh and arrived at 1358 as the Messianic year. At least ten Jewish expositors applied this principle to the time periods of Daniel before Joachim of Floris, the first Christian expositor, a Catholic, used it in the year 1190.

7 Early Adventists said that the "daily," (or paganism) was taken away in AD 508. When the next generation saw the "daily" was the continual services of the sanctuary, they said it was the ministry of Christ in heaven, supplanted by the papacy in AD 508. In either case the date was arrived at by taking the 1,290 days of Daniel 12:11 from 1798 (that is, by a process of working backward) and then searching for an event in AD 508 to match up. The reader can see that on either view of the "daily," adding 2,300 years to AD 508 would look rather grim.

8 The history of how Daniel 8:14 came to be linked with Leviticus 16 is worth noting. The Millerites were not content to know the year Jesus would come: they wanted to know the very day. It was Miller who first suggested that the clue might he found in the Day of Atonement. He reasoned that just as the high priest came out of the holy of holies on the Day of Atonement to bless the waiting people (Heb. 9:25) Christ would emerge from the holy of holies on the Jewish Day of Atonement. His followers finally arrived at the specific date of Oct. 22.

But why insist that one aspect of the service must fit, when most aspects of it don't? Did not Aaron offer sacrifice, go in, and then come out in one day? Christ's sacrifice on Calvary certainly predated October, 1844.

When Christ did not come on October 22 the pioneers searched for an explanation in Leviticus 16: the chapter already (if illegitimately) connected for them with Daniel 8:14.

9 The expression "anoint the most holy" refers to a place (i.e.. the sanctuary) and not a person. Can the reconsecrating and anointing of the sanctuary in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes be termed a cleansing? Indeed it can. The consecration and anointing of the tabernacle at Sinai is equated, in Hebrews 9:19-23, with a "cleansing."

10 Dewey M. Beegle, Prophecy and Prediction (Ann Arbor: Pryor Pettengill, Publisher, 1978), pp. 117-119.

[The above is taken from Robert Brinsmead's Judged By the Gospel, 1980]

Category: 1844 Movement
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