Disappointed by Scripture: October 22, 1844 and the Limits of Biblical Hermeneutics

Every year on October 22nd, Adventists recall the events of 1844, the year when thousands of North American Millerites expected that the sanctuary of Daniel 8:14 pointed to the “cleansing” of earth by the return of Christ. I, too, have started my own tradition at this time of year, writing personal reflections about my church’s journey as it relates to 1844.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/article/2016/10/21/disappointed-scripture-october-22-1844-and-limits-biblical-hermeneutics

The “hope of Millerites” was doomed even before they could articulate the hope for the simple reason that James Miller studied his bible to prove his father wrong. “Following his conversion, Miller’s Deist father soon challenged him to justify his newfound faith. He did so by examining the Bible closely, declaring to one friend “If he would give me time, I would harmonize all these apparent contradictions to my own satisfaction, or I will be a Deist still.””

Should we draw parallels between William Miller and his father’s challenge with TW and his father’s legacy?


This is so helpful and important. Thank you for this. What it means for the church is profound and could have/should have been clearly seen fifty years ago, but certain key individuals, enamored with their own theological importance, fought the obvious with fear mongering about those raising the questions.

A balanced piece affirming Adventism’s importance, while not cavalierly affirming its prophetic significance in history.


Thank you for a very detailed, articulate and eloquent description of October 22, 1844 and it’s unfortunate aftermath of the Sanctuary doctrine.

It is very clear that the Millerites were humiliated, mortified and hugely embarrassed by their failed prophecy. They were “grasping at straws” when they fortuitously came up with the face saving Sanctuary “snake oil” solution.

For me, the fact that the whole doctrine relies on a very abstruse academic date, 457 BC, as its underpinning, makes it hugely suspect.

Bible doctrines should be able to be understood by humble, poorly educated, semi-literate,believers. The start date of this,prophecy required historical research in archeological ancient history tomes buried in Ivy League libraries. That makes it too complex, too inaccessible for the average Joe or Jane and therefore probably invalid.

Very dismaying, is the fact that no other Christian theologians, seminaries, nor academics have subscribed to it nor endorsed it.

As you point out, if EGW had not been intimately involved in the doctrine’s origin and proclamation, it would have been jettisoned long ago.

Christ exclaimed emphatically and unequivocally three times in the last chapter of Revelationm, BEHOLD I AM COMING SOON!

Had His father not informed Him that no way could He proclaim that – He had some magic mission to fulfill nearly two millennia later, thus making His proclamation a falsehood?

When Christ made that proclamation circa AD 60/70, I do not believe that He was constrained by some mythical future event in 1844 of which He was unaware.


It seems Jews had their own Great Disappointment, and this involves the FIRST ADVENT of Christ. Certain parallels are evident with the Millerite Disappointment however.The Jews had been under the iron heel of various world powers for nearly three quarters of a millennium by the time of Jesus’ birth in 7 B.C. Their priests (both Saducees and Pharisees) and Holy men prayed for a Messiah to deliver them. In the mean while they steadfastly maintained the Jewish diaspora in Kashmir to which many Jews fled to avoid oppression. Indian scholars and the Indian Government claim to have reams of olden records detailed the Acts of the “Pierced Jewish Messiah” in INdia. Those Jews who awaited the first advent gathered at the Qumran Plateau. They included descendants of the Old Temple elite during the time of their greatest King, David. The promised Messiah was therefore seen as a conquering warlord. Not only that, but The reigning Priests claimed that they had spoken to the almighty by prayers and other means, and that the sign of his legitimacy would be that he would be born of a virgin and also in the month of September , the month of the Holy Festivals. Jesus WAS born of a Virgin that is a sect of young women calling themselves Mary, collectively in honour of Miriam, sister of Moses.attached to the tribe of DAN However, God apparently deliberately did not hold to the so-called timetable of birth. He was born six months too early. Because of this he was never accepted as ,legitimate by the purists , especially the PhARisees who demanded that he even be crucified with A CROWN of thorns. The thorn was a sigh of illegitimacy in the Sadduceean Abbeys. These priests would search the banks of the wadis and streams where unmarried Jewish girls from Jerusalem would come to have their illegitimate babies and leave them to die there. These were rescued and cared for by Saducean Priests to become acolytes, The rescuer would then be his/her "father"God cannot be pinned down by mans. often faulty reading of prophecy. We are happy though when we decipher right.

Andre, I appreciate your interesting essay. I have some responsive thoughts about intertextuality, inner-biblical exegesis, and inner-biblical allusion.

We should always be mindful that the predominant question is–What is the meaning of the text? The text means not what the words say but what the author intends to say. Meaning is inextricably connected to authorial will, not words. I think we can agree that an intertextual analysis is synchronic and divorced from authorial will. We are merely looking at commonalities that exist between or among texts. An intertextual analysis is an exercise of structuralism. The texts in that sort of analysis enjoy semantic autonomy. We don’t care when the texts were written or who wrote them. And we don’t care about a trajectory or development of thought that occurs as we move from one text to another.

Inner-biblical exegesis and inner-biblical allusion are different in that they require a diachronic analysis that is tied to authorial will. Inner-biblical exegesis represents a later author’s attempt to modify the earlier text in some way. Inner-biblical allusion is a later author’s allusion to an earlier text. The problem with Jeff Leonard’s proposed methodology for the study of inner-biblical allusion is that he focuses on language rather than authorial will. I briefly checked online to see if he believes in inerrancy. I couldn’t tell. The proponents of inerrancy are desperate critics of the study of linguistics, which falsifies the notion that words can be divinely inspired. (By the way, the makeshift compromise proposed by conservative Seventh-day Adventist theologians between word inspiration and thought inspiration–that God inspires thought but provides some “apt” words–is hermeneutical error, because there is no such thing as an “apt” word. I don’t have time or space to demonstrate this, but I can if you are interested). Whether there is a biblical allusion intended must be based on everything we know about the text, not just the words of the text.

Leonard’s proposed methodology is a veneer that is placed upon the text. His methodology is meritorious in that it constrains our analysis with objective and neutral criteria. But his methodology does not get to the truth about what the author has done. There can be allusions in which there is no commonality of words between or among the texts. We must also be mindful that a biblical author’s allusion can be made not only to a text but to an oral tradition. And nobody who ever alludes to something perceives that he or she is following some sort of methodology or somehow making the allusion in a right or wrong way. Even after we determine there is an allusion, what sort of allusion it might be or how that allusion informs the meaning of the text is not clear cut. In sum, Leonard’s methodology has the feel of intertextual analysis.


Hey good André,

It’s always a great, refreshing experience to read your articles. Straightforward talk, no cosmetics, things as they are not as people want them to be. My style, as you well know.

I am glad you made it a tradition to take some time around this time of the year to write some reflexions related to our good friend “October 22,” a day that has always been so meaningful to Adventists.

I am also glad that in your tradition, you always remind us of the book of Hebrews, that easily clarifies and debunks all the nonsense that the Adventists have been teaching about 1844. (For the record, I have done it many times in the years past, until I learned better studying Fesmond Ford and others). If I would be allowed to keep only one of the biblical books, that would be it, The Book of Hebrews. It has the Gospel of Jesus, it has the story of God’s mercy, it has the story of salvation, the Cross, and everything we need to know about the future, the eternity.

Great article, again!!!


A bold statement, correcting a gross error, but mighty close to dire consequences. Music is much safer. cheers. tZ


I doubt André Reis need to worry about any administrative consequences of pointing out the obvious, that the founding dogma of Adventism arose out of a shared, traumatic experience, and not exegesis. As the old adage goes, a text without a context is a pretext, and nobody has ever read Daniel 8:14 as story about what happened in Heaven the week before Halloween in 1844 who did not have a vested interest in the movement that arose from that event. There is simply no Adventist sheol left into whose darkness serious scholars can be thrown, it seems to me. The GC is busy wasting its authority on a hopeless and discrediting fight to keep women in their place, a re-run of sorts by Wilson Two of Wilson One’s disastrous Marikay crusade, and I doubt there is enough wrath left in the system to impugn the integrity of honest people dabbling in the quaint discipline of exegesis.

As far as I can see from my distant perch, the SdA church has basically conceded the view voiced by André Reis. That does not mean that it will be an easy thing to move beyond it and replace it with a New World theology that might work in the 21st century.

First of all, while it is true that EGW abandoned her vision enhanced view that the world mission field after 1844 had been reduced to those who had participated in an apocalyptic crusade in the north-eastern corner of the United States, it is also true that EGW felt so embarrassed about that period of her life that she distorted, to the point of lying, her involvement in both the fanatical charismatic phenomena that followed and the period’s exclusivistic theology later in life.

And while she advocated in favor of Bible study and openness to new ideas, she really only was open to ideas that she herself pushed, such as the move towards a more Evangelical theology in the aftermath of 1888. Her brutal take-down of Albion Ballenger is a case in point.

My guess is that until the church is willing to reduce EGW to a mere mortal, an SdA version of John Wesley and Jean Calvin, the dogma of 1844 will remain lying around like a dead albatross until it has been absorbed by the advancing century.


Thanks for reading Phil! I appreciate your knowledgeable feedback.

In our position, centuries removed from the autographs of these ancient texts, the only thing we have to understand “authorial will” is the text. That is why any study of intertextuality or inner-biblical allusive method is limited to language/words.

But the meaning of the text for us today can only be determined by putting the microscope on the text in its original language and attempting to understand to the best of our ability what the author is actually trying to say. So I don’t see how meaning can be separated from “words”.

In the case in point, i.e., what Daniel has in mind, it is not possible for us to fully discover outside the confines of what he wrote. In this case, we can determine which texts he had in mind when penning down his vision. We can be fairly certain that it was not Lev 16 since there is no trace of it in Daniel 8. As I argued, when read in context, Daniel 8:14 makes perfect sense.

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Thanks @aage_rendalen. I always appreciate your insightful comments!


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There is a lag, a disconnect, between thought and language. Even though our thoughts are structured by language, what we speak and write does not completely encompass and communicate what we think. Gadamer is correct in his observation, as related by Grondin, that the universal claim of hermeneutics lies not in the spoken or written word but in the verbum interius. Fundamental to hermeneutical activity is the dialogue, the question and answer, the back and forth, all of which moves us past the spoken and written word toward an understanding of the verbum interius.

There is no doubt that Daniel is aware of Leviticus 16. We do not need a text to specifically inform us of this awareness of his. And we should not require shared language between Leviticus 16 and Daniel 8 in order to recognize his allusion to Leviticus 16. We see in Daniel 8 extensive sanctuary imagery, dramaturgy, and a judgment scene. That is more than enough to evoke Leviticus 16. I would suggest that we entertain a post-structuralist response to Leonard’s structuralism. Instead of rigid arborescent thinking, let us be a little more rhizomatic in how we interpret the sprawl of the 66 books of the Bible. I recall from reading one of Richard Davidson’s book reviews that he has counted all the judgment scenes he sees in Scripture. I offer that all of the judgment scenes in Scripture are rhizomatically connected.


Thanks George! I appreciate your feedback! :wink:

While there is “more than enough to evoke Leviticus 16” in Daniel 8–for those who believe on dogmatic grounds that there must be connection, exegesis does not support such wishful thinking.


If so, a good amount of scholarship is called for.

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No doubt Daniel was aware of Leviticus 16 but did he mean to allude to it in 8:14? If so, how would we know if not through verbal allusions? Without strong exegetical grounds, we’re in a no-man’s land where anyone can argue for allusions where there are none. An intertextual approach offers controls in order to avoid wild interpretations.


I am not sure we can set forth neutral criteria for determining an inner-biblical allusion. I think we just have to do the best we can and follow the biblical evidence wherever it leads. Remember, all hermeneutical thinking is circular. We cannot rest satisfied on a point of the circle but must continue to move around the circle in the hope that we are spiraling to greater understanding. I just read one of Roy Gane’s essays I found on the Internet to see if I could find any remarkable hermeneutical errors. https://www.adventistbiblicalresearch.org/sites/default/files/pdf/Pre-Advent_Judgment.pdf. It’s pretty clean. His finding of an allusion to Leviticus 16 in Daniel 8:14 persuades me. But of course, I am showing a little bit of deference, in that unlike Gane I am not an exegete or world authority on Leviticus.


Here I am in Berrien Springs and it is October 23, 2016.

Yesterday, Sabbath, October 22, I attended PMC’s worship service held in the Howard Performing Arts Center where Pastor Dwight Nelson, in the HopeTrending.org evangelistic series, addressed the Sabbath/Sunday issue. He began by reading, in toto, Sam Walter Foss’s “The Calf Path.” He employed this poem in an eloquent and powerful appeal for all to read what the Scriptures assert and not to blindly follow custom, no matter how old, that contradicts Scripture.

As he spoke, I could not help thinking of the universal, and necessary, application of this principle. On one hand, we have our denomination insisting on the universal application of this principle. On the other hand, when it comes to the teaching about the investigative judgment, the principle is ignored.

Proof-texting is favored over context. The context of Daniel 8:14, and even the angel’s explanation, are considered inconsequential (tacitly, of course), as the newcomer to SDA doctrine is taken on a journey from verse 14 into other passages of Scripture about atonement and judgment.

While I admire the SDA pioneers’ determination to find the answer to their problem I must fault them in their method and and their conclusions. And we do wrong when, in this day and age, we prop them up and, by using erroneous exegetical methods, lead newcomers to accept those very same conclusions.

Brother Reis, well done, and well said.


Thank you Andre for explaining how I have felt in the back of my mind but have not been able to articulate. You have inspired me to study these passages in Daniel again.


Come out of her My People that ye be not partakers in her sins.