Timeout: Revelation and the Crisis of Historicism

Without such knowledge, one can lose what the text means altogether and impose contemporary viewpoints on the text that simply don’t belong. You call this peripheral issues. I say that it is trying as much as possible to let the bible speak in its original voices through its original authors to its original recipients. The more we can do this, the more we can accurately apply the biblical messages to ourselves.

You have set up a false binary, that exegetical and contextual study leads one away from seeing God and his character, and moral understanding, and that systematic theology, which is what you are advocating, is the only way to know God and his will. Is that what you felt when I wrote about Christ at the end of my last post? Is that where you think this type of study has led me?

I have already said that personal knowledge of the bible is a valuable way of knowing God. You are boiling it down to a particular hermeneutic that you say the bible endorses. I say that you are ignoring context even in the texts you use to support your premise.

2 Timothy 3:16 was written to Timothy as a teacher. It was his job to explain and interpret the scriptures for his congregations. It was meant as an encouragement for him as a teacher. Many church members didn’t have personal copies of the scrolls/scriptures to study at home. Many were probably not literate, or very literate.

This doesn’t mean that I’m saying that we shouldn’t study the scriptures today. What I am saying is that you are using a text and trying to make it say something that it isn’t really saying. This is the danger of biblicism, and saying that the bible is its own interpreter, apart from context, background, original life setting, etc. One starts with a premise, and then scours the bible to prove it, often out of context, with a concordance, drawing all kinds of false linguistic equivalencies to prove ones premise. Upon deeper contextual studies, the problems and the discord of such a methodology and its results often bubbles to the surface.

Unlike you, I’m not saying that one can’t know God or live a moral life through such study. I do believe that real distortions of the biblical message(s) arise from such study, and that these ideas do have consequences. it is why one shouldn’t downplay the gifts and gifted people that God has set in the church to help bring understanding and clarity.




I am not sure about this. I do think the book was written with first century Christinas in mind, but would save its deeper meaning for us. Think of the admonition given to Daniel, “Seal up the book, until the time of the end.” Pretty explicit. But Revelation is a “revelation” and is not sealed. so was for all.

Idealist, Preterist, Futurist, Historicist, all “lay an interpretation on the text” But a symbolic book will require some type of interpretation. You can’t get away from it. So you choose. You have chosen Preterism. You are free to do so. But that does not mean it is correct on the basis that it is better in some way. It is an interpretation like the others. You feel it is more true to the text, an opinion.

And I would call your method Preterism, for it is, not just because I call it that, but because that is what it is.

I can agree with this pretty much.

I agree that the whole OT should be used to interpret Revelation. John was a skilled writer and did it that way on purpose especially to give us clues. But to take the visions as historical is just using the clues God gave in Daniel (and BTW, the use of Daniel is broader than just 7-12). Now you say that just because Daniel is historically interpreted by the angels, does not mean we have to do that in Revelation, another apocalypse. But why not? Do you have a reason why we should not follow that lead?

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I agree pretty much with this, but do not believe it rules out Historicism, the angelic interpretation of Daniel, the simplest apocalypse.

I read a book, about the parables of Jesus from a middle easter villager’s perspective. It was very insightful. It showed that when the father ran out to meet the prodigal as he returned, he did it to protect him from the village that would have stoned a son for such an insult to his father as asking for the inheritance before he died.

So, I do see the value of knowing context etc. Very useful. But that does not negate the clues given by God in the text.

Why would it not have had as deep meaning for them? This is simply conjecture based on a modern historicist view of the text. If it wasn’t sealed up, it means its full meaning wasn’t sealed up for them. John wrote the book to first century churches and it was read in its entirety in their meetings.They were called blessed if they understood it and took its meaning to heart, (Rev.1:3) Understanding and appropriation of its message are the blessing, no less for them than us.

It’s in the text.


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Agreed. And yet we have the Adventist missions claiming 91% of their resources are used towards those “already Christian”. Never heard what that definition of “Christian” is in that context. Hmmm, what measuring stick do you think they might use if those they target, the ones they admittedly go after to “convert”, are ones they themselves call Christians? What is that extra ingredient missing? Because faith and love aren’t in the 10 C’s.

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I seriously doubt if, generously, more than 2% of the 20 million Seventh-day Adventists in the world could give a cogent definition of the theological concept of “historicism,” and explain how it relates to their church doctrine.

The perceived crisis, therefore, is a tempest in an intellectual teacup, it seems to me.

However, surely there is not a more “established tradition” in Seventh-day Adventism than The Great Controversy Theme.

George Knight, church historian, suggests that by focusing on the Great Controversy Theme “we can tell when we are on center or chasing stray geese near the edges of what is really important.”

In pointing to what Ellen White calls the “grand central theme” of the Bible, Knight wrote that “in such passages we find our marching orders for the reading of both the Bible and the writings of Ellen White…

All our reading takes place within that context, and those issues closest to the grand central theme are obviously of more importance than those near its edges.”


People on the Adventist Spectrum, from Herbert Douglass to Graham Maxwell, understand The Great Controversy Theme to be the organizing principle of their religious worldview.

I suppose, generously, that 98% of SDAs could give an adequate précis of The Great Controversy Theme.

The Great Controversy Theme, far from being “a new and conceptually enriched scheme,” has waxed old like a garment and is sterile and incoherent, and has produced a church in chaos.

In any case, pitting historicism against The Great Controversy Theme seems like a category error to me, Sigve, and I’m trying to figure out why you would do that.

The Great Controversy Theme is a metanarrative and historicism is a hermeneutic method. Apples and oranges.

The Great Controversy Theme rightfully belongs in the Old Wineskins that have been it’s historic home.

Just my opinion.


Again, when they receive the book, the other major apocalypse was Daniel, a book whose visions were interpreted by the angel historically. it would occur to them to view their book the same way. Could they understand it all? I am not sure we can know. There are passages in the church fathers that indicate a certain understanding, but it is not as in-depth as our four schools are. And in a sense, a combination of them.

The four are a more modern development. But also the results of longer and more broad study. Historicism is the protestant reformation default. Not a bad start.

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Just to clear something up, I do believe that learning the history, culture, etc. is not a bad thing. It can even be enlightening, but over and over and over again, I personally have seen entire sermons talk only about these things and very little information of God actually showed up in the sermon. It may add to your Biblical knowledge, but it should not, but often does get in the way of the more important information: the revelation of the character of God.

Romans 1:16 tells us that the gospel is the power that God uses to save us, but in verse 17 he tells us that the reason the gospel is so powerful is that it reveals to us the character of God.

I know that people often “proof text” their way all the while taking the texts out of context. This is wrong, but done very often. Whether you study with your understanding or mine, personal bias and/or taking the verses out of context will still make you lose your way. If, however, you do study in context, truth will come out.

Let me give you an example of proper study.

Acts 16:31 says: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved…”

Saved to what? From what? The text does not say. If we try to find out, guess, analyze, we still can’t know for a fact what “saved” means.

Matthew 1:21 “… thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people FROM THEIR SINS.”

Are these two verses in context? Yes, they both are specifically talking about salvation, but instead of guessing, the Bible lets us know that salvation is from sin. Unlike your premise, I absolutely will gain a deeper relationship with God, because the texts together give me a true, and clearer picture of God.

The more interesting question is why would letting the Bible explain itself be such a big problem? I submit to you that it is not letting the Bible explain itself that has created over 3,000 denominations, but the exact opposite. All the people constantly trying to guess what God is telling them and humanistically guessing differently rather than listening to the Word of God that creates all the confusion, division, etc.

If we get rid of Revelation, why not Daniel? If we get rid of those two, why not some other book? You say over and over that Revelation was written for people in the past and not for us. I beg to differ. God said that he wrote it so that his people could understand the future. At what precise time did God say that everyone after a specific time no longer needs to read the book. If God DID write the book, then we are on extremely dangerous ground as not reading the book could deeply affect our salvation.

You’re putting words in my mouth that I never said. You also make claims for the text that just aren’t there. They just aren’t.

First, God didn’t write the book. He inspired it. John wrote it. The text of Revelation 1 says it. It needs to be read for what it is saying, not what one wants it to say.

Secondly, the book says that it is about the things that are, that were, and that were to come. The future in the book is referred to as things that were shortly to come to pass. Jesus is quoted as saying he would come soon. In light of the fact that it was written to seven first century churches in Asia Minor, I think it would be true to the text to try to ascertain what that would have meant to them first, and then apply that to our contemporary situations, rather than laying periods of church history onto the text that John never intended.

I also never said that God said that after a specific time no one needs to read Revelation. I obviously read it and take its message(s) seriously. I wouldn’t be dialoguing with you about it if I didn’t. Please stop implying meanings that I never said or intended!

Finally, we are at a different place regarding hermeneutics. You seem to say that how I read Revelation and the bible leads to irrelevancy at best, and infidelity at worst, even though I pointed to Christ and his character as the ultimate lens of the scriptures. Please correct me if I’m wrong. This has been colored by your personal experience with contextual reading and exegesis.

I see biblicism and the historicist method as something with little controls, a game that moves the goalposts. I see this type of study, that arose out of Protesant scholasticism, as the main contributor to all types of aberrant theology and doctrinal hair splitting in Christian history.

Of course exegetical study does not preclude comparing scripture with scripture, once context and setting are determined. But, this is different than throwing this out in the name of reading the bible as its own interpreter, in a vacuum that is largely free of, or dismissive of such considerations.

I think we 've gone as far as we can. Thanks for the discussion.



Can you prove it? Everything is symbolic practically from the start (stars, candlesticks, sword,etc) but the churches are not or, at least, don’t have also a symbolic meaning??? Hard to believe.

Also, you didn’t answer the question as to why is Jesus using a symbolic language to address seven literal churches whereas it is not the case with other churches in Rome, Thessalonica, Ephesus, Colossae, Philippa, or Galatia. Surely, it is not by chance.

Here is why I believe the Historical interpretation is valid:

  1. In Isaiah 41:21-24, God challenges the “gods” to tell the future so that they might be believed. Would he make confront them so if he could not do it himself? And then he does it in Daniel. This is strong proof of God’s power and existence. Preterism robs him of this evidence.
  2. Daniel, the quintessental apocalypse is interpreted by the angels, given as interpreters, in a historical fashion
  3. Daniel was closed to the original readers, but by Jesus’ time was opened
  4. Jesus was a historicist in his interpretation of Daniel (no other way to take his comments in Matt 24 about the abomination of desolation)
  5. Paul was a historicist in his comments on the “man of lawlessness” in 2 Thess. He refers back to Daniel’s little horn and places that in the future, after the “falling away”.
  6. The 1260 days, 42 months etc. are mentioned in Daniel, but then again in several places in Revelation, implying they had not yet been “fulfilled” thus implying historicism.
  7. The year/day principle works, Dan 9 being the prime example

I don’t deny that the original recipients of the letter were encouraged and helped by the message. and i agree that their context and view is important.

But, if historicism is a true interpretation, then the letter was for more than them, and written intentionally for more than them. Paul’s comments on the “lawless one” were not for the readers, except to warn them not to believe Jesus was coming so soon as they thought. Another argument against Preterism.

There is a historicism that takes modern day occurrences like the twin towers etc. and tries to make them fulfillments, thus denigrating the value of historicism. Adventist Historicism is broader, and takes a more long term view, incorporating the interruptions of those that have gone before, and avoiding short term interpretations.

The problem with Historicism is 1844. Miller’s views were the culmination of Protestant Historicism. But “nothing happened in 1844” and the hermeneutic was discredited.

But something did happen in 1844. There began the intentional proclamation of the three angels, “The hour of His Judgement has come” message. Not proclaimed like that at any time in the past.

I am a bit surprised that and Adventist would abandon the wonderful characteristic of God given by the historical interpretation. There is nothing like it to show that God had a long term view of matters, and that we were seen by him, and not just the folk in the first and second century. Taking preterism as our default view shows God as sort of ad hoc, making it up as he goes along, not really knowing himself what is in the future.

But then, defending 1844 can be problematic if one is a scholar.

Galatians 4:4 When the fulness of time had come, God sent forth his Son… This is a Historicist viewport.

There is no crisis.

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Well said! Historicism is far more accurate than both Preterism and Futurism!

The mere fact that both Daniel and Revelation point forward to Christ’s second coming destroy the ideology that everything has been fulfilled in the past. Preterism is overwhelmingly proven to be false. Any serious Bible scholar cannot prove Preterism without desperately twisting scripture thus losing his credibility as a Bible student.

It seems to me that there are many people posting on this site that are non-Adventists. This is an Adventist magazine, so it should not come as a surprise to anyone that Adventists will post in defense of Adventism.

The fact that there are people desperatlely trying to get rid of the entire book of Revelation is absurd. The careful Bible student will see that the book of Revelation is clearly tied to and perfectly agrees with the entire rest of the Biblical cannon. It tells us clearly that it came from God. Then, if people cannot get people to agree that the book should removed, they try to tell us that it was written for someone else at an earlier time. This is nothing more than a war against God’s word. If the argument is true that the book of Revelation must go, then a strong case should be made that the book of Daniel must go as well. But the book of Daniel has been proven over and over to have accurately predicted history BEFORE it happened which is all that prophecy can be expected to do.

So unless someone comes forward that has a truly good reason to throw the book of Revelation in the trash heap, I will continue to study it as God’s word. This notion that only special teachers can understand it, or that people who have never studied it can properly assess its value, or that they can simply ignore he book because it is too hard to understand, makes no sense. Prove with a real argument that the book is from Satan, or support it. Yes, from Satan, because if we can throw it away, then we are saying it did not come from God, and that leaves us with the only available logic left, that if it didn’t come from God, we have no choice but to admit that it has to be from Satan. This is the true reality of this conversation. Those of you who want to take Revelation out of the cannon, no one is stopping you, but you do so at your own peril.

The book of Revelation is true, it is pertinent to our salvation, and it was given to us by God.

As for you Frank, I agree that our conversation had probably gone as far as it can go, and I appreciate the discourse.

Maybe I am wrong, but your entire approach to this subject appears to be supportive of the Catholic understanding of how to relate to the Bible.

You also seem to say that the protestants are the primary ones who study using the “proof text, or biblicism” approach to Bible study and that is why our understandings are such a mess.

This dispute over Bible study was one of the primary reasons for the Protestant Reformation. Luther strongly defended the right of the people to study for themselves. The Catholic Church had been the “teachers” for centuries. The Bible was placed out of reach of the people, and the dark ages resulted. How to study the Bible has been a passionate dispute all down through the ages.

It will be very difficult to convince Adventists of the need to abandon our way of Bible study, especially on an Adventist forum. I can assure you that we have looked long and hard at how we have reached our understanding, and in the process, we have not seen any indicators that we are moving in the wrong direction. We don’t have the complete, perfect understanding of God, but we do believe we are on the right path.

Blessings to you.

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No, because Dan 9 NEVER spoke of 70 “weeks of days” in the first place but weeks of years since the context is related to the sabbatical cycle of 7 years.

Years ago I analyzed Shea’s DARCOM article on the 70 weeks of Daniel 9. The Jews thought of a week of 7 years just as easy as they thought of week of 7 days. In support of this conclusion, I analyzed the sabbatical 7-year cycle as well as the year of jubilee, which was built on the weekly cycle (Lev 25:2–3; 9–10). This practice gave rise to the notion that a “shabuah” could apply to 7 days or 7 years interchangeably.

In context, the 10 Jubilees of Dan 9 (490 years) are inseparable from the 10 sabbatical years of the Babylonic exile predicted by Jeremiah and clearly connected to the sabbatical year cycle in 2 Chron 36:21. Thus the following construct is possible:

“In the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem [to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths]” Dan 9:1 & 2 Chron 36:21

Further, there are several examples in Rabbinic literature (Mishnah Sanhedrin and Talmud, Seder Olam) as well as pseudepigraphal Jewish literature (Book of Jubilees, 4Q384-390 [Pseudo Ezekiel], 4Q387a [Pseudo Moses], 4Q226, Apocalypse of Weeks, 1QS 10.7–8 etc.) where “shabuah/shabuim” by itself is used in connection with a 7 year-cycle, without any so-called day-year conversion.

A search for “weeks” in both volumes of James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha yields an interesting passage in Jubilees 48:1–2 which gives a glimpse of how the Jews calculated time in relation to a Jubilee cycle using the concept of a “week of years”. The passage describes how long Moses stayed in Midian after killing the Egyptian. I added [of years] to facilitate comprehension since this is the intended meaning:

“And on the sixth year of the third week [of years] of the forty-ninth jubilee you went and dwelt in the land of Midian five weeks [of years] and one year and you returned to Egypt on the second week [of years] in the second year in the fiftieth jubilee.”

This equals 38 years, which is close to the 40 years reported by Stephen in Acts 7. (Compare to Jub 47:10 which uses weeks of years to talk about Moses age).

Seems to me then that “weeks [of years]” was quite common among Jews, sort of a terminus technicus to refer to the sabbatical year cycle.

Shea’s error IMO was to assert (without evidence) that Jews immediately converted any period of days into “years” instead of considering that week / shabuah could automatically apply to either days or years interchangeably.

See Ben Zion Wacholder, “Chronomessianism: the timing of messianic movements and the calendar of sabbatical cycles,” Hebrew Union College Annual (January 1, 1975): 203.


Daniel 9 just says weeks. In Dan 10:2. Daniel mourns for three “weeks”. So, three verse after Dan 9 it means weeks of days. Your argument is that since Dan 9 does not say days or years, it has to mean weeks of years?

So since they thought this way, the year/day principle is voided? Huh? The NIV tries to get away from the year/day idea by translating weeks in Dan 9 as “sevens”. I have also heard of heptamonads or some such term. Why not let the prophet write?

The problem with your argument is that it seems to confirm mine. The word in Dan 9 is weeks. Now if one could take it either way, then it seems the year/day principle is confirmed. Your idea about the sabbatical years does not negate that it says weeks. And when Daniel mentions the 70 year captivity, he says years. Not weeks of years or weeks. it is a faint echo.


Hmm… No years or days here either. Year/day principle confirmed again!

Shea’s error? Seems you are saying the year/day idea was not a new one at all!

Andre, it seems silly to me to argue as you do. Your assertions seem to confirm Adventist thinking on the matter.

Dan 9 only speaks of weeks. it can be taken either way. It still says weeks. It is clear it is speaking of years. But a week is seven days. Show me again why I should abandon the year/day principle.

Nope. Weeks in Jubilees 48 is of years not days. Do the math.

The original Hebrew of Dan 10:2 says shabuim yamim = weeks of days.

Daniel is intentionally differentiating between weeks of 70x7 sabbatical years in Dan 9 and the 3 weeks of days of his fast.

To be consistent with your own interpretation the fast should have lasted 21 years!

The implication should have been clear: Daniel speaks of “weeks of years” in Dan 9 because of the sabbatical cycle of 7 years of the captivity and “weeks of days” for his fast in Dan 10. There’s NO year-day principle in Dan 9 because both were unique time periods for the Jews. This is the implication of the use of shabuah in Jewish literature.

Confimation bias pulls you into thinking that “70 weeks” in Dan 9 were “490 days” but there’s nothing in the text to demand this reading if you accept that Jews used shabuah = “week of 7 years”.

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You are correct, the words in Dan 10 are shabuim yamim… weeks modified by days, or weeks days

I looked up several Bible translations of this verse. Only one had weeks of days, the Jubilee Bible. All the rest had something like “complete weeks”, or “entire weeks”, etc.

So I consulted Shae, Selected Studies on Prophetic Interpretation. On page 91 he explained that when a word like week or year or month is modified by the word for days, it means complete or entire. Your idea is a misunderstanding of the idiom. (see Gen 29:14, Num 11:20-21 etc. For an example with the word year see Gen 41:1, Lev 25:29 etc.)

Week days does not imply at all that in Dan 10 he is talking of days, but that the weeks in Dan 9 are implying years. In fact you are the one with the confirmation bias. To quote Shea: "Linguistically, this idiom prevents the conclusion from being drawn that “weeks of days” in contrast to “weeks (of years) is implied in this passage.”

All agree that the weeks of Dan 9 are years. But the issue is to try to avoid the year/day principle. The NIV tries to get around it by translating the world for weeks as “sevens”, and it never does so with the same word anywhere else. You refer to the sabbatical years, and say there is NO year/day principle, but ignore that the word really is weeks, not weeks of years in the text.

Thus 70 weeks is 490 days, equal to 490 years. The word is weeks, clear and simple, the year/day principle is affirmed.

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I think the real issue is to see such “principle” where there is none and NOT seeing it where it’s inconvenient for your position. Why again are not reading a fast of “3 weeks of years” in Dan 10?

Shabuah is commonly used for “week” in Hebrew because the root comes from the word “seven” or “besevened” i.e., dividided in to 7. The word “week” separated from the word “seven” doesn’t existe in Hebrew. Further, as I’ve demonstrated, the word is commonly used with the meaning of “7 years” in Jewish literature.

Lastly, there is really no grammatical reason not to read “sh’loshet shabuim yamim” as “3 weeks of days”. If Shea is right, you must ask why Gabriel didn’t use “yamim” in Dan 9? There would be no question that a year-day conversion was the intended meaning if he had.

But Shea is incorrect, contradicted by Ezekiel 45:21:

“In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, you shall celebrate the festival of the passover, and for seven days [shabuot yamim] unleavened bread shall be eaten.”

In this verse of you have shabuah meaning numeral “seven” and “yamim”, days = seven days not “weeks of days.”


Only 1 Bible translated it weeks fo days. All the others said, three full weeks or three entire weeks. So most, almost all, do not see it your way.

Yes, the Hebrew word weeks is related to seven. But the two words are different, and the word weeks is specific for a period of time (Sabua). The word occurs 13 times outside of Daniel 9 and in each instance, it is translated as weeks, not sevens. Shae: “…on the basis of comparative linguistic evidence, it should be rendered weeks in Daniel 9.” (page 90)

Every interprets sees weeks as years in Dan 9. to add a “of days” would confuse interpreters that might think he means actual weeks, that is, about a year and a half.

But Daniel uses the simple term weeks, but clearly means years. The year/day principle is in play, and he does it elegantly.

I did nor take Hebrew so am not sure if shabout is he same as week, but it seems an ordinal, that is it is saying there were seven days, and did not then have the meaning of “full”. but I cannot tell. The translators are translation it as an ordinal, seven. So it is not weeks days as in Daniel 10.

On the same basis then it needs to mean 490 days. Period. No conversion is warranted since it never occurs elsewhere in Scripture.