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Year Day Principle

Table of Contents

Lawrence R. Kellie

Introduction | If God Meant Years... | Roman Catholic Church Invention | ...Only Ones Who Believe... | Conclusion | Works Cited



On Sabbath, June 21, 1997, in a discussion regarding the book Receiving the Word, I recall you saying, David [a friend of the author], that your father did not believe in the year-day principle. Since then, I have reflected on your statement and decided to address the three points, or reasons, you presented.

I see the issue of the year-day principle as fundamental to our church; for without it, what is our distinctiveness? Without it, would we even exist? (See the section "What Seventh-day Adventist Doctrines does the Year-Day Principle Affect?") The real distinctions of our church comes from its historicist view of the prophecies found in Daniel and Revelation, and one of the main tools of the historicist is the year-day principle.

Paragraph 4.e. of "Methods of Bible Study," a paper approved in the 1986 Annual Council of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, says, "Recognize that the Bible is its own interpreter and that the meaning of words, texts, and passages is best determined by diligently comparing scripture with scripture" (emphasis added). And, according to Dr. P. Gerard Damsteegt, professor of Church History, Seventh-day Adventist Seminary, "Adventists [scrutinize] their religious heritage in the light of the Bible, willing to give up any doctrine not in harmony with it". (Blessings of the Disappointment.) The approach of letting the Bible speak for itself is the approach I will be using.


The purpose of this paper is not so much to convince you that there is error on the part of your father or you, but to renew my own belief in the year-day principle. This is a statement of the reasons for my belief with a challenge to you to research out and state the reasons for your belief. I look forward to reading said statement.

The rest of the Introduction will lay a basic, simple foundation for the paper to build on.

Classical and Apocalyptic Prophecy

As you know, there are two basic classifications of prophecy in the Bible. They are known as classical and apocalyptic and are universally recognized as being different, as can be seen below:


Classical prophecy is more concerned with the national and international problems of the historic Israel.

Apocalyptic prophecy takes on a global flavor. The central theme is the Great Controversy between God and Satan.

Literary Form

Classical prophecy uses poetry.

Apocalyptic prophecy uses prose.


Classical prophecy relates to time in short-range views.

Apocalyptic prophecy relates to time in the short-range views, but it also includes long-range views. In other words, apocalyptic prophecies point to an "end point," an "end of time," thereby bringing a wider, longer, or broader view of time And yet, if the times of the apocalyptic prophecies are interpreted as literal, the "long-range" view of time periods is shorter than the "short-range" view of time.


Whereas dreams and visions do play a role in classical prophecy, they are not paramount. Communication from God comes via various avenues.

Apocalyptic prophecy is more reliant on dreams and visions. Almost all the prophecies came via a dream or vision.


Classical prophecy uses more concrete symbols. The times, events, places, and peoples are very clearly seen to be literal times, literal events, literal places, and literal peoples. They are predicted in terms of literal personages and they are fulfilled in those terms.

Apocalyptic prophecy uses more abstract symbols. Images and animals are used to show events, places, and peoples. The very clear symbolic imagery points to the fact that the times should also be considered as symbolic.

Time Period

The literal time periods in the classical prophecies are ample time for the events prophesied about to occur. These are time periods such as 120 years before the flood, 400 years oppression of Israelites in Egypt, 70 years Babylonian captivity.

However, the literal time periods in the apocalyptic prophecies (70 weeks, 2300 days, 1260 days, 3 1/2 days) do not give enough time. (Shea 58)

End Point

In the classical prophecies, the end point is generally connected with people who are either contemporaneous or immediately successive to the time of the prophet.

However, apocalyptic prophecies have an end point farther removed from the prophet—some even to the setting up of God's Kingdom. (Shea 59)

Time Units

The time units in classical prophecy are very normal. Normal days, months, and years are used.

However, look at some of the words used for the time periods in apocalyptic prophecies. They are different than you would expect to see. "Evening-mornings" of Dan 8:14 is one such an example. This unit does not appear anywhere else in the Old Testament as a unit of common time (Shea 62). The 3 1/2 "times" is also an abnormal term for time units. The time unit is intentionally symbolic. Even "weeks" is used in an abnormal manner in the apocalyptic prophecies.


The numbers being used, in classical prophecy, with the time units are common place numbers.

In apocalyptic prophecy, the numbers themselves are abnormal. Is 2,300 days a normal way to speak of 6 years, 3 months, and 20 days? What about 70 weeks, which turns out to be 1 year and 4 months? Consider the 1290 and 1335 days. Again, the time periods are expressed abnormally, and the 3 times, which is actually time, times and one-half a time, is not normal. "Thus not one of the time periods of Daniel's prophecies is expressed the way it would have been if it had been used to express literal time in the normal manner" (Shea 62).

Because of these differences, it is recognized that they are interpreted differently.

One Final Introductory Point

Bible versions can be deceptive, especially the dynamic translations. If you can, it would be best if you can use the New American Standard Bible in verifying texts in this paper. Bible students of all faiths agree that the New American Standard is the most precise translation. (See Damsteegt, The Role of Bible Translations.)

If God Meant Years...

Why did God say days when meaning years? Is God trying to trick us? Why not just say what He means? Let us look at some possible reasons why He chose to say days instead of years.

God is Interested in All People of All Generations

God has given prophecies and signs to all people of every generation, because He is interested in all people of all generations. The first prophecy of the Bible (Genesis 3:15) had Eve believing that she would be bearing the Savior. But, the Savior was not born.[1] And with every child born to Eve and on down to her grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc., she looked forward to that child being the Savior. Why did not God just tell her that it would be 4,000 years before the Savior was born and at least another 2,000 years before Eden was restored? God has given prophecies and signs to all people of every generation, to help all people of every generation understand that time is short.

God also is interested in all generations, not just the last one. It has been estimated that approximately 140 billion people have died in the earth's history. Currently, there are about 5 billion people living on the earth. God is as interested in the 140 billion who have already died as he is in the 5 billion who are currently alive. So He communicates with all these people of all generations in such a way as to impress on them that time is short. Is this deceptive? No. God is in the Saving Business!

Prophecies have communicated throughout the ages that time is short, that now is the time. In fact, expositors of the Scriptures who used the year-day principle became very excited when the year 1260 approached because of the year-day principle. They thought it was time for God to set up his kingdom. (Froom 1:591.) For them, time was short. The prophecies, even when people misinterpreted them, drew people to the Lord, prompted them to be "ready." Yes, there were, are, and will be disappointments. Hiram Edson said about October 22, 1844, "we wept, and wept till the day dawn."[2] But the weepers move on. And that is a characteristic of God's people—they weep and move on.


Froom presents a clear reason why God said days instead of years in a discussion about Justin Martyr (c.100-c.165), "The year-day principle, as applied to the longer time periods, had not yet been clearly perceived by any, the long extent of the world's duration being mercifully foreshortened to their understanding." (1:233, emphasis added.) It was out of mercy that God withheld clarity on these points. Time prophecies generally portrayed periods of adverse conditions, of bad times. (Shea 58.) To have clearly revealed the length of time humanity would wait would have shaken or crushed the faith of the church. But God wanted to warn people and in His mercy, He veiled prophetic terminology for all people of all generations. In most cases, it was not until after the time prophecy passed that it was understood in the light of the year-day principle.

"Code" is Not Unusual for God

As was stated in the Introduction, apocalyptic literature uses abstract symbols and allegories. This is universally accepted. We have no problem deciding that a woman is a church—pure woman is a pure church, impure woman is an impure church—because God tells us it is so.[3] Code is not unusual for God.

We have no problem accepting that a Lamb represents Christ, because God tells us it is so.[4] Code is not unusual for God.

We have no problem in understanding that water means many people. Why? Because God tells us it is so.[5] Code is not unusual for God.

So what is the problem in deciding, accepting, or understanding that the same God who uses code for other parts of apocalyptic literature uses code for time? Especially, since He has told us it is so. Same God. Same apocalyptic literature. Code is not unusual for God.


[1] "The Saviour's coming was foretold in Eden.   When Adam and Eve first heard the promise, they looked for its speedy fulfillment.   They joyfully welcomed their first-born son, hoping that he might be the Deliverer.   But the fulfillment of the promise tarried."  White, Desire of Ages, p 31.

[2] Untitled manuscript by Hiram Edson in the Heritage Room, James White Library, Andrews University.

[3] Isaiah 54:5; Jeremiah 6:2; Jeremiah 3:20; Ezekiel 23:2-4.

[4] Revelation 5:6; John 1:29.

[5] Isaiah 8:7-8; Isaiah 17:12; Jeremiah

Roman Catholic Church Invention

To say that the year-day principle cannot be trusted or believed or that it is not true because it comes from the Roman Catholic church is not logical. Of course it "came from" the Roman Catholic church, that was the only Christian church for nearly 1,400 years. Where else could it have come from?

However, there was no Roman Catholic church before 300 AD. Was the year-day principle in existence before then? Interestingly enough, Froom, in discussing the Septuagint[1] translators' work, states, "This prophetic exposition 'of years' hints of the year-day principle, which was later to become an abiding heritage in the Christian era, and never to be lost throughout succeeding centuries by either Jewish or Christian expositors, as our quest will disclose." (1:176, emphasis added.) This simple statement, along with others from Froom and the very clear evidence in Scripture, makes clear that the year-day principle was not a Roman Catholic invention, but a Jewish, pre-Christian one. (See "Reason Three—Seventh-day Adventists are the Only Ones Who Believe in the Year-Day Principle.")

Catholic Contributions to Christendom

If you choose to disbelieve the validity of the year-day principle because it was a Roman Catholic "invention," even though it clearly is not, then look at some of the other "inventions" of the same Roman Catholic church that would be thrown out for the same reason.

Trinity, but he did not call it that. I Clement of Rome (110AD)
Saved by grace only Marcion (144)
First to speak of the Great Controversy. Irenaeus (d.202)
Jesus recapitulates the life of Adam.
Trinity Origen (d.202)
Divinity of Christ. Church submit to Scripture Council of Nicea 325
Holy Spirit Athanasius (292-373)
Trinity, Doctrine of Sin, Doctrine of Grace,
Doctrine of Free Will
Augustine (354-430)
Bible first. Wycliffe (1329-1384)

Two "True" Roman Catholic Inventions

As you well know, during the late 1500s, at the height of the Protestant Reformation, came two Roman Catholic inventions from the ranks of the Jesuits. The goal of these two inventions? Make people look away from the Papacy as the Antichrist. Make people take their eyes off the Pope. And the method? Ignore the year-day principle and develop a system of interpretation in opposition to the principle and results of the year-day principle. Here is the legacy that the Roman Catholic church left Christendom. Here is the "true" error propagated by the Roman Catholic church and bought, almost wholesale, by current Protestants. And that "true" error is Preterism and Futurism


The Preterist view of prophetic interpretation is one of the two "true" Roman Catholic inventions. It was developed by Luis de Alcazar (1554-1613) as part of the Counter Reformation. It was developed to take the heat off the Pope, who was feeling some discomfort from the Reformers' talk that the Papacy was the Antichrist.

"The preterist view of apocalyptic prophecies and their time elements essentially leaves the whole Christian era, with the exception of a very small initial fraction, without any direct historical or prophetic evaluation by God upon the course of that history." (Shea 56.)

Preterism claims that the apocalyptic prophecies, especially those dealing with the Antichrist, were fulfilled before the Papacy ever ruled Rome. Since they were already fulfilled, the prophecies could not apply to the Papacy. The Preterist view ignores the fact that within the Old Testament itself is the foundation of prophetic interpretation, the year-day principle, and this foundation produces a broader view of God's interaction with human history.

Synopsis of Preterism.

Since the Antichrist had been fulfilled in the past, it could not be the Papacy.

Summary of the Fallacies of Preterism.

Preterism is an expedient designed to shield Rome.
Preterism violates the principle of consistent symbolism.
Preterism glorifies the Papacy by ignoring the actualities.
Preterism denies the elemental principle of Bible prophecy.
Preterism, like futurism, leaves an explained gap.
Preterism offers no adequate fulfillments.
Preterism cannot be correct if Futurism is correct.


The second view of prophetic interpretation developed to reduce the pressure on the Papacy was Futurism, developed by Francisco Riberia (1537-1591). It, too, was developed during the Counter Reformation.

"The futurist interpretation of apocalyptic [prophecies] poses a similar problem. It also leaves most of the history of the Christian era unaddressed by God except in general spiritual terms. After this lengthy historical and prophetic vacuum, futurists then see the prophetic voice again taking up a concern for the last seven years of earth's history." (Shea 57.)

Futurism claims that most of the prophecies of the Apocalypse were fulfilled to ancient Rome. The rest is restricted to a literal Antichrist who will reign for 3 literal years. Futurism further claims that the Antichrist will be an individual and not a system. This method of prophetic interpretation has a few prophetic events happening early in the Christian dispensation, a large gap of no prophetic interest, and a literal close of 3 years instead of hundreds of centuries.

Besides the short-term results of reducing the pressure being felt by the Papacy, Futurism has had an unexpected long-term result. Historicists believe that the 70 week prophecy and the 2300 day prophecy have a common beginning. Therefore, there are 1810 days (years) remaining after the 70 weeks have ended. By splitting the 70 weeks into two parts (69 weeks and one week), Futurism diverts attention away from the relationship between the 70 weeks and the 2300 days. This separation hides the significant events of 1844. Froom sums up this process: Accordingly, confusion of the Historical School of interpretation, and its final breakdown, is now definitely under way. (Froom 3:658.)

Synopsis of Futurism.

Since the Antichrist is in the future, it could not be the Papacy.

Summary of the Fallacies of Futurism.

Futurism is designed to relieve pressure on Rome.
Futurism violates the principle of consistent prophetic symbolism.
Futurism makes prophetic time meaningless.
Futurism removes application from historical verification.
Futurism creates an arbitrary gap which is an unjustifiable device.
Futurism ignores the view of the early church.
Futurism cannot be correct if Preterism is correct.
(Froom 2:803-805.)

The Results of the True Inventions

At the time of the Counter Reformation, the Reformers recognized both Preterism and Futurism for what they were—feeble attempts to draw attention from the Papal activities. But, the lack of success of these two "true" inventions of the Roman Catholic church was short lived. The system to counter Protestants in the 16th century was embraced by Protestants in the 19th century. Samuel R. Maitland (1792-1866) was the first Protestant to accept the Riberian (Futurist) interpretation of the Antichrist. (Froom 3:541.)

Today, one or the other "true" Roman Catholic church invention is embraced by most Protestants, with Seventh-day Adventists being one of the few denominations, or the only denomination, to still hold fast to the historically tried and true Historicist school of Interpretation. And yet, as we will see in the next section, Seventh-day Adventists cannot be considered as alone.


[1] The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.

...Only Ones Who Believe...

Historical Overview of the Year-Day Principle

Year-Day Principle in Scripture

The canonical principle recognizes that the information we need to understand the Bible is found in the canon of the Scripture itself; thus Scripture is to be its own interpreter. This is a valid Reformation principle (often known as the "analogy of Scripture") which Seventh-day Adventists historically have upheld. (Koranteng-Pipim, 268.) Further, this principle is heartily endorsed by Ellen White.[1]

Old Testament Historical Narratives. In the Old Testament narratives, a distinct relationship exists between the words "days" (always plural) and "year." Generally, the word "days" is used for the word "year."[2] Specifically, "days" is used at times to directly specify a period of time equivalent to a year,[3] and the word "days" is often used to express the years of a person's life.[4] This last variation appears in the very first prophecy with a time element.[5] Thus, within the Old Testament, there is early evidence of a special relationship between "days" and "years," pointing to an early development, understanding, and use of the year-day principle, which the Hebrew mind of Bible times understood.

Old Testament Poetry. Old Testament poetry uses the literary form named parallelism, where one line, or phrase, is restated in the next line or phrase, however, with different words. The parallel but different words are considered equivalent. For example, "The Lord is my strength/He is my rock." In this example, "Lord" and "He" are equivalent and "strength" and "rock" are equivalent. There are several cases where the terms "days" and "years" are linked together in such parallelism.[6] Year-day parallelism also was understood by the Hebrew mind of Bible times.

Leviticus 25:1-7. The earliest Biblical text where the year-day principle starts to evolve to our current definition is Leviticus 25:1-7: The Lord then spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai, saying, "Speak to the sons of Israel, and say to them, 'When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall have a sabbath to the Lord.

'Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop, but during the seventh year, the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord; you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard.

'Your harvest's aftergrowth you shall not reap, and your grapes of untrimmed vines you shall not gather; the land shall have a sabbatical year.

'And all of you shall have a sabbath of the land for food; yourself, and your male and female slaves, and your hired men and your foreign resident, those who live as aliens with you.

'Even your cattle and the animals that are in your land shall have all its crops to eat.'"

In this passage of Levitical legislation, the sabbatical year was established, that is, the Israelites were instructed to farm the land for six years and leave the fields fallow during the seventh year. The legislation was introduced with these words: "When you come into the land which I shall give you, then the land shall have a sabbath to the Lord" (v. 2) (emphasis added)." Then, when the phrase is repeated in verses 4 and 5, it is stated in a different way:

the land shall have a sabbath rest (v.4)

the land shall have a sabbatical year (v.5)

The word translated "sabbath" (v.4) here, without getting overly technical, is only used in Exodus and Leviticus, and by observing the context, it is never applied to more than one day at a time. It is clearly implied that the sabbatical year is to be modeled from the sabbatical day, showing the Biblical relationship between the words "day" and "year."

Leviticus 25:8. Just one verse further, God continues with His instructions:

" 'You are also to count off seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years, so that you have the time of the seven sabbaths of years, forty-nine years.' "

Here, we see the same pattern of the year-day principle as seen in Daniel—the use of "days" to mark off the "years" of the future. A literal translation of Leviticus 25:8 is as follows: "You shall count seven sabbaths of years, seven years seven times, and to you the days of the seven sabbaths of years shall be forty-nine years." (Shea 71.) Shea gives the explanation:

The explanation of the first numerical expression, as given in the second phrase of the same clause, indicates that a "sabbath of years" is to be understood as a period of seven years. The Sabbath was the seventh day of the week. In this passage the seventh day has been taken to stand for a seventh year. As the seventh and concluding day of the week, the Sabbath has been taken over here to stand for the seventh year of a period of seven years. Thus each day of the "weeks" which end with these "sabbaths" in the jubilee cycle stand for one year. (71.)

Shea continues with:

Since it is legitimate to apply the year-day principle to the days of the weeks of Leviticus 25 to reckon time into the future to the next Jubilee, it is also legitimate to apply that same year-day principle to the days of the weeks of Daniel 9 to reckon time into the future from the beginning of their cycle. By extension, this same principle can be reasonably applied also to the "days" of the other time prophecies. (72.)

Numbers 14:34. This passage is familiar to a Seventh-day Adventist, as it has been used in most Bible classes and Bible studies to "prove" the year-day principle:

" 'According to the number of days which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day you shall bear your guilt a year, forty years, and you shall know My opposition.' "

In this text, a prophetic judgment is given in terms of the year-day principle. Here, unlike apocalyptic literature, a past day stands for a future year. In apocalyptic literature, a future day stands for a future year. Regardless of this difference, it points to a Biblical relationship between "days" and "years."

Ezekiel 4:6. This is the second of the "proof texts" for the year-day principle:

"When you have completed these, you shall lie down a second time, on your right side, and bear iniquity of the house of Judah; I have assigned it to you for forty days, a day for each year."

Here, as in Numbers 14:34, the year-day principle is being pointed to. In fact, here it is even more specific, as it says "a day for each year."

Daniel 8:13-14. This next passage introduces a very important time prophecy:

Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to that particular one who was speaking, "How long will the vision the regular sacrifice apply, while the transgression causes horror, so as to allow both the holy place and the host to be trampled?"

And he said to me, "For 2,300 evenings mornings; then the holy place will be properly restored."

In Daniel 8:13, the question is asked about the "vision." The vision refers to the vision in Daniel 8:3-12, which clearly spans kingdoms. Then in Daniel 8:14, the 2300 day prophecy is introduced. This prophecy spans earthly kingdoms; therefore, it must be longer than a literal 2300 days or 6+ years.

Daniel 9:24-27. Finally, the 70 week prophecy:

"Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make an atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy. So you are to know and discern from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate."

"All commentators on Daniel agree that the events prophesied in Daniel 9:24-27 could not have been completed within a literal 70 weeks or one year and five months." (Shea 74.) The main reason is because the 70 week prophecy spans governments.

One argument for a literal 70 weeks that the Preterist or Futurist uses is that the Hebrew word for weeks, in the 70 week prophecy, should be translated "sevens." However, this is improper. The Hebrew word that is translated "weeks" or "sevens" in the 70 week prophecy is always translated as "weeks" elsewhere in the Old Testament, in extra-biblical Hebrew works, in the cognate Semitic languages, and in the Septuagint.

Furthermore, using the analogy of Scripture, comparing this passage with Leviticus 25:8, where the term "sabbath" is introduced into the year-day principle, gives further support for applying the year-day principle to the 70 weeks.

But Does it Work? A Look Ahead. A final aspect of this section is to test the year-day principle—does it work? If we apply the year-day principle to the apocalyptic time prophecies, are they fulfilled? Yes, they are. And as the meaning and use of the year-day principle in history is further understood and used, approximately 1,700 years pass without anyone refuting the year-day principle's validity.

Year-Day Principle in Intertestamental Times

Shea addresses the knowledge and use of the year-day principle during intertestamental times:[7]

On the basis of recent researches into the Jewish materials of the second century B.C., it has become evident that the year-day principle was known and applied by Jewish interpreters during the second century down to the post-Qumran period. It is no longer tenable to hold that the principle was a ninth century A.D. phenomenon. (Shea 89)

About the heritage of the early Christian church, Froom states:

"Thus the foundations of Daniel's great outline, and the year-day principle of the great time prophecies as laid down by Daniel and subsequent Hebrew leaders, were carried over into the Christian church, becoming its priceless heritage...." (Froom 1:889) The Jews bequeathed to the Christian church the current understanding of the year-day principle; and the Christian church believed Christ's baptism and death as proof of that principle as applied to the 70 week prophecy. "These sublime transactions [Christ's baptism and death] sealed forever for the Christian church the 'year-day' principle already recognized by the Jews." (Froom 2:124.) Clearly, it was the Jews who, hundreds of years before the cross, first applied the year-day principle to the seventy weeks. (Froom 2:240.)

Year-Day Principle in Jewish Writings

As seen above, the Jews used the year-day principle hundreds of years before Christ. They continued using the year-day principle to the Protestant Reformation: "Down to the Protestant Reformation, there was scarcely a Jewish expositor on Daniel who protests the year-day principle, and nearly all support and apply it." (Froom 2:239 footnote.)

Year-Day Principle in Christian History

During the early part of the Christian church, there does not appear to be much interest or writing about the year-day principle. A few expositors from the early medieval period comment about it.

Hippolytus (d. c.236), the first systematic expositor, uses a variation of the year-day principle on the 70 weeks. Origen (c.254), the great allegorizer, uses an expanded year-day principle. He allegorizes the 70 weeks to 4,900 years! Eusebius Pamphili (c.340), bishop of Caesarea and the famed "Father of Church History," settles on 490 years for the 70 weeks. Polychronus (c.374-430), bishop of Apamea, also correctly uses the year-day principle on the 70 weeks. These early expositors did not, however, apply the year-day principle to Revelation. (Froom v.1.)

It is interesting that from about 450 to 1,200 AD, there were no Christian expositors using or applying the year-day principle, specifically, no new understanding of prophecy. There were, however, several Jewish expositors using the year-day principle on the 70 weeks, 2300 days, 1290 days, and 1335 days. For the Christians, many believed that the millennium was already in progress (Froom 1:900-901). Otherwise, as Froom points out even though there were writers in every century, there was little added to the understanding of prophecy. There were simply "echoes." (Froom 1:902.)

Joachim (d. 1202), a noted Bible scholar, was the first to apply the year-day principle to the 1260 day prophecy. He did not however, apply it to the 2300 day prophecy. Joachim declares the 1260 days as 1260 years "without doubt." (Froom 1:713.)

After Joachim came Villanova (c.1235-1313), a scientist, physician, and "disciple" of Joachim. Villanova agreed with Joachim and applied the year-day principle to other time prophecies. Froom (1:751-752) has this to say about Villanova:

Villanova goes on to state explicitly the year-day principle:

"When he says "two thousand three hundred days" it must be said that by days he understands years. This is clear through the explanation of the angel when he says that in the end the vision will be fulfilled, from which he gives it to be understood by clear expression that in that vision by days are understood years."

It would be absurd, he continues, to reckon a period extending to the time of the end by 2300 ordinary days, which would not even total eight years. Then as additional Scripture authority, he quotes Ezekiel 4:6:

"It is not unaccustomed, in the Scripture of God, for days to understand years. Nay, it is certainly usual and frequent. Whence also the Spirit in Ezekiel testifies: 'A day for a year I have reckoned to you.'"

So speaks the Joachimite theologian. But in Villanova the scientist crops up characteristically. He wishes to clinch the year-day argument with what seems to him valid astronomical evidence. Like many moderns, he believes on Scriptural authority, but rejoices when he can find scientific evidence to add to his faith. The Spirit of God did not interpret a day as a year with solid reason, he says.

"For do not philosophers say that a day is a 'bringing' of the sun over the earth, and that a natural day is one revolution of the sun from one part of orbit to the same? Therefore according to these definitions a day can well and conveniently be called, in the absolute, that bringing of the sun over the earth or through the circuit of the earth in which the sun revolves perfectly in its own orbit from point to point. . . . There is not but one such perfect revolution of the sun, namely, the one which it completes in its own orbit in a year."

Consequently, a year more accurately fits the definition of a day:

"Therefore, since a year is a measure of the time in which the sun revolves in its own orbit from point to point, according to this it could absolutely be called a day; that is, the only and perfect revolution of the sun from point to point in its orbit."

Thus Villanova, in his exposition of the twenty-three letters of De Semine as twenty-three centuries, goes a step beyond the original. He takes the 2300 as days, which he interprets as years by applying the day-for-a-year rule cited specifically from Ezekiel; and he proves by systematic arguments that the 2300 could not be taken for literal days, but rather for symbolic days, meaning solar years.

...Not until 1297...did Villanova apply the year-day principle to the 1290 and 1335 days of Daniel 12.

Francois du Jon (c.1545-1602), Huguenot leader, lawyer, theologian, preacher, gives his reason for the year-day principle: "Daies is commonly taken as yeares, that God in this sort might shew the time to be short, and that the space of time is definitely set downe by Him in His counsaile. The daies must be reckoned for so many yeares, after the example of the Prophets Ezechiel and Daniel." (Froom 2:624.)

John Napier (1550-1617), distinguished Scottish mathematician, celebrated inventor of logarithms, introducer of the present use of the decimal point, inventor of a mechanical device for the performance of multiplication, division, and extraction of square and cube roots, says this about the year-day principle: "In propheticall dates of daies, weekes, monethes, and yeares, everie common propheticall day is taken for a yeare." (Froom 2:457.)

Puritan John Cotton (1584-1652) of Massachusetts was the first Puritan expositor of the New World. Froom, speaking about Cotton, says, "Prophetic interpretation thus starts in America with the clear recognition of the year-day principle. This should ever be remembered." (Froom 3:38.) With the role that America plays in end time prophecy, it is serendipitous that prophetic interpretation started with a "clear recognition" of the year-day principle.

Samuel Langdon (1723-1797), Congregational clergyman of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, president of Harvard, states:

"As we find in the Old Testament several examples in which days are answerable to years, it is sufficient to justify the same reckoning in the prophecies of this Book. Thus Num. 14, 34, it is said, 'After the number of days in which ye searched the land, even 40 days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years.' And in Ezek. iv, 4, 5, 6, a day for a year is appointed the Prophet to bear the iniquities of Israel and Judah. But Daniel's prophecy of the time of Messiah's coming makes the prophetic way of reckoning quite clear. The time is there fixed to 70 weeks, and the accomplishment is a sufficient proof to christians that these weeks are to be reduced to days, and each day taken for a year, making 490 years." (Froom 3:210)

At this time in the New World, there were 25 prominent writers of prophecy. Half of these referred to and explicitly used the year-day principle. The other half did not attempt to discuss the time feature of prophecy. (Froom 3:138.)

By the early 1800s, the year-day principle was so entrenched that Adam Hood Burwell (1790-1849), missionary to Canada, could state "that a day is here set for a year I hardly need attempt to prove." (Froom 4:315.)

It was not until 1826, that renewed attacks started on the year-day principle. Only this time, it was Protestants attacking Cleading to a split over the issue of the year-day principle in the Protestant churches. The attackers were Protestants who wanted nothing to do with the Reformation and leaned toward Rome. They denied the progressive nature of the year-day principle, the adding and building toward a more solid understanding of the year-day principle. They denied that history had "fulfilled, clarified, and confirmed the great positions held in common by the growing body of Historical School interpreters through the centuries." (Froom 3:657.) These opponents to the year-day principle used as their arguments that this principle was not considered as applicable to a prophecy until it had run out or nearly run out. They denied the progressive understanding and interpretation of Scriptures. (Froom 3:662.)

And in response to these attacks, Alexander Keith (1791-1880), Scottish writer on prophecy, wrote one of the strongest defenses of the year-day principle to meet the spreading fallacies of the Futurist interpretation. (Froom 3:622-623.)

Year-Day Principle in Advent Movement

The advent movement started. In it, Thomas R. Birks (1810-1883), theologian and controversialist, produced the most exhaustive and masterly treatise on the year-day principle of the entire nineteenth-century advent awakening. (Froom 3:707.)

The time of William Miller (1782-1849) arrives. During 1816-1818, Miller spent two years in intensive Bible study. From that study, he was persuaded "that all prophetic time—such as the 70 weeks, the 1260 days, and the rest—are to be computed on the year-day principle." (Froom 4:463.) Miller was not alone in his view, just as current Seventh-day Adventists are not alone. He was in "accord with the standard principles of the best Christian scholarship of the centuries." (Froom 4:513.)

After the disappointment of October 22, 1844, the Millerites declared that even though something was wrong, "we stand on the ground which the primitive church occupied; and, from which, you, who oppose us, have departed." (Froom 4:871.) Further, they were so convinced of the correctness of the year-day principle, even after the great disappointment, that they told their opposers that the opposers must disprove Millerites. (Froom 4:871.) This is faith in the year-day principle!

In 1844, the "Adventists" held that their applications using the year-day principle of prophetic time was sustained by standard expositors of the church throughout history. Even their antagonists agreed that they used the "soundest exegesis." (Froom 4:863-864.)

Finally, Ellen White agreed with the year-day principle.[8] (Froom 4:1142.)

Year-Day Principle as Standard, Axiomatic

Richard Cuningham Shimeall (1803-1874), Episcopalian, believed in the year-day principle as axiomatic in all his prophetic calculations. (Froom 4:372.)

In a relatively long passage, Froom clearly states that the historical basis for prophetic interpretation was and is quite sound:

The mariner freshly freed from dense fog which has shut out sea and sky from view, looks to the stars for his course, in the early dawn before the night is wholly past, in order to learn his exact position on the sea. Thus it was with the church of the Reformation (16th Century). Having escaped the shrouds of Papal mist and darkness which had so long enveloped her, she turned her eyes to the heavenly lights of God's Word to find her spiritual bearings and to the study of prophecy to ascertain her position on God's charge of prophetic fulfillment.

In studying the prophetic statements of Daniel, Jesus, Paul, and John, the Reformers discovered the striking resemblance between the features of the gross apostasy portrayed in these picturesque symbols and the Roman church portrayed in history. Therefore they pointed to the Pope and his system as the falling away, the Man of Sin, the Antichrist, the persecuting Little Horn, the corrupt woman of Babylon.

The development and dominance of the Antichrist had covered many centuries. Thus the fulfillment was found in history rather than in any short period of time. Further, the long-accepted interpretations of Daniel 2 and 7—the four kingdoms followed by the breakup of Rome—and the seventy weeks, lent weight to the long view of historical fulfillment and the day-year principle.

Accepting these basic considerations, the other time periods given in the Scripture were now likewise treated, and opened new vistas of understanding. God's guiding hand in history became discernible. History did not remain any longer a confusing mass of incomprehensible events, but became intelligible as the outworking of a divine plan with definite laws and a definite purpose.

This discovery of the historical basis of prophetic interpretation is one feature of the inspiring work of the Reformers, which, regrettably, our generation has practically forgotten. Their firm conviction of having a definite place in God's unfolding plan of history gave them that strength and that courage which led them to brave all difficulties, dangers, and death itself. Only if we reorientate ourselves to these same guiding lights of prophecy shall we find strength, courage, and surety in the bewildering aspect of our time. (2:462-463)

Through the passage of the centuries, fundamental interpretations of prophecy came to be generally accepted by careful expositors as established, sound and trueCand therefore came to be regarded as standard and axiomatic. These included the year-day principle... (Froom 4:204.)

The Annual Council[9] view on the standard of the year-day principle can be seen in this thought, "Seventh-day Adventists recognize and appreciate the contributions of those biblical scholars throughout history who have developed useful and reliable methods of Bible study consistent with the claims and teachings of Scripture" (emphasis added).

Year-Day Principle Even in Astronomy

This has to be one of the most fascinating discoveries about the year-day principle. The events described here took place in the first half of the 18th century:

In his On the Jubilean Chronology of the Seventh Trumpet of the Apocalypse, Cuninghame [1776-1849], (the champion of the number 2300) brought to the fore a unique line of evidence in confirmation of the year-day principle. The background was this: Nearly a century before, a Swiss astronomer M. Jean Philippe Loys de Chéseaux—correspondent of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Paris, foreign associate of the Academy at Göttingen, and author of various astronomical and mathematical works and tables—had been engaged in chronological research. And in order to fix the certainty of the date of the crucifixion, he was led to examine the book of Daniel. 

M. de Chéseaux had been pondering a possible relationship between the prophetic periods of the 1260 and 2300 years, as the duration of certain predicted epochs, and the facts of astronomy—that is, the cyclical periods measuring the planetary revolutions in the heavens. To his amazement and delight he discovered that these periods comprise lunisolar cycles of remarkable perfection and occurrence, whose existence had been unknown to astronomers. He found that they are of one and the same character. He found, moreover, that the difference between these two periods, which is 1040 years—and which he called the "Daniel Cycle"—is the most accurate lunisolar cycle thus far discovered, harmonizing the revolutions of sun and moon. This he wrote out in "Historical, Chronological, and Astronomical Remarks on Certain Parts of the Book of Daniel," which was edited and published by his sons in 1754.

M. de Chéseaux here explains four kinds of cycles. Those—

  1. Harmonizing the solar day and solar year.
  2. Harmonizing the solar year and lunar month.
  3. Harmonizing the solar day and lunar month.
  4. Harmonizing all three—day, month, and year.

It had been almost impossible to find a cycle for this fourth class. But the 1260 years is such a cycle, with a remarkably small error. Then he found that the 2300 years is even more perfect—the kind of cycle that had long been unsuccessfully sought by astronomers, a cycle "thirty times longer than the Period of Calippus," and having only "a seventeenth part of the error of that" ancient cycle, which error was "8h 12'." The exact similarity of the slight error of these two cycles made de Chéseaux conclude that the difference between them—1040 years—out to be a perfect cycle, free from error; and all the more remarkable as uniting all three kinds of cycles and "furnishing consequently a cycle of that fourth kind so long sought in vane." It proved to be even so. Then he says:

"This period of 1040 years, indicated indirectly by the Holy Ghost, is a cycle at once solar, lunar, and diurnal or terrestrial of the most perfect accuracy. I subsequently discovered two singular confirmations of this fact, which I will explain presently, when I have adduced all my purely astronomic proofs; may I in the meantime be permitted to give to this new cycle, the name of the DANIEL CYCLE."

When de Chéseaux discovered the astronomical nature of this period, he regarded it as unmistakable proof of the inspiration of the book of Daniel. Such a cycle would never have been chosen by accident. And since it was not accidental, it must have been chosen by Him who timed the movements of the sun and moons in their orbits.

M. de Chéseaux makes this further impressive statement:

"For several ages [centuries] the book of Daniel, and especially these passages of it, have been quoted and commented on by numerous and varied authors, so that it is impossible for a moment to call in question their antiquity. Who can have taught their author the marvelous relation of the periods he selected with soli-lunar revolutions? Is it possible, considering all these points, to fail to recognize in the author of the book of Daniel the Creator of the heavens and of their hosts, of the earth and the things that are therein?";

To Cuninghame these discovers appeared as conclusive evidence that these prophetic numbers in Daniel are not literal days but prophetic days signifying literal years. Further, he believed that the 1260 years are a component part of the 2300 years. He felt that, in order to impress the church with their importance in measuring the epochs of the enemies of the church, they were not only announced to the church and confirmed by Gabriel with an oath, in the name of Him that liveth forever and ever (Dan. 12:7), but are engraved on the very system of the material universe, being "measures of the great revolutions of the diurnal, and lunar and solar periods of the heavens, these two numbers being, according to M. de Chéseaux, the only round numbers that are cyclical, and their difference 1040, a perfect cycle." This was an impressive argument. (Froom 3:381-385.)

Another voice about astronomy and the year-day principle is Dr. Henry Grattan Guinness, D.D., F.R.A.S., F.R.G.S. (1835-1910), conspicuous preacher and trainer of missionaries. He maintained that "the prophetic times of Daniel and the Apocalypse are extremely perfect astronomical cycles, harmonizing solar and lunar revolutions. The year-day theory, resting on Scripture analogy and historic fulfillment, is strongly confirmed by this discovery." (Froom 4:1201.)

Great Cloud For Year-Day Principle

Paul states, "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us. . . ." (Hebrews 12:1). Whereas, he was addressing a greater issue than the year-day principle, his words are appropriate here. We, too, have a great cloud of witnesses who believed in the year-day principle.

All of these people believed in the year-day principle before they may have become a Seventh-day Adventist. Further, this is not an exhaustive list of who believed in the year-day principle. Therefore, as Froom declared of Miller (4:513), Seventh-Day Adventists are not alone.

What Seventh-day Adventist Doctrines does the Year-Day Principle Affect

The year-day principle affects more than just the amount of time a prophecy lasts. It affects each of the Seventh-day Adventist teachings listed below:

Has this Ever Been a Criteria Used by Our Church ?

To my knowledge, the Seventh-day Adventist church has never used popularity as a criterion for a doctrine, and neither did our Lord. He clearly said that if we followed Him, our brother, father, mother, sister would hate us.[10] This does not sound like a system built on popularity. We have many beliefs that most or all of Christendom do not believe in. Are we to give them up? Look at how many distinct beliefs would be lost:

Sabbath (Saturday) - Most[11]

Health - Most

Unclean meats - All

Tithe (the treasury) - Most

Christ's high priest activities - All

Sanctuary - Sanctuary

Millennium - Most

Nature of Man/Death - Most/All

Remnant - All

Grape juice at communion - All

Gift of Prophecy - All

Law of God - All

Events of the second coming - Most

As you can see, many of our teachings are unique; yet, that has not kept us (you) from believing in them or the church as a whole in teaching and believing in them. Whether the rest of contemporary Christendom follows a plain teaching of the Bible is beside the point. Seventh-day Adventists believe in, as did Christendom prior to the last 200 years, the year-day principle.


[1] "I saw that the Word of God, as a while, is a perfect chain, one portion linking into and explaining another.  Early Writings, 221.

     "The Bible [is] the word of God, the only sufficient, infallible rule ... [which] must be its own interpreter."  The Great Controversy, 173.

     "Scripture interprets scripture, one passage being the key to other passages."  Evangelism, 581.

     "The Bible is its own expositor.  Scripture is to be compared with scripture."  Education, 190.

[2] See Exodus 13:10; 1 Samuel 20:6; Judges 11:40.

[3] See 1 Samuel 27:7, the phrase is actually "days and four months."  Bible translators frequently handle the phrase as "year and four months."  See also Numbers 9:22.  In the phrase usually translated as "two days, or a month, or year," the "year" is actually the word for "day."

[4] See 1 Kings 1:1.  The term for "advanced in years" is "in the days."  This is also seen in the genealogy of Genesis 5 where the formula of "X lived so many years and begat Y.  And X lived so many years after he begat Y and begat sons and daughters.  And all the days of X were so many years, and he died."  (Shea 67).

[5] See Genesis 6:3 where it states, "his days shall be one hundred and twenty years."

[6] See Job 10:5, 15:20, 32:7, 36:11; Deuteronomy 32:7; Psalm 77:5, 90:9-10.

[7] Intertestamental times starts when the latest book of the Old Testament is written and ends when the earliest book of the New Testament is written.

[8] Interestingly enough, Ellen White has no prolonged discussion of the year-day principle.  In fact, her belief in it speaks out from the lack of commentary.  Looking in the Index to her writings under the two main texts (Numbers 14:34, Ezekiel 4:6) and the word phrases, the number of sources is quite minimal.   She clearly says, without discussion, that a day in prophecy stands for a year.   My personal conclusion, and I believe that it would be the conclusion of the White Estate, is that at that time, the year-day principle was an almost universally undisputed fact or belief.  Therefore, there was no need to discuss it.

[9] 1986 Annual Council, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

[10] Luke 12:51-53.

[11] Most refers to most of Christendom and All refers to all, according to my general knowledge.


As we have looked at each of the reasons against the year-day principle set forth on Sabbath, June 21, 1997, we have seen that each one can be overcome by sound reasoning. God, in His dealings with the human race, has shown interest and caring for all people. He has shown mercy. He has not overtly disheartened us.

We have seen that the Roman Catholic church has made some good contributions to Christendom, but the year-day principle, which was used in the second century B.C., was not one of them. However, the Roman Catholic church did produced two inventions—Preterism and Futurism—to counter the year-day principle. We have also seen that Protestantism first rejected these counter principles, but now fully embrace them; that is, except Seventh-day Adventists.

Finally, we have seen that Seventh-day Adventists are not the only ones who believe in the year-day principle. From the time of Moses down to the present day, there have been people who have believed in and employed the year-day principle. We have seen that some of the great names in Christian history have believed in the year-day principle, names like Augustine, Wycliffe, Luther, Sir Isaac Newton, Miller, and White. We are not alone. We have been given a role in history, the role of recovering and continuing the honored and orthodox prophetic expositions of the centuries. Our emphasis today must be on those last-day segments not perceived or stressed before. We are to walk with that great cloud of witnesses to the year-day principle. It is my hope, Dave, that you consider what has been written here.

Works Cited

Damsteegt, P.G. Blessings of the Disappointment. 1994.

Damsteegt, P.G. The Role of Bible Translations. 1992.

Damsteegt, P.G. Who Needs Doctrines? Jesus is Coming! 1995.

Dederen, R., Instructor. Class notes from Roman Catholic Theology. Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI. Spring quarter, 1991.

Edson, H. Untitled Manuscript. Berrien Springs, MI: Heritage Room, James White Library, Andrews University, c.1844.

Froom, L.R.E. The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers. 4 Vols. Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing House, 1950.

General Conference Methods of Bible Study Committee. "Methods of Bible Study." 1996 Annual Council, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1986.

Holy Bible, New American Standard Version. Nashville, TN: The Lockman Foundation, Holman Bible Publishers, 1977.

Koranteng-Pipim, S. Receiving the Word. Berrien Springs, MI: Berean Books, 1996.

Ministerial Association, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Seventh-day Adventists Believe. . . . Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1988.

Neall, R., Instructor. Class notes from History of Christian Thought. Union College, Lincoln, NE, Spring quarter, 1987.

Nichol, F.D., ed. Seventh-day Adventist Commentary. Vol. 4. Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1977.

Roeske, S., Instructor. Class notes from Adventist Belief Systems. Union College, Lincoln, NE, Fall quarter, 1986.

Shea, W.H. Selected Studies on Prophetic Interpretation. Lincoln, NE: College View Printers, 1982.

White, E.G. Child Guidance. Nashville, TN: Southern Publishing Association, 1954.

White, E.G. Desire of Ages. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1940.

White, E.G. Early Writings. Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1882.

White, E.G. Education. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1903.

White, E.G. Evangelism. Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1946.

White, E.G. The Great Controversy. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1911.