Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary


Religion, MA: Church History

First Advisor

Name of advisor not identified



The interpretation of prophecy fills an important place in the teachings of Seventh-day Adventists, Among the many prophecies they interpret is one which concerns a period variously described in the Bible as lasting 31/2 times, 42 months, or 1260 days. The accepted Adventist interpretation of this prophecy makes of this period a special era of 1260 years, and places its beginning and ending dates at A.D. 538 and 1798 respectively. It was the purpose of this study to inquire into the adequacy of these dates. Stated in another way, it was the purpose of this study to find out what period in history God had reference to when he spoke of "1260 days."

The problem

From the time of Joachim of Floris at the close of the twelfth century down to the present day, many men have assigned dates to the 1260 days. These dates differ widely, though they can be grouped so as to show trends and schools of opinion. The interpretations and conclusions of Seventh-day Adventists in this matter are, in some aspects, unique. In view of this the question naturally arises, "What dates really are the right ones with which to bound the 1260 days?" It is this question that constitutes "the problem."


The nature of this paper is both exegetical and historical. it was felt that to examine history for the fulfillment of prophetic symbols without first determining what the symbols portray would be to put the cart before the horse and to ensure failure. The historical section is devoted to an examination of history in an attempt to discover the fulfillment on the basis of the exegetical study.


The scope of this paper is rather broad for a Master's thesis, including as it does a survey of 1260 years of history and of two limited eras, any of which phases could become the basis of a separate thesis. But it was fait that in order to be solved, the problem must be grasped as a whole. The period is always presented in the Bible simply and as if it were a unit of time to be taken up and considered all at once.


The importance of this study is derived from the value of Bible study in general and of the study of prophecy in particular. The Apostle Peter instructs Christians to know the reasons underlying their faith, and says, "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear." Ellen G. White further instructs that prophecy should be presented as "the foundation of the faith of Seventh-day Adventists." If prophecy is the foundation of the beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists, and if the Bible teaches that Christians should be able to give a reason for their beliefs, then there is importance enough attached to an inquiry into the validity of any given prophetic interpretation.

Organization of the rest of the paper

Chapters II and III of this paper deal with interpretation while chapters IV and V present a study of historical fulfillment. There is also an appendix containing, among other things, a report on over twenty questionnaires returned from Adventist college Bible teachers in four countries; an inquiry into the historical validity of the 533-38 to 1793-98 "sliding-scale" dating; a summary of a 750-year survey of 135 expositors who have assigned dates to the 1260 days; and a history of the Ostrogothic war, with seven periodic maps.

Subject Area

Bible--Prophecies; Seventh-day Adventists--Doctrines; Twelve hundred sixty days


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