A recent online article challenged the day-year principle, especially for Daniel 8:14 (the 2,300 days), which the author claims was fulfilled about 200 years before Christ (atoday.org/the-problem-with-the-day-year-principle). If he’s correct, then the Seventh-day Adventist Church is built upon lies sandwiched between errors and errors sandwiched between lies. Our pioneers were dead wrong, not only about the judgment but also about the timing (about 2,000 years wrong, actually). If what this “Adventist” website published in true, Ellen White is a false prophet and we are what enemies of the Seventh-day Adventist Church have always claimed: a cult.
What, then, about the day-year principle, particularly with Daniel 8:14?
First, this attack is kind of like herpes simplex: it comes, it vanishes, and it comes again—even though our church has produced so much scholarly and popular material proving the day-year principle (see, for instance, Selected Studies on Prophetic Interpretation, William Shea, Biblical Research Institute (Silver Spring, Md., 1992).
Also, Jewish and Christian Bible students have for centuries used and still use the day-year principle. Does their use prove it correct? Of course not. It proves only that others have applied the principle as well.
Seventh-day Adventists love two texts for the day-year principle, Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6. Taken by themselves these do not prove that we must use the principle for Daniel 8:14. They prove only that the idea of “a day for each year” (Eze. 4:6) in the context of prophecy is biblical, even though much evidence for the day-year principle exists without these texts. In fact, Daniel 8 itself so demands the day-year principle that the chapter becomes nonsensical without it.
The prophecy of Daniel 8 consists of a vision of four sequential elements: a ram, a goat, a little horn, and the cleansing of the sanctuary (Dan. 8:1-14). These three entities are interpreted in the chapter as three different empires that will arise until the third, the last empire (the little horn), is supernaturally destroyed (see Dan. 8:25 and 2:34, 45) at “the time of end” (Dan. 8:17; see also Dan. 8:19). The ram is Media-Persia (Dan. 8:20); the goat, Greece (verse 21); and the little horn, which is depicted as greater than either Media-Persia or Greece, and which exists to the end of time, is Rome (verses 23-25), both pagan and papal.
Then finally the cleansing of the sanctuary: “And he said unto me, unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed” (Dan. 8:14, KJV).
What prompted the mention of the cleansing of the sanctuary, the last of the four elements in the chapter, was a question in the preceding verse: “Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?” (verse 13, KJV).
Notice that the word “concerning” is italicized, which means that it was not in the original text. Nor does the Hebrew allow for its inclusion. A more literal translation reads: “How long the vision, the daily, and the transgression of desolation to give the sanctuary and the host a trampling.”
The question asks about the events of the entire vision. The question could be paraphrased: How long will these things, Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome, take place?
The answers is 2,300 days? About six years and four months?
In World War II allied bombers leveled the city of Dresden. Suppose, amid the smouldering ruins, someone asked Dresden’s mayor, “How long until the city is rebuilt?”
And he answered: “In about four days and three hours, it will all be made right.”
Given the context, that reply makes no more sense than Daniel 8 spanning only 2,300 days. Media-Persia alone covered a few centuries, and Rome (pagan and papal) has been around since before Christ’s Incarnation. Obviously, something other than 2,300 literal days is meant, and if you apply the day-year principle, instead of just over six years you get 2,300, which fits the depicted events in ways that six years and four months make nonsensical.
Also, Daniel 8 is not about a ram and a goat fighting, or about a little horn that casts “stars to the ground” (Dan. 8:10). These are prophetic symbols, images depicting something other than themselves, and so shouldn’t the only time prophecy in the vision depict something other than itself as well?
Finally, if the heavenly being who spoke Daniel 8:14 meant a literal six years and four months, he sure said it strangely. The phrase “2,300 evening and morning” is not how the Bible expresses literal time. When the author depicted the time David reigned from Hebron, instead of writing that “he reigned over Judah seven years and six months” (2 Sam. 5:5), suppose he wrote that “he reigned over Judah 2,737 evening and morning”? Something other than literal time would have been meant, obviously. Likewise, the phrase “2,300 evening and morning” showed that in this prophecy symbolic, not literal time, was meant as well.
For these and other reasons, Daniel 8:14 demands the day-year principle, which shows that our founders were right and the article was wrong. Why those who profess to be Seventh-day Adventists would promote a position that relegates our church to a cult is, well, between them and God. For the rest of us, we can be certain that, as the heavenly interpreter told Daniel, the prophecy “of the evenings and mornings, which was told is true,” and that it “refers to many days in the future” (Dan. 8:26, NKJV).
To 1844, to be exact.
Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. His latest book, Baptizing the Devil: Evolution and the Seduction of Christianity, is available from Pacific Press.