The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 3


II. 2300 Years Becomes Focal Point of Discussion

The approaching end of the 2300 years became the new focal point of much of the revived prophetic interest. It was so general that it runs like a golden thread through a large part of this extensive literature. It centered, the writers believed, around the prophesied cleansing of the sanctuary from the pollutions of popery and Mohammedanism, at the close of the 2300 years, which they held would terminate about 1843, 1844, or 1847. PFF3 269.2

No sooner, however, had the spotlight of study been shifted to the new positions of interest and concern-the 2300 years of Daniel 8:14 in newly discovered relationship to the seventy weeks of years of Daniel 9-than complications set in to vex and divide the growing group of expositors. One point of difference was the old argument that 2400 is really the correct rendering, rather than 2300. And further, some argued that the 2400 years should be dated from the time of the vision, a century earlier, rather than from the beginning of the seventy weeks’ prophecy relating to the Jews and the Messiah. Thus they severed entirely any connection between the two periods. This theory was supported by a line of active and ardent champions, who kept the agitation stirring. It ultimately be came one of the chief points of division and cleavage. PFF3 269.3

This discussion of the 2300 years was not confined to a few enthusiasts but became the prevailing concern of a growing number of leading minds in religious thought. A third of a century after Petri’s revolutionary computation, 6 men in Great Britain and America came separately to similar conclusions. 7 That the prophetic time period of Daniel 8:14 indicated year-days was accepted as an established principle. So the question calling for a satisfactory answer was: When did the 2300 years begin, and consequently when would they end? And just what was meant by this cleansing, or justification., of the sanctuary that was to occur? PFF3 272.1


But first, what of the rival reading of 2400 in the Theodotian translation of Daniel in the Septuagint? Some, like Edward W. Whitaker, in 1795, had favored the 2400 reading of the Vatican copy of the Septuagint. 8 James Bicheno, 9 on the other hand, held to the 2300, and dated the period from 481 B.C. to A.D. 1819, when he believed Palestine would be freed from the foes of the Jews. And with their restoration, he thought, the church would be freed from Antichristian abominations. PFF3 272.2

Soon William Hales, the noted chronologer, signing him self the “Inspector,” interested himself in the problem in the prominent theological journal, The Orthodox Churchman’s Magazine, writing under the heading “Sacred Criticism.” 10 In this series Hales declared that the angel Gabriel was sent to enable the prophet to “understand the oracle, and discern the vision” (the grand prophetic period of 2300 days) through the famous prophecy of the seventy weeks.(Identified by internal evidence.) PFF3 272.3

In one article Hales explicitly declared that “there is no other number in the Bible, whose genuineness is better ascertained than that of the 2300 days.” 11 As to the interpretation, he added that he has adopted the position which Hans Wood, of Rossmead, Ireland, had brought forward but a few years before, that the “period of the 2300 days, begins along with that of the 70 weeks.” 12 The remaining portion of 1810 days, he held, is distinguished by the three remarkable periods of 1260, 1290, and 1335 year-days, not running in succession as the divisions of the seventy weeks, “but partly synchronizing or coalescing with each other.” 13 This same position Hales later confirmed in 1809, in his New Analysis of Chronology, declaring: “This chronological prophecy [of the 70 weeks] ... was evidently designed to explain the foregoing vision, especially in its chronological part of the 2300 days.” 14 PFF3 273.1


But what Hales had seemingly settled in 1804, G. Stanley Faber again questioned in 1806-whether “the 2300, the 2200, or the 2400 days, whichever of these three be the proper reading.” 15 He also stated in a footnote that the sanctuary to be cleansed is the “spiritual sanctuary of the Christian Church,” with the cleansing to consist of the overthrow of the papal Little Horn of Daniel 7 and the Mohammedan horn of Daniel 8. PFF3 273.2

Then, James Hatley Frere, in his Combined View of the Prophecies, in 1815, likewise accepted the reading of 2400 rather than 2300, beginning the longer period with the alleged time of the vision, in 553 B.C., and ending it in A.D. 1847. 16 Thus, curiously enough, the terminal year of Frere’s 2400 years, and of those who followed his exposition, nearly coincided with the larger group that held to 1843, 1844, or 1847 as the end of the 2300 years, with the seventy weeks as the first portion. But the differences outweighed the similarities. PFF3 273.3


William Cullinghame, of Lainshaw, in The Christian Observer (1811) and in the several editions of his Dissertation on the Seals and Trumpets, clarified the whole question by showing that the 2400 years of the Vatican edition of the Septuagint was a “typographical error,” as he avers:” PFF3 274.1

There is no support given to this various reading either by the genuine principles of Scriptural criticism, or by any other edition of the Seventy; for they all, with the exception of the Vatican edition, agree with the Hebrew Text.” 17 PFF3 274.2

Cuninghame, the most prolific prophetic interpreter of the time, who made “truth his principal concern,” wrote twenty-one treatises between 1802 and 1849. From 1807 onward he engaged Faber in controversy on this and other points, in the columns of The Christian Observer. He contended that the French Revolution had ushered in a new era, and declared himself in accord with those who held that the 1260-year period was to be dated from Justinian’s decree. Cuninghame made an impressive interpretation of Daniel 7 in which he stressed the historical fulfillment of the papal casting of the truth to the ground, and practicing and prospering against it. 18 PFF3 274.3


Although a clear statement on the joint beginning of the 2300 years and seventy weeks of years in 457 B.C., and the ending of the 2300 years in 1843, had appeared in 1810 in The Christian Observer 19 over the initials “J.A.B.,” 20 it was the Scotch minister Archibald Mason who, in 1820, was chiefly responsible for refuting the arguments of William C. Davis, who dated the 2300 years from 453 B.C. to A.D. 1847. Mason contended for the terminal dates 457 B.C. and A.D. 1843, in his Two Essays on Daniel’s Prophetic Number of the Twenty-three hundred Days (1820). PFF3 274.4

Able and influential writers in Great Britain joined in the discussion and quest for truth which centered, to no small degree, around this impressive number 2300. The organizations for the study and propagation of prophecy, which came into being, all touched upon it. Lewis Way reorganized the London Society to Promote Christianity Among the Jews, with The Jewish Expositor as its medium of communication and publicity. Discussions of the 2300 years are found in its pages. Henry Drummond, rich London banker and member of Parliament, became one of the most ardent promoters of prophetic research, founding the Continental Society in 1819 to lift the spiritual standard and foster prophetic study on the Continent. Emphasis on the 2300 years appears in its reports. In addition, Drummond was the finder and sponsor of Joseph Wolff, who became the intrepid herald of the advent and the prophecies throughout Asia. And Wolff based no small part of his appeal on this key prophecy. PFF3 274.5


Frere’s greatest acquisition was the winning of Edward Irving, the celebrated preacher in London. Gripped by the new-found prophetic truth, he became a powerful advocate, and like wise touched upon Daniel 8:14. But he followed Frere in the 2400 reading, dating it from the time of the vision to 1847. He applied Daniel 8 to the Mohammedan perversion, as a parallel to the Papacy on the West. And with it he taught the commonly held view of the restoration of the true worship in Jerusalem, when the Jews should be restored and converted. And like certain others, he believed that the 1335 years would end later, in 1867, when the resurrection of the righteous would take place. 21 This, too, was to make for confusion. PFF3 275.1

While Irving, Frere, and others held to the terminus of the 2400 years in 1847, Cuninghame, as early as 1826, in his Scheme of Prophetic Arrangement, came to endorse Archibald Mason’s computation of the 2300 years as from 457 to 1843, definitely citing him as authority. 22 This endorsement raised the question of priority. In 1827 John A. Brown, in the Preface to The Jew The Master-Key of the Apocalypse, asked pointedly: PFF3 275.2

“Where, however does he [Cuninghame] find the opinion of such authors expressed, save in ‘The Even-Tide,’ and in a fugitive paper penned fourteen years since, by the same author [Brown himself], in which that circumstance was particularly stated.” 23 PFF3 276.1

So it was evidently John A. Brown who signed himself merely “J.A.B.” in The Christian Observer in 1810. 24 At this early date Brown recognized the integral connection between the 2300 years of Daniel 8 and the seventy weeks of Daniel 9, and synchronized the commencement of the 2300 years with that of the 490 years. In his Even-Tide (1823) he takes the clear position that the 2300 years, beginning in 457 B.C., would end in 1844, when he expected the cleansing to be fulfilled by the overthrow of the Mohammedan abomination and the restoration of the Jewish polity. 25 PFF3 276.2


Then in 1826, Henry Drummond, encouraged by Lewis Way, invited a num ber of ministers and laymen interested in prophetic study to meet in a conference at his villa in Albury Park, Surrey, to see “how far they coincided in understanding the mind of the Spirit on these momentous subjects.” Mason was invited, but declined the long journey because of his advanced age. Nevertheless, he wrote out his thoughts on the various items. About twenty, however, accepted the invitation to be present. Among these were Lord Mandeville, Dodsworth, Marsh, Frere, Simons of Paul’s Cray, Haldane Stewart, William Cuninghame, Edward Irving, Joseph Wolff, and C. S. Hawtrey, under the moderatorship of Hugh M’Neile. They spent six days in intensive study of the near advent, the prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse, the times of the Gentiles, the future condition of the Jews, and the duties of the church arising from these questions. This is impressively pictured in the frontispiece for Part II of this volume. Their conversations were epitomized in Dialogues on Prophecy. PFF3 276.3

All seemed agreed that the 1260 and 1290 days of Daniel were accomplished, and that the remaining years of the 1335 had begun. At the conclusion of these, “the blessedness will be fully arrived.” During this time they were to look for the second advent of Christ in person to raise the dead bodies of the saints, and with them to reign on the earth. Therefore great vigilance and fearless warring and righteousness was incumbent upon them. 26 Certain questions were left open-whether 2300 and A.D. 1843, or 2400 and A.D. 1847 was the right number. PFF3 277.1