Joshua V. Himes (1805–95) was a publisher and evangelist based in New England. In the 1830s, he became enthralled by the teachings of William Miller, a self-taught Bible interpreter who preached that the world was going to end in 1843.
Miller’s approach to the Bible aimed to harmonize its apparent contradictions. He believed all the events mentioned in the Bible could be placed onto a single timeline. The Bible’s meaning, he insisted, was simple, clear, and straightforward. It seemed otherwise only if improperly interpreted.
As Miller harmonized events in Daniel and Revelation, he came to the startling conclusion that Scripture predicted the future with mathematical precision. Using complex maths and historical thinking in his reading of the biblical text, he calculated that the Second Coming of Jesus would occur between March 1843 and March 1844.
Himes disseminated this lithograph to convey Miller’s teachings as visual fact. Millerites considered the striking visual elements of the chart to be as integral to the meaning of prophecy as the text of the Bible itself. On Himes’s chart, the Beast appears on the far right, beneath the bright red dragon. The text of Revelation 13 surrounds it, reinforcing the notion that this is an obvious, authoritative rendering of what the prophet John saw in the future.
Beneath the Beast appears the caption ‘Papal Rome’. Thus the Beast of Revelation 13 is explicitly equated with the Roman Catholic Church. The calculations and small text beside the image explain how the Beast’s ‘forty-two months’ of blasphemy (Revelation 13:5) referred to 1260 years of uncontested Catholic rule in Rome (a longstanding Protestant assumption). What makes the chart unique is that by connecting the aforementioned 1260-year span to specific historical dates, then applying a mathematical formula, it aims to prove that the Bible predicts Jesus’s return will occur in 1843.
Himes printed thousands of copies of this chart. It became part of the standard kit of Millerite evangelists, who used it while preaching to explain their harmonizing system of interpretation. They thought if people saw this image, they would realize visual truth and find salvation before it was too late.
Boyer, Paul. 1992. When Time Shall Be No More (Cambridge, MA: Belknap)
Morgan, David. 1999. Protestants and Pictures (New York: Oxford University Press)
13 And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems upon its horns and a blasphemous name upon its heads. 2And the beast that I saw was like a leopard, its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. 3One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth followed the beast with wonder. 4Men worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”
5 And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months; 6it opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and tongue and nation, 8and all who dwell on earth will worship it, every one whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain. 9If any one has an ear, let him hear:
10If any one is to be taken captive,
to captivity he goes;
if any one slays with the sword,
with the sword must he be slain.
Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.
11 Then I saw another beast which rose out of the earth; it had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. 12It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. 13It works great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in the sight of men; 14and by the signs which it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast, it deceives those who dwell on earth, bidding them make an image for the beast which was wounded by the sword and yet lived; 15and it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast so that the image of the beast should even speak, and to cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. 16Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, 17so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. 18This calls for wisdom: let him who has understanding reckon the number of the beast, for it is a human number, its number is six hundred and sixty-six.