A Chronological Chart of the Visions of Daniel and John (first chart) by Joshua V. Himes (printer); Designed by Charles Fitch

Joshua V. Himes (printer); Designed by Charles Fitch

A Chronological Chart of the Visions of Daniel and John (first chart), 1843, Hand-tinted lithograph on cloth, 98 x 140 cm, Photo: Center for Adventist Research

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The Mathematical Certainty of the Second Coming

Commentary by

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.

 

References

Boyer, Paul. 1992. When Time Shall Be No More (Cambridge, MA: Belknap)

Morgan, David. 1999. Protestants and Pictures (New York: Oxford University Press)


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