“A Feast of Reason”: The Roots of William Miller’s Biblical Interpretation and its influence on the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Jeff Crocombe (2011). “A Feast of Reason”: The Roots of William Miller’s Biblical Interpretation and its influence on the Seventh-day Adventist Church. PhD Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion & Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author Jeff Crocombe
Thesis Title “A Feast of Reason”: The Roots of William Miller’s Biblical Interpretation and its influence on the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion & Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2011-10
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Philip Almond
Roxanne Marcotte
Total pages 244
Total black and white pages 244
Subjects 22 Philosophy and Religious Studies
Abstract/Summary During the late eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, the Second Advent movement was a potent religious force in both Europe and North America. Its adherents focused on a specific date for the literal fulfilment of Christ’s Second Advent—his return to earth to establish his kingdom. In America, the rising prosperity and growth of social democracy of the Jacksonian era evoked a fervid optimism that for many focussed on utopian visions of America’s millennial glory. Such an environment proved fertile ground for the theories of William Miller, and his followers, the Millerites, who became the largest and most influential early nineteenth-century American premillennial group. William Miller (1782-1849) was a primarily self-educated farmer living in upstate New York who, while raised a Baptist, became a Deist as a young man. Following his participation in the War of 1812, he first questioned and then rejected his Deist beliefs, undergoing a dramatic conversion experience and rejoining the Baptist Church. In order to respond to the questions of his Deist friends regarding the Bible’s reliability and their accusations that the Bible contradicted itself, Miller began a systematic reading of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. While reading, Miller became convinced that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to the earth would take place, “about the year 1843”. He began to publicly proclaim this Second Advent message in 1831, and soon gathered a large number of followers who accepted his message. Miller came to his conclusions because of the particular way in which he approached Scripture—seeing the Bible as a “feast of reason”—and by using a very systematic approach influenced by Scottish Common Sense Philosophy and based on Historicist principles. Miller approached the Bible “rationally” and a belief in the Bible’s perspicuity, literality, and truthfulness, was at the core of his hermeneutical approach. While he himself refrained from setting an exact date, he eventually accepted the October 22, 1844 date predicted by Samuel S. Snow. When this date passed without Christ’s return, the majority of Millerites gave up their beliefs. A minority of Millerites maintained their beliefs in the soon return of Jesus Christ and/or the significance of October 22, 1844. These groups developed a variety of explanations for Jesus’ non-appearance on that date and either reinterpreted the event linked to October 22, 1844 or set other dates for Christ’s return. The Seventh-day Adventist denomination that formally formed in 1860 out of these Millerite believers was one such group who developed an alternative scenario allowing them to maintain their belief in the significance of the October 22, 1844 date. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is now a 17 million strong denomination with a worldwide presence that reads and interprets the Bible using an approach that owes a great deal to Miller’s hermeneutic.
Keyword william miller
seventh-day adventist church

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Created: Wed, 05 Oct 2011, 14:23:33 EST by Jeff Crocombe on behalf of Library - Information Access Service