Political or Religious?

Dear Jeff,

Thank you for your ministry. We are unable to tell you how you have strengthened our faith in the message. In Sabbath school adult class, Dr. N said that we, as a denomination, are ashamed of 1844. We told the world Jesus was coming then, and He didn’t, and we are ashamed of our early error. In the context of Jonah, that immediately let me see why we do not hear Revelation 9:15 preached: we are ashamed that what we predicted didn’t happen.

I had the opportunity to teach several weeks ago and I word-searched the CD for Jonah. I found 122 references, read them all and wrote a short reminder of the applications Spirit of Prophecy made of the Jonah story. It was amazing how many real-life situations she found were worthy of a mention in that respect, and the most important was that our people can find strength in realizing that the Bible prophecies were correct, the calculations of time were correct, and the fulfillment took place on time. It was only our failure to identify the correct fulfillment, which was at fault.

Uriah Smith and others recognized that “an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year” were not the mundane way to identify a future date, and applied the year-day principle. Miller did not focus on this prophecy for intense study, and it was left to Josiah Litch to pin down the historical date (August 11, 1840) and publish it. Desmond Ford criticized his work, saying that Litch had not included the adjustment to the Gregorian calendar in fixing the date. I have not pursued Ford’s criticism but it seems correct.

Regardless, the histories I consulted (encyclopedias and the few histories of Turkey available in the Paradise, CA library) did not even mention 1840 as a significant date. As I wrote to you then, I was sure the prophecy was true, that the biblical date was correct, that I thought the problem was that Litch and Smith were looking at a political fall of Turkey but that the fall was rather a religious one. I now can refine what I think.

Islam was in shambles in 1840. A couple of centuries earlier the Saracens were the major worry of the European kingdoms, and Smith says that in 1830 the Four Powers of Europe were sure that unless Turkey was kept as a weak power in the Mideast, Russia and Western Europe would have to meet in war over the hegemony of the Balkan states (Hungary, Romania, Greece, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Moldavia, Poland, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Montenegro—have I left any out?). So the Four Powers set about supporting Turkey to postpone the trouble to our day.

Turkey had come into world prominence in mid-fifteenth-century by confederating the various Moslem powers to war against Europe. Earlier Moslem incursions across northern Africa, high into Gaul, and through the Balkans; these had all been individual victorious armies, not coordinated in their assault on Christendom. But now Othman with his warring Turks had gained such military prominence that all Islam coordinated their efforts to destroy Christianity.

Muhammad died in the sixth century. The religion he had founded looked for a new prophet but none developed, and the leadership fell to Muhammad’s widow. He had married a widow with a son, and that son, (who was not of Muhammad’s blood line), had become the hope of Moslems. But Mohammad’s uncle, Abu Bekr, had inherited the military power, and his son, Ali, was another contender for leadership. That contention remains today: the Sunni Moslems look to the widow’s line for spiritual guidance; the Shi’a Moslems look to Ali’s line. It’s similar to the Catholic question, can the pope be other than Italian? The religious leader of Islam has the title, Caliph (ka-leef’). In 1840 there were four Caliphs: Mecca, Constantinople, Aleppo, Damascus. None had the authority to dominate the others and carry leadership against the Christians, and the military center was in Turkey. Eighty years later the leadership of Islam was no longer in Turkey, but in Mecca, in the Saud family. In our generation we have seen the decline of the Sauds and the rise of the Imams of Iran.

I believe the “fall of Turkey” of Uriah Smith was the decline from power of the Turkish Caliph and the rise of the Sauds. I’m not sure enough of any of this to publish. What did you find out in London? I got started on this when I read a book by A. T. Jones, Great Nations of Today. If you haven’t seen it, it’s probably worth acquiring. Your friend in Christ, CT.


Brother CT,

My work in the library in London was cut short because of a holiday that closed the library the following day. I had only one day to look. What I found though was the evidence that, what is recorded by Uriah Smith and others, such as James White—is accurate. It is similar to your conclusions above, but it includes the understanding of the pioneers as well. That understanding being that the Turkish power surrendered its sovereignty to the European powers on August 11, 1840. It wasn’t simply a change of spiritual power. Jeff.

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