There has been, and continues to be, a controversy regarding how the early Adventists settled
on Oct. 22 as the Day of Atonement in 1844. As will be seen herein, there is only one explanation,
and that being that they used the Calendar in the Heavens, according to the only Biblical method for
determining the feast days.
There are many voices, from many sources, which point to the fact that the traditionalist
Jewish community kept the Day of Atonement on September 23 in 1844. Some also point out that
another group of Jews, known as the Karaites, though using a different method for calculating the
beginning of the new years, likewise kept Sept. 23 in 1844. The reason these two seemingly
authoritative communities are being mentioned is that the Adventist church gives credit to the
Karaite Jews for having instructed them in the correct method for determining the time of the feast.
But a problem arises from the fact that today certain Karaite Jews attempt to discredit the Adventists'
use of Oct. 22 in 1844 by referring to the fact that they, as well as the traditionalist Jews, kept Sept.
23 that year.
The difference between the traditional Jews and the Karaites in determining the beginning
of the new years is that the Jews use a method of calculation which is not always in harmony with
the signs in the heavens – the sun and the moon; and the Karaites use the ripeness of the barley
fields, also without full regard for those heavenly sign posts. Thus, some years their years start one
month apart. But in 1844 they were the same (at least for the major representative groups of each –
the more observant among them may have disregarded the common error and kept the correct date).
Some Adventist sources state that Samuel Snow learned of that date from "Karaite" Jewish
reckoning. One who has, in his mind, disproved this thinking was E.S. Ballenger. Ballenger (a critic
of Ellen White – one among the Adventists who had the testimony of Jesus, the Spirit of Prophecy
[Revelation 12:17; 19:10]), who went to certain Karaite sources on this matter, found out that they
claim that in 1844 the Karaites kept the Day of Atonement in September (as did the traditional Jews),
instead of in October. But there is more to this, in that there were other Karaites who did make full
use of the Lord's signal flags in heaven. One writer says, "According to the book Karaites in
Byzantium, by Zvi Ankori, the Karaites in Babylon did not use barley to determine the first month;
but they used the vernal equinox."
The importance of this matter lies not in through whom the correct time became known, but,
rather, what method was used to determine it, for such is one of the many things which are
continually "for" us. That is, by inspiring the people to look for the Lord coming to His temple on
the tenth day of the month of the seventh month according to Biblical reckoning, God was informing
them that He intended to keep doing His work on the times of His ancient appointments, and on
those only. This included, but was not limited to, the Sabbath.
"Why did they use the time pointed out in the Mosaic law if it were invalid? ...
" 'In like manner the types which relate to the second advent must be fulfilled
AT THE TIME POINTED OUT IN THE SYMBOLIC SERVICE (feasts of Leviticus
23!). Under the Mosaic system the cleansing of the sanctuary, or the great day of
Atonement, occurred on the tenth day of the seventh Jewish month (Leviticus
16:2934),..So it was believed that Christ, our great High Priest, would appear to
purify the earth by the destruction of sin and sinners, and to bless His waiting people
with immortality. The tenth day of the seventh month, the great day of Atonement,
the time of the cleansing of the sanctuary, which in the year 1844 fell upon the
twenty-second of October, was regarded as the time of the Lord's coming. This was
in harmony with the proofs already presented that the 2300 days would terminate in
the autumn, and the conclusion seemed IRRESISTIBLE.' – The Great Controversy,
"Would it not seem strange for inspiration to base an 'irresistible' 'conclusion'
on a time which had been nailed to the cross and lost all meaning?" Branch Field
Letter, 2/2/78, p.3.
The question is, What was the correct method used to determine that Oct. 22 was the Day of
Atonement in 1844, and of what importance is that knowledge to the church today? The first answer
is that we would be able to answer the critics and skeptics with a sharp sword (so to speak). Another
would be to bring to the church the truth which she needs to wean her off of the customs and
traditions of the world and Babylon.
The simple answer is that those early Adventists relied solely on the Calendar in the Heavens.
That is, they used the first new moon after the Vernal (Spring) Equinox to begin their counting of
the days and months. As we have another study which examines this method in depth, we will refer
the reader to it – Calendar in the Heavens – New Years, New Moons, Passover, and Pentecost.
This method of reckoning not only allows for the Day of Atonement as late as Oct. 23, but,
in fact, was used with the signs in the heavens in 1844 to determine that Oct. 22 was the Day of
Atonement. That is, by reckoning the beginning of the year by the observance of both the sun and
the moon – the sun at the equinox, and the first new (visible) moon at or thereafter – the Adventists
(through whomever) were brought to the correct date.
The traditionalist Jews (who use calculations only, and are frequently out of sync with the
visible new moon and the Vernal Equinox), and the Karaite Jews (who go by the observation of the
ripening stage of the barley in the fields in conjunction with the then present new moon), who say
that Sept. 23 was the date that their groups celebrated the Day of Atonement in 1844, had to come
to that conclusion by using the new moon cycle which occurred before the Vernal Equinox (which
is about March 21) as their starting date. Consider the following math.
A lunar (moon-based) month is about 29.5 days long
There are 6 lunar months + 10 days of the 7th month to the Day of Atonement
29.5 x 6 = 177
177 + 10 = 187 days to the Day of Atonement.
The soonest the Day of Atonement can occur by the calendar in the heavens (sun and moon)
in any year having March 21 as the Equinox, and the new moon occurring that night at sundown
(assuming that the Equinox occurred before sundown of that day) would be Sept. 24, one day after
the day celebrated by the traditionalist Jews and the Karaites in 1844 – Sept. 23. In order for them
to have concluded that Sept. 23 was the correct date, they would have had to have used the sundown
of March 19 as the night of the visible new moon, making March 20, the first day of their new year.
By adding 187 days to March 20, they arrive at Sept. 23.
Here is the math:
The number of days in the relevant months of the western calendar are:
The date used by the traditionalist Jews and the Karaites for the first day of the first month
in 1844 was March 20 (the moon being visible the preceding night, the 19th).
Mar 20 + 187 days = Sept. 23
With the new moon occurring on March 20, there were 11 days left of March.
Add to these 11 days the next 5 months (April , May , June , July , and
August  – 153 days). That comes to 164 days. Then subtract that 164 days from the 187 days
needed to bring us to Atonement, and we have 23 days of September.
(the remaining days of March)
But as that new moon was before the Vernal Equinox (which can rarely occur on March 20
instead of the 21st), it can't be used to mark the new year. Therefore, the next visible new moon after
that one (29.5 days later) would be on April 18. Add 187 days to that date and we arrive at Oct. 22.
Given perfect circumstances, the latest date on which the Day of Atonement could occur is
Oct. 23. Therefore, in 1844 God waited until just about the last He could to allow as many as would
get ready to be ready when the time came. Merciful, Long-suffering, Patient, Kind, Faithful, and
True is the God of Israel.
The date used by the Adventists for the first day of the first month in 1844 was April 18 (the
moon being visible the preceding night, the 17th).
April 18 + 187 days = Oct. 22
With the new moon occurring on April 18, there were 12 days left of April.
Add to these 12 days the next 5 months (May , June , July , August , and
September  – 153 days). That comes to 165 days. Then subtract that 165 days from the 187 days
needed to bring us to Atonement, and we have 22 days of October.
(the remaining days of April)
There are Karaite sources which say that some other of their people used the vernal equinox.
So the early Adventists may have learned the matter from these, rather than from the first barley
Karaites. Whatever the case may be, we know that they were so intent on getting things right that
they would not have overlooked anything brought to their attention on the matter. By following the
Lord's leading as it was unfolded to them, they became privileged to partake in the unrolling of the
scroll, and amend their thinking and teaching. Such is the lesson for the church today.
"Times and laws" are important to God. Were they not, the devil would not spend such effort
to think to change them (Dan. 7:25). Many decry the attempted change in the Sabbath. Fewer yet,
the changes in the Feast days. Even fewer than that decry the incorrect marking of the year which
determines the keeping of the Feasts. The Seventh Day Adventists leadership (as a general body) do
not teach their people about the changes in the feast days, nor of the Biblical calendar which stands
as a foundation for the most prominent day in our history. We, almost above any people on earth,
should be in the forefront in proclaiming the Calendar in the Heavens, as such truth is at the
foundation of our teachings.
There are other reasons why we should "be ready always to give an answer to every man that
asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear." There are many winds of
doctrine blowing around regarding God's "times and laws," and our relation to them. The most
common is that they are for another people, and another time – that whatever significance they may
have had in regards to the timing of events in the unfolding of the plan of salvation was fulfilled at
the time of Christ's first coming, and, therefore, there is no need to expect, nor look for, any other
events at the times of God's ancient appointments.
Yet, when speaking of how Christ fulfilled the type of the Passover lamb, and also as the
wave sheaf of the first fruits, Ellen White says,
"These types were fulfilled, not only as to the event, but as to the time. . .
"In like manner, the types which relate to the second advent must be fulfilled
at the time pointed out in the symbolic service." The Great Controversy, p. 399.
Whatever times are pointed out in the "symbolic service" have as their beginning the correct
new year's day. All other times are reckoned off of this. If this date is wrong, then whatever is based
on that incorrect date is, likewise, wrong.
"Further, if the ceremonial law were nailed to the cross, what law was Jesus
following when He presented the wave-sheaf in heaven before the Father on the
morrow after the Sabbath? 'Christ was the first fruits of them that slept. It was to the
glory of God that the Prince of life should be the first fruits, the antitype of the wave
sheaf ....This very scene,the resurrection of Christ from the dead, had been celebrated
in type by the Jews ....So those who had been raised were to be presented to the
universe as a pledge of the resurrection of all who believe in Christ...' Selected
Messages, Book 1, p. 305.
" 'Christ arose from the dead as the first fruits of those that slept. HE WAS
THE ANTITYPE OF THE WAVE SHEAF, and His resurrection took place ON THE
VERY DAY the wave sheaf was to be presented before the Lord. For more than a
thousand years this symbolic ceremony had been performed ....SO CHRIST THE
FIRST FRUITS represented the great spiritual harvest to be gathered for the kingdom
of God .... As Christ arose, He brought from the grave a multitude of captives. They
ascended with Him as trophies of His victory over death and the grave." Desire of
Ages, p. 785, 786.
"Why did Christ arise on the very day of the offering of the wave sheaf, and
why did He offer not only Himself but His trophies on that very day, if the
ceremonial law were nailed to the cross?
"The simple answer is found in Jesus' statement, "Think not that I am come
to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to FULFIL." Matt.
"Fulfil, of course, does not mean to cease, but to carry out, to put in
"The message of Revelation 18 added to the Third Angel's Message, in the
Loud Cry to the world will appeal to all people, especially the Jews. In Israel some
of the Orthodox Rabbis have said that this message of The Branch is the greatest
threat to orthodox Judaism that has come in our day. Of this we are well aware since
it deals in a positive way with their land and their law. A message that does not
equate explicitly to the law of Moses, in antitype, in connection with the promised
land, will never have much effect upon the Jewish people. In the time of the message
of the Investigative Judgment for the Dead, in the Sanctuary above, under the Third
Angel since 1844, and with the ten commandment law, we have the promise, if
faithful, of eternal life in the first resurrection (John 6:40,44,54). In the additional
Angel's message, that of the Ceremonial Law of the Lamb of God, we have the
promise of living forever, bypassing the grave. See John 6:47.51. With this
supplementary light on the Word of God, and the plan of salvation, we are well aware
why Sister White stated that this Angel (Rev. 18:1) is glorious as He descends. Read
Early Writings, p. 277.
"We must remember that there is no salvation in the ten commandments for
all have sinned. The promise of redemption is found only in the ceremonial law for
'without the shedding of blood there is no remission.' Heb. 9:22. In the light of these
glorious facts God's saints need to hastily begin teaching Christ in the law; not only
in the law of the Creator (the ten commandments), but also to put our Saviour and
Redeemer in the law of the Re-Creator, the ceremonial law, and live forever (John
6:58)." Branch Field Letter, February 2, 1978, p.4, 5.
Yours to do the right thing,
At the right time,