Hermeneutical Principles of William Miller cited by James White in 1875

Source: Life of Miller by James White in 1875 pp. 47-51.


Axiom Call for verified consistency: if the Bible is a revelation of God, it must be consistent with itself; all its parts must harmonize, must have been given for man's instruction, and, consequently, must be adapted to his understanding. He, therefore, said, '-Give me time, and I will harmonize all these apparent contradictions to my own satisfaction, or I will be a deist still.'


Axiom and Methodology: "He then devoted himself to the prayerful reading of the word. He laid aside all commentaries, and used the marginal references and his concordance as his only helps. He saw that he must distinguish between the Bible and all the peculiar and partisan interpretations of it. The Bible was older than them all, must be above them all; and he placed it there. He saw that it must correct all interpretations; and in correcting them, its own pure light would shine without the mists which traditionary belief had involved it in. He resolved to lay aside all preconceived opinions, and to receive, with child-like simplicity, the natural and obvious meaning of Scripture.“


Axiom and Time of Study: "He pursued the study of the Bible with the most intense interestwhole nights, as well as days, being devoted to that object. At times, delighted with truth which shone forth from the sacred volume, making clear to his understanding the great plan of God for the redemption of fallen man ; and at times puzzled and almost distracted by seemingly inexplicable or contradictory passages, he persevered, until the application of his great principle of interpretation was triumphant. He became puzzled only to be delighted, and delighted only to persevere the more in penetrating its beauties and mysteries.“


Axiom and Pragmatism: “His manner of studying the Bible is thus described

by himself :

"I determined to lay aside all my prepossessions, to thoroughly compare scripture with scripture, and to pursue its study in a regular and methodical manner. I commenced with Genesis, and read verse by verse, proceeding no faster than the meaning of the several passages should be so unfolded as to leave me free from

embarrassment respecting any mysticisms or contradictions. Whenever I found anything obscure, my practice was to compare it with all collateral passages; and, by the help of Cruden, I examined all the texts of Scripture in which were

found any of the prominent words contained in any obscure portion. Then, by letting every word have its proper bearing on the subject of the text, if my view of it harmonized with every collateral passage in the Bible, it ceased to be a difficulty.


Axiom and Length of Time of Studies: "In this way I pursued the study of the Bible, in my first perusal of it, for about two years, and was fully satisfied that it is its own interpreter. I found that, by a comparison of Scripture with history, all the prophecies, as far as they had been fulfilled, had been fulfilled literally; that all the various figures, metaphors, parables, similtudes, &c., of the Bible, were either explained in their immediate connection, or the terms in which they were expressed were defined in other portions of the word ; and, when thus explained, are to be literally understood in accordance with such explanation. I was thus satisfied that the Bible is a system of revealed truths, so clearly and simply given that the' wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein.'


In thus continuing the study, he adopted the following


Rules of Interpretation by William Miller


"1. Every word must have its proper bearing on the subject presented in the Bible.

Proof, Matt. 5:18.


Meaning: You cannot leave out certain texts or say I do not want to consider this text with the same subject as important to the Subject chosen. If a word would change the nuances of what is written before or after the text in consideration, one cannot cut out that text from full consideration.

Example: Take Woman Ordination by culture in contemporary setting as it is opposed by the text of Paul in 1 imothy 3:2 where it says that an elder must be a husband of one wife. Woman cannot be husbands. In consideration of the issue whether one can ordain a woman for an elder, this text cannot be just overlooked and the word mentioned here cannot be just ignored.



"2. All Scripture is necessary, and may be understood by a diligent application and study.

Proof, 2 Tim. 3:15-17.

Meaning: From Genesis to Revelation, the whole text of the Bible is relevant to the subject that is discussed. There must be a diligent application and diligent study of the whole text.

Example: One cannot say that this particular text in Paul is correct and I accept him here but in another place Paul is wrong so I do not accept him there. One can also not say Matthew is wrong but Paul is right and vice versa. They are all right. And they are always right. If things looks as if in conflict there are ways to harmonize the apparent contrasts. Adventists are good in doing that.


"3. Nothing revealed in Scripture can or will be hid from those who ask in faith, not wavering.

Proof, Deut. 29:29; Matt. 10:26, 27; 1 Cor. 2:10; Phil. 3:15; Isa. 45:11; Matt. 21:22; John 14:13, 14; 15; 7; James 1:5, 6; 1 John 5: 13-15.

Meaning: A skeptical person is a person without faith and thus wavering. There are no secret, mystical truths hidden in formulas that needs to be uncovered. If a person, any person has faith and believe without skepticism, the Holy Spirit will assist the person to understand that which he/she could not before.



" 4. To understand doctrine, bring all the Scriptures together on the subject you wish to know; then let every word. have its proper influence; and, if you can form your theory without a contradiction, you cannot be in error.

Proof, Isa. 28:7-29; 35:8; Prov. 19:27; Luke 24:27, 44, 45; Rom. 16:26; James 5:19; 2 Pet. 1:19, 20.

Meaning: Bringing all the texts relevant on the table to study and making conclusions about them and then if there is no conflict with any other text, it means that it is not in error.

Example: If one is arguing that the Bible is saying everything happened at the cross and there is no Sanctuary in Heaven since Christ is the Sanctuary, like John Calvin would say, then the problems is what one is going to do with Hebrews 7-10 and also to the passages where John saw a temple in heaven later in 97 AD on Patmos in vision? Calvin is definitely in error here. He was discouraging people about the Sanctuary investigations despite his peers who had an interest in it.


" 5. Scripture must be its own expositor, since it is a rule of itself. If I depend on a teacher to expound to me, and he should guess at its meaning, or desire to have it so on account of his sectarian creed, or to be thought wise, then his guessing, desire, creed, or wisdom, is my rule, and not the Bible.

Proof, Ps. 19: 7-11; 119: 97-105: Matt. 23 :8-10; 1 Cor. 2:12-16; Eze. 34:18, 19; Luke 11:52; Matt. 2: 7, 8.

Meaning: One cannot follow the educated guesses of creeds or professors or pastors on matters regarding the Bible. Scripture is a judge by itself and Scripture demands while professors advice. When Scripture speaks, it is the end of the matter no matter who said what.


" 6. God has revealed things to come, by visions, in figures and parables; and in this way the same things are oftentimes revealed again and again, by different visions, or in different figures and parables. If you wish to understand them, you must combine them all in one.

Proof, Ps. 89:19; Hos. 12:10; Hab.2:2; Acts 2:17; 1 Cor. 10:6; Heb. 9:9, 24; Ps. 78:2; Matt. 13:13, 34; Gen. 41:1-32; Dan. 2d, 7th & 8th; Acts 10:9-16.

Meaning: What is said in Zechariah can also be said in Daniel and Revelation and if one is to understand fully what is the meaning, one need to pay attention to all of them.


" 7. Visions are always mentioned as such.

2 Cor. 12:1.

Meaning: When something is a description of a vision, the text will clearly say so.


8. Figures always have a figurative meaning, and are used much in prophecy to represent future things, times and eventssuch as mountains, meaning governments; Dan. 2:35, 44; beasts, meaning kingdoms; Dan. 7:8, 17; waters, meaning people; Rev. 17:1, 15; day, meaning year, &c. Eze. 4:6.

Meaning: A mountain is used as a figure for a government, a horn for a kingdom or power, water as people, beasts meaning empires. 666 is not less than 7 but 600+60+6 = Vicarius filii dei as Andreas Helwick discovered in 1610, 1618 and 1630 editions of his book.


" 9. Parables are used as comparisons to illustrate subjects, and must be explained in the same way as figures, by the subject and Bible.

Mark 4:13.

Meaning: In an allegory every point is important to symbolize something in the real world. In a parable there is only one tertium comparationis, one point of comparison.


" 10. Figures sometimes have two or more different significations, as day is used in a figurative sense to represent three different periods of time, namely, first, indefinite; Eccl. 7:14; second, definite, a day for a year; Eze. 4:6; and third, a day for a thousand years. 2 Pet. 3:8. The right construction will harmonize with the Bible, and make good sense; other constructions will not.

Meaning: Sometimes when the word day is used it means 1000 years. Other times as in prophecy, 1 day equals 1 year. Day can also mean whole lifecycle.


"11. If a word makes good sense as it stands, and does no violence to the simple laws of nature, it is to be understood literally; if not, figuratively.

Rev. 12:1, 2; 17:3-7.

Meaning: If a word is clear to make sense in the real world and recognized as such, then that is the basic literal meaning. Otherwise it is taken figuratively.



"12. To learn the meaning of a figure, trace the word through your Bible, and when you find it explained, substitute the explanation for the word used; and, if it make good sense, you need not look further; if not, look again.

Meaning: If you understand a figure, take you understanding to other places where the figure is used and see if it is still the same.



"13. To know whether we have the true historical event for the fulfillment of a prophecy: If you find every word of the prophecy (after the figures are understood) is literally fulfilled, then you may know that your history is the true event; but if one word lacks a fulfillment, then you must look for another event, or wait its future development; for God takes care that history and prophecy shall agree, so that the true believing children of God may never be ashamed.

Ps. 22:5; Isa. 45:17-19; 1 Pet. 2 : 6; Rev. 17:17; Acts 3:18.

Meaning: If every word in the prophecy fits the history, then it is fulfilled in that history but if not, one has to wait for parts of it to be revealed or discovered as revealed or to be revealed in future. Daniel 11:40-45 is considered such a case in Adventism. But, much have been revealed however, missed by many.


"14. The most important rule of all is, that you must have faith. It must be a faith that requires a sacrifice, and, if tried, would give up the dearest object on earth, the world and all its desirescharacter, living, occupation, friends, home, comforts and worldly honors. If any of these should hinder our believing any part of God's word, it would show our faith to be vain.

Nor can we ever believe so long as one of these motives lies lurking in our hearts. We must believe that God will never forfeit his word; and we can have confidence that He who takes notice of the sparrow's fall, and numbers the hairs of our head, will guard the translation of his own word, and throw a barrier around it, and prevent those who sincerely trust in God, and put implicit confidence in his word, from erring far from the truth.

Meaning: One cannot study the Word of God without praying for understanding. Atheists cannot explain the Bible. Nihilists cannot teach theology. Skeptics cannot preach the Word of God. Rebellious minds cannot understand the Word of God. If a Division refuses to accept the 2015 anti-Woman Ordination Vote of the General Conference Divisions, they cannot fully understand the rest of the Bible or preach it to people. Why? The already chose to be selective from the Bible and follow a “pick-and-choose” method. It will not work.