Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Prophetic Prognostication

Originally from my Adventist Today Column

Seventh-day Adventists have always seen themselves has a movement predicted by prophecy with special insights to past prophetic utterances and interpretation of both scripture and Ellen White as predicting various scenarios for the near future. For many SDA’s much of their identity is tied up with the premise of accurately fulfilled or being fulfilled prophecy. The premise is false.

Stephen Fosters recent article on Atoday, "The Case Against Secularism-And For Prophecy" posits “While history is a great teacher, it is difficult to quantify how much better it is, if at all, than is a “prophetic prognostication” on the same topic.”

Is “prophetic prognostication” better then history? Does history repeat itself as Karl Marx was alleged to claim? Actually according to a website,, “Marx never believed that “history repeats itself,” but in a famous quote he said: “Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” [Marx, 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Chapter 1]”

In fact history does not repeat itself. Napoleon is not the same as Hitler and Hitler was not the same as Stalin and Pol Pot is different from other mass murders. History can teach us lessons that we can apply to our current conditions or movements, it does not repeat itself, whether in tragedy or in farce. Certainly people will continue to make the same mistakes human nature being what it is, usually because they think they can do it right where the others failed but still history does not repeat itself and when we view history we have to interpret the data and analyze it for the best use we can make of it. History like most information is subject to interpretation.

“Prophetic prognostication” is equally subject to interpretation but unlike history there is no reality of actual experience to help with the interpretation. There is no history involved, no reality observed and no data from the occurrences to help the development of an interpretation. This moves prophetic prognostication into the realm of speculation.

Speculation can be used to problem solve or run scenarios, such as making “what if” statements. The more variables in a scenario the more possible “what if” statements can be envisioned. The answers to those “what if” statements then branch like a tree into multiple possible additional “what if” possibilities of actions and reactions. This fact limits the application of “what if” statements or thought problems (thought experiments) to fairly simple propositions which are often not found in life's open systems (with multitudinous interactions possible). “Prophetic prognostication” is unlikely to even in be in the useful “what if“ category because there are far too many possible factors to be considered.

Adventists have seen the difficulties with “prophetic prognostication” in its application of Biblical predictive prophecy. Most famous in this list of predictions is the end of the world in1844, the so called “Great Disappointment”. Adventists have from their beginning practiced prophetic prognostication on various topics. Most were thought to be fulfillments of some or other Biblical prophecy for example:
-- 1755. November 1 The great Lisbon earthquake.
-- 1780 May 19. The unexplained dark day over New England
-- 1798 The Vatican fell because of the French Revolution, temporarily ending 1260 years of religious and political domination
-- 1833 November 12-13. The great Leonid meteor shower
-- 1838 Josiah Litch used Revelation 9 to predict the fall of the Ottoman Empire around August of 1840
All of the above taken from

Adventists have been totally inaccurate in their “Prophetic prognostication” and interpretation of fulfillment. Earthquakes still happen, with more or less death and destruction then Lisbon, Forest fires and storms occasionally cause dark days, such as when Mt. St. Helens erupted. The Vatican did not fall in 1798 just because a Pope was captured once again, it had lost significant power for several hundred years before 1798, remember in just the area of religion there was the Reformation!  Luther posted his 95 theses in 1517, Henry the VIII of England rebelled against the papacy in before 1540. There have been greater Leonid meteor showers since 1833 and they still come on their regular cycle. The Ottoman Empire did not fall in 1840 though it had been in decline for a hundred years. Nothing of significance even happened to the Ottoman Empire in 1840. Most of these formerly thought of fulfillments are rarely mentioned today in the Western World. The fact is that not only Adventists have failed with “Prophetic prognostication” but numerous other Christians have been completely unsuccessful with their interpretation and application of predictive prophecy from the Bible. Many have tried. All have failed. (See Wikipedia, “Unfulfilled Christian Predictions”)

For Adventists this becomes even a greater problem because many try to use the “prophetic prognostication” of Ellen White as the general Christian community tried to use the Biblical predictive prophecies. Ellen White's predictive prophecies even in her life time also failed. The most famous probably being her statement at the 1856 conference:

"I was shown the company present at the Conference, Said the angel: "Some food for worms, some subjects of the seven last plagues, some will be alive and remain upon the earth to be translated at the coming of Jesus." Ellen G. White, 1 Testimonies, p. 131-132. May 27, 1856

When we look at what the Adventist denomination says itself about Ellen White's fulfilled predictions we see that they cannot really find any to point to with specificity. The book Seventh-day Adventists Believe ...  A Biblical Exposition of 27 Fundamental Doctrines (1988) on page 225 writes of Ellen White:
2. "The accuracy of predictions. Ellen White's writings contain a relatively small number of predictions. Some are in the process of being fulfilled, while others still await fulfillment. But those that can be tested have been fulfilled with an amazing accuracy. Two instances that demonstrate her prophetic insights follow.”
“a. The rise of modern spiritualism...”
“b. A close cooperation between Protestants and Roman Catholics...”

Both are actually very questionable, Ellen White wrote about the "mysterious rapping" as a phenomenon caused by Satan, the quote appears to be a reference to the Fox sisters’ spiritualism hoax of her time. In her day, séances were held in the White House! In other words she wrote about the spiritualism, which was already popular. It was more a description than a prediction and in any case has not proved itself true.  If you go by those who say they follow or practice spiritualism there would be a decline just as there is a decline in the Theosophists of her day, another brand of spiritualism. But spiritualism is somewhat vague in meaning and could be held to a wide array of interpretations thus it becomes a vague and meaningless prediction, fulfilled by anyone that wants to say it is being fulfilled any time something becomes popular, Transcendental Meditation or the New Age Movement can be force fit, but do not really share the characteristics of the spiritualism Ellen White wrote of.

The second supposedly fulfilled prediction is cooperation between Protestants and Roman Catholics. Again, based upon the current events of her time, there was such animosity between Protestants and Roman Catholics it would be hard to see them come together.  As Julie Byrne of the Dept. of Religion, Duke University, reports in "Roman Catholics and Immigration in Nineteenth-Century America", “In 1850 Catholics made up only five percent of the total U.S. population. By 1906, they made up seventeen percent of the total population (14 million out of 82 million people)—and constituted the single largest religious denomination in the country.” When Ellen White saw this kind of immigration it would not take some kind of divine imagination to see that the anti-Catholic hatred and distrust of 19th century America was not going to last. But to be fair we can give her partial fulfillment on this issue as Protestants and Roman Catholics get along more as Christian brothers and sisters despite the rift of the Reformation. That Christians could have been that hateful of other Christians is a scar on Christianity. Still, the two are widely separate on many issues and here again the vague nature of the prediction plays a role, allowing whoever wants to interpret it to see some form of fulfillment.

If we are honest with ourselves we have to admit that the value of “prophetic prognostication” is very close to nil. Vague predictions afford broad leeway for the interpreter to see what they want as a fulfillment. Wide range of possible fulfillment ensures we are left with nothing of value. Worse, when other “prophetic prognostications” are informed by our view of current events speculations run wild. The speculative interpretations are upheld as truth only because of their claim of a prophetic nature.

When such speculation is used to prejudice people against other people or organizations, not because of what they are believed to have done or said but upon what they are anticipated to do following a “prophetic prognostication” then we practice a most offensive type of unreasoning chauvinism. The past performance of such prophetic speculation should instead encourage silence or at least some humility.

The Problem of Progressive Adventists .

Originally from my Adventist Today Column

What does one think of when they hear or read the term Progressive Adventist? Do they think Progressive politics; gay marriage, pro choice (abortion), opens borders, socialism and social justice? Those are all political progressive ideas, however they are not part of what define Progressive Adventism. Progressive Adventism is defined by its beliefs related to the doctrinal beliefs inside the Seventh-day Adventist denomination.

Ten years ago I wrote an article for Adventist Today on the differences between progressive Adventists and traditional Adventists entitled Progressive and Traditional Adventists Examined. (Nov.–Dec. 2002 Adventist Today PDF archive for those with subscriptions) The article on Wikipedia quotes the following on Progressive Adventism (quoted without their footnotes):

            “Ron Corson identifies four common areas of progressive belief:

  • Investigative judgment. A different view of the investigative judgment, or a denial of its biblical basis.
  • Remnant. An inclusion of other Christians in the term remnant.
  • Ellen White. A less rigid view of the Inspiration of Ellen White, from recognizing her fallibility to perhaps even denying her prophetic gift.
  • Sabbath. An emphasis on the benefits of the Sabbath, but a denial that it is the ‘seal of God’ or that Sunday keeping will ever become the mark of the beast.


Progressives are inclusive of other types of Adventists, and believe different beliefs and types should be welcomed as part of the community. An example is Alden Thompson's 2009 book, Beyond Common Ground: Why Liberals and Conservatives Need Each Other.

Besides the definitions of Progressive Adventism in the article I have long used the quote from C.S. Lewis I felt expressed the reason behind progressive Adventism. The quote is as follows:

“We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turn, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man…There is nothing progressive about being pigheaded and refusing to admit a mistake." C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1952), Book I, Chap. 5, p. 22.

While I still hold to the definitions, in the Adventist Today article times have changed and the term ‘Progressive’ has gained resurgence in use during the last ten years. Those on the political left have begun referring to themselves as Progressive once again. As they attempt to move away from the term liberal, sort of the reverse of the early years of the 20th century when the Progressives changed their name to liberals after the excesses of Progressive Era.

We still however have the problem of what is a Progressive? If you are a political Progressive your definition will sound quite enticing and benign. Such as this quote from John Halpin in his article Progressivism in 2004: Transcending the Liberal-Conservative Divide
  "At its core, progressivism is a non-ideological, pragmatic system of thought grounded in solving problems and maintaining strong values within society. The original progressive movement at the turn of the 20th century sought to improve American life by encouraging personal and moral responsibility among citizens; by providing the carrots and sticks to promote efficient and ethical business behavior; and by reforming government to provide a level playing field for all citizens and groups."

If you are a conservative you will define Progressive more like this from The Heritage Foundation, The First Conservatives: The Constitutional Challenge to Progressivism:
"Progressivism was an intellectual and political reform movement that aimed to alter the American constitutional system. At the deepest level, as expressed especially in the thought of Woodrow Wilson and Herbert Croly, Progressives aimed to refound America based on the managerial – administrative political philosophy of the European state. Consequently, Progressives typically rejected the foundational American principles of natural rights and limited government for their own understanding of ‘progress,’ defined as governmental experts management of social change toward an ever more just and essentially socialist future."

What is in a name is not so much found in the word but the action of those who hold to particular ideas. A proponent of something can usually make their position seem righteous; a critic can make the other seem bad. Perhaps simplistically, a progressive is for change and a conservative is for keeping everything as it has always been. But not every change is good and not all things that have been should be changed. It is the details that matter not the grand rhetoric. In politics I am a conservative, I want to maintain the founding principles and the American Constitution. But in Adventism I am Progressive and want to change some of the traditions of Adventism and some of the traditions of Christianity as well. But it is the details that matter, the rhetoric of change merely serves to label me as one thing or the other, a shortcut when communicating with people but what the label means is subjective, colored by the expectations and prejudices of the reader/listener.

Progressive Adventism has meaning in the details. There may be some Progressive Adventists who are politically progressive and there may be some who are politically conservative or libertarian. The mistaken linkage of Progressive Adventism as political progressive must be rejected or there will cease to be a Progressive Adventist movement as the group becomes divided along political lines instead of united on theology and ecclesiology.

As often happens, once politics is mentioned it will consume all other things; even when the equally controversial subjects of religion and politics meet. If Progressive Adventism ever seeks to reform the Adventist church it must stand united on the details that define it inside the denomination. One of those details is that of inclusiveness, which includes the often derided term pluralism. If it were true that we as a denomination had all the truth then pluralism could be justifiably considered a dirty word as some on the traditional Adventist side appear to believe. But as long as we don't have all the truth we need the consideration of a multiple ideas, letting the marketplace of ideas winnow out what can and cannot stand the test of truth.

Progressive Adventism stands for the freedom to think outside of a prescribed frame of reference.
  • To be open to a wide variety of interpretative techniques and acknowledge the breadth of Biblical literature forms.
  • To accept the natural world does not say what our religion may have previously claimed.
  • To express the idea that science and religion can work together; that one does not have to be right and the other wrong, but to seek a unified theory.
  • To recognize inspiration is not as simple as, “God said it and I believe it”.
  • That salvation is in the hands of God and not found in what we think we know.

What do those who hear the term Progressive Adventists think when they hear the label? It most certainly stands in contradistinction from traditional Adventism. It points out the fictional standard of traditional Adventism since the history of the Adventist church has always been about moving forward and being willing to change their views, whether it was about Sabbath worship or their understanding of the Godhead or emphasis on health reform or the benefits of advanced education. The definition however, should be considered in the context of Adventist doctrines rather than political progressive themes.

Precept Upon Precept

Originally from my Adventist Today Column

There is a common myth in Adventism which amazingly enough is used as a text for how to study the Bible; it is so contextually inaccurately that it would be funny if not so sad. The following is a section from the Immanuel Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) church website page entitled How to Study the Bible:

“3. We must compare scripture with scripture, letting the Bible explain itself. It is common to find individuals and groups of people who build a whole theology upon one single statement of  the Bible. This can be very dangerous and misleading, depending upon the method of  interpretation employed in their Biblical research. The only correct and safe way of securing an understanding of a particular truth is to study everything that the Bible has to say about that  specific topic.”

"Whom shall He teach knowledge? And whom shall He make to understand doctrine? For  precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line, here a little, and there a little." Isaiah 28:9, 10.

“We must study broadly, permitting the Bible to define its own terms. This will preserve us  from the practice of some, in taking an isolated passage and twisting it to fit or "prove" their  own ideas. We should always approach the Bible with an open and honest attitude, willing to  lay aside any established beliefs and practices, whenever we find them to be without scriptural  foundation.”

Most Adventists realize the Isaiah text above is also frequently used by Ellen G. White which probably explains why, even though the context in Isaiah has nothing to do with studying scriptures, it is still used by Adventists as if that is what the text is about. In the case of the Immanuel SDA church the text is used contrary to the statements before and after the text. This is actually just the process they seek to avoid: taking an isolated passage and twisting it to prove “their own ideas.”

Isaiah 28:8-13 (NIV) reads: "All the tables are covered with vomit and there is not a spot without filth." Who is it he is trying to teach? To whom is he explaining his message? To children weaned from their milk, to those just taken from the breast? For it is: Do and do, do  and do, rule on rule, rule on rule and; a little here, a little there." Very well then, with foreign lips  and strange tongues God will speak to this people, to whom he said, "This is the resting place, let the weary  rest"; and, "This is the place of repose"-- but they would not listen. So then, the word of the LORD to them will become: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule;  a little here, a little there -- so they will go and fall backward, be injured and snared  and captured.

This verse in context is not a description of how to study the Bible or any of the component parts of the Bible. As the Expositor's Bible Commentary states:

Verses 9-10: “As the prophet declared the word of God in this drink-dominated setting, his hearers made their response.” The NIV is probably right in treating both these verses as a quotation of the words of the drunkards. They felt insulted. Were they not themselves spiritual leaders, well able to teach others? What right had this man to place them in the classroom and teach them the spiritual ABC's? There is some thing ironic about the reference to milk (v. 9) in such a context.”

“Many commentators have been puzzled by verse 10 and have wrestled to make sense of the Hebrew. The truth of the matter seems to be, as the NIV margin suggests, that it is not meant to make sense. Isaiah's words had hardly penetrated the alcohol-impregnated atmosphere that surrounded his hearers. What they picked up were simply a few stray syllables, some of them repeated, like the baby-talk that delights the child but would insult the adult. They mouth this gibberish back at the prophet. The transmitter was as strong and clear as ever; it was the receivers that were at fault. Their judgment, meantime, lay in their failure to hear the word that could have led them back to God; but there was another judgment on its way, most appropriate in its form. Their sin had turned the word of God through Isaiah into a meaningless noise that might just as well have been a foreign language.”

We can grant that Ellen White held to a Christian tradition with her use of the “precept by precept” quote being common, however, this does not make it any more true or useful (see the article about the mis-translated text used as a catch phrase). Even if it were taken to be a description of proper Scriptural study, it is a very poor method. Simply take from here or there a precept or a line and add it to another precept or line. Context or meaning should not be mere obstacles we overcome with a bit of editing here and there.

The reality is that we have to do far more than comparing scripture verse with scripture verse. The Bible does not explain itself as in this article I have not explained to you what an article is. Language is like that. We use the terms of knowledge of our day and assume the listeners or readers will also understand those ideas from our common background. The Bible authors did this just like any other writers. The text does not spend much time defining itself. We determine the meaning from the context of the statements or stories. If we make wrong assumptions about certain forms of Biblical literature we can come to far different meanings then may have been the original intent -- the original intent may no longer even have application in the world we live in.

It is the nature of inspiration the original intent may have different applications, its use for ancient Israel may be different from it use for modern Americans. For example, the concept of tithe rendered to a storehouse does not work apart from the nation and the support of Levities. Yet in modern times it is used by many denominations with the application of a tithe to support the church. An apocalyptic text may be interpreted differently depending upon where in history one is. One answer may not be correct at any one time, but there may be an application that can be used in multiple circumstances by different people in history to comfort or edify their situation as Christians. That inspiration aspect makes the Bible of use throughout history and stand as something that is deserving of continual study and reassessment. There is a kind of timelessness to some Bible texts, the idea of divine inspiration would seem to cover the idea that God expects that history and time advances, progressing with increases in knowledge and understanding. God continues to inspire His followers to understand useful applications for their lives.

The Immanuel Seventh-day Adventist church is quite correct when they say the study of the Bible must include everything the Bible says on a subject. But the Bible requires even more than that to truly be interpreted.  As the website states, “we must study broadly”. Adventism has had a hard time with this idea, as we don't want to study broadly, we want to study in a restricted “Adventist only” perspective. This idea was emphasized by General Conference President Ted Wilson, in his opening sermon, Go Forward. He stated, “Look WITHIN the Seventh-day Adventist Church to humble pastors, evangelists, Biblical scholars, leaders, and departmental directors who can provide evangelistic methods and programs based on solid Biblical principles and The Great Controversy Theme."  The Seventh-day Adventist church, even though barely 150 years old, is not the authority on all things Biblical and certainly not an authority on the context and language of the Bible. We have scholars, and those scholars learned from outside the Adventist church. There is no reason to stop this practice and we must resist those like Ted Wilson who want to direct Adventism back into themselves. It is those who have turned in upon themselves that have instilled the idea of “precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little there a little” as if this is a valid technique of Bible study.

Tear Down to Create

Originally from my Adventist Today Column

"Small minds have always lashed out at what they don't understand. There are those who create . . . and those who tear down. That dynamic has existed for all time. But eventually the creators find believers, and the number of believers reaches a critical mass, and suddenly the world becomes round, or the solar system becomes heliocentric. Perception is transformed, and a new reality is born." (The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown chapter 133)

When I first read those words I thought at least here is something of value from this book, aside from the interesting art mentioned like the horned Moses. What if we could create a new church, what if we could be positive and affirmative? Would we not create the very kind of church most progressive Adventists want? Here I thought is the basis for an excellent article. That lasted for about five minutes.

Like much of the material in a Dan Brown novel there is a thimble full of truth and a generous pile of garbage to make a good story. Many Adventists when they stop and think about it will recall that there are those in the church who feel that Progressive Adventists are out to destroy the Adventist church. Especially if they have read the various Adventist discussion sites on the Internet (here at Atoday, Spectrum Online and  ClubAdventist, most recently at the site called Educatetruth, as well as in numerous Sabbath School class discussion throughout the world) or read the various traditionalist Adventist writers such as Pastors Larry Kirkpatrick and Kevin Paulson who often refers to Progressive Adventists as Pseudo Adventists. Perhaps they are following the lead of Robert Folkenberg who in an excerpt from an address in February 1994 at La Sierra University said:

“In a desire to fit in, there also has developed, I believe, a pseudo-Adventist form of political correctness that ceases to talk about the truth, the remnant, the Spirit of Prophecy, the law, the sanctuary, and other distinctive Adventist contributions to Christianity.”

These writers have put forth the view that Progressive Adventism or Pseudo-Adventism as some may call it, is a movement out to destroy the Adventist church. That the Progressive movement can only destroy. The traditional distinctives are what Adventism is all about.

On my way to work there is an old house that was abandoned for years it looked like it was being torn down. They removed most of the outside of house but the frame remained and with time I see that it is being rebuilt. Creation from destruction. If only we could build over the decay, the building would look so much better, ever changing looking better all the time. But in most things especially dealing with ideas and beliefs there is no creation without destruction.

The supposed wisdom of the Dan Brown quote is that if you build an idea you may attract believers who accept and advance some idea, and at a certain critical mass the idea becomes widely tolerated by yet more converts. In the examples used (round, heliocentric earth solar system) the proponents not only presented their views but had to refute the previous views. I tried to think of some examples where you could simply positively build and affirm your ideas without refuting someone else's ideas. I could not think of anything.

Jesus came to earth and was extremely positive at times and at other times very critical of the views of his day. Martin Luther attacked the beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church and his actions were a major catalyst to build the reformation. There are many examples of tearing down something to build something. I tear up the ground of my garden to plant, to build most anything components are derived from something else; to manufacture is to tear down or restructure something else. The wood to build that frame on the old house was once a growing a healthy tree.

Progressive Adventism cannot help but to destroy to rebuild. If someone thinks that man never landed on the moon I can't tell them that man did land on the moon without tearing down their belief. Even if I never mention their errant belief and only assert the facts, they are confronted with the need to re-examine their previous understanding. This is why some of us refer to the “marketplace of ideas”. People have a choice in what they are going to believe, we can't simply positively state our ideas without infringing upon some other ideas out there. The other ideas will infringe on our ideas as well. Challenge to ideas encourages critical though, which cannot exist, absent a conflict of ideas.

Progressive Adventism with its hoped intent to build does tear down and destroy...
it is not an exception to the rule.

The Pesher of Paul

Originally published in my column on Adventist Today

“The pesharim are commentaries upon prophetic texts, which apply the biblical writings to the history and life of the community. The commentators aim to demonstrate the fulfillment of biblical prophecies in their own time, especially with respect to reward and punishment, and they assert the imminent doom of their opponents in contrast to their own salvation. This “contemporizing” interpretation, or application, of the text is called “pesher,” a term related to dream interpretation.” (The Virtual Qumran)

Pesher is a method of interpretation used as a solution, usually to a contemporary situation. There are several methods of Midrash (exposition) interpretation techniques. These methods of rabbinic exegesis can range from clever and fanciful, to simple plays on the number of letters in a word, but what they most have in common is to bring the Biblical text to deal with some element of contemporary thought that the expositor is interested in talking/writing about. (See the article on Jewish Interpretation here for examples)

Once clued into this concept it is not difficult to see it is used fairly commonly in the New Testament. If you are like me you have often wondered how the Apostle Paul could say in one place that sin came from the woman and in another that sin came from the first man. Roman 5:12 “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” (All texts NIV). 1 Timothy 2:14 “And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.”

The verse from Roman 5:12 has taken on a life of its own, in particular when it comes to those who hold that there was a literal recent 6 consecutive 24 hour day creation.  All death must have therefore come after the sin of the one man, therefore the fossil record and dates cannot possibly be true. and there can be no other methods allowed to explain the how of creation.  The problem with this is that we are taking the “Pesher” of Paul to a conclusion that is not his intent. His application of the verses is to entirely different subjects. Take a look at the context of 1 Timothy 2:12-13: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.”

The Pesher there is certainly questionable; does the creation order really have anything to do with the ability of a woman to teach or speak or have any authority? This is a common conclusion given our modern standards of interpretation and the product of years of debate and study by Christians, philosophers and scholars.

Paul was certainly in good company. For example, Clement of Alexander, when writing about the Mosaic prohibition of eating swine and certain birds says “The sow is the emblem of voluptuous and unclean lust of food…. The eagle indicates robbery, the hawk injustice, and the raven greed.” There is a reason behind his application of a particular bird to a particular human characteristic. “Clement of Alexandria and Philo represent two adherents to the Alexandrian school, which believed that each word in the Biblical text was chosen for a precise reason.” Against their view was the “Adherents to the Antiochene methods of interpretation include the following: Eusebius of Caesarea, Diodore of Tarsus, Theodore of Mopsuestia, John Chrysostom and Basil of Caesarea” (The explanation of the Antiochene school is more varied and too complex to describe here, see the article Antiochene Methods of Interpretation)

The fact is we interpret things much differently because of the battles between the various schools of thought in the Christian church, from the Early Church Fathers on. Just as knowledge in most all areas of mankind has advanced so too we have advanced in methods of interpretation and analyzing written works. When we re-examine Paul on the subject of Romans 5, we can see that he is not saying there was no sin before the first man, but is instead working on his contemporary theme that Jesus brings reconciliation and that Adam was the pattern of the one to come.

Romans 5:14 “Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.” But it is not a pattern as we typically understand; it is a reverse image pattern. It is a contradistinction between the failure of Adam and the success of Jesus. Romans 5:15 “But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!”

The subject is not “there was no death before Adam sinned”. Instead, the subject is the reconciliation provided by Christ, contrasted to the failure of Adam (and all human beings). The powerless man was reconciled by the gift of God in that even when we were yet His enemies, God, through the incarnation of Jesus, reconciled us back to Himself. When we take the text out of this context and purpose and assign it a significance that it should not have we revert to methods of interpretation that cannot be reconciled to the age of reason.

There are Jewish expositors that could take any text and cleverly manipulate it to work for their own purposes. I dare say Adventism still has those kinds of people and those who use those techniques, but they ignore the reason and science so necessary to really create a comprehensive hermeneutic. There is an art and science to Biblical interpretation.
I just read a really good article over at Here is a couple of quotes:

The word “abomination” is found, of course, in the King James translation of Leviticus 18:22, a translation which reads, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it [is] abomination.” Yet this is a thoroughly misleading rendition of the word toevah, which, while we may not know exactly what it means, definitely does not mean “abomination.” An “abomination” conjures up images of things which should not exist on the face of the earth: three-legged babies, oceans choked with oil, or Cheez-Whiz. And indeed, this is how many religious people regard gays and lesbians. It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. Homosexuality is unnatural, a perversion, a disease, an abomination.

Yet a close reading of the term toevah suggests an entirely different meaning: something permitted to one group, and forbidden to another. Though there is (probably) no etymological relationship, toevah means taboo.

The term toevah (and its plural, toevot) occurs 103 times in the Hebrew Bible, and almost always has the connotation of a non-Israelite cultic practice. In the Torah, the primary toevah is avodah zara, foreign forms of worship, and most other toevot flow from it. The Israelites are instructed not to commit toevah because other nations do so. Deuteronomy 18:9-12 makes this quite clear:
It reminds me of the many obsolete terms in the King James Bible. Here is a list I put together several years ago.

Obsolete King James Bible Words

The following is a select listing of obsolete terms and their meanings in current terminology. A more complete list may be found in The Interpreter's Dictionary of The Bible published by Abingdon Press. The number of obsolete words is well over 1000, many of the words though obsolete in common language are still used in enough circles that their meaning is still easily enough understood. This list will only deal with words that are more likely to be misunderstood. For those who find themselves sucked into the King James only debate I would encourage you to read "The King James Only Controversy Can You Trust the Modern Translations?" by James R. White published by Bethany House.
1 Cor. 16:15
Advise thyself
1 Chr. 21:12
1 Kings 3:1
Acts 17:3
Matt. 13:20
Jer. 38:12
Gen. 8:1
1 Cor. 14:11
Deut. 28:27
Phil. 1:8
Jer. 10:22
1 Sam. 17:22
Cast about
Jer. 41:14
Turn around
Rom. 13:13
2 Chr.9:14
Ezek. 41: 16
Josh. 9:5
Jer. 38:11
Josh. 6:3
March around
Compass, fetch a
Acts 28:13
Make a circuit
1 Thess. 4:5
Exod. 30:35
Incense blended
1 Sam. 8:13
Acts 19:19
Ps. 139:15
Ps. 22:20
My life
Job 9:33
1 Tim. 3:13
2 Kings 20:9
Rev. 18:3
Wantonness, luxury
Judg. 1:23
Spy out
Luke 2:46
Matt. 15:17
Sewer, latrine, privy
Draught house
2 Kings 10:27
Matt. 13:21
1 Sam. 8:12
Deut. 21:4
Gal. 5:20
Esth. 4:14
1 Pet. 3:11
Matt 25:27
Joel 2:24
Fining pot
Prov. 17:3
Song of S. 2:5
Josh. 24:3
Acts 28:8
Deut. 28:26
Deut. 32:20
Gen. 31:34
Luke 21:15
Gal. 4:24
Bear children
Ps. 35:14
In mourning
1 Kings 20:43
Gen. 1:29
Josh. 11:6 
Deut. 29:19 
Acts 19:38
Acts 14:8
1 Tim. 1:6
Vain discussion
Ps. 5:6
Isa. 43:13
Light bread
Num. 21:5
Worthless food
In good liking
Job 39:4
worse liking
Dan. 1:10
In poorer condition
1 Tim. 3:3
Matt. 4:24
John 14:2
1 Sam. 6:5
Gen. 1:29
Exod. 9:3
Job 41:8
Judg. 12:14
Ps. 91:3 
Luke 11:27
Jer. 23:1
A peculiar people
1 Pet. 2:9
God's own people
Gen. 24:5
Ps. 71:11
Jas. 5:11
Acts 26:14
Common, ordinary
Mark 2:15
Tax collector
Dan. 1:12
John 15:2
Exod. 12:9
Inner parts
Jer. 12:2
Jer. 6:30
Gen. 37:22
Gen. 30:35
1 Sam. 27:10 
Lev. 13:30
Matt. 10:10
Ezek. 43:14
1 Cor. 10:25
Meat market
1 Tim. 2:9
Rom. 12:8
Eph. 4:14
Gen. 11:3 
Gen. 25:29
Exod. 12:9
John 13:26
Gen. 19:9
Ps. 38:11
Jer. 4:22
Judg. 5:30
Gen. 24:12
Job 36:16
Matt. 7:13
Jer. 19:9
To supple
Ezek. 16:4
To cleanse
Luke 1:63
2 Cor. 12:20
Taber upon
Nah. 2:7
Luke 1:68
1 Sam. 18:27
1 Sam. 17:6
Gen. 15:5
2 Kings 9:30
Exek. 24:17
2 Sam 3:10
Song of S. 2:12
1 Sam. 18:21
A second time
1 John 2:20
Witty inventions
Prov. 8:12
Compiled by Ron Corson 1999