William F. Albright (1891-1971) was recognized in the field of archeology as the leading Biblical archeologist of the twentieth century. His research and articles on this subject of ancient remains in the Near East stand unrivaled. After receiving his Ph.D. in 1916, he began a lifework that produced more than 800 Biblical and archeological publications, including his major work, "From the Stone Age to Christianity," and 25 honorary doctorates.
In the 1950s, Alger Johns, one of Albright's doctoral candidates, showed him several of Ellen White’s books. Albright was astounded and began research into her works —and her life, concluding Ellen G. White to be an authentic prophet of God.
It is interesting to compare the prophets, and as we do so we can learn many things.
The Bible writers wrote directly as the thoughts flowed from remembrances of visions they had earlier received. An example of this will be found in the book of Revelation, penned by the apostle John.
And the prophets also used sources. These were inspirational or historical writings that other Christians or historians had already written.
But whether they wrote directly that which they had themselves received in vision, or whether they penned that which they obtained from the writings of others, they did it under the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit.
An example of copying is to be found in Matthew and Mark. One of these two Gospel writers heavily copied from the other. It is generally believed that Mark wrote his Gospel account first. The present writer did research on this about twenty-five years ago: He read through Mark to determine every unique story in that book (every incident not to be found in Matthew). There were almost none. Mark 14:51 is one of the very few. It is fairly clear that Matthew had the scroll of Mark in front of him as he wrote his book. He included 99% of Mark's stories, but without going into the detail that Mark usually employed. In addition, Matthew added still more incidents and parables. Then, when Luke wrote, it appears that he had Matthew's Gospel in front of him and used a sizable amount of it, while adding especially unique material in Luke 10 to 20. Over half a century later, John wrote his Gospel, and although he had recollections of the three earlier Gospels, he apparently did not have them available as he wrote. It is for this reason that the first three Gospels are called the "synoptic gospels:" because they are so much alike, and yet so much different than John's Gospel.
Another example is the one-chapter book of Jude, when compared with 2 Peter 2. Thoughtfully read one chapter and then the other. Especially note Jude 4-18 and 2 Peter 2:1-3:33. One copied from the other. It is generally believed that Jude must have written his book first, and then Peter copied it.
Several times Paul quotes passages from. Non-Christian writers and historians (Acts 17:28; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Titus 1:12, etc.) Here we find quotations from the Greek poet Aratus, the Greek writer Menander, and the Cretian author Epimenides.
In Jude 14-15, Jude quotes from the pseude-pigraphal book, "1 Enoch" (1 Enoch 1:9). This non-inspired book, of about a hundred years earlier, has this in 1 Enoch 1:9: "And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of His holy ones to execute judgment upon all, and to destroy all the ungodly: and to convict all flesh of all the works of their ungodliness which they have ungodly committed, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him."
Luke 1:1, 3-4 is an explanation by Luke that he and others used sources in preparing their Gospels: "Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, . . it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order." Luke 1:1,3-4 (New American Standard Bible).
And then there were those passages in which God Himself spoke in Scripture—and direct quotations from Him are given.
All of these Biblical writing patterns are to be found in Ellen White's writings, just as they were found in the writings of the prophets before her time.
Probably the most striking example of copying from other writers by Ellen White is in the earlier portions of her book, "Great Controversy." Much of the first part of this book is composed of historical information from the past two thousand years. In vision, Ellen White saw the scenes that transpired during this time, but she was not usually given dates or names. Later, as she wrote, she researched into the writings of leading historians in order to locate this information. She was guided by the Holy Spirit in this work, for she would not have dared undertake it otherwise. On occasion, as she found suitable and brief historical quotations that clearly said that which she wished to say, she would quote from these historians.
"The great events occurring in the life of our Lord were presented to her in panoramic scenes as also were the other portions of 'The Great Controversy.' In a few of these scenes, chronology and geography were clearly presented, but in the greater part of the revelation the flashlight scenes which were exceedingly vivid and the conversations and the controversies which she heard and was able to narrate, were not marked geographically or chronologically; and she was left to study the Bible and history and the writings of men who had presented the life of our Lord to get the chronological and geographical connection." W. C. White, Letter, January 8, 1932;
Ellen was shown in vision that God would guide her, both in the writing out of that which she saw in vision, and in that which she found in her studies of what others had written—so that the finished product would be accurate, in accordance with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and in agreement with the prophets before her: the Bible writers.
A careful reading of the largest Biblical historical books (1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, and 1-2 Chronicles) reveals that the writer of Chronicles extensively used detailed sources and lists—far more than the other two. This writer very likely was Ezra (compare 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 with Ezra 1:13a), and a similar use of sources is to be found in the book of Ezra.
Ellen White was not secretive about what she did, for one does not need to be secretive about that which is right. Books which she found to be especially accurate in providing a good coverage of history, she recommended in published articles that she wrote for her readers to purchase for themselves and read also. Examples of this were D'Aubigne's "History of the Reformation," and Conybeare and Howson's "The Life of Paul."
And she wrote that sources were used in her books:
"In some cases where a historian has so grouped together events as to afford, in brief, a comprehensive view of the subject, or has summarized details in a convenient manner, his words have been quoted; but in some instances no specific credit has been given, since the quotations are not given for the purpose of citing that writer as authority, but because his statement affords a ready and forcible presentation of the subject. In narrating the experience and views of those carrying forward the work of reform in our time, similar use has been made of their published works." Author's Preface, Great Controversy, page xiii.
But it must also be remembered that Ellen White was divinely strengthened in carrying on the task assigned her, to provide the help needed so much by others. There are indications that she may have had a near-photographic memory in relation to her work. On one occasion a stenographer took down a sermon she gave. (She never used notes in her public talks.) Afterward it was found that an almost exact quotation from a contemporary writer had been included in that lecture. But she had not read in the book for quite some time. "
It is particularly significant that when Ellen White did quote from others the quotation was always decidedly improved upon. Errors were discarded and a better writing style was to be seen.
But probably most significant of all, is the fact that in the sixteen hundred years during which the Bible was, written, we find a dramatic uniformity of concepts—from Genesis through Revelation. And throughout the seventy-year writing ministry of Ellen White we find a parallel uniformity that is striking. All of us change—from month to month and from year to year. But the writings of Ellen White kept to the same views and concepts, from decade to decade. But those concepts gradually opened to Ellen as she had time to write them out and as the people were ready for them. An example of this would be her health vision of 1863, which included information that perhaps many might not have been as open to receive earlier. Yet, as we have seen in an earlier chapter ("Anticipating Science"), when the knowledge did come. it was more accurate, in terms of contemporary science and understanding, than was available anywhere in her time.
"A helpful first step toward understanding a prophet's view of her work is alluded to by her son, William C. White. He provides this key: 'In her early experience when she was sorely distressed over the difficulty of putting into human language the revelations of truths that had been imparted to her, she was reminded of the fact that all wisdom and knowledge comes from God and she was assured that God would bestow grace, and guidance. She was told that in the reading of religious books and journals, she would find precious gems of truth expressed in acceptable language, and that she would be given help from heaven to recognize these and to separate them from the rubbish of error with which she would sometimes find them associated.''
"This paragraph provides a crucial insight into why she did what she did in the way she did. The Lord was her Authority. She was following His instructions. . For Mrs. White, Christ is the ultimate Source of all truth, no matter where it may be found. That is the deeper reason why she did not feet concerned about citing historians as authorities. Any truth they had, had also originated with Christ." John J. Robertson, The While Truth, pages 38-39.,
And so it is, as we compare the prophets, we discover that there are no first-class, second-class, or third-class prophets. All are equal, and this includes both canonical prophets, who wrote books that we have in the Bible (such as Moses, David and Paul), and non-canonical prophets, who did not (such as Elijah, Elisha, and John the Baptist). The first prophet on record was Enoch, and yet he was equal to all that followed him. For each wrote in harmony with all the rest, and each was fully inspired of God.
Each prophet conveyed the Lord's message; not his own. Truth is truth, no matter who expressed it first. And we have seen that the inspired writers of Scripture recognized this fact. They saw that truth comes from only one Source, and they were guided by the Holy Spirit, in locating it and sharing it with others. The experience of Ellen White was similar. "I am as dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord in writing my views as I am in receiving them." Review, October 8, 1867.
"Oh, how incapable I am of expressing the things which burn in my soul in reference to the mission of Christ. . I know not how to speak or trace with pen the large subject of the atoning sacrifice. I know not how to present subjects in the living power in which they stand before me. I tremble for fear lest I shall belittle the great plan of salvation by cheap words." Letter 40, 1892.
But the information spoken or written out by the prophet is always based, ultimately, on underlying concepts and truths, revealed to him earlier in vision: "Some scenes presented before me years ago have not been retained in my memory, but when the instruction then given is needed, sometimes even when I am standing before the people, the remembrance comes sharp and clear, like a flash of lightning, bringing to mind distinctly that particular instruction." Selected Messages, Book 1, page 37.
"As the Lord has manifested Himself through the spirit of prophecy, past, present and future have passed before me. I have been shown faces that I have never seen, and years afterward I knew them when I saw them. I have been aroused from my sleep with a vivid sense of subjects previously presented to my mind; and l have written, at midnight, letters that have gone across the continent and, arriving at a crisis, have saved great disaster to the cause of God. This has been my work for many years. A power has impelled me to reprove and rebuke wrongs that I had not thought of. Is this work of the last thirty-six years [ultimately seventy] from above or from beneath?" Testimonies, Volume 5, page 671.
Attorney Vincent L. Ramik, a senior partner in a Washington, D.C., legal firm specializing in copyright law was asked to investigate the possibility that Ellen White was a "plagiarist."
"He began a critical examination of her books with a bias that she was a plagiarist, but something unexpected happened. Though he was looking for literary theft, after 300 hours studying the charges against her, he said there simply was no case. [Reported in "Review;" September 17, 1981, pages 3-7,] Besides the strictly legal facts of the case, something else impressed him to turn 180 degrees in his attitude.
" 'Now there are a lot of things that Mrs. White has put down on paper that will, if read seriously, perhaps cause a person to look inwardly, honestly. And if you do, the true self comes out; I think I know a little more about the real Vince Ramik than I did before I started reading the message of Ellen White, not simply her writings. . Quite honestly, I think I've left this task with more than I've put into it. And it's simply her messages. . It makes you believe a little more firmly in things you may have believed a little bit less in the past.
" 'Mrs. White moved me! In all candor, she moved me. I am a Roman Catholic; but Catholic, Protestant, whatever—she moved me. And I think her writings should move anyone, unless he is permanently biased and is unswayable.'
"Thousands can testify to the truth of that statement. In her writings is a power and originality which. . [is recognized] as the prophetic voice. Her messages reveal credentials of a kind many find nowhere else outside the Scriptures. The writings are authoritative because of their origin. Ellen White recognized that she was not the originator of her books and did not take credit to herself. 'Of myself I could not have brought out the truth in these books, but the Lord has given me the help of His Holy Spirit.' (Selected Messages, Book 1, page 35.) Those visions, those scenes that passed before her, and the accompanying explanations provided her, give to her writing the freshness of an, eyewitness and the richness of an authentic firsthand report.'
"Messages such as these have not been duplicated in any contemporary writer. . The same stark, literary simplicity and directness shines through these earlier books [of hers] as in her later, more expanded works. Even when she employed the beautiful and descriptive language of others, a certain something happened to those jewels as she reset them for her own purposes. In being recast to fit her message, they shone with more power, appeal, and beauty than the sources from which they were taken. This intangible and singular quality is evident in all of her books and is often recognized by those who come upon them for the first time." John J. Robertson, The White Truth, pages 97-98.
Robertson's book is an interesting one. On the last page he tells the story of two men who wandered into a major art museum in Europe. The story goes something like this:
While others stood hushed in awe at the enraptured views and portraiture, these two would turn from one painting to another with a coarse laugh, "Who would want to pay anything for something like that?" And on it went, painting after painting.
Then a museum attendant drew near and said quietly, "It is not the masterworks that are on trial; it is our response to them."
Prophets are sent from God with special messages to mankind. The clear yet solemn truths in these messages witness to their genuineness and their Source.
Are the prophets on trial or is it our response? Who was being tested when John the Baptist stood before Herod? Who was on trial when Noah pled with the people? Who failed the test when the door of the ark was shut and probation closed?