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What about the Bible writers?

How the Bible Writers Wrote

Walter Rea was on his great tour of North America. Everywhere he went, Adventists flocked to his meetings in rented halls in Adventist centers.

The meeting this night was in an auditorium in Walla Walla, Washington. The hall was crowded with students, faculty, and villagers from Walla Walla College, at nearby College Place. They listened attentively as Walter listed point after point in his steady attack on the integrity of the Spirit of Prophecy writings. (He was always careful to spend more time attacking her than in presenting “borrowings”—since he did not have many of them to present. In his book, he always placed the “borrowings” in very large print, to give the impression there were a lot of them; when, in fact, he had only found a few.)
At the conclusion of his talk, triumphant with what (to him) appeared to be a devastating overthrow of the Spirit of Prophecy, he turned to walk away from the podium.

And then he paused; and something inside him caused him to turn back to the microphone. He then said this: “Don’t you do to the Bible what I am doing to the writings of Ellen White, or you will destroy the Bible, too!”
Walter Rea inadvertently revealed the crux of the matter when he told his College Place audience on Saturday afternoon: ‘Don’t you do to the Bible what I am doing to the writings of Ellen White, or you will destroy the Bible, too.’ ”—North Pacific Union Gleaner, February 1, 1982, p. 10.

With that he sat down.

Why did Walter Rea utter that warning? That ominous statement was a forecast of what would happen to those who chose to walk that road with Walter. It was also a prediction of what would later happen to him; more on that in the next chapter.

Ellen White’s writings are—almost—in a class by themselves. But not quite. In origin, nature, and content, they can be directly compared to the methods and productions of the Bible writers.

For, you see, any charge which can be leveled against Ellen White can also be leveled against the Bible writers!

Walter Rea knew that, in that doleful statement made in Walla Walla which seemingly was forced out of him, he predicted that eventually those who followed in his steps would finally disregard the integrity of the Bible or reject its various teachings entirely.

So then we can learn how Ellen White did, or did not, use sources, by seeing how the Bible writers used them?

Yes, the only thing they can be compared with are the Bible writings. The complainers can quibble all they want; but the Spirit of Prophecy stands head and shoulders above all other books, except the Bible writings.

For this reason, in order to understand how she wrote her books, we must turn back to the Bible.

Why did Walter Rea not come out openly and admit that his attacks against Ellen White are also attacks against the Bible! Walter Rea’s attack on the Spirit of Prophecy is both sneaky and insidious. He does not publicly attack the pure doctrines or the high standards, which are found in her writings. He does not fault her flawless writing style. Instead, he insinuates that she copied large portions of her books from other writers. In this way, he tries to undercut her basic integrity as a child of God, a Christian, and a moral person.

Yet, in her writings and in this present book, we have found that, in spite of the craven charges of Walter Rea, her writings stand in their unblemished beauty, remarkable accuracy, and perfect adaptation to the needs of mankind. We have seen that, among 500 contemporary books she was compared with, she is without a peer. Above the jostling crowd of other authors, the Spirit of Prophecy stands sedate, godly, and unflawed.

We have also found that Rea’s charges are without decent foundation. Yes, there are a few times when Ellen White wrote down some things found in other books. But so do you and I; so does everyone. And so did the Bible writers.

The specific charge against Ellen White (not always stated in so many words) is that, since she is supposed to be an inspired writer, she cannot obtain any information from other sources. According to this theory, she must get every idea and fact direct from God: She will see it in vision or hear it in a soundless voice in her ear; then she will  write it down.

But that is not how the Bible writers produced their books. Walter Rea said: “Don’t you do to the Bible what I am doing to the writings of Ellen White, or you will destroy the Bible, too.” He was right. Walter Rea knew that if the youthful students attending Walla Walla College followed through on his ideas and methods—they would erelong become atheists! And, on the pathway there, they would become hardened liberals who only paid lip service to the words of God, as found in His Scriptures.

Reader, think about it. Which road do you want to take?

Well then, did the inspired writers borrow a lot from outside sources?

We have found that only a small portion of Ellen White’s writings were, in any manner, borrowed. The Bible writers did not use a lot of other sources, and neither did Ellen White.

So then, only a very small portion of Ellen White’s total writings were borrowed?

Yes; you will recall that in the previous chapter we listed her primary writings, in which other sources may have been used:
1 - Manuscript 24, 1886: A short 2½ page summary she made of a chapter. It was not published until 1958 (1 Selected Messages, 19-21).
2 - Letter 19e, 1892: Half of a letter came from an outside source.
3 - The chapter, Science and the Bible, in Education: About a fifth of this chapter came from scientific statements she considered accurate.
4 - Historians’ statements in Great Controversy: A number of statements by historians. In her Introduction to the book, she mentioned that she did this.
5 - Sketches from the Life of Paul: This small 1883 book had some outside material included in it.
6 - Steps to Christ: A few passages may, or may not, have been borrowed.
7 - Some words or phrases in Desire of Ages: A few words or phrases, and nothing more. The Desire of Ages Research Project proved that.
8 - The other books: Hardly anything, which is why Desire of Ages was selected for the research.
In view of the fact that Ellen White wrote 25,000,000 words, the above represents only a small fraction of her total written output. Try as hard as they may, the critics cannot find much more than the above items to complain about.

Can you give me some examples of borrowing by Bible writers?

Here is a brief overview of some examples of how the Bible writers used earlier written sources, in preparing their writings. Some of these sources were earlier Bible writings; some were pagan and heathen writings.
They did just as Ellen White did: They did not live in a hermetically sealed house; they observed events in the world about them, read widely, and (on occasion) used a variety of materials in preparing their scriptures. Here are a few of the borrowings by Bible writers:

1 - Material was borrowed from earlier Scripture writers. Ellen White did this and so did the Bible writers themselves. For example, compare Isaiah 2:2-4 with Micah 4:1-3.

2 - Also compare Isaiah 36 to 39 with 2 Kings 18 to 20.

3 - The book of Mark is remarkable. Either Mark copied Matthew and Luke or they copied Mark. Matthew and Mark’s Gospels are similar in the extreme. Several decades ago, the present writer did a study of Mark, in an attempt to locate original events in it. He found only a couple; both were insignificant. Every occurrence in Mark you will find in Matthew (and many in Luke). But, when Mark writes about an event, he frequently says more than Matthew provides; this is why we quote Mark at all. A full 95 percent of the content of Mark is in Matthew and / or Luke. Mark 14:51 is one of the few incidents in Mark not to be found in Matthew and / or Luke.

The likelihood is that Mark wrote his small gospel first. Then Matthew heavily used it while adding still more events. Then Luke placed Matthew in front of him and used much of it, plus adding a large section (especially from chapters 10 to 19) which has many parables and miracles.

Luke’s introduction to his Gospel (called “Luke’s prologue,” Luke 1:1-4) reads like Ellen White’s Introduction to Great Controversy. Both of these inspired writers declare that they used outside sources.
In contrast, John’s Gospel is unique. He writes as one who was well-acquainted with the earlier three Gospels; yet he wrote quite independently of theirs. Most of the book of John is not to be found in the other three; for that reason, they are called the “synoptic (see-alike) Gospels.”

In view of Luke 1:1-4 and the Matthew and Mark Gospels, it is extremely likely that the Gospel writers also used still other sources, which we do not now have.

“Luke did not acquire his information through visions or dreams but through his own research. Yet while material in the Gospel of Luke was not given by divine revelation, it was nonetheless written under divine inspiration. He did not write to tell his reader something new, but to assure them of what was true ‘that you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught: What Luke wrote was not original, but it was dependable. God led Luke to use the right sources.”—Robert W. Olson, Ellen G. White’s Use of Uninspired Sources.

4 - While preparing Proverbs, Solomon may have used earlier materials: “Because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs. The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.”—Ecclesiastes 12:9-10.

5 - The Apostle Paul quoted from Epimenides, a sixth century B.C. Greek poet. Compare Titus 1:12 and Acts 17:28 with the following poetical passage from Epimenides:

“They fashioned a tomb for Thee, O holy and high One—The Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies! But Thou are not dead: Thou livest and abidest forever; for in Thee we live and move and have our being.”—Epimenides.
Clearly, originality was not a test of Inspiration.

6 - When writing Jude 14-15, Jude may have quoted from an earlier work, called the Book of Enoch, a pseudepigraphal [false-named] book, written about 100 years before the time of Christ.

“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.”—Enoch 1:9, quoted in R. H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, Vol. 2, p. 189.

It is likely that this statement by Enoch (quoted in Jude 14-15) may have been handed down by word of mouth and then was written by an unknown author in the Book of Enoch. A reading of the book of Enoch, which the present writer has done, discovered little of worth. But Jude was guided to know that this one statement from pseudo-Enoch, was correct.
In the same way, Ellen White could read the writings of historians and know which facts were correct, although one historian would say this and another would say the opposite.

7-12 - Several passages in the book of Revelation are similar to other sentences in the Book of Enoch:
“And I saw . . and behold a star fell from heaven.” —Enoch 86:1 (compare Revelation 9:1).
“They were all judged and found guilty and cast into this fiery abyss.”—Enoch 90:26 (compare Revelation 20:15).
“And the first heaven shall depart and pass away, and a new heaven shall appear.”—Enoch 91:16 (compare Revelation 21:1).
“The horse shall walk up to the breast in the blood of sinners.”—Enoch 100:3 (compare Revelation 14:20).
“Their names shall be blotted out of the book of life.”—Enoch 108:3 (compare Revelation 3:5).
“After that I saw . . a multitude beyond number and reckoning, who stood by the Lord of Spirits.”—Enoch 40:1 (compare Revelation 7:9).

Now it may well be that the above passages are merely coincidences, and that John did not refer to, or copy, Enoch. It may also be that John was referring to an earlier book (now unknown), which pseudo-Enoch also quoted from.

Significantly, these “coincidences” between Revelation and pseudo-Enoch are far greater than the trivial word connections found by Walter Rea and the Desire of Ages Project team, to indicate “borrowing” by Ellen White from other writers.

13 - We are not certain when the Code of Hammurabi was written before the time of Moses; but if it was written at that time, then Moses may have been guided to use some of its principles.
Code of Hammurabi, No. 14: “If a citizen has stolen the son of a citizen he shall be put to death.”
Exodus 21:16: “And he that stealeth a man and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.”
Code of Hammurabi, Nos. 196 and 200: “If a citizen destroys the eye of the son of a citizen, his eye shall be knocked out.”
Deuteronomy 19:21: “Life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”
But there were other laws in Hammurabi’s Code which were inhumane and vicious. These were not included in the Mosaic writings (see 1 Bible Commentary, 616-619).

Frankly, the above two examples of “copying” are just common sense and do not indicate “borrowing” to the present writer. Yet the critics present us with similar common-sense word structures which Ellen White is supposed to have “borrowed.”

14 - Then there is Jude and 2 Peter 2-3. This will provide you, in your spare time, with a fascinating evening of study. Read the book of Jude; and find where it is essentially repeated in the second and third chapters of 2 Peter. Especially note Jude 4-18 with 2 Peter 2:1-3:18.

It is likely that, first, Jude wrote his book; and later Peter, referring to it, changed it around a little and put it into his second epistle. But it may be that Jude took a portion of 2 Peter, rearranged it, and produced his epistle.

Someone will say, “Well, both 2 Peter and Jude are Scripture.” They are. The borrower here was just using another Christian’s written materials, 15 - Another borrowing, which may have a simple explanation, is 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 and Ezra 1:1-3a. It is likely that Ezra wrote 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, and Ezra. So he repeated the last of 2 Chronicles at the beginning of his book of Ezra. That recalls to mind Ellen White’s method of incorporating her earlier writings into Desire of Ages.

16 - We also have an instance in which another Bible writer copied one of the psalms. Psalm 18:2-50 was copied into 2 Samuel 22:2-51.

You have just viewed an impressive collection of borrowings.

If it is wrong for prophets to obtain information from other sources, then why did Moses listen to, and heed, the advice of Jethro (Exodus 18)? Why did he not wait for a vision to instruct him? Why did God let Moses become dependent on a mere human being for advice rather than giving him a vision from heaven? An inspired prophet of God explains:

“When Zipporah rejoined her husband [Moses] in the wilderness, she saw that his burdens were wearing away his strength, and she made known her fears to Jethro, who suggested measures for his relief . .

“This counsel was accepted, and it not only brought relief to Moses, but resulted in establishing more perfect order among the people. The Lord had greatly honored Moses, and had wrought wonders by His hand; but the fact that he had been chosen to instruct others did not lead him to conclude that he himself needed no instruction.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, 384, 301.

As the above passage shows, did you ever notice that the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy are full of common sense?
17 - In Acts 17:28, Paul quotes from another ancient poet, the Greek Aratus, who centuries before had written: “For we are His offspring” (see Acts of the Apostles, 239).

Paul borrowed from both Epimenides and Aratus; and we now acknowledge these borrowings to be a part of the Inspired Word of God. The Lord guided Paul to know what to select and place in his writings. If Walter Rea had lived in Paul’s time, he would have been urging people to throw Paul’s writings in the fire.

Someone will say, “Well, Paul didn’t copy very much. “Well, out of 25,000,000 words, Ellen White copied very little too. We have listed all the essential items; and it amounts to only a tiny percentage of her entire literary output.
18 - 1 Corinthians 15:33 is a third quotation by Paul from a heathen writer, Menander, who lived three centuries before Christ.

Paul gives no credit to Menander; neither does he hint that this is a quotation. The proverb was not original with Paul and it is a reasonable assumption that the Lord did not supernaturally reveal to Paul what Menander had said, yet we accept 1 Corinthians 15:33 as fully Inspired. It was not Inspired before Paul said it, but when he put that line into his letter to the Corinthians it became a part of the sacred canon of Scripture.”—Robert Olson, Ellen G. White’s Use of Uninspired Sources.

This is why Walter Rea warned his listeners not to do to the Bible what he was trying to do to Ellen White’s writings. He knew that the same principles and practices were used by both.

Did this issue about Bible writers come up again during Walter Rea’s lecture tour across the continent?

Elsewhere, on his continent-wide tour to destroy confidence in the Spirit of Prophecy, Rea went to New England. In preparation for Rea’s lecture at Atlantic Union College, in Massachusetts, one of the Old Testament Bible teachers, Dr. John Wood had been asked to give a rebuttal, as soon as Rea’s lecture had ended. The plan was that this would provide more of an atmosphere of a debate and increase the excitement of those who wanted to attend.

At a later time, the present writer spoke with Dr. Wood by phone and was told that, unlike many others, Wood felt he was prepared to meet Rea. He said that he had specialized for years in comparisons between Old Testament writings and secular writings. He said, for example that a certain psalm was found in an earlier heathen writing. Such a concept did not seem pleasant and may not be correct; but, whether correct or not, it points up the fact that Rea’s charges can also be brought against the Bible writers.

Sunday evening of January 24, 1982, first Rea and then Wood spoke. Afterward, Rea came up to him and, with deep respect for Wood’s grasp of Old Testament borrowings, in effect said, “I cannot answer what you say. My charges would apply equally to Ellen White’s writings as well as to the Bible.”

This recalls to mind a summary statement by Robert W. Olson, secretary of the E.G. White Estate at that time:
“The answer, then, to our question, ‘Did Ellen White’s literary borrowings in any degree dilute her claim to inspiration?’—is No. That is, the answer is no unless we insist on one standard for the Bible prophets and a different standard for Ellen White. If it was proper for the Biblical prophets to use uninspired sources at times, we can hardly fault Ellen White for following their example.”—Robert Olson, Ellen G. White’s Use of Uninspired Sources.

Here are some excerpts from a lengthy report on that sensational evening, as presented in the AUC newspaper:
“Sunday, January 24, many AUC students and faculty left their TV sets and the Super Bowl to attend an event which promised to be nearly as exciting: John Wood, Assistant Professor of Religion, facing Walter Rea, former Adventist pastor, and author of the book, The White Lie. The confrontation, held at Lancaster Town Hall, and sponsored by the Association of Adventist Forums, attracted a fairly large audience . .

“Rea spoke first, his talk being entitled ‘The White Lie.’ An Adventist minister for 35 years before his dismissal in 1980, he still considers himself an Adventist, and is still officially a member . . [After ridiculing the Spirit of Prophecy, Rea said:] ‘We should trust our theologians [instead of the Inspired Writings]. If we can’t, why did we educate them in the first place?’

“Elder Wood spoke on ‘Prophets and Plagiarists,’ centering his arguments on what he feels is the real issue—the nature of inspiration. He attacked the ‘Fundamentalist heresy’ . . He gave numerous examples where the Bible ‘plagiarizes’ from apocryphal and even pagan sources. Psalm 29, he said, is a Canaanite psalm describing an appearance of Baal to his people . . The tabernacle and Solomon’s temple were shown to be similar in design and decoration to pagan temples.”—Rea vs. Wood at Town Hall, in The Lancastrian, the official weekly newspaper of Atlantic Union College, February 9, 1982, p. 1.

The present writer rejects all such suggestions that either the Bible or Spirit of Prophecy is copied from everyone else. We have observed a small amount of borrowed phrases, but nothing more.

[Brief note: Dr. Wood theorizes that Solomon’s glorious temple was copied from the architecture of pagan temples. This is not true. God gave the pattern for the Temple to David (4SG-a 113), as earlier He had given the wilderness tabernacle pattern to Moses (Ex 25:8, 40; Heb 8:5). In reality, the outstandingly beautiful outer design of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, was copied from Solomon’s Temple. Our Lincoln Memorial is similarly designed. Although Solomon was praised as its designer (PK 66), it was God who designed that Temple (PK 66). Christ originated it (DA 193), He made its plans (3BC 1129, COL 349). Christ was the architect of Sol­omon’s Temple (COL 349).]

In regard to the above statements by Dr. Wood, keep in mind that ancient dates are frequently mixed up. The cause of much of this is a dating error by archaeologists, since the late 1930s, in Egyptian dating. This topic is covered in partial detail in chapter 21 of the present writer’s book, Evolution Cruncher. For example, archaeologists did, indeed, find the wall of Jericho which fell. They erroneously used the Egyptian dating method, which was based on a false interpretation of Manetho’s king list and the so-called Sothic cycle. For more on this, see the above-named book. Although now out of print, it will soon be republished.

It is for such reasons that Hammurabi can erroneously be said to predate the Mosaic Code and the song to Baal thought to precede Psalm 29.

The Lancastrian article concludes by quoting several comments made by those who attended:
“A senior theology major said, ‘I was sitting there thinking, This ought to be on Real People! I’ve never seen anybody get so many words into such a short time period’ . . One person felt that ‘Rea was impressed with Wood.’

“Dale Cradall commented, ‘It was clear that if we were to reject Ellen White on the basis of Elder Rea’s conclusions, we would also have to reject all the prophets of the Bible, because they also borrowed from their contemporaries.”—The Lancastrian (the newspaper for Altantic Union College), February 9, 1982.