Ellen White: The Ultimate X-Factor in Adventist Hermeneutics

Well, as I already decades ago said : Beware of her editors, translaters, compilers - -

I just experience that we are overfed with “authoritative” assertions withouth their context, often reading quite different when you have an access to the original text.

A few years agon our Union sold the downtown real estate on a very good location ( purchased in the late fourties of last century, this with an US - Dollar fortune raised from the donating believers abroad ) - - “out of the cities !” - - while a little later we heard Ted proclaiming “into the cinties” - -


I am not anti Ellen White.

I am anti her elevated position in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

We are all lesser lights. We are all candles burning in the night.

We have the Bible and everyone who reads it sees it from a unique perspective. Everyone who uses EGW to explain the Bible sees her insights from unique perspectives.

Behold the Lamb! Lord save us by your Grace.


Thank you, Matthew, for an insightful and thoughtful analysis of Ellen White’s role in SDA hermeneutics.

As I have stated previously on this site, language alone, that is, the text ‘in itself’, cannot solve the problem of biblical hermeneutics. What proponents of Sola Scriptura tend to overlook is that there is an interrelationship between Scripture , reason , and tradition. They are all part of the same hermeneutic process; the necessary elements of any meaning making of the biblical textual material.

And if we unpack the practical implications of this, we will discover that tradition is an inescapable condition for human understanding. None of us are a ‘tabula rasa’ (a blank slate). Even reason is not pure but is always a traditioned reason . Because of this basic human condition, our interpretations will always be tainted by the traditioned pre-commitments we bring to the text, what Hans Georg Gadamer named ‘prejudice’. We always already read the biblical texts from within traditions, that is, with preconceived commitments.

And for Adventism, the tradition of Ellen White (as I see it) functions as the often hidden key superordinate hermeneutical commitment of orthodox SDA theology. With that in mind, the notion of Sola Scriptura is not only an ideal, but a naïve one.

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I don’t know about you, but I have tested her and found her ‘wanting’, so as you suggested, ‘shelved’ her works.


So you would choose a ‘living prophet’, human, over the HS, which is considered ‘Devine’?

I now understand much of your confusion!

Wow! I sense a rather hardened heart in your comments. Since this website is Adventist based I am curious of what draws you here. Do you experience any church fellowship? How do you guard your heart?

I keep reverting in my mind to the writings of Walter Rea. Walter was, with out a doubt, the most devoted EG White enthusiast on the planet when given the assignment by the General Conference to research the rumors of EG White’s “borrowing”. Prior to his investigation, Walter could quote entire chapters of EG Whites books by memory. He was a true devote in every sense of the word.

He was given total access to the White Estate library and documents, published and unpublished, and spent, I understand, well over a year collecting evidence pro and con to her plagiarism problem. When he put together his report, he was overwhelmed by what he found. He stated that over 50% of what she wrote was lifted almost verbatim from other books which were still in her library. When he presented this information to the Conference, they promptly buried the information and told him to either keep quiet or he would loose his job and his pension.

His ethics couldn’t allow this to be covered up so he wrote “The White Lie”. And, of course, suffered the banishment and ridicule that he faced the rest of his life. I knew many Adventists that felt he was Benedict Arnold and castigated him, and for what? Telling the truth?

I don’t exactly know what to do with this. I was brought up believing that she was a messenger of God, but why would God use such a flawed means to impart last day information to the world? Our, all knowing, God had to have been aware of what would happen when the truth came out. It is truly heart wrenching to see what this has done to the church I have believed in all my life.



Dr. Graybill of the White estate, who did doctoral work in this area, has admitted that Mrs. White took much of her material from others without giving any reference to them.

“These borrowings occurred not only in the historical sections of The Great Controversy but also in its prophetic sections. They appear throughout the Conflict of the Ages and in the Testimonies for the Church as well as other Ellen White books. They occur in letters and specific testimonies to individuals. They appear in descriptions of the content of specific visions given to Mrs. White.” I cannot find the reference for this, but how unethical to promote her writings as an interpreter of scripture when we KNOW these facts.


This is historically how the church has dealt with anyone who crossed this line. They’ve buried the evidence, and shot the messenger. That alone speaks volumes about the reality surrounding EGW.

I hear you Linden…you were born into this and I was brought into this. I swallowed it all. I now feel like I was sold a bill of goods, by well meaning people. I’ve come to the conclusion that it wasn’t God using a flawed instrument to get his last day message to the world. It was the White’s message that grew out of the Millerite debacle. There is too much wrong with the entire theological and eschatological outlook to lead me to any other conclusion.

The problem for me is the messenger, her methods, and the message itself. To me, God works despite all of this…as is often the case with us human beings!



Long ago WW Prescott, a strong EGW supporter, warned the brethren of their suppression of how EGW works were complied, edited, and issued that a reckoning would come for not sharing that reality with the people. When some tried to bring about a clearer understanding of her work and inspiration, they were told to keep quiet as it was feared a great uproar would be produced, a diminishing of EGW’s standing in the church would result. That inability or for some leadership, stubborn refusal, to set the record straight has led to what we see today: a lot of disillusionment with EGW’s work and ministry. The church has been its own worst enemy in this.


“I sense a rather hardened heart in your comments.”

I blame/thank god for hardening my heart, as you call it, although I prefer to think of my spirit as having been made lighter the instant I gave up on SDA- and EGW-ism.

“Since this website is Adventist based I am curious of what draws you here.”

I’ve addressed this question several times previously and don’t care to repeat myself. It suffices to say that the moderators can exercise the option to ban me whenever and for whatever reason they like.

“Do you experience church fellowship.”

Not as most people define it.

“How do you guard your heart?”

By avoiding church fellowship, as most people define it.


I concur with your comment, Darrell, and I admire your article, Matthew. I add my own P.S. from “95theses4sda.com

  1. If Ellen White had power to define Scripture, we could not deny other final generation prophets (who are promised in Scripture) the authority to reinterpret the Bible—and even Ellen White’s own writings.

  2. Ellen White was not automatically once-saved, always-saved upon being called to prophetic ministry, which is another reason everything she says must be tested by Scripture.

  3. Ellen White, particularly in her early writings, suffered much of the same legalism as her fellow pioneers. For decades her books and testimonies were deficient in such Christian fundamentals as the personhood of the Holy Spirit and the eternal pre-existence of Jesus.

  4. Anyone who insists that Ellen White’s earlier writings are as theologically orthodox or useful as her later writings is either ignorant or intellectually dishonest.

  5. Adventists who empower Ellen White to adjudicate Scripture convey upon her even more authority than Catholics give the pope. His infallibility is limited to occasional ex cathedra pronouncements (under strict guidelines) regarding faith and morals, whereas many SDAs take anything Ellen White wrote or said and impose that upon Scripture—even the words of Christ.

  6. It is worse to make Ellen White the referee of all Scripture than it would be to add her writings to the canon of 66 inspired books—which would make her just one voice among many Bible authors. But many Adventists exalt Sister White as the infallible interpreter of all the Biblical prophets—even the Lord Jesus Christ. So they are guilty of an antichrist mentality by attributing to Ellen White authority over Christ’s established words in Scripture.

  7. Adventists who thus dilute biblical authority bring themselves under the curse of Revelation 22:18-19, which forbids adding anything to the Bible—whether to the volume of Scripture (as Mormons do) or to the exclusive authority of its closed canon.


repetition doesn’t strengthen your case…you are unable to show what was in egw’s mind before, during or after her use of sources, which means you cannot prove that egw turned to these sources for essential knowledge and information and not ways to express a particular point effectively…have you considered that there is very much essential knowledge and information in these sources that diverge from her essential message, that she didn’t use…have you considered that her view of inspiration meant that she was left to find ways of expressing what she was receiving because it wasn’t being delivered verbatim…of course not…

and you certainly cannot show what was in the mind of egw’s editors, much less that they understood what was in her mind, and that the explanation they offered for the free use of sources wasn’t part of a genuine work ethic, or even that this work ethic was wholly at odds with what was common practice of the time…do you understand that at least one expert in what was common practice of the time has looked at egw’s use of sources and determined not only that she didn’t plagiarize, but that she didn’t lapse into copyright infringement…

i think the most effective macro way to assess egw’s gift is to look at the influence her writings have had in the past…thousands upon thousands of people have given their hearts to god as a result of reading her books…if she was a fraud, she’d be a satanic agent…and if she was a satanic agent, why do her writings uplift so markedly the cross of christ and the inspiration of the bible…why do people who accept and benefit from her ministry exhibit such solicitude for our church, or place such a premium on careful living and an awareness of the signs of christ’s 2nd coming…meanwhile, people who reject egw tend to have nothing to offer but burned out views of adventism, and constant disdain for every aspect of our church…their whole ethos seems to be nothing but continual anger and negativity…in fact the only thing that seems to consistently animate them is the opportunity to dump on our church…

do you think any of this is lost on anyone…

well, think back on GC San Antonio 2015…two camps had formed on the WO question, each claiming biblical provenance and the HS’s guidance…do you think this unfortunate situation would have persisted had we had a living prophet who’d received explicit guidance on the question of WO through a publicly witnessed supernatural vision…i don’t…

But it is OK for a group of Adventist father’s to make the decision?


No, Sir ! Bible Teacher ( ! ) Bruno Ulrich of SDA college at Darmstadt - Marienhoehe, Germany, had pronounced in 1975, that all of EGWs writings gone into print is la fruit of iteral inspiration .Her erditors are the ones who determine - - - -

Martinweber? here in Austria the clergy in coping with severe deviations from the model Christ gave in Matth 19 : 4 - 6 - as our western or even global society fosters - let endless quotations out of “Mind, Character and Personality” - German edition, get into print for our local youth magazine - - - -

instead of calling for being responsible and aware of God as in Mal 2 : 14 - - - - - - ( God as the witness of the covenant, this a sacred / holy “sacramentum” - - )

If there’s a problem with Ellen White ultimately it’s not her doing. Ellen had issues, both physical and emotional; and she dealt with them through her faith as an impressionable child (early teens). The problem is with those around her - and always has been. That, too, is the product of the times. Why no one along the way, called out that the “emperor has no clothes” when it came to Bible verification, is hard to imagine, but not long into the process, too much had been invested to change course. October 1844 (or even 1843) would have been a good time to do that. To his credit Miller did do just that, but it was too late for some enthusiasts.

It’s obviously true that none of us come to the table “tabula rasa”, and neither did Ellen, as young as she was. But it’s also obvious that the denomination, made up of educated people, some outside the Adventism system, still choose to stick to the playbook, at least professionally. Those that have broadened their view, have ultimately been kicked out or have left of their own accord, seeing the light once they’ve retired. And I say that empathetically. How difficult it must be to keep doing what they’ve been doing when the perspective changes in mid-life, and there are no options for a different career - like what happens to some of the “underlings” in denominational employment.

OK, we can bash the system and theology ad infinitum, but there is one (well, maybe two) questions that need an answer Why is knowing the year, day, hour of Christ’s return so important? Why not just assume it might happen in our lifetime and be done with it. Live as though he’s coming later this afternoon. Secondly, why do we totally ignore a clear directive not to do that?

@o_utaker @martinweber7


Why indeed focus on the cross or the Bible?

Particularly when the cross symbolizes the hatred which was the antithesis of what seems to have been Jesus’ most essential message and when it was the “by the book” people of his time who wanted to literally nail him to it?

And why dwell on the inspiration of the Bible as if it is something special and only available to very few authors, none of whom knew Jesus personally?

Why didn’t Jesus tell his followers to write books about what was essentially a non-verbal path, or inform them that in 2,000 years he was going to send EGW secret messages which would fill in every little detail about the “right” way to live?

And why be vague about it? Why not mention her by name and give the exact date of her ministry?

And instead of any of the above why did Jesus say, just before he left, that the he really wasn’t going anywhere and that he was leaving the Holy Spirit-HIS spirit-which would be available to all of us, all the time, this rather than be forced to sort out his teachings from third, fourth and fifth hand sources, or spend two millennia searching the skies for his return?

If you find this negative or an attempt to dump on Adventism, so be it. But as is so often the case with your accusations, I think you’re gaslighting of others is nothing more than very accurate descriptions of the negativity of which you are most guilty.

I know you have complicated rebuttals and apologetics (which you and very few others understand) but I see them as nothing more than that; answers which you believe but cannot prove to be the only, or even the best ones. Most importantly, while I find your explications intellectual and precise, I also feel them to be merely that and uninspired emotionally. Thus, I remain confident in my decision to disregard them, preferring the much simpler awareness that god has the power and ability to reach all of his creatures individually and without the need for violations of natural laws, preternatural secrecy or special treatment of anyone.


You just don’t want to get it. She hid her use of sources…for most of her career. She hid her use of a ghost writing team by never acknowledging their contributions in print.

Rea saw about 50% unacknowledged dependence, and our Chris here estimates far higher. Veltmann saw 31%in D of A. Ramik came up with 2%. Wide discrepancies. Religious writers of the day engaged in such. That of course sounds like the everyone was doing it defense. We can accept that as cultural practice.

But, none of the above matters. Neither does her thought process. The fact is, no other writers as a life long pattern were claiming direct prophetic pipeline to God for their output while lifting their material from elsewhere. None but EGW.

You and her apologists keep trying to explain it away. You can’t.



Regarding her influence…that simply cuts both ways. Many lives have been destroyed, and many have left in hopelessness when crushed by the legalism and perfectionism they have encountered in her writings, or that has been inflicted upon them through her zealous acolytes.

Some of it can be chalked up to misuse, some of it to the content of her writings. This is still off the main point.