Jeremy, the 3-4% looks like a whole lot more when it is concentrated out of the rest. And that is what Walter Rea did in his exhibits in The White Lie (see endnote 7 in Chapter 3 of White Lie Soap, linked below). The percentage seems to grow when the focus of study is The Desire of Ages. Dr. Fred Veltman and his team’s nearly exhaustive look at 15 chapters of the book came up with a dependency rating of 31% for the whole. But that isn’t merely verbatim usage of other writers. When I figured the “modified verbatim” sentences as a percentage of the total number of sentences in those 15 chapters, it came to only about one percent (1%) of the whole (and, of these, several of the sentences were what could be described as “biblical paraphrase”). So, what made up the rest of the 31% of material deemed literarily dependent upon other authors? It was the same Bible verses quoted, and sentences that were “strict paraphrase,” “simple paraphrase,” “loose paraphrase,” and “partial independent.” For a description and evaluation of each of these categories, see chapter 5 of White Lie Soap, available at https://www.academia.edu/34985077/WHITE_LIE_SOAP_Upgrading_from_Black_and_White_to_Color_.
As Ron Graybill pointed out: “To notice similarities [all that Walter Rea accomplished] is only the first step in the study of literary relationships. One must also catalogue the differences [performed by Veltman and his team in the Life of Christ Research Project], and then, even more importantly, ask what use the second author made of the first author’s work” (Graybill et al, “Henry Melvill and Ellen G. White: A Study in Literary and Theological Relationships” [May 1982], p. iii). That third step in studying literary relationships exceeded what Rea and Veltman accomplished. If you want examples of that third step, see Chapter 3 of White Lie Soap, available at https://www.academia.edu/34985131/WHITE_LIE_SOAP_Only_the_First_Step_.
In summary, the “fuss” was because of two things: (1) a concept of Inspiration that does not allow adaptation of wording from other authors in an inspired writer’s communicating of the thoughts of God (a concept contravened by many biblical examples), (2) failure to think about the similar material enough to evaluate its independent qualities.
Thus, the fuss, was caused by a rush to judgment, based on similarity alone without thoughtful evaluation, and, unfortunately, the rushed fuss of the 1980s has been broadcast over the Internet. Thankfully, due largely to the efforts of David J. Conklin, those who repeated Walter Rea’s prognostication of 75-90% of “copying” have quietly removed the figure from their exhibits, though still clinging to the tenuous accusation for their own reasons.
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