The Great Controversy Over Plagiary: The Last Interview of Walter Rea

(Rob Steed) #81

Sean, thanks for your significant comment which I would have expect to be widely understood.

(David) #82

One writing here does not read more than 20% in proportion to thinking.
That the true source is G_D - for all (empirical) mediation - belongs to Holy mystery, the unseen Rock of Faith, the Bread of Heaven requires only its’ own explains things.
We do not equivocate intercessions, albeit filter all inconsistencies with the Sacred Word, what is always and forever true, thereupon Dominion’s infinite "Himmel hoch."
Therefore we know there are not many true Prophets, who appear to be able to listen - beyond all vanity, and their own self, in mind - to G_D. Thus do we absolve from plaigiarism by spontaneity and by similar ways, knowing the Holy Spirit is ambient. This source of inspirations shall be mete of Mind, and Heaven shall be the governed in way of the perfect Law of Freedom. The gift of it is reconciled to abide and trust.

(Marc) #83

I was employed as production manager at the Sentinel (later named Southern Publishing Assn) in Cape Town at the time Walter Rea’s book first appeared. I suppose it must have been twenty-three years earlier that I first came across Schweitzer’s ‘Quest’ - made available to me in the Pietermaritzburg public library. A good friend of mine - also a Seventh-day Adventist - attending the local teacher training college had chosen to write a dissertation on Matthew and Luke’s use of Mark’s gospel. One of the consequences of his dissertation was of course my interest in Schweitzer’s book, which led me ever deeper into Historical Jesus studies - I suppose I have spent more than fifty years on the subject now, and I have enjoyed every moment of that excursion into the gospels.

As a consequence of having read Schweitzer and others before 1983, the news which came through to me about Walter Rea - and his earlier removal from the ministry and loss of his pension came as no shock. Schweitzer himself faced consequences for writing the Quest and he himself describes others who suffered a worse fate. Quite candidly I wondered what all the fuss was about - the scrambling for cover by SDA church administrators from source criticism. I felt betrayed by those who were ‘in the know’ regarding higher criticism. I guess that is why I hate to hear people referring to church members collectively as a flock - seemingly needing to let the hierarchy/shepherds play hide and seek with their ‘sheep’. Fortunately time has moved on and the internet is with us, so we need not be quite so ignorant about the way the Bible was written. What our conclusions might be as a consequence of that knowledge is of course another matter. It was sadly only two years later (1965) that my friend took his own life after leaving the church. I recall old Pastor Staples telling him not to worry about such matters as source criticism . . . instead of engaging with him . . .

I do hope that one day someone will write a definitive biography on Walter Rea - he deserves that. Now that the years have passed by - and Walter Rea with those years - we can brush aside his use of acerbic language in describing Ellen White’s plagiarism. In between the lines - and the photograph - I sense that Rea was a fairly small man with some rather unusual characteristics and a remarkable memory for detail. Certainly he made a magnificent contribution to the ongoing research into Ellen White. Let’s not forget him, he is such an important part of Adventist history.

(I am no longer an SDA, having been accepted into the Catholic church four years ago - neither am I a theologian - just a retired general manager of an the SDA publishing house north of the Limpopo . . .)


A word that is strongly on my mind today is aporia (Ancient Greek: ἀπορία: “impasse, difficulty of passing, lack of resources, puzzlement”).

The crisis that is upon Adventism right now seems decidedly aporetic to me.

The Wikipedia entry for aporia is fascinating to me because, mythologically, the word aporia is itself aporetic, and seemingly untranslatable.

Rebecca Goldstein, speaking of Plato’s use of aporia in Plato at the Googleplex, says:

It is the philosophical question that is supposed to take center stage, cracking us open to an entirely new variety of experience.

Wait, did she say ‘experience?’ Did she say philosophical questions can ‘crack us open?’

If Jonathan Haidt, in The Righteous Mind, is worth listening to, then perhaps we need to be cracked open?

With great respect for Alden Thompson, I ponder his phrase, “better understand the phenomenon of inspiration.”

Is he, perhaps, making a category error?

Is inspiration a thing? If so, is it a thing that can be grasped by human intellect, or is it ineffable, by definition?

How about, “better understood” by human intellect–can we at least go with that?

I am lapsing into aporia here. My brain is throwing up the “blue screen of death” signal.

Maybe that’s a good thing?

…with a view to the science we are seeking, it is necessary that we should first review the things about which we need, from the outset, to be puzzled…
–Aristotle, Metaphysics

Perhaps, by framing this as a crisis zero-sum moral contest, we are seeking premature closure on what, realistically is ineffable and therefore beyond the grasp of human intellect?

Reflecting on the times I personally reflexively resort to premature closure on an issue, I find it is usually driven by anxiety, or some other uncomfortable feeling deriving from unprocessed experiences from the past.

What opportunities might be forever forfeited by resorting to premature closure in the present crisis?

What will be the costs of committing to keeping inspiration as a perpetual “open category” in our minds?

Would that mean, ipso facto, that we would be blind and passive to the dishonesty and abuses of an Adventist caste system? Realistically, sometimes isn’t enough just enough?!

If we allowed ourselves to be “cracked open” by this impasse, might our resulting travail birth something of “an entirely new variety of experience,” and proffer new resources that were before undreamed of?

I don’t know, but the alternatives are terrifying.

Edit Friday 1/20/17:

Continuing in the vein of my naive theological musings:

A word that is strongly on my mind this morning is apophatic.

Regarding Alden Thompson’s 1982 hope that Walter Rea’s “research will help Seventh-day Adventist deal more realistically with Ellen White and better understand the phenomenon of inspiration…"

It seems to me that Adventism is hobbled by a parochial view of God, as seen through the eyes of Ellen White, therefore, any organic growth beyond her 19th century understanding threatens the Adventist institution, and is reflexively warded off.

This is ironic, and perhaps fatal, in a church that claims to place high value on Present Truth, and I suggest that the quixotic Adventist attempt to domesticate God has utterly failed, as well it should.

And, speaking of organic growth, I’m tempted to draw an analogy between cataphatic and apophatic theology and anabolic and catabolic processes in metabolism.

It would be ludicrous to imagine metabolism only in terms of anabolism, and it surely seems ludicrous to me to imagine theology only as cataphatic revelation.

Alden Thompson wrote of the “imperfect speech of inspiration.”

I suggest that revelation is always pure, but we always have this treasure in earthen vessels, with always-clouded vision. Nevertheless, we are meant to advance “from glory to glory.”

Now, how can we do that if we are hamstrung by an inability to self-correct, to break down and reform original elements of our understanding of God?

So if Alden Thompson’s wish that Walter Rea’s research will help us “better understand the phenomenon of inspiration” is to bear fruit, I suggest that we first stop reifying that which is ineffable.

Inspiration is not a “phenomenon,” and is not amenable to “research,” in my opinion, except the ‘research’ of the fleshy tables of the heart.

Therefore, any new understanding of inspiration will necessarily be apophatic in nature, it seems to me.

We are writing our autobiography here. What is our story?

Might it be the rewilding of the Adventist people, to the glory of God?

Fredrick Buechner: Theology as Autobiography

(Garth Bertrand) #85

Good evening everyone,

With respect to the Bible being inspired, do you know, reader, that text is a distortion of the original sentence?

(David Conklin) #90

With respect to the previous remarks and Rea’s work there seems to be a number is misconceptions at work.

  1. Most people seem to be assuming that EGW’s alleged plagiarism is a proven fact. It is not. In fact, most people are unaware of what it takes to prove plagiarism. For example, it is/was claimed that her book Sketches from the Life of Paul was ‘a case of wholesale plagiarism from Conybeare and Howson.’ I checked her both with respect to Conybeare and Howson and found that the average amount of literary similarity was a tad over 3.05%. Some web pages that made the claim came down when they heard of my work and I can show it–if interested you can email me (dconklin58@ My guess-estimate is that the amount we can prove was copied was ab’t a tenth of that figure.

  2. It is commonly claimed that EGW copied ‘80-90% (and [possibly much more)’ of her works. The first problem you will note that those who claim it never show you the actual numbers. Secondly, mere copying isn’t plagiarism. It has to be substantive and meaningful. And since over 30% of EGW’s writings are from the Bible, there is no way that you will get to 80-90%. Plagiarism has to have copied the look and feel of the original author’s work. This is why there is no record of anyone from EGW’s time who made the plagiarism claim ever informed any major newspaper of the day (New York Times, which ran over 1,000 articles on the subject during her lifetime, the Chicago Tribune, or Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, etc.), much less her alleged victims. There are historical records of people being sued and losing in court for copyright infringement during EGW’s lifetime.

  3. It is not commonly known how inadequate and weak the alleged evidence in Rea’s work really is. I have shown that the evidence has been manipulated and distorted (some of that work is here: This cannot be seen by people who have not looked at the alleged sources.

  4. With respect to the 1919 Bible Conference. Quite frankly this is simply an appeal to authority. One needs to look at the original sources themselves. Alot of what is said in the 1919 materials cannot be substantiated by the evidence.

  5. Rea’s work is called “The White Lie” because he made three basic claims: 1) EGW was a plagiarist, 2) the SDA church knows about the plagiarism, and 3) the SDA church has been covering it up. When his book came out the church leadership basically said to themselves: ‘We should have someone look into this.’ That alone basically proves that the last two claims were without foundation. The church then hired Dr. Veltman to look into the matter. In 1988 he published his 2,222 page study. Some critics then put up web pages claiming that he had proved that EGW was a plagiarist. One various forums when this came up, I responded that it couldn’t be, because on page 48 of his introduction, he said (and I gave the exact wording) that he hadn’t even looked at the question. The web pages then came down.

You can find Dr. Veltman’s study at the GC archive under Life of Christ Research. I would highly recommend getting it an going through chapter by chapter and making a copy of the same chapter from DA and the highlighting in the copy of DA the exact words as the alleged source in one color, the similar words in another and noting the alleged source in the margins. You will find that a) there’s very few words that are exact and similar, that indicates a lack of plagiarism, and b) given the number of alleged sources for one paragraph, that also indicates a lack of plagiarism. Plagiarists just don’t do what EGW supposedly did. They copy virtually verbatim from beginning to end. In EGW’s lifetime there was a novelist by the name of Mrs. E.D.E.N. Southworth and she found that one her books had been virtually completely copied by a John D. Suplee. When Southworth’s publisher informed the publisher of Suplee’s plagiarism, they pulped all of the copies they could get their hands on and destroyed the plates.

  1. Some people claim that the SDA’s use of the term “literary borrowing” is a euphemism for plagiarism. A simple search on any web engine would show that literary experts use the phrase with no negative connotation or direct linkage to plagiarism. It is an accepted literary practice and is used even in the Bible.

(John Hughes) #91

Some might reasonably disagree with the assertion that the Sr. Wilson’s MOST reprehensible legacy was extorting Rea’s silence, although that certainly ranks high in the category of reprehensible professional conduct. If we include total legacy, without limitation to just professional, a strong case might be made that muzzling Rea ranks second.

(Christopher) #92

Without any reference to the research by Walter Rae and Veltman, through my research on Ellen White’s alleged plagiarism charge I am convinced beyond doubt that she plagiarised from others on an industrial scale. I have my documented evidence in hand on all of her works that contained plagiarised material including Desire of Ages and Sketches from the Life of Paul. I have carefully considered the 87 chapters of Desire of Ages and 32 chapters of the Life of Paul with the original sources. The Sketches from the Life of Paul was literally reproduced by her. All the chapters of the desire of Ages contained plagiarised material. Yet some of the people in responsible positions are unwilling to acknowledge the facts and brainwash the ignorant.

(Christopher) #93

Her problem statement:
“But if there was one sin above another which called for the destruction of the race by the flood, it was the base crime of amalgamation of man and beast which defaced the image of God, and caused confusion everywhere…Every species of animal which God had created were preserved in the ark. The confused species which God did not create, which were the result of amalgamation, were destroyed by the flood. Since the flood there has been amalgamation of man and beast, as may be seen in the almost endless varieties of species of animals, and in certain races of men” (Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 3, pp. 64,75, 1864).

Ellen White’s statement on the Amalgamation of man and of beast has been the most debated, confusing and misleading of all of her statements. No satisfactory explanation has yet been found. It is up to the readers to decide for themselves on this confusing statement. Perhaps, the following information coming from the slavery and anti-slavery movements of her day would throw some light on the origin of her statement and the explanation that she had meant the mixing up of godly and ungodly races:

J. J. Flournoy (1809-1879): “That the life of Seth and his family, was holy, pious and Godly, “calling on the name of the Lord.” But, that by amalgamating, cohabiting, or intermarrying with Cain’s family, they received in that intermixed blood, the curse into their veins; and hence , all became corrupt together, save one family, Noah’s, and the whole “earth was filled with wickedness.” That the Great Deluge was the natural and unavoidable consequence of this amalgamation, of the races of Seth with those of Cain, inevitable fate!” (A series of Separate Pamphlets Elucidating and Defendictory of the New Doctrine of Expulsion, pp. 36, 37, 1838).

J. J. Flournoy (1809-1879): “that, it is the endeavour of satan to bring about another moral confusion of the world, and another desolation and death as that of the Deluge…He is trying to bring about amalgamation, and corruption – In South America he succeeds, but too well…But thanks be to God, the Devil will never a second time produce universal amalgamation, to end in universal death” (A series of Separate Pamphlets Elucidating and Defendictory of the New Doctrine of Expulsion, pp. 39, 40, 1838).

J. J. Flournoy (1809-1879): “After Israel became settled in the land promised, God inspired many prophets to dissuade them from all amalgamation, or even intercourse of any kind with Egypt, or with the surrounding sable men” (A Reply to a Pamphlet, Entitled Bondage, a Moral institution, Sanctioned by the Scriptures and the Saviour So far as it Attacks the Principles of Expulsion, p. 24, 1838).

(Christopher) #94

Ellen White was forthright in forbidding others to keep away from fiction while in her own practice she was a violater of her own counsel:

“I have a straightforward testimony to bear in regard to them. We are to extol neither idolatry nor men who did not choose to serve God. Years ago reproof was given our editors in regard to advocating the reading of even such books as Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Aesop’s Fables , and Robinson Crusoe. Those who begin to read such works usually desire to continue to read novels. Through the reading of enticing stories they rapidly lose their spirituality” (19 MR, p. 43).
For example Desire of Ages contain a lot of fiction drawn from Ingraham’s The prince of the House of David:
Ellen White: “His weight had broken the cord by which he had hanged himself to the tree. In falling, his body had been horribly mangled, and dogs were now devouring it. His remains were immediately buried out of sight; …Retribution seemed already visiting those who were guilty of the blood of Jesus” (DA, p. 722, 1898).

Ingraham, J. H (1809-1860): “The cord had been broken by his weight, and being a fleshy man, he had, most dreadful to relate, in the fall burst asunder, and the hungry dogs that infest the suburbs, were feeding upon his bowels…Roman centurion….directed four of his soldiers to convey the hideous corpse from sight, and see that it was buried or burned… Judas, the betrayer, dies before his victim dies, and by his own hand. This looks like divine retribution…” (The prince of the House of David, p. 389, 1855).

Martin Luther was a lover of Aesop fables. May be she overlooked this fact because he was her hero!

J. H. Merle D’Aubigne (1794–1872): “Luther at Coburg, on the summit of the hill, “on this “Sinai,” as he called it, raised his hands like Moses towards heaven…The place where he had been left was, by its solitude, favourable to study and to meditation. “I shall make a Zion of this Sinai,” he said on the 22nd April, “and I shall build three tabernacles; one to the Psalms, one to the Prophets, and one – to Esop!”” (History of the Great Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, vol. 4, pp. 168, 169, 1846).
Regarding coffee and tea, she got her information from doctors and physicians:
Ellen White : “Tea and coffee drinking is a sin…” (CD, p. 425, 1938).
Joel Shew (1816-1855): “It would be impossible to how much of the sin of using tea, coffee, and tobacco, may be excused on the score of ignorance in these old Christians; but certain it is, that since more light has gone abroad on the subject, the younger ones will have much to answer for in these things” (Tobacco: its history, nature and effects on body and mind, p. 46, 1849). All this proves that her testimonies were not inspired by God.

(jeremy) #95

egw is such an amazing target…my experiece is that those who discredit her haven’t read her seriously…personally, i find rea’s work exceptionally banal and unconvincing…

(George Tichy) #96

Jeremy, did you read “The White Lie” in full?

(George Tichy) #97

The problems with EGW’s writings get more complicated as more research is done. But, there is actually no need to find more problems, there are enough of them already reported.

Actually, just the Camden Vision (“I was shown…”) about the “shut door” is more than enough for one to opt following the “Sola Scriptura” principle, thus refusing any addition to the holy writ. The Bible IS sufficient, it contains everything one needs to know to be saved.

Just look at how much discussion, controversy, dissension could have been avoided in Adventism if this Church had followed the “Sola Scriptura” principle since the beginning. But, the saga continues… :roll_eyes:

(Cfowler) #98

There would never have been an SDA church without EGW and her visions, plagiarism, extra-biblical “knowledge”, adding to scripture, etc. Imagine…just being a Christian.

(jeremy) #99

initially, i read through the first 3 chapters and knew i was wasting my time…at the time, i did skim through the rest of it, though, since it was big when i was at AUC in the early 80’s…i will say that i have subsequently held my nose and read through the whole thing…

my feeling is that poor rea confined himself to superficial word and phrase similarities and overlooked the larger point of divergent purposes and final products, which is really what plagiarism is all about…i don’t think he knew what he was talking about, and i don’t think he was a thorough egw reader…


Yeah, he was a real lightweight about EGW :roll_eyes:

Almost from the first time I heard of her, early in my teens, I became a devotee of Ellen G. White and her writings. I learned to type by copying from her book Messages to Young People. In high school and college, I often went from room to room in the dormitory, gathering Ellen White quotations from others to use in my preparations for becoming a minister in the Seventh­day Adventist Church. It was during those days that I conceived the idea of preparing an Adventist commentary by compiling from the writings of Ellen White all the statements pertaining to each book of the Bible, each doctrine, and each Bible character.

Early in my ministerial life (which began in central California in the latter 1940s), I compiled two volumes of Old and New Testment Bible biographies, incorporating with each entry the pertinent quotations found in Ellen White’s works.

The White Lie!

By Walter T. Rea

(jeremy) #101

i didn’t say he wasn’t a prolific reader…my point is that he wasn’t a thorough reader…i don’t think he understood egw…

(Cfowler) #102

Well, that is your opinion. Many would disagree with it.

Are you of the opinion that the people who have abandoned EGW as a prophet/messenger (for many reasons), was because they don’t understand her?

(George Tichy) #103

Your choice Jeremy. I have nothing to add at this time.

(Christopher) #104

Those who know the real meaning of the warning: “To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, there is no truth in them” would never consider her works inspired. She was an amazing plagiarist. The deluded Millerites were easy targets of her feigned visions.