Ellen White's Plagiarizes from C.E. Stowe

William S. Peterson, Spectrum, Autumn, 1971, pp. 73-84

Ellen White had a copy of Dr. Calvin Stowe's book Origin and History of the Books of the Bible in her personal library.1 She plagiarized heavily from it in nearly every paragraph of Manuscript 24, 1886 (written in Europe and after her death the White Estate published it in Selected Messages, book 1, pages 19-21).2

Ellen White C.E. Stowe
Human minds vary. The minds of different education and thought receive different impressions of the same words, and it is difficult for one mind to give to one of a different temperament, education, and habits of thought by language exactly the same idea as that which is clear and distinct in his own mind. Yet to honest men, right-minded men, he can be so simple and plain as to convey his meaning for all practical purposes. {Ms24-1886.1} Moreover, human minds are unlike in the impressions which they receive from the same word; and it is certain that one man seldom gives to another, of different temperament, education, and habits of thought, by language, exactly the same idea, with the same shape and color, as that which lies in his own mind; yet, if men are honest and right-minded they can come near enough to each other's meaning for all purposes of practical utility. (17)
They declare that the Bible> can prove anything and everything, that every sect proves their doctrines right, and that the most diverse doctrines are proven from the Bible. {Ms24-1886.2} Here comes in the objection that the Bible can be made to mean everything and anything, all sects build upon it, the most diverse doctrines are derived from it. (17)
It is not that the difficulty is in the Bible. Opposing politicians argue points of law in the statute book and take opposite views in their application and in these laws. {Ms24-1886.3} It is not anything peculiar to the Bible. Hear two opposing lawyers argue a point of statute law in its application to a particular case. Hear two opposing politicians make their diverse arguments in reference to the true intent and force of a particular clause in the United States Constitution. (17)
The Scriptures were given to men, not in a continuous chain of unbroken utterances, but piece by piece through successive generations, as God in His providences saw a fitting opportunity to impress man at sundry times and divers places. Men wrote as they were moved upon by the Holy Ghost. There is "first the bud, then the blossom, and next the fruit," "first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear." [Mark 4:28.] This is exactly what the Bible utterances are to us. {Ms24-1886.4} The Scriptures were given to men piecemeal, throughout many ages, as God saw the right opportunities at sundry times and in divers manners--this is what the Bible says of itself; and not all at once, as if you must have bud, blossom and fruit, all in the same hour. The analogy here between nature and the word, as in everything else, holds perfectly. 'First the blade, then the ear, and after that the full corn in the ear,' this is what the Bible says of itself, and this is just what we find it to be. (13)
There is not always perfect order or apparent unity in the Scriptures. The miracles of Christ are not given in exact order, but are given just as the circumstances occurred, which called for this divine revealing of the power of Christ. {Ms24-1886.5} There is but little of external unity in the Bible... As well might it be objected to the miracles of Christ that they are not given in philosophical order, beginning with the less and going on to the greater, with just so many and only so many of each kind. (13)
The Bible is not given to us in grand superhuman language. Jesus, in order to reach man where he is, took humanity. The Bible must be given in the language of men. Everything that is human is imperfect. Different meanings are expressed by the same word; there is not one word for each distinct idea. {Ms24-1886.6} The Bible is not given to us in any celestial or superhuman language. If it had been it would have been of no use to us, for every book intended for men must be given to them in the language of men. But every human language is of necessity, and from the very nature of the case, an imperfect language. No human language has exactly one word and only one for each distinct idea. (17)
The stamps of minds are different. All do not understand expressions and statements alike. Some understand the statements of the Scriptures to suit their own particular minds and cases. Prepossessions, prejudices, and passions have a strong influence to darken the understanding and confuse the mind even in reading the words of Holy Writ. {Ms24-1886.7} Yet prepossessions, prejudices and passions come in so plentifully to darken and confuse men's minds, when they are reading the Bible. He opened their understandings that they might understand the Scriptures. Men in these times need to have their understandings both opened and straightened out, that they may understand the Scriptures. (18)
The Bible is written by inspired men, but it is not God's mode of thought and expression. It is that of humanity. God, as a writer, is not represented. Men will often say such an expression is not like God. But God has not put Himself in words, in logic, in rhetoric, on trial in the Bible. The writers of the Bible were God's penmen, not His pen. {Ms24-1886.9} The Bible is not a specimen of God's skill as a writer, showing us God's mode of thought, giving us God's logic, and God's rhetoric, and God's style of historic narration. How often do we see men seeking out isolated passages of Scripture, and triumphantly saying that such expressions are unworthy of God, and could not have proceeded from Him. ... God has not put himself on trial before us in that way in the Bible... It is always to be remembered that the writers of the Bible were 'God's penmen, and not God's pens.' (18)
It is not the words of the Bible that are inspired, but the men that were inspired. Inspiration acts not on the man's words or his expressions, but on the man himself, who under the influence of the Holy Ghost is imbued with thoughts. But the words and thoughts receive the impress of the individual mind. {Ms24-1886.10} It is not the words of the Bible that were inspired, it is not the thoughts of the Bible that were inspired; it is the men who wrote the Bible that were inspired. Inspiration acts not on the man's words, not on the man's thoughts, but on the man himself; so that he, by his own spontaneity, under the impulse of the Holy Ghost, conceives certain thoughts and gives utterance to them in certain words, both the words and the thoughts receiving the peculiar impress of the mind... (19)
The divine mind and will is combined with the human mind and will; thus the utterances of the man are the Word of God. {Ms24-1886.10} The Divine mind is, as it were, so diffused through the human, and the human mind is so interpenetrated with the Divine, that for the time being the utterances of the man are the word of God. (19)


1. The full reference for Stowe's book is: C.E. Stowe, Origin and History of the Books of the Bible both the Canonical and the Apocryphal Designed to Show what the Bible is not, what it is, and how to use it, (Hartford, CN: Hartford Publishing Co., 1868).

2. This plagiarism was first identified by William S. Peterson in Spectrum, Autumn, 1971, pp. 73-84. The fact that Ellen White did not publish this during her lifetime does not release her from the fact she plagiarized it. Here is why: Ellen White's manuscripts were the fodder for many of her later publications. For example, she would write material in diaries, letters, or manuscripts, from which her book-maker, Marian Davis, would later glean material from. Davis, and others who came after her, probably had no idea the material was plagiarized. They most likely thought Mrs. White got the material from a "vision" or her "conversations with angels." Mrs. White wrote thus of Marian Davis, "she gathers materials from my diaries, from my letters, and from the articles published in the papers" (E. G. White to Brother and Sister [J.A.] Burden, January 6, 1903). This reveals that Ellen White was aware that what she was writing in her diary could likely end up in one of her books in the future. She could have easily added the source of her inspiration so that her secretaries would not be duped into thinking that what they were reading was "inspired." Unfortunately, she did not. So, whether the plagiarism is direct, or round-about through a book editor, Mrs. White was aware of how her diary writings were being used to create books that would be pawned to the faithful as the "Spirit of Prophecy." In no way does this alleviate her of the responsibility of giving proper credit to the actual authors.

Category: Plagiarism
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