Questions Answered: Did Ellen White say the Bible was dictated by God?

By Brother Anderson

Questions Answered

Mrs. White wrote two statements strongly indicating verbal inspiration of the Bible:

He who is the father of lies, blinds and deceives the world by sending his angels forth to speak for the apostles, and make it appear that they contradict what they wrote when on earth, which was dictated by the Holy Ghost.1

The scribes of God wrote as they were dictated by the Holy Spirit, having no control of the work themselves. They penned the literal truth...2

Since these statements contradict the 1988 SDA position that the words of the Bible are not inspired (only the thoughts of the authors are inspired), SDA professor Jud Lake wrote a six-page document with a long explanation of how the word "dictated" in these passages does not mean God communicated to the authors exactly what He wanted to be written. Rather, he claims the word "dictating" should "be interpreted in the sense of control and direction of the Holy Spirit, but only that God directed or controlled the authors."3

Here is the definition from the 1864 Webster’s Dictionary, which is close in time to when Ellen White published her statements.

Dictate-

  1. To deliver or state for another person to reduce to writing; to utter so that another may write down.
  2. To communicate with authority; to deliver to a subordinate, as a command.

From this definition it should be apparent that both of Ellen White’s quotes are about delivering words for another to write out. The context does not support the sense that God was commanding them to write.

In addition to the contextual evidence, there are three other strong reasons to believe Ellen White actually meant the apostles and scribes were writing down the actual words God delivered to them:

1. At the time she wrote these statement, she believed in verbal inspiration. Therefore, her statements are consistent with her belief. For evidence of that, click here.

2. At the time she wrote these statements, the SDA Church still believed in verbal inspiration. Therefore, her statements are consistent with her church’s stance. For evidence of that, click here.

3. While Ellen White frequently used the word “dictate” in the sense of directing or commanding, she also frequently used the word “dictate” to indicate the writing down of words which someone else was uttering:

  • Paul “dictated” his “dying testimony” to Timothy (AA 499.1, also 4T 353.1; also 3LtMs, Lt 1a, 1879, par. 3)
  • Satan “dictated much of” Thomas Paine’s “writings” (EW 90.2, also EW 264)
  • Henry White “dictated” a letter before he died (LS88 347.1)
  • Ellen White (or Willie) took dictation from James for his articles and letters when he was too ill to write (LS 174.1, also 1LtMs, Lt 2, 1867, par. 2; also 1LtMs, Ms 15, 1868, par. 13; 2LtMs, Ms 8, 1873, par. 22; 2LtMs, Ms 9, 1873, par. 8; 2LtMs, Ms 9, 1873, par. 17; 2LtMs, Lt 29, 1875, par. 10; 4LtMs, Lt 96, 1886, par. 1)
  • Paul “dictated” the book of Corinthians to Sosthenes (LP 151.1)
  • God “dictated” a message to Ellen White that would have saved the brethren from trouble (SpTB05 45.1)
  • Ellen White “dictated” letters to her secretaries (4LtMs, Lt 95, 1886, par. 6; 4LtMs, Ms 61, 1886, par. 12)

When interpretting any word that has multiple potential meanings, one must always consider the context of the passage. The context favors the definition that God was communicating actual words to his servants, just as Ellen white dictated actual words to her secretaries. Lake's recent attempt to recast the most obvious meaning of "dictate" to a less obvious meaning has the appearance of a thinly veiled attempt to try and explain away Mrs. White's contradictory statements about verbal inspiration. The context should drive the definition, not an attempt to resolve the issues with Ellen White's writings.

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Citations

1. Ellen White, Supplement to the Christian Experience and Views of Ellen White (1854), p. 8. See also, Spiritual Gifts vol. 1, p. 176.

2. Ellen White, Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 9. Later this was republished in the January 22, 1880, Review and Herald.

3. Jud Lake, “Did Ellen White Contradict Herself on Thought Inspiration?”

Category: Contradictions
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