Questionable Sources: Ellen White's Plagiarism of the Apocrypha and Other Fictional Works

By Brother Anderson

This page examines some of the fictional and questionable sources that Mrs. White used in writing her books. This is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, Ellen White criticized others for reading fiction. Secondly, fictional ideas were incorporated into her inspired writings.


The term "apocrypha" is derived from the Greek word meaning "hidden" or "secret." These books are considered by scholars to be of doubtful authorship or authenticity. They were not accepted into the Jewish canon formed late in the 2nd century AD. The Reformers did not consider these books on a par with the rest of the Scriptures; thus, the custom arose of making the Apocrypha a separate section in the Protestant Bible, or sometimes even of omitting it entirely.1 In 1827, Protestant Bible societies took a stand against the Apocrypha. On the other hand, the Catholic view, expressed as a doctrine of faith at the Council of Trent, is that the Apocrypha is canonical Scripture.

The Apocrypha was used and accepted by many Millerites. The Harmon family Bible contained the Apocrypha.2 Joseph Bates quoted from the Apocrypha in his writings, claiming in 1849:

The 2nd book of Esdras, contains very important truths for those that keep God’s law and commandments...3

In their early career, Ellen and James White held the Apocrypha in high regard. In 1847, James quoted several passages from it in his publication A Word to the Little Flock. In that same publication, Ellen quoted seven times from 2 Esdras. Two years afterward, Ellen made the following comments in an 1849 vision:

Hidden book, it is cast out. Bind it to the heart (4 times) bind it, bind it, bind it, let not its pages be closed, read it carefully.4

One hearing that vision or reading it would certainly be left with the impression that the Apocrypha was critically important! The following year she had yet another vision about the Apocrypha:

I saw that the Apocrypha was the hidden book, and that the wise of these last days should understand it.5

Regardless of whether Mrs. White actually saw that in vision, her wording appears to be a paraphrase of 2 Esdras 12:37-38 (KJV):

"Therefore write all these things that thou hast seen in a book, and hide them: And teach them to the wise of the people, whose hearts thou knowest may comprehend and keep these secrets."

Thus, while the leading men in the sect were pro-Apocrypha, Ellen White was pro-Apocrypha. Following are instances where Mrs. White plagiarized material from the Apocrypha:

Ellen White - Early Writings Apocrypha - 2nd Esdras
Before entering the city, the saints were arranged in a perfect square, with Jesus in the midst. He stood head and shoulders above the saints and above the angels. ... As Jesus called for the crowns, angels presented them to Him, and with His own right hand, the lovely Jesus placed the crowns on the heads of the saints. (p. 287-288) I, Ezra, saw on Mount Zion a great multitude, which I could not number, and they all were praising the Lord with songs. In their midst was a young man of great stature, taller than any of the others, and on the head of each of them he placed a crown, but he was more exalted than they. And I was held spellbound. 2:42,43 (RAPC)
I saw that if the saints had food laid up by them or in the field in the time of trouble, when sword, famine, and pestilence are in the land, it would be taken from them by violent hands and strangers would reap their fields. ... Houses and lands will be of no use to the saints in the time of trouble, for they will then have to flee before infuriated mobs, and at that time their possessions cannot be disposed of to advance the cause of present truth. (p. 56) They will be like madmen, sparing no one, in plundering and pillaging those who still fear the Lord. For they will pillage and plunder their property, and drive them out of their houses. 16:71,72
Mount Zion was just before us, and on the mount was a glorious temple, and about it were seven other mountains, on which grew roses and lilies. And I saw the little ones climb, or, if they chose, use their little wings and fly, to the top of the mountains and pluck the never-fading flowers. (p. 18) I will send you help, my servants Isaiah and Jeremiah. According to their counsel I have consecrated and prepared for you twelve trees loaded with various fruits, and the same number of springs flowing with milk and honey, and seven mighty mountains on which roses and lilies grow; by these I will fill your children with joy. 2:18,19
Jesus raised His mighty, glorious arm, laid hold of the pearly gate, swung it back on its glittering hinges, and said to us, “You have washed your robes in My blood, stood stiffly for My truth, enter in.” (p. 16) Then began I greatly to commend them that stood so stiffly for the name of the Lord. 2:47

In the next passage Ellen White incorporates into her writings the Apocryphal idea that the Ark has been hidden away in some secret location and that at the end of time, when the Lord appears, the Ark and the Law will be shown to all:

Ellen White - PP, GC Apocrypha - 2nd Maccabees
Among the righteous still in Jerusalem, to whom had been made plain the divine purpose, were some who determined to place beyond the reach of ruthless hands the sacred ark containing the tables of stone on which had been traced the precepts of the Decalogue. This they did. With mourning and sadness they secreted the ark in a cave, where it was to be hidden from the people of Israel and Judah because of their sins, and was to be no more restored to them. That sacred ark is yet hidden. It has never been disturbed since it was secreted. (Prophets and Kings, p. 453)

Then there appears against the sky a hand holding two tables of stone folded together. Says the prophet, "The heavens shall declare His righteousness; for God is judge himself." [PS. 50:6.] That holy law, God's righteousness, that amid thunder and flame was proclaimed from Sinai as the guide of life, is now revealed to men as the rule of judgment. The hand opens the tables, and there are seen the precepts of the decalogue, traced as with a pen of fire. The words are so plain that all can read them.
(Great Controversy, 1888 edition, p. 639)

It was also contained in the same writing, that the prophet, being warned of God, commanded the tabernacle and the ark to go with him, as he went forth into the mountain [Nebo] Moses climbed up, and saw the heritage of God. And when Jeremy came thither, he found an hollow cave, wherein he laid the tabernacle, and the ark, and the altar of incense, and so stopped the door. And some of those that followed him came to mark the way, but they could not find it. Which when Jeremy perceived, he blamed them, saying, As for that place, it shall be unknown until the time that God gather his people again together, and receive them unto mercy. Then shall the Lord shew them these things, and the glory of the Lord shall appear, and the cloud also, as it was shewed unto Moses . . . 2 Macc. 4:8

Over time, the Apocrypha fell out of favor with SDA leaders. Ellen White's last mention in writing of "the prophet Ezra" was in 1864.6 In 1888, the Review editors proclaimed the apocrypha was "not inspired."7 When SDA leaders became anti-Apocrypha, Mrs. White seems to have lost all interest in the "hidden book." Ellen White's vision-inspired admonitions commanding her followers to understand the Apocrypha were lost in history and are largely ignored by today's Seventh-day Adventists.

The Book of Jasher

In 1625, Jewish scholars in Venice printed the Book of Jasher in Hebrew. In 1840, and English translation was published in New York. Nearly all scholars agree that the Book of Jasher was most likely written in Spain around the twelfth century A.D. Goodspeed and other scholars believe the book was composed by an author compiling many old Jewish traditions (called Midrash) dating back to around the time of Christ, along with fabricating a few of his own.8

Some of the writings of Ellen White's kindred prophet, Joseph Smith, appear to have also been taken from the Book of Jasher. The Mormon prophet quoted from it as a source which had "not been disproved as a bad author."9

The Book of Jasher contains many questionable stories, such as "snow" falling before the flood (3:38), and a wolf talking to Jacob (43:40-46). It also contradicts the Bible in a number of places. For example, it lists 15 plagues that fell on Egypt instead of the 10 Biblical plagues. It has other bizarre passages, including Rachel talking to Joseph from the grave (42:30-41), and a description of Zepho killing a being that was half man and half beast (61:15).

Despite these unbiblical notions, like fellow prophet Joseph Smith, Mrs. White apparently regarded the fictional book to be of value because she used both the concepts and the words in it to describe her own "visions." Facts about Enoch and the Flood, which are not found in the Bible, were apparently copied by Ellen White from the Book of Jasher. Perhaps the most astonishing copying was the idea of amalgamation of man and beast, which is not found anywhere in Scripture, but is found in the Book of Jasher.

NOT in the Bible Ellen White - Patriarchs and Prophets Apocryphal Book of Jasher
Fire consumed Abel's sacrifice And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering." Fire flashed from heaven and consumed the sacrifice. (p. 71) 1:15. God turned and inclined to Abel and his offering, and a fire came down from the Lord from heaven and consumed it.
Idol-worship prior to flood They glorified human genius, worshiped the works of their own hands, and taught their children to bow down to graven images. In the green fields and under the shadow of the goodly trees they set up the altars of their idols. (pp. 90-91) 2:4,5. And the sons of men went and they served other gods, and they forgot the Lord who had created them in the earth: and in those days the sons of men made images of brass and iron, wood and stone, and they bowed down and served them. And every man made his god and they bowed down to them
God talked to Enoch through Angels 3:3. And it was at the expiration of many years, whilst he was serving the Lord, and praying before him in his house, that an angel of the Lord called to him from Heaven, and he said, Here am I. Through holy angels God revealed to Enoch His purpose to destroy the world by a flood, and He also opened more fully to him the plan of redemption. (p. 85)
Enoch withdrew to solitude and had a light upon his face After remaining for a time among the people, laboring to benefit them by instruction and example, he [Enoch] would withdraw, to spend a season in solitude, hungering and thirsting for that divine knowledge which God alone can impart. Communing thus with God, Enoch came more and more to reflect the divine image. His face was radiant with a holy light, even the light that shineth in the face of Jesus. As he came forth from these divine communings, even the ungodly beheld with awe the impress of heaven upon his countenance. (p. 86) 3:20. And he [Enoch] did in this manner for many years, and he afterward concealed himself for six days, and appeared to his people one day in seven; and after that once in a month, and then once in a year, until all the kings, princes and sons of men sought for him, and desired again to see the face of Enoch, and to hear his word; but they could not, as all the sons of men were greatly afraid of Enoch, and they feared to approach him on account of the Godlike awe that was seated upon his countenance; therefore no man could look at him, fearing he might be punished and die.
Enoch became a preacher, instructed others Enoch became a preacher of righteousness, making known to the people what God had revealed to him. Those who feared the Lord sought out this holy man, to share his instruction and his prayers. He labored publicly also, bearing God's messages to all who would hear the words of warning. He was a fearless reprover of sin.(p. 86) 3:26 And he [Enoch] taught them wisdom and knowledge, and gave them instruction, and he reproved them, and he placed before them statutes and judgments to do upon earth, and he made peace amongst them, and he taught them everlasting life, and dwelt with them some time teaching them all these things.
Enoch went to heaven in a Chariot of fire The flaming chariots of God were sent for this holy man [Enoch], and he was borne to Heaven. (Review and Herald, Apr. 19, 1870) 3:36. ...and it was upon the seventh day that Enoch ascended into heaven in a whirlwind, with horses and chariots of fire.
Men took away the wives, cattle of others If one chose to take the wives, or cattle, or anything belonging to his neighbor, he did not regard justice or right, but if he could prevail over his neighbor by reason of strength, or by putting him to death, he did so, and exulted in his deeds of violence. They loved to destroy the lives of animals. (Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, p. 64) 4:18. And their judges and rulers went to the daughters of men and took their wives by force from their husbands according to their choice, and the sons of men in those days took from the cattle of the earth, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air...
Man and animals cross-breeded (amalgamation) 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. (Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, p. 64) 4:18. ...and taught the mixture of animals of one species with the other...
Noah and Methusaleah were preachers; God could have changed His mind about the flood Amid the prevailing corruption, Methuselah, Noah, and many others labored to keep alive the knowledge of the true God and to stay the tide of moral evil. (p. 94)

They were unwilling to renounce their sins. (p. 95)

Had the antediluvians believed the warning, and repented of their evil deeds, the Lord would have turned aside His wrath, as He afterward did from Nineveh. (p. 97)

5:9. And Noah and Methuselah spoke all the words of the Lord to the sons of men, day after day, constantly speaking to them.

5:10. But the sons of men would not hearken to them, nor incline their ears to their words, and they were stiffnecked.

5:11. And the Lord granted them a period of one hundred and twenty years, saying, If they will return, then will God repent of the evil, so as not to destroy the earth.

Lightning and Thunder attended the flood But upon the eighth day dark clouds overspread the heavens. There followed the muttering of thunder and the flash of lightning. Soon large drops of rain began to fall. The world had never witnessed anything like this, and the hearts of men were struck with fear. (p. 99) 6:11. And on that day, the Lord caused the whole earth to shake, and the sun darkened, and the foundations of the world raged, and the whole earth was moved violently, and the lightning flashed, and the thunder roared, and all the fountains in the earth were broken up, such as was not known to the inhabitants before; and God did this mighty act, in order to terrify the sons of men, that there might be no more evil upon earth.
Wicked pleaded for entrance into Ark Others were frantic with fear, stretching their hands toward the ark and pleading for admittance. But their entreaties were in vain. Conscience was at last aroused to know that there is a God who ruleth in the heavens. They called upon Him earnestly, but His ear was not open to their cry.(p. 100) 6:18. And they called to Noah saying open for us that we may come to thee in the ark-and wherefore shall we die?
6:23. [Noah replied:] "But now you come and tell me this on account of the troubles of your souls, now also the Lord will not listen to you, neither will he give ear to you on this day, so that you will not now succeed in your wishes."
Animals in Ark were terrified The massive ark trembled in every fiber as it was beaten by the merciless winds and flung from billow to billow. The cries of the beasts within expressed their fear and pain. But amid the warring elements it continued to ride safely. (p. 100) 28. And the ark floated upon the face of the waters, and it was tossed upon the waters so that all the living creatures within were turned about like pottage in a cauldron.
29. And great anxiety seized all the living creatures that were in the ark, and the ark was like to be broken.
30. And the living creatures that were in the ark were terrified, and the lions roared, and the oxen lowed, and the wolves howled, and every living creature in the ark spoke and lamented in its own language, so that their voices reached to a great distance...

Babel destroyed by lightening Lightning from heaven, as a token of God's wrath, broke off the top of their tower, casting it to the ground. (Spirit of Prophecy, pp. 92-93) 9:38 And as to the tower which the sons of men built...a fire also descended from heaven and burned another third...
Terah's family served idols Abraham had grown up in the midst of superstition and heathenism. Even his father's household, by whom the knowledge of God had been preserved, were yielding to the seductive influences surrounding them, and they "served other gods" than Jehovah. ... for with their idolatry they united the worship of the true God. (pp. 125,127) 9:7. ...and Terah with all his household were then the first of those that served gods of wood and stone.

John Cumming

John Cumming (1807–1881) was a Scottish minister and religious author of 180 books. Here is an example where Mrs. White copied his words:

John Cumming, 1865 Ellen White
"Heaven is the great continent of glory; this earth was once a part of it; but sin, with its disruptive force, broke off this earth from that continent of heaven..."

(Behold, The Bridegroom Cometh: The Last Warning Cry, With Reasons For The Hope That Is In Me (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1865), 207)

1885 -"Through sin our world was divorced from the continent of heaven. . ."
(The Review and Herald, October 27, 1885)

1886 - " . . . . This world is, as it were, but one link in a chain composed of a thousand links; but because of sin it was struck off from the continent of heaven, and Satan claimed it as his."
(The Review and Herald, March 9, 1886)

1887 - ". . . .  Though earth was struck off from the continent of Heaven and alienated from its communion, Jesus has connected it again with the sphere of glory."
(The Signs of the Times, November 24, 1887)

1888 - "This earth because of transgression had been struck off from the continent of heaven."
(Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, February 28, 1888)

1890 - ". . . . The transgression of man had separated earth from heaven, and finite man from the infinite God. As an island is separated from a continent, so earth was cut off from heaven, and a wide channel intervened between man and God. . ."
(The Review and Herald, November 11, 1890)

". . . . After the transgression of Adam, God no longer communicated directly with man; earth was separated, as it were, from the continent of heaven; . . . ."
(The Review and Herald, June 10, 1890)

1894 - ". . . . Jesus became the world's Redeemer, rendering perfect obedience to every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. He redeemed Adam's disgraceful fall, and threw the kingdoms of this world back into favor with God, uniting the earth, that had been divorced by sin from God, to the continent of heaven."
(The Signs of the Times, March 26, 1894)

1900 - ". . . .The world that was separated by sin from the continent of heaven, he drew back into favor with God."
(The Youth's Instructor, February 22, 1900)

See also



2. Ron Graybill, "Under the Triple Eagle: Early Adventist Use of the Apocrypha," Adventist Heritage 12, No. 1 (Winter, 1987): 26.

3. Joseph Bates, A Seal of the Living God (1849), 66.

4. Ellen White, Ms. 5, Sep. 23, 1849, Topsham, Maine.

5. Ellen White, Ms. 4, 1850.

6. Ellen White, Spiritual Gifts 4b (1864), 70.

7. Graybill, 32.

8. Edgar J. Goodspeed, Modern Apocrypha, Famous "Biblical" Hoaxes (The Beacon Press, Boston, 1956).

9. Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons, 3 (Sep. 1 1842): 902.

Category: Plagiarism
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