We analyze. You decide!
"No lie can live forever." Thomas Carlyle

Answers to Some Objections

      First objection: "EGW did not "borrow", that is a euphemism for plagiarism peculiar to Adventist apologists."

      Anyone who is remotely familiar with the Synoptic Problem (Matthew, Mark and Luke share quite a bit of the same wording; one estimate is as high as 90%) knows that the scholars in the field use the term "literary borrowing" quite frequently when dealing with this issue. For one example, Daniel Wallace (a non-Adventist scholar) uses the words "literary borrowing" in his article on The Synoptic Problem at (Click here). In the same field of religion, a non-Adventist scholar Jeffrey Tigay, wrote an article on "Evaluating the Claims of Literary Borrowing" found online at (Click here). Another non-Adventist scholar, Dr. Tom R. Roberts uses the term "literary borrowing" in the very title of one of his books: From Sacral Kingship to Sacred Marriage: A Theological Analysis of Literary Borrowing. Finally, we can note that in the New York Times as far back as Nov. 29, 1885 the editors of the paper used the word "borrowing" in connection with the issue of plagiarism (page 11). So, in short, to claim that the Adventists use of the term is a "euphemism" shows either a lack of knowledge about the real world or is a deliberate, and quite shallow, attempt to avoid dealing with the issue at hand.

      Second objection: "Walter's material was so overwhelming that the select committee set up by the General Conference to hang him ended up voting 18-0 that his evidence proved more "borrowing" then [sic] the church had heretofore ever acknowledged."

      The committee was not set up "to hang" Walter Rea. The committee was set up, as Neal Wilson said, "to very honestly and openly evaluate this matter for us." Specifically, they were to examine if "the degree of verifiable "borrowing" and "literary dependency" [was] of alarming proportions? What ultimately "hanged" Rea was two-fold: one, the fact that the evidence did NOT back up his claim that the "borrowing" was of 'alarming proportions"--i.e., Walter Rea, greatly, as it turns out, exaggerated the degree of "borrowing" to be found in Ellen G. White writings; and secondly, he assumed that his mis-reading of the data proved that Ellen G. White was not inspired.

      Third objection: "As for Veltman, in digging out the position paper for you, I did see that I had copies of correspondence with him in the couple of file-drawers I have kept of this stuff. I did not bother to read it. My recollection was that he was a second-rate scholar who merely wanted to write an acceptable apologia for the church."

      First, I would suggest that you re-read the correspondence and Dr. Veltman's study--he is not a second-rate scholar, nor did you produce any evidence that he was. Second, you have not proven that you have the talent or skill or expertise to do this work and thus you are not in a position to judge someone else. Third, if you think his work was "merely" an "apologia" then why don't you hire some scholars whose reputation that you would respect and have them look at the data? I find it odd that this issue has been around since Rea published his book in 1982 and none of the critics have ever taken any of their assured findings and run them past an unbiased scholar in the field.

      "In court we are limited to enough evidence. We are prohibited from piling on merely cumulative evidence."

      First of all, all I have really done so far is to look closely at the very evidence Rea put forth on Desire of Ages as proof for his claim and then to look at Dr. Veltman's analysis in fuller detail. I fail to see how that is "piling on". Secondly, Rea produced "evidence" for his claim on quite a number of Ellen G. White books vs. just one--isn't that "piling on"? Third, Rea has not stopped "piling on" coming out with a web page recently (November 2005;see the page at (Click here)) alleging that Ellen G. White in writing a number of different chapters in various books "paraphrased" Daniel March's Night Scenes in the Bible.

      "Since you are basing your modifications, observations and conclusions" ... upon a Conybeare and Howson text that was published 44 years after the one Rea used "what proof, if any, do you have that" your "edition is identical" to the one Rea used?

      First of all, I have not made any "modifications" of any kind to any of the evidence. Second, there is no evidence that the two printings are different. What you are basically saying is that a printer modified the text and then passed it off to the public as if it was the original work. The burden of proof lies with those who are making the claim. All I have done is to request a copy of the book from the public library, or bought it and then compared what it had with what Rea said it says.

      "Why is there no indication of paraphrasing in these tables? ... Ellen's forte was stealing thoughts and ideas from other writers and then paraphrasing the original material or restating the stolen idea in totally different words. How can you come up with accurate dependency percentages when you have made no apparent effort to examine one of the two areas of Ellen's most prolific borrowing?"

      First of all, it seems that you are not aware of the normal practice of plagiarism. Typically it is verbatim with no attempt being made to change any (or very little) of the wording. This can be seen in a variety of ways. I have posted tables showing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s plagiarism. I have posted tables showing plagiarism in poetry (see the book Stolen Words. The Hunt for a Plagiarist.). Another quick way to examine this is to simply type "plaiar*" into any web search engine and start browsing. The usual method you read about is, for example, where a newspaper columnist copied entire paragraphs word-for-word (in one case 13 out of 15) in one article.

      Second, if one cannot prove word-for-word plagiarism how does one prove that paraphrasing took place? Wouldn't any two writers, of the same language, living in the same historical era, writing on the same topic bound to sound alike? Look at Matthew, Mark and Luke--did they copy from each other? Or, could the verbal similarities simply be the result of them writing about the life of the same Person? Guess who has the burden of proof here? Please show us one indisputable example of paraphrasing and eliminate all other possibilities. Where is the proof that Ellen G. White paraphrased? When a claim is made and no effort is made to present evidence to prove it then it has no merit. As mentioned above Rea has gone on record claiming that Ellen G. White "paraphrased" a work of Daniel March in several of her works. However, when one looks for the evidence that would support this claim it is noticed that he doesn't produce any. He simply points to specific pages and leaves the work for the reader--which most will never do. I did. Needless to say, the evidence doesn't support his claim on this point. One can readily see the evidence at (Index page) and look at chapters 40, 49, 73, 74, 83, and 85 in Desire of Ages.

      Third, if you cannot prove word-for-word copying, and you cannot, and have not, proven paraphrasing then how can you then claim and prove that Ellen G. White stole ideas? Where's the proof? And how would one prove it in the first place? Ideas are expressed in words. One cannot steal an idea without using words to express that idea. If you say "true" and I say "false" I did not steal your idea. If you say "saved by faith" and I say "saved by faith" I did not steal your idea because it wasn't yours to begin with! Where is the proof that one an steal an idea and express it "in totally different words"?

      Finally, to re-state your question: "How can you come up with accurate dependency percentages when you have made no apparent effort to produce any evidence and a reliable method of measurement for calculating paraphrasing and the stealing of ideas?

      "[You wrote:] note "the amount [of] material that she didn't copy from Conybeare and Howson." ... What proof do you have that Ellen did not borrow from other sources ... in producing the passages set out in Elder Rea's comparison tables?"

      My study is based on Rea's work and simply color-codes it so you can see what is going on. The burden of proof that Ellen G. White used sources other than what Rea alleges belongs with those making the claim. My point was the amount of material _in_ Conybeare and Howson that is not in Ellen G. White's work. You have mis-read what I wrote.

      "You have offered no proof whatsoever that this material from The Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 3 is not dependent upon the source material in question [Conybeare and Howson] for ideas, concepts, viewpoints, thematic development, chapter and paragraph structure, chapter headings, etc."

      First of all, the tables in question looked at the relationship between Conybeare and Howson's work with that of Ellen G. White's work Sketches from the Life of Paul and had nothing whatsoever to do with her book The Spirit of Prophecy. Evidently you didn't read the table headings very carefully.

      Secondly, the burden of proof that Ellen G. White was dependent upon source material for "ideas, concepts, viewpoints, thematic development, chapter and paragraph structure, chapter headings, etc." lies with those who wish to make the claim. To date such evidence has not been provided by any of the critics, despite the 23 years that have elapsed since the publication of Walter Rea's book.

      You "have no grounds whatsoever for asserting that these tables show there is anything wrong with the 80-90% dependency figure from Elder Rea."

      The burden of proving the 80-90% figure lies with Rea and his supporters (none of which have produced any independent evidence to support Rea's case). All I show is that based on the very evidence that Rea presents it does not support his claim. I do not have to prove Rea's case. All I'm doing is showing that, in fact, the evidence does not support him.

      "These passages you have added are no doubt loaded with material stolen from other writers."

      The passages I have "added" are simply other paragraphs in Ellen G. White's works in the specific chapter under examination. The burden of proof that these are "loaded with material stolen from other writers" lies with those who wish to support it. Otherwise, we can start with the assumption "innocent until proven guilty".

      "The true issue you must consider and pray about is the doctrine of inspiration."

      It is true that at the heart of this whole issue is what we call inspiration and revelation. I have taken an entire course on the subject at Andrews University while I was in the seminary. I have read a number of works on the subject as well. It seems to me that what the critics have done is that they have assumed that Ellen G. White was verbally inspired even though she herself never taught such a concept and her staff did not adhere to it either when they edited her works.

      At this point it would be best to close with the personal testimony of one of the critics whose questions and objections I have dealt with in the above:

"Once freed of the supernatural view of her knowledge, creationism soon fell. Finally, I was able to acknowledge that sinfulness is not the essential nature of man. I could honestly say I was a good person. If there is a God who feels it is necessary to punish me forever, then that is His problem."

© David J. Conklin (January 4, 2006)

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