Ellen G. White
The White Lie!
Order Walter Rea's book: "The White Lie"
Ellen G. White Estate, Inc.
Ellen G. White
of Seventhday Adventists
6840 Eastern Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20012
Phone (202) 7230800 Telex 89580
November 29, 1978
W. P. Bradley
R. D. Graybill
D. A. Delafield
D. E. Mansell
P. A. Gordon
A. L. White
Since our meeting yesterday morning when we discussed the name of Jim Cox in connection with research involving the Desire of Ages, two of you have requested that we get something down in writing which might help us a little in our thinking as we anticipate a further discussion of this subject next Tuesday, December 5.
As you all know, there are different individuals over the years who have interested themselves in comparing Mrs. White's writings with the works of other authors, and I suppose that this will continue until the end of time. One of the latest to give his attention to this type of research is Elder Walter Rea, a pastor in the Southern California Conference.
About eight or ten months ago Elder Rea sent me a copy of some of his research which in his opinion showed that Ellen White was highly dependent upon Edersheim for some of the things she had written in Desire of Ages, as well as for the very organization of the book itself, and the use of many chapter titles.
I wrote to Elder Rea at the time and asked him not to move forward with any plans for publishing his findings until I had a chance to talk to him personally at the Southern California Conference Camp Meeting to be held late in July, 1978. To this suggestion Elder Rea readily agreed. When I attended the camp meeting near Palmdale, California, last July, I spent several hours talking with Elder Rea and obtained his consent to withhold the advertising of his work on any kind of broad scale until we had had the opportunity ourselves to look at it first. I told him that if no one at the White Estate had time to make a personal investigation of his work, we would try to kind a qualified scholar somewhere in our ranks who would be able to do this for us. I felt it was in his interests as well as In our own interests that this should be done. Scholars should always be open to the reception of criticisms of their work, and this should be done before publication. Elder Rea has agreed to give us whatever time we need before he a es any further steps on his own.
I have sent a Xerox copy of Elder Rea's work to Elder Kenneth Davis of Southern Missionary College. Elder Davis has indicated his willingness to assist us In this research project. Elder Davis teaches a course in "Life of Christ" at SMC, and for many years has used Edersheim's book on "The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah" in connection with his teaching of the class.
He should be able to give us some report in the summer of 1979. Elder Davis' work will cost the White Estate nothing.
Through Jim Nix at Loma Linda and Ed Turner at Andrews University, I have learned of someone in the Loma Linda area who is makina comparisons between the Desire of Ages and Hanna's book on "The Life of Christ." Jim Nix told me that he saw Hanna's book and that it is heavily underlined in both red and blue and that this is supposed to be the very copy of the book which was used In the White Estate office when Mrs. White was preparing her book The Desire of Ages. Jim Nix has Xeroxed a copy of this book and sent it to us so we eve it here In our office. I don't know how much talk is going on around Loma Linda based on this particular report, but according to Jim Nix there are different ones who are talking about it. Ed Turner gave me essentially the same report four weeks ago when I talked to him at Andrews University. I asked Ed if e could possibly tell me who this individual was and he responded that he could not give this information to me. He said "If you knew who this man was you would understand why I can't give you his name." I asked Ed if he was a loyal Seventhday Adventist or not. His response was that I would probably consider him to be someone more or less on the fringes. Apparently this unknown individual who owns Hanna's "Life of Christ," is a rather intellectual type of person who has quite strong feelings against the White Estate. At least I have come to this conclusion, after talking with Ed Turner.
Ed also told me about a professional man, a dentist as I recall, who lived in the Victorville area, north of Loma Linda, who from his own personal study over the years, had become very familiar with Desire of Ages. This professional man recently had access to Hanna's "Life of Christ," and after reading it, told Ed that it practically "blew his mind" to see the close resemblance that he discovered between Hanna and Ellen White.
When I was at Andrews four weeks ago and met with the ThD students, as well as the faculty, on Thursday, October 26, from 12:30 until 2:30 p.m., I found that I had to field all kinds of questions, including some relating to Desire of Ages and Mrs. White's possible dependence upon other authors for what she had written In that work. The only thing I could say to the students and faculty was that we were aware of assertions that were being made and that we were as anxious as anyone else to know what the facts were, and that we would encourage any research that would be done that would lead us to a fuller understanding of the situation. I told them that Elder Walter Rea had done some work in this area and that I personally felt that his research was not adequate to give us any final conclusions. I said that we at the White Estate simply did not have the personnel necessary to do this kind of work in addition to all of our other responsibilities. And I told them that we were hopeful that we could find help from within the Seminary faculty itself, to give us assistance in this area. I looked directly at Jim Cox, who was sitting about 15 feet In front of me, and I said, "Jim, I hope that you and those in your department will be able to help us in this research so we can acknowledge whatever the facts may be and put the unfounded rumors to rest."
I had not said a word to Jim previous to that moment about the matter, and I think I rather stunned him by my comment. I was aware, of course, of the fact that he had approached Ron Graybill earlier and expressed his interest In pursuing this particular kind of work.
I felt that from a psychological standpoint it would be a good thing for us not to be dragged into this kind of a research program, but to help to foster it. Adventist scholars often feel that those of us here at the White Estate are really not interested in serious research along these lines. They have the feeling we probably are afraid of what might be found. I would like to dispel this notion In the minds of our Adventist Bible teachers if we possibly can.
Whatever attitude we assume at this time, I do not believe we will stop this kind of investigation from going on. We might wish that all such investigations would cease, but our wishing will not bring about any such results I am confident. It seems to me that we have only two alternatives. One IS that we shall be involved in the research in one way or another. The second alternative IS that we shall withdraw from it altogether and simply react to the work of others after they have completed their research. If we accept the latter alternative, I fear that it will affect our credibility rating in the eyes of our Bible teachers.
Incidentally, Ron Graybill mentioned to me that in connection with the request which has come for him to visit the Green Lake Church in Seattle, Washington, for a Spirit of Prophecy weekend, he has already been notified that several members of the church there have questions relating to the use of sources !n the book Desire of Ages. It seems that whether we like it or not, this question IS being discussed more and more widely. I personally feel that it IS In our interest here at the White Estate to help to foster some kind of serious research which will lead to definitive answers to the questions which are being raised At the present time we don't know how to answer the many questions which are coming to us on this point, and I don't want to give the Impression that we are afraid of the facts. I feel that truth has nothing to lose by investigation.
Later in the afternoon of Thursday, October 26, I spent about an hour with Jim Cox in his office in the Seminary building, going over some of the details of the line of research which he would follow if he were to engage In this project for us. I explained to him that we would be interested in knowing just which books Ellen White used as helps while she wrote Desire of Ages, and to what extent these books were used. In other words, what types of material did she draw from the books? What it chronological? Geographical? Cultural? Historical? Most important, of course, we would want to know where Mrs. White differs from her contemporaries. Were these differences In the overall approach and tone? I asked him in particular to look for theological contributions and spiritual lessons found in the Desire of Ages which were not found elsewhere.
If Jim is to do a thorough work in this area for the White Estate, it will be necessary for us to cooperate with him by providing information from our vault which is not now available to him. I refer to correspondence of the 1890's which would give us clues as to who Ellen White's literary assistants were when she was working on Desire of Ages, and something of the nature of their work. It would also be helpful to have any comments made by these workers, especially Marian Davis. It would also be helpful to provide Jim with statements by W C. White, H. Camden Lacey, Dores Robinson, and possibly others, which might cast light on when and how the work on the Desire of Ages was done. There might also be information gleaned from Ellen White's diaries and letters which would provide additional informative details.
Jim told me that he would need at least six months to do the work which he felt would be required, and that he only had a three month sabbatical coming, in the autumn quarter of 1979. He said that he was very keenly interested in this particular assignment and he would be happy to take his three month sabbatical to work on it, but that he could not do it unless the Andrews University administration would give him an additional three months without any teaching responsibilities, so that he could spend a six month stretch in working on this project. Later that same day I talked with Tom Blincoe, as well as with Grady Smoot, about the matter. Both of them seemed favorable at the time, but of course would not make a commitment involving three months of Jim Cox's time. I did not talk with Dick Schwartz when I was there, since he was in the hospital. However, about two weeks ago, Doctors Smoot, Schwartz and Blincoe met and discussed our request. After their committee, Dick telephoned me and told me that they were willing to go along with this project and give Jim Cox the three months' extra time which would be necessary. Dick reminded me that Jim has not always enjoyed the most favorable reputation. I told Dick that I recognized that this was the case, but that I felt that if he was a good enough man to be the chairman of the New Testament Department in our one and only Seventhday Adventist Theological Seminary, he was good enough to do this research work for us. I explained to him that I had talked with Jim on two separate occasions while I was there, totaling about twoandonehalf hours and that I felt I could have confidence in his attitude. Dick assured me that we could count on the cooperation of the Andrews University administration. So everything is moving forward in this direction now, unless something is done to stop it. At the next Board meeting at Andrews University, Dr. Smoot will ask the Board to authorize Jim to use the months of January, February and March 1980, In engaging in this particular project. In the winter quarter of 1980 he would have no teaching responsibilities.
I am enclosing copies of the letters which I have written to Dr. Smoot, Dr. Blincoe and Dr. Cox, as well as a letter received from Dr. Smoot in which he mentions his matter. His letter was written just a few days before Dick Schwartz telephoned me giving their approval.
Now, it may be that I made a mistake when I looked directly at Jim Cox in the Thursday afternoon meeting and openly called for his help. Only the Lord knows whether that was the right thing to do or not. The question before us now is, Where do we go from here? We have the following alternatives, as I see it:
1. We could decide that we would have nothing to do with any research program along this line and so inform our brethren at Andrews. This would mean that anything Jim Cox would wish to do would have to be done on his own, and I rather think that he would engage in some research along this line on his own anyway, because of his interest in the subject and the fact that he is teaching in the field of the Gospels constantly.
2. We could inform the authorities at Andrews that we have decided to do this research ourselves here at the White Estate in Washington and so will not need any assistance from their faculty after all. I do not believe that anyone at Andrews would criticize us if we should decide to follow this procedure.
3. We could inform Dr. Smoot and his associates that we would like to have help from his New Testament faculty at Andrews, but we do not believe the research should be done by the chairman of that department. We could tell them that we have misgivings about Jim and In spite of the fact t at arrangements had been made, we feel that we must look to one of his associates to do the research rather than trusting it to Jim himself.
4. We could endorse the plan which has already be agreed upon by our colleagues at Andrews, as well as Ron Graybill and myself. We could erect whatever safeguards we feel are needed to protect the interests of the White Estate. I think it was Elder White who mentioned that we might appoint a committee who would work with Jim as closely as possible in order to guarantee that the White Estate interests would be protected at all times.
I personally do not see light in any of the first three proposals. Ideally, possibly we should do the research here in our own office. But we simply are not able to do this because of lack of adequate personnel We simply have no one in the office who could drop what he is now doing for six months In order to meet the demand which has really been thrust upon us without our invitation.
The only alternative which seems sensible to me is the last one. It will cost the White Estate nothing for Jim's time, and I do believe that we can stay close enough to him so that the conclusions he arrives at would be essentially the same as the conclusions we would come to were we doing the work ourse ves. eke a re ort ever two or three weeks to a commttee We could ask Jim to m p y composed of people like Tom Blincoe, Roy Graham, Dr Murdoch, Dick Schwartz, and Raoul Dederen. Possibly Dick Schwartz could be the chairman of such a committee.
After we have discussed this matter at our staff meeting on December 5, possibly we will be in a position to frame a recommendation to the Board when it meets on December 7.
With my very best wishes, I am
Robert W. Olson, Secretary
We Speak truth in LOVE
"you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth" Jn 8:40
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