Authorship of Ellen White Books

The following comes from the class lecture notes, "Ellen G. White Writings,” by Jerry Moon, Ph.D., Professor of Church History and Ellen White Studies at Andrews University, Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary:

Was Ellen White the Author of the Books Which Bore Her Name?

A. A recurring theme among critics of EGW is the suggestion that she is not the real author of the books which bear her name.

1. Various "reasons" have been offered to support this conjecture (and that is exactly what the charge is--unsupportedllegation):

a. In her earlier years: her limited education allegedly precluded the possibility of writing the sophisticated works attributed to her (which church leaders were supposed to have ghost-written).

b. In her latter years: senility is said to have set in, and she was alleged to be totally incapable of phrasing an intelligent sentence because of the infirmities of advancing age.

2. Interestingly, the critics have failed to bring forward hard, coercive evidence to back up these ingenious speculations (and, of course, the burden of proof rests with the critic).

B. An examination of the objective data suggests the total fallacy of this line of reasoning.
Let us now examine:

1. The internal evidence.
2. The external evidence.

C. Internal Evidence for Her Authorship

1. Literary Style: A careful rhetorical analysis of stylistic elements in the corpus of the EGW writings (which covered six decades) points to the obvious conclusion that these are all the literary productions of one and the same author.

a. There is, over the years, a recognizable evolution in literary style (as there is with any writer of literature):

(1) Sentence structure--and length--in the earliest writings tend to be simple, with much use of compound-complex sentences.
(2) Vocabulary tends toward the simplest, most basic words.
(3) Paragraphs tend, generally, to be inordinately long.

(a) And Early Writings is a classic example of these manifestations.


2. In later years, unsurprisingly, a maturity in development of style is observed:

a. Sentence and paragraph length varies from page to page.
b. Vocabulary is more sophisticated.
c. And there is an aesthetic beauty in much of the prose not often witnessed in the earliest writing.


3. There is an evolution of style; but it is an evolution in the style of one writer, not an evidence of multiple-authorship, as some critics aver.


a. Some of EGW's literary helpers stayed for long tenures: Marian Davis worked for her 25 years.
b. But perhaps the more common experience was a fairly short tenure--helpers came and went, while EGW continued to labor with her pen.

(1) You see, if her helpers were the real authors of those works, then there should be marked-even abrupt-changes in the established literary style over the decades.
(2) But an examination of those writings does not support the assertion of the critics; and the evidence forces the conclusion that we deal with the works of a single author.

c. We note in passing that these arguments have much in common with those raised against the authorship of various Biblical books.

(1) Evangelical scholars reject these groundless assumptions and assertions for the same reasons that we reject allegations against EGW's authorship of the books which bear her name.

4. Existence of Handwritten Originals

a. The first practical typewriter was marketed in 1874; 11 years later (in 1885, when EGW was 58), she purchased these machines for her office staff. She was a progressive person who wanted up-to-date equipment for her helpers.
b. That EGW herself, however, never learned to operate a typewriter is fortunate for researchers today, because the first draft of all her manuscripts was written in longhand--indisputable evidence, today, that she was, indeed, the author! She, therefore, perhaps tended to need more literary helpers than might otherwise have been the case. And the task of many of her helpers was simply to reduce to typewritten form the handwritten ("autograph") manuscript so that the editing process might be advanced.
c. There is an evolution not only in literary style, but also in EGW’s handwriting. The late Arthur L. White, Secretary of the White Estate for nearly a half-century, was so familiar with the original manuscripts that he would often astound visitors to the vault by asking them to select one at random, then hold a hand over the date, and allow him to guess the date of origin. (He seldom missed by more than a year or two!)

D. External Evidence for Her Authorship

1. The Testimony of Ellen White herself: Mrs. White claimed to be the author of her books:


a. In a letter to Dr. David Paulson, June 14, 1906, she referred to GC .

(1) This book first appeared in print in 1884 under the title, The Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 4.
(2) In 1888, it came out under the more familiar present title.
(3) In 1911, under the direct supervision of its author, GC was revised to its present form.

b. Twice in one paragraph of this letter she refers to "my introduction," and "my statement" which was contained within that introduction:
In my introduction to The Great Controversy you have no doubt read my statement regarding the Ten Commandments and the Bible, which should have helped you to a correct understanding of the matter under consideration.--1SM 24-25.
c. And in a 1900 letter to GC President G. A. Irwin (1897-1901) from Australia, EGW referred to the literary production of DA, with particular reference to the role of Marian Davis, in these words:
The books are not Marian's productions, but my own, gathered from all my writings. Marian has a large field from which to draw, and her ability to arrange the matter is of great value to me. It saves my poring over a mass of matter, which I have no time to do.--Letter 61a, April 23, 1900; cited in 3SM 91.

2. The Testimony of Marian Davis: In a letter to W.C. White, Aug. 9, 1897, Marian Davis, chief project co-ordinator of the "Life of Christ" (DA) Project team, referred to a letter received from C.H. Jones, long-time manager and president of the Pacific Press, who had been "hounding" her to get the DA manuscript in to him immediately, as he had an exceedingly tight production schedule at that publishing house and wanted to fit this book into it. Note, especially, the concluding sentence:
"I received notice from C. H. Jones that it was planned to publish "Desire of Ages" in the spring of '98, and in order to do this, all the copy must be in the hands of the printers as early as September, '97.
"From what I learned of the artist's work, I cannot believe that the printers will be ready for the manuscript by September. They have now 25 chapters, as finally revised. Twenty-five more we're prepared to send, but a few changes will have to be made in them, as I finish the later chapters. For this I am holding them. . . .
"Sister White is constantly harassed with the thought that the manuscript should be sent to the printers at once. I wish it were possible to relieve her mind, for the anxiety makes it hard for her to write and for me to work. . . . Sister White seems inclined to write, and I have no doubt she will bring out many precious things. I hope it will be possible to get them in the book. There is one thing, however, than not even the most competent editor could do--that is prepare the manuscript before it is written."---Cited in Sourcebook, pp. H-6/33, 34.

3. The Testimony of W. C. White
"Those who have been entrusted with the preparation of these manuscript[s], have been persons who feared the Lord, and who sought him [sic] daily for wisdom and guidance, and they have shared much of His blessing, and the guidance of His Holy Spirit in understanding the precious truths that they were handling. . . . And in answer to prayer, my memory has been refreshed as to where to find very precious statements amongst mother’s writings, that brought in connection with the manuscript at hand, would make a useful article.
"However thankful the copyist may be for this quickening of the mind and memory, it would seem to me to be wholly out of place for us to call this ‘inspiration,’ for it is not in any sense the same gift as that by which the truths are revealed to mother."

4. Internal and external evidence attests that Ellen White was the real author of the books that bear her name.