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Life of Paul Plagiarized

Compiled by Dirk Anderson

Perhaps the most flagrant example of Mrs. White's habit of plagiarism is her book, Sketches From the Life of Paul, published in 1883. Much of the material in the book was taken directly from W. J. Conybeare and J. S. Howson’s Life and Epistles of Saint Paul, written some 30 years earlier.

In the preface to the 1883 version of Mrs. White's book this brash claim is made:

"The writer of this book, having received especial help from the Spirit of God, is able to throw light upon the teachings of Paul and their application to our own time, as no other authors are prepared to do."
Take note:
  1. Mrs. White received "special help" in writing the book.
  2. No other authors were "prepared" to write such a book.
The first statement is partially true. Mrs. White did receive "special help"; however, the "help" she received was more from human authors, rather than the "Spirit of God". The second statement is false because such a book had already been written 30 years earlier--a book that was in the possession of Sister White and was part of her personal library.

After two printings the Life of Paul was withdrawn from print. A.G. Daniells, the president of the General Conference, discussed the problem the book posed for church leaders at the 1919 Conference on the Spirit of Prophecy:

"Now you know something about that little book, Life of Paul. You know the difficulty we got into about that. We could never claim inspiration in the whole thought and make up of the book, because it has been thrown aside because it was badly put together. Credits were not given to the proper authorities, and some of that crept into The Great Controversy -- the lack of credits; and in the revision of that book those things were carefully run down and made right. ...

"Yes; and now take that Life of Paul, -- I suppose you all know about it and knew what claims were put up against her, charges made of plagiarism, even by the authors of the book, Conybeare and Howson, and were liable to make the denomination trouble because there was so much of their book put into The Life of Paul without any credit or quotation marks. Some people of strict logic might fly the track on that ground, but I am not built that way. I found it out, and I read it with Brother Palmer when he found it, and we got Conybeare and Howson, and we got Wylie's History of the Reformation, and we read word for word, page after page, and no quotations, no credit, and really I did not know the difference until I began to compare them. I supposed it was Sister White's own work. ...

"There I saw the manifestation of the human in these writings."

Apparently many church members also "saw the manifestation of the human" in Ellen White's writings after this incident because Daniells goes on to lament:
"I wished a different course had been taken in the compilation of the books. If proper care had been exercised, it would have saved a lot of people from being thrown off the track."
It seems as if Daniells is saying that if the church had been more adept at hiding her plagiarism, as in later books, then perhaps not so many people would have discovered Ellen White was not all that the church claimed she was. The church "fixed" the problem by withdrawing the book from print before any legal action was taken. Daniells says:
"The book was set aside, and I have never learned who had a hand in fixing that up. It may be that some do know."
It is clear from this that not only were SDA church leaders aware of Mrs. White's plagiaristic practices, but they had also already begun making excuses for it and were involved in "fixing" the problem as early as the late 1800s.

For those wishing to examine examples of the copying, the following comparitive study was published by Denis Fortin of Andrew's University in his article, "Ellen G. White as a Writer: Case Studies in the Issue of Literary Borrowing."

Ellen G. White
Sketches from the Life of Paul
Conybeare and Howson
The Life and Epistles of St. Paul
The Jews, now widely dispersed in all civilized lands, were generally expecting the speedy advent of the Messiah. In their visits to Jerusalem at the annual feasts, many had gone out to the banks of the Jordan to listen to the preaching of John the Baptist. From him they had heard the proclamation of Christ as the Promised One, and on their return home they had carried the tidings to all parts of the world. (129) Many Jews from other countries received from the Baptist their knowledge of the Messiah, and carried with them this knowledge on their return from Palestine.... But in a position intermediate between this deluded party and those who were travelling as teachers of the full and perfect gospel there were doubtless many among the floating Jewish population of the empire whose knowledge of Christ extended only to that which had been preached on the banks of the Jordan. (385-386)
On his arrival at Ephesus, Paul found twelve brethren, who, like Apollos, had been disciples of John the Baptist, and like him had gained an imperfect knowledge of the life and mission of Christ. (129) Apollos, along with twelve others who are soon afterward mentioned at Ephesus, was acquainted with Christianity only so far as it had been made known by John the Baptist. (385)
The city was famed for the worship of the goddess Diana and the practice of magic. (134) This city was renowned throughout the world for the worship of Diana and the practice of magic. (392)
Here was the great temple of Diana, which was regarded by the ancients as one of the wonders of the world. Its vast extent and surpassing magnificence made it the pride, not only of the city, but of the nation. Kings and princes had enriched it by their donations. The Ephesians vied with one another in adding to its splendor, and it was made the treasure-house for a large share of the wealth of Western Asia. (134) This was the temple of Artemis or Diana, which glittered in brilliant beauty at the head of the harbor, and was reckoned by the ancients as one of the wonders of the world....The national pride in the sanctuary was so great that when Alexander offered the spoils of his Eastern campaign if he might inscribe his name on the building, the honor was declined. The Ephesians never ceased to embellish the shrine of their goddess, continually adding new decorations and subsidiary buildings, with statues and pictures by the most famous artists. (429-430)
The idol enshrined in this sumptuous edifice was a rude, uncouth image, declared by tradition to have fallen from the sky. (134) If the temple of Diana at Ephesus was magnificent, the image enshrined within the sumptuous enclosure was primitive and rude. (431)
Upon it were inscribed mystic characters and symbols, which were believed to possess great power. When pronounced, they were said to accomplish wonders. When written, they were treasured as a potent charm to guard their possessor from robbers, from disease, and even from death. Numerous and costly books were written by the Ephesians to explain the meaning and use of these symbols. (134-135) Eustathius says that the mysterious symbols called 'Ephesian Letters' were engraved on the crown, the girdle, and the feet of the goddess.... When pronounced they were regarded as a charm, and were directed to be used especially by those who were in the power of evil spirits. When written they were carried about as amulets.... The study of these symbols was an elaborate science, and books, both numerous and costly, were compiled by its professors. (392)
As Paul was brought in direct contact with the idolatrous inhabitants of Ephesus, the power of God was strikingly displayed through him. The apostles were not always able to work miracles at will. The Lord granted his servants this special power as the progress of his cause or the honor of his name required. Like Moses and Aaron at the court of Pharaoh, the apostle had now to maintain the truth against the lying wonders of the magicians; hence the miracles he wrought were of a different character from those which he had heretofore performed. As the hem of Christ's garment had communicated healing power to her who sought relief by the touch of faith, so on this occasion, garments were made the means of cure to all that believed; "diseases departed from them, and evil spirits went out of them." Yet these miracles gave no encouragement to blind superstition. When Jesus felt the touch of the suffering woman, he exclaimed, "Virtue is gone out of me." [italics hers] So the scripture declares that the Lord wrought miracles by the hand of Paul, and that the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified, and not the name of Paul. (135) This statement throws some light on the peculiar character of the miracles wrought by Paul at Ephesus. We are not to suppose that the apostles were always able to work miracles at will. An influx of supernatural power was given to them at the time and according to the circumstances that required it. And the character of the miracles was not always the same. They were accommodated to the peculiar forms of sin, superstition, and ignorance they were required to oppose. Here, at Ephesus, Paul was in the face of magicians, like Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh; and it is distinctly said that his miracles were 'not ordinary wonders,' from which we may infer that they were different from those which he usually performed .... A miracle which has a closer reference to our present subject is that in which the hem of Christ's garment was made effectual to the healing of a poor sufferer and the conviction of the bystanders. So on this occasion garments were made the means of communicating a healing power to those who were at a distance, whether they were possessed with evil spirits or afflicted with ordinary diseases. Yet was this no encouragement to blind superstition. When the suffering woman was healed by touching the hem of the garment, the Saviour turned round and said, 'Virtue is gone out of me.' [italics theirs] And here at Ephesus we are reminded that it was God who 'wrought miracles by the hands of Paul' (v.11), and that 'the name,' not of Paul, but 'of the Lord Jesus, was magnified' (v.17). (393)
Sorcery had been prohibited in the Mosaic law, on pain of death, yet from time to time it had been secretly practiced by apostate Jews. At the time of Paul's visit to Ephesus, there were in the city certain Jewish exorcists, who, seeing the wonders wrought by him, claimed to possess equal power. Believing that the name of Jesus acted as a charm, they determined to cast out evil spirits by the same means which the apostle had employed. (136) The stern severity with which sorcery was forbidden in the Old Testament attests the early tendency of the Israelites to such practices.... This passage in Paul's latest letter [2 Tim. 3:13] had probably reference to that very city in which we see him now brought into oppositions with Jewish sorcerers. These men, believing that the name of Jesus acted as a charm, and recognizing the apostle as a Jew like themselves, attempted his method of casting out evil spirits. (393-394)
An attempt was made by seven brothers, the sons of one Sceva, a Jewish priest. Finding a man possessed with a demon, they addressed him, "We adjure thee by Jesus, whom Paul preacheth." But the evil spirit answered with scorn, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?" and the one possessed sprang on them with frantic violence, and beat and bruised them, so that they fled out of the house, naked and wounded. (136) One specific instance is recorded which produced disastrous consequences to those who made the attempt, and led to wide results among the general population. In the number of those who attempted to cast out evil spirits by the 'name of Jesus' were seven brothers, sons of Sceva, who is called a high priest... But the demons, who were subject to Jesus, and by his will subject to those who preached his gospel, treated with scorn those who used his Name without being converted to his truth. 'Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?' was the answer of the evil spirit. And straightway the man who was possessed sprang upon them with frantic violence, so that they were utterly discomfited, and 'fled out of the house naked and wounded.'" (394)
The discomfiture and humiliation of those who had profaned the name of Jesus, soon became known throughout Ephesus, by Jews and Gentiles. Unmistakable proof had been given of the sacredness of that name, and the peril which they incurred who should invoke it while they had no faith in Christ's divine mission. Terror seized the minds of many, and the work of the gospel was regarded by all with awe and reverence. Facts which had previously been concealed were now brought to light. In accepting Christianity, some of the brethren had not fully renounced their heathen superstitions. The practice of magic was still to some extent continued among them. Convinced of their error by the events which had recently occurred, they came and made a full confession to Paul, and publicly acknowledged their secret arts to be deceptive and Satanic. (136-137) This fearful result of the profane use of that holy Name which was proclaimed by the apostles of all men soon became notorious, both among the Greeks and the Jews. Consternation and alarm took possession of the minds of many, and in proportion to this alarm the name of the Lord Jesus began to be reverenced and honored. Even among those who had given their faith to Paul's teaching, some appear to have retained their attachment to the practice of magical arts. Their conscience was moved by what had recently occurred, and they came and made a ful confession to the apostle, and publicly acknowledged and forsook their deeds of darkness. (394)
Many sorcerers also abjured the practice of magic, and received Christ as their Saviour. They brought together the costly books containing the mysterious "Ephesian letters," and the secrets of their art, and burned them in the presence of all the people. When the books had been consumed, they proceeded to reckon up the value of the sacrifice. It was estimated at fifty thousand pieces of silver, equal to about ten thousand dollars. (137) The fear and conviction seem to have extended beyond those who made a profession of Christianity. A large number of the sorcerers themselves openly renounced the practice which had been so signally condemned by a higher power, and they brought together the books that contained the mystic formularies and burnt them before all the people. When the volumes were consumed they proceeded to reckon up the price at which these manuals of enchantment would be valued.... Hence we must not be surprised that the whole cost thus sacrificed and surrendered amounted to as much as two thousand pounds of English money. (394-395)
The month of May was specially devoted to the worship of the goddess of Ephesus. The universal honor in which this deity was held, the magnificence of her temple and her worship, attracted an immense concourse of people from all parts of the province of Asia. Throughout the entire month the festivities were conducted with the utmost pomp and splendor. ... The officers chosen to conduct this grand celebration were the men of highest distinction in the chief cities of Asia. They were also persons of vast wealth, for in return for the honor of their position, they were expected to defray the entire expense of the occasion. The whole city was a scene of brilliant display and wild revelry. Imposing processions swept to the grand temple. The air rung with sounds of joy. The people gave themselves up to feasting, drunkenness, and the vilest debauchery. (141) The whole month of May was consecrated to the glory of the goddess.... The Artemisian festival was not simply an Ephesian ceremony, but was fostered by the sympathy and enthusiasm of all the surrounding neighborhood ... so this gathering was called 'the common meeting of Asia.' ... [They enjoyed] the various amusements which made the days and nights of May one long scene of revelry. ... About the time of the vernal equinox each of the principal towns within the district called Asia chose one of its wealthiest citizens, and from the whole number thus returned then were finally selected to discharge the duty of asiarchs. ... Receiving no emolument from their office, but being required rather to extend large sums for the amusement of the people and their own credit, they were necessarily persons of wealth. (435)
It had long been customary among heathen nations to make use of small images or shrines to represent their favorite objects of worship. Portable statues were modeled after the great image of Diana, and were widely circulated in the countries along the shores of the Mediterranean. Models of the temple which enshrined the idol were also eagerly sought. Both were regarded as objects of worship, and were carried at the head of processions, and on journeys and military expeditions. An extensive and profitable business had grown up at Ephesus from the manufacture and sale of these shrines and images. (142) One of the idolatrous customs of the ancient world was the use of portable images or shrines, which were little models of the more celebrated objects of devotion. They were carried in processions, on journeys and military expeditions, and sometimes set up as household gods in private houses. ... From the expression used by Luke, it is evident that an extensive and lucrative trade grew up at Ephesus from the manufacture and sale of these shrines. Few of those who came to Ephesus would willingly go away without a memorial of the goddess and a model of her temple; and from the wide circulation of these works of art over the shores of the Mediterranean and far into the interior it might be said, with little exaggeration, that her worship was recognized by the 'whole world'. (431-432)
Those who were interested in this branch of industry found their gains diminishing. All united in attributing the unwelcome change to Paul's labors. Demetrius, a manufacturer of silver shrines, called together the workmen of his craft, and by a violent appeal endeavored to stir up their indignation against Paul. (142) Doubtless, those who employed themselves in making the portable shrines of Diana expected to drive a brisk trade at such a time, and when they found that the sale of these objects os superstition was seriously diminished, and that the preaching of Paul was the cause of their merchandise being depreciated.... A certain Demetrius, a master-manufacturer in the craft, summoned together the workmen, ... and addressed to them an inflammatory speech. (436)
He represented that their traffic was endangered, and pointed out the great loss which they would sustain if the apostle were allowed to turn the people away from their ancient worship. He then appealed to their ruling superstition.... (142) Demetrius appealed first to the interest of his hearers, and then to their fanaticism. He told them that their gains were in danger of being lost, and , besides this, that 'the temple of the great goddess Diana'... was in danger of being despised.... (437)
This speech acted as fire to the stubble. The excited passions of the people were roused, and burst forth in the cry, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!" (143) Such a speech could not be lost when thrown like fire on such inflammatory materials. The infuriated feeling of the crowd of assembled artisans broke out at once into a cry in honor of the divine patron of their city and their craft - 'Great is Diana of the Ephesians!' (437)
A report of the speech of Demetrius was rapidly circulated. The uproar was terrific. The whole city seemed in commotion. An immense crowd soon collected, and a rush was made to the workshop of Aquila, in the Jewish quarters, with the object of securing Paul. In their insane rage they were ready to tear him in pieces. But the apostle was not to be found. His brethren, receiving an intimation of the danger, had hurried him from the place. Angels of God were sent to guard the faithful apostle. His time to die a martyr's death had not yet come. Failing to find the object of their wrath, the mob seized two of his companions, Gaius and Aristarchus, and with them hurried on to the theater. (143) The excitement among this important and influential class of operatives was not long in spreading through the whole city. The infection seized upon the crowds of citizens and strangers, and a general rush was made to the theatre, the most obvious place of assembly. On their way they seem to have been foiled in the attempt to lay hold of the person of Paul, though they hurried with them into the theatre two of the companions of his travels, Caius and Aristarchus, whose home was in Macedonia. (437)
Several of the most honorable and influential among the magistrates sent him an earnest request not to venture into a situation of so great peril. (144) Some of the asiarchs ... sent an urgent message to him to prevent him from venturing into the scene of disorder and danger. (437-438)
The tumult at the theater was continually increasing. "Some cried one thing, and some another; and the more part knew not wherefore they had come together." From the fact that Paul and some of his companions were of Hebrew extraction, the Jews felt that odium was cast upon them, and that their own safety might be endangered. (144) It was indeed a scene of confusion, and never perhaps was the character of a mob more simply and graphically expressed than when it is said that 'the majority knew not why they were come together' (v.32). At length an attempt was made to bring the expression of some articulate words before the assembly. This attempt came from the Jews, who seem to have been afraid lest they should be implicated in the odium which had fallen on the Christians. (438)
He [the recorder of the city] bade them consider that Paul and his companions had not profaned the temple of Diana, nor outraged the feelings of any by reviling the goddess. He then skillfully turned the subject, and reproved the course of Demetrius ... He closed by warning them that such an uproar, raised without apparent cause, might subject the city of Ephesus to the censure of the Romans, thus causing a restriction of her present liberty, and intimating that there must not be a repetition of the scene. Having by this speech completely tranquilized the disturbed elements, the recorder dismissed the assembly. (145-146) Then he [town-clerk] bids them remember that Paul and his companions had not been guilty of approaching or profaning the temple, or of outraging the feelings of the Ephesians by calumnious expressions against the goddess. And then he turns from the general subject to the case of Demetrius.... And, reserving the most efficacious argument to the last, he reminded them that such an uproar exposed the city to the displeasure of the Romans; for, however great were the liberties allowed to an ancient and loyal city, it was well known to the whole population that a tumultuous meeting which endangered the public peace would never be tolerated. So, having rapidly brought his arguments to a climax, he tranquilized the whole multitude and pronounced the technical words which declared the assembly dispersed. (438-439)
His heart was filled with gratitude to God that his life had been preserved, and that Christianity had not been brought into disrepute by the tumult at Ephesus. (146) With gratitude to that heavenly Master who had watched over his [Paul's] life and his works .... (439)
God had raised up a great magistrate to vindicate his apostle, and hold the tumultuous mob in check. (146) Thus, God used the eloquence of a Greek magistrate to protect his servant, as before he had used the right of Roman citizenship and the calm justice of a Roman governor. (439)

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