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Ellen White Copied Her Chapter Titles from Edersheim . . . or Was It Vice Versa?

Charge

This charge comes to us from Walter Rea's book, The White Lie, and can be found on a number of web sites. Rea states on the second page of his prologue:

Still later on, while I was studying at the University of Southern California toward a Ph.D. degree, I was shocked to come across a seven-volume work on Old Testament history by the same Edersheim.4 This time I found, in volumes one to four, that Edersheim's chapter titles, substitles [sic.], and page headings paralleled and were many times almost identical with the chapter titles of Ellen White's Patriarchs and Prophets (1890). Time and study made it obvious that Mrs. White had obtained liberal help from these additional Edersheim works.

It appears to us that Rea is saying that the similarites between the chapter titles of Patriarchs and Prophets and Alfred Edersheim's works indicate that she got her chapter titles from Edersheim. However, when we informed Rea in January 2005 about the discoveries mentioned below, he indicated that he had never said that Ellen White got her chapter titles from Edersheim.

The actual comparisons Rea made between the chapter titles of Ellen White and Edersheim appear on pages 77-81 of his book. It is these comparisons that we wish to analyze here in two parts.

Titles of chapters 1-5 of vol. 2 of Edersheim's Bible History, Old Testament

Initial Observations

Basically, there are two observations that can be made. First, we are indebted to David Conklin for bringing to our attention the fact that Edersheim's chapter titles as given by Rea are not his chapter titles at all. Anyone who picks up Edersheim will readily note that what Rea gives as Edersheim's chapter titles are with few exceptions not what Rea claims they are, and Rea makes no mention whatsoever of this fact. Neither do the various web sites that copy Rea's material inform their readers that what they are claiming to be Edersheim's chapter titles are not really his chapter titles. Our Further Analysis will present the evidence for your consideration.

Secondly, while preparing Conklin's material for this web page, we stumbled across the fact that Ellen White had written three previous books covering the same material, and the chapter titles of these books likewise show a marked similarity to those of Patriarchs and Prophets. What makes this interesting is the fact that these three books were published in 1864 and 1870, while the works in question by Edersheim were not published until 1876. What this suggests is that instead of Ellen White "plagiarizing" her chapter titles from Edersheim, it may have been the other way around. Our Analysis on this page lays the facts out on this one.

One gripe that Walter Rea and other critics have expressed on numerous occasions is that, when confronted with comparisons showing similarities between Ellen White's works and works by other authors, her friends are too reluctant to admit that she plagiarized. With that in mind we found it intriguing that when we told Rea about the similarities between Edersheim's chapter titles and Ellen White's earlier works, he replied, "I don't think Edersheim plagiarized from Ellen White."

Analysis

We present first our comparisons which suggest that Edersheim "stole" his chapter titles from Ellen White's earlier books.

Twice Rea refers to page headings, not chapter titles, which we have referred to below as "chapter" 9.1 and 11.9. We have not tried to analyze every page heading, which sometimes matched part of the chapter title and sometimes not, but have only included the two page headings that Rea refers to.

We have inserted chapter numbers in brackets into Rea's version of Edersheim's titles. We have also omitted the page numbers he gives, since these are included in our table under "Further Analysis."

  
Color Key

Exact matches of words in Edersheim found also in Ellen White's earlier books.

Words in Edersheim that are similar to those in Ellen White's earlier books.

Exact matches of words in Edersheim and Patriarchs and Prophets, but which aren't found in her earlier books.

Wording in Edersheim and Patriarchs and Prophets that is similar, but is not found in her earlier books.

In some cases where Edersheim's chapter titles cannot be found in the chapter titles of the earlier books, we tried to determine if he might have copied wording for his titles from particular paragraphs in those books instead. Similarly, it is possible that Patriarchs and Prophets derived a chapter title from wording extracted from the actual text of those earlier books rather than from Edersheim.

In these particular comparisons between chapter titles and paragraph text, we have taken the liberty to omit words at strategic points in order to accentuate the similarities, but have always indicated that we have done so with an ellipsis. Some might complain that omitting words in such a manner is extremely subjective and can skew the evidence, and we wholeheartedly agree. Such omissions are quite regularly employed among the comparisons provided by Ellen White's critics, and it seemed like this was an opportune way for us to illustrate the hazards of this practice.

In all honesty, we think this entire exercise utterly absurd and a bit irreverent. Edersheim was a good man and has long been dead, and to accuse him of plagiarism just doesn't sound respectful.

Further, we have no idea whether he obtained Ellen White's permission to use her chapter titles. Perhaps he really did ask and she really did say yes. How would we know for sure that he didn't? Yet regardless, we are fairly certain that he didn't need to ask permission and was not required to give credit for this type of copying if British copyright law was anything like American copyright law at the time.

Spiritual Gifts, vols. 3 & 4a (1864) Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1 (1870) Edersheim (1876-1880) as Altered by Rea Patriarchs and Prophets (1890)
Preface     Preface
Contents

Spiritual Gifts

Contents

Introductory—The Spirit of Prophecy

Introduction Introduction

Contents

  1. The Fall of Satan   1. Why was Sin Permitted?
1. The Creation 2. The Creation [1.] Creation 2. The Creation
2. The Temptation and Fall 3. The Temptation and Fall [1.] The Fall 3. The Temptation and Fall
  4. The Plan of Salvation   4. The Plan of Redemption
3. Cain and Abel 5. Cain and Abel [2.] Cain and Abel—The Two Ways 5. Cain and Abel Tested
4. Adam's Life      
5. Seth and Enoch 6. Seth and Enoch [3.] Seth and His Descendants 6. Seth and Enoch
6. Crime before the Flood      
7. The Flood 7. The Flood [6.] The Flood 7. The Flood
8. After the Flood   [7.] After the Flood 8. After the Flood
9. Disguised Infidelity 8. Disguised Infidelity   9. The Literal Week
10. Tower of Babel 9. The Tower of Babel [8.] Babel—Confusion of Tongues 10. The Tower of Babel
11. Abraham 10. Abraham [11.] The Calling of Abram 11. The Call of Abraham
[11.] His Arrival in Canaan 12. Abraham in Canaan
"Again the Lord saw fit to test the faith of Abraham by a most fearful trial." (vol. 3, p. 105) "Again the Lord saw fit to test the faith of Abraham by a most fearful trial." (p. 98) [14.] Trial of Abraham's Faith... 13. The Test of Faith

". . . on their way to destroy Sodom . . . ." (vol. 3, p. 103)

"The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was on account of their great wickedness." (vol. 4a, p. 121)

". . . on their way to destroy Sodom . . . ." (p. 97) [13.] The Destruction of Sodom 14. Destruction of Sodom

12. Isaac

". . . to become the wife of Isaac. . . . Marriage contracts were then generally made by the parents . . . ." (vol. 3, p. 110)

11. Isaac

". . . to become the wife of Isaac. . . . Marriage contracts were then generally made by the parents . . . ." (p. 103)

[15.] The Marriage of Isaac 15. The Marriage of Isaac

13. Jacob and Esau

"He was compelled to flee for his life from the wrath of Esau . . . ." (vol. 3, p. 116)

"In his dream he saw Jacob an exile from his father's house for twenty years, because he was afraid of his life." (vol. 3, p. 131)

12. Jacob and Esau

"He was compelled to flee for his life from the wrath of Esau . . . ." (p. 107)

"In his dream he saw Jacob an exile from his father's house for twenty years, because he was afraid of his life." (p. 120)

[15.] Birth of Esau and Jacob

[16.] Jacob Is Sent to Laban

16. Jacob and Esau

17. Jacob's Flight and Exile

14. Jacob and the Angel

"But while Jacob was wrestling with the angel that night . . . ." (vol. 3, p. 131)

13. Jacob and the Angel

"But while Jacob was wrestling with the angel that night . . . ." (p. 120)

[18.] The Night of Wrestling 18. The Night of Wrestling
    [18.] Jacob Settles at Hebron 19. The Return to Canaan
    [19.] Joseph's Early Life 20. Joseph in Egypt
15. Joseph and His Brethren 14. Joseph and His Brethren [21.] Joseph Recognizes His Brothers 21. Joseph and His Brothers
16. Moses 15. Moses [3.] The Birth and the Training of Moses 22. Moses
17. The Plagues on Egypt 16. The Plagues on Egypt [6.] The Ten "Strokes," or Plagues 23. The Plagues of Egypt
18. The Passover 17. The Passover [7.] The Passover and Its Ordinances 24. The Passover
19. Israel Leaves Egypt 18. Israel Leaves Egypt [7.] The Children of Israel Leave Egypt 25. The Exodus
20. Their Journeyings 19. Their Journeyings [8.] The Wilderness of Shur 26. From the Red Sea to Sinai
21. The Law of God 20. The Law of God [10.] The "Ten Words," and Their Meaning 27. The Law Given to Israel
      28. Idolatry at Sinai
    [12.] The Sin of the Golden Calf 29. Satan's Enmity Against the Law
22. The Sanctuary

["tabernacle" used 19 times in this chapter]

21. The Sanctuary

["tabernacle" used 19 times in this chapter]

[13.] The Rearing of the Tabernacle 30. The Tabernacle and Its Services
23. Strange Fire

"And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron . . . ." (vol. 4a, p. 11)

Nadab and Abihu . . . . Fire from his presence destroyed them in their sin. (vol. 4a, p. 125)

22. Strange Fire

"And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron . . . ." (p. 276)

[14.] The Sin of Nadab and Abihu 31. The Sin of Nadab and Abihu
    [11.] Civil and Social Ordinances—The "Covenant Made by Sacrifice" 32. The Law and the Covenants
24. The Quails 23. The Quails [17.] [March into the Wilderness] 33. From Sinai to Kadesh
25. Miriam 24. Miriam
26. Caleb and Joshua

". . . heard of the spies . . . ." (p. 25)

25. Caleb and Joshua

". . . heard of the spies . . . ." (p. 293)

[18.] The Spies Sent to Canaan 34. The Twelve Spies
27. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram 26. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram [19.] The Gainsaying of Korah 35. The Rebellion of Korah
28. Aaron's Rod

"They are at length compelled to believe the unwelcome truth, that their fate is to die in the wilderness." (vol. 4a, p. 36)

27. Aaron's Rod

"They are at length compelled to believe the unwelcome truth that their fate is to die in the wilderness." (p. 306)

[19.] The Years in the Wilderness 36. In the Wilderness
29. Moses Sinned 28. The Sin of Moses [20.] The Sin of Moses and Aaron 37. The Smitten Rock
30. Fiery Serpents

As the people journeyed from Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to compass the land of Edom . . . . (vol. 4a, p. 40)

29. Fiery Serpents

As the people journeyed from Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to compass the land of Edom . . . . (p. 314)

[21.] Journey of the Children of Israel in ["Compassing"] the Land of Edom

[also, Edersheim's title for this chapter includes the words "Fiery Serpents"]

38. The Journey Around Edom
    39. The Conquest of Bashan
31. Balaam

Balaam . . . . ". . . let my last end be like his!" (vol. 4a, p. 46)

30. Balaam

Balaam . . . . ". . . let my last end be like his!" (pp. 322, 323)

[1.] Character and History of Balaam

40. Balaam
[2.] The End of Balaam 41. Apostasy at the Jordan
[3.] The Second Census of Israel
32. Death of Moses 31. Death of Moses 4. Death and Burial of Moses 42. The Law Repeated
43. The Death of Moses
33. Joshua

". . . miraculous passage over . . . Jordan . . . ." (vol. 4a, p. 60)

". . . the conquest. Christ commanded the armies of Heaven to throw down the walls of Jericho . . . . in this wonderful miracle . . . ." (vol. 4a, p. 64)

He then eloquently addressed them. . . . Joshua. (vol. 4a, pp. 64, 65)

32. Joshua

". . . miraculous passage over . . . Jordan . . . ." (p. 346)

". . . the conquest. Christ commanded the armies of Heaven to throw down the walls of Jericho . . . . in this wonderful miracle . . . ." (p. 351)

He then eloquently addressed them. . . . Joshua. (pp. 351, 352)

[6.] The Miraculous Parting of Jordan 44. Crossing the Jordan
[7.] The Miraculous Fall of Jericho 45. The Fall of Jericho
[9.1] The Blessing and the Curse on Gerizim and Ebal 46. The Blessings and the Curses
[9.] The Deceit of the Gibeonites 47. League with the Gibeonites
[11.] Final Division of the Land 48. The Division of Canaan
[12.] Joshua's Farewell Addresses 49. The Last Words of Joshua
      50. Tithes and Offerings
      51. God's Care for the Poor
". . . also, the various regulations respecting sacrificial offerings." (vol. 4a, p. 55) ". . . also, the various regulations respecting sacrificial offerings." (p. 334) [3.] Sacrificial Ordinances 52. The Annual Feasts
    [13.] Summary of the Book of Judges 53. The Earlier Judges
    [19.] The History of Samson 54. Samson
36. The Ark of God

"The Lord made known to the child Samuel . . . ." (vol. 4a, p. 104)

"The transgressions of Eli's sons . . . ." (vol. 4a, p. 104)

"He was afraid that the ark of God might be taken . . . ." (vol. 4a, p. 106)

37. The Ark of God

"The Lord made known to the child Samuel . . . ." (p. 401)

"The transgressions of Eli's sons . . . ." (p. 402)

"He was afraid that the ark of God might be taken . . . ." (p. 404)

[1.] Birth of Samuel 55. The Child Samuel
[2.] The Sin of Eli's Sons 56. Eli and His Sons
[3.] Taking of the Ark 57. The Ark Taken by the Philistines
    [4.] Samuel's Administration 58. The Schools of the Prophets
34. Samuel and Saul

"Their demand for a king . . . ." (vol. 4a, p. 66)

"Samuel visits Saul with a curse from the Lord for his disobedience . . . ." (vol. 4a, p. 73)

". . .God had rejected him from being king." (vol. 4a, p. 77)

"But he sent Samuel to the house of Jesse, to anoint David . . . ." (vol. 4a, p. 77)

"David . . . . God had sent him to slay Goliath." (vol. 4aSG, p. 81)

". . . Jonathan might be the means of preserving the life of David . . . ." (vol. 4a, p. 79)

". . . until the death of Saul." (vol. 4a, p. 83)

"Saul . . . the witch of Endor . . . ." (vol. 4a, p. 85)

33. Samuel and Saul

"Their demand for a king . . . ." (p. 353)

"Samuel visits Saul with a curse from the Lord for his disobedience . . . ." (p. 362)

". . .God had rejected him from being king." (p. 366)

"But he sent Samuel to the house of Jesse, to anoint David . . . ." (p. 367)

"David . . . . God had sent him to slay Goliath." (p. 371)

". . . Jonathan might be the means of preserving the life of David . . . ." (p. 369)

". . . until the death of Saul." (p. 375)

"Saul . . . the witch of Endor . . . ." (p. 376)

[4.] The Demand for a King 59. The First King of Israel
[7.] Saul's Disobedience 60. The Presumption of Saul
[7.] The Rejection of His Kingdom 61. Saul Rejected
[10.] The Anointing of David 62. The Anointing of David
[10.] Combat Between David and Goliath 63. David and Goliath
[11.] David's Flight to Samuel 64. David a Fugitive
[11.9] David and Jonathan 65. The Magnanimity of David
[15.] Death of Saul 66. The Death of Saul
[14.] Saul ... the Witch of Endor 67. Ancient and Modern Sorcery
    [14.] Capture of Ziklag by the Amalekites 68. David at Ziklag
35. David

"David . . . his sin and repentance . . . . David's sin . . . ." (vol. 4a, p. 88)

34. David

"David . . . his sin and repentance . . . . David's sin . . . ." (pp. 380, 381)

[15.] David King at Hebron 69. David Called to the Throne
[16.] David ... King over All Israel 70. The Reign of David
[19.] David's Great Sin ... Repentance 71. David's Sin and Repentance
  72. The Rebellion of Absalom
  73. The Last Years of David

Conclusion Thus Far

If we simply tally up the various titles and headings that suggest some degree of literary dependence, it appears that roughly 79% of the similarities between Ellen White and Edersheim are found in her earlier books. If Rea's logic is sound, something we are presently uncertain of, then this is "proof" that Edersheim copied from Ellen White, with no credit whatsoever being given.

Give Us Your Opinion

Because of the length of our Analysis and Further Analysis, we are putting this material into two separate pages. We'll give you an opportunity to sound off on both pages.

When done here, go to our Further Analysis.

Edersheim and Ellen White: Who "stole" from whom?
Edersheim "stole" from Ellen White's books written roughly 12 years earlier. 67.1%
Such similarities could be entirely coincidental, so we should be cautious about accusing either Edersheim or Ellen White. 22.4%
All this stuff about plagiarism is complete nonsense, and I wish people would quit talking about it. 10.5%
Ellen White "stole" from Edersheim's books roughly 12 years before he wrote them. 0.0%
Total Votes: 76
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