Ellen G. White: The Lonely Years: 1876-1891 (vol. 3)


Sources for Her Writing on Christ's Life

The elements that entered into Ellen White's writing on Christ's life were (1) the reports of the four Gospel writers, (2) the visions given to her through the years, (3) the writing of reliable commentators, and (4) the illumination of her mind by the Spirit of God as she pressed on with her writing. 3BIO 31.1

In her first writing on Christ's life in 1858 in Spiritual Gifts,, volume 1, she frequently intimates the vision source by the use of such expressions as: 3BIO 31.2

“I saw that the Son of God was pale and emaciated.”—Page 31. 3BIO 31.3

“I then viewed Jesus in the garden with His disciples.”—Page 46. 3BIO 31.4

“I saw the Roman guard, as the angelic host passed back to heaven.”—Page 68. 3BIO 31.5

In rewriting the story in 1876, she seldom referred to the visions as a source of her work. In one letter, as noted, she was writing out “the things which the Lord has shown me” (Letter 59, 1876). In 1889 she stated that “the betrayal, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus” had passed before her point by point (Letter 14, 1889). It may be assumed that such would apply also to other features of Christ's life and work. It is also reasonable to assume that what she wrote concerning visions given to her while preparing the manuscript for The Great Controversy would also be true of her work on the life of Christ. Of the former she stated: “Many times the scenes about which I was writing were presented to me anew in visions of the night, so that they were fresh and vivid in my mind.”—Letter 56, 1911. 3BIO 31.6

In 1900 she recalled: 3BIO 31.7

Heavenly scenes were presented to me in the life of Christ, pleasant to contemplate, and again painful scenes which were not always pleasant for Him to bear which pained my heart.—Manuscript 93, 1900.

Mention has been made of her reference to commentaries. These might well be thought of as an aid to her writing, rather than a basic source. She read quite extensively in some of the well-known and well-accepted commentaries, such as William Hanna's Life of Our Lord, Cunningham Geikie's Life and Words of Christ, Daniel March's Walks and Homes of Jesus, and his Night Scenes in the Bible. Geikie's Hours With the Bible and Edersheim's works on the Temple and its services and Jewish social life were known to her, as well as some others. 3BIO 32.1

W. C. White, newly elected president of the Pacific Press, with his wife, Mary, was living in the White home in Oakland as his mother was writing on the life of Christ. On several occasions, at a later time, he spoke of the use she made of such authors and the reasons for so doing: 3BIO 32.2

Notwithstanding all the power that God had given her to present scenes in the lives of Christ and His apostles and His prophets and His reformers in a stronger and more telling way than other historians, ...she always felt most keenly the results of her lack of school education. She admired the language in which other writers had presented to their readers the scenes which God had presented to her in vision, and she found it both a pleasure and a convenience and an economy of time to use their language fully or in part in presenting those things which she knew through revelation, and which she wished to pass on to her readers.—W.C.W. to L. E. Froom, January 8, 1928 (Selected Messages 3:460). 3BIO 32.3

There may be other reasons as well that are worthy of thoughtful consideration. He mentions several: 3BIO 32.4

The great events occurring in the life of our Lord were presented to her in panoramic scenes, as also were the other portions of the Great Controversy. In a few of these scenes, chronology and geography were clearly presented, but in the greater part of the revelation the flashlight scenes, which were exceedingly vivid, and the conversations and the controversies, which she heard and was able to narrate, were not marked geographically or chronologically, and she was left to study the Bible and history and the writings of men who had presented the life of our Lord to get the chronological and geographical connection. 3BIO 32.5

Another purpose served by the reading of history and the Life of Our Lord (Hanna, 1863), and the Life of St. Paul, was that in so doing there was brought vividly to her mind scenes presented clearly in vision, but which were, through the lapse of years and her strenuous ministry, dimmed in her memory.—(Ibid., 3:459, 460). 3BIO 33.1

The knowledge that Ellen White read from other authors, and at times employed some of their phraseology, has led some to lose sight of the fact that the many visions given to her by God through the years constituted the main source of her information and insights. Were it not for these visions, she would never have written on the life of Christ. Her reading was primarily an aid in presenting what she had seen. 3BIO 33.2