Ellen G. White and Her Critics


Large Chance of Copyists’ Errors

When we think of the way in which the early writing and printing of our Seventh-day Adventist pioneers was done we marvel at the degree of mechanical accuracy and the literary quality of their writings. In the particular instance before us, there was a writing, a rewriting, and possible further writing of the vision. Mrs. White first wrote out the vision. Then James White evidently copied it and sent the copy to Elder Bates by mail. We have neither of these copies. Bates much valued the visions, and it is quite possible that he did not send to the printer the copy James White sent him, but rather made another copy and sent that out to the typesetter. Then the printer provided Bates with the broadsides ordered. We have copies of that broadside, which is the first printing of the vision. James White presumably used one of these broadsides as copy for the printer when he prepared A Word to the “Little Flock,” which is the second printing of this vision. * EGWC 292.3

If copyists’ or printers’ errors crept into the text of this vision as it appeared in print, it would not be strange. That is the only conclusion to which a person acquainted with the printing business could come. Even with the most careful system for checking and double checking in modern, efficient publishing houses, the strangest kinds of errors constantly creep onto the printed page, sometimes to the great embarrassment of the printer, the writer, and those written about. Copyists’ errors have even crept into Bible manuscripts. EGWC 293.1

James White states that he was responsible for one error that appeared in the vision as printed in Bates’s broadside. He explains that this resulted from his “hastily copying the vision to send to brother Bates.” (See A Word to the “Little Flock,” p. 22.) This error was very conspicuous because of the common knowledge of the Biblical account of the location of the sanctuary furniture. However, it does not necessarily follow that he went through the entire document checking it word by word with the original, and that because he caught one error he would be sure to catch all others. The fact that modern editors and proofreaders catch most errors does not warrant us in believing that they catch all the errors! EGWC 293.2

We believe that it is altogether reasonable to conclude that some copyist’s or printer’s error explains whatever obscurity the sentence holds. It may be contended that Mrs. White should have noted any such error. But the facts are that Mrs. White was, throughout those years, often gravely ill. If the Lord did not see fit to protect the text of Holy Writ from minor copyists’ errors, who shall boldly say just what the great God of heaven should have done in behalf of Mrs. White and her writings? EGWC 294.1

The vision containing this disputed passage was next published four years later in the Review and Herald Extra, July 21, 1851. It was in this printing of the vision that the deletion was made—right at the time when the prophetic interpretation that it was alleged to endorse had probably its greatest vogue! Note again the expositions of the image beast as set forth by Otis Nichols on his chart and by Elder Andrews in the Review, both early in 1851. Whatever may have been Mrs. White’s reason for deleting the passage in question it certainly was not to conceal a view generally abandoned. EGWC 294.2

We think that the unprejudiced reader will conclude that this mark-of-the-beast paragraph was dropped out, not with evil intent to conceal, but simply to save space or to avoid repetition or perhaps to avoid ambiguity until a more comprehensive statement might be made. EGWC 294.3