Ellen G. White and Her Critics


The Context of the Disputed Passage

Let us give, with ample context, the disputed passage as it appears in the old edition of The Great Controversy: EGWC 324.3

“In Revelation 14, the first angel is followed by a second, proclaiming, ‘Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.’ The term Babylon is derived from Babel, and signifies confusion. It is employed in Scripture to designate the various forms of false or apostate religion. In Revelation 17, Babylon is represented as a woman, a figure which is used in the Bible as the symbol of a church, a virtuous woman representing a pure church, a vile woman an apostate church. EGWC 324.4

[There follow three paragraphs that refer to the spiritual Significance of marriage as a symbol of our relationship to Christ, and then the prophetic explanation continues thus:] EGWC 324.5

“The woman, Babylon, of Revelation 17, is described as ‘arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness.... And upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots.’ Says the prophet, ‘I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.’ Babylon is further declared to be ‘that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.’ The power that for so many centuries maintained despotic sway over the monarchs of Christendom, is Rome. The purple and scarlet color, the gold and precious stones and pearls, vividly picture the magnificence and more than kingly pomp affected by the haughty see of Rome. And no other power could be so truly declared ‘drunken with the blood of the saints’ as that church which has so cruelly persecuted the followers of Christ. Babylon is also charged with the sin of unlawful connection with ‘the kings of the earth.’ It was by departure from the Lord, and alliance with the heathen, that the Jewish church became a harlot; and Rome, corrupting herself in like manner by seeking the support of worldly powers, receives a like condemnation. EGWC 324.6

“Babylon is said to be ‘the mother of harlots.’ By her daughters must be symbolized churches that cling to her doctrines and traditions, and follow her example of sacrificing the truth and the approval of God, in order to form an unlawful alliance with the world. The message of Revelation 14 announcing the fall of Babylon, must apply to religious bodies that were once pure and have become corrupt. Since this message follows the warning of the Judgment [that is, the first angel’s message], it must begin in the last days, therefore it cannot refer to the Romish Church, for that church has been in a fallen condition for many centuries.”—Pages 380-383. EGWC 325.1

In the new edition, the text is the same, except that the clause, “it cannot refer to the Romish Church,” is revised to read, “it cannot refer to the Roman Church alone.” (See new edition, p. 383.) EGWC 325.2

It is evident from the extended passage quoted that in the old edition Mrs. White emphatically includes Rome as a part of Babylon, indeed, makes her the “mother.” Therefore, her statement, “it cannot refer to the Romish Church,” might easily appear to be at variance with her declaration that Rome is an integral part of Babylon. That apparent variance is removed in the new edition. EGWC 325.3