Ellen G. White and Her Critics


All Commentators Have Borrowed—Often Without Credit

A Bible commentator makes this general statement with regard to the practice followed by theological writers through the years in quoting from men who had preceded them: EGWC 406.3

“All the commentators have drawn largely from the fathers, especially from St. Augustine; and most of them have made general property of Patrick, Lowth, and Whitby. Poole has exhausted the old continental writers; Henry has made very free with Bishop Hall and others; Scott and Benson have enriched their pages abundantly from Henry; Gill has translated the spirit of Poole’s ‘Synopsis,’ but he most generally gives his authorities; Adam Clarke and Davidson have been much indebted to all the best critics, though the former does not always mention his obligations, and the latter never; but his preface to his admirable ‘Pocket Commentary’ is an honest confession that he pretends to be no more than a compiler; some original thoughts appear, however, to be scattered among his notes.”—INGRAM COBBIN, The Condensed Commentary and Family Exposition of the Holy Bible (London: William Tegg, 1863), Preface, p. iv. EGWC 406.4

In general, it did not occur to these writers to put quotation marks around every phrase or sentence they might borrow, much less to give documentary reference. They seemed to reason that they were drawing from a common pile of building material that had been produced by earlier literary builders. They saw no reason why they ought not to be free to pick up a brick here or a board there, or even several boards nailed together, to incorporate into the edifice that they were constructing. EGWC 407.1

Or, to change the figure: They felt that they could rightly borrow from the blueprints of earlier author-architects a design for a pillar, a cornice, or some other detail of the new edifice they were creating. They felt that in turn the blue print of their finished literary edifice would provide further material from which later authors would draw, and thus they would be making a contribution that would ethically justify their borrowings. Nor did they feel that the finished structure which came from their hand and pen was any the less theirs because they had followed this procedure. It never occurred to them that they must label the pillar, or the cornice, or whatever it was that they borrowed in design, as having come from an earlier design, in order to be considered honest builders. EGWC 407.2