In the recent article we published entitled The Authorized King James Bible: The Word of God, we shed light on the fact that it has withstood the test of time to earn its right as the unadulterated word of God. Many Christians today subjectively utilize modern bible versions in their personal study without giving due consideration to the historical origin of these texts. Some lay the claim that because Sister Ellen G. White quoted from modern bible versions, they must be safe. I pray that you will examine the rationale below with regards to how our Sovereign God in His own prerogative disseminates His word to man.
In John 1:1, we learn that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Word of God, who is Jesus, (John 1:14; 2 Corinthians 4:6) sought to come and dwell with fallen man.
“That we might become acquainted with His divine character and life, Christ took our nature and dwelt among us. Divinity was revealed in humanity; the invisible glory in the visible human form. Men could learn of the unknown through the known; heavenly things were revealed through the earthly; God was made manifest in the likeness of men. So it was in Christ’s teaching: the unknown was illustrated by the known; divine truths by earthly things with which the people were most familiar.” Christ’s Object Lessons, p 17
When Christ came to Earth to instruct man in his sinfully enfeebled condition, He utilized nature, similitudes, symbology, parabolic teaching and other simple means by which He could communicate effectively His plan and will for us.
“Jesus sought an avenue to every heart. By using a variety of illustrations, He not only presented truth in its different phases, but appealed to the different hearers. Their interest was aroused by figures drawn from the surroundings of their daily life. None who listened to the Saviour could feel that they were neglected or forgotten. The humblest, the most sinful, heard in His teaching a voice that spoke to them in sympathy and tenderness.” Ibid, p. 21
No greater way is this illustrated than in the sanctuary, which was constructed after the “pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof…” (Exodus 25:9). The use of figures and symbols in the sanctuary caused the lessons given to be more firmly fixed in the memory.
Christ often taught using the erroneous theology men held to at their time. Understanding the human mind, he would turn their prepossessed notions against them to illuminate gospel truth. We can see this method masterfully demonstrated by Jesus in giving the parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus.
“In this parable, Christ was meeting the people on their own ground. The doctrine of a conscious state of existence between death and the resurrection was held by many of those who were listening to Christ’s words. The Saviour knew of their ideas, and He framed His parable so as to inculcate important truths through these preconceived opinions. He held up before His hearers a mirror wherein they might see themselves in their true relation to God. He used the prevailing opinion to convey the idea He wished to make prominent to all—that no man is valued for his possessions; for all he has belongs to him only as lent by the Lord. A misuse of these gifts will place him below the poorest and most afflicted man who loves God and trusts in Him.” Ibid, p. 263
When Christ’s work on earth was done, He ascended back to heaven to minister with The Father and thus made way for the Holy Spirit to descend upon man (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit fell upon holy men to continue to give instruction to God’s people (Ephesians 4:10-13). “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” 2 Peter 1:21. Here will be illustrated a few examples of how the prophets utilized Christ’s method for conveying sacred messages to the church:
1. Paul Quoted a Greek Poet
It has been observed that the apostle Paul has recorded at least six pagan quotes in his writings. One verse from the famous opening invocation to Zeus became even more famous because it was quoted in the New Testament (Acts 17:28): “For ‘in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.’” (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Aratus-Greek-poet)
It is suggested that it is possible that during his quiet retreat at Tarsus (see Acts 9:30), Paul gave himself to the study of Greek literature, which given his calling as an apostle to the Gentiles may have been conscripted to be used as fodder for future sermons.
2. Jesus Quotes a Greek Poet
And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. Acts 26:14.
The phrase “kick against the pricks” “comes from Aeschylus (525–456 B.C.), Agamemnon, line 1624–or lines 2341 & 2342 at (see Stewart Custer, Witness to Christ, BJU Press, p.164). We do not readily think of the risen Christ quoting a Greek playwright (in Hebrew, no less!), but since Paul’s educational background likely included the study of the “Greek classics,” Jesus used Paul’s familiarity with the work of Aeschylus to reveal to Paul the futility of resisting His grace.
3. Ellen White Quoted from Non-Canonical Authors
Writers such as: Jean-Henri Merle d’Aubigné, Barnas Sears, Martin Luther, John Lewis (Wycliffe Biographer, Roman Catholic), J.A. Wylie, etc. were cited in her greatest work— The Great Controversy.
Her iterations of the writings of these authors while under inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16) does not license us (non-inspired) to endorse all the works of these fallible men. These quotations were included in the works of Sister White as Testimonies by the leading of God and God alone.
One should conclude that the holy prophets borrowed from the works of pagan Greeks, Roman Catholics and other fallible men while under Divine inspiration and it was permissible only for the sake of bringing clarity of thought to the messages God was giving to instruct His people
In the case of Ellen White’s alleged usage of the Revised Version and the American Revised Versions of the Bible, there is biblical precedent, along with her own writings demonstrating that all of the aforementioned cited works were not from wholly “endorsable” authors and/or oeuvres.
As many biblical scholars have observed, the God-breathed nature of the Word of God in no way conflicts with the “human” or “secular” elements contained in it. God did not ignore or set aside the obviously human factors at work in the process of inspiration, such as the authors’: preferred style of writing, existing culture and the times in which they wrote, educational backgrounds and achievements, both “sacred” and “secular,” and/or family history.
It is therefore dangerous for us to esteem ourselves wiser than God, fathoming that our intellects alone are capable of comprehending spiritual truths. It is only by the ministration of the Holy Spirit that man is enabled to comprehend spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:11-13). Furthermore, let us not deceive ourselves into thinking that without Divine inspiration as the prophets had, we have the correct discernment to know when to appropriately use the works of uninspired sources. Prophesying is a gift of God to which not all are given (1 Corinthians 12:29).
“It is not the words of the Bible that are inspired, but the men that were inspired. Inspiration acts not on the man’s words or his expressions but on the man himself, who, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, is imbued with thoughts. But the words and thoughts receive the impress of the individual mind. The divine mind is diffused. The divine mind and will is combined with the human mind and will; thus the utterances of the man are the word of God.”—Manuscript 24, 1886
I highly recommend that you get the DVD entitled A Bridge to Babylon, part 3 of a series in the untold history of the bible. Follow the story of the Bible’s controversial history into the twentieth century, as the work of Westcott and Hort would transform biblical scholarship, inspire the work of various Bible Societies, and pave the way for the cause of ecumenical unity between Evangelical Protestants and Rome.