Great Controversy Investigated: The Interdicts of 1411 and 1412
By Dieter Heimke, translated from German to English by J. Krahne
When the Reformer John Huss worked in Bohemia, the following things happened:
"King Wenzel (Wenceslas) was extremely angry at the curia that all his efforts in behalf of Huss had been so cavalierly ignored. He deeply resented the aspersion of heresy thus cast on his country by the cardinal and his own archbishop. . . . The king now . . . issued an order commanding the stoppage of payments to . . . the priests of the cathedral, as well as to the pastors of the churches in Prague. He gave as his reason that they had spread lies about the realm.
The next year, 1412, the Pope issued an Interdict against Prague which was obeyed and caused such a turmoil that Huss had to leave the city. In December of 1412, he wrote in a letter:
"If I have withdrawn from the midst of you, it is to follow the precept and example of Jesus Christ, in order not to give room to the ill-minded to draw on themselves eternal condemnation, and in order not to be to the pious a cause of affliction and persecution. . ."
This quote from Huss is found in Ellen G. White's Great Controversy on page 101 with the above description of the terrible effect of an Interdict, but it is described by her to be in the year 1411. That Huss wrote the letter in December, is clear from the sentence: "My beloved, the day is at hand, that we will remember the birth of our Lord."3
But in December 1411, there was no reason for Huss to write such a letter for his absence, because the Interdict from June 1411 was ineffective - a fact which no one disputes. The sequence of Ellen White's historical account is simply not correct. Ron Graybill then attempts to explain two points which are brought up in Adventist circles in attempting to save face for Ellen G. White:
Graybill simply drops both explanations as insufficient, and after painstaking research of the historical facts he admits:
"Thus we know, that Mrs. White's citations of this letter in his context is a historical error known as an anachronism."4
How does this line up with Ellen G. White's claim that she had seen those historic events of the Great Controversy in vision? Well, Ron Graybill quotes her son William C. White who said his mother was shown in vision panoramic views of great events, but because of missing historical facts she failed to put the events in the proper perspective.
"Maybe Mrs. White saw an Interdict, yes, even an effective interdict. Perhaps she also saw Huss flee Prague. As she thought in extravisionary sources to locate this interdict and Huss' departure as to time and place, she used Wylie or Bonnechose. Unfortunately, these two historians had confused the consequences of the ineffective 1411 interdict with those of the effective interdict of 1412. She followed them in their account and was accordingly confused on the specific facts in this portion of her narrative."
Then comes his follow-up in 4 segments:
" Following W.C. White's suggestions and the evidence before us then, we would conclude that The Great Controversy is not a book which is usable as an independent source of authority on matters relating to time, place, or the details of historical events. It may be that in some instances Mrs. White did indeed have visionary information on these matters, but she has not presented us with a book in which it is possible for us to distinguish the items drawn solely from historical sources and the material presented on the authority of vision.
By the way, Ron Graybill was not alone in his judgment on Ellen G. White. Already in 1975, Robert Olson, Director of the Ellen White Estate, had admitted:
"I accept Spinka's history of Huss as being more accurate than that of Wylie. This necessitates the conclusion that Mrs. White made several erroneous historical statements about Huss in the Great Controversy.
1. Matthew Spinka, "John Huss: A Biography", (Princeton, 1968) pp. 124-125. Ronald Graybill, former associate director of the Ellen White Estate, quotes from that source in the publication "Historical Difficulties in the Great Controversy."2 It is therefore to be considered an authoritative publication by the Seventh-day Adventist Church
2. Ronald Graybill, Ph.D., "Historical Difficulties in the Great Controversy", published by the Ellen G. White Estate on January 30, 1978, and revised in June 1982, pages 3-4.
3. Graybill, p. 6 (not known by Ellen White).
4. Graybill, p. 6. Anachronism is defined by the Heritage Dictionary as follows: "The representation of someone as existing or something as happening in other than chronological, proper, or historical order."
5. Graybill, pp. 6,7.
6. Robert W. Olson, "Questions and Problems Pertaining to Mrs. White's Writings on John Huss", White Estate (1975), p. 4.