The Passion of Ellen White's Christ - Is it Biblical?

By Brother Anderson, 2004

In 2004, when Mel Gibson's movie, "The Passion of the Christ" was released, Seventh-day Adventist leaders criticized it for a supposed lack of Biblical accuracy. The editor of the Adventist Review wrote: "I prefer to let Matthew, Mark, Luke and John interpret Jesus' sufferings and death for me."

SDA Professor Samuele Bacchiocchi wrote:

"What I saw is hundred times worse than the most negative reviews I read. From a biblical perspective, the movie contains numerous glaring errors designed to promote the Catholic view of the Passion..."

Therefore, since SDA leaders seem to have acquired a great interest in stories about Jesus matching the Biblical record with exactness, we decided to compare Ellen White's writings about Jesus with the Bible to see if she can meet the same standard held out for Mel Gibson.

Ellen White's "Passion" Story is not Biblical

Ellen White in Desire of Ages The Holy Bible
"It was necessary to journey by night in order to keep the star in view; but the travelers beguiled the hours by repeating traditional sayings and prophetic utterances concerning the One they sought. At every pause for rest they searched the prophecies; and the conviction deepened that they were divinely guided. While they had the star before them as an outward sign, they had also the inward evidence of the Holy Spirit, which was impressing their hearts, and inspiring them with hope. The journey, though long, was a happy one to them. They have reached the land of Israel, and are descending the Mount of Olives, with Jerusalem in sight, when, lo, the star that has guided them all the weary way rests above the temple, and after a season fades from their view." (p. 60) In the story of the "wise men" in Matthew 2, the Bible says nothing about traveling at night, says nothing about what they said or thought, says nothing about the Holy Spirit, says nothing about whether the journey was happy, says nothing about them traveling over the Mount of Olives, and says nothing about the star resting above the temple. Travel at night was extremely dangerous and it was completely unnecessary. The star had been observed in the "east" before they started. In all likelihood, it could easily be observed in the morning and/or evening each day to verify they were still on course. Therefore, it was not necessary for them to take the risk of traveling at night on their journey to Jerusalem.
"At the Saviour's baptism, Satan was among the witnesses." (p. 116) The Bible says nothing about Satan being at Jesus' baptism.
"His form swayed as if He were about to fall. Upon reaching the garden, the disciples looked anxiously for His usual place of retirement, that their Master might rest. Every step that He now took was with labored effort. He groaned aloud, as if suffering under the pressure of a terrible burden. Twice His companions supported Him, or He would have fallen to the earth." (p. 686) The Bible says nothing about Jesus staggering and groaning as He walked through Gethsemane or needing the disciples to prop Him up.
"The sleeping disciples had been suddenly awakened by the light surrounding the Saviour. They saw the angel bending over their prostrate Master. They saw him lift the Saviour's head upon his bosom, and point toward heaven. They heard his voice, like sweetest music, speaking words of comfort and hope." (p. 694) The Bible says an angel strengthened Jesus (Luke 22:43), but says nothing about the angel holding Christ upon his bosom, or the disciples hearing him speak.
"No traces of His recent agony were visible as Jesus stepped forth to meet His betrayer. Standing in advance of His disciples He said, "Whom seek ye?" They answered, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus replied, "I am He." As these words were spoken, the angel who had lately ministered to Jesus moved between Him and the mob. A divine light illuminated the Saviour's face, and a dovelike form overshadowed Him. In the presence of this divine glory, the murderous throng could not stand for a moment. They staggered back. Priests, elders, soldiers, and even Judas, fell as dead men to the ground. The angel withdrew, and the light faded away." (p. 694) The Bible says nothing about a supernatural intervention by an angel, a divine light, or a dove-like form. The Bible merely says, "As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground." (John 18:6)
"But as Caiaphas now looked upon the prisoner, he was struck with admiration for His noble and dignified bearing. A conviction came over him that this Man was akin to God. The next instant he scornfully banished the thought." (p. 704) The Bible says nothing about Caiaphas admiring Jesus or being convicted.
"The words of Christ startled the high priest. The thought that there was to be a resurrection of the dead, when all would stand at the bar of God, to be rewarded according to their works, was a thought of terror to Caiaphas. He did not wish to believe that in future he would receive sentence according to his works. There rushed before his mind as a panorama the scenes of the final judgment. For a moment he saw the fearful spectacle of the graves giving up their dead, with the secrets he had hoped were forever hidden. For a moment he felt as if standing before the eternal Judge, whose eye, which sees all things, was reading his soul, bringing to light mysteries supposed to be hidden with the dead." (p. 708) The Bible says nothing about Caiaphas being startled or having a vision of the future judgment.

"The disciple John, upon entering the judgment hall, did not try to conceal the fact that he was a follower of Jesus." (p. 711) The Bible says nothing about whether or not John tried to conceal himself.
"On the very spot where Jesus had poured out His soul in agony to His Father, Peter fell upon his face, and wished that he might die." (p. 713) The Bible says nothing about Peter weeping on the exact same spot where Jesus had wept.
"Eagerly grasping the robe of Caiaphas, he [Judas] implored him to release Jesus, declaring that He had done nothing worthy of death." (p. 722) The Bible says nothing about Judas grabbing the robe of Caiaphas and begging for Jesus' life.
"Judas now cast himself at the feet of Jesus, acknowledging Him to be the Son of God, and entreating Him to deliver Himself. The Saviour did not reproach His betrayer. He knew that Judas did not repent; his confession was forced from his guilty soul by an awful sense of condemnation and a looking for of judgment, but he felt no deep, heartbreaking grief that he had betrayed the spotless Son of God, and denied the Holy One of Israel. Yet Jesus spoke no word of condemnation. He looked pityingly upon Judas, and said, For this hour came I into the world. A murmur of surprise ran through the assembly. With amazement they beheld the forbearance of Christ toward His betrayer. Again there swept over them the conviction that this Man was more than mortal. But if He was the Son of God, they questioned, why did He not free Himself from His bonds and triumph over His accusers? Judas saw that his entreaties were in vain, and he rushed from the hall exclaiming, It is too late! It is too late!" (p. 722) The Bible says nothing of such an encounter between Judas and Christ in the judgment hall. There is no mention of them having any contact or any conversation, nor is there any record of Judas running from the hall yelling.
"In answer to Christ's prayer, the wife of Pilate had been visited by an angel from heaven, and in a dream she had beheld the Saviour and conversed with Him. Pilate's wife was not a Jew, but as she looked upon Jesus in her dream, she had no doubt of His character or mission. She knew Him to be the Prince of God. She saw Him on trial in the judgment hall. She saw the hands tightly bound as the hands of a criminal. She saw Herod and his soldiers doing their dreadful work. She heard the priests and rulers, filled with envy and malice, madly accusing. She heard the words, "We have a law, and by our law He ought to die." She saw Pilate give Jesus to the scourging, after he had declared, "I find no fault in Him." She heard the condemnation pronounced by Pilate, and saw him give Christ up to His murderers. She saw the cross uplifted on Calvary. She saw the earth wrapped in darkness, and heard the mysterious cry, "It is finished." Still another scene met her gaze. She saw Christ seated upon the great white cloud, while the earth reeled in space, and His murderers fled from the presence of His glory. With a cry of horror she awoke, and at once wrote to Pilate words of warning." (p. 732) The Bible says nothing of an angel visiting Pilate's wife. Nor does it say she conversed with Christ in her dream, nor does it say she saw a vision of the cross or the Second Coming of Christ. The Bible only says that she "suffered many things this day in a dream because of him." (Matt. 27:19)
"Looking upon the smitten Lamb of God, the Jews had cried, 'His blood be on us, and on our children.' That awful cry ascended to the throne of God. That sentence, pronounced upon themselves, was written in heaven. That prayer was heard. The blood of the Son of God was upon their children and their children's children, a perpetual curse." (p. 739) The Bible says nothing about the Jews being cursed for their sin. In fact, Christ later prayed upon the cross, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."
"And Satan with his angels, in human form, was present at the cross. The archfiend and his hosts were co-operating with the priests and rulers." (p. 748) The Bible says nothing about Satan and his angels taking human form and being present at the cross.
Later that same day, on the road from Pilate's hall to Calvary, there came an interruption to the shouts and jeers of the wicked throng who were leading Jesus to the place of crucifixion. As they passed a retired spot, they saw at the foot of a lifeless tree, the body of Judas. It was a most revolting sight. His weight had broken the cord by which he had hanged himself to the tree. In falling, his body had been horribly mangled, and dogs were now devouring it. His remains were immediately buried out of sight; but there was less mockery among the throng, and many a pale face revealed the thoughts within. Desire of Ages, p. 772 The Bible says nothing about Judas being eaten by dogs, hanging himself next to the same road travelled by Jesus on his way to Calvary, or his being buried immediately. (See Matt. 27:5, Acts 1:18)

Where did Ellen White get her additions to the Bible?

Some may suggest Ellen White got her additions to the Bible from divine sources. Whether this is true, no one can say for sure. What can be said with certainty is that she used many human sources in her writings. SDA Professor Fred Veltman, in his eight-year analysis of Mrs. White's plagiarism in Desire of Ages, determined she used at least 23 sources, including fictional accounts.

One example is from a book in Ellen White's personal library: John Cummings' Sabbath Evening Readings on the New Testament: St. John (London: Arthur Hall, Virtue and Company, 1857).

Ellen White in Desire of Ages Cummings in Sabbath Evening Readings
In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived. “He that hath the Son hath life.” 1 John 5:12
(p. 530)
...he [John] states, “In Him was life,”—that is original, unborrowed, underived.
(p. 5)

Another one of the books in Ellen White's personal library was J. Cunningham Geikie’s book The Life and Words of Christ. Interestingly, some of the ideas that Ellen White uses in her writings about Christ do not come from the Bible, but appear to come from Geikie's book. Below are a few examples:

Ellen White in Desire of Ages Geikie in The Life and Words of Christ, vol. 1 The Bible
In their own land were treasured prophetic writings that predicted the coming of a divine teacher. Balaam belonged to the magicians...and his prophecies had been handed down by tradition from century to century.
(p. 59, "We Have Seen His Star")
Doubtless they had heard in their own country such a belief expressed by the Jews, and traced to the prophecy of Balaam, one of their own caste, and from their own parts.
(p. 146, "The Magi")
The Bible never claims the Magi were aware of Balaam's prophecy or that they came from the same land as Balaam. Balaam lived in Pethor, which was an Assyrian town, not a Babylonian, Parthian, or Persian town.
Among the Jews the twelfth year was the dividing line between childhood and youth. On completing this year a Hebrew boy was called a son of the law, and also a son of God.
(p. 75, "The Passover Visit")
Jesus, who ended his twelfth year when taken up to the Passover, was thus already a "Son of the Law..."
(pp. 224,225, "The Passover Visit to Jerusalem")
The phrase "son of the law" does not appear anywhere in the Bible.
There was much confusion as they left the city.
(p. 80, "The Passover Visit")
The confusion and bustle around must have been indescribable...
(p. 225, "The Passover Visit to Jerusalem")
The Bible says nothing about "confusion" when Joseph and Mary left Jerusalem.
In the school of the rabbis they found Jesus.
(p. 81, "The Passover Visit")
In the school of the Rabbis Mary and Joseph found him ...
(p. 228, "The Passover Visit to Jerusalem")
Luke 2 does not mention any "school of the Rabbis."
In his manner and dress he resembled the prophet Elijah. With the spirit and power of Elijah...
(p. 104, "The Voice in the Wilderness")
A second Elijah, in spirit, as well as outward appearance.
(p. 394, "The New Prophet in the Wilderness")
John wore "Camel hair" which was an unclean animal, and the Jews did not wear Camel-hair garments. Thus, it is unlikely Elijah wore camel hair. Both John and Elijah wore a leather belt, but leather belts were common in the Roman era and would not have been unusual.
Persons of all ranks submitted to the requirement of the Baptist, in order to participate in the kingdom he announced.
(p. 105, "The Voice in the Wilderness")
Every rank was represented.
(p. 397, "The New Prophet in the Wilderness")
The Bible never explicitly says "all ranks" went to see John.
When Jesus came to be baptized, John recognized in Him a purity of character that he had never before perceived in any man.
(p. 110, "The Baptism")
The meekness, gentleness, and purity [of Jesus], which overawed him [John]...
(p. 412, "The Baptism of Jesus and the Death of John")
The Bible says nothing about John being impressed with the "purity" of Jesus.


The examples above demonstrate that Ellen White's version of the Passion adds to what the Bible says. The examples above demonstrate that the source for some of the additions to Scripture in the Desire of Ages is not divine, but rather it is the conjectures of other human beings such as Cunningham Geikie. While one may never know if Ellen White or her bookmaker Marian Davis relied upon the divine mind while writing Desire of Ages, it is certainly true that they relied upon human minds.

External Links


  1. William Johnsson, "The Sufferings of Jesus," Adventist Review, March, 2004.

  2. Samuele Bacchiocchi, "Endtime Issues Newsletter," #112.

Category: Bible vs. Mrs. White
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