The Great Controversy (book)

The Great Controversy (book)

Infobox Book
name = The Great Controversy
author = Ellen White
language = English
pages = 219
release_date = 1858
publisher = James White
country = USA
subject = History of sin from beginning to end

"The Great Controversy" is a book written by Ellen G. White, a founding member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Originally written as an evangelistic tool, it describes the theme of the Great Controversy between Christ and Satan. The first edition was published in 1858, with later editions in 1884, 1888, and 1911.

The 1911 edition has sold in the millions of copies. Many have found through a careful reading of this book an awakened interest in the study of the Bible's books of Daniel and Revelation. The book also provides a consistent line of reasoning defending the continuity of God's ten commandments as being preserved through the Dark Ages, the Reformation and then pointing to their significance in last day events.

This book by Ellen White (1858) has a title similar to a book by H. L. Hastings which was published just a few months earlier the same year: "The Great Controversy between God and Man".

Supporters have noted the possible connection between Hastings' title and White's title, but have pointed out that Hastings' book does not deal with the exact same issues as presented in White's--namely, the war between Christ and Satan behind the scenes of human history. Critics counter that the change in focus from God vs Man to Christ vs Satan does not constitute such a significant departure from the themes presented in Hastings' original work to justify being called an original work. There is an article criticizing this, showing a perceived relationship between the 2 books: [ Myths about Ellen White: Received "Great Controversy" in Vision] . Supporters point out that Hastings makes no mention of the key Biblical passages that describe this war (Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28, and Revelation 12). (Compare [] with [] .


This section describes the production of the book.

There are four major editions of the book commonly called "The Great Controversy". The first was published in 1858 with the title: "The Great Controversy Between Christ and His Angels, and Satan and His Angels". This book uses no historical quotes, and is written in the first-person present tense, with the phrase "I saw" being used 161 times to refer to the author's experience in receiving the vision(s) given to enable her to write this book. This edition later became known as: "Spiritual Gifts Volume 1". This book explains the whole history of sin from before sin ever entered the universe, to after its final destruction in the new earth.

An expansion of the Great Controversy theme entailed writing a series of 4 books from 1870 - 1884; all of these included the phrase: "The Great Controversy" as part of the title. This series later came to be known as: "Spirit of Prophecy Volumes 1-4". The last one in the series is generally looked on as being in the same line as the 1858 version, as the contents are the most similar. However, the book begins with the destruction of Jerusalem, includes historical quotes, and while the tense of the verbs used is still generally present tense, the first-person aspect is not present.

Just four years later, in 1888, a completely revised version was published, titled: "The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan". This version is similar to the 1884 version, with the addition of more historical quotes, and the changing of the verb tense from present to past. It also added several chapters on the Protestant Reformation (chaps. 9, 12, 13, 16, and 19) and noted its use of historical sources in the Author's Preface.

The final major edition was published in 1911. This version is very similar to the 1888 edition, with the addition of credits the historians used in the book, and wording changes done by professors and committees." [ W. W. Prescott and the 1911 Edition of "The Great Controversy"] " by Arthur L. White. Ellen G. White Estate] The latest evaluation of source material in the 1911 edition is 15.11% for attributed material and 5.05% for unattributed paraphrased material. [" [ Ellen White's Literary Sources: How Much Borrowing is There?] ". Ellen G. White Estate]

The official Ellen G. White Estate web site views the 1888 version as the original "Great Controversy", with the 1911 edition being the only revision. The "Synopsis" and "Sources" below reflect this, and do not refer at all to the 1858 version, and only partially to the 1884 version.

Most people probably think of the current, 1911 edition of this book when referring to "The Great Controversy". While the 1858 edition is very different, the 1884, 1888, and 1911 editions of this book follow this synopsis below.


There is a historical overview which begins with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, covers the Reformation and Advent movement in detail, and culminates with a lengthy description of the end times. It also outlines several key Seventh-day Adventist doctrines, including the heavenly sanctuary, the investigative judgment and the state of the dead.

Much of the first half of the book is devoted to the historical conflict between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. White writes that the Papacy propagated a corrupt form of Christianity from the time of Constantine I onwards, and during the Middle Ages was opposed only by the Waldensians and other small groups who preserved an authentic form of Christianity. Beginning with John Wycliffe and John Huss, and continuing with Luther, Zwingli and others, the Reformation led to a partial recovery of biblical truth. In the early 19th century William Miller began to preach that Jesus was about to return to earth; his movement eventually resulted in the formation of the Adventist church.

The second half of the book is prophetic, looking to a resurgence in Papal supremacy. The civil government of the United States will form a union with the Roman Catholic church as well as with corrupt Protestantism. There will be an enforcement of a universal Sunday law (the mark of the beast) and a great persecution of Sabbath-keepers immediately prior to the second coming of Jesus.

ources, borrowing or plagiarism

It is said that White claimed to experience visions from God in which historical events covered in the 1888 edition of this book were broadly revealed to her. Yet she also wrote about relying on historians::"...In some cases where a historian has so grouped together events as to afford, in brief, a comprehensive view of the subject, or has summarized details in a convenient manner, his words have been quoted; but except in a few instances no specific credit has been given, since they are not quoted for the purpose of citing that writer as authority, but because his statement affords a ready and forcible presentation of the subject. In narrating the experience and views of those carrying forward the work of reform in our own time, similar use has occasionally been made of their published works." ["The Great Controversy", 1888 edn.]

Supporters dispute the surrounding charges of plagiarism, of the later editions of the book, because they say drawing widely from other authors without citing sources was a common practice of the times. Walter T. Rea a former Seventh-day Adventist who is now a prominent critic, notes that borrowing is prevalent in the later editions of this book. Critics of Ellen White note that the issue is not whether Ellen White borrowed from others to write the Great Controversy, but whether the Great Contorversy is of divine origin or not, since Ellen clamimed to received the book by vision.

Ellen and her son Willie, who observed the process of his mother's writing, acknowledged borrowing from Jean-Henri Merle d'Aubigné and others. The first half of "The Great Controversy" contains lengthy historical chapters, in which White depended heavily upon works written by church historians including James Aitken Wylie and d'Aubigné. Much of the material about the Millerite movement is based upon the writings of Sylvester Bliss.

In 1911 a new edition or "refinement" was produced. In 1910 the manager of Pacific Press Publishing Association, C. H. Jones, wrote to Willie informing that a new edition would be needed in the next few months, and that the printing plates were worn out and would need to be replaced. This opportunity was taken to correct some details of the book. It is said that White made many corrections herself, and that after her, W. W. Prescott had the most input, suggesting just over 100 improvements, of which just over half were accepted. Additional citations acknowledging borrowing on other authors were added as Willie White reported in 1911::"In the body of the book, the most noticeable improvement is the introduction of historical references. In the old edition, over 700 biblical references were given, but in only a few instances were there any historical references to the authorities quoted or referred to. In the new edition the reader will find more than 400 references to 88 authors and authorities." [ [ The Great Controversy] , "A statement made by W. C. White before the General Conference Council, October 30, 1911"]

The Spanish version contains an extra chapter, "The Awakening in Spain", which was compiled by C. C. Crisler and H. H. Hall, and accepted for addition to the book by Ellen White. [" [ Is The Great Controversy Missing a Chapter?] ". Ellen G. White Estate. Retrieved 2007-12-13]

Douglas Morgan ( [ staff profile] ) has suggested the church expand its view of history beyond the Western-centered focus in this book. ["The "Great Controversy" and the Coming of Global Christianity" by Doug Morgan]


* Hardcover version, Pacific Press Publishing Association; Deluxe edition (June 2002). ISBN 0-8163-1923-5
* Paperback version, 196 pages. Publisher: Remnant Publications (December 1, 2001). ISBN 1-883012-93-7
* (There has also been a version released under the title "America in Prophecy").

* In 2007, Caryn Shoemaker wrote a contemporary paraphrase of "The Great Controversy" titled "Our Struggle is not against Flesh". Ms. Shoemaker's work is available at []

Conflict of the Ages series

* "Vol. 1 Patriarchs and Prophets"
* "Vol. 2 Prophets and Kings"
* "Vol. 3 The Desire of Ages"
* "Vol. 4 The Acts of the Apostles"
* "Vol. 5 The Great Controversy"

See also

* Inspiration of Ellen White
* List of Ellen White writings


External links

* [ Source dependency in "The Great Controversy"]
* [ Online version] at the Ellen G. White Estate
* [ Free 1858 edition in many languages] at EarlySDA
* [ The Great Controversy Club International] , with the book free to read in 30 languages
* [ W. W. Prescott and the 1911 Edition of The Great Controversy] by Arthur L. White
* [ The 1911 Edition of "The Great Controversy": An Explanation of the Involvements of the 1911 Revision]

* [ How Ellen White's Books Were Written: Addresses to Faculty and Students at the 1935 Advanced Bible School, Angwin, California] by William C. White
* cite journal
last = Peterson
first = William S.
title = A Textual and Historical Study of Ellen G. White's Account of the French Revolution
journal = Spectrum
volume = 2
issue = 4
pages = 57–69
publisher = Association of Adventist Forums
date = Autumn 1970
url =
id = ISSN 0890-0264
format = Dead link|date=May 2008 – [ Scholar search]
This paper was highly controversial and influential
* [ The Great Controversy] , a statement made by Willie White before the General Conference Council on October 30, 1911
* [ Contemporary paraphrase of "The Great Controversy" titled "Our Struggle is not against Flesh"]
* [ Myths about Ellen White: Received "Great Controversy" in Vision] by D. Anderson, about the original author of the book, H. L. Hastings

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