Great Controversy Notes

CHAPTER 1, PP 17-38

by Walter Rea

The expansion of this chapter was helped from the 32 Bible references referred to in Chapter One of Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 4, to over 80 referred to in the same Chapter One of Great Controversy. This chapter is compared to Josephus’ work The Jewish War Books V-VI. The LOEB edition published by Harvard University Press in 1968 as translated by H. St. J. Thackeray is the edition cited herein.

A perusal of these two books show that virtually all the material in pages 26-36 of The Great Controversy (here after cited as GC with page references) has been condensed from Josephus (hereafter cited as J. with page references). Most probably Ellen White did get the Josephus history indirectly through Milman as noted in her references since he, in connection with an incident of cannibalism, also gives the same extensive scripture quotation (Deut. 28: 56-57), which Ellen White does in commenting upon this event. The following are a sample of cross-references, which the reader may wish to consult. For the warring factions within Jerusalem compare GC. 29 and J. 279-281. For the incident of worshippers being murdered around the altar itself compare GC 29 and J. 205. On the eating of wild plants, belts, sandals and shield coverings compare GC 31 and J. 337, 433. For the study of a mother eating her baby compare GC. 32 and J. 337, 433. For crucifixions so numerous that there was no room to move among the crosses compare GC. 32 and J. 341. (Note that Ellen White added the mention of Calvary as the specific location of the crucifixions and the dramatic allusion thereby obtained.) For the story of Titus and the final great slaughter and burning of the temple compare GC 32-35 and J. 447-457. For the story of the man who for years pronounced doom on Jerusalem compare GC 30 and J. 463-5. Note that Josephus gives the more specific figure of 7 years 4 months as opposed to the round figure of 7 years given by Ellen White.

However the most interesting feature from an historical point of view is the omens which Josephus says foretold Jerusalem’s doom and their inclusion in GC. 29-30. Compare J. 461. These are displayed here in parallel columns for the reader’s convenience.


Spirit of Prophecy Vol 4


A comet, resembling a flaming sword for a year hung over the city.

a star resembling a sword stood over the city and a comet… for a year.

the great eastern gate, which was so heavy that it could hardly be shut by a score of men and which was secured by immense bars of iron fastened deep in the pavement of solid stone opened at midnight without visible agency.[--Milman, The History of the Jews, book 13]

The eastern gate of the inner “court which was of brass, so heavy that it was with difficulty shut by a score of men, and having bolts fastened deep into the firm pavement, was seen at midnight to be opened of its own accord.

the eastern gate of the inner court it was of brass and very massive and, when closed towards evening could scarcely be moved by twenty men, fastened with iron-bound bars, it had bolts which were sunk to a great depth into a threshold consisting of a solid block of stone – this gate was observed at the sixth hour of the night to have opened of its own accord.

in the midst of the night an unnatural light shone over the temple and the alter.

an unnatural light was seen hovering over the temple.

at the ninth hour of the night, so brilliant a light shone round the altar and the sanctuary that it seemed to be broad day light.

Upon the clouds at sunset were pictured chariots and men of war gathering for battle

Upon the clouds were pictured chariots mustering for battle

For before sunset throughout all parts of the country chariots were seen in the air and armed battalions hurdling through the clouds and encompassing the cities.

The priests ministering by night in the sanctuary were terrified by mysterious sounds; the earth trembled and a multitude of voices were heard crying "let us depart hence."

Mysterious voices in the temple court uttered the warning words "Let us depart hence."

the priests on entering the inner court of the temple by night--reported that they were conscious first of a commotion and a din, and after that of a voice as of a host, "we are departing hence.

To insult and abuse he answered only "Woe to Jerusalem! Woe, woe to the inhabitants thereof!" His warning cry ceased not until he was slain in the siege he had foretold

"the wild cry of Jeus, son of Ananus,--Woe, woe to the city! which be to the time of the siege, when he suddenly stopped, shrieked…Woe to myself! and was struck dead by a stone.

The last desperate assault was made at the time of the Passover, when millions of Jews had assembled within its walls to celebrate the national festival.

It was now the Passover, …not merely multitudes of Jews from the adjacent districts, but even from remote quarters…these numbers only added to the miseries of the inhabitants.

This part of the study done by Donald Casebolt.

Spirit of Prophecy - pg 34-35


He was filled with horror as he saw the bodies of the dead lying in heaps in the valleys. Like one entranced he looked from the crest of Olivet upon the magnificent temple, and gave command that not one stone of it be touched. Before attempting to gain possession of this stronghold, he made an earnest appeal to the Jewish leaders not to force him to defile the sacred place with blood.

Josephus himself, in a most eloquent appeal, entreated them to surrender, to save themselves, their city, and their place of worship…Darts were hurled at him

Titus, as he went his rounds, saw these bodies rotting with gore wherever he trod…looking down upon its marble courts, and on the temple itself…it was impossible…not to be struck with wonder…venture near the walls with Josephus, to parley with the besieged; he was answered by an arrow through the right shoulder…hurled their darts against his head…by his expostulations.


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The tender and delicate woman among you, which would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness her eye shall be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter, and toward her children which she shall bear; for she shall eat them for want of all things secretly in the siege and straitness, wherewith thine enemy shall distress thee in thy gate. Deut. 28: 56,57

(pg 372) The tender and delicate woman among you, which would not adventure set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness, her eye shall be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter; and toward her young one that cometh out from between her feet, and toward her children which she shall bear. (left out in S.P. but added in G.C.)

In vain were the efforts of Titus to save the temple. One greater than he had declared that not one stone was to be left upon another.

But higher counsels had…decreed, an [unreadable] Temple of Jerusalem was to be forever obliterated from the face of the earth. (pg 374-375)

In the following material, see U. Smith's Sanctuary, Pg 175-177, written in 1877 where this material was used before Ellen White. Put it in her Spirit Of Prophecy, Vol. 4 or the later Great Controversy pp 33-35

Titus found it impossible to check the rage of the soldiery; he entered with his officers, and surveyed the interior of the sacred edifice. The splendour filled them with wonder; and as the flames had not yet penetrated to the holy place, he made a last effort to save it, and springing forth, again exhorted the soldiers to stay the progress of the conflagration. The centurion Liberalis endeavoured to force obedience with his staff of office, but even respect for the emperor gave way to the furious animosity against the Jews, to the fierce excitement of battle, and to the insatiable hope of plunder. The soldiers saw everything around hem radiant with gold, which shone dazzlingly in the wild light of the flames; hey supposed that incalculable treasures were laid up in the sanctuary. A soldier, unperceived, thrust a lighted torch between the hinges of the door; the whole building was in flames in an instant. The blinding smoke and fire forced the officers to retreat, and the noble edifice was left to its fate.

It was an appalling spectacle to the Roman…what was it to the Jew? The whole summit of the hill which commanded the city, blazed like a volcano. One after another the buildings fell in, with a tremendous crash, and were swallowed up in the fiery abyss. The roofs of cedar were like sheets of flames; the gilded pinnacles shone like spikes of red light; the gate towers sent up tall columns of flame and smoke. The neighboring hills wee lighted up, and dark groups of people were seen watching in horrible anxiety the progress of the destruction; the walls and heights of the upper city were crowded with faces, some pale with the agony of despair, others cowling unavailing vengence. The shouts of the Roman soldiery as they ran to and fro, and the howlings of the insurgents who were perishing in the flames, mingling with the roaring of the conflagration and the thundering sound of falling timbers. The echoes of the mountains replied or brought back the shrieks of the people on the heights; all along the walls resounded screams and wailings; men who were expiring with famine rallied their remaining strength to utter a cry of anguish and desolation.

The slaughter within was even more dreadful than the spectacle from without. Men and women, old and young, insurgents and priests, those who fought and those who entreated mercy, were hewn down in indiscriminate carnage. The number of the slain exceeded that of the slayers. The legionaries had to clamber over heaps of dead to carry on the work of extermination.

When Titus entered the city, he gazed with astonishment at the massy towers, and recognized the hand of God in a victory which had thus made him master of such fortress without a struggle…The city was ordered to be razed…During the whole siege the number killed was 1,100,000…Of the rest, all above seventeen years old were sent to Egypt to work in the mines, or distributed among the provinces to be exhibited as gladiators in the public theatres. The History of the Jews - Book 16, pg 383-384.

As has been noted earlier in the study, Milman and his History of the Jews, Book 16, was used by Uriah Smith in his book on The Sanctuary written in 1877, years before Volume 4 of the Spirit of Prophecy or later editions of Great Controversy was written. Much of Uriah Smith's book was copied from J. N. Andrews' articles in the 1852-1853 articles he originated in thought and practice long before Ellen wrote on the subjects. While quoting the same material, Uriah Smith uses another author.

No power could then save it. The scene has been so well described by Smith in his History of the World, Vol. 3, p. 578, that we cannot forbear introducing a paragraph from his graphic picture.

"The battering-rams began their work upon the defenses of the second court; but the massive stones withstood their shock; the scaling parties were dashed down upon the pavement, and their standards taken; and on the 8th of August Titus gave orders to set fire to the great gates which he had attempted in vain to undermine. The flames spread to the cloisters, and blazed during all that day and night. On the second day the defenders burst out of the firey circle and were hardly forced back by a cavalry charge led by Titus himself. The Roman now called a council of war to decide whether the temple should be saved. Though opinions were divided, he ordered the flames to be extinguished, and, having fixed the assault for the morrow, retired to rest. But another decree had been registered by the Supreme Ruler; and the infuriated combatants were in instruments of his will. The indefatigable defenders, who had renewed their attacks on the soldiers engaged in putting out the fire, were driven back into the inner court, and pursued to the very place of the temple. By one of those impulses which defy all discipline, a soldier, mounting on the shoulders of a comrade, threw a blazing torch into the gilded lattice of the porch. The flames sprang up at once. The Jews uttered one simultaneous, and grasped their swords, with a furious determination of revenging and perishing in the ruins of the temple. Titus rushed down with the utmost speed, he shouted, he made signs to his soldiers to quench the fire; his voice was drowned, and his signs unnoticed in the blind confusion. The legionaries either could not or would not hear. They rushed on, trampling each other down in their furious haste, or stumbling over the crumbling ruins, perished with the enemy. Each exhorted the other, and each hurled his blazing brand into the inter edifices, and then hurried to the work of carnage. The unarmed and defenseless people were slain in thousands; they lay heaped like sacrifice round the altar; the steps of the temple ran with streams of blood, which washed down the bodies which lay upon it.

The flames had not reached the sanctuary itself, when Titus entered the holy of holies. Admiration of its riches and splendor impelled him to a last effort for its preservation, but even his very presence, and in the midst of his earnest exhortations, a soldier thrust a lighted torch between the hinges of the door, and the building was presently in flames. This defiance of the sacred laws of Roman discipline is a most emphatic sign of the presence of a higher power than even the Caesar…Such was the resistance opposed by the immense and well-filled stones to the work of destruction, that Titus is reported to have exclaimed, 'God has been my helper. God it was that pulled down the Jews from those formidable walls; for what could the hands of man or their engines have availed against them?'"

Thus it is clear from reading J. N. Andrews' History of the Sabbath that Ellen White was indebted to him for her thought and often words and sentences for her theory of the history of the world from beginning to end, working it all around the idea of God and the Sabbath and his law. This is clearly shown in her returning to J. N. A. again and again in her Great Controversy ideas. In the first chapter she used the words of Josephus and The Jewish War, Book II, Chap. XIX, XX, pp. 132-133 which J. N. A. and his brother-in-law, Uriah Smith, had used before her.

Chapters 2 and 3 of Great Controversy also follow Andrews. His book History of the Sabbath deals with the persecutions In the first centuries and that is the title of the second chapter of Ellen's book, with the third following the same theme on the Apostasy. Some of the same illustrations and bible texts are used by Ellen that are used by Andrews.

G. C. Pg 53, Appendix Pg 680

J.N.A., History of the Sabbath, Chap. 17, Pg. 380

The Sunday Law of Constantine. The law issued by the emperor Constantine on the seventh of March, A.D. 321 regarding a day of rest from labor, reads thus:

"All judges and city people and the craftsmen shall rest upon the venerable Day of the Sun. Country people, however may freely attend to the cultivation of the fields, because it frequently happens that no other days are better adapted for planting the grain, and in the furrows or the vines in trenches. So that the advantage given by heavenly providence may not for the occasion of a short time perish."

The fourth century marks the victory of Christianity over paganism…But to bring about such a union was no easy task…He was more than half convinced of the insufficiency of paganism, and nearly half convinced of the truth of Christianity…Many of his pagan subjects reverenced the same day as a day of prayer in honor of the sun. Here was the point of friendly union.

"We not only quote his Sunday edict of March 7…Thus, let all judges and town people, and the occupation of all trades rest on the venerable day of the Sun; but let those who are situated in the country, freely and at full liberty attend to the business of agriculture because it often happens that no other day is so fit for mowing corn and planting vines; last, the critical moment being let slip, men should lose the commodities granted by Heaven."

The opening of the sixth century witnessed the development of the great apostasy to such an extent that the man of sin might be plainly seen sitting in the temple of God. Dan. 7:7,25, Rev.13: 2,5, Rev. 12. The Western Roman Empire had been broken up into ten kingdoms, and the way was now prepared for the work of the little horn. In the early part of this century, the bisho0p of Rome was made head over the entire church by the emperor of the east, Justinian. The dragon gave unto the beast his power, and his seat, and great authority. For this accession to supremacy by the Roman pontiff, date the "times, times and dividing of time," or twelve hundred and sixty years of the prophecies of Daniel and John.

The true people of God now retired for safety into places of obscurity and seclusion, as represented by the prophecy; "the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and three score days."

J.N.A. - History of the Sabbath, pp. 271

In the sixth century the papacy had become firmly established. Its seat of power was fixed in the imperial city, and the bishop of Rome was declared to be the head over the entire church. Paganism had given place to the papacy, "The dragon had given to the beast 'his power, and his seat, and great authority." Revelation 13: 2 (See Appendix) And now began the 1260 years of papal oppression foretold in the prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation. (Daniel 7: 25, Revelation 13: 5-7)

For hundreds of years the church of Christ found refuge in seclusion and obscurity. Thus says the prophet; "the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days." Revelation. The accession of the Roman Church to power marked the beginning of the Dark Ages. As her power increased, the darkness deepened.

The Great Controversy - pp. 53-55

But, "the noon of papacy was the midnight of the world." J. A. Wylis, The History of Protestantism, Book 1, Chapter 4, quoted in G. C., page 60.

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