"Monsters of Humanity"

Did Mrs. White mischaracterize Caesar?

D. E. ROBINSON. [Member, E. G. White Publications Staff.]

In "Testimonies for the Church," volume 4, Page 519. Mrs. White speaks of Nero and Caesar as "mon­sters of humanity" and "satanic in their cruelty." She says further that they were "lauded by the world while they were living; but when they were buried, the world rejoiced." Granted that all this is true re­garding Nero, is it not an inaccurate description of Julius Caesar or Augustus Caesar?

Were the term Caesar so limited in its ap­plication as to include only the first two emperors of Rome, there would be sound basis for question. Like the word Pharaoh, however, Caesar may refer to any scientific ruler, or it may have a generic meaning. In the New Tes­tament, reference is made to Augustus Caesar, Tiberius Caesar, and Claudius Caesar, but at the time Paul made his "appeal to Caesar," Nero was in supreme power in Rome. Luke 2:1; 3 :1; Acts 11 :28; 25:8-12. The term is de­fined by one authority as:

"The cognomen of the most renowned branch of the patrician Gens Julia, which claimed descent from the mythical lulus, son of Aeneas.

"The earliest Caesar [Gaius Julius, 102-44 B.c.] left no direct male descendant to bear his name. Since he adopted Octavius (afterward the emperor Augustus), the latter took the name. From Augustus, it passed also through adoption, to his immediate suc­cessors. Tiberius and Caligula, Claudius and Nero (though not Julii) continued the name, which died out as a family name when Nero was killed. Hence­forth it became a title of the reigning emperor ; Vitel­lius alone refused to accept it. From Trajan's reign, it stands regularly after the title Emperor (Impera­tor Caesar)."—New International Encyclopedia, Art. "Caesar."

The Lives of the Twelve Caesars is the title of a book written by Suetonius about the close of the second century after Christ, giving bio­graphical sketches of the Roman emperors from Julius Caesar to Domitian. The edition from which we quote, copyrighted 1931 by the Modern Library,. Inc., New York, is said to be "an unexpurgated English version edited with notes and an introduction by Joseph Gavorse." Extracts from this source might be quoted at length regarding several of the Caesars, show­ing that what is said by Mrs. White regarding their characters would aptly apply.

Shocking and disgusting details of the vile practices of Tiberius Caesar, especially after his retirement to the island of Capri, are given by Suetonius (pages 145-147). Surely he was a ‘‘monster of humanity," of whom it is said:

"His cruel and cold-blooded character was not completely 'hidden even in his boyhood, but it became still more noticeable after he became emperor."

Following the relation of a number of specific The instances of brutality and cruelty, our author continues:

"He did so many other cruel and savage deeds un­der the guise of strictness and improvement of the public morals, but in reality to gratify his natural in­stincts, that some resorted to verses to express their detestation of the present ills and a warning against those to come:

" 'Obdurate wretch too fierce, too fell to move

The least kind yearnings of a mother's love! . .

" 'Instead of wine he thirsted for before,

He wallows now in floods of human gore.'"--Pages 152-154.

Was there rejoicing when he died? Of this it is written:

"The people were so glad of his death, that at the first news of it some ran about shouting, 'Tiberius to the Tiber,' while others prayed to Mother Earth and the Manes to allow the dead man no abode ex­cept among the damned."—Pages 162, 163.

Even more striking are Suetonius' depictions of the brutality and heartless acts of Gaius Ca­ligula, the successor of Tiberius, but it is not necessary to cite more here.

Granting that the use of the dual expression "Nero and Caesar" involves a technical verbal difficulty, the question at issue really is whether the statement of fact in question can be recon­ciled with the claims that Mrs. White was guided by divine revelations in the reception of the principles that she taught. If we are to maintain that the messages were dictated orally, or that the hand of the writer was me­chanically guided in the actual formation of the letters, then any imperfection even in the language or the choice of words would indeed present a real problem.

However, no claim for verbal inspiration or inerrancy of expression has ever been made by Mrs. White, or in her behalf, by the denomina­tion which she represented. While she was in vision, scenes of the past, the present, or the future passed before her, and later she de­scribed what she had witnessed and the instruc­tion she had received. For instance, in a two-hour vision in a schoolhouse at Lovett's Grove, Ohio, given to her after speaking a few words at a funeral service, the views pertaining to the "great controversy of the ages," passed before her. (See Life Sketches, pp. 161-163). In ful­fillment of the commission to write this out, she produced a few months later, in 1858, a 2I9-page book, the contents of which may now be found in Early Writings, pages 145-295.

The article in Testimonies for the Church, volume 4, first appeared in the Review of Jan­uary 8, 1880. This was before Mrs. White had prepared The Great Controversy, in which for the first time she dealt with history in a de­tailed way. She was not writing as a historian, who must be punctilious in giving dates or names of personages. Her mission was rather to unfold the great issues of good and evil. The historical allusions relating to the development of this theme were always secondary or subor­dinated to this great purpose.

In the paragraph in question it was clearly the purpose of the author to contrast the char­acter of certain Roman emperors with that of Luther. All that is said of Nero is admittedly true. All that is said of Caesar is true, for there were in the line of emperors bearing that title those who were "monsters of humanity," who were "Satanic in their cruelty," and whose death was followed by great rejoicing of the people. If, instead of "Nero and Caesar," Mrs. White had written "Nero and Tiberius Cae­sar," or "Nero and Caligula," or "Nero and other Caesars," no possible objection could be raised regarding either its historical accuracy or its phraseology. The difficulty is wholly in the technical use of words rather than in any fac­tual error. Inasmuch as she was not primarily dependent for her knowledge upon the study of history books, but rather upon panoramic views of the historical scenes that were brought be­fore her in vision, the wording of the statement under examination can easily be accounted for. D. E. ROBINSON. [Member, E. G. White Publications Staff.]

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D. E. ROBINSON. [Member, E. G. White Publications Staff.]

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