THE SCAPEGOAT IN THE WRITINGS OF
ELLEN G WHITE
Alberto R. Timm
Ellen G. White Estate
(A condensed version of this article appears in the
October 2013 issue of Ministry.)
The identification and eschatological meaning of the scapegoat of Leviticus 16 has generated much discussion in academic circles. Within ancient Jewish tradition, the scapegoat was always seen as a demonic being. 1 But since the post-apostolic period, many Christian expositors have tried to identify it with Christ and His sacrificial death. 2 Seventh-day Adventists have stressed a clear distinction between “the goats” of Leviticus 16:8, considering the one “for the Lord” as a type of Christ, and the one “for the scapegoat [Heb. Azazel]” as representing Satan. 3 This is also the view expressed in Ellen White’s writings.
The present paper provides a chronological survey of Ellen White’s statements on the antitypical scapegoat. The discussion begins with O. R. L. Crosier’s contribution, which laid the foundation of the Seventh-day Adventist understanding of the subject; continues with Ellen White’s early and later statements related to the topic; and ends with some remarks on an unusual manuscript that completely departs from all her other writings and from Seventh-day Adventist thought in general.
O. R. L. Crosier’s Contribution
The Seventh-day Adventist understandings of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary (Dan 8:14; Heb 9:23) and the final role of Satan as the eschatological scapegoat (Lev 16; Rev 20) were largely shaped by the biblical interpretations presented in O. R. L. Crosier’s article “The Law of Moses,” published in The Day-Star Extra, February 7, 1846. 4 In his treatment of the scapegoat, Crosier argued forcefully,
It is supposed by almost every one that this goat typified Christ in some of his offices, and that the type was fulfilled at the first Advent. From this opinion I must differ; because, 1st, That goat was not sent away till after the High Priest had made an end of cleansing the Sanctuary, Lev 16: 20, 21; hence that event cannot meet its antitype till after the end of the 2300 days. 2nd, It was sent away from Israel into the wilderness, a land not inhabited, to receive them. If our blessed Saviour is its anti-type, He also must be sent away, not his body alone, but soul and body, for the goat was sent away alive, from, not to nor into, his people; neither into heaven, for that is not a wilderness or land not inhabited. 3rd, It received and retained all the iniquities of Israel; but when Christ appears the second time He will be “without sin.” 4th, The goat received the iniquities from the hands of the priest and he sent it away. As Christ is the Priest, the goat must be something else besides himself and which he can send away. 5th, This was one of two goats chosen for that day, one was the Lord’s and offered for a sin-offering; but the other was not called the Lord’s, neither offered as a sacrifice. Its only office was to receive the iniquities for the priest after he had cleansed the Sanctuary for them, and bear them into a land not inhabited, leaving the Sanctuary, priest and people behind and free from their iniquities. Lev. 16: 7-10, 22. 6th, The Hebrew name of the scape-goat as will be seen from the margin of ver. 8, is “Azazel.” On this verse, Wm. Jenke, in his Comp. Com. has the following remarks: “Scape-goat.] See diff. opin. in Bochart. Spencer, after the oldest opinion of the Hebrews and Christains [sic], thinks Azazel is the name of the devil; and so Rosenmire, whom see. The Syriac has Azzael [sic], the angel (Strongone) who revolted.” 7th, At the appearing of Christ, as taught from Rev. 20: Satan is to be bound and cast into the bottomless pit, which act and place are significantly symboiized [sic] by the ancient High Priest sending the scape-goat into a separate and uninhabited wilderness. 8th, Thus we have the Scripture, the deffinition [sic] of the name in two ancient languages both spoken at the same time, & the oldest opinion of the Christians in favor of regarding the scape-goat as a type of Satan. In the common use of the term, men always associate it with something mean, calling the greatest villians [sic] and refugees from justice scape-goats. Ignorance of the law and its meaning is the only possible origin that can be assigned for the opinion that the scape-goat was a type of Christ. 5
Crosier’s views of Satan as the antitypical scapegoat were fully accepted by early Sabbatarian Adventists, and the above-quoted arguments would be echoed consistently within Seventh-day Adventist literature on the topic, including in Ellen White’s writings. Noteworthy, already in 1847, A Word to the “Little Flock” came off the press with the following endorsing paragraph from her pen,
I believe the Sanctuary, to be cleansed at the end of the 2300 days, is the New Jerusalem Temple, of which Christ is a minister. The Lord shew me in vision, more than one year ago, that Bother Crosier had the true light, on the cleansing of the Sanctuary, &c; and that it was his will, that Brother C. should write out the view which he gave us in the Day-Star, Extra, February 7, 1846. I feel fully authorized by the Lord, to recommend that Extra, to every saint. 6
By searching her published and unpublished writings, one can see that Ellen White continued to speak of Satan as the antitypical scapegoat.
Ellen White’s Early Statements
In the summer of 1849, Ellen White stated that the sins confessed before the time of trouble “will be placed on the scapegoat and borne away.” 7 On August 4, 1850, she wrote a letter encouraging the Hastings family “to pray much that their sins may be confessed upon the head of the scape goat and borne away into the land of forgetfulness.” 8 Neither of the two statements provides any significant clue as to the identification of scapegoat. But a couple of months later (October 23, 1850), she saw in a vision that after Jesus finishes His work in the heavenly sanctuary,
He will come to the door of the tabernacle, or door of the first apartment, and confess the sins of Israel upon the head of the scape goat. Then He will put on the garments of vengeance. Then the plagues come upon the wicked, and they do not come until Jesus puts on the garments of vengeance and takes His seat upon the great white cloud. Then while the plagues are falling the scape goat is being led away. He makes a mighty struggle to escape, but he is held fast by the hand that bears him away. If he should effect his escape Israel would be destroyed (or slain). I saw that it would take time to bear him away into the land of forgetfulness after the sins were put upon his head. . . .
As Jesus passed through the holy place or first apartment, to the door to confess the sins of Israel on the scape goat, an angel said, This apartment is called the sanctuary. 9
This statement provides insightful glimpses towards the identification of the scapegoat. Noteworthy, as Leviticus 16:8 distinguished the goat “for the Lord” from the goat “for the scapegoat”, so did Ellen White distinguish Jesus from the eschatological scapegoat. The distinction becomes even more evident when she says that Jesus Himself, as our true High Priest, will confess the sins of God’s people “upon the head of the scape goat”; and that “while the plagues are falling the scape goat is being led away . . . into the land of forgetfulness.” In addition, the scapegoat’s “mighty struggle to escape” from his tragic exilic death avoids any identification of that goat with Christ. Even without mentioning Satan by name, it is more than evident that Ellen White had him in mind as the true scapegoat.
By 1850 Sabbatarian Adventists already had a clear understanding of the scapegoat, which was never challenged within the denomination. For more than 30 years Ellen White made no further mention the “scapegoat” in her writings.
Ellen White’s Later Statements
It was in the 1880s and 1890s that Ellen White penned her strongest arguments about Satan as the eschatological scapegoat. In the 1884 edition of her The Great Controversy between Christ and Satan (Chapter 18 – “The Sanctuary”) one reads the following words,
It was seen, also, that while the sin-offering pointed to Christ as a sacrifice, and the high priest represented Christ as a mediator, the scape-goat typified Satan, the author of sin, upon whom the sins of the truly penitent will finally be placed. When the high priest, by virtue of the blood of the sin-offering, removed the sins from the sanctuary, he placed them upon the scape-goat. When Christ, by virtue of his own blood, removes the sins of his people from the heavenly sanctuary at the close of his ministration, he will place them upon Satan, who, in the execution of the judgment, must bear the final penalty. The scape-goat was sent away into a land not inhabited, never to come again into the congregation of Israel. So will Satan be forever banished from the presence of God and his people, and he will be blotted from existence in the final destruction of sin and sinners. 10
The 1888 revised-and-enlarged edition of The Great Controversy not only preserved (in Chapter 23 – “What Is the Sanctuary?”) the above-quoted paragraph, 11 but also added two more statements on the same subject. In Chapter 28 – “The Investigative Judgment,” she says,
As the priest, in removing the sins from the sanctuary, confessed them upon the head of the scape-goat, so Christ will place all these sins upon Satan, the originator and instigator of sin. The scape-goat, bearing the sins of Israel, was sent away “unto a land not inhabited;” [Lev 16:22] so Satan, bearing the guilt of all the sins which he has caused God's people to commit, will be for a thousand years confined to the earth, which will then be desolate, without inhabitant, and he will at last suffer the full penalty of sin, in the fires that shall destroy all the wicked. 12
And again in Chapter 41 – “Desolation of the Earth,” Ellen White reinforced the same concept,
When the ministration in the holy of holies had been completed, and the sins of Israel had been removed from the sanctuary by virtue of the blood of the sin-offering, then the scape-goat was presented alive before the Lord; and in presence of the congregation the high priest confessed over him “all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat.” [Lev 16:21.] In like manner, when the work of atonement in the heavenly sanctuary has been completed, then in the presence of God and heavenly angels, and the host of the redeemed, the sins of God’s people will be placed upon Satan; he will be declared guilty of all the evil which he has caused them to commit. And as the scape-goat was sent away into a land not inhabited, so Satan will be banished to the desolate earth, an uninhabited and dreary wilderness. 13
These three statements were preserved with their original wordings in the 1911-revised edition of The Great Controversy, except for “scape-goat” (with hyphen) that was replaced by “scapegoat” (without hyphen). 14
Similar concepts were expressed also in 1890 in Patriarchs and Prophets:
As in the final atonement the sins of the truly penitent are to be blotted from the records of heaven, no more to be remembered or come into mind, so in the type they were borne away into the wilderness, forever separated from the congregation.
Since Satan is the originator of sin, the direct instigator of all the sins that caused the death of the Son of God, justice demands that Satan shall suffer the final punishment. Christ’s work for the redemption of men and the purification of the universe from sin, will be closed by the removal of sin from the heavenly sanctuary and the placing of these sins upon Satan, who will bear the final penalty. So in the typical service, the yearly round of ministration closed with the purification of the sanctuary, and the confessing of the sins on the head of the scape-goat.
Thus in the ministration of the tabernacle, and of the temple that afterward took its place, the people were taught each day the great truths relative to Christ's death and ministration, and once each year their minds were carried forward to the closing events of the great controversy between Christ and Satan, the final purification of the universe from sin and sinners. 15
Also in 1890, she spoke of “the last great day when the judgment shall sit and the books be opened, when every man shall be judged according to the deeds done in the body, when the sins of God’s repentant, sanctified people shall be heaped upon the scapegoat, the originator of sin.” 16
In 1895, in an article in the Signs of the Times, Ellen White again affirmed this understanding:
When the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord, then the sins of the repentant soul who received the grace of Christ and has overcome through the blood of the Lamb, will be removed from the records of heaven, and will be placed upon Satan, the scapegoat, the originator of sin, and be remembered no more against him forever. 17
From the above-quoted statements it is clear that Ellen White consistently identified Satan as the eschatological scapegoat. Yet, there is one puzzling statement from 1897 that deserves special consideration.
An Unusual Statement
Manuscript 112, 1897, titled “Before Pilate and Herod,” is a 19-page typed document with typical editorial corrections by Ellen White’s secretaries (most of which were made by Maggie Hare), and stamped with “E. G. White” after the end of the content of page 19. This was the usual procedure in her office when making multiple carbon copies of an Ellen White manuscript. There are only three original typewritten copies of this manuscript. One of them contains all 19 pages, and the other two, including the file copy, end on page 17, with the last paragraph of page 17 cut off, and pages 18 and 19 omitted.
The overall content of the deleted pages is not unusual except for the first paragraph of page 18, dealing specifically with the “scapegoat.” That paragraph reads as follows,
Some apply the solemn type, the scape goat, to Satan. This is not correct. He cannot bear his own sins. At the choosing of Barabbas, Pilate washed his hands. He cannot be represented as the scape goat. The awful cry, uttered with a hasty awful recklessness, by the Satan inspired multitude, swelling louder and louder, reaches up to the throne of God, His blood be upon us and upon our children. Christ was the scape goat, which the type represents. He alone can be represented by the goat borne into the wilderness. He alone, over whom death had no power, was able to bear our sins. 18
This 1897 statement departs completely from everything else Ellen White wrote on the subject either before (as confirmed by the quotations above); or later (as presented in the 1911 edition of The Great Controversy). In the 1911 edition, prepared under her own supervision, 19 she still spoke of the post-1844 era as the “antitypical day of atonement” 20 that will culminate with the final destruction of Satan, at the end of the 1,000 years of Revelation 20, as the antitypical “scapegoat.” 21 So there is no convincing reason to believe that she ever changed her mind on the subject.
Seventh-day Adventists accepted O. R. L. Crosier’s biblical arguments that Satan is the antitypical scapegoat that comes into action at the time of Christ’s second advent. Ellen White not only shared the same views, but also taught them consistently throughout her writings. The existence of a single typed paragraph of questionable origin, speaking of Christ instead of Satan as the antitypical scapegoat, should not be used as evidence that she changed her mind on that subject. If that were the case, we would expect to find such a change reflected in her post-1897 writings. It would have changed her entire eschatological framework, shifting both the antitypical scapegoat from Satan to Christ, and the antitypical Day of Atonement from the post-1844 era back to the cross. But none of her writings reflects such a change.
Regardless of how this questionable passage became part of Manuscript 112, 1897, the statement should be viewed as exceptional. It does not provide a reason for anyone to fall into the dangerous fallacy of “generalization,” 22 by which one or a few exceptions are generalized as the overall rule. Ellen White’s writings provide enough evidences that, up to the end of her life, she continued to identify Satan as the eschatological scapegoat.
Yet, we are left with some obvious questions: Did Ellen White herself write that unusual paragraph? How did it become part of one of her manuscripts? And when was it cut from the fuller manuscript? We know only that the shortened copy is what was on file when the collection of her unpublished writings was microfilmed for safekeeping in 1951. But no additional information has been found to help answer those questions. Therefore, any attempt to answer those questions remains in the speculative realms.
What is known is that everywhere else in Ellen G. White’s comments she identifies the scapegoat as Satan. And the other known fact is that Ellen White never incorporated this passage in her published works, although other lines from the manuscript were used. 23 Thus, although we do not have clear answers about the actual origin of this unique paragraph, there is no uncertainty regarding Ellen White’s lifelong understanding of the identity of the antitypical scapegoat.
1. See Robert Helm, “Azazel in Early Jewish Tradition,” Andrews University Seminary Studies 32/3 (Autumn 1994): 217-26; William H. Shea, “Azazel in the Pseudepigrapha,” Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 13/1 (Spring 2002), 1-9.
2. See Ralph D. Levy, The Symbolism of the Azazel Goat (Bethesda, MD: International Scholars Publications, 1998), 61-76.
3. See Paul A. Gordon, The Sanctuary, 1844, and the Pioneers (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 1983), 108-17; Gary Shearer, “The Scapegoat and Azazel of Leviticus” (bibliography available at Adventist Studies Librarian, Pacific Union College Library, 2003).
4. O. R. L. Crosier, “The Law of Moses,” The Day-Star Extra, Feb. 7, 1846, 37-44.
5. Ibid., 43.
6. E. G. White, “To Bro. Eli Curtis,” in James White, ed., A Word to the “Little Flock” (Brunswick, ME: [James White], 1847), 12.
7. E. G. White, “Synopsis of Remarks in E. G. White’s Vision, June 30, 1849, at Rocky Hill, Connecticut,” Ms 6, 1849, EGWE.
8. E. G. White, “Dear Sister Arabella,” Lt 8, (August 4) 1850, EGWE; published in idem, Manuscript Releases (Silver Spring, MD: E. G. White Estate, 1993), 19:131-32.
9. E. G. White, “A Vision Given on October 23, 1850,” Ms 15, 1850, EGWE.
10. E. G. White, The Great Controversy between Christ and Satan from the Destruction of Jerusalem to the End of the Controversy, The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4 (Oakland, CA: Pacific Press, 1884), 266-67.
11. E. G. White, The Great Controversy between Christ and Satan during the Christian Dispensation, rev. and enl. ed. (Oakland, CA: Pacific Press, 1888), 422.
12. Ibid., 485-86.
13. Ibid., 658.
14. Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy between Christ and Satan: The Conflict of the Ages in the Christian Dispensation (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1911), 422, 485-86, 658.
15. E. G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets or the Great Conflict between Good and Evil as Illustrated in the Lives of Holy Men of Old (Oakland, CA: Pacific Press, 1890), 358.
16. E. G. White, “The Words and Works of Satan Repeated in the World,” Signs of the Times, April 28, 1890, 258.
17. E. G. White, “The Whole Duty of Man,” Signs of the Times, May 16, 1895, 4; republished in idem, Selected Messages (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1980), 3:355-56.
18. E. G. White, “Before Pilate and Herod,” Ms 112, 1897, EGWE.
19. See Arthur L. White, Ellen G. White (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1982), 302-37.
20. E. G. White, The Great Controversy between Christ and Satan (1911), 431.
21. Ibid., 422, 485-86, 658.
22. See David H. Fischer, Historians’ Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought (New York: Harper & Row, 1970), 103-30.
23. Some sentences and expressions of Ms 112, 1897, p. 13 (dealing with Barabbas), appeared in The Desire of Ages (Oakland: Pacific Press, 1898), p. 733. On p. 18 of the manuscript, in the paragraph that follows the problematic statement on the scapegoat, one finds the statement: “Their prayer was heard. The blood of the Son of God was upon their children and their children’s children in a living perpetual curse. The children of Israel who chose Barabbas in the place of Christ will feel the cruelty of Barabbas as long as time shall last.” With slight editings, this statement appeared in The Desire of Ages, p. 739.