Who is this Ellen White? A Jewish Rabbi asks
Artist Elfred Lee’s Testimony of Rabbi Joe Kagan:
“I met Rabbi Joe Kagan at Weimar Institute in CA. His family had come from Eastern Europe where his aunt had been raped while a priest stood over her with a crucifix saying, “This is what you get for killing Christ.” So you can imagine the feeling of many Jews towards Christianity. American Christians are not at all like Europeans.
His family moved to the US while he was young. At age 13 he debuted at Carnegie Hall as a cantor. He had a beautiful, tenor voice. He received a very high education and became a rabbi. I met him in his later years in 1978 after he had been on Ronald Reagan’s staff in Sacramento as their research man. If there were any questions about any subject, he was the one that did the research and found the answers.
He had a very negative attitude towards Christianity. He would never touch the New Testament. However, he knew the Jewish Old Testament (Torah) extremely well as a highly educated rabbi would. One day he got hold of a book called “Patriarchs and Prophets” by Ellen G. White. He read it with astonishment and wanted to know who this Ellen White was. That is when I met him. He was asking who is this Ellen G. White, and what university did she attend. We told him she only had a 3rd grade education. “Then, where did she learn Hebrew?” he asked. We told him that she never knew Hebrew, but was the most prolific female writer in history and that this was only one of her books.
He was amazed at her knowledge, saying that the information in this book (Patriarchs and Prophets) is Mishnaic. The Mishnah is part of the Hebrew scholarship. He said the Mishnah had only been translated into English 30 years ago and that only high-level rabbis knew this information. This is the history of my people and it is very, very accurate. He also said that you have to know Hebrew to be able to write like this because her sentence structure is not English, it’s Hebrew…The rhythm, the meter, the arrangement of words and expressions are not English. He said it’s as if she wrote in Hebrew and it was translated into English.
My family and I developed a strong friendship with Joe, his wife and son. As we studied the Bible and some Ellen White books together one day, he said, “I am convinced that Ellen White was inspired by the same source that inspired the Hebrew prophets. I want to become a Christian. I accept Jesus Christ as my Messiah.” Now, he would not have come to Christ through reading the Bible. Even though the Hebrew Bible is full of prophecies pointing to the Messiah, it took Ellen White’s writings to prove to him that Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of all the Hebrew prophecies.. And only then did he pick up the New Testament and read about his Jewish Messiah.
Many times I saw him cry. I was in the middle of a painting commission for a large mural called “Christ The Way of Life” for the world headquarters of the Seventh Day Adventist church in Washington DC. He became very involved with that painting. The painting had originally been inspired by James and Ellen White who had commissioned an engraver to do a black and white drawing of the subject. He confirmed to me that Ellen White’s concept was very accurate on the whole plan of salvation in both the Old and New Testament, but that the engraver had misrepresented her concepts. So he helped me in many details to make the painting historically and theologically accurate; especially regarding the sanctuary section, the Hebrew writing on the cross and the last supper scene. He told me to paint Jesus and his disciples at an oriental style table, sitting on mats on the floor – not Roman couches as the medieval artists painted. Further, he said their heads would be covered and he made sure I painted the wine, the unleavened bread and the bitter herbs and their symbolism exactly as they would have been. He approved of the whole painting and we had an unveiling ceremony at the Auburn SDA Church in late 1979. He had written a song to go with the painting and sat at the organ as we unveiled the painting. He wept as he sang the words of Jesus on the cross quoting Isaiah, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” He sang and sang and wept and wept, his whole body shaking. There was not a dry eye in the whole church. His voice was so beautiful.
The original painting hangs in the new SDA world headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland where they have posters and Bible studies of the painting. I could never have done it without the inspiration of Rabbi Kagan and Ellen White. I wish they were still alive!
We were at his secret baptism in the Bear River above Sacramento on Saturday night Dec. 22, 1979. There were four of us present. He could not even tell his wife and son that he was now a Christian. As he came up out of the cold water praising God and singing to his new Messiah, he said, “I am now a completed Jew. I have now accepted the Old and New Testament and the Messiah that all Jewish prophets told us about!”
I was recently in Europe giving some workshops on art and some of my archeological work in the Middle East. I happened to meet a Jewish family from Israel. Shalom David was originally from Iraq and his wife from Chile. They were now attending a college in Europe where I met with quite a bit of opposition to the writings of Ellen White. This Jewish family invited me to their home for Shabbat (Friday night supper.) It was a most enjoyable occasion as his wife and beautiful children sang and celebrated the arrival of Sabbath as Jews have done for thousands of years. I told them the story of Rabbi Kagan and he got very excited. He said, “The same thing happened to me! I would have rather burned the Bible then touch it! I wanted nothing to do with Christianity, but I also read the writings of Ellen White and the Spirit of God was on that woman. Her writings are as if she wrote in Hebrew. You can definitely hear the Hebrew rhythm, meter and expressions in her books. I also believe she was inspired by the same source as the Hebrew prophets. And she has helped me fall in love with Jesus Christ, my Messiah.”
I just met yesterday with a rabbi living here in California – Rabbi Ben. It was a follow up to a Sabbath meal I was invited to this last Sabbath with him and a group of Adventists. He went through the whole ceremony at the meal just like Rabbi Kagan and as my new friend (Shalom David) in Europe had. So yesterday we were talking over Hebrew ceremonies and how they are still effective in healing disease.
Rabbi Ben told me that he has also had the same experience. He hated the Bible but that Ellen White brought him to Christ and helped him read the New Testament and fall in love with the Messiah. He also told me that he had gone to visit one of the most influential rabbis in America who is in his 90s who must remain unnamed. While in this rabbi’s library talking, he was scanning the many, many books on his walls and there he saw the book “Patriarchs and Prophets” by Ellen White. Rabbi Ben asked him about it and where he had gotten it, “Why do you have this book by a Christian author?” The rabbi said, “This as a very authoritative source on our history.”
I recently shared this testimony on T.V. at 3 Angels Broadcasting Network. My phone has been ringing day and night by interested people from as far away as India and Australia saying, “we want to know more about Joe Kagan and Ellen White.”