Isaiah in the Book of Mormon...and Joseph Smith in Isaiah
David P. Wright
Introduction

Part 1: King James Version Language
Part 2: KJV Italics and the BM Isaiah
Part 3: KJV Translation Errors in the BM Isaiah
Part 4: Disparities with Hebrew Language, Text, and Style
Part 5: The Secondary Nature of Variants in the BM Isaiah
Part 6: Supposed Proofs for the Antiquity of the BM Isaiah
Conclusions
Appendix


Part 6: Supposed Proofs for the Antiquity of the BM Isaiah

A few researchers have sought to verify the antiquity of the BM Isaiah by showing that some variants correlate with ancient versions and manuscripts and that others reflect features of Hebrew language and style.91 The most extensive recent work of this sort has been done by John Tvedtnes in a FARMS Preliminary Report.92 He examined the variant readings of the BM against Hebrew manuscripts, including the large Isaiah scroll from Qumran (1QIsaa), and against ancient translations, including the Greek Septuagint (LXX), the Aramaic Targum, the Syriac Peshitta, the Old Latin, and Latin Vulgate.93 His work is valuable for making researchers aware of possible correlations with ancient texts and Hebraisms in the BM text. It turns out, however, that the proposed correlations are weak or illusory and do not uphold the conclusion that the BM Isaiah is a translation or comes from an ancient source.

Because of space limits I will review here the thirty-six cases that Tvedtnes selected from his Preliminary Report for publication in the proceedings of a conference on "Isaiah and the Prophets" at BYU held in 1982.94 These provide a sufficient sample because he chose them not only "on the basis of the ease with which [he] can explain them to non-Semiticists" but also because of "the favorable light which they shed on the Book of Mormon translation." They include the most probative examples for his case. (For brief discussion of his other examples, see note 107.) The discussion here will deal mainly with Tvedtnes' arguments, but will also bring in observations of other researchers on the same passages when pertinent. Because of the technical nature of the analysis, the body of the paper here will discuss only the most prominent textual support for the BM Isaiah's antiquity. The other cases are placed in the appendix. The conclusions at the end of this section, however, will be based on the the example which follows and those in the appendix.

The star case where ancient biblical versions appear to support a variant in the BM is 2 Nephi 12:16 (//Isa 2:16). It has been noted by many.95 The KJV reads: "And upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures." The BM has an extra phrase or line: "And upon all the ships of the sea, and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all the96 pleasant pictures." Remarkably, the Septuagint and Targum provide a parallel to the extra line at the beginning of the BM verse. The Greek reads: kai epi pan ploion thalasses kai epi pasan thean ploion kallous "And upon every ship of the sea, and upon every view of ships of beauty." The Targum reads: wecal kol näxatê sepînê yammä' wecal kol de$äran bebiränyät $iprä' "And upon all those who go down in ships of the sea, and upon all those that dwell in palaces of beauty."97

The parallel is is specious. The MT two line verse is the original and the Targum and LXX are interpretive variants of that formulation. Several times in the Targum the term Tarshish is rendered "sea." Instead of the proper noun Tarshish, one finds simply yammä' "sea" (Ezek 27:12; Jonah 1:3; 4:2). Sometimes it is rendered medînat yammä' "city/country of the sea" (Isa 23:6, 10 [here for the phrase bat tar$î$]; Isa 66:19). The phrase sôxarê tar$î$ "merchants of Tarshish" is rendered taggärê yammä' "merchants of the sea" (Ezek 38:13). The specific phrase 'oniyyôt tar$î$ "ships of Tarshish" is rendered sepînê yammä' "ships of the sea" (Isa 23:1, 14; 60:9; Ezek 27:25; the Isaiah passages all preface the term with näxa"those who go down" as does 2:16]).98 It should not be missed that in Isaiah the rendering of "Tarshish" as "sea" occurs every where the former term occurs. This evidence shows that the Targum is interpreting "Tarshish" as "sea." It is not evidence of an original Hebrew text  (i.e., Vorlage) with the word "sea" in it and therefore not evidence of a more original text with a third line as found in the BM Isaiah.

The LXX reflects this same general interpretive tendency. While it does not display a regular rendering of "Tarshish" as "sea," we do find it in one other passage. In Daniel 10:6 the LXX reads kai to stoma autou hosei thalasses "his mouth [this is a mistake for soma "body"] was like the sea"99 for Hebrew ûgewiyyätô ketar$î$ "his body was like chrysolite/beryl" (here tar$î$ refers to a precious stone, as in Exod 28:20; 39:13; Ezek 1:16; etc.).100

In view of this, it turns out there is no real textual support for the BM Isaiah variant; the LXX and Targum develop from a text like the MT. So how does the BM Isaiah come to have a phrase that is so similar to an interpretive reading in the LXX and Targum? It turns out that the understanding of the phrase "ships of Tarshish" as "ships of the sea" was well-known in British and American Bible commentaries in the decades prior to the publication of the Book of Mormon. John Wesley, for example, comments on Isaiah 2:16 in his Explanatory Notes Upon the Old Testament published in 1765 (Bristol, England):

V. 16 Tarshish-The ships of the sea, as that word is used, Psal. xlviii. 7. whereby you fetched riches from the remote parts of the world.101

This interpretation is reproduced in Matthew Poole's Annotations Upon the Holy Bible, published in 1801 (Edinburgh).102

William Lowth's Commentary Upon the Old and New Testaments: The Prophets, published in 1727 (London), provided English readers with the reading of the Septuagint:

..."ships of Tarshish" signify in Scripture any trading or merchant ships. Accordingly, here the Septuagint render the words, "ships of the sea," as our old English translation does, Psal. xlviii 6.103

John Fawcett cites Lowth's interpretation in his Devotional Family Bible, published in 1811 (London).104 The many pre-1829 editions of Thomas Scott's The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments (Philadelphia 1810-12; New York 1812-15; Boston 1823-24; 1827) also cite Lowth's comment.105

Joseph Smith could have picked up the phrase from any one of these commentaries, or, as is far more likely, from sermons he heard or conversations he had on biblical subjects with those who might have known this particular Bible "fact." Smith may have come by this bit of information specifically via Methodist influence, since John Wesley's teachings provided the matrix for Methodism and Smith had an attraction to it and attended its meetings.106

Corroboration of the unoriginality of the BM's unique phrase is found in the discussion on Hebrew poetry and the BM, above (Part 4). The BM's plus forms a tricolon with the other two lines in v. 16. This is out of place among the bicola in the rest of Isaiah 2:12-16 (granted the likely emendation in v. 13). Variants in 2 Nephi 12:12-14, part of the same passage, are also tied to the italics (as observed, above). The BM's unique line thus seems secondary and a modification of the English.

To conclude here, the proofs ventured by Tvedtnes and others, discussed above and in the appendix, have numerous weaknesses or are in error. The type of evidence that one wants to find in support of the BM Isaiah's antiquity is the kind that many have thought 2 Nephi 12:16 offered: a parallel of a relatively long phrase with context specific words. The data examined, however, show this case cannot provide support. And there are no other such cases in all the parallels that have been drawn between the BM Isaiah and ancient versions and manuscripts.

The cases discussed in the appendix are problematic as proof. Several proposed textual parallels are partial or inexact and hence do not provide true textual support (examples 3, 9, 12, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 23, 24, 27b, 27d, 27g, 27j). In some cases the evidence and/or analysis is highly ambiguous, substantially incomplete, strained, or simply in error (examples 4, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18, 21, 22, 23, 25, 26, 27d, 27e, 27g, 27h). The mechanics suggested for textual error and development in many cases are inexact or highly speculative (examples 1, 2, 4, 7, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23). Some cases call for the theory that the BM Isaiah is an exact translation (examples 8, 9, 10, 13, 14). This is incompatible with other cases where a loose translation is necessary to make the evidence work (examples 1, 11, 15, 22, 27e).

In contrast to all this, almost every variant discussed in the appendix can be explained easily as a modification of the KJV or a secondary development (responses to italics: 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15, 19, 20, 21, 23, 26, 27b, 27f, 27i, 27j; contextual smoothing or providing consistency as a result of other modifications: 2, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 18, 25, 27a, 27c, 27d, 27f, 27g; developments from English polysemy: 15, 23; secondary glosses or additions 1, 3, 16, 17, 18, 22).107

Notes to Part 6

91. BMCT (see notes passim on Isaiah parallels); Hugh Nibley, Since Cumorah: The Book of Mormon in the Modern World (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967), 129-143; Sidney B. Sperry, The Voice of Israel's Prophets (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1952), 90-94; idem., Book of Mormon Compendium (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1968), 507-512; John Welch, ed., Reexploring the Book of Mormon: The F.A.R.M.S. Updates (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book; Provo: FARMS, 1992), 77-79. Cf. Sperry's unpublished study, "The Text of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon," (MA thesis, University of Chicago, Divinity School, 1926); W. Ham, "A Textual Comparison of the Isaiah Passages in the Book of Mormon With the Same Passages in the St. Mark's Isaiah Scroll of the Dead Sea Community" (MA thesis, Brigham Young University, 1961).

92. Tvedtnes, The Isaiah Variants.

93. For these sources see J. Neville Birdsall, Leonard J. Greenspoon, S. P. Brock, Pierre-Maurice Bogaert, "Versions, Ancient," Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. D. N. Freedman, 6 vols. (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 6:787-803; Melvin K. H. Peters, "Septuagint," Anchor Bible Dictionary, 5:1093-1104; Philip S. Alexander, "Targum, Targumim," Anchor Bible Dictionary, 6:320-331; D. C. Parker, "Vulgate," Anchor Bible Dictionary, 6:860-862. See also the articles in Martin Jan Mulder and Harry Sysling, eds., Mikra: Text, Translation, Reading and Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity, Compendia Rerum Iudaicarum ad Novum Testamentum 2/1 (Assen/Maastricht: Van Gorcum; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988).

94. Tvedtnes, "Isaiah Variants."

95. Philip Barlow, Mormons and the Bible: The Place of the Latter-day Saints in American Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 30-31; Victor Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1982) 90-91; Nyman, Words of Isaiah, 33; Sperry, Voice, 90-91; Compendium, 508; Tvedtnes, The Isaiah Variants, 26-27; "Isaiah Variants," 170; Welch, Reexploring the Book of Mormon, 78; Church Educational System, Old Testament: 1 Kings-Malachi (Religion 302) Student Manual (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981). None of these have critically examined the issue.

96. This article in the BM is not important for our discussion.

97. Several Targum texts have an alternative reading: wecal kol deyätbîn benêsê yammä' "and against all those who dwell in the islands of the sea" (followed by Bruce D. Chillton in his translation, The Isaiah Targum, The Aramaic Bible 11 [Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, 1987], 7).

98. The phrase in Ps 48:8 (English v. 7) is not changed in the Targum to the Psalms.

99. So James A. Montgomery, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Daniel, International Critical Commentary Series (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, [1926]), 409.

100. It is not clear, in view of the Targumic evidence, that Greek thalassa "sea" is a "phonetic development from a transliteration" (Montgomery, Daniel, 409). On the LXX being an interpretive translation and the care that must be shown using it in textual criticism, see James Barr, "The Typology of Literalism in Ancient Biblical Translations," Mitteillungen des Septuaginta-Unternehmens (MSU) 15, Nachrichten der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen, Philologisch-historische Klasse (Gšttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1979), 279-325; Ernst Würthwein, The Text of the Old Testament, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995), 68-71; Emanuel Tov, The Text-Critical Use of the Septuagint in Biblical Research (Jerusalem: Simor Ltd, 1981), 29-72.

101. John Wesley, Explanatory Notes Upon the Old Testament, vol. 3 (Bristol: William Pine, in Wine Street, 1765; Reprint: Salem, OH: Schmul Publishers, 1975), 1953.

102. Matthew Poole, Annotations Upon the Holy Bible, vol. 2 (Edinburgh: Thomas and John Turnbull, 1801), 773 (Reprint: A Commentary on the Holy Bible, vol. 2 [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, [n.d.]) 331. Its explanation has only a slight variant: "The ships of the sea, as that word is used, Psal. xlviii 7, whereby you fetched riches and precious things from the remote parts of the world."

103. William Lowth, Commentary Upon the Old and New Testaments: The Prophets, vol. 4 (London: Samuel Bagster, 1809 [original 1727]), 12.

104. John Fawcett, The Devotional Family Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments, vol. 2 (London: Suttaby, Evance, & Co. and R. Baldwin, 1811) at 2:16. His explanation has slight variation: "Ships of Tarshish signify, in scripture, any trading or merchant ships. The Septuagint translation is 'ships of the sea.'"

105. Thomas Scott, The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments, with Original Notes, Practical Observations, and Copious References (Philadelphia: William W. Woodward, 1810-1812; other editions: New York: Whiting and Watson, 1812-1815; Boston: 1823-24; 1827); see at 2:16. The explanation reads exactly the same as in Lowth with a reference to Lowth.

106. See Donna Hill, Joseph Smith: The First Mormon, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1977), 49-50.

107. This conclusion pertains also to the other examples in Tvedtnes' lengthier work, categories A-D, which he says are "favorable to the authenticity" of the BM (The Isaiah Variants, 96-102). The cases in his list which I have not explained fully in the appendix include: Isa 2:2//2 Ne 12:2: cf. note 30, above; a variant at an italicized word; Isa 3:11//2 Ne 13:11: this is connected with smoothing out of plural/singular inconsistencies; there is no ancient textual support; Isa 3:12//2 Ne 13:12: this variant is connected with the italicized words (and see note 30, above); Isa 5:1//2 Ne 15:1: Tvedtnes does not prove how the BM is a superior translation of the MT; Isa 5:15//2 Ne 15:15: this can be attributed to smoothing an awkward KJV reading; Isa 6:9//2 Ne 16:9: the textual evidence does not support the BM reading, especially where the BM has verbs with different persons (imperative second person versus third person); Isa 13:4//2 Ne 23:4: a minor point not necessarily the result of translation (this would require a very literal translation); Isa 14:8//2 Ne 24:8: this is connected to the italics, the LXX manuscripts do not support a reading "and also," and the 3 + 2 pattern may speak against adding gam; Isa 48:6//1 Ne 20:6: this can be connected to the italicized word there, and the Greek reading is contextually different from the BM and may be the result of interpretation; Isa 49:8//1 Ne 21:8: the plus breaks up the neat parallelism of the MT; it is therefore secondary; Isa 49:9//1 Ne 21:9, the textual development proposed here is perhaps the most elaborately speculative of all that Tvedtnes offers and cannot be accepted; Isa 49:18//1 Ne 21:18: this can be connected with the italics and contextual revision of the KJV; Isa 52:6//3 Ne 20:39: this is clearly a paraphrase, and so the textual comparison is unlikely; Isa 52:8//Mos 12:22; 15:29; 3 Ne 16:18; 20:32-33: the pronoun "your" in 1QIsaa and the Targum appears with the second occurrence of qôl "voice" and thus does not support the appearance of "thy" with the first occurrence of "voice" in Mos 15:29 and 3 Ne 20:32; too, the variation in the BM readings indicates the pronoun may be the result of paraphrase on the part of the BM; cf. esp. 3 Ne 20:32-33; moreover, the KJV which the BM follows otherwise, is probably erroneous here (cf. the NJPS).


Conclusions
(updated 8/29/98)

Many maintaining the antiquity of the BM have tried to make sense of KJV language in the BM by saying that Joseph Smith used it when the content of the plates agreed with the KJV. Hugh Nibley says, for example, that "the Book of Mormon follows the language of the King James Bible only as far as the latter conveys the correct meaning of the original."108 The KJV language comes specifically, according to different versions of this theory, either from Joseph Smith's using an English Bible in the translation situation or from revelation without use of the Bible.109 This theory and its versions are completely untenable in view of the complexity and nature of the evidence presented above. They cannot explain the preoccupation with the italics, variants based on English polysemy, and disturbances of Hebrew style. And they are chiefly rebutted by the maintenance of KJV translation errors in the BM as well as by the incomplete and incomprehensible texts in some variants.

A more critical and humanistic version of this argument sees Smith as translating an ancient text while at the same time using the KJV and responding to some of its peculiarities. This accounts for the focus at italicized words, the problems in the BM Isaiah, and the revisions of the BM Isaiah that were required.110 Nevertheless it is a fragile and even illogical theory. It presumes a duplex and contradictory mode of textual production, i.e., derivation of part of the text by translation from an ancient document on the one hand, and on the other, use of the KJV, not only to adopt its idiom but to respond to its unique features and language, often in ways that are inconsistent with the Hebrew text, language, and style of Isaiah.111

This sort of theory has been advanced in part because its holders have believed there are two types of empirical data, one that shows a connection to the KJV and another which ties the BM Isaiah to ancient texts and Hebrew linguistic features. The present study has pointed out that the ties to the KJV are far greater than what earlier scholars have recognized or formally laid out, and that the evidence connecting the BM Isaiah text to ancient texts or language matters is insubstantial. Thus not only in logic, but also in factual basis, the foregoing theory is found wanting. The simplest and most logical explanation is that the BM Isaiah derives directly from the KJV text with some secondary modifications and does not derive from an ancient text through translation.

The larger net of evidence supports this conclusion. Other studies have demonstrated the use of the KJV in the composition of the BM. Stan Larson has shown that the "Sermon on the Mount" materials in 3 Nephi 12:1-14:27 are a revision of the KJV Matthew 5:3-7:27.112 One can add to his insights the observation that several of the variants there are connected with words italicized in the KJV.113 In another study I have shown that Smith used the New Testament epistle to the Hebrews in composing Alma 12-13.114 This is an anachronism in the BM text, and the language of the parallels reflects the KJV formulation.

Smith's revision of the Bible also lends credence to the conclusion here. This work was not a "translation," even though so termed by Smith, but a reworking of the KJV. Though in places it has more substantial plusses than the BM Isaiah (chapter-length sometimes), its basic character is the same as the BM Isaiah. Many variants are associated with italics, develop from English polysemy, contradict Hebrew and Greek language and style, smooth out contextual and theological difficulties, and explain unclear words and ideas. The JSR, too, has more plusses than minuses. It is also noteworthy that work on the JSR began almost immediately after work on the BM. When the BM Isaiah is seen to be a revision of the KJV, the chronological proximity of the two works makes perfect sense. One can even conclude that work on the BM Isaiah was the training ground for work on the JSR.

More broadly, the conclusion of this paper is supported by--and in turn supports--arguments that show that the whole of the BM is not an ancient work but a composition by Smith himself.115 The book displays many cultural, ideational, and textual anachronisms. New and Old World archaeological finds have not been satisfactorily or successfully correlated with it. And the mode of production claimed by tradition is most extraordinary--indeed fantastic--and is not verifiable scientifically.

Two anachronisms in the book relate to the issue of Isaiah. First, critical scholars with good reason have concluded that much of the biblical book, especially chapters 40-66, do not come from the eight century BCE prophet Isaiah, but from a later time.116 For example, the temporal perspective in chapters 40-55 (from which several of the BM Isaiah chapters come) is that of about 540 BCE. The people have recently suffered destruction at the hands of the Babylonians (in 586 BCE).117 The temple, Jerusalem, and other cities have been destroyed and need rebuilding.118 Many of the people are now in Mesopotamia, in captivity; but Babylonian might is waning119 and release from captivity is imminent.120 Cyrus, the Persian king, is the political leader who will effect the release (c. 538 BCE).121 It is not just the mention of specific sixth-centry BCE historical figures and events that pin these chapters to that time. Also telling is that precision in description ceases at this point in time. The era after the release is described in general terms, and this description is in error since bounteous blessing did not ensue.122 The lack of fulfillment gave Jewish, Christian and Mormon interpreters cause to reapply the chapters to later events. That Isaiah 40-55 were written after the middle of the sixth century BCE is also indicated by their perfect conceptual fit between other prophetic works written in the first half of the sixth century BCE (Jeremiah and Ezekiel) and those written at the end of this century (Haggai and Zechariah 1-8). This dating for this part of Isaiah means it could not have been available to Lehi's family when they, according to the story, left for the New World around 600 BCE--Nephi, Jacob, Abinadi, and Noah's false priests could not have cited from it.123  

The second anachronism is the BM's interpretation of Isaiah.  This, which generally follows cited portions of Isaiah (cf. 1 Ne 22; 2 Ne 9-10, 25-33; Mos 12:25-31; 3 Ne 23:1-5) though is sometimes interspersed  within the citiation (cf. 2 Ne 6:6-18; 26:15-27:35), for the most part reinterprets the Isaiah passages to apply to the time of Joseph Smith and the course of Jewish and Christian history up to his time.  This reflects the compositional horizon of the book, just as various passages in Second Isaiah (noted above) reflect that work's compositional horizon.  Indeed, the course of history laid out in the interpretation and elsewhere in the BM is clear and defined up to the time of the appearance of the BM, but is quite unspecific about events thereafter, just as Second Isaiah is quite indefinite about events after about 540 BCE.  Furthermore, the BM shares perceptions about the meaning of Isaiah and methods of prophetic interpretation that were extant among students and readers of Isaiah in the decades just before the BM came forth.  This chronological horizon and these interpretive views are evidence that the interpretation of Isaiah in the BM is the work of Smith himself.123a

That the BM is not an ancient work further coincides with critical study which shows that other supposedly ancient works produced by Smith, such as the revision of the Bible, the Book of Abraham, and Temple Endowment, do not come from ancient sources but grow out of nineteenth century influences and sources.124

Determining the date, sources, and nature of the text is only the beginning BM study. Many significant questions need to be formulated and solved. Theologians, primarily including church leaders, will have the responsibility of creatively re-visioning the spiritual meaning of the Book of Mormon.125 Historians will need to assess more carefully how Joseph Smith's context is reflected in the book and also use the book as a guide to Smith's own religious thought in his early life. Scholars of the text will need to examine the nature of Joseph Smith's interpretation of Isaiah in the BM.126

Notes to the Conclusions

108. Nibley, Since Cumorah, 129. Cf. B. H. Roberts, "Bible Quotations in the Book of Mormon," Improvement Era 7 (January, 1904) 178-192, who says (p. 183-184): "When Joseph Smith saw that the Nephite record was quoting the prophecies of Isaiah, of Malachi, or the words of the Savior, he too[k the] English Bible and compared those passages as far as they paralleled each other, and finding that in substance, in thought, they were alike, he adopted our English translation." Compare the similar view of Kent Jackson, "Nephi and Isaiah (2 Nephi 11-25)," in Kent Jackson, ed., Studies in Scripture, Volume 7: 1 Nephi to Alma 29 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1987), 139, who accepts the statement of Daniel Ludlow, Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1982), 229-230.

109. This view depends in part on Emma Smith's answers in an 1879 interview: "Q. Had he [Joseph Smith] not a book or manuscript from which he read, or dictated to you? A. He had neither manuscript or book to read from. Q. Could he not have had, and you not know it? A. If he had anything of the kind he could not have concealed it from me" (John W. Welch and Tim Rathbone, "The Translation of the Book of Mormon: Preliminary Report on the Basic Historical Information," FARMS Paper & Reprint WRR-86 [Provo: FARMS, 1986], 14). The present study shows that this statement, at least as far as use of the Bible goes, is in error or reflects only part of the "translation" situation.

110. This is implied in Tvedtnes, The Isaiah Variants, passim and especially pp. 96-128, and in BMCT 1:vii. Tvedtnes says "Joseph Smith made use of the KJV text of Isaiah" (p. 96) and recognizes the deletion and replacement of italicized words (pp. 106-111). He hesitates to ascribe outright errors to the BM or to Smith (pp. 114-118) and tends to speak of problems as scribal errors (see note 81). BMCT says that "B. H. Roberts, H. Grant Vest, and Stanley R. Larson have each convincingly argued that Joseph Smith certainly utilized a copy of the King James Version...whenever he came to lengthy portions of the text of the Book of Mormon obviously paralleling biblical passages. It is only in such a context that both the real variants upon the plates, as well as Joseph's personal taste are made evident. We have sought to provide access to both phenomena through careful notes and through the insertion of KJV italics into the text of biblical quotations." By "Joseph's personal taste" I understand the BMCT to refer to modifications that are based on italics and perhaps some errors.

111. This approach to the Isaiah problem has resonances with Blake T. Ostler's approach to the BM at large ("The Book of Mormon as a Modern Expansion of an Ancient Source," Dialogue 20 [Spring 1987] 66-123). He argues that the BM has an ancient core which has been significantly expanded by Smith with nonancient materials. The theory about BM Isaiah recognizes an ancient core from translation and an elaboration by Smith by response to the KJV. For a critique of Ostler's theory, see Brent Metcalfe, "Apologetic and Critical Assumptions about Book of Mormon Historicity," Dialogue 26/3 (Fall, 1993) 171-174.

112. Stan Larson, "The Historicity of the Matthean Sermon on the Mount in 3 Nephi," in Metcalfe, New Approaches, 115-163. Critiques of Larson argument are found in Daniel C. Peterson, ed., Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, vol. 6, number 1 (Provo: FARMS, 1994). Larson's arguments still prevail. In connection with Larson's study, one should read Krister Stendahl, "The Sermon on the Mount and Third Nephi," in Truman Madsen, ed., Reflections on Mormonism: Judaeo-Christian Parallels (Provo: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1978), 139-154. This shows directly or indirectly the derivative character of the 3 Nephi sermon. See also Ronald V. Huggins, "Did the Author of 3 Nephi Know the Gospel of Mattew?" Dialogue 30/3 (Fall, 1997) 137-148.  One should also see Stephen Thompson's review of Metcalfe's New Approaches and the Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 6/1 in Dialogue 27/4 (Winter, 1994) 197-206, and Todd Compton's review in Sunstone 19/3 (September 1996) 74-81.

113. Examples: "_do" and "_can" are deleted (3 Ne 13:7 and 14:18, respectively; cf. Matt 6:7; 7:18); "_are" becomes "are all" (3 Ne 12:4, 6, 8, 9, 10//Matt 5:4, 6, 8, 9, 10); "_is" becomes "shall be" (3 Ne 12:12//Matt 5:12); "_thine" becomes "your" (3 Ne 13:2//Matt 6:2); "_shall _he not much more _clothe you, O ye of little faith" becomes "even so will he clothe you, if ye are not of little faith" (3 Ne 13:30//Matt 5:30); "thou shalt not be as the hypocrites _are" becomes "thou shalt not do as the hypocrites" (3 Ne 13:5//Matt 6:5).

114. David P. Wright, "'In Plain Terms that We May Understand': Joseph Smith's Transformation of Hebrews in Alma 12-13," in Metcalfe, New Approaches, 165-229. The critiques of John Welch and John Tvedtnes Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, 6/1, do not invalidate my arguments. Welch (pp. 168-181), among other points, argues that Genesis 14 is the source of Alma 12-13, not Hebrews. But the Alma chapters have more parallels with Hebrews than with Genesis 14, a fact which indicates Hebrews is their source. He also tries to diminish the strength of the parallels between Hebrews and Almas 12-13 by noting that individual motifs or elements among the parallels can be found in other texts. This has no force since he does not present another single text with as many specific terms and motifs as between Hebrews and Alma 12-13. Tvedtnes (pp. 19-23) argues that one should look at ancient texts such as 11QMelch and 2 Enoch. These, which I dealt with in my study (cf. notes 15, 78, 79), do not provide the parallels of the sort we find between Hebrews and Alma. His comparative analysis also lacks rigor and detail, and his logic is not lucid in several places.

115. See the articles in Metcalfe, New Approaches, and also the works mentioned in my article there, "In Plain Terms," 165 n. 2. See also Metcalfe, "Apologetic and Critical Assumptions," (William Hamblin responds to this in the Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 6/1); Edwin Firmage, Jr., "Historical Criticism and the Book of Mormon," 58-64.

116. See Christopher R. Seitz, "Isaiah, Book of (First Isaiah)" and "Isaiah, Book of (Third Isaiah)," Anchor Bible Dictionary, 3:472-488, 501-507 and Richard J. Clifford, "Isaiah, Book of (Second Isaiah)," Anchor Bible Dictionary, 3:488-501.

117. Isa 40:1-2; 42:22-25; 43:26-28; 47:6-15; 48:3-4; 49:14-21; 51:19; 54:7-8.

118. Isa 40:1-2, 9-11; 41:27(?); 44:26-28; 45:13; 49:8, 14-21; 51:3, 17-23; 52:1-10; 54 passim.

119. Isa 43:14; 47:1-15; 48:14, 20.

120. Isa 43:5-8; 45:13; 48:20; 49:9-12, 22-26.

121. Isa 44:28; 45:1-13; cf. 41:2, 25; 46:11; 48:14.

122. Isa 44:1-5; 48:17-19; 49:20-23; 54:1-5, 9-10, 14.

123. Studies that have argued the unity of Isaiah have not succeeded. Some of these have originated in Mormon circles. L. Lamar Adams' dissertation ("A Statistical Analysis of the Book of Isaiah in Relation to the Isaiah Problem" [BYU, 1972]; see also Adams and Alvin C. Rencher, "A Computer Analysis of the Isaiah Authorship Problem," BYU Studies 15 [1974] 95-102) has been critiqued by A. Dean Forbes, "Statistical Research on the Bible," Anchor Bible Dictionary, 6:196-197. He concludes that the homogeneity that Adams and Rencher find in Isaiah is "an artifact resulting from inadequate sampling." Avraham Gileadi (e.g., The Apocalyptic Book of Isaiah [Provo: Hebraeus Press, 1982]) suggests that Isaiah is a unity on the basis of a complex literary pattern running throughout the book. This conclusion cannot be accepted because the literary pattern lacks specificity; it seems artificial and is likely the result of the interpreter, not the author or editor. But if there were such a pattern in the book, it could as easily come from a much later editor. Recent studies of Isaiah are turning toward looking at the book as a whole and in terms of the larger and later editorial concerns that have formed it (for example, see H. G. M. Williamson, The Book Called Isaiah: Deutero-Isaiah's Role in Composition and Redaction [Oxford: Clarendon, 1994]). (By the way, Williamson points out [pp. 1-3] that faulting the critical view by saying that it is just the result of humanistic presuppositions wholly misses the point. To attribute chapters 40-55 to the eighth century BCE creates grave contextual problems [more than those I have pointed out].)

Another approach to the anachronistic portions of Isaiah is to note that the BM cites actually only a limited portion of Isaiah (mainly chapters 2-14, 29, 48-54; a few verses from other chapters are cited or paraphrased; see Nyman, Words of Isaiah, 259-281) and argue that only these sections existed of Isaiah of at Lehi's time (cf. Nibley, Since Cumorah, 143). The problem with this is that chaps. 48-55 are thematically very much part of 40-47 and they reflect the late perspective found in this part of Isaiah (see the references in notes 117-122). Too, parts of 40-47 are paraphrased or reflected in the BM: Isa 40:3//1 Ne 10:8; 45:18//1 Ne 17:36.

A snippet from Isaiah 56-66 is also found in the BM, at Jacob 6:4. This loosely quotes Isaiah 65:2. The problem for the traditional understanding of the BM is that it is closer to the citation in Romans 10:21 than to Isaiah 65:2 itself:

I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way _that _was not good, after their own thoughts. (Isa 65:2)
And how merciful is our God unto us, for he remembereth the house of Israel, both roots and branches, and he stretches forth his hands unto them all the day long and they are a stiffnecked and a gainsaying people, but as many as will not harden their hearts shall be saved in the kingdom of God. (Jacob 6:4)

But Esaias [=Isaiah] is very bold, and saith, ...to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people. (Romans 10:20-21)

The BM and Romans texts coincide in having the verb "stretch forth" as opposed to "spread out" in the KJV. If this was a simple rendering of Isaiah in KJV language, one would expect "spread out"" as in the KJV. The BM and Romans also have the second adjective "gainsaying" in common. This English adjective does not ever appear in the KJV Old Testament, and is not best translation of the suggested restoration of môreh "disobedient, rebellious." It is, however, a good translation of the LXX's antilegonta (Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Romans, Anchor Bible 33 [New York: Doubleday, 1993], 600, says Romans cites from the LXX or a form close to it). The LXX, of course, long postdates the time of Lehi. Lastly, while the BM has the definite article with "day" as does Isa 65:2 (a minor point of difference), it has the complement "long" which is found only in Romans. Thus there is a double anachronism here: the BM not only cites this late portion of Isaiah, it also depends upon the KJV Romans' version.

Another attempt at solving the anachronism of Second Isaiah in the BM argues that Lehi's family obtained the Plates of Brass as late as 594 BCE, that the writer of Second Isaiah was one of the prophets of Lehi's day mentioned in 1 Ne 1:4, and that this writer began his compositions shortly before 594 (William Hamblin, "'Isaiah Update' Challenge," Dialogue 17/1 [Spring 1984] 4-7).  While this places Second Isaiah closer to Lehi's time, it does not in fact solve the chronological problem. The perspective of Second Isaiah requires a date of 540 BCE or later; Second Isaiah, or its parts, cannot be suitably explained as a work of the first decade of the sixth century BCE.

123a. For detailed analysis, see my article "Joseph Smith's Interpretation of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon," to appear in Dialogue (Winter 1998). See also George D. Smith, "Isaiah Updated," Dialogue 16 (Summer 1983) 37-51;

124. On the JSR, see Ronald V. Huggins, "Joseph Smith's 'Inspired Translation' of Romans 7," Dialogue 26/4 (Winter, 1993) 159-182; Anthony Hutchinson, "A Mormon Midrash? LDS Creation Narratives Reconsidered," Dialogue 21 (Winter, 1988) 11-74. On the Book of Abraham, see Stephen E. Thompson, "Egyptology and the Book of Abraham," Dialogue 28/1 (Spring, 1995) 143-160; see also the Hutchinson article, just noted. Smith did receive some inspiration from ancient Egyptian papyri in composing the Book of Abraham (especially the illustrations), but he did not understand the texts. Therefore, therefore they are only indirect sources--springboards for ideas. On the Temple Endownment, see Michael W. Homer, "'Similarity of Priesthood in Masonry': The Relationship between Freemasonry and Mormonism," Dialogue 27/3 (Fall, 1994), 1-113; Edward H. Ashment, "The Temple: Historical Origins and Religious Value," Dialogue 27/3 (Fall, 1994), 289-298; David John Buerger, The Mysteries of Godliness: A History of Mormon Temple Worship (San Francisco: Smith Research Associates, 1994). Christian burials in Egypt, excavated by Wilfred Griggs and others, are said to contain clothing similar to Mormon temple clothing and the garment. A summary of the evidence is found in Wilfred Griggs, et al., "Evidences of a Christian Population in the Egyptian Fayum and Genetic and Textile Studies of the Akhmim Noble Mummies," BYU Studies 33/2 (1993), 215-243, esp. pp. 224-227. The data is not critically presented: the connection with Mormon clothing is not directly stated, the description of the clothing is to some degree assimilated to Mormon concerns and terminology, and critical questions and objections are not raised and answered. In any case, from what is presented the parallels are inexact and open to question.

125. See the suggestions in my article, "In Plain Terms," 211-213; also my article "Historical Criticism: A Necessary Element in the Search for Religious Truth," Sunstone 16/3 (September, 1992), 28-38. Approaches to the question such as found in Jeffrey R. Holland's, "True or False" (The New Era [June 1995], 62-66), which argues that the church falls if the BM is not an ancient work, do not seem realistic or beneficial to the church in the long run.

126. See my article "Joseph Smith's Interpretation of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon"; George D. Smith, "Isaiah Updated"; Mark Thomas, "A Mosaic for a Religious Counterculture: The Bible in the Book of Mormon," Dialogue 29 (Winter 1996) 47-68.


|Click here to go to the beginning of paper
Click here to go to the Appendix of the paper


Joseph Smith | LDS Temples | Book of Mormon


Return to Translation