Some worry about what Isaiah is doing in the Book of Mormon. After reading and watching lots of videos I have confidence that Isaiah was written by 1 person. Isaiah. Many recent scholars think the multiple-Isaiah theory is an embarrassment to scholarship.
Steven Smoot and the 3 Mormons give a good introduction:
Another young Latter-day Saint provides answers:
Kwaku shares good evidence, among other things, of the match between the Dead Sea Scrolls Isaiah scroll and the Book of Mormon sections of Isaiah:
The premier non-LDS commentary on “Second” Isaiah (The Anchor Bible, Volume 20) says there is insufficient evidence from wordprint analysis that Isaiah was written by anything other than a single author.
We also have a new model, proposed by Avraham Gileadi, which shows that Isaiah contains a far more profound and sophisticated literary paradigm, if we accept that it is a unitary work. No wonder this new unitary theory, which just happens to get around a traditional objection to the Book of Mormon, is gaining ground.
Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible says Isaiah 48-55 is based on liturgy that predated Lehi, even if it was written after he allegedly left Jerusalem. The Book of Mormon has 47-55. Hang tight before you throw your arms up in despair.
For those who aren’t familiar with the ECB:
“Written by world-class Bible scholars, the ECB encapsulates in nontechnical language the best of modern scholarship on the sixty-six biblical books plus the Apocrypha. The only one-volume Bible commentary to cover all the texts (even including 1 Enoch) regarded by one or more Christian churches as canonical, the ECB provides reader-friendly treatments and succinct summaries of each section of the text that will be valuable to scholars, students and general readers alike.”
From non-LDS scholars, “Bind up the Testimony:
“One of the major flashpoints in academic biblical studies in the past 125 years has centered on the authorship and dating of the book of Isaiah. Beginning in the late 1800s, some scholars suggested that this book may have been written by multiple people over a period of centuries, a view that contrasts with the traditional one that the entire book of Isaiah was written in the eighth century BC by the Judean prophet Isaiah ben Amoz.
Because for many conservative scholars the latter position is the only one that respects the divine inspiration of the text, and because they also believe that this position is endorsed by Jesus in the New Testament, the differing conclusions of mainstream and conservative scholars regarding the authorship and dating of the book of Isaiah have long served to divide these groups.
Bind Up the Testimonya collection of essays from a colloquium held at Wheaton College in 2013brings together a variety of evangelical responses to this issue. Although a few of the essays arrive at conservative conclusions regarding the authorship and dating of the book of Isaiah, most of them attempt to chart new, more nuanced directions for thinking on this subject, and suggest that careful attention to the (complicated) compositional history of the book of Isaiah need not be a hindranceand can, in fact, be a helpto Christians who understand the book of Isaiah as divinely inspired Scripture that has spoken to Gods people throughout the ages and that continues to speak to them today.
Christian scholars defend the Book of Isaiah in “Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith?”
Is historical accuracy an indispensable part of the Bible’s storyline, or is Scripture only concerned with theological truths? As progressive evangelicals threaten to reduce the Bible’s jurisdiction by undermining its historical claims, every Christian who cares about the integrity of Scripture must be prepared to answer this question.
Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? offers a firm defense of Scripture’s legitimacy and the theological implications of modern and postmodern approaches that teach otherwise. In this timely and timeless collection of essays, scholars from diverse areas of expertise lend strong arguments in support of the doctrine of inerrancy. Contributors explore how the specific challenges of history, authenticity, and authority are answered in the text of the Old and New Testaments as well as how the Bible is corroborated by philosophy and archaeology.
Another good book to start with. By Joseph Spencer: The Vision of All: Twenty-five Lectures on Isaiah in Nephi’s Record.
“In The Vision of All, Joseph Spencer draws on the best of biblical and Latter-day Saint scholarship to make sense of the so-called -Isaiah chapters- in the first two books of the Book of Mormon. Arguing that Isaiah lies at the very heart of Nephi’s project, Spencer insists on demystifying the writings of Isaiah while nonetheless refusing to pretend that Isaiah is in any way easy to grasp.
Presented as a series of down-to-earth lectures, The Vision of All outlines a comprehensive answer to the question of why Nephi was interested in Isaiah in the first place. Along the way, the book presents both a general approach to reading Isaiah in the Book of Mormon and a set of specific tactics for making sense of Isaiah’s writings. For anyone interested in understanding what Isaiah is doing in the Book of Mormon, this is the place to start.”
L. LaMar Adams contributed to this subject in 1984 at BYU’s Religious Studies Center. A Scientific Analysis of Isaiah Authorship.
“The results of this research bear witness that the book of Isaiah has a literary unity characteristic of a single author. These results, therefore, confirm the claims made in the Book of Mormon and the New Testament by later prophets and by the Savior that Isaiah was the author of the book bearing his name.”
In addition, Paul Fields shared his insight at a recent conference on this topic: Stylometry and the Book of Isaiah. A few paragraphs from the conference about Isaiah in the Bible:
“There have been a few stylometric studies over the years starting with the earliest that I am aware of in 1970. To interpret the results, it is important to realize that none of the studies can establish that there was more than one writer of the text. Although there is evidence of more than one writing style in the text, factors other than the identity of the author must be considered.
“More than one style does not necessarily indicate multiple ‘hands hold the pen.’ The same author can express himself or herself differently when writing at different times, to different audiences, on different topics, or for different purposes. So, the presence of multiple writing styles cannot be asserted as indicating multiple people as authors of a text.
“Also, unlike the Book of Mormon which had one translator (Joseph Smith) who had one scribe (Oliver Cowdery), the Bible has gone through innumerable hands over the last 2000 years. It has been translated and retranslated by translators after translators, and written and rewritten by scribes after scribes. While we can show that the modest changes to the text of the Book of Mormon have not made a meaningful difference in the writing styles in the Book of Mormon, we cannot show that to be the case for the Bible. In fact, it should actually be surprising if only one writing style was found in a Biblical text.
“There have been studies showing that the original author’s ‘wordprint’ comes through the translation process to a certain extent, the original author’s style as evident in the translated text is still affected by the translator’s style. Further, we have shown that the “scribe effect” — the extent to which a scribe’s wordprint can be detected in a dictated text — can range from a trivial amount (10-15%) to a large amount (70-80%). Consequently, the accumulated effect of a sequence of translators and a sequence of multiple scribes (copyists) will result in substantial changes to the writing styles in a text, even if the translator effect and the scribe effect are small for each step in the sequence.
“Finally, stylometric studies must be conducted in the context of established historical facts that set the framework for the analyses and their interpretation. The results of stylometric studies can provide evidence for our against a research conjecture that is founded on historical and biographical information external to the stylometric analyses. Proceeding in the opposite direction by just ‘fishing around’ for different writing styles in a text and then trying to assert historicity or identity based on the results is an excellent way to arrive at nonsense conclusions or at least non-scientific conclusions.
“In sum, whatever someone wants to assert about the number of people who were ‘Isaiah,’ that assertion must be based on evidence other than stylometric evidence.”
Darryl Alder reports on the presentation by Fields and Roper, “Multiple Isaiah Theory and Stylometry.”
Referring to La Mar Adams’ research:
“As long ago as 1984, L. La Mar Adams in “A Scientific Analysis of Isaiah Authorship” which was one of the first scientific approaches to the multiple Isaiah theory wrote, “The disputed authorship of Isaiah is one of the most popular textual biblical issues and appears to be the father of all Old Testament authorship problems of the same nature.”
“The majority of biblical scholars divide the book of Isaiah into multiple authorship. The problem of identifying authorship for the book and parts of the book is known as the “Isaiah problem,”3 or what we are calling the “Multiple Isaiah Theory Problem.”
Adams explained, “A few years ago, our group of thirty-five specialists in Semitic languages, statistics, and computer science at Brigham Young University devised a literary style analysis to test the claims of these biblical scholars. This study, which spanned several years, in the end used more than 300 computer programs, analyzed several hundred stylistic variables, and obtained more than 4800 statistical comparisons.
“…The results of the study were conclusive: there is a unique authorship style throughout the various sections of Isaiah. The rates of usage for the elements of this particular style are more consistent within the book of Isaiah, regardless of the section, than in any other book in the study. This statistical evidence led us to a single conclusion: based on style alone, the book of Isaiah definitely appears to be the work of one man. The two parts of Isaiah most often claimed to have been written by different authors, chapters 1–39 and 40–66, were found to be more similar to each other in style than to any of the other eleven Old Testament books examined.”4
Royal Skousen understands the Book of Mormon text better than anyone alive.
Watch the last few minutes of this video from Royal Skousen. Evidence for an inspired use of Isaiah (and not copied from a nearby copy):
- witnesses never reported Joseph used a Bible from a nearby shelf
- no evidence Joseph had access to the Bible, though the printer did
- Joseph spelled out the proper names when encountered for the first time in the Book of Mormon
- biblical names were often misspelled in the Book of Mormon manuscripts; these biblical names wouldn’t have been misspelled if Joseph and Oliver had checked the nearby King James version of the Bible
Summary from FAIR Mormon.
From BYU’s Religious Studies Center by John A. Tvedtnes: Isaiah Variants in the Book of Mormon.
Another more recent article by John Tvedtnes with a focus on the italicized words in the KJV: ISAIAH IN THE BIBLE AND THE BOOK OF MORMON.
Key paragraphs by Tvedtnes below.
His first paragraph:
Of the 478 verses in the Book of Mormon quoted from the book of Isaiah, 201 agree with the King James reading while 207 show variations. Some 58 are paraphrased and 11 others are variants and/or paraphrases. It is to the variants that we will give our attention here…
Tvedtnes compares many verses between the Book of Mormon and Isaiah. I’ll only share this (many others are found in the link above) one: Isaiah 2:16 compared with 2 Nephi 12:16:
KJV: “And upon all the ships of Tarshish”
BM: “And upon all the ships of the sea, and upon all the ships of Tarshish”
Here, BM adds a line not found in KJV. Interestingly, LXX reads “And upon every ship of the sea, and upon all views of pleasant ships,” with the last part paralleling KJV/BM “and upon all pleasant pictures.” The Greek talassa, “sea,” resembles the word Tarshish. But both the Targum and the Vulgate have “sea” with LXX instead of Tarshish.
The matter is a very complex one, for which a complete discussion cannot be included here. BM appears to have included the versions of both MT and LXX/T/V. MT could have dropped the nearly identical second line by haplography…
“It has long been my contention that the best scientific evidence for the Book of Mormon is not archaeological or historical in nature, as important as these may be, but rather linguistic. This is because we have before us a printed text which can be subjected to linguistic analysis and comparison with the language spoken in the kingdom of Judah at the time of Lehi.
One of the more remarkable linguistic evidences for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon as a translation from an ancient text lies in the Isaiah variants found in it. The examples given here, though sketchy, are presented to offer some of that evidence to all those who seriously inquire after the origins of the Book of Mormon.”
This guy, Terry Sheets, (the Backyard Professor) starts to discuss the KJV around 6:49. Till then, he comments on the power of reasoning and study. Terry first explains the KJV relies more on the Bishops’ Bible (translated in 1568) much than on a direct translation from the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts.
The KJV translators were instructed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to modify the wording of the Bishops’s Bible only when its meaning varied from the meaning of the Greek NT and Hebrew OT texts. The Bishops’ Bible was itself a revision of the Great Bible (1539).
A few versions of the Bible rest between the Great Bible and the William Tyndale’s first English Bible. Tyndale translated this version from 1526-1531 directly from Greek and Hebrew texts. Tyndale retained some of John Wycliffe’s wording from the late 14th Century.
The KJV style set the standard from scriptural language of Joseph’s day. Others, not just Joseph, followed this practice of using King James type language.
Nearly 100 years after the Book of Mormon was translated, Robert H Charles, the translator of biblical texts, “The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament”, made it a point to imitate the language and style of the KJV of the Bible in his magnum opus.
He did so for several reasons, including this obvious one: The KJV was the most common version read in the English-speaking world.
Jewish scholar, Theodore Gaster, intermixed KJV and modern English in his translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls (originally written in ancient Hebrew). The DSSs was not in English. Yet, Gaster translated this ancient language into KJ English. Just like Joseph did.
Shon Hopkin discusses Abinadi in the Book of Mormon, including the KJV variants (variants discussed around 34:00 mark):
From Book of Mormon Central:
From Sydney Sperry: The “Isaiah Problem” in the Book of Mormon.
Abstract from the above paper:
“Doubts as to the literary unity of the book of Isaiah are fairly recent. The late nineteenth century saw a division of Isaiah into three parts by critics, who
categorized only 262 of the 1292 verses as the genuine product of Isaiah.
These critics deny the prediction element of prophecy and highlight different literary forms and theological ideas. The Book of Mormon attributes two of these three sections to Isaiah by quotation; ancient scriptures as well give no hint of a division. Christ and the apostles themselves attribute the book to Isaiah.
Internal evidences of the unity of the book include imagery, repetition, expressions peculiar to Isaiah, and song. Changes in style can be attributed to mood. The differences between the Book of Mormon and the King James Version support the authenticity and literary unity of Isaiah.”
Great scholarship from the Interpreter:
Van Hale at Mormon Miscellaneous shares this perspective in Van’s 194th episode: King James Version in the Book of Mormon.
- JS’s 1832 History
- 12-15 years old JS extensive study of the KJV
- KJV numerous phrases in JS’s writings & dictation
- JS supplied KJV phrases for the BM
Another discussion on Mormon Miscellaneous about the Book of Mormon translation, including these topics:
- Hebrew, Greek, and Hierglyphics
- King James Version compared with the Book of Mormon
- 2 Nephi 22:2 vs KJV Isaiah 12:2 vs Hebrew
- JS statements “translated by the gift and power of God”
- KJV Isaiah 7:14 contrasted with Hebrew & LXX (Septuagint) & Book of Mormon
More insights from the Backyard Professor:
Many differences exist between the KJV of Isaiah and Joseph’s translation. In some cases, Joseph’s translation is closer to the earlier manuscripts. That is, the Book of Mormon Isaiah verses are closer to the Greek OT Septuagint (from 3rd Century BC) and the Hebrew Masoretic texts.
Scholarly speculation, based on the changes in the language within the later chapters of Isaiah, gave rise to the multiple-author theory.
Cyrus lived 200 years after Lehi and was mentioned in Isaiah. This name and other Isaiah issues may just as well be later substitutions. All we have are probabilities and possibilities. This was not uncommon.
The Backyard Professor has a total of 6 videos on this topic.
Joseph’s translation process of the Book of Mormon was miraculous, including the Isaiah chapters. Nearly 1/2 of the verses differ from the JST.