“The words dictated by Joseph Smith between April 7 and June 30, 1829, were published with few alterations. However, Joseph intervened in the 1837 and 1840 printings to make multiple changes in the previously published wordings. Other emendations have been authorized by subsequent Church leaders.
Several authors have documented different tallies of alternations made in the various versions of the Book of Mormon (see below). Understanding the quantity and quality of these emendations may be helpful in understanding how Joseph Smith created the text in the first place.
Two critics took the time to count the changes. Turns out, they underestimated when compared to the digital work done by LDS scholar, Royal Skousen:
Jerald and Sandra Tanner’s 1965 publication, 3,913 Changes in the Book of Mormon, has probably had a greater influence. Much like Lamoni Call’s approach in the 1890s, Jerald Tanner sat down eighty years later with an 1830 edition and a 1964 edition of the Book of Mormon and annotated all changes he could identify. His count almost doubled Call’s. In their introduction, the Tanners also allege a conspiracy by Church leaders to conceal the changes: “The changes made in the Book of Mormon and in Joseph Smith’s revelations have apparently caused the Mormon Church leaders some concern, for they fear that their people will find out about them.”12
In the last two decades, digitalization of the texts has allowed a much more nuanced analysis of the words and word substitutions by a team of scholars in the Book of Mormon Critical Text Project led by BYU professor Royal Skousen.13 When he was asked, “How many changes are there in the Book of Mormon text?” Skousen replied:
I don’t know for sure, and I’ll tell you why it’s hard to count them. In my computerized collation of the two manuscripts and 20 significant editions of the Book of Mormon, I can count the number of places of variation. These are places where there’s a textual variant. The variant itself can involve spelling, punctuation, words missing or added, a grammatical change, and so on. In all, there are about 105,000 places of variation in the computerized collation.14
Critics claim no errors at all should be present. But the translation at least partly involved Joseph. And the original didn’t include punctuation, headings, columns, etc.
Different camps of believing Latter-day Saint scholars believe Joseph exercised what have been called tight or loose control.
There is evidence for both camps, tight and loose control. Joseph spelled out proper nouns, but seemed to have freedom to speak (loose control), using words he knew, and playing a role in the transmission.
Others, such as Martin Harris and David Whitmer, reported that Joseph literally saw a scroll with Egyptian characters with English below. That is the view of tight control.
“Joseph Smith left no description of how the words came to him as he dictated. At a Church conference in 1831, Hyrum Smith invited the Prophet to explain how the Book of Mormon came forth. Joseph’s response was that “it was not intended to tell the world all the particulars of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and … it was not expedient for him to relate these things.”24 His only answer was that it came “by the gift and power of God.”25
That Joseph contributed to the process in an undefined but necessary way was demonstrated in 1829 when Oliver Cowdery attempted to translate but failed. The Lord explained why: “Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask.” (D&C 9:7–8). It appears that translating involved more than mimicking a court recorder reading back previous testimony.”
Brian Hales identifies and categorizes the changes and variants below:
Understanding the “Changes” and “Variants”
The Book of Mormon is “a literary feat for the ages,” writes Huffington Post blogger Jack Kelly. That Joseph Smith “dictated most of it in a period of less than three months and did not revise a single word before its initial printing is even more jaw-dropping.”29 So Joseph did not revise the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon before it went to print, but as Lamoni Call and the Tanners have documented, changes were made in subsequent printings.
If numerous revisions, rewritings, edits, and modifications were needed in a second edition, then the question is why? Did the original Book of Mormon manuscript contain many errors that needed correction like the early draft of most books that are eventually printed? If so, its creation might not have required divine intervention or have been significantly different from other publications. But if the changes constituted minor letter and word substitutions to upgrade the dialect and grammar without changing the primary story line or message, then Joseph’s creation would retain an important uniqueness.
Royal Skousen has recently published “all of the cases of grammatical variation in the history of the Book of Mormon text.”30 His study identifies 106,508 “accidentals” in the different versions of the Book of Mormon.31
Skousen’s research supports that none of the general categories of changes indicates the presence of glaring problems within the Book of Mormon narrative.
The two major (Tanner) claims related to adding “Son of” to God in four places in the Book of Mormon. And changing Benjamin to Mosiah in two positions. Hardly major changes. Only editing changes for clarity.
“In Joseph’s early teachings, Christ was both God and the son of God, so either rendition was accurate.42 It could be reasoned that this highlighted change did not alter any doctrine or teaching, but the additional words served to more clearly distinguish the teaching from Trinitarian views popular in other religious traditions. Skousen speculates, “Perhaps he didn’t like the Catholic sounding expression” and that the addition was simply a “clarification.”43
It appears that of all the possibilities, these two emendations were the most significant changes the Tanners could identify. If more important historical or doctrinal alterations had been encountered in their research, it is probable those would have been mentioned first.
The significance of all the changes will likely remain controversial, but a couple of observations can be made. First, these two do not seem to represent an attempt to correct sweeping contradictions or blunders in the text but rather provide clarification to potential ambiguities. Second, if these are the most egregious changes critics can identify, the Book of Mormon narrative, as it fell from Joseph’s lips, was remarkably free from significant errors.
Book of Mormon Changes Do Not
Represent Revising or Rewriting
As discussed above, the changes identified by Skousen and Carmack do not refer to major modifications or corrections to sections of the Book of Mormon’s original wording.
(LDS critic) historian Dan Vogel acknowledged, “Smith’s method of dictation did not allow for rewriting. It was a more-or-less stream-of-consciousness composition,” adding, “It is not that the manuscript went through a major rewrite.”44
Normal content editing, which involves revising and reworking parts of the text, did not occur in the original or in subsequent editions of the Book of Mormon.
Many naturalists consider Joseph Smith to have been a first-time novelist in 1829 as he created the Book of Mormon, so the lack of revisions is unexpected.45
Professional writers and instructors generally emphasize the need for rewriting in order to create a finished manuscript. Betty Mattix Dietsch, author of Reasoning & Writing Well, addresses the plight of first-time novelists: “Some inexperienced writers seem to think they have hit the jackpot on their first draft. They evade the fact that every exploratory draft needs more work.”46
Note: image above is from the 9th edition.
“I usually write about ten more or less complete drafts” confides Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Kidder, “each one usually though not always closer to the final thing.”47 In her college [Page 62]textbook, Steps to Writing Well, Jean Wyrick emphasizes the importance of rewriting:
The absolute necessity of revision cannot be overemphasized. All good writers rethink, rearrange, and rewrite large portions of their prose. … Revision is a thinking process that occurs any time you are working on a writing project. It means looking at your writing with a “fresh eye”—that is, reseeing your writing in ways that will enable you to make more effective choices throughout your essay. … Revision means making important decisions about the best ways to focus, organize, develop, clarify, and emphasize your ideas. … Virtually all writers revise after “reseeing” a draft in its entirety.48
Louis Brandeis, who served as an associate justice on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1916 to 1939, coined a common maxim for authors: “There is no good writing; there is only good rewriting.”
That changes have been made in the Book of Mormon text should not be confused with the idea that revisions or rewriting occurred. They did not, which is surprising for a frontier-schooled twenty-three-year-old farm boy who is listed as “author.”49
A review of critical literature regarding the Book of Mormon identifies two classes of critics. There are those who tell their audiences that many changes have been made and provide examples (like the Tanners). There are others who report “upwards of 4,000” changes without any further discussion.50
On the surface, voices that stress the thousands of emendations could easily generate a mental picture of a book that underwent significant revisions and rewriting after its first edition. If the overall insignificance of the changes is not disclosed, the number of 2,000 or 3,913 changes could be used by critics to mislead their audiences, as propaganda is designed to do.
Jerald and Sandra Tanners have sold many copies of their book 3,913 Changes in the Book of Mormon, since first released in 1965. The title of the book is technically accurate. But how many unsuspecting observers have read (and continue to read) the title and assume the Book of Mormon manuscript required thousands of corrections to compensate for significant mistakes in Joseph Smith’s dictation?
The perception created by the title might be misleading because readers may impute more significance to the word “changes” than actually justified. If transparency is sought, then adding a subtitle might be useful: 3,913 Changes in the Book of Mormon: But None are Really Significant.
Royal Skousen summarized his research: “Errors have crept into the text, but no errors significantly interfere with either the message of the book or its doctrine. … Ultimately, all of this worry over the number of changes is specious.”51
Reid Moon, a 1985 BYU grad, shows the first five editions of the Book of Mormon printed in Joseph’s lifetime.
By Royal Skousen at FAIR, published in 2015. Royal discusses several minor emendations. Nobody knows more about the Book of Mormon manuscripts and the Book of Mormon changes than Royal Skousen.
The Book of Mormon is a marvel. The translation was a matchless feat. It contains the restored Gospel.
Stanford Carmack – Exploding the Myth of Unruly Book of Mormon Grammar: A Look at the Excellent Match with Early Modern English
Dr. Carmack focuses on syntax: the arrangement of words and phrases. Early Modern English was spoken centuries before Moroni’s visit.
1475-1700: Early Modern English
BH Roberts posited that the Book of Mormon was full of grammatical errors because Joseph was uneducated. This has long been the dominant view.
Carmack above showed many syntax correlations to Early Modern English (from 1475-1700). Syntax is the way in which words and phrases are arranged.
More specifically, certain BoM syntax closely correlates with several books in the late 15th Century. However, the BoM has a negative correlation — when comparing these same variables of syntax — with the King James Bible.
And Joseph didn’t use this syntax in his own language. Only in the scriptures he transmitted.
The dominant English Bible in Joseph’s day was the King James. The KJV had lots of Tyndale’s writings in it. Tyndale wrote in the 1520s and 1530s. Early Modern English works well with the KJV that is found within the Book of Mormon text.
Carmack posits that the Book of Mormon has a range of syntax usage from Chaucer through the 19th Century with a concentration in the 1500s and 1600s.
Carmack compares the Book of Mormon syntax to four books from Joseph’s time period. Three of them have elements that more closely match the Book of Mormon than the fourth book: The View of the Hebrews (VH).
The View of the Hebrews has long been claimed by LDS critics to be a source material for the Book of Mormon. I find it highly interesting that other books — with no real or even claimed connection to the Book of Mormon — more closely mimic the Book of Mormon than a book (VH)the critics claim gave rise to the Book of Mormon.
Some wonder 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:
Jeff at Latter-day Saints Q & A shares his perspectives:
Another young Latter-day Saint provides answers:
Brandon Ly and a few others discuss Deutero-Isaiah:
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:
Jim’s first response — on page 16 of his very long PDF — was to Jeremy’s question about KJV quotes and “errors” in the Book of Mormon.
LDS scholar Hugh Nibley wrote the following in response to a letter sent to the editor of the Church News section of the Deseret News. His response was printed in the Church News in 1961: These arguments still hold.
“[One of the] most devastating argument[s] against the Book of Mormon was that it actually quoted the Bible. The early critics were simply staggered by the incredible stupidity of including large sections of the Bible in a book which they insisted was specifically designed to fool the Bible-reading public.
They screamed blasphemy and plagiarism at the top of their lungs, but today any biblical scholar knows that it would be extremely suspicious if a book purporting to be the product of a society of pious emigrants from Jerusalem in ancient times did not quote the Bible. No lengthy religious writing of the Hebrews could conceivably be genuine if it was not full of scriptural quotations.
…to quote another writer of Christianity Today [magazine], “passages lifted bodily from the King James Version,” and that it quotes, not only from the Old Testament, but also the New Testament as well.
As to the “passages lifted bodily from the King James Version,” we first ask, “How else does one quote scripture if not bodily?” And why should anyone quoting the Bible to American readers of 1830 not follow the only version of the Bible known to them?
Actually the Bible passages quoted in the Book of Mormon often differ from the King James Version, but where the latter is correct there is every reason why it should be followed. When Jesus and the Apostles and, for that matter, the Angel Gabriel quote the scriptures in the New Testament, do they recite from some mysterious Urtext?
Do they quote the prophets of old in the ultimate original? Do they give their own inspired translations? No, they do not. They quote the Septuagint, a Greek version of the Old Testament prepared in the third century B.C. Why so? Because that happened to be the received standard version of the Bible accepted by the readers of the Greek New Testament. When “holy men of God” quote the scriptures it is always in the received standard version of the people they are addressing.
We do not claim the King James Version of the Septuagint to be the original scriptures—in fact, nobody on earth today knows where the original scriptures are or what they say. Inspired men have in every age have been content to accept the received version of the people among whom they labored, with the Spirit giving correction where correction was necessary.
Since the Book of Mormon is a translation, “with all its faults,” into English for English-speaking people whose fathers for generations had known no other scriptures but the standard English Bible, it would be both pointless and confusing to present the scriptures to them in any other form, so far as their teachings were correct.
What is thought to be a very serious charge against the Book of Mormon today is that it, a book written down long before New Testament times and on the other side of the world, actually quotes the New Testament! True, it is the same Savior speaking in both, and the same Holy Ghost, and so we can expect the same doctrines in the same language.
But what about the “Faith, Hope and Charity” passage in Moroni 7:45? Its resemblance to 1 Corinthians 13:] is undeniable. This particular passage, recently singled out for attack in Christianity Today, is actually one of those things that turn out to be a striking vindication of the Book of Mormon. For the whole passage, which scholars have labeled “the Hymn to Charity,” was shown early in this century by a number of first-rate investigators working independently (A. Harnack, J. Weiss, R. Reizenstein) to have originated not with Paul at all, but to go back to some older but unknown source: Paul is merely quoting from the record.
Now it so happens that other Book of Mormon writers were also peculiarly fond of quoting from the record. Captain Moroni, for example, reminds his people of an old tradition about the two garments of Joseph, telling them a detailed story which I have found only in [th’ Alabi of Persia,] a thousand-year-old commentary on the Old Testament, a work still untranslated and quite unknown to the world of Joseph Smith. So I find it not a refutation but a confirmation of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon when Paul and Moroni both quote from a once well-known but now lost Hebrew writing.
Now as to [the] question, “Why did Joseph Smith, a nineteenth century American farm boy, translate the Book of Mormon into seventeenth century King James English instead of into contemporary language?”
The first thing to note is that the “contemporary language” of the country-people of New England 130 years ago was not so far from King James English. Even the New England writers of later generations, like Webster, Melville, and Emerson, lapse into its stately periods and “thees and thous” in their loftier passages.
∗ ∗ ∗
Furthermore, the Book of Mormon is full of scripture, and for the world of Joseph Smith’s day, the King James Version was the Scripture, as we have noted; large sections of the Book of Mormon, therefore, had to be in the language of the King James Version—and what of the rest of it? That is scripture, too.
One can think of lots of arguments for using King James English in the Book of Mormon, but the clearest comes out of very recent experience. In the past decade, as you know, certain ancient nonbiblical texts, discovered near the Dead Sea, have been translated by modern, up-to-date American readers. I open at random a contemporary Protestant scholar’s modern translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and what do I read? “For thine is the battle, and by the strength of thy hand their corpses were scattered without burial. Goliath the Hittite, a mighty man of valor, thou didst deliver into the hand of thy servant David.”
Obviously the man who wrote this knew the Bible, and we must not forget that ancient scribes were consciously archaic in their writing, so that most of the scriptures were probably in old-fashioned language the day they were written down. To efface that solemn antique style by the latest up-to-date usage is to translate falsely.
At any rate, Professor Burrows, in 1955 (not 1835!), falls naturally and without apology into the language of the King James Bible. Or take a modern Jewish scholar who purposely avoids archaisms in his translation of the Scrolls for modern American readers: “All things are inscribed before Thee in a recording script, for every moment of time, for the infinite cycles of years, in their several appointed times. No single thing is hidden, naught missing from Thy presence.” Professor Gaster, too, falls under the spell of our religious idiom. [A more recent example of the same phenomenon in the twenty-first century is discussed here.]
By frankly using that idiom, the Book of Mormon avoids the necessity of having to be redone into “modern English” every thirty or forty years. If the plates were being translated for the first time today, it would still be King James English!”
Whew! Nibley still has valuable insights after all these years.
From FAIR Mormon on the topic of the use of the KJV by other scholars in their translations of the Dead Sea Scrolls:
“Even academic translators sometimes copy a previous translation if it serves the purpose of their translation. For example, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) provided previously unknown texts for many Biblical writings. However, in some translations of the DSS, approximately 90% is simply copied from the KJV.
Surely we are not expected to believe that the DSS translators dropped back into King James idiom and just happened to come up with a nearly identical text! They, in fact, unabashedly copied the KJV, except where the DSS texts were substantially different from already known Hebrew manuscripts.
Why was this done? Because, the purpose of the DSS translation is to highlight the differences between the newly discovered manuscripts and those to which scholars already had access. Thus, in areas where the DSS manuscripts agree with the Biblical texts that were already known, the KJV translation is used to indicate this.
This is not to argue that there may not be a better way to render the text than the KJV—but, it would be counterproductive for the DSS committee spent a lot of time improving on the KJV translation. A reader without access to the original manuscripts could then never be sure if a difference between the DSS translation and the King James (or any other) translation represented a true difference in the DSS text, or simply the choice of the DSS translators to improve existing translations.
The situation with the Book of Mormon is likely analogous. For example, it is possible that most of the text to which the Nephites had access would not have differed significantly from the Hebrew texts used in later Bible translations. The differences in wording between the KJV and the Book of Mormon highlight the areas in which there were theologically significant differences between the Nephite versions and the Masoretic text, from which the Bible was translated.
Other areas can be assumed to be essentially the same. If one wants an improved or clearer translation of a passage that is identical in the Book of Mormon and the KJV, one has only to go to the original manuscripts available to all scholars. Basing the text on the KJV focuses the reader on the important clarifications, as opposed to doing a new translation from scratch, and distracting the reader with many differences that might be due simply to translator preference.
Since there is no such thing as a “perfect” translation, this allows the reader to easily identify genuine differences between the Isaiah texts of the Old World and the Nephites.”
THE ISAIAH PASSAGES IN THE BOOK OF MORMON A NON ALIGNED TEXT
The above title (and link) refers to a 2001 Master’s thesis. This thesis reviews the Isaiah variants found in these four texts: the Masoretic Text (MT), the Septuagint (LXX), the Qumran (Q) or Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), and the Book of Mormon
MT, LXX, Q, and BoM Isaiah.
Nearly 80 pages of tables demonstrate the differences in Isaiah verses between the four versions.
Watch the last few minutes of this video from Royal Skousen. Nobody understands the Book of Mormon text better than Dr. Skousen.
Evidence for an inspired use of Isaiah (and not copied into the Book of Mormon by Joseph and Oliver from a nearby KJV Bible):
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
Royal Skousen presented on the topic of Isaiah and the KJV in January of 2020. See video below.
Part V in Dr. Skousen’s Volume III covers the topic of KJV quotations in the Book of Mormon. Part VI reviews spelling in the manuscripts and in the editions.
The section relating to the KJV quotations in the Book of Mormon is found from 19:40 to around 56:15 . Royal mentions KJV quotes earlier in his presentations, but they become his focus after the 19th-minute mark.
Around 28:30, Royal asks if these are all changes to the KJV? Royal explains that the King James was a revision of the Bishop’s Bible, which was a revision of the Geneva Bible.
At 29:10, Royal compares Isaiah 2:15 in several OT translations to 2 Nephi 12:15. See screenshot below:
2 Nephi 12: 15 And upon every ahigh tower, and upon every fenced wall;
The Book of Mormon Isaiah text matches with the KJV and Bishops’ Bibles, but not with the rest of the English translations.
Most interesting is Royal’s review of the next verse — Isaiah 2:16 — with 2 Nephi 12:16 around 30:00. It’s worth looking at the slide at the 30:00 mark. In this instance, the Book of Mormon uses text from earlier Greek translations (not available to Joseph) with later Hebrew translations.
2 Nephi 12: 16 And upon all the ships of the asea, and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures.
2 Nephi 12:16, part 1: “upon all ships of the sea” is found in the earlier bibles, from the Coverdale Bible to the Great Bible (translated from Greek manuscripts)
2 Nephi 12:16, part 2: “upon all the ships of Tarshish” is found in the later bibles, from the Geneva Bible through KJV (translated from Hebrew manuscripts)
How did Joseph get these two translations into a single verse? Where did he get access to the earlier translations from which come the words “upon all ships of the sea?”
Around the 36:00 mark, Dr. Skousen creates this thought experiment:
Did Joseph mark up his bible with a few changes, then pass the bible over to Oliver to copy? Evidence against copying the KJV by Joseph and Oliver is this: Oliver’s misspellings. Oliver isn’t influenced by the spelling he would have seen in the King James Version Bible in their Harmony, PA home.
In other words, Oliver wouldn’t have misspelled many or perhaps any words if Oliver was simply copying from the bible. Instead, Joseph dictated to Oliver. And Oliver — though a better speller than Hyrum and the rest of the scribes (Royals discussed that in more detail later) — made consistent spelling errors.
Oliver consistently misspelled host (Oliver wrote hoast), declare, lest, molten, very, etc. See image above. Copying the bible directly — as many critics suggest — would not have resulted in these consistent misspellings.
The one time when Joseph may have told his scribe to copy was when Sidney Rigdon was helping Joseph with the JST in 1830. Remember, the Book of Mormon was translated in 1829.
Since Joseph had already translated the Book of Mormon — and that Isaiah chapter (50) was in the Book of Mormon — Joseph appears to have told Sidney to use the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 7) as a guide for JST Isaiah 50.
So, no suprise! JST Isaiah 50 looks just like 2 Nephi 7. Misspellings and all! JST Isaiah 50 is not identical to KJV Isaiah 50.
That’s further evidence. Oliver didn’t copy from the KJV Isaiah 50 during their translation of the Book of Mormon of 2 Nephi 7.
Royal discusses italics around the 41:20 mark. Only 22.9% of all changes (163 of 712 total). So, it’s true that italicized words are changed (almost 23% of the time), but not as much as other words.
And, when you look at all the italicized words (425 total), only 38.4% of the time (163/425) are they changed. So, the changes were not predictable or systematic.
Errors can be found in the KJV. Latter-day Saints don’t believe the process was perfect. Neither do traditional Christian scholars. After all, the texts the KJV drew from — previous translations and manuscripts — had errors themselves.
But don’t forget. The “errors” claimed by Jeremy Runnells were only italicized words. Italicized words in the KJV were mostly maintained in Joseph’s translation of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. Those italicized words were absolutely needed to aid in getting from Greek or Hebrew into English.
If we step back for a minute, all the KJV text (not only italicized words) was chosen by King James’ selected committee members. The entire bible was in their own English words. The italicized words were simply additional words needed to allow the English rendering to be coherent.
Discussion about the Multiple-Isaiah Hypothesis
L. LaMar Adams writes the following in BYU Religious Studies: A Scientific Analysis of Isaiah Authorship.
Summary and Conclusions:
The statistical results in this study do not support the divisionists’ claim that little or no evidence exists for unity of the book of Isaiah. To the contrary, the results strongly support single authorship of the book. The divisions of the book most often claimed to have been written by different authors were found to be more similar to each other in authorship style than to any of the control group of eleven other Old Testament books. The book of Isaiah also exhibited greater internal consistency than any of the other books when authorship style was analyzed.
These results do not exclude the possibility that minor changes in the text have been made by scribes and editors since the time of its origin. However, the evidence indicates that in spite of such possible changes, an overall style has been retained as measured by the literary variables examined. 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.
Another major problem found by this author: those who insist on multiple authors do this because they don’t believe in prophets. That is, they don’t believe prophets can forecast the future, and therefore, someone after Isaiah’s death must have written parts Isaiah himself couldn’t have known would occur. Hmmmmmmmm.
More from Adams about past research concluding 2+ authors were involved:
Previous Attempts at Statistical Analysis
Previous attempts at computerized statistical analysis of the book of Isaiah were made by two different researchers, Yehuda Radday24 and Asa Kasher. Both of these researchers independently concluded that the book of Isaiah was written by multiple authors.
Radday’s work was based on an inappropriate assumption: he assumed that a difference in the usage of one type of word (such as war terminology) from one section or prophecy to another was an indication of a difference in authorship. To demonstrate the invalidity of his method, we applied Radday’s procedures to a text known to have been written by Thomas Carlisle. The result was a false conclusion that part of Carlisle’s text was written by another author.
Kasher’s approach was likewise analyzed and found to be based on inappropriate assumptions. I have corresponded extensively with these two Israeli researchers, and they are aware of the problems in their research.
A very comprehensive answer: from FAIR Mormon volunteer Michael Hickenbotham.
The premier non-LDS commentary on “Second” Isaiah (The Anchor Bible, Volume 20) says there is insufficient evidence from word-print 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.
“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
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.
Why did Joseph use Early Modern English to translate the Book of Mormon? And why so many chapters that closely resemble KJV Isaiah? Nobody knows for sure, but we have a few examples that did the same:
Below are two examples of translations that conveniently used the KJV Bible or similar language as a basis for their translations:
1. 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.
2. Jewish scholar, Theodore Gaster, intermixed KJV and modern English in his translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSSs). The scrolls were originally written in ancient Hebrew. Gaster could have exclusively used modern English. That might have been easiest. Yet, Gaster translated this ancient language with a blend of 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:
Their Imperfect Best: Isaianic Authorship from an LDS Perspective
The Latter-day Saint response to the theory of multiple authorship of Isaiah that prevails in critical scholarly circles should not be to engage critical scholars in their old arguments over multiple authorship vs. unity, or to provide yet another voice in smaller scholarly disputes over authorship at the level of chapter and verse.
The differences in assumptions that Latter-day Saints bring to questions of production of scripture — including our experiences in observing and analyzing the production of the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants — effectively constitute a barrier to entry for a Latter-day Saint response to the critical position on critical terms.
This is not, however, a “surrender” to the critical position. On the contrary, it is an opportunity and invitation to develop a uniquely Latter-day Saint theory of authorship for Isaiah (and other books) using a toolset of very different assumptions:
The statement in our Articles of Faith that “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly” is an expression of how the Bible can serve as the word of God in influencing the life of the believer, and not an assertion that the Bible was authored or even compiled by God. The discussion of the transmission of the Biblical text in 1 Nephi 13:23–29 asserts a great deal of human error in the transmission of the Bible, resulting in the loss of “plain and precious things.” The Book of Mormon can serve not only as a corrective to extreme assumptions of textual infallibility, but also as a corrective to the excesses of modern critical scholarly perspectives on the formation and transmission of the Biblical text.
Prophets can and do develop significant changes in perspective over time, even on very consequential matters.
A prophet’s tone, phraseology, and topical emphasis are likely to change to significant degrees depending upon the prophet’s audience, specific life experiences, observations of social or geopolitical trends, or even the prophet’s own stage of life.
Prophetic writings influence the work of later prophets, who respond to previous prophetic writings by incorporating, [Page 24]restating, alluding to, or sometimes even reversing the teachings of their predecessors.
Prophets can predict future events before they come to pass.
In questions of dating of scripture, the repeated presence of textual “borrowing” across authors carries far more evidential weight than anachronisms or other textual features that are possible results of redaction or simple misplacement of passages in the process of compiling a prophet’s writings.
With these assumptions in mind, it is possible to trace the enormous influence of Isaiah on other Old Testament and nonbiblical figures over time (as well as document the influence of previous books on Isaiah’s own thinking), and the picture that emerges is not of a marginal prophetic figure whose writings became a catch-all repository for a vast amount of pseudonymous material. On the contrary, what we see is a highly prophetic, influential, and evolving figure, whose writings were assembled, modified and edited over time, formed the basis for much of Lehite theology and self-perception, filled the caves at Qumran more than any other prophet, and served as the primary catalyst for Lehite and early Christian understanding of the mission of Jesus Christ.
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.