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Essay history ...

Does 'and upon all the ships of the sea'
(2 Ne. 12:16 || Isa. 2:16)
Reflect an Ancient Isaian Variant?

David P. Wright


... [W]hat astonished Harris most, was, that Jo should omit all the words in the Bible that were printed in Italic ["the words inserted by the translators"]. And, if Harris attempted to correct Jo, he persisted that the plates were right, and the Bible was wrong.
The Sun (1831)

Several scholars who have sought evidence for the antiquity of the BoMor text have examined ancient translations and manuscripts of Isaiah in the hope of finding readings similar to the variants in the BoMor Isaiah text. It turns out that most of the correlations that these scholars have made are insubstantial, inexact, strained, or in error. Furthermore, almost all of the variants in BoMor Isaiah can be explained as resulting from modification of the KJV Isaiah text or as secondary developments. Only the correlation made between 2 Nephi 12:16 (|| Isa. 2:16) and ancient texts stands out as truly remarkable. In this case—as opposed to other supposed similarities—the BoMor has a relatively long phrase with context-specific words that is paralleled in some ancient translations. This has become the parade proof that BoMor Isaiah has ancient roots.

The KJV reads:

And upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures.

The BoMor has an extra phrase or line:

And upon all the ships of the sea, and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all the pleasant pictures.

Some ancient translations of the Hebrew Bible—the Greek Septuagint (LXX) and Aramaic Targum—provide a parallel to the extra line at the beginning of the BoMor 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:

we-cal kol nakhatei sefinei yamma we-cal kol desharan bebiranyat shifra ['And upon all those who go down in ships of the sea, and upon all those that dwell in palaces of beauty'].

Despite the notable similarity between these versions and the BoMor passage, the parallel is specious. The two line verse Masoretic Text (MT; the traditional Hebrew text), reflected in the KJV, is the original, and the Targum and Septuagint are interpretive variants of that formulation. Several times in the Targum the term Tarshish is translated as "sea." Instead of the proper noun Tarshish, one finds simply yamma "sea" (Ezek. 27:12; Jonah 1:3; 4:2). Sometimes it is rendered medinat yamma "city/country of the sea" (Isa. 23:6, 10 [here for the phrase bat tarshish "daughter of Tarshish"]; Isa. 66:19). The phrase sokharei tarshish "merchants of Tarshish" is rendered taggarei yamma "merchants of the sea" (Ezek. 38:13). The specific phrase 'oniyyot tarshish "ships of Tarshish" is rendered sefinei yamma "ships of the sea" (Isa. 23:1, 14; 60:9; Ezek. 27:25; the Isaiah passages all preface the term with nakhatei "those who go down" as does 2:16). It should not be missed that in Isaiah the rendering of "Tarshish" as "sea" occurs everywhere the former term occurs. This evidence shows that the Targum is interpreting "Tarshish" as "sea." It is not evidence of a Vorlage (i.e., an original Hebrew text) with the word "sea" in it and therefore it is not evidence of a more original text with a third line as found in BoMor Isaiah.

The Septuagint 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 addition to Isaiah 2:16. In Daniel 10:6 the Septuagint reads kai to stoma autou hosei thalasses "his mouth [this is a mistake for soma "body"] was like the sea" for Hebrew ugewiyyato ketarshish "his body was like chrysolite/beryl" (here tarshish refers to a precious stone, as in Exod. 28:20; 39:13; Ezek. 1:16; etc.).

Given this, there is no real textual support for the BoMor Isaiah variant: the Septuagint and Targum readings develop from a text such as the MT. These translations do not preserve an underlying Hebrew text with the reading "ships of the sea." So how does BoMor Isaiah come to have a phrase that is so similar to the interpretive reading in the Septuagint and Targum? It turns out that interpreting the phrase "ships of Tarshish" as "ships of the sea" was well-known in British and American Bible interpretation in the decades preceding the publication of the Book of Mormon.

The rendering appears in Myles Coverdale's 1535 translation of the Bible. Isaiah 2:16 there reads:

vpon all shippes of the see [= sea], and vpon euery thinge yt [= that] is glorious and pleasaunt to loke vpon.

Here the phrase "shippes of the see" is not translating a different version, but translating the Hebrew 'oniyyot tarshish "ships of Tarshish" following the interpretive tradition of the Targum and Greek.

Bible commentaries published before Smith dictated the BoMor refer to this interpretation of Tarshish. 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.

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

16 And upon all the ships of Tarshish r, and upon all pleasant pictures.

r 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.

William Lowth's Commentary Upon the Old and New Testaments: The Prophets, published in 1727 (London), specifically refers to 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.

The "old English translation" here appears to refer to Coverdale's Bible.

John Fawcett cites (with some paraphrase) Lowth's interpretation in his Devotional Family Bible, published in 1811 (London).

Ships of Tarshish signify, in scripture, any trading or merchant ships. The Septuagint translation is 'ships of the sea.'

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:

'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: Ps. xlviii. 7.' (Lowth.)

The appearance of this datum in so many printed sources indicates that it was not obscure, but relatively well-known. Joseph Smith could have learned about it 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—a religion for which Smith had felt a passing affinity.

Corroboration of the secondary character and ultimately the origin of the BoMor's unique phrase in the 19th-century (CE) environment comes through an analysis of the poetic structure of the larger passage in which it is found (2 Ne. 12:12-16). The distinguishing feature of ancient Hebrew poetry, which is found in works such as the Psalms, Proverbs, Job, as well as in many of the prophetic works—including Isaiah—is parallelism. This is where a line immediately following another echoes or reflects in some way the thought of the previous line. Parallelistic lines most often occur in pairs. A couplet of this sort is called a bicolon. Sometimes three lines are parallel (a tricolon). Less frequently four or more lines are coordinated in this way. Each grouping of parallel lines is called a strophe. An example of a simple bicolon is found in Isaiah 40:31:

They shall run and not be weary,
          they shall walk and not faint.

"Running" is paralleled by "walking," "being weary" by "fainting," and "not" appears in both lines.

Isaiah 2:12-16 displays a neat poetic pattern in the Hebrew. Here is the Hebrew text (the Masoretic text; MT) with the KJV translation (words italicized in the KJV also have an asterisk [*] before them):

(A) ki yom l-yhwh tseva'ot For the day of the LORD of hosts *shall *be

(B) cal kol-ge'e waram upon every *one *that is proud and lofty,
  we-cal kol-nissa weshafel and upon every *one *that *is lifted up; and
          he shall be brought low:

(C) wecal kol-'arzei hallevanon and upon all the cedars of Lebanon,
  <haramim wehannissa'im> <*that *are high and lifted up,>
  wecal kol-'allonei habbashan and upon all the oaks of Bashan,

(D) wecal kol-heharim haramim and upon all the high mountains,
  wecal kol-haggevacot hannissa'ot and upon all the hills *that *are lifted up,

(E) wecal kol-migdal gavoah and upon every high tower,
  wecal kol-khoma betsura and upon every fenced wall,

(F) wecalkol-'onniyyot tarshîsh and upon all the ships of Tarshish,
  wecal kol-sekhiyyot hakhemda and upon all pleasant pictures.

Each alphabetic letter in the left-hand column designates a strophe. (A) is a monocolon which introduces the series. All of the other strophes are bicola except for (C). The middle line of this strophe is probably secondary because bicola appear elsewhere in the series and because this line does not contain the pattern w- (conjunction) + cal (preposition "upon") followed by kol- ("all/every") and then two words, found in all other cases.

Apart from the issue of the phrase "... ships of the sea" in the BoMor, it has been argued that 2 Nephi 12:12-16—which has significant variants—manifests its antiquity because of its good poetic structure. This argument does not hold. The truth is, the BoMor variants break up the neat parallelistic structure of the MT. The BoMor text may be laid out as follows (strophes unique to the BoMor are marked with the letters X, Y, and Z; variants are in boldface print and curved brackets):

(A) For the day of the Lord of hosts {soon cometh}
(X) upon {all nations}
{yea, upon} every one,
(B) {yea, upon the} proud and lofty,
and upon every one {which} is lifted up, and he shall be brought low,
(Y) {yea,} and {the day of the Lord shall come}
(C) upon all the cedars of Lebanon,
{for they} are high and lifted up,
and upon all the oaks of Bashan,
(D) and upon all the high mountains
and upon all the hills,
(Z) {and upon all the nations which} are lifted up,
{and upon every people,}
(E) and upon every high tower,
and upon every fenced wall,
(F) {and upon all the ships of the sea}
and upon all the ships of Tarshish,
and upon all {the} pleasant pictures.

The BoMor has two additional bicola, (X) and (Z), which appear to fit the requirements of Hebrew parallelism: in each the second line echoes the first. Closer inspection reveals, however, that they are really at odds with the larger pattern of this passage as seen in the MT. Bicolon (X) does not have the pattern of w + cal + kol + two terms. Its first line, to convert it schematically to Hebrew, would have only cal (no w-), kol, and one following term. The second line is even less apt, having w- (for "yea"?), cal, and only kol (for "every one"), with no word following. Bicolon (Z) similarly, while having the MT pattern in the first line, has only a single term rather than two at the end of the second.

Other variants in the passage do not match the neat MT pattern. The first line of (B) does not have the term kol "all." The BoMor's unique monocolon (Y) breaks up the flow of the passage. (D) also lacks a second term ending the second line. Of course what has happened here is that the second term of (D) has been simply pushed into (Z) and prefaced with the expansion "and upon all the nations which." And (F), the passage of interest in this paper, has the extra line "and upon all the ships of the sea." This matches the MT line formulation but makes the strophe a tricolon, inconsistent with the other strophes, which are bicola.

In sum, the BoMor text is less consistent and less structured than that in the MT. It cannot be claimed that its text "enhances the parallels found in the poetry." It does the opposite. Since the MT text reads so smoothly when compared against the BoMor, the latter must be secondary. It is thus highly improbable—contrary to what has been suggested—that scribal omissions unwittingly produced the precise and neat parallelistic structure of the MT.

The BoMor variants in 2 Nephi 12:12-16 can be explained as modifications of the English KJV text. Many (though not the majority) of the variants throughout the BoMor Isaiah can be understood as a response to italicized words in the KJV. This font was used—starting in early editions of the KJV—to mark words that did not have exact correspondences in the original biblical languages. Smith no doubt had a basic understanding of what these words represented and reacted to many of them, striking them, replacing them, or otherwise changing the contexts in which they occurred. Many of the variants in 2 Nephi 12:12-16 are linkable to italics. In (A) "*shall *be" is changed and expanded to "soon cometh upon all nations." The first line of (B), "upon every *one *that *is proud and lofty" is expanded to "upon all nations, yea, upon every one, yea upon the proud and lofty." This produces the very problematic strophe (X) and the deficient first line of BoMor (B). A minor change of italicized "*that" to "which" is made in (B) line 2. The line "*that *are high and lifted up" in (C) becomes the rationale clause, "for they are high and lifted up." And in (D) the line "and upon all the hills *that *are lifted up" is expanded to read "upon all the hills, and upon all the nations which are lifted up, and upon every people," which creates (Z). Variant (Y), though not connected with italics, is still explicable as a revision of the KJV text. The KJV devotes six words to translating the last single word of (B): weshafel "and he shall be brought low." This English translation interrupts the flow of the passage. The added phrase at (Y) acts as a resumptive repetition of line (A) to put the reader back on course. Such a repetition is not necessary in the Hebrew.

One might still ask why parallelistic bicola at (X) and (Z), as ungainly as they are, appear at all if this is a revision made by Smith. While Smith was not a scholar of Semitic languages and the Bible, he apparently absorbed a sense and intuition for parallelism through his conscientious reading of the Bible. This is evident in the parallelistic structures that are scattered throughout the Doctrine and Covenants.

This analysis of the poetic structure of the larger passage supports the thesis, maintained above, that the extra line in (F) "and upon all the ships of the sea" does not derive from an ancient Isaiah text. Rather, it is the result of Smith's own interpretive expansion of the KJV Isaiah text.

With 2 Nephi 12:16 accounted for, there remains no significant parallel with ancient versions to substantiate the antiquity of the BoMor Isaiah text. This evidential vacuum is complemented by probative evidence that the BoMor Isaiah text comes simply and directly from the KJV, with variants arising from modifications made by Smith. Evidence of this dependence on the KJV includes a) the almost verbatim correspondence of the BoMor Isaiah text with that in the KJV; b) a preoccupation with words italicized in the KJV, as observed above; c) the retention of numerous KJV translation errors in the BoMor; d) lack of an understanding of Hebrew language, text, and style in certain passages of BoMor Isaiah (poetic parallelism is one of these features); e) the secondary character of many of the variants in the BoMor Isaiah; f) the anachronistic appearance of parts of Isaiah written after 540 BCE (e.g., Isa. 48-54) in the BoMor, whose Isaiah text—according to the story—had to exist by about 600 BCE; and g) the anachronistic, 19th-century (CE)-oriented interpretation of Isaiah in the BoMor, found around the book's citations of Isaiah. The appearance and use of Isaiah in the BoMor clearly reveals the relatively recent temporal horizon of the BoMor's composition.

(hAcKed & rEndeReD by bReNt LeE mEtcALfe! Copyright © 2000–2003 Brent Lee Metcalfe for Mormon Scripture Studies: An E-Journal of Critical Thought. All rights reserved.)

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[Bio] David P. Wright is Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near East at Brandeis University (Waltham, Massachusetts). He is an author of books and many articles on the ritual and religion of the Bible and ancient Near East, including The Disposal of Impurity: Elimination Rites in the Bible and in Hittite and Mesopotamian Literature (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1987) and Ritual in Narrative: The Dynamics of Feasting, Mourning, and Retaliation Rites in the Ugaritic Tale of Aqhat (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2001).

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The Sun (Philadelphia, 18 August 1831), reprinted from the A. M. Intelligencer.







Essay history ...

  • 07.08.01—Added epigraph; added references in hypernotes 2, 24, 30-34 to an expanded print-version of this essay; expanded hypernote 25 discussion of BoMor emendations to biblical passages that involve italicized words in the KJV text.

  • 03.26.00—Original posting.

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The most extensive study is John Tvedtnes, The Isaiah Variants in the Book of Mormon, FARMS Preliminary Report (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies [FARMS], 1981). See his abbreviated study "Isaiah Variants in the Book of Mormon," Isaiah and the Prophets, ed. Monte S. Nyman (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center 1984), 165-77. See also The Book of Mormon Critical Text: A Tool for Scholarly Reference, 3 vols. (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1984-87), see notes throughout on Isaiah parallels; Hugh Nibley, Since Cumorah: The Book of Mormon in the Modern World (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967), 129-43; 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), 507-12; John Welch, ed., Reexploring the Book of Mormon: The F.A.R.M.S. Updates (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1992), 77-79. Compare Sidney B. Sperry, "The Text of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon," (MA thesis, University of Chicago, Divinity School, 1926); Wayne 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).







By "secondary developments" I mean an embellishment of a primary text after the primary text was written—irrespective of the author.

I have exhaustively critiqued the arguments for Isaian "restorations" to the BoMor text elsewhere (<http://members.aol.com/jazzdd/IsaBM6.html> and <http://members.aol.com/jazzdd/IsaBMapp.html>). See also the published version "Isaiah in the Book of Mormon; or, Joseph Smith in Isaiah?" American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon, eds. Dan Vogel and Brent Lee Metcalfe (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, forthcoming).







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; Monte S. Nyman, Great are the Words of Isaiah (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980), 33; Sidney B. Sperry, The Voice of Israel's Prophets (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1952), 90-91; idem, Book of Mormon Compendium (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1968), 508; John Tvedtnes, The Isaiah Variants in the Book of Mormon, FARMS Preliminary Report (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1981), 26-27; idem, "Isaiah Variants in the Book of Mormon," Isaiah and the Prophets, ed. Monte S. Nyman (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center 1984), 170; John Welch, ed., Reexploring the Book of Mormon: The F.A.R.M.S. Updates (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1992), 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.

The footnote to 2 Nephi 12:16 in the 1981 ed. BoMor provides a distillation of the apologetic:

The Greek (Septuagint) has 'ships of the sea.' The Hebrew has 'ships of Tarshish.' The Book of Mormon has both, showing that the brass plates had lost neither phrase.

This misguided claim is also in the footnote on Isaiah 2:16 in the LDS 1979 ed. Bible.

Royal Skousen ("Textual Variants in the Isaiah Quotations in the Book of Mormon," Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, eds. Donald W. Parry and John W. Welch [Provo, UT: FARMS, 1998], 375-77) seems reserved about the significance of correlation of the BoMor text with the versional evidence—perhaps partly because he notes the reading also appears in Coverdale's Bible and in view of the larger evidence to which he refers that indicates that BoMor Isaiah originates from KJV Isaiah.







This definite article is not important for our discussion.







For these sources see J. Neville Birdsall, Leonard J. Greenspoon, S. P. Brock, and 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, 6:320-31. 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).







Several Targum texts have an alternative reading: wecal kol deyatbin benesei yamma "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).







The phrase in Psalms 48:8 (English v. 7) is retained in the Targum.







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







It is not clear, in view of the Targumic evidence, that Greek thalassa "sea" is a "phonetic development from a transliteration" (James A. Montgomery, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Daniel, International Critical Commentary Series [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1926], 409). On the Septuagint's 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 (Göttingen: 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.







Myles Coverdale, The Holy Scriptures of the Olde and Newe Testamente ... M.D.XXXV [1535] (London: Samuel Bagster & Sons, 1838 ["reprinted from the copy in the library of His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex"]).







Skousen ("Textual Variants in the Isaiah Quotations in the Book of Mormon," Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, eds. Donald W. Parry and John W. Welch [Provo, UT: FARMS, 1998], 376-77) suggests that "quite possibly Coverdale's translation is based on the Greek version of Isaiah." It is probably more correct to say it was influenced by that interpretive tradition.







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







Matthew Poole, Annotations Upon the Holy Bible: Wherein the Sacred Text is Inserted, and Various Readings Annexed (Edinburgh: Thomas and John Turnbull, 1801), 2:773.







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







John Fawcett, The Devotional Family Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments, vol. 2 (London: Suttaby, Evance, & Co. and R. Baldwin, 1811), on Isaiah 2:16.







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]), on Isaiah 2:16.







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







A good introductory article is still Norman K. Gottwald, "Poetry, Hebrew," Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, ed. G. Buttrick, 4 vols. & supplement (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962, 1976), 3:829-38. For more detail see Adele Berlin, The Dynamics of Biblical Parallelism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985); Wilfred G. E. Watson, Classical Hebrew Poetry, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 26 (Sheffield, England: JSOT Press, 1986).







So Karl Elliger and Wilhelm Rudolph, eds., Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1984) ad loc; Hans Wildberger, Isaiah 1-12, Continental Commentaries Series (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991), 101; Otto Kaiser, Isaiah 1-12, Old Testament Library Series (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1972), 31; George B. Gray, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Isaiah I-XXVII, International Critical Commentary Series (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1912), 59; Edward J. Kissane, The Book of Isaiah, 2 vols., rev. ed. (Dublin: Browne and Nolan, Richview Press, 1960, 1943), 1:24, 30, retains the line.







John Tvedtnes, The Isaiah Variants in the Book of Mormon, FARMS Preliminary Report (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1981), 25-26; idem, "Isaiah Variants in the Book of Mormon," Isaiah and the Prophets, ed. Monte S. Nyman (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center 1984), 169.







Note that in the KJV the word "one" appears twice (strophe B). This word is italicized which means that the Hebrew has no corresponding individual Hebrew words. The BoMor text also has the word "one" twice whose occurrences correlate more or less with where they appear in the KJV. I will point out below that the italicized words in the KJV are one of the motivations for the variants in this passage. Here it should be noted that because of the correlation with occurrences of the KJV's term "one" it is difficult to argue that the BoMor text converted to Hebrew should have a separate word meaning one (e.g., the last word in the retroversion wecal kol-'ekhad).







John Tvedtnes, "Isaiah Variants in the Book of Mormon," Isaiah and the Prophets, ed. Monte S. Nyman (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center 1984), 169.







Cf. John Tvedtnes, The Isaiah Variants in the Book of Mormon, FARMS Preliminary Report (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1981), 25.







For a detailed study of modifications involving italicized words, see my article "Isaiah in the Book of Mormon; or, Joseph Smith in Isaiah?" American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon, eds. Dan Vogel and Brent Lee Metcalfe (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, forthcoming). A Web version is currently available at <http://members.aol.com/jazzdd/IsaBM2.html>. Skousen ("Textual Variants in the Isaiah Quotations in the Book of Mormon," Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, eds. Donald W. Parry and John W. Welch [Provo, UT: FARMS, 1998], 381-83) downplays the connection of variants in the BoMor Isaiah with italicized words in the KJV. His statistics are similar to mine: he finds 29% of the differences in the BoMor Isaiah connected with italicized words. I find (depending on how one analyzes the differences) from 22% to 38% of the differences connected with italicized words. These percentages, though not majorities, are significant. With this said, in studying the connection of variants to italicized words it is necessary to go beyond statistical results (because modes of counting may differ and involve interpretation). One must examine the types of changes that occur at italicized words—i.e., conduct qualitative alongside quantitative study. The study posted at my Web site (noted above) does this in detail and shows clearly that many variants in the BoMor Isaiah involve reaction to italicized words.







Skousen ("Textual Variants in the Isaiah Quotations in the Book of Mormon," Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, eds. Donald W. Parry and John W. Welch [Provo, UT: FARMS, 1998], 381) says "it is doubtful whether Joseph Smith would have even known what the italics meant, especially since no explanation for their use is ever given in the King James Bible." This cannot be maintained in view of the clear evidence that italicized words were the object of reaction (see the previous hypernote). Furthermore, there is evidence that shows that lay people at Smith's time, and Smith in particular, knew the basic significance of the KJV italicized words.

An example of where a pre-BoMor KJV edition does in fact explain italicized words is The Holy Bible According to the Authorized Version with Notes, George D'Oyly and Richard Mant, 2 vols. (New York: T. and J. Swords, 1818-1820). In volume 1 on the page preceding the "Introduction to the Old Testament" we find:

The unlearned reader may find it useful to be informed, that, wherever words occur in the text of the English Bible, printed in Italic character, he is to understand that these words have none corresponding to them in the original Hebrew or Greek text, but that the sense is implied; and that the words are added in the English to complete or make clearer the sense.

It's not unreasonable to infer that this type of information would likely have been shared by ordained ministers and lay preachers with their congregations.

A negative, yet informative article "Mormonites" in The Sun (Philadelphia, 18 August 1831) shows that Martin Harris and implicitly Joseph Smith knew and were suspicious of italicized words at the time Smith dictated the BoMor. The article tells of Smith's losing the power of reading the plates for several months. Then,

Finally, after frequent and fervent prayer, Jo's spectacles were restored to sight, and he again permitted to open the book.—Jo had, during his spiritual blindness, by the assistance of some one, committed several chapters of the New Testament to memory; and, the better to carry on his deception with the deluded Harris, had inquired, and found out the words inserted by the translators; (which are distinguished by Italics, both in the New Testament and the Old.) So, in order to convince Harris that he could read from the plates, Jo deposits them in his hat, applies spectacles, and refers Harris to a chapter in the Bible which he had learned by rote; and which he read from the plates, with surprising accuracy; and what astonished Harris most, was, that Jo should omit all the words in the Bible that were printed in Italic. And, if Harris attempted to correct Jo, he persisted that the plates were right, and the Bible was wrong.

Irrespective of whether Smith had memorized portions of the Bible to influence Harris, the latter is nonetheless impressed that the Bible chapters Smith recites do not have italicized words. D. Michael Quinn (Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, rev. ed. [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1998], 480n308) refers to The Sun article to refute an earlier assertion by Skousen that Smith may not have known the meaning of italicized words when he produced the BoMor.

Other evidence that Smith knew about the meaning of italicized words in the KJV early on in his prophetic career is found in his work on the revision of the Bible, a project which he began in 1830 soon after the completion of the BoMor. Robert J. Matthews gives this description of how italics were treated in the Bible that Smith used for this project:

Throughout the Bible many italics are crossed out, even when it does violence to the sense. There seems to be little consistency in the cross-outs of italics. Many are not touched; others are crossed out and replaced by words in the manuscripts, and many are not replaced. ... It is possible that the cross-out of italics was a preliminary step done before the other markings in the Bible, perhaps by a different person, and/or at a different time than the other markings, even when more than one kind now appear in the same verse ["A Plainer Translation": Joseph Smith's Translation of the Bible: A History and Commentary (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1975), 59].

While, as Matthews suggests, someone other than Smith may have excised these words, it was most likely done under his direction as part of the revision process.

Clearly early Mormons knew the significance of italicized words in the KJV and were even, like many at large, suspicious of them. Two of W. W. Phelps's editorials in The Evening and Morning Star refer to the phenomenon. In January 1833 (p. 2, col. b) he wrote of the greatness of the BoMor over the Bible:

The book of Mormon, as a revelation from God, possesses some advantage over the old scripture: it has not been tinctured by the wisdom of man, with here and there an Italic word to supply deficiencies.—It was translated by the gift and power of God. ...

In July of the same year he further reflects a negative attitude toward italics (July 1833, p. 2 [= 106], col. a):

As to the errors in the bible, any man possessed of common understanding, knows, that both the old and new testaments are filled with errors, obscurities, italics and contradictions, which must be the work of men. ... the church of Christ will soon have the scriptures, in their original purity. ...

Note that according to this, italics are something with which people of ordinary knowledge —"common understanding"—were familiar.

In a letter to the Times and Seasons (4.20 [1 September 1843]: 318), a writer ("Not the Prophet, S. T. P.") speaks of "bad translations of the Bible." He notes, with some misunderstanding and prejudice, that

Every school boy seems to know that when either of the sectarian translators failed in making the two ends of a sentence meet, he filled up the vacuity with italic, by which means God has been greatly helped towards expressing himself so as to be understood by the learned world, and benefit the poor heathen, if they are correct; but if their thoughts should not happen to be God's thoughts, it is a matter of fact that the mother of harlots holds in her hand a golden cup full of the filthiness of her abominations.

Knowledge that the italicized words were "added" and perhaps suspect was common, not recondite.

Almost a year later the Times and Seasons (5.14 [1 August 1844]: 600-601) published three translations of Psalm 110: the first, a 1582 translation; the second, the KJV rendition; and the third, a "translation made in the 19th century ... from the Hebrew of Michaelis, independent of sects or creeds" (601). The note before the 1582 translation says "We give the original spelling, and italicise their additions" (600). The KJV translation italicizes the words italicized in printed Bible. The third passage contains no italicized words. The final editor's note says:

We hope our readers will compare these three equally true translations, leaving out the italic, and judge for themselves which is most consistent according to revelation and reason [601].

This again shows suspicion of italicized words.

As an aside, the third passage is hardly a "true translation." It is full of misunderstandings of the Hebrew, especially in vv. 3-6 and probably v. 1. It awkwardly retains the syntax of Hebrew (vv. 2-3, 7) and otherwise has awkward or literal English word choice, the type an elementary student of Hebrew might use ("subdue" in v. 2, "for thyself" in v. 3, "lament," and "over the order" in v. 4). Part of its problems may arise from an attempt to avoid the italics of the KJV and a misunderstanding of the nature of the Hebrew language and what is necessary to reproduce its ideas in English. I have not been able to investigate who made it and whether it was published. My initial suspicion is that it was made by someone with an imperfect knowledge of Hebrew, perhaps a Mormon in Nauvoo, with a modicum of Hebrew learning. Certainly this last translation—though it has no italicized words—is the worst of the three. Ironically, contrary to the intent of the author, the third example becomes evidence for the necessity of "adding" words, such as the KJV's italicized words, in a translation. A word-for-word translation of the Hebrew is nonsensical in English.







BoMor Isaiah elsewhere has "come" for the italicized verb "be": "and his arm *shall *be on the Chaldeans" > "and his arm shall come upon the Chaldeans" (Isa. 48:14 || 1 Ne. 20:14); "and *let this ruin *be under thy hand" > "and let not this ruin come under thy hand" (Isa. 3:6 || 2 Ne. 13:6). The modification of "*shall *be" to "soon cometh" in 2 Nephi 12:12 seems inspired from cases where the verb "come" is used to describe the advent of the day of the Lord (Isa. 13:9; Joel 2:1, 31 [Hebrew 3:4]; Mal. 4:1, 5 [Hebrew 3:19, 23]).







Tvedtnes' textual arguments about this line are confusing (The Isaiah Variants in the Book of Mormon, FARMS Preliminary Report [Provo, UT: FARMS, 1981], 25). He is mistaken about 1QIsaa: this text lacks cal kol "upon every" before nissa "(a person who is) lifted up" not before ge'e "proud" as he appears to imply. This text, then, gives no support to the BoMor reading. Furthermore, the textual omission he proposes is problematic. His conversion of the BoMor to Hebrew is inexact; it should not have cal kol before ge'e and should read, in full: cl kl gwym wcl kl wcl g'h. ... With the lack of cl kl before g'h, the mechanism for textual error is reduced.







The verb weshafel itself is problematic; it does not fit the context. Scholars have suggested that originally another term with a meaning of "high" similar to other terms in the colon and passage was here originally (cf. Hans Wildberger, Isaiah 1-12, Continental Commentaries Series [Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991], 101).







See for example D&C 1:1-6; 3:1-3; 5:19-20; 45:1-9; 76:1-10. The existence and nature of parallelism in biblical poetry was already recognized in popular writings on the Bible before Smith produced the Book of Mormon. For example, the Reverend Dr. John Smith published in 1804 a tract entitled "A Summary View and Explanation of the Writings of the Prophets," of which Adam Clarke cites a substantial portion in the preface to his commentary on Isaiah (The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments ... with a Commentary and Critical Notes: Volume IV: Isaiah to Malachi (Nashville: Abingdon, n.d. [preface date 1823]), 7-13 in the section on Isaiah). The Reverend Smith notes that "the greatest part of the prophetic writings was first composed in verse, and still retains, notwithstanding all the disadvantages of a literal prose translation [of the KJV], much of the air and cast of the original, particularly in the division of the lines, and in that peculiarity of Hebrew poetry by which the sense of one line or couplet so frequently corresponds with that of the other. [He cites Isa. 61:10 in verse form as an example.] Attention to this peculiarity in sacred poetry will frequently lead to the meaning of many passages ... as the one line of a couplet, or member of a sentence, is generally a commentary on the other." After citing another example he notes that "it must be observed that the parallelism is frequently more extended." Then, after citing Isaiah 44:3, he says that "the two last lines explain the metaphor in the two preceding" (Clarke [1823], 13). Joseph Smith may have become familiar with this feature to some degree as part of his religious education in the various churches he attended.







See my exhaustive critique of apologetics for Isaian "restorations" to the BoMor (<http://members.aol.com/jazzdd/IsaBM6.html> and <http://members.aol.com/jazzdd/IsaBMapp.html>). See also the published version "Isaiah in the Book of Mormon; or, Joseph Smith in Isaiah?" American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon, eds. Dan Vogel and Brent Lee Metcalfe [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, forthcoming]).







See my Web article at <http://members.aol.com/jazzdd/IsaBM1.html>. See also the published version "Isaiah in the Book of Mormon; or, Joseph Smith in Isaiah?" American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon, eds. Dan Vogel and Brent Lee Metcalfe [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, forthcoming]). Skousen ("Textual Variants in the Isaiah Quotations in the Book of Mormon," Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, eds. Donald W. Parry and John W. Welch [Provo, UT: FARMS, 1998], 373) observes that "the base text for the Isaiah quotations in the Book of Mormon is indeed the King James Version of the Bible." He also notes (377-81) that "the original Book of Mormon text [as opposed to the Printer's copy] is closer to the King James Version." He nevertheless sees the text as a product of revelation (cf. 389).







See my Web article at <http://members.aol.com/jazzdd/IsaBM3.html>. See also the published version "Isaiah in the Book of Mormon; or, Joseph Smith in Isaiah?" American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon, eds. Dan Vogel and Brent Lee Metcalfe [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, forthcoming]).







See my Web article at <http://members.aol.com/jazzdd/IsaBM4.html>. See also the published version "Isaiah in the Book of Mormon; or, Joseph Smith in Isaiah?" American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon, eds. Dan Vogel and Brent Lee Metcalfe [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, forthcoming]).







See my Web article at <http://members.aol.com/jazzdd/IsaBM5.html>. See also the published version "Isaiah in the Book of Mormon; or, Joseph Smith in Isaiah?" American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon, eds. Dan Vogel and Brent Lee Metcalfe [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, forthcoming]).







Scholars with solid reason have concluded that much of the biblical book, especially chapters 40-66, do not come from the 8th-century BCE prophet Isaiah, but from a later time (see Christopher R. Seitz, "Isaiah, Book of [First Isaiah]" and "Isaiah, Book of [Third Isaiah]," Anchor Bible Dictionary, 3:472-88, 501-507 and Richard J. Clifford, "Isaiah, Book of [Second Isaiah]," Anchor Bible Dictionary, 3:488-501). For example, the temporal perspective in chapters 40-55 (from which several of the BoMor Isaiah chapters derive) is that of about 540 BCE. The people have recently suffered destruction at the hands of the Babylonians (in 586 BCE; Isa. 40:1-2; 42:22-25; 43:26-28; 47:6-15; 48:3-4; 49:14-21; 51:19; 54:7-8). The temple, Jerusalem, and other cities have been destroyed and need rebuilding (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). Many of the people are now in Mesopotamia, in captivity; but Babylonian might is waning (Isa. 43:14; 47:1-15; 48:14, 20) and release from captivity is imminent (Isa. 43:5-8; 45:13; 48:20; 49:9-12, 22-26). Cyrus, the Persian king, is the political leader who will effect the release (c. 538 BCE; Isa. 44:28; 45:1-13; cf. 41:2, 25; 46:11; 48:14). Note that it is not just the mention of specific 6th-century 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 (Isa. 44:1-5; 48:17-19; 49:20-23; 54:1-5, 9-10, 14). 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 6th century BCE is also indicated by their perfect conceptual fit between other prophetic works written in the first half of the 6th 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 according to the BoMor narrative they left for the New World (around 600 BCE)—Nephi, Jacob, Abinadi, and Noah's false priests could not have cited from it.

Studies that have argued the unity of Isaiah have not succeeded. Some of these have originated in Mormon circles. L. Lamar Adams's 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, 6:196-97. 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, UT: 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 Isaian 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 (e.g., H. G. M. Williamson, The Book Called Isaiah: Deutero-Isaiah's Role in Composition and Redaction [Oxford: Clarendon, 1994]. Williamson notes [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 8th century BCE creates grave contextual problems.)

Another approach to the anachronistic portions of Isaiah is to note that the BoMor 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, Great are the Words of Isaiah [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980], 259-81) and argue that only these sections existed of Isaiah of at Lehi's time (cf. Hugh Nibley, Since Cumorah: The Book of Mormon in the Modern World [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967], 143). The problem with this is that chaps. chaps. 48-54 are thematically very much part of 40-47, 55, and they reflect the late perspective found in this part of Isaiah (see the references in this hypernote). Moreover, parts of 40-47 are paraphrased or reflected in the BoMor: Isaiah 40:3 || 1 Nephi 10:8; 45:18 || 17:36.

A snippet from Isaiah 56-66 is also found in the BoMor (Jacob 6:4). This loosely quotes Isaiah 65:2. The problem for the traditional understanding of the BoMor 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 BoMor 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 BoMor 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 the best translation of the suggested restoration of more "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 BoMor has the definite article with "day" as does Isaiah 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 BoMor not only cites this late portion of Isaiah, it also depends upon the KJV Romans rendition.

Another attempt at solving the anachronism of Second Isaiah in the BoMor 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: A Journal of Mormon Thought 17 [Spring 1984], 1:4-7). 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 6th century BCE.







See my article "Joseph Smith's Interpretation of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 31 (Winter 1998), 4:181-206.