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David Bokovoy

Textual Divisions in Isaiah and the BofM

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As a side note, Josephus (Ant. 11.173) says that "Jews" was the name given only to the people who had been in exile and not to those who had remained in the homeland. Thus, it's unlikely that the Nephites would have referred to themselves as as "descendants of the Jews."

2 Nephi 30:4 And then shall the remnant of our seed know concerning us, how that we came out from Jerusalem, and that they are descendants of the Jews.

Josephus is wrong. Here are some testimonies earlier than Josephus'.

"At that time Rezin king of Aram recovered Elath to Aram, and drove the Jews from Elath; and the Edomites came to Elath, and dwelt there, unto this day."

-2 Kings 16:6.

"Then said Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and Shebnah, and Joah, unto Rab-shakeh: 'Speak, I pray thee, to thy servants in the Aramean language; for we understand it; and speak not with us in the Jews' language, in the ears of the people that are on the wall.'"

-2 Kings 18:26.

A Jew at that time denoted someone either from the tribe of Judah or from the kingdom of Judah.The Nephites were certainly the latter.

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The NRSV has "loins of Judah" and the Targum has "seed of Judah"; thus "waters" here apparently refers to birth waters; i.e., ancestry.

Judah had a womb?

Interestingly enough, none of the Jewish apologists and polemecists ever seized upon the idea of birth waters. The author of the Metsudot sees waters as an allegory for Judah, and Rashi sees it as a reference to Numbers 24:7.

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David,

Here is my response to your opening post. So readers can keep track of who is saying what, I refer to you and Brant in the third person. Also, to make things a little easier, I have broken up my response into two posts.

Pro: The Book of Mormon

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David,

Here is the rest of my response.

Contextual Reasons for Starting the Quotation at 53:1

David

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Well, the arguements are interesting, and way above my level of understanding. Thank you David and Rob for the posts.

My only critique would that from my standpoint it wasn't Joseph Smith Jr. that included the text of Isaiah in Mosiah, it was Alma the Elder, but that is not something that Rob is likely to accept in the near future.

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The choice of Isaiah 53 to illustrate prophetic predictions of the coming of the Messiah is a natural one for a Christian who has only the Old Testament as inspired literature written before the Messiah

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Mortal Man,

Ah, yes. I forgot about that. Good point. Do you know of an article or book that gives the details as to which parts of the Book of Mormon were translated when, or at least in what order?

Coincidentally, 1 Nephi through Omni were translated after Mosiah.

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Mortal Man,

Ah, yes. I forgot about that. Good point. Do you know of an article or book that gives the details as to which parts of the Book of Mormon were translated when, or at least in what order?

Except for the Words of Mormon, Elden Watson's timeline seems pretty reasonable to me. There's also Brent's textual analysis.

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Regarding Rob's questions about why Abinadi didn't refer to one of the more explicit Messianic prophecies, remember that the Nephites society at the time of Abinadi was divided into two separate communitites. One group in Zarahemla, and one group who had been separated for two generations back in the Land of Nephi.

And regarding the whole issue of why Abinadi approaches Isaiah 53 and 52 the way he does, see John W. Welch's essay "Isaiah 53, Mosiah 14 and the Book of Mormon" in Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, ed. Parry and Welch (FARMS, Provo, 1998), 293-312. The essay is not online, but the book is available in paperback.

Kevin Christensen

Bethel Park, PA

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PART 2 (More to Come):

Hypothetically, the emphasis on the unbelief of the Nephite king and people might explain a quotation of Isaiah 53:1, just as the New Testament in a couple of places quotes that verse as a commentary on the lack of faith in Jesus (John 12:38; Romans 10:16). The problem with this explanation for what we find in Mosiah is twofold. First, Mosiah quotes all of Isaiah 53, not just verse 1. What needs to be explained is the full quotation as well as where that quotation begins.

I have explained why commencing with 53:1 makes sense contextually. So why does Abinadi not simply end with verse one, but provide the rest of the chapter? I believe that the answer to this question is quite clear. Unhappy that Abinadi has stepped forward to deliver a judgment rather than a salvation speech, Nephi

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This argument is really a loser. I wish anti-Mormons would realize that not every argument against the BOM is valid (even if the BOM is false), just as not every argument for the BOM is valid (even if it is true).

The fact that the BOM quotes the Bible literary units that do not match modern scholarly literary units is meaningless because: 1- ancient literary units don't necessarily match modern concepts of literary units, and 2- most OT quotations in the NT in fact do not quote full literary units as conceived by modern scholars. Scriptures have been cited by ancient author, Christians and Jewish, by: allusion, a single word, a phrase, a paraphrase, a line, a verse, a passage, etc. There is no rule about how or why ancient authors quoted scripture. Bokovoy has demonstrated there are reasonable explanations--based on the text--of why Abinadi would have quoted Isaiah the way he did. So, it's a non-issue.

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Bill,

Nothing in my responses to Brant and David merit the straw-man criticism that would associate me with those who seem to think that every argument against the Book of Mormon is valid. I agree with you: not all arguments against the Book of Mormon are valid. Some of the arguments, however, have a lot going for them.

It's late and I just read your replies, David, but my quick response is that I think my analysis of the issues holds up nicely. Thanks for the stimulating discussion, which I appreciate very much. If I have time I might offer one last comment, but as you know I have a lot of other issues to address.

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So, to summarize:

1) John Gee claims that:

A) "Book of Mormon prophets intentionally start and stop in certain specific places, reflecting natural breaks in Isaiah

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So, to summarize:

2) Brant Gardner agrees with John Gee that:

A) Abinadi et al. followed the Isaiah breaks as they were written on the Brass Plates.

B) We can even figure out what these section divisions were by a close examination of the quotations.

C) Nephi et al. had a profound understanding of Isaiah's pericopes.

D) The BoM prophets understood Isaiah's original context better than we do.

To clarify, Gee was interested in the differences between the 2 Nephi Isaiah chapters and the corresponding KJV chapters. That was also my focus. The addition of Abinadi to this list goes beyond what Gee stated (and what I referenced).

Your suggestion in D) is fascinating. You are assuming that whoever created the chapter divisions in the Bible is the authoritative source that "we know better than." I am not sure that there is any doubt that they were created with less understanding of the structures of Isaiah than modern scholars understand. Suggesting that the KJV chapters are authoritative would be an interesting argument. I would like to see the evidence for it, particularly from the "we" you think someone knows better than.

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Brant,

You wrote:

To clarify, Gee was interested in the differences between the 2 Nephi Isaiah chapters and the corresponding KJV chapters. That was also my focus. The addition of Abinadi to this list goes beyond what Gee stated (and what I referenced).

Okay, but it's still relevant to the general issue you originally raised, which was the use of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon.

You wrote:

Your suggestion in D) is fascinating. You are assuming that whoever created the chapter divisions in the Bible is the authoritative source that "we know better than." I am not sure that there is any doubt that they were created with less understanding of the structures of Isaiah than modern scholars understand. Suggesting that the KJV chapters are authoritative would be an interesting argument. I would like to see the evidence for it, particularly from the "we" you think someone knows better than.

For the record, I certainly don't hold this view. I maintain, and David agrees, that the Suffering Servant passage begins at 52:13 and not 53:1, and that the KJV chapter division there was a mistake.

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So, to summarize:

1) John Gee claims that:

A) "Book of Mormon prophets intentionally start and stop in certain specific places, reflecting natural breaks in Isaiah

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3) David Bokovoy disagrees with Brant and John, since he claims that:

A) Abinadi and the Masoretes had a profound new understanding of Isaiah's text.

B) A "highly sophisticated internal reason" enabled Lehi, Nephi, Abinadi and the Masoretes to section the text in new and "much more profound" ways.

C) Nephi, Abinadi et al. can ignore the original literary divisions if they want to.

D) We should not expect Abinadi's use of these biblical passages to reflect Isaiah's original meaning.

3. I don't disagree with Brant and John. I've simply illustrated that when the Book of Mormon cites Isaiah 53 and ignores the original literary unit, this does not mean that the Book of Mormon has made a mistake.

A. I don't believe that the Masoretes had a profound new understanding of Isaiah's text. Moreover, despite the fact that Abinadi used Isaiah 53 in a way that may not reflect the original author's intent, extracting a passage from its original context and providing the text with a new Sitz in Leben is a well-known biblical technique. For examples of Deutero-Isaiah himself doing the exact same thing see Benjamin Sommer, A Prophet Reads Scripture: Allusion in Isaiah 40-66.

B. While I maintain that Book of Mormon writers use Isaiah in new and profound ways, I said nothing of the Masoretes, nor did I suggest that Book of Mormon writers use of Isaiah was "much more profound" than the original text.

C. This one is correct.

D. This one is also correct.

So by my count, that's 2 out of 6.

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Well, you're pretty close to a perpetual misunderstanding machine.

I'm just trying to figure out which apologist holds the keys to understanding and won't lead us astray.

Right now we have the Gee-Gardner (GG) team vs. the Bokovoy-Hamblin (BH) team, so it looks like things are deadlocked. Perhaps Kevin can weigh in and break the stalemate.

At any rate, I think this is a very exciting match and I can't wait to see who wins!

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I'm just trying to figure out which apologist holds the keys to understanding and won't lead us astray.

Right now we have the Gee-Gardner (GG) team vs. the Bokovoy-Hamblin (BH) team, so it looks like things are deadlocked. Perhaps Kevin can weigh in and break the stalemate.

At any rate, I think this is a very exciting match and I can't wait to see who wins!

?!?!? Win?

This isn't a football game. There aren't any winners. There is an exchange of ideas and perhaps everyone will learn a little more, but it's not like a guy in black and white stripes is going to pop out and declare someone a winner.

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To clarify, Gee was interested in the differences between the 2 Nephi Isaiah chapters and the corresponding KJV chapters. That was also my focus.

This is what I orginally suspected. I am not surprised that Bowman attempted to expand this "interest" to include Abinadi's quotation, thus creating a strawman to attack. A failed attack none the less.

The addition of Abinadi to this list goes beyond what Gee stated (and what I referenced).

Yes, but it does create a very nice strawman to be whipped about with abandon.

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3. I don't disagree with Brant and John.

Then perhaps you could specifically address each of John's A, B, C & D quotes.

A. I don't believe that the Masoretes had a profound new understanding of Isaiah's text. Moreover, despite the fact that Abinadi used Isaiah 53 in a way that may not reflect the original author's intent, extracting a passage from its original context and providing the text with a new Sitz in Leben is a well-known biblical technique. For examples of Deutero-Isaiah himself doing the exact same thing see Benjamin Sommer, A Prophet Reads Scripture: Allusion in Isaiah 40-66.

Fair enough, but "a new Sitz in Leben" conflicts with John's arguments about original context.

B. While I maintain that Book of Mormon writers use Isaiah in new and profound ways, I said nothing of the Masoretes,

If I understood correctly, you seemed to imply that the Masoretes may have divided the text at 53:1 for the same reasons as Abinadi:

Some Masoritic manuscripts feature a setuma or

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I'm just trying to figure out which apologist holds the keys to understanding and won't lead us astray.

Right now we have the Gee-Gardner (GG) team vs. the Bokovoy-Hamblin (BH) team, so it looks like things are deadlocked. Perhaps Kevin can weigh in and break the stalemate.

At any rate, I think this is a very exciting match and I can't wait to see who wins!

Bbbbzzzzzztttt! Wrong again. Thanks for playing.

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?!?!? Win?

This isn't a football game. There aren't any winners. There is an exchange of ideas and perhaps everyone will learn a little more, but it's not like a guy in black and white stripes is going to pop out and declare someone a winner.

For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so... righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. -- 2 Nephi 2:11

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