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David Bokovoy on Deutero and Trito Isaiah in the Book of Mormon


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I just saw this on Facebook from David Bokovoy.  I have yet to see a satisfying apologetic response to this problem.  Not one that is satisfying to me anyway.  Maybe I’ll never get one.  But I thought I’d try asking for one again.  Any volunteers?

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Without the biblical book of Isaiah, the Book of Mormon would not exist.  Isaiah appears directly cited, echoed, or alluded to throughout the entire work.  For many years, Mormon apologists have struggled to reconcile their belief in the book as an authentic work from antiquity with the fact that the Book of Mormon relies so heavily upon the exilic chapters of Isaiah, which the Book of Mormon anachronistically presents as pre-exilic material.  This underlying assumption reflects Joseph Smith’s own early nineteenth century beliefs regarding Isaianic authorship.  However, Smith's understanding, and by extension, the one featured in the Book of Mormon, is not a reflection of historical reality.

Simply put, if the Book of Mormon is what most Latter-day Saints assume, namely an authentic ancient translation of a historical record from antiquity, then the Isaianic material scholars refer to as Deutero-Isaiah should not appear cited throughout the work.  Yet it does, extensively.   

Apologists addressing this issue have frequently noted that not withstanding this serious challenge to their beliefs, at least the Book of Mormon never presents the final ten chapters of Isaiah as pre-exilic material.  And this is significant.

Since 1892, biblical scholars have recognized that Isaiah 56-66 contain an anthology of approximately twelve passages of oracles written by unknown prophets in the years immediately following the Jewish return from Babylon.  If this post-exilic material appeared in the Book of Mormon, it would prove detrimental to traditional claims that the book is an ancient record.

Unfortunately, Mormon apologists who attempted to address these issues have had very little exposure to critical research on Isaiah.  In reality, the Book of Mormon relies heavily upon what scholars refer to as Trito-Isaiah.  Not only are these post-exilic chapters sometimes cited and alluded to throughout the book, the editors responsible for this final addition to the Isaianic corpus shaped the material the Book of Mormon cites as authentic pre-exilic Isaianic prophecies.

Without the book of Isaiah, the Book of Mormon would not exist.  And its extensive reliance upon the post-exilic shaping of Isaiah helps scholars establish the Book of Mormon’s nineteenth century origins, and therefore, the original context or historical Sitz im Leben by which the book should be interpreted.

Or in other words, after an extended break of serious soul searching, I feel it's high time for me to return to my passion for critical scholarship and the way it helps contextualize religious texts.  Because there is a lot to say about this exciting topic that helps us to better understand the Book of Mormon.

Colby Townsend and I are in the process of co-authoring an article on the subject.  Whereas my own studies have primarily focused upon Deutero-Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, Colby has done extensive research on Trito-Isaiah that has significantly enhanced my understanding of the issue.

 

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52 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

This is all old hat.  What is new is that he and his student Colby Townsend are putting together an article on the issue.  Should be interesting.

The book of Isaiah has been transmitted to us over a very long period of time, and most scholars understand that there was an Isaianic School -- from which additional material came forth after Isaiah's death.  The main problem has been that Isaiah predicted Cyrus by name, which of course is impossible (Isa 45:1).  Since Cyrus did not become King of Babylon until Oct 539 B.C. (long after Lehi & Nephi left Jerusalem), one immediately needs to find reasons why some parts of Isaiah must be Exilic.  All prophecy must be ex eventu, right?

Much of what people see as prophetic in Isaiah is supposedly just descriptive of his own time and circumstances (so the scholars say), yet Jesus quoted Isaiah more than any other book of Scripture.  And Jesus was quoting Isaiah for Messianic purposes.  Was Jesus mistaken?  Also, the Essenes at Qumran likewise quoted the Servant Songs of Isaiah with messianic meaning.  Were they likewise mistaken?

The upshot to all of this is that Bokovoy must reject the notion that the BofM is in Early Modern English.  Either that or adapt his thesis to fit the 16th or 17th century.

Why is it impossible for a prophet to foretell someone by name?  See 2 Nephi 3:7 where we learn that, according to Nephi, Joseph who was sold into Egypt foretold the mission of Joseph Smith, identified him by name and said he would be named after his father. 

Edited by Scott Lloyd
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2 hours ago, Scott Lloyd said:

Why is it impossible for a prophet to foretell someone by name?  See 2 Nephi 3:7 where we learn that, according to Nephi, Joseph who was sold into Egypt foretold the mission of Joseph Smith, identified him by name and said he would be named after his father. 

 

2 hours ago, InCognitus said:

I detected a tongue in cheek tone in his statement.  Biblical scholars have to be "scholarly", which doesn't allow for belief in prophecy apparently. 

Yeah, well, that is an option only available to people of faith.  What would Sterling McMurrin say?  Before he went over to the other side.  :pirate:

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5 hours ago, Rivers said:

its extensive reliance upon the post-exilic shaping of Isaiah helps scholars establish the Book of Mormon’s nineteenth century and/or 'beyond the veil fusion of extra-mortal sources' origins

 

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5 hours ago, champatsch said:

NOL 225 (Skousen):
More recently, Ronald Hendel has presented some intriguing evidence that Isaiah II has linguistic usage that dates it with Isaiah I—that is, prior to the Babylonian exile and contrary to the multiple-authorship hypothesis. In Isaiah 49:25 the earlier, pre-exilic Qal Passive for the verb לקח ‘to take’ occurs in the Masoretic text (that is, as יקח ) instead of the later, post-exilic Niphal (that is, as ילקח ), which occurs in the Qumran scroll for this passage. Hendel notes that “in late Biblical Hebrew the Qal Passive is extremely rare”, so the Qal Passive verb form in Isaiah 49:25 provides additional evidence that Isaiah II reflects earlier usage. Hendel’s discussion of early versus late Biblical Hebrew is found in the appendix, “Linguistic Notes on the Age of Biblical Literature” (see pages 115–116 and its accompanying notes on pages 158–164), to his book Remembering Abraham (Oxford University Press, 2005)

Despite what Skousen suggests here, Hendel does not assert that Isaiah 40–66 is pre-exilic. Hendel makes this clear in his later book, How Old Is the Hebrew Bible? There, he classifies the language of Isaiah 40–66 ("Deutero- and Trito-Isaiah") as Transitional Biblical Hebrew (TBH).

As Hendel and his co-author explain, "preexilic CBH [Classical Biblical Hebrew] precedes TBH, which is followed by postexilic LBH [Late Biblical Hebrew]. . . . A typical TBH text contains LBH elements, but not as many as one expects in core LBH texts. It will also contain CBH features that are not normally found in LBH" (74).

2020-08-14_19-22-57.png.b1e8adb8a76ea2049df991d8d13c6195.png

(Ronald Hendel and Jan Joosten, How Old Is the Hebrew Bible? A Linguistic, Textual, and Historical Study [AYBRL; New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2018], 79)

In addition to elements characteristic of Late Biblical Hebrew, Hendel also notes that "Babylonianisms" are found in Second Isaiah (81), which also points to a sixth-century BCE origin.

Edited by Nevo
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For more on the language of Isaiah 40–66, here is the eminent Israeli scholar, Shalom Paul:

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The prophecies of Deutero-Isaiah, written in the latter days of the Babylonian exile and in the first years of the return, contain representative examples of Postexilic Hebrew and also evince the influence of Aramaic, which was the lingua franca of the period. . . .

a. Aramaic Influence

See the following terms: the noun אֹרַח, “shackle” (41:3); the root אשׁשׁ, “stand firm” (46:8); the root אתי, “to come” (41:5, 23, 25; 44:7; 45:11; 56:9, 12); the root בחר, “to test (metal)” (48:10); the root גשׁשׁ, “to grope” (59:10); the root יצא in the hiphʿil, a calque of Aramaic שֵׁיצִי, in the shaphel, “to destroy” (43:17); the adverb כאחד, “together” (65:25), a calque of Aramaic כַּחֲדָה; the preposition lamed preceding a direct object (53:11); the noun מִדָּה, “tribute/tax” (45:14), an Akkadian loanword that came to Hebrew via Aramaic; the noun מָעוֹת, “grains of sand” (48:19); the root נטל in the piʿel, “to raise” (63:9); the root נשׁי, “to forget” (44:21); the root סבל, “to bear” (46:4, 7; 53:4, 11); the root סגד, “to bow down” (44:15, 17, 19; 46:6); the noun עַיִט (to be vocalized עַיָּט), “advisor” (46:11); the root צער, “to afflict” (63:18); the root שׂלק, “to kindle” (44:15); the noun שִׁרְיָן, the Aramaic form of Heb. שריון, “coat of mail” (59:17).

b. Late Biblical Hebrew

The examples appear solely in the exilic and postexilic periods or are only sporadically attested in Classical Hebrew: בין, in the hiphʿil as a transitive verb, “to teach” (40:14); בלוא כסף ובלוא מחיר (55:1); בלוא לשבעה (55:2); בן בטן, “child of the womb” (49:15); ברר, “to be purified” (52:11); גאל, instead of the earlier געל, “to defile” (59:3); דור ודור (58:12; 60:15; 61:4) instead of לדֹר דֹר (Exod 3:15) and מדֹר דֹר (Exod 17:16); הלך, in the piʿel stem (59:9); זיקות, “firebrands” (50:11); יְדוּעַ—a passive paʿul participle (the construct form of יָדוּעַ) instead of an active poʿel participle; כונֵן, “to intend” (51:13); כי, “just as” (44:3); כני, “to give an endearing and honorable name” (44:5; 45:4); כעס, in the hiphʿil stem (65:3); לאחור, “what is yet to happen” (41:23; 42:23); לשון, “nation” (66:18); מבועי מים, “springs of water” (35:7; 49:10); מלבוש, “clothing” (63:3); מני, “to destine” (65:12); מסמרים, “nails” (41:7); מערב, “west” (43:5; 45:6; 59:19); מצץ, “to suckle” (66:11); מתח, “to stretch out” (40:22); נבח, “to bark” (56:10); סגנים, “rulers,” an Akkadian loanword via Aramaic (41:25); סמך, “to support” (59:16; 63:5); עולמים and עולמי עד, “everlasting,” “for eternity” (45:17); עור, “to rouse up” in the hiphʿil stem (41:2), instead of the hiphʿil of קים in Classical Hebrew; עיר הקֹדֶשׁ, “the holy city” (48:2; 52:1); על, “though, despite” (53:9); עמד, instead of earlier קום, “to stand up” (44:11; 47:12; 48:13; 50:8; 59:14; 61:5; 66:22); עמד, “to be ready” (61:5); עָצמה, “vigor” (40:29); עשׂי חפץ, “to do what one has purposed” (46:10); פעי, “to scream” (42:14); צאצאים, “offspring” (42:5; 44:3; 48:19; 61:9; 65:23); מקצות הארץ/קצות, “from the ends of the earth” (40:28; 41:5, 9), as opposed to the variant form מקצה הארץ; שרב, “torrid earth/heat” (35:7; 49:10); תחתיות (44:23), instead of the earlier תחתית (“bottom”) (Exod 19:17).

Double plurals: בבתי כְלָאִים (42:22), חָרָשֵׁי צירים (45:16), בני שִׁכֻּלָיִךְ (49:20), דֹרות עולמים (51:9; cf. לדֹרות עולם, Gen 9:12), סְעִפֵי הסלעים (Isa 57:5; cf. סעיף סלע, Judg 15:8, 11).

The pronominal suffix appended to verbal forms, a common indicator of Late Hebrew, is prevalent in this opus, appearing over 300 times! See, for example, Isa 45:11: שאלוני; 45:19: בקשוני; 46:5: תדמיוני; 47:13: ויושיעֻך; 57:12: יועילוךְ; 57:13: יצילֻך; 65:10: דִּרשוני. This is in contrast to Classical Hebrew, where the suffix is usually separate from the verb, which is evidenced in Deutero-Isaiah a mere four times (41:6; 42:9; 50:1; 65:12).

Note the appearance of כי as introducing a query with a negative answer (54:6b; appears again only in 2 Kgs 18:34 = Isa 36:19).

There are also a considerable number of substantives, specifically abstractions, that appear in either the feminine or the masculine plural, and that are indicative of Late Hebrew (though not exclusive to this period). For the feminine plurals see 59:9: אֲפֵלות; 63:15: גבורות; 59:18: גמֻלות; 42:9; 48:6: חדשות; 48:21: חֳרָבות; 50:6: כְּלִמות; 66:4: מְגֹוֹרתם; 53:3: מכאֹבות; 59:9: נְגֹהות; 64:2: נוראות; 48:6: נְצֻרוֹת; 46:1: נֹשׂאֹת; 41:21: עֲצֻמותיכם; 57:16: נשמות; 45:24: צדקות; 58:11: צחצחות; 43:18: קדמוניות; 41:22; 42:9; 43:9; 48:3; 65:17: רִאשֹׁנות; 40:14: תבונות; 60:6; 63:7: תהִלות; 63:13: תהֹמות. For the rarer masculine plural see 40:26, 29: אוֹנים; 53:3: אישים; 63:4: (שנת) גאולַי (and cf. 51:10; 62:12); 50:10: חֲשֵׁכִים; 57:18: נִחֻמים; 54:6: נעורים; 54:4: עלומיך; 66:11: תַּנְחֻמֶיהָ; 66:4: תַּעֲלֻלֵיהֶם (cf. 3:4, but with a different meaning).[1]


[1] Shalom M. Paul, Isaiah 40–66: Translation and Commentary (Eerdmans Critical Commentary; Grand Rapids, MI; Eerdmans, 2012), 43–44.

 

Edited by Nevo
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7 hours ago, OGHoosier said:

My next read, on recommendation from Dan Ellsworth, is Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer's For the Comfort of Zion: The Geographical and Theological Location of Isaiah 40–55, which argues for a Judahite origin for Deutero-Isaian material, as opposed to the Babylonian origin which is forms a significant part of currently accepted Deutero-Isaiah theory. 

For what it's worth, Tiemeyer isn't pushing a pre-exilic date either:

"As to its date, I shall argue that the individual textual strands [of Isaiah 40–55] began to develop just before 539 BC and reached their final form sometime before 520 BC, i.e. before the beginning of the building of the second temple in Jerusalem" (Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer, For the Comfort of Zion, 6).

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On 8/14/2020 at 4:09 PM, InCognitus said:

I detected a tongue in cheek tone in his statement.  Biblical scholars have to be "scholarly", which doesn't allow for belief in prophecy apparently. 

My question was more in a general and rhetorical vein. I have long felt that those who fuss over the Cyrus the Great “problem” in Isaiah either disbelieve in divine gifts or they ignore them or neglect them. Latter-day Saints, at least, who accept the Book of Mormon ought to have no problem believing that Isaiah could be given divine foreknowledge, up to and including the name of an individual. 

Edited by Scott Lloyd
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"Without the biblical book of Isaiah, the Book of Mormon would not exist.  Isaiah appears directly cited, echoed, or alluded to throughout the entire work. "

I disagree.  Without Isaiah, the Book of Mormon would be a little different but would still exist.  Just as the earlier Old Testaments books were able to exist without Isaiah.

 

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12 minutes ago, Nevo said:

For what it's worth, Tiemeyer isn't pushing a pre-exilic date either:

"As to its date, I shall argue that the individual textual strands [of Isaiah 40–55] began to develop just before 539 BC and reached their final form sometime before 520 BC, i.e. before the beginning of the building of the second temple in Jerusalem" (Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer, For the Comfort of Zion, 6).

I know. Tiemeyer challenges the geography but not the chronology of Deutero-Isaiah. I still think her data might be good to know.

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I appreciate the books and other sources recommended from scholars on this topic.  I've been wanting to investigate this topic further myself.

In some manuscripts of Antiquities of the Jews, Book XI, Chapter 1, Josephus said that Cyrus said that God had "foretold my name by the prophets, and that I should build him a house at Jerusalem, in the country of Judea."  Josephus goes on to say:

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This was known to Cyrus by his reading the book which Isaiah left behind him of his prophecies; for this prophet said that God had spoken thus to him in a secret vision: "My will is, that Cyrus, whom I have appointed to be king over many and great nations, send back my people to their own land, and build my temple." This was foretold by Isaiah one hundred and forty years before the temple was demolished. Accordingly, when Cyrus read this, and admired the Divine power, an earnest desire and ambition seized upon him to fulfill what was so written; so he called for the most eminent Jews that were in Babylon, and said to them, that he gave them leave to go back to their own country, and to rebuild their city Jerusalem, and the temple of God, for that he would be their assistant, and that he would write to the rulers and governors that were in the neighborhood of their country of Judea, that they should contribute to them gold and silver for the building of the temple, and besides that, beasts for their sacrifices. 

I don't know if this portion of Josephus has been disputed, or if Josephus was embellishing or using popularized stories for his audience.  Apparently, according to the footnotes in the Whiston translation, not all the manuscripts of Josephus contain all of these details, but I have been unsuccessful in finding a way to compare them.  But if this was included in the original text by Josephus, it would at the very least indicate that the Jews of that time period believed that those passages in Isaiah predated Cyrus by 140 years.

And apparently a few people find some parallels to the above in what was written on The Cyrus Cylinder,  having to do with Cyrus's belief that he was commissioned by God or a god to do what he was doing (The Cyrus Cylinder looks a lot like a dried out and decayed corn cob, but it's a very important corn cob).  But I think a lot of conquerors have those ideas about themselves, or at the very least want their subjects to believe they are fulfilling a divine commission.

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15 hours ago, Rivers said:

How so?

I personally think the EmodE theory is out there.  However, it seems to resolve the deutero/trito isaiah problem in that the 16th or 15th century author would have been familiar with the issues.  But, it would then only put inspired fiction back to when the EmodE text was supposedly composed as there would still be a problem with book of mormon authors knowing about post-exilic isaiah.

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41 minutes ago, Robert J Anderson said:

I personally think the EmodE theory is out there.  However, it seems to resolve the deutero/trito isaiah problem in that the 16th or 15th century author would have been familiar with the issues.

Nobody in the 15th and 16th centuries was talking about multiple authors for Isaiah. The first person to propose that Isaiah 4066 was the work of a later author was Johann Christoph Döderlein in the mid-1770s. The theory didn't gain wide acceptance among critical scholars until the 19th century.

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On 8/14/2020 at 1:09 PM, OGHoosier said:

I'll be honest, I'm still putting in my due diligence on Deutero-Isaiah and Trito-Isaiah. I wouldn't call myself knowledgeable enough to weigh in yet with anything substantial. I will say this, though: Bokovoy and Townsend speak from within a scholarly community of which they are representative. The Deutero- and Trito-Isaiah model is the beneficiary of a broad consensus among historical-critical scholars of the Bible, and Bokovoy and Townsend elevate that consensus, in their discourse which I have seen, to established fact. There are diverging opinions however, which I do believe deserve consideration, and I am looking into them. My next read, on recommendation from Dan Ellsworth, is Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer's For the Comfort of Zion: The Geographical and Theological Location of Isaiah 40–55, which argues for a Judahite origin for Deutero-Isaian material, as opposed to the Babylonian origin which is forms a significant part of currently accepted Deutero-Isaiah theory. 

That's all I've got. I'm not knowledgeable enough about this to rebut Townsend and Bokovoy or anything, but I do think that the minority views should be investigated before my full assent is given. 

I would simply put this all into the category of "what Joseph thought he was translating" OR blame it on the 16th century translation if you need something harmonious with that theory.

Honestly for me it doesn't matter.

It is either increases your understanding of God or it doesn't. That's what the "scriptures" are for.  They are not a recipe book for going to heaven.

I'd just as soon read a good theology paper and see it AS ( a la Wittgenstein) "inspired". 

Edited by mfbukowski
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4 hours ago, Nevo said:

Nobody in the 15th and 16th centuries was talking about multiple authors for Isaiah. The first person to propose that Isaiah 4066 was the work of a later author was Johann Christoph Döderlein in the mid-1770s. The theory didn't gain wide acceptance among critical scholars until the 19th century.

The question on that theory, is what text the alleged 16th century writer/translator was working from, to translate / write the Book of Mormon.

That's a question beyond my pay grade. ;)

Maybe it was the same way used later by the King James translators?

Just trying to find a way to make the story work. ;)

 

Edited by mfbukowski
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On 8/14/2020 at 1:45 PM, champatsch said:

NOL 225 (Skousen):

There you go!

That works!

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21 hours ago, Nevo said:

Nobody in the 15th and 16th centuries was talking about multiple authors for Isaiah. The first person to propose that Isaiah 4066 was the work of a later author was Johann Christoph Döderlein in the mid-1770s. The theory didn't gain wide acceptance among critical scholars until the 19th century.

Ok, like I said, I think the EmodE theory is pretty out there but I seem to remember reading somewhere that this theory might be a response to the Isaiah problem, at least according to those who espouse this theory.

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