[It is the emphasis on Isaiah's words in LDS scripture that necessitates a treatment of his writings under two titles here:
Texts in the Book of Mormon
The article Authorship deals with the issue of the single authorship of the book of Isaiah in light of the existence of an Isaiah text possessed by Book of Mormon peoples as early as 600 B.C. The article Texts in the Book of Mormon focuses on the question of what can be learned about the history of the text of Isaiah's book from the portions preserved in the Book of Mormon.]
Of the writings in the Old Testament, the message of Isaiah enjoys high priority among Latter-day Saints. The attraction derives primarily from the extensive use of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. Secondarily, chapter 11 of Isaiah was quoted to Joseph Smith in a vision in his earliest days as a prophet (JS—H 1:40) and became the subject of a section in the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 113). In addition, Jesus Christ has given revelations about, and prophets and apostles of the latter days have frequently quoted from and commented upon Isaiah's words when instructing the Saints.
Traditionally, the book of Isaiah has been ascribed to a prophet living in the kingdom of Judah between 740 and 690 B.C. In Germany during the late 1700s, several scholars challenged this view, claiming that chapters 40—66 were written by one or more other individuals as late as 400 B.C. because of the specific references to events that occurred after Isaiah's death. This outlook now permeates many Bible commentaries and has led to the postulation of a second prophetic writer who is commonly called in scholarly literature "Deutero-Isaiah." Indeed, a wide variety of theories regarding the date and authorship of Isaiah now exist. However, LDS belief in revelation and the seership of prophets, along with the quotations from Isaiah in the Book of Mormon and its admonitions to study his writings, have reinforced Latter-day Saints in the traditional view concerning the date and authorship of Isaiah, in the following ways.
First, while some scholars argue that prophets could not see the future and that, therefore, the later chapters of Isaiah must have been written after Isaiah's time (e.g., Isa. 45 concerning Cyrus), Latter-day Saints recognize that prophets can see and prophesy about the future. In chapters 40—66, Isaiah prophesies of the future, just as the apostle John does in Revelation 4—22, and the prophet Nephi1in 2 Nephi 25—30.
Second, the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi and his family left Jerusalem about 600 B.C. and took with them scriptural writings on plates of brass that contained much of the Old Testament, including Isaiah (1 Ne. 5:13; 19:22—23). Book of Mormon prophets taught from the brass plate records, not only from chapters 1—39, which are usually assigned by scholars to the prophet Isaiah of the eighth century B.C., but also from the later chapters, the so-called Deutero-Isaiah. For example, Isaiah chapters 48—54 are all quoted in the Book of Mormon, with some passages mentioned a number of times (1 Ne. 20—21; 2 Ne. 6:16—8:25; Mosiah 12:21—24; 14; 15:29—31; 3 Ne. 16:18—20; 20:32—45; 22). Hence, the existence of a virtually complete Isaiah text in the late seventh century B.C., as witnessed by the Book of Mormon, negates arguments for later multiple authorship, whether those arguments be historical, theological, or literary.
Finally, other significant witnesses exist for the single authorship of Isaiah, including Jesus Christ in particular (cf. Matt. 13:14—15; 15:7—9; Luke 4:17—19; 3 Ne. 16, 20—22). Indeed, after quoting much from Isaiah 52 (3 Ne. 16:18—20; 20:32—45) and repeating Isaiah 54 in its entirety (3 Ne. 22), the resurrected Jesus Christ admonished his Book of Mormon disciples to study Isaiah's words and then said, "A commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah. For surely he spake as touching all things concerning my people which are of the house of Israel" (3 Ne. 23:1—2).
Jewish and Christian traditions from the earliest times have supported the single authorship of Isaiah. The Septuagint, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and other ancient texts also give no hint of multiple authorship. Latter-day Saints accept the words of the risen Jesus that Isaiah was a seer and revelator whose prophecies, as recorded throughout his book, will eventually all be fulfilled (3 Ne. 23:1—3). Particularly from Jesus' attribution of Isaiah 52 and 54 to the ancient prophet have Latter-day Saints concluded that the book of Isaiah is the inspired work of the eighth-century prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz.
Adams, Larry L., and Alvin C. Rencher. "A Computer Analysis of the Isaiah Authorship Problem." BYU Studies 15 (Autumn 1974): 95—102.
Anderson, Francis I. "Style and Authorship." The Tyndale Paper 21 (June 1976): 2.
Gileadi, Avraham. A Holistic Structure of the Book of Isaiah. Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1981.
Kissane, E. J. The Book of Isaiah, 2 vols. Dublin, Ireland, 1941, 1943.
Ludlow, Victor L. Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet. Salt Lake City, 1981.
Tvedtnes, John A. "Isaiah Variants in the Book of Mormon." In Isaiah and the Prophets, ed. M. Nyman. Provo, Utah, 1984.
Young, Edward J. Introduction to the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1949.
Brewster, Hoyt W. Isaiah Plain and Simple: The Message of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1995.
Parry, Donald W., and John W. Welch, eds. Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1998.
Victor L. Ludlow
Texts in the Book of Mormon
The Isaiah texts quoted in the Book of Mormon are unique. They are the only extant Isaiah texts that have no "original" language source with which the translation can be textually compared. These English texts date to the translation and initial publication of the Book of Mormon (1829).
These Isaiah texts were quoted and paraphrased by many Book of Mormon prophets who had a copy of Isaiah on the plates of brass. Attempts to determine the authenticity of those Book of Mormon Isaiah texts by comparing them with Hebrew, Greek, and Latin texts of Isaiah hold interest, but such efforts are moot because the ancient texts behind the Book of Mormon Isaiah translation are not available for study. However, much can be learned by comparing the numerous ancient versions and translations of Isaiah with the Book of Mormon Isaiah texts. Such comparisons result in granting the Book of Mormon Isaiah full recensional status.
The Isaiah materials in the Book of Mormon exhibit many similarities to those in the King James translation of the Bible, which would seem to indicate that both share a Hebrew Masoretic origin. However, many other peculiarities in the Book of Mormon texts point to an origin related to texts similar to those from which the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate were derived. These peculiar readings are significant enough that they preclude relegating the Book of Mormon Isaiah texts to being a mere copy of the King James Version. The Isaiah texts found in English translation in the Book of Mormon possess a distinctive character that indicates a unique textual origin. The important question is not, "Are the Book of Mormon Isaiah texts authentic?" Rather, the issue is, "Do the Book of Mormon Isaiah texts provide clear evidence of variant texts besides those normally acknowledged?" Should they not be considered as valid as, say, the Dead Sea Isaiah texts?
One of the major criticisms of the Book of Mormon Isaiah texts is that they contain parts of what have come to be termed "First Isaiah" and "Deutero-Isaiah" by Bible scholars. It is evident that the Book of Mormon Isaiah texts provide evidence contravening modern theories of multiple authorship of Isaiah's book (see Isaiah: authorship); for if the origins of the Isaiah material in the Book of Mormon are accepted as stated by its authors, then by 600 B.C. the book of Isaiah was essentially as it is today. The chief value of textual criticism, in this case, is to help identify special themes and language patterns, that is, to provide a better understanding of the message, not a determination of authorship. The most viable and certainly the most productive option for determining the origin of the Book of Mormon Isaiah texts is therefore an internal examination.
The Book of Mormon indicates that in "the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah" (1 Ne. 1:4) the prophet Nephi1and his brothers retrieved from Jerusalem a "record" written by their ancestors on plates of brass (1 Ne. 3—4), which they carried with them to the Western Hemisphere. Included in the record were prophecies of Isaiah (1 Ne. 19:22—23; cf. 5:13). All of the Isaiah texts in the Book of Mormon are quotations from that record, except perhaps those cited by the risen Jesus (cf. 1 Ne. 16, 21—22). Whether quoting directly or paraphrasing, Book of Mormon prophets were trying to do two things: "persuade [people] to believe in the Lord their Redeemer" (1 Ne. 19:23) and reveal the plans of God for his people, as noted by the prophet Isaiah (e.g., 2 Ne. 25:7; Hel. 8:18—20; 3 Ne. 23:1—2). These features give a singular quality to the Isaiah texts of the Book of Mormon, because it preserves almost exclusively the texts pertaining to salvation and saving principles and ignores Isaiah's historical material. The concerns of Book of Mormon prophets were doctrinal, and passages were utilized to expound their testimonies. Moreover, the passages that concern salvation from the later chapters of Isaiah are presented to show that Jesus was the promised Messiah (cf. Mosiah 13:33—15:31, which cites Isa. 53; 52:7, 8—10). While nineteenth-century biblical scholarship held that the concept of a "saving Messiah" arose after the Babylonian exile (587—538 B.C.) and therefore the later chapters of Isaiah are to be dated to the end of the sixth century or later, the Book of Mormon texts obviously undermine that theory.
Minor changes in the Book of Mormon Isaiah texts have been made since the publication of the work in 1830. These changes in recent editions have attempted to correct early errors in printing and to bring the Isaiah texts of the present edition into "conformity with prepublication manuscripts and early editions edited by the Prophet Joseph Smith" ("A Brief Explanation about the Book of Mormon," 1981 edition of the Book of Mormon). None of these changes has been substantive.
Eissfeldt, Otto. The Old Testament: An Introduction, pp. 303—46. New York, 1965.
Nibley, Hugh W. Since Cumorah, pp. 111—34. In CWHN 7.
Sperry, Sidney B. Answers to Book of Mormon Questions. Salt Lake City, 1967.
Tvedtnes, John A. "The Isaiah Variants in the Book of Mormon." FARMS Paper. Provo, Utah, 1981.