Book of Mormon/Relationship to the Dead Sea Scrolls

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    Why does Isaiah in the Book of Mormon not match the Dead Sea Scrolls?

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Mistranslations of the King James version of Isaiah have been corrected using the Isaiah version found with the Dead Sea scrolls. Why is it that the quotes from Isaiah contained in the Book of Mormon have the same translation errors contained in the King James version instead of matching the original ancient text?

Detailed Analysis

The question makes some inaccurate assumptions:

  • It is not the case that the Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsa[a]) is the original text of Isaiah. It is an earlier witness to the text than we previously had before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), but it itself is centuries removed from the original(s).
  • The English Book of Mormon text of Isaiah does not purport to be the original text either; that is an assumption that many LDS have brought to the text, but is not necessarily true.

These are basic issues of what is called "textual criticism," which is the science/art of trying to recover to the extent possible the text in its original form. Critical text scholars do not believe that the Great Isaiah Scroll matches exactly the original text of Isaiah. It is true that the masoretic scribal tradition has tried valiantly to copy texts as perfectly as possible. Various approaches have been used, such as counting the letters in a chapter and testing a copy against that, in order to ensure a high degree of accuracy in their work. However, the masoretic scribes did their work in the second half of the first millennium A.D. Prior to that time, many errors had already crept in the text.

The term "redaction" refers to a form of editing in which multiple source texts are combined together in order to make it appear that they comprise a single text. The standard scholarly theory of the development of Isaiah is that it was redacted from two or three different texts. Yet none of this is reflected in the Great Isaiah Scroll, which is close to the canonical form of the text we have today. So if the scholars are correct there was substantial redaction of the text long before the scribes ever had a chance to practice their efforts at copying on the text.

Even the Book of Mormon text would have been far removed from Isaiah. The brass plates version would have been at least a century after the fact (with many copies intervening), and that was copied and recopied into Book of Mormon records, which was translated not in a scholarly fashion but instead by the gift and power of God through Joseph Smith. Therefore, it is a fallacy to assume that the Book of Mormon text ought to be the exact equivalent to the original text.

Further reading and additional sources responding to these claims

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