Question: Were the Isaiah passages in the Book of Mormon simply plagiarized from the King James Bible?

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Question: Were the Isaiah passages in the Book of Mormon simply plagiarized from the King James Bible?

Nephi and Jacob generally make it clear when they are quoting from Isaiah

If a Christian is making an accusation of plagiarism, then they are, by the same logic, indicting the Bible which they share with us. Close examination of the Old Testament reveals many passages which are copied nearly word for word including grammatical errors. Micah, who lived hundreds of years after Isaiah, copies word for word in Micah 4:1-3 from Isaiah's prophecy in Isaiah 2:2-4 without once giving him credit.[1] We also find the genealogy from Genesis 5:10-11,36 repeated in 1 Chronicles, much of the history in Samuel and Kings is repeated in Chronicles, and Isaiah 36:2 through Isaiah 38:5 is the same as 2 Kings 18:17 through 2 Kings 20:6.

Although Old Testament scripture was often quoted by Old and New Testament writers without giving credit, Nephi and Jacob generally make it clear when they are quoting from Isaiah. Indeed, much of 2 Nephi may be seen as an Isaiah commentary. Of course, Nephi and Jacob do not specify chapter and verse, because these are modern additions to the text (as Joseph Smith somehow knew). It is ironic that critics of the Book of Mormon find fault with its "plagiarism," even though its authors typically mention their sources, while they do not condemn the Bible's authors when they do not.

Additionally, the Church has made clear in the 1981 and the 2013 editions of the Book of Mormon [2] in footnote "a" for 2 Nephi 12:2 that: "Comparison with the King James Bible in English shows that there are differences in more than half of the 433 verses of Isaiah quoted in the Book of Mormon, while about 200 verses have the same wording as the KJV"[3] Thus it doesn't appear that the Church is afraid of having its members understand the similarities and differences between the King James Version of the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

Finally, it may be that the use of King James language for passages shared by the Bible and the Book of Mormon allows the Book of Mormon to highlight those areas in which the Book of Mormon's original texts were genuinely different from the textual tradition of the Old World's which gave us the Holy Bible of today.

A closer look at these duplicate Isaiah texts actually provides us an additional witness of the Book of Mormon's authenticity

A closer look at these duplicate texts actually provides us an additional witness of the Book of Mormon's authenticity.[4]

The 21 chapters of Isaiah which are quoted (Chapters 2-14, 29, and 48-54) either partially or completely, represent about one-third of the book of Isaiah, but less than two and one-half percent of the total Book of Mormon. We also find that more than half of all verses quoted from Isaiah (234 of 433) differ from the King James version available to Joseph Smith.[5] Perhaps it may be said that the Book of Mormon follows the King James (Masoretic) text when the original meaning is closer to how the King James renders the passages in question.

Additionally, we often find differences in Book of Mormon Isaiah texts where modern renderings of the text disagree.[6] One verse (2 Nephi 12:16), is not only different but adds a completely new phrase: "And upon all the ships of the sea." This non-King James addition agrees with the Greek (Septuagint) version of the Bible, which was first translated into English in 1808 by Charles Thomson. [7] Such a translation was "rare for its time."[8] The textual variants in the two texts have theological import and ancient support. John Tvedtnes has documented many in this study of the Isaiah variants in the Book of Mormon. A critic, David Wright, responded to Tvedtnes and Tvedtnes’ review of that critic’s response can be found here.

Accounting for the Rest of the Book of Mormon

If Joseph or anyone else actually tried to plagiarize the Book of Mormon, critics have failed to show the source of the remaining 93% (when all similar texts are removed). A 100% non-biblical book of scripture wouldn't have been much more difficult to produce.

Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, "Was Joseph Smith Smarter Than the Average Fourth Year Hebrew Student? Finding a Restoration-Significant Hebraism in Book of Mormon Isaiah"

Paul Y. Hoskisson,  Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, (2016)
The brass plates version of Isaiah 2:2, as contained in 2 Nephi 12:2, contains a small difference, not attested in any other pre-1830 Isaiah witness, that not only helps clarify the meaning but also ties the verse to events of the Restoration. The change does so by introducing a Hebraism that would have been impossible for Joseph Smith, the Prophet, to have produced on his own.

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Notes

  1. See A. Melvin McDonald, Day of Defense (Sounds of Zion Inc., 1986; 2004), 49.
  2. These were the only editions consulted for this point. More editions may render the same however the author did not have access to them at this time.
  3. See page 81 of either edition of the Book of Mormon
  4. See Michael Hickenbotham, Answering Challenging Mormon Questions: Replies to 130 Queries by Friends and Critics of the LDS Church (Springville, UT: Cedar Fort Publisher, 2004),193–196. (Key source)
  5. See Book of Mormon note to 2 Nephi 12:2
  6. See also See also Kirk Holland Vestal and Arthur Wallace, The Firm Foundation of Mormonism (Los Angeles, CA: The L. L. Company, 1981), 70–72.
  7. The implications of this change represent a more complicated textual history than previously thought. See discussion in Dana M. Pike and David R. Seely, "'Upon All the Ships of the Sea, and Upon All the Ships of Tarshish': Revisiting 2 Nephi 12:16 and Isaiah 2:16," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14/2 (2005): 12–25. off-site wiki For earlier discussions, see Gilbert W. Scharffs, The Truth about ‘The God Makers’ (Salt Lake City, Utah: Publishers Press, 1989; republished by Bookcraft, 1994), 172. Full text FairMormon link ISBN 088494963X.; see also Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon (Kolob Book Company, 1964),100–102.; Hugh W. Nibley, Since Cumorah, 2nd edition, (Vol. 7 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988),129–143. ISBN 0875791395.
  8. Wikipedia, "Thomson's Translation," <http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomson%27s_Translation> (11 February 2015).