A prevalent belief exists among Bible scholars that the book of Isaiah was written by more than one person.1, 2 Scholars hypothesize that the original writing included chapters 1 through 35; chapters 36 through 39—the so-called “historical chapters”—were added as an historical appendix because of Isaiah’s prominence during the reign of Hezekiah. Chapters 40 through 66, they claim, must have been written much later, near the close of the Babylonian captivity by one or more others. Evidence cited for multiple authorship includes the standpoint of the later writer or writers as during the Babylonian exile—speaking to and standing among the Jews in exile. They argue that the standpoint of each other Old Testament prophet, no matter how far into the future he may see, is always his own time, and his words are for the warning or encouragement of those of his own age.How was Isaiah to know the name of the Persian king, Cyrus, who would permit the exiles to return to Jerusalem? they rhetorically argue. Consider Isaiah 44:28: “That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.”4

Other lines of evidence cited include variations in style and subject matter that distinguish the later chapters. For example, words or expressions in the original Hebrew that are characteristic of chapters 1 through 39, but absent from the later chapters, include “the Lord Jehovah of Hosts;”5 Jehovah “arising” or “being exalted;”6 “glory” of a nation;Jehovah’s hand “stretched out” in judgment;8 “head and tail, palm branch and rush”used figuratively; and the very characteristic word “remnant.”10, 11 Words or expressions in the original Hebrew characteristic of chapters 40 through 66, but absent from the earlier chapters, include “all flesh;”12 “as nothing;”13 to “lift up the eyes;”14 “choose;”15 “praise” in either its verb or noun forms;16 “things to come;”17 “spring up” or “spring forth;”18 “bow down;”19 “break forth into singing;”20 the “holy city;”21 “to be clothed with;”22 frequent reference to the “sons of Zion;”23 and utterances of Jehovah beginning with the words “I am.”24 Other phrases common to both the earlier and the later portions of the book are explained as the “influence of the prophecies of Isaiah upon the author [or authors] of chapters 40 through 66.”25

Still other lines of evidence cited by Bible scholars in support of this hypothesis include differences in underlying ideas and doctrines and widely different handling of Messianic prophecies.26

What do we say to these assertions? The simplest response is that Isaiah as a prophet was shown the whole of human existence and then wrote what he saw in code, to be understood severally by those in different dispensations and different ages of the world. Not only did he speak to the Jews of his own time; he spoke to those at the close of the Babylonian captivity and at the time of Christ, and to Jews and Gentiles alike in the latter days. The underlying structure of the entire Book of Isaiah, mentioned in the previous introductory chapter and cited by Gileadi,27 conceals his message to those who do not see the structure and reveals his message to those who do, providing a great stumbling block to scholars. The Lord’s message to Cyrus, given through Isaiah, was in fact written 150 years before Cyrus’ time. No doubt this convinced Cyrus of the genuineness of the message.28

The Book of Mormon provides conclusive evidence that the Book of Isaiah, including both the earlier part and the later portions in dispute by Biblical scholars, was written before 600 B.C. This renders as untenable the hypothesis that other authors wrote the later chapters at the time of the Jews’ return from exile in Babylon. Passages from Isaiah that are quoted in the Book of Mormon include citations from chapters 1-39 as well as 40-66. These passages, quoted by various prophets, include Isaiah 2 through 14,29 Isaiah 29,30 and Isaiah 48 and 49,31 cited by Nephi; Isaiah 53,32 cited by the prophet Abinadi; and Isaiah 54,33 cited by the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ during His ministry among the Nephites in A.D. 34. Lehi left Jerusalem in 600 B.C., sent his sons back to Jerusalem shortly thereafter to obtain the brass plates from Laban, and took them with him into the wilderness and eventually to the American continent.34 The brass plates, Nephi infers, contained the writings of Isaiah.35

A computerized study of the language of the book of Isaiah conducted at Brigham Young University strongly supports the position that the book is the work of Isaiah alone.36 The study was conducted by L. Lamar Adams, an Old Testament scholar and member of the BYU Office of Institutional Research, and Alvin C. Rencher, a BYU professor of statistics. They affirm:

Several different types of stylistic elements were found to have marker variables unique to Isaiah chapters 1-39 and chapters 40-66. These elements include function prefixes, marker words, prepositions and conjunctions, certain word families, first letter and last consonantal letter of the Hebrew words, and repetition rates of certain types of phrases.

The two parts of Isaiah most often claimed to have been written by different authors, chapters 1-39 and 40-66, were found to be more similar to each other in style than to any of the control group of 11 other Old Testament books.37

The control group consisted of random samples from the books of Amos, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Micah, Habakkuk, Zechariah, Daniel, Ezra, Malachi, and Nehemiah. “The book of Isaiah,” they assert, “also exhibits greater internal consistency than any of the other 11 books.”38

Of particular interest are correlation coefficients, a statistical measure of similarity, derived from identifiable marker variables. One marker variable, the word family of names for parts of the body, shows compelling results. In the control texts the mean correlation coefficient is 0.18, whereas for both of the portions of Isaiah in question the correlation coefficient is 0.99.39 Other marker variables show similar results, although less compelling.40

Earlier studies of the language of Isaiah examined only a few language variables and thus reached false conclusions. Such studies are being reappraised by some scholars in the light of this complex and extensive BYU study.41

The Book of Isaiah was demonstrably written in its entirety before 600 B.C. and was available to Lehi and his people throughout their history. Not only were the writings of Isaiah applicable for people of former ages; they are, in particular, intended for us in the latter days. Since they contain prophecies of events regarding the restoration of the gospel and of Israel, the establishment of Zion, and the personal reign of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the earth, Isaiah’s writings are of paramount importance to us.


Notes:

1. J. R. Dummelow, The One Volume Bible Commentary: Macmillan Publishing Company, 866 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022, 1908-1909, p. 412-413.
2. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 541-549.
3. Dummelow, p. 412.
4. Dummelow, p. 412.
5. Isaiah 1:24; 3:1; 10:16, 33; 19:4.
6. Isaiah 2:11, 19; 5:16; 28:21; 30:18.
7. Isaiah 5:14; 8:7; 10:16, 18.
8. Isaiah 5:25; 9:12, 17, 21; 10:4; 14:26, 27; 23:11; 31:3.
9. Isaiah 9:14; 19:15.
10. Isaiah 7:3 (in the name ShearJashub); 10:20, 21; 11:11.
11. Dummelow, p. 412.
12. Isaiah 40:5, 6; 49:26; 66:16, 23, 24.
13. Isaiah 40:17; 41:11, 12.
14. Isaiah 40:26; 49:18; 51:6; 60:4.
15. Isaiah 41:8, 9; 43:10, 20.
16. Isaiah 42:8, 10, 12; 43:21.
17. Isaiah 41:23; 44:7; 45:11.
18. Isaiah 42:9; 44:4; 45:8.
19. Isaiah 44:15, 17, 19; 46:6.
20. Isaiah 44:23; 49:13.
21. Isaiah 48:2; 52:1.
22. Isaiah 49:18; 50:3.
23. Isaiah 49:17, 22, 25; 51:20.
24. Isaiah 43:5, 10-13, 15.
25. Dummelow, pp. 412-413.
26. Dummelow, p. 413.
27. Avraham Gileadi, The Book of Isaiah: A new translation with interpretive keys from the Book of Mormon: Deseret Book Company, P.O. Box 30178, Salt Lake City, Utah 84130, 1988, pp. 7-9.
28. See Isaiah 44:28; 45:1-14.
29. In 2 Nephi 12 through 24.
30. In 2 Nephi 27.
31. In 1 Nephi 20 and 21.
32. In Mosiah 14.
33. In 3 Nephi 22.
34. See 1 Nephi 1:4 and 1 Nephi 3:1-3.
35. See 1 Nephi 5:10-13; 3 Nephi 20:11.
36. L. Lamar Adams and Alvin C. Rencher, AA computer analysis of the Isaiah authorship problem:@ BYU Studies, v. 15, no. 1, 1974, p. 95-101.
37. Adams and Rencher, p. 102.
38. Adams and Rencher, p. 102.
[9. Adams and Rencher, p. 101.
40. Adams and Rencher, p. 101.
41. See Ensign, “I have a question,” October 1986.

 

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