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|Publication Type||Book Chapter|
|Year of Publication||2022|
|Authors||Parry, Donald W.|
|Book Title||The Book of Isaiah: A New Translation (Preliminary Edition)|
|Publisher||Book of Mormon Central|
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Several individuals helped me to polish and fine-tune this volume. Two well-known Isaiah scholars from Brigham Young University—Professors Shon D. Hopkin (presently the chair of Ancient Scripture) and Terry Ball (formerly the Dean, now an emeritus professor)—carefully read an early draft of the manuscript; I thank them for their kind support, words of encouragement, and insightful and invaluable comments. Both Professors Hopkin and Ball have provided me with direction as I approached Isaiah, including formatting into parallelisms, notes and comments, and the speakers of Isaiah. I also extend appreciation to two reviewers who served as “double-blind” reviewers/scholars for their many helpful comments and suggestions; their comments also served to improve the manuscript.
I appreciate the professionalism of professional editor Kim Sandoval, as she edited my manuscript and provided numerous improvements in style, grammar, and presentation. Over many years Kim has provided me with the highest level of professionalism and competence; as the saying goes, “behind every author is a brilliant editor.” I also extend gratitude to Jasmin Gimenez Rappleye (Content Manager, Designer, Book of Mormon Central), who designed and produced the book’s cover, held the significant task of preparing this volume for publication, and then conducted the necessary last-minute improvements and corrections.
The book of Isaiah is an exceptional, one-of-a-kind book—both in its presentation and in its message of the Savior Jesus Christ and His Atonement. Moreover, the book of Isaiah is astoundingly wonderful because it presents the direct speech (the actual words) of the Lord Jesus Christ throughout. In point of fact, the Lord speaks more than two hundred times in Isaiah. Truly, Isaiah is an extraordinary work.
This new translation has been prepared, presented, and formatted to help readers better understand and appreciate the writings of Isaiah. Although scholars and individuals from different traditions may have other interpretations and draw dissimilar messages from the prophet’s writings, this translation is designed especially for general audiences.
Why study Isaiah? Ten reasons from the Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon provides several reasons for us to study Isaiah’s writings:
(1) Jesus Christ commanded us to study Isaiah’s words: “Behold, they [the words of Isaiah] are written, ye have them before you, therefore search them” (3 Nephi 20:11). “Behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah” (3 Nephi 23:1; see also Mormon 8:23).
(2) Isaiah’s writings persuade us to “learn and glorify the name of our God” (2 Nephi 6:4).
(3) Isaiah was a special witness of Jesus Christ—he saw the Redeemer (2 Nephi 11:2; see also Isaiah 6:1).
(4) Isaiah spoke concerning the scattering and gathering of the house of Israel (1 Nephi 15:20). Jesus explained, “For surely [Isaiah] spake as touching all things concerning my people which are of the house of Israel; therefore, it must needs be that he must speak also to the Gentiles” (3 Nephi 23:2).
(5) Isaiah’s prophecies will be fulfilled. Jesus testified, “All things that [Isaiah] spake have been and shall be, even according to the words which he spake” (3 Nephi 23:3).
(6) Nephi taught that Isaiah’s words are for “our profit and learning” (1 Nephi 19:23). Manifestly, those who regularly and sincerely search the book of Isaiah will profit and learn much.
(7) Isaiah taught many aspects of God’s judgments (divine punishments), or His prophetic warnings to cities and nations (see 2 Nephi 25:6). In fact, several chapters of Isaiah consist of God’s judgments (namely, chapters 13–17, 23). By studying these matters, we can learn much regarding the way God deals with wicked communities and nations.
(8) Isaiah’s writings encourage us to be joyful. Nephi wrote, “And now I write some of the words of Isaiah, that whoso of my people shall see these words may lift up their hearts and rejoice for all men” (2 Nephi 11:8).
(9) Isaiah’s writings are of “great worth unto them in the last days” (2 Nephi 25:8). Why? Because many of his prophecies will be fulfilled in our day, and we will be witnesses of their fulfillment.
(10) Isaiah’s writings may be likened unto us, members of the house of Israel. Nephi explained, “Wherefore, they [Isaiah’s words] may be likened unto you, for ye are of the house of Israel. And there are many things which have been spoken by Isaiah which may be likened unto you, because ye are of the house of Israel” (2 Nephi 6:5; 11:2, 8). It is a productive, profitable, and sacred exercise for us to liken Isaiah’s words to ourselves.
The man named Isaiah
Isaiah was a prophet and seer who ministered between the years circa 740 and 700 BC (or perhaps 699 BC or even later—scholars do not always agree on the dates of Isaiah’s ministry). His father was Amoz (1:1), not to be confused with the prophet Amos. Isaiah lived and prophesied in Jerusalem during the reigns of Kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (1:1). Isaiah personally knew some or all of these kings (see 7:3; 38:1–8). Several Old Testament chapters provide us with information regarding Isaiah and his ministry (Isaiah 36–39, 2 Kings 14–20, and 2 Chronicles 26–32). Isaiah was married to the “prophetess” (8:3; we do not know her name), and he was the father of at least two children—Shear-jashub and Maher-shalal-hash-baz.
Isaiah wrote and prophesied on scores of significant topics, including the nature and character of God, as well as His power and holiness. Isaiah also prophesied of Jesus Christ’s birth, ministry, Atonement, death, Resurrection, Second Coming, and millennial reign; of God’s judgments against wicked people and their punishments; of the peace and joy that come to the righteous when they keep God’s commandments; of God’s sacred temples and the covenants associated with them; of the nothingness of idols and false gods and the empty outcomes of false and counterfeit worship; of the Restoration of the gospel and the building of Zion in the last days; of the scattering and gathering of Israel; and of much more. Isaiah wrote about all these topics using poetry and a variety of symbolic forms.
Isaiah was a prophet to many nations and kingdoms, and he specifically prophesied concerning Judah (3:1–12), the Northern Kingdom of Israel (9:8–10:4), Assyria (10:12–19), Babylon (13:6–22; 21:1–10; 47:1–15), the Philistines (14:28–32), Moab (15:1–16:4), Egypt (19:1–25), Arabia (21:13–17), Edom (34:1–15), and others. Isaiah’s words, of course, are relevant throughout the ages to all nations and peoples.
Isaiah wrote his book in Hebrew (what we now call Biblical Hebrew), which lacked upper case letters, punctuation, and chapters and verses (these were later inventions, although Isaiah’s original writings and revelations may have had some form of a paragraphic system). Isaiah’s book, as we have it at the present time, is divided into 1,292 verses and 66 chapters. This system of chapters and verses assists us as we study, teach, and cross-reference Isaiah’s words with other scriptural texts. Many people throughout the centuries have considered Hebrew to be a sacred language because God used it to reveal His word to prophets, seers, and others during the Old Testament period. The oldest extant Hebrew texts of Isaiah are those belonging to the Dead Sea Scrolls, which date between the years 175 BC and AD 74. However, the Isaiah texts in the Book of Mormon belong to an earlier period than the Dead Sea Scrolls do; God revealed the Book of Mormon Isaiah texts to the Prophet Joseph Smith as he translated them from the gold plates through the gift and power of God.
The art of translating
Over the decades I have read and translated Isaiah from the Hebrew Bible with my students at Brigham Young University. During the course of each semester, we discuss the meaning of this Hebrew word or that Hebrew phrase, in its context, with the objective of learning its meaning as Isaiah intended it. Sometimes we determine that there are two or three ways to legitimately render Hebrew words into English; so, I explain to my students: “It is not because Hebrew is such a fluid language, rather, the challenge is rendering the Hebrew into idiomatic English.” I continue to explain to my students, “That is to say, once you are well equipped to deal with Biblical Hebrew, the challenge of translation pertains to the target language (in this case, the English language), not the original Hebrew. Isaiah makes perfect sense (most of the time) in Hebrew, which was Isaiah’s original language. But how can we make it readable in English?” So, with these things in mind, I want to remind readers that there are different, legitimate ways to translate Isaiah’s Hebrew into twenty-first-century English. And nowhere do I claim that my translation is the end-all, definitive rendering of Isaiah’s words. For that reason, I am subtitling this work a “Preliminary Edition.”
Similarly, my interpretation of some of Isaiah’s symbols or words is informed by my knowledge and understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I view Isaiah and interpret his writings through the lens of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Restoration, and modern prophets and apostles. Scholars of other faiths and religious traditions, of course, sometimes assign different interpretations to Isaiah’s symbols or words. That is the very nature of scholarship and biblical interpretation.
My methodology for the new translation
This volume has been prepared, presented, and formatted to help readers better understand Isaiah. While doing so, I have followed certain practices:
1) Providing titles for smaller literary units. To make this volume more manageable and Isaiah’s words easier to comprehend, I have divided Isaiah’s sixty-six chapters into scores of smaller literary units (which scholars call pericopes). I have provided titles for each of these smaller literary units. For example, I have labeled Isaiah 2:6–9 as “Isaiah’s Address (Prayer) to the Lord”; Isaiah 3:1–12 as “Woe to the Wicked! Hope for the Righteous!”; and Isaiah 5:1–7 as “The Song of the Vineyard.”
Generally, these smaller units are thematically linked with the preceding units as well as the units that follow. Therefore, each literary unit should be read in its greater context—in other words, with both the previous and the following units.
2) Formatted two-lined parallelisms. Most of Isaiah’s book is composed of ancient poetry, which consists of parallelisms and other blocks of scripture. Like numerous examples of modern poetry, Isaiah’s poetry displays qualities of beauty as well as a power to influence our emotions and sensibilities. But Isaiah’s poetry has a different character than modern poetry, which sometimes features rhyming schemes and other distinctive approaches.
So, what is a parallelism? A parallelism generally consists of two lines, although three- and four-lined cases do exist. Most parallelisms, therefore, are very short. Line 1 sets forth an important truth, and then line 2 broadens, restates, or punctuates the truth of line 1. We would state that the two lines are parallel with each other (hence, the term parallelism), they correspond with each other in some way, and they are thematically tied together in a unified manner. The following examples of parallelisms will serve to introduce this poetic phenomenon to the reader. The first three of the following examples are called synonymous parallelisms because expressions in the two lines feature synonyms (or near synonyms):
Israel did not know,
My people did not understand. (1:3)
In this two-lined parallelism, “Israel” parallels “My people,” and “did not know” is analogous to “did not understand.”
Every head is sick;
Every heart is diseased. (1:5)
In this two-lined parallelism, “Every head” corresponds with “Every heart” (head and heart are both body parts) and “sick” parallels “diseased.”
Your land is desolate,
Your cities are burned with fire. (1:7)
This two-line parallelism features corresponding geographical terms (“land” and “cities”) as well as words that describe destruction (“desolate” and “burned with fire”).
Isaiah also wrote parallelisms that feature opposites (called antithetical parallelisms). For instance,
If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land;
but if you refuse and rebel, by the sword you will be eaten. (1:19–20)
In this example, Isaiah contrasts terms or ideas in the two lines: “willing and obedient” in line 1 stands opposite to “refuse and rebel” in line 2; also, “you will eat the good things of the land” contrasts with “by the sword you will be eaten.”
Another example of a parallelism that features opposites is the following:
Behold, My servants will sing with gladness of heart,
but you will cry out for pain of heart (65:14).
In this passage, “sing” stands opposite of “cry out,” and “gladness of heart” is contrary to “pain of heart.”
In total, there are more than 1,100 parallelisms in Isaiah. As we gain an appreciation of the concept of parallelism in Isaiah’s writings, we will better understand his message and prophecies, especially those that pertain to Jesus Christ and His Atonement. An in-depth study of Isaiah’s parallelisms would take a lifetime. This is because Isaiah masterfully and artistically wrote poetry that may well be without equal in history. As we study Isaiah’s poetry, we can learn that he presented his parallelisms in a variety of configurations.
In order to assist the reader in locating, identifying, and comprehending Isaiah’s difficult poetry, I have formatted his writings into two-lined parallelisms and, where applicable, three- or four-line parallelisms. Each parallelism is followed by a space. Although I attempted to present all of Isaiah’s parallelisms, undoubtedly, I did not locate them all because some are quite subtle.
3) Pronouns that refer to God. I have capitalized all pronouns that refer to God (Me, My, You, Your, He, Him) in order to (a) reverence Him with the highest regard by separating Him from all other characters in the text and (b) to help the reader know when God is the speaker, thus making the text easier to comprehend.
4) Multiple “speakers” in the book of Isaiah. In the book of Isaiah, there are many different speakers, or individuals who express words. Time after time, Isaiah (as God’s prophet, spokesman, and messenger) served as the speaker, narrator, and relater of history (see, for example, Isaiah 36–39); Isaiah also had the important role of introducing other speakers. In this book I offer suggestions (throughout this new translation in the left-hand column, in bold letters) regarding who the speakers are, but my suggestions are tentative and provisional because we are not always certain who the speaker is. In the end, each student of Isaiah will have to determine this matter for themselves.
In a forthcoming paper, I will establish my criteria for identifying various speakers in Isaiah. For now, I will set forth, in very abbreviated format, some of the points of my methodology:
(a) On several occasions, Isaiah and others address the Lord directly in a speech form called the vocative (for example, “O Lord”). In most of these cases, it is somewhat clear who the speaker is.
(b) Sometimes the Lord introduces Himself with the words “I am the Lord” (42:8; 43:3, 11, 15; 44:24; 45:3, 5–6; 45:18; 49:22; 51:15; 60:16, 22) and “I, the Lord” (27:3; 41:13, 17; 42:6; 45:8, 19, 21; 61:8). These self-identification statements make it certain that He is the speaker.
(c) The book of Isaiah regularly attests prophetic speech forms that introduce the Lord as the speaker. These speech forms include the follow expressions: “thus saith the Lord,” “the Lord has spoken,” “Hear the word of the Lord,” “says the Lord,” “the Lord declares,” and others. For instance, in Isaiah 10:24 the prophet introduces the Lord’s words by writing, “Therefore thus says the Lord” (emphasis added; see also 7:7; 18:4; 22:15; 30:12, and so forth). He also uses other speech forms. These speech formulas also indicate Isaiah’s prophetic authority to speak in the name of the Lord. It should be noted that it is often difficult to know if the Lord or Isaiah is using these speech forms, so our identification remains tentative.
(d) Both the Lord and Isaiah use various expressions when they introduce other speakers, such as “saying,” “say,” “said,” “declares,” “called,” “spoke,” “this song will be sung,” and similar terms.
(e) Sometimes the identification of the speaker is unclear, but clues in the text help us to make an accurate identification. These clues include the greater context of the speaker’s words, the content and meaning of the passage, and much more.
(f) Isaiah sometimes uses divine titles when he refers to the Lord, such as Lord, Lord of Hosts, God, Lord God of Israel, Maker, Holy One of Israel, and many others. Isaiah also refers to the Lord using the third-person pronouns “he” and “him.” In such cases, I identify Isaiah as the speaker. For example, I identify Isaiah as the speaker in the following three cases: “the Lord, the Lord of Hosts, removes from Jerusalem and from Judah” (3:1), “The Lord takes His place to plead a cause” (3:13), and “Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; it will come as destruction from the Almighty” (13:6). Needless to say, the Lord Himself may be the speaker in these passages, and as well, He may be the speaker throughout the book of Isaiah because He is the source of revelation to His prophet and seer Isaiah.
There is a large variety and assortment of speakers in Isaiah. These include righteous persons, such as “God’s covenant people,” “Christ’s disciples,” “worshippers,” and “the righteous”, as well as evil characters, including “the wicked,” “idolaters,” “haters,” “men of scorning,” “wicked leaders,” and “Lucifer.” Isaiah writings also present the words of individuals who would be born in later dispensations. Although Isaiah does not name them, a careful reading of the text suggests that these include John the Baptist, Joseph Smith, Martin Harris, and Charles Anthon. Isaiah also presents a number of unusual and perhaps unexpected speakers, such as clay, “dead spirits,” Babylon, “Thing formed,” “Lady Zion,” and others. For example, in Isaiah 49:14, Lady Zion speaks these words: “The Lord has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me.”
The top two speakers, in terms of both importance and quantity, are the Lord (about 216 times) and the prophet Isaiah (about 344 times). Altogether, there are about sixty different speakers in Isaiah, counting also the twenty-three unnamed individuals as separate persons. Isaiah presents the approximately sixty speakers about seven hundred times. For the list of the sixty, see the table below. This great number helps us to comprehend how exacting Isaiah’s writings are and how the prophet was so methodical in his presentation. In fact, the identification of the various speakers tends to make Isaiah’s writings easier to understand. When we, the readers of Isaiah, identify these various speakers and read their words in the context of other speakers, we can more skillfully comprehend Isaiah’s writings.
Isaiah – 344
The Lord – 216
Unnamed individual(s) – 23
God’s covenant people – 21
The wicked – 10
Hezekiah – 9
Idolater(s) – 7
Babylon – 4
Chief officer – 4
Christ’s disciples – 4
Non-believers – 4
Inhabitants of Judah – 3
Worshipper(s) – 3
Zion’s inhabitants – 3
Assyria’s king – 2
C. Anthon – 2
Lady Zion – 2
M. Harris – 2
Messiah – 2
People – 2
Seraph – 2
Thing formed – 2
Ahaz – 1
Bereaved children – 1
Clay (substance) – 1
Dead spirits – 1
Eliakim and Shebna – 1
Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah – 1
Eunuch – 1
Foreigner – 1
Former oppressors – 1
God – 1
Haters – 1
Herald – 1
Holy Ghost – 1
Individual from Seir – 1
J. Smith – 1
John the Baptist – 1
Kings – 1
Lucifer – 1
Men of scorning – 1
Military leader – 1
One who properly fasts – 1
People of stature – 1
Reveler – 1
Samaria’s people – 1
Seven women – 1
Singers – 1
The righteous – 1
Titles of Lady Zion – 1
Titles of Lord’s people – 1
Tormenters – 1
Trees – 1
Tyre – 1
Unnamed mourner – 1
Watchman – 1
Wicked leaders – 1
Witnesses – 1
Written on unnamed individual’s hand – 1
The different speakers in Isaiah are listed in descending order according to how often they speak.
Although I have attempted to identify most of the speakers in Isaiah, we should remember that all Isaiah’s text is written to and for every generation of readers. Every student and reader of Isaiah—from Isaiah’s day until our own—can benefit from his words; that is to say, from the first verse of Isaiah (1:1) to the very last (66:24), each of us can benefit from the Lord’s word as He revealed it to His prophet and seer Isaiah.
4) Translating Hebrew words into English. The Hebrew lexicons demonstrate that there are occasions when one Hebrew word may be rendered into different English words. For example, the Hebrew conjunction waw may be translated as “and,” “but,” “also,” and “even.” So, too, in this translation I have sometimes rendered certain Hebrew words into different English words according to the context of the passage.
Many Hebrew words in Isaiah are difficult to translate because we remain uncertain as to their exact meaning. Wild animals and some types of trees and plants especially fall into this category.
5) Retaining Hebraisms in my translation. In my translation of Isaiah, I have attempted to retain many of the Hebraisms and Hebrew-like expressions, including the following: “and it came to pass,” the many “ands,” the construct form “House of the Lord” instead of “Lord’s House” (there are hundreds of these), idea-amplifying plurals, ancient idiomatic expressions (even when they are rather difficult to comprehend), and so forth.
6) Avoiding archaic terms. With the exception of a couple of blocks of text from the Joseph Smith Translation in Isaiah 29, I have avoided using various archaic forms, such as thee, thou, ye, saith, and so forth. These archaic words are sometimes difficult to comprehend. The Hebrew Bible, by the way, does not have two sets of pronouns like we do in English (you and thou, your and thy, and so forth).
7) Citing Isaiah. Unless otherwise noted, all scriptural references in parentheses are from Isaiah; for example, “(53:1)” refers to Isaiah 53:1.
8) Translating the divine name Yahweh. The Hebrew Yahweh, from which we have the name Jehovah, is translated “Lord” (in small capitals). The convention to employ “Lord” rather than Jehovah was held by many early English translations of the Old Testament, including the King James Version. In contrast to Lord, “Lord” (regular case) originates from the Hebrew adonai. The convention to employ “Lord” was also held by many early English translations of the Old Testament, including the King James Version. Both “Lord” (Yahweh) and “Lord” (adonai) are found throughout Isaiah’s writings.
A commentary of Isaiah
For a verse-by-verse commentary of the entire book of Isaiah, please consult Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry, and Tina Peterson, Understanding Isaiah (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1998), and its bibliography. My new translation was prepared to stand as a companion volume to Understanding Isaiah.
An important item: I have attempted to provide the mechanics of parallelisms in the examples above—how to analyze Isaiah’s words in order to recognize the structures of parallelism, how to classify the category of a parallelism (for example, synonymous, antithetical), and so forth. But the mechanics of parallelisms is just the beginning; the next step is to study Isaiah’s parallelisms in order to bring to light his crucial doctrinal messages regarding Jesus Christ and His Atonement, the Restoration of the gospel, God’s judgments against the wicked, the building of Zion, the prophecies concerning the last days and the Millennium, and much, much more. We must always move beyond the mechanics to seek out and learn of Isaiah’s doctrinal messages and how Isaiah’s words apply to each of us. And we cannot forget to pray and ask the Lord, What does Isaiah mean here, in this passage? And what do Isaiah’s words mean to me, in the twenty-first century? A careful study of Isaiah’s doctrinal message will take a lifetime of study for each of us—but it will be a most fruitful study because each of Isaiah’s parallelisms is packed with important meaning. To me personally, Isaiah’s words are priceless, valued above all the treasures of the earth.
Readings from the Joseph Smith Translation and the Book of Mormon
There are dozens of variant readings in the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) of Isaiah. Major readings (and many minor readings) are incorporated into this volume. I have utilized brackets ([ ]) to indicate readings from the JST and Book of Mormon. Some words have been modernized, such as thou, ye, saith, and so forth. Sometimes the JST reading is aligned with the Hebrew translation, so my new translation reflects both the Hebrew and the JST, but no brackets are used. Take, for example, “How long, O Lord? And he said” (6:11). “Said” is found in the JST, and the equivalent word is in the Hebrew Bible, so I present it without the brackets (versus “and he answered” in the King James Version).
Readings from the Dead Sea Scrolls
The Dead Sea Scrolls (hereafter abbreviated DSS), discovered between the years 1947 and 1952, are significant finds and constitute one of the most remarkable archaeological discoveries of the twentieth century. The scrolls predate by approximately one thousand years the medieval copies of the Masoretic Text (the Old Testament, written in Hebrew; hereafter abbreviated MT) that were used by the translators of the King James Version. The scrolls present expanded understandings of the textual history of the Bible; as such, they are important texts for both academic and popular audiences.
The Qumran Caves, located near the northwestern area of the Dead Sea, yielded twenty-one copies of the book of Isaiah—two from Cave 1, eighteen from Cave 4, and one from Cave 5. These twenty-one copies date from between the years 175 BC and AD 74. An additional copy of Isaiah (making a total of wenty-two copies) was discovered south of Qumran in a cave at Wadi Murabba‘at. All twenty-two copies of Isaiah are written in Hebrew. Most of these scrolls are severely damaged and fragmented, owing to long-term exposure to the elements.
The Isaiah scrolls have greatly influenced our understanding of the textual history of the Bible, and in recent decades, Bible translation committees have incorporated a number of these readings into their translations. Here are three examples:
- Isaiah 14:4: “How has the oppressor ceased.” One of the DSS has “oppressor” rather than the awkward “golden city.”
- Isaiah 21:8: “And the seer cried, ‘My lord, I stand continually upon the watchtower all day, and I am stationed at my post all night’” (Isaiah 21:8). Note that one of the DSS attests “seer” rather than the awkward “lion.”
- Isaiah 33:8: “covenants are broken, witnesses are despised.” Note that one of the DSS attests “witnesses” rather than the problematic “cities.”
For those who read Biblical Hebrew: for a photographic facsimile of the Great Isaiah Scroll, together with Hebrew transcriptions, see Donald W. Parry and Elisha Qimron, The Great Isaiah Scroll 1QIsaa: A New Edition (Leiden, NL: Brill, 1998), including the bibliography. For a text-critical study (including a critical apparatus of lemmas together with notes and comments) of all the Isaiah Dead Sea Scrolls, see Donald W. Parry, Exploring the Isaiah Scrolls and Their Textual Variants (Leiden, NL: Brill, 2020), including the bibliography.
The Hebrew Bible and the Hebrew Bible lexicons
For the new translation of Isaiah, I scrutinized the following scholarly edition of the Hebrew Bible: Karl Elliger and Wilhelm Rudolph, eds., Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (Stuttgart, DE: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1983). This edition features a critical apparatus containing variant readings from other Hebrew manuscripts and ancient versions of Isaiah. I also carefully consulted the DSS texts of Isaiah.
For the new translation of Isaiah, I consulted the following three Hebrew Bible lexicons (all standard lexicons in biblical studies):
- Francis Brown, Samuel R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford, UK: Clarendon, 1977).
- Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 4 vols. (Leiden, NL: Brill, 1994–1999).
- David J. A. Clines, ed., The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew, 9 vols. (Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993–2012).
Archaic language in early English Bible translations
Early English translations of the Bible, such as those by Wycliffe (ca. 1384), Tyndale (1530), Coverdale (1535), Matthew (1537), and Bishop (1568), as well as the King James Version (1611), contain archaic (old-fashioned and obsolete) words. While such words were generally accurate translations from the original language, they are now out of date, and they frequently obscure the meaning of the text. Archaisms from the King James Version of the book of Isaiah appear in verb forms, especially in -st and -th suffixed verbs (for example, art, clave, didst, stirreth, and so forth); in transliterations of Hebrew terms (homer, ephah, cherubims); in personal pronouns (thou, thee, thy, ye, thine, thyself); in nouns (besom, bullocks, cauls, and so forth); in exclamations (ho, lo); in prepositions (betwixt); in adjectives (doleful, hoar, stouthearted, and so forth); and in adverbs (frowardly, hither, thence, and so forth).
Archaic expressions from Isaiah include (with modern translations in parentheses) “hardly bestead and hungry” (“distressed and hungry,” 8:21), “dimness of anguish” (“gloom of anguish,” 8:22), “bewray not him that wandereth” (“do not betray the fugitives,” 16:3), “for the extortioner is at an end, the spoiler ceaseth” (“when the oppressor exists no more, destruction ceases,” 16:4), “they prevented with their bread him that fled” (“bring bread to the fugitives,” 21:14), “bunches of camels” (“humps of camels,” 30:5), and “ear the ground” (“plow the ground,” 30:24). Such examples could be multiplied.
Many archaic expressions are puzzling because their current meanings are different from what they were four hundred years ago. For example, carriage (10:28) referred to “something that is carried,” such as gear or supplies, but now carriage refers to “a wheeled vehicle”; corn (17:5; 21:10) used to mean “grain” but now refers to “maize”; cunning (3:3; 40:20) meant “skillful” but now means “sly”; durable clothing (23:18) referred to “splendid clothing” but now means “clothing that lasts a long time”; meat (62:8) was a generic term for food but now refers to the flesh of animals; mean man (2:9) meant “common man” but now denotes a cruel man. Other words that have changed meaning include the words prevent (21:14), let (43:13), and debate (58:4).
The present translation attempts to avoid archaic and obsolete expressions, and the personal pronouns thou, thee, thy, ye, thine, and thyself that appear in the phrases of the Joseph Smith Translation and Book of Mormon cited in the translation have been updated.
This new translation does not replace the King James Version
In my profession, I have taught the King James Version of the Bible (KJV) for decades; it is a favorite and best-loved translation, in part because it is a majestic, beautiful, and powerful work. Additionally, the Church’s general handbook (38.8.7) provides multiple reasons why the KJV remains the authoritative Bible of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For these reasons, this new translation does not replace the KJV; in fact, this new translation should not be considered authoritative, official, or even semiofficial in any way. It is merely a resource for students of Isaiah, no more and no less. As a professor at Brigham Young University who was trained to read and translate the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Hebrew Bible, and other ancient Hebrew texts, I offer this translation as my work alone. I do not represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Brigham Young University. Any mistranslation, misrepresentation, or typographical error is my responsibility.
Abbreviations and symbols
Refers to one or more of the Dead Sea Scrolls books of Isaiah
Joseph Smith Translation
King James Version
Masoretic Text of the Bible (the Hebrew Bible)
Indicates a reading from JST Isaiah or Book of Mormon Isaiah
Indicates explanatory words that are not found in the Hebrew texts but are added to the translation to make sense of the verse, as in 14:25
Items in the BMC Archive are made publicly available for non-commercial, private use. Inclusion within the BMC Archive does not imply endorsement. Items do not represent the official views of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or of Book of Mormon Central.
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