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TitlePrintout on Isaiah
Publication TypeMagazine Article
Year of Publication1973
Secondary AuthorsEnsign Staff
Issue Number12
Date PublishedDecember 1973
KeywordsDeutero-Isaiah; Isaiah (Book); Isaiah (Prophet); Isaian Authorship

The results of a computer analysis arguing for the unity of the book of Isaiah.


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Printout on Isaiah

Biblical scholars have debated for centuries whether the Book of Isaiah was written solely by the prophet Isaiah or whether it was the product of many authors during different periods of time.

The Book of Mormon maintains that Isaiah, an important volume of prophetic scripture, was the work of only one man. This claim has caused non-Mormon scholars to attack the Book of Mormon because of this claim.

However, a recent exhaustive computer study of the language of the book, conducted at Brigham Young University, strongly supports the position that the book is the work of Isaiah—and only Isaiah.

The research was the project of Dr. Larry L. Adams, an Old Testament scholar and member of the BYU Office of Institutional Research.

Several hundred language variables were analyzed by more than 35 researchers, consultants, and their assistants, using 300 computer programs and more than 100 computer tapes.

Dr. Adams reports that previous studies of the language of Isaiah examined only a few language variables and thus reached false conclusions. Earlier studies are now being reappraised by some scholars in the light of the complex and extensive BYU study, in which the literary styles within the Book of Isaiah were compared with the styles in 11 other Old Testament books. The complete Isaiah text was used along with random samples from the books of Amos, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Micah, Habakkuk, Zechariah, Daniel, Ezra, Malachi, and Nehemiah.

Taken from the original Hebrew, the texts were coded and transferred to computer tape for statistical analyses.

Very important to the study was an examination of the level of style variation within the works of one author contrasted to the level of variation between a number of different authors.

Among the results which tend to confirm the singular authorship of Isaiah were:

  1. The comparison of variations within the texts and between other Old Testament control texts indicates a high degree of unity within the Isaiah text.
  2. The Isaiah texts were closer in their usage of Hebrew prepositions and conjunctions than were the control texts.
  3. Key phrases are repeated frequently in all sections of Isaiah. In fact, the repetition rate in Isaiah was higher than in all of the other Old Testament sample texts combined.

In addition, the parts of Isaiah most often claimed to have been written by different authors were found in the computerized studies to be more similar in style than those of any other Old Testament books examined.

Dr. Adams’ computerized results do not eliminate the possibility that minor changes have been made in the text since it was first written.

“However,” says Dr. Adams, “it is evident that in spite of such possible changes, deletions, or additions, the overall style of the author has been retained.”