Dan Ellsworth addresses Latter-day Saint and critical scholarly views of Isaiah.

Dan Ellsworth

Daniel T. Ellsworth, "Their Imperfect Best: Isaianic Authorship from an LDS Perspective," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 27 (2017): 1-27

Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship
Dan Ellsworth
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The Latter-day Saint response to the theory of multiple authorship of Isaiah that prevails in critical scholarly circles should not be to engage critical scholars in their old arguments over multiple authorship vs. unity, or to provide yet another voice in smaller scholarly disputes over authorship at the level of chapter and verse. The differences in assumptions that Latter-day Saints bring to questions of production of scripture — including our experiences in observing and analyzing the production of the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants — effectively constitute a barrier to entry for a Latter-day Saint response to the critical position on critical terms. This is not, however, a “surrender” to the critical position. On the contrary, it is an opportunity and invitation to develop a uniquely Latter-day Saint theory of authorship for Isaiah (and other books) using a toolset of very different assumptions:

-The statement in our Articles of Faith that “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly” is an expression of how the Bible can serve as the word of God in influencing the life of the believer, and not an assertion that the Bible was authored or even compiled by God. The discussion of the transmission of the Biblical text in 1 Nephi 13:23–29 asserts a great deal of human error in the transmission of the Bible, resulting in the loss of “plain and precious things.” The Book of Mormon can serve not only as a corrective to extreme assumptions of textual infallibility, but also as a corrective to the excesses of modern critical scholarly perspectives on the formation and transmission of the Biblical text.

-Prophets can and do develop significant changes in perspective over time, even on very consequential matters.

-A prophet’s tone, phraseology, and topical emphasis are likely to change to significant degrees depending upon the prophet’s audience, specific life experiences, observations of social or geopolitical trends, or even the prophet’s own stage of life.

-Prophetic writings influence the work of later prophets, who respond to previous prophetic writings by incorporating, [Page 24]restating, alluding to, or sometimes even reversing the teachings of their predecessors.

-Prophets can predict future events before they come to pass.

-In questions of dating of scripture, the repeated presence of textual “borrowing” across authors carries far more evidential weight than anachronisms or other textual features that are possible results of redaction or simple misplacement of passages in the process of compiling a prophet’s writings.

With these assumptions in mind, it is possible to trace the enormous influence of Isaiah on other Old Testament and nonbiblical figures over time (as well as document the influence of previous books on Isaiah’s own thinking), and the picture that emerges is not of a marginal prophetic figure whose writings became a catch-all repository for a vast amount of pseudonymous material. On the contrary, what we see is a highly prophetic, influential, and evolving figure, whose writings were assembled, modified and edited over time, formed the basis for much of Lehite theology and self-perception, filled the caves at Qumran more than any other prophet, and served as the primary catalyst for Lehite and early Christian understanding of the mission of Jesus Christ.

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