David P. Wright argues that Isaiah in the BOM represents a double anachronism: (1) Deutero-Isaiah and (2) a 19th-century interpretation of Isaiah passages.

David P. Wright

David P. Wright, “Isaiah in the Book of Mormon: Or Joseph Smith in Isaiah,” in American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon, ed. Dan Vogel and Brent Lee Metcalfe (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002), 210-11

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David P. Wright
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Two anachronisms in the book related to the issue of Isaiah. First, critical scholars have concluded with good reason that much of the biblical Isaiah, especially chapters 40-55 (from which several of the BoM chapters come) is that of about 540 BCE. The context is one in which the Jews have recently suffered destruction at the hands of the Babylonians (in 586 BCE). The temple, Jerusalem, and other cities have been destroyed and need rebuilding. Many of the people are now in captivity in Mesopotamia, but Babylonian might is waning and release from captivity is imminent. Cyrus, the Persian king, is the political leader who will effect the release, which occurred ca. 538 BCE. It is not just the mention of specific sixth-century historical figures and events that pin these chapters to that time. Equally telling is that the precision in such descriptions ceases at this point. The era after the release is described in general terms, and this description is in error since bounteous blessing did not ensue. The lack of fulfillment gave Jewish, Christian, and Mormon interpreters cause to reapply the chapters to later events. That Isa. 40-55 were written after the middle of the sixth century BCE is also indicated by their perfect conceptual fit between other prophetic works written in the first half of that century (Jeremiah and Ezekiel) and those written at the end of the century (Haggai and Zechariah 1-8). The mid-sixth-century dating for Isa. 40-55 means that these chapters could not have been available to Lehi’s family when they, according to the story, left for the New World around 600 BCE—and Nephi, Jacob, and Abinadi, and Noah’s false priests could not have cited from them.

The second anachronism is the BoM’s interpretation of Isaiah following many of the cited portions (cf. 1 Ne. 22:2; 2 Ne. 9-10, 25-33; Mos. 12:25-31; 3 Ne. 23:1-5) and sometimes interspersed within the citations (cf. 2 Ne. 6:6-18; 26:15-27:35). For the most part, it reinterprets the passages to apply to the time of Joseph Smith and the course of Jewish and Christian history up to his time. This reflects the compositional horizon of the book, just as various passages in Second Isaiah (noted above) reflects that work’s compositional horizon. Indeed, the course of history that the BoM lays out in its interpretation is clear and defined up to the time of the appearance of the BoM but quite indefinite thereafter, just as Second Isaiah is indefinite about events after about 540 BCE. Furthermore, the BoM shares perceptions about the meaning of Isaiah and methods of prophetic interpretation that were extant among students and readers in the decades just before the BoM came forth. This chronological horizon and these interpretive views are evidence that the interpretation of the BoM is the work of Smith himself.

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