Wednesday, June 11, 2014

"Great are the Word of Isaiah"

Isaiah, by Michelangelo, (c. 1508–1512, Sistine Chapel ceiling, Vatican City)
During his appearance to the Nephites, Jesus Christ quoted chapter 54 of the book of Isaiah and then commended the prophet's writings to the Nephites and by extension to readers of the Book of Mormon, by stating the following:

"And now, 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)

Clearly Jesus Christ holds the writings of Isaiah in high esteem regardless of whether they were composed by the original prophet or by one of his disciples (Isaiah 54 is generally considered by scholars to be part of Deutero-Isaiah, a post-exilic work, although there is not a consensus). What's more, Isaiah is the only prophet he specifically endorses in this way.

The idea that Jesus was particularly influenced by and placed great value on Isaiah finds convergence in the work of non-LDS scholar Margaret Barker. In Frederick M. Huchel's review of Barker's book Temple Themes in Christian Worship the following point is made:

"In her commentary on Isaiah, Barker 'argued that Isaiah was the crucial influence on Jesus . . . and that the Isaiah tradition continued to be dominant in the early church . . . [by representing] the world view of the first temple, an Enochic . . . faith . . . known to the Christians who consciously looked back to the first, the true, temple.'” (underline added)

As I read Huchel's article this afternoon it occured to me that this was one more detail in the Book of Mormon that Joseph Smith is unlikely to have merely guessed correctly regarding. It stands as a small albeit significant piece of evidence of the Book of Mormon's authenticity.

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