So, my studies haven’t been so systematic and consistent lately. I really need to get back to D&C 42 posts! (I still need to write the paper, afterall!)
But here are some things I have been studying and thinking about lately.
Joe and I have been writing on 2 Ne 25 and Isaiah 2 on the feastupontheword wiki. We’re learning a lot! I am really, really liking what we’re finding in 2 Ne 25. I love the Book of Mormon! It is my favorite book of scripture to study, especially doing joint studies. With the D&C, you have to work through the history. With the Bible, there are 2 millenia of traditions of interpretation to decide what to do with! But the Book of Mormon leaves us without a definite place or time where we can go to any history books. It in an internally whole book, not a collection put together without giving us a reason why. Mormon tries to give us any historical details we absolutely need in order to get the main message of the book. Yay! I love it! So it is a great book to jump in together with other people and just get started thinking and interpreting. You can take it at its word.
So we are looking at what Nephi says about his Isaiah chapters. So far, it seems to us that he is including them so that his people will know the “judgments of God.” What exactly does he mean by this? It could mean that those who sin will be punished. It could mean that there is a covenant, and even though the covenant people betray God sometimes, and He will respond to that betrayal, there is still a covenant. The judgments could be a negative statement – watch out for His judgments, His wrath – or, a more simple statement – these are His judgments, His wise decisions.
So, what other clues do we have?
When Isaiah 2:4 says God will “judge among the nations,” which is followed by a description of peaceful farming, we don’t get the image that He is zapping everyone with lightening. To judge is to make a decision about. To decide who was right and wrong, perhaps, or it could even mean deciding who will settle where.
Maybe I should check judgments in the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary.
Well, that didn’t exactly narrow things down for me. It looks like it can be read as a decision-making faculty, but also as extreme punishment for sinners. So, back to Nephi-
But anyway, much more to figure out there, but here is more of what we have learned-
Nephi says that his people don’t understand, or at least that many have a hard time with many of the things, that Isaiah has said. Nephi only picked particular chapters when he copied them over. He was specific in what he chose. But in what he copied or perhaps all over Isaiah, his people have a hard time.
What is it they have a hard time with? Well, we don’t know for sure what things they had a hard time with, but he does say that they do not understand the manner of prophesying among the Jews. This could be read in two ways – there is a manner, an overall approach, that Isaiah uses, and this approach is something that they don’t understand. OR, it could be read that there was a manner of prophesying that the Jews did that was bad, and Isaiah is responding and arguing against that. (Think of all the references to soothsaying etc.) This was Hugh Nibley’s argument, we found out. It is connected with verse 2, where Nephi says that the works and doings of the Jews were dark and abominations. So, perhaps this is a good reading? And this is why Nephi has not taught his people a whole lot about Jewish culture – he doesn’t want to give them any ideas!
A possible reading.
So then how do we as latter-day saints read Isaiah?
Well, Nephi does say that those with the spirit of prophecy can read it clearly. But, I think what he is saying in verse 5 is that he assumes that most of us don’t have that, so Nephi will give us his own prophecy, because he does have this spirit.
So, the next question is this: Is Nephi giving us a plain prophecy so that we can go back and understand Isaiah? A sort of plainer translation so we can go back and see what was being said? Or, is he essentially replacing Isaiah for us? But if that is the case, why bother include all those chapters of Isaiah? Would it be just to prove a point: Isaiah, who we all regard as important for some reason, was serious about these judgments! OR, let’s get all this Isaiah in here, give you a plainer prophecy, and then let’s show you how to liken things. Let’s show you Isaiah, then a plain rendition of history from a Nephite perspective, and then let’s bridge the two. That’s my current guess, but we’ll see how it goes!
Well Lydia is up so I guess I’m off to start the day!