Dead Sea Scrolls and the Book of Mormon

This Sunday, in their Gospel Doctrine Classes, LDS members will be looking at 2 Nephi 11-25 from the Book of Mormon.  The bulk of these chapters consist of almost direct quotations of Isaiah chapters 2-11.  The teacher’s guide for this lesson makes the claim:  “Joseph Smith’s translation of the Book of Mormon provided the world with a copy of Isaiah’s writings that predates the Dead Sea Scrolls by 400 years.”

That raises a question. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has been heralded as one of the most major historical events of the last century.  Still today they are scrutinized intensely being universally accepted as the earliest manuscripts we have of Old Testament books.  But why are they accorded such treatment if the statement of the teacher’s guide is true?  Then, it should be these chapters from the book of Mormon, and not the Dead Sea Scrolls, which would be undergoing intense scrutiny –seeing that they “predate the Dead Sea Scrolls by 400 years.”  But I know of no reputable scholar who looks upon them in that way.  Has even one LDS scholar gone to one of the many symposiums on the Dead Sea scrolls and tried to “correct” them on the basis of the Book of Mormon?  If not, why not?

For example, Isaiah 14:4 in the Dead Sea Scrolls says, “How his fury has ended.”  In the Book of Mormon (and also the KJV) it says, “the golden city ceased”. (2 Nephi 24:4)  Will LDS scholars claim that the correct reading is “golden city” because the witness of the Book of Mormon predates the Dead Sea Scrolls by 400 years?  In other words, will LDS scholars back up the claim of their church with their actions?  If not, why not?

2 Responses to “Dead Sea Scrolls and the Book of Mormon”

  1. 1 JBR
    February 24, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    Why not? ….
    2 Thessalonians 2:11
    For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie

    I can not think of any other plausible reason. As Christians start at the fundamnental starting point that the Bible is absolute correct per self proclamation and thus everything is measured to it, Mormons (though possibly unknowingly) begin at the starting point that the LDS Church is absolute correct then all else conforms to it (or ignored as in this example).

  2. 2 shematwater
    February 27, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    The reason is actually rather simple. It doesn’t matter.

    The Book of Mormon is accepted on faith, not human scholarship. The Dead Sea Scrolls are accepted on human scholarship, not faith. As such the comparison is a useless one, and in the end will have very little effect on anything.

    I think you would find most LDS scholars, if asked directly, would say that the Book of Mormon is the correct translation. However, what is the point in bringing it up.
    Simply put, the wise know how to choose their audience, and know what information to share with what people. A symposium on the Dead Sea Scrolls would not only be unwelcoming to such a comment, but would likely turn rather hostile to the one making it. As such, it is not mentioned, because in the end it is a trivial matter.

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February 2012

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