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maklelan last won the day on April 26 2020

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  1. That doesn't really follow, as the form of the text itself had become more or less inviolable by the time the Dead Sea Scrolls transcriptions were underway. That was more important than promoting a specific hermeneutic. Additionally, the Dead Sea Scrolls were copied over a period of around 300 years (longer than the United States has existed), so numerous different generations with numerous different viewpoints are represented by that collection. Nobody is suggesting there is only one unique understanding. What's being suggested is that the fact of numerous different understandings does not in any way, shape, or form constitute evidence that a given reading was intended by a text's authors. The advantage is to guidance regarding one's own needs and circumstances, not special access to historical-critical insight or hermeneutic capacities. I've seen people claim the same thing about decisions that ended up ruining families, lives, and careers. It's quite easy to overestimate the accuracy of our Spirit-O-Meters, especially when our guidance becomes a rhetorical shoehorn we're using in a debate.
  2. The Dead Sea Scrolls are absolutely not divided into full and abridged versions of texts. Some books are attested in only one or a few manuscript fragments, while others have dozens and dozens of manuscripts, and the forms of the texts are largely consistent apart from tiny differences that affect almost every verse, but not in significant ways. There are some manuscripts with significant differences, and a couple of them are the "shorter" versions of books, but these are well-known variants that are related to the source text for the Septuagint. They're not "abridged," they're actually earlier forms of the text that don't have all the expansions that the later form which ended up in the Masoretic Texts do. Close examination has revealed some manuscripts have concentrations of readings that are diagnostic of the Septuagint, or of the Samaritan Pentateuch, or the Masoretic Text, or some unknown manuscript family. Beyond that, there's no pattern in what form the manuscripts have. Yes, there are many different potential meanings, but the fact that many meanings can be found in the text is not evidence that any given meaning was intended. We need evidence to support a given reading, otherwise it's just an exercise in creative writing. (Ironically, "line upon line and precept upon precept" is a mistranslation of gibberish Hebrew [tsav letsav tsav letsav qav leqav qav leqav] that is supposed to represent "another tongue" in which the Lord would speak that others wouldn't understand.) Yes, Latter-day Saints should absolutely study whatever they can to equip themselves with all the interpretive lenses they could ever use to inform their experiences and their engagement with scripture and with the Spirit, but this doesn't mean we have magical access to original intended meaning that others do not.
  3. First, I've not made any references to proof. Nothing remotely reaches the level of "proof" with this kind of historical/literary question. We're dealing with probabilities, and by far the highest probability is that the prophet Isaiah was only responsible for a small portion of the text that was then elaborated on and restructured over the centuries by later authors and editors. Second, no, I'm not saying the structure is "not real." It might be real, but because the most likely process of composition included some final editorial phase where the text as a whole was put into its final shape, that "complex and complicated structure" could just as likely be the work of that final editor. At the same time, it might not be real. A lot of literary criticism, and particularly of the Bible, is a practice of imposing structure where no structure was intended. I'm not saying one or the other conclusion is definitively true, I'm saying that the theory doesn't strike me as identifying the intended message of the text, and doesn't really bear at all on the question of date of authorship.
  4. Isaiah in the Book of Mormon is not evidence that Isaiah was composed prior to 600 BC. Numerous New Testament quotations pulled directly from the KJV, errors and all, are also included in the Book of Mormon, but that's not evidence the KJV's translation of the New Testament was composed prior to 600 BC. It's just evidence that people don't understand how the Book of Mormon was translated and don't want to if it complicates their assumptions about revelation and prophetic authority.
  5. I'm stating pretty explicitly that there were multiple authors of Isaiah. While there are some unified models of its composition that put it in the fourth or fifth century BCE, I think the evidence is far stronger that the text constitutes the weaving together of multiple different authorial and editorial seams extending from the eighth century BCE down to the fifth or fourth. There are some literary forms that are incidental, but the broader structure is clearly the intentional work of a redactor working in the post-exilic period.
  6. I think it's a creative reading, particularly in the way he divides the text, but I don't think it has much to do with what was intended by the authors or editors, or what was understood by the first several generations of the text's readers.
  7. This is called anaphoric translation, and positing anaphoric translation is suggesting Joseph Smith's own cognition influenced the translation. I think the evidence makes that conclusion inescapable, but an awful lot of people feel threatened by it. Most accurate what? Translation of Isaiah? Why not? People acting under inspiration are inerrant? So it's accommodationism. So what do we do with the fact that the Book of Moses has hundreds of differences from the JST manuscripts, and primarily differences input by people other than Joseph Smith, and without his supervision? So the faith part of it seems to be the conviction that the teachings are reliable, which I'm not challenging. Everything else seems to be rationalization, which isn't "scholarly" per se, but definitely an intellectual exercise.
  8. Thanks for the clarification, and my apologies for misunderstanding. What I understand you to be suggesting is that the Book of Mormon's version of the Isaiah passages represents the 600 BC version of Isaiah, with any differences from the KJV representing a more original text. You also seem to be suggesting that the overwhelming alignment of the Book of Mormon's translation of the Isaiah passages with the KJV version of Isaiah is entirely incidental, even despite the fact that the Book of Mormon frequently includes the KJV's own translation errors. That's mighty coincidental, especially in light of the fact that all the differences are matters of adding or subtracting text in order to clarify or ostensibly "correct" what is ambiguous or troubling about the KJV (such as fiddling with italicized words, which the Prophet hated). Additionally, if we backtranslate from the Book of Mormon text back into Hebrew, we're frequently left with a far different Hebrew text from the source text underlying the KJV. For instance, 2 Nephi 12:2 changes one word from the KJV of Isaiah 2:2: "it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established . . ." gets changed to "it shall come to pass in the last days, when the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established . . ." The "that" is italicized in the KJV, since it's not necessary in the Hebrew and the translators had to provide it for the English future time clause to work. With the change of the italicized word to "when" the entire meaning of the sentence is fundamentally overturned. The "it" is no longer a constituent element of the common prophetic phrase "it shall come to pass." Rather, it independently refers backwards to the "word" that Isaiah saw. "It shall come to pass in the last days" now means, "it [the word Isaiah saw] will come to pass [happen, or be fulfilled] in the last days, when all this other stuff happens." So now the Hebrew has to be entirely reconstructed to move the temporal clause from the opening of the verse to the second clause, and the first clause has to be restructured to refer backwards to the word that Isaiah saw and to refer to its fulfillment, which requires entirely different Hebrew constructions. So altering the one single italicized word in the KJV's rendering of Isaiah 2:2 requires we entirely restructure the underlying Hebrew. That leaves us having to weigh the likelihood of two different situations: (1) the Book of Mormon is––whatever the origins of the changes––altering the KJV in small and incremental ways that are consistent with the way Joseph Smith would later revise the Bible, or (2) the text of Isaiah 2:2 was vastly different in antiquity, and that vastly different text happened to be translated independently of the KJV in a way that exactly matched the KJV in every single word except for the single italicized word. Option 1 is the only reasonable conclusion, barring some kind of evidence that can be adduced for option 2. But you're positing a theory and drawing conclusions from it. What I'm pointing out is that if you look at the evidence, the theory you're positing doesn't make much sense. But it's not 19th century American English. It's 16th century British English. The KJV is a very conservative revision of other revisions going back to the translations of Tyndale and Coverdale. The language of the KJV was already out-of-date when the text was published in 1611, and the language of the Book of Mormon that aligns with the KJV is significantly archaizing and not natural, so it absolutely was not 19th century American English. But that attributes inerrancy to human prophets. I think the situation I described above with Isaiah 2:2 pretty clearly shows how closely linked to the KJV it is. No, what you said you thought I meant was that Joseph Smith had a KJV with him and copied stuff out of it and then made slight revisions to it. That's not remotely what I'm suggesting. I'm suggesting that the Book of Mormon elaborates on the KJV, but that can be done in any one of a number of different ways. All the more reason to follow closely after the evidence instead of formulating theories based on dogmas. A word-for-word translation doesn't make any sense, linguistically. It leaves with far more questions than answers, and quite difficult questions. I think the linguistic data points firmly to the Prophet articulating the words of the translation. It's been my experience that "correct" is frequently hard to distinguish from "good enough" for a particular task or use. I think it means we have to consider that Joseph Smith's cognition played a role in the articulation of the translation, but more than anything, I think it undermines tight control theories. Hopefully I've made myself a bit clearer above. Yes. I think we have to abandon the notion that our knowledge can ever be "complete." We're always finding new ways the text can "mean," and that'll never change. I think being able to navigate the difficulties and the debates makes for much more informed engagement with the scriptures, though.
  9. You said the following: So what "earlier version" are you suggesting the KJV contains? Earlier than what? What, precisely, does it mean that the translation was done "by the gift and power of God"? Does it mean that the translation is inerrant? Does it mean Joseph Smith didn't actually translate anything? Does it mean he just dictated a translation that was shown to him? Why is it so clearly linked to the KJV, including the KJV's errors? If the translation is ultimately a more original text shone through the filter of the KJV, what does that say about the resulting text? If Joseph Smith's own mind exercised any influence at all on the articulation of the text, what does that say about the resulting text? There are so many more questions that these premises raise that don't get addressed at all. There are differences between the KJV and the Book of Mormon text, but they're comparatively small differences that still show directly dependence on the KJV. That means something, but few people want to engage what it means. There are plenty of study Bibles and commentaries that peel back a lot of the linguistic, historical, and rhetorical complexities. The Anchor Bible commentary series is very good, as is the Hermeneia series, although the latter is not yet complete. Robert Alter's recent translation of the Hebrew Bible has some very good notes, too. New Oxford Annotated Study Bible is decent, but the notes are kinda sparse. Same is true of the Jewish Study Bible. Yes, it will depend on the accuracy of the translation, but as long as you understand that absolutely ALL translations are just rough approximations, and absolutely NEVER a complete and perfect reflection of the intended semantic content, the squishiness of the accuracy shouldn't bother you too much.
  10. As a symbol it can have literally any meaning anyone assigns to it. In cultic settings in first millennium BCE Israel, the most common sense was subservience and worship.
  11. That's not what I'm suggesting. On what grounds could someone argue that the KJV somehow reproduces a slightly altered version of a 600 BC edition of Isaiah? While that would be helpful, I don't think it's absolutely necessary. Not everyone has the time or the resources to do that. There are plenty of other resources that the lay member can access to help them get underneath the translations they're working with.
  12. Yes, that's certainly a factor we have to consider (though it would be 3rd century BCE for the earliest translations of the Septuagint), but at the same time, we can point to thousands of examples of the Septuagint translators either getting things wrong, or intentionally changing the translation to reflect theological preferences. They were frequently less disciplined about their hermeneutics back then, which means their take is not necessarily any more reliable than what critical scholars are able to reconstruct today. In fact, in some ways, our knowledge of early Biblical Hebrew today is superior to that of third century Jewish folks translating the Bible into Greek. In other ways it's not. We try to consider all these factors. I've written about that here: I've written on the Church and Bible translation as well, which discusses some of these issues: One of the biggest issues here is the use of the definite article in reference to "beginning." The Masoretic text very clearly does not use the definite article, and preserves the use of "beginning" in construct with the verbal root that follows, creating a temporal clause that continues into verse 2. The verse doesn't say, "In the beginning, God created X, Y, and Z . . ." It says, "When God began to create X, Y, and Z . . ." The overwhelming majority of translations are too theologically dogmatic to translate it correctly. So Joseph didn't do any translating? It was a translation given to Joseph that he just dictated? Why is it so clearly based on the KJV? But it presents the KJV's translation even in places where the translation is incorrect. On what grounds can we argue that it is the "most accurate"? That seems pretty arbitrary. So you're suggesting that Joseph's articulation and supervision of the dictation, transcription, and redaction of these revelations was inerrant? But the Joseph Smith Translation and even the Book of Moses are products of revision of the course of many years conducted by numerous different people who weren't supervised by Joseph Smith. There's even a JST revision in our footnotes that was written by Joseph Smith III. Latter-day Saints rejected the JST for generations. It wasn't until the late 70s that we even decided to give the JST a shot.
  13. Like I said, this has a lot to do with our theory of Book of Mormon translation. The KJV was not what was on the brass plates, but it's indisputably what's in our English Book of Mormon, along with some revisions. No text has inherent meaning. All meaning resides entirely and exclusively in the minds of hearers, readers, and viewers. So why is it the KJV that is mediating the meaning Isaiah intended? "Goddidit" is just methodological punting. And one more question: I'm not suggesting it's phenomenally clear, I'm suggesting that there is imagery that is being used that is easy to overlook, but that I find value in preserving. Educated people translate clear texts incorrectly all the time, though. Like I said above, meaning exists entirely and exclusively in the minds of hearers, readers, and viewers, and it is mediated by our interpretive lenses, which are just as much about dogmatism and identity politics as they are about education. Genesis 1:1 has been knowingly translated wrong for centuries by English speakers because to translate it correctly is to abandon a critical prooftext for creation ex nihilo. Job 19:26 has also been knowingly translated incorrectly for centuries by English speakers because to translate it correctly is to abandon a critical Old Testament prooftext for the resurrection. There is no Bible translation that unilaterally prioritizes what the text says over and against all considerations of theological acceptability or reception. People translate with their readerships in mind, and they frequently massage their translations to meet the expectations, sensitivities, and interests of those readerships. Very few biblical texts are clear. There are always judgment calls to make about what kind of weight to give different considerations. No, I'm saying they didn't give adequate consideration to what I believe to be a salient bit of figurative language. I mentioned that people frequently and knowingly translate things incorrectly to demonstrate that agreement among a bunch of translations is not necessarily evidence the translation is correct. They sometimes think the more literal meaning might be difficult to comprehend. They sometimes think the translation they prefer offers more important hermeneutic help. They sometimes think translating it a different way might be theological problematic or might undermine a specific theological agenda. They might not want to depart from a consensus and draw negative attention to a passage that is ultimately not that critical. There are lots of things that could compel a translator to render a text one way and not another. Yes, I would say it doesn't necessarily indicate accuracy. I recognize that it's a very common assumption and that the overwhelming majority of readers don't have access to the resources to be able to interrogate a given translation choice much beyond comparing different modern language translations, but it's an assumption I try to help folks avoid. There are so many more reasons that translations might miss the mark on a given passage, and the overwhelming majority of them have nothing to do with ignorance or malice.
  14. I have. I've also been in Tae Kwon Do tournaments. What is the relevance of a generic act as employed in contemporary temples to the same generic act being used in completely unrelated contexts in first millennium BCE West Asia?
  15. Bowing before a suzerain could certainly be a part of a covenant requirement, just like it's a part of Tae Kwon Do tournaments, but I'm not aware of any convention that identifies bowing in and of itself as diagnostic of covenant. That would be like saying the word "bow" in any given text indicates they're at a Tae Kwon Do tournament. Could you point me to the texts support your position?