Isaiah scholars, readers have new resources

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    By ERIN MARTIN

    Three new books will help scholars and general readers understand the writings of the biblical prophet Isaiah.

    Donald Parry, an assistant professor of Hebrew language and literature, wrote or edited three books focusing on the writings of Isaiah.

    “Understanding Isaiah” is a verse-by-verse commentary of the book of scripture. Parry co-authored this book with his brother, Jay Parry, and Tina Peterson, a former Hebrew student.

    “We looked at each phrase of the 1,291 verses and asked what this phrase means and why it is significant to Latter-day Saints,” Parry said.

    The 650-page book is user-friendly to appeal to a wide audience, Parry said. It focuses on the relevance Isaiah’s writings have for people.

    “Isaiah does not need to be intimidating,” he said. “Even in high school, one can find appreciation for the meaning of Isaiah’s writings.”

    Parry said many symbolic references to Christ are identified to the reader. The authors cite both the Joseph Smith translation of Isaiah and the 22 chapters in the Book of Mormon.

    “Isaiah is a strong witness of Jesus Christ. Never once does he say the name of Jesus Christ, but all the chapters testify of him,” Parry said.

    The authors footnote references so the reader knows how to compare certain passages. Readers can find “Understanding Isaiah” in Latter-day Saint bookstores.

    “The Great Isaiah Scroll,” written with Dead Sea Scroll scholar Elisha Qimron, is intended for Biblical or Dead Sea Scroll scholars worldwide.

    The Dead Sea Scrolls were first discovered in 1947. The scrolls contain all the books of the Old Testament, except Esther, along with other texts. Parry is one of approximately 60 scholars who work with the scrolls.

    Pages in “The Great Isaiah Scroll” have a facsimile of the scroll on one page and a translation of the scroll into modern Hebrew on the next page. Parry and Qimron implemented modern verses and chapters in their modern Hebrew text.

    The scrolls show ancient writing techniques used during the time of the scrolls, dating between 300 B.C. and A.D. 70. Writers used paragraphs, erasures or indications of mistakes, and different scribal marks.

    “We told other scholars what we believe the characters to be,” Parry said. “We explain corrections made — what it was and now what it seems to be.”

    He said 1,100 different readings of Isaiah are possible. Some are minor, like changing a word from singular to plural. However, the different readings reveal some new things.

    “Reading the ancient text is a new view of Isaiah and Christ. The Hebrew reveals more than the English,” Parry said.

    Stephen Ricks, a professor of Hebrew, said this book is not only an excellent resource for scholars, but it will help students learning Biblical Hebrew and Dead Sea Scroll Hebrew.

    “I think students will be able to read the original scroll version with comfort using this book as a text,” he said.

    Andrew Skinner, an associate professor of ancient scripture, said any kind of resource that gives a clearer transcript of the scrolls is valuable.

    The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies published another book Parry worked on titled “Isaiah and The Book of Mormon.” Parry edited this book with John Welch, a BYU law professor.

    This book is a collection of scholarly essays that was designed to work well as a companion for studying Isaiah in the Book of Mormon.

    Welch said they used Book of Mormon prophets as their guide, presenting answers to questions about why the prophets Nephi, Jacob and Abinadi used particular passages of Isaiah and how these prophets interpreted the passages.

    “We figured that they knew this text better than we do because, as Nephi says, he could understand the plain and precious meanings and delighted in the plainness of Isaiah; he knew where (Isaiah) was coming from,” he said.

    This book only deals with the chapters of Isaiah quoted in the Book of Mormon, not all 66 chapters found in the Bible.

    “This is not only to help people get through the Isaiah barriers in the Book of Mormon, but to turn the tables and use the Book of Mormon as a strength in reading Isaiah,” Welch said.

    George Perkins, assistant professor of Japanese, said Parry’s studies are important for anyone — LDS or non-LDS — who has an interest in an LDS interpretation of Isaiah.

    “This type of scholarship is universally applicable. For anyone who is interested in a different and certainly a reliable perspective, this would be an important interpretation,” he said.

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