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Editor’s note: We are pleased to announce that ‘Opening Isaiah: A Harmony’ can now be ordered from the following website: https://rsc.byu.edu/opening-isaiah. The first print run has a limited number of copies, so order soon.
The Opening Isaiah harmony grew out of the conviction that the teachings of the prophet Isaiah have important relevance today (see 3 Nephi 20:11–12, 23:1). The project was guided by the belief that scriptures are more powerful than commentaries and that the most helpful way to read Isaiah is by studying the text itself. As you ponder his words, you will learn to recognize the voice of the Lord. The title, “Opening Isaiah,” describes the purpose we had in mind in writing this book. It is our hope that we have provided readers with powerful tools to help them access Isaiah’s powerful messages.
A harmony enables comparison between several translations in order to make connections. This harmony uses the King James Version (KJV) as the basis for comparison. The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) is also included since it benefits from recent scholarship, modernized English, and parallel, poetic lines. Referring to this newer translation will often clarify many difficulties in understanding the message of Isaiah as found in the King James Version.
By highlighting differences and similarities side by side in a table format, it is possible to see what may not have been clear while reading only one text at a time. By placing texts side by side, we make no claims about which version of the text is superior. We simply allow readers to compare and contrast these different versions and translations for themselves. Although the harmony shows numerous changes across the columns, in our view the overall consistency of Isaiah’s message is miraculously preserved.
Over the next few weeks, we will expand on each of the following points to help you be ready to make effective use of this unique, new study guide. Here are some things you’ll find in Opening Isaiah:
- A column printed as poetry so the Hebrew poetic form is preserved and the parallel expressions are easily compared. This column also features the modern English translation of the NRSV to aid in understanding.
- Three columns with the most important versions of Isaiah for Latter-day Saints – the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith Translation, and King James Version – are placed side by side and the differences highlighted to help readers recognize all variations, some major, and some minor.
- An additional column provides Isaiah’s teachings as found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
- Newly-created maps are provided to assist with the historical context of Isaiah’s prophecies.
- Footnotes from the authors guide through challenging verses and clarify the meanings of Hebrew words.
- We have chosen purposely not to give you our own interpretations of the text, but instead the tools to discover/open Isaiah for yourself.
Here is how a page of the harmony looks, with one of the maps:
Notice that the King James Version column (on the far left) allows you to read Isaiah as found in the LDS Bible, and that the NRSV (on the far right) allows you to see a modern translation that clarifies Isaiah’s message. Meanwhile, the footnotes guide you through challenging places in Isaiah and the maps provide historical context.
The writings of Isaiah are not to be feared. All that is necessary to understand are an earnest, inquiring mind and a sincere desire to learn. “Let patience have her perfect work” (James 1:4). As the Savior stated: “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 Ne 23:1).