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Monday, December 29, 2008

That Ancient Semitic Voice of the Book of Mormon: More Thoughts on the Recent Questionable Word Print Study

In further pondering recent post on a word print study alleging confirming the bogus Spalding/Rigdon theory for Book of Mormon authorship, I am also rather puzzled about the treatment of Isaiah and Malachi. In this study, chapters of the Book of Mormon are compared to seven authors, one of whom is the composite KJV text of Isaiah and Malachi. I've already mentioned my trouble with comparing Isaiah chapters to a body of text that includes same chapters. Since nearly 1/3 of the control KJV text for Isaiah/Malachi includes the test chapters from the Book of Mormon, I'm not impressed when the authors report (p. 8) that 20 of the 21 Isaiah/Malachi chapters in the Book of Mormon are found to be closer to the KJV text of Isaiah/Malachi than the other 6 candidates considered. However, the current printing of the Book of Mormon has 22 chapters taken from Isaiah and Malachi. At first I thought the difference might be that the 1830 Book of Mormon had the two Malachi chapters, now 3 Nephi 24 and 25, in a single chapter (then 3 Nephi 11). But the authors state that they are using the current chapter divisions, just applied to the 1830 text. So unless I'm counting wrong, there should be 22 chapters assigned to Isaiah and Malachi (2 in 1st Nephi, 16 in 2 Nephi, 1 in Mosiah, and 3 in 3rd Nephi). Am I missing something? Must be, because after talking about the 21 chapters from Isaiah of Malachi on page 8, the authors later refer to the 21 chapters from Isaiah (apparently Isaiah alone), and then later make this slightly awkward statement: "The actual Isaiah-Malachi percentage can be estimated at around 36 chapters, or 15% of all chapters." They've identified 16 additional chapters that they say are "related" to Isaiah ("another sixteen that have some relationship to Isaiah or Malachi" - p.8), giving Isaiah a lot more credit that he is due. Some relationship? Which chapters, and what relationship?

Excuse me, but I sense a strained effort to expand the role of Isaiah in the text. Why might that be? Well, while we have 20 of 21 (22?) known Isaiah/Malachi chapters that the author's methodology preferentially links to Isaiah/Malachi over the other six unlikely candidates, that methodology also links a lot of other chapters to Isaiah/Malachi as well. The "delta probability" method (one of two methods considered) assigns gives Isaiah/Malachi first place for 112 of the 239 chapters of the Book of Mormon (more than Rigdon's and Spalding's winnings combined!), and second place for 54 more chapters. Ouch. The authors downplay the delta method for too many false positives for Isaiah/Malachi, and give preference to the NSC method ("Nearest Shrunken Centroids" or simply "shrunken 'roids"), which gives first place to only 63 chapters (comfortably less than Rigdon's 93 but still unpleasantly more than Spalding's 52). Sixty-three chapters assigned to an ancient Semitic writer (technically, the combined voice of Isaiah + Malachi, dominated by Isaiah) - that's a lot more than 21, and still a lot more than an inflated 36 or so chapters.

The authors downplay these false positives and emphasize how often Rigdon and Spalding show up in either 1st or 2nd place using the shrunken 'roids approach. Have they adequately explained away the relatively strong presence of the voice of Isaiah/Malachi in the text? Those extra chapters assigned to Isaiah's voice are especially strong in the first part of the Book of Mormon (1st and 2nd Nephi), where Nephi is writing. They are essentially absent in the middle of the Book of Mormon, and rise again in the last part (3rd Nephi, for example).

OK, the whole methodology is questionable and should not be taken too seriously, but I just find it ironic that the ancient Semitic voice of Isaiah/Malachi turns out to be stronger than expected in this study - something that must be vigorously downplayed. Don't want to suggest that there might be any ancient Semitic influences in the text other than quoting Isaiah and writing in KJV style. But if writing in KJV style or about Old Testament themes is enough to give dozens of false positives to an ancient Semitic writer, as the authors suggest, then is the word print methodology they are using really relying on non-contextual elements that have any meaning in identifying links to candidate authors?

3 comments:

Bryce said...

I can't help but wonder what would have happened if they used the same method and authors and compared them to the KJV New Testament. Would we finally find out which 19th century American wrote the Gospels? :)

Mormanity said...

Walt Whitman is my guess. His 1855 Leaves of Grass (or was that Plates of Brass?} was the source for the 1830 Book of Mormon, according to a detailed study. Why not the Bible, too?

Bookslinger said...

Jeff, your Leaves of Grass study does have pretty strong evidence that Walt Whitman might have borrowed from the Book of Mormon. I wonder if it can be shown that Walt owned a copy.