Then we have Alma 7:11, where the Book of Mormon once again borrows from the Bible, this time drawing upon Isaiah 53:4. While this verse just uses a short phrase from Isaiah, the Book of Mormon's heavy use of Isaiah and other biblical texts has led to charges of plagiarism, of slavish and dull-witted copying, and suspicious use of King James language. The "plagiarism of the Bible" attack is one of the most common.
Both of these verses have stories behind them that will do much to enlighten those who wish to understand the text. For the many who don't and who cannot risk opening their mind to the possibility that maybe this book could be for real, please just go on knowing that "Jerusalem, not Bethlehem" is all you need to know about this book (just like it's all you need to know about the Bible, too, right?). For those with more interest in learning, wow, what a treasure we have here. See "On Alma 7:10 and the Birthplace of Jesus Christ" by Daniel C. Peterson (I've also got a short discussion on my website). Quick summary: The Dead Sea Scrolls provide evidence that the term "land of Jerusalem" was an authentic ancient Jewish concept describing the territory around Jerusalem, including Bethlehem, just 5 miles from downtown Jerusalem. For ancient Hebrews in the New World, separated from the land of their forefathers by several centuries and thousands of miles, it would be entirely natural to refer to place of Christ's birth as Jerusalem, or certainly the broader and authentic term "land of Jerusalem," when Bethlehem was a minor suburb. It's like me telling people in Wisconsin that my wife is from Salt Lake, when in fact she is from Sandy, a suburb over 10 miles south downtown Salt Lake. In fact, if Joseph Smith were the actual author of the Book of Mormon, of course he would have regurgitated what every schoolchild knows (well, used to know, before recent advances in public education): Christ was born in Bethlehem. Instead we have this pathetic blunder of being born "at Jerusulem, the land" (hello, it's a city, not a land, right?). In light of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the relationship between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, we can now see that this silly blunder is in a strong point in favor of the plausibility of the Book of Mormon as an authentic ancient text. I know, I know, it's just a lucky guess--like the First Nephi information on the location of the ancient burial place Nahom/Nehem and Bountiful in the Arabian Peninsula. But it should at least count for something that one of the top arguments against the Book has, with further research and discovery, become a strong point. This, at least, should NOT be a reason for walking away from the Book of Mormon. (Please, I'm NOT saying that apparent evidence for plausibility equates to PROOF of divine origins.)
The second verse, Alma 7:11, is also quite interesting. Please read "The Hebrew Text of Alma 7:11" by Thomas A. Wayment. Contrary to the worn-out claim that Joseph just slavishly copied from the Bible, there are numerous subtleties in the Book of Mormon text that pose challenges to the claims of the critics. In Alma 7:11, we have language clearly citing Isaiah 53:4, but it is a much better translation of the Masoretic Hebrew text than is in the King James Version. Wayment does a nice job of exploring a variety of related issues, with ample documentation. Here is his final paragraph:
In summary, Alma's fortuitous inclusion of Isaiah 53:4 in his sermon to the people of Gideon allows us to see that Book of Mormon authors did indeed have recourse to a text very similar to our Hebrew Masoretic Text, at least in some ways. In this particular instance, a Book of Mormon author's rendering of Isaiah 53:4, as translated into English by Joseph Smith, is much more accurate than our modern English translations. It is also unimaginable that the Prophet Joseph Smith, without inspiration, could have translated such a passage into English so that it would be more reflective of our Hebrew text than the already well-established English KJV tradition, which contained significantly different wording. Most translators tend to gravitate toward established and authoritative translations of important texts. In this instance it would be natural to assume that Joseph would have translated the Isaiah passage using the wording of his KJV Bible, but instead he translated it literally, being unaware that it was an Isaiah quotation included by an ancient Book of Mormon author.My take on the use of King James language in the Book of Mormon is that when dealing with quotations from the Old Testament, Joseph as translator made the logical choice of relying on the KJV translation and language, the standard for English scripture, as long as it was good enough. A close look, though, shows many instances in which the Book of Mormon text departs from the KJV, sometimes with profound implications, as we have in Alma 7:11 (but here, Wayment speculates, Joseph might not have recognized the quotation, otherwise he might have relied on the KJV language).
In another post, I'll mention some interesting insights about how and why the Book of Mormon authors turn to the Old Testament so much. I suppose it's not the kind of thing one would do in trying to pass off a made-up document as new scripture to sell a lot of books, but it is a very plausible thing for ancient writers of Hebrew heritage.
For more on the allegations of plagiarism in the Book of Mormon, see my LDSFAQ article, "Plagiarism in the Book of Mormon? Is It Derived from Modern Writings?" If you have a really warped sense of humor, also see "Was the Book of Mormon Plagiarized from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass?"