Just off the press this week, Opening Isaiah—a Harmony is BYU’s Religious Studies Center’s most recent print publication. Written by Ann Madsen and Shon Hopkin, the book has been around for months as a pdf document, but now it is available in a beautiful print format…
or it’s going to be very soon, because it is nearly out of stock already.
Today Brent Nordgren, a long time friend and BYU’s Production Supervisor at BYU Religious Studies Center, brought me a copy of one of the 400 advance prints. Sadly he reported they were nearly sold out, with less than 50 left as of today, but it will only be out of print for five weeks while a new printer takes over production.
In the meantime, you can purchase a pdf version of this excellent harmony of Isaiah for just $10. When you do, using the pdf purchase code, you can receive a $10.00 discount toward your print copy, which will be $25.
What is Opening Isaiah—a Harmony?
This harmony brings five versions of Isaiah—King James, Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith Translation, Dead Sea Scrolls, and the modern New Revised Standard Version—alongside one another for comparative study. Readers neither need to own those translations since they are all in one nor do they have to lug around five heavy books.
The Religious Study Center promises: “Opening Isaiah provides what has never before been provided to LDS readers. It brings all important versions of Isaiah …into comparison for readers to help them clearly see the similarities and differences in each one.”
The limited footnotes and side by side layout lets you study Isaiah’s writings with a focus on the texts themselves and not someone else’s commentary. However, Madsen and Hopkin provided limited footnotes to help with some difficult passages; idiomatic meanings and symbolism; and explain the historical context.
There is also excellent introductory information before the harmony begins, offering a rich background to Isaiah’s writing style. The beautiful but simple maps help you come to know the geography of Isaiah’s day; as Nephi suggested in 2 Nephi 25:6, if you want to understand Isaiah you should become familiar with the regions around Jerusalem.
Here is a sample of just one verse in the harmony of Isaiah 48 verse 5:
My Experience with the Harmony
I have several different Isaiah harmonies, but readers will quickly see why I prefer this style as it matches the table format I use in my Discover Isaiah section of this blog. This style of scripture comparison is usually known as a Tetrapla, but with a fifth column, I like harmony better than pentapla.
The placing of the King James Version (KJV) alongside the Joseph Smith Translation (JST), The Book of Mormon (when it quotes Isaiah), The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) when there is a fragment, the The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) and the New International Version (NIV). Highlighting differences and similarities in translations side by side, without commentary, leaves me, the reader, the chance to see what I may not have been clearly otherwise. It allows me to explore different meanings in each version and see the modern meaning in poetic form from the NRSV.
Madsen and Hopkin “make no claims about which version of the text is superior,” they say. “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.”
This book has become the most important resource for studying Isaiah on my bookshelf.