Friday, April 20, 2012

Spoken by the Mouth of Isaiah

Although I'm reading in 3 Nephi myself, I also read out loud to the kids, and we're in 2 Nephi.  I've been thinking a lot about the Isaiah chapters lately, and 2 Nephi 25.  Here's one small observation I've made in that context.

Nephi says two curious things in this chapter (he says more than two; I'm going to talk about two here).  First, he refers to the thirteen chapters of Isaiah from which he's just quoted as words "which have been spoken by the mouth of Isaiah."  This is curious because we don't have a record of these texts as being spoken.  We know them as writings only, and since Nephi lived more than a century after Isaiah, we would presume that that's how he knew them, too.

But Nephi also says, in discussing how he is able to understand the Isaiah chapters he's just excerpted, "mine eyes hath beheld the things of the Jews."  In the same verse he also refers to what sounds like formal training, but "mine eyes hath beheld" is a statement of witness.

What is my point?  Nephi seems to know the Isaiah chapters as texts that are spoken and that have a visual component.  In other words, he seems to know them as a play, or a ritual.  I think when we read them, we should read them that way.  Try reading all of the 2 Nephi Isaiah chapters through as a story, looking for recurring characters (though sometimes under different names... the Virgin of Isaiah 7 and the Prophetess of Isaiah 8, for instance) and a story arc.  I think it's there.  I think that's the point.

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