Joseph Smith Nephi must have been getting tired of writing. Why else would he copy two chapters nearly verbatim from the King James Version of the Bible?
I suspect that the answer is much like Bill Clinton's answer to the question, "Why did you have sex with Monica Lewinsky?"
Except that in Nephi's case he couldn't, could he? How could Nephi copy from a book that didn't exist at the time and wouldn't exist for another 2200 years or so?
Well, it's complicated, but I think it goes something like this.
Nephi was copying from the plates of Lehi -- the plates that he had to go back to Jerusalem to get by murdering Laban. Lehi's plates were written in Reformed Egyptian (it's a lot like Pig Latin) and these plates contained the writings of the Old Testament prophets, including Isaiah. So Nephi just copied Isaiah 48 and 49 in reformed Egyptian onto his plates, making them chapters 20 and 21 of First Nephi.
I know what you're thinking.
Why are chapters 20 and 21 of 1 Nephi nearly identical to Isaiah 48 and 49 in the King James Version of the Bible? Well, silly, that's because Joseph Smith translated them, along with the rest of the Book of Mormon, into English from the Reformed Egyptian. And the Bible that Joseph Smith was familiar with was the King James Bible, so he naturally modeled his translation after that.
Now some of you smart asses out there are going to say something like this: How could the plates of Lehi include Isaiah 48 and 49 since these chapters are a part of Deutero-Isaiah, which wasn't written until after the Babylonian exile, 70 years or so after 1 Nephi was supposedly written?
And the answer to that is this: the same God who revealed Isaiah to Isaiah (or to whoever wrote Deutero-Isaiah) revealed the same stuff to whoever wrote the plates of Lehi. It's as simple as that.
As you read 1 Nephi 20 and 21, though, you'll notice something strange: If you compare it to the KJV's Isaiah 48 and 49, the text is nearly identical, but some of the words have been changed.
For example, here is 1 Nephi 20:1.
Hearken and hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, or out of the waters of baptism, who swear by the name of the Lord, and make mention of the God of Israel, yet they swear not in truth nor in righteousness. 1 Nephi 20:1
And here is the corresponding verse from the King James Version of Isaiah 48.
Hear ye this, O house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, which swear by the name of the LORD, and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth, nor in righteousness. Isaiah 48:1
So now you'll probably want to know why there are differences.
Well, remember how Satan's church (the Catholic church) took away the plain and precious parts of the Bible? Nephi is restoring Isaiah to it's plain and precious state before it was fucked up by the Catholics. (I guess God was being proactive, retroactive, preemptive, or something, since 1 Nephi was written about 600 years before Jesus and/or Satan founded the Catholic church.)
And now some of you will probably ask how Isaiah (or the author of Deutero-Isaiah) could have included "out of the waters of baptism" since baptism was totally unknown in Old Testament times. And the answer, of course, is that God told him about baptism nearly 600 before it existed.
OK, so are we all clear now on how Isaiah 48 and 49 ended up in 1 Nephi 20 and 21, and why it is nearly (but not quite) identical to the King James Version of the Bible?
Good. Let's get on to more important matters -- like why God included these chapters in the Book of Mormon in the first place.
The short answer to that question is this: No one has any idea. Except that, as
Joseph Smith Nephi explains later, Nephi's "soul delighteth" in the words of Isaiah.
And when you take a look at the last verse that he quotes from Isaiah, you can get an idea of what Nephi finds so delightful.
And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; they shall be drunken with their own blood as with sweet wine. 1 Nephi 21:26
But you'll have to wait until the next exciting episode to find out why Nephi is so delighted by this verse.
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- Next episode -- 1 Nephi 22: Someday Catholics will get drunk on their own blood