As many people know, the Book of Mormon quotes heavily from Isaiah. In fact, according to the footnote for 2 Nephi 12:2a, 433 verses of Isaiah are quoted by Book of Mormon prophets. These frequently come in the form of full-length chapters being quoted at a time. Sometimes these verses are word-for-word identical with the King James Version of the Bible, but often the wording has been changed. A few of the verses of Isaiah are actually quoted multiple times, typically by different characters at different times in the Book of Mormon.
An interesting example of this is Isaiah 49:25. This verse is first quoted by Nephi, as he recites Isaiah 48-49 to his brothers (see 1 Nephi 20-21). In this instance, verse 25 is identical to the KJV. Later, Nephi’s younger brother Jacob is asked by Nephi to preach the words of Isaiah to the people. Jacob starts off with Isaiah 49:22-26 (see 2 Nephi 6:6-7, 16-18). What is interesting here is that when Jacob gets to verse 25, it is quoted differently than when Nephi quotes it. Here is each verse, with the differences marked :
But thus saith the Lord, even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered; for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children. (1 Nephi 21:25)
But thus saith the Lord: Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered; for the Mighty God shall deliver his covenant people. For thus saith the Lord: I will contend with them that contendeth with thee – (2 Nephi 6:17)
As you can see, each verse has a phrase which the other is missing, and him in 1 Nephi 21:25 has been changed to them in 2 Nephi 6:17. How do we account for this apparent discrepancy? Why would Nephi quote the verse one way, and then Jacob quote it differently? A better question (I think) is this: If Joseph Smith is making all of this up, why would he have two different characters quote from the same verse differently? Wouldn’t such an inconsistency give him away as a fraud? Wouldn’t he want the two match each other (even if he altered them a little from the KJV)? To me, it seems that if Joseph Smith is brilliant enough to make the whole Book of Mormon up, he would be smart enough to make these two verses match.
But still we have the question, why don’t they match?
Geza Vermes, who is one of the world experts on the Dead Sea Scrolls, observed that “the Qumran scriptural scrolls, and especially the fragments, are characterized by extreme fluidity: they often differ not just from the customary wording but also, when the same book is attested by several manuscripts, among themselves.” Thus, the Jews at Qumran had within their sacred collection of texts, variant copies of the same texts.
Following the same standard demonstrated in the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1 Nephi 21:25 and 2 Nephi 6:17 suggests the brass plates (the Nephites collection of sacred texts) also had multiple copies of the same texts, which at times varied from one another. Nephi quoted from one copy of Isaiah found on the plates, while Jacob quoted from another. Thus, you get the divergences found and noted above; but rather than being a problematic discrepancy, it becomes suggestive evidence of an ancient Jewish background for the Book of Mormon.
1. Extra words are bolded, words in place of each other are italicized.
2. Geza Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2004), pg. 16. It is important to note that the Book of Isaiah is one of the most frequently attested biblical books in Dead Sea Scrolls collection.