Back in 2009 BYU University Communications announced that Donald W. Parry, professor of Asian & Near Eastern Languages, had been selected as the editor for the book of Isaiah of the prestigious Biblia Hebraica Quinta (BHQ), the official scholarly critical edition of the Hebrew Bible used around the world. To put that into perspective, BHQ will be, on completion, the fifth edition of the famous Biblia Hebraica originally published in 1906 under the editorship of Rudolf Kittel. The academic study of the Hebrew Bible for over the last century has been driven by this edition and its legacy is huge. The announcement that Parry was going to be “one of about two dozen editors from the world wide community and one of only a few from the United States,” was a seemingly huge step forward for the academic study of the Bible within Mormonism. Seemingly.
The problem is, it doesn’t look like there was ever an official announcement from Deutsche Bibel Gisellschaft that Dr. Parry would be one of the two dozen editors. The Deseret News ran the story a couple of times in the summer of 2009, the Daily Herald ran it that May, and it was referenced again in the Deseret News later that year. The only officially named editor in BHQ for the book of Isaiah is Arie van der Kooij of the Universiteit Leiden.
Recently, Dr. Parry published an important new book, Exploring the Isaiah Scrolls and Their Textual Variants, in the Supplements to the Textual History of the Bible through Brill, one of the most prestigious publishing houses in biblical studies. The study itself could indicate that Dr. Parry has been doing the kind of background work necessary for a text-critical edition on the book of Isaiah, but, again, it is not clear if Dr. Parry is one of the official editors of BHQ. After searching online for any indication that this was the case from any source that did not simply go back to the announcement at BYU, which seemed to have Dr. Parry as its sole source, was not fruitful. And, if one takes a quick look at Dr. Parry’s publicly available CV, he does not have his supposed editorship of the BHQ listed there although he does have his most recent publications as well as forthcoming projects listed.
Based on the above I have to wonder about the possibility of each of the following scenarios in relation to the 2009 announcement:
(1) Dr. Parry was never assigned as “one of about two dozen editors” of the BHQ. Maybe this means that Dr. Parry thought he was going to be assigned and jumped the gun a little too early before finding out that was not the case. Maybe Dr. Parry loves the study of Isaiah so much that he believed things were moving in that direction. Or, maybe less likely, Dr. Parry made it up and there was never any direct indication from the BHQ team that he would edit Isaiah. In any case, if this is true then the 2009 announcement was based on someone claiming Dr. Parry was assigned as an editor when he wasn’t. That’s obviously problematic.
(2) Dr. Parry was assigned to edit Isaiah for the BHQ but then removed himself from the project. I find this highly unlikely. Not only has Dr. Parry continued to do extensive research on the text of Isaiah (see the link to his recent volume) that is directly connected to creating a text-critical edition, it would be foolish and surprising for a scholar in this field to willingly drop themselves from this weighty of a publication. If this was true then the 2009 announcement was accurate but a follow-up announcement indicating he had taken himself off of the project was never published, likely because of the awkwardness of announcing publicly that he had taken himself off the project.
(3) Dr. Parry was assigned to edit Isaiah but then the assignment was revoked. If this is the case then it would be interesting to understand why. Why would such a high profile assignment, something that would have taken serious deliberations by a committee to decide upon, be taken away? What would a scholar need to do for that to happen? Nothing has been announced in Dr. Parry’s past or recent scholarship that seems to be problematic (although his more devotional publications show a completely different person and/or side to Dr. Parry). This would also mean that there was no follow-up announcement in Deseret News or at BYU that Dr. Parry was no longer an editor on the project.
(4) Dr. Parry was never assigned on the main team of two dozen editors but instead to assist the main editor, Arie van der Kooij. If this is true, and it is probably the most likely of the four options I have outlined here, then that means that the original 2009 announcement was inaccurate. Dr. Parry was not one of the two dozen main editors of the BHQ, but on a broader team that would assist those editors. It means that his role was greatly amplified for the press announcement than what it was in reality. If this is the case then it would be even more necessary to understand who the original source for the 2009 story was out of BYU because that person was telling barely a half-truth. And by all accounts, it seems like Dr. Parry was the source for the announcement. In the original link the author said at the end of the write-up “For more information, contact Donald W. Parry at (801) 422-3491.” Assuming that is or was his office phone at BYU, I wonder how Dr. Parry would explain the situation if he was to respond.