with Lee Campbell
Week 2: Authorship, canonicity and chapters 1-16
Authorship of Isaiah
In spite of the lack of concrete evidence that any part of Isaiah ever existed without any other part as far back as the 200s BC, the dogma of most scholarship today is that two or more individuals authored Isaiah. This perspective arose, most notably in the deistic climate of 18th century Europe. J. C. Doederlein, one of the earliest to argue for a second author, said explicitly that since Isaiah could not have forseen the fall of Jerusalem, the 70 year captivity, the return or Cyrus, Isaiah could not have written those chapters making such claims (e.g. chapters 40-66). Since this time, others have advanced arguments in support of dual or even multiple authorship. Others have argued for one author, Isaiah. These arguments fall into the following categories:
In support of multiple authorship.
Against multiple authorship.
Supernaturalism is preposterous.
Anti-supernaturalism is entirely apriori
Differences in language and style argue for multiple authors.
These analyses are subjective.
The unity of the text argues for an Isaiah school.
The unity of the text argues for a single Palestinian author.
The New Testament holds to one author
Jewish tradition holds for one author.
An Overview of Chapters 1-16
- This format, "The word of the Lord/oracle/vision which came to the prophet/the prophet saw at such and such a time," is like that of all the prophets except Ezekiel, Jonah, Haggai and Zechariah.
- "Isaiah" "Yahweh saves" or "Yahweh has wrought salvation"
- "son of Amoz" Jewish tradition holds that Amoz was Uzziahs uncle (i.e. Amaziahs brother). At least, the naming of his father implies that he was from a prominent family.
- "...concerning Judah and Jerusalem" Clearly, much more is discussed but the context and object of Isaiahs ministry was Judah.
Why is chapter six where it is? At least two possibilities exist:
- The passages are recorded chronologically and this is when Gods commission occurred in the narrative. Thus the earlier chapters reflect earlier revelations of Isaiah prior to his vision.
- The passages are not, necessarily, recorded chronologically. Thus the vision is placed after the first five chapters for literary and logical reasons (i.e. to set up the context for Isaiahs commission.)
- 6:11-13; This is an important passage b/c it is indisputably written by Isaiah and b/c it makes a prediction over 150 years in advance the very reason that the anti-supernaturalists reject so much of the rest of Isaiah as authentic.
- vv. 11-12 say that Judah will be devastated and depopulated; something that happened over 150 years after Isaiah.
- v. 13 says literally, "but [there will] still be a tenth-part in it [i.e. the exiled people] and it will return [wesabah] and it will be for burning [i.e. subjected to fiery trials], like a terebinth or like an oak, which in [their] felling [still have] a root-stump in them, a holy seed [shall be] its root-stump."
- wesabah is held to mean "again" by higher critics meaning, "and it will again be subject to burning" thus eliminating the interpretation "it shall return" from the verb sub "to return"; this dampens the prediction but fails to eliminate it.
- However, these analysts have failed to translate wesabah properly because three verses later he gives his firstborn son the name "a remnant shall return," which is what Shear-jashub means, a translation that no critic denies; where else would he come up with such a name if not from 6:13? The same verb, sub is used in 6:13 and in 7:3.
- Thus, vaticinium ex eventu - prophecy after the fulfillment, the driving principle in higher criticism is defeated
- Isaiah is challenging Ahaz to trust God rather than Assyria by permitting him to name a sign that Isaiahs revelation from God is trustworthy but Ahaz is already committed and in false piety, says he will not put God to the test. John Wesley said, "If a man will not believe God, he will believe anything." Ahazs unbelief is so strong he will not permit proof of its falseness.
- House of David....the Lord himself will give you a sign. "you" is plural until verse 16 when Ahaz himself is addressed.
- "sign" a signal with supernatural elements; this sign touches on the Davidic covenant--how it will be fulfilled.
- alma = maid or young woman but it always means an unmarried woman; bethshira = a technical term for a virgin but it is occasionally used of a married woman (Joel 1:18; Deut.22); alma is actually a better choice for a prophetic double reference.
- Young says that in cognate languages (e.g. Ugaritic, Syriac and Arabic) alma is used to mean virgin and in fact, the earliest LXX translates it as parthenos the definitive Greek word for virgin.
- Rabbinic commentary on this passage is interesting:
- Rasheeth says, "Behold the almah...the girl will be one who has never had intercourse"
- In the Talmud, Rabbi Humni in the name of Rabbi Joshua writes, "This is messiah of whom it is said, this day I have begotten you"
- A real challenge with this passage is its connection with Ahazs time when it appears to refer to Christ. This is an apparent prophetic double-reference. The early reference appears to be to Mahershalalhashbaz (8:1-4). If the passage refers to the childs mental capacity, then it concerns the destruction of Syria in 3 years. If the passage refers to the childs moral capacity, then it concerns the destruction of Israel 12 years hence. Both fit the passage.
- Judah and Israel are incorrigibly rebellious--they will not trust God.
- God is sovereign and will judge all rebellious nations.
- A remnant of Judah will return after Gods judgment.
- A messiah will arise with features both human and God-like.
A Suggested Outline for the Book
The author is introduced (1:1) Israels Problem (1:2-9) Gods Desire for Israel (1:10-20) Gods Response to Israels Rebellion (1:21-31) Gods Predictions about Israel (2:1-5:30)
Isaiahs vision and commission (6:1-13)
- A case study: Ahazs faith in Assyria
God will use Assyria to judge yet he should be trusted (7:1-9:6) Gods standards of morality are violated by Israel (9:7-10:4) God has control of his own judgment (10:5-12:6)
- God is the judge of all the nations
God judges all peoples when they rebel against him (13:1-18) Babylon (13:19-14:23) Assyria (14:24-27) Philistia (14:28-32) Moab (15:1-16:14) Syria & Ephraim (17:1-11) Reprise: God is the judge of all nations (17:12-18:7) Egypt (19:1-20:6) Reprise: Gods judgment upon Babylon and her allies (21:1-22:25) God is triumphant over the nations (24:1-27:13) So, it is foolish to trust the nations (28:1-34:4) Edom (34:5-35:10)
- A case study: Hezekiahs faith in God (36:1-39:8)
 Deism is quite antagonistic to the notion of supernatural intervention and hence to the idea that Isaiah could have foretold the future. Return to Text
 This second author was referred to as Deutero-Isaiah. Return to Text
 The Indivisible Isaiah, New York: Yeshiva University, 1964. Return to Text
 Who wrote Isaiah?, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1958, pp.58-60? Return to Text
 The Book of Isaiah. Chapters 1-39, John N. Oswalt, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986, pp.17-23; specifically the central theme of the nature and destiny of the people of God; the topic of trusting God; the means by which God will satisfy his covenant promises to Abraham, Moses and David, etc.. Return to Text
 O.T. Allis, The Unity of Isaiah, Presbyterian Reformed, 1950. Return to Text
 See the appendix, New Testament Citations from Isaiah. Return to Text