The Difficulty in the Book of Isaiah Part 2 (History)

This post focuses on the historical attempts by men throughout the centuries in trying to understand Isaiah.


             Traditional history records Isaiah served as a prophet from 742 BC to 702 BC.[1] Isaiah lived during the time of Israel’s defeat and destruction by Assyria in 731 BC. In particular, Isaiah recorded the defeat of the Assyrian army in the attempt to capture Jerusalem. Isaiah penned many passages that point to such New Testament concepts as the virgin birth, the incarnation of God on earth, and the coming of the messiah.

Several areas of difficulty also arise interpreting Isaiah and determining authorship. Isaiah scholars customarily divide the book into two parts, chapters one through thirty-nine, and chapters forty through sixty-six. The second half of Isaiah received the title Deutero-Isaiah because of the difficulty encountered when trying to assign the entire book to a single author. Brevard S. Childs shows the difficulty with Isaiah traceable all the way back to the first century.[2]

The earliest difficulties involved the differences between the Hebrew and the Septuagint. Childs states concerning the relationship of these differences to the new church, “For the church the relation between the original Hebrew and the Greek translations continued to be largely unresolved, since the authority of the Hebrew Scriptures was acknowledged by most Christians in spite of the fact that its [sic] New Testament was shaped through the filter of Hellenistic Greek translations.”[3] The researchers of the twentieth century sought to further answer some of the differences. C. C. Broyles and C. A. Evans in the publication of Writing and Reading the Scrolls of Isaiah provided two articles that examine differences between the Masoretic text and the Septuagint manuscripts. The consensus, which is an important one, was that the differences between the two series of documents were not the result of redaction by later unknown writers.[4]

[1] Merrill F. Unger, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1988), p. 629.

 [2] Brevard S. Childs, The Struggle to Understand Isaiah as Christian Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2004), p. 5.

 [3] Ibid., p. 7.

[4] Ibid., p. 10 citing C. C. Broyles , and C. A. Evans, eds., Writing and Reading the Scroll of Isaiah, vol 2. (Leiden: Brill, 1997).



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