SPECIAL TOPIC: ISAIAH (Authorship and Unity)

I. Jewish views of authorship

A. The Talmud's Baba Bathra 15a said Hezekiah and his men wrote (i.e., edited or compiled) Isaiah, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs.

B. Ben Sirah, in Ecclesiasticus 48:17-25, written about 185 b.c., said, "Isaiah, son of Amoz," wrote the book (Isa. 1:1; 12:1; 13:1).

C. 2 Chronicles 32:32 attests to Isaiah's vision, as does the parallel in Kings (2 Kgs. 18:19-20:19 tells us about the man).

1. He was from a wealthy noble family in Jerusalem, possibly even a cousin to King Uzziah.

a. some evidence that "iah" (as an ending to names), which is an abbreviation of YHWH, was practiced almost exclusively among Judah's royalty

b. Isaiah's access to King Uzziah also lends support to his possible family connection

c. see Talmud, Meg. 10b

2. He married a prophetess (Isa. 8:3).

a. first son, "Shear-Jashub," which means "a remnant shall return"

b. second son, "Maher-shalal-hash-baz" (Isa. 8:3), which means "speed the spoil, haste the booty"

3. Isaiah had one of the longest prophetic ministries of any of the OT prophets. He was God's spokesman in Judah from the reign of Jotham (742-735 b.c.) to that of Hezekiah (715-687 b.c.) with the possibility of even reaching into the reign of Manasseh (687-642 b.c.); Manasseh was possibly co-regent from 696 b.c.

4. If 2 Chr. 26:22 refers to Isaiah, then he was the official scribe and keeper of the royal chronicles of the king.

5. Traditions said he was sawed in two inside a log (cf. Assumption of Isaiah) during Manasseh's reign (cf. Heb. 11:37).

D. Moses ben Samuel Ibn Gekatilla, about a.d. 110, said that Isaiah 1-39 are Isaiah's, but chapters 40-66 were written during the Second Temple period (Persian Period, 538-430 b.c.).

E. Ibn Ezra (a.d. 1092-1167) followed Gekatilla's lead and denied, or at least questioned, Isaiah 40-66 to the eighth century Isaiah.


II. Modern scholarship's views of authorship

A. A good historical summary is found in R. K. Harrison's Introduction to the Old Testament, Eerdmans, 1969.

B. A good discussion of the technical reasons for asserting two authors can be found in S. R. Driver's Introduction to the Literature of the OT, reprint 1972.

C. No Hebrew or Greek (LXX) manuscripts have ever been found which show a division between Isaiah 1-39 and 40-66.

1. There is a two line space at the end of Isaiah 33 in the Dead Sea Scrolls. This implies a division at this point, not Isaiah 39.

2. There seems to be a parallel structure, Isaiah 1-33 and 34-66. This dual structure based on the author's own day and then the future, was common in the Hebrew prophets (cf. Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah).

D. Modern scholarship has no unanimity as to how many authors or where to divide the book.


III. Some reasons for the unity of Isaiah

A. Twenty-five terms are found in both sections of Isaiah which are not found elsewhere in the OT (NIV, Intro. to Isaiah, p. 1014).

B. The title "the Holy One of Israel" occurs 13 times in chapters 1-39 and 14 times in chapters 40-66 and only six times in all other OT books.

C. Jesus, in John 12:38,40, quotes from Isa. 53:1 and 6:10 and attributes both to Isaiah.

D. Passages from Isaiah 40-66 are attributed to Isaiah in Matt. 3:3; 8:17; 12:17; Luke 3:4; 4:17; John 1:23; Acts 8:28; and Rom. 10:16-20.

E. There is no manuscript evidence of a division of the book at chapter 39 (MT, DSS, or LXX).

F. There is no historical mention of a great prophet (Deutro-Isaiah) in the 6th century b.c.

    R. K. Harrison, in Introduction to the Old Testament, comments on this subject,

"Arguments from literary style were greatly in vogue at the end of the nineteenth century, but in the light of a much wider knowledge of ancient Near Eastern languages they have now assumed a far less important position. The very subjectivity of stylistic considerations had a great appeal for the adherents of the Graf-Wellhausen theory of literary analysis, who saw no inconsistency whatever in perusing material ascribed to a Biblical author, and then denying parts of that very corpus to him because the literary form and vocabulary of each chapter did not happen to be identical. Apparently it did not occur to those early investigators that it was only possible to derive some concept of the style of an ancient author as the result of careful study of all the material ascribed to him, and that subsequent rejection of part or all of that corpus could only be validated on the basis of some rigorous external control" (p. 776).


IV. Some reasons for multiple authorship of Isaiah.

A. In chapters 40-66 the name "Isaiah" is not mentioned.

B. Chapters 40-66 do not fit into Isaiah's historical setting.

C. There seems to be a mixing of Isaiah's references to:

1. Assyria's invasion, exile, and judgment

2. Babylon's invasion, exile, and judgment

D. There are some reasons for theorizing multiple authorship.

1. change of historical setting

a. pre-invasion Judah, Isaiah 1-39

b. exile, Isaiah 40-55

c. post-exilic Judah, Isaiah 56-66

d. in Isaiah 1-39 the Temple will never fall, while in 40-66 it apparently has already fallen. The author seems to be in exile.

2. change of terms to describe God's chosen

a. Messianic child

b. Suffering Servant

c. Israel as

1) wife, Isa. 50:1

2) servants of YHWH, Isa. 54:17

E. Modern conservative scholars

1. E. J. Young's statement about chapters 56-66 is helpful, "another possibility is that Spirit-led, editor collected prophecies from different prophets of the Isaiah school around the basic themes of this section" (p. 188).

2. R. K. Harrison's statement, "The present writer holds to the view that Isaiah, like the majority of the other extant prophetic writings, represents an anthology of utterances given at various times, and as such the work merits no different treatment from that accorded the other major OT prophecies. In this connection it is important to note that arguments based upon differences of style or literary expression are immediately vitiated by this approach, since an anthology may be taken quite fairly as representing the total style of the author over the different periods of his creative activity. Justification for describing the work as an anthology in the best sense of that term is furnished by the opening verse of the prophecy, which constitutes a heading for the work, and speaks specifically of the revelatory material that Isaiah the son of Amoz received in visions concerning Judah and Jerusalem in days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. As with all anthologies it is fairly evident that the book contained only a selection of the available prophetic oracles and sermons, and it is highly probable that Isaiah produced considerably more material than has survived in his book. The nature of the prophecy as an anthology is further indicated by the presence of superscriptions in Isa. 2:1 and 13:1, which may have represented, or pointed to the presence of, earlier collections of prophetic utterances" (p. 780).

F. The literary style of chapters 40-66 is different from that of chapters 1-39.


V. Concluding comments about authorship

A. Godly scholars continue to disagree about how our OT book of Isaiah came to be in its current form (cf. DSS and MT). The main emphasis must be placed on its inspiration and trustworthiness in revealing the character and purposes of YHWH.

B. We must reject any presuppositions that deny God's faithful revelation through Isaiah. This also includes the á priori rejection of predictive prophecy and the lowering of the OT to an exclusively human, contemporary, historical account.

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