In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the Lord fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom: (Ezra 1:1)
Read: Ezra 1:1-2:70, 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5, Psalm 27:7-14, Proverbs 20:22-23
Relate: Who wrote Isaiah? The answer to this question at first glance is obvious: Isaiah did. Well then, I have an immediate follow up: Did Esther write Esther? Did Job write Job? Was Jonah written by Jonah or about him? Is Malachi a name or a title? It is easy to assume that the name of a book proves authorship but that is clearly not the case. Even in books where the name is most likely the author of most of it, internal evidence makes it clear that they did not write all. (Amos and Jeremiah are great examples of this) Beyond that: the names, the order, and the groupings of the books of the Bible we have today differ quite a bit from those used found in the Tanakh (which Jesus and the early apostles would have used). The two biggest examples is that the Tanakh combines the minor prophets into one book and it also combines Ezra with Nehemiah. Does that mean the Jews believed they all had one author (For the prophets, certainly not. For Ezra/Nehemiah… probably yes)
Some of you at this point know, or at least think you know where I am going with this. For the past century or so, the debate about Isaiah has been almost a litmus test for conservative Christians. If you believe one man wrote it all you are orthodox. If not, you are a liberal who does not believe in the miraculous with an agenda to destroy the credibility of scripture. Well, I am not a liberal (at least not with regards to scripture). I do believe in the miraculous and the predictive power of certain prophesies (I myself have been miraculously healed and personally know people who have been raised from the dead). I am fully convinced that scripture is authoritative and infallible. In fact, I believe that so much I have memorized six books of the Bible and significant chunks of others.
The arguments of those who believe Isaiah can all be contributed to one author generally boil down to two things: 1) Higher critics only separate them into two (or three) authors because they cannot believe that a 200 year prophesy can come true. 2) In the New Testament both the gospels and the epistles quote both (or all three) sections of Isaiah attributing it to… well, “Isaiah”.
Already I am starting to go long on this and I am sure some of you are bored out of your mind with this stuff so I will try to keep my responses brief. With regard to #1, the Cyrus predictions are not the primary reason for the division(s). In fact for many scholars it is barely or not even at all a factor. The primary reasons for the division are first of all the large change in style and focus of the writing between the first 39 chapters and the remaining 27, and secondly there are internal evidences of a change in time and circumstances. One example of this is how in the first 39 chapters Assyria is Israel’s primary nemesis and Babylon only gets mention as one among many nations. From chapter 40 on Babylon is the primary enemy of Israel while the only mention of Assyria is as a nation long gone from the scene. Finally, a question about the Isaiah prophesy. If it was written 200 years in advance by the most famous of Israel’s prophets, why did Ezra not say “the Lord fulfilled the prophesy of Isaiah” or at least “the Lord fulfilled the prophesies of Isaiah and Jeremiah”? While I believe Second Isaiah’s mention of Cyrus was a predictive prophesy, I do not believe it was a 200 year old prophesy or even common knowledge yet at the time of the writing of the book of Ezra.
With regard to argument #2 it is true that the gospels refer back to every section of Isaiah. That does not mean nearly as much as we would like it to mean. First of all, we must understand that the Bible authors did not hold to the same understanding of authorship or ideas of intellectual property or copyright that we do today. Referring to the prophesy of Isaiah was much more a location marker than an identity one. Nowhere in the New Testament does it come anywhere near explicitly stating that the entire book of Isaiah was authored by a man named Isaiah. In the first 39 chapters, Isaiah is explicitly mentioned by name eighteen times. From chapter 40 onwards… not once.
React: Really, I think the title of a book I read more than a decade back best summarizes my opinion on this entire debate. That title is Adventures In Missing The Point. If I remember correct, that book has absolutely nothing to do with the one, two, or three Isaiahs debate or even any similar issues. It does, however, so perfectly describe what has happened when this issue gets brought to the forefront. First of all, this prophesy and/or historical event is proof that God can work through even the wickedest of rulers to accomplish his purposes. Even though he is called in the Bible God’s anointed shepherd the historical Cyrus was a Machiavellian expansionist who cared little for the true God but allowed the Jews to return only for reasons of stability so that he could focus his attention on his wars elsewhere.
Not only does this event teach that God can work through evil kings (be they named Cyrus, Trump, Clinton, Erdoğan, or… ), but even more He is the author of reconciliation. He did not forget His people. He did not leave them to suffer in their well deserved punishment. No, He remembered Israel and brought them back home. No matter how bad you or I might have been in our past, we don’t come close to the Hebrew people at the times of Manasseh or the last three kings. If His grace is sufficient for them, it certainly covers the greatest of our sins. God is the God of second chances and that is what the story of Cyrus is really all about.
Thank You so much for not giving me what I deserve. Even when I do suffer through the consequences of my sin and even sometimes the sins of the generations before me, thank You for not leaving me to wallow in it. Thank You for giving me the second and third and fourth and… for continuing to forgive me every time I truly ask. Help me to learn from those failures that I might walk straighter. Help me to use the grace You have extended me to in turn extend it to the world around me. Let Your forgiveness seen in me be a light that would shine Your glory to everyone I meet.
32 thoughts on “August 5 – Who Wrote It?”
Excellent exercise in pointing out how we can be distracted by specifics or arguments that don’t have great bearing on the veracity of Scripture or its primary message.
Sometimes a Cyrus is the second chance.
Thanks for summarizing that Isaiah authorship issue. I have heard it referenced many times but never heard specifics. I think it is very important to cover these issues within church discussions so that believers have some basic background knowledge of conflicts. It is hard for pastors to know when it is relevant. I can see why it is not a topic of Sunday mornings. But at some point fair discussions need to happen; and not just one sided polarized rants. Thanks
I think you write beautifully. You read something, then think about it, you deduct, relate and react conciously. Okay so far. But then, your response: why on earth do you respond to ‘God’? Do you think he reads your blog? Do you really think such an entity is real? Has he ever liked any of your posts? Has he ever replied in a comment? I know he didn’t. Why do I know that? Because I know ‘he’ does not exist. Period. If you want to waist your time: that’s your choice. Here is your award, handed down by the inventors of religion, and the people that have indocrinated your brains since you were an innocent child:
“A lifetime of believing a promise of something for which there’s no evidence and that you won’t actually get until after you’re dead. In fact, there’s pretty much no reason at all to expect it’s even remotely real, but please, just take our word for it and live the rest of your life imagining it and feeling happy. And by the way: you don’t actually deserve it anyways, so make sure you feel a little unworthy too!”
I like you. I care for you. Therefor I urge you: Please wake up. Free yourself.
Have a great weekend!
Thank you for the comment and the compliments on my writing. While I appreciate it, please understand that I am not writing for you. My writing, and my very life, is played out for an audience of one. You don’t know Him yet but I hope one day maybe. We can go back and forth regarding the rational arguments for and against His existence but no argument can ever convince me that One I have met, the One who has healed me and owns me, does not exist. I hope and pray that You will come to know Him as I have. Then you will get to know what it truly means to be awake and alive and truly free.
Okay. Respect that. But you can never say I didn’t warn you. All the best!
I haven’t looked at the Isaiah authorship issues, but I do believe that the author must have been a man of stature; it’s unlikely that he didn’t leave any trace of his identity. If it wasn’t Isaiah, what alternative hypothesis do you suggest?
This sort of argument is (admittedly) much more convincing for NT authorship; it seems unlikely to me that any of the NT texts were written by someone who is anonymous. I found Richard Baukham’s book about the authorship of John’s gospel very good. But I think that the same should carry through to some extent to OT texts as late as Isaiah. I don’t think there’s any doubt that Ezekiel was written by Ezekiel and Jeremiah by Jeremiah.
So – if it wasn’t Isaiah – then who?
The question is not, “Did Isaiah write Isaiah?” The real question is, “How much of Isaiah did Isaiah write?” It is a near universal consensus that Isaiah wrote the first 39 books. A few will still say that he wrote the whole thing. Most theologians and scholars at this point will break between groups who say one other individual wrote the remaining 27 chapters and that one person wrote 40-55 and another wrote 56-66. I tend to fall into the “two author” camp and while trying to be fairly balanced, I think my reasoning can be seen above.
A couple other points: At least one book of the NT (Hebrews) was written by an anonymous author. Some will say Paul but neither tradition nor comparative textual evidence backs that up.
Also, Jeremiah did *not* write all of Jeremiah. There are references within the text itself that the scribe Baruch did at least some of the writing and chapters 37-44 speak of Jeremiah in the third person so that portion was most likely written by a contemporary (cough, cough, Baruch) or a later historian/editor (far less likely imho).
Thanks for the read and the comment. Hopefully, I didn’t muddy the waters too much on you. 😉
The Hebrews question is an interesting one: I don’t claim to have any insight as to who wrote it – but I’m convinced that his name will be one of those that appear in Acts – and he will have been a respected authority – most likely apostolic, or at least very close to an apostle.
I think this has to have been written by somebody very close to source, simply because the interpretation of the OT is so radical that it wouldn’t have been accepted otherwise (I’m convinced that if you’re average Joe theologian came up with such an interpretation of the Old Testament, he would be accused of eisegesis).
I read Martin Hengel’s account ‘The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ’ and I’m convinced that the principles that he outlines for accepting the four gospels are the same principles that were used for the rest of the NT.
With Jeremiah, you’ve hit the nail on the head – Baruch wrote the parts not written by Jeremiah; we know who the author is; it’s well documented (within the book itself).
With Isaiah, the prophecies from chapter 40 onwards are absolutely remarkable and they would have been seen as remarkable at the time they were made. I simply don’t believe that the identity of the person who made these prophecies would have been lost to posterity. Therefore, I’m inclined to believe that these are Isaiah’s prophecies – otherwise the two (or three) author hypothesis creates more questions (at least from my perspective) than it answers.
What we are discussing here is the “Deutero-Isaiah theory.” Isaiah 1:1 identifies the author as Isaiah himself and was written between 701 and 681 B.C..
Most Bible scholars are in agreement that Isaiah was the sole author of the book that bears his name. However, there are those “liberal” scholars who are skeptical about anything that points to supernatural inspiration of the Bible. In fact, they go so far as to explain the fulfilled prophecies in these books by re-dating them to after the events occurred! The theory of multiple Isaiahs is just another example of skepticism from those who want to call into question the Bible as God’s inspired Word.
This theory of “Deutero-Isaiah” (or second Isaiah) came about near the end of the eighteenth century. Supposedly, Isaiah himself wrote only the first 39 chapters, leaving one of his students to write the second part (chapters 40—66). This was done allegedly sometime after the Babylonian captivity started (after 586 BC). As such, this later date would explain explicit predictions of “Cyrus, King of Persia” in Isaiah 44:28—45:1.
The “Deutero-Isaiah” theory claims Isaiah chapters 40—55 contain no personal details of the prophet Isaiah as compared to Isaiah 1—39. The first section tells of numerous stories of Isaiah, especially his dealings with kings and others in Jerusalem. The theory goes on to say that the style and language of Isaiah 40—55 seem to be quite different from the earlier chapters. What is so interesting about this argument is that it is also promulgated by the authors who support one author for the book! One contention is that specific references to Cyrus began with the experiences of the exiles in Babylon. This last argument is supposedly the strongest. It claims the second part of the second part of Isaiah was written later because only a later date can explain the accuracy of the prophecy.
Again, most reputable Bible scholars reject the “Deutero-Isaiah” theory. Their conclusions include the similarity of writing styles in both sections, the consistent use of the same words throughout, and the familiarity of the author with Palestine, but not Babylon. Furthermore, Jewish tradition uniformly ascribes the entire book to Isaiah.
The Dead Sea Scrolls contain a complete scroll of Isaiah dated from the second century BC. The book is one unit with the end of chapter 39 and the beginning of chapter 40 in one continuous column of text. This demonstrates that the scribes who copied this scroll never doubted the singular unity of the book. Neither did the New Testament authors, nor the early church, as quotations from both sections are attributed only to Isaiah.
I hope this has been helpful. To learn more on the Books of the Bible and their authors go to http://www.altruistico.wordpress.com and click onto “Books of the Bible.”
May the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob bless and keep you and yours.
I guess this is a rabbit trail we must follow after all…
You said, “Most Bible scholars are in agreement that Isaiah was the sole author of the book that bears his name. However, there are those “liberal” scholars…”
You make two claims here I am wondering if you could substantiate for me: 1) Most scholars support the one author theory. 2) Those who don’t are liberal scholars. From what I have seen and read, both of these statements are patently false. Even scholars defending the single author viewpoint acknowledge that theirs is a minority position.
You said, “This theory of “Deutero-Isaiah” (or second Isaiah) came about near the end of the eighteenth century.” Actually, Jewish scholars as early as the second century AD were writing commentaries on Isaiah assuming multiple authors as an understood fact.
You said, “Furthermore, Jewish tradition uniformly ascribes the entire book to Isaiah.” Again, this statement is untrue.
Some questions that need to be addressed one were to accept the one Isaiah theory:
1) Why is there not a single reference to Isaiah in the last 27 chapters while there are 18 references to him in the first 39?
2) Why doesn’t Assyria appear as a contemporary threat in the final 27 chapters while it features so prominently in the first 39?
3) Why does Babylon get such a negligible reference in the first 39 chapters when it features so prominently in the final 27?
4) Why is the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple spoken of as historical fact, not prophecy in the final 27 chapters?
5) Why do the terms for the Israel change from chapter 40 on?
6) Why does the literary style change for the final 27 chapters of Isaiah?
7) Why does Ezra refer to Jeremiah’s prophesy about the return but not Isaiah’s
Please note, except for the last, none of these questions has to do with the Cyrus prophesy which you claimed over and over again was the primary reason for the claim of multiple authors. This is simply not true. An abundance of scholars both liberal and conservative from Catholic, protestant, Jewish, and even Mormon traditions support the multiple authors view. This is not because they do not believe in prophesy. It is because the text itself points overwhelmingly in that direction.
You end you comment with “An abundance of scholars both liberal and conservative from Catholic, protestant, Jewish, and even Mormon traditions support the multiple authors view.” Throughout your comment you reference “scholars” and such, yet; you make no references substantiating your views. First because someone is of a particular faith does not automatically mean they are Christian. Many so-called Christians “profess the faith” yet know so little of it. In short atheists aren’t the only skeptics when it comes to both The Bible and the Christian faith.
The Book of Isaiah is not written in strict chronological order, as is evident from the fact that the prophet’s initial call to his ministry is not presented until chapter 6. The opening chapter may be addressing the situation Judah faced at the time of the Assyrian invasion in the days of King Hezekiah. Chapters 1-39 predominantly, though not exclusively, deal with the period of Judah’s history during the eighth century B.C., the time in which Isaiah was carrying out his ministry. Chapters 40-66 predominantly focus on the distant historical future (from Isaiah’s perspective), foretelling the fall of Babylon and the restoration of God’s redeemed people following their release from their Babylonian captivity. Throughout these chapters the prophecies pertaining to Israel’s return to the Promised Land of Canaan are filled with eschatological allusions, indicating that Israel’s historical deliverance and restoration to Canaan are at the same time a type of the final redemption of God’s people, ushering them into His eschatological kingdom. Chapters 40-66 also contain striking descriptions of the Messiah (presented as “the servant of the Jehovah.”)
The Prophet and His Times
At the very outset of the book, Isaiah informs us that he carried out his ministry during the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. In the days of Uzziah and Jotham, the nation of Judah experienced a period of great prosperity and not a small measure of military power (2:7). It was Judah’ s Silver Age. Although it did not attain unto the Golden Age under King Solomon, the times of Uzziah and Jotham certainly rivaled those past days of splendor.
But the outward splendor and abundance of material prosperity was itself rivaled by spiritual degeneration and decay. The worship of Jehovah had become reduced to merely an outward formality (1:11; 29:13; 58:1-3). Beneath the veneer of formalistic religious observance there resided a heart that was in rebellion against Jehovah and that manifested a deep-seated defiance against Him and His holy commandments (1:2,4; 30:9-11; 48:1-8; 65:2). In consequence of their spiritual apostasy, the society of Judah became characterized by injustice (3:14-15; 5:7,22-23; 58:3-12; 59:14-15), moral degeneracy (5:11-12; 56:12) and violence (1:21; 59:3-8).
With the ascension of Ahaz to the throne, the spiritual apostasy of the heart became blatant religious apostasy. The worship of Jehovah, which had been carried on with outward regularity, was now rivaled and even replaced by open idolatry (2:6,8; 57:3-7). It appears that in the course of time, when faced with a national crisis in the form of foreign invasion, rather than forsaking their sins, the people forsook Jehovah their God (43:24; 65:2-4), even going so far as to instruct their prophets to consult mediums (8:19-20) while they cursed their God for bringing such a judgment upon them (8:21).
It is in this setting that Isaiah is divinely commissioned to bring the Word of God to the people of Judah (6:8-13). Isaiah’s commission was to faithfully proclaim the Word of God to a people who refused to heed it; indeed, Isaiah’s calling was to be the means of producing a judicial hardening upon the hearts of a defiant people. Jehovah commands Isaiah, “Cause the heart of the people to become callous. Cause their ears to become closed, and shut their eyes; so that they may not see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return to me and be healed.” (6:10) Isaiah’s continual preaching of the Word of God, following upon all the preaching done by all the previous prophets, would have the effect of making the people insensitive and unresponsive by virtue of the repetition of the message, especially in light of their present habit of unresponsiveness. Isaiah’s ministry to his contemporaries was a ministry of judgment, a ministry designed to produce hardening in the hearts of a people who for so long had refused to heed the Word of God. Ironically, the very message that was originally intended for salvation would now become to these people an instrument of judgment. How else could they be saved except by the preaching of God’s Word; declaring to them their sin and directing them to the Lord their Savior? Yet, the continued exposure to that sacred Word—without the response of faith and obedience—would result in the people becoming callous to that life-giving Word. What is present in Isaiah’ ministry to his contemporaries is a very mysterious and sobering phenomenon; it is a form of judgment enacted by God against those who have the privilege of hearing His Word, but who passively ignore or actively resist that sacred Word, and do so consistently and constantly. But, before we proceed, it must be pointed out that in the midst of this widespread apostasy, there were those who remained faithful to Jehovah and thereby proved themselves to be numbered among His redeemed (3:10; 8:16; 25:9; 26:8).
It was especially during the reign of King Ahaz that this process of judicial hardening was set in motion and that the apostate nation was consigned to face the judgment of which it was deserving. It was at this time that Judah found itself threatened by the nations of Israel and Syria who were aligned against it for the purpose of overthrowing it (7:2,6). In this time of crisis, brought upon the nation as a potential judgment because of their spiritual apostasy, Jehovah in His mercy sent the prophet Isaiah to King Ahaz with the counsel, “Do not be afraid.” (7:3-9) In other words, rather than fear the enemies aligned against them, the people of Judah should put their trust in Jehovah, returning to Him in submission and doing so with confidence. As an encouragement to faith and repentance, Jehovah condescends to perform for Ahaz whatever sign he might request (7:10-11). But Ahaz refuses to accept Jehovah’s offer (7:12). Employing the guise of humility, Ahaz seeks to conceal his determination to go his own way and seek his own “salvation.” As 2 Kings 16:7-8 reveal, Ahaz had resolved to put his trust in the mighty nation of Assyria for deliverance, rather than in the Lord the Almighty. Consequently, Jehovah declared that the Assyrian “redeemer” would become an instrument of judgment in His almighty hand (10:5-6), inflicting far worse calamity than that threatened by Israel and Syria (7:17,20).
Prior to the fulfillment of the divinely-pronounced judgment, Jehovah in His mercy did grant the nation of Judah a period of revival in the days of the godly King Hezekiah (32:1-8). Hezekiah was devoted to Jehovah and sought to bring the nation back to a true worship of Jehovah. But following this period of reformation, both as a time of testing and in fulfillment of His previous warning, Jehovah did allow the Assyrian armies to invade the land (2 Chronicles 31:20-32:1). It appears that the nation sought to ward off this crisis by offering to Jehovah a superabundance of superficial religious observance while holding onto their social and personal sins (1:7,10-17; 58:1-14). When these efforts failed, it appears that the nation rejected Jehovah, resorting to full-scale idolatry (8:19-21; 57:3-7). At the last moment, however, the remnant was spared, due to the intercession of their representative, the godly King Hezekiah. Unlike Ahaz, who had refused to put his trust in Jehovah, Hezekiah appealed to Jehovah with confidence for deliverance (37:1-4). Jehovah responded by destroying the Assyrian armies and sending King Sennacherib back home in disgrace (37:36-38).
When Hezekiah refused to imitate the unbelief of Ahaz, he proved to be the instrument of deliverance for his nation. But when he subsequently exhibited the devilish attribute of pride (note 14:12-14, which is speaking of the devil’s pride), he became the cause of his nation’s downfall. When Hezekiah entertains the Babylonian envoys who have come to him “from a far country,” his heart is filled with pride that he should be the object of such international attention and he takes this opportunity to show off all his wealth (39:1-2). Chapter 39 closes with the warning, “Look, the day is coming when everything that is in your palace … will be carried away to Babylon.” (39:6)
Whereas the former portion of the book (chapters 1-39) ends with an ominous word of future judgment, the latter portion of the book (chapters 40-66), for the most part, focuses on Jehovah’s covenant faithfulness and redeeming grace. This portion of the book foretells the overthrow of Babylon by Cyrus the Persian, resulting in the release of God’s people from their Babylonian captivity and their restoration to the Promised Land of Canaan. The description of Judah’s (Israel’s) return from Babylon to Canaan is often presented in eschatological terms, indicating that the historical deliverance is also a type of Jehovah’s final bringing of His people into His eschatological kingdom. The latter is a work of redemption that is accomplished not by Cyrus, but only by the true Redeemer of God’s people, the Servant of Jehovah (whom the New Testament reveals to be none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.) Thus it is that the latter portion of the Book of Isaiah contains some of the most outstanding prophecies of Christ and His redemptive work (42:1-7; 49:1-9; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12).
The Authorship of the Book
In 1789, operating from the assumptions of rationalism and anti-supernaturalism, Johann C. Doederlein, professor of theology at Jenna, propounded the view that the Book of Isaiah was in fact composed of two distinct volumes: Chapters 1-39 were written by the eighth century B.C. prophet named Isaiah, while Chapters 40-66 were authored by an unknown sixth century B.C. writer whom the critics would call “Deutero-Isaiah.” This basic view (there have been modifications over the years) was popularized in 1889 by George Adam Smith whose lectures on Isaiah “have exerted a tremendous influence throughout the English-speaking world” (E.J. Young, p. 203).
In addition to their arbitrary anti-supernatural bias (i.e.; their assertion that there can be no such thing as foreseeing historical events in the distant future by means of divine revelation), those who hold this view maintain that the prophets of Israel normally, if not exclusively, only brought messages that addressed the contemporary issues of their day (W. Fitch, p. 558). These critics further support their view by presenting alleged differences in subject matter (they maintain chapters 1-39 focus on Judah’s contemporary situation, while chapters 40-66 focus on the distant future from Isaiah’s perspective), alleged differences in language and alleged differences in theology (G. Archer, pp. 320-339).
In refutation of the Isaiah/Deutero-Isaiah view, we may briefly consider the following evidence. (Note: For further study of this subject, the student is referred to the bibliography that appears at the end of this article.)
Isaiah 40-66 is the necessary follow-up to the conclusion of chapter 39.
As Gleason Archer points out, “… chapters 38-39 lead up to the reason for the coming Babylonian Exile: the pride of Hezekiah in displaying his wealth to the Babylonian envoys. Hence chapter 39 closes with an ominous prediction of the Chaldean Captivity” (G. Archer, p. 325). Thus, the content of chapters 40-66, with their focus on the overthrow of Babylon and the deliverance of Judah from their captivity, serves as a most necessary part of Isaiah’s prophecy, assuring God’s covenant people of Jehovah’s faithfulness to them and to His covenant.
Chapters 1-39 also contain predictions of distant future events.
The claim of the critics is that the Old Testament prophets predominantly, if not exclusively, addressed their contemporaries and the historical situation with which they were presently confronted. Therefore, since chapters 40-66 focus on distant future historical events, from the perspective of eighth century B.C. Isaiah, those chapters must have been written some time in the sixth century B.C. after the events they describe. However, chapters 1-39 also contain prophecies of distant future events (from the perspective of the eighth century B.C.) For example, 7:14-16 foretell the Messiah’s coming; 9:1-2 foretell the Messiah’s earthly ministry and 9:6-7 foretell His future reign. Chapter 11:1-9 again reveals the Messiah’s righteous reign and His eschatological kingdom of universal peace. Chapters 13-14 form an oracle about the defeat of Babylon at the hands of the Medes (13:17). The fact that this oracle presents the destruction of Babylon in eschatological terms (13:5,10,13) indicates that the fall of historic Babylon was also a type of God’s final overthrow of the kingdom of man at the end of history.
The idolatry depicted and denounced in chapters 40-66 is pertinent to eighth century B.C. Judah, not the Exilic or Post-Exilic period.
Gleason Archer observes that the ritual prostitution referred to in such passages as 57:4-5, as well as the detestable practice of infant sacrifice, were elements belonging to the pagan idolatry rampant in Judah in the eighth century B.C. Archer goes on to state, “So far as the Post-Exilic period is concerned, it is agreed by scholars of every persuasion that the returning Jews who resettled Judah from 536 to 540 B.C. brought back no idol worship with them. The terrible ordeal of the Babylonian captivity had brought about a complete rejection of graven images on the part of the Jewish remnant … in light of this evidence, it is impossible to hold that Isaiah II (i.e.; chapters 40-66) was composed at any time after the Exile …” (G. Archer, pp. 330-331)
Linguistic evidence bears testimony to the unity of the entire book.
“The linguistic evidence is altogether adverse to the composition of Isaiah II (i.e.; chapters 40-66) in Babylon during the sixth century B.C. In the writings of Ezra and Nehemiah, who came from the region of Babylon … we have a fair sample of the type of Hebrew spoken by the Jews who returned from the Exile to Palestine and settled in their homeland during the fifth century B.C. These writings show a certain amount of linguistic intrusion from Aramaic and are studded with Babylonian terms. But there is complete absence of such influence in the language of Isaiah II. It is written in perfectly pure Hebrew, free from any post-Exilic characteristics and closely resembling the Hebrew of Isaiah I (i.e.; chapters 1-39)” (G. Archer, p. 337)
The failure to identify the “Deutero-Isaiah.”
“A most formidable difficulty is presented to the Deutero-Isaiah theory by the fact that the author’s name was not preserved. It is quite inconceivable that this name should have been forgotten had he been some individual other than the Eighth Century Isaiah himself … It is commonly conceded that the author of these passages (chapters 40-66) must be regarded as the greatest of all Old Testament prophets. How could it have come about that such a pre-eminent genius … should have been completely forgotten? … It should be observed in this connection that an almost invariable rule followed by the ancient Hebrews in regard to prophetic writings was that the name of the prophet was essential for the acceptance of any prophetic utterance … The Hebrews regarded the identity of the prophet as of utmost importance if his message was to be received as an authoritative declaration of a true statesman of the Lord … if the shortest, least-gifted of the minor prophets (Obadiah) was remembered by name in connection with his written message, it surely follows that the sublimest prophet the nation ever produced should have left his name to posterity. We must therefore conclude that the name of the author of Isaiah 40-66 has indeed been preserved and that it was the eighth century prophet himself” (G. Archer, pp. 336-337)
The witness of the New Testament.
“The most conclusive New Testament citation (testifying to the unity of the entire book of Isaiah) is John 12:38-41. Verse 38 quotes Isaiah 53:1; verse 40 quotes Isaiah 6:9-10. Then the inspired apostle comments in verse 41: ‘These things said Isaiah, when he saw his (Christ’s) glory, and spoke of him’” (G. Archer, p. 336). See also: ” What is the Deutero-Isaiah theory? @ http://wp.me/p26QNa-3LX .
May the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob bless and keep you and yours.
Archer, Gleason L. Jr.; A Survey of Old Testament Introduction; Moody Press, Chicago; 1964.
Fitch, W.; “Isaiah,” The New Bible Commentary; Edited by Prof. F. Davidson; The Inter-Varsity Fellowship, London; 1967 (8th reprinting of the Second Edition.)
Keil, C.F. & Franz Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Prophecies of Isaiah Vol. 1; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.; Grand Rapids MI; 1969 reprint.
Leupold, H.C.; Exposition of Isaiah; Baker Book House, Grand Rapids MI; 1985 (Fifth Printing.)
Young, Edward J.; An Introduction to the Old Testament; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids MI; 1969 (Fourth Printing.)
Many thanks for the informative post. I haven’t followed ‘authorship of Isaiah’ (or indeed any OT Scriptures), but I’m convinced by the ‘if it wasn’t Isaiah, then who was the author’ argument. Isaiah without the main Messianic prophecies of Isaiah 40 – 66 is basically Isaiah without Isaiah.
As far as New Testament authorship goes: there seems to have been a complete reversal. For example, JAT Robinson was very ‘liberal’ when it came to theology, but very conservative when it came to Scripture. His ‘Priority of John’ was considered eccentric at the time, but biblical scholarship is now turning in that direction (the conclusion that John’s gospel was indeed written by the beloved disciple). So the ‘most biblical scholars ….’ style of argument can be very mistaken and is often down to fashion. For the NT, the fashion seems to be going against late dating and authorship far from source and back to early dating with authorship close to source.
I’d be quite happy with a solution of the following type: Isaiah himself wrote down chapters 1 – 39; others wrote down the prophecies made by Isaiah which appear in the remainder of the book. The opening of Isaiah does indicate that he prophesied for a very long time. People change their styles. Just imagine writing this blog in 50 years time. Will the style remain the same?
Thank you, Jock, for your comment. It is greatly appreciated.
May the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob bless and keep you and yours.
Altruistico, I could say many things against your position but I feel as if I’d rather write a blog post in the future that did. For now, let me just correct one very big misunderstanding (falsehood) that you hold to: the Great Isaiah Scroll among the Dead Sea Scrolls does “not” have one continuous text that is unbroken. Quite to the contrary, there is a noticeable blank space gap around chapter 39-40 just around where scholars agree the authors change. I just got back from Israel and the Shrine of the Book exhibit where the scroll is displayed and can confirm this. You can see this with your own eyes at home if you use Google’s scanned copy of the scroll. The scribe who copied the Great Isaiah scroll was well aware of an authorial difference between the two halves of the book of Isaiah (it’s a phenomenon not seen in any other scroll).
So please, correct this. I’ve seen certain conservative scholars blatantly lie about this and I can see that you fell for it. Know in the future that if someone you trust repeats this misinformation, they are not worth your trust.
Matt – very interesting.
If there is a break, signifying two different books (or two different authors) then it seems to me that the author of Acts didn’t know about it, or at the very least didn’t seem to take it seriously. Referring to Isaiah 53 (the bit that is by deutero-Isaiah), the Ethiopian Eunuch ‘was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet.’ This could mean the book with Isaiah’s name on it, but referring to bits of it written by somebody else, but later it says, ‘Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet.’ It seems to me quite clear that the author of Acts, at least, assumed that these were the words of Isaiah the prophet. The Ethiopian eunuch wasn’t simply reading a book named Isaiah; he was reading the words of Isaiah the prophet.
This may seem picky on the grammar – and I’m only looking at the NIV translation – but it does seem to me that the author of Acts assumed that this was a prophecy by Isaiah the prophet (not a prophecy by one of the Isaiahs).
I’m looking forward to your blog post on the subject when you write it.
You are imposing a 21st century concept of authorship (intellectual property and copyright) on to a first century comment. I see it happen all the time and it is one of the primary faulty arguments used by the one author defenders. References such as you mentioned, (and there are plenty others) are place markers, not claims of authorship. Think of it as the earliest form of giving a scripture reference and you would be much closer to hitting the mark.
Beejai – well, I think it was also a 1st century AD concept of authorship.
For example (following Martin Hengel ‘The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ’) consider the question of why Mark’s gospel is included in the canon when it doesn’t seem to add much that you don’t find in Matthew and Luke. The early fathers were keenly aware that Mark’s gospel goes right back to Peter.
I think they were well aware of authorship issues back then – especially with something as important as the prophecies of Isaiah 40 – 66, they really did want to know that these were made by somebody who had been called by God to the prophetic office and who was faithful to his calling.
I don’t believe that the NT authors would have taken such a relaxed and cavalier approach to the origins of the prophecies of Isaiah.
Two things about Mark: it came first. It was already an established source when the others were written to the degree that Matthew and Luke both used it as source material. Also, how does the epistle of Hebrews fit into this theory?
There is nothing “relaxed and cavalier” about their approach. It was simply a different time, different mindset, and different priorities. The fact that you would consider it so *still* demonstrates that you are imposing modern sensibilities on the issue.
Beejai – Hengel takes the view that there was a proto-Matthew before the Matthew that we now have – and that the order of the gospels is the order in which they were written.
As I indicated earlier, I think we’ll discover (in the next life when we find the answers to these things) that Hebrews was written by a known person, a person of status, who was known to be called by God and had been true to his calling – and that the early fathers (responsible for the books handed down) were aware of the author’s identity.
Theories along these lines tend to make much more sense to me than theories that suggest anonymous authorship, or heavy editing. I think that the texts we have go back to source.
By the way, I don’t know you (so I don’t know if you’re a ‘bible scholar’ or not). I’m a simple mathematician; I don’t have time for much theology; I’m simply an ‘interested amateur’. All we can do on this blog is point each other to sources and arguments that we have enjoyed.
As far as dating Scripture and process of writing is concerned, I’ve only ever looked at a little of the New Testament arguments. The books that I found interesting and which shaped my thinking on these matters were:
JAT Robinson: The Priority of John
Martin Hengel: The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ
Richard Bauckham: Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.
If you have any interesting and easily readable on Isaiah that you could point me to, I’d be grateful.
I think you make point. Thanks for your observation.
I am happy to receive your comments and equally happy to address them. However, I see no reason to correct anything I have stated as no evidence of which you have supplied is either conclusive nor compelling.
Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation and the Chairperson of the Board of Directors and Executive Director are based in Jerusalem and the U.S. office is in Warsaw, Indiana; some 80 miles from my residence and often visited. Almost all of the scrolls are in Jerusalem. A few are in Jordan, Europe, and the USA. The few scrolls on display at the Shrine of the Book are accessible to all. Most of the others, extremely fragile and many fragmentary, are stored on the campus of the Israel Museum in a small temperature and humidity controlled vault. Any scholar who has a legitimate reason to view the actual scrolls may receive permission to do so, but they are rarely seen except by those who are preparing them for publication or re-photography.
4Q Isaiah Pesher b (4Q162 [4QpIs b])
A Pesher is a kind of commentary on the Bible that was common in the community that wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls. This kind of commentary is not an attempt to explain what the Bible meant when it was originally written, but rather what it means in the day and age of the commentator, particularly for his own community. In the Isaiah Pesher, or commentary on the book of Isaiah, a verse or verses from Isaiah are quoted. Then the commentary begins, often introduced by the word “pesher,” or “the interpretation of the word…” If we were to write a commentary in this way today we might quote a bible verse and then say, “and the meaning of the verse is…” and go on to show the significance of the verse for our own church, synagogue, or society.
This particular manuscript quotes several verses from Isaiah 5 concerning punishment or destruction, and applies them to the “arrogant men” who are in Jerusalem. We know from other scrolls at Qumran that the people who wrote many of the scrolls had serious conflicts and disagreements with the religious leaders in Jerusalem over the proper way to conduct worship in the Temple. Most scholars think that the community of the Dead Sea Scrolls was led by a group of priests who thought that the Jerusalem priests were corrupt. The group at Qumran therefore started their own community in which they tried to live pure and righteous lives, away from the corrupting influence of Jerusalem.
Some background for readers:
The Dead Sea Scrolls are considered by many to be the single most important archaeological manuscript find of the twentieth century. They represent more than 1400 original documents, some complete or nearly complete (such as the Great Isaiah Scroll), but many quite fragmentary. There are about 100,000 fragments in all. Most of the scrolls are made of dried animal skins (parchment), and some of the larger ones stretch as long as 30 feet.
Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts were written on the scrolls in columns. Containing all or part of every book of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) with the exception of Esther, the scrolls also include many non-biblical books, some previously known only in Greek or other languages, but now found in Hebrew. There are also a number of previously unknown compositions.
The majority of the scrolls were discovered in caves along the western shore of the Dead Sea from 1947 to 1956. The most famous of these are the eleven caves near Qumran, where a community lived which some scholars identify as Essenes, a Jewish sect known to have existed elsewhere in Israel during the Second Temple period, which includes the time of Jesus. Scrolls were also discovered at several other locations north and south of Qumran, and in the 1960s scrolls were unearthed during the excavation of Masada. A few have been discovered during the past decades.
The scrolls comprise, among other things, the oldest copies of parts of the Bible in existence. The Qumran scrolls date from approximately 250 B.C. to about 65 A.D., and at some other locations to about 135 A.D. Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest existing manuscripts of parts of the Hebrew Bible came from about 800-1,000 A.D. The oldest complete copy of the Hebrew Bible, the Leningrad (St. Petersburg) Codex, dates to 1008 A.D. This means that the Dead Sea Scrolls provide us with texts of the Bible copied more than 1000 years earlier than any others now in existence!
The scrolls are also important because they have enabled scholars to gather an immense amount of information about how the Bible was written and how it was transmitted from generation to generation. In many cases, the scrolls show a remarkable similarity to the text of the Hebrew Bible currently in use. In some cases differences between the scrolls and the traditional Hebrew text help explain difficulties in the present Hebrew Bible, and most modern translations of the Bible (such as the NIV) incorporate some of the new information from the scrolls.
Another crucial feature of the scrolls is the picture they portray of the Judaism of Jesus’ day. The scrolls show that Judaism in that period was more diverse than was once thought, and the literary parallels between the Gospels and the literature of Qumran demonstrate several instructive points of contact between Jesus’ teaching and the Judaism of his day.
The Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaa) is one of the original seven Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in Qumran in 1947. It is the largest (734 cm) and best preserved of all the biblical scrolls, and the only one that is almost complete. The 54 or 55 columns contain all 66 chapters of the Hebrew version of the biblical Book of Isaiah. Dating from ca. 125 BCE, it is also one of the oldest of the Dead Sea Scrolls, some one thousand years older than the oldest manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible known to us before the scrolls’ discovery.
The version of the text is generally in agreement with the Masoretic or traditional version codified in medieval codices, such as the Aleppo Codex, but it contains many variant readings, alternative spellings, scribal errors, and corrections. Unlike most of the biblical scrolls from Qumran, it exhibits a very full orthography (spelling), revealing how Hebrew was pronounced in the Second Temple Period. Around twenty additional copies of the Book of Isaiah were also found at Qumran (one more copy was discovered further south at Wadi Muraba’at), as well as six pesharim (commentaries) based on the book; Isaiah is also frequently quoted in other scrolls (a literary and religious phenomenon also present in New Testament writings). The authoritative and scriptural status of the Book of Isaiah is consistent with the messianic beliefs of the community living at Qumran, since Isaiah is known for his prophecies of judgment and consolation, and his visions of the End of Days and the coming of the Kingdom of God.
Modern scholarship considers the Book of Isaiah to be an anthology, the two principal compositions of which are the Book of Isaiah proper (chapters 1-39, with some exceptions), containing the words of the prophet Isaiah himself, dating from the time of the First Temple, around 700 BCE, and Second Isaiah (Deutero-Isaiah, chapters 40-66), comprising the words of an anonymous prophet, who lived some one hundred and fifty years later, around the time of the Babylonian exile and the restoration of the Temple in the Persian Period. By the time our Isaiah Scroll was copied (the last third of the second century BCE), the book was already regarded as a single composition.
Several prophesies appearing in the Book of Isaiah have become cornerstones of Judeo-Christian civilization. Perhaps the most renowned of these is Isaiah’s vision of universal peace at the End of Days: “And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks: Nation shall not take up sword against nation; they shall never again know war” (2:4).
I have no reason to doubt you recently visited Israel and the Shrine of the Book; however, as noted above there have been some 20 additional copies of the Book of Isaiah which were also found at Qumran (one more copy was discovered further south at Wadi Muraba’at) and perhaps this is the copy of which you saw during your visit.
I am going to add a web site here of which will reveal the actual the book of Isaiah concealed within a temperature controlled vault at the University of Israel. This is to show you and others that there is no tear in the original scroll of which you have alleged. Simply click onto the scroll before you and you may scroll from left to right and up and down throughout the entire 54 or 55 columns and the full 66 books f Isaiah.
It is as follows: http://dss.collections.imj.org.il/isaiah#23:9 …..
I wish to thank you for your time and patience, Matt. Both are greatly appreciated.
May the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob bless and keep you and yours.
Interesting commentary, I just finished reading through Isaiah. Looking forward to any additional “rabbit path” discussion.
Is there any extra biblical evidence that the Isaiah of the bible actually existed and wasn’t just a character in the story of the bible?
Extra-Biblical, no. However he is mentioned in two other books of the Bible written contemporaneously by different men (2 Kings 19-20, 2 Chronicles 26,32)
The reigning kings during his lifetime both Judaen and Assyrian have all been identified archaeologically and two key facts from Isaiah’s time (the tunnel redirecting the waters of Siloam and the siege but failure to conquer Jerusalem) are also verified archaeologically. It is no surprise he is not found outside these references as almost nobody outside of kings and rulers has had their names preserved from that time to this.
We do have a nearly complete copy of the entire scroll dating back to about 150 years before Christ. Outside of minor spelling and punctuation differences, it is virtually unchanged from much later manuscripts and proof that scribes and copyists took great care to pass on the writing exactly as it was given to them.
Tisk, tisk, tisk with this question Kia.
The Bible critic runs around like a scavenger looking for an error, not reason. As they come upon a pebble of doubt, they throw it out as though it were a boulder of truth against God. Six months later, an archaeologist digging in Bible lands somewhere finds something that utterly and entirely removes this critic’s evidence. Does the critic even lean a little closer to God? No, because Christian evidence, no matter how weighty, does not exist on the critic’s agenda, which is to sow seeds of doubt regarding the Bible’s authenticity. Even if the Ark of the Covenant with the Ten Commandments and Aaron’s rod that budded were to be located, the critic would still maintain their stand because the unearthing of these objects does not meet their agenda.
For example, the Bible critic will argue from silence, saying ‘Belshazzar of the Bible has not been found in secular history, we have no evidence that he ever existed.’ Now, say a year later, a piece of a tablet is found that mentions Belshazzar (this has actually happened), and in connection with the historical account in the Bible. Well, that critic does not draw closer to where the evidence is pointing; he throws it out, dismissing it as though he never raised the argument, and runs to look for another. This same Bible critic then argues that Shalmaneser never existed, ‘there is no evidence to support his existence,’ he says. A short time later, archaeological evidence comes to light that supports Shalmaneser’s existence. Yet, this critic is off to his next claim without even a hint of doubting his doubt. Sadly this circle of madness just keeps going.
Oh, I disagree. While I have absolutely no doubt that a real person named Isaiah did exist I was genuinely interested in finding out what other sources, biblical and extra biblical reference him.
Biblical manuscripts are forms of archaeological evidence contrary to the Bible critics. The historical record belongs to the rich, the powerful, and the famous. There is a reason an Aleander the Great would be mentioned, he fits all the of those categories. Hidstorians in ancient time seldom mention the obscure farmer, unless he did something standoutish. Isaiah the prophet was not a rich, powerful, famous person, like some of the prominant Israelite kings were. However, the history that surrounds his life and work from the eighth century B.C.E. is very much recorded in history and archaeology.
Two things: 1) While you are right, manuscripts are a form of archaeological evidence, they don’t carry the same weight as some other forms for legitimate reason. For example, the Isaiah manuscript I mentioned dates back to around 150BC. That is still hundreds of years after the events and prophesies were first written. This doesn’t compete as far as verifying historical records nearly as well as Hezekiah’s Tunnel inscription which is a stone inscription from that time indicating that the tunnel bringing the water from Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam was built at Hezekiah’s command. (see 2 Chronicles 32)
2) Isaiah wasn’t some poor obscure farmer. He was a minor aristocrat and an adviser to at least two of the four kings who reigned during his lifetime.
That would be your opinion. If we went by your argument, we would erase many people from history because most ancient people do not have historical information that is dated to their time. Most are hundreds if not a thousand years removed. Biblical manuscripts date closer than most other writings. The Bible critic likes to devalue manuscripts as if they are inferior. Enough said on this thread. It is the same tired arguments. Isaiah did not have a status outside of Isreal like an Alexander the Great would have had outside of Macedonia.
As I said above:
“I have absolutely no doubt that a real person named Isaiah did exist.”
“You are right, manuscripts are a form of archaeological evidence.”
Thank you very much for your willingness to come on to this page and engage in discussion. I gladly welcome you to return often in the future. When you do, though, please read what others are commenting and respond to it rather than just railing against straw men. I love good discussion but quickly tire of pointless argument. Thank you and God bless.