Book of Isaiah

Joshua 1:1 as recorded in the Aleppo Codex
The Book of Isaiah (Hebrew: ספר ישעיהו‬, IPA: ) is the first of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible and the first of the Major Prophets in the Christian Old Testament.[1] It is identified by a superscription as the words of the 8th-century BCE prophet Isaiah ben Amoz, but there is extensive evidence that much of it was composed during the Babylonian captivity and later.[2] Bernhard Duhm originated the view, held as a consensus through most of the 20th century, that the book comprises three separate collections of oracles:[3][4] Proto-Isaiah (chapters 1–39), containing the words of Isaiah; Deutero-Isaiah (chapters 40–55), the work of an anonymous 6th-century BCE author writing during the Exile; and Trito-Isaiah (chapters 56–66), composed after the return from Exile.[5] While virtually no scholars today attribute the entire book, or even most of it, to one person,[3] the book's essential unity has become a focus in current research. Isaiah 1–33 promises judgment and restoration for Judah, Jerusalem and the nations, and chapters 34–66 presume that judgment has been pronounced and restoration follows soon.[6] It can thus be read as an extended meditation on the destiny of Jerusalem into and after the Exile.[7]

The Deutero-Isaian part of the book describes how God will make Jerusalem the centre of his worldwide rule through a royal saviour (a messiah) who will destroy her oppressor (Babylon); this messiah is the Persian king Cyrus the Great, who is merely the agent who brings about Yahweh's kingship.[8] Isaiah speaks out against corrupt leaders and for the disadvantaged, and roots righteousness in God's holiness rather than in Israel's covenant.[9] Isaiah 44:6 contains the first clear statement of monotheism: "I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no God".[10] This model of monotheism became the defining characteristic of post-Exilic Judaism, and the basis for Christianity and Islam.[11]

Isaiah was one of the most popular works among Jews in the Second Temple period (c. 515 BCE – 70 CE).[12] In Christian circles, it was held in such high regard as to be called "the Fifth Gospel",[13] and its influence extends beyond Christianity to English literature and to Western culture in general, from the libretto of Handel's Messiah to a host of such everyday phrases as "swords into ploughshares" and "voice in the wilderness".[14]

The scholarly consensus which held sway through most of the 20th century saw three separate collections of oracles in the book of Isaiah.[3] A typical outline based on this understanding of the book sees its underlying structure in terms of the identification of historical figures who might have been their authors:[16]

While one part of the consensus still holds – virtually no contemporary scholar maintains that the entire book, or even most of it, was written by one person – this perception of Isaiah as made up of three rather distinct sections underwent a radical challenge in the last quarter of the 20th century.[18] The newer approach looks at the book in terms of its literary and formal characteristics, rather than authors, and sees in it a two-part structure divided between chapters 33 and 34:[19]

Seeing Isaiah as a two-part book (chapters 1–33 and 34–66) with an overarching theme leads to a summary of its contents like the following:[8]

The older understanding of this book as three fairly discrete sections attributable to identifiable authors leads to a more atomised picture of its contents, as in this example:

While it is widely accepted that the book of Isaiah is rooted in a historic prophet called Isaiah, who lived in the Kingdom of Judah during the 8th century BCE, it is also widely accepted that this prophet did not write the entire book of Isaiah.[7][23] The observations which have led to this are as follows:

This page was last edited on 27 June 2018, at 21:12 (UTC).
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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