Isaiah: The Prophet and his Book

One of the major flashpoints in academic biblical studies in the past 125 years has centred on the authorship and dating of the book of Isaiah. Beginning in the late 1800s, some scholars suggested that this book may have been written by multiple people over a period of centuries, a view that contrasts with the traditional one that the entire book of Isaiah was written in the eighth century BC by the Judean prophet Isaiah ben Amoz. Because for many conservative scholars the latter position is the only one that respects the divine inspiration of the text, and because they also believe that this position is endorsed by Jesus in the New Testament, the differing conclusions of mainstream and conservative scholars regarding the authorship and dating of the book of Isaiah have long served to divide these groups.

Bind Up the Testimony—a collection of essays from a colloquium held at Wheaton College in 2013—brings together a variety of evangelical responses to this issue. Several authors suggest that the book of Isaiah cannot be related as a whole to the historical Isaiah of the eighth century before Christ. As we know from the prophet Jeremiah, it may be that pupils of prophets wrote down the prophecies and certainly there was redaction in regard of order. But when the relation between the historical prophet and the message of his book is loosened this undermines the full authority. The authority of the prophetical books is based on the fact the prophet who uttered the prophecies was called by the LORD. This fact is underlined by John W. Hilber in his article ‘Isaiah as Prophet and Isaiah as Book in Their Ancient Near Eastern Context’.

In Bind Up the Testimony four authors arrive at fully conservative conclusions regarding the author-ship and dating of the book of Isaiah. Two them wrote a commentary on Isaiah, namely (Gary V. Smith in the series New American Commentary and John Oswalt in the series New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Both authors wrote two volumes: one on Isaiah 1-39 and one Isaiah 40-66. Just as my Dutch colleague prof. dr. Mart Jan Paul I think that loosening the relationship between the prophet Isaiah and his book undermines it divine authority. For them who can read Dutch I point to the third chapter of his recent publication Struikelblokken, Veertig vragen bij het Oude Testament.

Daniel I. Block and Richard L. Schultz (ed.), Bind Up the Testimony: Explorations in the Genesis of the Book of Isaiah (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2015), paperback 354 pp., $39,95 (ISBN 9781619705999)

Dr. Mart Jan Paul, Struikelblokken. Veertig vragen bij het Oude Testament (Apeldoorn: De Banier, 2020), paperback 297 pp., €16,95 (ISBN 9789087182854)

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