Monday, December 13, 2010

Who Wrote Isaiah? Part 1

Photo of the Book of Isaiah page of the Bible ...Image via Wikipedia
In a recent post, I critiqued a post from John Loftus in which a book by Jonathon Pearce is promoted. The book is called  Free Will?: An investigation into whether we have free will, or whether I was always going to write this book. There was a quote from the book suggesting that God only care about Israel and never intervened in the lives of anyone other people in the Old Testament. I gave several examples of how the Bible does not support this.

Ryan Anderson seems to be very interested in commenting and trying to "debunk" the things I write. I thank God for that because at least he reads what I write. Amazingly, his problem with the post isn't with my point...it's with one of the texts I referenced Isaiah 45:13. What I wrote was:

It's a bold statement to say that God did not intervene in any of the rest of the world outside of Israel during antiquity. How would you know that? God plainly says He is in control of everything - not just with what concerns Israel. A simple example: God claims that Cyrus is his agent centuries before Cyrus is even born.

"I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make all his ways straight. He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free, but not for a price or reward, says the LORD Almighty.”
- Isaiah 45:13

Cyrus was the emperor of the Persian Empire who ended the 70 year exile of the Jews after the destruction of Jerusalem and the first Temple in 586 BC. Isaiah was written in the 8th Century BC.

Ryan Anderson Wrote:

Two points on Isaiah, 1) since the earliest manuscript of Isaiah is from the 1st century BCE, that "prophecy" is less than amazing... and 2) we have three different Isaiah authors, one for 1-39, another for 40-55 and another for 56-66. You can't use the date for chapters 1-39 for the other sections and claim "prophecy".

The ensuing exchange culminated in his asking me to explain why do I reject multiple authorship theories for the book of Isaiah. I am going to reference a few outside references. I do not see any reason to believe that the prophet and priest known as Isaiah did not write all 66 Chapters of Isaiah.

What are the reasons why people advance the ideas of multiple authors of Isaiah?


The critical schools deny that Isaiah wrote the latter chapters of 40-66 for basically three reasons. First the name of Isaiah is not mentioned in these chapters, second the material does not seem to fit the time period of Isaiah and third the style of Hebrew is different from the rest of Isaiah.a
From another source.

Advocates of this theory attempt to demonstrate that the style, theology and background of Isaiah 1–39 are unlike those of either 40–55 or 56–66.Second Isaiah—but not First—they argue, depicts God in purely monotheistic terms. Also, First Isaiah is seen as a prophet of judgment, who placed his hopes on the Davidic king, and Second Isaiah a prophet of comfort who pinned his expectations on the Lord’s suffering servant.

More substantial are the arguments focusing on the backgrounds of the respective chapters.The Old Testament prophets in general are widely understood to have written from their own unique historical situations.Even if one acknowledges that Isaiah could have predicted the Babylonian captivity, it is argued, it is unlikely that he wrote chapters 40–55,since those texts were written from within the context of captivity. Also, the Persian king Cyrus (c.539 B.C.) is mentioned by name in 44:28 and 45:1, 13, suggesting that Cyrus was a contemporary of the author of chapters 40–55.The background of Third Isaiah is posited to be different again. By this point Jerusalem had been rebuilt, its citizens no longer under threat from either Assyria or Babylon.b

Who were the First to Advance these Ideas?

I. Period Before Modern Critical Scholarship

  1. The first person to question Isaiah's authorship of chapters 40-66 was Moses ibn Gekatilla (2nd century A.D.)
    1. His views were preserved and adopted by a prominent medieval Jewish scholar, Ibn Ezra.

II. Period of Modern Scholarship

  1. The German Johann Doederlein (lived in the 1700s)
    1. In 1789 he argued that chapters 40-66 were written during the exile
    2. He made this assertion because he couldn't believe that an eighth century writer could have predicted the fall of Jerusalem (587 B.C.), much less the rise of Cyrus the Great, who restored the exiles in 538 B.C.
  2. Ernst Rosenmueller from Leipzig (1768-1835)
    1. He expressed doubts about chapters 13 and 14.
    2. His reasoning was, "If Isaiah could not have written chapters 40-66 because it predicts things he never saw, how could he have written a similar set of predictions in these chapters?"
      1. Rosenmueller began the process of denying Isaiah's authorship of much of chapters 1-39.
  3. Bernard Duhm and K. Marti - Rise of Trito-Isaiah Theory
    1. Around the turn of the last century--from 1892 to 1900) Bernard Duhm and K. Marti claimed that they had found evidence--from the text of Isaiah itself--that chapters 56-66 were written by Trito-Isaiah (and should be separated from chapters 40-55).
      1. They argued that Trito-Isaiah wrote his material in Jerusalem around the time of Ezra (450 B.C.)
      2. Duhm argued that Jewish writers inserted their own writings throughout the book of Isaiah (as late as the first century B.C.).
      3. In this view the book of Isaiah--far from being the work of one man, was a patchwork quilt of helter-skelter insertions and editings by anonymous Jews.
(See Reference c)

My Take


As I stated in my arguments in my comments in the other thread there is no reason at all to add more than one author. A change in subject from chapters 1-39, 40-55, and 56-66 do not at all mean that someone else is writing. From the first century, Jews understood that the Messiah was coming through David. There is no change in subject matter...it is all about God. Isaiah contains not just the promise of the Messiah but also the punishment and exile of Judah, and it's restoration!!! The return from Babylon and the future restoration of the world to true peace.

He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. - Isaiah 2:4

Added to the fact that people supposed multiple authors because they could not understand how a man could give such details to things that he did not see or experience. I don't understand the confusion. It's simple: That is what one would expect from a true prophet of the true and living God.


For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit
.- 2 Peter 1:21

I also came across this detailed well-crafted essay:
Authorship Analysis of the Book of Isaiah

Further references:
a. Isaiah
b. Multiple Authorship Theories of Isaiah
c.Multiple Authorship Theories of Isaiah
d. Authorship Analysis of the Book of Isaiah
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11 comments:

  1. Wow, weak. You basically found some sources that agreed with you, made some unrelated assertions and called it a day. Wow...

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  2. No, unrelated assertions here. I think you need to read more carefully. The sources explain why there is good reason to believe Isaiah had a single author. In addition I said that there is every reason to accept that the Prophecies are true and independent of time since there is no evidence to the contrary. What else would you expect from God? It goes to what "prophecy" is as well as what scripture is! If you think anything in this post is unrelated...it just goes to show how misunderstood you really are.

    Who said anything about this subject being closed? You did see the title? Guess not. I thought "Part 1" was self-explanatory. But I will try to explain it - This is going to be a multi-part post and in each of the succeeding parts will individually deal with the contentions in the works you cited in the other threads.

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  3. you need luck more than I do. I have about 2,700 years of folks reading Isaiah the way I do. you have 100.

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  4. Funny, the very articles you just posted say Duetero-Isaiah has been around for between 800 and 1800 years and Trito-Isaiah for 210.

    But seriously, good luck, if you can pull this off, you should try sitting for your PhD somewhere. I'm rooting for you.

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  5. If I may restate what I see to be your central argument so far. You are simply asserting that you don’t believe a change in style, language, theology indicates that there were multiple authors. You are free to believe that, but why? When we read the Silmarillion against the Lord of the Rings (or to a greater extent the crappy new Dune books vs. the original series, etc… etc…), we can see the influence of another author for exactly the reasons you are claiming don’t necessarily indicate that there is another author.

    In Miller’s article, the author spends most of his time fighting a strawman (a trap you fall into as well) and only addressing the real arguments on the most superficial level. The motives of “liberal” scholars are really irrelevant to their arguments. Do the change in style, language, theology disappear because a particular scholar doesn’t believe prophecy is possible? No, of course they do not. There are real textual issues that were hardly addressed at all.

    I would recommend finding a scholarly work that supports your position on textual/critical grounds (if you can) and skip the ones that support your argument mainly on theological grounds. I do suspect you have rather slim pickings though.

    Also, if you can somehow successfully refute a host of modern and pre-modern scholars on textual/critical grounds, you still have to show that it’s not possible for a copyist or editor to have inserted those “prophetic” details and names anytime over the 400+ years between Cyrus and our earliest existing manuscript of Isaiah. That’ll be the real trick…

    In the end, I suspect this will be another case where you’ll need to retreat to what is merely possible, no matter how improbable, to maintain your position.

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  6. Ryan, as always you don't understand. I'm saying that there is no shift in theology!

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  7. Of course there is, but for your sake, let me restate the question. Do the change in style and language disappear because a particular scholar doesn’t believe prophecy is possible? No, of course they do not. There are real textual issues that were hardly addressed at all.

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  8. Seriously, you don't have to be a biblical scholar to notice this change. Next time you read Isaiah, take note of the shift, it's striking, especially when you are suddenly hit with psalms after reading 40 chapters of dense prose.

    Isaiah 39:5-8

    Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD Almighty: The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the LORD. And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”

    “The word of the LORD you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my lifetime.”

    Isaiah 40:1-2

    Comfort, comfort my people,
    says your God.
    Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and proclaim to her
    that her hard service has been completed,
    that her sin has been paid for,
    that she has received from the LORD’s hand
    double for all her sins.

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  9. One writer can't write prose and poetry in the same book?!!? Now that is truly a silly assertion. Exodus contains both prose and poetry. So does Job. Why should that prove that there are multiple authors? Really? I mean C'mon.

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