Continuity and Discontinuity: Chronological and Thematic Development in Isaiah 40-66

978-3-525-53614-8This volume of collected essays focuses on the relationship between the different texts within Isaiah 40–66. It reinvestigates and challenges the traditional division between chapters 40–55 and 56–66 and explores new ways of reading the last 27 chapters of the book of Isaiah. Each article examines Isaiah 40–55 and/or Isaiah 56–66 and highlights continuity and discontinuity within this material.

Some contributions belong to the tradition of historical-critical research. They examine existing models of textual development of Isa 40–66 and offer new suggestions. They also explore the interplay between the historical development of the text and its thematic continuity and discontinuity. Is the consistent use of a theme a sign of single authorship? Alternatively, are changes in the way a given issue is treated a sign of multiple authorship? Other contributions explore the final form of Isa 40–66 and suggest reading strategies that do justice to the message of the extant text. Yet other articles make case studies of specific elements of Isa 40–66. What is the significance of these texts for the theological development of the ancient Israelite religion? Further, how do they interact with and transform other texts in the Hebrew Bible?

The volume is comprised of the following:

 

1

2

If the present work demonstrates anything, it is that we have come a very long way from the early days of the historical-critical method as practiced on the book of Isaiah.  Along with the introductory essay, that by Barstad is particularly insightful and full of helpful guidance on the subject.   He discusses the general view of scholars concerning the book, then discusses why a new reading is necessary which is followed and illustrated by a series of test cases including Isaiah 56:1-8, 59, and 56:3-12.   His conclusion is that we can no longer

… keep up artificial scholarly units (p. 61)

like Proto, Deutero, and Trito Isaiah.  He continues, suggesting that, as he sees it,

… the by far most important message in Isaiah 56-66 is promotion and upgrading of the Sabbath in the Jerusalem congregation (p. 61).

Each of the essays in the volume is like that.  That is, they address common presumptions concerning various aspects of Isaiah 40-66 and then either debunk them or turn the focus towards another aspect (or facet) of the 2nd and 3rd Isaiah.

While each contribution has merits of its own, the outstanding pieces, for this reviewer, were those of Barstad, Blenkinsopp, Schaper, Schmid, and Williamson.  Schmid’s is the most technically demanding and Blenkinsopp’s the most engaging in presentation.  The volume itself sprang from a conference of the same title held at the University of Aberdeen October 7-8 in 2011.  If interested persons are looking for further descriptions of the essays herein, they can simply go to the link above and there they will discover the Table of Contents along with the Foreword, where each essay is summarized by the volume’s editors and nearly half of the first essay on the History of Research.

This volume will be of interest to students of the Hebrew Bible and in particular those working specifically on the second and third segments of the Isaianic corpus.  I can recommend it without hesitation.  Readers will learn a good bit, and enjoy themselves while doing so.

[Those wanting to can get it from V&R or in North America from ISD].