With its 66 chapters, the Book of
Isaiah is the longest prophetic book of the Old Testament. Most
scholars agree that the book falls naturally into two major sections, Chapters
1-39 and Chapters 40-66.
The first section has a distinctive style which changes
noticeably in the final section. This is easy to
remember since it parallels the Bible itself, having
39 books in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. Now,
I would not encourage this since the chapter
divisions in the Bible, as we know them, were added in
the 13th century.
The Deutero-Isaiah Theory
The "textual critics" have insisted that the Book of Isaiah
is a compilation of two different writers, each calling himself Isaiah but
writing at different times. This "Deutero-Isaiah"
theory is surprisingly prevalent in many modern ("liberal") commentaries.
The first section of the book deals with God's approaching
judgment on the nation of Judah. In some of the
most striking passages in all the Bible, the prophet announces that God will
punish His people because of their sin, rebellion, and worship of false gods.
first section includes several
references to the coming Messiah, including His virgin birth and
His rule on the
throne of David, the style of this section is distinctively
harsh, and certainly fits the subject matter.
The second section,
Chapters 40-66, in contrast to the first, is
noticeably different. It emphasizes the
Messianic expectation and an ultimate comfort for God's people,
and therefore are written with a softer genre. Most of Handel's Messiah
was drawn from this section of the Book of Isaiah. The
heart of Isaiah's stunning prophecy occurs in Chapter
53, as he presents the role of the coming Messiah in
its highest point. Some call this passage the
"Holy of Holies" of the Old Testament. The Servant's suffering and death and the
redemptive nature of His mission are clearly foretold.
Although mankind deserved God's judgment because "we have
turned, every one, to his own way," God sent His Servant to take away our sins.
According to Isaiah, it is through His suffering that we are
reconciled with God, since "the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all."
It is primarily on the basis of the stylistic changes between
the two sections that critics have developed the Deutero-Isaiah theory.
Those who assign Chapters 40-66 to a "Second
Isaiah" point out that the two major sections of the book seem to be set in
different times. Chapters 1-39 clearly belong to
the eighth century BC, a
turbulent period in the history of Judah.
However, Isaiah 40-66, according to
these scholars, seem to be addressed to the citizens of Judah who were being
held as captives in Babylon about two centuries after Isaiah lived and
prophesied. These scholars also point to the
differences in tone, language, and style between the two major sections as proof
that the book was written by two different authors.
The Traditional View
There are, however, conservative scholars who insist the
entire book was written by the famous prophet Isaiah who ministered in the
southern kingdom of Judah for 40 years, from about 740-700
BC. They point out that the two sections
of the book have many similarities, although they are dramatically different in
tone and theme. Many phrases and ideas that are
peculiar to Isaiah appear in both sections of the book.
A good example of this is Isaiah's unique reference to God as
"the Holy One of Israel." The appearance of
these words and phrases can be used to argue just as convincingly that the book
was written by a single author.
In the second section of his book, Isaiah looked into the
future and predicted the years of the Captivity and the return of the Covenant
People to their homeland after the Captivity ended. If
the prophet could predict the coming of the Messiah over 700 years before that
happened, he could certainly foresee this major event in the future of the
nation of Judah.
The style of each section deliberately matches its subject
The Effect of the Valley of
Doubts about the authorship and authenticity of any book in
the Bible can have tragic consequences for those who are attempting to take the
Bible seriously. As I look back on my own
spiritual journey, I recall the many years that these views introduced a subtle
doubt in my mind and hampered my early growth in the
Is there a way to resolve this without getting drawn into the
distressing debates and arrogant displays among those
erudite scholars and "textual critics"? Indeed,
there is. If I had
discovered it earlier in my own travels through God's wondrous Word,
I could have save myself about two years of 'extra curricular' study.
A Discovery in John 12
John 12 helps us to see the truth!
Verses 37-41 save us all kinds of time and energy
looking for the truth.
37] But though He
had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on
38] That the saying of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke,
Lord, who has believed our report? and to whom has
the arm of the Lord been revealed?
39] Therefore they could not believe, because that Isaiah said again,
40] He has blinded their eyes, and hardened their
heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their
heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.
41] These things said Isaiah, when he saw his glory, and spoke
of Him. KJV ER"
In this passage we first encounter a quote, in verse 38,
familiar to many of you, that begins the famous chapter of Isaiah 53.
This would be in the section attributed to the "Second Isaiah."
In verse 40 we have a quote from Isaiah Chapter 6,
verse. 10, and verse 41 also highlights what occurs
when Isaiah beholds the throne of God. This is,
of course, attributed to the "First
But the Lord once again graces us with the
truth in verse 39. Notice that John tells
us that "that Isaiah said again" when he links the two passages and,
as a result, attributes them both to "that" (same) Isaiah!
If you take John seriously, and recognize the
inspiration of the Holy Spirit, then you need not doubt the authorship of Isaiah
- both "sections." There was only one
Isaiah who penned the Book of Isaiah.
It is interesting to notice that
there is no heresy... or controversy...
that has not been anticipated by the Holy Spirit
within the Scriptures. If we recognize the
reality that we have 66 books penned by 40 authors over thousands of years,
that are an integrated whole, and that every detail has been the result of
careful and skillful engineering, then there is no need to stumble over the
skepticism and arrogance put forth by
who obviously are not tuned in to the Word.
Don't we have a wonderful
God? All we have to do is just learn to take Him
at His Word.
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