Sunday, 28 September 2008

The decontextualisation of prophecy: "Second Isaiah"

Having looked at how Amos and Hosea were actualized in order to function as Scripture, we turn to Isaiah 40-55:

3) A collection of prophetic material has been detached from its original historical moorings and subordinated to a new theological context. The classic example of this canonical move is so-called "Second-Isaiah." Critical scholarship has made out a convincing case for dating chapters 40—55 (some scholars include the remaining chapters of the book as well ) to the period of the Babylonian exile. Yet in their present canonical position these chapters have been consciously loosened from their original setting and placed within the context of the eighth century prophet, Isaiah of Jerusalem. Moreover, the original historical background of the exilic prophet has been drained of its historical particularity— Cyrus has become a theological construct almost indistinguishable from Abraham (cf. Rissane)—and the prophetic message has been rendered suitable for use by later generations by transmitting it as a purely eschatological word.

5 comments:

psalterium said...

Check out Eaton's Festal Drama in Deutero-Isaiah.

anthony said...

eaton, baltzer, watts, and miscall all treat the final book of isaiah as a drama written late in ~ 4th century BC.
but still not the majority view which prefer to see 3 historical contexts behind the book.

Phil Sumpter said...

Richard, I've got the gist of his approach from your posts. Is his approach similar to Watts', as Anthony has implied, in that it sees the final form to be a literary unity? Childs was very critical of Watt's approach. He feels its synthetic approach doesn't really come to terms with the diachronic nature of the text and finds his attempt to alot texts to different actors in the drama extremely arbitrary.

How do you feel Eaton's approach relates to the one outlined in the post? How does the cultic background function in relation to the final form of the text? In his Isaiah commentary Childs says: "As we have often discovered, the form-critical problem of establishing an original setting is refquently of minor exegetical importance in Second Isaiah because of the great freedom exercised by the prohet in reshaping the material for his own ends" (433).

Thanks for pointing out the parallels Anthony,

I seem to remember that you are a fan of P. Hanson ... is that right?

Seitz has argued for seeing just two books, not three. But I know that that is a minority position.

psalterium said...

Is his approach similar to Watts', as Anthony has implied, in that it sees the final form to be a literary unity?

I have never read Watts but I have read Baltzer. I don't think Eaton addresses your question. I will re-look at him on this specifically and get back to you.

How do you feel Eaton's approach relates to the one outlined in the post?

I find it helps place the Sitz im Leben of Deutero-Isaiah. In doing so we can see better why the Isaianic 'school' and redactors placed it where it is.

How does the cultic background function in relation to the final form of the text?

Big question! I am asking the same about the psalms...I don't have an answer yet. :-)

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