The Authorship of Isaiah Revisited: A Response to Daniel Ellsworth

A few days after my recent post about the Isaiah that Nephi could not have known, Daniel T. Ellsworth’s article on the authorship of Isaiah from an LDS perspective was posted over at Mormon Interpreter. Although only four days apart, the timing was accidental and in a way fortuitous, neither of us knowing that we were going to be posting on the same topic. I wasn’t sure what to expect with Ellsworth’s piece, but I think that there are a few things that are worth briefly responding to here.

Once I was able to sit down and read through all of Ellsworth’s post, I was glad to find a more thorough and positive engagement with contemporary scholarship on the development of the Book of Isaiah than has been customary in the past from various FARMS and BYU approaches, as I explained in my previous post. Ellsworth thinks that, “despite some compelling textual reasons to question the critical scholarly consensus around the dating of the material comprising the book of Isaiah, I believe it would be a tremendous mistake for Latter-day Saints to simply discard scholarly approaches to the book of Isaiah out of a desire to defend the historicity of the Book of Mormon.” Laying aside the pretentiousness of claiming to know textual difficulties of Isaiah better than scholars who not only read the book primarily in Hebrew, but compare at length all of the manuscripts of Isaiah as part of their career, I was glad to see that Ellsworth is inviting other Latter-day Saints to think deeper about this scholarship and not simply write it off out of a desire to defend the Book of Mormon.

I was even more impressed that Ellsworth not only cares about, but has clearly spent time gathering literary parallels from secondary sources between the book of Isaiah and other Israelite literature that traditionally dates to about the same time or a little while after Isaiah. Ellsworth turns to important studies by serious scholars like Richard Schultz,[1] Marvin Sweeney,[2] and Joseph Blenkinsopp[3] in order to understand this literature and the reasons why scholars share the view that Isaiah is not a unified whole, and why the division of the text is much more complicated than the simple tripartite division of Isaiah 1-39, 40-55, and 56-66. This point was a major aspect of my previous post, showing that much of Isa. 1-5, 13-14, 24-27, and 34-39 were not written by Isaiah of Jerusalem, and that the rest of the chapters in that section of the book would not have had the form they currently do in any pre-exilic context.

For the most part Ellsworth’s article is exemplary for at least the tone and engagement that I would hope to see more of within Mormon studies on the issue of the authorship of Isaiah. Where Ellsworth falls short, though, is in his understanding of why scholars view many parts of Isaiah as being written by later authors and in his partial and carefully selected examples of parallels between Isaiah and other prophetic or scriptural texts.

Ellsworth focuses much of his post on connections between the book of Isaiah and Jeremiah and Micah in order to make an argument that all of these prophets were contemporaries so Jeremiah likely had Isaiah, or Isaiah and Micah shared common themes or Micah was dependent on Isaiah. These connections are wonderful to know about and are important to keep in mind but are only a small part of the larger literary problem of the book of Isaiah as a whole. For instance, as I noted in note 39 in my previous post, Deutero-Isaiah is dependent throughout its sixteen chapters on post-exilic writings. This alone would have been good enough reason for me as an editor of the journal to have Ellsworth make major revisions to his essay. To leave out these studies while focusing so much on connections between Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Micah is irresponsible at best and gives the audience the wrong impression. This is a major failing of Ellsworth’s essay.

The work of Benjamin Sommer[4] and Patricia Tull Willey,[5] among others, has more than solidified the observation that Deutero- and Trito-Isaiah is dependent on post-exilic writings. This is not because scholars and Mormons bring different assumptions to the table when exploring these issues, Mormon beliefs about the authorship of Isaiah are actually not different from other traditional assumptions on this topic. What is different is how open an individual student is to reevaluating assumptions in the light of new evidence. Not all believing Mormons who engage with scholarship on Isaiah continue to have the same assumptions as Ellsworth about the authorship of Isaiah afterward, and many who enter the field for a career understand that some of the basic arguments he makes throughout his post are much more nuanced than he assumes. Are these students no longer Mormons because they don’t share the same assumptions as he does?

Ellsworth claims, as many before him have, that a part of discarding Isaianic authorship of Isa. 40-66, and some other specific sections of Isa. 1-39, requires that one does not believe in predictive prophecy. On the contrary, you have to read predictive prophecy into the text of Deutero-Isaiah to view it as authored by Isaiah of Jerusalem. This has already been discussed heavily in the literature, at least as far back as S. R. Driver’s An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament:

“In the present prophecy there is no prediction of exile: the exile is not announced as something still future; it is presupposed, and only the release from it is predicted. By analogy, therefore, the author will have lived in the situation which he thus presupposes, and to which he continually alludes.”[6]

Ellsworth, and unfortunately many others since scholars were responding to this argument over 120 years ago, unfortunately misunderstands the scholarly position on this issue. It is not that Mormonism provides a new context for understanding predictive prophecy, but rather the struggle for any reader to correctly understand whether or not a text is predicting this or that about the future. Scholars do not deny the possibility that the author of Deutero-Isaiah was writing, in some respects, before the fall of the Babylonian empire and that this author predicted salvation for the exiled Israelites and a return to their land coupled with a rebuilding of the temple. Rather, that is at the very center of most composition theories. Many scholars have argued that the failed aspects of Deutero-Isaiah’s predictions (and there were successful parts of the predictions as well!) brought on the responses now found in Isa. 56-66.[7] You have to ignore a very large amount of research in order to sustain the idea that scholars simply date texts late because they don’t accept predictive prophecy. A similar mistake would be to attach too much “predictive prophetic” weight to Doctrine and Covenants 130:14-17, where Joseph Smith could be read as saying that Jesus’ second coming would happen around late 1890, Smith’s 85th birthday. It may or may not be clear to some readers today that wasn’t the intention, but there were still people who expected the second coming in 1890.[8] There are more balanced approaches one can take to predictive prophecy than to simply state that as a difference between Mormons and scholars.

Another point Ellsworth makes throughout his post is that a prophet’s viewpoint can change after a decades long prophetic career, but he never gives any examples of this, ancient or modern. It seems to be a tacit assumption that Isaiah is a good example of this, but hopefully that is not the case because of obvious circular reasoning that would need to be involved in that argument. In any case Ellsworth does not explain his reasons for this view other than stating them.

Ellsworth also suggests something unique that Mormons bring extra resources for: that texts change and are revised at a significant level over several years. This is not something unique to Mormonism, and the ideas that were core to solidifying this perspective within Mormonism were widespread in early 19th century American Protestantism. Bibles signified to their readers that the italics in the King James Version were supplied because the words were not found in the Hebrew or Greek manuscripts, leading to assumptions that the italics signified scribal or copying mistakes. Major mistakes in poor quality printing at the beginning of the American republic also led to many people being cautious about which printings to buy and who to buy from. You didn’t want to get a copy of a Bible with a lot of mistakes and somehow be led astray. Those concepts are the historical backdrop to the eighth article of the Mormon faith, and Mormonism has not continued to heavily contribute to those scholarly explorations or help advance them in many significant ways.

All of these points are important, but after reading Ellsworth’s essay I was left with a little bit of hope for potential future studies in Mormon apologetic circles on issues of biblical authorship. At least, until I read the comments. Ellsworth’s essay made a few people slightly angry, but most of all they brought out some of Ellsworth’s true feelings about academic inquiry into the authorship of Isaiah. For Ellsworth, “The reason critical scholars have to believe in multiple authorship is, they operate with a completely different set of assumptions that necessitate the invention of multiple authors. I have no reason to believe that the Isaiah material in the BoM is post-exilic.” He has no reason, after engaging with Blenkinsopp, Sweeney, J. J. M. Roberts, or any of the others he found no reason whatsoever to see how much of Isaiah was written during or after the Babylonian exile.

Ellsworth claims in the comments section that, “I don’t see any reason to believe that any of the BoM Isaiah material is post-exilic. I can’t take the critical scholarly view at face value, because I reject the assumptions that require late dating of that material. If those Isaiah passages were written in late Biblical Hebrew or had some other compelling reason for late dating, I might chalk their BoM presence up to some brilliant midrash on the part of Joseph Smith, or some similar explanation.” This is where the ability to study the text in Hebrew would have come in handy for Ellsworth. As David Bokovoy has noted,

“Unlike what we find in the first half of the book of Isaiah, Aramaic has heavily influenced the language in Isaiah 40-66. Not only does this fact provide compelling proof that the material in 40-66 was written by other authors, it shows that these authors were living in a time when Jews were speaking Aramaic. Aramaic became the international language used by the Assyrians to govern their empire in the eighth century. But Jews living in Jerusalem during the time of the historical Isaiah spoke Hebrew. This explains why Hezekiah’s envoy pleaded with the Assyrians to make terms in Aramaic so that the people listening would not understand what was said (2 Kings 18). It also explains why we do not see any Aramaic influence in the material connected with the historical Isaiah.”[9]

Not only did Aramaic influence the language of the author of many of the passages in Isaiah identified as post-exilic, we also have examples of post-exilic Hebrew all throughout the chapters as well. Bokovoy goes on again to provide a quick example of post-exilic Hebrew, but refers his readers to Shalom Paul’s commentary on Isaiah 40-66 and to the more extensive examples of post-exilic Hebrew he has listed there.[10] The issue is, in my view, an overconfidence based on limited engagement and experience with the in-depth and thorough conversations that are not only currently going on in scholarly circles but that have been going on for several hundred years. I think the more appropriate approach, which seems like it was almost made a part of Ellsworth’s essay, comes from Grant Hardy on the very question of Deutero-Isaiah:

“A more promising avenue for the faithful, it seems, is to acknowledge that we probably know less about what constitutes an “inspired translation” than we do about ancient Israel.”[11]

And by this Hardy does not mean that we cannot know anything about ancient Israel, or that the “(always tentative) results of scholarship” mean that scholars have not made any discoveries that will stand the test of time. On the contrary, the achievements of scholars should be recognized for what they are. When scholars can agree with one another, when it is their job to find places to disagree with current and past paradigms, and maybe even create new ones, this is not only significant but also something that laypeople can think more about and engage with. This means that there is a vast literature that is ready to be studied and is just waiting to be read.

 


[1] Richard L. Schultz, Search for Quotation: Verbal Parallels in the Prophets (JSOTSup 180; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999).

[2] Marvin A. Sweeney, Isaiah 1-39: With an Introduction to Prophetic Literature (The Forms of the Old Testament Literature, XVI; Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996); and Marvin A. Sweeney, Isaiah 40-66 (The Forms of Old Testament Literature; Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2016).

[3] Joseph Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 1-39: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (The Anchor Yale Bible, 19; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000); and Joseph Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 40-55: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (The Anchor Bible, 19a; New York: Doubleday, 2002); and Joseph Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 56-66: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (The Anchor Bible Bible, 19b; New York: Doubleday, 2003).

[4] Benjamin D. Sommer, A Prophet Reads Scripture: Allusion in Isaiah 40-66 (Contraversions: Jews and Other Differences; Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998).

[5] Patricia Tull Willey, Remember the Former Things: The Recollection of Previous Texts in Second Isaiah (SBL Dissertation Series, 161; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997).

[6] S. R. Driver, An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament (International Theological Library; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1898), 237; also quoted in H. G. M. Williamson, The Book Called Isaiah: Deutero-Isaiah’s Role in Composition and Redaction (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), 3.

[7] For example, see Konrad Schmid, The Old Testament: A Literary History (Tranls. Linda M. Maloney; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2012), 167-169.

[8] Adding to this were several other statements from Joseph Smith that the second coming could potentially happen around 1890 or so. See Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr., ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1938), 238.

[9] http://rationalfaiths.com/truthfulness-deutero-isaiah-response-kent-jackson-part-2/ (Last accessed 9/23/2017).

[10] Shalom M. Paul, Isaiah 40-66: A Commentary (The Eerdmans Critical Commentary; Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2012), especially pp. 43-44.

[11] Grant Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Guide (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 69.

6 Replies to “The Authorship of Isaiah Revisited: A Response to Daniel Ellsworth”

  1. Thank you, again, for your thoughtful analysis of this issue. You perfectly illustrate the difference between Ellsworth, who is simply an apologist interested in defending a position to which he is irrevocably wedded, and yourself, someone who is only interested in finding the truth and who will never refuse to consider new evidence, even evidence that challenges your prior conclusions. Sadly, I believe your approach to the scriptures remains the exception rather than rule in the church, and likely will for some time to come.

    1. Eric, thank you again for your kind comments. I’m not perfect, but because this is my profession I do take these issues seriously and hope that Mormon studies can overcome some of the intellectual hurdles of past approaches to issues. I agree with you that it is likely going to take some time for things to change, but I think there is interest for high quality scholarship in Mormon studies, especially in the wake of the Joseph Smith Papers. They only have roughly four more years before they are done with that project, and that has focused mostly on the history of Mormonism through manuscripts and historiography. I am hopeful that there will be a shift to blending historiography with close analysis of the literature that Joseph Smith produced.

  2. Thank you for your response to my article. It is definitely an accurate characterization of my position that I see no reason to question the pre-exilic dating of the Isaiah passages in the Book of Mormon. My interest in this issue led me initially to Blenkinsopp, then to Schultz’s The Search for Quotation, where he dives into the methodologies employed by Sommers, Willey, and others. I admittedly don’t have the background in Hebrew necessary to engage the work of Sommers, and I hope someone with better credentials in Hebrew will take that torch and run with it.
    Regarding Aramaic influences on DI, we must be reading different scholarship; Avi Hurvitz is quoted as saying “the language of ‘second Isaiah’ is well anchored in classical Hebrew and the imprints of late biblical Hebrew are quite scanty.” He further says of Aramaic influence on Biblical texts: “The study of Aramaic has achieved impressive results in the last few decades. The discovery of new texts, reflecting previously undocumented stages in the history of Aramaic, has paved the way for a more profound knowledge of the Aramaic dialects and their linguistic history. Naturally, this development directly illuminates the issue of ‘Aramaisms’ within BH (cf. Kutscher 1970: 358). For our purposes, it is particularly important to note here the discovery of Aramaic inscriptions dated as early as the beginning of the first millennium BCE—that is, the First Temple period. Such findings have completely overturned the older view that every ‘Aramaism’ is necessarily indicative of the late biblical era. This mistaken view, which—as already noted—was especially common among nineteenth-century scholars,8 was fostered by the absence of writen sources testifying to the vitality of Aramaic in the early biblical period. However, since it has become clear from these new sources that Aramaic was widespread and enjoyed high prestige already in the pre-exilic period, it could no longer be maintained that the ‘Aramaisms’ encountered in BH must reflect later linguistic usage.” (both quotes in Biblical Hebrew: Studies in Chronology and Typology, ed. Ian Young, 2003)
    I have seen other things put forward as evidences for DI, such as Isaiah’s belief in the inviolability of Jerusalem, or chapters 24-27 constituting apocalyptic literature (and therefore of a later stage in Judean literary development): Blenkinsopp emphatically rejects both of these characterizations. And the idea that the break in the Great Isaiah Scroll at Qumran somehow represents a scribe’s view of a break in authorship- is there a single critical scholar besides Marvin Sweeney who agrees with that? He even goes so far as to find (ahem) a parallel structure between chs 1 and 34 to support his theory (see his Eerdman’s commentary). How it appears to me as an outsider is that critical scholars use late dating and maps of thematic structure to minimize their own cognitive dissonance with the text, the way believers use millennial fulfillment for prophecy, or other mechanisms to minimize our cognitive dissonance. As a believer interested in gaining a better sense of the historical and literary features of scripture, I have no interest in trading one sloppy set of tools for another. If that makes me an “apologist” or some other label, I could’t care less.
    I am all for appropriating the findings of critical scholarship when a theory is based upon sound assumptions and evidence (as with the DH), but what I see in this theory is a chaotic mess of competing interpretations of evidence. I’m open to making major adjustments to my thinking on this and other matters, but at the moment, JJM Roberts’ Hermeneia commentary provides the assessment I most agree with:
    “I have deep reservations about many of the underlying assumptions undergirding this quest. I am not convinced that the ancient Judean and Jewish audiences that heard or, in rarer cases, read the oracles in the Isaianic collection in whatever edition were as enthralled by elaborate book-length literary coherence as modern scholars and contemporary readers are, and I am amazed at the confidence with which scholars can reconstruct the editorial growth of a biblical book over the centuries with the barest minimum of actual evidence. It is not that I consider this process unimportant or uninteresting; it is more that I consider the details of this process to be largely unrecoverable. In general, in the absence of a trail of early datable and evolving manuscripts, the editorial process behind a particular book is both private and largely unrecoverable. Even with modern books that go through several editions, where each datable edition is available for comparative study, it is often difficult to determine why certain changes to the books took place. The confidence with which many modern scholars, who lack any datable manuscripts earlier than the final form of Isaiah, reconstruct hypothetical redactors living at particular periods, who make particular editorial changes in the service of some equally hypothetically reconstructed theological interest, strikes me as extreme hubris. If it were true, how could one know it? Even when it comes to the rationale and history behind the structure and shaping of discrete smaller units consisting of more than one oracle, whether of Isaiah 2–4 (Sweeney), Isaiah 1–12 (Peter Ackroyd, Yehoshua Gitay), Isaiah 2–12 (A. H. Bartelt), or any other extended unit, such reconstructions are often mutually exclusive and seldom convince more than a small circle of adherents.” (http://fortresspress.com/product/first-isaiah)
    My feeling is that we can and should do better.

  3. Dan,

    If I can interject here a few comments:

    1) There are many reasons that have led to the current critical consensus that parts of the book of Isaiah date from distinct periods, including at the very least an early period (first Isaiah), a later period (second Isaiah), and an even later period (third Isaiah). These go far beyond language periodization or Aramaisms, to stylistic matters, theology, historical references, and literary allusion. So I would encourage you as a self-identified “outsider” to give the scholars who have worked on this over the last 2 centuries a little more credit and to consider the possibility that if you only see a “chaotic mess” in the scholarship you have read or if seems to you that scholars “use late dating and maps of thematic structure to minimize their own cognitive dissonance” that it may more likely have something to do with your limited exposure and lack of familiarity with the arguments.

    2) While the language of second Isaiah is well-anchored in classical Hebrew, according to the typology of Hurvitz, this does not by any means necessitate that it should be dated to pre-exilic times or provide a compelling counterargument to the evidence for a later post-monarchic dating. I’m pretty confident that Hurvitz himself would acknowledge this. In any case, the traditional periodization of Hebrew into classical (pre-exilic) vs. late (post-exilic) has broken down in recent years, such that it is no longer possible to assert that because a text presents good “classical” features it must necessarily be dated early.

    3) It is true that biblical Aramaisms do not necessarily reflect only late linguistic usage, but these must be evaluated on a case by case basis in context with the assistance of literary and linguistic criteria. Nonetheless, because Aramaic impacted Hebrew and the literary language in Judah/Yehud to such a great degree during the Second Temple era, it is still the case that many Aramaisms reflect late historical developments.

    4) J J M Roberts’ comment has nothing directly to do with the identification or dating of Second Isaiah but was made with regard to elaborate redactional theories re first Isaiah. Roberts’ accepts the traditional understanding of Isaiah as made up of discrete parts. To understand what Roberts is saying, one needs to become more familiar with the debate he is responding to, everything needs to be read in context, not cherry-picked.

  4. RT,

    In my research for the paper, I checked Blenkinsopp’s AB commentaries from the library, and sat by my pool over a period of about a month, reading every page and attaching a sticky note to every single reference to dating of the text to get a sense of why he assigns dates to passages- what assumptions does he operate under, what evidence does he consider, how does he prioritize one piece of evidence over another, etc.
    I love Blenkinsopp’s commentary because he does a good job of raising contrary views and responding to them. It was also clear to me that his grasp of the text and its historical context are vastly superior to what I find in devotional commentaries by LDS authors, to the point where I cannot fathom reading one of those again. I also tried to find some conservative/apologetic literature on the subject, but the articles I read were mostly disappointing (one even went so far as to suggest that Cyrus must have been someone in the Babylonian delegation in ch. 39).
    One of the things that stood out to me in Blenkinsopp’s commentary was the near absence of arguments for dating based on linguistics, specifically Aramaic. I am aware of the challenge to Hurvitz’s work by Young/Rezetko/Ehrensvaerd and the adherents to their approach, and Blenkinsopp has written elsewhere, in agreement with them, that linguistic dating has a problem of circularity: if I assume Isaiah 40-66 to be post-exilic based on criteria other than linguistic evidence, then linguistic features in that text will then be used to corroborate the late dating of other texts, which will then be used as evidence for late dating for Isaiah 40-66. Perhaps that is why Blenkinsopp chose to mostly avoid discussions of Aramaisms in his assignment of late dating in the AB series, but in any case, I think he was wise to not go there.
    I understand that JJM Roberts’ commentary was restricted to 1-39, and he is responding to Sweeney, but his remark previous to the quote I cited reads “In part, my unwillingness to get deeply embroiled in this discussion about the larger book and the process of its formation is no doubt due to the historical accident that my commentary covers only chaps. 1–39, not the whole book of Isaiah. On the other hand, I have deep reservations about many of the underlying assumptions…” In other words, if his commentary had covered the whole book, he might have spent more time addressing the larger discussions of the formation of the book, with deep reservations about the assumptions that scholars typically bring to bear in their commentaries. If it looks like I cherry-picked a quote, I apologize- that was not my intent. I think I am capturing his views as they are applicable to the entirety of the book.
    Finally, my position is fairly clear in my paper: ” I accept the basic critical scholarly view that Isaiah of Jerusalem is not the author of all the text attributed to him in the book of Isaiah. However, I reject the three-part division of the book that has been used by critical scholars since the emergence of Bernhard Duhm’s 1892 study…”
    Even Blenkinsopp characterizes the 3-part division as more of a useful framework for “orderly presentation of the material” than an empirical reality:
    “It should be added that the tendency in Isaiah studies today is to move beyond the tripartite division, standard since Duhm published his commentary, in search of structural, thematic and lexical clues to an underlying unity of the entire book at the redactional level (Ackroyd, Clements, Rendtorff, et al.). The accumulated effect of these studies will inevitably call into question the practice of writing distinct commentaries on First, Second, and Third Isaiah, a practice in vogue since the early nineteenth century. But since our present concern is directly historical and only indirectly literary, our purpose will best be served by retaining the conventional divisions in the interests of orderly presentation of the relevant material.” (A History of Prophecy in Israel, p.99)
    I don’t disagree with all late dating of the material in the book, but critical commentaries are not privileged texts, and I have every right to study them and examine the assumptions the author brings to bear, as well as compare their findings against those of other scholars. I’m not interested in trading the devotional, pre-critical views of Isaiah that we all grew up with for an uncritical appropriation of critical views that are based on assumptions I don’t adhere to.

  5. Dan,

    I like Blenkinsopp as well and am glad to hear you spent so much effort trying to digest his commentaries. But as knowledgeable and reliable of a guide as he is, he is still only one critical voice. Before offering global criticisms of the scholarly study of Isaiah, you really need to acquaint yourself with the broader field, here in the US, England, and Germany, as well with the history of research.

    Linguistic dating is not always quite as circular as you imply. For example, it’s not so much that “classical” Hebrew features will be used to corroborate the late dating of Isa 40-66 but that they cannot reliably be used to suggest early dating.

    I still don’t think you’re accurately “capturing” Roberts’ views with regard to the relative later dating of Isaiah 40-66.

    “Even Blenkinsopp characterizes the 3-part division as more of a useful framework for “orderly presentation of the material” than an empirical reality”

    Which I fully agree with. I never said the book of Isaiah divides neatly into three components, I actually see a number of discrete units (more than 3) that were written by separate authors over time, in addition to various redactional additions and adaptations. Yet in my opinion it is still assuredly the case that 40-66 is all post-monarchic.

    I think I should also point out that the quote you provide from Blenkinsopp is with reference to recent growth in synchronic literary analysis of the book of Isaiah, not necessarily undoing conclusions derived from diachronic historical analysis.

    “but critical commentaries are not privileged texts, and I have every right to study them and examine the assumptions the author brings to bear, as well as compare their findings against those of other scholars. I’m not interested in trading the devotional, pre-critical views of Isaiah that we all grew up with for an uncritical appropriation of critical views that are based on assumptions I don’t adhere to.”

    They are not privileged texts, indeed, and I am fully behind the effort to examine and critically evaluate their assumptions, methodologies, and findings. But if I may speak forthrightly, I think you have severely underestimated the amount of time and background work it takes to get to the point to have developed a worthwhile opinion on the literary history of Isaiah. These kinds of things literally take years, even decades, learning Hebrew is a sine qua non, as well as studying a number of related fields and subject matters.

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