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Isaiah in the High Places
Israel - Middle East
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Wendy Wippel

The age of enlightenment was "a cultural movement of 17th and 18th century intellectuals who emphasized reason and individualism rather than tradition." (Oxford Dictionary). German pastor Friedrich Schleiermacher (a.k.a. the "father of modern hermeneutics") was one of them. Not good. Hermeneutics is Bible interpretation. And it's his kind of thinking that duplicated Isaiah.

Schleiermacher eventually spawned a whole German School of Biblical studies in which the basic tenets of the Bible were questioned, and the methods he used, called "higher criticism" found welcome in the more "high-minded" (translated liberal progressive) churches across Europe.  Essentially "higher criticism" questioned the historicity of the scriptures, painting the historical record of the Old Testament as fanciful tribal legends without basis in truth.

Exhibit A (but only one of many, many, possible examples): Genesis 14.

Genesis 14 gives us the account of the wars undertaken by Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goim in the time of Abraham. These four kings, in the context of a series of battles with five neighboring kings, capture Lot.  It also describes Abraham's rescue of Lot from those same kings. The text presents the description of these events, very straightforwardly, as historical fact.

But that's not very "rational". That's not an intellectually higher level of scholarship.  No. The more intellectual approach was to question the historical context (despite the lack of evidence in either direction).

Schleiermacher protégé, Theodore Noldeke wrote a pamphlet about Genesis 14 in which he called it complete fiction. Julius Wellhausen, another German rationalist, followed: 

"Genesis 14, along with the rest of Old Testament history, was written centuries later and then projected backward into hoary antiquity."

(Wellhausen was also the mind behind the documentary hypothesis that guided the next 200 years of mainstream (read that non-evangelical) Biblical interpretation. But we'll get to that in a minute.)

W.F Albright speculated that;

"The Hebrew material was either borrowed from extant legends...or invented by use of haggadic processes.”

Their supposed "evidence"? The route described in Genesis 14 didn't exist at the time. The cities never existed. People at that time couldn't have traveled as much as the passage described. And so on. And these guys were supposedly the experts. So the rest of the church believed what they said.

(Except for those ignorant fundamentalists. They stubbornly believed what the Bible said.)

The Higher Critics were barely in their graves before archaeological confirmation of Genesis 14 came to light. Inscriptions found, revealed that the names of the kings in the passage could be confirmed as either actual kings or as common regional names.

Archaeologist Nelson Glueck uncovered the ruins of a line of pre-Exodus cities along ‘the King’s Highway,’ right along the line of march, the invading forces would have followed. The cities dated to the time of Abraham. Other tablets found in excavations also proved that the amount of travel described was commonplace at the time.

The High Critics of Genesis (I'm sure I meant higher, didn't I?) were eventually forced to concede that;

"There seems to be no reason to question the factual basis of Genesis chapter 14.” 

But back to the two Isaiahs.

Critic Julius Wellhausen decided that the "legends" presented in the book of Genesis (based on perceived differences in style and vocabulary) couldn't have had one source, but must have been put together by committee. A committee of four, according to him, with the five books of the Torah split between them.

He named the four dudes in question "J", "E", "P"and "D".

J:  ("Jaweh" in German) who lived in Judah about 900 BC, wrote scattered parts of the Torah. (The first five books of the Bible)

E: (Elohim) who supposedly lived in the northern kingdom of Israel about 800, also scattered parts of the Torah.

P:  (Priestly source) a priest about 500 BC, who wrote all the material on the priesthood in the Torah.

D:  (Deuteronomic source), who wrote Deuteronomy.

But wait. Some "critics" thought "E" was the oldest. Some thought there was more than one "E". And sometimes two or three of the committee were attributed in one single passage.

In other words: Chaos, table of four.

A full 120 years after Wellhausen proposed this JEPD theory, however, renowned English Professor and expert on Near Eastern history and geography Professor Kenneth Kitchen wrote,

"Even the most ardent advocate of the documentary theory must admit that we have as yet no single scrap of external, objective evidence for either the existence or the history of J, E, D, or P."  

But back to the two Isaiahs. 

Isaiah is another victim of the High Critics, who determined that the prophet Isaiah, despite the fact that the book clearly states that the text of the book named after him is a vision that that "Isaiah son of Amoz saw", was not actually one Isaiah, but two.  It's called the Deutero-Isaiah theory, again, based on supposed differences in terminology and style between early and later chapters.

(Except sometimes three Isaiahs are postulated.) Chaos, table of three.

But at least one of the High Critics, in a rare moment of transparency, spilled the beans. J. C. Doederlein, one of the first proponents of the Deutero-Isaiah theory, revealed the real reason that the single author Isaiah had to go. Namely, since,

"Isaiah could not have forseen the fall of Jerusalem, the 70 year captivity, the return or Cyrus, Isaiah could not have written those chapters making such claims (e.g. chapters 40-66).

(Oh, I get it. So prophecy, which God specifically says proves His own divinity, instead proves His duplicitous nature. And Isaiah's.)

So, according to the High Critics, there have to be two Isaiahs.  Despite the fact that for the two millennia before the High Critics thought up the Deutero-Isaiah theory, the unanimous opinion of both Jewish and Christian scholars were that Isaiah the prophet was one.

A recent seminary textbook says this:

"The theory of Deutero-Isaiah (or Second Isaiah) emerged near the end of the eighteenth century. According to this theory, Isaiah himself wrote only the first 39 chapters, leaving one of his students to pen the second part (chapters 40-66) after the Babylonian captivity started (so, after 586 BC). Archer, G. Survey of Old Testament (1998)"

To recap: Chapters 1-39 were written by Isaiah #1, and chapters 40-66 were written by Isaiah #2.

For the record, all the "differences" that supposedly demand that Isaiah be cloned are outnumbered by the obvious similarities. For example, all Biblical authors have certain  idiosyncratic phrasing (that is, phrasing characteristic of them but not used really by others.) Isaiah has a few dozen. One, for example, is his consistent designation of God as 'The Holy One of Israel'.  That term is found a few times in Psalms and twice in Jeremiah. Isaiah uses it 25 times.  

According to the Deutero-Isaiah theory, 12 times by Isaiah #1 (in chapters 1-39) and 13 times by Isaiah #2 (in chapters 40-66). 

But why play by their game? The #1 rule of Bible interpretation is to let the Bible interpret itself. And John 12:37-40 says this:   

"But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath 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". (KJV)

John quotes two different verses from Isaiah.

"Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" is from Isaiah chapter 53.

And, "He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.” is from Isaiah chapter 6.

And verse 39 says that that same Isaiah who spoke in chapter 6 was still speaking in chapter 53.

So much for Deutero-Isaiah.

"But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?" Matthew 9:4

Funny. It says they think evil in their hearts. Not their minds.

Coincidence? I think not.

Originally Written: December 3, 2013

About Wendy Wippel

Last week: A Heart of Wisdom



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