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Reading and Preaching the Book of Isaiah [Paperback]

By Christopher R. Seitz (Editor)
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Reading and Preaching the Book of Isaiah by Christopher R. Seitz

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wipf & Stock Publishers
Pages   126
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.56" Width: 6.48" Height: 0.3"
Weight:   0.38 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Aug 1, 2002
Publisher   Wipf & Stock Publishers
ISBN  1592440177  
ISBN13  9781592440177  

Availability  0 units.

More About Christopher R. Seitz

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Christopher R. Seitz (PhD, Yale University) is professor of biblical interpretation at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto, in Toronto, Ontario. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including Prophecy and Hermeneutics and The Goodly Fellowship of the Prophets.

Christopher R. Seitz has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible
  2. International Theological Commentary
  3. Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching & Preaching
  4. Studies in Theological Interpretation

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Clergy > Preaching
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Old Testament > Old Testament
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Old Testament

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Reviews - What do customers think about Reading and Preaching the Book of Isaiah?

It Helps You Preach Passages in Isaiah  Jul 10, 2006
This book began its life as a series of lectures delivered at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA in the mid-1980s. The lectures were delivered by highly qualified Old Testament scholars. Their purpose is to bring pastors and interested laypeople up tp speed on the latest trends in Isaiah interpretation.

They work with the assumption that there were three different Isaiahs, and that their writings were gathered together over time under the canonical heading of "Isaiah." The editor, Christopher Seitz, says that if nothing else, this is a convenient way to divide the book, though he does have both the first word and the final word on this very subject.

In his opening article, he acknowledges that the modern threefold division of Isaiah has a large consensus in the scholarly guild. One of the reasons that Seitz cites is the widely recognized notion that canonical Isaiah covers a larger period of time than the historical Isaiah's life. People had always recognized that the tenor of Isaiah from judgment to restoration was crossed at the 40th chapter. But older conservatives were reluctant to question the notion that the historical Isaiah could have prophesied the events of the post-exilic period under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The reason for this was undoubtedly out of fear for the decline of the doctrine of the inspiration and prophetic nature of scripture.

Seitz also observes that references to First Isaiah need to qualified in light of the fact that some of the material in Isaiah 1-39 actually postdates some of the material in Second Isaiah.

Having acknowledged what Seitz has written, it can still be asserted that there is a unity within canonical Isaiah, from the theme of justice that runs through its contents (Isaiah 5:7, 16, 9:7, 28:17, 30:18, 42:1-5, 51:4, 56:1, 61:8), to the usage of "The Holy One of Israel" (Isaiah 1:4; 12:6; 30:11-15; 41:14-16; 48:17; 55:5; 60:9). While the threefold division of Isaiah may be tenable for historical study, there is still a theological unity that binds the Isaianic traditions together.

The next chapter is the lecture delivered by Elizabeth Achtemeier, and she explores preaching paths in First Isaiah. She contends that Isaiah of Jerusalem is one of the greatest theologians in the Old Testament because of his timely witness to the person and activity of God in turbulent times. She notes the Talmudic tradition of Isaiah being the nephew of King Amaziah, and how it shows that even those connected with wealth and royalty can serve the Lord. She sagely notes that much of Isaiah of Jerusalem's criticism is aimed at the wealthy as well as toward those who are in positions of power.

Achtemeier observes that Isaiah of Jerusalem ministers in an urban world, and his words of judgment on the city of Jerusalem for the lack of justice being expressed is something that maybe our own city leaders and government officials need to mind. These are very thought provoking words, indeed.

She also expresses surprise that the lectionary often draws from material in Isaiah 24-27, which she deems not likely to come from the hand of the historical Isaiah of Jerusalem.
Actemeier also points out the evidence of a later editor (the doxology at the start of Isaiah 12 is likely the end of that first section of First Isaiah, and the refrain "Yet for all this, His anger is not turned away, His hand is still upraised"), and concludes that Isaiah 1-39 has been assembled by the disciples of Isaiah.

But then Achtemeier launches into speculative theories about how the disciples of Isaiah formed an ongoing school, and that they eventually formed an association with the Pentateuchal Levitical school. Interesting as this theory sounds, it is not the focus of her chapter, which she acknowledges.

There is also a discussion of the various themes in Isaiah 1-39. She notes the theme of God as "The Holy One of Israel," and how Isaiah's conception of God cannot square with what process theologians and nature worshipers are saying. She notes the theme of Israel's pride, and relates it to our self-centeredness, and our unwillingness to care for the least and the last and the lost of our society.

There is also a discussion of the theme of God's divine plan, and theme of forgiveness. But amazingly, nothing is said about the main theme of Isaiah, which is God's justice (Isaiah 30:18; 61:8). In spite of this oversight, this was a tremendous chapter.

James Luther Mays contributes the next chapter, a discussion of Isaiah's messianic and royal theology. He states that Isaiah cannot be read without also reading the Psalms. Both books refer to Jerusalem as God's city, both books refer to the Davidic king, and both books refer to God as Adonai.
He chooses Psalm 2 in particular because of its closeness in some of its themes to Isaiah as well as its citation in the NT. The plotting of the nations in Psalm 2:1-2 is similar to what we read in Isaiah 7:1 of the plotting of the nations against Judah. Psalm 2 also shares with Isaiah a belief in a living, reigning king of Judah.

Mays notes that Psalm 2:9 refers to the ancient ritual of a newly anointed king taking clay tablets with the names of other nations, and smashing these tablets with a rod.
He holds up Psalm 72 as another example of a royal psalm with thematic connections to Isaiah. But I want to stress that Mays does not tie Psalm 72 in with a specific text in First Isaiah, though Isaiah 9:7 and Isaiah 11:10 would serve well in this regard.

My main concern with this chapter is that Mays often discusses the Psalms more than he discusses Isaiah. I felt that he would have been farther ahead to stay focused on textual comparisons between Isaiah and the Psalms in relation to their common theology. That alone would be a great help in preparing messages in Isaiah.

Robert Wilson contributes the next chapter in the book, and he discusses the community of Second Isaiah. He comments that this section of Isaiah (Isaiah 40-55) is very well known in Christian circles, and that because it is so familiar, there is an increased danger of misinterpreting it. I don't know why there has to be a one to one correlation between familiarity with a text and the misinterpretation of that said text, but it is the cornerstone of Wilson's essay. He refers to Isaiah 52:13-53:12 as an example, noting how Christians have interpreted it as a reference to Christ, whereas Wilson takes it to be the prophet's words to the community if Second Isaiah, rebuking them for not understanding of the purpose of the servant's suffering. This to me is no argument against it being a prophecy of Jesus Christ, rather it can serve as an example of how Israel HAS misunderstood the prophecy, failing to recognize that it does apply to Jesus.

Wilson tries mightily to reconstruct what the community of Second Isaiah must have been like. He first reviews the political situation of Second Isaiah (exile in Babylon), and then the religious situation (exiles were beginning to accept responsibility for their sins which brought about the exile). Wilson then searches for internal evidence within Second Isaiah to find descriptions of this community (Isaiah 51:7 - the people who know righteousness, whose persecutors have forgotten the Lord (verse 13). He also notes the commonalities between the community of Second Isaiah and the priestly community (both believe that God dwells in Israel in the form of the divine glory. As a newly purified people (Isaiah 52:1, 11), the community of Second Isaiah is to return to the land of Israel with the temple vessels.

There is also a chapter about Second Isaiah written by Walter Brueggemann. He thinks that Second Isaiah must be read with Ezekiel and portions of Jeremiah. He gives three metaphors for rereading this section of Isaiah as part of our communal experience. He notes that the social, historical situation of Second Isaiah is exile. He contends that American Christians are in exile in the American culture, and so the decision must be made whether we will accommodate, or whether we will live for God in the world.

Brueggemann mentions that "homecoming" is another metaphor in Second Isaiah. Although the connection to our communal seems obvious (we look forward to our homecoming in heaven), Brueggemann never mentions how it relates to our communal experience as evangelicals, something that I felt was an oversight on his part.

Brueggemann also comments on the poetic imagination of the exilic community. He notes that Second Isaiah speaks of gods in court (Isaiah 41:21-29), rulers being summoned by God (Isaiah 44), dragons being defeated (Isaiah 51:9), and cities being rebuilt( Isaiah 54:14-18). Brueggemann asserts that hese images are not meant to be historical, but to evoke feelings of hope. He says that Jesus also used poetic imagination in his parabolic teaching, and so did Martin Luther King in our own day.

Yet it is hard to see how these scriptures can give us hope if there isn't a tangible sense that these things actually happened or will happen. How can fairy tales give anyone hope if there is not even one kernel of historical truth? Yet I certainly agree that these themes preach well, and that they have new life in our experience as the people of God.

There is also a chapter in the book by Paul Hanson on the theological legacy of Third Isaiah. He stresses that Third Isaiah is the product of disciples of Second Isaiah. He also notes that Third Isaiah is built around the theme of light and darkness found in both First Isaiah (9:2) and in Second Isaiah (Isaiah 42:16). He observes such passages as Isaiah 59:4-11, Isaiah 60:1 to find the darkness/light motif.

There is also an observation of the seeming vengefulness of God in Isaiah 63-65. Hanson chalks this up as a hint of how the community was struggling to keep its power of influence. I would say that these passages had little to do with the community's struggling to maintain influence as much as it is a response to the sinfulness of Edom and other nations.

Hanson then talks about how much this relates to our own day, in that like the world of Third Isaiah, our own world is spiraling toward an abyss on account of world hunger, poverty, and nuclear politics. He then calls upon us to be agents of healing and reconciliation in the world. I quite agree with that.

There is also a closing chapter by Seitz where he tries to make sense of Isaiah 1-66 as a whole, which is not a bad idea in that this is the version of Isaiah that we have. He says that there is no doubt that in its final form, Isaiah moves from the Assyrian to the Babylonian and into the Persian period. The main character is God (as opposed to the book of Jeremiah, where the main character is the prophet).

But again, I was disappointed that Seitz did not mention God's justice as the theme of the book. He said earlier in the chapter that he would reveal the unified theme of Isaiah, but all he said was that the book could be aptly titled "The Drama of God and Zion."

I thought that the book was a great guide for those who read and preach from Isaiah. I was concerned with the skepticism of Brueggemann over whether or not Second Isaiah had any foundation in history. I admired how well Elizabeth

Achtemeier and Paul Hanson were able to apply some of the themes of Isaiah to our own day. That made for fascinating reading.

But the book did not deal closely enough with the theme of the Lord being a God of justice, which is fundamental to knowing why God both acts in judgment (Isaiah 1) and in grace (Isaiah 53).

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