Authorship of Isaiah

Authorship of Isaiah March 24, 2013

My course on the Bible focuses a lot of attention on the identification and use of reliable sources. When students try to tackle an assignment on the authorship of the Book of Isaiah, they consistently find LaMar Adams’ online article, produced at Brigham Young University, which uses computer-generated statistics for the occurrence of certain prefixes to argue for unity of authorship.

If they read this, without also finding either Radday’s statistical study which draws the opposite conclusion, or another source that mentions it, then they are prone to get a skewed impression of where the evidence points and what scholars conclude.

To their credit, most students, even if they draw heavily on Adams’ article, realize from what is written in it that the consensus is the view he is arguing against.

Nevertheless, I wish there were more works of scholarship that got high Google rankings which presented the mainstream view.

If one searches Google Books, the results are much more even. Works like Whybray’s The Second Isaiah and the commentaries by Claus WestermannJohn Goldingay and David Payne, and Jan Koole can be read there, as can scholarly introductions to the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible, and other studies on the second part of Isaiah.

The biggest issue I have with the Adams article is that it gives the impression (as conservative defenders of single authorship are prone to do) that the question is primarily about the possibility of predictive prophecy. But that is not the key issue when it comes to authorship. The key issue, in my view, is the fact that the author of chapters 40ff talks about the Babylonian exile as a present reality, soon to end. It is the description of the present, and not those things which are said to be predictions, which are the crucial evidence.

What good online sources have you come across that present the case for the scholarly consensus about multiple authorship of the Book of Isaiah?

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