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A Handy Dandy Summary of the Major Reasons for Supporting the Incorrect Two Isaiah Theory

2 Isaiah acorns sxc hu smallHave you ever heard about the 2 Isaiah theory? If not you won’t have heard of the 3 Isaiah theory or the 4 Isaiah theory… so we’ll just generalize with a 2 Isaiah theory.

The crux of the matter is that most scholars, even God Fearing, Bible Lovin’, Prophecy Believin’ conservative scholars, believe that the book of Isaiah was written by more than one person. They believe that the 1st half of the book was written by the Prophet Isaiah, living during the 8th century BC from the reigns of King Uzziah through Manasseh, but that the 2nd half of the book was penned by at least one other individual ministering during the years of exile (586ish BC) and afterward.

The reasons for this are not necessarily an abandonment of the doctrine of Inspiration or a denial of God at work in accurate prediction, though most “liberals” would hang their hats on that peg if you pounded it in for them. The reasons concern style, structure, and logical connection.[1]

The structure of Isaiah is strong and generally agreed upon. Consensus does mean correctness, but here I think we can trust it. The book has two clearly distinguished parts to it.

The 1st division of Isaiah, chapters 1-35 concerns the Assyrian Crisis in Judah during the decades prior to Sennacherib’s 701 BC invasion. It breaks into three sections with 6 prophetic sermons in each.

Then we find 4 chapters of narrative with two stories being told. From chapters 36-37, we find the story of Sennacherib’s 701 BC invasion of Judah. In chapters 38-39, we find the story of Hezekiah’s sickness and healing leading to the visit of Merodach Baladan’s representatives in 38-39.

The second division, chapters 40-66 also breaks into three natural pieces  with each piece containing 9 prophetic sermons. Isaiah 40-66 is best summarized in the opening lines of Isaiah 40:2  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. It is about the coming restoration after exile.

So it looks like this:

1-12—6 Prophetic Sermons (Assyrian Crisis and the Syro-Ephraimite War[2])

Div. # 1           13-27—6 Prophetic Sermons (Prophesies about Foreign Nations)

28-35—6 Prophetic Sermons (5 Woe articles and an Apocalypse)

Narr. Bridge    36-37—The defeat of Sennacherib’s designs to destroy Jerusalem

Narr. Bridge   38-39—The healing of Hezekiah & the covenant with Merodach Baladan

40-48—9 Prophetic Sermons (The end of War)

Div. # 2           49-57—9 Prophetic Sermons (Forgiveness for Israel)

58-66—9 Prophetic Sermons (Divine Blessing and Retribution)

What is of particular interest for most in this structure which divides neatly into two separate pieces is that each of these divisions has radically different writing styles… I did say radically, right? Yes, I said, “radically different.” The thematic and linguistic connections between the 2 halves are strong, the vocabulary equally challenging in both halves, (Isaiah contains far more than his fair share of obscure terms) but the style shift leaves most holding out little hope for finding a single author for both halves. Chapers 1-35 are diverse in their conversation, obviously edited together pieces from different “episodes,” building roughly, though brilliantly into a prophetic edifice surpassed in genius only by the equally brilliant but altogether smooth unfolding of a far  more unified discussion in 40-66. One could say of 2nd Isaiah, “Must’ve been written by a disciple from the School of Isaiah… because it is Isaian-esque, but it is too different to be the same guy.”

If this isn’t enough, one also needs to consider the logic of the second half of Isaiah discussing the return from an exile that won’t happen for another 115 years give or take. What meaningful comfort would you find if you were told that your Great-great-great-great-great grand children were going to be viciously defeated, but not to worry because their great grandchildren, your Great-great-great-great-great-great-great grand children were going to rise up again and be okay. Most would say what unperturbed Hezekiah says before Isaiah’s prediction of the Exile, “There will be peace and security in my days.” (Isaiah 39:8)

Honestly, from a Western perspective, the 2 Isaiah theory seems pretty strong… but I still believe it’s wrong.

Tune in to our next episode on the authorship of Isaiah in our upcoming blog, “Why I Think the Double Isaiah Vision Needs Corrective Lenses.”


[1] There are several smaller points made by those writing apologies for a 2nd Isaiah position, but these are the main pillars.

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syro-Ephraimite_War

[3] Media pic from sxc.hu

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