Proof Texts

Charles David Isbell cisbell at
Tue Dec 19 12:23:52 EST 2000

I do not wish to indict anyone on the List who has written on this subject.
But it should be noted that a far too common lay Christian perception of
Hebrew prophecy is that the words of the great nevi'im became true ONLY with
the advent of Jesus.

As a Jew, allow me to note that I have no objection whatsoever to the
Christian practice of appropriating and reconstructing the meaning of
biblical texts for the purpose of building a new religion.  I consider it
rather a compliment to the profundity of my own faith.  But I do not think
any NT reconstruction of a biblical oracle allows interpreters of either
faith to withdraw from the struggle to understand the meaning of a sermon by
a person preaching almost 600 years before there was a Jesus with whom to
connect Isaiah 42.   Surely for a 6th century prophet in Babylon to have
spoken about events in 1st century Roman Judea would have been the height of
irresponsibility to his own people, who looked for an authentic word to
address the struggles in which they were engaged, a word that would enable
them to understand the working of God in their world and in their time and
place.   Thus if a Christian interpreter wishes to adopt a BOTH AND view of
Isaiah's words, I say welcome to the neighborhood.  But to adopt a JESUS
ONLY view makes Isaiah irrelevant for centuries of time, and begs the
question of why his people would have treasured and guarded these words
which they could not possibly have understood in the NT sense.  I believe,
to the contrary, that they did draw sustenance from them, and this meaning
was demonstrably a non- [i.e., pre-]Christian understanding.  In this sense,
to employ the NT to interpret Isaiah is to take a blind alley.  Such a
method cannot help us to understanding ISAIAH, but has significance only
with respect to one's understanding of the NT and Christianity.

Charles David Isbell

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