Proof Texts

John Ronning ronning at
Tue Dec 19 16:12:50 EST 2000

Charles David Isbell wrote:
> ...
> 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.   

So far I agree with you - that the first task of the
interpreter is to address the issue of how the message fits
in the context in which it was given.  In the class I teach
on Isaiah I attempt to do that.

> 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.   

But surely you agree that Isaiah speaks about the end of the
world - is that irresponsible to his own people?

In the servant songs, Isaiah speaks of a future situation
that is going to address a current need - indeed current to
every generation, namely the need of redemption from sin. 
Isaiah professes to speak to future generations and to have
predicted the coming of Cyrus (by name) as proof that his
message comes from God, so his future hearers will have
confidence that the other prophecies (e.g. those concerning
the servant) will come true.  Which, apparently on your view
(that it's actually from the 6th century) makes him a pious
fraud - do you regard that as "responsible"?

> 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, 

Different parts of Isaiah are more relevant for different
periods of time than others - some are most relevant to
Isaiah's present, some to his near future, some to his far
future, some to a time still future to us now - it's
multi-functional - like the Bible in general.


John Ronning

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