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Isaiah’s Authorship and Authenticity



There are many distinct and clear passages of the Old Testament scripture written before the time of Christ that would indicate and precede His First Advent: God the Creator taking on the human nature to die for our sins, then conquer death that we might live in Him. One of the most important of those “God-breathed” or "Spirit-inspired" Old Testament scriptures is the book of Isaiah, which, as we know has many significant and miraculous prophecies about the coming Messiah. A quick and almost alarming example of this would be Isaiah 9:6–7.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

The prophet Isaiah's name itself, in Hebrew יYeshayahu, means “salvation of YHWH” or “YHWH saves”. Ancient translator Jerome (342–420A.D.), who translated the Old Testament from Hebrew into Latin, said in his preface to his commentary on Isaiah:

"He was more of an Evangelist than a Prophet, because he described all of the Mysteries of the Church of Christ so vividly that you would assume he was not prophesying about the future, but rather was composing a history of past events."

I believe it is precisely because the book of Isaiah has such accurate predictions about the coming Messiah (Jesus) that liberal theologians and secular biblical critics have attacked its authenticity. It’s pretty obvious that predicting the future is naturally impossible—but for those with a true hatred of Christ’s truth and the Bible it is clearly even more impossible. Why? The main reason for this impossibility is rooted in the cynical disbelief of the past. How can one expect to have spiritual insight or perception of a future hope and glorious tomorrow with such hateful and disbelieving dogma against the biblical miracles and divinely supernatural events of the past? There is no insight or perception of the future for those who refuse to belief that a God who created time itself would also know and control the future. In recent years the popular secular headlines claiming that scholars have proven that the book of Isaiah is not only prophetically incorrect, but also had been written by not one, but likely several authors and had been radically changed.

How Many Authors?

The main argument for multiple authors of Isaiah has always been a presumption that true predictive prophecy is impossible, concluding it must have been written after the events it claims to predict. Here is the deconstruct argument in a nutshell...

Liberal scholars have taught that chapters 1–39 were written by the real Isaiah 730 BC'ish, but later chapters were written by a ‘Second Isaiah’ centuries later, around 545–500 BC. This puts the writing after the Babylonian Captivity which was foretold by the early writing. Some even propose a ‘Third Isaiah’ for chapters 56–66, allegedly written sometime between 525–475 BC.

The first section: Chapters 1-39, comes from the Assyrian period and is directly associated with the ministry of Isaiah of Jerusalem from 740 to 700 BC. That does not mean that all material within those chapters dates from that period, however, since there are clearly some later additions to this collection from the Babylonian era. But it does establish Isaiah of Jerusalem as the founder of the Isaiah traditions.

The second section: Chapters 40-55, comes from the late exilic period as the empire of Babylon was coming to an end and the Persian Empire was emerging as the new ruler of the Middle East. If we take the edict of Cyrus in 538 as a benchmark for this era, this section of the book dates to about 540-539 BC.

The third section: Chapters 56-66, reflects the crisis of faith precipitated by unfulfilled or delayed prophecy, a situation that we know from Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi from between 520 and 450 BC. If we use the time of Haggai around 520 as the benchmark for this era, this third section of Isaiah probably comes from the period 515-500, with the possibility that it may extend as late as 450.

Hmmm... one book, several authors. Could this be true? On the surface there are some compelling possibilities. But then there is this!

Isaiah chapter 6, (which NO-ONE doubts comes from the earliest part of the book) records a revelation made by God to Isaiah at the beginning of his prophetic ministry (739 BC). After he heard God’s call and had been commissioned to preach to a people who would only harden their hearts against the truth, he asked the Lord a difficult question that had a troubling answer.

Then I said, "How long, O Lord?" And he said: Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, and the Lord removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.

This is a clear prediction of the total devastation and depopulation of Judah by the hand and command of Nebuchadnezzar in 587 BC. The point is that it that it takes place over 150 years after Isaiah (the original) wrote about it.

If this does not destroy the basic premise of the entire multi-authored Isaiah theory, it should at least bring us back to the realization and point in our faith that once again believes in the supernatural and prophetic possibilities of an all-knowing and all-powerful God. This gets us to move off the place which automatically assumes that it would be impossible for an eighth-century Hebrew prophet to foretell or even foreknow the events of 587 and 539–537 BC (the Fall of Babylon and the return of the first settlers to Jerusalem). You could assume that about a Godless, faithless, and disobedient prophet - but not Isaiah, he was none of those things

The New Testament authors, as well as Christ Himself, pretty clearly believed that Isaiah was a single author in unified voice, which should be helpful for any professing Christian wanting to exercise faith and trust in the authorship and authenticity God's word from the prophet.

One - Matthew 12:17–18 quotes Isaiah 42:1 as “that which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet.”

Two - Matthew 3:3 quotes Isaiah 40:3 as “spoken by the prophet Isaiah.”

Three - Luke 3:4 quotes Isaiah 40:3–5 as “in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet.”

Four - Acts 8:28 reports that the Ethiopian eunuch was “reading Isaiah the prophet,” specifically Isaiah 53:7–8. He then inquired of Philip, “Of whom is the prophet speaking, of himself or of some other man?”

Five - In John 12:38–41 we find two quotations from Isaiah: Isaiah 53:1 (in John v. 38) and Isaiah 6:9–10 (in John v. 40). Then in Verse 41 John affirms concerning these two verses: “These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him.” This would imply that the inspired apostle believed that both Isaiah 6 and Isaiah 53 were written by one writer with one voice - Isaiah.

The Manuscript Evidence... Snap!

In the wing of the Israel Museum known as "Shrine of the Book" within the city of Jerusalem, there is housed an internationally renowned display - The Dead Sea Scrolls. The Scrolls were discovered 1947–56 in eleven different caves around Qumran. Radiocarbon and handwriting tests put the Scrolls mostly in the 1st and 2nd centuries B.C. One of the best displays in the museum is the scroll of Isaiah, in its entirety. As with many museums, there is a secular bias, but what is most revealing in this case is that they had to admit that even well before the time of Christ, readers of the book and ancient scholars clearly treated Scroll as a single and unified-authored manuscript, and not as multi-authored work. So they had to explain away why the earliest textual evidence didn’t fit the multi-authored-Isaiah narrative.

This scroll also provided an opportunity to test the accuracy of copying over the centuries. Analysis showed that the Dead Sea Scrolls are about 1000 years older than the earliest Masoretic (authoritative Hebrew and Aramaic) manuscripts, yet they are word-for-word identical for over 95% of the text. A great example would be from chapter 53 of Isaiah, the prophecy of Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection. Of the 166 words, only 17 letters are different. Ten are spelling variants, and four more are stylistic changes. The remaining three letters spell the word ‘light’ in Isaiah 53:11, and may make more sense that way, although it doesn’t greatly affect the meaning of the passage. Once again, we can find scientific evidence to support our faith and belief and not the narrative of the world's faithlessness and doubt.

The Big Finale

Who cares? In reality, I don't care if 20 authors wrote Isaiah - that would even be a greater miracle - that 20 theologians could agree on anything long enough to write in unison and speak with one voice. I have no problems expanding my faith to accept the divine and supernatural possibilities of the singular prophetic voice of Isaiah. If I can't then I need to reject Christianity and stop following Christ. In reality, there is nothing in the entire book of Isaiah that contradicts the word and message of God. The message of the Messiah and Savior Jesus Christ is delivered to us in unity as one prophetic voice - making Isaiah more relevant today than it was even 2500 years ago. Here is what we know about the authorship and authenticity of Isaiah. We now know that Isaiah was written before Christ, and so it makes sense that any of the Messianic prophecies that Christians appeal and aspire to could not have been added to the text later.

Anyone is free to claim that the biblical text of Isaiah was originally a sandal repair manual if they want to, but the burden of proof is on them to prove their theory by producing the ancient manual. Until that time the actual evidence for believers in God and followers of Christ from all-times and all-places remains on the side that Isaiah was the original author of the whole thing, and the whole thing has survived virtually unchanged for at least 2500 years. And, frankly, that is how it should be. A few copying errors do not change the message of the book or any of its essential doctrines or Messianic prophecies. Isaiah is a remarkable book that no human on his own could have written: it has knowledge of future events in its own land, as well as the foretelling of the coming Messiah - Jesus Christ. For this reason, and this reason alone its authenticity has been attacked furiously by critics. The claims of multiple authorship make no sense of the internal evidence, the available manuscript evidence, and the testimony of Christ and the Holy Spirit inspired authors of the New Testament.

Of course there have been sensationalist headlines asserting that the Bible has been radically altered throughout its history - why wouldn't there be? Is this really news or is it just more F__ news?

#sermons #SteveIsaac #Isaiah

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