A Study in the Word – Isaiah’s Background No. 12



Isaiah 1:1 identifies Isaiah as the son of a man named Amoz, mentioned thirteen times in the Old Testament and to be distinguished from the prophet Amos. The text makes clear that Isaiah prophesied in Judah and Jerusalem during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, preaching for a 50-year period sometime between 783 and 687 B.C. Many scholars and preachers, however, do not accept that the prophecy of Isaiah was written only by one person. In comparison, the classic liberal position is that chapters 1-39 were composed by Isaiah of Jerusalem in the eighth century B.C., chapters 40-55 were composed in Babylon just prior to 538 B.C. by “Deutero-Isaiah” (also called “Isaiah of the Exile”), while chapters 56-66 were authored by “Trito-Isaiah” in Jerusalem in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah (ca. 450 B.C.).

Joseph Alexander opposed such a division of Isaiah on two grounds: (1) How could an author of the brilliance of Deutero-Isaiah disappear without a trace in Jewish tradition; and (2) If there is no connection of 40-66 with 1-39, then how could chapters 40-66 ever become attached to the work of Isaiah son of Amoz, who wrote over a century earlier? I would add, why would a later writer have mentioned idolatrous practices in 40:19; 41:7, 29; and 42:17 if they were no longer being practiced in Judah because the Jews were in exile in Babylon? Also, the New Testament refers to the prophecy as if it were a unity, citing texts from 1-39 and 40-66 as though they are from a single author. Of the 66 quotations from Isaiah in the New Testament, 21 of them mention Isaiah by name. Some of these quotes are by Jesus. Wouldn’t He know if they were not actually Isaiah’s words but someone else’s? Finally, there is a question of integrity. If one of the major books of the Bible took past events and rewrote them using future language as if they had not yet happened, would that not assuredly present a false basis for faith? What kind of faith would that be? In light of the information presented here, it is my view that the book of Isaiah is a unity composed during the late eighth century B.C. to the early seventh century B.C. by Isaiah son of Amoz. (I have prepared a much fuller treatment of authorship that I would be glad to send you through the email address below. Please use Isaiah in the subject line).

Dr. David Moore is a Baptist preacher in Pampa and an online instructor in Bible and theology for Taylor University and Nations University. Email: dm5867se@outlook.com


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