Isaiah in Context: Studies in Honour of Arie van der Kooij on the Occasion of his Sixty-Fifth Birthday Edited by Michael van der Meer, Percy van Keulen, Willem Th. van Peursen, Bas ter Haar Romeny (Vetus Testamentum, Supplements, 138: Brill Academic Publications) contains a collection of essays on the Book of Isaiah offered as a tribute to Arie van der Kooij on the occasion of his sixty-fifth birthday, which coincides with his retirement as Professor of Old Testament at Leiden University. The twenty-four contributions, written by leading scholars in the field of Old Testament studies, focus on the Book of Isaiah within the context of Hebrew and ancient near-eastern writings, particularly those from the Neo-Assyrian period, as well as on the book's reception history , particularly in its Greek and Syriac translations. Together these studies offer a rich and original contribution to the study of the Book of Isaiah in its Hebrew, Aramaic, Assyrian, Greek, Syriac, and Dutch contexts. All those interested in the study of the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament, particularly the Book of Isaiah, in ancient near-eastern studies, Septuagint and Peshitta studies, as well as classical philologists.
Contributors include: Bob Becking, Pancratius Beentjes, Willem A.M. Beuken, Johann Cook, Kristin De Troyer, Cécile Dogniez, Natalio Fernández Marcos, Robert P. Gordon, Holger Gzella, Cornelis Houtman, Matthijs J. de Jong, Percy van Keulen, André Lemaire, Johan Lust, Michaël N. van der Meer, Takamitsu Muraoka, Wido van Peursen, Albert Pietersma, Bas ter Haar Romeny, Adrian Schenker, Emanuel Tov, Karel Vriezen, Richard D. Weis, and Hugh Williamson.
The following collection of essays on the Book of Isaiah in its Hebrew, Aramaic, Assyrian, Greek, Syriac, and Dutch contexts is a tribute to Arie van der Kooij, offered by his colleagues, friends, and students. This volume is presented to him on the occasion of his sixty-fifth birthday, which coincides with his retirement as Professor of Old Testament Studies at Leiden University. It is intended as a token of appreciation for his outstanding scholarship, his participation in many major international research projects, his academic teaching stretching over a period of more than forty years, and his friendly supervision of numerous dissertations.
Born the son of a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church on 8 March 1945, Arie van der Kooij was brought up on biblical study. After a solid classical training in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew at secondary school, Arie entered Utrecht University in 1963 to study Theology. During his study he was also trained in various Oriental languages and Russian. In 1967 he took up his first academic position there as a teacher of Hebrew and immediately after the completion of his studies in 1969 he became a lecturer in the same theological faculty.
His participation as a colleague of Professor Alexander Hulst in the United Bible Societies' Hebrew Old Testament Text Project introduced him to the world of textual criticism and the ancient versions of the Hebrew Bible, as well as to the circle of scholars, which included Eugene Nida, Dominque Barthelemy and his assistant Adrian Schenker, James Sanders, and Hans Peter Rügger. During the sessions of this group of scholars, his fascination for the ancient versions was aroused, which led him to devote his further doctoral studies to the ancient textual witnesses of the Book of Isaiah (1978). Up to the present, the German translation of his PhD thesis, Die alten Textzeugen des Jesajabuches (OBO 35; Fribourg—Gottingen, 1981), has remained a reference work for the history of interpretation of the prophecies of Isaiah in the ancient versions (Qumran, Septuagint, Theodotion, Aquila, Symmachus, Targum, Peshitta, and Vulgate). In particular his emphasis on the need to study the ancient versions 'in their own right, his discovery of the political background of these Bible translations, and his insight that all these ancient translations
applied the ancient prophecy by way of 'fulfilment interpretation' to their own respective political and religious contexts, have proven to be a major contribution to Old Testament research.
Before and after the completion of his PhD dissertation Van der Kooij broadened his horizon further by investigating the redaction history of the Pentateuch, the Eden narrative in Genesis and its Mesopotamian parallels, the textual history of the Books of Samuel and Kings, and the history of Old Testament scholarship within the Dutch Reformed tradition of research. The list of Van der Kooij's academic publications placed at the end of the present volume attests to his broad interests. As secretary of the Verkenningscommissie Godgeleerdheid he held a major position in the committee that was responsible for the reorganization of the Dutch academic theological landscape in the final decades of the twentieth century.
In 1989 Arie moved to Leiden to occupy the chair of Old Testament studies as the successor to Martin Mulder and his illustrious predecessors, Piet de Boer, Berend Eerdmans, and Abraham Kuenen. One of his first tasks there was to organize an international conference on the legacy of Kuenen. Besides his responsibilities for the Old Testament courses and research programmes, Arie became responsible for the Leiden Peshitta edition, and, together with Adrian Schenker, Yohanan Goldman, Gerard Norton, Stephen Pisano, Richard Weis, and Jan de Waard, for the new edition of the Hebrew Bible, the Biblia Hebraica Quinta. In 1995 he succeeded John Emerton as the chief editor of one of the leading journals for Old Testament studies Vetus Testamentum. He had numerous other academic activities, including his role as secretary of the International Organization for the Study of the Old Testament, his participation in the supervisory board for the New Dutch Bible translation, his participation in the German translation and annotation project of the Septuagint (Septuaginta Deutsch), and other major projects such as the Biblia Qumranica, the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies Commentary on the Septuagint, and the Hexapla Project. From 2001 to 2004 Arie served as president of the International Organization for the Study of the Old Testament, which he brought back in 2004 to Leiden, the place where it was founded in 1950.
Among Arie's scholarly interests the Book of Isaiah, its historical setting against the background of Assyrian propaganda and politics, and its interpretation in the Greek, Aramaic, Syriac, and Latin versions have remained a central focus over the years. Van der Kooij's publications on the various aspects of this biblical book include not only his dissertation,
but also a second monograph, The Oracle of Tyre, the proceedings of the Leiden Colloquium on The Old Greek of Isaiah, and numerous scholarly
articles. It is therefore fitting that a Festschrift presented to this highly esteemed mentor, colleague, and friend should be devoted to the Book of Isaiah both in its original Hebrew and ancient near-eastern context and within the context of ancient and modern versions.
The contributions to this volume have been subsumed under two sections. The first section contains essays on the Book of Isaiah in the context of Hebrew and ancient near-eastern writings, that is, within the context of the complex redaction history of the book, and within the context of the books of the Hebrew Bible, Hebrew and Aramaic epigraphic documents, and, in particular, writings from Mesopotamia. The second section focuses on the reception of the book in Greek, Syriac, and Dutch
The first contribution is written by Bob Becking. The essay explores
the background of the simile in Isaiah 25:1o, As Straw is Trodden Down in the Water of a Dung-pit, in the light of a similar sentence from ancient Mari (sapal tibnim met Becking argues that the two passages can be mutually illuminating and that they should be understood as proverbs rather than riddles.
Pancratius C. Beentjes explores the way the Chronicler presents Isaiah. After discussing the divergent presentations of Isaiah in 2 Kings 1820 versus 2 Chronicles 29-32, Beentjes examines in depth the rephrasing in 2 Chr 20:20 of a particular Isaianic passage found in Isa 7:9b, in which the negative prophecy has been transformed into a positive summons.
In 'Woe to Powers in Israel that Vie to Replace YHWH' s Rule on Mount Zion! Isaiah Chapters 28-31 from the Perspective of Isaiah Chapters 24- 27, Willem Beuken explores the intertextual relations between Isaiah 2427 and the following chapters 28-31. Beuken shows how these blocks in the Book of Isaiah are connected by means of a web of common expressions and how the judgement on the earth, which is formulated in rather general terms in the so-called Apocalypse of Isaiah (Isaiah 2427), is applied to the concrete situation of Jerusalem (Isaiah 28-31).
Robert P. Gordon revisits the theme of the dying gods in ancient near-eastern literature including the Bible, particularly the Book of Isaiah.
Gordon examines this motif in texts such as the Ugaritic Baal Cycle, Enuma Elish, the Myth of Zu, Psalm 82, and Genesis 6, where the theme of the punishment of deities who challenge the supreme authority of the main Deity occurs. Gordon points out that this theme occurs also in texts, where humans aspire to divinity, such as Isaiah 14, 36-37, and 26, Ezekiel 28, Genesis 2-3, and the Gilgamesh Epic.
Holger Gzella critically examines the alleged instances of a po`el or `conative stem' for the regular verb in Biblical Hebrew (Ps 77:18; Hos 13:3; Sam 21:3; Isa 10:13; 4o:24; Ps 101:5; Job 9:15b) and places this pattern into its historical context. Gzella argues that a productive po`el in Hebrew does not exist. Most alleged examples are replete with textual problems, whereas none of the very few serious cases exhibit any sharply identifiable meaning of the po`el as opposed to other verbal stems. Instead, the po`el pattern seems to serve as a rare means for deriving secondary denominal or deverbal by-forms on the spot.
Building upon his ground-breaking study Isaiah among the Ancient Near East Prophets, Matthijs J. de Jong studies Isa 10:24-27 in the context of Neo-Assyrian texts. These texts throw new light on the often misunderstood phrase 'the road to Egypt'. De Jong discerns an older layer (1o:24-25) dating from the time of Sargon's campaigns in 72o BCE, and a later, seventh-century supplement ( 1 0:26-27), reflecting the removal of the yoke of Assyria in the time of King Josiah. In this way Isa 10:24-27 becomes 'A Window on the Isaiah Tradition in the Assyrian Period.
The following contribution also deals with the Isaianic prophecies in the context of Neo-Assyrian imperialism. Percy van Keulen comments `On the Identity of the Anonymous Ruler in Isaiah 14:4b-21'. Whereas many scholars believe that this passage refers to the death of the Assyrian king Sargon II, Van Keulen makes clear that the connection between the presumed reference to a humiliating death of this Assyrian ruler without proper burial in 705 BCE and the text of Isa 14:18-19 does not stand close scrutiny. The Isaianic passage should rather be dated to the period after the fall of Nineveh (612 BCE). The tyrant of the poem should not be interpreted as a specific Assyrian monarch, but rather as typus of a cruel and arrogant leader. Precisely the anonymous character of this tyrant enabled later readers of the book to identify him as Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
André Lemaire examines the divine epithet Yhwh seba'ôt in Isaiah in the light of Hebrew and Aramaic epigraphic evidence. The use of that epithet is typical of the Hebrew Book of Isaiah, as is the transliteration, rather than translation of the same phrase for the Greek translation of Isaiah. Lemaire draws parallels both for the early use of seba'ôt (from a recently published Hebrew inscription dating from the eight century BCE) and for the later, second function as a proper name (from Aramaic ostraca from Elephantine).
Johan Lust also deals with divine epithets in the Book of Isaiah. He compares 'The Divine Titles and in Proto-Isaiah ... with Ezekiel, with special attention to the intricate literary-critical and text-critical problems related to these titles. The first of these two titles appear to be distinctive for the Book of Isaiah, particularly the oldest literary layers. While could be used interchangeably with the divine name , at least from the time of the oldest textual witnesses (Qumran and Septuagint) onwards, could not. Whereas the latter title characterizes the Lord as ruler of the world, the former title emphasizes the special relationship between the Lord and his prophetic messenger.
Karel Vriezen examines 'The Wording of "Destruction" in the Latter Prophets' He points to the fact that recent archaeological theories concerning the emergence of Ancient Israel, such as the theories of peaceful infiltration or gradual sedentarization of indigenous pastoralists, share with the books of the Former Prophets the notion that the destruction of Palestinian cities was relatively restricted: according to the Book of Joshua only the cities of Jericho, Ai and Hazor were completely destroyed. The vocabulary describing destroyed cities is far more widespread in the books of the Latter Prophets. According to Vriezen these observations are best understood in the context of the destructive and aggressive Neo-Assyrian campaigns in Palestine in the times of these Latter
In 'Patterns of Mutual Influence in the Textual Transmission of the Oracles Concerning Moab in Isaiah and Jeremiah, Richard D. Weis addresses one of the most complicated issues in the textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible. Adopting a descriptive rather than a prescriptive approach such as that found in earlier editions of the Biblia Hebraica, Weis examines in great detail all the cases of the mutual influence of Jeremiah 48, Isaiah 15-16, as well as Numbers 24 in all their extant textual witnesses. Among his conclusions is the observation that the process of assimilation between these passages increased over time—Targum and Peshitta have more examples of assimilation than, for instance, the Septuagint—culminating in the various proposals of modern critical scholars to 'correct' one of the two texts on the basis of the other.
H.G.M. Williamson closes the first section of this book with a detailed examination of the first verse of Isaiah 30. Whereas almost all commentators on the verse interpret it in the light of the prophet's condemnation of Judah's policy of making an alliance with Egypt against Sennacherib, Williamson offers a fresh interpretation based on a careful philological examination. In his view the second part of the verse does not deal with making plans, but fabricating idols, and belongs to a series of interpolations in Proto-Isaiah by a glossator who interpreted wrong moral behaviour in terms of idolatry.
The second part of this volume contains contributions concerning the reception history of the Book of Isaiah, primarily in the Greek and Syriac translations as well as in the Masoretic tradition, the New Testament, and early modern Dutch interpreters.
Johann Cook combines the focus of his own academic endeavours with that of the honorand. He examines the relatively free translation technique of the Septuagint versions of Proverbs and Isaiah as well as the intertextual relations between the two as detected by Joseph Ziegler. Although literary dependence of the one book on the other cannot be substantiated, the issue of intertextuality between these books remains an area for much future research. Although the Greek Proverbs may not have originated in Leontopolis and does not contain the amount of con-temporization detected by Van der Kooij for the Greek Isaiah, it does contain a certain amount of contextualization as far as moral and religious elements are concerned, dating from almost the same period as the Greek Isaiah was produced, that is, the middle of the second century BCE.
Kristin De Troyer opens a window on the New Testament. In Matt 27:43, the Evangelist added a sentence to his source text, for which he found inspiration in the Book of Isaiah. De Troyer argues that his source was not a revised Old Greek text of Isaiah, but the re-interpreted Isaiah text as found in Wisd 2:18, which he combined with Ps 22:9.
The relationship between the Greek Isaiah and other translation units of the Septuagint is also the focus of the next contribution. Cecile Dogniez examines the links between the Septuagint versions of Isaiah and the Dodekapropheton that have been adduced by Isac Seeligmann to argue for a literary dependence of the Greek Isaiah upon the Greek Dodekapropheton. A careful examination of these intertextual links, however, rather demonstrates `1: indépendance du traducteur grec Isaie par rapport au Dodekapropheton' Not only are alleged translational borrowings (such as the much-discussed designation of Jerusalem as a hut for orchard-watchers) open to different explanations, but there are also quite a number of Hebrew phrases attested in the two Hebrew books that have been rendered in a markedly different fashion by their respective Greek translators.
The question: 'Is there an Antiochene Reading of Isaiah?' is answered affirmatively by the leading expert in the study of the Antiochene Bible, Natalio Fernàndez Marcos. On the basis of a detailed examination of the final two chapters of the Book of Isaiah, Fernandez Marcos detects examples of small additions and interventions, stylistic improvements, and atticistic corrections in the textual witnesses that were classified by Ziegler as Lucianic' readings. This text also contains a few genuine Greek readings, which have been obliterated in the later Greek tradition. Finally, Fernandez Marcos discusses the exegesis of Isaiah by the Antiochene church fathers, who despite individual differences can be seen to follow a common set of exegetical principles focusing on the historical rather than on the allegorical interpretation of the Bible.
Cornelis Houtman discusses a much later phase in the reception history of Isaiah, pertaining to the discussion in the Netherlands in the nineteenth century concerning the veracity of Isaiah's prophecies. Houtman selects two opposite voices, namely that of Abraham des Amorie van der Hoeven, who considered the new findings in the Middle East to be valuable illustrations of the traditional view, and Ferdinand Alexander de Mey van Alkemade, spokesman for the opposite, radically critical viewpoint. Houtman places these two interpreters in the context of modern biblical exegesis, thus adding to a field of research to which Van der Kooij himself also has contributed.
Michael van der Meer revisits another controversy, namely that of the proper context for the study of the Greek Isaiah as a Jewish translation of ancient oracles in the setting of second-century BCE Hellenistic Egypt. He takes the famous Greek version of the Immanuel prophecy (Isa 7:1417) as a case in point. Whereas some would adduce the Hellenistic mystery cults as the proper context for interpreting the Greek translation, and others the Greek Pentateuch, Van der Meer adduces parallels from the often neglected corpus of Egyptian-Greek prophecies (concerning Nectanebo and the oracles of the Lamb, the Potter, and a priest called Hor) to contextualize the Greek version of Isaiah. Besides a number of correspondences on the level of phrases and imagery, he finds parallels for the phenomenon of fulfilment prophecy of an indigenous polemic against Assyrian domination translated and reapplied to the Seleucid period, along with a parallel for the young queen bearing a son.
The contribution of Takamitsu Muraoka also focuses on the Old Greek version of Isaiah. He offers a painstaking and fresh philological commentary to 'Isaiah 2 in the Septuagint.
Wido van Peursen investigates the text of Isa 26:9-19 as part of the Syriac Odes. The text of the Ode was taken from the Peshitta, but has been revised in the course of its transmission. Van Peursen discerns an
early West Syriac recension, a late West Syriac recension, and a Melkite recension. These recensions have some shared readings, but also contain some readings that show their independence. They reflected a development which started from the Peshitta text and which is mainly, but not exclusively, characterized by the influence of the Greek text.
`Of Translation and Revision: From Greek Isaiah to Greek Jeremiah, written by Albert Pietersma, applies the methodology that Joseph Ziegler employed to argue for the inner coherence of the Greek Isaiah to the question of the bisecting of the Greek Jeremiah. Pietersma challenges Emanuel Tov's widely accepted thesis that the second part of the Greek Jeremiah is in fact the result of a revision of an older Greek translation. He pleads for more attention to the variation in translation and contextual accommodation within the two parts of the Greek Jeremiah.
Bas ter Haar Romeny discusses the revision of the Peshitta of Isaiah produced by the West Syrian polymath Jacob of Edessa around 705. He argues against the recent suggestion that Jacob's quotations of the biblical text in the margins of a translation of Severus of Antioch's hymns constituted an earlier phase of the same work. In addition, he deals with the question of whether Jacob used the Syro-Hexapla as a source.
Adrian Schenker studies an interesting textual variant in Isa 66:20 and argues that the reading found in the Masoretic Text mentioning 'a clear vessel' in fact represents a later revision of a more original reading preserved in the Old Greek, mentioning 'with psalms'. By the middle of the second century BCE the joyful procession towards the Holy City had given way to concerns for ritual purity.
Emanuel Tov concludes the second section by discussing the personal names in the Septuagint of Isaiah with special attention to the rendering of Assur. Tov concludes that the Greek translator reflects what he calls `the Septuagint system of representing personal names. While the translator is far from consistent, he stands out among the various Septuagint translators as someone who contemporized several geographical names.
The volume closes with a list of the academic publications by Arie van der Kooij, and indices of ancient sources and modern authors. The system of abbreviations is based upon Siegfried M. Schwertner (ed.), Theologische Realenzyklopädie. Abkürzungsverzeichnis, 2., überarbeitete and erweiterte Auflage (Berlin etc., 1994) and where deficient, The SBL Handbook of Style for Ancient Near Eastern, Biblical, and Early Christian Studies (Peabody, 1999)• The editors wish to thank Ms Helen Richardson
Isaiah 1-39: A New Translation With Introduction and Commentary by Joseph Blenkinsopp (Anchor Bible, Vol. 19: Doubleday)
Writing a commentary on the book of Isaiah in the middle of a paradigm shift in biblical studies, and in the study of the prophetic books in particular, is no easy task. The book of Isaiah has been the object of more scholarly interest over the past two or three decades than during the century preceding. At the same time, much of the received wisdom on the formation of the book has been called into question, including such matters as the date of its several components, the standard tripartite division, the role (if any) to be assigned to the prophet Isaiah himself, and the passages dealing with the anonymous Servant of the Lord. A great deal of effort has been and continues to be expended in exploring new approaches to the book, both within the conventional critical methodologies and beyond them.This commentary by Joseph Blenkinsopp on the first thirty‑nine chapters of the book, the first of a three‑volume commentary on Isaiah, is written from a critical perspective in the belief that only in this way can these texts be given the opportunity to say what they have to say‑and also in the conviction that what they have to say still retains its transforming power for those willing to listen attentively today. The result is a commentary of unequaled brilliance and insight that will stand as the definitive study of one of the Hebrew Bible's most compelling and elusive books.
Deutero-Isaiah: A Commentary on Isaiah 40-55 by Klaus Baltzer, edited by Peter MacHinist, translated by Margaret Kohl (Hermeneia--A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible; Fortress Press)
Deutero-Isaiah: A Commentary on Isaiah 40-55 has exerted its influence on testimonies of faith in both Jewish and Christian traditions down to the present day. Baltzer's superb commentary places the text in the historic context after the Exile. The experience of catastrophe, the need to grapple with new problems, and hope for a peaceful future: these are all linked in Deutero-Isaiah's composition. The work aims to establish accord between adherents of the Jacob/Israel tradition on the one hand and those committed to the Zion/Jerusalem tradition on the other-the background being the tensions between the exiles, and the people who had remained on the land. Along with adroit presentations of the book's basic themes themes, Baltzer also develops an originals approach to the text giving a dramalogical shape to the performance of the text. These creative hypotheses about the work’s genre make this commentary an especially powerful reading of Deutero-Isaiah: A Commentary on Isaiah 40-55. The "liturgical drama" is represented in six acts showing how the text has functioned in worship and its preformative significance as a liturgical and literary text of continuing relevance for both Christian and Jewish confessions as well as for a non-literate audience.
A fundamental thesis of the present commentary is that Deutero-Isaiah work is a liturgical drama. The word drama can be used to designate an overall genre that is able to absorb other, very diverse separate genres. Although the individual parts are relatively independent, they are nonetheless all part of a whole. In our modern classification, and in the classical one too, this relation of the parts to the whole is expressed through the structure. Entrances of the dramatic personae, scenes, and acts are separate elements that together form the composition of the whole drama. The relationship between speech and action is constitutive. With regard to the content, in drama a single theme (or plot) is developed, or it may be several connected themes (or plots). These are put forward at the beginning and find their resolution at the end. The theme may be a familiar one, but in the drama it is newly interpreted against a wider or different horizon. The dramatic tension results from the diverse counteractions, interactions, and conflicts that are related to the topic. Emotional involvement and the understanding of the mind are the aim, the purpose being to achieve a certain reaction.
The drama is addressed to an audience. All those involved-author, players and audience-should agree on the rules of the game, an agreement that includes a common understanding of reality. The language is often (as here in Deutero-Isaiah) the language of poetry, even if elements of everyday speech are also used. In calling the genre "drama" we have to be aware that when we use the tern we initially associate it with our own ideas about the theater. As a heuristic construct this preconceived notion can even be useful. But we must bear in mind al the more constantly the differences between our ideas and those of Deutero-Isaiah.
The term "liturgical drama" is intended to bring out the proximity to worship and the cult. The drama uses forms and subject matter already present in the liturgy, to the point when it itself may acquire a ritual function. This also implies that the performance can be repeated and that the drama can be used at different places. This was not a matter of course in the case of Attic drama. One important assumption is the link between the liturgical drama and the feast-day calendar of a particular community.
More important than our modern ideas and concepts however, is the comparison with the genres employed it the ancient world. This will be developed below, even if the account is of necessity only brief. Points of detail may be found in the body of the commentary, For the OT the information offered by the Encyclopedia Judaica provides the starting point: "Neither biblical nor talmudic literature contains anything which can be described as `theater' or `drama' in the modern sense of these terms." This impression depends in part on the texts that happen to have come down to us. In considering the drama of the ancient world in general, we have to remember how little of the literature is extant, if we except Attic drama. On the basis of what is available to us, we can indeed arrive at certain criteria, but there is neither a universally accepted definition of drama, nor is it possible fully to reconstruct its history.
In the ancient Near Eastern world, there has been "drama" within the framework of the cult since time immemorial. From the sphere of Babylonian influence Horus and Seth. The formerly divided country is reunited and assigned to Horus. He is crowned in Memphis. The fate of Osiris is narrated, with his burial in the "king's palace" in Memphis.
The text combines dramatic material and mythological narratives with a ritual in honor of the Memphite god Ptah, the chief god, who created the world through his word. Its content alone makes this text, too, of interest for Deutero-Isaiah.
When we turn to the Ptolemaic period, two dramatic Egyptian texts must be mentioned, texts that at the same time signal the transition to the Hellenistic world. But though they themselves are late, these texts presuppose a long previous history, and that makes them of interest here. The Dramatic Play in the Mammisi (Birth House) of Philae The decoration of the north wall of the cell was studied by H. Goedicke, who published his findings under the title: Die Darstellung des Horus, ein Mysterienspiei in Philae unter Ptolemdus VIII (The presentation of Horus. A mystery play in Philae in the reign of Ptolemy VIII). The title itself is an indication of Goedicke's basic theory.
The "Horus Myth" from Edfu: The text is found on the wall enclosing the temple at Edfu, together with a "bas relief" It dates from the period of Ptolemy IX (or Ptolemy X?) c. 110 B.C.E. It describes Horus's fight with the enemy of the gods in the guise of a hippopotamus. What is remarkable about this text in its bearing on our present question (i.e., the genre and structure of the drama) is that it is distinctly divided, with a prologue and an epilogue. These frame three acts, each of them containing several scenes. According to D. Kessler in discussions, the schematic outline of the scenes can be reconstructed as follows:
• Scenic instruction for the master of the ceremony "the one who
carries the festival scroll"
• Isis's invocation of Horus/Horus's song of victory (variable)
• Choric song for Horus
• Scenic directions for the master of the ceremony
• Invocation of Isis/Horus's song of victory (variable)
• Conclusion by the chorus.
The visual presentation in the relief and the text correspond. In act 1, for example, the scenery consists of two barks (small boats) on the sacred lake, with the king standing on the shore. The participants are Horus, Isis, the king, a demon as assistant in the hunt, the master of the ceremony, dancers (as "harpoon throwers"), and finally the chorus.
If we take Egypt's long history into account, we have to say that only a small number of texts, fortuitously preserved, can be called "dramatic." These date from different eras, from the early down to the late period. They show a differentiated development. The unique character of these liturgical dramas can be seen in their original relation to the cult and, at the same time, their departure from the ritual. In the festival they link action, speech and dialogue with procession, music, and dance. The texts show that the performance took place beyond the inner space of the sanctuary, so that the public could take part. The people are drawn in as audience and to some extent as participants too.
The texts themselves introduce the written form into the ordered progress of the festiva1. This order no longer rests merely on oral tradition. The interpretation of ritual and myth is part of the subject matter of these dramas as indicated in the texts. In their unique character and form, and in their content too, the extant texts have to be understood as libretti or aides-memoire for the festivals. They give an impression of what the content of a festival scroll was. The texts are not the drama, but they do contain the most important directions for the performance, as regards both the action and the spoken word. In this respect we can perceive that the genre possesses characteristics that can be relevant for Deutero-Isaiah too.
Attic Drama: For us, the best-known dramatic texts belonging to the ancient world are those of Attic drama. This has to do with European history, and the history of Western education especially. But we should be aware that here too we are dealing with a quite specific development. For example, a particular feature of Attic drama is the strict separation of tragedy from comedy, both of them dramatic genres. In both cases the prehistory is disputed. Is the tragedy a genuine Attic development, or do outside influences also play a role, at least a contributory one? The relationship between drama and cult is also not unequivocally settled. There is a connection between the Dionysian cult and tragedy. Every year, at the beginning of March, the great Dionysian festivals were held in Athens, all free citizens participating. On this occasion tragedies were performed, the different poets vying with one another in their compositions. The dithyramb was originally a song in honor of Dionysius. But the actors were not priests, nor was the chorus. The same can be said even more emphatically about comedy.
There is no doubt that the special character of Attic drama must be taken into account. It presupposes the city and its culture, and not least its democracy. The authors of the plays were citizens too, just as much as the artisans, and are known to us by name. They sacrificed to the gods and took part in discussions in the agora. At the festival, processions and theater were experiences shared by all. The public life of the city was their context. Various citizens financed the theater, some of the promoters being known to us by name today we should call them sponsors.
It would be worthwhile to trace the development of Attic drama, but that would take us too far afield. What is important, rather, to our study is the relevance of Attic drama for working out criteria of the genre "drama" in the ancient world. Two reasons impelled me to choose Attic drama as a paradigm outside the confines of the OT.
Hardly anywhere else do we possess so large a number of texts that have been accurately transmitted and well edited. When we think about the production, we must remember that even this wealth of material is no more than a remnant. But the literary form, structure, style, and above all language of these poetic works can be clearly observed from what is available to us. We know an adequate amount about authors and addressees, and about the function of the drama in its social context. Early accounts, vase paintings, and archaeological findings allow us to reconstruct the performance practice with a large degree of conviction.
Another reason is that, when we come to the date of composition and the classic period of Greek drama may not have lain so far apart. To cite a few dates; in 539 B.C.E. Babylon was conquered by Cyrus, king of Persia (559-530 B.C.E.). For the Israelites who had been deported and were living in exile, this meant the possibility of a return and, with Persian permission, the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. This reconstruction was completed, and the temple consecrated, in 515 B.C.E. The building of Jerusalem's walls under the governorship of Nehemiah is dated 445 B.C.E. With their completion Jerusalem was newly constituted as a city.
In Greece the earliest tragedy we know anything about was written by Thespis. It was performed during the 61st Olympiad (536/535-533/532 B.C.E.) at the great Dionysian festival.
The war against Persia lasted from 492 to 479 B.C.E. In 490 the battle of Marathon was fought, and in 480 the battle of Salamis. Aeschylus's drama the Persians was already performed in 472--only eight years after the Persians had been defeated at the battle of Salamis. It was contemporaries who provided the first audience for the tragedy. The Aeschylus text is of special interest for the present commentary because it also grapples with Persian rule. Here too, even from a Greek viewpoint, Cyrus is an ideal ruler. The hubris of his successors is presented critically. But at the same time, with his warning against the military adventure of an expedition to Sicily, Aeschylus was probably concerned about political decisions made by his own people. The Persians is a reminder of the past, but it is also a comment on a topical theme.
A comparison of the structure of the Attic plays is the first relevant point for the interpretation of Isaiah 4D-55 as drama. Formally, this structure comprises the framework, with prologue and epilogue, and the divisions into separate acts and scenes (this being our own terminology, developed in the course of a long tradition since antiquity). The structure is evident in the text itself, above all in the choric songs. These separate the major units of the epeisodioi from one another-. According to Aristotle, "an epeisodion is that part of the tragedy in its full extent which is played out between the complete choric songs.” The choric songs separating the epeisodioi served initially a practical purpose. There was no curtain in the Attic theatre, so the choric songs made a change of roles and costumes possible. But they also performed the function of interpreting the action for the audience, setting it in a wider context. In addition, they span the time elapsing between the different parts of the action.
Another important structural element, however, is the entry and exit of the dramatis personae. O. Taplin has worked this out convincingly. One must remember that the texts originally included no stage directions. What was happening, and who was speaking, had to be deduced from the text. The place and time of the action are a further element in the structure. Here again the texts themselves include signals. Detailed points of comparison are considered below in the commentary.
Not only Attic tragedy, but Attic comedy also deserves attention as a dramatic genre. In spite of the differences between the two, comedy shares a number of characteristics with tragedy, for example, the part played by the chorus. In comedy the link with the Dionysian cult is more clearly maintained. Festival and procession are important elements. Comedy is concerned preeminently with everyday life. The audience is directly addressed. The battle of words is an invitation to participation. References to the political situation, both open and covert, can be detected. Here ambiguous language is employed as a useful technique. The audience is supposed to laugh at the obscenities too.
In antiquity, the fifth century is the age of Old Comedy. For us its climax means Aristophanes. He was born c. 445 B.C.E. and his last datable work was Pluto, performed in 388 B.C.E. He died during the 80s of the fourth century.
Attic comedy is of interest for Deutero-Isaiah because it offers a point of comparison for the artisan scenes and the "idol production,” for the caricature of a procession in 46:17, and for the description of Jerusalem's drunkenness in 51:17-23.
The Exagoge of Ezekiel the Tragedians. At the end of these reflections about liturgical drama as genre, yet another text must be mentioned, a text that is clearly a drama, has a Jewish author, and was written in Greek, probably in Egypt, in Alexandria. It is the play about Moses written by the tragedian Ezekiel. Its title is the Exagoge (the "bringing out"), and its subject is the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. It is one of the ironies of literary history that Ezekiel's Exagoge should be one of the very few dramas (apart from comedies) to survive from the Hellenistic period.
Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 260/265-339/340 C.E.) gives excerpts from the text in book 9 of his Praeparatio Evangelica, in the framework of extensive extracts from the work of Alexander Polyhistor of Miletus (1st century B.C.E.). Clement of Alexandria (c. 200 C.E.) also mentions Ezekiel the Tragedian in his Stromata (1.23).
The date of the Exagoge is disputed, estimates ranging from the third to the first century B.C.E. K. Kuiper's suggestion seems worth consideration. He associates the play with speculation about the appearance of the Phoenix during the reign of Ptolemy III Euergetes (246-222 B.C.E.), linking it further with Tacitus's note in Ann. 6.28. H. Jacobson thinks that the text could perhaps be assigned to the second half of the second century B.C.E.
The Exagoge takes up the biblical text as we find it in the book of Exodus, but with additional elements from the Midrash. Formally speaking, the drama has five acts. Three actors are envisaged. Whether there was a chorus is disputed; at all events we have no evidence of one. The play is clearly addressed to Jews and Greeks. Both the form of the text and its detail permit us to suppose that the play was modeled on Greek traged,''9
A comparison between the Exagoge and Deutero-Isaiah seems obvious. The title, the "bringing out," would fit Isaiah 40-55 as well. In my view, the decisive question is whether there was already a tradition of Passover/ Mazzot plays at an early period.
Conclusions Regarding Their Bearing on Deutero-Isaiah's Work Compared with Attic drama, Deutero-Isaiah seems more archaic. The liturgical drama is itself worship. Heaven and earth are joined. Tragic and comic elements are not separated. The sublime and the everyday take place simultaneously-a characteristic of biblical tradition. At the same time, the action in Deutero-Isaiah has a dynamic of its own. Compared with Egyptian texts, Deutero-Isaiah departs more radically from ritual and its explication (the explanation of the cultic vessels, for example, or sacrificial ceremonies). A speaker always announces the action. Procession, dance and music fill up the time.
The brevity of the speech sections in Deutero-Isaiah is strikingly different from the Attic texts. Only what is most important is stated-the logia, so to speak. We can observe no more than the very beginnings of dialogue. The number of the chief performers is small, especially the number of those with speaking parts. Two to three actors have to suffice. I see this as one reason why, for example, Jacob/ Israel (from Isaiah 41 onward) and Zion/Jerusalem (from Isaiah 48 onward) do not appear simultaneously. The sole exception is 51:12-16. But there neither Zion/Jerusalem nor Jacob/Israel is called by name. They are a nameless pair. Nor do they themselves speak. This means that other people, not just by the main actors, could also play them. Cyrus and Babylon do not meet either. All three groups of texts, Egyptian, Attic, and biblical, show the important part played by the chorus, although the emphasis varies in the different groups.
Finally, the comparison undertaken in the present commentary suggests the conclusion that Isaiah 40-55 was initially a "festival scroll" for the master of the ceremony. It is a kind of script-what modern authors writing about the Egyptian texts calls a libretto or aides-memoire (see above). It is only in performance that a drama, a living word, comes into being from the text. This is not at variance with the fact that the "festival scroll" as we now have it was performed, and probably also written, with considerable artistry.
For an understanding of Deutero-Isaiah's work it is important to grasp that it was conceived in literary terms, but that as a liturgical drama it became through its performance literature for a (largely) nonliterary public. Whether other biblical writings should also be understood as "dramatic"-either because they were themselves parts of plays or because they provided a basis for a dramatization-is a question that still requires examination. Similarly uncertain in the present state of research are: possible relationships with dramatic literature in Mesopotamia, influences in liturgies and processions, dramatization of epics, and the significance of the motif of the "two cities" in competition with each other (such as Jerusalem/Babylon).
Isaiah: A Commentary by Brevard S. Childs (Old Testament
Library, John Knox/Westminster)
Internationally renowned scholar Brevard Childs writes on what is arguably the Old Testament's most important theological book-Isaiah. Childs provides a fresh translation from the original Hebrew and discusses questions of text, language, historical background, and literary architecture. His critically informed, theological interpretation of the text provides a creative and rich reading of Isaiah.
BREVARD S. CHILDS is Sterling Professor of Divinity and Fellow of Davenport College, The Divinity School, Yale University, and author of Biblical Theology in Crisis and The Book o fExodus (Old Testament Library), both from Westminster John Knox Press.
Within the last three decades the most creative work of Isaiah has fallen largely into this last category of redactional criticism for four reasons. First, the issue of the structure of the book has occupied much attention. Within the English-speaking world, P. Ackroyd's illuminating essay (1978) coined the phrase "presentation of a prophet." Ackroyd's concern was to go beyond the familiar' issues of authorship and historical setting and to raise the question of how the I editor wished to render his material. He argued that it was not by harmonizing the great diversity, but by the recognition of the full impact of the prophet on the editor, even when using different forms of presentation. Duhm had assumed that each of his larger divisions had developed mostly independently of each other and that only at a very late date were they joined. Now the emphasis shifted, not only to the presentation in the individual sections (1-12; 13-23; 36-39), but to the linking of chapter 33-35 and to the function of the parts a within the whole (cf. Seitz, Sweeney Isaiah 1-39). The effect has been to raise a host of new and fresh interpretive questions.
Second, the emphasis on structural and editorial shaping is an indication of a major paradigm shift that has occurred regarding the very nature of prophetic literature. The shift involves the recognition of the force of textualization of the oral tradition into a written corpus. Whereas the earlier form critics tended to see the creative periods lying within the oral stage, later critics have discovered a continuing process of reinterpreting the written text. Whether this reinterpretation is called "extension" (Fortschreibung) or "midrash" (Clements, Isaiah and the Deliverance), it assumes that a corpus of written texts was continually evolving in response to changing historical forces. The result is that interpreters have become reluctant to eliminate verses as meaningless glosses, but to reckon with the possibility of an intentional expansion on the part of an editor.
Third, there has arisen a new interest in the book of Isaiah as a whole, but in a form that differs markedly from the traditional view that defended unity in terms of single authorship. In a well-known article ("The Unity of the Book of Isaiah") R. Clements outlined his understanding of the unity of Isaiah in terms of a redactional process in which at least four distinct layers can be identified: an eighth-century (preexilic), a seventh-century ("Josianic"), an exilic, and a postexilic redaction. This shaping process was largely driven by Israel's chang
ing historical fortunes. In addition, one of the startling new developments within the last three decades has been the attention paid to different redactional layers within Second Isaiah, a collection that previously had been largely regarded as of one piece. It is now widely held that the concluding chapters of the book (65 and 66) are closely related to the first chapter, and that a conscious intention can be discerned toward uniting the various parts into some form of coherent literature as a whole (Liebreich, Compilation 259ff.).
Fourth, another feature of importance within the rubric of redactional criticism has been the role assigned to retrospective reading of the prophet. Whereas it was once thought that First, Second, and Third Isaiah could each be assigned to different historical periods with some consistency, now it has emerged that the earlier material has often been reinterpreted by the later. A growing consensus now suggests that the heart of the entire redactional process lies with Second Isaiah, whose influence reshaped First Isaiah and largely determined the form of Third Isaiah (cf. Rendtorff, Williamson). According to some new hypotheses, Second Isaiah has been assigned the role of transforming the inchoate material of First Isaiah by means of a retrospective interpretation in order to reflect the disastrous experience of the destruction of Jerusalem in 587. Clearly such an approach raises a great number of new and difficult interpretive issues (Childs, "Retrospective Reading").
In the light of these newer exegetical challenges in the field of Isaianic studies, I think that it is in order to set forth my own approach in this commentary. Although I have learned much from the many modern studies of the book of Isaiah and identify myself in many respects with the newer methods, I still have enough serious reservations over the state of the field as to wish to move in a different direction from that represented by both the left and right. My concern is to develop my interpretation of the book in an exegetical form rather than as a theological or hermeneutical tractate.
First, I remain deeply concerned with the unity of the book, which I agree cannot be formulated in terms of single authorship. In this respect, I differ from the traditionally conservative approach represented by E. J. Young, Oswalt, and Motyer, among others, which, in my judgment, results in a literary and theological flattening of the richness of the prophetic witness. I plan to develop a commentary on the entire canonical scope of the sixty-six chapters that the received tradition designated as the prophecy of Isaiah. By the term canon I am not merely addressing its formal scope, but including the quality of the theological testimony identified with the prophet Isaiah. A major question of concern is to develop in what sense one can truly speak of the canonical corpus as the word of God to Isaiah. The complexity of the issue is especially clear when one considers that the historical eighthcentury prophet does not appear in the book after chapter 39. With the majority of modern scholars, I strongly doubt that the problem can be resolved by portraying the eighth-century prophet as a clairvoyant of the future. A much more subtle and profound theological reflection is called upon to do justice both to the unity and diversity of the biblical corpus.
Second, I agree with the modern redactional stress on the multilayered quality of the biblical text. However, in my opinion, it is fully inadequate to find the unity of this book in a succession of redactional layers, each with its own agenda, which are never ultimately heard in concert as a whole. To end one's critical analysis by outlining a seventh-, sixth-, and fifth-century redactional succession, each with an absolute dating, fails to reckon with the book's canonical authority as a coherent witness in its final received form to the ways of God with Israel. Ultimately, the analysis of distinct layers and compositional growth must be used to enrich the book as a whole, rather than to fragment it into conflicting voices of individual editors, each with a private agenda. In the end, it is the canonical text that is authoritative, not the process, nor the self-understanding of the interpreter.
Third, one of the most important recent insights of interpretation has been the recognition of the role of intertextuality. The growth of the larger composition has often been shaped by the use of a conscious resonance with a previous core of oral or written texts. The great theological significance is that it reveals how the editors conceived of their task as forming a chorus of different voices and fresh interpretations, but all addressing in different ways, different issues, and different ages a part of the selfsame, truthful witness to God's salvific purpose for his people. The fact that one cannot always determine the direction in which the intertextual reapplication flows is a warning against assigning too much importance on the recovery of sequential trajectories as the key to meaning.
Fourth, I remain critical of those interpreters who attempt to force exegesis into narrowly defined structuralist categories, or who restrict its only legitimate role to synchronic analysis. The relation of the synchronic and diachronic dimensions is an extremely subtle one in the Bible and both aspects must be retained. Basically, my resistance to much of postmodern literary analysis derives from theological reasons. Although I have learned much from modern literary techniques, I differ in my theological understanding of the nature and function of scripture. I regard the biblical text as a literary vehicle, but its meaning is not self-contained. Its function as scripture is to point to the substance (res) of its witness, to the content of its message, namely, to the ways of God in the world. For this reason I remain highly critical of many modern literary proposals, which are theologically inert at best, and avowedly agnostic at worst.
Finally, regarding the place of the New Testament in an Old Testament commentary on Isaiah, the primary task of the latter is to hear the Old Testament's own discrete voice and to honor its own theological integrity. Yet as a Christian interpreter, I confess with the church that the Old and New Testaments, in their distinct canonical forms, together form a theological whole. However, to deal adequately with the New Testament far exceeds the scope of an Old Testament commentary and the ability of this author. Nevertheless, I have offered a few probes of crucial texts that have played a prominent role within Christian tradition. I am fully aware that the full task remains still to be undertaken.
In recent years there have been a few attempts made to trace the role that the book of Isaiah has played in various periods in the history of the Christian church. Many of these volumes are useful and filled with learning. Yet I remain critical of approaches that, when tracing the appropriation of the book of Isaiah, assume that the major forces at work were largely cultural. Often the concentration falls on the misuse of biblical texts. What is missing is the ability to see the effect of the coercion of the text itself in faithfully shaping the life of the church-its doctrine, liturgy, and practice-in such a way as to leave a family resemblance of faith throughout the ages. In search of this goal, the voices of the great Christian interpreters -Chrysostom, Augustine, Thomas, Luther, Calvin-remain an enduring guide for truthfully hearing the evangelical witness of Isaiah in a manner seldom encountered since the Enlightenment.
I Saw the Lord
A Pilgrimage through Isaiah 6
by Kenneth L. Waters, Sr.
Upper Room Books
$9.85, paper; 112 pages
AN AFRICAN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVE ON SPIRITUAL RENEWAL
How do we know when God is present and calling us -- and how can we be
ready and able to respond to this call?
Los Angeles pastor Kenneth Waters Sr. provides thoughtful and inspiring answers to these questions in I Saw the Lord: A Pilgrimage Through Isaiah 6.
Using a well-known and much-beloved passage of the Bible, Waters reveals
the miracle of spiritual transformation in Isaiah's encounter with God. Going beyond
Isaiah's mere summons to ministry, the author proposes ten aspects of spirituality in
Isaiah's experience and designates a chapter of discussion and reflection to each. There
is considerable learning and much integrated life experience in these practical and shrewd
reflections upon the nature of God's call to us.
Traversing such themes as seeing, hearing, conviction, confession, purification, calling, commitment and commission, these chapters are further illuminated by Water's personal stories grounded in his life experience, a mature reflection of scripture and his African American spiritual heritage. He recalls with ease about his mother's speaking to God while in the kitchen. Going about her daily chores, singing the "Old One Hundreds" she was a strong witness to sustained faith. He remembers hearing for the first time the "Old One Hundreds" at the Visitors' Chapel, African Methodist Episcopal Church in Texas when he was a boy. "Even though I stood outside of her engagement with God," he says, "I was yet included in it because I heard her, and the sound I heard during my formative years became an integral part of my spiritual development."
In discussing aspects of feeling in our spiritual experience, Waters makes the connection between Isaiah's inferred sensations of shaking (as the temple doorposts shook when the angels spoke) and his intense emotions at finding himself in the divine presence of the Lord.
He notes that "the shout" in African American worship tradition is a physical expression of joyful or liberating emotion -- a way of becoming a whole person in communion with God, of authentically experiencing God's love in our hearts. "Feeling, therefore, gives us access to knowledge that lies beyond the boundaries of reason," Waters says.
The final chapter of I Saw the Lord, on commission, deals with Isaiah's -- and our -- summons to spiritual and social wholeness. Waters discusses his experience of the violence and destruction that took place in his neighborhood in the summer of 1992, after the city of Los Angeles exploded into a rage over the outcome of the Rodney King trial. He describes the outreach activities his church and other social service agencies undertook during these "days of turmoil and uncertainty," confirming that these actions were God's commission for his church. Waters concludes with this battle cry:
"Prophetic courage is holding up the standards of justice for all people, especially the historically oppressed and disenfranchised. It is challenging all falsehoods and half-truths whether they are spoken in private or in the public forum....Now that the fires have died down, so have some of the clamoring voices; but the prophets are still speaking, just as they were before things exploded, and they are still calling us to obedience, truth, and justice lest the fires rage again."
This volume is a fine introduction to aspects of African American spirituality. The work is appropriate for both individual and group church use. I Saw the Lord contains questions for reflection and a leader's guide.
KENNETH L. WATERS Sr. is pastor of Vermont Square United Methodist Church, an inner-city congregation in Los Angeles.
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