Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 15 (2015) - Review

Bautch, Richard J. and J. Todd Hibbard (eds.), The Book of Isaiah: Enduring Questions Answered Anew: Essays Honoring Joseph Blenkinsopp and His Contribution to the Study of Isaiah (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014). Pp. 256. Paperback. US$35.00. ISBN 978-0-80286-773-5.

As a Festschrift for Joseph Blenkinsopp, The Book of Isaiah: Enduring Questions Answered Anew, edited by Richard J. Bautch and J. Todd Hibbard, contains a brief biographical sketch (“In Praise of Joe Blenkinsopp” by Philip Davies), followed by 12 essays on various topics in the study of Isaiah. These essays are all by students, colleagues, and friends of Blenkinsopp and interact in greater or lesser ways with his prodigious work on Isaiah.

The book is divided into two parts, each containing six essays. The first part consists of “Exegetical Studies,” and it begins with “ ‘An Initial Problem’: The Setting and Purpose of Isaiah 10:1–4” by H. G. M. Williamson. In this essay Williamson discusses Blenkinsopp's argument that Isa 10:1–4 was originally placed before 5:8–24 as the first in a series of seven woes and offers the alternative hypothesis that (1) Isa 1:4 contains the first woe now missing from 5:8–24 and (2) 10:1–4 was written as a redactional conclusion to the preceding chapters.

Rainer Albertz outlines his view of the compositional process behind Isaiah 40–55 in “On the Structure and Formation of the Book of Deutero-Isaiah.” He argues that the first book edition, written in 522–521 b.c.e., contained the bulk of chs. 40–52 and that the fourth servant song (52:13–53:12) was appended to the book sometime after 515 b.c.e.. Then in the fifth century, chs. 54–55 were added and a number of other verses inserted to create a second edition of the book, which was followed by several further redactions involving minor additions.

Klaus Baltzer and Peter Marinkovic connect Isaiah with Ezra-Nehemiah as well as some Pentateuchal and Wisdom texts to explore “The Legal Capacity of Women in the Biblical Tradition of the Persian Period.” They briefly survey Isaiah's descriptions of women and female personification of Zion, and they argue that “the background for the struggle against mixed marriages (Ezra 9; Neh 13:23–30) is also the conflict about the right to inherit and to possess the land” (p. 42).

In “The Lament in Isaiah 63:7–64:11 and Its Literary and Theological Place in Isaiah 40–66,” Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer contends that Isa 63:7–64:11 is a non-Isaianic but well-known lament written during the exile that expresses the kinds of concerns addressed by Isa 40–55. She also argues that Isa 60:1–63:6 was written as a positive response to the lament and 65:1–66:24 as a later negative response. The present order of the book, however, highlights God's promises in 60:1–63:6 by placing them before the lament.

In “Joseph Blenkinsopp as an Interpreter of ‘Third Isaiah,’” Hans M. Barstad summarizes the introduction to the third volume of Blenkinsopp's Anchor Bible commentary on Isaiah, focusing in particular on Blenkinsopp's views concerning the composition of Isa 56–66. Blenkinsopp understands these chapters as resulting from a series of redactions centered on three primary units—chs. 56–59, 60–62, and 63–66—that were completed during the early Persian period by a sect of “Tremblers” who trace their roots back to the prophet responsible for Isa 49–55.

In “ ‘Build up, Pass through’—Isaiah 57:14–62:12 as the Core Composition of Third Isaiah,” Andreas Schuele counters the common view that Isa 57:14–59:21 and 60:1–62:12 belong to different redactional layers, with the former reflecting conditionality and the latter unconditionality in YHWH's promises for the future. He observes that these two sections are bound together by the framing device in 57:14 and 62:10 and their shared use of a few key themes. And he also argues that in both sections the new era of salvation must move beyond a political change to involve a complete transformation of the created world.

The second part of the book—“Thematic Essays”—begins with Willem A. M. Beuken's study of “Major Interchanges in the Book of Isaiah Subservient to Its Umbrella Theme: The Establishment of Yhwh's Sovereign Rule at Mt. Zion (Chs. 12–13; 27–28; 39–40; 55–56).” Beuken examines the major seams in the book of Isaiah and finds connections between the sections that revolve in particular around Zion/Jerusalem and YHWH's reign as king.

In “Little Highs, Little Lows: Tracing Key Themes in Isaiah,” Hyun Chul Paul Kim analyzes the “contrasts between the exalted/haughty/highs and the exiled/contrite/lows” found throughout the book of Isaiah (p. 134). Although these themes are used in a variety of ways, Isaiah frequently speaks of YHWH humbling the proud and raising up the poor and needy.

Ulrich Berges explores the relationship between “Kingship and Servanthood in the Book of Isaiah,” observing that the book downplays hopes of a future Davidic king because YHWH is the true king. He concludes that the collective servant/servants, who identify with Zion, inherit the Davidic promises and take on kingly, prophetic, and priestly roles.

In “Eschatology in the Book of Isaiah,” Marvin A. Sweeney examines the eschatological perspective of Isaiah, following an outline of the book that places a major break after ch. 33 rather than ch. 39. Like Berges, he contends that the eighth-century prophet's hope of a future Davidic ruler has been transformed in the final form of the book into a conviction that YHWH is the true king over all creation, who will exercise his sovereign rule from Jerusalem.

Patricia K. Tull brings Isaiah into dialogue with contemporary culture in “Consumerism, Idolatry, and Environmental Limits in Isaiah.” She analyzes Isa 2, giving particular attention to the relationship between pride and idolatry, and notes how the passage's parallel references to wealth and idols anticipate the connection between greed and idolatry found later in the writings of Philo and the NT. She then critiques Western consumerism, which leads not to freedom and fulfillment but to slavery, and she concludes with a prophetic call to make a “shift from consumerism to biophilia,” which, in Isaianic perspective, “might be viewed as dethroning human powers to give place to God and God's creation” (p. 212).

Finally, Jacob Stromberg concludes the volume with his essay, “Isaiah's Interpretive Revolution: How Isaiah's Formation Influenced Early Jewish and Christian Interpretation,” which looks at how the eighth-century prophet Isaiah was interpreted by the early Second Temple redactors who reshaped his words to form the book that bears his name. Stromberg argues that supposedly novel interpretive approaches to Isaiah's words apparent in the later Second Temple period may be found already in the final redaction of the book.

The Book of Isaiah: Enduring Questions Answered Anew presents a fine collection of essays that form a fitting tribute to the significant influence Blenkinsopp has had on the field of Isaianic studies. However, I was left with some lingering questions about how the essays were organized. For example, the first part of the book, entitled “Exegetical Studies,” deals primarily with questions about the composition and/or redaction of particular sections of Isaiah, and it seems like Stromberg's contribution might fit better there than with the “Thematic Essays.” And I am not sure why the book includes a summary and discussion of the third volume of Blenkinsopp's Anchor Bible commentary on Isaiah (Barstad's essay) but not of the first two volumes. Also, given the book's title, I was surprised at how little interaction with Isaiah I found in the contribution by Baltzer and Marinkovic. And finally, a comprehensive bibliography and Scripture index would have been helpful.

Nevertheless, the book offers stimulating and insightful discussions of various aspects of the study of Isaiah, reflecting many of Blenkinsopp's own interests and often embodying his keen eye as an interpreter and his attention to detail. This collection of essays presents a window into the current state of research concerning Isaiah, particularly with regard to questions of the book's formation, and has much to offer to both students and scholars.

Brittany Kim, Roberts Welseyan College