The Literary Character of Isaiah 40-55 Part 2: Literary Genres in Isaiah 40-55 -- By: Eugene H. Merrill

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 144:574 (Apr 1987)
Article: The Literary Character of Isaiah 40-55 Part 2: Literary Genres in Isaiah 40-55
Author: Eugene H. Merrill


The Literary Character of Isaiah 40-55
Part 2:
Literary Genres in Isaiah 40-55

Eugene H. Merrill

Professor of Semitics and Old Testament Studies
Dallas Theological Seminary

As the survey in the first article in this two-part series1 showed, contemporary scholarly consensus recognizes four major genres (disputations, lawsuits, salvation oracles, and proclamations of salvation) and one minor genre (hymns/hymnic) in Isaiah 40–55. Each of these must now be considered in detail, but for convenience they will be grouped under the categories of hymns, polemic genres, and salvation speeches.

The Hymns and Hymnic Sections

It is virtually impossible to find any two scholars who agree on any list of hymns or hymnic passages in Isaiah 40–55, but the following will satisfy most: 40:12–26, 27–31; 42:10–13; 44:23; 45:8; 48:20–21; 49:13; 51:3; 52:9–10 .

Only a brief review of the hymn/psalm genre can be presented here. Gressmann defined the hymn as fundamentally a praise of the deity.2 He said that the hymns in Isaiah 40–55 enumerate Yahweh’s great deeds through predications in the form of epithets. Any texts that use that characteristically participial

construction should be considered hymnic. Gressmann saw four basic categories: (a) hymnic expansions of the introduction and conclusion formulae; (b) hymnic expansions of self-predication expressions (which he considered to be due to the Babylonian environment);3 (c) concluding hymns;4 and (d) larger hymns.5 He has often been accused of finding too many examples of hymns, but in fact he sees no hymns at all independent of their contexts. That is, the prophet did not use the hymn as a separate genre but only to introduce, conclude, or tie together nonhymnic sections.

Mowinckel, in his monumental work The Psalms in Israels Worship, divided I...

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