The Unity Of Isaiah: Evidence From Chapters 36-39 -- By: J. Barton Payne

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 06:2 (Spring 1963)
Article: The Unity Of Isaiah: Evidence From Chapters 36-39
Author: J. Barton Payne


The Unity Of Isaiah: Evidence From Chapters 36-39

J. Barton Payne

The four chapters of Isaiah 36-39 that appear also in 2 Kings 18-20 and that contain historical dialog between the prophet and his king, Hezekiah, have produced more critical debate than any other section of 1 and 2 kings.1 They furnish also some of our primary evidence for the unity of the Book of Isaiah,2 forming, as Delitzsch has put it, a “bridge” to the prophecies that follow.3 A thorough treatment of this evidence hence becomes impossible under present limitations. The writer would seek, however, to indicate three specific areas within this larger discussion in which sharpened awareness may contribute to a defense of the total authority of Scripture.

1. Conditioning Factors in Evangelicalism’s Approach to Isaiah 36-39

If we take, for example, such a question as the relation of Isaiah 36-39 to 2 Kings 18-20, it appears at the outset that liberal and conservative writers reach opposite conclusions because of their respective methodologies. The liberal, e.g. S.R. Driver, limits his admissable evidence to inductive comparisons of literary detail and of thematic concepts; he thus decides in favor of the priority of Kings.4 The conservative, e.g. Franz Delitzsch, while utilizing historical prose style as a confirmatory factor, concentrates on two reasons that arise (1) out of an analogy with other sections of Kings and Isaiah and (2) out of the authority of Chronicles, deductively applied to the chapters in question; he thus insists upon the originality of Isaiah.5 Bible believing scholars appear to be conditioned by five distinctive principles. They presuppose:

a) The legitimacy of multiple authorship within Biblical books, as this is stated. In Old Testament poetry, evangelicals therefore accept the Solomonic authorship of Proverbs (1:1, 10:1, 25:1), but also that of Agur and Lemuel in the concluding chapters of the Book (30:1, 31:1); cf. the various Psalmists that are recognized in accordance with the titles to these poems. But in the prophetic books, while the last chapter of Jeremiah is reckone...

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