Most Christians are not disturbed by the attacks of radical critics upon the Book of Isaiah, nor are they particularly interested in the so called critical problem relative to this prophecy. When you walk through an orchard there is really more to it than the admiring of the beautiful out-of-doors and enjoying the fragrance of the trees and the benefit of their fruits. There is also the realization of all the labors the farmer must have expended in his constant battle against destructive insects. There must be an appreciation of that labor, for without it there could be no orchard and no fruit. And as it is profitable to know something about tree and fruit pests, so it will be profitable to know something of the position of the “higher critics.” 

German destructive higher critics assume that this book is the product of numerous authors and editors who have actually added to and subtracted from the facts, transposed, combined and garbled them so badly by their own inventions that only these self-styled critics can re-arrange the whole mess in any kind of order understandable to the ordinary reader. As to his evaluations of these critics, we agree with Dr. J. A. Alexander, himself a scholar equal to, and actually far above, any of them. He calls their tamperings, “idle guess-work or fantastic child’s play . . . the morbid subjectivity and capricious mania of German unbelief . . . the reveries of Teutonic criticism . . . conceited and multifarious curiosities.” He reproves this modernistic school “for the boldness of its ultra-rationalistic doctrines, and the juvenile flippancy with which they are expressed.” The more familiar we become with this school, the more we will agree that “the modern German mode of dealing with the text of Isaiah, and of settling the antiquity and genuineness of its several parts, is wholly untenable, because capricious, arbitrary, inconsistent with itself, and at variance with analogy, good taste and common sense.” Rationalistic scholars have mutilated and misplaced the parts of the book so badly that, “We need look for no invention beyond this, unless it be that of reading the book backwards, or shuffling the chapters like a pack of cards.” For there is “the reader who knows better,” the believer in the God of revelation. Therefore, with regard to these “learned” attacks on Isaiah, he will “certainly pronounce them ‘trifles light as air.’ ” Unbelieving Bible study does not begin with the assumption or presupposition that the Bible is true, because its basic presupposition is that there is no such thing as truth, at least, not to begin with. We begin with what we have at the outset, which may be the worst, the false, and we proceed, as a result of our “scientific findings,” to the less false. Then we reason onward to “possibly,” upward to “probably” and, maybe, through a cloudy, muddy morass, eventually of sifting the “facts” to “certainly.” The difference between the believer’s and the higher critic’s approach to the Bible is that of the principle of old English law, that the accused is accounted innocent until proved guilty, and the method in the criminal proceedings of a dictatorship, where the accused is held guilty until he proves himself innocent. 

A bit of the history of this hypothesis is in order. Although it is called German destructive higher criticism, its origin is not, strictly, German or Teutonic, but rabbinical and Talmudical. The German and, later, English liberal scholars, such as Eichom, Hitzig, Ewald, S. R. Driver and George Adam Smith, as well as the neo-orthodox in the Netherlands today, got their critical ideas from the Talmudists and certain rabbis turned skeptics, such as Aben Ezra and Moses Maimonedes (of the 12th century), Levi ben Gerson and a heretic who shocked Judaism, Hasdai Crescas. None of these German, Dutch, English (and later, American) modern scholars have developed or produced anything as to their critical position on Scripture that is uniquely or originally their own. Their thinking was already pretty well thought out in the above mentioned apostate rabbinical school. This goes for anything of S. Parkes Cadman, Harry Emerson Fosdick, Henry Sloane Coffin, Reinhold Niebuhr, E. Stanley Jones, men like Prof. R. Janssen and Kuitert. Also to the same school of freethinkers belong those named on the back flap of the RSV Bible’s cover jacket, which see. They are all in the line of such radicals and rationalists as Dacosta, Spinoza, Bergson, Freud and Marx. Spinoza was a product of the Talmud, Aben Ezra, Plato, Aristotle and Descartes, with his thinking pointing to Rousseau, the French Revolution and the theology of Renan. Jetting .out of this treacherous channel are all the neologians, neo-modernists and social-gospelists of today.

At the heart of rationalistic textual criticism is the denial of the infallibility and inspiration of Scripture. There you have its congenital disease. Divine inspiration is that which characterizes the prophets. They were directed and carried along by the very breath of God, so that their writings, as to the nature of their inspiration, were of a divine, verbal, plenary, infallible and inerrant inspiration. All Scripture is God-breathed. That means all Scripture is equally inspired. Not all Scripture is of equal importance, but all is plenarily inspired. We cannot say Moses’ writings are most inspired, the prophets less inspired and the poetical books least inspired. Different degrees of inspiration is an idea of skeptical rabbinicalism, foreign to Scripture, dangerous to the biblical position and inimical to the claims of Scripture itself. It is safe to say that the Bible is either not inspired at all or that it is so inspired as to be infallible. It does not require very much reading of the Bible itself to see that its own claim is the latter alone. 

Both Jesus and His apostles recognized the infallible inspiration and authority of the Book of Isaiah as well as its Isaianic authorship. The critical school rejects all this, especially the Isaianic authorship of the second section of the book, Isaiah 40-66, but also of certain parts of the first section, Isaiah 13:1-14:23Isaiah 21:1-10Isaiah 23Isaiah 24-27Isaiah 34-35. They assign the second section to a much later but unknown writer. But the Scripture itself, the Holy Spirit himself, nowhere records any other name than Isaiah’s as the instrument He used in the writing of the book. The New Testament writers recognize Isaiah as having the authority of a prophet (Matt. 3:3Matt. 4:14Matt. 8:17). They expressly name him twenty-one times in their writings. They appeal to his writings as inspired, settled and binding (Mark 7:6Rom. 9:29); teach that his words are the words of the Holy Spirit (Acts 28:25); that his prophecies were fulfilled in Christ (Matt. 8:17), and that Isaiah saw Christ and spoke of His glory (John 12:41). Isaiah is quoted or referred to more than 200 times in the New Testament, and in Chapters 40-66, more than 100 times. These quotations are drawn from the first, sixth, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, twenty-ninth, fortieth, forty-second, fifty-third, sixty-first and sixty-fifth chapters. In twelve New Testament books there are six direct quotations. Only seven of the twenty-seven New Testament books seem to have no reference. The New Testament recognizes only Isaiah as the writer. Matthew (Matt. 12:17-18) and Paul (Rom. 10:20) declare him the writer of Isaiah 42. Luke (Acts 8:28, 32) declares the writer of Isaiah 53 to be Isaiah. Luke also (Luke 4:17, 18) declares he is the writer of Isaiah 61. Paul also (Rom. 10:16, 20, 21) calls him the author of chapter 65. The Lord Jesus named Isaiah as the writer of the first part of the book (Matt. 13:14Matt. 15:7Mark 7:6), and as the author of the second part of the book (Matt. 12:17, 18). 

The following outline, we believe, will allow the Bible student to take in and trace the substance of the book at a glance. 

Outline of the Book of Isaiah 

I. DENUNCIATORY: The Holy One of Israel Provoking, Rebuking and Judging, Is. 1-39

A. Jehovah’s Case Against Judah and Jerusalem, Is. 1-12 

1. First prophetic discourse: arraignment before God’s judgment bar (Is. 1

2. Second Prophetic discourse: glory and blessing promised through chastening (Is. 2-4

3. Third prophetic discourse: the parable of Jehovah’s vineyard (Is. 5

Parenthesis: Isaiah’s Vision, His Call, Cleansing & Commission (Is. 6) (Jotham) 

4. Fourth prophetic discourse: Immanuel and the Assyrian power (Is. 7:1-9:7) (Ahaz) 

5. Fifth prophetic discourse: Immanuel’s comfort under Assyrian oppression (Is. 9:8-12:6)

B. Jehovah’s Case Against Surrounding Nations, Is. 13-23 

1. Babylon (Is. 13:1-14:27), 2. Philistia (Is. 14:28-32), 3. Moab (Is. 15-16), 4. Damascus & Ethiopia (Is. 17), 5. Egypt (Is. 18-20), 6. Edom & Arabia (Is. 21), 7. Jerusalem (Is. 22), 8. Tyre (Is. 23). 

C. Judgment of the World and the Last Things, Is. 24-27 

1. Judgment upon the whole earth (Is. 24

2. Salvation of the Nations After the Fall of the Wicked (Is. 25

3. Song of praise and thanksgiving for deliverance(Is. 26

4. Proud oppressors of the Church (Satan’s kingdom) overcome (Is. 27

D. Book of Woes—Warnings to Judah Against Unholy Alliance—Encouragements to Faith, Is. 28-35 

1. First Woe: Judgment & consolation for both Ephraim & Jerusalem (Is. 28

2. Second Woe: Oppression & deliverance of Zion (Is. 29

3. Third & Fourth Woes: Warning against Egyptian alliance against Sennacherib (Is. 30, 31

4. Fifth Woe: Against Assyria—Glory & deliverance of Jerusalem (Is. 32, 33) The Coming of Messiah & His Righteous Reign 

5. Final Judgment on the World & Final Redemption of God’s People (Is. 34, 35

E. The Holy One of Israel Delivering from Assyria, Is. 36-39

1.Assyrian invasion & threatenings (Is. 36:1-37:7)

2.Assyrian force & Zion’s deliverance (Is. 37:8-38)

3.Hezekiah’s illness & recovery (Is. 38)

4.Hezekiah’s folly leads to Babylonian captivity of Judah (Is. 39)

II. CONSOLATORY: The Holy One of Israel Comforting, Redeeming, Enriching, Is. 40-66

A.Contrasts Between Jehovah & Substitutes for Him, with Release from Captivity Foretold (Cyrus the Servant) COMFORT, Is. 40-48

1. Assuring the true church that judgments on the reprobate shall not destroy it. Jehovah’s power, willingness & determinate counsel to protect & save the elect (Is. 40)

2. Contrast between God’s control of the world & of the church (Is. 41)

3. The Mediator of Israel (the Servant of the Lord) & Savior of the Gentiles (Is. 42)

4. Israel’s election according to the sovereign will of God alone (Is. 43)

5. Contrast between the ridiculous gods of the nations & the God of Israel (Is. 44)

6. Contrast between God & His attributes & the senselessness of idols (Is. 45)

7. TRILOGY CONCERNING BABYLON (Is. 46-48). The false gods of Babylon utterly unable to deliver either their worshippers or themselves (Is. 47)

8. Babylon wholly powerless in opposition to Jehovah’s deliverance of His people (Is. 47)

9. The fall of and deliverance from Babylon (Is. 48)

B. Contrasts Between Messiah’s Suffering & Future Glory (Jesus the Servant) REDEMPTION, Is. 49-57

1.The true Israel & their despondency reproved (Is. 49)

2.Zion’s children delivered from despondency thru the humiliation of Messiah (Is. 50) (The character and destiny of the two Israel’s defined)

3.The Bursting Forth of Salvation & Turning Away of the Cup of Wrath (Is. 51)

4. From Prison & Slavery to Liberty, Messiah Marred & Exalted (Is. 52)

5. The Servant of Jehovah in Humilation & Exaltation (Is. 53)

6. The Flourishing Covenant Life of the Church (Is. 54)

7. The Call to the Sure Salvation of Jehovah (Is. 55)

8. The Sabbath Rest of Gospel Grace Promised Strangers (Is. 56)

9. The carnal Israel in idolatrous apostasy and the true Israel promised salvation (Is. 57)

C. Contrasts Between Wicked & Righteous. Messiah’s Kingdom of Grace & Glory (Israel the Servant) Eternal GLORY. Is. 58-66

1.False worship and true, with the promise going to the latter (Is. 58)

2.Rejection of the wicked and the fruit of their sin; the salvation of the righteous of God’s power and grace (Is. 59)

3.The Glory of the Church in the New Testament Dispensation (Is. 60)

4.The Messiah the Divine Agent in the Work of Salvation (Is. 61)

5.The Spiritual Zion Married to Jehovah (Is. 62)

6.Vengeance on the reprobate & preservation of the elect (Is. 63)

7.Prayer of the Elect Church in Captivity (Is. 64) The adoption of the Gentiles & the rejection of the carnal Israel. Contrast between the doom of the apostate Israel & the destiny of the true Israel (Is. 66)

8.Jehovah’s Answer to the Elect Remnant (Is. 65)

The Nations Gathered to the New Jerusalem. Israel according to the flesh excluded (Is. 66)