Prophecies of the salvation of the church, beginning with the turning of Judah’s captivity and concluding with the creation of the new heavens and the new earth. Isaiah 40-66.
Today the view that is held in broader circles is, that these chapters owe their origin to a prophet (or prophets) that flourished in or at the end of or even after the period (of the Babylonian captivity) of which these chapters treat—thus flourished some 225 years or more after the passing of Isaiah.
But till the end of the last century it was a universally accepted tradition among Jews and Christians that the chapters in question were prophetically written by Isaiah. This opinion, still retained by many, we are glad to say, is the only tenable one as can easily be seen in the light of the following considerations.
The chapters 40-66 form one book with the chapters 1-39, where at Isaiah 1:1 the superscription occurs, “The vision of Isaiah the son of Amos, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.”
As no passages occur in the prophetic discourse that with unquestionable clarity forbid our applying the superscription also to the chapters 40-66, we find ourselves obliged to allow that the superscription does indeed apply also to these chapters.
The opinion that the superscription of Isaiah 1:1 does not apply to the entire discourse, shuts us up to the impossible view—impossible because of the power and significance of the prophecies involved—either that the real author failed to supply these his prophecies with a superscription revealing his name and the time or age in which he flourished, or, if he did, that this superscription was either purposely omitted or accidently lost in transmission.
Also to be considered is the argumentation of those who reject the traditional view and whose opinion it is that our 3 chapters must be assigned to a nameless author of the period of the Babylonian exile.
It is said that the opinion that Isaiah “was carried forward by the Spirit, out of his own age to the standpoint of one hundred and fifty years later; that he was inspired to utter the warning and comfort required by a generation so very different from his own; involves a phenomenon without parallel in the history of holy Scripture.”
But this is not true. The experience of Isaiah was common to all the prophets. How otherwise should they have spoken the word of God? All uttered glad predictions, good tidings, the gospel of Christ, the reach of which extended to the end of time, thus tidings, words of comfort, instruction and warning required by the church of all the ages to come including the church of their own age. This was the very purpose of prophecy. “Of which salvation,” wrote the apostle “the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you . . . .” I Pet. 1:10-12a. Also their glad messages from, the hope that God’s believing people have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, Heb. 6:19.
That Isaiah was enabled to hail by name the deliverer, Cyrus, is said to involve another phenomenon without parallel in the history of holy Scripture. It is true that the Cyrus-prophecy is found only in Isaiah. But it is not true that Isaiah’s ability to hail this figure by name is without parallel in the history of Scripture. Christ was also hailed by name by Isaiah not alone but by all prophecy. If we only stand firmly in the faith that the first author of the prophetic discourse was the Lord, we will not stumble over the Cyrus-prophecy but will perceive its purpose and necessity. It must have been by this very prophecy, brought to the attention of Cyrus by Daniel, that the Lord moved him to set His people free.
There is also the argument that some chapters in our book are distinctly said to be by Isaiah while others are not so entitled, and that “this difference affords us sufficient ground for understanding, that the whole book is not necessarily by Isaiah, nor intentionally handed down by its compilers as the book of this prophet.”
But let us get before us the facts. Of the 66 chapters of our book only the first two have superscriptions. Both name the prophet, Isaiah. In both he is presented to view as having seen the “word of God.” All, including the Moderns, are agreed that the “word” that the prophet saw includes more than the content of the chapter headed by the superscription. How then can it be said that some chapters of our book are distinctly said to be by Isaiah while others are not so entitled, meaning that the superscription covers the content only of the one chapter that it heads. The statement is untrue and the conclusion drawn from it worthless.
Both with the Moderns and those who hold the traditional view, the questions are these: first, how many of the first 35 chapters of our book are to be included in the “word of the Lord” that the prophet saw. Second, must Isa. 40-66 also be included in this “word.” The Moderns exclude several of the first 35 chapters and all of Isa. 40-66. Their contention is that these chapters owe their origin not to Isaiah but to an unknown prophet (or prophets) who flourished at the close of or even after the Babylonian captivity, as has already been explained. Those who hold the traditional view include these chapters. As was said, their position is, that the superscriptions cover the entire discourse from beginning to end, with the exception of some parts of the historical section. The Moderns have yet to prove this position untenable. All they come with, in making, the attempt, is doubtful reasonings and passages in the chapters involved that can have a meaning that differs from the one that they give to them.
A few more examples.
It is well known that in the New Testament, portion of the disputed chapters are quoted by Isaiah’s name. This, too, pleads for the Isaian authorship of these chapters. But the Moderns deny this on the ground that none of these citations is by Christ Himself but by Paul and Matthew and the writer of the Acts, as if this could make any difference.
Also to be considered, they say, is the purpose of which the Evangelists borrow the texts. The purpose was not to answer the question, Did Isaiah write chapters 40-66 of the book called by his name. Nothing in the texts “requires us to suppose that Isaiah’s name is mentioned with them for any other purpose (end) than that of reference, viz., to point out they lie in the part of the prophecy usually known by his name.” That is, it is not necessary to suppose that their purpose was also to teach the Isaian authorship of our book. Hence, their quoting the texts by Isaiah’s name in no wise pleads for the Isaian authorship of our book, of its disputed chapters.
This is a rather clever reasoning. But we want nothing of it. Seeing that the Evangelists and Paul were infallibly led in their writings by the Holy Spirit, how can it be supposed that they could be capable of quoting the tests by Isaiah’s name, if it were true that the chapters in which they lie owe their origin to another unknown prophet?
But we have yet to consider what the Moderns regard as their unanswerable argument. As put into words by G.A. Smith (in “The Expositor’s Bible) it runs like this, “It is nowhere said—as we should expect it to be said, if the prophecy had been uttered by Isaiah—that Assyria, the dominant world-power of Isaiah’s day, was to disappear and Babylon to take her place; that then the Babylonians should lead the Jews into an exile which they had escaped at the hands of Assyria; and that after nearly seventy years of suffering God would raise up Cyrus as a deliverer. There is none of this prediction, which we might fairly have expected had the prophecy been Isaiah’s; because, however far Isaiah carries us into the future, he never fails to start from the circumstances of his own day . . . In the statements, which our chapters make concerning the Exile and the conditions of Israel under it, there is no prediction, not the slightest trace of the grammar of the future in which Jeremiah’s prophecies are constantly uttered. But there is a direct appeal to the conscience of a people already long under the discipline of God; their circumstance of exile is taken for granted; there is a most vivid and delicate appreciation of their present fears and doubts, and to these the deliverer Cyrus is not only named, but introduced as an actual and notorious personage already upon the midway of his irresistible career.”—End of quote.
We should consider that the only reason that the Moderns argue this way is, that they refuse to adopt the only tenable, let us say, permissible position that the “word of the Lord” that Isaiah saw, Isaiah 1:1, includes also Isa. 40-66, and that therefore also these chapters owe their origin to him. If it is true, and it is true, as we purpose to show in the sequel, that this position is the only permissible one, then of course the disputed chapters are prediction throughout, also those passages where the grammar is of the past. Then it is said also in these disputed chapters that Assyria was to disappear and Babylon to take her place, etc.