The book of Isaiah holds a place of utmost meaning for the Christian faith, considered one of the most referenced books in the Old Testament. Unfolding the teachings and life of the prophet Isaiah who survived in the Kingdom of Judah during the eighth century BCE, it’s a call to turn back to God and put your faith in Him. What’s more, the text sets the stage for Christ as the fulfillment of the coming messiah that Isaiah anticipated.
Now, the question of who wrote the book of Isaiah is a complicated one. This article will explore some of the most common theories held by scholars who precisely wrote this Biblical book.
Before we focus our attention on the question of Isaiah’s authorship, let’s set the stage for the Book of Isaiah.
When the book starts, God called Isaiah to impart His message to the people in 740 BCE. The year is important for being the year that King Uzziah perished. The late eighth-century was an important time in the history of the southern kingdom of Judah.
You see, Uzziah was popular as one of the best kings Judah had. His rule marked a time of utmost prosperity for the kingdom. Nonetheless, as prosperity boomed, the divide between the poor and the rich in the kingdom increased wider, and all the while, the risk of invasion from Assyria was growing as well.
When King Uzziah acquired leprosy, the political scenario increased even more terrible, and he was forced to give over the throne of the country of Judah to his son, Jotham. Unlike his great father, Jotham was a weak and vacillating individual and could not motivate confidence in his people. That’s the political case in which Isaiah’s prophetic work starts.
Who wrote the book of Isaiah?
The book mainly focuses on the teachings and message that God provided to the people of Israel through the prophet Isaiah ben Amoz. However, the scholarly consensus is that the book wasn’t written by its namesake prophet independently.
The book covers an expansive time—collected over a time of at least two centuries, which appears to point to it being a composition of different major writers or prophets active during this period of Israel’s history. Further, one of the key ways scholars talk about the authorship of Isaiah is by splitting the text into three unique sections:
- Proto-Isaiah: chapters 1 to 39
- Deuteron-Isaiah: chapters 40 to 55
- Trito-Isaiah: chapters 56 to 66
The three parts are often called the First Isaiah, the Second Isaiah, and the Third Isaiah. That three-part division is very different from the typical 2-part way that concentrates on the book’s literary qualities.
The first section of the text that scholars are positive in attributing to the historical Jewish prophet. It’s believed to have been written during the eighth century BCE before the Assyrian invasion and before the Babylonian exile and captivity.
It makes sense that it would be the section he helped the author since the assumed period of composition corresponds with when the historical Isaiah was active.
Many Biblical scholars agree that the second section was more likely written by an unknown author(s) in the sixth century BCE when the Jewish folks were in exile. We can assume that Isaiah didn’t have handwriting in this section since it was a time jump of at least 150 years. However, scholars don’t have a certain figure they believe to be the author.
In this section, the city of Jerusalem has been ruined already, and the people are residing in captivity. Compared to the first section, with its word of condemnation and approaching judgment, Deutro-Isaiah concentrates far more on the upcoming restoration and the promised messiah.
This section references the creation of the second temple. It appears to imply that the section was written after the people resumed the Babylonian exile. Moreover, the author of this book is typically considered to have been written anonymously in the post-exilic time.
It is often called a compilation—a section composed of writings from other Jewish sages and prophets throughout the early days of redeveloping after the exile. Trito-Isaiah outlines the necessity for a redeemer and shares what the upcoming restoration would be like.
The notion of different authority for the book of Isaiah might be shocking or unsettling for others, but it doesn’t need to be. Critical Biblical scholars have often remarked upon the book’s essential unity despite the work of numerous authors.
Further, the cohesion of the whole book reminds us that irrespective of its human origins, Isaiah is the inspired Word of God. Whether it is spoken through a single person or numerous, the purpose of the text is to share the wisdom and teaching of God for his people, especially in times of struggle and tumult. If you’re interested in a hard copy of the book of Isiah, visit the link here: https://www.alabasterco.com/products/book-of-isaiah