Some thoughts on the authorship of Isaiah, biblical scholarship, and fundamentalism.

The fundamentalist commonly identifies himself not as a fundamentalist but as an evangelical, and their evangelical identity is of great importance to them. It is of extreme importance to fundamentalists to defend the unitary authorship of the Book of Isaiah, the belief that the prophet Isaiah himself actually wrote the whole work. It is instructive to read what a distinguished evangelical biblical scholar said on this subject.

I reproduce below a quotation from Professor FF Bruce who was Professor of Biblical Studies at the University of Manchester. He is very much admired by evangelicals. His first book, New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? was voted by the American evangelical magazine Christianity Today as one of the top 50 books “which had shaped evangelicals” (see here)

Bruce served as President of the Society for Old Testament Study, and also as President of the Society for New Testament Study. He is one of only a handful of scholars thus recognised by his peers in both fields. A remarkable achievement. 

Bruce writes:

‘Some years ago I spoke to a group of theological students in a British university on the subject of their choice – the principles and methods of biblical criticism.  Like myself, they belonged to the evangelical tradition. I illustrated part of my talk by dealing with the structures, date and authorship of one particular section of Scripture [the identification of Second Isaiah i.e. chapters 40-55 of the Book of Isaiah which comes from the time of the Babylonian Exile and not from the prophet Isaiah himself]. 

Some of them, I knew, had been brought up to regard as erroneous the conclusions to which, in my judgement, the relevant criteria pointed; yet these conclusions contradicted no biblical statement and could not be reasonably dismissed as arising from an unwillingness to admit the supernatural element in divine revelation; indeed, they involved  the acceptance of miracle in general and predictive prophecy in particular. If, then, these were the conclusions to which the evidence led, I asked, what was the objection to them? They throughout the matter over and then one of them said:

‘What you say seems quite logical, but some of us feel that if we accepted these conclusions we should be lettering down the evangelist side.’

This, it seemed to me, was carrying loyalty to a tradition too far, but I could sympathise with them; I could only feel sorry that such a tradition should be called ‘evangelical’ and glad for my sake that I had been brought up to subordinate tradition to evidence.’      

Quoted in Escaping from Fundamentalism by James Barr p. 156

Categories: Bible, Scholars

1 reply

  1. I think we have been going about this all wrong guys. At this point, I think its easier to go what IS authentic in their text rather than what was forged.

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