Isaiah Authorship Discussion – Post II

by hamiltonmj1983

The goal of this post is to highlight the major points of Brevard Child’s take on the authorship issue. The material here is mainly out of Child’s Isaiah commentary in the Old Testament Library (pg. 1-8), although I did also look at his Old Testament Theology in a Canonical Context.

Brevard Childs has chosen to “move in a different direction” from both the “single-author” camp that we have already discussed, and the 3-redaction, multiple-author camp that we will be discussing.

Childs views the unity of the book as being incredibly important, but he also does not think that the unity “can be formulated in terms of single authorship.” He views the single-authorship argument as resulting “in a literary and theological flattening of the richness of the prophetic witness.” He cites such arguments against single authorship as the prophet being absent from anything after chapter 39, the importance of understanding the role of intertextuality, and understanding that the textualization of an oral tradition into a written corpus involves “a continuing process of reinterpreting the text.”

He also argues that, while he agrees with the focus on the “multilayered quality of the biblical text,” he finds the outlining of 3 redactions (each given exact dates) to be absolutely inadequate. Childs views the “distinct layers and compositional growth” as being valuable tools to enrich the book as a whole, and not break it into smaller and smaller pieces.

Basically, Childs views the book as a whole as incredibly important. He does not, however, view single-authorship as the only way to understand the book as a whole.

I feel that Child’s take on this issue resonates with me, and I find my own view not too far from this understanding. What about you? For those of you familiar with Brevard Child’s and his Canonical Criticism, have I properly portrayed his view?

Also, for those of you who line up with Oswalt’s view of single-authorship that I explained in a previous post, how does this view sound to you? What does it do to your understanding of the scripture? Does viewing the book of Isaiah as a whole, even while viewing it in a 6th or 5th (or even 4th) century context, take away from the authority of scripture?