James Dowden's Biblioblog

An Anglican layman and total Biblical Studies amateur posts on stuff he finds interesting in the Bible

Month: August, 2013

Pet Hates: Deutero-Isaiah

I hate Deutero-Isaiah! There, I said it!

How, one may well wonder, could someone hate the beautiful Book of Comfort? Well, it’s not so much the content of the book, but the name by which it is known.

In the blogosphere, it is far too often that one comes across a post making the stunning observation that the name “Isaiah” disappears after chapter 39, and that it’s only chapters 1-39 that contain the oracles of the 8th-century Isaiah of Jerusalem. Often, it ends up being phrased much less precisely than that, and Isaianic authorship of chapters 1-39 in their entirety gets affirmed, either through carelessness, or through a strange sort of view that the inerrancy of the Bible is somehow upheld by making maximalist claims.

Occasionally, one will get the concession that chapters 36-39 are an historical narrative placed to ease the transition from Isaiah 1-35 across the sharp stylistic change to 40-66 — they lead up to Isaiah’s prophecy in 39.7 that the descendants of Hezekiah will be eunuchs in Babylon, transitioning from the Assyrian crisis to the Babylonian one. This actually generates a few new problems, but first let’s look at what sort of historical narrative Isaiah 36-39 is.

1. Isaiah 36-39


Isaiah 36-39 is essentially an excerpt from 2 Kings 18.13-20.19, with two major differences: first, Hezekiah’s tribute to Sennacherib (2 Kings 18.14-16) is omitted; and second, a mikhtam attributed to Hezekiah is inserted (Isaiah 38.9-20). The nature of these differences are usually treated as an argument for directionality: it is easier to envisage a redactor wanting to remove an embarrassing story about Hezekiah and to insert a psalm than it is to envisage one removing the psalm and inserting the tribute story. The other argument for directionality is a contention that 2 Kings 18.13-19.36 is a composite (first advanced by Bernhard Stade back in 1882 in his article on 2 Kings 15-20 in the 4th volume of ZAW, and taken up by Brevard Childs in his Isaiah commentary, and therefore often called the Stade-Childs Hypothesis), and therefore had no existence before the creation of the Deuteronomic History.

Various attempts have been made to avoid the obvious conclusion that the redactor who added chapters 36-39 to Isaiah knew 2 Kings, the implication of which is that this redaction was no earlier than the Exile, and therefore that the prophecy ascribed to Isaiah in 39.7 is an example of vaticinium ex eventu. These tend to fall into two categories: first, a claim that the tribute story is an interpolation; secondly, retrojecting the creation of 2 Kings 18.13-20.19 as a unit from the Deuteronomic Historian to the Deuteronomic Historian’s source.

Even if those attempts did not have a certain strained nature to them, they do not detract from the most basic of observations that can be made about Isaiah 36-39. Firstly, they are distinguished in genre from what goes before and afterwards in terms of genre (history vs oracles) and narration (3rd person vs 1st person). The very best case that apologists can claim is that at some point after the time of Isaiah and Hezekiah, a narrative account was written about their interaction and was appended to the oracles that end at Isaiah 35.

2. The Name of Isaiah’s Disappearance

Now that we have established Isaiah 36-39 as a secondary unit, we can return to the claim that the name of Isaiah disappears after chapter 39. We have seen that Isaiah is a character in the account presented in those chapters — indeed, ten of the sixteen instances of his name are in that four-chapter section — but that is not the point that people are attempting to advance; rather, it is that the oracles in chapters 40 onwards are internally anonymous.

So where does the name of Isaiah occur in chapters 1-35? These are the six instances:

  • 1.1 The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
  • 2.1 This is what Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
  • 7.3 Then YHWH said to Isaiah, “Go out now to meet Ahaz, you, and Shearjashub your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool, on the highway of the fuller’s field.”
  • 13.1 The burden of Babylon, which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw:
  • 20.2 at that time YHWH spoke by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, “Go, and loosen the sackcloth from off your waist, and take your shoes from off your feet.” He did so, walking naked and barefoot.
  • 20.3 YHWH said, “As my servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and a wonder concerning Egypt and concerning Ethiopia,

These fall into two categories: headings of oracles (1.1; 2.1; 13.1) and mentions in third-person narration (7.3; 20.2; 20.3). Now, the story of the prophetic sign narrated in Isaiah 20 is a rather curious one, tied in to an historical event that is not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible (indeed, this is the only occasion on which the Assyrian king Sargon II, whom the Deuteronomic Historian conflates with his son and successor Sennacherib, gets a mention in the Bible), but suffice it to say that once again we have a seam in genre either side of this chapter. The implication should be clear: Isaiah 21-35 consists of anonymous oracles.

3. A Cursory Glance at the Parts of Isaiah 21-35 (and 13-19!)

Before we all get excited and say, “Aha! So Isaiah 21-35 should be called Deutero-, 40-55 Trito, and 56-66 Tetarto-Isaiah,” let’s have a look at whether or not this section is a unit.

The most distinctive part is chapters 24-27, an apocalypse. Its genre alone is usually taken as being highly suggestive of a late date. This splits off chapters 21-23, a set of oracles against foreign nations, with rather cryptic titles. These seem to have been patterned after the oracles against the nations in chapters 13-19, each set grouped under five headings describing the oracles as burdens, and in both cases the second burden being by far the shortest of the five:


  • 13.1 The burden of Babylon, which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw:
  • 14.27 This burden was in the year that king Ahaz died. [against Philistia]
  • 15.1 The burden of Moab:
  • 17.1 The burden of Damascus:
  • 19.1 The burden of Egypt:


  • 21.1 The burden of the wilderness of the sea.
  • 21.11 The burden of Dumah.
  • 21.13 The burden on Arabia.
  • 22.1 The burden of the valley of vision.
  • 23.1 The burden of Tyre.

Now, whilst the mention of Babylon alone doesn’t necessitate a post-Isaianic date, the historical situation assumed (e.g. at 13.17; 14.1) is much more consistent with a late point in the Exile. So generally the first set of oracles against the nations are regarded as pseudepigraphic.

The second set follows the first:

  1. The “wilderness of the sea” is a reference to Exodus 13.18 (“but God led the people around by the way of the wilderness by the Red Sea; and the children of Israel went up armed out of the land of Egypt”), drawing the parallel between the Exodus and the return from the Babylonian captivity.
  2. Dumah can be read as “silence” and has implications of death (cf Psalms 94.17; 115.17). This and the word for “burden” (Massa) also recall the names of the sons of Ishmael at Genesis 25.17.
  3. Arabia and Moab both refer to lands east (and south) of Israel. It has been suggested on the basis of Nehemiah 4.7 that Moabites became regarded as Arabians around the time of the Exile.
  4. This is particularly obscure, but it should be noted that Kir (22.6) was the destination of the Damascene exiles in 2 Kings 16.9.
  5. The Egypt-Tyre parallel is explicitly drawn at 23.5.

I am not even going to attempt to provide any analysis of the structure of chapters 28-35 at the present time. I have seen several proposals, all of which seem to lack something by way of coherence.

4. Rounding it all off

So to bring everything together, it looks very much like the “original” book of Isaiah consisted of just the first twelve chapters. This isn’t to say that these are a single coherent work, but rather that that section looks old and resists easy splits.

But let’s return to my dislike of the term Deutero-Isaiah.

At the end of the day, this is a problem of nomenclature. It’s much easier to observe that chapters 56-66 are distinct from 40-55 and call them Trito-Isaiah than to observe equally strong divisions in chapters 1-39 and try to get people to call what they’re calling Deutero- as Tetarto-, Pempto-, Ecto- or something (or worse still, try to coin Quasqui- and Sesqui-Isaiahs).

So, please world, can we retire the term “Deutero-Isaiah”?

Greek NT Reading Scheme

Brian Renshaw posted (originally by Dan Wallace and posted by Ben Blackwell here) a 30-section schema for reading through the Greek NT, roughly in order of difficulty. I am reproducing it here with one added feature, the number of verses in each section:

1. Jn 1-11 (536 verses)
2. Jn 12-21 (343 verses)
3. 1Jn, 2Jn, 3Jn, Phm (158 verses)
4. Mk 1-8 (323 verses)
5. Mk 9-16 (355 verses)
6. Mt 1-10 (315 verses)
7. Mt 11-20 (367 verses)
8. Mt 21-28 (389 verses)
9. Rev 1-11 (194 verses)
10. Rev 12-22 (210 verses)
11. 1Th, 2Th (136 verses)
12. Eph, Col (250 verses)
13. Php, Rm 1-8 (329 verses)
14. Rm 9-16 (208 verses)
15. 1Co 1-10 (237 verses)
16. 1Co 11-16 (200 verses)
17. Gal, Jas (257 verses)
18. 1Pe, 1Tm (218 verses)
19. 2Tm, Tts (129 verses)
20. Jde, 2Pe (86 verses)
21. 2Co 1-7 (132 verses)
22. 2Co 8-13 (124 verses)
23. Lk 1-8 (408 verses)
24. Lk 9-16 (350 verses)
25. Lk 17-24 (393 verses)
26. Ac 1-10 (384 verses)
27. Ac 11-19 (318 verses)
28. Ac 20-28 (304 verses)
29. Hb 1-7 (129 verses)
30. Hb 8-13 (174 verses)

(One brief note I should get out of the way is that words per verse in the Greek NT averages out at about 17. Most books are fairly close to this average. The only real outlier is Revelation, which has about 24 words per verse.)

As becomes quickly evident, the length of sections is all over the place. Yes, the most over-long section is the very first one, but the scheme is not one of sections gradually getting shorter toward the end. The issue is rather that the Gospels are much larger books than even this scheme allows for.

So the question is, can we do better, whilst keeping the order? Attempting to go for 60 sections (to get a finer granularity — it’s always possible to double up) turned more naturally into 61. Some mid-chapter breaks, particularly in the Gospels, were necessary to avoid extremely long sections. But the result is that sections range from 86 to 160 verses, with most around 130, give or take fifteen verses:

1. Jn 1.1-4.45 (157 verses)
2. Jn 4.46-6.71 (127 verses)
3. Jn 7-9 (153 verses)
4. Jn 10-12 (149 verses)
5. Jn 13-17 (155 verses)
6. Jn 18-21 (138 verses)
7. 1Jn, 2Jn, 3Jn, Phm (158 verses)
8. Mk 1-4 (149 verses)
9. Mk 5-7 (136 verses)
10. Mk 8-10 (140 verses)
11. Mk 11-13 (114 verses)
12. Mk 14-16 (139 verses)
13. Mt 1-5 (138 verses)
14. Mt 6-9 (135 verses)
15. Mt 10-12 (122 verses)
16. Mt 13-15 (133 verses)
17. Mt 16-20 (154 verses)
18. Mt 21-23 (131 verses)
19. Mt 24.1-26.29 (126 verses)
20. Mt 26.30-28.20 (132 verses)
21. Rev 1-5 (96 verses)
22. Rev 6-11 (98 verses)
23. Rev 12-17 (102 verses)
24. Rev 18-22 (108 verses)
25. 1Th, 2Th (136 verses)
26. Col (95 verses)
27. Eph (155 verses)
28. Php (104 verses)
29. Rm 1-5 (138 verses)
30. Rm 6-10 (141 verses)
31. Rm 11-16 (154 verses)
32. 1Co 1.1-7.16 (140 verses)
33. 1Co 7.17-12.11 (142 verses)
34. 1Co 12.12-16.24 (155 verses)
35. Gal (149 verses)
36. Jas (108 verses)
37. 1Pe (105 verses)
38. 1Tm (113 verses)
39. 2Tm, Tts (129 verses)
40. Jde, 2Pe (86 verses)
41. 2Co 1-7 (132 verses)
42. 2Co 8-13 (124 verses)
43. Lk 1-2 (132 verses)
44. Lk 3-5 (121 verses)
45. Lk 6-8 (155 verses)
46. Lk 9-11 (158 verses)
47. Lk 12.1-15.10 (139 verses)
48. Lk 15.11-19.27 (160 verses)
49. Lk 19.28-22.38 (144 verses)
50. Lk 22.39-24.53 (142 verses)
51. Ac 1-4 (136 verses)
52. Ac 5-7 (117 verses)
53. Ac 8-10 (131 verses)
54. Ac 11-14 (135 verses)
55. Ac 15-18 (143 verses)
56. Ac 19-21 (118 verses)
57. Ac 22-25 (119 verses)
58. Ac 26-28 (107 verses)
59. Hb 1-6 (101 verses)
60. Hb 7-10 (108 verses)
61. Hb 11-13 (94 verses)

If the number 60 is somehow sacrosanct, I suggest killing section 39, moving Titus up and 2 Timothy down (creating a 159 and a 169).

Now, I’m not saying I’m actually going to do this, but it might be useful to someone.

Shaddai and the LXX

0. Introductory Waffle

Abram K-J’s announcement of a Septuagint Studies Soirée had me thinking about what LXX-related subject I had thoughts in a nearly bloggable form about — after all, the social side of blogging is fun.  J. K. Gayle’s post about Shaddai, breasts, mountains, and destruction reminded me that I should probably not dismiss as trivial a bunch of notes I made ages ago about names of God, and instead turn them into this post.

(And this late at night, I’m not even going to bother trying to type Hebrew. It wouldn’t end well. Sorry.)

1. The Big Picture?

According to my count, the name Shaddai appears 48 times in the Hebrew Bible. These are translated in the LXX-and-other-translations-customarily-grouped-under-that-name as follows:

  • παντοκρατωρ — the All-ruling, the Almighty — 16 times
  • κυριος — Lord — 9 times
  • θεος + possessive — my/thy/their God — 7 times
  • ικανος — the Sufficient One — 5 times
  • θεος (alone) — God — 3 times
  • τον επουρανιον, του θεου του ουρανου — the Heavenly One, the God of Heaven — once each
  • ο τα παντα ποιησας — he who made everything — once
  • ταλαιπωριας — of hardship, of destruction — once
  • σαδδαι — transliteration — once
  • omitted — 3 times (including one instance replaced by αυτου)

From this we get the trivial view that Shaddai means παντοκρατωρ, with many English translations (including the Authorized Version) taking how that word is translated in Christian creeds — Almighty — and injecting it back into the Old Testament.

What we have instead is a nice illustration that the Old Greek is a collection of translations.

2. The Distribution of Shaddai in Hebrew

Before I continue, I feel that I should make a brief note about how Shaddai is used in the Hebrew Bible:

  • 1 instance is in the Blessing of Jacob (Gen 49.25), where the name is used poetically and in assonance with a word meaning “breasts”
  • 1 further instance occurs in the narrative of E (Gen 43.14)
  • the 5 remaining instances in Genesis and Exodus are P’s literary device that the Patriarchs knew God as El Shadday, but did not know him by his name YHWH
  • 2 instances in the Prophets in assonance with a word meaning destruction (Is 13.6; Joel 1.15)
  • 2 further instances in Ezekiel (1.24; 10.5), which I don’t pretend to have anything meaningful to say about
  • 2 instances in the Psalms
  • 35 instances in stories involving non-Israelites (2 in the Balaam pericope in Numbers, 2 in Ruth, 31 in Job)

3. Parts of the Whole

a) the Pentateuch

The Pentateuch has nine instances of Shaddai. These were rendered in the LXX as follows:

  • θεος + possessive — my/thy/their God — 7 times
  • θεος (alone) — God — twice

This is essentially an interpretative rendering based on Exodus 6.3. Clearly the translator had no idea even then what Shaddai meant, beyond its being the name by which God had been known to the Patriarchs; so he picked the default of “[Patriarch’s] God”.

He ran into a slight problem when the name occurred twice in the Balaam pericope in Numbers. There was no Patriarch referenced, and YHWH could scarcely be said to be Balaam’s God. So he left those two instances as plain God.

b) the Prophets

As there are four instances spread across three books, every single case is different. Isaiah 13.6 follows the Pentateuch in using θεος (and as in the Balaam pericope, there is no Patriarchal referent). Joel 1.15 uses ταλαιπωριας to try to translate the destruction pun into Greek.  Ezekiel 1.24 has an entire clause missing, whilst 10.5 transliterates the name.

c) Ruth

The two instances appear a verse apart, and both are ικανος. This is based on a folk etymology of Shaddai, connecting it to a verb meaning “to sustain”.

d) Psalms

Here the sustenance theme is represented by using “heaven” as an interpretative gloss on both occasions.

e) Job

One of those useless trivia pieces that everyone knows about the Old Greek version of Job is that the translator got bored or otherwise didn’t particularly like the book and therefore abbreviated it by about a sixth. So it is perhaps unsurprising that the other two omissions are there.

His other renderings of Shaddai are equally distinctive:

  • all 16 instances of παντοκρατωρ
  • all 9 instances of κυριος
  • 3 instances of ικανος
  • the sole instance of ο τα παντα ποιησας

These are real oddball readings that take the sustenance theme to a whole new level. That English versions have traditionally followed this translator in rendering Shaddai is rather sad and misleading.

4. Lost in Translation?

The oddball translations in Job also clash with other conventions in the Old Greek: κυριος of course stands for YHWH the vast majority of the time, and παντοκρατωρ for Sabaoth — “of Hosts” — on about 120 occasions.

Strangely enough, this issue has affected Hebrew translations of the New Testament as well. There are nine instances of παντοκρατωρ in Revelation, and one at 2 Corinthians 6.18 (right in the middle of that suspiciously un-Pauline passage). Bizarrely, despite the only voice in the other direction being the strange Old Greek version of Job, not all Hebrew New Testament translations render παντοκρατωρ as Sabaoth; some go for Shaddai. It is certainly tempting to argue that in English editions of the Bible, the intertestamental connections should be more important than etymology and creeds, and that παντοκρατωρ in the New Testament too should be translated “of Hosts”.

And on the other hand, “my God” repeatedly in Revelation 3.12 and the curiously superfluous “their God” at 21.3 at least raise the question as to whether in that vision of destruction, the destroyer Shaddai lurks in a Septuagintism.

Q’s Narrative Sequence?

Once again, I’ve been reading articles. This time it’s Kloppenborg responding to Goodacre way back in 2003. The bit I’d like to draw out is on p231: Kloppenborg attributes the Nazara/Nazareth then Capernaum order to Q. This would make it anterior to the third evangelist’s work.

What Kloppenborg is trying to offer an explanation for here is why the pericopes Luke 4.16-30 and 5.1-11 occur in their own places in Luke, rather than inverted (which would be Mark’s order). The contention that this is Q’s order seems an obvious one.

The issues caused by Luke 4.16-30 and 5.1-11 are two-fold. Firstly, 4.23 refers to Jesus’ acts in Capernaum, a city that is not arrived at until 4.31. And secondly, 5.3 introduces Simon (Peter), whose mother-in-law has already been healed at 4.38-39.

The second of these cases may well be explained as a mere gaffe, but the first is more problematic. The Lucan version of the Rejection at Nazareth (4.16-30=Mt13.53-58=Mk6.1-6a) is particularly expansive. It is in a lengthy block of material introduced by the third evangelist that the reference to Capernaum occurs. There are three basic redactional scenarios:

  1. that the expansion of the Rejection at Nazareth pericope post-dates the Nazareth-Capernaum re-ordering (e.g. if Luke took Q’s presumed order, but expanded this pericope on the basis of Mark’s order — the presumed mindset of Luke on this basis is really so far beyond mechanistic as to be perverse);
  2. that the expansion and re-ordering belong to the same author/redactor (e.g. that the expansion and re-ordering are both Q; or that they are both Luke — once again, it makes the writer concerned seem somewhat eccentric); or:
  3. that the expansion pre-dates the re-ordering.

As far as I can make out, Kloppenborg’s position appears to be the first of these three. No doubt those who favor a layered Q could switch to the third and have Qn expansion, followed by Qn+1 re-ordering, but this seems rather heavy on the hypothetical documents. Furthermore, there seems to be nothing more than a hope that we have Q’s order driving the attribution of the re-ordering to the Q phase, rather than to a later phase.

Indeed, the schematic geographical re-ordering seems to pertain to that of Luke and Acts as a pair of works, the former with movement by Jesus from his family and hometown toward Jerusalem, and the latter with movement away from Jerusalem by the Apostles. (Perhaps I should mention in passing that Acts too shows some evidence of re-ordering: most famously, 8.4 and 11.19 look as if they should be continuous.)

The language of the expansion — although I haven’t gone on a word-fishing expedition — also sounds Lucan. The lengthy quote from Isaiah is reminiscent of similar expansiveness at 3.4-6. Some of the expansion also seems to anticipate the Widow of Nain pericope (7.11-17), a passage unique to Luke.

So I am inclined to think it more likely that the expansion belongs originally to Luke, whilst the rather clumsy re-ordering is secondary, done by the redactor of Luke-Acts.