« PreviousContinue »
Captivity—the latter beginning with a promise of the deliverance from Babylon, and unfolding, with a clearness and fulness of evangelical teaching hitherto unknown, the deliverance of the true Israel from the bondage of their spiritual oppressors and the present and future glory of the redeemed Church of God.
No doubt appears to have existed, either in the ancient Jewish or the primitive Christian Church, as to the authorship of both portions of these prophecies; and it was not until a comparatively recent period that any question seems to have arisen upon the subject. So conclusively, indeed, is the genuineness of the whole attested alike by external and by internal evidence, that although, as we shall now proceed to show, modern criticism has discovered objections of a more or less plausible nature against that of the later chapters, the origin of these objections must be ascribed, in the first instance, to the clearness and precision of the predictions therein contained.
Were it needful to adduce any proof of this assertion, the truth of which even the objectors themselves would scarcely deny, it would suffice to refer to the singularly unsatisfactory, and, we must add, uncritical allegations, on the one hand, of interpolations, in the earlier prophecies, of predictions of a later date, and, on the other hand, of similar interpolations, in the later prophecies, of predictions ascribed to the true Isaiah,allegations which themselves go far towards establishing the unity of the prophecies regarded as a whole, by showing the extremities to which men have been reduced in their attempts to rend them asunder.
Very little need be said to show the importance of the decision of the question of the earlier or later (i.e. the pre-exile or post-exile) date of the second portion of Isaiah's prophecies. It seems, indeed, to be virtually conceded, by some of our Rationalistic opponents, by the eagerness with which the theory of the so-called second Isaiah has been maintained, and, we must add, by their resolute rejection of evidence, however direct and explicit, which militates against it,—that if the genuineness of the chapters in question be allowed, the evidence of prophecy will be, in the judgment of the objectors, incontrovertibly established.
Believing then, as we do, that this question is one for the satisfactory solution of which abundant materials have been provided in the Sacred Records, and that it is one the right decision of which overturns the whole Rationalistic theory of interpretation; we propose to examine the chief objections which have been alleged against the genuineness of these chapters, and also to state some of the considerations which seem to us decisive of their claim to be regarded as the genuine productions of that prophet to whom they have been ascribed, not only on sufficient human evidence, but, as we believe, on Divine authority.
Koppe, in the last quarter of the 18th century, first expressed doubts as to the genuineness of the 50th chapter. Döderlein then expressed a decided suspicion as to the genuineness of the whole of the chapters xi.-lxvi. Eichhorn, Paulus, and Bertholdt adopted the same view; and still more recently, and with some further discoveries as to interpolations, Gesenius, Hitzig, and Ewald.*
The objections which we shall now consider have, however, been gathered chiefly from the second portion of the wellknown “ Lectures on the Jewish Church ;" the production of a writer, the graces and attractiveness of whose style have probably done more than the arguments alleged, either by himself or any other, to give currency to the theory of “the second Isaiah.”
We have not, however, overlooked other objections urged, with equal or greater force, by those of his predecessors to whose writings Dean Stanley is mainly indebted for the "facts” and considerations to which he has directed the attention of his readers in an Appendix to the volume to which we have referred. We do not propose to notice, under the head of ob, jections, certain “ facts," the truth of which we not only fully concede, but, further, maintain their importance to the unity and completeness of the prophecies regarded as a whole. We allade to such facts as the line of demarcation drawn between the two portions of the Prophecy by the intervention of the historical chapters xxxvi.—xxxix., and to the introduction into the second portion of the Prophecy of fresh subjects of thought as necessitating the use of new expressions. Passing by these, we shall now proceed to notice the chief of those objections which, in our judgment, have any real bearing upon the question at issue.
I. It is alleged that there is a marked difference of style in the two portions of the Prophecies; and that Aramaic words, and other diversities of language, indicative of a later age, are observable in the second.
Our reply to this objection is,
First, That so much similarity of style has been observed in so many places, in the second portion of these Prophecies, that the objectors have themselves alleged the fact as a probable reason for the ascription of both portions to the same author.
Secondly. That if the alleged diversity of style in other places were much greater than it really is, that diversity may well be explained by the difference of the circumstances under which the two portions of the prophecy were composed; by the age of the writer at the respective periods of their composition;
* See Hengstenberg's Christology, vol. i. p. 398, 1836; and Delitzsch, vol. i. p. 57. Clark's Theolog. Library.
and still more by the difference in the subjects of the respective portions of the prophecies; occasional ruggedness of style and conciseness giving rise to a certain amount of obscurity, being as well adapted to the stern and denunciatory character of the earlier portion of these prophecies, as ease, fluency, and transparency of style are eminently in accordance with the consolatory character of the later portion.
Thirdly. As regards the alleged use of Chaldaisms and of expressions indicative of a later age, some of the most eminent of the adverse critics have been constrained to allow,-(1) that there is no satisfactory proof of the existence of the latter; and (2) that the existence, in some few instances, of the former is perfectly reconcileable with the earlier date assigned to the prophecies; the general acquaintance of the Jews with the Aramaic dialect in the days of king Hezekiah being a matter of history, and our knowledge of the precise period at which its influence upon the Hebrew language began to be distinctly felt, being far too imperfect to warrant any positive conclusions as to the date of any composition in which some slight admixture of the Aramaic may be discerned.
Fourthly. A collation of the earlier and later divisions of these prophecies, (a mine which yet remains to be thoroughly worked, and which promises to repay abundantly whatever labour may be bestowed upon it,) has already led to the discovery not only of the more obvious and striking points of resemblance between the two, as e. g. the frequent insertion of songs, and the infrequency of visions, the peculiar use of antithesis and paronomasia, and the very frequent and characteristic use of anadiplosis and epanaphora, but also of words and expressions either (a) used exclusively, or almost exclusively, by Isaiah, or (b) used by Isaiah in a sense peculiar to himself, or (c) used by him originally, and demonstrably adopted from his writings by those who came after him.
We cannot refrain from adducing, under this head, in suggestive contrast to the objections we have endeavoured to meet, the following testimony of an able modern writer to the necessity of the supposition of Divine agency as the only mode of accounting for the sustained unison of the utterances of “this prince of the prophets,"dated through the years of solongalife:
“It does not belong to human nature, with its constant progression of temper and temperament, shifting from early manhood to the last months of a term of eighty or ninety years, thus to utter the same things, in the same mood, indicative equally of unbroken vigour and of unclouded benignity."*
II. The next objection which we shall notice is, the alleged
* The Spirit of the Hebrew Poetry, p. 219.
absence of allusions to the later chapters of Isaiah on the part of subsequent writers.
Our answer to this objection is,-first, that the allegation applies, as we believe, at least as much to the confessedly genuine prophecies of Isaiah, as to those which modern criti. cism has pronounced spurious.
Secondly. It is always unsafe to draw any positive conclu. sions from negative evidence of this kind, and the uncertainty of such conclusions is capable of abundant illustration in the present instance.
Thirdly. For the alleged absence of subsequent reference to these chapters proves, on examination, nothing more than the carelessness, or ignorance, of the objectors.
We would refer those of our readers who may desire to prosecute this enquiry for themselves, not only to the dissertation upon the genuineness of Isaiah xl.-lxvi., in Hengstenberg's Christology, pp. 406 and 423, but also to the extremely valuable Commentary of Delitzsch, p. 136 (recently translated by Mr. Martin, and forming a portion of Clark's Theological Library), and to the table of passages in the prophecies of Jeremiah compared with the later prophecies of Isaiah, which is contained in the introduction to the volume last published of that great work, which we trust that the Bishop of Lincoln's new duties may not prevent him from completing.
We may also state the fact, hitherto in great measure overlooked as an argument for the genuineness of the chapters under our consideration, that there will be found in the series of Psalms beginning with the 93rd and ending with the 100th,a series containing, as it seems to us, internal evidence of having been written previously to the Captivity,—not only general coincidences of thought and expression with portions of these prophecies, but also so many and so striking verbal coincidences as will convince every impartial student of Holy Scripture, that the mind of the one author was thoroughly imbued with the writings of the other; whilst a critical examination of these points of coincidence will, we believe, leave little doubt that the priority of date must be assigned to the Prophet, and not to the Psalmist. Two or three illustrations from one Psalm must suffice. Compare (1) Ps. xcviii. 1,“ Sing unto the Lord a new song ;" with Isa. xlii. 10, where the same words occur. (2) Ps. xcvii. 3, “ All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God;" with Isa. lii. 10, where the same words again occur. And (3) Ps. xcviii. 7, “ The sea and the fulness thereof;" with Isa. xlii. 10, where, once more, we find the same words.
III. Another objection to the genuineness of these twentyeven chapters is, that their stand-point is not Jerusalem, the Vol. 68.-No. 376.
abode of the alleged author, but Babylon; and therefore that they must have been written, not by the true Isaiah, but by some later author, who lived either in the time, and, as it is commonly alleged, towards the close, of the Chaldean Captivity, or after its expiration.
To those who regard the Old Testament Prophecies as the writings of fallible men, we can readily understand that this objection would be absolutely fatal to the claims of the true Isaiah, as the writer of the chapters under our consideration.
To those, on the other hand, who believe that “ prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost,” the objection admits of an answer as plain as it is conclusive. It is simply this : that to the view of the prophet, as to the eye of Him by whose Spirit the prophet was inspired, the things which as yet were not became as though they were, or as though they had already been accomplished.
Le Clerc, in his remarks on Deut. xxxii. 20, writes thus,and we adopt his words the more readily, because our opponents can scarcely take exception to them on the ground of the theological bias of the writer :-“These things, as if already past, Moses bewails in his song, because he foresees that they will so come to pass, and he transports himself in spirit” (we should rather say, that he was transported by the Spirit which inspired him) “into those future ages, and says those things which ought then to be said.”
To those who have studied the language of prophecy, more especially that of the prophetic Psalms, no confirmation will be needful of the truth of Le Clerc's allegation, as applied to the writings of the prophets generally.
And yet we find Dean Stanley's seventh objection to the genuineness of Isaiah xl.—Ixvi. thus expressed :-“A few parallels may be adduced from Micah's allusions to the Captivity; but they differ in this material point, that Micah (iv. 10) speaks of it as still to come, Isaiah (lx. 2, lxvii, 1, lxviii. 14—20) as already far advanced.” (p. 584.)
Had the assertion run in this form,—that, whereas the ancient prophets, in their predictions of the future, employ both the past and the future tense, the prophet Micah, in the particular prophecy to which reference is made, has employed the latter rather than the former,-the statement would have been strictly correct, but wholly inconclusive of the point which it was intended to establish. And if we carefully examine, we will not say the usage of other writers, but of that writer to whom the appeal is made, it will be found that the same prophet, in the two verses immediately following that to which reference is made, speaks as one“ before whose mental eye a new scene has opened,"