Reading the book of Isaiah in its original context is the crucial prerequisite for reading its citation and use in later interpretation, including the New Testament writings, argues Ben Witherington III. Here he offers pastors, teachers, and students an accessible commentary to Isaiah, as well as a reasoned consideration of how Isaiah was heard and read in early Christianity. By reading “forward and backward” Witherington advances the scholarly discussion of intertextuality and opens a new avenue for biblical theology.
“One of the things that becomes immediately apparent is that one has barely scratched the surface of the influence of Isaiah on the NT if one limits oneself to the direct quotations. In fact one has missed most of the influence of Isaiah on the NT if one has done this.” (Page 28)
“The oracle as lyric poetry conveys not just the content of a message, but also the emotional character of the message.” (Page 5)
“The unifying factor is that the oracle involves the utterances of a particular voice, in this case God’s or Isaiah speaking for God.” (Page 5)
“I am referring to the fact that in the case of both Isaiah (and especially Isaiah 40–66) and the Psalms, we are dealing with poetry, poetry that is inherently metaphorical, multivalent, more universal in character and content.8 As J. J. M. Roberts has recently said, ‘Good poetry is not that univocal’.9 Indeed it is not. The very character of this language naturally lent itself more easily to being used in various ways, including in the ways it is used in the NT.” (Page 4)
“This passage speaks both about the character of God as holy, and the character of his prophet Isaiah. While it would be a mistake to characterize this passage as reporting a conversion experience in the Christian sense (after all Isaiah already believed in the God of the Bible), nevertheless this passage affirms that a person through the purifying presence or grace of God can be changed. This is remarkable coming from an ANE culture that seems to have largely doubted that human beings could change through some dramatic experience into more godly persons. They tended to believe that a leopard could not change its spots, to borrow the old proverbial rhetorical question.” (Pages 62–63)