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Opening the Sealed Book: Interpretations of the Book of Isaiah in Late Antiquity

, 2006
ISBN: 9780802840219

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Of all the texts in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, perhaps no book has a more colorful history of interpretation than Isaiah. A comprehensive history of this interpretation between the prophet Malachi and the first days of Christianity, Joseph Blenkinsopp’s Opening the Sealed Book traces three different prophetic traditions in Isaiah—the “man of God,” the critic of social structures, and the apocalyptic seer.

Blenkinsopp explores the place of Isaiah in Jewish sectarianism, at Qumran, and among early Christians, touching on a number of its themes, including exile, “the remnant of Israel,” martyrdom, and “the servant of the Lord.” Encompassing several disciplines—hermeneutics, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Second Temple studies, Christian origins—Opening the Sealed Book will appeal to Jewish and Christian scholars as well as to readers fascinated by the intricate and influential prophetic visions of Isaiah.

Delve into God’s Word like never before! With the Logos edition of Opening the Sealed Book, Scripture references link directly to the Bibles in your library—both to the original-language texts and to the English translations. Double-clicking any word automatically opens your lexicons to the relevant entry, making Hebrew words instantly accessible.

  • Introduction by the author
  • Bibliographical references and indexes

Top Highlights

“The specific instantiation of this general thesis will be the interpretation of the book of Isaiah as an essential and irreplaceable factor in the legitimizing, grounding, and shaping of dissident movements in late Second Temple Judaism, with special reference to the Qumran sects and the early Christian movement. The interpretation of texts is generally understood to be a scholarly and scribal activity; it is that, but it is also a social phenomenon and, typically, a group activity.” (Page xv)

“For the author of Chronicles, therefore, Hezekiah is center-stage throughout, and Isaiah, mentioned only once in passing, is a marginal figure. He is compensated, however, by being assigned the role of the historian of the reign, in keeping with the author’s practice of citing prophetic sources at the conclusion of the reigns of several Judean kings.35 There is no allusion anywhere to Isaiah’s indictments of his contemporaries.” (Page 45)

“Christianity originated as a Palestinian Jewish sect in the mid-1st century c.e. Its origins are therefore to be sought not just in Second Temple Judaism in general but in late Second Temple sectarian Judaism.” (Page xvi)

“Here too, therefore, the profile is that of the ‘man of God’ and saint (ṣaddîq) rather than the free prophet as a critical and often destabilizing force in society.” (Page 46)

“the prophet in the guise of apocalyptic seer who predicts and heralds the final and decisive intervention of God” (Page xvii)

This wide-ranging and original book probes the interpretation and use of the book of Isaiah in Second Temple Judaism and the New Testament. An impressive and stimulating contribution to the early history of biblical interpretation.

John J. Collins, Holmes Professor of Old Testament, Yale University

Joseph Blenkinsopp brings his enormous learning to the use of the book of Isaiah in a later generation of Jewish and Christian reading. This important book makes two immense contributions to our learning. . . . it greatly illuminates our historical understanding of formative Jewish and Christian communities in their use of Scripture . . . it makes clear how relentlessly pluralistic is our long-term reading of Scripture that resists any single reductionist reading.

Walter Brueggemann, professor emeritus, Columbia Theological Seminary

Blenkinsopp not only explores the history of Isaiah’s reception in early Judaism and Christianity but also uncovers the numerous links between the figure of the prophet (and his book) and Jewish apocalyptic and sectarian movements, including Christianity itself. A brilliant and largely convincing synthesis by a scholar renowned for the depth and range of his learning.

Philip R. Davies, professor of biblical studies, University of Sheffield

  • Title: Opening the Sealed Book: Interpretations of the Book of Isaiah in Late Antiquity
  • Author: Joseph Blenkinsopp
  • Publisher: Eerdmans
  • Publication Date: 2006
  • Pages: 335

Joseph Blenkinsopp is John A. O’Brien Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. He is also the author of Opening the Sealed Book: Interpretations of the Book of Isaiah in Late Antiquity, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching Ezekiel, and Treasures Old and New: Essays in the Theology of the Pentateuch.


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    This resource has many, many dead links to the Dead Sea Scrolls. The text mentions the Qumran 366 times. My Library has 327 DSS resources out of 577 in Verbum's Catalog. Please fix the many dead links. Or perhaps I'm missing a very vital DSS resource; if so, why with a Portfolio Collection plus my additions? pg17 dead links: 1QpHab VII 1–2, 4QHodayota 7 I 19 It can also be a biblical text like the 70 years of Jeremiah (Jer 25:11–12; 29:10), the correct interpretation of which is revealed for the first time to the seer (Dan 9:2), just as the real meaning of Habakkuk is revealed for the first time to the Teacher of Righteousness (1QpHab VII 1–2). logosres:opensldbook;ref=Page.p_17;off=944;ctx=me_beasts_(7:1$E2$80$9314)._~It_can_also_be_a_bib pg23 dead links: (4Q216 = 4QJubileesa), I 11–12; IV 4 corresponding Blenkinsopp, J. (2006). Opening the Sealed Book: Interpretations of the Book of Isaiah in Late Antiquity (p. 23). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. The relevant Qumran manuscript of Jubilees (4Q216 = 4QJubileesa) is fragmentary, but this additional revelation is clearly referred to as hattôrâ wĕhatĕʿûdâ, using the same terms as in Isa 8:16: “Secure the testimony (tĕʿûdâ), seal the instruction (tôrâ) among my disciples” (I 11–12; IV 4 corresponding to Jub 1:4, 26). The most interesting point is that in Jubilees the testimony and instruction consist in “what was in the beginning and what will happen in the future” or “an account of the division of all the days” (Jub 1:4). logosres:opensldbook;ref=Page.p_23;off=749;ctx=and_the_testimony.$E2$80$9D_~The_relevant_Qumran_ pg23 dead link: 3 En 27:1–3 In one late text the seer observes the heavenly archivist taking the scroll out of its container, breaking the seal, and handing it to the Enthroned One (3 En 27:1–3). But the idea of apocalyptic as esoteric, book knowledge comes to clearest expression in the Ezra apocalypse composed in the late 1st century C.E. but purporting to come from 30 years after the fall of Jerusalem, therefore from 556 B.C.E. (4 Ezra 3:1). logosres:opensldbook;ref=Page.pp_23-24;off=2177;ctx=_Odes_Sol._23:5$E2$80$936)._~In_one_late_text_the pg23 dead link: 1QpHab VII 5–8 These mysteries concerning the final consummation of history have been revealed to the Teacher of Righteousness (1QpHab VII 5–8). logosres:opensldbook;ref=Page.pp_24-25;off=2164;ctx=y_of_the_future.$E2$80$9D30_~These_mysteries_conc ditto: (1QHa IX 21; X 13; XII 27–28) logosres:opensldbook;ref=Page.p_25;off=266;ctx=embers_of_his_group_~(e.g.,_1QHa_IX_21$3B_X 1QM I 2, 4 In Zech 10:8–12 “Egypt” and “Assyria” are taken to refer to Ptolemies and Seleucids, respectively, in much the same way that the Qumran sectarians use the code-name Kittim for the Romans (e.g., 1QM I 2, 4). pg.77 logosres:opensldbook;ref=Page.p_77;off=464;ctx=_lie_behind_9:11$E2$80$9313.~_In_Zech_10:8$E2$80$9312_$E2$80$9CEg 11QMelchizedek = 11Q13 Different again is the Melchizedek text discovered in Cave 11 (11QMelchizedek = 11Q13), which can be described as an eschatological midrash with its point of departure in the biblical texts dealing with the Jubilee Year (Lev 25:13; Deut 15:2). logosres:opensldbook;ref=Page.p_96;off=1068;ctx=d_beyond_Judaism.16$0A~Different_again_is_t ad infinitum... Blenkinsopp, J. (2006). Opening the Sealed Book: Interpretations of the Book of Isaiah in Late Antiquity. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.


Print list price: $25.00
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