Isaiah is one of the most difficult and yet rewarding of the major prophets. Barton looks at First Isaiah (chapters 1–39) as a composite work by many authors, but also as a work to be read through in a linear fashion like a literary work. These chapters are a complex assembly built of distinctive component parts, and Barton focuses on the words of Isaiah, son of Amoz as the core of this and the other Isaiah works. This book consists of six chapters: “The Prophet and the Book,” “Isaiah and Politics,” “Isaiah and Social Morality,” “Isaiah and the Future,” “After Isaiah,” and “Reading Isaiah.” While there are various approaches to this biblical material, including holistic reading and historical criticism, all the methods of analysis outlined in this book are intellectually serious, committed to careful engagement with the text, and produce rich insights. The author entreats the reader to give all literary and interpretive methods a fair hearing.
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“The study of Isaiah has passed through three main phases in modern times. The great and liberating discovery of nineteenth-century scholarship was that the book was not the product of one confused mind, but of a number of perfectly clear ones.” (Page 9)
“We know that Jeremiah had a secretary, Baruch (see Jer. 36:4), who seems to have been a scribe rather than a ‘disciple’ of the prophet. But should we argue: Jeremiah had a secretary, so perhaps all the prophets did?” (Page 23)
“O. Kaiser’s commentary, whose starting point is that there is no prima facie reason for thinking anything in the book ‘genuine’, and which in fact treats only a few core passages as Isaianic.” (Page 14)
“but most scholars adhere to one of only two models, and most probably see some truth in both of them.” (Page 21)