Wednesday, 6 February 2013

3X-part 1, Isaiah in the NT - overview

In this series, I am looking at Brevard Childs' The Struggle to understand ISAIAH as Christian Scripture.

In an earlier post, I noted that Childs begins with Hengel's comment that the LXX is the first commentary on the OT. This is not just whether the text is 'actualized' or even carelessly translated by the Alexandrian Greeks but that all translation is commentary. (See the threads at the reading Isaiah group on Facebook.)

Earlier in his short introduction, he complains that "many moderns have described the use of the Bible as a map of misreading." He points to allegory as a possible solution. [See my historical conversation with Iyov summarized a few years ago here.] I will not go here immediately but wait for an exploration of the terms of engagement with the Bible till a review of Childs' chapter on Origen.  I note in passing that we are called to the obedience of faith, not obedience to our assumptions. Many things that we think about incarnation and allegory are unthinkable without the light of the Holy. And the Holy is unapproachable with assumptions. We may be assumed, but we may not assume. Perhaps this too is a divine passive. [James McGrath wants opinions on the divine here.]

The rest of Childs' first chapter is on the use of Isaiah in the NT - a complex subject fit for many books.

But first how does Childs explore the use of Isaiah in the NT? A primary link is the use of the term Gospel in Isaiah. What is Gospel? The good news is God's judgment in favour of the poor (Luke 6:20, Matthew 5:3, Isaiah 61:1). As a student of the psalms, I cannot disagree with this assessment. Childs draws on work by C. A. Evans (From Gospel to Gospel) who also cites the use of Isaiah 35:5-6 (Matthew 11:4-5, Luke 17:18-23) and Matthew 16:19, cf Isaiah 2:22. I would also draw on the preferential option for the poor that is so clear in the Psalms and central to the harvest Psalm 67. The use of בשר (publish, gospel, flesh) is explicit as Gospel in Isaiah but implicit in the Psalms (e.g. Psalm 68:11). My Lord gave a promise // the women publishing are an abundant host.

Childs then reminds me that the NT sees the Gospel בשר incarnate in the flesh בשר of Jesus. In his words: "Jesus does not merely proclaim the good news of the coming of the kingdom of God, he has realized it through his life and death (Mark 10:45, Isaiah 53:11-12)." My words are slightly more stark. בשר in Hebrew is εὐαγγέλιον in Greek. It occurs to me that this contrasts starkly the positive flesh of the Eucharist with the negative flesh-image of Paul and the relatively neutral but positive statement that 'to you shall all flesh come' (Psalm 65:2, Isaiah 66:23).  Psalms 65-67 are directly in the middle of the circles of psalms formed by the inscriptions of Korah, Asaph, and David.  Psalms and Isaiah are worth a close study.

Childs then moves on to the use of Isaiah 6 in Mark 4:12, paraphrase, Matthew 13:13, 15 and Luke 8:10 and Acts 28:26-27 and John 9:39 and 12:40.  This collage of allusions requires a great deal more analysis. Childs lays out the idea but not the data. I intend to lay out the data in a subsequent post in this series.  It will touch on the use of the LXX and the way in which it is directly quoted and paraphrased and also it will touch on the Synoptic problem and other aspects of the Apostolic community writing in the first years of the preaching of good tidings to the nations.

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