The Struggle to Understand Isaiah as Christian Scripture

The Struggle to Understand Isaiah as Christian Scripture

The Struggle to Understand Isaiah as Christian Scripture

The Struggle to Understand Isaiah as Christian Scripture

Excerpt

Several factors have been at work in the shaping of this book. First, I have recently finished writing a technical, modern commentary on the book of Isaiah. The task of treating the entire book of sixty-six chapters was enormous, but in addition, the commentary had necessitated restricting the scope of the exposition. This entailed omitting the history of interpretation and relegating many important hermeneutical problems to the periphery of the exegesis. After the commentary had been completed, I was painfully aware that many of the central theological and hermeneutical questions in which I was most interested had not been adequately addressed.

Second, I have continued to reflect on several important, but perplexing theological problems. If one affirms the Christian confession that scripture has been given for the divine guidance of the church, then the nature of this role assigned to the Bible must be pondered. Can one still speak of a divine coercion or pressure exerted by the text upon its readers? Is there any concord between doctrinal claims regarding scripture and its actual effects on the church throughout its history? Many moderns have described the use of the Bible as a “map of misreading.” How should one respond to such a challenge? The difficult questions remain in evaluating this history of reception in terms of truth and error. Can one be misled from the outset by posing the problem in terms of the use and abuse of the Bible, as Dennis Nineham once attempted? Unfortunately, there have been surprisingly few books addressing these problems that are of the quality of M. Kähler’s Geschichte der Bibel in ihrer Wirkung auf die Kirche or J. A. Möhler’s Die Einheit in der Kirche.

Third, I am concerned to pursue the issue as to whether there is such a thing as the Christian church’s exegetical tradition. When one considers the enormous cultural diversity reflected within the church, the radical changes . . .

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