Interpreting the Prophets

By James Luther Mays; Paul J. Achtemeier | Go to book overview

7
Isaiah in Luke

JAMES A. SANDERS

Luke, steeped in the Old Testament, makes clear that to understand
what Cod was doing in Christ, one has to know Scripture; and
especially the Book of Isaiah.


I

Isaiah is cited, alluded to, or otherwise appears in the New Testament more than any other Old Testament book.1 Five hundred and ninety references, explicit or otherwise, from sixty-three chapters of Isaiah are found in twenty-three New Testament books (239 from Isaiah 1—39; 240 from chaps. 40—55; 111 from 56—66).2

Isaiah was apparently the most helpful single book of the Old Testament in assisting the early church to understand the sufferings and crucifixion of the Christ, but Isaiah also provided help in understanding nearly every phase of Jesus' life, ministry, death, and resurrection. Isaiah was of service, too, in helping the early churches to understand who they were and what their role was as witnesses to the Christ event and as those who prepared for the eschaton's fulfillment by proclamation of what Cod had done in and through Christ. Christology and ecclesiology were formulated in the early churches with the help of Isaiah.

1. Y. H. Songer, “Isaiah and the New Testament,” RevExp 65 (1968) 459-70; and J. Flam-
ming, “The New Testament Use of Isaiah,” Southwest Journal of Theology 11 (1968) 89-103.
Using the Scripture index in the 26th edition of the NestléAland NT Graece, one sees that
Isaiah works the hardest in the Book of Revelation with some 155 occurrences, whether citations
or allusions. Next would be Matthew with 87 occurrences, then Luke with 78, Romans with 46,
Acts with 39, John with 37, Mark with 28, and Hebrews with 23. Such statistics have a limited
value, and the student should be cautious in drawing too many conclusions from them. One of
the things that need yet to be done is the compilation of a really significant and useful Scripture
index for the NT. See Henry M. Shires, Finding the Old Testament in the New (Philadelphia:
Westminster Press, 1974), and my review of it in USQR 30 (1975) 241-46. At the Ancient
Biblical Manuscript Center in Claremont we plan to compile a Scripture index to all the films of
manuscripts we hold. It will be a massive undertaking, but with computer technology and a
clear method of work we hope eventually to be able to provide this further service to
scholarship.

2. Mark Kispert, Ph. D. candidate in biblical studies in the Claremont Graduate School, did
some of the basic research for this article, esp. working through the Nestlé—Aland scripture
index, 26th edition.

-75-

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