Reading Isaiah as Christian Scripture

Christopher Seitz: Why read the Book of Isaiah?

Posted in Book of Isaiah, Christopher Seitz, Theological Interpretation by Bacho on March 21, 2011

“So why read the book of Isaiah?  Merely to see a record of past events, with little relationship to the present?  The book of Isaiah presents another option.  Here we see quite clearly an effort made on theological grounds to catch the inner significance of historical events across the ages, from Isaiah’s preaching in the days of Ahaz and Hezekiah, to the events of 587 BC, and beyond.  The choice is not between history and apocalypse, between seeing the book as relevant only for the past, or having only to do with the readers present.  Rather, a series of crucial historical events are held up and linked together in order to demonstrate God’s ways with Israel and the nations, as much for the present and the future as for the past…The shapers of the Isaiah traditions have worked with one overwhelming conviction: that God’s word to Israel in the past was uttered to instruct present and future generations.”  [Christopher Seitz, Isaiah 1-39, 17-18]

Christopher Seitz’ Reading of Isaiah

Seitz defines his approach to the book of Isaiah as Canonical Critical.  The word Canonical points to the role this book is to play as Scripture in the community of faith.  The word Critical hints as Seitz’ appreciation of the historical-critical readings.  Welding of these two words shows that Seitz plans to keep one eye on scholarly critical study yet insist that there is a need to move beyond it.  For the faith community “Isaiah’s word is no historic artifact, but a lively and relentless challenge to the modern world.”

In his introduction to Reading and Preaching the Book of Isaiah he articulates what this might look like, “Ultimately the unity of the book of isaiah is not to be sought in issues of single authorship or uniform historical setting, but rather in the common witness of all sixty-six chapters to the one God of Israel, Isaiah’s “Holy One,” who casts down and raises up, whose justice shapes the cosmos itself, and whose promises extend into a future beyond the horizon of the book’s own historical and literary world.  In the complex literary, historical, and theological “vision of Isaiah,” a drama unfolds that captures the imagination, while at the same time instant revealing the eternal purpose of the one God with whom we have to do.”