The evangelical prophet
Issues and approaches
Edited by David G. Firth & H.G.M. Williamson
Apollos. 288 pages. £16.99
In the summer of 2008, I had the joy of attending Tyndale Fellowship’s Old Testament Study Group conference. This book is the publication of papers given and discussed on that occasion. Like the conference itself, this book is a delight of serious evangelical scholarship — individuals from around the world seeking to make the book of Isaiah better understood on its own terms.
The reader is treated to a feast of material, covering a broad range of issues in Isaiah studies. The particular goal of this book, though, is to try and ‘bridge the gap’ between works which are basic and introductory, and those which require specialised, technical knowledge. As such, Interpreting Isaiah is divided into three clear sections.
State of research
First, Hugh Williamson provides a masterful (and easily comprehensible) overview of the current state of Isaiah research. He notes the key trends and perspectives currently being followed, and in describing that ever-broadening field, he enables the remaining contributors to avoid merely becoming bogged down in the standard historical debates (indeed, contributors often have very different views of the unity of the book, for example). Rather, we can find here much that’s fresh and invigorating as we read Isaiah with this book on hand.
Part two offers a variety of topics. There are thematic studies (monotheism, politics, faith, nationalism and universalism, wisdom), a chapter on the Qumran manuscripts and more general contributions (John Goldingay on the Theology of Isaiah, Rikk Watts on Isaiah and the New Testament). In particular, the Reformed reader will treasure Torsten Uhlig’s careful and pastorally thoughtful treatment of the difficult motif of God ‘hardening the hearts’ of his people.
Finally, the book concludes with three close exegetical studies which, although they take different approaches, are equally valuable in bringing to light some of the complexities buried within some deeply familiar texts.
Someone new to Isaiah may well find Interpreting Isaiah a bit of a struggle. Experts might find little that truly startles them. But for those who have a reasonable overview of the biblical text and are willing to engage with some leading, faithful evangelical scholars, over and over again this book repays every energy spent.
asssistant curate, Holy Trinity, Gee Cross, Cheshire