Home > Book of Isaiah > Wm. B. Boyce on the prophet Isaiah

Wm. B. Boyce on the prophet Isaiah

January 21, 2012

William B. Boyce reviewed the results of nineteenth century criticism of the Bible, in his book: The higher criticism and the Bible. In the chapter reproduced below Boyce documents the confusion among the critics in their discussions of the book of the prophet Isaiah.

William B. Boyce
The higher criticism and the Bible
Wesleyan Conference Office, London. 1881. pp. 254-272


The Prophet Isaiah.

1. Of the personal history of Isaiah, the son of Amos, we know nothing beyond what may be gathered from his writings, and from the old traditions of his martyrdom by Manasseh, to which the passage, Hebrews xi. 37, is supposed to refer. His prophetical life began either four years before Uzziah’s death, 762 B.C., or in the last year of Uzziah, 759 B.C. He ceased to prophesy either in the seventeenth year of Hezekiah’s reign, 710 B.C., or in his last year, 698 B.C., the latter the most probable. The lowest calculation gives him a ministry of forty-nine years; the highest sixty-four years, extending over the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judd. Bishop Wordsworth sets before us the position of this, the greatest of the four leading prophets. [1]

“Providentially Isaiah was called to the prophetic office before the destruction of the kingdom of Israel. He had, therefore, a vast future before him. The kingdom of Syria was still standing, but that monarchy was soon about to fall. Assyria was arising to the zenith of its glory. Egypt was its rival in the south; Babylon was in the far off future. Observe, therefore, Isaiah’s prophetic position; he was at Jerusalem, the religious centre of Israel and Judah. Judah itself was called in the Scriptures ‘the midst of the nations’ (Ezekiel v. 5): on the north-east was Assyria, and after it Babylon; on the north were the kingdoms of Israel and Syria, and the rich commercial city of Tyre on its island rock, the queen of the seas; on the east and south-east were Ammon, Moab, and Edom, connected by community of origin with Israel, but Israel’s bitter foes; and further to the southeast the desert of Arabia, where his fathers had wandered; and on the south-west was Philistia, Judah’s near neighbour and inveterate enemy; on the south was the great kingdom of Egypt, distinguished by arts and arms, and ever and anon making hostile inroads into Judah, or alluring it to ‘court its alliance as a defence against its northern enemy, Assyria;’ and still further south, the tribes of Ethiopia, stately in stature, and renowned and feared for their warlike prowess. Isaiah looked forth on these empires and kingdoms from his watch-tower in Zion; he contemplated them as a Divine astronomer, with his prophetic telescope, from his spiritual observatory; and he was enabled by the Spirit of God to foretell the rising and setting of all these stars and constellations. He looked down also upon what was at his feet, ‘the Valley of Visions,’ as it is called, Jerusalem, and he foretold her destiny. And far beyond all these he beheld and described the dread transactions of the Day of Doom.”

Considering the important bearing of Isaiah’s prophecies, it would be well for the student to read carefully the article Isaiah in Smith’s “Biblical Dictionary” [2] and in Kitto’s “Biblical Cyclopaedia” (third edition), [3] and the “Introduction to the Book of Isaiah” by Dr. Kay in the “Speaker’s Commentary,” [4] and the magnificent account of Isaiah’s times in Dean Stanley’s “History of the Jewish Church,” [5] in which the downward course of the Israelitish and Jewish kingdoms is exhibited with a pictorial power which rivets the attention. Another remarkable work by Sir Edward Strachey, entitled “Jewish History and Politics in the times of Sargon and Sennacherib; an Inquiry into the Historical Meaning and Purpose of the Prophecies of Isaiah;” [6] a work which, with some minor defects, “grasps the real meaning of Jewish history, and throws upon its various incidents the light derived from a wide and careful study of politics and statesmanship.” [7] Cheyne’s last work on Isaiah is not yet completed, but so far as we may judge from the first volume, will be a great addition to the critical library.

2. The position of Isaiah, as the first in the order of the four great prophets as they stand in the Hebrew Bible, has been disputed. In a tradition preserved in the Talmud, it is said to have been preceded by Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and this order is observed in the German and French MSS. The reason assigned is, that Jeremiah and Ezekiel being minatory prophets, Isaiah was placed after them as a consolatory prophet, and as an antidote. The more probable reason is from the intimate connection of the Books of Kings with Jeremiah, and from the notion that Jeremiah was their author. Some of the Higher Critics think that “many later prophecies had been incorporated with those of Isaiah, and therefore the first place was not due to him.” [8] This notion, which would convert the Book of Isaiah’s prophecies into a sort of Hebrew anthology, has been fairly disposed of by Professor J. A. Alexander, of Prince Town, New Jersey. [9] In the Masora, which represents the Jewish criticism of the sixth century, and in the Spanish MSS., and in the two oldest Hebrew MSS., and in all the ancient versions, the order of the Hebrew Bible and of the modern versions is observed.

3. Within the last century, from the year 1797, conjectural criticism has revelled at will in the creation of theories bearing upon the authority, the order, and the composition of almost every chapter of the prophecy of Isaiah. Koppe in that year translated Bishop Lowth’s notes into German, and was the first in modern times who questioned the claims of chapters xl. to lxvi. to be conceded as a portion of the original prophecy of Isaiah. Before Koppe, one Jewish rabbi alone, Aben Ezra, in the eleventh century, had obscurely hinted a similar conclusion. This theory, asserted and defended on principles which, with strange inconsistency, have not been applied to Micah and other prophetical writings, has been largely accepted by Continental critics, and to this day quoted in works of general literature as if it were an indisputable fact. It has been the fruitful parent of a large number of various and contradictory criticisms, the principal of which will be stated in the order of the chapters to which they refer. If we were to receive these guesses as proved results of sober criticism, the genuine prophecies of the great evangelical prophet would be confined to the following chapters, i. to xii., xiv. to verse 24, xv. to xx., xxi. to verse 11, xxii., xxiii., xxviii. to xxxiii.; and even of these limited remains, admitted generally to be genuine, it will be seen that exceptions are taken, which, if admitted, would reduce the Book of the prophecies of Isaiah to a mere collection of miscellaneous predictions; a sort of prophetical anthology, ascribed by ignorance or carelessness to Isaiah. 4. The earlier prophecies of Isaiah comprise the first thirty-nine chapters. The dates and authorships of the respective chapters and portions of chapters, as given by the Higher Critics, are in the following sections placed under the portions to which they are assigned.

Chapter I. verse 1, is considered as an introduction to the entire book by Le Clerc, Michaelis, Hitzig, Scholtz, Schroeder, Henderson, and Cheyne: on the contrary, Vitringa, Eichhorn, Rosenmüller, Maurer, and Koppe, regard it as simply an introduction to the first chapter. The time of the composition of this chapter is referred, as follows, to the periods of the reigns of the several kings as below.

1. Uzziah, latter part of his reign, or under the regency of Jotham, by Caspari and the older critics, Grotius, Cocceius, and by Kay.

2. Jotham, by Calvin, Lowth, and Hendewerk—the latter doubts the genuineness of the first verse.

3. Ahaz, by Gesenius, Maurer, Knobel, De Wette, Havernick, Hensler, Movers, Davidson.

4. Hezekiah (after the invasion of Sennacherib), by Eichhorn, Michaelis, Paulus, Ewald, Hitzig, Umbreit, Bleek, Alexander, Keil: also by Jarchi and Vitringa.

Chapters II., III., IV., form one prophecy.

1. Jotham (as regent), by Hengstenberg, Drechsler, Caspari, Keil: Uzziah by Kay.

2. Jotham (when king), by Michaelis, De Wette, Knobel, Henderson.

3. Ahaz, by Rosenmüller, Gesenius, Maurer, Movers, Hitzig, Ewald, Umbreit, Stahelin, and Cheyne.

4. Hezekiah, by Kleinert, Roorda.

N.B.—The verses 2, 3, 4 of the second chapter agree almost verbally with Micah iv. 1 to 4, the one prophet quoting the other, but to which the priority is due cannot be decided. Vogel and Ewald think that both quoted from an old prophet supposed to be Joel.

N.B.—Roorda thinks that chapters 1 to v., excepting chapters i. 1 and ii. 1 to 4, belong to Micah: this opinion is combated by Havernick: these prophets were contemporaries and fellow labourers.

Chapter V. is a distinct prophecy, of the same date as the chapters ii., iii., iv., though a little later, not to Jotham’s reign, as supposed by Vitringa, Michaelis, Rosenmüller, but to Ahaz; this is the opinion of Davidson and Cheyne: to Uzziah by Kay.

Chapter VI. 1. The year in which King Uzziah died, by Keil and Cheyne: Jotham by Kay.

2. After Sennacherib’s invasion, by Hitzig, who regards the vision as a fiction.

3. Ahaz or Hezekiah, by Ewald, Credner, Knobel, but based on the history of the vision: so also Davidson, who does not deny the reality of the vision.

Chapters VII., VIII., IX., X., XI., XII. belong, according to Keil, Havernick, Drechsler, and Davidson, to the first year of Ahaz, the last three discourses being about three-quarters of a year later than the first. Time of Ahaz by Kay.

1. Verses 1 to 16 of chapter vii. are doubted by Gesenius as not written by Isaiah; his opinion refuted by Kleinert, Hitzig, Havernick.

2. Chapters ix. 7 to x. 4 are supposed by Gesenius and Knobel to date from the captivity of a part of Israel by Tiglath Pileser, King of Assyria; but this does not appear from chapter ix. 9, 10. Cheyne thinks that this section only assumed its present form long after the original utterances in the days of Jotham.

3. Chapters x. 5 to xii. 6 are by Rosenmüller, Gesenius, Maurer, De Wette, and Knobel, dated after the taking of Samaria by Shalmaneser; by Ewald, after Sennacherib’s expedition to Egypt; by Havernick, between the sixth and fourteenth year of Hezekiah; these two latter opinions are not supported by x. 24. All the matter from viii. 5 to xii. 6 presupposes one and the same date of composition.

4. Koppe disputes the genuineness of chapters xi., xii.; so also Vater and Rosenmuller; their views are replied to by Gesenius and Beckhans. Verses xii. 1 to 6, are disputed by Ewald, but defended by Umbreit and Havernick.

Chapters XIII. to XIV. 23, and XXI., verses 1 to 10, which are prophecies against Babylon, are disputed as not forming part of Isaiah’s genuine prophecy by the following critics: Rosenmüller, Justi, Paulus, Eichhorn, and Bertholdt, Gesenius, De Wette, Maurer, Ewald, Hendewerk, Knobel, Umbreit, Hertzfield, Bleek, and Davidson. They are, on the other hand, vindicated by J. D. Michaelis, Hensler, Uhland, Beckhans, Jahn, Dereser, Havernick, Drechsler, Nagelbach, and Cheyne.

1. These chapters are attributed by Rosenmüller, &c, to a “great unknown” prophet about the time of the exile. Yet they are quoted by the later prophets, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Nahum, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah, which is a sufficient proof of their earlier date. [10] But Davidson thinks that Habakkuk and Nahum are the originals from which Isaiah copied. Of this there is no proof.

2. Chapters xiii. and xiv. are ascribed to the earlier part of the reign of Ahaz; but xiv. 28 to 32, against Philistia, to the latter year of Ahaz, by Keil, Vitringa, Drechsler. In these chapters there are evident references to Joel and Amos. [11]

3. Chapter xiv. 24 to 27, against Assyria : before Sennacherib’s army was destroyed, by Keil; but supposed to be a fragment of a longer prophecy by Davidson.

4. Chapters xii.—xiv. 27, time of Ahaz by Kay; chapter xiv. to the end, in the first half of Hezekiah’s reign by Kay.

Chapters XV., XVI., a prophecy against Moab, is by some critics attributed—1, to an ancient prophet, but repeated by Isaiah with the addition of verses 13, 34 of chapter xvi. This is the view taken by Gesenius, Ewald, Umbreit, Maurer, and Knobel, but opposed by Nagelbach.

2. To Jeremiah by Koppe, Augusti, Bertholdt, opposed by Beckhans.

3. To Jonah, the son of Amittai, by Hitzig, opposed by Credner and others.

4. These opinions, opposed by Hendewerk, Havernick, Bleek, Drechsler, Kleinert, Keil, seem to confirm the old opinion maintained by Vitringa and others, that the germ of this prophecy is in the old prophecy against Moab, in the Pentateuch (Numbers xxiv. 17). The date assigned by Keil is after the carrying away of part of the Israelites by Tiglath Pileser to Assyria, about the time of Shalmaneser’s expedition against Samaria.

5. Henderson thinks that the verses 13 and 14 of chapter xvi. were added by an inspired prophet a century after Isaiah; Alexander thinks in the days of Nebuchadnezzar.

6. Hitzig, Credner, and Kay suppose this prophecy against Moab to have been repeated by Isaiah in the reign of Hezekiah 717 u.c. Knobel much earlier, 744 or745 B.C., in the reign of Ahaz or Jotham.

7. Cheyne thinks that this prophecy is one edited and added to by Isaiah.

Chapters XVII., XVIII, against Syria and Ephraim are one, not to be separated; so Drechsler, in opposition to Havernick.

1. The date, according to Keil, Drechsler, and Kay, is about the time of the accession of Hezekiah.

2. Rosenmüller, Gesenius, Ewald, place chapter xvii. 1 to 11, to the earlier part of the reign of Ahaz.

3. Hitzig and Havernick place the whole of chapter xvii. to the early part of the reign of Ahaz, and chapter xviii. to the time of Hezekiah.

Chapter XIX. against Egypt.

1. Verses 18 to 20 are disputed by Koppe, Eichhorn, and Gesenius, and defended by Beckhans.

2. Verses 16 to 25 are attributed by Hitzig and Zunz to the Priest Onias, who built the Temple at Heliopolis, in Egypt. It is defended as genuine by Rosenmüller, Hendewerk, Ewald, Umbreit, Knobel, Caspari, Drechsler, Bleek, and doubtfully by Cheyne. The dates assigned are—

1. To the reign of Manasseh, by Gesenius and Rosenmüller.

2. To 717 B.C., when So (Tirhakah) began to reign, by Knobel.

3. To the time of the latest of Isaiah’s prophecies, by Cheyne, 672 B.C., or perhaps 720 B.C. Cheyne has an interesting reference to the then condition of Egypt. [12]

4. About the time of Hezekiah’s accession, with chapters xvii. and xviii., by Keil and Kay.

Chapter XX., a little later than the date of the preceding chapter (Keil).

Chapter XXI., verses 1 to 10 (see chapters xiii., xiv.).

Verses 11 to 15 attributed to an older prophet by Davidson, and ascribed to the date of the reign of Jotham, 745 B.C. (as only probable); but by Keil to the early part of Hezekiah’s reign; so also Kay.

Chapter XXII., written after the fall of Samaria, but before Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah, according to Keil; first half of Hezekiah’s reign by Kay.

Chapter XXIII., against Tyre, considered by certain critics as not genuine, on account of the events being foretold so long before; especially verses 15 to 18, which are supposed by Eichhorn and Ewald to be a later edition of the Persian period. It is attributed—

1. To Jeremiah by Eichhorn, Rosenmüller, Movers, and Bleek; but Movers afterwards thought it was originally from Isaiah, re-edited by Jeremiah!

2. To a younger contemporary of Isaiah, by Ewald.

3. Defended as genuine by Gesenius, De Wette, Knobel, Hendewerk, Drechsler, Keil, Alexander, Kay, and Cheyne. The date is probably 709 B.C. The style is attacked by Hitzig and Ewald, but defended by Umbreit and Drechsler.

4. This chapter is probably soon after the fall of Samaria. Chapters XXIV., XXV., XXVI., XXVII., are considered asnot genuine, because their standpoint is the Babylonish captivity, which could not be foreseen by Isaiah (prophecy being denied so far as future distant events are concerned), by Eichhorn, Gesenius, Hitzig, Ewald, Vatke, Bleek, Davidson, Bertholdt, Rosenmüller, [13] Umbreit, Knobel. Its genuineness is defended by Rosenmüller, [14] Arndt, Welte, Drechsler, Delitzsch, Havernick, Kleinhardt, Keil, Henderson, Alexander, Nagelbach, and Cheyne. Various dates are assigned.

1. After the fall of Babylon (to which it refers), by Gesenius, Umbreit and Knobel.

2. After the destruction of Nineveh (to which it refers), according to Hitzig, by an Ephraimite and eye-witness.

3. When Cambyses was about to invade Egypt, by Ewald.

4. The Maccabean age, by Vatke.

5. After the fall of Assyria, by some Jewish prophet in Judaea, by Bleek.

6. The 24th chapter is by Jeremiah in the opinion of Herzfield.

7. Soon after the fall of Samaria, by Keil and the orthodox critics generally. The first half of Hezekiah’s reign by Kay.

Chapters XXVIII., XXIX., XXX., XXXI., XXXII., XXXIII., almost commonly held as genuine, and believed to be written within the first fourteen years of Hezekiah by Kay and others— not all at once, but at various times. Chapter xxviii., within the first three years of Hezekiah: chapter xxxiii. in the fourteenth year, and chapters xxix., xxx., xxxi., xxxii., in the intervening years. Koppe doubts the genuineness of chapter xxx. 1 to 27, and Ewald thinks chapter xxxiii. may have been written by a younger disciple of Isaiah; this has been refuted by his fellow critics.

Chapters XXIV., XXXV., form one prophecy of the destruction of Babylon, and are of course considered as by a late author, “the great unknown” of chapters xl. to lxvi., by Gesenius and Hitzig, while Ewald thinks they are by another prophet. As in reference to chapters xiii., xiv., and xxi., the reason assigned is founded on the impossibility of a prediction of future events by an inspired prophet! Davidson lays down the maxim, “No prophet  throws himself absolutely, ideally, and at once, into a later period than his own.” [15] Caspari proves that these chapters were used by Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zephaniah. The date is about the time of Sennacherib’s invasion (Keil): so also Kay.

Chapters XXXVI., XXXVII., XXXVIII., XXXIX, are almost identical with 2 Kings, chapter xviii. 13 to chapter xx. 19, and 2 Chronicles, chapter xxxii., and relate to the history of Sennacherib’s invasion. It is probable that both the narratives are taken from a third account, fuller in its historical statements, such as is noticed in 2 Chronicles xxxii. 32: chapters xxxviii. and xxxix. of Isaiah, in order of time, preceding xxxvi. and xxxvii.

5. The second portion of the Book of Isaiah, chapters xl. to lxvi., is by the Higher Critics generally attributed to “the great unknown ” prophet, who lived about the time of the Babylonian captivity. The unity is also questioned.

I. The unity is denied by Koppe, who thought Ezekiel, or some of the prophets of the exile, wrote some of these prophecies, and of the earlier ones also, Martini, Bertholdt, Eichhorn, and Knobel. Ewald thinks that chapters liii. 1 to 12, lvi. 9 to lvii. 11, are from older prophets, and chapters lxiii. 7 to lxvi. from a later prophet: this view is opposed by Meier, Caspari, Delitzsch, and Drechsler. The unity is affirmed by Gesenius, Hitzig, De Wette, as well as by Hengstenberg and the advocates of the genuineness of this portion of the prophecy, and is now generally admitted by critics of every school.

II. The authorship of this second portion of the Book of Isaiah is denied as the production of the prophet himself, mainly on dogmatic grounds, to which we have already referred (in paragraph six of the preceding chapter). The objectors suppose that chapters xiii., xiv. to verse 23, xxi., verses 1 to 10, xxiv. to xxvii., with chapters xl. to lxvi., belong to some unknown prophet who lived about a century after Isaiah, in the period of the exile. We may mention as the principal of these the names of Koppe, with whom in modern times the notion originated, 1797, Eichhorn, Justi, Bauer, Paulus, Bertholdt, Roster, Augusti, Gescnius, De Wette, Hitzig, Knobel, Umbreit, Davidson, Ewald, Bleek. (2) Bleek thinks that chapters lvi. 9 to lvii. 11 were from an older prophecy, possibly by Isaiah, and inserted by the unknown writer who composed chapters Ixiii. to lxvi., or perhaps Iviii. to lxvi., after his return to Canaan. (3) Ewald thinks the writer was a Jew who lived in Pelusium, Egypt, having gone there with Jeremiah! On the other hand, a large number of critics as respectable as their opponents, advocate the genuineness of this second portion, as part of the original prophecy of Isaiah, namely Jahn, Möller, Kleinert, Hensler, Piper, Beekhans, Dereser, Drechsler, Greve, Schleier, Meier, Hengstenberg, Havernick, Keil, J. Pye Smith, Henderson, Alexander, and others. Most of the English critics are of this opinion, the writers in Smith’s ” Biblical Dictionary,” and the “Speaker’s Commentary,” and Kitto’s “Biblical Encyclopaedia,” Birks, H. Browne (Bishop of Winchester), Dr. Payne Smith, Unvick, &c These concluding chapters were no doubt written in the old age of the prophet; they are supposed by Möller not to have been delivered orally, but to have been written when Manasseh was in captivity. With Cheyne the authorship is yet an open question, but the work ” is in the fullest sense of the word prophetic.” [16]

6. The linguistical character of these chapters has been considered as a ground sufficient to justify the notion of their later origin by Gesenius, De Wette, Knobel and Davidson. To them, Keil and other critics have replied most satisfactorily. The details are not possible in the limits of this work, as they consist of lists of words supposed to be peculiar, or not to Isaiah. We simply give the conclusions of the Rev. William Urwick, in his “Dissertations upon the Authorship of chapters xl. and lxvi. of Isaiah,” prefixed to his work entitled “The Servant of Jehovah,” a commentary grammatical and critical upon Isaiah lii. 13 to liii. 12. [17] “In examining in detail the testimony of the language, we have twenty-eight words and expressions represented as peculiar to the later chapters, and indicating, according to some, a later and different authorship, different from that of chapters i. to xxxix.: of these only two are not found in the earlier portions; all the rest do occur in both portions, though not always in the same form or conjugation; and there is not sufficient warrant for assigning a signification to any in the later portion, different from the natural and usual meaning in the earlier: the peculiarity assigned to any is simply a new meaning suggested by the critics who would argue for the exile date. (2) As to Chaldaisms, we have examined twenty-two examples suggested by the advocates of the late authorship. Of these, not one can fairly be called a clear and unmistakable Chaldee form; they can hardly be called later Hebraisms, because we find the very same words and forms in the earlier books. Our chapters are as free from Chaldaisms or late Hebraisms as any other twenty-six consecutive chapters in the Bible. (3) We have named twenty-two words and phrases common to and distinctive of both the earlier and the later portions, many of them comparatively rare in other parts of the Hebrew Scriptures, expressions which we may take to be peculiar to Isaiah the son of Amoz, foremost among which stands the striking phrase, ‘the Holy One of Israel,’ a title which is a fit echo of the vision of the prophet’s call. The natural inference is (apart from all external evidence, and even if the two portions had come down to us in two separate parts) that both came from one writer, or at least, that the later copied from and imitated the earlier. (4) We have traced a striking undesigned coincidence between the two portions in the acquaintance which the writer of the earlier both had with trees and with farming pursuits, the cultivation of the soil, peculiarities of climate, tending of domestic animals, gardens and vineyards, as these were known and carried on in Palestine. Many technical expressions and names occur, some common to both portions, of which we have given a list of thirty-eight, some peculiar to each, but all affording subsidiary and cumulative proof of identity of knowledge and circumstances in the writer of both portions.” In conclusion Dr. Urwick remarks, “Each of the four topics of our inquiry, the external testimony, the locus standi of the writer, as witnessed by the prophecy itself, the relation of the prophecy to other Old Testament books, and the testimony of the language—leads us to the conclusion that chapters xl. to lxvi. are, as the Jews believed, and as they placed them, part and parcel of the genuine prophecies of the great Isaiah the son of Amoz.”

7. The objection to the genuineness of the last twentytwo chapters of Isaiah, founded on the impossibility of a supernatural foresight into the future, which of course applies to the whole Book of Isaiah, and to all the other books of the Old Testament Scriptures, has been already considered in paragraph six of the preceding chapter. It is obvious that the Jewish people had very different views of the nature of prophecy, or with what assurance could Isaiah have referred to his prophetic gift in the following passages: chapters xli. 21 to 23, xlii. 9, xlv., xlvi. 10, xlviii. 6? Appeals which must have appeared to them most mendacious, if not felt to be true. The objections founded on internal evidence, are of a more specious character as presented to the non-Oriental type of thought, which characterises the mind of the Western nations. It is affirmed by some leading critics that, “as witnessed by the prophecy itself,” the writer’s standing place is in the Babylonish exile; that he writes as one of them either at Babylon or in Egypt; that all the allusions presuppose that Jerusalem is already destroyed, and the Jews already in captivity; that Babylon is in its full power and authority, and Cyrus and his conquests already known. They refer to the following passages as describing the people in captivity, and the cities of Judah laid waste: chapters xlii. 22, 24, xliii. 28, xliv. 26, li. 3, lxiv. 10, 11; but similar descriptions are found in the earlier prophecies of Isaiah, and refer, undoubtedly, to the results of the Assyrian invasion and conquest and desolation of Israel, and of the disastrous effects of the Assyrian invasion of Judah: take, for instance, chapters i. 7, 8, iii. 8, v. 13, vi. 11,12, x. 20,21, xi. 12, xxii. 2. If the prophet could so express himself in reference to the calamities which followed the Assyrian and other less important invasions of the enemies of Judah, we need not wonder at the language employed in describing, as if already accomplished, the future desolation of Judah, which would be realised in the Babylonish captivity. The prophet uses an ideal present, more familiar to Orientals than to us, though sometimes used by our poets, in which the future is represented as past and already accomplished; the use of the preterit to express the future is sanctioned by the peculiarity of the Hebrew language, but our English translators, adhering to the letter, rather than to the meaning, have given a past, instead of the future signification, which was in the mind of the writer. “The most special and remarkable use of this (past) tense is as the prophetic perfect; its abrupt appearance in this capacity confers upon descriptions of the future a most forcible and expressive touch of reality, and imparts in the most vivid manner a sense of the certainty with which the occurrence of a yet future event is contemplated by the speaker.” [18] There can be no mistaking the prophet’s real standpoint as distinguished from his ideal, by those who believe the last twenty-seven chapters of the book to be the work of that Isaiah who wrote and prophesied in ” the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, Kings of Judah” (chapter i. 1), and who are ignorant of the wonderful discovery of Modern Critics of “a great unknown,” a pseudo Isaiah, who flourished in the time of the captivity, but of whom the Jewish and the Christian Church knew nothing until the last quarter of the eighteenth century! The prophet himself points out his own times; his real present, “he has immersed himself into that future.” [19] That he lived when Jerusalem and the Temple were still standing under the kings of Judah, and while the usual sacrifices were offered, although idolatry was common, appears from the following passages: chapters xl. 2, 9, 19, 20, xli. 7, 27, xliii. 22—24, xliv. 9—17, xlvi. 6, 7, xlviii. 1—5, li. 17, lvii. 1, 3—7, lviii. 1—3, 13, lix. 3, lxii. 1, lxv. 2 —7, 11, 12, Ixvi. 3, 6. So also the allusions to Egypt, Ethiopia and Seba, quite unsuitable to the political condition of these countries at the period of the exile, chapters xliii. 3, xlv. 14. It is most natural that the Babylonish captivity should be pointed out as an event certain though future, for already this had been foretold to Hezekiah by the prophet (Isaiah xxxix. 6—8). Micah, Nahum, and Zephaniah, contemporary with Isaiah, use similar language respecting the Babylonish captivity and the restoration. If on this account we reject the latter portion of Isaiah, we must also in the application of this sweeping criticism reject the writings of these prophets. The mention of Cyrus (Koresh, i.e., the sun) is now thought to be a title of dignity, just as Pharaoh was applied to the rulers of Egypt; but even if used as a proper name, by the prophet as by later writers, pointing out the very individual, there is a similar instance given (2 Kings xiii. 2) in which Josiah is spoken of by name as the future destroyer of idolatry; so that there is nothing specially singular in this respect. The supposed differences in style and manner which are disputed, may be explained by the difference between youth and age, between spoken addresses and carefully written discourses. There is an obvious natural connection between the later and the earlier prophecies, as Bishop Wordsworth has clearly shown in his commentary, who has also pointed out the use of Isaiah’s language by Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

8. Setting aside the hypothetical author, “the great unknown,” for whom the authorship of the last twentyseven chapters of Isaiah is claimed, we have no name except Isaiah the son of Amoz, or any other person indicated in the whole course of Jewish or Christian literature up to the eighteenth century, with the exception of Aben Ezra in the eleventh century. There is no genuine personal claimant, but simply an ideal one, the creation of a narrow dogmatic assumption, resting on principles of criticism, which, if admitted as true, would be the destruction of all confidence in the veracity of the writers of the Old and New Testaments. On the other hand we have a series of allusions to these last twenty-seven chapters of the prophecy in the writings of sundry prophets who lived before, or in the early part of the  captivity, as for instance the following:—

Isaiah xliv. 11—20, with Habbakuk ii. 18, 19.
”    xliv. 23 with Jeremiah li. 48.
”    xlv. 1, 2 with Jeremiah li. 30.
”    xlvii. 1—3 with Jeremiah xlviii. 18, 20, 26.
”    xlvii. 8 with Zephaniah ii. 15.
”    xlviii, 20, lii. 2 with Jeremiah 1. 2, 8.
”    li. 15 with Jeremiah xxxi. 35.
”    li. 17 with Jeremiah xxv. 15—29.
”    liii. 7 with Nahum i. 15.
”    lvi. 9 with Jeremiah xii. 9, 14.
”    lvi.—lvii. 9 with Ezekiel xxxiv.
”    lix. 1, 2 with Jeremiah v. 25.
”    lix. 9—11with Jeremiah xiii. 16.
”    lxvi. 6 with Jeremiah li. 55, 56.
”    lxvi. 16 with Jeremiah xxv. 21, 23.
”    lxvi. 19—20 with Zephaniah iii. 10.
See also—
Isaiah xl. 19, 20 with Jeremiah x. 3—5, 8, 9.

9. We have, what ought to satisfy us, the fact of our Lord and His apostles having given their testimony to the authorship of these last twenty-seven chapters by Isaiah the prophet, by no less than twenty-six quotations in the Gospels and Epistles, which are pointed out in the marginal references of most editions of the English New Testament. This is sufficient for all who profess to believe in Christ as a Divine teacher. In reference to our Lord’s testimony we must call attention to the remarks in Chapter VI., pp. 159, 160. In the interval between the close of the Canon of the Jewish Church and the first century of the Christian era, we have the testimony of Jesus the son of Sirach (who probably wrote in the third century before Christ), in Ecclesiasticus (chap. xlviii. 20—25), of which we simply give verses 24 and 25 as specially relevant. “He saw by an excellent spirit what should come to pass at the last, and he comforted them that mourned in Zion” (a reference to chapter xl. of Isaiah, the first of the disputed chapters of the later prophecy). “He showed what should come to pass for ever, and secret things or ever they came.” In addition we have that of Josephus, [20] who states that it was made known to Cyrus, through the prophecy of Isaiah, that he should rebuild Jerusalem, and that this prophecy was given one hundred and forty years before the Temple was demolished. These references are of use as indicating the views of the literary class among the Jews, apart from the influence of Christianity.

10. The interpretation of the Messianic and other prophecies of Isaiah is no part of our task. That work has been done by Dr. Payne Smith, J. Pye Smith, Alexander, Urwick, and many others. We will simply refer, as a fair specimen of the general character of the expositions of the Higher Critics, to their theories respecting “The Servant of Jehovah,” chapter xlii. 1, 2, xlix. 1—8, 1. 4, lii. 13, to the end of liii., all of which Christians in general apply to our Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah. But these are referred :—

(1) To the people of Israel in their attitude towards the heathen during their captivity, by Rosenmüller and Hitzig.

(2) To the youth of the nation as opposed to the incorrigible old, by Hendewerk.

(3) To Israel in its prophetic calling, suffering for the Gentiles, and partly to the Messiah, by Hoffmann.

(4) To the prophetic class or order, by Gesenius, De Wette, Umbreit.

Of course these’ views are opposed by Havernick, Delitzsch, and Drechsler, and by all the critics of the orthodox school. Further remarks are unnecessary.

Author’s Notes & References

1 ” Commentary,” Vol. V. p. 7.

2. ” Bib. Diet.,” Vol. I. p. 875.

3. “Speaker’s Com.,” Vol. V. pp. 1—24.

4.”Bib. Cyc,” Vol. II. p. 410.

5. “Commentary,” Vol. II. pp. 450—482.

6. “London Quarterly,” Vol. XLIII. p 475.

7. One Vol. 8vo. New Edition.  1874.

8. Davidson.’s “Int. to O. T.,” Vol. III. 1.

9. “Prophecies of Isaiah.” Two Vols. 8vo, 1847. Preface to Introduction, p. xvii.

10. Keil, Vol. I. p. 303.

11. See Keil, Vol. I. p. 303.

12. Vol. I. pp. 109, 110.

13. “Scholia,” 1st Ed.

14. “Scholia,” 2nd Ed.

15. Vol. III. p. 2g.

16. “Prophecies of Isaiah,” by T. K. Cheyne, Vol. I. 1880, p. 232.

17. “The Servant of Jehovah,” by Rev. W. Urwick, 8vo, 1877.

18. Driver “On the Hebrew Tenses,” 12mo, 1874, p. 15.

19. Keil, Vol. I. p. 321.

20. “Antiquities of the Jews,” Book XI. chap. ii.