In search of the unity of the book of Isaiah
The Book of Isaiah is too diverse to be considered as a unified whole but too united to be regarded as just a mere compilation of different parts. The issue is not about unity or complexity, but about unity in complexity. After decades of combat, the time is ripe not only for a cease-fire but for a common effort among synchronists and diachronists. Both should mutually accept the restrictions of their approaches and recognize the strengths of each other’s methodology. One restriction concerns the possibility to decipher in full the redaction history, the different stages of the literary development. There is a growing scepticism about editorial layers that shaped the whole Book of Isaiah from the beginning to the end. But this does not mean the end of any redaction-critical work, but calls for a self-limitation to separate first of all the more probable from the less probable and to consider the consequences of a diachronic decision on one pericope on the whole of the book. The paradigm appropriate to this book seems not that of one final redaction or final redactions, but that of sectional compositions (Teilkompositionen) building upon one another. Methodologically needed is a »diachronically- reflected synchrony«, which analyses the existing textual fabric keeping in mind the nearly four hundred years of literary growth. A promising way seems to apply the »diachronically-reflected synchrony« to the commonly recognized sections of the book (1–12; 13–27; 28–35; 36–39; 40– 55; 56–66). The outcome might be that each of these sections represents the book of Isaiah in a nutshell under different aspects but surely always from the perspective of Israel in the Late Persian/ Early Hellenistic Period.
But what is the whole book about? It is certainly not sufficient to single out key words or similar phenomena and follow them throughout the sixty-six chapters, since the book of Isaiah is as complex on the synchronic as on the diachronic level. Every synchronic observation should be accompanied by a diachronic reflection taking into account the changing historical situation of the text-producer and their first addressees. It’s not enough to pretend that the book of Isaiah has grown more or less stringently from front to back so that the oldest texts stand at the beginning and the youngest at the end. The requirements for the interpretation of Proto-Isaiah are particularly high in this respect, because not only in the first chapter, but in all others as well, the growth of the entire book must always be taken into account. If one takes the interpenetration of older and younger texts seriously, then only scribal circles can be held responsible for this ambitious enterprise. This is all the more valid when one considers the literary connections both in the 66 chapters itself and with regard to other parts of the Hebrew Bible, to the Pentateuch, to other prophetic books and especially to the Psalms. The leading traditions of Ancient Israel like the ones of the patriarchs, Exodus, Moses, David, Zion, but also of the Paradise Garden, Noah, etc. were creatively integrated into this multi-layered, multifaceted literary masterpiece from four centuries of prophetic reflection on YHWH, His people and the nations. The dynamics, the poetical forces, the tradents (Trägerkreise) behind this magistral book will be examined, as well as the question of how the earliest receptions read and understood it.
10 Main lectures (4 english; 4 german; 2 french)
Ulrich Berges: Presidential address:
1. Auf der Suche nach der Einheit des Buches Jesaja. Zwischen synchronem Anspruch und diachroner Herausforderung
2. Hugh Williamson: Redaction-criticism in Proto-Isaiah and its repercussions on the Book of Isaiah
3. Marvin Sweeney: Gains and losses of a one view reading of the book of Isaiah
4. Konrad Schmid: Zeit und Geschichte als Determinanten des Jesajabuchs
5. Judith Gärtner: Das Buch Jesaja und seine Trägerkreise
6. Katie Heffelfinger, Lyrics and Poetics in the Book of Isaiah and the consequences for the history of composition
7. Uta Schmidt : Das Buch Jesaja in genderkritischer/ feministischer Perspektive
8. Marcello Fidanzio/ Hagit Maoz: Le grand rouleau d’Isaïe de Qumrân : approche matérielle.
9. Rodrigo de Sousa: L’Isaïe grec et ses implications pour la recherche de l‘unité du livre d'Isaïe hébreu
10. Antti Laato : The Book of Isaiah in Jewish-Christian reception
Nederlands: Archibald van Wieringen: Leesstrategieën in en van het boek Jesaja
German: Joachim Eck: Intra-textuelle Verbindungen des Jesajabuchs zur hebräischen Bibel
English: Alphonso Groenewald/ Liza Esterhuizen: The Book of Isaiah and trauma/ resilience studies
French: Pierre van Hecke: Métaphores et langage figuratif et la cohérence du livre d’Ésaïe
Offered short papers
The offered short lectures can cover all topics related to the book of Isaiah and its ancient versions. A wide variety of methods is expressly desired. The focus is on literary, historical, literary-historical and reception-historical observations. It would be desirable if these individual studies would always also take into account the book of Isaiah.
Parallel Session I/ V: Literary Issues
Parallel Session II/ VI: Historical Issues
Parallel Session III/ VII: Literary Historical Issues (Especially Intra- and Intertextuality; redaction and composition)
Parallel Session IV/ VIII: Reception Historical Issues