Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Isaiah the prophet

THE ISAIAH BULLA AND THE BIBLE: Isaiah the Prophet, Man or Biblical Myth: The Archaeological Evidence. Finding seal marks ostensibly from Isaiah the Prophet and Hezekiah within mere feet of each other in Jerusalem is intriguing; so are other seals of other non-visionary Isaiahs found in Israel from that time (Phillipe Bohstrom, Haaretz).
A 2,700-year-old seal impression on clay unearthed in Jerusalem this February piqued enormous interest, after its finder, the leading Jerusalem archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar, said it may have been the personal seal of Isaiah the Prophet himself. Biblical scholars have been quarreling ever since.

In general this is a good article. It covers the issues surrounding the Isaiah bulla in some depth. It also addresses the larger questions concerning the prophet Isaiah and his book. Usually these are handled well. I will flag one glitch:
In Isaiah 20:1, the Assyrian king's name is spelled SRGN, which is the Aramaic version. The Assyrians spoke Aramaic (a language very like Hebrew, originally spoken by the Aramaeans that would eventually become the international language for trade in Assyria and Babylon too).
The phrase that I have highlighted in bold is not expressed very clearly. It may be a misunderstanding of Isaiah 36:11, in which the Judean leaders ask the representative of the King of Assyria to speak in Aramaic, which they knew, but the common Judean people who were listening did not understand. It is true that Assyrian (and Judean) diplomats would have spoken Aramaic. They would have needed it to interact with their Aramean neighbors in what is now Syria. But the Assyrians overall did not speak Aramaic. They spoke — wait for it — Assyrian, which was a dialect of Akkadian. Akkadian was a Semitic language that was written in cuneiform script.

Specialists agree that the Book of Isaiah was written by three or more people over period of centuries. The exceptions are those, such as Professor Millard. who believe in single authorship "on grounds of faith." The efforts toward the end of the article to undermine multiple authorship are not convincing. Both the Dead Sea Scrolls and the works of Josephus were written centuries after the events. They did not have any more information than we do, and we have better tools to analyze that information.

All that said, this is a good article and you should read it all.

Background on the recently discovered Isaiah bulla is here (cf. here) and links. For more on Herodotus and the destruction of Sennacherib's army, see here.

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