donderdag 21 februari 2013

Review of: John Goldingay and David Payne, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Isaiah 40-55. 2 vols. (ICC), Τ. & Τ. Clark, 2006 (Vol. 1) & 2007 (Vol. 2); in: Interpretation

John Goldingay and David Payne, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Isaiah 40-55. 2 vols. (ICC), Τ. & Τ. Clark, 2006 (Vol. 1) & 2007 (Vol. 2).

Review in: Interpretation 2009 63: 66
Review door: Patricia K. Tull
Gevonden op:

A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Isaiah 40-55, Vol. 1 (40:1-44:23)
by John Goldingay and David Payne
International Critical Commentary. Τ & Τ Clark, New York, 2006.
368 pp. $120.00. ISBN 978-0-567-04461-0.

A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Isaiah 40-55, Vol. 2 (44:24-55:13)
by John Goldingay and David Payne
International Critical Commentary. Τ & Τ Clark, New York, 2007.
381 pp. $120.00. ISBN 978-0-567-03072-5.

A SERIES OF MISFORTUNES ranging from S.R. Driver's frustration over the identity of Isaiah's servant to A.S. Peake's death prevented the original International Critical Commentary's production in the early twentieth century of volumes covering Isa 28-66. George B. Gray's work on chs. 1-27 has stood alone for nearly a century. In the new edition of this commentary series, Hugh G. M. Williamson's volume on Isa 1-27 appeared in 2006. The two volumes on Isa 40:1-44:23 and 44:24-55:13, coauthored by John Goldingay and David Payne, are a happy addition to the array of recent commentaries that have benefited from ferment in the field of Isaiah studies over the past twenty years.

It is strangely appropriate that a commentary on Isaiah should be penned by multiple authors who have integrated their work into a whole. Although the redactional layers of Isaiah can be detected but not proved, Goldingay and Payne offer full disclosure, explaining not only who contributed which elements, but also in what sequence the process was carried out. They explain that Goldingay's volume, entitled The Message of Isaiah 40-55: A Literary-Theological Commentary (T 8c Τ Clark, 2005), includes much material that had to be excluded from the present work so that, true to ICC emphases, Payne's text-critical and philological work could star in these two volumes. Goldingay has also authored a one-volume New International Bible Commentary on Isaiah (Hendrickson, 2001).

Goldingay's engagingly written introduction in vol. 1 declines to rehearse issues that have been treated at length before, appropriately presuming both awareness of the chain of events the book of Isaiah presupposes and basic agreement with the long-standing consensus concerning the approximate historical settings of Second and Third Isaiah. The first two sections explore Second Isaiah as both a portion of the overall book and as a discrete entity. The morass of redactional theories is stepped over lightly. Clear links with First Isaiah and other pre-exilic literature are noted. A sequential, synchronic, and—though the term is not employed—reader-response orientation is signaled:

We treat 42:1-4 as taking up issues raised in 2:2-4 and taking them further. Historically it may be that 2:2-4 is later than 42:1-4, but if so, the book as we have it invites us to read the older passage in light of the later one, and we are accepting that invitation, (p. 4)

The authors raise five objections to the renewed practice, mostly in continental Europe, of positing a complex redactional history within the sixteen chapters. The section on text-critical matters draws a distinction among what can be imagined by interpreters living in different eras (those of manuscripts, printing presses, and word processors), noting that our era of desktop publishing has allowed greater awareness of the problems surrounding the idea of a single, fixed "original text." The authors resist pursuing the unattainable original in favor of "something that at least has the virtue of existing" (p. 9), and generally favor the MT over early versions.

The introduction goes on to discuss the poetic movement of the sixteen chapters and the rhythm and forms of the poetry before spending substantial time on the question of the intended audience and its time, location, and identity. Utilizing Beuken's distinction between the audience on stage (the one overtly addressed, which often includes symbolic figures or elements of the natural world) and the audience "in the house" (the one actually meant to overhear what is said), Goldingay explores the various possibilities of prophet and audience location, finally choosing Babylon for both, though leaving open the idea that other Judean audiences would have been welcome as well. The final section of the introduction discusses the primary theological messages of Isa 40-55 regarding God, God's people, Zion, the prophet as servant, and the nations.

The section on the poet/prophet's own identity and stamp upon the book is very interesting, but seems a bit flatfooted after the careful distinctions between implied and real audiences. It could have benefited from maintaining the stage analogy. On the one hand, there is a welcome discussion of suggestions that the author was a woman. This idea is supported by the prophet's intimate knowledge of and appreciation for the experiences of women, the command in 40:9 to mevasseret Zion (translated not as "herald Zion" but as "herald [fern, sing] to Zion"), and the deliberate hiddenness of the prophet's identity. Since all of these can be accounted for differently, Goldingay appropriately leaves the question open.

On the other hand, he posits a prophetic "I" in brief passages at 40:6 (following, despite the above-mentioned preference, not the MT vocalization but LXX and Qumran; for the difference see NRSV vs. Tanakh) and 48:16b, and more controversially, in the first-person servant passages in Isa 49:1-6 and 50:4-9. The prospect of a bearded female prophet is not the central problem here, but it does signal it. In skirting past her, so to speak, by imagining her in disguise as a male prophet, Goldingay unintentionally raises important distinctions (most easily seen in first-person novels) among the author, the implied author, and the constructed first-person voice of a speaking character, for example Huckleberry Finn. However, the sixteen chapters are suffused with variously positioned voices, many of whom speak of themselves as "I" or "we" (including God, a heavenly voice, Jacob/Israel, idolators, Daughter Babylon, Zion/Jerusalem, Zion's children, and a human chorus). Moreover, given the function Goldingay attributes to this authorial adoption of the servant role—to model a role for other Judeans to adopt as well—it seems odd for the otherwise self-effacing poet, so accomplished at staging the actors, to suddenly step onto the stage with not one but two authorial soliloquies. He becomes a character who has the same "name" as the author, rather like Jonathan Safran Foer as a character in his own book entitled Everything Is Illuminated (Penguin Books, 2003), except without the self-critical jokes that make that character enjoyable.

Trying to place the prophet into the movement between third-person and first-person treatments of the servant not only raises the strange question of who took up the pen to endorse the author in 50:10-11. (The suggestion that YHWH is the speaker here only throws us back into the drama of voices.) On a larger scale, it also forces what seems like an arbitrary positing of the servant as Israel in chs. 41 and 42, the prophet in 49 and 50, and both prophet and people in 52:13-53:12. It would seem less strained to adopt a neighboring position that likewise tacks between individual and collective interpretation, such as that the author draws from his or her own struggles and hopes in order to project onto the stage a figure, modeled on the prophets, who communicates the struggles, cares, and triumphs of any Israelite who responds to Israel's divine call to servanthood.

The commentary itself offers a fresh line-by-line translation in the form of headers for discussions of individual verses or portions of verses, but not in a continuous section that would enable readers to capture the flow of the poetry and the translation. These expositions are the heart of the commentary and will be most useful for readers with Hebrew skills. Outside of Isa 52:13-53:12, where sections are offered regarding the passage's links with other Isaian passages, form and background, and history of interpretation, there is little space for topical and theological issues raised by larger chunks of text, though these are presumably found in Goldingay's companion volume. It is too bad that they are not integrated into one larger smoothly-flowing whole, but perhaps there is some ironic symmetry in Isaiah's three or more books having become one, and the commentary on one of Isaiah's books having become three.

Isaiah 40-55 is unusually challenging on both the macro and micro levels. To combine literary sensibilities with traditional textual and historical methods is challenging as well. These informative, careful, and copiously researched volumes respectably fill a long-felt gap and will surely be sought as important reference works in the study of Isaiah for decades to come.

Patricia K. Tull

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