THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ISAIAH 53
Darrell L. Bock / Mitch Glaser (editors)
Kregel Academic / Grand Rapids / 2012
If one wants to know the issues and overall importance of Isaiah 53, this is the book for you. It grew out of a conference by Chosen People Ministries and “written to help readers to utilize the truth of this magnificent chapter in bringing the Good News to those who do not yet know Jesus” (page 21). It was written “to pastors, missionaries, and lay leaders who regularly preach and teach the Word of God” (page 28). To accomplish its task it deals with this great chapter in three parts: Interpretation, Biblical Theology, and Practical Theology.
Part 1: Interpretation.
This title is somewhat deceptive, in that it deals more with the history of interpretation than actual interpretation. It is divided into two chapters; the first is Christian Interpretation of Isaiah 53 (Richard Averbeck). He clearly declares his conservative approach believing against many scholars in one Isaiah as the author who went through a number of stages in life and prophetic activity. He upholds the older view that there are three historical types of interpretations of the servant passage: (1) the single servant view; (2) remnant within
Israel; and (3) the nation as a
whole view. He argues for the single servant view but centers upon the idea of
suffering, sacrifice, and atonement by the servant. The heart of the debate, as
well as the heart of this chapter, has centered upon the vicarious, sacrificial
substitution in Isaiah 53. It spends considerable time on the idea of the guilt
offering, and upholds that the suffering servant brings redemption and
restoration to the Jews and the world.
The second chapter deals with Jewish Interpretations of Isaiah 53 (Michael Brown). He identifies his purpose is “to summarize the main lines of traditional Jewish interpretation...with special reference to the objections to Jesus that arise from the text, offering concise responses...” (page 62). He confesses that the predominant view in Jewish thinking is that of corporate
He looks at this interpretation with excerpts from the main Jewish commentators
(Raski, Ibn Ezra, and Radak). His remarks in answer to this view center around
linguistic objections, it is in conflict with the messianic rabbinic
literature, contextually the servant as a person and cannot be dismissed. He
spends some time showing that Gentile nations are speaking throughout the
passage cannot be sustained. He notes the inconsistency of the main Jewish interpretation
and upholds the chapter speaking of the suffering servant making atonement for
Part 2: Biblical Theology.
This part is clearly the heart of the book and is divided into 6 chapters. Walter Kaiser writes on The Identity and
Mission of the Servant of the Lord. Overall
he does a good job showing that the servant is Jesus. However, I do not think
he handles the plural references well; it seems to be somewhat weak. It is also
a difficult chapter to follow and challenging to grasp. Michael Wilkins takes
on Isaiah 53 and the Message of Salvation in the Gospels, but centers more on
Matthew. It focuses on two questions: Did Jesus see Himself as the servant of
Isaiah 53? What is our perspective of Jesus in light of Isaiah 53? He answers
that Jesus understood his mission as the Servant was fulfilled in his
obedience, which the church (or disciples) did not fully understand until after
the resurrection. Isaiah 53 in Acts 8 by Darrell Bock is one of the shortest
chapters, but one of the most powerful. He deals with the conflict between the
Hebrew texts (Masoretic / LXX) and the interpretive problems. It deals why the
use of Isaiah is important. He deals with the problems very fairly. Craig Evans
deals with Isaiah 53 in the Letters of Peter, Paul, Hebrews, and John. He deals
with the contribution of the theologies of these men. David Allen deals with
Subtitutionary Atonement and Cultic Terminology in Isaiah 53. It is the key
mission of the suffering servant. The result of the work of the suffering
servant is reinforced by Robert B. Chisholm Jr in the chapter of Forgiveness
and Salvation in Isaiah 53.
These chapters are very important. However there are things that must be pointed out. First, much of the book is technically intense, which limits the use by laymen. Second, knowledge of Hebrew is helpful and needed in some cases. Third, there is much repetition and rehashing of points, a result of the nature of different writers. While not necessarily a drawback, these do complicate things for an average reader without some training.
Part 3: Practical Theology
John Feinberg deals with Postmodern Themes from Isaiah 53. He shows that Isaiah is relevant even in the postmodern age. Glaser talks about Using Isaiah 53 in Jewish Evangelism. He notes the merits of using this passage with Jewish people and its foundational use for their coming to an understanding of the work of Jesus as the suffering servant. Donald Sunukjian gives us helpful steps to the Preaching Isaiah 53.
The book conclusion is written by Bock giving a summation, and some helpful charts. This is followed by two Appendixes; one is an Expositional Sermon, the other Dramatic-Narrative Sermon both by Sunukjian.
Overall, this work is unique, thorough, comprehensive, and an apologetic resource. It is an indispensable resource for the evangelical view of Isaiah. Its value outweighs the weaknesses. A welcome addition to any Pastor’s library.
I received this book free from Kregel Publications for the purpose of reviewing it. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.