I just finished reading a very academic but clear book that offers perspectives on how scholars have approached Isaiah in the past and present, An Introduction to the Study of Isaiah, by Jacob Stromberg.
His chapter on Isaiah as literature particularly grabbed my attention. Stromberg writes, “[A] literary approach has at its core an interest in what a literary text means, and how it means it” (56).
Isaiah is a complex weaving together of sources spanning over two hundred year, so “competent reading is informed by competent excavation. Awareness of the composite nature of a book like Isaiah enables the reader to begin to judge which features of the text are attributable to source, and which to [literary] strategy” (57).
Stromberg also cautions against imagining that a literary reading is completely distinct from other approaches. “Thus, just as the Bible is not literature as opposed to theology (but for the sake of it), so it is not literature as opposed to history (but grounded in it). A literary approach to Isaiah which strives for a happy union of object and method will resist separating these aspects of the text, seeking instead to view them in their proper inter-relation” (58).
Getting to know the book of Isaiah better therefore means deepening awareness of (1) the historical context; (2) the different layers of textual material; (3) the theologies the book assumes and argues for; and (4) the current shape of the book and its literary qualities.
This “Year of Isaiah” with my synagogue, Temple Isaiah, I’ll post from time to time what I’m reading, learning, and thinking about Isaiah.