This post will likely grow as I work on it a little at a time. It is mostly a post for myself to organize some of the most cogent points from Stromberg’s monograph (Oxford University Press, 2011).
Stromberg presents positive evidence for a view that the earliest part of Third Isaiah is chapters 60-62 and the latest part is Isaiah 56:1-8 and chapters 65-66. Third Isaiah is a common designation for the book of Isaiah, chapters 56-66 (also called Trito-Isaiah). So the theory is that someone wrote Isaiah 60-62 sometime after the exile (during the Persian period), and the rest of Third Isaiah grew from it (same author? different author?) with the final touch being 56:1-8 and chapters 65-66, which form a frame around the rest (Isa 56:9 – 64:11).
We could label these two key parts of Third Isaiah as follows:
- Early-TI = Isaiah 60-62
- Late-TI = Isaiah 56:1-8; 65:1 – 66:24
Evidence that Early-TI is distinct within the larger text of Third Isaiah.
Isaiah 60-62 has a message that is distinct from the rest of Third Isaiah, especially from 56-59 and 65-66. In general, Isaiah 60-62 is completely positive toward Jerusalem and makes blanket promises. The nations serve Jerusalem and are definitely shown as inferior, humbled, and defeated prior to acknowledging Jerusalem and God. But this positive message is distinct from the qualifications and restrictions on promises in the rest of Third Isaiah as well as some more positive passages about the nations and some less than flattering depictions of Jerusalem’s residents.
Things that differ in the whole of TI from Early-TI include (Stromberg cites Emmerson, Grace, Isaiah 56-66, Old Testament Guides, Sheffield, JSOT Press, 1992):
- Indictment of Jerusalem’s leaders (56:9-12).
- References to worship of foreign gods and foreign methods of worship such as gardens (57:1-13; 65:1-7).
- The charge that the people observe ritual without practicing social justice (ch. 58).
- Hostile factions in Jerusalem (65:8-16; 66:5), as opposed to the united view of the holy city in chs. 60-62.
Stromberg adds to these stylistic differences:
- Early-TI never uses the formulas for divine speech as opposed to frequent divine speech formulas in 56-59 and 65-66. This suggests a different author for the rest of TI from Early-TI.
- Yet the rest of TI presupposes Early-TI, seeming to be a more complex reworking of Early-TI. Presumably the simpler (Early-TI) is earlier than the complex (the rest of TI).
- The unconditional promise in Early-TI that the time of darkness will change into glory and light is qualified in the rest of TI. It depends on the people’s change of heart about social justice (58) and many reasons are given why the promise of Early-TI has not yet happened (59).
Furthermore, many similarities exist between Early-TI and Second Isaiah (Isa 40-55). This fits with the theory that Early-TI is soon after Second Isaiah and is consciously building on the promises found in it.