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Is Isaiah 40–55 Really Monotheistic?

Is Isaiah 40–55 Really Monotheistic? Abstract Isaiah 40–55 is often understood as a work bearing witness clearly and unambiguously to a “novel,” “consistent” and “extreme” monotheism, the monotheistic biblical work par excellence. Yet the author of this article challenges such claims in light of texts such as Isa 40:1–8 and 40:25–26, which recognize the existence of the heavenly host and the volition (40:25–26) or agency (40:1–8) of its members, and in view of Isa 51:9–11, which alludes clearly to the mythic conflict between Yhwh and the sea dragon as a reality. A statement such as “besides me there is no god” (45:5) must, therefore, be interpreted in light of these texts, which are all too frequently ignored by those who speak of Second Isaiah’s “radical” monotheism. “Besides me there is no god” is more likely a claim about Yhwh’s incomparability and unique power and agency than about his sole existence. If there is anything radical and unprecedented about Isaiah 40–55, it is the poet’s rhetoric, which seems to suggest a new meaning and more restricted use for the word “god” ( אלהים ).Though the host remain a heavenly reality for Second Isaiah, serving Yhwh as they have always done, they are no longer called gods. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions Brill

Is Isaiah 40–55 Really Monotheistic?

Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions , Volume 12 (2): 190 – Jan 1, 2012

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Publisher
Brill
Copyright
© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISSN
1569-2116
eISSN
1569-2124
DOI
10.1163/15692124-12341237
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Abstract Isaiah 40–55 is often understood as a work bearing witness clearly and unambiguously to a “novel,” “consistent” and “extreme” monotheism, the monotheistic biblical work par excellence. Yet the author of this article challenges such claims in light of texts such as Isa 40:1–8 and 40:25–26, which recognize the existence of the heavenly host and the volition (40:25–26) or agency (40:1–8) of its members, and in view of Isa 51:9–11, which alludes clearly to the mythic conflict between Yhwh and the sea dragon as a reality. A statement such as “besides me there is no god” (45:5) must, therefore, be interpreted in light of these texts, which are all too frequently ignored by those who speak of Second Isaiah’s “radical” monotheism. “Besides me there is no god” is more likely a claim about Yhwh’s incomparability and unique power and agency than about his sole existence. If there is anything radical and unprecedented about Isaiah 40–55, it is the poet’s rhetoric, which seems to suggest a new meaning and more restricted use for the word “god” ( אלהים ).Though the host remain a heavenly reality for Second Isaiah, serving Yhwh as they have always done, they are no longer called gods.

Journal

Journal of Ancient Near Eastern ReligionsBrill

Published: Jan 1, 2012

Keywords: monotheism; Second Isaiah; Isaiah 40–55; Israelite religion

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