Comforting the People: The Contribution of Chapters 51-52 to the Overall Structure and Rhetoric of Deutero-Isaiah

Wilks, John Gerald Francis (2002). Comforting the People: The Contribution of Chapters 51-52 to the Overall Structure and Rhetoric of Deutero-Isaiah. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis is concerned with the way that structures are identified in a biblical poetic book, using Deutero-Isaiah as a reference text. Typically, Formgeschichte (or some variant of it) has been used to identify units of text which are then related together into larger structures. Whilst being a suitable understanding of the way that one poem leads to another, it is not satisfactory for describing the overall shaping. Though a structure can be presented, it lacks criteria by which a focus/climax might be determined.

There needs to be the addition of a 'top-downwards' methodology: the identification of rhetorical trajectories in the text. Noting the limited range of subject matters used by Deutero Isaiah-the vast majority of texts can be subsumed within four complex groupings: the character and uniqueness of Yahweh; the fates of Babylon and Zion; the journey; servanthood-the progression within each complex can be traced. This development can be likened to a trajectory, since it displays overall shaping and focusing and can be used to locate climactic structural points in the writing.

Having outlined the current scholarship on the methods used to determine structure, and general attitudes to Deutero-Isaiah, in chapters 1 and 2, chapter 3 begins by describing the method to be used herein. The method is then applied to two sections of Deutero-Isaiah: the prologue and the eschatological hymns. These point to the role of 52:7-10 as a major rhetorical climax in Deutero-Isaiah. In chapter 4, Isaiah 51-52 is studied to discover the rhetorical structures contained within it, which will demonstrate that the large- and small-scale structures coincide. The conclusion considers the implications of this structure, not least for the implied importance of the final 'servant song' and the 'epilogue' of chapters 54-55.

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