Der leidende Gottesknecht: Jesaja 53 and seine Wirkungsgeschichte.
The studies collected in this book provide us with an excellent survey of the origin, history of interpretation, and Wirkungs-geschichte of the fourth Servant Song. The authors share a special interest in the concept of atonement which informs Isaiah 53. `Atonement' translates the German term Stellvertretung, a term that was coined only in the eighteenth century and belongs to that field of systematic theology commonly referred to, in the German tradition, as Versohnungslehre. It denotes the fact of someone standing in for another person and accepting the responsibility for that person's wrongdoings. It is most illuminating to scrutinize Isaiah 53 with a view to the theology of atonement it exemplifies. This is accomplished by Hermisson's and Janowski's studies. The former starts with an analysis of the text, structure, and literary genre of Isa. 52:13-53:12. It then deals with the identity of the Servant (Hermisson thinks that Isaiah 53 is an interpretation of the fate of Deutero-Isaiah provided by his pupils) and the theology of the fourth Servant Song. The author thinks that suffering was considered an integral part of Deutero-Isaiah's ministry. In order fully to understand the concept of atonement underlying Isaiah 53, Hermisson differentiates between Stellvertreter and Reprasentant. This is virtually impossible to emulate in English (but cf. D. P. Bailey, `Concepts of Stellvertretung in the Interpretation of Isaiah 53', in: W. H. Bellinger and W. R. Farmer (eds.), Jesus and the Suffering Servant: Isaiah 53 and Christian Origins, Valley Forge (forthcoming)). The issue receives illumination from Hermisson's comment on the `collective' interpretation of Isaiah 53: `Hier ist der prophetische Gottesknecht gerade strikte unterschieden, ist im Glauben und Vertrauen wie in der Schuldubernahme Stellvertreter des Gottesknechts Israel, nicht sein Reprasentant. Man mu[Beta] aber auch hier im Sinn behalten, da[Beta] die alte Alternative "kollektiv"/"individuell" uberhaupt zu kurz greift -- wenn z.B. der Knecht nach 49,3 als einzelner das "wahre Israel" vertritt' (p. 18). This is exactly the difference upon which the correct understanding of Isaiah 53 hinges: Hermisson argues that the Servant does not represent Israel. Rather, he stands in for Israel and accepts punishment not for his, but for Israel's sins. Thus the old Israelite concept of what German theologians call the Tun-Ergehen-Zusammenhang is done away with and replaced by a concept of vicarious suffering.
In his contribution, Janowski provides a detailed discussion of the fourth Servant Song in relation to the preceding three and of the concept of the [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in Deutero-Isaiah. He proceeds to address the philosophical problem the concept of atonement poses in a post-Kantian environment. Janowski's in-depth analysis of Isaiah 53 enables us critically to reconsider Kant's axiom of guilt: `die Sundenschuld, die nur der Strafbare, nicht der Unschuldige, er mag auch noch so gro[Beta]mutig sein, sie fur jenen ubernehmen zu wollen, tragen kann' (Die Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der blo[Beta]en Vernunft). Isaiah 53 presents us with a different view of individual guilt and atonement. It subverts the cruel laws of retribution and dissociates human beings from their guilt, thus liberating them. Janowski also provides his readers with a brilliant exposition of Isa. 53:4-6 in which he demonstrates that the insight formulated in those verses (cf. 53:6: `All we [=Israel] like sheep have gone astray;/we have all turned to our own way,/and the Lord has laid on him/the iniquity of us all'; NRSV) marks the turning-point in Israel's attitude to the Servant and the beginning of a new era in the understanding of individual guilt and atonement.
M. Hengel traces the influence Isaiah 53 exerted on passages such as Zech. 12:9-13:1 and 13:7, Dan. 11:33-12:10, Enoch 62:5 and on writings such as 1Q Is A and 4Q 540/41. He also deals with the Song's rendering in the Greek Bible, with Test. Benj. 3.8, and with 4Q 491. Hengel concludes that the fourth Servant Song had a certain importance in the pre-Christian Jewish interpretation of the book of Isaiah, albeit not a very significant one. Interestingly, however, it is the motif of the Servant's vicarious suffering and death that received least attention in early Jewish exegesis. It took the advent of Christianity to make it one of the most prominent concepts of religious history. This is aptly demonstrated by the analysis the Gospels and the Book of Acts are subjected to by P. Stuhlmacher. He concludes: `Das geschichtliche Auftreten Jesu und sein an Jes (43,3-4; 52,7;) 52,13-53-12 (und Jes 61, 1-2) orientiertes messianisches Sendungsverstandnis stellen eine entscheidende Neuerung in der Interpretations- und Wirkungsgeschichte von Jes 53 dar. Die Osterzeugen haben von dieser Vorgabe her den Gesamttext des Liedes vom leidenden Gottesknecht zum ersten Mal auf eine geschichtliche Einzelgestalt beziehen und von ihm her Jesu Leidensgeschick soteriologisch deuten konnen' (p. 104) O. Hofius describes how, in the New Testament epistles, the Song was subjected to a christological reinterpretation that effectively turned Isaiah 53 into a `new' text (cf. p. 127). Hofius seems to differ from Stuhlmacher when he states: `Jesus Christus in seiner Person und in seinem Werk wird also nicht blo [Beta] und auch nicht primar durch Jes 53 ausgelegt, sondern er selbst legt Jes 53 aus ... Denn jetzt entscheidet sich von Christi Tod und Auferstehung her, was Sunde und Sunder-Sein und Existenzstellvertretung fur die Sunder wirklich ist. Da [Beta] der alttestamentliche Text fur eine solche christologische Rezeption offen war, das ist erstaunlich genug' (ibid.).
In his exegesis of Isaiah 53 according to Targum Jonathan, Adna arrives at the conclusion that its messianic concept encapsulates all kinds of eschatological mediatoral functions. In Adna's opinion, this was the result of the targumist's conscious decision, not of `atomistic' exegesis. In this respect, therefore, the targumic rendering of Isaiah 53 is not dissimilar to the interpretation it receives in the New Testament. Schreiner deals with another fascinating example of Jewish exegesis of the fourth Servant Song. In his study of the Sepher Chizzuq Emunah of R. Isaac ben Avraham, he is able to show that this fine example of Karaite scholarship is informed by the great breadth of both Rabbanite and Karaite learning that characterized its author. R. Isaac used Isaiah 53 as the basis for a theology of the Exile, situated in the context of late sixteenth-century, Jewish-Christian controversy in eastern Europe. The `collective' interpretation of the Suffering Servant precluded messianic speculation and was an effective means of refuting Christian exegesis and polemics.
In the only contribution dealing with the patristic interpretation of Isaiah 53, Markschies provides us with a careful scrutiny of different approaches to Isaiah 52:13-53:12 in the early church. More specifically, he singles out Eusebius and Hilarius, denotes their respective interpretations of the fourth Servant Song as particularly problematic `usurpations' of the Old Testament text, and evaluates Hilarius' docetic understanding as a dangerous misappropriation of that text's original meaning. An implicit criticism of Hofius' views is tangible.
The present volume is a major contribution to the current debate centring on the Book of Isaiah, biblical concepts of atonement theology, and their importance for the conceptualization of a biblical theology. The authors and editors deserve our thanks for the great service they have rendered to scholarship and, more generally, to the spiritual reappraisal of that difficult and beautiful text, Isa. 52:13-53:12.
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|Publication:||The Journal of Theological Studies|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Oct 1, 1998|
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