13 December 2005


For at least two of the sundays in Advent, the three-year lectionary prescribes Old Testament readings from Isaiah, chapters 40 and following. In our church the past two sundays, the bulletin printed the following preface: "A reading from the second book of Isaiah," which the reader was expected to say aloud before reciting the passage itself. This struck me as odd. To be sure, many if not most biblical scholars believe that chapters 40 through 66 (or possibly only through 55) were written by someone, usually called Deutero-Isaiah, living centuries after the 8th-century prophet himself. Yet the church has always understood the book to be a canonical unity, and indeed there are a number of elements, such as the uniquely Isaian reference to God as the Holy One of Israel, tying together its chapters. The last two sundays' bulletins struck me as the product of a misguided effort to imbue a fallible and highly contestable scholarly theory concerning authorship with something approaching canonical status itself.

This past sunday, however, the reader (who is the husband of a Redeemer colleague) chose to ignore the word second and simply said, "A reading from the book of Isaiah." Good for him.

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