Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What is Kaiser trying to say?

I'm still thinking about Walter Kaiser's post at Koinonia and trying to understand what he means when he ends with:

If the "Dead Sea Scroll in Stone" exhibits any message similar to what the prophet Isaiah laid out in the Third Servant Song, we are in for some very interesting Jewish-Evangelical dialogues! Perhaps the Church can pick up where it broke off from the Synagogue in the second to fourth Christian centuries! This would be one giant step forward for all who take Scripture and history seriously.

What is he trying to say? He never really talks about the "Dead Sea Scroll in Stone", despite the title of the blog post, aside from using it to bring up the suffering messiah idea. It seems like he's implying that if it talks about a suffering messiah (like he believes Isa. 50 does), then Judaism needs to rethink its rejection of Jesus as the messiah. If that's what he's saying, it seems like a bold non sequitur to me. It might not be what he means. After re-reading this paragraph several times, it just keeps getting more unintelligible.

First, the suffering messiah idea in the "Vision of Gabriel" itself is a weak interpretation. Second, reading it into Isa. 50 just perpetuates the type of category-mixing that is all too common in Old Testament interpretation, especially in dealing with the issue of messianic expectation.

1 comment:

  1. This is a sensitive topic, and I don't want to make inflammatory comments about it. Forgive me if I do. This issue is a major one.

    I think that Kaiser is assuming a Protestant canon and then using it in place of TNK (Hebrew Bible). For those committed to a Protestant canon, the argument goes something like this: If you read the BIBLE, then the Servant songs in Isaiah obviously refer to Jesus.

    However, I agree with you that such a connection is only obvious in the hindsight of the New Testament. Two quirks facilitate this reduction of tradition. First is the implicit denial of any sort of development of tradition (i.e. the books of the Protestant Bible agree in all of their perspectives, regardless of time of origin). The second is an inability to recognize the difficulty of reducing the Servant songs of Isaiah to a single referent within the context of Isaiah (sometimes Cyrus, sometimes Israel, sometimes the voice of the Prophet, and perhaps sometimes another referent).

    The Hebrew Bible has been used as a component of several different streams of tradition. The New Testament reading of the TNK is a possible reading, but the lines that the NT provides to connect the dots in the TNK are not necessary connections, but merely possible ones.

    I suppose that's why faith plays such a premium in the epistles. Even the tradition is read through the eyes of faith. A distinction between possible readings and necessary conclusions might have kept a lot of people from getting killed over the centuries.