The Book of Isaiah is the first of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible and the first of the Major Prophets in the Christian Old Testament. It is identified by a superscription as the words of the 8th-century BCE prophet Isaiah ben Amoz, but there is extensive evidence that much of it was composed during the Babylonian captivity and later. After Johann Christoph Doderlein suggested in 1775 that the book contained the works of two prophets separated by more than a century, Bernhard Duhm originated the view, held as a consensus through most of the 20th century, that the book comprises three separate collections of oracles: Proto-Isaiah (chapters 1-39), containing the words of the 8th century prophet Isaiah; Deutero-Isaiah (chapters 40-55), the work of an anonymous 6th-century BCE author writing during the Exile; and Trito-Isaiah (chapters 56-66), composed after the return from Exile. While virtually no scholars today attribute the entire book, or even most of it, to one person, the book's essential unity has become a focus in more recent research. Isaiah 1-33 promises judgment and restoration for Judah, Jerusalem and the nations, and chapters 34-66 presume that judgment has been pronounced and restoration follows soon. It can thus be read as an extended meditation on the destiny of Jerusalem into and after the Exile.
The Deutero-Isaian part of the book describes how God will make Jerusalem the centre of his worldwide rule through a royal saviour (a messiah) who will destroy her oppressor (Babylon); this messiah is the Persian king Cyrus the Great, who is merely the agent who brings about Yahweh's kingship. Isaiah speaks out against corrupt leaders and for the disadvantaged, and roots righteousness in God's holiness rather than in Israel's covenant.
Isaiah was one of the most popular works among Jews in the Second Temple period (c. 515 BCE - 70 CE). In Christian circles, it was held in such high regard as to be called "the Fifth Gospel", and its influence extends beyond Christianity to English literature and to Western culture in general, from the libretto of Handel's Messiah to a host of such everyday phrases as "swords into ploughshares" and "voice in the wilderness".
General scholarly consensus through most of the 20th century saw three separate collections of oracles in the book of Isaiah. However, there is not complete unanimity among Biblical scholars, with some still asserting that Isaiah authored the entire book. A typical outline based on this understanding of the book sees its underlying structure in terms of the identification of historical figures who might have been their authors:
While one part of the general consensus still holds, this perception of Isaiah as made up of three rather distinct sections underwent a radical challenge in the last quarter of the 20th century. The newer approach looks at the book in terms of its literary and formal characteristics, rather than authors, and sees in it a two-part structure divided between chapters 33 and 34:
View the Chapters of Isaiah:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66