In March of 2009, toward the end of my second year of studies at Dallas Seminary, Chosen People Ministries held a conference just down the road at Irving Bible Church. I vaguely remember this going on. I was engaged and taking 2nd semester Hebrew alongside 4th semester Greek (and 2 other classes), so even though several of my professors were involved, I didn’t really have time to investigate it myself.
The conference helped launch both the Isaiah 53 campaign, and now three years later, this collection of essays edited by Darrell Bock and Mitch Glaser. In The Gospel According to Isaiah 53, 11 biblical scholars work through the following questions:
- What is a Christian interpretation of Isaiah 53?
- What is a Jewish interpretation of Isaiah 53?
- How did the NT writers understand Isaiah 53?
- How should forgiveness and salvation be understood in Isaiah 53?
- How can Isaiah 53 be used in Jewish evangelism?
- How do we preach Isaiah 53?
The result is a book that clarifies in great detail the importance of Isaiah 53 for Christian theology as well as ways to use it in Jewish evangelism in a postmodern setting.
The Gospel According to Isaiah 53 is split into 3 main parts:
- Interpretation of Isaiah 53
- Isaiah 53 in Biblical Theology
- Isaiah 53 and Practical Theology
In the first section, as you might imagine, we get the first two questions answered. Richard Averbeck offers a chapter on the Christian interpretation of Isaiah 53, while Michael Brown guides us through the various Jewish approaches to the passage. While many readers will be familiar with the typical Christian interpretation of Isaiah 53, they certainly won’t be so with the Jewish perspective. Brown’s chapter does well to remind us that we need the Spirit to open our eyes to read even a text like Isaiah 53 as pointing to Jesus.
In the second section, we see the connections Isaiah 53 has elsewhere in the Bible. First, Walt Kaiser explores the “servant of the Lord” and his identity and mission. Next, Michael Wilkins looks at how Isaiah 53 is used in the Gospels to bring the message of salvation. Darrell Bock then has a chapter on the use of Isaiah 53 in the Ethiopian eunuch encounter in Acts 8. This is followed by a thorough treatment of Isaiah 53′s use in Peter, Paul, Hebrews, and John by Craig Evans. The final two chapters do a more thematic study. First, David Allen explores the nature of substitutionary atonement and the cultic terminology in Isaiah 53, and then Robert Chisholm looks at forgiveness and salvation. I found these last two particularly interesting, and I’ve got a post coming later this week on something Allen highlights.
In the final section, John Feinberg offers a chapter exposing Isaiah 53′s sensitivity to several postmodern themes (such as concern for the other, fondness for narratives and relationships, etc.). Then, Mitch Glaser offers and extremely practical chapter on how to use Isaiah 53 in Jewish evangelism. This chapter is probably worth the price of the book alone, given its first hand perspective from a Jewish man who came to faith in Christ and now leads Chosen People Ministries. After Glaser’s how-to on evangelism, Donald Sunukjian offers a how-to chapter on preaching from Isaiah 53 and then demonstrates his advice with two sermon manuscripts in the appendices.
The main strength of this book is its scholarship. These scholars are thoroughly evangelical in their approach and none of them are slouches. As Glaser explains in the introduction, the rationale behind the book is to offer scholarly evangelical treatments of Isaiah 53 that are evangelistic and apologetic in focus. The goal was to do this in a way that would be accessible to most pastors, students, missionaries, and lay leaders. I think they definitely succeed in their goal, and this book probably represents the go-to evangelical summary of Isaiah 53′s importance and modern use.
Additionally, there are many useful charts, and I love a good chart. There are charts summarizing everything from direct quotes of Isaiah 53 in the New Testament (from Michael Wilkins’ chapter), to charts showing echoes and illusions in Peter in Paul (in Craig Evan’s chapter). It gives the impression that this book is clearly produced to be a resource to this who buy it. This is facilitated as well by the conclusion of the book, which though it says is authored by Darrell Bock, talks about him in the 3rd person. That aside, in roughly 20 pages you get the whole overview of the book including key quotes from each essay.
As I was reading, I was trying to think of any stones left unturned when it came to Isaiah 53. It is a very Jewish-focused book, but you’re alerted to that fact right off the bat. The impetus behind the book springs from a heart to see Jewish people come to faith in Christ. It colors the whole book in what I think is a positive light, but other readers may not appreciate it. I think the book fills a much needed gap in the available treatments of Isaiah 53 by offering high level scholarship to the general pastoral reader. Knowledge of Hebrew will definitely help in some of the chapters in the biblical theology section, but isn’t absolutely necessary.
Because I think this is a great book, I’m offering it as September’s book of the month giveaway. Just fill out the Punchtab form below, and let me know what you think (if you’re in RSS you’ll probably need to click on thru). If you’re looking for a dynamic and thorough treatment of Isaiah 53 with a practical edge, this is the book for you!
- Editors: Darrell Bock & Mitch Glaser
- Title: The Gospel According to Isaiah 53
- Publisher: Kregel Academic
- Paperback: 336pgs (March 23, 2012)
- Reading Level: From General Reader to Bible School student
- Audience Appeal: Anyone interested in digging deeper into this important chapter of the Bible
- Gratis Review Copy: Yes (courtesy of Kregel)
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