I still remember the beginning of The Passion of the Christ. It started with a dark screen, haunting music, and then these words appeared from Isaiah 53 “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
Although it did not cross my mind at the time, in retrospect it could seem peculiar to begin a film about the Passion with a quotation from anything besides one of the Gospels. It fit though, because Isaiah, and in particular its account of the Suffering Servant, has influenced Christian thought about the death of the Messiah to such an extent that it is often referred to as the Fifth Gospel.
However, the beloved nature of this passage can also lead to overfamiliarity, to our easily skimming over it because we, of course, already know what it has to tell us.
So, when given the opportunity to review The Gospel According to Isaiah 53, I decided the time investment would be worthwhile if I could shake off my too-comfortable familiarity with the text and be challenged afresh by it’s message. I was not disappointed.
Divided into three sections – Isaiah 53 in Jewish and Christian Interpretation, Biblical Theology, and Practical Theology – this book features a wide-ranging collection of essays on everything from the identity of “The Servant of the Lord” to “Preaching Isaiah 53.”
Of particular interest to me were two of the essays on the New Testament use of Isaiah 53, specifically Darrell Bock on its use in Acts 8 and Craig Evans on its use in Peter, Paul, and Hebrews. As usual I learned quite a bit from both Bock and Evans’ writing, and came to further realize just how pervasive the language of Isaiah 53 is in the New Testament, even and perhaps especially when it is not being directly quoted.
Also, I was intrigued by John Feinberg’s essay “Postmodern Themes from Isaiah 53.” Though not uncritical of postmodernism, Feinburg notes how this passage can be a place of productive commonality with its focus on narrative, community, and power through weakness.
The one part I did not anticipate when I began reading was the book’s emphasis on using Isaiah 53 for evangelizing the Jewish community. In fact, it turns out that part of the impetus for this book was to equip Christian leaders to minister to Jewish people. Though not a strike against the book, it would be worth knowing ahead of time, as the academic nature of the text did not lead me to expect to suddenly be reading about evangelistic technique.
Still, all said The Gospel According to Isaiah 53 was an engaging and worthwhile read, which casts light on a key passage for understanding the mission and death of the Messiah.
Oh yes, I received this book from Kregal Publishing for the purpose of review. No stipulations were made on the content of said review, but I am required to note this to be compliant with FCC regulations.