Historicising Interpolations in the Isaiah-Memoir

It is well-known that the book of Isaiah contains clarifying interpolations. Shorter phrases or even entire verses with problematic readings are of-ten identified by exegetes as loose “glosses”. However, this study suggests that editorial interpolations are not merely unrelated annotations from various periods. Typical explicatory phrases from Isa 8:2, 8:6-7a and 8:23b analysed in this study tend to expose recognisable patterns, a coherent scope and a common hermeneutical principle. The short anno-tations in the three pericopes aim to illuminate what may have been perceived as enigmatic prophetic metaphors in the original text. For this reason the editors provide concrete personal and geographical names as keys to understanding the metaphors. These peculiarities may pre-suppose one particular editor or group of editors in the background. The results above may have significant consequences for studying the compositional history of biblical books, in particular Isaiah. They suggest that it is not only the larger text blocks, the so-called literary Fortschreibungen that should be analysed in relationship to one another and in the wider context of the book, but also these shorter explanatory remarks.

However, there is also a major difference compared to the later literary elaborations of Isaiah’s prophecies. Unlike Fortschreibungen which reorganise different sections by splitting up the verses of the original prophecy, inserting in-between new and contemporising annotations, and unlike the even later comment-types in the Qumranic Pesher-literature, these editorial remarks are not concerned with the reapplication of the biblical texts to the new historical situation of the editor. On the contrary, the purpose of the concretising annotations in the verses studied above was to help the reader understand the prophecies in their original historical situation. In this sense, they may be called historicising interpolations. Further conclusions regarding this divergent hermeneutical philosophy and a more precise temporal delimitation of these annotations will have to wait until the results of further investigations emerge.