THOSE TO WHOM MOSES AND THE PROPHETS SPOKE
SCHOLARS of the liberal school of thought often assert that the prophets spoke only to the people of their day and generation. In other words, they dealt with local, present conditions. The implication is that they did not see by prophetic insight anything in the future. According to this view, they saw only things that were present to their actual physical senses. They could see by natural intuition the trend of the times and spoke of the conditions before their eyes. When one accepts this unproved hypothesis, he cannot accept the Scriptures at their face value. It is true that the prophets spoke to their own generation and often, at the same time, spoke of things in the past, as well as of things in the futureboth the immediate and far-distant future. But when anyone adopts the theory that the prophets spoke only to their own generation, and of things present, he must of necessity use his editorial scissors, cut up a given Book of the Scriptures into fragments, and apportion it to different times and to various authors, most of whom are creations of the imagination.
As an example of treating prophetic books in such a manner, I call attention to the Book of Isaiah. Throughout the Christian centuries, as well as in pre-Christian times, the consensus of scholarship has been that Isaiah wrote this entire Book. When, however, the rationalists' conception of history and of religion, especially of miracles and inspiration, was accepted as a working hypothesis, the position that Isaiah wrote the entire Book bearing his name was rejected. In the latter half of the Book, Isaiah speaks of a conqueror and even calls him by namehis anointed, Cyrus (Isa. 45:1). Isaiah, the statesman prophet, lived in the latter part of the eighth century, B.C.E. Cyrus, the Persian, who later became head of the Medo-Persian Empire, began his triumphant career by subduing nations and peoples under him. He was in the plentitude of his power nearly two hundred years later. Those accepting the rationalistic hypothesis that the prophets spoke only to and of their own generations deny to Isaiah the second half of the Book (chapters 40 to 66) and often speak of it as having been written by the "Great Unknown Prophet of the Exile." Then these advanced critics continue the dissection of the Book of Isaiah, especially the latter half, and cut out portions which they ascribe to "Deutero-Isaiah," "Trito-Isaiah," and various unknown redactors. The process of dissection has continued to the present day, even in the first part of the Book (chapters 1 to 39). These advanced critics deny to the Prophet Isaiah numbers of prophecies in this section.
Thus they have become adept at cutting up various Books of the Scriptures to make the Word fit into their theory of inspiration and revelation. Such a process of cutting the Book into shreds and apportioning them to various unknown authors is made necessary by the unproved hypothesis that the prophets spoke only to the people of their own day and time.
Good, competent Bible scholars, however, have demonstrated the unity of Isaiah. A scholarly work on this subject is The Unity of Isaiah, by Dr. 0. T. Allis. The recently discovered St. Mark Isaiah Dead Sea Scroll, which is a thousand years older than the Masoretic textthe basis of all our translations of Isaiah to the presentgives no intimation of various authors. The entire make-up of it points in the direction of the unity of the Book. The same basic expressions are found throughout the entire work. The same diction, style, and prophetic outlook are also reflected throughout.
When one recognizes that Isaiah's ministry extended over a period of at least fifty years, falling in the reigns of Kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, and when he remembers that there were great political changes in Judah and in the nations surrounding it, he realizes that naturally the prophet spoke of events in the latter part of his ministry that he did not mention in the first part. These facts largely account for the differences that appear in the various sections of the Book.
Having made a careful, scientific, scholarly study and appraisal of the messages of Moses and the Prophets, the truth-seeker comes to the logical conclusion that the prophets, not only dealt with local situations which confronted them, but often spoke of past occurrences and very frequently spoke of the future, especially the great Messianic age, yet in the future, when Israel will be made the head of the nations and Jerusalem will be the capital of the world.
In view of these facts, and many others that could be mentioned, one should apply the Golden Rule of Interpretation to the study of the Prophets. Such an investigation of the prophetic word will yield great dividends of spiritual value to everyone who is seeking God and truth.