Isaiah’s servants in early Judaism and Christianity: the Isaian servant and the exegetical formation of community identity

Michael A. Lyons (Editor), Jacob Stromberg (Editor)

Research output: Book/ReportBook


Much has been written on the “Suffering Servant” of Second Isaiah. But a critical gap remains in scholarly treatments of this topic in its earliest reception. While there has been a great deal of attention devoted to the identity and tradition-historical background of the “Suffering Servant” and to the use of the so-called “Servant Songs” in early Christianity, far less attention has been given to the Trito-Isaian “servants” and to how their description was received by early readers. This has resulted in an incomplete and distorted picture. It is our contention that the Isaian argument about the servants and Servant is not of marginal importance in the Second Temple period, but had a significant impact on the formation of texts and community identity.

This volume of essays takes as its starting point the fact that a group referred to as the “servants” or “offspring” in Isaiah 54–66 has been described in relation to the “Servant” figure of Isaiah 40–53. Like the Servant, the servants/offspring suffer righteously, are promised vindication, and are in various ways linked to the theme of the universal recognition of Yhwh. It is already suggested in Isa 53:10–11 that the Servant will create a righteous community, and – as Joseph Blenkinsopp and Willem Beuken have shown – the remainder of the book develops this idea in greater detail. The servants/offspring play a key role in this argument.

But to what extent are early Jewish and Christian readers aware of this Isaian argument about the servants and the Servant, and how do they use it to shape their own identity? To what extent might their constructions of community identity be understood as “exegetical”? What are the similarities and differences in the ways that they use these Isaian texts? How is the Isaian presentation of the servants and Servant designed to be understood within the framework of a larger portrait of Israel’s history, and as the product of a profoundly analogical strategy of composition? This volume of essays is dedicated to answering these questions.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationTübingen
PublisherMohr Siebeck
Number of pages413
ISBN (Electronic)9783161608049
ISBN (Print)9783161550423
Publication statusPublished - 13 Aug 2021

Publication series

NameWissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2. Reihe
ISSN (Print)0340-9570
ISSN (Electronic)2568-7484


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