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Journal: Westminster Theological Journal

Volume: WTJ 67:1 (Spring 2005)

Article: 2 Corinthians 6:2: Pauls Eschatological Now And Hermeneutical Invitation
Author: Mark Gignilliat
2 Corinthians 6:2:
Pauls Eschatological Now And Hermeneutical Invitation
Mark Gignilliat
Mark Gignilliat is Tutor in New Testament and Greek at Wycliffe Hall, University of Oxford, Oxford, England .
I. Introduction
Allusions to and citations of the OT are peppered throughout Pauls most autobiographical of letters, 2
Corinthians. This observation has led Ford and Young to the conclusion that the Paul found in 2 Corinthians
is a Paul who has lived in the Bible.
This phrase living in the Bible is an apt description of the apostle as
he theologizes and reflects on the significance of Jesus Christ and his own particular role to the Gentiles. It
is in this capacity that no OT book serves Paul better than Isaiah.
Our attention, therefore, turns to Paul
and Isaiah in 2 Cor 6:2, as we seek to understand the ways in which Paul is living both in the sacred text
and in the eschatologically realized moment.
As late as 1989, Jan Lambrecht lamented that relatively little attention is paid to the Isaiah quotation in 2
Cor 6:2.
Commentaries charged on this account include the recent voluminous commentary of Furnish
coupled with several other commentaries and studies listed.
Lambrecht sought to correct this oversight
with an analysis of 2 Cor 6:2 that took into account both the context of Isa 49:8 and the christological
reading Paul gives to the verse. He concludes, Paul uses Is 49, 8a to show that the Isaian promise of
salvation is fulfilled in Christ.
More recent accounts of 2 Cor 6:2, and its surrounding context, have
emphasized the Isaianic context of the quotation and its implications for Pauls own self-understanding
Observing that Isa 49:8 is found within
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the context of the second of the so-called servant songs,
Beale and Webb have concluded that Paul
identifies himself with the Servant, that is, Paul has taken on the unique role of the Servant in this passage.
Thus, Lambrechts two stated categories of Pauline motivation for the Isaiah quotation are, mutatis
mutandis, still the same today:
(1) By means of the O.T. saying, Paul is referring to what the Servant of Yahweh in Deutero-
Isaiah had to do; he is thus implying that his (or Jesus?) status and work are the same as that
of the Servant. Paul is defending himself in this way. (2). .. Paul stresses by means of his
quotation the time aspect, i.e., the eschatological importance of this very moment.
These two options need not be viewed as mutually exclusive. Beale has emphasized both aspects in his
article: That is, the favourable time and the day of salvation (v. 13a) are explained to be the time of
coming restoration.
This is not the end of the matter for Beale. He continues, In radical fashion Paul
applies to himself a prophecy of the Isaianic Servant, probably in order to identify himself with that figure. He
is in some way the fulfillment of the righteous Servant, Israel (Isa 49. 3) who was to proclaim restoration to
sinful Israel.
Lambrecht, on the other hand, emphasizes the eschatological now of Christs redemptive
work as the primary thrust of Pauls quotation. His terse response to any identification of Paul with the
Servant is, We do not think so.
In short, this article seeks to address the concerns raised by Lambrecht and Beale related to Pauls
quotation of Isa 49:8 in 2 Cor 6:2. It will be argued that
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the thrust of Lambrechts article is to be accepted, that is, an emphasis on the eschatological now. And the
sensibilities of Beale are to be heeded: Isa 4055 (66) is the backdrop for Pauls thought, though Beales
particular identification of Paul with the Servant seems misplaced. Added to the eschatological dimension of
Pauls quotation is a possible third option and the primary concern of this article. Pauls quotation of Isa 49:8
is the hermeneutical key to the surrounding context of 2 Cor 5:146:10, that is, Paul by means of the
quotation is inviting the reader into the larger redemptive drama of Isa 4066 as the
theological/eschatological undergirding of his thought. Though Lambrecht gives a nod in this direction, his
position is attenuated because of his lack of emphasis on the literary movement of the Servant theme in Isa
4055 and its theological foundation for Pauls thought in 2 Cor 5:1421. Our attention is now given to Isa
49 per se and its location in Isaiahs redemptive movement.
II. Isaiah 49 and the Isaianic Redemptive Drama
Isaiah 49 marks a turn within the dramatic narrative of Isa 4055. An emphasis begins to emerge in this
chapter on forgetting the former things and giving heed to the new things.
What also becomes more
apparent within the flow of the narrative is the emerging of the Servant as the central dramatis personae of
Gods new redemptive activity. Isaiah 40 begins with Gods speech of deliverance and comfort for his people
( ) in a scene of commissioninga commissioning that does not focus on a particular personage
behind the text (the text is strangely evasive) but focuses on the continuing authority and effectiveness of
the Word of God (Isa 40:16).
Upon hearing
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the words of eschatological comfort the people respond with a cry for justice from their God (Isa 40:27).
With a remarkable turn of narrative events, the answer to the peoples cry receives no response until Isa
42:14, the first of the so-called servant songs.
In this first servant song, the Servant/Israel is
commissioned to be the one who will bring justice not strictly to Israel but to the nations.
A textual pressure
is beginning to mount within the narrative as
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Gods new redemptive activity both for Israel and the nations is centering on the particular divine agency of
the Servant.
Isaiah 49 is a key chapter for our understanding of both Pauls reading of the dramatic narrative of Isa 40
55 (66) and also for our understanding of the development of the Servant theme in Isaiahs own canonical
form. The actual parameters of the servant song are most likely Isa 49:16, though the Servant motif
continues to 49:12. Undoubtedly this servant song is a difficult one with which to deal as a series of
questions are raised, especially regarding the identity of the Servant. Also it should be observed that within
the narrative, the speaker in this section is the Servant himself.
Without rehearsing the various form-critical suggestions for 49:16for example, thanksgiving, call
narrative, or commissioningit is noted that there is an apparent tension in the passage itself. In 49:3 the
Servant is called Israel, yet
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i n 49:56 the Servant has a particular role toward Israel. Wilcox and Paton-Williams have thoroughly
challenged the view that Israel in 49:3 is an interpolation.
Therefore, the interpreter is left with an
apparent tension of sorts, Is the servant Israel, or the prophet, or what?
One of the achievements of Childss recent commentary is his making accessible to an English-speaking
world the fresh and stimulating work of Beuken.
Beukens proposal for our understanding of Isa 49:16, as
explicated by Childs, is to place 49:16 in the inner movement of the prophetic narrative extending from
chapter 40 to chapter 55.
One notes the parallels between 49:16 and 42:14, although a great deal has
taken place textually between these two texts. Cyrus has come onto the scene as an example of Gods
faithfulness to his people (44:2428; 45:1), and the Babylonian deities have been exposed as impotent
before Israels God (chs. 4647). It is recalled that in 42:16 Israel is given a specific role in the midst of this
divine reordering of affairs; they are to establish justice on the earth and be a light to the nations. Yet Israel
has not fulfilled her role in the new exodus. Hear you deaf; look, you blind, and see! Who is blind but my
servant, and deaf like the messenger I send? (Isa 42:1819). In ch. 48 the stubbornness and
rebelliousness of the people are rehearsed with strong language, You were called a rebel from birth
Within the narrative flow of Gods redemptive drama, it becomes more apparent that the role Israel
was given to perform as light to the nations was not being fulfilled nor would it be fulfilled by those who had
been rebellious from birth. This contextual backdrop of Israels calling as servant, yet persistence in
rebellion shapes our reading and hearing of 49:16.
With the apparent failure of Israel to fulfill her role placed firmly in the context of 49:16, our attention turns
toward 49:3, You are my servant, Israel.. . . The options for understanding the function of Israel are four:
interpolation, vocative, appositive, or predicative.
Recognizing the context, several recent interpreters
have opted for the predicative position: You are my Servant, you are Israel.
What begins to emerge in
the development of the Servant theme is an individual taking the role originally designated for Israel as
Israel. In autobiographical style, the Servant rehearses his frustration and weariness in delivering the
message of the new exodus to the exiles, while at the same time Yahweh rehearses for the Servant his new
role. Not only will he restore Gods people Israel (it is too small a thing), he will also be a light to the
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that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth (49:6).
In eschatological fashion, Isa 49:16
anticipates the Servants taking of Israels role as light to the nations with the ultimate goal of bringing
salvation to the ends of the earth.
The following verses (49:712) raise a host of questions regarding redactional layering, who is being
addressed, and who is speaking. At 49:7 Yahweh interjects his own statement regarding the Servants
humiliation and exaltation (the conceptual linkage to 52:1353:12 echoes loudly). Within the narrative flow
there is silence pertaining to the identity of the speaker for the Lord. If the Lord is continuing to speak to the
Servant, confusion is raised pertaining to the use of
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the second person singular (you) in this section as compared to the first person singular in 49:16 (me).
What is observed within the contextual flow is that Yahweh is continuing to speak to the Servant. But who
adds this elaboration within the narrative at this point? Seitz makes an interesting proposal and one that fits
well within the narrative flow of the larger redemptive drama of Isa 4066. Rather, it is an elaboration,
suggests Seitz, made by the servants, promising that Gods intention with the servant will finally prevail.
Seitz bases his reading on the conclusion of ch. 54 (v. 17) which states, This is the heritage of the servants
of the Lord, and their vindication from me, says the Lord. What is taking place is a backward look at the
suffering of the Servant who has become a covenant of the people, that is, the one who in connection with
the first servant song is a light to the nations and the restorer of Israel.
Our attention, again, is drawn to 49:8, a verse that stands as an eschatological marker. As Childs remarks,
The phrase in an hour of favor resonates with the but now of v. 5 and speaks of the eschatological
moment of salvation in Gods time.
Thus, ch. 49 stands as a key marker in Gods eschatological,
redemptive drama. The text itself, within the literary flow, is beginning to pressure the reader to recognize
an individual who emerges as the one embodying the vocation of Israel as light to the nations and restorer
of Israel. In both his suffering and exaltation (49:7) Yahweh makes his new thing come about in the most
provocative of fashions. Yet, we are reminded that in spite of this provocative move by God, the reader is to
expect something new
The reader of Isa 4055 would also be remiss to isolate Isa 49 from the later development within the
narrative. Contextually Isa 4055 centers on the Servant as mediator of Gods new redemptive activity for
Zion and the nations. Most specifically, the Servant emerges as one who suffers on behalf of and in the
stead of others (Isa 52:1353:12). The eschatological salvation depicted in Isa 4055s internal logic has its
denouement in the presentation of the suffering Servant of Isa 53 who vicariously suffers for the sins of
others resulting in a righteous offspring (Isa 53:10).
III. Pauls Plain Sense Reading
Having noted some of the narrative dimensions of Isa 49 within its literary context, our attention now turns to
2 Cor 6:2. A convergence of theological dynamics is observed between 2 Cor 6:2 and Isa 49.
Pauls quotation of Isa 49:8 in 2 Cor 6:2 follows closely the comment made by Paul in 6:1. The of 6:2
operates in a causal function. Thus, Pauls train of thought in 6:2 flows from his statement in 6:1. A question
is raised with respect to the participle in 6:1. With whom exactly is Paul working together?
Two options have been suggested among interpreters: (1) other teachers and (2) the Corinthians.
A third
option, and the one found most convincing by the majority of scholars, is that Paul is working together with
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In 2 Cor 5:20 Paul refers to himself as an ambassador for Christ whose ambassadorial work took place as
God was pleading through him (actually us, 5:20: ). Now in
6:1 Paul is beseeching ( ) the Corinthians. Pauls apostolic work flows from his fellow-
working with God. In other words, Pauls plea to the Corinthian church is Gods plea.
The instigating factor of Pauls beseeching or pleading is directly related to the attitude with which the
Corinthian believers received the grace of God. In 5:1421, Paul displays in glorious fashion the work of
God in Christ on behalf of humanity, of which the Corinthians were recipients. Why would Paul be so
adamant about the Corinthians not receiving the grace of God in vain? Because the current era in which
they live is the eschatological now of Gods work in Jesus Christ (6:2). Pauls beseeching of the Corinthian
church is, according to 6:1, the actual beseeching of God through Paul. Thus, Paul moves from v. 1 to v. 2
and uses a Scripture citation to further his claim.
Attention has been given to the referent of the and of 6:2 and Isa 49:8 (LXX).
It should be noted,
however, that within Isa 49 the referent of these second person pronouns is the one deeply despised and
abhorred by the nations (Isa 49:7), that is, the Servant. As has been mentioned, this identification has led
certain scholars to the conclusion that Paul identifies himself with the and of the Isaianic
To read the quotation in this particular lightPaul is the Servantpresses beyond Pauls own
explanation in 6:2b. The referent of the second person pronoun is not the central concern with which Paul is
dealing. Though Lambrecht makes a good case that Paul reads the pronouns ecclesiologically this seems,
at best, a peripheral issue at this point.
Paul tells the readers in 6:2 his purpose of text-choice in the
following way: , (behold, now is the
accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation).
Pauls concern in this particular passage is his emphasis on the eschatological now of Gods work in
Christ. Particular issues of identification are not present here, though the work of the Servant looms largely
in the background (5:1421). What is present is the larger universalistic vision of Gods salvation for both
Israel and the nations, a vision both Paul and Isaiah share. Paul is revealing to his listeners their privileged
position in Gods eschatological, climactic redemption, and no other OT book serves Pauls purposes better
than Isaiah. The overlap between Isaiah and Paul is so great that Westermann says, The time of service is
past, that of salvation is dawning. When Paul took over
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these words of v. 8 and used them in 2 Cor 6:2, he gave them the exact sense that they have here.
Isaiah alluded to as a coming daya day centered on the work of the Servantis for Paul a present day
centered on the work of Christ.
Pauls eschatological reading of Isa 4055 is a reading that is faithful to
the plain sense of the texta reading that is a careful listening to the internal logic of the text without a
disjunction between the literal sense and its figural capacity
It is not surprising to find a lack of historical
interest in Pauls reading of Isaiah. In this, Paul is reading Isaiah with canonical faithfulness, that is, the
prophetic text by nature of its canonical placement is in a sense historically relativized so as to be received
by future generations as a stable communicator of Gods continuing authoritative word and faithful
communicator regarding its ultimate subject matter, namely, Jesus Christ.
Beyond this eschatological reading of Isa 49:8 per se, Paul seems to be doing more. An example of Pauls
hermeneutical invitation into the larger narrative of the biblical text quoted is observed in 2 Cor 3. Chapter 3
has proven an exegetical battleground for interpreters of Paul. Debates typically center on key interpretive
issues, such as the relationship between and in 3:6 coupled with Pauls view of the
Mosaic covenant or the Law. Our purpose at this point is not to enter into the debate with the various
interlocutors on this
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complex subject.
What should be noted, however, is Pauls use of the Mosaic tradition in Exod 3234 as
normative support for his claims. We do not necessarily find Paul proof-texting his way through the
argument, but thinking deeply on the larger narrative structure and significance of the Mosaic story of Exod
Hafemanns illuminating work on 2 Cor 3 takes seriously the narrative context of the Exodus story in its final
canonical form, and for Hafemann Paul also takes this narrative context seriously. Though Paul is working
within a pre-critical framework in his use of Exodusthat is, Paul assumes a literary unity with no
distinction between the literal meaning and its historical referentwe do not find Paul manipulating the
Mosaic narrative. Rather, he is faithful to its canonical form. Paul uses the text typologically or figurally but
this does not necessitate a destruction of the texts plain sense. Hafemann refers to Frei in the following
way: For as Frei has pointed out, a figural or typological reading of the biblical narrative, which we
certainly have in part in 2 Cor 3 (cf 4:14), depends for its very existence and credibility upon a prior literal
reading of the story
Frei reminds the modern interpreter that that plain sense, or the sensus literalis, is
not merely a historical sense but a reading of the text in light of its figural capacity to witness to the
Scriptures ultimate subject matter, Jesus Christ.
What Hafemann has shown, apart from the methodological conclusions he derives from Pauls use of the
OT, is Pauls deep reflection on the narrative structure of Exod 3234 and the transposition of his reflections
into the argument of 2 Cor 3. Finally, it must be recognized that for Paul, Exodus 3234 is not simply a
story, but a biblical narrative. This means, above all, that the interpreter must be alert to the theological
intention and significance of the story
As modern interpreters, it is healthy for us to remember that for
Paul the theological sense, or the figural sense, is not necessarily dichotomized from the plain sense.
Hafemanns nuanced argument offers keen insight into both the textual and theological issues pertaining to
2 Cor 3. What is taken from Hafemann is a programmatic framework of reading the biblical texts as Paul
read them. The Exodus narrative is a biblical narrative with abiding theological significance in the flow of
Gods providential ordering of history.
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As with Pauls reflection on the larger narrative of Exod 3234 in 2 Cor 3, so does Paul reflect on the larger
narrative of Isa 4055 (66) within our present text and context, 5:147:1.
For in 2 Cor 5:1421, Paul
alludes to the Isaianic vision of Gods new eschatological time-table (2 Cor 5:17), and the emerging figure of
Gods reconciling activity centers on the person and work of the divine agent, Jesus Christ. In Isaiah, God
works by means of his agent, the Servant, in the bringing of salvation to Israel and the nations by the
vicarious suffering of an innocent one through whom the new day is inaugurated, that is, the new creation.
For Paul, this activity has taken place in the work of Jesus Christ: he died for all (5:14); he inaugurates the
new creation (5:17); he is the divine agent of reconciliation (5:1819); and he is the innocent sin-bearer who
brings righteousness to sinful mankind (5:21).
Pauls eschatological/figural reading of Isa 4055 (66) finds
its touchstone in the central figure of the drama, the Servant, as most realized in the eschatological now in
In other words, the message of the Servant of Isa 4055 is for Paul the gospel in figural form.
A figural presentation of Gods current activity in Christ as presented in 2 Cor 5:1421 is active in the
narrative drama and movement of Isa 4055. Scripture, for Paul, has abiding theological and eschatological
significance, and Isaiah is the viva vox Dei for the present generation as they listen faithfully to the
continuing word of God mediated through the textual witness. Lambrechts article is necessarily attenuated
because of the lack of emphasis on the larger movement of Isaiahs presentation of the Servant. The
Servant suffers and dies
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in the place of and on the behalf of others with the result of a righteous offspring (Isa 53:10). Pauls
emphasis in 2 Cor 5:21 overlaps significantly with Isaiahs presentation of the suffering Servant. Christ, in
sinlessness, dies for the sins of others resulting in a righteous offspring. The quotation of Isaiah in 2 Cor 6:2
flows from this statement in 5:21 and is the tip of a much larger iceberg under-girding Pauls theological
thought, namely, Isa 4055s presentation of the identity of Gods suffering Servant.
The Servants narrative identity is an important aspect to examine briefly
Within the developmental nature
of the Servant theme in Isa 4055, the Servant emerges as one intricately connected to Yahweh. Richard
Bauckham, in his recent work on christology has drawn startling conclusions from his observation of the
intertextual link between Isa 6:1 and Isa 52:13.
The servant, in both his humiliation and exaltation, is
therefore not a human figure distinguished from God, but, in both his humiliation and exaltation, belongs to
the unique identity of God.
Bauckham argues, speculating about God on the basis of Gods narrative
identity, that the Servant in his work and mission is a part of the very identity of the one God who is seeking
to reconcile the world unto himself. Therefore, the Servant is a part of the unique identity of God. The
Servants mission is Gods mission; the Servant is Gods means of redeeming his people and drawing in the
nations. One catches a glimpse in the narrative identity of the Servant a figure whose entire being and
reason for existence is to carry out obediently the will of Gods redemptive purposes. The language used to
describe the Servants obedient and passive actions are extraordinary when thought of being tied to a
human personage.
As Isaiah reminds us, however,
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this is the astonishingly new, redemptive act of God. In the end, Barth may have a final word for our reading
of the Servant:
The question whether this partner, the servant of the Lord, is meant as collective Israel or as a
single personand if so, which? a historical? or an eschatological?can never be settled,
because probably it does not have to be answered either the one way or the other. This figure
may well be both an individual and also the people, and both of them in a historical and also an
eschatological form. What is certain is that in and with this servant of the Lord Israel as such is
at any rate introduced also as the partner of Yahweh.
In other words, God was reconciling the world by means of the Servant.
IV Conclusion
Pauls quotation of Isa49:8in 2 Cor 6:2 is an eschatological reading of the text in its plain sense that is
faithful to its final canonical form and an invitation into the eschatological world of Isa 40-55 (66), a text that
for Paul has abiding theological/eschatological significance for our understanding of Christs person and
For Paul, the eschatological now of Gods new redemptive activity by means of His Servant has
been realized and is continuing to be realized in the person and work of Christin this sense, Paul really is
living in the Bible.
That Paul identifies the Servant as a part of the very identity of God (cf. Phil 2) and as
fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 5:1421) coupled with a typological clashing within
such a close proximity (2 Cor 5:1421 and 2 Cor 6:2) makes the position of Pauls identification of himself as
the Servant untenable.
The typological weight of the Servant as righteous sin-bearer and member of the
identity of God is too much for Paul to carry. For Paul, only Jesus
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could carry this task.
As to Pauls particular identity as typified in the dramatic narrative of Isa 4066, this
is a topic for further exploration.
The author wishes to thank Dr. Bruce Longenecker for his generous interaction with this article; his careful
eye is always appreciated. A form of this article was presented at the British New Testament Conference,
2003, where Dr. Barry Matlock kindly accepted it for oral presentation, and the interaction from the Pauline
Studies Group was both stimulating and insightful.
Frances Young and David Ford, Meaning and Truth in 2 Corinthians (London: SPCK, 1987), 63.
Richard Hays, Who Has Believed Our Message: Paul s Reading of Isaiah, SBL Seminar Papers, 1998 (2
vols.; SBLSP 37; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1998), 1:20525.
Jan Lambrecht, The Favorable Time: A Study of 2 Cor 6, 2a in Its Context, in Vom Urchristentum zu Jesus
(ed. H. Frankemolle and K. Kertelge; Freiburg: Herder, 1989), 377.
Lambrecht, Favorable Time, 377 n. 3. To the list I would add the commentaries by Martin and Thrall. In all
fairness, commentaries have to be selective in the issues addressed both exegetically and theologically or
they would either turn into a voluminous tome or an uncompleted project. Lambrechts recent commentary
on 2 Cor interacts with the Isaiah quotation but is substantially in line with his previous work (Jan Lambrecht,
Second Corinthians [SP 8; Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1999], 1089).
Lambrecht, Favorable Time, 390.
Lambrecht understands Isa 49:6 to be the end of the song (Favorable Time, 379). On the other hand,
Childss recent commentary states, Although the term servant is not used in vv. 49, the larger context,
before and after, removes any possible doubt that the speaker is the servant (Brevard Childs, Isaiah [OTL;
Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001], 394). Childs is persuasive on this score.
G. K. Beale, The Old Testament Background of Reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 57 and Its Bearing on the
Literary Problem of 2 Corinthians 6:147:1, NTS 35 (1989): 550-81, reprinted in The Right Doctrine from
the Wrong Text: Essays on the Use of the Old Testament in the New (ed. G. K. Beale; Grand Rapids:
Baker, 1994), 21747. My pagination will correspond to the NTS article. William J. Webb, Returning Home:
New Covenant and Second Exodus as the Contextfor 2 Corinthians 6.14-7.1 (JSNTSup 85; Sheffield:
Sheffield Academic Press, 1993). For claritys sake my chief interlocutor for the Servant-Identification
position will be Beale. Webbs thesis, though not dependant on Beale, affirms the basic conclusions of
Beale. Others have identified Paul with the Servant of Isa 4055. See David M. Stanley, The Theme of the
Servant of Yahweh in Primitive Christian Soteriology and Its Transposition by St. Paul, CBQ16 (1954): 385-
425; Alexander Kerrigan, Echoes of Themes from the Servant Songs in Pauline Theology, in Studorium
Paulinorium Congressus Internationalis (AnBib 1718; Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1963), 21728;
Paul Dinter, Paul and the Prophet Isaiah, BTB 13 (1983): 48-52.
Lambrecht, "Favorable Time," 37879. Lambrecht finds the first position untenable.
Beale, "Old Testament Background," 56162.
Ibid., 563.
Lambrecht, Favorable Time, 386. Lambrecht cites Hanson s comment, Paul would certainly understand this
passage (Is 49, 18) as applying primarily to Christ, the original servant. A. T Hanson, The Paradox of the
Cross in the Thought of St Paul (JSNTSup 17; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1987), 39.
Christopher R. Seitz, The Book of Isaiah 4066 (NIB 6; Nashville: Abington Press, 2001), 328; and Figured
Out: Typology and Prophecy in Christian Scripture (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001) 112-13.
Childs, Isaiah, 29596. Childs leans on Seitzs work, The Divine Council: Temporal Transition and New
Prophecy in the Book of Isaiah, JBL 109 (1990): 229-47. Childs diverges from Seitz with regards to the
voice of Isaiah. For Seitz, the voice of Isaiah is relegated to the distant past and the message of the new is
given by various anonymous voices. Childs understands that Isaiah of Jerusalem is both the proclaimer of
the old things and the new things. The message of the prologue is that, although the prophetic
judgment has been fulfilled, Isaiahs word of future salvation is now about to be accomplished in the new
things. The continuity between chs. 139 and 40ff does not lie in the historical persona of Isaiahin this
Seitz is rightbut rather in the word of God, faithfully proclaimed by Isaiah, which extends into the future
and fulfills itself in the new things of which Isaiah had also spoken (Childs, Isaiah, 297). In light of Seitzs
essay, How Is the Prophet Present in the Latter Half of the Book? in Word Without End (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans 1998), 16893, I wonder whether Childs has rightly read Seitz on this score. It seems Seitz has
developed in his thinking on the presence of Isaiah in Isa 4066. Seitz states, To the question, How is the
prophet Isaiah present in chs. 4066? we would respond thus: in word in chs. 4048 and in person in chs.
49ffbut not by himself. Isaiah, together with his fellow servants the prophets running all the way back to
Moses, is represented by the servant who speaks up in ch. 49, reflecting on hard labor, futility, yet trust in
the one who called from the womb (How Is the Prophet, 189).
The term is notoriously difficult to translate with precision. Renaud states that it can refer to an act of
deciding or judging; a legal decision; the contents of this decision; the judgment itself; the right (of an
individual or a group); a statute; a bond; equity; that which is just and right; the law, commandment, or
custom (most often in the plural) (cited in Thomas L. Leclerc, Yahweh Is Exaltedin Justice: Solidarity and
Conflictin Isaiah [Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001], 105). Leclerc has given detailed attention to the
different ways is used in Isaiah. In Isa 4055, is intricately connected to the sovereignty of
God (pp. 108-9). The mission of the Servant is to bring forth to the world YHWHs justice, that is, his just
and unrivaled sovereignty (p. 110).
See Childs, Isaiah, 324. Beukens article is a programmatic statement for the ways in which the servant
songs are related to the context of Isa 4055: W. A. M. Beuken, MISPAT: The First Servant Song in Its
Context, VT22 (1972): 1-30. See also Klaus Koch, The Prophets, Vol. 2: The Babylonian and Persian
Periods (trans. M. Kohl; London: SCM Press, 1983), 137.
Without doubt, the role of the nations in Isa 4066 is a deeply complex issue. Ones particular conclusions in
the debate are at least informed, if not slightly determined, by certain theological or historical commitments.
I must confess that I am surely not immune from this plightif one considers certain commitments a plight.
The most recent article on the subject is by Joel Kaminsky The Concept of Election and Second Isaiah:
Recent Literature, BTB 31 (2002): 135-44. Kaminsky traces the debate from Rowely to Levenson as he
challenges a certain paradigm that espouses the Jewish religion as particularistic and Christianity as
universal. Kaminsky argues that both Christianity and early Judaism are in a sense particularistic (p. 136).
From this discussion, Kaminsky moves to Second Isaiah. Two groups of scholars arise in the conversation,
those who think Second Isaiah is universalistic and those who find it nationalistic (p. 139). Kaminsky does
not believe a consensus will be reached at present (that is, on Second Isaiah); however, he does press the
need for a better understanding of particularity Kaminskys concern in the article, and this becomes more
obvious as one reads, is not a better understanding of Second Isaiahs view of the nations and Israel per se
but of the wrongheaded thinking that universalism is all good and particularity or nationalism is all bad (p.
140). Thus, Kaminskys article is helpful on the theological front as Judaism and Christianity deal seriously
with their own particularity in a pluralist society and ideology that would seek to blunt all edges of
particularity (pp. 142-43). Our attention needs to turn to Isaiah, however. Gelston has taken seriously those
scholars who challenge a universalism in Isa 4066e.g., Orlinsky and Whybray while at the same time
he affirms the universal implications of Second Isaiah. Isa 45:2025 strongly suggests that the survivors
are Gentiles themselves, worshippers of idol-gods, who are shown not to be real gods precisely because of
their inability to save (A. Gelston, Universalism in Second Isaiah, JTS 43 [1992]: 387). Gelston challenges
Whybrays tortuous exegesis of Isa 45:22 concluding that, The invitation to all the ends of the earth is to
turn to YHWH and be saved, because he is the only real God (p. 389). Gelston affirms a universalism in Isa
4055 that contains three strands: (1) the affirmation that YHWH is the only true God; (2) this truth will be
recognized by the Gentile nations no less than by Israel, with the corollary that they will submit to him and
acknowledge his universal rule; and (3) nowhere does the prophet affirm that all will avail themselves of this
offer (p. 396). See also Childs, Isaiah, 356. Gelston (Universalism, 397) concludes, I still believe what I
wrote in 1965 to be true: the prophet discerned in moments of high vision the glorious fact that Yahwehs
salvation was for all the world, while at other times he sank back to a more traditional and superior attitude
towards the Gentiles. It seems to be the case that this prophet recognized that the corollary of his
conviction that YHWH was the only real god was that he was also God of all the earth (54:5). Van Winkle
seeks to resolve the tension between universalism and nationalism by observing that for Deutero-Isaiah the
salvation of the nations does not preclude their submission to Israel (Daniel Van Winkle, The Relationship
of the Nations to Yahweh in Isaiah xl-lv, VT 35 [1985]: 457); see also David Pao, Acts and the Isaianic New
Exodus (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), 22627. Childs (Isaiah, 39293), commenting on Isa 49:24, keenly
addresses the issue of nationalism vs. universalism with the following: Yet it is highly misleading to set up a
polarity between passages allegedly universalistic and those of ethnic narrowness. Much turns on the
specific issue at stake in the oracle. If the prophet is addressing the scope of Gods salvific will toward his
creation, the free inclusion of the nations is an integral part of the prophets message. However, if the issue
turns on rival claims of power and authority exercised by the mighty and powerful rulers of the world, then
the harshest possible rejection of their pretensions is made. Yahweh alone is Lord and Redeemer, who
tolerates no rival either on heaven or earth. Seitz affirms both the centripetal and centrifugal aspects of
Israels fulfilling of the covenant with Abraham. Seitzs conclusion in his chapter, The Old Testament,
Mission, and Christian Scripture, in Figured Out, 156, needs to be stated in full: The servants who suffer in
imitation of their master, the one called to be the Israel after Gods own heart in chapter 49, are separated
from their persecutors within the household of God. The categories Israel and nations, servant and goyim,
are not undone in Gods final missionary act of conjoining But both undergo massive transformation, within
what the prophet can call only a new creation, a new heaven and earth. The end of Isaiah returns to the
beginning and speaks of a new day and a new created order of affairs. The ending vision is what one might
call the eschatological completion of Gods missionary act: His willed and sovereign intention to put what
created humanity makes awry good and in full accordance with a design nothing in heaven and earth can
thwart. He will get his way with his world, through the plan of election and its final transformation through the
suffering and death of his servant Israel. In short, Isa 4066 is not at all entirely clear as to the exact
relationship between Israel and the nations. With that said, however, it is affirmed with Seitz that Isaiah is
painting an eschatological picture of Gods new redemptive act for both Israel and the nations that can be
called nothing other than a new creation (Isa 65:17). Are the nations subsumed under Israel or incorporated
into Israel? This seems to fit with Pauls understanding, e.g., Rom 911, yet Isaiah is not perfectly clear on
this score. Perhaps clarity comes best by a retrospective reading that takes into account Gods concrete
action in Christ and its universal implications. For our purposes it is enough to affirm the universal
implications of Gods new redemptive act while at the same time affirming the fact that not all will embrace
this invitation. See also Walter Zimmerli, The Old Testament and the World (London: SPCK, 1976), 130,
Seitz argues that the actual authors of this discourse (assuming he is making the distinction between actual
author and implied author) are the servants of the Servant. Though the actual author is difficult to define
textually this theme of the servants of the servant will emerge as a key component in ones understanding
of the relationship between Isaiah and Paul in 2 Cor 5:146:13 (Seitz, Isaiah 4066, 424). See also n. 57
For the argument for a later addition see Westermann, Isaiah 4066, 209; P. Wilcox and D. Paton-Williams,
The Servant Songs in Deutero-Isaiah, JSOT42 (1988): 90-91; Seitz, Isaiah 4066, 429.
Wilcox and Paton-Williams, Servant Songs, 89.
Beukens commentary on Isaiah is written in Dutch.
Childs, Isaiah, 382.
See Ezek 16.
Childs, Isaiah, 38384.
Wilcox and Paton-Williams, Servant Songs, 90; Seitz, Isaiah 4066 429; Childs, Isaiah, 384.
Gelston helpfully interacts with the difficulties of translating and interpreting both light to the nations and
salvation by examining their usage in 49:18 and 51:16. Certain scholarse.g, Whybrayhave argued
that light to the nations in Isa 4055 refers to the blinding and involuntary yielding of the nations to
Yahweh. Gelston, on the other hand, concludes that the use of light in Isa 51:4 parallels the discussion in
that verse of il
lin which refers more to illumination than blinding andciting Van Winklethat 42:16 and
51:4 refer to light as a figure of deliverance from darkness (Gelston, Universalism, 39394). also
refers to YHWHs successful and victorious intervention to save, which is announced in verse 5 [ch. 51] as
being already under way (Universalism, 395). The question remains, however, as to the extent of this
salvation. Does Yahweh intervene to save his own people, or all humankind? Gelston comments on 51:46,
That it has the wider dimension is suggested by the immediate sequel in verse 5, announcing that YHWHs
arm will rule the peoples, and that the coasts and islands will wait in expectation for this intervention
(Universalism, 395). Thus Orlinskys definition of as victory triumph, or vindication is too
narrow a definition of its semantic range to cover 51:56 (Universalism, 395).
Wilcox and Paton-Williams argue that the servant called Israel is the prophet re-commissioned in this scene
(Wilcox and Paton-Williams, Servant Songs, 92). Seitz has argued along similar lines in a more nuanced
fashion. The servant, for Seitz, is lining up within a tradition of prophets especially that of Jeremiah. This
servants career picks up where Jeremiah left off, at the end of his career. That is, it is a mission based on
all prior prophecy at its own potential end point and dissolution.. .. This servant carries Israels history with
prophecy in him and, in so doing, is Israel in a very specific sense (Seitz, How Is the Prophet, 188).
Childs takes another nuanced view, I am not suggesting that collective Israel has been replaced by an
individual prophetic figure, say, by Second Isaiah himself Such historical speculation misses the point of the
text. The identity of the first person singular voice in 48:16 and 49:16 remains fully concealed. Rather, what
is crucial to observe is that one, bearing all the marks of an individual historical figure, has been named
servant, not to replace corporate Israelthe servant in Second Isaiah remains inseparable from Israelbut
as a faithful embodiment of the nation Israel who has not performed its chosen role (48:12) (Childs,
Isaiah, 385). Whatever may lie behind the historical actuality of this text will continue to be debated. What
can be learned from a textual standpoint, however, is that in Gods new thing of redemption he does not
allow Israels failure to hinder Gods program of reconciliation, reconciliation not strictly with Israel (though
definitely the case) but reconciliation with the ends of the earth, humanity Clements states, Yet it still
retains something of an expectation that Israels election is an election for service to bring other nations to a
knowledge of Yhwh. For further reflections on the role of Israel as servant to the nations, see Ronald E.
Clements, Old Testament Theology: A Fresh Approach (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1978), 9596.
The means by which the Servant/Israel will bring salvation to the ends of the earth is by sufferingthis
becomes explicit in the fourth servant song. Thus, the accomplishment of the Servants being a light to the
Gentiles is based on his faithfulness to Yahweh, a faithfulness that takes form in obedient suffering See Jon
D. Levenson, The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993);
Seitz, Isaiah 4066, 433, 469.
Seitz, Isaiah 4066, 430.
Childs, Isaiah, 38687.
Martin, 2 Corinthians, 16465.
See Furnish, 2 Corinthians, 341; Thrall, II Corinthians, 451.
Beale and Webb, as has been observed, recognize the Servant (correctly) as the referent in Isa 49:8 and
Paul as the referent in 2 Cor 6:2. It should be noted that the quotation of 6:2 is a verbatim quotation of the
LXX; see Christopher D. Stanley, Paul and the Language of Scripture: Citation Technique in the Pauline
Epistles and Contemporary Literature (SNTSMS 74; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 216
As has been observed in Beale and Webb. Lambrecht finds this reading a hypothetical construction
(Lambrecht, Favorable Time, 386). Lane observes that Pauls use of prophetic call language as found in
Gal 1:15ff and 2 Cor indicates that he has been called to the prophetic office (William L. Lane, Covenant:
The Key to Pauls Conflict with Corinth, TynBul 33 [1982]: 7).
Lambrecht, Favorable Time, 381.
Claus Westermann, Isaiah 4066 (London: SCM Press, 1969), 215.
Traces of this eschatological thought pattern of Paul are found in 2 Cor 1:1922. Paul, alluding to a specific
conflict between him and the Corinthians, portrays God as the faithful God who never draws back from his
promises. Pauls radical christocentrism draws the conclusion that all the promises of God are in Christ
(1:20). Though Paul may be alluding to promises found elsewhere in the Second Temple period (see Thrall,
IICorinthians, 148), we are assured Paul has in mind the OT salvific promises of God or Gods covenant
promises. For Paul, the eschatological climax of Gods redemptive purposes have found their yes in Christ.
See also Martin, 2 Corinthians, 27. Furnish, following Thusing, states that Paul does not say Christ is the
Yes, but that Gods promises have their Yes in Christ (II Corinthians, 147). Furnish is warning the reader
against a static view of Gods promises in Christ in view of the ongoing event at work in the life of the
community by the Spirit. Though Furnishs warnings are heeded, there is no reason the interpreter cannot
say that Christ is Gods eschatological Yes.
See Brevard Childs, The Sensus Literalis: An Ancient and Modern Problem, in Beitrage zur
alttestamentlichen Theologie: Festschrift fur Walther Zimmerli zum 70 Geburstag (Gottingen: Vendenhoeck
and Ruprecht, 1977), 8093. See also John David Dawson, Christian Figural Reading and the Fashioning
of Identity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 15; Kathryn Greene-McCreight, Ad Litteram:
How Augustine, Calvin, and Barth Read the Plain Sense of Genesis 13 (New York: Peter Lang, 1999);
Charles Scalise, The Sensus Literalis: A Hermeneutical Key to Biblical Exegesis, SJT42 (1989): 45-65;
PaulR. Noble, The Sensus Literalis: Jowett, Childs, and Barr, JTS44 (1993): 1-23. On the signum/res
distinction see Brevard Childs, Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Minneapolis: Fortress
Press, 1993), 8084; Frances Young, Biblical Exegesis and the Formation of Christian Culture (Peabody
Mass.: Hendrickson, 2002), 175.
Childs states, To assume that the prophets can be understood only if each oracle is related to a specific
historical event or located in its original cultural milieu is to introduce a major hermeneutical confusion into
the discipline and to render an understanding of the canonical Scriptures virtually impossible (Brevard
Childs, The Canonical Shape of the Prophetic Literature, Int 32 [1978]: 53); see also his Retrospective
Reading of the Old Testament Prophets, ZAW108 (1996): 362-77.
See Hafemann, Paul, Moses, and the History of Israel (WUNT 81; Tubingen: JCB Mohr, 1995); L. L.
Belleville, Reflections of Glory: Pauls Polemical Use of the Moses-Doxa Tradition in 2 Cor 3, 118
(JSNTSup 52; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991); N. T. Wright, Reflected Glory: 2 Corinthians
3:18, in The Climax of the Covenant (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), 17592.
Hafemann, Paul, Moses, 19195.
Ibid., 192.
For further elaboration on this point see Hans Frei, T he Eclipse of Biblical Narrative (New Haven: Yale,
1974), esp. chs. 13.
Hafemann, Paul, Moses, 194.
See Frei, Eclipse of Biblical Narrative; Childs, Retrospective Reading 36277, and Canonical Shape, 46
55; Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Special Revelation and General Hermeneutics, in Disciplining Hermeneutics (ed.
R. Lundin; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 163.
This paper is dealing mainly with 2 Cor 5:146:2.Beale has argued persuasively, in the opinion of this
author, that Isaiah serves as the backdrop for Pauls thought in 2 Cor 5:147:1 and has given special
attention to the problem passage of 2 Cor 6:147:1 (Beale, Old Testament Background). Beale has not
argued that 2 Cor 6:2 serves as a hermeneutical key and invitation into the larger drama of Isa 4055 (66).
A detailed examination of Isa 53 and 2 Cor 5:1421 is beyond the scope of this project. For the current
debate on the Suffering Servants significance for Early Christianity see W. H. Bellinger, Jr., and W. R.
Farmer, eds., Jesus and the Suffering Servant: Isaiah 53 and Christian Origins (Harrisburg: Trinity Press
International, 1998); B. Janowksi and P. Stuhlmacher, eds., Der leidende Gottesknecht: Jesaja 53 und
seine Wirkungsgeschicte (Tubingen: JCB Mohr, 1996); Oscar Cullmann, The Christology of the New
Testament (London: SCM Press, 1957), 5182; Otfried Hofius, Erwagungen zur Gestalt und Herkunft des
paulinischen Versohnungsgedankens, in Paulusstudien (WUNT 51: Tubingen: JCB Mohr, 1989), 114; also
the insightful reflections of Childs on the ontological relationship between the Suffering Servant and the NT
(Childs, Isaiah, 42023).
A similar approache.g., the notice of overlap between the Servant of Isa 4055 and 2 Cor 5:1421 with a
focus on dieSache and not derBegriffehas been given by Hofius, Erwagungen, 114. He does not,
however, make explicit use of the Isaianic quotation in 6:2. The preceding observation by Hofius, Beale, and
Webbwith their own particular readings of Isaiahmakes the following statement by McLean more
astounding: Moreover, Paul displays no interest in the Soteriology of the Ebed Yahweh: in all of his letters,
there is not a single quotation or clear allusion to any verse of the fourth Servant Song concerning
atonement (Bradley Halstead McLean, Christ as a Pharmakos in Pauline Soteriology SBL Seminar
Papers, 1991 [SBLSP 30; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1991], 187). See also Otto Betz, Jesus and Isaiah 53,
in Jesus and the Suffering Servant, 77; and Fleischliche undgeist-liche Christuserkenntnis nach 2.
Korinther 5, 16, in Jesus, derHerr derKirche (WUNT 52; Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1990), 11428.
On narrative identitya focusing on a characters identity on the basis of their actionsee Richard
Bauckham, God Crucified: Monotheism and Christology in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
1999), 69; Hans Frei, The Identity of Jesus (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975); Paul Ricouer Oneself as
Another (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992); Ronald F Thiemann, Revelation and Theology: The
Gospel as Narrated Promise (NotreDame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1985), chs. 67.
Raised and exalted language is applied exclusively to Yahweh in Isaiah (cf 6:1). See Larry Hurtado, Lord
Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 2003), 38189.
Bauckham, God Crucified, 51. Wilcox and Paton-Williams observe, Throughout Isa. 166, the adjectives
exalted, lifted up and very high are virtually technical terms, applied almost exclusively to Yahweh.
Wilcox and Paton-Williams tread lightly on this observation, The implication is not necessarily that the
servant is Yahweh, or even divine; but there is an implication here that the servants work is Yahwehs work,
and the language used to make the point is daring to say the least (Wilcox and Paton-Williams, Servant
Songs, 95).
Robert Jenson has given keen theological insight into Isa 49 from a Trinitarian perspective. So much at
least is clear: whatever may have been in the mind or minds of the author or authors of this text. .. followers
of the risen Jesus were only conforming to the actual statement of the text when they took it as applicable to
their Lord. For the text presents an historically unfilled template, indeed a template unfulfillable by anyone
who lives only within the parameters of this age, of history as it now proceeds. To fit that template to
someone is to say that this particular Israelite brings Israel back to the Lord and that just so this person is
Israel thus brought back, to take her final mission to the nations (Robert Jenson, The Bible and the
Trinity, ProEccl 11, no. 3 [2002]: 334-35).
Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV/1 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1956), 29.
On taking the copulative and the imperfect as periphrastic in 2 Cor 5:19, see Stanley Porter, Reconciliation
and 2 Cor 5, 1821, in The Corinthian Correspondence (ed. R. Bierienger; Leuven: Leuven University
Press, 1996), 695700. This understanding of the unique role and identity of the Servant of Isa 4055
presses forward Lambrechts article on the basis of theological issues not attended to in his work.
Again see works by Childs cited in n. 37 above. T he importance of the larger narrative of Isa 4055 (66) for
early Christians is expressed by Bauckham, For the early Christians, these chapters of Isaiah, above all
else, were the God given account of the significance of the events of eschatological salvation which they
witnessed and in which they were involved (God Crucified, 47). J. Ross Wagner rightly states that for Paul,
Isaiah was a viva voce (Wagner, The Heralds of Isaiah and the Mission of Paul, in Jesus and the Suffering
Servant, 209).
See n. 1 above.
Interestingly enough, Beale affirms the presence of the Servant in 2 Cor 5: 1821 (Beale, Old Testament
Background, 559).
See Bauckham, God Crucified, andJenson, Bible and Trinity.
It is at this point that I believe Beales sensibilities are correct, that is, Paul may understand himself to be
carrying on the work of the Servant (Beale, Old Testament Background, 564). Again, however, the
subordinate role Paul takes under Christ must be emphasized, as pointed out in 2 Cor 4:812. Also, the
close identification Paul makes between Christ and the Servant makes Beales particular identification of
Paul as the Servant more unlikely That Paul could have applied the Servant prophecy to himself as one who
carried on the mission of Jesus is a possibility On the other hand, textually there is no support for this claim
and at times the language becomes confusing See John Howard Schutz, Paul and the Anatomy of
Apostolic Authority (SNTSMS 26; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), 7172.I do believe there
is another category of identification within the redemptive drama of Isa 4066 in which Paul would have
placed himself, namely, the subsequent servants of the Servant found in the literary movement in Isa 53
66. See Mark Gignilliat, A Servant Follower of the Servant: Pauls Eschatological Reading of Isaiah 4066
in 2 Corinthians 5:146:10, HBT26 (2004): 98-124; Wagner, Heralds of Isaiah, 222.
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