The Powerless in Third Isaiah, According to Hanson

In my reading today of Paul Hanson’s Dawn of Apocalyptic, Hanson elaborated some on his scenario for the rise of apocalyptic, which I summarized yesterday.  For Hanson, there was Canaanite myth, which was related to fertility, and included such things as the Divine Warrior fighting chaos.  And there was history.  The pre-exilic monarchy and cult drew from Canaanite myth on account of the importance of fertility, whereas there were other elements of ancient Israelite religion that disliked Canaanite influence.  But Second Isaiah incorporated Canaanite myth into its belief that God would redeem Israel in history, as Israel would return from exile under the auspices of Cyrus and create a society in which national institutions (e.g., the monarchy) were democratized.

Hanson’s argument is that apocalyptic arose in Israel’s post-exilic period, as a result of a dispute within Israel.  According to Hanson, the Second Isaiah community and the Levites who attached themselves to it (i.e., Mushite Levites) felt powerless against the Zadokite priestly establishment that was backed by the Persians, and thus hoped for God’s dramatic intervention into world events to overthrow the Zadokites and usher in a paradise.  Hanson’s argument is that apocalyptic emerged from the powerlessness of the disenfranchised class in Israel, not on account of Persian influence.  And, according to Hanson, this class literalized Canaanite myth, for it emphasized the God as the Divine Warrior.

In my reading today, Hanson appealed to Third Isaiah to support his argument.  Isaiah 65:5 criticizes those who say, “Keep your distance, approach me not, or I will communicate holiness to you” (Hanson’s translation), and Hanson considers that to be a response to sentiments in Ezekiel 44, which affirm that only the Zadokites can draw near to God, and that they should take care not to communicate holiness to the people.  Isaiah 65-66 lambastes idolatry and the eating of unclean meats, and Hanson contends that the visionary writers here are equating the new Temple with Canaanite worship, viewing both as abominable in the sight of God (the same way that the Mushites in Exodus 32 attack the Aaronic priesthood by “connecting it with Canaanite idolatry”, page 180).  A similar anti-Temple sentiment appears in Isaiah 66:1-2, where God regards the Temple as inadequate and highlights the importance of being humble and trembling at his word.  And, when Isaiah 57:9 criticizes sending gifts to a king, Hanson reads that as the disenfranchised class condemning the establishment’s collaboration with the Persians.  The visionaries also had issues with Haggai, who wanted a rebuilt temple, Joshua the Zadokite as high priest, and Zerubabbel as royal head (which would have contradicted Jeremiah 22:24-30’s curse on Jehoiachin).  According to Hanson, the visionaries despaired of looking to earthly institutions to bring about God’s presence with Israel, along with the prosperity that would ensue from that, and so they desired God’s dramatic intervention and creation of a new order.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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