Isaiah’s Anthropology of Human Rebellion and Future Redemption

Early in the canonical book of Isaiah, the prophet admonishes the people: “Stop trusting in mere humans, who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem?” (Isa 2:22, NIV).
Although the anthropology of some OT books has received extensive treatment (e.g., Jutta Hausmann’s monograph on Proverbs 10ff), the book of Isaiah’s rich and diverse descriptions of the ‘human condition’ have been given relatively little attention. After a brief overview of past discussions of aspects of Isaianic anthropology, a summary account of the use of key Hebrew anthropological terms (e.g., nephesh, ruach, leb, basar) will be given (i.e., their frequency and distribution), noting any unique emphases in Isaiah. However, most of the paper will be devoted to an examination of the extent to which Isaiah develops the ‘Christian’ anthropological themes of 1) the complete sinfulness of humanity (and not just of corporate Israel or the foreign nations) and its consequences and 2) the prospect or promise of humanity’s future/eschatological ‘redemption’ (Hebrew padah) and renewal, especially through the agency of the Spirit. Attention will also be given to the NT use of pertinent Isaianic texts (such as Paul’s citation of Isaiah 59:7–8 in Romans 3:15–17), in making the case for seeing more continuity between Isaianic anthropology and NT descriptions than often is assumed.

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