Connect or Disconnect? Text or Agenda?
This article is a continuation of my response to Dr. Brown’s article – https://askdrbrown.org/library/how-rabbi-blumenthal-missed-forest-trees-%E2%80%93-part-3
In his latest effort to substantiate his position from the words of
Isaiah, Dr. Brown shares his methods of Scriptural interpretation. It is
precisely to this place where I hoped the discussion would bring us. I
was hoping that we would get beyond the superficiality of stated
conclusions and move to the methods and techniques of Scriptural
interpretation that Dr. Brown uses to arrive at those conclusions that
he so readily declares as proven facts.
As we read the Bible, it is often important to determine if there is a
break in the prophetic narrative. Does one verse flow after the other? Or has the
prophet perhaps introduced a new subject? In his latest article, Dr.
Brown reveals to us how he goes about making this weighty determination.
In my writings I had quoted Isaiah 51:16 and I maintain that this verse refers to
Israel. It is clear beyond a doubt that verses 12 through 14 are
addressing Israel. No one disputes this, not the Christian or the Jew. There isn’t the slightest textual indicator which would tell us that the prophet has changed his audience between verses 14 and 15. From a textual standpoint, every indicator tells us that
verses 15 and 16 flow from verses 12 through 14. This would then tell us that verse 16 is addressing Israel.
Dr. Brown disagrees with my interpretation. He claims; “the context and
grammar are against 51:16 referring to Israel.”
The fact is that the word “and” (in Hebrew this is represented by the
letter “vav”) connects the entire passage, there is no paragraph break
between verses 14 and 15, there is no introductory statement at the
beginning of verse 15 and there is no shift in the grammar between
verses 14 and 15. Yet Dr. Brown sees no contextual or grammatical reason
to see this passage as one unit.
Now let us look at Isaiah 42 verses 1 through 7. In that passage we find a
paragraph break between verses 4 and 5. Verse 5 opens with a classic
introduction (“Thus says the Lord…”) and the grammar changes from third
person (in verses 1-4) to second person (verses 5-7). All of these
create a clear and distinct separation between the passages.
In light of these textual considerations I argued that the prophet
begins to address a new subject in verse 5. Dr. Brown responded with the
claim; “Contextually, it seems clear that the subject of 42:1-4 is the
same individual as the subject of 42:5-7 (really, where does the text
indicate that the Lord is speaking about two distinct individuals rather
So what tells Dr. Brown where to see a shift in the prophetic narrative?
It cannot be the text because the prophet did everything he could from a
textual standpoint to connect verses 14 and 15 in chapter 51, he did
everything he could from a textual standpoint to separate verse 4
from verse 5 in chapter 42, yet Dr. Brown insists on seeing the former
as disconnected and the latter as connected.
Dr. Brown has made it crystal clear for all who care to know that it is
not the text that tells him what to believe. It is his beliefs that
“tell him” what the text is saying.