Sunday, September 16, 2012

Book Review: Reading Isaiah: Poetry and Vision

Reading Isaiah: Poetry and Vision by Peter D. Quinn-Miscall is my "textbook" in a way. My university is reading Isaiah together during the Fall Quarter and I took a day-long class in Isaiah (given by my theology department colleague) about a week ago. I've always been fascinated by this sprawling, vivid and even contradictory book, and Quinn-Miscall's "textbook" is a good introduction.

Quinn-Miscall translates big bunches of text himself anew and resists the temptation to split up Isaiah into parts, instead looking at how different images are used throughout the book. This ties the book together rather than forcing it apart, and it's how I choose to look at it, too. The juxtaposition of the different images and parts of Isaiah is one of the powerful things about the book. I have the meta-image of a large stained glass window, with jagged chunks of glass, some blood-red, some sky blue, and some the green of a new tree; some faces from history painted in there; and the sun blazing behind it turning them to jewels and painting the reader with colored light. The fractal pattern of judgement-desolation-return is a useful pattern to see at all levels of Isaiah.

Quinn-Miscall's insistence on focusing on the poetry and only the poetry leads him to not even speculate about the speaker or referent at some points when I think he could go more out on a limb, so I think he could have loosened his own rules a bit for the benefit of people who want to know, "but what do you think?". But perhaps the whole point is that Quinn-Miscall himself fades away and when all's said and done, you're left with the vision of Isaiah itself. That's a good thing. This book helps you see it.

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