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The Literary Value of the Book of IsaiahHelen Unius Backiavathy, M.A.,M.Phil., Ph.D. Candidate
In this report, I would like to discuss the literary characteristics of a religious text, the Book of Isaiah, which is part of the Old Testament of the Hebrew Bible. This book is held very high both in Judaism and Christianity. It is known to exhibit many literary traits, but the focus of the book is on prophecy.
In this research report I propose to identify, describe and show how a religious text may contain literary traits, how such traits are integrated with the core message and purpose through the use of such literary traits, and how readers of such texts enjoy such texts also for their literary merits. Special attention is given to the use of similes in the Book of Isaiah in this report.
The focus of religious texts is usually more on the ways of life that the faithful should adopt, on whom to worship, how to worship, and why to worship the Deity. The Deity's character, nature and function are interwoven in the message and images of the text. In this process, writers of such religious texts may use a variety of literary techniques and endow their texts with images that become classical and lend themselves to a variety of interpretations from generation to generation. Their images were current originally when they were coined, and they continue to be current for all those who approach such texts with sympathetic, empathic and positive attitude. A very important part of the process is that these assume classical characteristics and the works also become models for other creative writers to emulate.
For example, the medieval Tamil abounds in Saivite and Vaishnavite poems and these are traditionally listed as religious "literature." These follow specific prosody regulations, conditions laid down for the use of metaphors and such other poetic devices, and, in general, they resemble close to their other contemporary literary pieces, and are categorized as part of traditional Tamil literature. They may lack some story content, but they are full of oblique references, imagery and historical information as well. Tamil scholars and modern Tamil textbooks classify this body of literature as religious literature samaya ilakkiyam.
"The Bible is a collection of books of many different sorts, books which fall into several clear major divisions and which show considerable internal variations"1. The Bible concerns the activities of men and women in all their tangled complexities. It consists of various types of literature beginning with the narrative and continuing with lyric poetry, prophecy, proverbs and philosophy.
The Bible is a collection of the literature and history of great people through different epochs. In it there is a variety of literary forms and genres, some of which are listed below: Narrative, History, Biography, Autobiography, Novel, Shortstory, Letters, Oratory, Lyric poetry, Elegy, Ode, Prophecy, Wisdom literature and the like.
Dr. James L. Vance has eloquently summarized the greatness of the Bible:
History, Poetry, Prophecy, theology, oratory, humour, sarcasm, irony, music, drama, tragedy, strategy, love tales, war tales, travelogues, laws, jurisprudence, songs, sermons, warnings, prayers… was there ever such literature? The Bible begins with a garden and ends with a city. It starts with morning followed by a night, and ends with a day that shall know no night.
It breaks the silence with, "In the beginning God" and it hushes the Universe to sleep with, "The grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all", it finds man at the shut gates of the lost Eden, and leaves him before the open door at the top of the road.2
According to Scott:
The most learned, acute, and diligent student cannot, in the longest life, obtain an entire knowledge of this one volume. The more deeply he works the mine, the richer and more abundant he finds the ore; new light continually beams from this source of heavenly knowledge, to direct the conduct, and illustrate the work of God and the ways of men; and he will at last leave the world confessing, that the more he studied the scriptures, the fuller conviction he had of his own ignorance, and of their inestimable value. 3
Billy Graham remarks that, "No other book can touch its profound wisdom, its poetic beauty, or the accuracy of its history and prophecy."4 The Prophetic books are among the most difficult writings in the Old Testament. The works are significant for their influence upon human thought which has persisted to this day for a form of surpassing beauty.
The Book of Isaiah - Its Place within the Old Testament
The Book of Isaiah is the first in the prophetic cannon, and it holds the highest place among the other prophetic books. This is due to the loftiness both of language and ideas. The loftiness has been recognized and proclaimed by great musicians and it has been accepted that Isaiah is best known of the prophets.
The Book of Isaiah is like a miniature Bible. There are thirty nine books in the Old Testament and twenty seven in the New Testament. There is something very fascinating about the analysis of this book that has caused it to be referred to as the miniature Bible. The thirty nine chapters are prophetic in harmony with the Old Testament. The twenty seven chapters are messianic, balancing with the New Testament.
In the date and authorship of The Book of Isaiah although there is a diversity of opinion as to who wrote the sixty six chapters of Isaiah, all scholars insist on the prophet's historicity and his having at least a significant part in the writing of the book called by his name. Scholars disagree in their views about the authorship of The Book of Isaiah.
There are those who reject the concept of the multiple authorship of the Book. They contend that tradition has always held that the book is written by the prophet. They cite the Dead Sea scrolls as more recent evidence supporting the unity of the book since there are no divisions indicated in the Isaiah scroll. Therefore it is contended that until a satisfactory explanation of the tradition is given the authorship by the prophet is defensible.
Spelling Variations in Kannada | A Survey of the State of the Art in Punjabi Language Processing | The Representation of Homosexuality - A Content Analysis in a Malaysian Newspaper | Noun Reduplication in Tamil and Kannada | Journey of Self-discovery in Anita Nair's Ladies' Coupé | A Study of Communicability and Intelligibility of Advertisements in Tamil With Special Reference to Tooth Paste and Health Drink | Explicit Grammar Instruction | Teaching English as a Second Language Using Communicative Language Teaching - An Evaluation of Practice in India | Discovering Values in English Language Teaching | The Core Functions of the Hindi Modals - Speech Act Approach | Textbook Analysis of English for Engineers | Cross-Professional Collaboration on E-Learning Courses | Reading Arundhati Roy's Fiction The God of Small Things Through Her Non-Fiction | Teaching English through Indian Writing in English in Rural India | Proverbs in Modern Tamil and Telugu Societies | Using Problem Based Learning Technique in Teaching English Grammar | Problems in Reading Comprehension Skills among Secondary School Students in Yemen | The Literary Value of the Book of Isaiah | Will Sentences Have Divergence Upon Translation? : A Corpus-Evidence Based Solution for Example Based Approach | HOME PAGE of October 2009 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR
Helen Unius Backiavathy, M.A.,M.Phil., Ph.D. Candidate
Department of English
Coimbatore - 641 114