Four Interpretations of Isaiah 53: An Historical Excursus




Freemyer, Joy

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Historically, Christians have interpreted Isaiah 53 as a Christological prophecy and, consequently, have drawn from this passage to develop accounts of Christ’s suffering. In this thesis, I argue that affective, imaginative treatments of Isaiah 53 offer unique, necessary insight into the passage and allow Christians to respond correctly to Christ’s suffering. In order to demonstrate this, I analyze treatments of the passage from different historical periods. I first analyze early Christian treatments of the text, demonstrating that early Christians viewed Isaiah 53 as an important Christological prophecy. Next I turn to medieval treatments of the passage, demonstrating that Franciscan meditations on the passage offer necessary insight into Christ’s suffering that contemporary, analytical treatments fail to offer. I then turn to the poetry of John Donne and George Herbert, arguing that these two writer’s poetic treatments of Isaiah 53 guide readers to correct emotional responses to Christ’s suffering. Finally, I turn to Georges Rouault’s treatment of Isaiah 53 in his series of etchings, Miserere. I argue that Rouault’s artistic treatment of the passage helps viewers to understand the relationship between Christ’s suffering and human suffering.



Isaiah 53., Exegesis., Christ's suffering., Meditative poetry., Rouault.