When Was Isaiah Written and Why Does it Matter?

Ever since the 1700’s critical and liberal scholars have had a field day with the authorship of Isaiah. I say “ever since then” because before that time no one seriously questioned the authorship or unity of the book. In the 1700’s scholars decided that Isaiah was written by two people, and divided the book into two sections. They say the first section, 1-39, was written by Isaiah himself and the last section, 40-66, was written by a disciple of Isaiah often called “deteuro-Isaiah”. This began the de-coiling of the unity of Isaiah. The unity further de-coiled in the 1800’s with a new hypothesis. Scholars then said 3 people wrote Isaiah. 1-39 was by Isaiah, 40-55 by deteuro-Isaiah, and 56-66 by tripto-Isaiah, which means a “third” Isaiah. As well as making these separations in authorship, the dates they were giving Isaiah were moving earlier and earlier. They began around 700 BC, and now they’ve moved up to around 450-400 BC.

In our modern day, there has been a good progression in thought concerning these things. Rather than trying to show that the book of Isaiah is not unified, there have been many efforts to show that Isaiah is a unified work. Modern critical scholars have said that there is a unity within Isaiah, but there is a twist to its unity. Rather than saying that Isaiah wrote the whole thing himself, they say that the book was redacted by a group of Isaiah’s disciples, who collected his works and put them together in a collection. The number of authors continues to be added on as well. Conservative scholars have mostly remained the same throughout the years. They think Isaiah wrote the whole book himself (even the second and third sections), which brings a complete unity to the book. But they do think that Isaiah could have began his book (1-39) around 700 BC and finished it (40-66) around 500-400, because of the Assyrian nature of the first section and the Babylonian nature of the second. Now, I should say that 1-39, 40-55, and 56-66 do indeed sound different, but do we have to assume from this that someone other than Isaiah wrote these later sections? Not at all.

I think there is a deeper issue at stake as well. If someone dates the book of Isaiah post-exile rather than pre-exile, the nature of prophecy is impinged and the character of God is brought into question. Meaning that, the presupposed belief behind a later date (post-exile) of Isaiah is that God cannot predict the future, while the presupposed belief behind an early date (pre-exile) of Isaiah is that God can indeed predict the future. God claims to be able to do this all throughout Isaiah, especially in 40-55. Therefore if God cannot predict the future, when He claims to be able to do so, He cannot be trusted and is no different than the idols He contrasts Himself with in Isaiah 40-55. The questioning of God’s character that takes place when one gives Isaiah a later, post-exilic dating of the book is precisely why I think such a date is so dangerous. This is why I think an earlier, pre-exilic date of Isaiah is correct.


  1. A walk with GOD always depends on faith. GOD’S Word says Isaiah wrote the book and thats what i believe. I know that the prophecies were written before the fact. So trust GOD and HIS Word and leave the skeptics to themselves!

  2. You realize that you’re employing poor logic, right? You’re basically saying that if Isaiah was written after the exile then we can’t trust God or God’s word; therefore, better be safe than sorry and say it was written pre-exile even when evidence points to the contrary. Why can’t God’s character stand apart from rulings on the authorship or date of Isaiah? Last time I checked, the Bible was much bigger than Isaiah and God was much bigger than the Bible.

  3. Chris,
    Thanks for your comment. The reason I said the last paragraph (above) is because one of the biggest reasons people date the book of Isaiah post-exilic is because they don’t believe in supernatural events, such as prophecy, miracles, etc. God is big, and that is why we must date the book as we do. So no, my logic is not poor, but upholds the bigness of God rather than diminishing it, that is, in my opinion.

  4. Bernard Kiprop · ·

    Hey just a quick note. I think you’ve written 46-66 instead of 56-66 at some point in your article. I thought you should correct it :)

  5. You’re a gentlemen and a scholar good sir, thank you.

  6. Aaron Schoenecke · ·

    This was a really interesting read. Thank you. I also appreciated the comments. In my experience, I know God is bigger than we can imagine. As soon as we think we got him figured out, we find how wrong we are. I believe many parts of scripture will always remain a great mystery to God’s glory. I think when looking at Isaiah, or any book or the bible, it is important to find where Jesus is in the script. This alone is the Gosple, the good news. And Jesus is all up in your face throughout Isaiah! Ha. It is very clear that Even before Jesus walked on the earth in the flesh he was proclaimed to bring justice and redemption. He alone can save, “and there is no other Savior.” Praise the Lord for His Greatness!!! And yes Miles, let us leave the skeptics to themselves. God has revealed his invisible qualities and eternal power throughout his creation so that no one will have an excuse for not knowing God. I pray that the Lord would soften their hearts in due time, and that the would come to a realization that there is no other rock on which we can stand.


  7. Amen Aaron, thank you for your comment :)

  8. The FACT of Isaiah’s prophetic gift from God is undeniable. He prophesied in detail many of the events of Jesus’ death, whic would not occur till hundreds of years later than even the latest dates of authorship. The “liberals” are unable to see this because of their lack of faith. Aaron stated this pretty well.

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