Double standards in the Book of Isaiah : re-evaluating prophetic ethics and divine justice
This thesis investigates the ethical system of the book of Isaiah, treating the book as a single literary work from a broadly reader-oriented critical perspective. It begins with a study of ethics and literature which examines how the Old Testament prophetic books communicate their moral teaching, with particular reference to the performative force of their rhetoric. The second section of the thesis presents a descriptive analysis of the ethical ideologies in the book of Isaiah. It is concluded that the root of sin for Isaiah is the failure to acknowledge God. The thesis then proceeds to consider the conduct of the deity with regard to the ethical demands he makes of Israel, and finds that, while he is not evil or immoral, he fails to attain the standard he establishes for his people. There is a distinct double standard in operation. The inevitable result of such failure is the undermining of either the ethical system, the status of Yahweh, or both. The final chapters seeksome explanation for Yahweh's conduct. Evidence to suggest the book is conscious of the difficult moral position of the deity is presented and analysed, and it is concluded that the double standard demonstrably in operation is a deliberate rhetorical device and even a necessary result of Isaiah's religious beliefs. Isaiah's monotheism demands that God cannot be bound or restricted in any way, and righteousness for Yahweh is defined simply by what he does. Isaiah's God could never adhere to Isaianic ethics, because his actions continually redefine them. This has the unfortunate but necessary side-effect of destabilising Isaiah's ethical system. The thesis concludes with a short autobiographic-critical study of the place of the Bible in the Christian faith and the problems it poses.