This Jewish work tells of the prophet Isaiah's martyrdom by order of Judah's wicked king Manasseh. It follows the form that came to be characteristic of narrations of martyrdom, which have the following distinct characteristics: a good, prophetic figure foretells his or her own death; at the prompting of the devil, wicked people / prophets slander him or her; the ruler of the time follows evil; and the martyr is focused on God and, thus, indifferent to pain. Sharp contrasts between good and evil in the narrative evidence a dualistic emphasis. In the end, as Isaiah is sawed in two, he communes with the Holy Spirit.
The Martyrdom of Isaiah is part of a compilation preserved by Christians that includes the Vision of Isaiah and The Ascension of Isaiah. The martyrdom account is the oldest, distinctly Jewish, and makes up most of chapters 1-5. A later interpolation, the Testament of Hezekiah (3:13-4:22), is of Christian origin. The following chapters, 6-11 are a Christian appendix. They recount a visionary journey of Isaiah during the reign of Hezekiah - chronologically prior to the martyrdom account, in Manasseh's reign. The story's biblical basis for the elaboration is 2 Kings 20:16-21:18 and 2 Chronicles 32:32-33:20.
Canonical Status:Part of the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha
Author:Jewish Possibly related to the Essenes / Qumran community
Date:Probably in the second century BCE No later than the first century CE The Vision of Isaiah and The Ascension of Isaiah were later Christian additions to the text.
Original Language:Probably written in Hebrew Translated into Greek, from which the surviving translations were made Only extant fully in Ethiopic Fragments survive in Latin, Coptic, and Old Slavonic
Notes prepared by Kara Lyons (Senior Religion Major)
Wesley Center for Applied Theology
at Northwest Nazarene University
Copyright 2001 by the Wesley Center for Applied Theology
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