Lectionary Year B
Isaiah 60:1-6
January 6, 2003

IV: Broader Context


The earliest Christians read and heard of Isaiah devotedly. The Book(s) bearing this are frequently quoted and alluded to in the New Testament. G. Earnest Wright (LBC) states that "The prophetic hope in the New Creation is an expression of faith in the dependability of God. In the New Testament this hope was taken up in the Christian faith as the future which God had promised in the Parousia (the second coming of Christ)." In Matthew 8:11f and parallels and Revelation 21, we find believers awaiting the salvation that was dawning, as Goppelt terms it (Theology of the New Testament, II). Isaiah's Messianic Prophecies certainly added elements to help comprehend Jesus' nativity & advent. James L. Price (Interpreting the New Testament) contends that "it can be shown that Jesus' teaching, especially his teaching concerning the suffering of the Son of Man, reflects at numerous points the influence of the latter half of the Book of Isaiah." Of course the Servant Songs in Isaiah gave the first Christians a reference point toward understanding some of the facets of Jesus' passion and death.


This passage represents Old Testament theology's great respect for God, God the Creator, God the Sovereign Enlightener, God the Sovereign Victor. Some would call it, "God's Holiness" (Jacob & Buber, to name two who emphasize and entitle God's Sovereignty thus). Ancient Israel experienced God as Isaiah 60 reports. It is as good an example of Old Testament theology as any paragraph therein, especially poetry. The proclamation with which the pericope concludes amounted to a great anticipation of the proclamation of God's "eschatological ascent to the throne of dominion", as Goppelt calls it. Ancient Judaism recited the sentiments conveyed in this text readily and repeatedly. In Book 3 of the Sibylline Oracles, we read where God's indwelling brings "immortal light". Light is frequently a symbol of eternal hope and assured victory.

Greek speaking Jewish philosophers would resonate with the message of this . It would give them hope that the figure of light shining, engulfing and guiding would lead to declarations of good news. Positive eventualities appealed to the scattered Hellenists. They could envision the figure of light as from the sun shining on all their compatriots wherever they had gone. The image of the light's and the illuminated's magnetizing all people to their sight might trouble the Hellenists some, if they were happily situated out from Jerusalem and reluctant to return for such an observance. They could appreciate the Lord's initiative and activity among the peoples of the earth, though. They would also approve of the anticipated improvement of the quality of life as a result of God's light shining in, on & through people.

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