Cyrus the Great as the God of Israel in Isaiah 45: Intertextual Christology in Philippians 2. Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting, Intertextuality unit. December 2020

Lecture

It has long been argued that the so-called Christ hymn of Philippians 2:6-11 contains a significant element of intertextuality. For example, some have suggested that the humility of Christ should be understood as a reversal of Adam’s proud self-exaltation, while others have claimed that there are echoes of Isaiah’s suffering servant. These suggestions remain controversial, but most recent writers have recognized that the final verses of the hymn contain an echo of LXX Isaiah 45:23: “I swear by myself truly, and righteousness will surely come from my mouth, and my words will not be turned back, because every knee will bow to me and every tongue will confess to God…’” (Isa. 44:23 LXX). According to writers like Richard Bauckham, Paul, or the author of the hymn that Paul quotes, has taken a text that was originally about the God of Israel and audaciously applied it to Jesus. I wish to argue, however, that it was not simply a daring appropriation of an emphatically monotheistic text. I contend that on a relatively straightforward reading of LXX Isaiah 45, the messianic figure of Cyrus is identified with and as the God of Israel himself. Although I will not argue that this reading is one that the Septuagintal translators had in mind – although I don’t think it’s inconceivable that it was – I will argue that the allusion in Philippians makes the most sense when it is situated within a larger reading of Isaiah 45, a Christological interpretation that identifies Cyrus as both the messiah and as the God of Israel.

Service Performed By

Date

  • December 2020

Service or Event Name

  • Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting, Intertextuality unit