Final Exam: Isaiah 6.1-18

Essay Question: Many very intelligent Christians and Jews recognize that this passage, read in the Catholic Church’s Lectionary on July 14, is not literally true. Many would, say King Uzziah may not have been authentic either.

But the same people think that a man named Jesus, from Galilee, was executed by crucifixion during the procuratorship of Pontius Pilate.  What do you think?  

Please submit your 500 word response in flawless biblical Hebrew or acceptable Hellenistic Greek.  Replies that do not conform to this instruction will  not be accepted.


In the year King Uzziah died,
I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne,
with the train of his garment filling the temple.
Seraphim were stationed above; each of them had six wings:
with two they veiled their faces,
with two they veiled their feet,
and with two they hovered aloft.

They cried one to the other,
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts!
All the earth is filled with his glory!”
At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook
and the house was filled with smoke.

Then I said, “Woe is me, I am doomed!
For I am a man of unclean lips,
living among a people of unclean lips;
yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me,
holding an ember that he had taken with tongs from the altar.

He touched my mouth with it and said,
“See, now that this has touched your lips,
your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
“Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”
“Here I am,” I said; “send me!”

18 thoughts on “Final Exam: Isaiah 6.1-18

  1. Νομίζω ότι είναι δυνατόν ο Ιησούς δεν υπήρξε. Κατά τη γνώμη μου, μπορεί να είναι ελαφρώς πιο πιθανό από ό, τι δεν έκανε ότι, παρόλο που ο ίδιος δεν μπορεί, στην πραγματικότητα, έχουν υπάρξει.

      • One of our translators must be faulty, since I didn’t type that. 🙂

        What I said was that I think it slightly more likely than not that he may have existed, though on the other hand, he may not have. I’ve actually stopped caring. 🙂

      • @David–I hope you’ll find time to write and comment! Your loss here will take the the intellectual level down several degrees, and I thoroughly enjoy your input, discussion, wit and debate!! 😦

      • Nonresponsive to the question. The grade stands. And no one needs to care; what people need to care about is distinguishing ancient myth from ancient myth-laden history.

  2. Ἀντίκειται ἡ Δοκεται. Δοκέω Ἰησοῦς ΜΟΝΟΝ ἴχους καταλιπὼν.

    Not 500 words, but I’m just auditing.

  3. I do not want to be controversial but, independently of King Uzziah may not been authentic,or the story not literally true, for intelligent Christians, or, Jews. This, is a dream, a spiritual revelation from Isaiah, it has little to do with 8Th century BC historical truth, or Myth in the sense of allegory, or a moral tale, but with Isaiah personal revelation with it’s symbolic spiritual dream character. That lots of people believe in a historical Jesus, rather than in an allegorical one, bear little comparability between one, or the other. They may be some who dismiss dreams as nonsense, therefor think of Isaiah 6. 1-18 a myth, I don’t, in fact, for most spiritual seekers of any religion, or belief, dreams are of paramount importance as a guide, and a measure of progress, and realization on the spiritual life. Therefor Isaiah words, “Here I am,”I said; “send me!”

    • @Burningheart: Of course it is not called a “myth” in the question; and it is debatable whether “revelations” and ecstatic visions are the same as “dreams”, but yes that is a quibble. Are you sure there is no myth here? Read Psalm 18 where we learn more about the story (myth) of Yahweh and his court and chariot and attendants. Isaiah uses much of the same furniture; so did the designers of the Temple. You are using “myth” in the mythicist way, to mean “made up”–but that is not the way scholars of religion and anthropologists use it. Thus the confusion. The key is the etiology: whether a story tries to explain the origin or justification of something. This is a preparation story which explains why Isaiah thinks he is a prophet having been cleansed of his human imperfections to speak “divine” things. The revealed experience is a justification for his calling-in the same way, it would appear, Paul’s is the justification for his apostleship. There is certainly a myth here, just as there is in Matthew 4.1-11.

    • I have a feeling I’m going to regret delving back into this…..but…..

      To some extent Uzziah versus Jesus is presenting a false dichotomy. Maybe one is an apple and the other a pear. Truly, does Uzziah’s likely historicity have any bearing on Jesus’?

      Sometimes, I prefer to define a category ‘people who were thought to have existed but may not actually have’. This would bring in a host of comparisons, including figures thought to have existed fairly soon after their supposed demise, and even while they were still alive (Betty Crocker comes to mind). There are many others. religious examples might include Prester John, John Frum, and arguably most intersting of all, Muhammad al mahdi, the ‘Tewlfth Imam’, whose arrival, a bit like Jesus’ would signal ‘end times’ (or something akin to it) for Shia muslims. He was first written about, as I understand it, within about 90 years of his birth, in a story about his speech, aged 5, at his father (the eleventh Imam’s) funeral. After that, he went down a well and communicated with followers through messengers. This disappearance was known as the ‘Occultation’ and has certain advantages and certain disadvantages, as an exit strategy, over death on a cross. 🙂

      His ‘biography’ acquired many ‘mythical’ elements, including his having spoken from the womb and an ability to appear and disappear at will.

      Actual existence questionable.

  4. Ecstatic visions, revelations, or dreams may be arguably different in perception, and since usually are of an individual nature, who could said their difference but the individual choice of words to define them, and pass them to us, however they are not different in substance. As for the same iconography (furniture) it is common for members of the same religion, or beliefs to use the furniture of the house (archetypes) common to their beliefs, Black Elk visions contain different symbolical elements particular to Native American spirituality, Sanatha Dharma individuals, have visions about Krishna, Shiva, etc. Not about Yahweh, Chariots, Seraphim, etc. I do not believe this is a copy of books as the mythicist may argue, at reading similar iconography, meaning they are borrowing elements to their own “story.” I believe I understand the problem, and confusion with the word myth, it should not be as the mythicist understand it, so I agree with you, and apologize for my misuse of the term. And I agree also with your interpretation of Isaiah, or Paul revelation, but not as a justification story made up deliberately for those who may question them, but a valid one since it was their mystical experience, be this a vision, or a dream, that empower them, to follow their calling.

  5. Present understanding by our top NT scholars, of origins of post-“Easter” Jesus traditions. The term “Christian origins” is anachronistic. Jesus traditions did not begin with Christianity, the term Christian was first used of Paul and Barnabus mission in Antioch, it was never used of the Jerusalem Jesus Movement. The significant period of origins is 30 CE – 65 CE, before Christianity, before the Gospels, partly before Paul. For this period “there were two sphers of tradition, distinguished both by their concepts and by their history. The centre of the one sphere is the passion kerygma; the centre of the other is the intention to take up again the proclamation of the Jesus’s message. The Q material belongs to the second sphere. The concept of the passion kerygma remained outside of this sphere. Thus the Q material proved to be an independent source of Christological cognition”. (H. E. Todt) The first, “the other sphere”, is the Jerusalem Jesus Movement led first by key disciples; “the one sphere” the passion kerygma, led by a group of Hellenist Jews with their notion that Jesus’ significance was the salvific effects of his death and resurrection as a sacrifice for mankind’s sins which abrogated the Torah. For Temple authorities this was treason, setting off an insurrection driving the group out of Palestine. Paul is introduced as a sympathetic participant. As persecutor he had his “vision” conversion experience to this group on the road to Damascus where the Hellenist group ended up. It was from this group that he received his passion Kerygma. Paul took his Christ myth passion gospel to the Gentile world to sever Jesus from his message and his Jewish roots. This was met with great success to become Christianity, its Scriptural source being the writings of the NT all written in the context of the Christ of faith myth. As winners in the struggle for dominance, all too soon they could label the Jesus Movement heresy to remove it from the pages of history. This is but a sketch, for further details see my reconstruction of origins Ed Jones Dialogue – Vridar. Yes of all places!
    Present historical methods and knowledge force the recognition that the writings of the New Testament are not reliable sources for knowledge of the man Jesus. They are written in the context of the Christ of faith a mythical entity which, when conflated with the man Jesus, radically distorts Jesus historical identity, even to question if he existed. The secular critic uses the very same NT sources equally as dogmatic as the fundamentalist, with the assumption that they are our sole scriptural sources for knowledge of Jesus, however different their respective conclusions .
    The real issue for knowledge of the man Jesus is the task of identifying the NT source which contains the original and originating witness to the Jesus of history. This is not the matter of looking behind the narrative tradition, or circular reasoning, it is the task of identifying our most certain source of apostolic witness, a Scriptural source which is entirely independent of the writings of the NT, ”a task to which specialized knowledge in the areas of philology, form and redaction criticism, literary criticism, history of religions, and New Testament theology necessarily applies, – – demanding of the scholar not as little care, a great deal of time, and a considerable degree of intellectual abstinence.” (Betz). (“Intellectual abstinence” implies a radical rethinking of long held consensus convictions). I recognize this understanding primarily in the works of NT scholars Schubert M. Ogden, James M. Robinson, Hans Dieter Betz, and Merrill P. Miller.

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