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Silencing the Martyr in Second Isaiah’s Suffering Servant

Estes, Elizabeth Colmant

The history of interpretation of Isaiah’s fourth or suffering servant song, Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12, illustrates how the Reformation tenet that Christ’s crucifixion provides redemption from sin suppressed two key gospel messages: 1) A call to acknowledge and repent the sin of our complicity in unjust persecution;
2) A call to join in social solidarity with people who are unjustly persecuted, by risking our own security to help them. In Christianity's first centuries, Origen of Alexandria’s interpretation recalled Jewish martyrs such as Eleazar in Maccabees and it is supported by the work of modern scholars including Stephen Patterson and Benjamin Sommer. However, when Martin Luther and John Calvin systematized Reformed theology, and their adherents formalized Reformed doctrine, a spiritualized, all-powerful, redeeming Christ replaced the very human martyr at the center of this text. Jesuit theologian Jon Sobrino’s interpretation is based on El Salvador’s martyrs in the 1980’s and echoes the themes of 20th and 21st century black liberation theology as propounded by James Cone and found in the essays of James Baldwin. Portions of the Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism and Cannons of Dort are considered. In its conclusion, this paper proposes that reintegrating a martyrology at the heart of Reformed Christianity would improve its faithfulness to this and related biblical texts.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Union Theological Seminary
Thesis Advisors
Cameron, Euan
Degree
M.Div., Union Theological Seminary
Published Here
August 2, 2017
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