Review of Reed Lessing’s Isaiah 40-55 Commentary
The Review of Biblical Literature, a publication of the Society of Biblical Literature, published a very positive review of Prof. Reed Lessing’s commentary on Isaiah 40-55 in the Concordia Commentary Series. The entire review is available here, but I’ll provide a few of the highlights and save you the trouble of clicking. The review was written by Alphonso Groenewald of the University of Pretoria (South Africa). The Society of Biblical Literature is an international society of biblical scholars from a very wide range of schools and perspectives. Most members of the exegetical department of Concordia Seminary participate in the annual meetings, held each November.
The reviewer notes that Lessing focuses, in good Lutheran fashion, on the Gospel:
For [Lessing], most of these commentaries followed the historical-critical approach with discussions dominated by redactional explanations and reconstructions of Israel’s history (4). According to Lessing, these discussions imply that construing a meaning for today is left aside, and little is offered for individual Christians or for the life of the church. An interpretation of Isa 40–55 from a “confessional Lutheran perspective” is thus necessary. This commentary sees in Isaiah a river rushing toward the New Testament’s proclamation of the gospel. The prophet’s promises are fulfilled in Jesus Christ, indicating that “Jesus’s gospel is essentially Isaiah’s gospel” (2).
Regarding the important issue of the identity of the “Servant” in Isaiah, the review notes:
Israel, as the unfaithful servant, needs to be saved by the faithfulness of the Second Servant, just as the first Adam had to be saved by the obedience of the Second Adam (88). Lessing infers that Isa 40–55, like the rest of the Old Testament, moves forward toward the final redemption in Christ. Therefore, the message of Isaiah is also the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the release of the Israelite captive from Babylon is a smaller type of the greater reality to come.
The review concludes:
Isaiah 40—55 will be accessible for scholars, students, and lay readers. This commentary, as is the Concordia Commentary Series, is confessional and indicates that it is intended specifically for a confessional readership…Lessing’s commentary carries out the mission of this series, and students of Isaiah who are looking for this type of confessional commentary will add this one to their collection.
Review of Biblical Literature has also published reviews of other titles by Reed and members of the faculty of Concordia Seminary: