Reading in Context—An Interpretive Principle - Book of Mormon Isaiah

Reading in Context—An Interpretive Principle

Built into Isaiah’s prophecy—and indeed into all scripture—are two different ways one may interpret them. The first is superficial, presumptive, and conceited. The second is in-depth, inquiring, and unassuming. That is one way God divides people—“rendering void the knowledge of their sages and the intelligence of their wise men insignificant” (Isaiah 29:14)—when the truth finally comes out. Besides inheriting a Christian tradition that bears little resemblance to the religion of Jesus, the modern world has inherited an entire array of scriptural interpretations that don’t reflect what their texts actually say. Particularly is that the case with the writings of Isaiah.

One of the first principles of scriptural interpretation is to read everything in context—meaning you can’t isolate even one word, verse, or idea and let that become a point of focus without taking into account all its interconnections and word links to other parts of the text. In Isaiah’s case, however, that principle extends to the entire book, as all its components—literary patterns, typologies, codenames, keywords, and concepts—are interwoven into one grand tapestry. These mechanics of Isaiah’s prophecy, in other words, preclude the casual reader from coming to understanding, even as they inspire a kind of divine awe in the reader who unravels them.


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