The Fatal Flaw in Deutero-Isaiah

I get a lot of traffic on the Deutero-Isaiah hypothesis, having written on it here, and performing more analysis here.

Nevertheless, some people cling to the unproven idea, and ignore the fatal flaw.

One complaint is I haven’t spent years reading hundreds of pages of analysis, and dismiss their ideas without doing enough “scholarly” work. I hear this complaint with evolution as well; the you-don’t-know-because-you’re-not-a-scholar usually comes last from people who can no longer defend their ideas.

I’m reminded of Richard Feynman. When asked to explain a difficult advanced concept, he replied “I’ll prepare a freshman lecture on it.” Later he said he couldn’t do it, he couldn’t reduce it to the freshman level, that means we really don’t understand it.

Hiding behind stacks of paper isn’t sound research. In Physics we call that “hand-waving” — trying to hide doggy poo behind equations, big terms, and quantity of paper, hoping nobody notices.

When appeals are made to “you don’t really get it, it’s complex,” that’s a good indicator of hand-waving, and the last resort of people refusing to face the truth.

The multiple Isaiah theory depends on analyzing style — vocabulary, sentence structure, mood, etc. A fact is different writings have different style.

However, it’s opinion and speculation those differences prove multiple authorship.

The Deutero-Isaiah fans must explain why 27.347% differences mean a single author, but 27.348% means two (or more), and why 27.347% is the dividing line in the first place.

They might claim no specific number exists, but claim the body of evidence says too many inconsistencies prove multiple authors. Hand-waving — when does the “body of evidence” tip the scale from a single author to multiple? If they can’t provide an exact number (which also works in other author analysis) it’s an admission their theory is guesswork.

In the end, they guess multiple authors (let’s call them F, S, and C for first author, second author, and compiler), but have no idea who F, S, and C are, why they forged the book, when they lived, and why nobody knows who they are.

Great theory — guesswork and speculation.

Consider a parallel example. I’m planning on building the largest, most luxurious skyscraper ever. I’ve spent years with architects, engineers, and designers creating thousands of pages of specifications, calculations, and drawings.

One more thing you should know. I’ve decided to build on an unstable swamp filled with muck and mud.

What do you think? Would you spend years looking at the design? Or just say nothing you do will work, because the foundation can’t support it?

No, no, no! You’ve got to look at my drawings! You must consider the mountains of work! These are smart people! Everyone believes it!

Well, maybe, but you can’t build on an unproven foundation, no matter how much paper you throw at it.

Argh! You’re such a pathetic simpleton. Look at the experts. Challenge their studies, if you can — you’re no student of skyscrapers, what do you know?

Um, why take the time, don’t you know unstable swampland won’t support a huge building? You’ve started with a poor foundation.

Exactly the same exchanges occur with Deutero-Isaiah fans. All the so-called scholarship in the world can’t hide they have no idea how many changes are required to “prove” multiple authors.

It’s possible for two documents to be similar, but from different authors, and it’s possible for one person to write at different times, with different moods, on different subjects, with quite large differences.

Where does the dividing line exist? Do studies exist proving the dividing line happens at 35.2845% of some set of changes? Of course not. Absent that critical piece of information, they’ve got nothing.

It’s guesswork, speculation, and opinion how much change is allowed, and since these people already have a bias towards multiple authors for Isaiah, they’ll see what they want to, a logical problem called confirmation bias.

To be reasonable for consideration proponents of multiple-Isaiah theories must supply other evidence. Who are the three or four guys involved writing and compiling Isaiah they claim existed? When did they live? Why did they forge the book? That’s a good place to start.

Once they can show who F, S, and C are, adding to it style analysis their theory might begin to have some merit.

I’m waiting.

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