Today’s Old Testament lectionary reading is a litany of monotheistic-sounding statements spliced together from Isaiah 45. Or, at least in my seminary training I was taught to think in that manner. However, Daniel McClellan has a helpful post on why this is likely not the case HERE (If it looks familiar, I’ve linked to it once before). To bottom-line it, McClellan points out that the phrase “there is no other” and other statements like it are used elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible in such a way that they cannot really deny the existence of other entities in question. Furthermore, he points to instances of divine council language in Isaiah 40 and 45 (Same chapter as today’s reading – see verses 20 and 21. Verse 21 may actually give a hint to the meaning of the “there is no other” statements, namely “There is no just and saving God but me.” This is not a complete denial).
Yet without question many who heard or read the lectionary reading this morning will probably take these statements as monotheistic. And, I think that is somewhat disappointing, though I’m not sure that it will be remedied at the popular level any time soon. When I have discussed these issues with lay people it normally has given them a helpful awareness of how beliefs have developed over time even at a very core level and an awareness that our beliefs are still developing. I don’t think that it is that people within my tradition do not already have an awareness of that, but for them I think they typically think of development as dealing with smaller matters of discipline rather than more basic doctrinal matters, such as there being only one God. I think it gives some hope that even some of the very core elements of faith with which they struggle are open to change, at least to some degree.
Other Posts on Isaiah: