The servant in Isaiah 52 and 53 is one of the most intriguing figures in the prophetic Scriptures. The questions are many, the interpretations are diverse, and the answers always seem to be different. Some have looked to this text in search of Jesus, others to reclaim Israel’s role in the world, and some to find a historical explanation for this prophetic text that seems to have no precedence.
Many have stood in awe of the prophecy about the servant in Isaiah 52:13–53:12—either because of its lack of theological precedence in ancient literature, or because of the parallels between the servant and the portrayal of Jesus of Nazareth in the Gospels.
However, in the past thirty years, there has been little examination of the servant’s possible resurrection in Isaiah 53:10–12. Harry M. Orlinsky and R. N. Whybray’s interpretations, in particular, have been cited as disproving the resurrection in Isaiah 53. Despite Orlinsky’s and Whybray’s interpretations being cited multiple times as as evidence again resurrection in Isaiah 53:10–12, participant reference in discourse analysis, a method pioneered since their works were written, suggests otherwise. The Resurrected Servant in Isaiah re-evaluates the scholarly consensus about the resurrected servant and proposes a new interpretation.
John Barry’s exegesis of Isaiah 52:13-53:12, a crucial text for Christian apologetics, is brilliant: well researched and cogently argued. Step by step he convincingly demonstrates that the prophet proclaims to the Babylonian exiles an individual servant who offers his life as a sin offering and is raised from the dead. His book will be my first port of call when studying this great text.
—Bruce Waltke, Professor of Old Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary and co-author of An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax and An Old Testament Theology
Few passages in the Bible can rival the suffering Servant Song of Isaiah 53 for inspiring both wonder and controversy. Yet John Barry’s monograph is one of the few books in the last thirty years to re-examine its range of interpretations and to challenge the views held by leading scholars. This is a must-read for all interested in a vigorous argument that, even within the horizons of the Old Testament itself, the most coherent reading of verses 10-12 is that this servant is an individual who, by virtue of his bearing the sin of 'the many' as a sacrificial offering, shall see 'light' in his resurrection from death.
—Craig C. Broyles, Professor, Religious Studies, Trinity Western University and co-editor of Writing and Reading the Scroll of Isaiah
John Barry is that rare individual who is both a good scholar and a good writer. His work on resurrection in the book of Isaiah is both well written and raises and answers many intriguing questions. No one who desires to study the Jewish understanding of the resurrection before the New Testament can afford to bypass this work.
—Samuel Lamerson, Dean of Faculty and Professor of New Testament at Knox Theological Seminary
John Barry’s forthcoming book on the 'servant' in Isaiah offers a fresh look at the question of the identity of the so-called servant and his suffering. In a scholarly debate dominated for several decades by Orlinsky and Whybray, Barry works within the data of the text itself to suggest an alternative interpretation. He claims that the prophetic oracle foretells a resurrection of the suffering servant centuries before the New Testament would make the identical claim. Restricting his research to the four corners of the Isaiah document itself, Barry offers a cogent, well written, and very well researched argument that invites a new look at the role of Isaianic prophecy in the history of the tradition of suffering servant interpretation.
—Warren A. Gage, Th.M., J.D., Ph.D. Professor of Old Testament and Christianity and Culture at Knox Theological Seminary
John Barry makes an intriguing and appealing case that the mysterious ‘suffering servant’ in Isaiah fulfills his vocation through resurrection. Barry engages the contrary established arguments of Orlinsky and Whybray in depth and detail, and counters them by applying the insights of participatory reference discourse analysis to a close reading of Isaiah 52:13–53:12 in its final form. Readers of The Resurrected Servant in Isaiah will rediscover the hope of resurrection that was alive among the Judean exiles as they looked forward to restoration and reconciliation with their God.
—Christopher R. Smith, author of After Chapters and Verses and consulting editor of The Books of The Bible: A Presentation of Today's New International Version
Given that many question or outright deny that Jesus could be the Servant of Isaiah 52–3, it is no surprise that Christians struggle to understand why Christ would rebuke His contemporaries for failing to understand the Scriptures. In The Resurrected Servant, Barry provides a detailed investigation of an important disputed element of the longest Servant Song, namely, was the Servant resurrected? Without rancor and in irenic fashion, Barry answers, Yes, the Servant did rise from the dead. Though Barry avoids specifically identifying the Servant, Christians will easily be able to connect the Servant to Christ. Those wishing to engage the exegetical evidence should not neglect this text.
—Stephen M. Vantassel, Dean of Students in Theology, King’s Evangelical Divinity School
John Barry provides a thoughtful and nuanced discussion of the shifting identities and roles of the servants within Isaiah 40–55. In contrast to many recent studies he demonstrates that the servant of Isaiah 52:13–53:12 is likely an individual. This book will be helpful to anyone interested in the servant passages of Isaiah.
—Charles Halton, Instructor of Old Testament Interpretation, Southern Seminary
Is reading resurrection in the words of Isaiah 53:10-12 merely 'a view imposed upon the text by Christian theologians'? Not so says John D. Barry, in this rethinking of Isaiah 52:13-53:12. By challenging a long-held assumption, he offers here a bold reassessment of the prophet’s enigmatic servant language that rewards careful reading and is sure to re-energize conversations about this long-contested passage.
—Michael J. Gilmour, Providence College (Canada), author of The Significance of Parallels Between 2 Peter and Other Early Christian Literature
“This method of participatory reference discourse analysis presents an alternative to viewing the pronouns as ambiguous, suggesting that in the final form of the text they serve as referential points to earlier thoughts and themes articulated by the speaker (who will also be called ‘the prophet’ in this book).” (Page 12)
“The argument that will be presented will diverge significantly from the interpretations of Orlinsky and Whybray, proposing that the servant is resurrected in Isa 53:10–12, and arguing that the servant may indeed have suffered vicariously.” (Page 5)
John D. Barry is the CEO and Founder of Jesus' Economy, a non-profit dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. He also serves as a missionary with Resurrect Church Movement, the domestic division of Jesus' Economy dedicated to equipping U.S. churches to alleviate poverty and plant churches. John is the general editor of Faithlife Study Bible and Lexham Bible Dictionary. He has authored or edited over 30 books, including The Resurrected Servant in Isaiah, Cutting Ties with Darkness, and the daily devotional Connect the Testaments. John formerly served as founding publisher of Lexham Press and is the former editor-in-chief of Bible Study Magazine. John speaks internationally on engaging the Bible, poverty, and spreading the gospel.