The Influence of Isaiah on the Gospel of John

I have attempted to account for all the ways that the language of the book of Isaiah has influenced the words of the Gospel of John, and that attempt has now appeared in print in the journal Perichoresis, published by Emmanuel University of Oradea in Romania.

The journal’s website is here, and you can read my article here. To download just my article rather than the whole journal, click here.

I do not think for a moment that I have exhausted the ways that Isaiah has influenced John, but this article does attempt a beginning at the correspondences between the language used by the two books.

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  1. Hello there – Thank you for your article. I know this post is a bit dated at this point, but I just stumbled across it today. Do you think that there may also be connections between John 12 and Isaiah 2? Here are a few that, when considered together, seem to make me think something is going on. The main connection I am curious about is number 1 below, but the other connections may strengthen it.

    1. Lifting up and drawing people – In John 12:32, Jesus says he will be lifted up and draw all people to himself. Is this connected to Isaiah 2:2, which says, “it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.” Could there be a connection between Jesus and Mt. Zion?

    2. God’s glory – In John 12:23-29 the emphasis here is on God’s glory. Jesus speaks of the hour that he will be glorified (12:23) and requests the Father to glorify his name (12:28). Isaiah 2 is all about the humbling of men and the exaltation of God’s name so that “the Lord alone will be exalted in that day” (2:11, 17).

    3. Walking in the light – John 12:35 says, “the light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light…” Isaiah 2:5 says, “let us walk in the light of the Lord.” There may also be a the connection of light and the law/commands: John 12:46-47 (“I have come into the world as light…if anyone hears my words and does not keep them…”)and Isaiah 2:3, 5 (“out of Zion shall go the law/teaching…let us walk in the light of the Lord”)

    Although more loosely connected, the themes of esteeming men are both present (John 12:43; Isaiah 2:22 and the theme throughout). The theme of judgment, although used differently is here as well (John 12:31; Is. 2:4)

    I would be very curious if you have any thoughts. I have checked a few commentaries without any affirmation of this. Thank you!

    – Drew

  2. Drew,

    Thanks for your note!

    If I were to re-do that study today, I would want to spend as much time in the Greek translation of Isaiah as I spent in the Hebrew of Isaiah before writing that article. There’s a lot more work to be done. . .

    But where I would start would be to look for specific linguistic connections between the language of the Greek and Hebrew Isaiah and the language of John.

    Sorry I’m not more help on these points!


  3. Hi. I’m reading your study about Isaiah in John and I think I may be able to develop one of your points. You say that Jesus is not called The Rock in John (although you mention John 19:34) but this might not be quite the case because the citation at 7:38 ‘Streams of living water will flow from within him’ also shares the Mosaic theme with 6:31. Since Moses provided bread and water, it was surmised that the Messiah would also provide them. Thirst is a recurrent theme in Isaiah and the Psalms, and since the LXX translates Isaiah 55:1 in the future tense, it may form the basis for Jesus’ appeal to complement the quotation in 7:38. Therefore the whole sequence works together with
    elements from Isaiah 48:21 and Psalm 78:16-20 (which was used in John 6:31) which share the theme of the provision of water from the rock. 1 Corinthians 10:4 indicates that some envisaged the rock as travelling with Israel, and John identifies that rock as Christ. Since the OT ascribes the title ‘Rock’ to God (Genesis 49:24; Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 18:31) then Christ’s claim to quench thirst could be a claim to deity. Furthermore, Isaiah 44:3 and 44:8 liken water to the Spirit of Yahweh, so the possible application of similar phrases to Jesus (4:10; 7:38) is likewise significant since Yahweh quenches the thirst of the seeker according to Isaiah 41:17-18, Psalms 42:2 and 107:35.
    The source of this quotation is very hard to pin-point so it may instead be a summary of a teaching that John, or the Jews generally, believed to be taught by OT scripture. Most translators assume that the ‘quotation’ means that streams should flow from the believer, but it is possible that there is a chiastic parallel structure in John 7:38, so we should adjust the traditional punctuation so that the translation reads:
    “If anyone thirsts, may he come to me,
    And may he drink, the one believing in me”
    ‘The one believing’ is the subject, and is therefore the one who drinks. John then comments:
    As the scripture has said: ‘Rivers of living water will flow out of his (Jesus’) inside’.
    Therefore the scripture applies to Jesus, not the believer as is generally assumed because of the NA27 punctuation which is based on scribal tradition only, so may be legitimately challenged – we have to go back to the uncials. Of the many scriptures about living or flowing water, such as Psalm 105:41, many are also about the rock from which the water came. Therefore John could be identifying Jesus as the rock as part of his Mosaic replacement christology to follow the teaching about manna. Even though the traditional punctuation given to 7:38 does match the promise that water would spring from the believer (given to the Samaritan woman in 4:13-14) the revised punctuation is preferable since it suits John’s theme.
    However, it is unclear how John links κοιλια (guts or belly) with the rock. In Psalm 114:8, from the liturgy of the Tabernacles, the rock becomes a ‘spring’, which in Hebrew is y מַעְיָ
    (M.J.J. Menken, Old Testament, pp.200-201). The Aramaic for intestines, y מְעִי , shares the same consonants, and Menken thinks that, in accordance with exegetical principles in use at the time, the rock and the spring could be considered as equivalent. John, however, has taken the pointing from the Aramaic, and translated it as κιολια. Alternatively, if the Gospel was initially composed in Aramaic (albeit orally), this may be a translation error in the Greek (which would then no longer be our original scripture!) Menken also sees a link with the piercing of Jesus’ side, but John does not use κιολια in 19:34, and explains that the fulfilment will be the bestowal of the Holy Spirit after Jesus is glorified (19:30 or 20:22).
    If the word ζωντος (7:38) alludes to Zechariah 14:8, it introduces an eschatological tone with another link to the Feast of Tabernacles at which water libations were central. The living waters of Zechariah 14 flowed from Jerusalem, specifically from the Temple Mount (Ezekiel 47; Joel 4:18), so this also continues the theme of Temple replacement by saying that Jesus is the Temple Rock from which the rivers flow (Possibly alluded to in Revelation 21:22 and 22:1). The river, which transforms everything dead and barren (Ezekiel 47:8-10), can be understood as the influence of God’s word proceeding from Jerusalem in the Messianic Age (Isaiah 2:3) or as the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 44:3).
    This is a bit long for a comment but I must confess I cheated: its an adjusted cut-and-paste from my Masters essay. There is in fact more to it, so if you’re interested drop me a line.
    Bless, Gerry.

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