Disability and Isaiah's Suffering Servant
Although disability imagery is ubiquitous in the Hebrew Bible, characters with disabilities are not. The presence of the former does not guarantee the presence of the later. While interpreters explain away disabilities in specific characters, they celebrate the rhetorical contributions that disability imagery makes to the literary artistry of biblical prose and poetry, often as a trope to describe the suffering or struggles of a presumably nondisabled person or community. This situation contributes to the appearance (or illusion) of a Hebrew Bible that uses disability as a rich literary trope while disavowing the presence of figures or characters with disabilities. Isaiah 53 provides a wonderful example of this dynamic at work. The "Suffering Servant" figure in Isaiah 53 has captured the imagination of readers since very early in the history of biblical interpretation. Most interpreters understand the servant as an otherwise able bodied person who suffers. By contrast, Jeremy Schipper's study shows that Isaiah 53 describes the servant with language and imagery typically associated with disability in the Hebrew Bible and other ancient Near Eastern literature. Informed by recent work in disability studies from across the humanities, it traces both the disappearance of the servant's disability from the interpretative history of Isaiah 53 and the scholarly creation of the able bodied suffering servant.
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Disabling Progress in Suffering Servant Scholarship
1 Disabling Methodology in Hebrew Bible Studies
2 The Servant as a Figure with Disabilities
3 The Servant as Scriptural Sufferer
4 The Servant as Historical or Collective Sufferer
The Servant as AbleBodied Passer
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1QIsaa able-bodied sufferer ancient Near Eastern appearance Begrich Blenkinsopp Book of Isaiah century Chapter Commentary connects context David Dead Sea Scrolls depicts describes the servant Deutero-Isaiah diagnosis disability imagery Disability Studies discussion disease divine Duhm Duhm’s eunuch example exile Exod experience of disability figure with disabilities genre Greek Gunkel healing Hebrew Bible Hebrew word identify the servant illness imagery in Isaiah impairment individual song infertility injury interpret the servant Isaiah 53 Isaiah 53 describes Israel Israelite Janowski Jehoiachin Jeremiah Jeremy Schipper Jesus Karl Budde King Leviticus LORD medical model Messiah metaphor Mettinger Moses otherwise able-bodied passage persons with disabilities presumably able-bodied prophet Psalm reference scholars scholarship Second Isaiah Septuagint servant in Isaiah servant’s condition servant’s disability servant’s experience servant’s suffering skin anomaly social experience song of thanksgiving Suffering Servant Targum Testament texts Theology tion typological University Press Uzziah verses Whybray Zion