In this video (around 31:40) Christine Hayes explains that the Great Isaiah Scroll from Qumran includes an indication by the scribe that a break was recognized between Chapter 39 and Chapter 40.

According to the transcript, she states,

Among the scrolls that were found in the caves at Qumran near the Dead Sea, we have a very large and very famous Isaiah scroll, which is now in a museum in Jerusalem. On the scroll there is a gap after Isaiah 39, and a new column starts with Isaiah 40. So it seems to signal some sort of implicit recognition that there's a difference between these two sections. They are not the same unit, not the same author perhaps.

I was surprised by this because my impression (from where?) was that there was no evidence from antiquity of a Jewish tradition separating these books.

I was attempting to to figure out what this looks like and to what extent it is distinguished from section markings within the portion consistently attributed to the 8th C. prophet. This amazing website has beautiful pictures of 1QIsaa. The division between Chapters 39 and 40 is, in 1QIsaa numbering, between 32:27 and 32:28. It appears to me that 32:28 (= 40:1) is actually on the final line of a column:

נחמו נחמו עמי יואמר אלוהיכמה
Comfort comfort my people says your God (40:1)

דברו על לב ירושלים וקראו אליהא
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her (40:2ab)

Then a new column (33, after what appears to be a normal break necessitated by space):

כיא מלא צבאה
That (?) her warfare is ended... (40:2c...)

Am I looking at the wrong document, or reading it wrong, or what is she talking about? Is there indeed an indication that the scribe recognized Isaiah 40 and following as somehow separate from the preceding chapters?

  • 1
    Fred Moeller has an image of 1QIsa1 (on this webpage) displaying the break between chapters 39-40. He also offers his insight into the "derby hat" in his comments here.
    – user862
    Dec 30, 2015 at 8:10
  • 1
    Thanks, very helpful! (Not a new column, as indicated in the video, and presumably not original to the scroll (?), and not clear to me that it was intended as something other than a normal section break just like others within continuous text -- clearly, this is a thematic section break -- but this is at least starting to make sense.)
    – Susan
    Dec 30, 2015 at 8:16
  • That website is very cool. It seems looking at the scroll that there are all sorts of margin marks throughout (maybe this was student scribe's scroll?) and given that there are 5 other "derby hats," it seems unlikely that they indicate different authorship or even different themes. I wonder if they mark the beginning and/or ends of the haftarot of the Qumran community. Dec 30, 2015 at 13:17
  • Tov (I'm sure) will talk about this somewhere in here (also on his site), but I don't know where.
    – Dɑvïd
    Dec 30, 2015 at 13:22
  • 2
    The only distinctive gap I can see is an entire line break just before 41.12 in Column XXXIV. I don't see any significant breaks between chapters 39 and 40 in Column XXXII. (Screenshot for reference.) If I had to guess, Hayes is simply mistaken.
    – user2910
    Dec 30, 2015 at 18:21

2 Answers 2


In a 2013 interview with Dr Peter Flint, who is an editor on the Isaiah scroll, he had the following to say about the issue:

Many scholastic studies tell us that the book of Isaiah was divided into two parts: First Isaiah by Isaiah of Jerusalem (chapters 1–39) and Second Isaiah by a writer living after the Hebrews returned from captivity in Babylon (chapters 40–66). As a reaction to these kinds of studies, many people ask the question, “Is there a division in the Great Isaiah Scroll between chapters 1–39 and chapters 40–66?” And the answer is: No. There is no division at that point.

However, what is very interesting is that the Great Isaiah Scroll is neatly divided into two parts: chapters 1–33 and chapters 34–66. Some scholars are now beginning to think, “Maybe the original division of Isaiah was between chapters 33 and 34.”


Biblical commentator Alec Motyer comes to the same conclusion:

There is, however, no external, manuscriptal authority for the separate existence at any time of any of the three supposed divisions of Isaiah. In the case of the first Isaiah manuscript from the Dead Sea Scrolls (Qa), for example, 40:1 begins on the last line of the column which contains 38:9–39:8

Motyer, J. A. The prophecy of Isaiah: An introduction & commentary. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 1996. “2. Isaiah as Author.”

So unless someone can provide some scholarly sources otherwise, I think it's safe to say Hayes simply made a mistake in this instance.

  • This article from this question about linguistic fingerprinting proves interesting, stating, Similarly, the book of Isaiah is largely thought to have been written by two distinct authors, with the second author taking over after Chapter 39. The software's results agreed that the book might have two authors, but suggested the second author's section actually began six chapters earlier, in Chapter 33. Sep 16, 2016 at 23:46
  • 1
    @JamesShewey Interesting.... FWIW I think that in "traditional" authorship discussions the words of Isaiah of Jerusalem do end at Chapter 32 (minus 24-27, etc.). Chapters 34-35 go with 2nd Isa., 36-39 refer to Isaiah in the third person, and 33.... is 33.
    – Susan
    Sep 17, 2016 at 2:49

Go look at the scroll yourself (IQIsaA), and pan over to the end of chapter 39:8 WHERE YOU WILL SEE IT BLUR RIGHT ON INTO 40:1 ON THE VERY SAME LINE.

There is NO break there because the scribes themselves did not think, "There should be a break here as this is OBVIOUSLY written by someone else".

The reason for reservation by self-professed scholars is because THERE IS NO ROOM FOR PROPHECY IN A MATERIAL REALM DEVOID OF HOLY GOD. So they argue the latter portion must have been written well after Isaiah had passed away post-exile/return of Israel to Jerusalem.

Yet the same book of Isaiah, from which we get scroll IQIsaA dated no later than 40 BC and most likely between 350-150BC, contains the prophetic visions of 'The Suffering Servant' - The Messiah Jesus Christ. And not only are these prophetic, accurate, descriptive passages regarding the life, suffering, and atoning sacrifice upon the cross for OUR SINS, BUT THEY ARE FOUND IN CHAPTERS 52 and 53 IN THE LATTER PORTION OF ISAIAH you all wish to believe was written during the SIXTH CENTURY. THAT'S STILL 500 YEARS BEFORE JESUS CHRIST MANIFESTED HIMSELF UPON THE EARTH.

So the very bias against Isaiah having a single author is based upon prophecies within when prophecies within were surely fulfilled!

  • 4
    The other answer says the same thing as your answer does with regard to a break between Isaiah 39 and 40, but manages to do so more respectfully than your answer. If you have a problem with your answers getting deleted, you can bring it up on meta rather than asking a question on the main site
    – b a
    Oct 25, 2018 at 22:23
  • Can you add a screenshot showing the particular part of the scroll in question?
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 26, 2018 at 0:34
  • 1 Peter 3:15: "... but your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect". Your answer and comments are condescending, disrespectful and rude, and are not helpful or in keeping with the instructions in this text. Oct 28, 2018 at 5:28
  • Right, because both Christ and the Apostles always responded to scoffers and skeptics and those who maligned God with gentleness and respect. That's obviously an ideal, but not always the case. How many have you convinced here, EJoshuaS with all your gentleness? What's your take on the Isaiah scroll or the original? Two authors? A separation? Above Mark Edward GRACIOUSLY points out as you say I did that there is no gap between 39 and 40. But he concludes with "Hayes was simply mistaken," No she wasn't! Look at her audaciousness in her lecture! She's purposefully deceiving people! Oct 29, 2018 at 21:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.