Disability and Isaiah's Suffering Servant

Team Members/Contributors

Jeremy Schipper Temple University Contact Me

About this sabbatical grant for researchers

This grant will fund the completion of Disability and Isaiah’s Suffering Servant, a book project under contract with Oxford University Press. Isaiah’s “Suffering Servant” figure has captured the theological imagination of readers since very early in the history of biblical interpretation. Very few Old Testament passages have played a larger role in Christian theological reflections than Isaiah 53. Many readers may recognize this passage from the references to it throughout Christian Scripture or from its use in artistic classics such as Handel’s Messiah. Yet, very few recognize it as a biblical passage about a figure with disabilities. Instead, we tend to understand the servant as a nondisabled person who suffers. This book offers an alternative reading of the servant that shows how Isaiah 53 describes him with language and imagery typically associated with disability in ancient Near Eastern thought. Then, it traces the disappearance of the servant’s disability in the interpretative history of Isaiah 53 from second temple literature, Jewish-Christian dialogues in antiquity, up through contemporary critical scholarship. In conversation with disability studies from across the humanities, this book encourages increased awareness and critical reflection on the crucial role that disability plays in the Church’s exegetical traditions and our theological language.