My buddy Roy emailed me and asked if I had any thoughts on John’s use of Isaiah in John 12:38-41. The main thrust of his question was whether we should see the glory spoken of in John 12:41 as Christ’s preexistent glory (as YHWH), which Isaiah saw in Isaiah 6 or the Messiah’s ascended glory in the Suffering Servant passage (Isa. 52:13-53:12). Here was my response:
James White did a Dividing Line podcast and spent a lot of the program talking about this very subject. Here’s a link to the audio. He also posted some reference material to follow along with as the program progressed. As for my thoughts; I see Isaiah 6 as being primary here. The quotation from Isa. 6:9-10 in John 12:40 is the direct antecedent to John’s reference to Isaiah seeing his (i.e., Jesus’) glory in 12:41, which of course hearkens back to Isa. 6:1. But I’m gonna go past that and say that even though Isaiah 53:1 isn’t primary, it’s still obviously present, and John is still drawing from it. Notice in John 12:41 that John says, “Isaiah said these things (Gk. tauta) because he saw his glory and spoke of him.” What are these things (plural)? The things quoted from Isa. 53:1 and 6:9-10. So why couldn’t Isaiah have seen both Christ’s preexistent heavenly glory when he was seated upon a throne high and lifted (Heb. ram v’nisa [Isa. 6:1]) up and his ascended glory when he is high and lifted up (Heb. yarum v’nisa) and exalted (Isa. 52:13)?