New Book: Disability and Isaiah’s Suffering Servant by Jeremy Schipper

I am very pleased to announce a new book by friend and colleague Jeremy Schipper. Disability and Isaiah’s Suffering Servant is coming being published by OUP and is even reasonably priced! (Just $27.95.) I am sure I will be picking up a copy at SBL.


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.


  • Launch of the brand new Biblical Refigurations series which offers fresh perspectives on the textual, cultural, and interpretative contexts of individual biblical characters
  • Highlights the relevance of disability studies to the study of the biblical text
  • Engages research in disability studies from across the humanities to illuminate a very familiar passage in biblical studies
  • Reviews the history of scholarship on Isaiah 53 and presents a close reading that challenges frequent assumptions associated with the suffering servant
  • Written in a clear and accesible style well suited to introducing and explaining cross disciplinary findings relevant to the study of the biblical text

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