J. Severino Croatto’s Rereading of Empire in 
Isaiah 47

in Biblical Interpretation
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Anyone attempting to engage Latin America’s contributions to the field of biblical studies for the last fifty years cannot avoid the prolific scholarship of José Severino Croatto. His hermeneutical lens reflects a liberationist “rereading” strategy that ethically aims to privilege the lived experiences of oppressed and disenfranchised peoples of the world. Much of Croatto’s liberationist gaze focused on the Isaianic version of Israel’s “founding” message. Here, he oscillates between social critic and biblical exegete in a way that gives his rereading relevant specificity. As a case study into Croatto’s rereading of the materiality of empire in Isaiah, this essay interrogates his exegesis of empire in Isaiah 47 in order to better understand Croatto’s social critique of modern empire. In the end, Croatto’s assessment of empire has as its primary ethical concern the experiences of the oppressed people of Latin America. This explicit social obligation requires that he distill and sustain in full view the materiality of empire inscribed in Second Isaiah’s rhetoric. To achieve this, he harnesses a “sociopolítico” meaning within the text in such way that he makes accessible a theological rhetoric for critiquing the contemporary reality of empire.

J. Severino Croatto’s Rereading of Empire in 
Isaiah 47

in Biblical Interpretation




Fernando A. Cascante“Strengthening Bible Institutes and Church Leadership: A Partnership to Develop a Viable Certification Process,” Colloquy 20 (Spring 2012) pp. 24–25. According to a 2011 Pew Hispanic study between 2000 and 2010 the growth of the Latino population represented 56% of the population growth in the U.S.A. growing at a faster pace than the general population. See Flávia Cristina Drumond Andrade “Overview” in Jaqueline L. Angel Fernando Torres Gil and Kyriakos Markides (eds.) Aging Health and Longevity in the Mexican-Origin Population (New York NY: Springer 2012) p. 186.


J. Severino CroattoBiblical Hermeneutics: Toward a Theory of Reading as the Production of Meaning (trans. Robert R. Barr; New York: Orbis Books1987) p. 40. See also Croatto Isaías Vol. 2 p. 20; J. Severino Croatto “ Latin America” in Virginia Fabella and R.S. Sugirtharajah (eds.) The SCM Dictionary of Third World Theologies (London: SCM Press 2003) p. 25); J. Severino Croatto “Exegesis of Second Isaiah from the Perspective of the Oppressed” in Fernando F. Segovia and Mary Ann Tolbert (eds.) Reading from This Place Vol. 2: Social Location and Biblical Interpretation in Global Perspective (Minneapolis: Fortress Press 1995) p. 220.


CroattoBiblical Hermeneutics pp. 37–38.


Croatto“The Function of the Non-fulfilled Promises” p. 38.


Croatto“Inequity as Iniquity: Searching the Roots of Hunger in Isaiah” p. 44.


Croatto“Inequity as Iniquity: Searching the Roots of Hunger in Isaiah” p. 69.


CroattoBiblical Hermeneutics p. 40.


Croatto“Isaiah 40–55,” in Global Bible Commentaryp. 196.


Klaus BaltzerDeutero-Isaiah p. 27. For further discussion on sanguine assessments of the Babylonian exile see Daniel L. Smith-Christopher A Biblical Theology of Exile (Minneapolis MN: Fortress Press 2002) pp. 27–74.


Smith-ChristopherA Biblical Theology of Exile p. 6.


Croatto“Exegesis of Second Isaiah” p. 237.


Croatto“Exegesis of Second Isaiah” p. 221.


Roy F MeluginThe Formation of Isaiah 40–55 (New York: Walter de Gruyter1976) pp. 135–36; Claus Westermann Isaiah 40–66: A Commentary (Philadelphia PA: Westminster Press 1969) p.187.


WestermannIsaiah 40–66 p. 190.


CroattoBiblical Hermenuetics p. 63.


CroattoBiblical Hermenuetics p. 63.


See Goldstone and Haldon“Ancient States, Empires, and Exploitation,”pp. 1–29; Peter R. Bedford “The Neo-Assyrian Empire” in Morris and Scheidel (eds.) Dynamics of Ancient Empire p. 35; and Scheidel “Sex and Empire: A Darwinian Perspective” pp. 258–57.


Walter BrueggemannIsaiah: 40–66 (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press1998) p. 96.


Walter BrueggemannIsaiah: 40–66 (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press1998) p. p. 159.


Goldstone and Haldon“Ancient States Empires and Exploitation” pp. 18–19.


Melugin The Formation of Isaiah 40–55 p. 136.


de Wit“‘It Should Be Burned and Forgotten!’” p. 48.


See verse 1 and verse 5; ibid. p. 166.


Eugene Walker GogolThe Concept of Other in Latin American Liberation: Fusing Emancipatory Philosophic Thought and Social Revolt (Oxford, UK: Lexington Books2002) p. 24; see also Javier Corrales “Neoliberalism and Its Alternatives” in Peter Kingstone and Deborah J. Yashar (eds.) Routledge Handbook of Latin American Politics (New York NY: Routledge 2012) p. 138.


CroattoBiblical Hermeneutics p. 51.


Croatto IsaíasVol. 2 p. 167.


BrueggemannIsaiah: 40–66 p. 98.


Croatto“The Function of the Non-Fulfilled Promises” p. 38.


Croatto IsaíasVol. 2 p. 168.


Croatto IsaíasVol. 2 p. 168.


BrueggemannIsaiah 40–66 p. 98; Croatto Biblical Hermeneutics p. 50.


Croatto IsaíasVol. 2 p. 168.


Croatto IsaíasVol. 2 p. 169.


Croatto“Exegesis of Second Isaiah” p. 227.


Walter BrueggemannOut of Babylon (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press2010) pp. 126–27.


J. Severino Croatto“Inequity is Iniquity: Raising Prophetic Voices Against US-Led Globalization,” Hospitality 22 (2003) pp. 1 10.


Croatto“Inequity as Iniquity: Searching the Roots of Hunger in Isaiah” p. 65.


Junan GonzalezHarvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America (New York, NY: Penguin Books2011) p. xviii.


J. Severino Croatto“¿Como releer la biblia desde su contexto socio-político?: Ejercicio sobre algunos temas del Pentateuco,” Revista Bíblica 44 (1991) pp. 193–212 (235).


Elisabeth Shüssler FiorenzaDemocratizing Biblical Studies: Toward an Emancipatory Educational Space (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Know Press2009) p. 36.

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