Just Who did Isaiah See on the Throne?

Isaiah’s famous vision report in chapter six opens thus:

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.

Obviously, the “Lord” is God. But the question is, “who” are we seeing? Classically, it’s been common for Christian commentators to hear a reference to the whole Trinity in the Trisagion, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; heaven and earth are full of your glory” (v. 3).

Cyril of Alexandria writes of the blessings which fill the mouth of the Seraphim:

They say “holy” three times and then conclude with “Lord of hosts.” This demonstrates the holy Trinity exists in one divine essence. All hold and confess that the Father exists, along with the Son and the Spirit. Nothing divides those who are named nor separates them into different natures. Just the opposite is true. We recognize one Godhead in three persons.

Theodoret of Cyrus comments similarly that as the seraphim praise “the title Lord singularly in this song, but repeat ‘holy’ three times (in reference to the Trinity), we know they are referring to the one essence of Deity.” If you see the tripling of ‘holy’ as a reference to the Trinity, then the praises of the seraphim seem to clear that up very quickly.

Some might be more skeptical of this, though, and not just modern commentators with prejudices against Christian readings of OT texts. Instead, it’s possible to think that what we’re seeing here is more strictly a vision of the pre-incarnate Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity by appealing to John 12:41. There John quotes Isaiah 6’s prophecy about Israel’s hardness of heart and says, “Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him”, referring to Christ.

Of course, read within the grounds of a Christian doctrine of God, to see the glory of the Son is to see the glory of the Father as it is one shared glory. As Calvin says here that while John teaches that Isaiah has a vision of Christ, “in my judgment, it is wrong to restrict this vision to the person of Christ, since the prophecy refers rather to God without differentiation.”

While Calvin’s logic is good on its own, Herman Witsius blew my mind this morning as I was reading his reasoning in the Economy of the Covenants (Bk. 4. chap. 3, par. V). He says that “Isaiah saw the whole Trinity, like a king sitting on a throne” and points not only to the more prominent passage of John 12:41, but also points to Acts 28:25-27, where Paul quotes the same prophecy about the hardness of heart from Isaiah 6 and says, “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet.” Witsius clearly reasons that if Isaiah saw the glory of the Son and heard the speech of the Holy Spirit and, “I imagine, none should excluded the Father”, then how can we not but conclude that Isaiah saw the whole Trinity represented to him in a vision? Seems about right to me.

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Soli Deo Gloria

2 thoughts on “Just Who did Isaiah See on the Throne?

  1. Pingback: Just Who Did Isaiah See On The Throne? - The Aquila Report

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