Thursday, November 24, 2005

Cogitating the Regurgitation

I am writing in response to "Regurgitating the cogitation", which was in turn a response to my original post on the topic, "Cogitation" (Nov. 23/05). To recap very briefly, I initially argued (1) that it is not irrational for Rabbi Gottlieb to use simultaneously "Living Up to the Truth" and the theory that the universe was created 5766 years ago looking billions of years old; and (2) that the latter theory is not inherently "weak or cheap." Captain Salamander, in his response (the bulk of which I have copied and italicized, below), seems not to question (1). He presents two objections: (a) that I used a poor analogy in arguing that Rabbi Gottlieb's "old-looking-creation" theory is not weak or cheap; and (b) that the Gottliebian arguments discussed thus far on this blog do not answer all the problems modern academic findings create with the historical records of Genesis, whereas a non-literal reading of Genesis does. In the paragraphs below, I will address (a), and argue that (b) is simply irrelevant to the discussion at hand.

a) The "soft" sciences vs. the "hard" sciences. "Suppose academia universally accepts the Documentary Hypothesis of Biblical authorship," writes the Dark Lord. I think this approach is flawed being as that their is a clear distinction between the postulations of sociologists, historians and archaeologists based on guesswork and hypothesizing and the conclusions of biologists, geologists and physicists that are the result of experimentation and observation - that is the wonder of the scientific method.

This analogy was meant for illustrative purposes only. If you don't like it, you can ignore it. Read my last paragraph as follows: "I'd like to aver that there is, in fact, nothing weak or cheap about Rabbi Gottlieb's hypothesis. It fits the facts very nicely. There's no evidence that it's wrong. At the risk of sounding like a right-wing Haredi lunatic, academia's acceptance of a particular explanation for the existence of a body of facts does not require Jews to accept that explanation when another explanation exists, one more compatible with the sum total of our knowledge." I think that the point stands on its own merits.

To address your objection directly, however, while I generally agree with the distinction you draw between "hard" and "soft" science, I do not believe it valid in relation to the dating of the universe. You argue, if I may interpret and paraphrase your words, that "hard" science can create hypotheses and then test them out to see whether they hold true; for example, if you want to see whether Newton was really right that Force equals Mass times Acceleration, all you need to do is construct a dynamic situation where you know two of the variables already and can measure the third (e.g., you weigh yourself: you know your mass, and you know the acceleration due to gravity; you use a scale to measure the force your body exerts on the ground). "Soft" science merely gathers evidence and postulates based on that body of data; there is generally no experiment that can be conducted either to prove or to disprove the hypothesis. Dating the universe and the theory of evolution resemble, in this respect, "soft" rather than "hard" science. No one can employ the full scientific method by running an experiment to test the historical claims of the theory of evolution or whether the universe banged into existence 15 billion years ago any more than they can devise a test to see whether the Israelites conquered Canaan en masse 3000 years ago or to determine the validity of the Documentary Hypothesis, because to test any of those theories, you'd have to go back in time and actually observe what was going on. Short of that, any conclusions about historical events, whether events spurred by natural laws or those due to human initiative, are merely conjectured from the available evidence. The fact that some conjectures are more mathematical or technical than others does not make them more verifiable, and it is verifiability that makes "hard" science more accurate than "soft" science, as you yourself state: "experimentation and observation - that is the wonder of the scientific method."

Nonetheless, it is certain that no two historical assertions will be judged equally likely based on the evidence at hand. It is certainly your prerogative to believe, after an examination of the evidence, that the Big Bang theory (for example) is more compelling than (for example) the Documentary Hypothesis. It is my prerogative to conclude the opposite.

(Let me make a parenthetical point at this critical juncture - if scientists had "empirically" proven that the Torah had been written by numerous human authors, I would still reject this theory. I believe b'emunah sheleimah, etc. etc.)

Why would you reject the theory? "Living Up to the Truth" asserts that the reason to reject it is the historical evidence that the Torah was divinely given. If that historical evidence is overridden, then you no longer have reason to believe in the Torah's divine authorship. Doing so would be irrational.

What I assume you mean is that you would reject the Documentary Hypothesis, no matter how compelling it was, because there exists other evidence that God wrote the Torah, and the evidence the Documentary Hypothesis employs does not contradict the notion of divine authorship; the Hypothesis simply ignores supernatural possibilities. I don't see why your approach to the age of the Earth should differ. If the Torah says that the universe is 5766 years old, you should reject the calculations of modern science, no matter how compelling they are, because there exists other evidence (that the Torah is correct and therefore) that the universe is younger than science says, and the evidence used by modern science does not, after all, contradict the notion of a young universe; modern science simply ignores supernatural possibilities in explaining why the Earth seems really old.

b) The inadequacy of Gosse-Gottleib. If one is willing to suspend their rational observations about the age of the universe and believe that the Lord seeks to deceives us (or test us, if you would prefer) in order to give us a chance to doubt his hand in creation, one is still left with several unanswered questions created by a literal reading of Genesis:

-Why is there sound geological evidence that disproves a global flood?
-If that same global flood wiped out all life a mere thousands of years ago, why are there peoples in far-flung places (Aborigines, Native Americans, etc.) with rich histories stretching back for tens of thousands of years?

This point, while worth discussing, is unrelated to the question of whether Rabbi Gottlieb's various theories are incompatible with each other. I don't claim to be any sort of expert on the evidence of which you speak (or even, particularly, to be familiar with it). I attempted merely to deal with the rationality of accepting both the Gosse-Gottlieb hypothesis (that the Earth was created looking aged) and the arguments of "Living Up to the Truth." If you want to know what Rabbi Gottlieb has to say about the evidence to which you refer, I suggest you email him (I've got his address; ask me if you want it).

As my friend Lord Voldemort likes to say - I am not saying that there are not answers to these questions. I do believe, however, that Gosse-Gottleib cannot answer these problems. Why accept a solution that does not nearly do the problem justice and in so doing accept an approach that requires the suspension of our logical inquiry and rational observation. Perhaps I would be willing to do so for an all-encomapassing answer, a Torah and Science "Theory of Everything"* if you will. But for Gosse-Gottleib? Not on your life.

Once again, you're raising a different issue. You're arguing that it makes more sense to say that the Torah's account of creation should not be taken literally in every respect, and that modern science is right about the age of the world, than to say that Genesis should be taken literally, and that modern scientific theory is wrong. That may be true. But it's incompatible with Rabbi Gottlieb's apparent premise, which is that Genesis must be taken literally. If you want to criticize that premise, go right ahead, but that's a theological, not merely a rational, debate, and requires careful analysis of the rabbinic sources on the subject. It's got nothing to do with the validity of Rabbi Gottlieb's subscribing simultaneously to "Living Up to the Truth" and the notion that the world was created looking old.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


I was recently discussing the writings of Rabbi Dr. Dovid Gottlieb of Ohr Somayach (is that how you spell it?) with friends. Rabbi Gottlieb is the author of "Living Up to the Truth," a must-read online essay that argues that there exist rational grounds for belief in (orthodox) Judaism (just google the title and you'll find it on the Ohr Sameyach website). Rabbi Gottlieb argues that by combining the information we have about the world around us with rational analysis, we can conclude that the Torah was, in fact, given to the Israelites by God at Mt. Sinai. For example, the single most compelling of his arguments, that of Rabbi Yehudah Halevi in the Kuzari, is that empirically, it is impossible for an entire nation to be convinced that their own ancestors, in the not-inaccessibly-distant past, had experienced a series of events as memorable as those described in the Pentateuch, if those events had not, in fact, taken place; and that since the Jews are known to have possessed such a national belief, it must have been an accurate one. (I'm reducing more than an entire chapter into one sentence here; if you have problems with the argument as I have explained it, read "Living Up to the Truth" for a more complete presentation.)

Rabbi Gottlieb has also written on the topic of reconciling the apparent Torah claim that the Earth is 5766 years old with the scientific evidence suggesting that it is far older than that; he suggests simply that the world was created 5766 years ago with the appearance of being much more ancient.

The following question was posed to me (unless I misunderstood it): Assume the Torah definitively states that the Earth is 5766 years old. Rabbi Gottlieb's premise in "Living Up to the Truth" is that we can use our observations of the world around us (historical records, for example) to draw conclusions regarding the veracity of the Torah. But he also proposes that we ignore the implications of our observations of the world around us when they indicate that the Earth is billions of years old, since those implications conflict with the Torah, which we have established to be factual. Would it not be equally valid to argue that we should accept the scientific evidence about the Earth's age, and ignore the evidence that the Torah is truthful, since the Torah conflicts with compelling science?

I believe the answer to the question is no, because the two sets of conclusions described in the preceding paragraph are neither equally plausible, nor logically equivalent. If we accept, based on the evidence, that the Torah is true, and, hence, that the world is 5766 years old, we must, indeed (based on our initial assumption), discard as misleading the evidence that the world is billions of years old. However, we can fall back on Rabbi Gottlieb's alternative (and logically irrefutable) approach to the age of the world, viz., that it just looks very old. If we believe what the Torah tells us about God, it's certainly within God's capabilities to make an old-looking world (no more difficult than making a new-looking one, in fact). There's no evidence that God didn't do exactly that; indeed, from a theological perspective, it actually makes sense that he would have (ask me if you want more explanation of that). The evidence is all reconcilable; we are left with no contradictions.

However, if we accept initially that the Earth is older than the Torah allows, we must then confront and discard the evidence that the Torah is true. Can we explain how that evidence came to exist? Not to the best of my knowledge. We can't say that God manufactured the evidence, because we have (as yet) no evidence that there's a God at all. The facts we know about Jewish history just sit there, crying out their contradiction of our conclusions about the world's age. This approach, unlike the last one, cannot account for the existence of all the evidence. The Torah-affirming approach discussed above may adopt a hypothesis that seems weak, or cheap, but at least it covers all the bases.

* * * * *
I'd like to aver that there is, in fact, nothing weak or cheap about Rabbi Gottlieb's hypothesis. Suppose academia universally accepts the Documentary Hypothesis of Biblical authorship, and suppose, furthermore, that we all agree with its premise that it is just inconceivable that the Five Books of Moses were authored, in their entirety, by the same human being. Does that mean it's weak, or cheap, or intellectually dishonest or undesirable to ascribe the Pentateuch to God (who can write in a multiplicity of styles)? I believe not, and I believe the same is true of Rabbi Gottlieb's explanation of the world's ancient appearance. It fits the facts very nicely. There's no evidence that it's wrong. At the risk of sounding like a right-wing Haredi lunatic, academia's acceptance of a particular explanation for the existence of a body of facts does not require Jews to accept that explanation when another explanation exists, one more compatible with the sum total of our knowledge.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Iberian Irony

You may recall that recently in the news was a story which involved the Spanish police arresting a dozen Basque separatists on charges of attempted murder and conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism. The militants were brought to the national police headquarters in Madrid, where they were detained for three days until their court appearance. The authorities' mistake was in allowing them all to attend the same hearing. They were led out of their cells together as a group, under heavy guard, but just before leaving the building they had to pass through a small vestibule, into which only three officers were able to accompany the suspects, on account of the room's small size. Within seconds, in what was clearly a planned action, the terrorists overpowered their outnumbered guards, jammed the vestibule doors shut, left the building and escaped in waiting cars driven by separatist sympathizers, demonstrating once again the wisdom of the adage, "Don't put all your Basques in one exit."

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Numerology of Casablanca

Suppose you have the following system: each letter of the Roman alphabet is assigned a numerical value reflecting its position in the alphabet, i.e., a = 1, b = 2, ... , z = 26. After calculating any sum of these alphabetical ordinals, you round to the nearest multiple of 10. Consider the following:

t (= 20) + h (= 8) + e (= 5) + u (= 21) + s (= 19) + u (= 21) + a (= 1) + l (= 12) + s (= 19) + u (= 21) + s (= 19) + p (= 16) + e (= 5) + c (= 3) + t (= 20) + s (= 19) = 229 ≈ 230

Hence, you round up "the usual suspects."

Friday, November 04, 2005

Ibn Ezra on Two Isaiahs

As the Outsider requested, here is information on the statements I referred to in "Rabbinic vs. Modern Academic Beliefs" made by Ibn Ezra on Isaiah 40:1 and 49:7. I would like to preface it with the following, however. Prior to my writing of the original article, I had heard many times, mainly at YU, that Ibn Ezra claimed that Isaiah had actually been written by two people, but I had never studied the matter. Before including the reference to Ibn Ezra's two Isaiahs, I searched the internet to find out where Ibn Ezra actually said anything about it, and came up with Isaiah 40:1 and 49:7, which I then looked up. I admit that I did not feel I properly understood his comments in their entirety, but what I saw was enough to convince me that what I had been told at YU, by people I respect, was correct. In writing the article, I referred to the matter of the authorship of Isaiah, and the location of the relevant statements of Ibn Ezra, but did not elaborate, because I did not feel I understood enough to say anything intelligent beyond that. I hoped that no one would merely take my word for it without verifying my sources. Perhaps that was irresponsible of me.

When the Outsider requested that I provide details about the Isaiah Ibn Ezras, however, I decided to bite the bullet and decipher in full what he meant. I made reasonable progress for a while, but eventually I hit a brick wall that I seemed unable to break through or to circumvent. I spent hours trying the figure out what on earth he was saying, and finally, on my final attempt (funny how that always happens), I found more than I could have dreamed of: all the information I sought, spoon-fed right to me, at the following web address:

What follows is an edited version of what is written there (any of you can, of course, check out the original for yourselves). I was just too lazy to write the whole thing out in my own words, since it is fairly lengthy. This modified version is therefore my partially plagiarized summary of (much of) the evidence indicating that the Ibn Ezra believed the book of Isaiah had been written by two different people. I do not claim that it represents what the author of the article on that website believed. However, I have examined the assertions that I have taken from the website, and have satisfied myself they are reasonable, and that I can't come up with any other set of assertions that are as reasonable. My gratitude goes to the people involved in providing this information on that site.

As always, if you discover problems with the arguments presented here, please let me know. The case I present seems reasonable to me, but I don't dogmatically insist on it, and I do wish to believe what is true and not to believe that which is false. If you think, for reasons with substance, that it's wrong, I want to know about it.

One more thing: I'm tired, and I'm not going to do a careful edit of this piece before I go to bed. I'm going to post it anyway. So please forgive any poor editing as being, rather, lack of editing.

Here goes:

Ibn Ezra says the following at Isaiah 40:1:

נחמו נחמו עמי. נדבקה זאת הפרשה בעבור שהזכיר למעלה כי כל אוצרות המלך גם בניו יגלו לבבל על כן אחרי זאת הנחמות ואלה הנחמות הראשונות מחצי הספר על דעת רבי משה הכהן על בית שני ולפי דעתי הכל על גלותינו רק יש בתוך הספר דברי גלות בבל לזכר כי כורש ששלח הגולה ואולם באחרית הספר דברים הם לעתיד כאשר אפרש. ודע כי מעתיקי המצות ז״ל אמרו כי ספר שמואל כתבו שמואל והוא אמת עד [וימת] שמואל והנה דברי הימים יוכיח ששם דור אחר דור (לפני) [לבני] זרובבל והעד מלכים יראו וקמו שרים וישתחוו ויש להשיב כאשר ישמעו שם הנביא ואם איננו והמשכיל יבין׃

"Be comforted, be comforted, my people." This chapter has been placed here because in the preceding chapter, it is stated that all the treasures of the King, and even his sons, will be carried away to Babylon; thus, it is followed by these words of comfort. These first words of comfort, with which the second part of the book [of Isaiah] begins, refer to the construction of the Second Temple, according to Rabbi Moshe Hakohen; my opinion is that they refer to [the future redemption from] our current exile, only that there are references to the Babylonian exile [of between the two Temple eras] to record that Cyrus, who permitted the exiled Jews to return [text defective; either a misprint or an omission]. However, the statements at the end of the book [definitely] refer to [our] future, as I will explain. [Translation until this point adapted from M. Friedländer's 1873 The Commentary of Ibn Ezra on Isaiah, which I happily found in the JCC library, much to my astonishment. He notes the textual problem that I mention.]

Know that the recorders of the commandments [presumably meaning either the amoraim in general or the redactors of the Gemara specifically] said that Samuel wrote the book of Samuel, and this is [only] true until ''And Samuel died'' [I Samuel 25:1].

[Note: in my Mikraos Gedolos text of Ibn Ezra, the word וימת does not appear. I think that even without it, the meaning of the statement is clearly the same. The website I am using presents וימת as part of the original text. While I do not know the website's source, the existence of many inaccuracies in the texts of medieval commentaries is well-known, and since I do not believe that it alters the meaning of the passage anyway, I have accepted this emendation.]

[This approach to authorship I am hinting at] is proven by the book of Chronicles, where there are [listed] generation after generation of the descendants of Zerubbabel [I Chronicles 3:19–24; 10 generations are listed after Zerubbabel, in all].

[Note: here again, I have emended the text as it appears in my edition. My book says לפני זרובבל, "before Zerubbabel." I am substituting the website's version, לבני זרובבל, "of the descendants of Zerubbabel." I feel justified in doing so because (a) the physical difference between the two words is so slight (פ vs. ב) that an error in transcription can easily have occurred; and (b) I can't make heads or tails of the sentence as it reads according to my edition, whereas according to the website's version, it makes a lot of sense.]

And the evidence [for using this approach here in the book of Isaiah] is ''Kings shall see and arise, princes shall bow" [Isaiah 49:7]. One can reply [that this verse means to say that the kings and princes will do this] when they hear the name of the prophet; and if that interpretation is not correct, he who is enlightened will understand.

I'll spoil the surprise by telling you right now that Ibn Ezra is going to argue that this part of Isaiah (i.e., Chap. 40 until the end) was not written by Isaiah (ben Amotz), because Isaiah lived too early. First Ibn Ezra notes that Samuel didn't write all of the book of Samuel, since he obviously could not have written "And Samuel died'' and the material after it. Then he draws our attention to an extensive genealogy in Chronicles that seems to be a later interpolation, for the following reason: the Gemara (Bava Batra 15a) says that Ezra wrote Chronicles up to (and including) that point at which he own genealogy is recorded (I Chronicles 7:1-5). It says Nehemiah wrote the rest. Now, Ezra, Nehemiah and Zerubbabel were all contemporaries of each other (see, for example, Ezra 2:2 and Nehemiah 8:9; for more proofs, ask me). Thus it is highly unlikely that either of the two authors of Chronicles established by the Talmud could have written down the names of the descendants of Zerubbabel to the tenth generation. Thus he has demonstrated that the fact that the Talmud says X wrote a book of Nach does not mean that X wrote all of it.

After providing us with this background, Ibn Ezra proceeds to explain why he believes this part of Isaiah was not written by Isaiah, by quoting part of Isaiah 49:7: ''מלכים יראו וקמו שרים וישתחוו''.

What is bothering him about these words? Look at that verse and the one immediately following it:

כה אמר־ה׳ גאל ישראל קדושו לבזה־נפש למתעב גוי לעבד משלים מלכים יראו וקמו שרים וישתחוו למען ה׳ אשר נאמן קדש ישראל ויבחרך׃ כה אמר ה׳ בעת רצון עניתיך וביום ישועה עזרתיך ואצרך ואתנך לברית עם להקים ארץ להנחיל נחלות שממות ׃

So says God, the redeemer of Israel, his Holy One, to him whom man despises, to him whom the nation abhors, to a servant of rulers: kings shall see and arise, princes shall bow, because of God who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you. So says God: in a time of favor I have answered you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you, and I will preserve you and give you for a covenant of the nation, to restore the land and to assign desolate inheritances to their owners [Isaiah 49:7-8].

This is what Ibn Ezra says ad locum about these verses:

ז) מלכים יראו וקמו. הנה כבר רמזתי לך זה הסוד בחצי הספר ועל דעת רבים כי המלכים כמו כורש כאשר ישמע דברי הנביא יקום וישתחוה׃
למען ה׳. כי נאמן בדברו. והנה כ״ף ויבחרך לעד על יושר זה הפירוש׃
ח) בעת רצון עניתיך. גם זה עד על הרמז ורבים אמרו כי כ״ף עניתיך שב אל כורש והנה אין הפרשה דבקה׃

7) "Kings shall see and arise." I have already hinted at this secret halfway through the book [i.e., his comments to 40:1]. According to many, [the interpretation is] that when the kings, like Cyrus, hear the words of the prophet, they will rise and bow. [Emphasis on "the words" added.]
"Because of God." For he is faithful to his word. The [letter] כ״ף of ויבחרך is evidence of the correctness of this explanaton.
8) At a time of favor I have answered you: This [wording] is also evidence for what I have been hinting at. Many say that the [letter] כ״ף of עניתיך refers back to Cyrus, but then the passage doesn't fit.

Ibn Ezra emphasizes the fact that in these two verses, God addresses the prophet in the singular, with the suffix כ״ף. He thus faces a problem: God is not addressing all of Israel (Radak, for example, disagrees). God seems to be promising that when the prophet's prophesies finally come true, kings and princes will show their respect to the prophet, who had been despised and treated badly up until then. But if Isaiah is the prophet here, how will Cyrus and all the other kings and princes be able to bow to him and show him their respect? He will have been dead for 200 years by the time they are alive and have the chance!

Ibn Ezra quotes a simple answer that he claims "many" give: all the verse is saying is that when the vindicated words of Isaiah are mentioned to those kings in the future, they will bow and acknowledge how great a prophet Isaiah was. This does not seem to be the "secret" he suggests will explain this verse. Indeed, recall that back on 40:1 he mentioned this answer of the "many," and said, "if that is not so, he who is enlightened will understand." He does not seem to reject the "many"'s explanation outright, but he has his own secret, one that he feels at least as adequate.

So returning to 40:1, we find that Ibn Ezra points out that the Talmud's ascription of a particular book to a particular person does not always mean that that person wrote the whole book; and that he relates that principle to the book of Isaiah by quoting a verse which, from an historical perspective, is problematic, if understood to have been said by Isaiah. He quotes an interpretation of that verse that reconciles Isaiah's authorship with the historical facts, and then says, "But if that's not the answer, then there is a secret." If the secret is not that someone else wrote the balance of Isaiah, then why did he bother to prove that Talmudically unascribed authorship is possible? Sounds like he means that the part of the book beginning with Chapter 40 was written by a different, presumably later, author.

By the way, I read that Isaiah 1-39 is noticeably different from Isaiah 40-66. I have not investigated this in detail, so I cannot guarantee that it is true. If it is, though, that would help explain why Ibn Ezra chooses Chap. 40 as the point at which "Old Isaiah" and "New Isaiah" meet.

I'm tired, and I think I've presented enough information to make the general outline of the "Ibn Ezra and Isaiah authorship" discussion clear. What follows is most of the rest of the above-cited website, unedited. It contains some added information about Ibn Ezra's theory that God speaks personally to the prophet (periodically) in the latter part of Isaiah, as well as a somewhat more detailed summary of the argument that Ibn Ezra believed in two authors of Isaiah (though not all backed up by presented evidence). I've italicized the whole thing.

Ibn Ezra refers to this ''secret'' again at the end of his commentary on the famous ''Suffering Servant'' section of Sefer Yeshayah, the pesukim between 52:13 to 53:12. Controversy has raged over these pesukim for many centuries, since the Christians claim that they refer to none other than their own messiah. Many of our meforshim do battle with this interpretation, bringing proof after proof that these pesukim couldn't possibly refer to Yoshke.** Ibn Ezra explains the entire section, word by word, according to one of the mainstream Jewish interpretations, which is that the ''servant'' is a symbol for all of Klal Yisroel. But then, suddenly on the last posuk, Ibn Ezra lets us know that he himself doesn't agree with this derech. He tells us his own opinion is that the ''servant'' of the section is one and the same as the servant mentioned in earlier passages. Here are his words:

...והנה פרשתי לך כל הפרשה ולפי דעתי כי הנה ישכיל עבדי הוא שאמר הנביא עליו הן עבדי אתמך בו ויאמר לי עבדי אתה וכן כתוב בדעתו יצדיק צדיק עבדי לרבים וכתוב גוי נתתי למכים והסוד כאשר רמזתי בחצי הספר והנה כל הפרשיות דבקות זאת עם זאת
(פירוש ראב״ע, ישעיה נג׃יב)
…I have thus explained to you the entire section [i.e. according to the majority view, that the ''עבד'' of this section refers to the Jewish people, and not to the prophet himself]. But in my own opinion [the servant here, the one in] ''הנה ישכיל עבדי'' [posuk 53:12] is the very same [servant] about whom the prophet said ''הן עבדי אתמך בו'' [posuk 42:1], as well as ''ויאמר לי עבדי אתה'' [posuk 49:3]. And it is written [here] ''בדעתו יצדיק צדיק עבדי לרבים'' [posuk 53:11], [just as] it is written [above] ''גוי נתתי למכים'' [posuk 50:6]. And the secret is as I hinted halfway through the sefer. Now all the sections fit together well.
(R. Avrohom ibn Ezra to Yeshayah 53:12)

So what exactly is the "secret"? Throughout his explanations of all these nevuos Ibn Ezra systematically and consistently emphasizes the Bablylonian setting. Throughout his explanations of all these nevuos, he also emphasizes their autobiographical nature. He leaves it to us to connect the two and draw the obvious—and shocking—conclusion: A different novi, living two hundred years after the Yeshayah for whom the whole sefer is named, wrote all of these prophecies. According to Ibn Ezra, even the famous ''Suffering Servant'' narrative was written by this anonymous novi.

Note that Ibn Ezra wasn't motivated to come to his conclusion for any of the heretical reasons of the Modern Bible critics. Ibn Ezra obviously has no problem with a novi seeing into the future, which is why he doesn't mention his ''secret'' in his peirush either of the two places where Koresh's name is mentioned, which were the favorite proofs of the kofrim. Ibn Ezra came to his conclusions not because of any doubts as to the powers of nevuoh, but rather as result of his sophisticated literary and grammatical sensibilities, his acute sensitivity to all the dimensions of what we call poshut pshat.