The writer of Hebrews, after having mentioned several individuals of great and obedient faith in Hebrews 11, was too short of time to all on his mind. He thus began to summarize the lives and deaths of others that were faithfully obedient to God. In verse 37 he wrote, “They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented.” That some were “sawn asunder” is no surprise, but the Biblical record does not identify any specifically. History outside the Bible mentions only one, Isaiah. In the Ante-Nicene Fathers, Justin Martyr in his Dialogue with Trypho says about Isaiah, “whom you sawed asunder with a wooden saw.” As well, the apocryphal book The Ascension of Isaiah says that Isaiah was sawn asunder by orders of Manasseh. It seems that Isaiah, fleeing for his life, hid in a hollow tree. Upon being discovered, the tree was ordered to be cut down with Isaiah still in it.
By implication, there is reason to include Isaiah in the list of witnesses mentioned in Hebrews 12:1, who cheer us on as we run the Christian race. Their faith is to motivate us to lay aside the sin of disbelief and the weights of doubt. These were individuals who so believed in God, His message, and mission that they were willing to be faithful unto death. That kind of faith is encouraging and motivating. That kind of faith needs to be contagious! God via inspiration said of men like Isaiah and others, “the world was not worthy” (Heb 11:38). What does he say of you dear friend?