Sample clip of my debate with an
atheist on the issue of morality.
Find the whole debate at this link
Jewish / Judaism : The Suffering Servant According to Isaiah, part 1
There are a few points to the Jewish and Christian polemic over, the mother of all disputed texts, Isaiah 52:13-53:12 (succinctly referred to as Isaiah 53).
The following parsed essay is a basic rundown of the charges made against Christianity and some responses from the context of the text and from rabbinic writings.
The charges are made by what I will term Modern Rabbinic Judaism; meaning that the Rabbis decide the authoritative interpretations.
This essay is parsed thusly:
Part 1: Introduction and Context
Part 2: Various Rabbis and Jewish Scholars
Part 3: Various Rabbis and Jewish Scholars (continued)
Part 4: Various Rabbis and Jewish Scholars (continued)
Part 5: Various Rabbis and Jewish Scholars (continued)
Part 6: Various Rabbis and Jewish Scholars (continued)
Part 7: Various Rabbis and Jewish Scholars (continued)
Part 8: Various Rabbis and Jewish Scholars (continued)
Part 9: Various Rabbis and Jewish Scholars (concluded)
Part 10: Miscellaneous Jewish Writings
Part 11: Miscellaneous Jewish Writings (continued)
Part 12: Miscellaneous Jewish Writings (continued)
Part 13: Miscellaneous Jewish Writings (concluded) and From Miscellaneous Sources
Part 14: From Miscellaneous Sources (concluded)
The contention is succinctly stated by Larry Levey who describes himself as a “Former Hebrew-Christian,”
“Now that most non-Jewish scholars concede that Isaiah 53 refers to the Jewish people…Some Christians have tried to find support for their beliefs in Rabbinic writings…Isaiah 53 was understood as referring to the Jewish people all along.”1
Some Claims and New Interpretations by Modern Rabbinic Judaism:
1. Modern Rabbinic Judaism holds that the Servant in Isaiah 53 is the Nation of Israel. They claim to have always believed this and that later on Christianity corrupted the interpretation and applied it to the Messiah and therefore to Jesus.
2. Since the Nation of Israel is the Servant; it is the Jews who suffer and die for sin.
3. The Gentile nations are the ones speaking in verses such as 53:4,
“Surely our diseases he did bear, and our pains he carried; whereas we did esteem him stricken, smitten of G-d, and afflicted.”
They were recognizing that Israel was suffering for the sins of the ungodly Gentiles.
Context: Letting the Text Speak for Itself:
1. Yes, several times in scripture the Servant is the Nation of Israel. Just like Messiah means anointed and can refer to a priest, a king or the ultimate redeemer; likewise, Servant can mean more than one thing.
Remember that context determines meaning (historical, cultural, grammatical, etc.). Judaism most certainly has not always believed that Isaiah 53 was speaking of the Nation of Israel. Bellow we provide numerous quotes from ancient and modern Rabbinic writings that will prove this.
2. Sometimes a charge is made by Modern Rabbinic Judaism that Christianity is wrong (or blasphemous) for claiming that Jesus died for our sins because the law does not allow for human vicarious atonement. Yet, what is a nation but a group of human beings.
Therefore, if the Servant is the Nation of Israel then Modern Rabbinic Judaism admits to believing that Jews are suffering and will die for sin thereby affirming human vicarious atonement.
Within the plain context of the passage we can see that the Nation of Israel is not the Servant; This is why it is not:
2.1 vss. 53:5, 6, 10-12 state:
“But he was pierced for our transgressions.”
“the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
“the LORD makes his life a guilt offering”
“my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.”
“For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
A sin sacrifice must be 100% unblemished; neither Jews as individuals nor as a Nation are now nor have ever been unblemished. This disqualified the Nation of Israel.
2.2 verse 53:9 states,
“he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.”
Obviously, this disqualified the Nation of Israel.
verse 53:7 states, “he humbled himself and opened not his mouth; as a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before her shearers is dumb; yea, he opened not his mouth.”
This disqualified the Nation of Israel; they have not accepted their very many persecutions without complaint.
2.3 vss. 53:12 states, “he bared his soul unto death.”
This disqualified Nation of Israel. The servant willingly suffered and was killed; the Nation of Israel certainly have not and do not willingly suffer and are killed.
2.4 vss. 53:8 & 12 states, “For he was cut off out of the land of the living…because he bared his soul unto death.”
This disqualified the Nation of Israel. God has promised that He would not wipe out His people, there will always be a remnant. The Nation of Israel has never been completely exterminated.
3. It is also very clear that in the Old Testament—the Tanakh—God says many times that His people would suffer for their own sin (such as captivity in Babylon for forsaking that Sabbath of the land) but not for the sin of Gentiles.
Rabbi Naphtali ben Asher Altschuler disagrees that is was the Gentile nations who were speaking in verses such as 53:4,
“Surely our diseases he did bear, and our pains he carried; whereas we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”
Rabbi Naphtali stated, “‘And yet we’—it is Israel who are speaking—thought that he had been hated of God. But it was not so: he was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, and ‘the chastisement’ which was afterwards to secure our peace was upon him.” 2
These quotes come from Isaiah 52:13-53:12 according to the Jewish Publication Society 1917.3
Jewish Affirmation that Isaiah 53 is Messianic:
Jewish writings affirm that the ancient sages, the Rabbis of old, over and over interpreted Isaiah 53 as a messianic prophecy and some Rabbis strongly disapprove of the national Israel interpretation—let us begin our survey.
It may be republished in part or in its entirety on websites, blogs, or any
print media for whatever purpose (in agreement or in order to criticize it) only as
long as the following conditions are met: