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Jewish / Judaism : The Suffering Servant According to Isaiah, part 6
Various Rabbis and Jewish Scholars (continued):
Ralbag (Gersonides 1288-1344 AD) on Deuteronomy 18:15-18,
“‘A prophet from the midst of thee.’ In fact the Messiah is such a Prophet, as it is stated in the Midrash on the verse, ‘Behold, my servant shall prosper...’ (Isa. 52:13).”
Raphael Patai; Noted anthropologist and Biblical scholar who taught Hebrew at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem,
“Scholars have repeatedly speculated about the origin of the Messiah ben Joseph legend and the curious fact that the Messiah figure has thus been split in two. It would seem that in the early legend, the death of the Messiah was envisaged, perhaps as a development of the Suffering Servant motif.”1
Again Raphael Patai on Daniel 9:24-27,
“In fact, it is quite probable that the concept of the suffering Messiah, fully developed in the Talmud, the Midrash, and the Zohar, has its origin in the Biblical prophecies about the Suffering Servant, as shown by the direct references to Isaiah 53:5 in describing the sufferings of the Messiah in the Talmud, the Midrash Konene (eleventh or twelfth century), and the Zohar (thirteenth century…).”2
Again Patai referring to Isaiah,
“This great poet-prophet spoke repeatedly about the ‘Servant of the Lord,’ describing the call, mission, sufferings, death, and resurrection of this mysterious individual (Isa. 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12). As to the identification of this ‘Servant,’ there is no scholarly consensus to this day. However, the Aggada, the Talmudic legend, unhesitatingly identifies him with the Messiah, and understands especially the descriptions of his sufferings as referring to Messiah ben Joseph.”3
Julius H. Greenstone,
“There are various references in the Zohar to the idea of a suffering Messiah...[The Messiah] takes upon himself all the maladies destined for Israel, and thus alleviates Israel’s sufferings and makes them bearable. In this manner, the Messiah constitutes himself the sin-offering, which can no longer be brought by Israel, since the Temple is destroyed…The pre-existence of the Messiah is assumed, and his almost Divine character repeatedly emphasized. He is suffering for the sins of his people, and helps them carry the burden of punishment.”4
Abraham Ezra Millgram,
“[Isaiah 52:12 is] One of his most classic Messianic prophecies….Judaism awaits a Messiah who is a human person, delegated by God, Christianity maintains that the Messiah who has come was, though human, also completely divine, himself God…[the Jewish concept of] The thoroughly human nature of the Messiah is further deepened by the conception that he is the ‘suffering servant of the Lord’ (especially Isaiah 52-53, ironically used in Christianity as a pre-eminent Christiological text).
The royal scion, while awaiting the hour of redemption, undergoes all the pains of human existence, most specifically the prototypal human pains of Jewish existence: [the author goes on to quote Isaiah 53:2-12] This theme is elaborated upon throughout the Bible and Talmud: the Messiah will appear humbly riding into Jerusalem on an ass (Zechariah 9:9)—he waits sitting in front of the gates of Rome, the incarnation of the enemy of Israel, binding up the wounds with which his body is covered, among the outcasts of society (Sanhedrin 98)—above all, again and again, he suffers without guilt!
A number of traits are thus discernible in the figure of the Messiah as Judaism envisions it: he represents the epitome of poverty and humility as well as the fate of the Messianic people of Israel; he is therefore, presages redemption from these very experiences when he will appear in his glory to assume dominion.”5
Regarding Isaiah 2:2-5 Abraham Millgram’s book states,
“Implied in this conception of the Messianic age is the recognition that God will cause something to be brought about that ought to be and must be brought about which, however, human beings by themselves cannot bring about. If man could have achieved the goal of the perfectly good life by himself, God’s intervention would not be needed, and if the goal were not desirable and even imperative—then God would not need to bother. Man left to his own devices cannot attain the fulfillment that God has set for him.”
1. Raphael Patai, Messiah Text (New York: Avon Books, 1979), p. 166
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