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Isaiah Messiah Prophecies – Any Exceptions?

Isaiah is the greatest of all the prophets regarded by Rabbis as second in importance only to Moses, according to the Jewish Encyclopedia.[1] Prophecies of Isaiah, who lived 300 years after the reign of King David, appear throughout his writings foretelling of the Messiah.

Many of Isaiah’s prophecies are referenced in the Babylonian Talmud reinforcing their significance.[2] In Sanhedrin 98a alone, six Rabbis make 11 references to Isaiah’s Messiah prophecies.[3]

Dead Sea Scrolls discoveries in 1947 yielded one of the most treasured finds, the Great Isaiah Scroll. Dated to about 125 BC, it is the oldest known, nearly complete Hebrew text of the Book of Isaiah.[4] Secured in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, the scroll is 1000 years older than the Masoretic texts that serve as the source for today’s Jewish Bible, the Tenakh.[5]

Translating ancient Hebrew text has its challenges consisting of an alphabet with only 22 consonants that are used to form a root word which could be either a noun or a verb. Translators must rely on the broader context to fill in the vowels, tenses and other words to form a complete sentence in English.[6]

Subjective translations obviously open the door to variation which, in turn, impacts interpretations of prophecy meanings.[7] No surprise, Jewish interpretations are not always in agreement with Christian beliefs, some differences being less clear than others.[8]

A section of verses on a specific topic, known as a parashah or pericope, is found in Isaiah 52-53 about “My Servant.” Quoted excerpts from The Complete Jewish Bible includes “kings shall shut their mouths because of him;” “despised and rejected;” “no deceit in his mouth;” “from imprisonment and from judgment he is taken;” “cut off from the land of the living;” “poured out his soul to death, and with transgressors he was counted; and he bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors;” and “from the toil of his soul he would see, he would be satisfied.”[9]

Retrospectively, Christians see these depictions of life, torment, death and life-after-death satisfaction as prophecies foretelling the Messiah fulfilled by the trialcrucifixion, burial and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Jewish theology, however, generally treats the parashah as a metaphor of a man referring to the nation of Israel, the house of Jacob.[10] But not all Jewish authorities are in agreement.

Jonathan Targum (targum means “translation”), known as the “Official Targum to the Prophets,”  is an Aramaic translation of the Tenakh with roots going back to just after the rebuilding of the Temple in the 200 BC time frame.[11] According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, it was written “more freely, in harmony with the text of the prophetic books.”[12] The Targum was once read in Jewish worship services and is referenced in the Babylonian Talmud.[13]

Opening the parashah with Isaiah 52:13, Jonathan Targum  begins with “Behold my servant Messiah shall prosper…” Closing out the parashah, the Isaiah 53:11 Targum summarizes “…so as to cleanse their souls from sin:  these shall look on the kingdom of their Messiah…”[14]

Preeminent Jewish Scriptures authority Rabbi Maimonides once asked a rhetorical question, “What is to be the manner of Messiah’s advent, and where will be the place of his first appearance?” Answering his own question, the Rabbi quoted prophecies from the parashah – Isaiah 53:2 regarding the Messiah’s unheralded arrival and Isaiah 52:15 explaining how kings would be “confounded at the wonders” the Messiah would perform.[15]

Most controversial is Isaiah 7:14, quoted in Matthew 1:23 as a prophecy fulfilled by the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Masoretic text of the Tenakh translates`almah as meaning “young woman” while nearly all Christian Bibles translate `almah as “virgin.”[16] Making the controversy more provocative are the few Christian Bible versions that inconsistently translate Isaiah 7:14 as “young woman” while translating it differently in Matthew as “virgin.”[17]

Matthew 1:23 Greek text quotes Isaiah 7:14 by translating `almah using the word parthenos meaning “a maiden…an unmarried daughter:  virgin.”[18] Language analysis of parthenos reveals 14 other instances by four authors of six New Testament books, all used in the context of a virgin.[19]

If Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Messiah, how did he view Isaiah’s prophecies?  On a Sabbath in the Synagogue of his home town, Jesus read a Messiah prophecy from Isaiah 61:1-2 to publicly open his ministry:[20]

LK 4:18-19, 21 “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”…”Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (NKJV)

Hours before his arrest during his final Passover meal with his Disciples, Jesus foretold that a scripture written about himself was yet to be fulfilled. Quoting from Isaiah 53:12 he said:

LK 22:37 “It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”” (NIV)

Isaiah’s book of prophecies from beginning to end, as a general consensus of both Jewish and Christian authorities, point to the Messiah with the exception of those disputed prophecies mirrored in the Gospel accounts. Jesus himself called out the Messiah prophecies of Isaiah as the basis for people to see that he is the fulfillment of those prophecies.

Are the Gospel accounts of the circumstances of the birth, life, death and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth a fulfillment of Isaiah’s Messiah prophecies?

 

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REFERENCES:
[1] “Isaiah.”  Jewish Encyclopedia.  2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8235-isaiah>
[2] Jones, Dennis A.  “Jewish Messianic Texts.”  The Emmanuel Church of the Web. n.d.  <http://fecotw.tripod.com/id88.htmlThe Babylonian Talmud. Trans. Michael L. Rodkinson. 1918. http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/talmud.htm#t08>  Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Rabbi Isidore Epstein. 1935 – 1948. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/tcontents.html>
[3] Soncino Babylonian Talmud.  Sanhedrin 98a & b footnotes: Isaiah XLIX:7, XXIX:21 (twice), XVIII:5, I:25, LIX:19, LIX:20, LX:21, LIX:16, XLVIII:11, LX:22; also 38a, footnote #9 to Isaiah 8:14. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_98.html>
[4] “The Great Isaiah Scroll.” 2018. The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. <http://dss.collections.imj.org.il/isaiah>  Miller. Library of Congress (United States). n.d. “Scrolls From the Dead Sea.” <https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/scrolls/late.html> Israel Antiquities Authority. 2012. “The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library.”  <https://www.deadseascrolls.org.il/explore-the-archive/search#q=’Isaiah‘> Fred P. The Great Isaiah Scroll. 1998. “Qumran Great Isaiah Scroll.” <http://www.moellerhaus.com/qumdir.htm> Abegg, Jr., Martin G., Flint, Peter W. and Ulrich Eugene Charles.  The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible: the oldest known Bible translated for the first time into English. 2002. p 281.    <http://books.google.com/books?id=c4R9c7wAurQC&lpg=PP1&ots=fQpCpzCdb5&dq=Abegg%2C%20Flint%20and%20Ulrich%2C%20The%20Dead%20Dead%20Sea%20Scrolls%20Bible%2C&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=Isaiah&f=false>  “Dead Sea Scrolls.” Archaeology. 2018. <http://www.allaboutarchaeology.org/dead-sea-scrolls.htm>
[5] Benner, Jeff A. “The Great Isaiah Scroll and the Masoretic Text.” Ancient Hebrew Research Center. 2017. <http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/bible_isaiahscroll.html> “Masoretic Text.” Encyclopædia Britannica. n.d. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/Masoretic-text>  “Jewish Concepts: Masoretic Text.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2018. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/Masoretic.html>  “Masoretic Text.” Textus-Receptus.Com. 2016. <http://textus-receptus.com/wiki/Masoretic_Text>  “Masoretic Text.” New World Encyclopedia. 2014. <http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Masoretic_Text> Zew, Moshe. “The Numeric System of the Bible.” 27 Dec. 2013.  WorldWide Witness by Moshe Zew.  <http://www.kolumbus.fi/gematria/numeric.htm>
[6] “The Hebrew Language.”  MyJewishLearning.com. n.d.  <http://www.myjewishlearning.com/culture/2/Languages/Hebrew.shtml>
“History of the Hebrew Language.”   B’NAI ZAQEN. 2005. <http://www.zaqen.info/hislangu.htm> Benner, Jeff A. “Introduction to the Ancient Hebrew Vocabulary.” Ancient Hebrew Research Center. 2013. <http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/2_vocab.html>  Benner, Jeff A.  “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible.” Ancient Hebrew Research Center. 2017. <http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/2_bible.html>
[7] Benner. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible.”
[8] Neubauer and Driver. The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. “Introduction.” pp. xxix- lxv. <https://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1&hl=en#v=onepage&q=introduction&f=false>  Sullivan, Charles A. “A History of Chapters and Verses in the Hebrew Bible.” 2012. <http://charlesasullivan.com/2693/a-history-of-chapters-and-verses-in-the-hebrew-bible>
[9] The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. 2018. Isaiah 52-53. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/15983>
[10] The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. Isaiah 53:3. Rashi commentary. Soncino Babylonian Talmud. n.d. Sotah 14a. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sotah/sotah_14.html#14a_1> Crispin, Moshe Kohen ibn.  “Sefer ha-Musar.”  Neubauer, Driver & Rolles. The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters.  pp. 99-101.   <http://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=advent&f=false>
[11] Neubauer, Adolf. And Driver, Samuel Rolles. The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. 1877. “Thargum of Yonathan (Jonathan Targum)” pp. 5-7. https://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1&hl=en#v=onepage&q=Thargum&f=false>
[12] “Targum.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011.  < http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14248-targum >
[13] “Targum.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. “Historical Jewish Sources.” n.d. “Overview:  About Targums.”  <http://www.preteristarchive.com/BibleStudies/JewishSources/Targums/index.html>
[14] Neubauer..  The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters.  “Thargum of Yonathan.” pp. 5-7.
[15] Mangel, Nissen. “Responsa.” Chabad.org. 2018. <http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/107783/jewish/Responsa.htm> Maimonides, “Letter to the South (Yemen)”. p 374. Neubauer and Driver.  The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters.
[16] Isaiah 7:14.The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary; Jewish Publication Society Bible. <http://www.breslov.com/bible/Isaiah7.htm#14>
[17] Good News Translation; Net Bible Translation.
[18] Strong. “parthenos The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. CR “parthenia meaning “maidenhood: – virginity.”
[19] Net.bible.org. Greek text for Matthew 1:23; word search “Parthenos.” <http://classic.net.bible.org/search.php?search=greek_strict_index:3933>
[20] Luke 4:16-19; Isaiah 61:1-2a.

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