Isaiah Messiah Prophecies – Any Exceptions?
Isaiah is the greatest of all the prophets, according to the Jewish Encyclopedia, and regarded by Rabbi sages as second in importance only to Moses. Prophecies of Isaiah, who lived 300 years after the reign of King David, appear throughout his writings foretelling of the Messiah.
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. 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.
Translating ancient Hebrew text has its challenges. Consisting of an alphabet with only 22 consonants, they are used to form a root word some of which can often times either be 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.
Subjective translations obviously open the door to variation which, in turn, impacts interpretations of prophecy meanings. No surprise, Jewish interpretations are not always in agreement with Christian beliefs, some differences being less clear than others.
A section of verses on a specific topic, known as a parashah or pericope, is found in Isaiah 52-53 about “My Servant.” About 200 years later, the Zechariah 3:8 prophecy identified “My Servant” as the “Branch.”
Excerpts of the parashah quoted from The Complete Jewish Bible about “My Servant”: “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.”
Christians see these depictions of life, torment, death and satisfaction in life-after-death as prophecies foretelling the Messiah fulfilled by the trial, crucifixion, burial and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Judaism generally treats the parashah as a metaphor of a man, the nation of Israel and the house of Jacob ; however, 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 the 200 BC time frame, just after the rebuilding of the Temple . According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, it was written “more freely, in harmony with the text of the prophetic books.” The Targum was once read in Jewish worship services and is referenced in the Babylonian Talmud.
Opening the parashah with Isaiah 52:13, Jonathan Targum begins with “Behold my servant Messiah shall prosper…” Isaiah 53:11 summarizes, “…so as to cleanse their souls from sin: these shall look on the kingdom of their Messiah…”
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 two 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.
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.” Making the controversy more provocative are the few Christian Bible versions is the inconsistent translation of Isaiah 7:14 as “young woman” while translating it differently in Matthew as “virgin.”
Jesus of Nazareth had a specific view of Isaiah’s prophecies. Starting 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:
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 referenced a prophecy written about himself that was soon to be fulfilled. Quoting from the parashah, 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)
As a general consensus of both Jewish and Christian authorities, Isaiah’s book of prophecies from beginning to end point to the Messiah with the exception of those prophecies called out in the Gospel accounts. Jesus himself identified 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?
Updated October 13, 2022.
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 Luke 4:16-19; Isaiah 61:1-2a.