Was Jesus Born as the Messiah, the Son of God?

Two big questions often come to mind about the birth of Jesus, especially during the Christmas season … was Jesus really born and is Jesus the Son of God, the Messiah?

Simple logic, beyond what the Gospels say, can answer the first question. A personage named Jesus divided world history into two eras – before his life and after his life. That alone makes Jesus the most impactful figure in history. No one else has been so influential as to change calendars. Consider the likelihood this monumental change to historical dating was based on a fictitious figure. Logic dictates Jesus had to be a real historical person in order to change history.

Secular dating revisions have introduced “BCE” (Before the Common Era) to replace “BC” (Before Christ) or “CE” (Common Era) instead of “AD” (Anno Domini – year of our Lord). It is viewed by many as intended to exclude any reference to Christ or Lord.[1] Nevertheless, the “BCE” and “CE” designations are still based on the fact that the calendar change occurred at the same point in time as the life of Jesus.

Religion archenemies of Christianity commonly agree on the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth. Jewish ancestral birth records and lineage of Jesus are undisputed by Judaism.[2] The miraculous conception of Mary and the birth of Jesus are recognized by the Quran.[3]

An entirely new religion was spawned by the teachings and events surrounding Jesus of Nazareth – Christianity. Something profound changed the official views of the Roman empire and became the largest religion in the world, today over 2 billion people.[4]

Providing more specifics, Matthew and Luke raise the bar of answerability and credibility to the highest degree. Both Gospels reference the names of verifiable secular historical names which in turn establishes historical dating markers.

Caesar Augustus was the ruling Roman Emperor. King Herod was the head of the Judean government. Quirinius , Procurator Pilate and Archelaus, son of King Herod, are all well-documented historical ruler figures who are referenced in the two Gospels when Jesus was born.[5]

Nazareth was the expected birth place of Jesus, not 90 miles away in Bethlehem.[6] The angel who appeared separately to Joseph and Mary announcing Mary’s miraculous pregnancy didn’t tell either of them to go to Bethlehem, as such they should not be expected to think otherwise.[7]

Only a decree by a Roman Caesar forced the location change of the birthplace of Jesus. Months in the making in Rome, timing of Augustus’ official decree compelled Joseph and Mary in her late-stage of pregnancy to abruptly make the days-long trek to Bethlehem where she went into labor. If the choice had been optional, Joseph and Mary would almost certainly have stayed in Nazareth to give birth at home surrounded by family and friends.

Announcement by the Town Crier of Caesar’s decree a week later or more than a week earlier and Jesus would have been born in Nazareth. Had Jesus been born in Nazareth, it would have completely eliminated the potential fulfillment of Micah’s Bethlehem prophecy.[8]

Months earlier, hundreds of miles away from Nazareth and Rome, the Magi began making preparations to travel around the edges of the vast Arabian Desert on a month’s long journey to Judea to find the newborn King of Israel. These astronomy experts began their quest based on seeing “His Star,” not because of any Jewish Messiah prophecy.

Multiple rare planet and star conjunctions occurred in an unusually brief period of time beginning just months before the birth of Jesus. Typically these close conjunctions occur centuries or millennia apart; however, at this point in time, all seven conjunctions occurred over the course of only 18 months.[9]

Last of these conjunctions partially overlapped on June 17, 2 BC, causing the appearance of an extremely rare, unusually brilliant, elongated star. NASA astronomy science and technology confirms all these rare conjunctions both in timing and close proximity.[10]

When the Magi began their month’s long journey to Judea, their final destination was unclear. They sought out King Herod in Jerusalem for assistance in finding the newborn King signaled by “His star.”[11]

In turn, Herod consulted his Jewish religious council who told the King about the [12] King Herod indicated that he believed the prophecy had been fulfilled when he pointed the Magi to Bethlehem to search for the babe in exchange for telling him the location of the newborn.[13]

Looking beyond the birth circumstances for more indications that Jesus might be the Messiah involves other prophecies that matched later events during his lifetime. Further consideration has to be given to the chances the circumstances of the Messiah prophecies could be fulfilled today if not by Jesus 2000 years ago.

Messiah prophecies are the primary starting point originating in the Scriptures of Judaism, the Tenakh or, for Christianity, the Old Testament. Not all Messiah prophesies are unanimously recognized by Jewish religious authorities. Many Christianity viewpoints on Messiah prophecies are likewise disputed by Judaism.

One Messiah prophecy; however, is virtually undisputed – the Messiah would be born in the lineage of King David.[14] Other potential Messiah prophecies involve the Branch, crucifixion and Resurrection.

Branch prophecies issued by the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zechariah are not universally considered by Judaism to be Messiah prophecies. Two of the most renowned Jewish sages are Rabbi Rashi and Rabbi Maimonides, each having differing views on some Messiah prophecies.

Maimonides viewed the Isaiah 53:5 and Zechariah 6:12 Branch prophecies as foretelling the Messiah.[15] Rashi, on the other hand, viewed the same Isaiah and Zechariah Branch prophecies to be about Zerubbabel.[16]

Crucifixion was a most horrible method of execution – a slow death designed to inflict prolonged maximum pain and humiliation. In Isaiah 52-53, the prophet not only described the circumstances of the torture and death of “My Servant,” Isaiah also described the Servant’s burial among the rich and a life after death. All closely mirror the Gospel’s description of the crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.[17]

Psalms contains Messiah prophecies recognized by Judaism, but not Psalms 22 which reflects very similar circumstances to a Roman crucifixion 1000 years later. Psalms 22 also includes both a quote and a specific gambling activity by those present at the scene – each precisely occurred during the crucifixion of Jesus according to the Gospels.[18]

Zechariah 12:10 foretells that “Me” of the House of David will be thrust through or pierced, killing him. His death would cause morning as deep as for an only son. While Rashi believed this was a prophecy about Israel, he acknowledged it could be about the Messiah referencing the faction of Rabbis in the Talmud’s Succah 52a who believed it to be Messianic.[19]

Assessing the validity of the Messiah prophecies and the possibility they were fulfillment by the life of Jesus obviously has a direct impact in determining the answer to the second question, was Jesus born as the Messiah?  One option is to consider the manner of execution death of Jesus of Nazareth as merely a happenstance 3-fold coincidence with the centuries-old writings of Isaiah, Psalms and Zechariah. The other option is to accept that the three scenarios are indeed Messiah prophecies fulfilled by Jesus as part of a divine plan.

Confluence of the seemingly unconnected chain of events converging in Bethlehem when Jesus was born are, frankly, most remarkable. Contemplate the likelihood that independent events in Rome, the East, the phenomena in the sky and Nazareth all converged unexpectedly at a single point in time when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The U.S. legal Doctrine of Chances suggests it was not an accident.

What are the odds that Jesus was born as the Son of God, the Messiah?

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[1] Hocken, Vigdis. “Common Era (CE) and Before Common Era (BCE).” TimeandDate.com. 2020. <https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/ce-bce-what-do-they-mean.html> Mark, Joshua J. “The Origin and History of the BCE/CE Dating System.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. 2020. <https://www.ancient.eu/article/1041/the-origin-and-history-of-the-bcece-dating-system>
[2] “Jesus of Nazareth.”  Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8616-jesus-of-nazareth>  Maimon, Moshe ben (Maimonides). “Melachim uMilchamot.” Chabad.org. Chapter 11, #4. <https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1188356/jewish/Melachim-uMilchamot-Chapter-11.htm>  CR I Chronicles 9:1; Matthew 1:5; Luke 3:32. Josephus, Flavius. Against Apion. Trans. and commentary William Whitson. Book 1, #7. The Complete Works of Josephus.  <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>  Hall, David Markel.  “The Temple of G-d.”  1997.  Zion Messianic Congregation of Austin, Texas. <http://tzion.org/articles/temple.html>  “Jewish Genealogy & Surnames.” Archives. Archives.com. n.d. <http://www.archives.com/genealogy/family-heritage-jewish.html>  “Jesus.” Encyclopaedia Judaica. pp 246-251. Encyclopaedia Judaica. Eds. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. Vol. 11. 2nd edition. <http://go.galegroup.com/ps/infomark.do?action=interpret&eisbn=9780028660974&prodId=GVRL&userGroupName=imcpl1111&type=aboutBook&version=1.0&authCount=1&u=imcpl1111>
[3] Quran. Trans. Abdullah Yusuf Ali. n.d. Search “Jesus.” <http://search-the-quran.com>  “The Descriptive Titles of Jesus in the Quran (part 1 of 2): “The Messiah” and “a Miracle.”’ IslamReligion.com. 2020. <http://www.islamreligion.com/articles/230>  The Quran. JM Rodwell Translation With text notes. “Preface.” <http://www.truthnet.org/islam/Quran/Rodwell/Introduction.html>
[4] “What is the #1 religion in the world?” Search. Google. 2020. <https://www.google.com/search?q=what+is+the+%231+religion+in+the+world&oq=what+is+the+%231+rel&aqs=chrome.0.0i457j0j69i57j0j0i22i30l4.10361j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8>
[5] Matthew 2:1, 22; 27:2; Mark 15:1; Luke 2:1-2; John 19:1.
[6] Luke 1:39, 2:1-5. Map of Israel (active, untitled).  Bing.com/maps. Mileage calculation from Bethlehem to Nazareth.  n.d. <https://binged.it/2mNpBy8>  Oshri, Aviram.  “Where was Jesus Born?” Archaeology. Volume 58 Number 6. November/December 2005. <http://www.archaeology.org/0511/abstracts/jesus.html> Arbez, Edward. “Bethlehem.” Catholic Encyclopedia. Volume 2. 1907. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02533a.htm>
[7] Matthew 1:18-23; Luke 1:26-37.
[8] Micah 5:2 (verse 1 in Jewish Bibles).
[9] Ventrudo, Brian. “Measuring The Sky.”  “Venus and Jupiter’s Upcoming Conjunction.” Universe Today. 2004. <http://www.universetoday.com/10006/venus-and-jupiters-upcoming-conjunction/#ixzz2B6cvKJEt>  Dickinson, David. “Is This Month’s Jupiter-Venus Pair Really a Star of Bethlehem Stand In?” Universe Today. 2015. <https://www.universetoday.com/122738/is-this-months-jupiter-venus-pair-really-a-star-of-bethlehem-stand-in/> Beatty, Kelly. “Venus and Jupiter: Together at Last.” Sky & Telescope. 2015. <http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/observing-news/venus-and-jupiter-a-dazzling-duo-062520154 >  Cain, Fraser. “Venus and Jupiter’s Upcoming Conjunction.” Universe Today. 2004. http://www.universetoday.com/10006/venus-and-jupiters-upcoming-conjunction/#ixzz2B6cvKJEt> Carroll, Susan S. “The Star of Bethlehem:  An Astronomical and Historical Perspective.” Pulcherrima Productions.  1997. Twin Cities Creation Science Association. n.d. <http://www.tccsa.tc/articles/star_susan_carroll.pdf>
[10] Phillips, Tony. “A Christmas Star for SOHO.” NASA Science | Science New. 2018. <http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2000/ast16may_1>  Haley, A. S. “The Star of Bethlehem and the Nativity.” Anglican Curmudgeon. Video. 2009. <http://accurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2009/10/star-of-bethlehem-and-nativity.html>  CR “Birth of Jesus.” Navsoft.com. 2012. http://navsoft.com/html/birth_of_jesus.html>  Clevenger, John. “Astronomy, Astrology, and the Star of Bethlehem.”  Lake County (Illinois) Astronomical   Society. 2012. <http://www.lcas-astronomy.org/articles/display.php?filename=the_christmas_star&category=miscellaneous>
[11] Matthew 2:1-3.
[12] Matthew 2:4-6.
[13] Matthew 2:7-8.
[14] Maimon, Moshe ben (Maimonides). “Melachim uMilchamot.” Chabad.org. Chapter 11, #4.  Numbers 17-19. The Complete Jewish Bible. Rashi Commentary. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/9952/showrashi/true>
[15] Zechariah 3:8; 6:12-13. Maimonides, “Letter to the South (Yemen)”. p374. The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. <https://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1&hl=en#v=onepage&q=advent&f=false>
[16] Isaiah 53:2. The Complete Jewish Bible. Rashi commentary. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/15984/showrashi/true>  Zechariah 6:12. The Complete Jewish Bible. Rashi commentary. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16210/showrashi/true>
[17] Isaiah 52-53.
[18] Matthew 27:35, 42; Mark 15:24, 31; Luke 23:34-35; John 19:23-24.
[19] Zechariah 12:20. The Complete Jewish Bible. Rashi commentary. n.d. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16216/showrashi/true>  Sukkah 52a, p 75. <http://www.halakhah.com/rst/moed/16b%20-%20Succah%20-%2029b-56b.pdf>

Branch Prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zechariah

Three Hebrew prophets over the span of 200 years – Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zechariah – had one specific prophecy in common.[1] All foretold of the “Branch,” similarly interpreted as the “Sprout.”

Generations after King David’s reign, some 700 years before Jesus of Nazareth was born, the remnants of David’s kingdom of Israel were in a downward death spiral. For centuries, despite many warnings from numerous prophets, the Hebrews and their kings failed to abide by their contractual Covenant made with God at Mt. Sinai.[2]

Renowned as a prophet by both Judaism and Christianity, Isaiah warned kings Ahaz and Hezekiah of the consequences their nation faced. Isaiah prophesied the “King of Babylon” would one day take away their own descendants to serve as eunuchs in his palace.[3]

Warnings also came with good tidings when Isaiah prophesied about the coming future Messiah.[4] In one, Isaiah foretold of a “Branch” who would grow out or sprout from the root of Jesse:[5]

Is 11:1-2 “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.  The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.”(NKJV)

A century after Isaiah’s prophecies, defiance by the Hebrews had continued leading to the fulfillment of his prophecy that judgement would come from the King of Babylon.[6] Reality came with the attack of Nebuchadnezzar and his destruction of Jerusalem.

After a devastating defeat, the Hebrew’s finest were taken captive back to Babylon where, in the Book of Daniel, at least three upstanding Hebrews served King Nebuchadnezzar. Prophet Jeremiah added more bad news prophesying that the secession of sitting kings in the House of David would end with Jeconiah aka Jehoiachin.[7]

Amidst the doom and gloom, Jeremiah also predicted good news about the coming Messiah. Twice the prophet foretold that God would raise up another King in the lineage of David, “a Branch of Righteous.” Curiously, Jewish sage Rabbi Rashi offered no commentary on either of these prophecies, perhaps because no commentary was necessary:

Jer 23:5 “”Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth…”” (NKJV)

Jer  33:15 “‘In those days and at that time I will cause to grow up to David A Branch of righteousness; He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth…’” (NKJV)

Moving ahead another century since Jeremiah’s prophecies, the 70 years of the Babylonian captivity had ended with the Medes and Persian invasion.[8] Two centuries earlier, Isaiah twice prophesied a ruler named Cyrus would rise who would allow Jerusalem to be rebuilt – Cyrus was the name of the new Persian Empire ruler who did exactly that.[9]

Darius followed Cyrus as ruler of the Persian Empire and honored Cyrus’ decree for the Hebrews to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple.[10] Zechariah 1:1 – “In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo.” [11]

Describing his fourth vision, Zechariah was present when Joshua the Priest stood before the angel of the LORD along with Satan who was there to accuse the priest. Satan was rebuked by God and Joshua was given fine new clothes.[12] In the vision, God then spoke directly to the high Priest:[13]

Zech 3:8 “‘Now listen, Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who are sitting in front of you—indeed they are men who are a symbol, for behold, I am going to bring in My servant the Branch.’” (NASB)

God identified the Branch as “My servant.” Incidentally, the central figure of the parashah prophecy of Isaiah 52-53 is also “My servant” who is subjected to unusual cruelties consistent with a Roman crucifixion described in the Gospels.

Narrating his eighth vision, Zechariah received instructions from God to choose people from among the exiles to make a crown of gold and silver, then set it upon the head of Joshua, the high Priest. Zechariah was directed to then deliver this message to the Priest:

Zech 6:12-13 “…‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, saying: “Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, And He shall build the temple of the LORD; Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD. He shall bear the glory, And shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”’’” (NKJV)

Joshua, the high Priest, was not from the royal lineage of King David. Nor was he expected to be made a king when the symbolic crown was set upon his head, especially since the Hebrews were subservient to an accommodating ruler, Darius. Neither was Zerubbabel given the crown, technically the rightful heir to the throne being the grandson of Jeconiah, the last sitting king in the royal secession of David before the Babylonian captivity.[14]

No one person present at this event is the focus of God’s message, rather it pointed to someone else in the future named the Branch. Rabbi Rashi commented he believed the prophecies were in reference to Zerubbabel while acknowledging others viewed it as referring to the Messiah.[15] Jewish sage Rabbi Maimonides viewed the Isaiah and Zechariah prophecies to be about the Messiah.[16]

Prophecies from Isaiah before the Babylonian captivity, Jeremiah during the Babylonian captivity and Zechariah after the Babylon captivity, point to a future figure called the Branch in the lineage of King David. Viewed as Messiah prophecies, at least in part, by both Judaism and Christianity, what are the odds that Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of the Branch prophecies?


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[1] “Isaiah.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2019. <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Isaiah> “Isaiah.” New World Encyclopedia. 2018. <https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Isaiah>  “Jeremiah.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2019. <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jeremiah-Hebrew-prophet>  “Jeremiah.” New World Encyclopedia. 2018. <http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Jeremiah>  “Zechariah.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2019. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/biblical-literature/The-last-six-minor-prophets#ref597798>  “Zechariah, Book of.” New World Encyclopedia. 2013. <http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Zechariah,_Book_of>
[2] Exodus 24:3-8.  CR Deuteronomy 29.
[3] Isaiah 39:7. “ben.” Netbible.org. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=01121>
[4] I Chronicles 2:11-13; 2 Ruth 4:17.
[5] The Complete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. Rashi commentary on Isaiah 11:1.   <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16210/showrashi/true> CR Isaiah 9:6-7; 11:10.  CR 1 Chronicles 2:12-15, 3:16-18; Ruth 4:21-22; Matthew 1:5-16; Luke 2:4; 23-31.  Ryrie. “Introduction to the Book of Isaiah.”
[6] Jeremiah 24:10-16; 52:27-33; Esther 2:6; 2 Kings 24:6, 8, 12, 14-15; 25:27, 29
[7] Chronicles 36:8, 9; Jeremiah 22:24-30. CR Jeremiah 24:1; 27:20; 28:4; 29:2, 52:31, 33; 1 Chronicles 3:16, 17; 24:15; 2 Chronicles 36:8, 9; Esther 2:6; 2 Kings 24:6, 8, 12, 15; 25:27, 29; Ezekiel 1:2.
[8] 2 Chronicles 36:22; Ezra 2:1.
[9] Isaiah 44:28, 45:1, 13; Ezekiel 1:2-3.  CR Ezra 2:1-2; Nehemiah 7:6; Isaiah 41:2-3, 25, 27; 43:9, 21; 48:14-15.  Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Book XI, Chapters I.1-2. Trans. and commentary.  William Whitson.  The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>
[10] Ezekiel 1:2-3, 6:7,12. “Darius I.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2019. <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Darius-I> Josephus. Antiquities. Book XI, Chapters III.8, IV.1-2.
[11] NET, NIV. “Darius I.” Encyclopædia Britannica.
[12] Zechariah 3.
[13] Plaut, Gunther. “Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi: Back in the Land.”  MyJewishLearning.com. n.d. <http://www.myjewishlearning.com/texts/Bible/Prophets/Latter_Prophets/The_12_Minor_Prophets/Haggai_Zechariah_Malachi.shtml>
[14] I Chronicles 3:17-19; Haggai 1:1, 12, 14; 2:2, 23; Ezra 3:8.
[15] The Complete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. Rashi commentary on Zechariah 6:12.   <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16210/showrashi/true>
[16] Maimonides, “Letter to the South (Yemen)”. p374.  Neubauer and Driver.  The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. <https://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1&hl=en#v=onepage&q=advent&f=false>

The Great Isaiah Scroll – Science and Technology Reveals

Isaiah is considered by Judaism and Christianity to be the greatest of all the prophets making the Book of Isaiah the greatest of all the books of the prophets.[1] The Talmud contains many references and interpretations of Isaiah’s prophecies with Sanhedrin 98 alone making ten references.[2]

Paramount to the prophecies of Isaiah is having confidence that the Book of Isaiah in today’s Bibles is credible and authentic.[3] The sciences of Archeology and Textual Criticism enhanced by technology play a major role in making that determination.

Septuagint LXX translation, produced from 285-247 BC, is the primary foundation for Christian Bible translations. Josephus, a Pharisee Jew, described in great detail about Egypt ruler Ptolemy Philadelphius who wrote to High Priest Eleazar in Jerusalem. The King requested six of the best elders from each of the 12 tribes to translate to Greek the Hebrew Scriptures directly from the official Hebrew text.[4]

Elders including priests traveled to Egypt with scrolls from the Temple for the translation project.[5] King Ptolemy was most impressed with the scrolls:

“…and when the membranes, upon which they had their law written in golden letters, he put questions to them concerning those books; and when they had taken off the covers wherein they were wrapt up, they showed him the membranes.  So the king stood admiring the thinness of those membranes, and the exactness of the junctures; which could not be perceived, (so exact were they connected one with another;)…”[6]

Upon completion, the Greek translation was reviewed again by “both the priests and the ancientest of the elders, and the principal men…” and finalized with a promise that it would never be changed.[7] “Septuagint” is Latin means 70 as does the Roman Numeral “LXX” representing the 70 who worked together to for the translation.[8]

Hebrew Bible translations are based on two surviving Hebrew Masoretic Texts (MT), the Aleppo Codex dated to 925 AD and the Leningrad Codex circa 1008-10 AD.[9] About a third of the Aleppo text was destroyed in a synagogue fire resulting in a dependency on the Leningrad manuscript.

Spanning the timeline between the Septuagint and the MT is at least 1250 years. In the interim, many things impacted Judea– the Greek Empire, its language and Hellenism influences; the rule of King Herod; and domination by the Roman Empire which destroyed Jerusalem with the Temple in 70 AD.[10]

Addressing these impacts opened the door to the Miqraot Gedolot HaKeter Project to produce a “precise letter-text” translation of the Masoretic text. Director Menachem Cohen, Professor of Bible at Bar-Ilan University of Israel, said the project was intended to address the “thousands of flaws of the previous and current editions.”[11]

Dead Sea Scroll discoveries at Qumran, beginning in 1947 continuing over the next decade until 1956, revealed a treasure trove of ancient scrolls determined to be about 2000 years old.[12] Two scrolls of Isaiah were among the discoveries, one virtually complete scroll known as “Qa” and the second scroll known as “Qb” which is about 75% complete.[13]

For good reason, the Qa scroll has been dubbed “The Great Isaiah Scroll” and is on display in Jerusalem at the Shrine of the Book.[14] Anyone may now view “The Scroll” in its entirety online.[15]

Dated to c. 125 BC, The Scroll was written on leather comprised of 17 pieces sewn together, each strip containing from 2 to 4 pages.[16] Predating the arrival of Jesus of Nazareth, it can be concluded that the scrolls could have been influenced by the Christian era.

A precept of the science of textual criticism is the shorter the time interval between the original and the existing text, the greater the level of textual purity – the shorter the timeframe, the fewer number of interim handwritten copies where variations are inevitably introduced.[17]

Josephus reveals the translation of the Greek Septuagint is based on a side-by-side text of the Hebrew Law taken directly from the Temple suggesting textual purity of the highest degree.[18] The downside, it was not Hebrew-to-Hebrew.

Differences are to be expected between a Greek translation from Hebrew text that was written with ancient Hebrew characters for which there was not a direct Greek equivalent.[19] As with any translation, some words or phrases must be deciphered by the translators with a heavy dependence on the context.[20]

Add in the comparison of The Scroll to the Masoretic Text. The variations posed a huge challenge to the project team where even the spelling of “Israel” appears differently.[21]

“…the aggregate of known differences in the Greek translations is enough to rule out the possibility that we have before us today’s Masoretic Text. The same can be said of the various Aramaic translations; the differences they reflect are too numerous for us to class their vorlage as our Masoretic Text.” – Menachem Cohen[22]

Focusing only on the two major controversial prophecies of Isaiah 7:14 and the Chapter 52-53 parashah makes it easier to digest the key differences. No significant variation is called out by experts for either Isaiah 7:14 nor chapter 53.[23]

“The major difference between the Aleppo Codex and the Dead Sea Scrolls is the addition of the vowel pointings (called nikkudot in Hebrew) in the Aleppo Codex to the Hebrew words.” – Jeff A Benner[24]

Isaiah 7:14 is entirely written in the future tense meaning it is a prophecy, that is undisputed. Several potentially meaningful differences occur between the MT and Septuagint that are impacted by The Scroll.[25]

What the prophecy means depends heavily on the translation.[26] Variations include the translation controversy of the two Hebrew words ha-alamah; a text pronoun difference and two name differences. 

MT translates ha-almah as “a young woman” while The Scroll translated it as “a young maiden.” [27] In Hebrew, ha exclusive means “the” – specific vs. general.[28] The Septuagint with its 70 Hebrew elders including priests translated the Hebrew words ha-almah into Greek as “ha Parthenos” precisely meaning “the virgin.”[29]

Another is the pronoun difference where the MT says “she or you” will call his name;  The Scroll says “he” will call his name; and the Septuagint says “you” shall call his name.[30] In The Scroll, “he” refers to God whereas “she” refers to the mother and “you” refers to the audience.

Two other noteworthy differences are also in play. The MT and Septuagint use the word Adonai for “Lord” rather than “LORD” while The Scroll translation uses YHWH, the name of God.[31] At the end of the verse, the MT writes Immanu-el as two words; however, The Scroll writes it as a single word “Immanuel.” In Hebrew, one word always indicates a name.

Isaiah Chapter 53 poses another controversy in the book of prophecies. Interestingly, The Scroll begins the parashah in Column XLIV with the Isaiah 52:13 reference to “my servant.”[32] Most differences are grammatical and do not change the general text; however, there are some notable exceptions found in The Scroll.[33]

An omission begins the differences in 53:2 where The Scroll includes in the margin, two words, “before us” while the MT says “before him.” No Bible translation includes these words in the first sentence which would otherwise say something like, “out of dry ground before us or him.[34]

Perhaps the most significant difference between the Septuagint and the MT in Isaiah 53:7 is not settled by The Scroll which contains the Hebrew word חֹ֑לִי (choliy). The word has been translated mainly in Bibles as “grief,” “suffering” or “disease.” Various translations read “a man of sorrows and knowing grief/suffering/disease.[35]

One last possibly significant difference revealed by The Scroll is the appearance of the word nephsho meaning “light.” The Septuagint includes the word as does some Bible translations (NASB, NIV, BSB, CSB, ISV, NHEB, WEB*); however, other Christian and Jewish Bibles including the MT translate the word as “it.”[36]

The Great Isaiah Scroll, though not an official text of the Temple, was written 100-150 years after the Greek Septuagint while the Hebrew Masoretic Text followed a 1000 years later. How likely is it that The Scroll more accurately reflects the original Hebrew text written by the prophet Isaiah?


*NASB = New American Standard Bible; NIV = New International Version; BSB = Berean Study Bible; CSB = Christian Standard Bible; ISV = International Standard Version; NHEB = New Heart English Bible; WEB = World English Bible

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[1] “Isaiah.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8235-isaiah> “Isaiah.” Biblica | The International Bible Society. 2019. <https://www.biblica.com/resources/scholar-notes/niv-study-bible/intro-to-isaiah>
[2] Soncino Babylonian Talmud.  Sanhedrin 98a, footnote #1. Isaiah XLIX:7, XVIII:5, I:25, LIX:19, LIX:20, LX:21, LIX:16, XLVIII:11, LX:22, LIII.4. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_98.html#98b_31>  CR The Babylonian Talmud. Trans. Michael L. Rodkinson. 1918. Sanhedrin, Chapter XI, p 310. <http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/t08/t0814.htm>
[3] Cohen, Menachem.  “The Idea of the Sanctity of the Biblical Text and the Science of Textual Criticism.” Bar-Ilan University. 1979. <http://cs.anu.edu.au/%7Ebdm/dilugim/CohenArt>  Benner, Jeff A. “The Great Isaiah Scroll and the Masoretic Text.” Ancient Hebrew Research Center. 2017. <http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/bible_isaiahscroll.html>  Zeolla, Gary F. “Textual Criticismj.” Universitat De Valencia. 2000.  <http://www.uv.es/~fores/programa/introtextualcritici.html>  “Isaiah.” Biblica | The International Bible Society. 2019. <https://www.biblica.com/resources/scholar-notes/niv-study-bible/intro-to-isaiah>
[4] Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Trans. and commentary. William Whitson. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. Book XII, Chapter II. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>  “Septuagint.” Septuagint.Net. 2014. <http://septuagint.net>  Benner. “The Great Isaiah Scroll.”  Lundberg, Marilyn J. “The Leningrad Codex.”  USC West Semitic Research Project. 2012. <https://web.archive.org/web/20140826133533/https://www.usc.edu/dept/LAS/wsrp/educational_site/biblical_manuscripts/LeningradCodex.shtml>  “Septuagint.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2019. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/Septuagint> Cohen. “The Idea of the Sanctity of the Biblical Text and the Science of Textual Criticism.”
[5] Josephus. Antiquities. Book XII, Chapter II. 5-6, 11-13. Whitson, William. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. Antiquities of the Jews. Book XII, Chapter.II.12, footnote *.
[6] Josephus. Antiquities. Book XII, Chapter II.11.
[7] Josephus. Antiquities. Book XII, Chapter II.13.
[8] “Septuagint.” Definitions.net. n.d. <https://www.definitions.net/definition/septuagint>  “Septuagint.” Merriam-Webster. 2020. <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Septuagint>  Josephus. Antiquities. Book XII, Chapter II.7, 11.  Whitson. The Complete Works of Josephus.  Antiquities of the Jews. Book XII, Chapter.II.12, footnote *.
[9] Abegg,, et al. The Dead Sea Scrolls. “Introduction”, page x.  Aronson, Ya’akov.  “Mikraot Gedolot haKeter–Biblia Rabbinica:  Behind the scenes with the project team.”  Association Jewish Libraries.  Bar Ilan University. Ramat Gan, Israel. n.d. <http://www.jewishlibraries.org/main/Portals/0/AJL_Assets/documents/Publications/proceedings/proceedings2004/aronson.pdf>  Miller, Laura. “The Aleppo Codex: The bizarre history of a precious book.” 2012. Salon. <http://www.salon.com/2012/05/13/the_aleppo_codex_the_bizarre_history_of_a_precious_book>
[10] “Scrolls from the Dead Sea.” Library of Congress. n.d. <https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/scrolls/late.html> Greenberg, Irving. “The Temple and its Destruction.” MyJewishLearning.com. 2020. <https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/the-temple-its-destruction>  “Destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.” Harvard Divinity School. 2020. <https://rlp.hds.harvard.edu/faq/destruction-second-temple-70-ce>
[11] Cohen, Menachem. “Mikra’ot Gedolot – ‘Haketer’ – Isaiah.” 2009. <http://www.biupress.co.il/website_en/index.asp?id=447>
[12] “Dead Sea Scrolls.” Archaeology. 2018. <http://www.allaboutarchaeology.org/dead-sea-scrolls.htm>  “Scrolls from the Dead Sea.” Library of Congress.  Roach, John.  “8 Jewish archaeological discoveries – From Dead Sea Scroll to a ‘miracle pool.’”  Science on NBCNEWS.com. <http://www.nbcnews.com/id/28162671/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/jewish-archaeological-discoveries/#.VLU34XtFYuI>  “The Great Isaiah Scroll.” The Digital Dead Sea Scrolls. 2020. <http://dss.collections.imj.org.il/isaiah> Benner. “The Great Isaiah Scroll.” “Isaiah.” Biblica.
[13] Miller. Fred P. “The Great Isaiah Scroll.” Moellerhaus Publisher. Directory. 1998. <http://www.moellerhaus.com/qumdir.htm>  Cohen. “The Idea of the Sanctity of the Biblical Text.” Footnote #4.  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. <https://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>
[14] Benner. “The Great Isaiah Scroll.” Abegg,, et al. “The Dead Sea Scrolls.”
[15] “The Great Isaiah Scroll.” The Digital Dead Sea Scrolls.
[16] Miller. Fred P. “Q” = The Great Isaiah Scroll Introductory Page” Chapter I, IV. Moellerhaus Publisher. 2016. <http://www.moellerhaus.com/Controversy/Controversy.htm>  Benner, Jeff A. “The Great Isaiah Scroll and the Masoretic Text.” “textus receptus.” The Free Dictionary. 2020. <https://www.thefreedictionary.com/Received+Text#:~:text=The%20text%20of%20a%20written,of%20recipere%2C%20to%20receive.%5D>  “The Great Isaiah Scroll.” The Digital Dead Sea Scrolls.
[17] Westcott, Brooke F. & Hort, John A. The New Testament in the Original Greek – Introduction | Appendix. pp 31, 58-59, 223-224, 310-311. 1907. <https://books.google.com/books?id=gZ4HAAAAQAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=The+New+Testament+in+the+Original+Greek&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiOjMvk3fjXAhUE5yYKHSTHC5wQ6wEIOjAD#v=onepage&q=The%20New%20Testament%20in%20the%20Original%20Greek&f=false>  Miller. Fred P.  The Great Isaiah Scroll. Moellerhaus Publisher. 1998. “Qumran Great Isaiah Scroll.” Benner. “The Great Isaiah Scroll.”  Cohen, Menachem.  “The Idea of the Sanctity of the Biblical Text and the Science of Textual Criticism.” 
[18] Schodde, George H. Old Testament Textual Criticism. pp 45-46. 1887. <https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdfplus/10.1086/469936>  Gentry, Peter J. “The Text of the Old Testament.” p 24. 2009 <https://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/52/52-1/JETS%2052-1%2019-45%20Gentry.pdf>
[19] Welch, Adam Cleghorn. “Since Wellhausen.” p 175. <https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/expositor/series9/1925-09_164.pdf>  Benner, Jeff A. “Introduction to Ancient Hebrew.” <https://www.ancient-hebrew.org/introduction.htm>
[20] Benner. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible.”
[21] Cohen. “The Idea of the Sanctity of the Biblical Text.” CR Miller. Fred P. “The Translation of the Great Isaiah Scroll.” Book of Isaiah. Trans. Fred P. Miller. Moellerhaus Publisher. 2001. <http://www.moellerhaus.com/qa-tran.htm> Benner, Jeff A. “The Great Isaiah Scroll and the Masoretic Text.”
[22] Cohen. “The Idea of the Sanctity of the Biblical Text.” Footnotes
[23] Cohen. “The Idea of the Sanctity of the Biblical Text.” Footnotes #6-7.
[24] Benner, Jeff A. “The Great Isaiah Scroll and the Masoretic Text.”
[25] Miller. Fred P.  “The Translation of the Great Isaiah Scroll.” “The Translation of the Great Isaiah Scroll “Dead Sea Scrolls Bible Translations.” 2016. <http://dssenglishbible.com/scroll1QIsaa.htm>
[26] Miller, Fred P. “Column VI – The Great Isaiah Scroll 6:7 to 7:15.” Ancient Hebrew Research Center. n.d. <http://www.moellerhaus.com/qum-6.htm>
[27] Miller. “Column VI – The Great Isaiah Scroll 6:7 to 7:15.”  Miller. Fred P. “Assyrian Destruction of Israel is Not the End God Will Bring the Messiah to the Same Territory and the Same Restored People.” Chapters 7-8. Ancient Hebrew Research Center. n.d. <http://www.moellerhaus.com/7-8.htm#alma>  Benner, Jeff A. “Textual Criticisim of Isaiah 7:14 (Video).” 2020. <https://www.ancient-hebrew.org/textual-criticism/textual-criticism-of-isaiah-7-14.htm>  “Dead Sea Scrolls Bible Translations.”
[28] Benner. “Introduction to the Ancient Hebrew Alphabet.”
[29] Miller. “Column VI – The Great Isaiah Scroll 6:7 to 7:15.”  
[30] Benner, Jeff A. “Column VI – The Great Isaiah Scroll 6:7 to 7:15.” Miller. Fred P.  “The Translation of the Great Isaiah Scroll.”
[31] Benner, Jeff A. “What is the difference between lord, Lord and LORD?” Ancient Hebrew Research Center. 2020. https://www.ancient-hebrew.org/god-yhwh/difference-between-lord-Lord-and-LORD.htm>
[32] Miller. Fred P.  “The Translation of the Great Isaiah Scroll.”
[33 Cohen. “The Idea of the Sanctity of the Biblical Text.” Footnote #4.  Benner, Jeff A. “The Great Isaiah Scroll and the Masoretic Text.”
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[35] Miller. “The Translation of the Great Isaiah Scroll.” Benner, Fred P. “The Great Isaiah Scroll and the Masoretic Text.” 2020. <https://www.ancient-hebrew.org/dss/great-isaiah-scroll-and-the-masoretic-text.htm#2>  “Dead Sea Scrolls Bible Translations.” 2016. <http://dssenglishbible.com/scroll1QIsaa.htm> “Isaiah 53 at Qumran.”
[36] “Isaiah 53:11.” BibleHub.com. 2020. <https://biblehub.com/isaiah/53-11.htm> “Isaiah 53:11.” NetBible.org. 2020, <http://classic.net.bible.org/verse.php?book=Isa&chapter=53&verse=11>  Isaiah 53:11. JPS translation. Isaiah 53:11. Complete Jewish Bible. Isaiah 53 :11. “Isaiah 53 at Qumran,”  Benner, Jeff A. “The Great Isaiah Scroll and the Masoretic Text.” Miller. “Column XLIV – The Great Isaiah Scroll 52:13 to 54:4.” n.d. <http://www.moellerhaus.com/qum-44.htm>  Miller. “The Translation of the Great Isaiah Scroll.”  “Dead Sea Scrolls Bible Translations.” 1Q Isaiahb 2016. <http://dssenglishbible.com/scroll1QIsab.htm>  Footnote (2).