The Great Isaiah Scroll – Are Its Messiah Prophecies Authentic?

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 10 references.[2]

Beginning to end, the Book of Isaiah is chalked full of Messiah prophecies although which ones are messianic sparks a conflict. Undisputed are the three prophecies foretelling the future Messiah would come from the son of Jesse, the throne of David.[3] Of these, one is the first Messiah “Branch” prophecy followed a hundred years later by two Jeremiah “Branch” prophecies and a century after that, Zechariah’s two “Branch” prophecies.[4]

Perhaps the greatest of all offers made by God to a man is the story in Isaiah of King Ahaz who turned it down! The King was given an opportunity to choose any miraculous sign unbounded between Heaven and Hell as proof that Isaiah’s prophecy of protection would come true.[5] Suspicious, Ahaz declined the challenge leading to the famed, yet controversial, prophecy of Isaiah 7:14.

Christianity and Judaism virtually agree Isaiah 7:14 predicts the birth of a son, but they part company about it being a prophecy of the Messiah’s birth. Matthew’s Gospel contains the account when the Archangel Gabriel told Joseph his betrothed virgin wife, Mary, would give birth to a son fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy of ha-almah.

Much more than a single word, the parashah or pericope of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 depicts a man’s manner of torture and suffering who is killed and buried. Moreover, the death and burial among the rich described in Isaiah 53:8-9 is followed by a description of life again in the remaining two verses. The many details in the parashah mirror the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion death, burial and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

Judaism typically treats the Isaiah 52-53 parashah as a prophecy about Israel, but with some very notable exceptions.[6] Prominent Rabbis – Maimonides, Jose the Galilean, Crispin – point to a combined 5 different Messiah prophecies within the parashah of Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12.[7] “The Rabbis” in Sanhedrin 98b reference Isaiah 53:4 identifying one of the names of the Messiah.[8]

Hours before his arrest, Jesus quoted Isaiah 53:12 to his Disciples, “‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’” saying the prophecy written about himself was to be fulfilled.[9] Three years earlier, launching his ministry in the synagogue of his home town, Jesus of Nazareth read from the prophecy of Isaiah 61 saying, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”[10]

Paramount to all of these prophecies is having confidence that the Book of Isaiah is credible and reliable.[11] Archeology played a major role in that determination with the discoveries of the Qumran Scrolls from 1947-1956 and their restoration.[12]

Most Qumran scrolls were only in fragments, but one scroll was complete – the scroll of Isaiah.[13] For good reason, the scroll has been dubbed “The Great Isaiah Scroll” and is on display in Jerusalem at the Shrine of the Book.[14]

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.[15]

Isaiah’s book was written around 700 BC and the Scroll is dated to between 200-100 BC. When compared to other well-known texts of antiquity, textual purity of the Scroll is of the highest degree especially considering that the some Hebrew scrolls have been known to be used in synagogues for hundreds of years.[16]

Until the Qumran discoveries, the oldest textual content of Isaiah was the Masoretic Aleppo manuscript, the source for the Jewish Tenakh. The Aleppo text was written about 1000 years after the Scroll.[17] Are the expected variances minor or significant?[18]

Surprising to experts, little variation is found between the Scroll and Aleppo texts. One Scroll translator, Jeff A Benner, explains his translation methodology on his website, “The Great Isaiah Scroll and the Masoretic Text.”  Focusing on the controversial Isaiah 53, the findings of his analysis:

“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.”

“Of the 166 words in Isaiah 53, there are only 17 letters in question. Ten of these letters are simply a matter of spelling, which does not affect the sense. Four more letters are minor stylistic changes, such as conjunctions. The three remaining letters comprise the word LIGHT, which is added in verse 11 and which does not affect the meaning greatly. Furthermore, this word is supported by the Septuagint (LXX). Thus, in one chapter of 166 words, there is only one word (three letters) in question after a thousand years of transmission – and this word does not significantly change the meaning of the passage.”

Benner points out the only variation of any significance, a single word, is still consistent with the Septuagint text. About 100 years before the Scroll was written, the Septuagint LXX translation was produced from 285-247 BC. According to Josephus, Egypt ruler Ptolemy Philadelphius required 72 Jewish scribes to be separated and translate Hebrew Scripture to produce a complete Greek translation.[19] The Septuagint is the primary basis of the Christian Bible.

Fred P. Miller is another Scroll text translator with his own website, “The Translation of the Great Isaiah Scroll.” Miller attributes the Scroll text to not being a “translation,” rather a copy that merely reflects dialects of the era similar to updating old English, such used as in the King James Version, to modern English used in the New King James Version. Miller’s finds the results “remarkable”:

“With this fact in mind, (that the Qumran scribes used their own discretion to alter the text to fit their own dialect), then the correspondence between the text of the Great Isaiah Scroll and the Masoretic text of Isaiah is all the more remarkable.”

Science has proven the Book of Isaiah holding its many prophecies genuinely and accurately appear in today’s Jewish and Christian Bibles. The question is not whether the prophecies of Isaiah are legitimate; rather, which are Messiah prophecies and have any been fulfilled?


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REFERENCES:

[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] Isaiah Is 9:6-7; 11:1-2, 10.  CR 1 Chronicles 2:12-15; Ruth 4:21-22. Matthew 1:5-6. Ryrie. “Introduction to the Book of Isaiah.”
[4] Jeremiah 23:5; 33:14-15. Zechariah 3:8, 6:12-13.
[5] Isaiah 7:11, NASB,
[6] The Compete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. Isaiah 42:13-14 Rashi commentary. <http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/63255/jewish/The-Bible-with-Rashi.htm>  Singer, Tovia.  “Who is God’s Suffering Servant? The Rabbinic Interpretation of Isaiah 53.”  Outreach Judaism. 2015.  <http://outreachjudaism.org/gods-suffering-servant-isaiah-53> Gold, Moshe “Israel’s Messenger, The Suffering Servant of Isaiah – A Rabbinic Anthology.” Israel’s Messenger. 2009. Jewish Awareness Ministries. <http://www.jewishawareness.org/the-suffering-servant-of-isaiah-a-rabbinic-antholo>
[7] Neubauer, Adolf, and Driver, Samuel Rolles.  The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. 1877. Moses Maimonides.  “Letter to the South (Yemen).” pp xiv, 99-117, 374-375.  <http://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=advent&f=false>  CR Babylonian Talmud Sotah 14a.  The Babylonian Talmud. Trans. Michael L. Rodkinson. 1918. <http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/t05/abo06.htm>
[8] Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Sanhedrin 98b, footnote #31. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_98.html#98b_31>
[9] NIV. Luke 22:37.
[10] NASB, NRSV. Luke 4:21. CR Matthew 12:15-21 citing Isaiah 42:1-4; Luke 22:37 reference to Isaiah 53:12.
[11] 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.
[12] “The Dead Sea Scrolls.” The Israel Museum. 2019. <https://www.imj.org.il/en/wings/shrine-book/dead-sea-scrolls> “Isaiah.” Biblica.
[13] “The Dead Sea Scrolls.” The Israel Museum.  Benner. “The Great Isaiah Scroll.”
[14] Benner. “The Great Isaiah Scroll…” “The Dead Sea Scrolls.” The Israel Museum.
[15] Westcott & Hort. The New Testament in the Original Greek. Pages 31, 58-59, 223-224, 310-311. [xv] Miller. Fred P.  The Great Isaiah Scroll. Moellerhaus Publisher. 1998. “Qumran Great Isaiah Scroll.” <http://www.moellerhaus.com/qumdir.htm>  Benner. “The Great Isaiah Scroll.”
[16] Benner. “The Great Isaiah Scroll.”
[17] Benner. “The Great Isaiah Scroll.” “Isaiah.” Biblica.
[18] Jenkins, Rob. “Literary Analysis as Scientific Method.”  The Chronicles of Higher Education. March 6, 2012.  <http://www.chronicle.com/blogs/onhiring/literary-analysis-as-scientific-method/30565>
[19] “Septuagint.” Septuagint.Net. 2014.  <http://septuagint.net>  Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Trans. and commentary. William Whitson. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. Book XII, Chapter II.1-6, 13-1. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>  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.”

Is Crucifixion Predicted in the Messiah Prophecies?

Unimaginably cruel mental images are wrought by descriptions of a Roman crucifixion. If an actual crucifixion victim were to describe the horrors of the experience, such as the sole surviving acquaintance of Josephus rescued from the cross, the victim might very well describe it this way:

 

“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.  My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.  Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.  I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.”[1]

Quoting not from any Roman historical account, the description was written centuries earlier before the Romans perfected this tortuous form of execution – a 1000 years earlier by King David in Psalms 22:14-17.  

Prophecies are seldom as clear as Micah’s prophecy that the Ruler of Israel would come from Bethlehem or Zechariah’s prophecy that the King of Israel would come riding on the foal of a donkey.[2] Some are delivered in perplexing, oracle-style prophecies often requiring knowledge of historical context, intricacies of analogies or symbolisms, and intermingling the present and future.[3]

Historical context of crucifixion comes from Cicero, Rome’s most celebrated orator and lawyer. A victim of a Roman crucifixion was first scourged, “exposed to torture and nailed on that cross;” it was “the most miserable and the most painful punishment appropriate to slaves alone.”

Psychological torture design of crucifixion was to choose a location that would display the exposed crucified victim “within sight of all passersby” with “the express purpose that the wretched man who was dying in agony and torture” would lastly see the circumstances surrounding his death.[4]

Modern medical expert analysis of crucifixion concluded the act of breathing added to the excruciating pain by pulling at the nail wounds driven through nerves in the wrists while pushing up full body weight on nailed feet, just to take a breath. Victims most likely died from shock, if not first by asphyxiation, when they could no longer push up to take a breath.[5]

Historical and medical analysis context of a crucifixion serve as the basis for determining if prophecies are consistent with these facts. Three parashahs or passages from the Old Testament, the Tenakh, are the focus of potential crucifixion prophecies – Psalms 22:1-24, Isaiah 52:13-53:12 and Zechariah 12:8-14.

Psalms 22 depicts a man who is enduring agony and humiliation. Physically, “bones out of joint,” his “heart has turned to wax,” extreme thirst saying his “tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth,” and “they have pierced my hands and feet.”

Psychological suffering describes “a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.” “All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads;” surrounded by men who are like vicious animals.

Isaiah 52-53 is similarly graphic where “My Servant” bares the mental anguish of the “suffering of his soul” being “despised and rejected by men” and considered “stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.” Bodily, “his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness.” As an intercessor, “he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment” for which “he poured out his life unto death,” ultimately “cut off from the land of the living.”[6]

Zechariah 12:10 succinctly says, “They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.”[7]

Jewish authorities recognize portions of these parashahs as messianic prophecies. In a split between the Rabbi contributors of Babylonian Talmud Sukkah 52, one faction viewed Zechariah 12:10 as a Messiah prophecy:

“It is well according to him who explains that the cause is the slaying of Messiah the son of Joseph, since that well agrees with the Scriptural verse, And they shall look upon me because they have thrust him through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son…”

Rabbi Rashi, renowned Jewish authority, commented on Zechariah 12:10 siding with this interpretation in Sukkah 52.  He wrote, “And our Sages expounded this in tractate Sukkah (52a) as referring to the Messiah, son of Joseph, who was slain.”[8]

Jewish authorities are silent on the Isaiah 52-53 parashah depicting a crucifixion event; however, the Messiah prophecies throughout Isaiah’s book are acknowledged in the Talmud and by Rabbi sages. Sanhedrin 98a alone makes 9 references to Isaiah’s prophecies about the future Messiah.[9] Three prominent Rabbi sages independently identified 5 verses of the Isaiah 52-53 passage as all referring to the Messiah.

Rabbi Jose the Galilean was a Talmud contributor recognized for his authority on sacrifices and the Temple. Quoting Isaiah 53:5 and 53:6, he declared they referred to “King Messiah” who would be “wounded” for our transgressions.[10]

Rabbi Maimonides similarly identified the Messiah as the subject of Isaiah 52:15 and 53:2. The Rabbi expounded that, according to this Isaiah 52-53 parashah, the Messiah could be identified by his origins and his wonders.[11]

Rabbi Moshe Kohen ibn Crispin is renowned for his twelfth century authorship of “Sefer ha-Musar” meaning the Book of Instruction. Crispin boldly disagreed with the prevailing Jewish view that “My Servant” is a metaphor referring to the nation of Israel. Instead, Crispin said “My Servant” in Isaiah 52:13 refers to “King Messiah.” [12]

Jesus of Nazareth himself referred to the prophecies describing the manner of death for the Messiah. Days before entering Jerusalem for the last time, Jesus forewarned his Disciples predicting in precise detail that he was about to endure what was foretold by the prophets: 

LK 18:31-33 “Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be turned over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”[13]

History affirms that Jesus of Nazareth was subjected to the horrific physical and psychological designs of crucifixion described by Cicero and modern forensic science analysis, consistent with the Gospels.[14] Is crucifixion predicted in the Messiah prophecies of Psalms, Isaiah and Zechariah foretelling the manner of suffering and death by the Messiah?

Rabbi Crispin profoundly summed up the challenge for each person to arrive at their own conclusion about the prophecies saying:

“… if any one should arise claiming to be himself the Messiah, we may reflect, and look to see whether we can observe in him any resemblance to the traits described here:  if there is any such resemblance, then we may believe that he is the Messiah our righteousness; but if not, we cannot do so.[15]

 

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:
[1]NIV.
[2] Micah 5:2; Zechariah 9:9.
[3] Psalms 78:1-3; Hosea 12:10. Boucher.  “The Parables.”   Bugg. “Types of Prophecy and Prophetic Types.”
[4] Cicero, Marcus Tullius. In Verrem Actionis Secundae M. Tulli Ciceronis Libri Quinti.  “Secondary Orations Against Verres. Book 5. 70 B.C.  The Society for Ancient Languages   University of Alabama – Huntsville.  10 Feb. 2005. <https://web.archive.org/web/20160430183826/http://www.uah.edu/student_life/organizations/SAL/texts/latin/classical/cicero/inverrems5e.html>  Quintilian, Marcus Fabius. Quintilian’s Institutes of Oratory. 1856. Trans. John Selby Watson. Book 8, Chapter 4. <https://web.archive.org/web/20170815223340/http://rhetoric.eserver.org/quintilian/index.html>
[5] Cilliers, L. & Retief F. P.  “The history and pathology of crucifixion.”  South African Medical Journal.  Dec;93(12):938-41.  U.S. National Library of Medicine|National Institute of Health.  <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14750495>  Zugibe, Frederick T.  “Turin Lecture:  Forensic and Clinical Knowledge of the Practice of Crucifixion.”  E-Forensic Medicine. 2005. <http://web.archive.org/web/20130925103021/http:/e-forensicmedicine.net/Turin2000.htm>  Maslen, Matthew W. and Mitchell, Piers D.  “Medical theories on the cause of death in crucifixion.” Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.  J R Soc Med. 2006 April; 99(4): 185–188.  doi:  10.1258/jrsm.99.4.185.  National Center for Biotechnology Information. Search term Search database. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1420788>  Alchin, Linda.  “Roman Crucifixion.”  Tribunes and Triumphs. 2008.  <http://www.tribunesandtriumphs.org/roman-life/roman-crucifixion.htm> Zias, Joe. “Crucifixion in Antiquity – The Anthropological Evidence.” JoeZias.com. 2009. <http://web.archive.org/web/20121211060740/http://www.joezias.com/CrucifixionAntiquity.html>  Champlain, Edward. Nero. 2009. <https://books.google.com/books?id=30Wa-l9B5IoC&lpg=PA122&ots=nw4edgV_xw&dq=crucifixion%2C%20tacitus&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false>
[6] NIV.
[7] NIV.
[8] The Compete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. Zechariah 12:10  <http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/63255/jewish/The-Bible-with-Rashi.htmSoncino Babylonian Talmud. Sukkah 52a. <http://www.halakhah.com/rst/moed/16b%20-%20Succah%20-%2029b-56b.pdf>
[9] Isaiah 53:3.  Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Sanhedrin 98a footnotes: Isaiah XLIX:7, XVIII:5, I:25, LIX:19, LIX:20, LX:21, LIX:16, XLVIII:11, LX:22; footnote #31. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_98.htmlSoncino Babylonian Talmud. Sanhedrin 38a, footnote #9 to Isaiah 8:14. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_38.html>
[10] The Babylonian Talmud. Rodkinson.  “Part I.  Historical and Literary Introduction to the New Edition of the Talmud, Chapter 2.”  pp 10, 12-13.  <http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/t10/ht202.htmThe Babylonian Talmud. Derech Eretz-Zuta. “The Chapter on Peace.”  Yose the Galilaean. Neubauer, Driver & Rolles. The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. Quote. Siphrej. pp 10-11. <https://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=Jose&f=false>
[11] Moses Maimonides. Neubauer, Adolf. And Driver, Samuel Rolles.  The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. 1877. “Letter to the South (Yemen).” pp xvi, 374-375.  <http://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=advent&f=false>
[12] Crispin, Moshe Kohen ibn. Neubauer, Driver & Rolles. The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters  “Sefer ha-Musar.” pp 99-101.
[13] NIV.
[14] Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Trans. and commentary, William Whitson. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. Book XVIII, Chapter III.3. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>   Tacitus, Gaius Cornelius. The Annals. 109 AD. Trans. Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb.  Internet Classic Archive. 2009. Book XV.  <http://classics.mit.edu/Tacitus/annals.html>  Lucian of Samosata. “The Death of Peregrine.” The Works of Lucian of Samosata. Volume IV. Trans. H. W. Fowler and F. G. Fowler. 1905. p 82. <http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/luc/wl4/wl420.htm>   Encyclopaedia Judaica. Eds. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. Vol. 11. 2nd Edition. “Jesus.” pp 246-251.  <http://go.galegroup.com/ps/infomark.do?action=interpret&eisbn=9780028660974&prodId=GVRL&userGroupName=imcpl1111&type=aboutBook&version=1.0&authCount=1&u=imcpl1111>  “Last Days of Jesus.” PBS.org. TV show. Air date: April 4, 2017. <http://www.pbs.org/program/last-days-jesus>
[15] Crispin. “Sefer ha-Musar.” p 114.










Isaiah Messiah Prophecies – Is There One Exception?

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 98 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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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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  I:25, LIX:19, LIX:20, LX:21, LIX:16, XLVIII:11, LX:22; LIII.4.  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.