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. <> “Isaiah.” New World Encyclopedia. 2018. <>  “Jeremiah.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2019. <>  “Jeremiah.” New World Encyclopedia. 2018. <>  “Zechariah.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2019. <>  “Zechariah, Book of.” New World Encyclopedia. 2013. <,_Book_of>
[2] Exodus 24:3-8.  CR Deuteronomy 29.
[3] Isaiah 39:7. “ben.” <>
[4] I Chronicles 2:11-13; 2 Ruth 4:17.
[5] The Complete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. Rashi commentary on Isaiah 11:1.   <> 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. <>
[10] Ezekiel 1:2-3, 6:7,12. “Darius I.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2019. <> 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.” n.d. <>
[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.   <>
[16] Maimonides, “Letter to the South (Yemen)”. p374.  Neubauer and Driver.  The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. <>

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. <> “Isaiah.” Biblica | The International Bible Society. 2019. <>
[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. <>  CR The Babylonian Talmud. Trans. Michael L. Rodkinson. 1918. Sanhedrin, Chapter XI, p 310. <>
[3] Cohen, Menachem.  “The Idea of the Sanctity of the Biblical Text and the Science of Textual Criticism.” Bar-Ilan University. 1979. <>  Benner, Jeff A. “The Great Isaiah Scroll and the Masoretic Text.” Ancient Hebrew Research Center. 2017. <>  Zeolla, Gary F. “Textual Criticismj.” Universitat De Valencia. 2000.  <>  “Isaiah.” Biblica | The International Bible Society. 2019. <>
[4] Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Trans. and commentary. William Whitson. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. Book XII, Chapter II. <>  “Septuagint.” Septuagint.Net. 2014. <>  Benner. “The Great Isaiah Scroll.”  Lundberg, Marilyn J. “The Leningrad Codex.”  USC West Semitic Research Project. 2012. <>  “Septuagint.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2019. <> 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.” n.d. <>  “Septuagint.” Merriam-Webster. 2020. <>  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. <>  Miller, Laura. “The Aleppo Codex: The bizarre history of a precious book.” 2012. Salon. <>
[10] “Scrolls from the Dead Sea.” Library of Congress. n.d. <> Greenberg, Irving. “The Temple and its Destruction.” 2020. <>  “Destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.” Harvard Divinity School. 2020. <>
[11] Cohen, Menachem. “Mikra’ot Gedolot – ‘Haketer’ – Isaiah.” 2009. <>
[12] “Dead Sea Scrolls.” Archaeology. 2018. <>  “Scrolls from the Dead Sea.” Library of Congress.  Roach, John.  “8 Jewish archaeological discoveries – From Dead Sea Scroll to a ‘miracle pool.’”  Science on <>  “The Great Isaiah Scroll.” The Digital Dead Sea Scrolls. 2020. <> Benner. “The Great Isaiah Scroll.” “Isaiah.” Biblica.
[13] Miller. Fred P. “The Great Isaiah Scroll.” Moellerhaus Publisher. Directory. 1998. <>  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. <>
[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. <>  Benner, Jeff A. “The Great Isaiah Scroll and the Masoretic Text.” “textus receptus.” The Free Dictionary. 2020. <,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. <>  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. <>  Gentry, Peter J. “The Text of the Old Testament.” p 24. 2009 <>
[19] Welch, Adam Cleghorn. “Since Wellhausen.” p 175. <>  Benner, Jeff A. “Introduction to Ancient Hebrew.” <>
[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. <> 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. <>
[26] Miller, Fred P. “Column VI – The Great Isaiah Scroll 6:7 to 7:15.” Ancient Hebrew Research Center. n.d. <>
[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. <>  Benner, Jeff A. “Textual Criticisim of Isaiah 7:14 (Video).” 2020. <>  “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.>
[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.”
[34] Miller. “The Translation of the Great Isaiah Scroll.” Miller, Fred P. Moellerhaus Publishers. “Column XLIV – The Great Isaiah Scroll 52:13 to 54:4.” n.d. <> “Dead Sea Scrolls Bible Translations.” 1Q Isaiaha,  <>  “Isaiah 53 at Qumran,” Hebrew Streams. <> Isaiah 53:2. <>  Isaiah 53:2. <>  Yisheyah (Book of Isaiah) JPS translation. 1998. <>  Yeshayahu – Isaiah – Chapter 53. Complete Jewish Bible translation. 2020. <>
[35] Miller. “The Translation of the Great Isaiah Scroll.” Benner, Fred P. “The Great Isaiah Scroll and the Masoretic Text.” 2020. <>  “Dead Sea Scrolls Bible Translations.” 2016. <> “Isaiah 53 at Qumran.”
[36] “Isaiah 53:11.” 2020. <> “Isaiah 53:11.” 2020, <>  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. <>  Miller. “The Translation of the Great Isaiah Scroll.”  “Dead Sea Scrolls Bible Translations.” 1Q Isaiahb 2016. <>  Footnote (2). 

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 Bethlehem prophecy predicting the Ruler of Israel would come from Bethlehem or Zechariah’s prophecy foretelling 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.

Some Psalms are identified by Jesus as ones that would be fulfilled by him. One is well-known yet controversial, Psalms 22, depicting a man who is enduring agony and humiliation. Physically, his “bones out of joint,” “heart has turned to wax,” “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” bears the mental anguish of “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 his or her 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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[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. <>  Quintilian, Marcus Fabius. Quintilian’s Institutes of Oratory. 1856. Trans. John Selby Watson. Book 8, Chapter 4. <>
[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.  <>  Zugibe, Frederick T.  “Turin Lecture:  Forensic and Clinical Knowledge of the Practice of Crucifixion.”  E-Forensic Medicine. 2005. <>  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. <>  Alchin, Linda.  “Roman Crucifixion.”  Tribunes and Triumphs. 2008.  <> Zias, Joe. “Crucifixion in Antiquity – The Anthropological Evidence.” 2009. <>  Champlain, Edward. Nero. 2009. <>
[6] NIV.
[7] NIV.
[8] The Compete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. Zechariah 12:10  < Babylonian Talmud. Sukkah 52a. <>
[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. < Babylonian Talmud. Sanhedrin 38a, footnote #9 to Isaiah 8:14. <>
[10] The Babylonian Talmud. Rodkinson.  “Part I.  Historical and Literary Introduction to the New Edition of the Talmud, Chapter 2.”  pp 10, 12-13.  < 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. <>
[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.  <>
[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. <>   Tacitus, Gaius Cornelius. The Annals. 109 AD. Trans. Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb.  Internet Classic Archive. 2009. Book XV.  <>  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. <>   Encyclopaedia Judaica. Eds. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. Vol. 11. 2nd Edition. “Jesus.” pp 246-251.  <>  “Last Days of Jesus.” TV show. Air date: April 4, 2017. <>
[15] Crispin. “Sefer ha-Musar.” p 114.