Interpretations of the Rabbis – the Messiah Prophecies

Tenakh and Old Testament Scriptures originate essentially from the same Hebrew texts, but when it comes to Messiah prophecies, interpretations vary widely. Christianity and Judaism disagree on any prophecy about the Messiah deemed to be fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth.

Among the authorities of Judaism, the Rabbi sages are not always in agreement on which prophecies point to the Messiah. Christianity is no exception where differences exist on such topics as baptism, worship, confessions – even salvation.

Some Rabbi sages  became known for their views documented in commentaries, letters or published works. Other Rabbis expressed themselves through their contributions to the Babylonian Talmud in its various Gemaras.

Rabbi Rashi is esteemed for his Scriptural commentaries. So much so, a mainstream Jewish Bible is named the Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary.[1]

Fondly called Rambam, Rabbi Maimonides authored the Mishneh Torah known for formulating the Law into the 13 principals of Jewish faith.[2] The work is regarded for codifying the halakhah or Jewish Law.[3]

Rabbi Jose the Galilean is known both for his quoted contributions in Talmud Gemaras as well as for his independent commentaries. He was a distinguished Rabbi leader as an authority on sacrifices and the Temple.

Moshe Kohen ibn Crispin was a renowned twelfth century Rabbi and poet from Spain. His acclaimed contribution to Judaism is his Jewish work entitled Sefer ha-Musar meaning the Book of Instruction.[4]

Renaissance era Rabbi David Kimchi aka RaDaK is highly regarded by Jewish authorities of whom it is said “Where there is no Kimchi, there is no law.”[5] The Prophets edition of the Torah reveals RaDaK’s commentaries written in the margins.

Rabbi Dr. I. Epstein during the first half of the last century served as Editor for the Soncino Babylonian Talmud edition intended to reproduce a “clear and lucid” literal English translation in the restored, uncensored version.[6] Under his Editorship, bracketed words were added to clarify the text.[7] Censored or removed content was restored either in the body of the text or reintroduced within the footnotes. A Glossary and an Abbreviation table added even more clarity.[8]

One of the oldest Messiah prophesies is Jacob’s blessing of Judah in Genesis, recognized by Rashi as establishing the foundation for the future Messiah. The blessing foretells his son’s descendants, the Tribe of Judah, would become a like a lion where the “scepter” would remain until the coming of “Shiloh.”

Rashi identified “Shiloh” as the “King Messiah, to whom the kingdom belongs” and that the “scepter” refers to the royal lineage of “David and thereafter.”[9] Translated from the Hebrew word shebet as “scepter” or “staff,” it is the same word that appears in Balaam’s prophecy:[10]

Num 24:17 “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, A scepter shall rise from Israel, And shall crush through the forehead of Moab, And tear down all the sons of Sheth.” (NASB)

Providing more insight to the meaning of shebet, Rashi remarked the Messiah is one who “shoots out like an arrow” from Jacob and uproots the sons of Sheth or Seth (the son of Adam).[11]Maimonides, in the Mishneh Torah, expounded on Balaam’s prophecy. The Rabbi interpreted it to be referring to “King Moshiach” (Messiah) who would come from the lineage of David.[12]

“My Servant” in the Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12 parashah or passage is viewed by Christianity predicting the suffering, death and Resurrection of the Messiah, a prophecy fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth. Judaism generally treats “My Servant” as a metaphor of a single man representing the nation of Israel.[13] Yet Rabbi sages, going back to the days of the Talmud, pointed to 5 different Messiah prophecies within the parashah.

Sanhedrin 98b quotes Isaiah 53:3 as the basis for one of the names of the Messiah.[14] Independently, Rabbi Jose the Galilean wrote the Messiah would be wounded for our transgressions quoting from Isaiah 53:5 and 53.7.[15] In a responsa letter from Maimonides, he referred to Isaiah 53:2 and 52:15 writing that the Messiah would be identified by his origins and his wonders.[16]

Rabbi Moshe Kohen ibn Crispin said in a counterview opinion that “My Servant” in the Isaiah 52-53 parashah refers to “King Messiah” while admitting his interpretation is in conflict with the prevailing Jewish position. In Sefer ha-Musar, Crispin gave surprisingly bold verse by verse commentaries defining expectations for the Messiah. [17]

Frequently seen during Christmas season in western cultures is Isaiah 9:6 foretelling a son who would bear the full responsibility for the government; one to be known by many names. Judaism generally disagrees it is a Messiah prophecy:

IS 9:6 “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (NKJV)

One name, the “Prince of Peace,” is addressed by Rabbi’s in a Talmud Gemara found in “The Chapter on Peace.” Rabbi Jehoshua asserted the Prince was the “Holy One…called “Adonay-shalom” Rabbi Jose the Galilean declared “Peace” is the name of the Messiah, “as it is written ‘The prince of peace.’” Rashi viewed the prophecy to be about Kings David and Hezekiah.[18]

Micah 5:2 seemingly unambiguously predicts the birthplace of the future ruler of Israel, yet it is challenged by some Jewish authorities.[19] Rashi interpreted the verse to be foretelling the Messiah would come from Bethlehem, the son of Jesse, the son of King David.[20] Quoting Psalms 118:22, “The stone the builders had rejected became a cornerstone,” Rashi then revealed another name for the Messiah, “Yinnon,” who is older than the sun referring to Psalms 72:17.

Zechariah 12:10 predicts the Messiah is to be killed, the open question between Judaism and Christianity is the interpretation of the Hebrew word daqar as “pierced” or “thrust through.” Some Rabbis in the Talmud Gemara Sukkah 52a believed it to be a Messiah prophecy, but not all. Rashi offered a third interpretation saying the prophecy is about Zerubbabel while acknowledging others view it to be about the Messiah.[21]The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary and other Jewish Bibles interprets daqar as “thrust through.”

Psalms 22, along with the Isaiah 52-53 passage, is a preeminent Messiah prophecy recognized by Christianity predicting in detail the circumstances of the death of Jesus of Nazareth by crucifixion. Judaism, on the other hand, focuses solely on the second verse “Why have you forsaken me?” as the basis for the Psalm being about the nation of Israel.

Rashi interpreted the verse this way: “They are destined to go into exile, and David recited this prayer for the future.” Later in verse 27, “The humble shall eat and be sated; they shall praise the Lord, those who seek him; your hearts shall live forever,” the Rabbi remarked about its meaning: “at the time of our redemption in the days of our Messiah.”[22]

Studying and researching the Bible using the ancient Hebrew texts is one good way to determine the true meaning of the Messiah prophecies. Which prophecies point to the Messiah that, in turn, set the requirements and expectations for the Messiah?

 

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REFERENCES:

[1] The Complete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. <http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/63255/jewish/The-Bible-with-Rashi.htm>
[2] Maimonides. Mishneh Torah. Trans. Eliyahu Touger.  <http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/682956/jewish/Mishneh-Torah.htm>
[3] Rich, Tracey R. “Jewish Beliefs.” JewFAQ.org. n.d. <http://www.jewfaq.org/beliefs.htm>
[4] Crispin, Moshe Kohen ibn.  “Sefer ha-Musar.”  Neubauer, Driver & Rolles.  The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. pp 99-100.  <https://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false>
[5] “Kimhi” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/9320-kimhi>  Marlowe, Michael.  Editions of the Hebrew Text of the Bible. Bible Research. “The Incunabula.” 2012. <http://www.bible-researcher.com/hebrew-editions.html>  Rosenau, William. Jewish Biblical Commentators. pp 87-91 n.d. <http://www.archive.org/stream/jewishbiblicalco00rose/jewishbiblicalco00rose_djvu.txt>  Mindel, Nissan. “Rabbi David Kimchi – RaDaK.” Chabad.org. 2020. <http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/111880/jewish/Rabbi-David-Kimchi-RaDaK.htm>
[6] Epstein, Dr. Isador, Editor. Soncino Babylonian Talmud. “Introduction to Seder Nezikin:  General Character and Contents.” 1935-1948. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/talmud/nezikin.html>
[7] Epstein, Dr. Isador, Editor. Soncino Babylonian Talmud. “Come and Hear.”1935-1948. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/talmud/index.html>
[8] Epstein. “Come and Hear.” “Soncino Talmud Glossary” and “Abbreviations Used in the Soncino Talmud.”
[9] Rashi. The Compete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. Genesis 49:10 Rashi commentary. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/8244/showrashi/true>  Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 98a.
[10] Numbers 24:17. NetBible.org. Hebrew text shebet <07626> <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=07626>
[11] Rashi. The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary  Numbers 24:17 Rashi commentary. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/9952/showrashi/true>
[12] Maimonides. “The Law Concerning Moshiach.”  
[13] The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. Isaiah 53:3-4 Rashi commentary. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/15984/jewish/Chapter-53.htm/showrashi/true>  Neubauer, Driver & Rolles.  The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. p 37.  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>
[14] Isaiah 53:3. Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Sanhedrin 98b, footnote #31. CR Neubauer, Driver & Rolles. The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. pp 12-16. <https://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1#v=snippet&q=Galilean&f=false>
[15] Neubauer, Driver & Rolles. The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. p 11. 
[16] Maimonides. “Letter to the South (Yemen)”. p 374. Neubauer and Driver. The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters
[17] Crispin, Moshe Kohen ibn. “Sefer ha-Musar.” Neubauer, Driver & Rolles. The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. pp 99-101.
[18] The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi’s Commentary.  Isaiah 9:6.  Rashi commentary. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/10777-micah-book-of>  The Babylonian Talmud. Trans. Michael L. Rodkinson. 1918. Book 5: Tractate  Derech  Eretz-Zuta, “The Chapter >on Peace.”  Internet Sacred Text Archives. 2010. <http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/talmud.htm> CR Judges 6:24. NetBible.org. Hebrew text “Y@havah shalowm” <03073>.
[19] “Micah, Book of.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. “Contents and Unity.” <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/10777-micah-book-of>
[20] The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi’s Commentary.  Micah 5:1 Rashi commentary. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16191/showrashi/true>
[21] The Complete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. Zechariah 6:12 Rashi commentary. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16210/showrashi/true>
[22] The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi’s Commentary.  Psalms 22. Rashi commentary. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16243/showrashi/true>

The Prince of Peace – Who Is He?

Popularly appearing in cards, posters, songs and media during the Christmas season is a Bible passage from Isaiah. Foretold is a male child who will become a King whose kingdom will last forever and he will be called the “Prince of Peace” – who is he?

Is 9:6-7 “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever…”[1]

Hebrew text in English reads Sar Shalowm, the first word Sar meaning “prince.”[2] The masculine noun Shalowm, commonly recognized as the Jewish greeting Shalom, means “peace;” its root word meaning “to be safe…figuratively, to be completed.”[3] Translated as “called” or “name” is the Hebrew text word qara’, the same Hebrew word used in the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy where the future boy child is to be called “Immanuel.”

Two Rabbi sage contributors to the Jewish Babylonian Talmud discuss the identity of the “Prince of Peace.” Rabbi Jehoshua declared:[4]

“The name of the Holy One, blessed be He, is also “peace” (Shalom), as it is written: “And called it Adonay-shalom.””

Quoting from Judges 6:24, the Rabbi referred to the place named Y@hovah shalowm, “the LORD is Peace.” Gideon, famed Hebrew judge, military leader and prophet, named the place where he had met an angelic messenger and spoke to the LORD.[5]

Rabbi Jose the Galilean expanded on Jehoshua’s statement quoting from Isaiah 9:5(6) unambiguously saying the name of the Messiah is “peace…’the prince of peace’”:

“The name of the Messiah is also “peace” (Shalom), as it is written: “The prince of peace.””

Going into more detail, the Galilean alluded to Isaiah 52:7 and Deuteronomy 20:10 prophecies that the Messiah will be known for his great characteristic of peace:

“When the Messiah shall come to Israel, he will begin with peace, as it is written: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger of good tidings, that publisheth peace, that announceth tidings of happiness, that publisheth salvation, that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth.” He also said: Great is peace, because even wars are waged for the sake of peace…”

Jumping back in, Rabbi Jehoshua, referring to Isaiah 26:3, said the “Holy One” would use peace to uphold righteous because of their trust in him:

“In the future the Holy One, blessed be He, will uphold the righteous with peace, as it is written [Is. xxvi. 3]: “The confiding mind wilt thou keep in perfect peace; because he trusteth in thee.””

The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary translation (chapter 9 begins one verse earlier) is significantly different. It says, “the wondrous adviser, the mighty God” will call the son “the prince of peace.”

IS 9:5-6 “For a child has been born to us, a son given to us, and the authority is upon his shoulder, and the wondrous adviser, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, called his name, ‘the prince of peace.’ To him who increases the authority, and for peace without end, on David’s throne and on his kingdom, to establish it and to support it with justice and with righteousness; from now and to eternity…” – Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary

Renowned Jewish sage Rabbi Rashi’s commentary disagreed with the Talmud contributors, instead saying the prophecy refers to King Hezekiah, a descendant of King David. Rashi hedged acknowledging it is possible “Prince of Peace” could also be a name for the “Holy One”:

“…it is possible to say that “Prince of Peace,” too, is one of the names of the Holy One, blessed be He, and this calling of a name is not actually a name but an expression of (var. for the purpose of) greatness and authority…On the throne of the kingdom of David shall this peace be justice and righteousness that Hezekiah performed.”

“He [Hezekiah] increased the authority upon his shoulder, and what reward will He [God] pay him? Behold, his peace shall have no end or any limit.” – Rabbi Rashi

Christian Old Testament Bible content is based on the Septuagint LXX c. 285-247 BC.[6]According to Josephus, Pharaoh Ptolemy Philadelphius of Egypt commanded the translation of the Hebrew Bible text into a complete Greek translation. Performed by 72 Jewish scholars, it explains the Roman numeral “LXX.”[7]

Tanakh, the Jewish Scriptures, is based on two surviving Hebrew Masoretic (MT) texts. The oldest is the Aleppo Codex dated to 925AD, partially destroyed by a fire.[8] The oldest complete Masoretic text is the Leningrad Codex dated to 1008-10AD.[9] Modern Tanakh translations have a dependency on the Leningrad manuscript to fill in the missing content.

Menachem Cohen, Professor of Bible and Director of the Miqraot Gedolot HaKeter Project (Great Scriptures) at Bar-Ilan University of Israel, explained the Masoretic Text  lacked the benefit of a side-by-side comparison to the original “witnessing” Hebrew text.[10] The MT, Cohen stated, began diverging from the 1250-year older Septuagint translation at some point before the Roman’s destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 AD.

Qumran scroll discoveries began in 1948 and among the finds was a crown jewel, a complete Hebrew text scroll of Isaiah known as the “The Great Isaiah Scroll.”[11] Isaiah’s book was originally written around 700 BC and the Great Isaiah Scroll is dated to between 200-100 BC. The Scroll provides the “side-by-side” text translation opportunity.

One translator of the Great Isaiah Scroll, Fred P. Miller, explained the translation methodology on his website, The Translation of the Great Isaiah Scroll. His direct translation:[12]

Great Isaiah Scroll 9:6-7:

[Line] 23…Because a child shall be born to us and a son is given to us and the government shall be upon

[Line] 24. his shoulders and he shall be called wonderful, counsellor, mighty God, everlasting father the prince of peace. (6) Of the increase

[Line] 25. of his government [&waw&} and his peace there shall be no end. upon the throne of David and over his kingdom to order it and to establish it

[Line] 26. in judgement and in righteousness from and until eternity, The zeal of YHWH of Hosts will perform this.

Christian Bible translations foretell the future child of Isaiah 9:-6-7 will be called “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Babylonian Talmud Rabbi’s interpreted the verses saying the “Prince of Peace” is the Messiah; however, the Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary says it is not a Messiah prophecy. Which is it? If the verses are a Messiah prophecy, was Jesus of Nazareth the fulfillment that prophecy?

 

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REFERENCES:

[1] NKJV.
[2] sar <08269>. NetBible.org. Hebrew text. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=08269>  “8363.” Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon. Eliyah.com. n.d. <http://www.eliyah.com/cgi-bin/strongs.cgi?file=hebrewlexicon&isindex=8323>
[3] Y@havah shalowm” <03073> Net.Bible.org. Hebrew text. “Shalom.” Ravitzky, Aviezer. “Shalom: Peace in Hebrew.” n.d. <https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/shalom>  “7965 ‘shalowm.’” Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon. Eliyah.com. n.d. <http://www.eliyah.com/cgi-bin/strongs.cgi?file=hebrewlexicon&isindex=+shalowm> “7999 ‘shalam.’” Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon. Eliyah.com. n.d. <http://www.eliyah.com/cgi-bin/strongs.cgi?file=hebrewlexicon&isindex=shalam> Berkowitz, Matthew. “Greetings of Peace.” 2006 <http://www.jtsa.edu/greetings-of-peace>  “Hebrew: Greetings & Congratulations.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2019. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/hebrew-greetings-and-congratulations>
[4] The Babylonian Talmud.Trans. Michael L. Rodkinson. 1918. Tract Derech Eretz-Zuta. Chapter on Peace. <https://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/t05/ere18.htm>
[5] Judges 6:24. Hebrew text. NetBible.org. <http://classic.net.bible.org/verse.php?book=Jdg&chapter=6&verse=24>
[6] “The Septuagint (LXX).” Ecclesiastic Commonwealth Community. n.d. <http://ecclesia.org/truth/septuagint.html>
[7] Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Book XII, Chapter II.1-6; 13-1.. 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>  English Translation of the Greek Septuagint Bible. Trans. Brenton, Lancelot C. L. 1851. <http://www.ecmarsh.com/lxx> “Septuagint.”  Septuagint.Net. 2018.  <http://septuagint.net>  “Septuagint.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2019. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/Septuagint>
[8] Ofer, Yosef. “The Aleppo Codex.” n.d. <http://www.aleppocodex.org/links/6.html>  Bergman, Ronen. “A High Holy Whodunit.” New York Times Magazine. July 25, 2012. <https://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/29/magazine/the-aleppo-codex-mystery.html>  Ben-David, Lenny. “Aleppo, Syria 100 Years Ago – and Today.” 23/07/15. Arutz Sheva 7 | isralenationalnews.com.  <http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/198521>
[9] Lundberg, Marilyn J. “The Leningrad Codex.” USC West Semitic Research Project. 2012. University of Southern California. 8 Jan. 1999. <https://web.archive.org/web/20170403025034/http://www.usc.edu/dept/LAS/wsrp/educational_site/biblical_manuscripts/LeningradCodex.shtml> Leviant, Curt. Jewish Virtual Library. 2019. “Jewish Holy Scriptures: The Leningrad Codex.” <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-leningrad-codex> “Leningrad Codex.” Bible Manuscript Society. 2019. <https://biblemanuscriptsociety.com/Bible-resources/Bible-manuscripts/Leningrad-Codex>  Leviant, Curt. Jewish Virtual Library. 2019. “Jewish Holy Scriptures: The Leningrad Codex.” <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-leningrad-codex>
[10] Cohen, Menachem. “The Idea of the Sanctity of the Biblical Text and the Science of Textual Criticism.” Eds. Uriel Simon and Isaac B Gottlieb. 1979. Australian National University. <http://cs.anu.edu.au/%7Ebdm/dilugim/CohenArt> Cohen, Menachem. “Mikra’ot Gedolot – ‘Haketer’ – Isaiah.” 2009. <http://www.biupress.co.il/website_en/index.asp?id=447
[11] Benner, Jeff A. “The Great Isaiah Scroll and the Masoretic Text.” Ancient Hebrew Research Center. 2019. <https://www.ancient-hebrew.org/dss/great-isaiah-scroll-and-the-masoretic-text.htm> “The Dead Sea Scrolls.” The Israel Museum. 2019. <https://www.imj.org.il/en/wings/shrine-book/dead-sea-scrolls> “Isaiah.” Biblica.  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. “Introduction”, page x. (page hidden by Google Books). 2002. <https://books.google.com/books?id=c4R9c7wAurQC&lpg=PP1&ots=fQpCpzCdb5&dq=Abegg%2C%20Flint%20and%20Ulrich2C%20The%20Dead%20Dead%20Sea%20Scrolls%20Bible%2C&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=Isaiah&f=false>
[12] Miller, Fred P. “The Translation of the Great Isaiah Scroll.” n.d. <https://www.ao.net/~fmoeller/qa-tran.htm>  Miller, Fred P. “”Q” = The Great Isaiah Scroll.” Translation. n.d.  <http://www.moellerhaus.com/qum-intr.htm>