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

Two big questions often come to mind about the birth of Jesus. Was he really born and is Jesus the Son of God, the Messiah?

Beyond what the Gospels say, simple logic can answer the first question. A personage named Jesus divided world history into two eras – before his life and after his life. No one else has been so influential as to change calendars making Jesus the most impactful figure in history.

A monumental change to historical dating is highly unlikely to be based on a fictitious figure… Logic dictates that Jesus, regardless if he is the Messiah, had to be a real historical person in order to literally change history. The modern effort to change “BC” and “AD” to “BCE” and “CE” designations are still based on the fact 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.[1] The Jewish Encyclopedia in its article “Jesus of Nazareth” states that Jesus is a real historical figure, even pinpointing the date of his birth.[2] The miraculous conception of Mary and the birth of Jesus are also recognized by the Quran.[3]

Circumstantially, 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 with Christianity going on to become the largest religion in the world, over 2 billion people today.[4]

Caesar Augustus as the ruling Emperor of Rome; King Herod as the head of the Judean government; Quirinius, Procurator Pilate and Archelaus, son of King Herod – all these historical figures are referenced in the Gospels. As such, it raises the bar of Gospel answerability and credibility to the highest degree.[5]

Mary gave birth to Jesus in a totally unexpected, unplanned location in Bethlehem 90 miles away instead of Nazareth.[6]  The angel who appeared independently months apart to Mary and Joseph didn’t tell either of them to go to Bethlehem.[7] Joseph and Mary planned to stay in Nazareth for the birth of their baby surrounded by family and friends.

A Roman Caesar’s decree 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.

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

Hundreds of miles away from Nazareth and Rome,  Magi made 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 occurred over the course of only months.[9]

Last of these cosmic events occurred on June 17, 2 BC, where the two brightest stars in the sky caused the appearance of an extremely rare, unusually brilliant, elongated star. NASA astronomy science and technology confirms it and all these other 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]

Herod consulted his Jewish religious council who told the King about the Micah 5:2 (1) prophecy foretelling the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem.[12] King Herod indicated 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 exact location of the newborn .[13]

Messiah prophecies that may have been fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth originate in the Scriptures, the Tenakh or the Old Testament. Not all Messiah prophesies are unanimously recognized by Jewish sages such as the Branch prophecies issued by the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zechariah .

Two of the most renowned Jewish sages are Rabbi Rashi and Rabbi Maimonides, each had differing views on some Messiah prophecies. Maimonides viewed the Isaiah 53:5 and Zechariah 6:12 prophecies as foretelling the Messiah.[15] Rashi, on the other hand, viewed the same Isaiah and Zechariah prophecies to be about Zerubbabel.[16]

One Messiah prophecy; however, is virtually undisputed – the Messiah would be born in the lineage of King David.[14] Matthew and Luke report that Jesus was a royal heir to David and this is not a disputed fact by Judaism. Other potential Messiah prophecies involve the crucifixion and Resurrection foretold in Isaiah, Psalms and by Jesus.

Isaiah 52-53 describes the circumstances of the torture and death of “My Servant” consistent with a Roman crucifixion developed hundreds of years later. Isaiah also described the Servant’s burial among the rich and a life after death, all described in the Gospels involving the crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.[17]

Psalms contains Messiah prophecies with varied views by Judaism. For example, Psalms 22 closely mirroring a crucifixion is not recognized as a Messiah prophecy yet Psalms 118 is included in the traditional Jewish Hallel about the Messiah. [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. A faction of Rabbis in the Talmud’s Succah 52a believed it to be Messianic. Rashi believed it to be a prophecy about Israel although he acknowledged it could be about the Messiah.[19]

Assessing all the circumstances involving the life of Jesus of Nazareth obviously has a direct impact in determining the answer to the second question – was Jesus born as the Messiah?  The U.S. legal Doctrine of Chances suggests it was not an accident.[19]

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

 

Updated April 12, 2022.

Creative Commons License

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

REFERENCES:

[1]“Jesus of Nazareth.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8616-jesus-of-nazareth>
[2] 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>
[?] 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>

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” or the “Sprout” as interpreted in Jewish Bibles.

Generations after King David’s reign, some 700 years before Jesus of Nazareth was born, the remnants 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 of God 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” or “Sprout” who would grow out  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, as written 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.”

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] One of Isaiah’s prophecies was fulfilled two centuries after he had foretold that a ruler named Cyrus would rise who would allow Jerusalem to be rebuilt the Temple. Cyrus was the name of the new Persian Empire ruler who did exactly that.[9]

Darius honored Cyrus’ decree for the Hebrews to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple.[10] “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” in Zachariah’s prophecy. “My servant” is the focus of Isaiah’s parashah prophecy of Isaiah 52-53 issued two hundred years earlier where he 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 the symbolic crown upon the head of Joshua, the high Priest. Zechariah was then directed to deliver this message to the Priest:[14]

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)

In the vision prophecy, no one person present at this event is the focus of God’s message. The prophecy pointed to someone else in the future named the Branch would sit upon the throne as both king and priest who would build the Temple.

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?

 

Updated March 4, 2022

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

REFERENCES:

[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 Revelations

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 prophetic books in the Bible.[1] The Talmud contains many references and interpretations of Isaiah’s prophecies with Sanhedrin tractate 98 alone making ten references.[2]

Paramount to the prophecies of Isaiah is having confidence that his prophecies are reflected accurately in today’s Bibles.[3] The sciences of archeology and textual criticism enhanced by technology play a major role in making that determination.

Produced from 285-247 BC, the Septuagint LXX translation is the primary foundation for Christian Bibles. Josephus, a Jewish Pharisee, described in detail the origin of the translation. Egypt ruler Ptolemy Philadelphius wrote to Priest Eleazar in Jerusalem requesting six of the best elders from each of the 12 tribes of Israel to make a Greek translation 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 condition of 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” in Latin means 70 as does the Roman Numeral “LXX” representing those who worked together on 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 to fill in the missing text.

Spanning the timeline between the Septuagint and the MT is at least 1150 years. In the interim, many things transpired in Judea– the Greek Empire with 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] These seismic events affected the purity of the MT translations.

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] “The Scroll” can be viewed in its entirety on the Internet.[15]

Dated to c. 125 BC, The Scroll was compromised of 17 pieces of leather sewn together, each strip containing from 2 to 4 pages of text.[16] It serves as a side-by-side older Hebrew text comparison for the MT and, by predating the arrival of Jesus of Nazareth, it precludes the claim of any Christian influences.

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 revealed the translation of the Greek Septuagint is based on a side-by-side Hebrew text taken directly from the Temple suggesting textual purity of the highest degree.[18] Translation nuances are to be expected in the Greek translation because some ancient Hebrew characters do not have 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]

Inevitably, the lack of not having a side-by-side text significantly impacted the MT purity. The variations posed a huge challenge to the Miqraot Gedolot HaKeter 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]

Focus is placed only on the two major controversial prophecies of Isaiah 7:14 and the Chapter 52-53 parashah. The differences are found in the very small vowel punctuations seen more easily with technology enhancements.[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, an undisputed prophecy, though there are several potentially meaningful differences between the MT and Septuagint reflected by The Scroll.[25] Variations include the translation controversy of the two Hebrew words ha-alamah; a text pronoun difference and two name differences.[26]

MT translates ha-almah as “a young woman” while The Scroll translated the words as “a young maiden.”[27] In Hebrew, ha exclusive means “the” – specific to the noun that follows.[28] The Septuagint translated the Hebrew words ha-almah into Greek as “ha Parthenos” precisely meaning “the virgin.”[29]

Pronoun differences appear where the MT says “she” will call his name; The Scroll says “he” will call his name; and the Septuagint generically refers to “you” earlier in the text.[30] “He” refers to God in The Scroll whereas “she” refers to the mother in the MT and “you” refers to the audience.

Two other noteworthy differences are the MT and Septuagint use of 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.

Interestingly, The Scroll begins the Isaiah 52-53 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 is Isaiah 53:7, but the issue 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.”[35]

One last possibly significant difference revealed by The Scroll is the appearance of the word nephsho meaning “light” in the equivalent verse 53:11. The Septuagint includes the word as do several Christian Bible translations (BSB, CSB, ISV, NAB, NHEB, NIV, NRSV, WEB*); however, other Christian and Jewish Bibles including the MT translate the word as “it.”[36]

How likely is it that The Great Isaiah Scroll more accurately reflects the original Hebrew text written by the prophet Isaiah?

 

Updated February 20, 2022

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

 

Creative Commons License

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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] 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.”
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[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>
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[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.” Lines #28-29. Isaiah 7:14. NetBible.org. LXXM. <https://classic.net.bible.org/verse.php?book=Isa&chapter=7&verse=14>
[31] Benner, Jeff A. “What isthe 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.”
[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. <http://www.moellerhaus.com/qum44.htm> “Dead Sea Scrolls Bible Translations.” 1Q Isaiaha,  <http://dssenglishbible.com/scroll1QIsaa.htm>  “Isaiah 53 at umran,” Hebrew Streams. <http://www.hebrew-streams.org/works/qumran/isaiah-53-qumran.pdf> Isaiah 53:2. Biblehub.com. <https://biblehub.com/isaiah/53-2.htm>  Isaiah 53:2. NetBible.org. <http://classic.net.bible.org/verse.php?book=Isa&chapter=53&verse=2>  Yisheyah (Book of Isaiah) JPS translation. Breslov.com. 1998. <http://www.breslov.com/bible/Isaiah53.htm#2>  Yeshayahu – Isaiah – Chapter 53. Chabad.org. Complete Jewish Bible translation. 2020. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/15984>
[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).r