Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Cultural And Historical Background Information On The Suffering Servant Of Isaiah 53

  • Introduction:
          -Isaiah chapter fifty three is the most keen, vivid description of the Jewish Messiah provided in the entire Old Testament. It portrays Him as being a servant who suffers unjustly for our sins in order to make peace between us and God. The chapter contains the very basic message of redemption as revealed more fully through New Testament revelation. Christians naturally identify this suffering servant figure to be Jesus Christ. While the text of Isaiah 53 may seem fairly straightforward to us, it is not so to our Jewish friends. Many absolutely refuse to see the emphatic implications set forth by a natural reading of this passage of Scripture. It is generally assumed that the suffering servant refers to Israel, but the evidence simply does not point in favor of that interpretation. Isaiah 53 is clearly a messianic prophecy that has already been been long fulfilled by Jesus Christ Himself.
  • Virtually All Jewish Rabbis Once Believed That The Suffering Servant Of Isaiah 53 Was Referring To The Coming Of A Promised Messiah:
          -"Rashi (1040-1105 a.d.) might have been the first to deny that this incredible passage is messianic. But many Jewish sages, before and after Rashi, saw the Messiah in Isaiah 53." (Daniel Mann, Jews for Jesus, "Rabbis, Skeptics and the Suffering Messiah")
  • Following Are Examples Of Jewish Sources That Interpret The Suffering Servant Of Isaiah 53 In A Messianic Sense (Taken From The Same Source As The Above Cited Excerpt):
          -"The highly regarded first-century Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai stated: “The meaning of the words ‘bruised for our iniquities’ [Isaiah 53:5] is, that since the Messiah bears our iniquities, which produce the effect of his being bruised, it follows that whoso will not admit that the Messiah thus suffers for our iniquities, must endure and suffer them for them himself."
          -"The mystical Zohar records: “The children of the world are members one of another. When the Holy One desires to give healing to the world, he smites one just man amongst them, and for his sake heals all the rest. Whence do we learn this? From the saying, “‘He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities“‘ (Isaiah 53:5)” (Numbers, Pinchus, 218a)"
          -"Many different rabbis – Gaon Rabbi Saadia, Rabbi Naphtali ben Asher, and Rabbi Moshe Alshich adamantly opposed Rashi’s new interpretation, and demanded that the Sages of Israel should ignore him and return to the original interpretation, the most famous of among them was Mamonides, who categorically declared that Rashi was completely mistaken."
  • Isaiah 53 Has Been Called The Forbidden Chapter In Jewish Communities:
          -"The 17th century Jewish historian, Raphael Levi, admitted that long ago the rabbis used to read Isaiah 53 in synagogues, but after the chapter caused “arguments and great confusion” the rabbis decided that the simplest thing would be to just take that prophecy out of the Haftarah readings in synagogues. That’s why today when we read Isaiah 52, we stop in the middle of the chapter and the week after we jump straight to Isaiah 54." (Eitan Bar, One For Israel, "Isaiah 53-The Forbidden Chapter")
  • The Suffering Servant Of Isaiah 53 Cannot Simply Be A Reference To Israel, But To A Person:
          -If the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is a reference to the nation of Israel rather than Christ Himself, then how can it be said that he was cut off from the people (Isaiah 53:8)? How can this suffering servant be cut off from himself?
          -If the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is a reference to the nation of Israel rather than Christ Himself, then how can it be said that he bore the sins of the people (Isaiah 53:5-6)? This person is said to be righteous, yet the Old Testament records Israel routinely falling into sin and judgment by God.
          -Who would better fit the description of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53 than Jesus Christ Himself as recorded in the four gospels?

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