The Religious A priori


Suffering Servant

is Messiah

Isaiah 53: 1-12

(1)Who has believed our message a and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

(2) He grew up before him like a tener shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. he had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

(3) He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. LIke on form whom men hide their faces, he was despised and we esteemed him not.

(4) Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smiten by him , afflicted. (5) but he was pierced for our trasngressions, he was crushed for our iniquties; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

(6) We all, like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

(7) He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth,he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as as sheep before his shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. (8) By oppression and judgement was taken away. And who can speak of his decendants? For he was cut off from he land of the living; for the trasngression of my people he was stricken. (9)He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, tough he had done no violence, nor was any deciet in his mouth.

(10) Yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though he Lord makes his life a guilt offering he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.

(11) After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowlege my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquites.

(12) Therefore I will give him a protion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the trasngressors. For he bore th sin ofmany and made intercession for the transgressors. NIV

The issue is that Jesus fits the description of the Suffering servant; therefore, this is a prediction of Jesus as Messiah. Sketpics say that the SS is not intended to be the Messiah, but a description of Israel as a nation, a metaphor for the nation of Israel. But if we examine the reading reading we see that this is not possible.

I. Verse by Verse Analysis Demonstrates that the Attitudes and Actions do not fit Israel as SS but do fit Messiah as Depicted Already in Isaiah.

(1)Who has believed our message a and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

Skeptical argument:The skeptics would have us believe that this is the Gentiels speaking. The Gentiles are amazed that Israel, whom they thought stricken for 2000 years, has returned and done God's work.


A) The message is not Israel's and Israel does not speak.

Israel is never a major dialogue partner in the whole book, but is always spoken to, except in short quotations. But the prophet is speaking continuously, backing himself up with quotations form God and punctuating these with references to or brief quotes by the Messiah.

B) Content of narration not consistant with Israel interp.

Consier what is said. "Who has believed our Message...?" Whose Message is it in the book? Is it Israel giving a message at any time in this work? No, it is the prophet dilevering God's message to Israel. It is obviously the prophet speaking in this chapter. The attitude of disbelief is consistant with the attitude Israel displays contantly thorughout the book; disbelief.

C) Historical anacrinism argues against the interpretation of Israel

"The Suffering Servant Of Is. 52-53"

1) Not consistant with picture of humble deliverer and sin bearer.

"Who is speaking these words about the suffering Servant? Beginning in the 1800s, most Jewish scholars rejected the idea that Isaiah 52:13--53:12 referred to the Messiah and began to applying it to a remnant in Israel. Since then they have been saying that these words will be spoken by Gentiles, who in the last days will stand corrected and brokenhearted before the suffering nation that has borne their hatred and sins. They say that this entire passage is a last-days confession of a Gentile world, admitting that its proud and mindless anti-semitism has been the cause of Israel's pain." While this source is worng, and there are examles of the Israel interp from way before the 19th century, it was not so previlant, began with Rashi, and cannot be produced from any source from before the 3d century of this era.

"It is difficult to see this chapter, especially its closing words, as describing a last-days glorification of Israel. What we find instead is a description of a humble Deliverer and Sin-bearer who, after being made a "guilt offering" (vv.4-8,10), sees the result of His atoning work and is satisfied."

2) The Final chapters of Isaiah are not end times, but anticipation of restoration from Babylonian Exile.

"only chs, 1-39 can be assigned to Isaiah's time; it is generally accepted that chps 40-66 came from the time of Cyrus of Persia (539 BC) and latter, as showen by the differernces in historical background, literary style, an dtheological emphases....chaps. 40-66, commonly called Second Isaiah (or Second and Third) orinated immediately before the fall of Babylon (539 BC). (The New Oxford Anotated Bbile with Apocrypha: Ecummenical Study Bible; NY, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973, p. 822)." These sections that are taken for end times are really anticipation of return from Exile.

Now this might cause some to say "but if the SS is Messiah, how can he show up just before the return from Exile, long before Jesus was born?" This is not a Chronoloigcal work, the emphasis is not upon when things happen, but the role of these various agents in the working of God's plan. The material is redacted and arranged in such a way as to reflect the hopes of the redactors, but the SS prophesy existed an is part of the prophetic utterence. The Redactor wedges it in at the point he thinks it belongs.

The utterences in "Second Isaiah" are the work of another ananymous man, not Isaiah the son of Amoz. "There is a scholarly consensus that chapters 40-66 do not date to the eigth century BC but rather to the 6th century, the period of the Babylonian exile and afterward. The clearest argument for this are the two references to Cyrus (Is 44:28, 45:10) but there are other indications.Assyria, the enemy in Isaiah Ben Amoz day is only mentioned once in passing (52:4) while Babylon fills that role in Second Isaiah. The exile has already taken place, the Jews are awaiting their release." (Gaalyah Cornfeld and David Noel Freedom, consulting editor, Archaeology of The Bible Book By Book. NY: Harpper and Row, 1976, p.157).

Since the last chapters are not prophesies of the End times Kingdom, the interpritation of the SS as a community vindicated in the Millenium cannot be the case. In fact it was probably the expression of these hopes of return from exile which gave latter generations their eschatologial hopes and the notion of looking forword to a kingdom of God's reign on earth at the end of times.

(2) "He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearence that we should desire him."

Skeptical argument:Skeptics would have us believe that this is Israel, for one thing because they say there are none of the usual epithets in the chapter which mark the Messiah, such as "Branch," "Son of God," "Son of Man" "Root of Jessy." et.


A) Messianich epithets:

But here there are allusions to such epithets. "Grew up like a tender shoot, a root out of dry ground." These are allusions to the same epithets in verse 11, Branch (shoot) Root of Jessey (root). This does mark the Servant as Messiah.

B) Physical beauty

No beauty that we should desire him, while is inconsistant with the notions in Rabbincal lore of the Messiah's great physical beauty, that was pre-incarnate. This is a declaration of humanity.This passage is refuring to his delapidated stae after being afflicted. Jesus was tortured and beaten and absued before crucifiction.

(3)"He was Despised and rejected by men, a-man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despized and we esteemed him not."

Skeptical argument:This fits Israel, the pain and suffering of the Jews, the hatred of Nazis and anti-semetism.


A) This does fit Israel and the Gentile attitude toward it throughout the Mellinia, but it also fits Jesus and the Jewish attitude toward him as well.

B) It is also consistant with the atttidues toward Messiah in the book of Isaiah. Israel is not described as despised by men and rejected but Messiah is elsewhere.

In Chapter 50 Messiah as faithful servant stands in contrast to unfaithful Israel. He says "I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard, I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting..." (v6)

(4) Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smiten by him , afflicted.

Skeptical argument:Skeptics would have us believe that this is the Gentiles talking, saying that Israel was wounded for them, for the Gentiels.


A) No where in the OT or in the Book of Isaiah do we find Israel fulfilling this function.

Throughout the book Israel is described as singful, unfaithful, not trusting, it can't redeem itself and to say that it can goes agaisnt the whole message of the book. But more importantly, Israel is always the recipient of redeemption never the redemptive tool. All the passages of redemption in Isaiah are associated with the Messiaha as the tool of Go's redeemption, as seen on the last page.

We have seen Messiah in a role of redepmtive suffering already.

11: 3 Messiah suffers!"On Is 11:3 the Talmud (San 93b lines 21 ect from the top) has a curious explaintion. AFter quoting chapter XI 2 as Messianich, it makes it makes a play on words "of quick understanding" or "scent" as it might be rendered,a nd suggests that...[this] is inteneded to teach us that God has laden him with commandments and sufferings like a millstone. Immediately afterwards, form the expresion 'He hsall not judge after the sight of His eyes, but reporve with equity from the meed of the earth,' it is inferred that the Messiah knew the toughts of the heart, and it is added that, as Bar Bokhabh was unable to do this, he was illed." (Edersheim 724) (see also the quotatin form Yalkut below under B1c "Meesiah suffers in every age fo the sins of that generation...") Add to this also 50:6 as quoted above.

B) The attitude expressed is not consistent with that of the Gentiles.

as we have seen already this is the prophet it is his message that they do not believe. Israel has no message in this book. But there are two other reasons to assume the prophet is speaking on behalf of Israel, depicting their view point toward the suffering servant.

1) v 4 "we considered him sticken by God"

NOt really a Gentile attitude. The Gentiles really don't assume that one is stricken by God, nor do they anywhere in the OT do very much considering of anything in realtion to God. This is clearly the attidue of a believer. One who accepts God as the true God.

2) v8 "for the transgressions of my people he was stricken" This clearly identifies the speaker with Israel. Now one could argue that "my people" are the gentiles, and Israel was stricken to redeem the whole world. But as we have already seen, that is inconsistant with their role in Isaiah, but not inconssitant with the Role of Messiah. It makes no sense in the context of the book which is so heavily involved with calling Israel home form sin and rebellion and to turn from their transgressions, and the Messiah has already been seen to be the agent of that redeemption.

It is only as an outgrowth of that Mission that Messiah is also a light to the Gentiles. But "first to the Jew and then to the Greeks" is the exact order even in statements in Isaiah such as "it is not a big enough thing that you redeem Israel and the house of Judah but also" be a light to the gentiles.

3) The Attitude is consistent with that of Israel in Isaiah.

"God and tell this people, be ever hearing and never understanding, ever seeing but never percieving, make he heart of this people callasoused and close their eyes, otherwise they might see with their eyes hear with their ears understand with their hearts, turn and be healed." (Is 6: 9-10)

"The Lord almighty is the one you are to regard as holy...but for both houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare. Many of them will stumble, they will fall away and be broken, they will be snared and captured." (Is 8: 13-15) And yet we are suppossed to believe that Israel is the redeemer!

(5) but he was pierced for our trasngressions, he was crushed for our iniquties; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Skeptical argument:Of course this is disputed hottly by the anti-missionaries. They say that the original Hebrew for Ps 22 is not preiced.


The word used here has many different applications. "Defiled" both in sexaul and other ways. "profaied" ect. The notion of being profained does apply to Jesus on the cross. Moreover, crucifiction was unknown to the Hebrews at the time of this passage. It could be gernally symbolic, and it coud mean stuck with a sword, but it is so keenly precise of the cricifiction, and being an anacronism, strikes one as espeicially interested. This is all the more so sense there are two other passages that use the same language and both connect to Jesus' convencingly. PS 22 and Zachriah 12:10. Of course this is disputed hottly by the skeptics. They say that the original Hebrew for Ps 22 is not preiced.But it is in the LXX. See the page "Jesus Christ King Messiah II" for defense of the supiriority of the LXX. Why would there be a figure that is associated with being peirced for transgressions in at least two and maybe three different passages in different books? The passage in Zachariah is discussed on the first page, Jesus Christ King Messiah I.

(6) We all, like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Skeptical argument:The skpetics say that no example of a human atoning for sin (such as Jesus on the cross--Christians say this is a preidiction of Jesus' crucifiction) is never given, and in fact it is expressly forbidden.


The Christian argument is that this is a remarkable preidiction of Jesus' crucifiction, in which his hands and feet were pierced. In the time of Prophet Isaiah, no form of Jewish exictuion, or battle would produdce preireced hadns and feet.

Skeptical Argument:But the skeptics say that theologically the idea is bad because the Jews have no idea of one man atoning for another's sins; they say the idea is forbidden.

Notice frist that the attitude of the speaker fits better that of repentent Israel: 'we all, like sheep have gone astray.'

A Sinless Israel? Throughout the book Israel has gone astray.

The servant in Isaiah 53 is suffering "though he had done no violence..." (53.9), and he was "not rebellious" (50.5). Isaiah repeatedly stresses that Israel is a sinful people who suffer due to their own sins (40.2; 42.18-25; 43.22-28; 47.7; 48.18f; 50.1; 54.7; 57.17; 59.2ff). [This also applies to the righteous remnant: 43.22; 46.3, 12; 48.1, 8; 53.6, 8; 55.7; 58.1ff; 63.17; 64.5-7.]

'How the faithful city has become a whore! She that was full of justice, righteousness lodged in her--but now murderers!

(Is. 1:21)'For the vineyard of the L-rd of Hosts is the House of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; rightousness, but heard a cry!'

(Is. 5:7)'Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be your spoil, and that you may make the orphans your prey! What will you do on the day of punishment, in the calamity that will come

from far away? To whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave all your wealth. . .'

(Is. 10:1-3)'The way of peace you do not know, and there is no justice in their paths. Their roads they have made crooked; no one who walks in them knows peace. Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us; we wait for light, and lo! there is darkness; and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. We grope like the blind along a wall, groping like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among the vigorous as though we were dead.'

(Is. 59:8-10)"We" Vs. "He" Passages

"throughout Isaiah whenever the pronouns 'we', 'our', or 'us' are introduced abruptly, as in 53:1ff. (that is, without an explicit identification of the speakers, as in 2:3; 3:6; 4:1; etc.), it is always the prophet speaking on behalf of the people of Israel with whom he identifies (1:9f; 16.6; 24.26; 33.2, 20; 42.24; 59:9-12; 63:15-19; 64:3-11; etc.). Accordingly, if the 'we' or 'us' in 53:1ff is the prophet speaking on behalf of Israel, then the 'he' or 'him' of these same verses cannot also be a reference to Israel." [Jesus and the Suffering Servant: Isaiah 53 and Christian Origins, William Bellinger, Jr', and William Farmer (eds), Trinity Press:1998.:110]

A. Purpose of passge different from that of Jesus' atonement.

The passage they have in mind, however is about human sacrafice. It is obviously wirttent in prevent Israel from turning to human sacrafice as did their pagan neighbors. But Jesus' death is initiated by God and a one time work, and can never be reapted and certainly not with a mere human. It does not, therefore, come under this injunction. Moeover, this notion of no examples beags the question if the passages in Zachariah and PS 22 are about Jesus!

B. The notion of sacrafice is certainly not foreign.

The scape goat given for the sins of the people each year was a sacraficial atonement for sin. The law says it is forbidden to sacrafice a man for this purpose it does not forbid God voluntarily doing so.

C. There are examples of the life of one being given to save the many.

Judaism Teaches...or Does It?"

by Moishe Rosen

Atonement by Sacrifice in the Bible and in the Rabbis

"There is an important biblical verse that is generally understood to be the foundation of the sacrificial system: "For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life" (Leviticus 17:11). In the ancient biblical world, the death of an animal substituted for the death of the person who has sinned. As the Hebrew expresses it, a "ransom" is paid for the person, for that is what kippur means in "Yom Kippur."

"What is perhaps less well known is that at times it was the death of a human being--not an animal--that atoned for the sin of the people. The sin of the Israelites as recorded in Numbers 25, when some of the Israelites worshipped the Moabite gods, was met with a plague that could only be stopped by a human payment. Make no mistake: it was the death of people that stopped the plague. Rabbi Jacob Milgrom comments:

Phinehas's deed in slaying one Israelite leader suffices to ransom (kipper) Israel; God requires no additional victims. Kipper functions to avert the retribution, to nip it in the bud, to terminate it before it is fully exhausted. (7)

Milgrom mentions two other texts in which the death of human beings functions to secure atonement:

The first, Exodus 32:26-29, deals with the apostasy of the golden calf where the Levites are called upon to slay the people, even their close relatives, indiscriminately--to assuage the wrath of God. The second text, 2 Samuel 21:1-14... [shows that] the impalement of Saul's sons provided the needed ransom-expiation for ending the drought. (8)"

"The Suffering Servant Of Is. 52-53"

"What about the skeptics' denial that the servant is portrayed as voluntarily suffering and dying as a sacrifice? The Servant clearly declared the voluntary nature of His suffering:

The Sovereign LORD has opened My ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back. I offered My back to those who beat Me, My cheeks to those who pulled out My beard; I did not hide My face from mocking and spitting (50:5-6).

The Servant's suffering is also seen in 53:7, where it says that "He did not open His mouth."

The Servant's death as a sacrifice comes through clearly in Isaiah 53:5, "He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities." But skeptics say the rendering should be "because of" our transgressions and iniquities instead of "for" them. This allows them to interpret these words as a portrayal of a redeemed remnant suffering because of the sins of the Gentile nations.

While the laws of grammar allow for either "for" or "because of," the context shows that "for" is more accurate. The innocent Servant obviously suffers in behalf of the guilty and benefits them. This comes through even in a Jewish translation of verse 5, "The chastisement of our welfare was upon him, and with his wounds we were healed.

It can be argued that it is through persecuted Jewish witnesses that multitudes of Gentiles will in the last days be brought to their senses. But this group cannot be the Servant of Isaiah 53:10, of whom the prophet declares, "The LORD makes His life a guilt offering." The Hebrew expression Isaiah uses links this Servant's offering directly to the sacrificial system established by Moses. This Servant, then, must be Jesus Christ. "

(7) He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth,he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as as sheep before his shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth (8) By oppression and judgement was taken away. And who can speak of his decendants? For he was cut off from he land of the living; for the trasngression of my people he was stricken.

Skeptical argument:"The Suffering Servant Of Is. 52-53"

charge that Christian translators were dishonest in their rendering of Isaiah 53:8?
"As noted earlier, some skeptics call attention to Isaiah 53:8, which in Christian translations reads, "For the transgression of My people He was stricken," even though the third person pronoun is plural. They render it, "For the transgression of my people a plague befell them [the Jewish remnant]."


This is an important statement. He was killed. He was cut off from the land of the living.

The pronoun is plural, but the accusation of dishonesty is unjustified. The last two Hebrew words in this sentence are in the form of a grammatical ellipsis, a construction in which a word or words necessary for a complete statement are omitted. This makes it necessary for the reader to determine its exact meaning from the context.

J. A. Alexander of Princeton Seminary, considered by many to be one of the world's outstanding linguists, rendered the latter part of 53:8 this way: "For the transgression of My people, (as) a curse for them" (Commentary on the Prophecies of Isaiah, Zondervan, p.299). This translation of the clause fits the context and gives the plural form to the pronoun. Therefore, the traditional "for the transgression of My people He was stricken" accurately and honestly expresses the truth that the Messiah was made a curse (was stricken) for the sins of God's people."

(9)He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, tough he had done no violence, nor was any deciet in his mouth.

Skeptical argument:Skpetics argue that this is the reverse of Christ's situation, his grave was with the rich and his death was among theives.


The prhase "assigned a grave with the wicked" does not necessarily refur to his litteral grave and it's socio-economic status. It is merely a euphamism, a way of speaking. "Assigned a grave" may just be a way of saying "marked for death." "And with the rich in his death" could well be a reference to his burial in Jospeh's tomb, but probably just refurs to the Romans, the rich and powerful who exicuted him. Note: why would the evangelists in writting the four Gospels reverse the sitatuion since they were familar with the phrophesy?

Also note: he had done no violence, it says, nor was no deciet found in him, this is certainly not the description of Israel thoughout the book of Isaiah, which, form first to last is depicted as faithless, sinfull, violent, decitful, espeicially in the opening chapters where it is called Sodom and Gamorah. As for violence, "the vineyard of the Lord is the House of Israel...and he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed, for righteousness but heard cries of distress." This is not consistant with the portrail of Israel in Isaiah either proto-Isaiah or Deutero-Isaiah.

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The Religious A priori