Some mistranslations are innocent -- and others appear self-serving.
Nowhere in Y'shayahu / Isaiah 53 is there a mention of sin -- yet various Christian translations use that word, perhaps because so many want to believe that Jesus was without sin, and yet a sin sacrifice and use this famous passage to support that belief.
They are being lied to, plain and simple.
Consider Y'shayahu / Isaiah 53:5 in the following Christian translations:
"He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins; he endured punishment that made us well; because of his wounds we have been healed." NET Bible.
"But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed." Douay-Rheims Bible.
"He was wounded for our rebellious acts. He was crushed for our sins. He was punished so that we could have peace, and we received healing from his wounds." G-d's Word Translation.
Yet the word for "sin" does not appear in this verse.
The Hebrew is מֵעֲוֹנֹתֵ֑ינוּ (for our impulsive, lustful wrongdoings). Most Christian translations choose the word "iniquity" here, and that is more honest than the translations above. An avon / עוון / transgression is when a person does whatever he wants, but not to anger G‑d. The sinner is intent on enjoying forbidden things he desires -- he knows it is wrong but does it any way. . . Thus an avon is worse than "sin."
The Hebrew word translated as “sin” is חֵטְא / cheit -- a mistake (a missing of the mark). You tried to do the right thing (it wasn't willful or knowingly doing something wrong). "Sin” is a חֵטְא / cheit -- an unintentional sin through carelessness — a “missing of the mark."
Making mistakes (trying to do the right thing and missing aka sin) is all about learning from your mistakes and making up for them via apology, repayment, etc. G-d tells Cain way back in B'reshit / Genesis 4 that he can over come sin (this is "after" Adam and Chava (Eve) sinned, so OOPS there goes the idea of "original sin").
An avon / עוון is not a mistake (it is more serious than sin) -- it is a knowing violation of the rule of law -- the commission of a crime from an impulsive (think lustful) action.
Translating avon / עוון as "sin" is not only incorrect -- it has to be intentional as the words are not at all similar.
Note, too, that most Christian translations of verse five say: "he was pierced for our transgressions" NIV.
The Hebrew word translated as "pierced" is מְחֹלָ֣ל. It is conjugated in a singular 3rd-person masculine passive verb form commonly translated as "he was wounded". A similar term, - m'holelet, conjugated in a singular 3rd-person feminine active verb form is found in Isaiah 51:9. It is commonly translated as "[she] wounded." Pierced is a stretch -- but the general meaning has to do with being wounded by a sword, so pierced is a possible, but not a preferred, translation.
Far more misleading is "he was crushed for our iniquities" NIV.
The verse does not say, “He was wounded for our transgressions and iniquities -- which might lead a reader to "he died FOR my sins." The proper translation is “He was wounded because of our transgressions, and crushed because of our iniquities.” The servant is suffering because of the evil done by others, not "for" them as an act of vicarious atonement. Hebrew uses prepositional prefix-letters ב (b), כ (k), ל (l) and מ (m) to convey prepositions. In this passage the preposition is a מ (mem) in the word מִפְּשָׁעֵנוּ mip'sha'énu. It is never translated as “for” which would incorrectly indicate a vicarious atonement.
There are additional places in Y'shayahu / Isaiah 53 where many Christian translations use the word "sin" although it does not appear in the text.
"All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left G-d's paths to follow our own. Yet the L-RD laid on him the sins of us all." New Living Translation, Isaiah 53:6.
Again, the word in verse 6 is עֲוֹ֥ן / avon (iniquity / impulsive wrongdoing) -- not חֵטְא / cheit (sin). The sentence itself (that G-d laid on him the sins of us all) infers vicarious atonement (e.g., Jesus dying for your sins) -- and it is yet another mistranslation. The verse actually says "We all went astray like sheep, we have turned, each one on his way, and the L-rd accepted his prayers for the iniquity of all of us."
The fact that prayers can atone for iniquity does not "fit" the Christian concept that Jesus has to die for your sins, ergo the passage is mistranslated.
Want proof? The verb לִפְגֹּֽעַ literally means “to encounter” or “to come across by chance”, but it can also mean “to beg”, “to plead [with]”or “to pray [to]”. It takes an indirect object governed by the preposition ב־ (compare the usage in B'réshıt / Genesis 28:11 and Y'rmyahu / Jeremiah 7:16). The word בּוֹ literally means “in him”, “with him”, “through him” (or, in the context of Y'shayahu / Isaiah 53, “in them”, “with them”, “through them”) etc, and the meaning of וַיְיָ הִפְגִּֽיעַ בּוֹ אֵת עֲוֺן כֻּלָּֽנוּ in verse 6 is “We all went astray like sheep, we have turned, each one on his way, and the L-rd accepted his prayers for the iniquity of all of us." See also Rashi's commentary.
Some Christian translations use the word "sin" in association with sacrifices in Y'shayahu / Isaiah 53:10.
This is perhaps the worst of the misuse of the term "sin" in all of Isaiah 53 as the word "sin" does not appear, let alone a sin sacrifice. Yet the NIV has: "the L-RD makes his life an offering for sin." and the KJV has "thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin."
This is translated to say that the servant is a SACRIFICE -- an offering for sin. This is totally unbiblical and a terrible distortion. Yet again the word for sin does not appear in the text at all.
The word mistranslated as "sin offering" is אָשָׁם֙ / asham. An אָשָׁם֙ / asham is not a "sin offering." The various sacrifices are discussed in the book of Vaykira / Leviticus. A sin sacrifice is the חַטָּאת / chatat was for a missing of the mark (you tried to do good but missed). It is discussed in Vayikra / Leviticus 4.
Y'shayahu / Isaiah 53:10 does not speak of the sin sacrifice at all. The word which is used is אָשָׁם / asham.
The word אָשָׁם / asham can be translated as "guilt" (as in you are guilty of something) or to speak of the guilt sacrifice. It is quite clear from the context of that the use of in this verse means "guilt" and not "guilt sacrifice."
How can we be so certain that Isaiah is not speaking of the guilt sacrifice? Because there are only a few violations that one could bring a guilt sacrifice to atone. None of them "fit" the suffering servant. An avon/ עוון (unless it falls under the אָשָׁם תָּלוּי / asham talui or or אָשָׁם גְּזֵל֣וֹת / asham g'zelot) cannot be rectified with a qorban (sacrifice). So what are these two sacrifices which can be brought for an avon/ עוון? They are discussed in Vayikra / Leviticus chapter 5.
Those were the only two types of Avon / עוון (translated by Christians as iniquity) which a person could bring a sacrifice for (an asham / guilt sacrifice). Any other type of Avon / עוון must be atoned for with other actions including charity, prayer, repentance.
Knowing this take a look at the use of the word אָשָׁם / asham in Y'shayahu / Isaiah 53:10. "G-d desired to oppress him and He afflicted him. If his soul would acknowledge guilt, he would see offspring and live long days, and G-d’s purpose would succeed in his hand."
One may now understand why Christian translations have either "offering for sin" or "guilt sacrifice" instead of the proper translation that the servant must admit his own guilt to have the reward of having children and living a long life.
Jesus did not admit guilt.
Jesus did not have children.
Jesus did not live a long life.
Read about the אָשָׁם / asham for yourself. Check the passage and see that the word used is in fact אָשָׁם / asham and not "sin." Look up the אָשָׁם / asham sacrifices for yourself and see if any of them fit the concept most Christians have about "sin" or Jesus atoning for sin. . .
In other words, folks, use this blog as a starting point. Do your own research.
If so many errors, so many seemingly on purpose and self-serving to make this passage seem to "fit" Jesus, in Isaiah 53 are apparent, how many more passages are being used to mislead innocent Christians seeking G-d into a form of idolatry worshiping a man as G-d?
It often seems that the only passage in the T'nach a missionary ever reads is Isaiah 53. When proselytizing a Jew the very first argument from a missionary tends to be "Isaiah 53's suffering servant can't possibly be Israel (the Jews)."
Respectfully, this is the wrong question.
As a Christian the missionary should be taking a cold, hard look at Isaiah 53 and asking themselves "Can this passage possibly be about Jesus?"
To which the answer is a resounding "no."
As you might have noticed in the 365 Prophecies? section of this blog the "proofs" missionary references in the T'nach (Jewish bible) regarding Jesus tend to fall into one of four categories:
All four of these misuses of scripture are found in Christian translations and interpretations of Isaiah 53.
These are just some glaring examples showing that the servant in Isaiah 53 simply does not "fit" Jesus.
Y'shayahu / Isaiah 53:5 is not in the list above -- but it is usually badly translated in Christian versions which usually have: “He was wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities." This is incorrect and conveys the wrong impression that the servant suffered FOR others (as in "Jesus died for your sins"). The correct translation is: “He (the servant) was wounded because of our transgressions (מִפְּשָׁעֵ֔נוּ / pesha), and crushed because of our iniquities (מֵעֲוֹנֹתֵ֑ינוּ / avon).” This conveys that the Servant suffered as a result of the sinfulness of others – not the opposite as Christians contend – that the Servant suffered to atone for the sins of others.
Some missionaries will state that the Great Isaiah Scroll (an ancient copy of Isaiah) bears out their mistranslation of "because of" rather than "for" -- but this is not true. The Hebrew in the Great Isaiah Scroll is the same as those in Jewish versions today -- it has a mem in all of those instances ergo those who say the Great Isaiah Scroll says "because of" are relying on yet another mistranslation.
The following is a quote from "A General Introduction to the Bible" concerning this Isaiah Scroll. "Of the 166 words in Isaiah 53, there are only 17 letters in question. Ten of these letters are simply a matter of spelling, which does not affect the sense. Four more letters are minor stylistic changes, such as conjunctions. The three remaining letters comprise the word LIGHT, which is added in verse 11 and which does not affect the meaning greatly. . . Thus, in one chapter of 166 words, there is only one word (three letters) in question after a thousand years of transmission - and this word does not significantly change the meaning of the passage." (Norman Geisler & William Nix, "A General Introduction to the Bible", Moody Press, Page 263). Now, the Great Isaiah Scroll is NOT reliable and contains scribal spelling errors. Most of the differences are simply grammatical -- it most likely was in a genizah (a "graveyard" for defective copies) -- BUT the content is the same as the Hebrew we have today (even if there are some minor variations). The missionaries who try to use it as proof that Jews have "changed" Isaiah 53 are not learned in Hebrew and most likely are repeating what they've read or heard from other missionaries.
The Torah has different methods of atonement for different types of wrongdoings. . . "Sin” is a חֵטְא / cheit -- an unintentional sin through carelessness — a “missing of the mark." If Jesus died for sin then he died for mistakes -- not for more serious wrongdoings.
Y'shayahu / Isaiah 53:5 does not speak of "sin." It speaks of far more serious wrongdoings for which no sacrifice could be brought. I wrote about the different types of wrongdoings in this post. An עוון avon (iniquity - the impulsive / lustful actions) or פֶּֽשַׁע pĕsha (transgression, willful rebellion against G-d) are mentioned in Y'shayahu / Isaiah 53:5 and neither could be atoned for with sacrifices (with the exception listed a few עוון avon that are listed in Vayikra / Leviticus 5 -- such as certain thefts or if a person was unsure if he had sinned).
Isaiah is saying that the servant was wounded because people were guilty of committing עוון avon (iniquity - the impulsive / lustful actions) and פֶּֽשַׁע pĕsha (transgression, willful rebellion against G-d) against the servant. Again -- was Jesus the victim of lustful, impulsive actions against him? How about evil deeds done in defiance of G-d -- was Jesus the victim of acts of evil done on purpose to defy G-d? A missionary might claim "yes" -- and an argument could be made that his death was an act against the evil actions of others -- but this is NOT the missionary claim that Jesus was “He was wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities." Many, many people have been the victim of the evil actions of others -- including victims of crime today. Even if the correct translation "fit" Jesus it is one out of many he does not "fit."
Simply viewing the passages in the short list it is clear that Jesus does not "fit" Isaiah's suffering servant.
Quite simply, unless one ignores context, mistranslated words ("guilt" becomes "guilt sacrifice", "executions" becomes the singular" and so forth), and even complete opposites (Jesus being killed with criminals rather than among the rich) it is abundantly clear that Jesus does not "fit" the servant in Isaiah 53.
In the other section of this blog I am tackling a missionary list found on the internet in multiple locations with "365 Messianic Prophecies Jesus Fulfilled" to see, one by one, if they stand up to inspection. Having reached #100 on the list Isaiah 53 has not yet been reached. Each missionary claim for Isaiah 53 will be tackled, one by one, when it appears on the list (around 228, 229 on the list).
I leave you with one final thought. The missionary who begins by stating "Isaiah 53 can't be about Israel (the Jews) says this, normally with a comment such as "servant of Isaiah 53 is an innocent and guiltless sufferer. Israel is never described as sinless." Actually, the servant is never described as sinless. Missionaries tend to lump every Jew who ever lived into their analysis -- including apostate Jews who became atheists, or Christians. If one Jew who ever lived wasn't murdered (as the servant is said to die multiple deaths in executions) these missionaries will declare that the servant cannot be the Jews.
Does this missionary argument hold up on inspection?
Read D'varim / Deuteronomy 30. Moses tells the people that there will come a time when the Jewish people will exiled from the land, and only a remnant (a small number) will remain faithful to G-d. Even Y'shayahu / Isaiah (chapter 10:20) states "the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob."
The servant in Isaiah 53 is the righteous remnant of Jews who, throughout history, have remained faithful to G-d and His covenant with us. This is not some "excuse." Time and again the T'nach (bible) tells us that the Jews will be exiled as a punishment and that over time only a few, a "righteous remnant" will remain. It is this righteous few who are the suffering servant of Isaiah.
The missionaries should read a prophet they rarely if ever mention, Tzefaniah / Zephaniah, who wrote (chapter 3) a passage which echoes Y'shayahu / Isaiah 53 and Y'rmiyahu / Jeremiah's "new" covenant as well "And I will leave over in your midst a humble and poor people, and they shall take shelter in the name of the L-rd. The remnant of Israel shall neither commit injustice nor speak lies; neither shall deceitful speech be found in their mouth, for they shall graze and lie down, with no one to cause them to shudder. Sing, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O Israel! Rejoice and celebrate wholeheartedly, O daughter of Jerusalem!"
Tzefaniah / Zephaniah 3:13 "neither shall deceitful speech be found in their mouth"
Y'shayahu / Isaiah 53:9 "there was no deceit in his mouth."
Time and again the prophet Y'shayahu / Isaiah declares that Israel (the Jewish people) are G-d's servant. Y'shayahu / Isaiah 41:8 - 9. "But you, Israel My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham, who loved Me, Whom I grasped from the ends of the earth, and from its nobles I called you, and I said to you, "You are My servant"; I chose you and I did not despise you."
Y'shayahu / Isaiah 44:1. "And now, hearken, Jacob (Jacob's name was changed to Israel and Jews are often called "Jacob" and "Israel") My servant, and Israel whom I have chosen. 2. So said HaShem your Maker, and He Who formed you from the womb shall aid you. Fear not, My servant Jacob, and Jeshurun (the Jews) whom I have chosen."
Y'shayahu / Isaiah 44:21 "Remember these things, O Jacob, for you are my servant, O Israel. I have made you, you are my servant; O Israel, I will not forget you."
Y'shayahu / Isaiah 45:4. "For the sake of My servant Jacob, and Israel My chosen one, and I called to you by your name; I surnamed you, yet you have not known Me."
Y'shayahu / Isaiah 49:3 - 7. "And He said to me (Isaiah), "You are My servant, Israel, about whom I will boast. . . This is what HaShem says- the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel- to him who was despised and abhorred by the nations, to the servant of rulers: "Kings will see you and rise up, princes will see and bow down, because of HaShem , who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you."
Note one particular phrase in chapter 49 of Isaiah and contrast it with Isaiah 53:
Y'shayahu / Isaiah 49:7 "to him (my servant Israel) who was despised and abhorred by the nations"
Y'shayahu / Isaiah 53:3 "Despised and rejected by men."
and from Jeremiah:
Y'rmiyahu / Jeremiah 30:10 " 'So do not fear, O Jacob my servant; do not be dismayed, O Israel,' declares HaShem."
Also see Isaiah 42:19-20; 43:10 to see that Israel is the servant, nowhere is this term used for the messiah. Jeremiah 30:10 also names Israel as the servant and Jeremiah 30:17 says that the servant Israel is regarded by the nations as an outcast, forsaken by G-d, just like in Isaiah 53:4.
The purpose of this post is not to prove to missionaries that the servant in Isaiah 53 is Israel. That is immaterial to the question of whether or not the servant could possibly fit Jesus. It should be clear, having read this post, that Jesus was not Isaiah's servant. Having determined that the servant is not Jesus, the next logical question is to read Isaiah 53 in context of the entire book of Isaiah to determine whether the righteous remnant of Israel fits the description alone, or in combination with someone else.
A missionary wrote to me (to prove that you need blood to atone for sins) "G-d required every Jew to be under the blood in Moses day.....when they applied it to the door.... It wasn't based on big sins or little sins...." There is not one verse in the T'nach which teach this missionary doctrine.
So let us examine this missionary's argument.
The missionary is referring first of all to the "blood of the covenant" mentioned in Sh'mot / Exodus 24:8 (I really wish missionaries would just ONCE give the reference, but they never do!).
He also mentions the Paschal שֶׂה (seh) – a young goat (usually) or lamb is killed and eaten as a celebration of freedom from slavery.
Neither of those two "examples" had anything to do with sin, let alone with atonement of sins! In Sh'mot / Exodus 24:8 says "And Moses took the blood and sprinkled [it] on the people, and he said, "Behold the blood of the covenant, which the L-rd has formed with you concerning these words." This blood was a confirmation of the covenant G-d renewed with the Jewish people at Mount Sinai. Moses took half of the blood of the sacrifices in basins and pours the other half of the blood of the sacrifices on the altar (perhaps sprinkling the elders as well -- some Christians say all the Jews were "sprinkled" with the blood, but there would not have been enough blood to sprinkle 3 million people!).
Do you see any mention of sin?
Do you see any mention of the blood atoning for sin?
Read Sh'mot / Exodus chapters 32 and 33 which tell of the Golden Calf account and of how Moses pleaded for his people, and G-d relented from what He was going to do to them - they were forgiven without blood.
How about the missionary's second "example" -- that of the Paschal שֶׂה / seh's blood being applied to the door posts. Let's just look at that a bit more closely, because the שֶׂה / seh had nothing to do with sin or atonement either.
The שֶׂה / seh was sacrificed on the day of 14th of Nisan. On that first Passover we put the animals’ blood onto the door-frames of our homes (on the inside), roasted the meat and ate it. Do you know if anyone ate Jesus (not just symbolic blood and bread at the last super -- but actually roasted and ate HIM)? All of this detail (ignored completely by the list maker making) makes the comparison of Jesus to the Paschal lamb) ridiculous Sh'mot / Exodus chapter 12.
Read the two passages for yourself -- neither one speaks of sin, or atonement of sin.
Do not let missionaries confuse you by insisting that blood is necessary to atone for sin by bringing up passages that have nothing to do with atoning for sin!
Even if we took those two passages claimed by the missionary -- about Moses sprinkling the pillars and Jews with blood, or the passage about the blood of the paschal שֶׂה / seh (goat or lamb) on doorposts, as atoning (which the Torah never states that they are) -- the interpretation still would not prove that there is no atonement without blood -- and indeed the Torah tells us time and again other things have far more atoning power than blood even when blood is used as an atonement for sins.
Here is a short list of things that atone for wrongdoings.
2 Samuel 12:13-14 is a cheit (David admits to sin before Nathan the prophet and repents)
Jonah 3:10 has to do with the sins of Nineveh (unspecified, just identified as "evil" in 1:2), the people repented and G-d forgave
Leviticus 26:40-42 speaks of avon and repentence atoning for it
Ezikiel 18:21-32 speaks of chatat (21), pesha (22), chatat (24), pesha (28), pesha and avon (30) are all atoned through repentance
Proverbs 16:6 an avon is atoned for with kindness
Daniel 4:24 is chatat and avon by showing mercy and kindness
PRAYER (accompanied by repentance)
Hosea 14:2-3 teshuva (turning to G-d) and 1prayer atones for avon
1 Kings 8:46-50 include chatat, avon, rasha (wicked or evil) and pesha are atoned for by prayer
Daniel 9:5-19 include chatat, avon, and rasha are atoned by prayer
Isaiah 27:9 both chatat and avon are atoned by removing idolatry
Isaiah 40:1-2 avon is removed by punishment
Lamentations 4:22 avon is removed by punishment
Isaiah 22:14 avon will surely not be atoned until you die.
Leviticus 5:1-13 for specific ashams (guilts including not testifying honestly, touching something ritually unclean, if one makes an oath one doesn't keep, he must confess, and he must bring a guilt offering which should be a female sheep or goat, but if he can't afford it he may bring two turtle doves (one as a chatat and one as an olah). If he cannot afford the turtle doves he may bring flour as a chatat (sin offer)
Exodus 30:15-16 to atone for the life-force (similar to blood in Leviticus 17:11)
Numbers 31:50 to atone for the life-force (similar to blood in Leviticus 17:11)
Numbers 17:11-12 atonement for the Israelites "for there is wrath" Per Rashi (a Jewish sage) this secret was given over to him by the angel of death when he went up to heaven, that incense holds back the plague… as is related in Tractate Shabbath (89a).
Read King Solomon's dedication of the first Temple found in 1 Kings 8. King Solomon is dedicating the very place for sacrifices, and he mentions that there will be a time when the Temple will not exist, or Jews will not be near it and can not bring qorban (sacrifices) -- and says that without sacrifices HaShem will hear our prayers: "When your people Israel. . . turn back to you and confess your name, praying and making supplication to you in this temple, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel. . " Without blood. Without a Temple. . .
So, no blood is not needed for atonement of sins, and blood is not needed for the atonement of your immortal soul (it atones for one's life -- keeping a person alive who may have committed an accidental sin or a minor sin, see this post). Only the חַטָּאת chatat (a mistake, a "missing of the mark" -- you tried to do good but missed) and the אָשָׁם asham (guilt / tresspass sacrifice) were sacrifices which could brought as a sacrifice for sins / guilt. The asham was for:
More serious wrongdoings could NOT be atoned for with a blood sacrifice -- totally refuting Hebrews 9:22 which says that "nearly everything" needed a blood sacrifice for atonement.
The scriptural support claimed by the missionar has nothing to do with atonement of sin -- and is incomplete in that it ignores what DOES atone for sins.
The Jewish bible makes it clear that blood is the life force that keeps animals (and humans) alive. It has only one purpose -- to be used as a sacrifice (kosher animals, proper sacrifices) otherwise it must be THROWN INTO THE DUST. Thrown out. We are forbidden from eating it (which is the main point in the Torah when it discusses blood).
Some Christians seem to think blood is magic -- which to a Jew is an anathema and disgusting -- and NOT biblical.
Are Christians idolaters? Are Jews who become Christians idolaters? If any of them are idolaters what is their fate for choosing idolatry over G-d?
There are many good Christians in this world who do right by others, are charitable and loving. Most of them have been taught idolatry by their parents and their parents' parents. They are innocent dupes who have been lied to and misled. G-d will judge them justly. . . However, once an idolater learns the truth that person is responsible for their behavior if they continue down the wrong path. . .
A Jew who turns to apostasy is in far more spiritual danger than a non-Jew and what is strictly forbidden to a Jew may be less harful to a non-Jew. Thus Christianity for a Jew is idolatry plain and simple. For a non-Jew it may be idolatry or it may be shituf avodah zarah (mixing idolatry with G-d) -- not much better, but not quite as bad. . .
A Jew who turns to Jesus is endangering his or her soul. That person is either in a state of כרת / kareit where they are cut off from G-d and the Jewish people or a תינוק שנשבה / tinok shenishba. The later is like a child who was kidnapped as a youth and never taught Torah and the responsibilities of being a Jew. A tinok shenishba never had the proper guidance and thus doesn't recognize their responsibilities to lead a Jewish life, following the mitzvot, he or she is "not held accountable for not living in accordance with the Torah until such time as they do become aware of their responsibilities.
The image is a painting of Edgardo Mortara, an Italian Jewish boy who (in the 19th century) was abducted from his parents by authorities of the Papal States of Italy (so under order of the church) and raised as a Catholic. He became a priest in the Augustinian order. This tragedy is an example of תינוק שנשבה / tinok shenishba.
This is the very purpose for Jewish outreach. Jews do not proselytize -- we do not seek (or want, for that matter) converts to Judaism. G-d has plans for Jew and non-Jew and a person does not to be Jewish to be loved by G-d or to love G-d.
Whether or not modern Jews becoming Christians would be kareit (cut off from G-d) or not 'depends.'
Christianity for a Jew is idolatry so a Jew who believes that Jesus was G-d in a human body is an idolater. Idolatry in Judaism is defined in the Torah as worshiping any "god" unknown at Sinai. Jesus was unknown at Sinai, as was worshiping him -- ergo it is idolatry for a Jew. (It may or may not be idolatry for a non-Jew, it may be shituf for them. But that is a topic for another discussion).
Was the Jew who is now a Christian properly educated in Torah and what G-d expects of a Jew or not? If "not" then those children well may fall under the category of תינוק שנשבה - tinok shenishba (like one who was kidnapped as a child and raised in the wrong religion, Tractate Shabbat 68B and Shavuot 5a).
This "works" only as long as a Christian remain ignorant that following Jesus is idolatry -- once they've been educated then they become responsible for their actions -- which might result in them being kareit if they do not repent of their apostasy and return to HaShem.
In writing about the Karaites, an apostate group founded around 800 CE, the Rambam (a great Jewish sage) wrote: ""However the children and the grandchildren of these errants, whose parents have misled them, those who have been born among the Karaites, who have reared them in their views; each is like a child who has been taken captive among them, who has been reared by them, and is not alacritous in seizing the paths of the commandments; his status is comparable to that of one who has been coerced.
"Even though he later learns that he is a Jew and becomes acquainted with Jews and [the Jewish] religion, he is nevertheless to be regarded as a person who is coerced, for he was reared in the erroneous ways [of his parents].
"Thus it is of the children and grandchildren of the Karaites who adhere to the practices of their Karaite parents who have erred. Therefore it is proper to cause them to return in repentance and to draw them near with words of peace until they return to the strength-giving Torah." Hilchot Mamrim 3:3.
The Karaites came under the heading of תינוק שנשבה / tinok shenishba. Many Jews and others who have been led into idolatry may well fall into this same category -- they are innocent and well meaning.
Idolatry for a Jew, including Christianity, is very serious indeed. No, a Jew cannot be a Christian and escape all consequences for his / her actions. Jews as a nation made a contract (covenant) with G-d. When a single Jew fails to live as a Jew and worship G-d as a Jew s/he hurts the entire Jewish nation, which in turn hurts the entire world.
Jews are the priests to the world. We are a light to the nations, to bring them to know G-d. When we do not follow the mitzvot (indeed, when a Jew does the opposite like apostate Jews who try to convert others to Christianity) we delay the arrival of the real messiah along with the global knowledge of G-d and world peace that will be part of the messianic era. Jews are judged individually (on our own merits), but we are also judged as a people, as a nation. Thus these Jews who serve other gods (including Jesus) damage the Jewish people and delay the arrival of the messiah. That is serious indeed.
How can we hasten the coming of the real messiah? To love G-d, to be good to your fellow man, to keep the mitzvot of the Torah (as best we can), and to encourage others to do so as well.
For further study:
Translation is not an exact science, even when translating between two languages that are similar one to the other. Hebrew is not similar to Greek or English -- or indeed to any other language, with the possible exceptions of Aramaic and, to a lesser degree, Arabic.
Few words of any language have one and only one sense (or meaning) - most words in most languages have several different meanings. For example, the Hebrew word רֹאשׁ / rosh means head, but it can also mean top, and it can also mean the most important part of something. Rosh is often mistranslated as "new" (leading to the mistranslation of "new year" for רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה / Rosh HaShanah -- literally translated as "head of the year" not "new year").
This variance in different languages makes translating the T'nach (Jewish bible) from Hebrew into English more art than science as a translator must choose the meaning of a Hebrew word, which may itself have multiple meanings, with an English word which also may have multiple meanings and not be a "perfect" match to the Hebrew.
A good example of this is the Hebrew word יוֹם / yom which is often translated as "day." This causes many missionaries (particularly evangelical missionaries) to insist that B'reshit / Genesis must be speaking of a 24 hour "day" in the creation chapter. However, the word יוֹם / yom can have different meanings other than a 24 hour day. The precise meaning of יוֹם / yom in the T'nach has 4 meanings depending on the context.
There is an additional issue when considering English translations. In English some words have changed meaning over time. This issue is also true of Greek words which were used in early translations of the T'nach into Greek.
A word chosen in translation 1800 years ago may mean something different than the word means today.
Consider the argument that the word in Y’shayahu / Isaiah 7:14 means “virgin” when it does not – it more properly translates to “young woman” and does not even suggest virginity or a lack of virginity. The Greek translations of 2000+ years ago (translators unknown, but maintained by Christians) chose the Greek word παρθένος / parthenos.
Today the Koine Greek word παρθένος / parthenos is usually translated as virgin – and thus many a missionary will argue that the word in Y’shayahu / Isaiah 7:14 must be “virgin” (this is complicated by the fact that the Christian bible uses this passage as the “prophecy” that Jesus will be a virgin birth). Yet, 2800 years ago παρθένος / parthenos did not mean virgin. The ancient Greek poet Ὅμηρος / Homer (1200 - 800 BCE) wrote in his Iliad. 2.512-515 that a 'parthenos' gave birth ('teken') to two children: “Ascalaphus and Ialmenus, sons of Mars, led the people that dwelt in Aspledon and Orchomenus the realm of Minyas. Astyoche, a noble maiden (parthenos), bore them in the house of Actor son of Azeus; for she had gone with Mars secretly into an upper chamber, and he had lain with her.”
The ancient Greek translation of B’reshit / Genesis 34:3 states that Dinah is a "parthenos" after her rape by Sh'chem – obviously after rape Dinah was no longer a virgin.
In the misuse of παρθένος / parthenos as "virgin" rather than "young woman" the English translators may well have been innocent. It seems that the word παρθένος / parthenos came to mean "virgin" over time. . . . but originally it did not mean virgin. The Hebrew in Y’shayahu / Isaiah 7:14 is הָעַלְמָה (the young woman). Jews have been trying to correct this Christian mistake for nearly as long as Christianity has existed! Indeed, Justin Martyr (100 CE, so VERY EARLY Christinan) wrote in "Trypho the Jew" that Jews of his era said: "you (Jews) and your teachers venture to affirm that in the prophecy of Isaiah it is not said, 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive,' but, 'Behold, the young woman shall conceive, and bear a son."
Missionaries who insist they do not need to learn Hebrew to understand the “bible” are fooling themselves.
Missionaries who fool themselves into thinking that the King James Version (KJV) is "as good" as the original are deluding themselves.
When one relies on translations one is allowing the translator to be interpreter – for that is what a translator must be. . . Whether words in early English translations no longer have the meaning they had in the 17th century when the King James Translation was first completed (and contains the word “unicorn” along with “virgin!), or whether there are mistranslations due to poor choices or even deceitful choices the reader is an innocent victim of the translator.
Since translation is more art than science the trick is in finding the word in the target language which is the closest in meaning to each word in the source language. Modern translators have the added problem that if they want people to buy their translation it must also “match” what people expect to see.
Thus modern translations often use earlier mistranslations, perhaps because readers expect to see them. The “proof” texts are particularly vulnerable to this “borrowing” from earlier translations.
Not all Christian translations of the 20th and 21st centuries are guilty of the same mistranslations – but most are. Take for example Daniel 9:25. The King James Version (KJV) has “the Messiah the Prince.” The KJV puts the definite article "the" in front of the translation they chose for the Hebrew word מָשִֽׁיחַ / (moshiach). They chose to translate מָשִֽׁיחַ / moshiach as "the messiah” in Daniel 9:25 although the Hebrew word for "the" does not appear at all ('ha").
Let me repeat that: “the messiah” does not appear in Daniel 9:25. There is no “the” in front of the word מָשִֽׁיחַ / moshiach / messiah / anointed one.
The KJV also capitalizes the “m” in “messiah” (there are no capital letters in Hebrew), thus making it appear to “fit” Jesus.
Let's discuss the word "messiah" -- how is it used? What does it mean? How often is it found in the T’nach (Jewish bible)?
The term מָשִֽׁיחַ / moshiach is usually used to speak of priests and kings who have already lived – not “the messiah.” It means “anointed one” and is used often to speak of Aaron, Moses’ brother, who was a messiah – an anointed priest. It is found 39 times in the T’nach (Jewish bible).
34 times the usage is as a noun (messiah) and 5 times the usage is as an adjective (smeared with oil).
Yet most Christian translations only use the word “messiah” once or twice (usually in Daniel 9, sometimes in T'hillim / Psalm 2). . .
Isn’t that amazing?
The word appears 39 times in the תַּנַ"ךְ / T'nach (Jewish bible) – yet it is not translated as “messiah” 39 times by the Christian versions.
Knowing now that the King James has altered Daniel 9:25 to say “the Messiah” when it truly says “messiah” (or “anointed one”) – and that the KJV uses the word “messiah” in Daniel 9, but not in the other 37 locations in appears in the T’nach (Jewish bible) one can begin to see how translators are liars (whether they mean to be or not).
Let’s just look at a few Christian translations for Daniel 9:
None of them use the word “messiah” in the other 37 locations (39 in all) the term actually is found in the T’nach (bible). This selective translation (mistranslation?) misleads their innocent readers.
Perhaps you can see why it is impossible to rely on English translations to truly read the T’nach (bible).
Even Jewish translations are not perfect. Since translation is more art than science the trick is in finding the word in the target language which is the closest in meaning to each word in the source language – consider the example I gave early in this post that the Hebrew word רֹאשׁ rosh means head, but it can also mean top, and it can also mean the most important part of something.
Hebrew is often poetic, and some subtle nuances of meaning may well be lost in the translation, while in other instances false meanings may be presented even with the best of translators. Consider the Hebrew verb לִשְׁמֹר li-sh'mor. This verb is normally translated as to guard, but it can also mean to keep, or even to observe or to fulfill (a law).
However the verbs "to observe" and "to fulfill" also have other meanings: "to observe" can also mean to witness or to watch something happening, and "to fulfil" can also mean to bring something to completion - but the Hebrew verb לִשְׁמֹר li-sh'mor cannot have any of these secondary senses. G-d frequently commands us in the Torah to "keep His mitzvot!"
וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם מִצְוֹתַי וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם “keep my commands and do them" (Vayikra / Leviticus 22:31), and לְאַהֲבָה אֶת יְיָ אֱלֹהֶיךָ... וְלִשְׁמֹר מִצְוֹתָיו וְחֻקֹּתָיו וּמִשְׁפָּטָיו "(to) love HaShem your G-d... and (to) keep His commands, His inexplicable rules and His judgements..." (D'varim / Deuteronomy 30:16).
Any of the identical verbs mentioned above (keep, observe, fulfill) could be chosen to translate there verses but, if "fulfill" were used, it would have to be made clear that it was not being used in the sense of complete/bring to completion because the Hebrew verb לִשְׁמֹר li-sh'mor cannot mean this. Thus, when Matthew reports (5:17) that Jesus claimed that he had come to "fulfill the Torah and the Prophets" it is misused.
Hopefully this post will encourage some of you to begin to learn Hebrew – but even for those of you who cannot dedicate the time to learn the language, just be aware that you need to double check any translations you might use. All translations have issues – even Jewish translations. Yet, many of the Christian translations, even the modern ones, have “built in” prejudices which can lead the reader in error (Daniel 9 and Isaiah 7 are perfect examples of such mistranslations).
The Judaica Press translation of the T'nach is considered by many to be an excellent translation. It is available online free, with or without the commentary of Rashi -- רבי שלמה יצחקי (R' Shlomo Yitzachi / Solomon Isaac), 11th century CE.
The Living Torah is an excellent translation of the Chumash (Torah and Haftarah) by R' Aryeh Kaplan (Z"L). This is also available free online in English, Spanish and Russian.
The Artscroll Stone Edition T'nach (or Chumash) is available for purchase at the Artscroll website.
Hebrews reverses Jeremiah's "new covenant" saying "In that He says, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." (Hebrews 8:13).
This is supposedly Paul referencing the prophet Y'rmiyahu / Jeremiah -- yet read the T'nach for yourself for it says the exact opposite of what Paul tells his readers. Y'rmiyahu / Jeremiah 46:27-28 says: "You fear not, O Jacob My servant, and be not dismayed, O Israel! for behold, I will redeem you from afar and your children from the land of their captivity, and Jacob shall return and be quiet and at ease, and there shall be none who disturb his rest. You fear not, My servant Jacob, says the L-rd, for I am with you, for I will make a full end of all the nations where I have driven you, but of you I will not make a full end, but I will chastise you justly, and I will not completely destroy you."
The translation “new” at the end of Y'rmiyahu / Jeremiah 31:30 (the Christian number is 31) really means “renewed” because verse 32 (33 in Christian versions) clearly states that the “new” b'rit (covenant) is going to be G-d’s Torah -- just as the Sinaic covenant is G-d's Torah. "For this is the covenant that I will form with the house of Israel after those days, says the L-rd: I have put (נָתַֽתִּי / “I have put") My Torah (תּֽוֹרָתִי֙ / Torati) among them, and I will inscribe it upon their hearts, and I will be their G-d and they shall be My people." Each covenant builds on the previous -- none "does away" with, vanishes or "grows old" as says Hebrews.
Translating חֲדָשָׁה at the end of verse 30 as "new" is incorrect and ought to be “renewed”, because verse 32 clearly states that the “new” b'rit (covenant) is going to be G-d’s Torah -- just as the Torah is the covenant of Sinai. This is a renewal of the earlier covenant. It is different from the previous b'rit (covenant) in one way only: Israel (Jews) broke the previous covenant, but we will not do this when the messiah comes and we enter the messianic age. This is because there will be a global knowledge of G-d and no one will need to be taught about G-d or about being good people -- it will be part of each of us.
Most translations of Y'rimayahu / Jeremiah 31:32 has "I shall put my Torah among them" -- but this is a mistranslation. The literal text is נָתַֽתִּי אֶת־תּוֹרָתִי בְּקִרְבָּם (“I have put My Torah among them”), -- the verb נָתַֽתִּי is in the past tense. The verb נָתַֽתִּי natati is the simple past tense and means I HAVE PUT (the future tense form “I shall put” would have to be אֶתֵּן ĕttén, which occurs 79 times in the T'nach).
If it is past tense it can't be about Jesus. Jesus hadn't been born yet. G-d is saying that His Torah was already given to the Jewish nation, and that this renewal of the covenant will be different in that in the days of the messiah Jews will no longer stray after idolatry (including Christianity).
If this is a "new" covenant were about Jesus why is G-d saying in this passage that He has already put the Torah among the Jews?
Why is He saying that this Torah will be inscribed in our hearts when the messiah comes -- when Christianity does not follow the mitzvot of the Torah, but states that Jesus "replaced" the need to keep kosher, and perform the other mitzvot? Hebrews changed the word of G-d and actually reverses it!
If this were about Jesus, why is the Torah not inscribed in the heart of every Jew alive today -- and clearly there are Jews who become atheists, even Christians or Muslims! Ergo Jesus did not fulfill this prophecy of Jeremiah -- and the "new" covenant is not Christianity.
It is a fundamental principle of Judaism that the Torah received at Sinai will never be changed nor become obsolete. This concept is mentioned in the Torah no less than 24 times, with the words: "This is an eternal law for all generations" (Sh'mot / Exodus 12:14, 12:17, 12:43, 27:21, 28:43, Vayikra / Leviticus 3:17, 7:36, 10:9, 16:29, 16:31, 16:34, 17:7, 23:14, 23:21, 23:31, 23:41, 24:3, Bamidbar / Numbers 10:8, 15:15, 19:10, 19:21, 18:23, 35:29, D'varim / Deuteronomy 29:28).
Rabbi Tovia Singer discusses distortion in Hebrews regarding the "new" covenant in the following YouTube video:
The covenant G-d made with us Jews is ETERNAL. Hebrews in the Christian bible lies about that. (B'reshit / Genesis 17:7): This shall be My covenant in your flesh, an eternal covenant.
There are many covenants -- and each one builds on the previous. G-d makes a promise to Noah that He will never again destroy mankind with a flood -- this is the promise of the Noachide covenant. G-d makes a series of promises to Abraham including בְּרִית בֵּין הַבְּתָרִים -- the covenant between the parts. This was the first of a series of promises G-d made to Abraham which culminated in the בְּרִית מִילָה (brit milah) found inB'reshit / Genesis 17 -- where we are told that בְּרִית מִילָה will be an eternal agreement between G-d and the Jews that Jews will show via the covenant of circumcision.
Missionaries who wish to argue that בְּרִית מִילָה is not included in G-d's covenantal promises to Jews ignore the Jewish bible itself. G-d says He will never desert the Jews. NEVER. Shoftim / Judges 2:1 "I will not break my covenant with you FOREVER."
G-d promises to punish the Jews for our sins -- but NOT to reject us. Y'rmiyahu / Jeremiah 46:27.
"You fear not, O Jacob My servant, and be not dismayed, O Israel! for behold, I will redeem you from afar and your children from the land of their captivity, and Jacob shall return and be quiet and at ease, and there shall be none who disturb his rest. 28. You fear not, My servant Jacob, says the L-rd, for I am with you, for I will make a full end of all the nations where I have driven you, but of you I will not make a full end, but I will chastise you justly, and I will not completely destroy you."
T'hillim / Psalms 105:8-10 "He remembers His covenant forever, the word He had commanded to the thousandth generation, 9. Which He had made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac, 10. And He set it up to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an EVERLASTING COVENANT"
G-d repeatedly tells us that He will not break His covenant with Israel EVER. Here are just a few: Vayikra / Leviticus 26:44-45. "But despite all this, while they are in the land of their enemies, I will not despise them nor will I reject them to annihilate them, thereby breaking My covenant that is with them, for I am the L-rd their G-d. 45. I will remember for them the covenant [made with] the ancestors, whom I took out from the land of Egypt before the eyes of the nations, to be a G-d to them. I am the L-rd."
Y'chezkel / Ezekiel 16:59-60 "For so said the L-rd G-d: I have done with you as you did, that you despised an oath to violate a covenant. 60. But I shall remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I shall establish for you an EVERLASTING COVENANT."
Hebrews completely distorted what the prophet Jeremiah said. Hebrews says G-d will divorce the Jews -- but G-d disagrees!
"Behold I will gather them (the Jews) from all the lands where I have driven them with My anger and with My wrath and with great fury, and I will restore them to this place and I will cause them to dwell safely. And they shall be My people, and I will be their G-d. And I will give them one accord and one way to fear Me all the time, so that it be good for them and for their children after them. And I will form for them an EVERLASTING COVENANT, that I will not turn away from them to do them good, and My fear I will place in their heart, not to turn away from Me." (Y'rmiyahu / Jeremiah 32:37-40).
Christians have been lied to about this as they have about so much. For additional information on the "new covenant" please read Jeremiah 31:30-36 - Will the Real "New Covenant" Please Stand Up!.
משה בן-מימון / Moses ben Maimon (Moses, son of Maimon -- known as Maimonides, or the Rambam) (1135 - 1204 CE) was a physician to the Egyptian leader, a philosopher, and the greatest rabbinic authority of his generation. He is counted among our greatest sages. I wrote about him in this blog post.
His greatest work is the מִשְׁנֵה תּוֹרָה / Mishneh Torah -- "Repetition of the Torah." This work describes all of the mitzvot mentioned in the Torah. It is a guide to the entire system of Jewish law.
In this work the Rambam gives a description of the transmission of the Torah from G-d to the Jewish people at Sinai forward in time. The majority of this post quotes from his work, in English translation. This article does not quote the entire section. To read this translation in its entirety follow this link. To purchase a copy of this translation select this link. The translation is the work of R' Eliyahu Touger and the first link takes one to the Chabad website where many wonderful Jewish works are available in translation and in Hebrew.
Let us begin quoting from the Rambam's מִשְׁנֵה תּוֹרָה / Mishneh Torah:
The mitzvot given to Moses at Mount Sinai were all given together with their explanations, as implied by [Sh'mot / Exodus 24:12]: "And I will give you the tablets of stone, the Torah, and the mitzvah."
"The Torah" refers to the Written Law; "the mitzvah," to its explanation. [G-d] commanded us to fulfill "the Torah" according to [the instructions of] "the mitzvah." "The mitzvah" is called the Oral Law.
Moses, our teacher, personally transcribed the entire Torah before he died. He gave a Torah scroll to each tribe and placed another scroll in the ark as a testimonial, as [D'varim / Deuteronomy 31:26] states: "Take this Torah scroll and place it [beside the ark...] and it will be there as a testimonial."
"The mitzvah" - i.e., the explanation of the Torah - he did not transcribe.
Instead, he commanded it [verbally] to the elders, to Joshua, and to the totality of Israel, as [D'varim / Deuteronomy 13:1] states: "Be careful to observe everything that I prescribe to you."
For this reason, it is called the Oral Law.Even though the Oral Law was not transcribed, Moses, our teacher, taught it in its entirety in his court to the seventy elders. Elazar, Pinchas, and Joshua received the tradition from Moses. [In particular, Moses] transmitted the Oral Law to Joshua, who was his [primary] disciple, and instructed him regarding it.
Similarly, throughout his life Joshua taught the Oral Law. Many elders received the tradition from him. Eli received the tradition from the elders and from Pinchas. Samuel received the tradition from Eli and his court. David received the tradition from Samuel and his court.
Achiah of Shiloh was one of those who experienced the exodus from Egypt.10 He was a Levite and heard [teachings] from Moses. He was, however, of low stature in Moses' age. Afterwards, he received the tradition from David and his court. Elijah received the tradition from Achiah of Shiloh and his court. Elisha received the tradition from Elijah and his court.
Yehoyada, the priest, received the tradition from Elisha and his court. Zechariah received the tradition from Yehoyada and his court. Hoshea received the tradition from Zechariah and his court. Amos received the tradition from Hoshea and his court. Isaiah received the tradition from Amos and his court. Michah received the tradition from Isaiah and his court. Yoel received the tradition from Michah and his court. Nachum received the tradition from Yoel and his court. Chabbakuk received the tradition from Nachum and his court. Tzefaniah received the tradition from Chabbakuk and his court.
Jeremiah received the tradition from Tzefaniah and his court. Baruch ben Neriyah11 received the tradition from Jeremiah and his court. Ezra and his court received the tradition from Baruch and his court. [The members of] Ezra's court are referred to as Anshei K'nesset Hagedolah (the men of the great assembly). They included Chaggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Daniel, Chananiah, Mishael, Azariah, Nechemiah ben Chakaliah, Mordechai the linguist, Zerubavel and many other sages - 120 elders in all.12
The last [surviving] member of this group was Shimon the Just. He was included among the 120 elders and received the Oral Law from all of them. He served as the High Priest after Ezra. Antignos of Socho and his court received the tradition from Shimon the Just and his court.
Yosse ben Yo'ezer of Tzreidah and Yosef ben Yochanan of Jerusalem13 and their court received the tradition from Antignos and his court. Yehoshua ben Perachiah and Nittai of Arbel and their court received the tradition from Yosse ben Yo'ezer and Yosef ben Perachiah and their court. Yehudah ben Tabbai and Shimon ben Shatach and their court received the tradition from Yehoshua ben Perachiah and Nittai of Arbel and their court. Shemayah and Avtalion, who were righteous converts,14 and their court received the tradition from Yehudah and Shimon and their court.
Hillel and Shammai and their court received the tradition from Shemayah and Avtalion and their court. Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai and Rabbi Shimon, the son of Hillel the elder, received the tradition from Hillel [and Shammai] and his [their] court[s].15
Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai had five students [who were] great sages and received the tradition from him. They were: Rabbi Eleazar the great, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Yosse the priest, Rabbi Shimon ben Netanel and Rabbi Elazar ben Arach. Rabbi Akiva ben Yosef received from Rabbi Eleazar the great. Yosef, his father, was a righteous convert.
Rabbi Yishmael and Rabbi Meir, a son of righteous converts, received the tradition from Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Meir and his colleagues also received the tradition from Rabbi Yishmael. The colleagues of Rabbi Meir include Rabbi Yehudah, Rabbi Yosse, Rabbi Shimon, Rabbi Nechemiah, Rabbi Elazar ben Shamu'a, Rabbi Yochanan the shoemaker, Shimon ben Azzai, and Rabbi Chananiah ben Teradion.16
Similarly, Rabbi Akiva's colleagues also received the tradition from Rabbi Eleazar the great. Rabbi Akiva's colleagues include Rabbi Tarfon - the teacher of Rabbi Yosse of the Galil - Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar, and Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri.
Rabban Gamliel the elder received the tradition from Rabban Shimon, his father - the son of Hillel the elder. Rabban Shimon, his son, received the tradition from him. Rabban Gamliel, his son, received the tradition from him and Rabban Shimon, his son, received the tradition from him.
Rabbi Yehudah, the son of Rabban Shimon and referred to as Rabbenu Hakadosh ("our saintly teacher"),17 received the tradition from his father, from Rabbi Elazar ben Shamu'a, and from Rabban Shimon and his colleagues.
Rabbenu Hakadosh composed the Mishnah. From the days of Moses, our teacher, until Rabbenu Hakadosh, no one had composed a text for the purpose of teaching the Oral Law in public. Instead, in each generation, the head of the court or the prophet of that generation would take notes of the teachings which he received from his masters for himself, and teach them verbally in public. Similarly, according to his own potential, each individual would write notes for himself of what he heard regarding the explanation of the Torah, its laws, and the new concepts that were deduced in each generation concerning laws that were not communicated by the oral tradition, but rather deduced using one of the thirteen principles of Biblical exegesis and accepted by the high court.
This situation continued until [the age of] Rabbenu Hakadosh. He collected all the teachings, all the laws, and all the explanations and commentaries that were heard from Moses, our teacher, and which were taught by the courts in each generation concerning the entire Torah. From all these, he composed the text of the Mishnah. He taught it to the Sages in public and revealed it to the Jewish people, who all wrote it down. They spread it in all places so that the Oral Law would not be forgotten by the Jewish people.
Why did Rabbenu Hakadosh make [such an innovation] instead of perpetuating the status quo? Because he saw the students becoming fewer, new difficulties constantly arising, the Roman Empire18 spreading itself throughout the world and becoming more powerful, and the Jewish people wandering and becoming dispersed to the far ends of the world. [Therefore,] he composed a single text that would be available to everyone, so that it could be studied quickly and would not be forgotten.19 Throughout his entire life, he and his court taught the Mishnah to the masses.
These are the great Sages who were part of the court of Rabbenu Hakadosh and who received the tradition from him: His sons, Shimon and Gamliel, Rabbi Effess, Rabbi Chanina ben Chama, Rabbi Chiyya, Rav, Rabbi Yannai, bar Kafra, Shemuel, Rabbi Yochanan, Rabbi Hoshaia. Thousands and myriads of other sages received the tradition from [Rabbenu Hakadosh] together with these great sages.
Even though all of the eleven sages mentioned above received the tradition from Rabbenu Hakadosh and attended his study sessions, [there are differences between them. At that time,] Rabbi Yochanan was of lesser stature. Afterwards, he became a disciple of Rabbi Yannai and received instruction from him. Similarly, Rav received the tradition from Rabbi Yannai, and Shemuel received the tradition from Rabbi Chanina ben Chama.20
Rav composed the Sifra and the Sifre to explain the sources for the Mishnah. Rabbi Chiyya composed the Tosefta21 to explain the subjects [discussed in] the Mishnah. Rabbi Hoshaia and bar Kafra composed baraitot to explain the matters [discussed in] the Mishnah. Rabbi Yochanan composed the Jerusalem Talmud in Eretz Yisrael approximately three hundred years after the destruction of the Temple.22
Among the great sages who received the tradition from Rav and Shemuel were:23 Rav Huna, Rav Yehudah, Rav Nachman, and Rav Kahana. Among the great sages who received the tradition from Rabbi Yochanan24 were: Ravvah bar bar Channah, Rav Ami, Rav Assi, Rav Dimi, and Rav Avin.
Among the Sages who received the tradition from Rav Huna and Rav Yehudah were Rabbah and Rav Yosef. Among the sages who received the tradition from Rabbah and Rav Yosef were Abbaye and Ravva. Both of them also received the tradition from Rav Nachman. Among the Sages who received the tradition from Ravva were Rav Ashi and Ravina. Mar bar Rav Ashi received the tradition from Rav Ashi, his father, and from Ravina.
Thus, there were forty generations from Rav Ashi back to Moses, our teacher, of blessed memory. They were:
1) Rav Ashi [received the tradition] from Ravva.
2) Ravva [received the tradition] from Rabbah.
3) Rabbah [received the tradition] from Rav Huna.
4) Rav Huna [received the tradition] from Rabbi Yochanan, Rav, and Shemuel.
5) Rabbi Yochanan, Rav, and Shemuel [received the tradition] from Rabbenu Hakadosh.
6) Rabbenu Hakadosh [received the tradition] from Rabbi Shimon, his father.
7) Rabbi Shimon [received the tradition] from Rabban Gamliel, his father.
8) Rabban Gamliel [received the tradition] from Rabban Shimon, his father.
9) Rabban Shimon [received the tradition] from Rabban Gamliel, the elder, his father.
10) Rabban Gamliel, the elder, [received the tradition] from Rabban Shimon, his father.
11) Rabban Shimon [received the Tradition] from Hillel, his father, and Shammai.
12) Hillel and Shammai [received the tradition] from Shemayah and Avtalion.
13) Shemayah and Avtalion [received the tradition] from Yehudah and Shimon [ben Shatach].
14) Yehudah and Shimon [received the tradition] from Yehoshua ben Perachiah and Nittai of Arbel.
15) Yehoshua and Nittai [received the tradition] from Yosse ben Yo'ezer and Yosef ben Yochanan.
16) Yosse ben Yo'ezer and Yosef ben Yochanan [received the tradition] from Antignos.
17) Antignos [received the tradition] from Shimon the Just.
18) Shimon the Just [received the tradition] from Ezra.
19) Ezra [received the tradition] from Baruch.
20) Baruch [received the tradition] from Jeremiah.
21) Jeremiah [received the tradition] from Tzefaniah.
22) Tzefaniah [received the tradition] from Chabbakuk.
23) Chabbakuk [received the tradition] from Nachum.
24) Nachum [received the tradition] from Yoel.
25) Yoel [received the tradition] from Michah.
26) Michah [received the tradition] from Isaiah.
27) Isaiah [received the tradition] from Amos.
28) Amos [received the tradition] from Hoshea.
29) Hoshea [received the tradition] from Zechariah.
30) Zechariah [received the tradition] from Yehoyada.
31) Yehoyada [received the tradition] from Elisha.
32) Elisha [received the tradition] from Elijah.
33) Elijah [received the tradition] from Achiah.
34) Achiah [received the tradition] from David.
35) David [received the tradition] from Shemuel.
36) Shemuel [received the tradition] from Eli.
37) Eli [received the tradition] from Pinchas.
38) Pinchas [received the tradition] from Joshua.
39) Joshua [received the tradition] from Moses, our teacher.
40) Moses, our teacher, [received the tradition] from the Almighty.
Thus, [the source of] all these people's knowledge is G-d, the L-rd of Israel.
All the sages who were mentioned were the leaders of the generations. Among them were heads of academies, heads of the exile, and members of the great Sanhedrin. Together with them in each generation, there were thousands and myriads that heard their [teachings].
Ravina and Rav Ashi were the final generation of the Sages of the Talmud. Rav Ashi composed the Babylonian Talmud in Shin'ar approximately one hundred years after Rabbi Yochanan composed the Jerusalem Talmud.25 The intent of both the Talmuds is to elucidate the words of the Mishnah, to explain its deeper points, and [to relate] the new matters that were developed by each court from the era of Rabbenu Hakadosh until the composition of the Talmud.
From the entire [body of knowledge stemming from] the two Talmuds, the Tosefta, the Sifra, and the Sifre, can be derived the forbidden and the permitted, the impure and the pure, the liable and those who are free of liability, the invalid and the valid as was received [in tradition], one person from another, [in a chain extending back] to Moses at Mount Sinai.
Also, [the sources mentioned above] relate those matters which were decreed by the sages and prophets in each generation in order to "build a fence around the Torah." We were explicitly taught about [this practice] by Moses, as [implied by Vayikra / Leviticus 18:30]: "And you shall observe My precepts,"
[which can be interpreted to mean]: "Make safeguards for My precepts."26 Similarly, it includes the customs and ordinances that were ordained or practiced in each generation according to [the judgment of] the governing court of that generation.27 It is forbidden to deviate from [these decisions], as [implied by Deuteronomy 17:11]:
"Do not deviate from the instructions that they will give you, left or right."
This blog post was copied from the Chabad website's translation of the Rambam's Mishne Torah. I have not copied the entire article. To continue reading select this link. To purchase a copy of this translation select this link. The translation is the work of R' Eliyahu Touger.
The line of Torah transmission continues to this day in an unbroken chain of transmission. The list in the above article lists R' Ashi as its last entry. R' Ashi lived in the 5th century of the common era. Due to the Diaspora (exile) there are multiple people in a given generation responsible for Torah transmission to the next generation -- but here is one list showing it from R' Ashi to today (link):
Sophiee Saguy has been countering false missionary claims about Judaism and the T'nach (Jewish bible) for nearly twenty years. You may find her on FaceBook and at the Messiah Truth forum.