Missionary Misuse of Jewish Sources on Isaiah 53, Rashi "changed" the Jewish interpretation from the messiah to Israel
This is an oft repeated missionary claim: the ancient Jewish sources all agreed that the messiah (moshiach ben David) was the subject of Isaiah 53, but that רבי שלמה יצחקי / R' Solomon Isaac aka Rashi (1040 CE - 1105 CE) changed the entire Jewish view of Isaiah 53 from the messiah to Israel as a direct response against Christianity.
Jews for Jesus claims "Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Itzchaki, 1040-1105) and some of the later rabbis, though, interpreted the passage as referring to Israel. They knew that the older interpretations referred it to Messiah. However, Rashi lived at a time when a degenerate medieval distortion of Christianity was practiced. He wanted to preserve the Jewish people from accepting such a faith and, although his intentions were sincere, other prominent Jewish rabbis and leaders realized the inconsistencies of Rashi's interpretation."
This is a very interesting claim given that there is source after source after source pre-dating Rashi by nearly 1000 years which state the exact opposite of this missionary statement -- made (you will note) as if it is a factual statement and not their opinion.
In 248 CE -- 792 years before the birth of Rashi -- early church father Ὠριγένης / Origen (184 CE - 284 CE) wrote that ancient Christians knew that the literal meaning by Jews was that the servant in Isaiah 53 is the Jewish people. “bore reference to the whole [Jewish] people, regarded as one individual, and as being in a state of dispersion and suffering, in order that many proselytes might be gained, on account of the dispersion of the Jews among numerous heathen nations.” Origen, 248 C.E., Contra Celsum.
So much for the missionary claim that "the older interpretations" (of Isaiah 53) referred it to Messiah."
Did Origen miss the missionary message?
If Rashi did not invent the idea that the servant in Isaiah was Israel, why do so many missionaries claim that he did?
It all goes back to that 19th century book written by the missionary E.B. Pusey The idea that Jews USED to say that Isaiah 52-53 was about the messiah but "changed" it to the nation of Israel because of the threat of Christianity during the time of Rashi (12th century CE) -- as mentioned even on Jews for Jesus as quoted above -- popped up in the 19th century thanks to the book The 53rd Chapter of Isaiah According to Jewish Interpreters by Driver and Neubauer.
Missionaries so often just repeat a claim made by other missionaries. Isn't it interesting that the quote in the previous post (about Midrash Tanchuma) appears in so many missionary locations? It might add credibility to the missionaries if they chose differing quotations -- but they all parrot the same misuses!
Aside from the Christian Origen (2nd century CE) do we have any other proofs that the Jewish sages noted that the servant in Isaiah 53 is the Jewish nation?
Of course we do.
The missionaries reference Targum Yonatan (Jonathan) to prove that ancient Jews spoke of the messiah in Isaiah 53 and reference the Targum for proof. Well and good, but the Targum also speaks of the servant as being Israel (the Jewish people) -- something the missionaries never seem to mention! The messiah (in this allegorical story using Isaiah 53 as its "jumping off" point) is an exalted messiah -- not the suffering Jesus concept. Nowhere in Targum Yonatan does it speak of a suffering messiah. It speaks of an EXALTED messiah. The suffering servant in the Targum is Israel -- Jews. There is a blog post on the missionary misuse of Targum Yonatan.
So much for the missionary claim that Rashi "invented" the idea that Isaiah's suffering servant is Israel rather than the messiah. It simply is not true.
We needn't rely on a Christian source or even the Targum Yonatan to show that the primary consensus among Jewish sources is that in the ps'hat (plain meaning) the suffering servant in Isaiah 53 is the Jewish people -- there are plenty of other sources pre-dating Rashi which state the same thing.
In the Babylonian Talmud, בְּרָכֹות / Berachot 5a, pre-dating Rashi by at least 500 years, states that the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is the Jewish people "If the Holy One, blessed be He, is pleased with Israel or man, He crushes him with painful sufferings. For it is said: And the L-rd was pleased with [him, hence] He crushed him by disease (Isa. 53:10). Now, you might think that this is so even if he did not accept them with love. Therefore it is said: "To see if his soul would offer itself in restitution" (Isa. 53:10). Even as the trespass-offering must be brought by consent, so also the sufferings must be endured with consent. And if he did accept them, what is his reward? "He will see his seed, prolong his days" (Isa. 53:10). And more than that, his knowledge [of the Torah] will endure with him. For it is said: "The purpose of the Lord will prosper in his hand" (Isa. 53:10). It has been taught: R. Simeon b. Yohai says: The Holy One, blessed be He, gave Israel three precious gifts, and all of them were given only through sufferings.. These are: The Torah, the Land of Israel and the World To Come."
Note that Jews for Jesus and the other missionary sources somehow miss this Talmudic quote regarding Isaiah's suffering servant!
A noted scholar of the Dead Sea Scrolls and early Christianity in the first century of the common era, Geza Vermes, wrote "Neither the suffering of the messiah, nor his death and resurrection, appear to be part of the faith of first century Judaism." (Jesus the Jew: A Historian's Reading of the Gospels, page 38). Vermes was a British scholar of Jewish Hungarian roots who became a Catholic priest, and even accumulated many accolades as a Christian scholar while a Roman Catholic priest. Geza Vermes was born a Jew to Hungarian parents who were Jews and were murdered by the Nazis. He was taken in by Catholics (I think nuns) and raised as a Roman Catholic. So, when he, as adult, found out about his heritage, he decided to RETURN to Judaism.
Tanna D'Bei Eliyahu Rabbah (Midrash, so not a literal interpretation), has three citations referencing that the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 refers to the righteous of Israel (chapters 6, 13, 27).
Additional sources pre-dating Rashi:
Yalkut Shimoni II 476
Bamidbar Rabbah chapter 13.2
Zohar (numerous places)
Poems by R. Shlomo Ibn Gavriel
Isaiah himself often refers to the Jewish people as G-d's servant. Chapters are a Christian invention -- but even so in chapters 41, 44, 45, 48 and 49 Jacob (another name for the Jewish people) and Israel (another name for the Jewish people) are stated repeatedly to be G-d's servant.
Finally, the missionary argument that early Jewish sources referred to Isaiah's servant as the messiah and we "changed" it is false -- but it is also a straw horse. It is a diversion from the true question at hand, to whit -- can Isaiah 53 possibly be about Jesus? The answer to that question is a resounding "no." Jesus did not live a long life. He did not have children. He was not exalted in life. He did not die multiple deaths. . .
There are Jewish sources who view the servant in Isaiah 53 as the Jewish people, as the messiah, as Moses, as David -- there are many interpretations (most not meant literally). The consensus of Jewish opinion is that the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is the Jewish people -- but if it can be applied to others as well it cannot be applied to Jesus -- and that is the question a Christian must ask as they read the T'nach (Jewish bible) for what it truly says -- not what taking a word or sentence out of context forces it to seem to say.
This particluar reference appears on the Jews for Jesus website on their page "The Rabbis Dilema, a Look at Isaiah 53." The dilemma really belongs to the folks at that website because the quote they give never even mentiosn Isaiah 53!
The quote given is "Who art thou, O great mountain?" (Zechariah 4:7) This refers to the King Messiah. And why does he call him the "great mountain?" Because he is greater than the patriarchs, as it is said, "My servant shall be high, and lifted up, and lofty exceedingly." He will be higher than Abraham who said, "I raise high my hand unto the L-rd" (Gen. 14:22), lifted up above Moses, to whom it is said, "Lift it up into thy bosom" (Numbers 11:12), loftier than the ministering angels, of whom it is written, "Their wheels were lofty and terrible" (Ezekiel 1:18). And out of whom does he come forth? Out of David."
Do you see Isaiah 53 mentioned there?
Neither do I.
The quote above comes from Jews for Jesus but the same quote is found in the book "The Real Kosher Jesus" (page 169) and Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus : Volume 2 also by Michael L. Brown (an apostate Jew who is now a Christian minister), ICLNET (a Christian resource), Mark Eastman's "text commentaries" of the Blue Letter Bible -- and since the quote is identical in all places (it is, after all a translation so one might expect some differences!) it all seems to be taken from that 19th century missionary book I mentioned when beginning the task to explore missionary misuse of Rabbinical sources on Isaiah 53. The book is The 53rd Chapter of Isaiah According to Jewish Interpreters by Driver and Neubauer. I discuss it in this blog post.
Many missionary sites who misuse Jewish sources seem to quote from the same (generally 19th century) missionary sources. The Driver and Neubauer book is an oft used resource as are apostates of questionable expertise. I discussed this issue in the blog post Missionaries misuse Jewish Sources -- let's discuss how.
The reference given is actually to Zechariah 4:7 -- a verse which is not messianic. It says "Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you sink to a plain! He will bring out the stone of the main architect, with shouts of grace, grace to it."
The passage is about Zerubbabel -- but the Midrash uses it as a "jumping off" point to talk about the messiah and the messianic age.
This reference is מדרש תנחומא / Midrash Tanchuma which is primarily a collection of stories and rabbinic homilies, all connected with the Torah (Five Books of Moses), not Nevi'im (Prophets, which contains Isaiah and others). This Midrash is named for Rabbi Tanhuma.
As discussed in earlier blog posts there are two major types of midrash -- midrash halacha (legal discussions - and there is some of this in מדרש תנחומא / Midrash Tanchuma) and midrash aggadah (stories that are NOT literal and should not be used to "prove" anything theologically -- the bulk of this collection). Midrash aggadot are meant to make a moral point -- not to be taken at face value as literal. To understand Midrash I recommend reading "What is a Midrash?"
Midrash aggadah (like Midrash Tanchuma) are stories meant to make a moral point -- they are not literal. Note, also that this quote defintely fits the Jewish concept of the messiah (a very great prophet who will be a descendant of King David) -- but it does not fit Isaiah 53's suffering servant of Jesus as depicted in the Christian bible. Per the Christian bible Jesus was not even a descendant of King David according to Jewish law because Joseph (who was a descendant of David) was not his biological father.
In his article "The Lies and Distortions of Driver in The Fifty Third Chapter of Isaiah according to the Jewish Interpreters" R' Moshe Shulman writes of another missionary misuse of מדרש תנחומא / Midrash Tanchuma: "(this) selection...is claimed to be from the Midrash Tanchuma. This selection itself is controversial as the source for it is NOT from the Midrashim that the Jewish people have, but comes from a work by Father Raymond Martini, Pugio Fidei. Driver (one of the authors of the book) defends his use of this work, even though his co-author Neubauer wished to have it rejected. I would not have mentioned it here because of this disagreement alone (although my rejection of it on those grounds is warranted.)
"The problem is that the translation does not agree with the Hebrew and had he translated it as the Hebrew has it, we would all see that this is a distortion and could not be from the Midrash at all. Here is the translation that we have from Driver: "R. Nahman says. The word ' man ' in the passage, Every man a head of the house of his fathers (Num. i. 4), refers to the Messiah the son of David, as it is written, ' Behold the man whose name is Zemah' (the branch); where Yonathan interprets, Behold the man Messiah (Zech. vi. 12); and so it is said, 'A man of pains' and known to sickness."
"Here is the literal translation from the Hebrew original that appears in that work itself: "R. Nahman says. The word ' man ' in the passage, refers to the Messiah the son of David, as it is written, ' Behold the man whose name is Zemah'; Targum Yonathan this man is the Messiah and so it says, 'A man of pains' and known to sickness."
"There are a number of minor differences in the translation, from what appears in the text, and problems with the text, whose implications are such as to significantly change the meaning:
As far as Driver’s using Yonason and dropping the word ‘Targum’ I do not know why he dropped it, hiding that the text explicitly said it was from the Targum Yonason. It is, however, a clear indication that this text IS NOT from the Tanchuma. The Tanchuma NEVER quotes from the Targum. While it would not have been unusual for the Tanchuma to cite a Rabbi, in that case he would have been referred to as Rabbi Yonason ben Uzziel, as he is in all Rabbinic literature. So in addition to all the other problems, this passage is not just bogus, but Driver seems to have tried to hide the fact that it was."
Ruth was the ancestress of King David. David's father, Yishai, was the grandson of Boaz and Ruth. Yishai doubted his own Jewishness (let alone tribal status) because his grandmother was a convert to Judaism. During Ruth’s lifetime, many individuals were doubtful about the legitimacy of her marriage to Boaz. The Torah forbids a Jew to marry a Moabite -- and Ruth was from Moab. However, the biblical prohibition is to marry a male Moabite, not a a female Moabitess. . .
But I digress -- רות רבה (Ruth Rabbah) and it is מדרש אגדה / Midrash Aggadah -- a story meant to make a moral point.
The very word "midrash" is in the title!
Yet again missionaries are ignorant of Jewish teachings. Midrash Aggadah / מדרש אגדה is a form of storytelling that explores ethics and values in biblical texts. ("אגדה / Aggadah" literally means "story" or "telling" in Hebrew).
So the missionaries are taking a story and trying to insist that this is "proof" that the sages saw Isaiah 53 LITERALLY as being about the messiah.
Tell me, would a story about Santa Clause be taken as literal by a Christian?
Why are they willing to take a Jewish story and insist it has some meaning?
Sites like Jews for Jesus say such outlandish things as "Our ancient commentators with one accord noted that the context clearly speaks of G-d's Anointed One, the Messiah" -- based on quotes from stories and poems!
Yet even ancient Christians knew that the literal meaning by Jews was that the servant in Isaiah 53 is the Jewish people. “bore reference to the whole [Jewish] people, regarded as one individual, and as being in a state of dispersion and suffering, in order that many proselytes might be gained, on account of the dispersion of the Jews among numerous heathen nations.” Origen, 248 C.E., Contra Celsum.
The quote given by missionaries does reference Isaiah 53, but because the quote is so selective it is misleading. They will quote "The fifth interpretation [of Ruth 2:14] makes it refer to the Messiah. Come hither: approach to royal state. And eat of the BREAD refers to the bread of royalty; AND DIP THY MORSEL IN THE VINEGAR refers to his sufferings, as it is said, But he was wounded because of our transgressions." Ruth Rabbah 5:6, quoted from Jews for Jesus.
The missionaries quote where the midrash mentions the messiah but it ignores the first interpretation which refers to King David -- R' Yochanan explained these six phrases as referring to Dovid / David ("All these six months that David was in a flight from Absalom. . ."), the second interpretation is of King Solomon ("Therefore the L-rd said to Solomon. . ."), the third interpretation is of Ḥizkiyyahu / Hezekiah ("Thus says Hezekiah, This day is a day of trouble and rebuke" Isaiah 37:3.), the fourth is talking about Menashe ("Hezekiah's son Menashe was the worst Jewish ing, but he eventually repented. Melachim Beit / 2 Kings 21:1-17), and the fifth applies the passage to the messiah.
The sixth interpretation refers to Boaz himself (Ruth's husband, and great-grandfather to King David). This is the literal meaning (the p'shat) -- all the others are NOT literal. The passage has to do with Boaz sitting and eating with the common reapers. . .
Do you begin to see just how the missionaries mislead people with selective quotes and by not explaining the difference between allegory and literal meaning?
The missionaries misuse Jewish sources that are stories and try to somehow hang a theological "proof" on a story. This is like insisting that Santa Clause is an integral part of trinity.
Ruth Rabbah is a later work -- while no one knows with certainty when it was written it can't be earlier than the 4th century of the common era (CE) because Rabbis who lived then are mentioned! The Encyclopedia Judaica seems to think it couldn't be earlier than the 6th century of the common era (it quotes sources from the 4th century CE), but in its current form the earliest iteration is the 16th century CE. the Encyclopedia Judaica says: "Ruth Rabbah, first published at Pesaro in 1519 together with the four Midrashim on the other Scrolls (to which it bears no relation), has often been reprinted on the basis of this editio princeps. The printed versions are quite defective. . . Ruth Rabbah is an exegetical Midrash. . .The work has apparently a total of ten poems, these being of the classical type found in amoraic Midrashim, in that they commence with an extraneous verse, taken usually from the Hagiographa, which is expounded and then connected with the one treated at the beginning of the section."
The point being that referencing this Midrash which post-dates Christianity is no "prophetic proof" of Jesus.
Midrash Aggadah / מדרש אגדה can take any biblical word or verse as a starting point, but there is no one standardized method of interpretation. Indeed, some scholars define midrash simply as any Jewish statement with a reference to a specific biblical verse or verses. One can find the link from Ruth to the messiah in the Babylonian Talmud, where R' Ĕl'azar [ben Shammua'], a 4th generation (mid-2nd century C.E.) tanna says: “At around mealtime, Bo'az said to her ‘Goshi halōm’ (Come over here)...” [Rut / Ruth 2:14]—Said Rabbi Ĕl'azar: [By saying this] he was giving her a hint “The royal dynasty of King David is destined to come from you”, because the [unusual]word halōm is also applied to it in the verse [Sh'muél Beit / 2 Samuel 7:18] “Then King David went in and sat in HaShem’s Presence and said, ‘L-rd G-d, who am I and what is special about my house that You have brought me halōm (to here)?’ ” (Babylonian Talmud, Treatsie Shabbat 113b).
Do not let missionaries mislead you when they quote stories as if this is somehow "proof" of something -- and remember that the messiah IS a Jewish concept, one will find references to the messiah both in the T'nach (bible) and Jewish writings, but a mere mention of the messiah does not in any way prove that Jesus was that messiah.
To learn more about midrashim I recommend reading R' Moshe Shulman's article What is a Midrash?
One source usually referenced is תרגום יונתן / Targum Yonatan (Jonathan).
Missionaries will say that the Targum is a translation of parts of the bible (in this case נְבִיאִים / Nevi'im / Prophets) into Aramaic.
This is incorrect. A Targum / תרגום paraphrases and expands on the biblical text -- it is more interpretative and explanation than translation -- more midrash (homily and allegory) than p'shat (literal meaning). This fact becomes important as we discuss the misuse of this Targum by missionaries.
Once again we have missionaries presenting allegory as if it were literal.
The misleading quote missionaries use is "Behold my servant Messiah shall prosper; he shall be high, and increase, and be exceeding strong: as the house of Israel looked to him through many days, because their countenance was darkened among the peoples, and their complexion beyond the sons of men" and then they comment "The early targums by Jonathan ben Uzziel show that he clearly believed in a suffering Messiah."
Thus the missionary is presenting this quote from the Targum as ‘proof’ that the ancient Rabbis believed that the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 was the messiah.
It certainly seems that way given that the word "messiah" is used in the missionary quote, but again one must read the Targum itself and read it IN CONTEXT to understand that:
Missionaries presenting the single quote mislead their followers into thinking that "The early targums by Jonathan ben Uzziel show that he clearly believed in a suffering Messiah."
Also, the Targum never speaks of the messiah as a suffering messiah.
There is no concept of a suffering messiah in Judaism.
The Targum speaks of an EXALTED messiah.
Many missionaries equate the word "messiah" only with Jesus, as if he were the only messiah to ever live.
מָשִׁיחַ (moshiach / messiah) is the Hebrew word which is used thirty nine times in the T'nach to describe various people. They are all normal human beings. Aaron, Moses' brother, was a messiah. Kings David and Solomon were messiahs. They were all humans born of human mothers and fathers. When Jews speak of "the" messiah they refer to a king promised in the T'nach (bible) who will also be human and a descendant of King Solomon and the tribe of Judah.
Thus when the word "messiah" is used in the T'nach (bible) or in various Jewish sources one must first ask "which messiah is being spoken about?" In the Targum it does appear to be "the" messiah (moshiach ben David) -- as an exalted messiah, not a suffering messiah. Targum Yonathan speaks of an exalted messiah and a suffering Israel. Pay attention to the use of singular versus plural in the Targum.
To summarize: the Targum Yonatan is not a translation from Hebrew into Aramaic of Isaiah (and the other prophets). It is a midrashic, interpretive work. In Isaiah 53 the Targum sometimes refers to the suffering servant as the Jewish people (Isaiah 52:14, 53:2, 53:6, 53:8, etc.) and sometimes the nations (Isaiah 53:3, 53:4, 53:7, 53:9, etc.) and at times the exalted messiah (Isaiah 52:13, 52:15, 53:4, 53:12, etc.).
The missionary quote from the Targum also includes the phrase "who was bruised for our sins" -- but that is not actually in the Targum -- the missionaries added it.
The Targum is an interpretive rehashing in Aramaic of נְבִיאִים / Nevi'im aka Prophets. It speaks of Israel as suffering and the messiah as exalted and triumphant. Not exactly what the apologists say is it?
Comparing a translation of the Targum of Isaiah 53 with the Hebrew (or an English translation) and it is clear that the Targum is not translation at all. Below is the Artscroll Stone Edition translation of Isaiah 53 compared to an English translation of the Targum.
52:13 Behold, My servant will succeed; he will be exalted and become high and exceedingly lofty.
52:13. Behold my servant Messiah shall prosper; he shall be high, and increase, and be exceeding strong:
52:14 Just as multitudes were astonished over you (saying) "His appearance is too marred to be a man's, and his visage to be human,
52:14. the house of Israel looked to him during many days, because their countenance was darkened among the peoples, and their complexion beyond the sons of men,
52:15 so will the many nations exclaim about him, and kings will shut their mouths (in amazement) for they will see that which had never been told to them, and will perceive things they had never heard.
52:15. so will he scatter many peoples; kings will be silent towards him, and put their hands upon their mouth, because they have seen that which was not told them, and they have observed that which they had not heard.
53:1 Who would believe what we have heard! For whom has the arm of HaShem been revealed?
53:1. Who believed this our glad tidings, that the strength of the mighty arm of the L-rd is upon him.
53:2 Formerly he grew like a sapling or like the root from arid ground; he had neither form nor grandeur; we saw him, but without such visage that we could desire him.
53:2. The righteous will grow up before him like blooming shoots, and like a tree which sends forth its roots to streams of water will they increase - a holy generation in the land that was in need of him; his countenance no profane countenance, and the terror at him not the terror at an ordinary man; his complexion shall be a holy complexion, and all who see him will look wistfully upon him.
53:3 He was despised and isolated from men, a man of pains and accustomed to illness. As one from whom we would hide our faces; he was despise nad we had no regard for him.
53:3. Then he will become despised, and will cut off the glory of all the kingdoms; they will be prostrate and mourning, like a man of pains and like one destined for sicknesses; and as though the presence of the spirit had been withdrawn from us, they will be despised, and esteemed not.
53:4 But in truth it was our ills that he bore, and our pains that he carried -- but we had regarded him diseased, stricken by G-d and afflicted!
53:4. Then he shall pray for on behalf of our transgressions, and our iniquities shall be pardoned for his sake, although we were accounted stricken, smitten from before the L-rd, and afflicted.
53:5 He was pained because of our rebellious sins and oppressed through our iniquities; the chastisement upon him was for our benefit, and through his wounds we were healed.
53:5. But he will build up the Holy Place, which has been polluted for our sins, and delivered to the enemy for our iniquities; and by his teaching shall his peace be multiplied and by our devotion to his words, our transgressions will be forgiven us.
53:6 We have all strayed like sheep each of us turning his own way and HaShem inflicted upon him the iniquity of us all.
53:6. All we like sheep had been scattered, we had each wandered off on his own way; but it was the L-rd's good pleasure to forgive the sins of all of us for his sake.
53:7 He was persecuted and afflicted but did not open his mouth; like a sheep being led to the slaughter or a ewe that is silent before her shearers, he did not open his mouth.
53:7. He prayed, and he was answered, and ere even he had opened his mouth he was accepted; the mighty of the peoples he will deliver up like a sheep to the slaughter and like a lamb dumb before her shearers; there shall be none before him opening his mouth or saying a word.
53:8 Now that he has been released from captivity and judgment who could have imagined such a generation? For he had been removed from the land of the living, an affliction upon them that was my people's sin.
53:8. Out of chastisements and punishment he will bring our captives near; the wondrous things done to us in his days who shall be able to tell? For he will cause the dominion of the Gentiles to pass away from the land of Israel and transfer to them the sins which my people have committed.
53:9 He submitted himself to his grave like wicked men; and the wealthy (submitted) to his executions for committing no crime and with no deceit in his mouth.
53:9. He will deliver the wicked into the grave, and those that are rich in possessions into the death of utter destruction, in order that those who commit sin may not be established, nor speak deceits with their mouth.
53:10 HaShem desired to oppress him and He afflicted him; if his soul would acknowledge guilt he would see offspring and live long days and the desire or HaShem would succeed in his hand.
53:10. But it is the L-rd's good pleasure to try and to purify the remnant of his people, so as to cleanse their souls from sin; these shall look on the Kingdom of their messiah, their sons and their daughters shall be multiplied, they shall prolong their days, and those who perform the Law of the L-rd shall prosper in his good pleasure.
53:11 He would see (the purpose) and be satisfied with his soul's distress. With his knowledge My servant will vindicate the Righteous One to multitudes; it is their iniquities that he will carry.
53:11. From the subjection of the nation he will deliver their souls, they shall look upon the punishment of those that hate them, and be satisfied with the spoil of their kings; by his wisdom he will hold the guiltless free from guilt, in order to bring many into subjection to the law; and for their sins he will intercede.
53:12 Therefore, I will assign him a portion from the multitudes and he will divide the mighty as spoils -- in return for having poured out his soul for death and being counted among the wicked, for he bore the sin of the multitudes, and prayed for the wicked.
53:12. Then will I divide for him the spoil of many peoples, and the possessions of strong cities shall he divide as prey, because he delivered up his soul to death, and made the rebellious subject to the Law: he shall intercede for many sins, and the rebellious for his sake shall be forgiven.
The missionary ploy in referencing Jewish sources is to say that there are Jews who "see" the messiah in Isaiah 53. That is the wrong question -- throughout the ages many Jewish sources have applied the servant in Isaiah to many Jews including Moses, King David (who was a messiah), and the messiah himself using allegory and homily. The issue for a missionary should be: can Isaiah 53 possible fit Jesus? Not too long ago I wrote a blog post entitled "Can Isaiah 53 be about Jesus?" The answer to that question is "no" and I recommend reading that blog post for more details.
The mere fact that the Targum mentions the messiah does not "prove" the missionary assertion that the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is the messiah -- indeed the Targum rejects that claim. The Targum teaches that the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is the nation of Israel (the Jewish people), as Judaism teaches. The mentions of the messiah in the Targum speak of the triumphant, exalted messiah who will eventually redeem Israel and the world.
The Targum does not support the missionary claim that the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is the messiah.
There is nothing in the Targum that even remotely is connected with the Christian theology about a Messiah who dies for the sins of the world. The missionaries misuse the Targum by selectively quoting it to leave their followers with an erroneous conclusion.
Many missionary websites claim to present quotes from Jewish sources to claim that the Rabbis and sages support the idea that the messiah is Isaiah '53's suffering servant. These claims are often titled something like: "What the Rabbis say about Isaiah 53" or something similar.
These "Jewish sources" given by missionaries usually boil down to one of four areas:
The first oft referenced "quote" is taken from the Talmud. The missionaries will claim "The Messiah --what is his name?...The Rabbis say, The Leper Scholar, as it is said, `surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him a leper, smitten of G-d and afflicted...'" (Sanhedrin 98b)
This quote is:
The entire discussion in Treatise Sanhedrin is nothing but an academic exercise based on the clever application of various Scriptural verses, but it is not intended to be taken seriously; it can even be seen as mocking the christian obsession with the “name” of their pseudomessiah: for Jews, the messiah's name has never been important—the only thing that matters is whether he succeeds in accomplishing his prescribed list of tasks.
Bottom line is that Sanhedrin 98b is saying that no one knows who the messiah will be, or when he will come let alone what is name might be.
Do the missionaries know anything about the Talmud? Probably not.
Can most missionaries read the Talmud let alone understand how to study it? Definitely not!
Take another look at the small snipped the missionaries quote from Sanhedrin 98b: "The Messiah --what is his name?...The Rabbis say, The Leper Scholar, as it is said, `surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him a leper, smitten of G-d and afflicted...'" (Sanhedrin 98b)
This small portion of the passage mentions the "leper scholar" (the word was not really leprosy -- it related to many skin diseases not just what modern people think of as leprosy). The "leper scholar" was a real Jew and he is mentioned a few times in Talmud. Marguliout HaYom a commentary on the Talmud by Rabbi Reuven Margolious (an Israeli Talmudic scholar and head of the Rambam Library at Tel Aviv University) wrote: “Look at the Jerusalem Talmud Tractate Chagigah chapter 2 Halacha 1. There we see that Rabbi had a special תלמיד /talmid / wise student who taught on the ‘Work of the Chariot’, without the approval of Rabbi, and for that he was stricken with leprosy. This talmid who was stricken was called ‘the leper of the house of Rabbi.’ And they said about him, ‘Surely our diseases he did bear’”
The leper scholar mentioned in the Talmud was a real person, a "wise student." In this passage he is the butt of one of the jokes.
Why? Because of the out of context humours use of the phrase "he will bear our sins."
Leper is the English word chosen by translators for the Hebrew word צרעת / tzara’at. For missionaries wishing to apply this to Jesus they should know that the Hebrew term is not a physical disease (e.g. lepropsy). No, צרעת / tzara’at is spiritual in nature – caused by sin (not a physical cause).
If missionaries think Jesus is "without sin" then he most certainly could not be the "leper scholar" of this passage even though missionary site after missionary site insists that the messiah must "touch a leper (HaDavar website). This is NOT a messianic requirement and these missionaries are clueless as to צרעת / tzara’at and the fact that this is caused by a serious spiritual sin primarily caused by Sinat Chinam – hatred of Jew against Jew without a reason.
So -- is Jesus a sinner, and a bad enough sinner that G-d would punish him with a rotting skin disease brought on only by spiritual failure?
If not, then this passage is not about Jesus.
צרעת / tzara’at can refer to discoloration on garments (Vayikra / Leviticus 13:47-59), homes (Vayikra / Leviticus 14:33-57) and body / skin (Vayikra / Leviticus 13-14). The Talmud lists seven reasons one might be afflicted with the disease: gossip, murder, perjury, forbidden sexual relationships, arrogance, theft, and envy (Arakhin 16a).
If the missionary insists, "no, of course not!" to that list they have just disqualified Jesus from being the "leper scholar."
The leper scholar is a figure in the Talmud who was struck by leprosy for teaching without Rabbi's permission suggests that it would be likely that comparing the leper scholar to the servant in Isaiah 53 was simply a joke. The complete expression is: חִיוְרָא דְבֵּי רַבִּי ḥivra d'bei rabbi / “the leper of the school of Rabbi [Yehuda HaNasi / Judah the Prince]. Translations of Sanhedrin 98b translate this word as “leper."
To see that this passage is in isolation, and that in whole this is a joke making fun of the fact that no one knows the name of the messiah let us read a bit more of the section from Sanhedrin 98b.
"R. Hillel, who maintained that there will be no Messiah for Israel, since they have already enjoyed him during the reign of Hezekiah."
Interesting that the missionaries do not quote THAT portion of the passage! So R' Hillel says the messiah has already come . . . continue
"What is his [the Messiah's] name? — The School of R. Shila said: His name is Shiloh, for it is written, until Shiloh come."
Jesus was not named Shiloh -- ergo this was not met by Jesus either. Again, the missionaries do not quote that bit!
"The School of R. Yannai said: His name is Yinnon, for it is written, His name shall endure for ever e'er the sun was, his name is Yinnon."
Yimon, not Jesus. . . Yet again -- this does NOT fit Jesus. . .
"The School of R. Haninah maintained: His name is Haninah, as it is written, Where I will not give you Haninah."
Yet another name. . .
"Others say: His name is Menahem the son of Hezekiah, for it is written, Because Menahem ['the comforter'], that would relieve my soul."
Jesus was not named Menahem either. . . then
"The Rabbis said: His name is 'the G-d scholar,' as it is written, Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him a G-d, smitten of G-d, and afflicted.
"R. Nahman said: if he [the Messiah] is of those living [to day], it might be one like myself, as it is written, And their nobles shall be of themselves, and their governors shall proceed from the midst of them.
"Rab said: if he is of the living, it would be our holy Master; if of the dead, it would have been Daniel the most desirable man.
"Rab Judah said in Rab's name: The Holy One, blessed be He, will raise up another David for us. as it is written, But they shall serve the L-rd their G-d, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them: not 'I raised up', but 'I will raise up' is said. R. Papa said to Abaye: But it is written, And my servant David shall be their prince [nasi] for ever (e.g., an emperor and a viceroy)."
R' Hillel's position is rejected because various prophets who lived after Hezekiah gave future predictions about the messiah (thus although Hezekiah could not be "the" messiah and R' Hillel was having a joke as he surely knew this). A few of the prophets who lived after Hezekiah were Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, Haggai, Malachi to name some.
The fact that the first three schools mentioned presented names for the messiah based on plays on the names of their own teachers also makes it clear that the sages were making a joke -- hey, the messiah is named after ME!
The Talmud (there are actually two Talmuds -- Jerusalem and Babylonian) consists of the מִשְׁנָה / Mishna which was created to be a "cheat sheat" for a learned person -- the writing was kept to a minimum and meant only to serve as a aid to faltering memories who were taught to memorize the oral mitzvot.
The second part of the Talmud are discussions around the Mishna's teachings. These discussions may discuss the finer points of Jewish law (מִדְךְשׁי הֲלָכָה / Midrash Halacha), but there are also stories and humor as well. This מִדְרַשׁ־אַגָּדָה / Midrash Aggadah -- which means telling a story. מִדְרַשׁ־אַגָּדָה / Midrash Aggadah is not prophecy or meant to be taken literally. . . a word or sentence is lifted from the bible to make a moral point. However, prophecy is NEVER based on these flights of fancy. The missionaries are taking story telling -- humor -- and trying to present it as "the rabbis literally meant that the messiah's name is XYZ and that the messiah is Isaiah 53's suffering servant."
This is wrong, and it is deceitful. Whether or not the missionaries misusing this passage realize they are distorting it is open to question. Most of them probably do not know anything about the Talmud or Judaism let alone מִדְרַשׁ־אַגָּדָה / Midrash Aggadah.
This out of context quote, indeed most of the missionary quotes used to claim that Isaiah 53 in Jewish teaching historically was bout the messiah, are false. These claims appear to have stemmed from a 19th century book that 'was the brainchild of a Christian named E. B. Pusey. This book is entitled The 53rd Chapter of Isaiah According to Jewish Interpreter 2 vols. (1876-77).
This book was authored by Driver and Neubauer, but it was Pusey's idea.
-The book was the product of a pious Anglican (E. B. Pusey), a liberal Anglican Christian who provided the Hebrew translations (Samuel Driver) and a non-practicing Jew, Adolf Neubauer. Even scholars of the 19th century were unimpressed with this work. The Scottis Orientalist, William Roberson Smith (1846-1894) wrote that "the outcome of the laborious and bulky collection is essentially negative."
Perhaps this post might explain why Smith had that conclusion.
The internet has site after site quoting early Jewish sources who recognize that the suffering servant was the messiah. Perhaps one of the most famous missionary in modern times to misuse these Jewish sources is Michael L. Brown and his multiple "Jewish Objections to Jesus" book sieries. Most of the misquotes and mistranslations stem from a 19th century Christian book entitled The 53rd Chapter of Isaiah According to Jewish Interpreters.
The only problem is that the various "proofs" given are either mistranslations, taken wholly of of context or 100% made up fiction.
In the next few blog posts I'll address the more commonly given sources including Targum Yonathan (Jonathan), Sanhedrian 98, the Zohar, Sefer Gilgulim, Nachmanides (the Ramban), R' Isaac ben Abraham, Moshe el Sheikh whose real name was Rabbi Moshe Al Sheich and others. This post will focus on the source for most of these distorted quotes as well as the missionary claim that originally Jews USED to say that Isaiah 52-53 was about the messiah but "changed" it to the nation of Israel because of the threat of Christianity during the time of Rashi (12th century CE) popped up in the 19th century.
Most of these quotes and that claim were the brainchild of a Christian named E. B. Pusey. He came up with the idea for a book entitled The 53rd Chapter of Isaiah According to Jewish Interpreter 2 vols. (1876-77). This books was authored by Driver and Neubauer, but it was Pusey's idea. The book was the product of a pious Anglican (Pusey), a liberal Anglican Christian who provided the Hebrew translations (Driver) and a non-practicing Jew, Neubauer. Even scholars of the 19th century were unimpressed with this work. The Scottis Orientalist, William Roberson Smith (1846-1894) wrote that "the outcome of the laborious and bulky collection is essentially negative."
Adolf Neubauer was a relatively young man when E.B. Pusey asked him to work on this book with Samuel Driver. He was not yet a teacher at Oxford. His co-author, Samuel Driver, wrote of Neubauer (the Jew) "He did not practice Jewish observances." Adolf Neubauer's education owed more to non-Jewish university studies in Prague and Munich than it did to Jewish sources. As for Samuel Driver, he was the canon of the university's Christ Church.
R' Moshe Shulman wrote an article discussing the bad mistranslations in this source in his article The Lies and Distortions of Driver in The Fifty Third Chapter of Isaiah according to the Jewish Interpreters.
E. B. Pusey wrote a VERY long introduction to this Christian book purporting to give Jewish interpretations of Isaiah 53. This introduction contains many, many errors. Remember, Pusey was an ANGLICAN PRIEST! This is the source that so many Christians point to as a Jewish source! Pusey's image is at the top of this blog -- he is obviously NOT a Jewish source for all that missionaries insist this is a "Jewish source."
Two fellow Oxford men did the translations (Driver and Neubauer). They were very selective (as we will see) on the quotes they gave, and the sources are often mistranslated. Driver was also an Anglican priest. Driver was a was an British churchman and Regius Professor of Hebrew at Christ Church, Oxford. Doesn't sound very Jewish for one claiming to know all about Rabbinical teachings is he?
It gets even better.
The Hebrew Chair at Oxford was attached to a canonry of Christ Church -- so Pusey became an Priest of the Anglican church. THIS is the source quoted by Michael Brown and other Christians as JEWISH!!!!!
Adolf Neubauer was a sub-librarian at Oxford. Neubauer put the book The 53rd Chapter of Isaiah According to Jewish Interpreters together and Driver translated it into English..
E. B. Pusey (again, a Christian trying to disprove the Jewish interpretation of Isaiah's servant and the man who asked that the book be created) wrote the original introduction to Driver & Neubeur's book. In it he claimed that pre-Rashi Jews said Isaiah 53 was about the messiah but Rashi "changed" the interpretation to say Isaiah 53 was about Israel and not the messiah. Pusey the predecessor to Driver at Oxford as the Regius Professor of Hebrew at Christ Church, Oxford -- so he, too, was a priest.
In Pusey's 35 page introduction he defends the work of Raymond Martini from the 13th century. Raymundus Martin (Raymond Martini) was an anti-Jewish Dominican priest from the 13th century CE. Pugio Fidei (Dagger of the Faith) and Capistrum Judaeorum was an anti-Jewish diatribe he wrote (amongst others).
One error, given here is an example, is that this Christian book purporting to give Jewish sources on Isaiah 53 claims to quote the Jewish source Midrash Tanchuma, but in reality the "quote" is from this anti-semitic 13th century Dominican priest. Neubauer would have eliminated it, but Driver insisted on including it. . .
Neubauer DID NOT want to include the passages that appear from Martini as they are forgeries. However Pusey insisted that they appear (as he states in his introduction) and so there now appears a text that is claimed to come from the Talmud Sanhedrin, which disagrees with all texts of Sanhedrin, and is IN FACT taken from Martini.
The preface of the missionary book discusses the issues around Raymond Martin. “Either Martini was what he has hitherto been accounted, an able and laborious and conscientious man with vast resources at his command, which have since been lost, or he was a forger, a liar and a hypocrite. . .” Many of Martin’s supposed “Jewish sources” are non-existent – so the latter seems more likely than the former.
Read the introduction to The 53rd Chapter of Isaiah According to Jewish Interpreter and you will see that Neubauer DID NOT want to include the passages that appear from Martini as he knew they were forgeries. However Pusey insisted that they appear (as he states in his introduction) and so there now appears a text that is claimed to come from the Talmud Sanhedrin, which disagrees with all texts of Sanhedrin, and is IN FACT taken from Martini.
In other words Pusey wasn't above lying to make his point that the Jews had interpreted Isaiah 53 as being about the messiah. His use of Martini over even Neubauer's objections shows this.
This issue of falsification and distortion is a common one. The Targum Yonathan is quoted for verse 52:13 but not 52:14 or 53:1.
The Zohar (II 212) is quoted in part but NEVER in full where it would contradict what the quoter is trying to prove. The same could be said about the Ramban (who says that the simple meaning of the passage is that it is about Israel) or the Alsheich who mentions the messiah, but says that the messiah he means is King David. etc etc.
This, then, is the source that proves we Jews changed the meaning of the servant from the messiah to Israel. Hardly bullet-proof and yet time and again we must refute it. These supposed Jewish "proofs" now rebound all over the internet.
Although the title of their book speaks of Isaiah 53, the misquotes often ignore that chapter, and often Isaiah itself, to glean misquotes and distortions from various sources. The internet has site after site "quoting" early Jewish sources who recognize that the suffering servant was the messiah. The only problem is that this is not the truth.
1. Isaiah clearly identifies the servant as Israel (there are no chapters in the original document).
2. An early church father, Origen, in 248 CE, speaks of Jews telling him the servant was Israel and not the messiah.
3. Pusey's 19th century book states we Jews changed it from the messiah to Israel with Rashi, circa 12th century CE yet many of the quotes he uses as proof are dated long after Rashi as late as the 16th century CE.
4. The book throws in quotes from midrash aggadah, zohar and targum as if they were pshat (plain meaning) without educating the reader to the mysticism, allegory and story telling inherent in the different formats.
5. Apologists will quote a sentence where a source speaks of a messiah without stating they have also identified the servant as Israel (or Moses or someone else) and ignoring the messiah in question is moshiach ben Yosef not David. Nowhere do they explain who moshiach ben Yosef IS.
6. The book quotes Karaites as Jewish sources. Karaites are about as representative of Judaism as Mormons are of mainstream Christianity. Karaites do not follow the oral law. Yet nowhere does the book identify for the reader that Karaites do not follow Jewish teaching.
This whole idea that the Rabbis “changed” their interpretation to Israel as the servant in Isaiah 53 from the messiah is disproved by a quote from a very famous Christian indeed. Origen was a famous church father of circa 235 C.E. He is quoted as saying in his book Contra Celsus Book 1 Chapter 55:
"Now I remember that, on one occasion, at a disputation held with certain Jews, who were reckoned wise men, I quoted these prophecies (Isaiah 53); to which my Jewish opponent replied, that these predictions bore reference to the whole people, regarded as one individual, and as being in a state of dispersion and suffering, in order that many proselytes might be gained, on account of the dispersion of the Jews among numerous heathen nations."
So, no, Rashi, who lived in the 11th century CE -- some 900 years after Origen -- did not "invent" the idea that the suffering servant is the Jewish nation.
So this book, written by Christian clergymen NOT Jews, is playing fast and loose with the facts.
Tomorrow I will begin discussing some of the references given by Driver and Neubauer and put them in context.
There are missionaries who tout early Greek translations of the T'nach (Jewish bible) as superior to the Hebrew. How one can insist that a translation of anything is superior to original is mind boggling -- would a Russian translation of Shakespear's Hamlet ("To be or not to be, that is the question?") as "to be alive or dead -- which is better" -- it "loses something in the translation" is an understatement!
Most missionaries who make this claim are woefully ignorant of Hebrew. I have read some of them saying the Septuagint (the name given to ancient Greek translations of the Jewish bible) is superior because it is "1000 years older than the Masoretic Text."
The thought "well, duh" comes to mind.
The Masoretic Text is NOT the Hebrew from ancient times -- the Masoretic text is not the oldest Hebrew we have either! What is the Masoretic text?
Hebrew is written only with consonants (there are no vowels). Think of how hard it would be to read English if words were written without vowels. Cn y rd ths sntnc (can you read this sentence)?
For learned Jews this is not a problem, as the vowel sounds are obvious in context. When it comes to the bible, we've been reading it for thousands of years without written vowels -- and if you ever attend a Synagogue where the Torah is read you will note if a reader "stumbles" on pronouncing a word many voices will correct him. . . everyone KNOWS the Torah!
There are lesser educated Jews, though -- and in the Diaspora (exile) Hebrew was used primarily in prayer and not in every day use. The Masoretes came up with their vowel notation method between the 8th and 12th centuries CE.
The oldest versions of the T'nach are in Hebrew, and one can only speculate as to why missioanries insist on referencing the Masoretic Text (MT) - ignorance of Hebrew is the most likely answer. . .
The LXX (Septuagint) was a translation ONLY of the תּוֹרָה / Torah / Five Books of Moses / Pentateuch (not נְבִיאִים / Nevi'im / Prophets and כְּתוּבִים / Ketuvim / Writings) were not part of the original Septuagint -- so the missionaries who tout the "Septuagint" reference Psalms or Isaiah -- and apparently are ignorant that they were not found in the Septuagint at all (since they are not in the Torah).
What is today called the Septuagint (which is the entire Jewish bible in Greek) are translations into Greek from persons unknown at times unknown. There was no quality assurance and as a result they became heavily corrupted over time. By the 5th century the Christians gave up on the LXX / Septuagint because it was so corrupt -- so why people now are debating this is really interesting. The term "self-serving" comes to mind. Origen, an early church father (died 232 CE) tried to piece together a decent translation by putting 6 different versions side by side (called the Hexapla). Here is what HE says about how bad the Septuagint had become "we are forthwith to reject as spurious the copies in use in our Churches, and enjoin the brotherhood to put away the sacred books current among them, and to coax the Jews, and persuade them to give us copies which shall be untampered with, and free from forgery." Origen, A Letter from Origen to Africanus, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 4.
There is also St. Jerome (early 5th century) who decided to re-translate from the Hebrew rather than rely on the Septuagint saying: "I was stimulated to undertake the task by the zeal of Origen, who blended (the Septuagint) with the old edition Theodotions translation."
Many of the "pro-Septuagint" missionaries are also "King James" translation enthusiasts. Yet the translators of the KJV (King James) also noted that the Septuagint (Greek translation) was corrupt. In the preface to the original KJV they wrote: "It is certain, that that Translation (e.g., the Septuagint) was not so sound and so perfect, but it needed in many places correction . . . . . the Translation of the Seventy (the Septuagint / LXX) was allowed to pass for current. Notwithstanding, though it was commended generally, yet it did not fully content the learned, no not of the Jews. For not long after (Jesus), Aquila fell in hand with a new Translation, and after him Theodotion, and after him Symmachus; yea, there was a fifth and a sixth edition, the Authors whereof were not known."
The Torah (Five Books of Moses) has very extensive rules around how it is written. A sopher (scribe) who writes a Torah must follow these rules. A Torah is prepared today exactly as it was in the days of Isaiah, David and Moses himself. The 'nach (Prophets and Writings) was codified by the Men of the Great Assembly between 410 BCE and 310 BCE. This is about 1000 years before the first Masoretes. All the Masoretes did (I say "all" but they did wonderful things to bring the oral tradition to written form) was add the vowel notations to make it easier for those less learned to read the text.
These same missionaries will claim that most of the Dead Sea Scrolls (ancient Hebrew copies of most of the bible which are 2000 years old (some more, some less) agree more with the Greek translations. This is false. In Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls by world reknowned scroll expert Lawrence H. Schiffman he writes that "60% Proto-Masoretic texts, 20% Qumran style manuscripts, 10% Nonaligned texts, 5% Proto-Samaritan texts, and 5% Septuagintal type texts. Further more, the Qumran style manuscripts have their bases in the proto-Masoretic texts. The Masoretic type texts were dominant in the time of the Hasmonean period (about 160 B.C.E.)."
These "Septuagint is superior" folks will state that the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) agree with the Septuagint (LXX) more often than the Hebrew. This is also untrue. First of all only 5% documents found at Qumran (DSS) were Greek versions of the Jewish bible.
Of those 5% no one knows who made those translations or when -- or why. . . . we do know that there were multiple translators / translations and that the Christians maintained them (poorly, as they themselves admit).
Consider 4QJer.b which is the Book of Jeremiah in Greek from Qumran (the DSS) but it is missing large parts of the book. The DSS Jeremiah is missing 2700 words that are in the Jewish (Hebrew) bible. Speaking of Jeremiah in the Septuagint: "the Greek text itself is uneven, an unevenness which in the past has led scholars to posit that the two parts of the LXX (Septuagint) (1-28 and 29-51) were prepared by two different translators. Recently it has been proposed, with persuasive arguments, that the second half of the Greek translation is a revision of an earlier translation, the so-called Old Greek text, the latter having survived only in the first half of the text of the LXX." [Craige, Kelley, & Drinkard, WBC].
Sticking with Jeremiah, Jeremiah 23.7-8 comes after 23.40 in the Septuagint (so some copiest "moved" it). Anyone considering the Septuagint as reliable is deluding himself (or herself).
There are scroll fragments from Masada (contemporary with the DSS) and from Wadi Murabit (early 2nd C. CE) that are even closer to the Masoretic Text (MT) -- Hebrew albeit without the MT vowel notations. These ancient Hebrew versions are virtually identical to the Hebrew we have today; thus, proving the antiquity of the MT.
Do not let the Dead Sea Scrolls sidetrack you -- much of what was found was in Qumran was stored in a "graveyard." Just because they are old does not mean they are "better." Jews bury holy writings when they have errors or can no longer be maintained accurately. Thus finding an ancient Hebrew document which was buried or hidden may mean it was put away for the very reason that someone made a mistake in writing it (or it was irrepairable due to age). . . Still, most of the DSS supports the Hebrew versions, not the Greek versions / Septuagint - this includes the Great Isaiah Scroll which is one of the seven original DSS recovered by Bedouin shepherds in 1947. The scroll is written in Hebrew and contains the entire Book of Isaiah from beginning to end, apart from a few small damaged portions.
Not to mention that a Greek translation (however old) is STILL a translation! Why would Jews be relying on a translation versus the original Hebrew (and Aramaic)? Would you consider a translation of Shakespeare to be comparable to the original in English? Then why consider a Greek translation that is known to have insertions and forgeries as well as copious other errors to be a viable alternative?
Which brings up another point -- many of these "Greek is superior" folks will say that most Jews were speaking Greek, not Hebrew, 2000 years ago. This is also false. Schiffman makes that statement (above), but so did the famous Jewish historian, Josephus, who lived in those times (2000 years ago). Josephus was born in Jerusalem, he was a priest who worked in the Temple. He was also a General, who surrendered to the Romans and became a favorite of the Roman elite. Josephus is most famous for his histories of the Jews. He wrote: "….I have also taken a great deal of pains to obtain the learning of the Greeks, and understand the elements of the Greek language, although I have so long accustomed myself to speak our own tongue (Hebrew), that I cannot pronounce Greek with sufficient exactness; for our nation does not encourage those that learn the languages of many nations. . ." Antiquities of the Jews 20:11:2.
Repeat that to those who insist that the Jews spoke Greek and not Hebrew. According to Josephus he had trouble learning Greek. Why? Because the Jews do not encourage learning other languages including Greek!
From the horse's mouth! The scholarly Encyclopedia Judaica wrote of what is today called the Septuagint:
"what we term the Septuagint is in fact an almost accidental gathering together of texts from diverse sources. . .scholars are struck by the very different ways in which translators approached their Hebrew. . . .We cannot even be sure of exactly what the LXX (Septuagint) "canon" contained. . .
For the most part, our earliest texts for this Greek material derive from codices (manuscripts in book form, rather than scrolls) from the third and fourth centuries C.E.; in particular, Codex Vaticanus, Codex Alexandrinus, and Codex Sinaiticus. The codices are uncials (that is, written in all capital letters) from important Christian scriptoria; therefore, they contain the LXX as part of their "Bible" (the New Testament completes it for them). . .it is certain that all sorts of scribal changes led to many differences, some substantial, between what the codices contain and what the earliest Greek (or Old Greek) read. . .
A reasoned and important conclusion from an analysis of all of this material is that what we term the Septuagint is in fact an almost accidental gathering together of texts from diverse sources.
. . . we simply do not know why translators treated their material as they did or why one Greek version of a book was chosen over another (when competing versions were available)."
Prophecy is a communication direct from G-d through a prophet to the people of his or her generation. The message may or may not contain visions of future events. The message may have importance to future generations (us), and those were written down for posterity in the Torah (the prophecies of Moses) and Nevi'im (Prophets) in the T'nach.
Prophecy is always based on the plain meaning of the text -- not on hints or "shadows." Consider the famous chapter of Y'shayahu / Isaiah 7. it does not speak about virgins giving birth, and the woman (and her child) are incidental to the actual prohecy which was for the then living king, אָחָז / Ahaz.
Y'shayahu / Isaiah 7 begins "And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz son of Jotham son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin, king of Aram, and Pekah son of Remaliah, king of Israel, marched on Jerusalem to wage war against it, and he could not wage war against it."
G-d tells Isaiah (prophecy! direct communication of G-d to Isaiah) to go to King Ahaz and tell him: "Feel secure and calm yourself, do not fear, and let your heart not be faint because of these two smoking stubs of firebrands, because of the raging anger of Rezin and Aram and the son of Remaliah." (verse 4).
So the prophecy is for King Ahaz, the prophet is Isaiah. The message is "don't be afraid of the two kings (Rezin and Pekah)."
As proof that this will happen Isaiah tells King Ahaz that before a child, yet unborn (Immanuel) is old enough to learn "to refuse 'bad' [food] and to choose 'good' [food]" (Isaiah 7:16) the two kings Ahaz feared would no be gone.
Now the point of me repeating this story is that prophecy is ALWAYS based on plain meaning and is a message for the "then living" generation.
Ahaz, the very king of Isaiah 7 for whom Isaiah is making the prophecy about the child saw Rezin and Pekah be destroyed - just as Isaiah prophesied in chapter 7.
The plain meaning of Isaiah to Ahaz came to pass.
Prophecy is never based on hints, or shadows or vague possibilities. Judaism is replete with stories and "tall tales" -- but those are not literal and are not meant to be taken literally. A principle of the Talmud that Rashi quotes several times states that אֵין מִקְרָא יוֹצֵא מִידֵי פְשׁוּטוֹ -- in English this would be "A verse cannot depart from its plain meaning." (Treatise Shabbat 63a, Treatise Y'vamot 11b, 24a; quoted by Rashi at B'réshıt / Genesis 15:10, 37:19, Sh'mot / Exodus 12:2).
Likewise the concept of "dual fulfillment" is totally non-biblical.
The two kings King Ahaz feared: Pekah and Rezin. The two kings of Isaiah's prophecy in chapter 7. What two kings did Jsus fear?
Ahaz sided with Assyria, fighting with Tiglathpileser against Israel and Syria. Ahaz and the Assyrians won (as Isaiah 7 prophesied).
Rezin and Pekah were conquered and many of the people carried captive to Assyria (M'lachim Beit / 2 Kings 15:29; 16:5-9; Divrei Hayamim I / 1 Chronicles 5:26). Soon after this Shalmaneser subdued the kingdom of Israel. Samaria was taken and destroyed (B.C.E. 722). Isaiah's prophecy in chapter 7 was true to it's plain meaning and throughout Ahaz reign, the kingdom of Judah was unmolested by the Assyrian power.
The prophecy had nothing to do with virgins having babies, and very little to do with the baby itself. Where is anything that even is similar to the story of Jesus?
What two kings did Jesus dread?
When was Jesus an earthly King who fought a war?
What land of those two kings was abandoned in Jsus' supposed lifetime?
Was Jesus alive to BE a sign for King Ahaz?
The idea of "dual prophecies" is notorious for taking a word or sentence out of context and trying to make it a "prophecy." But you can't ignore the context and be honest. Neither is distorting the prophecy in Devarim 28 which clearly is "open ended" and is not "in the days of Moses" (as Isaiah 7 says in the day of Ahaz).
Take any "proof text" that is part of "dual prophecy" and read it IN CONTEXT. Do this and the dual prophecy claim quickly falls apart.
Y'shayahu / Isaiah 7 - Jesus was not born in the days of Ahaz, the young woman who was pregnant at that time was long dead by the time Jesus came along -- in other words this is a VERY SPECIFIC prophecy for one person (Ahaz) and trying to fit it to another (Jesus) is deceit and nothing more.
Y'shayahu / Isaiah 14 -- this is about the fall of the King of Babylon and again is VERY SPECIFIC to a person and a point in time. Deceitful to use it to apply to anyone else. . .
Hoshea / Hosea 11 has nothing to do with Jesus going to Egypt -- the text clearly says ISRAEL. Again to call this a "dual" prophecy about Jesus ignores the context and is deceitful, nothing more.
As these few examples show a specific prophecy cannot be used for something that does not apply to it -- out of time and context. There is the biblical concept of an ongoing prophecy, but this a totally different concept from "dual fulfillment" or "types and shadows" as prophecy.
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.