Friday, April 09, 2004

Jewish Messianic Interpretation of Isaiah 53

From my much-longer paper (105K):
From: Christology of the Old Testament and a Commentary on the Messianic Predictions, Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg (1802-1869; Lutheran):

There cannot be any doubt that the messianic interpretation was pretty generally received in earlier times by the Jews. This is admitted even by those later interpreters who pervert the prophecy, e.g., Ibn-ezra, Jarchi [Rashi], Abravanel and Nahmanides.

The whole translation of the Chaldean Paraphrast, Jonathan, refers to prophecy to Messiah. He paraphrases the very first clause: "behold, My Servant Messiah shall prosper."

Rabbi Alschech, in Hulsii Theologia Judaica, pp. 321 ff., comments:

Upon the testimony of tradition, our old rabbis have unanimously admitted that king Messiah is here the subject of discourse. We, in harmony with them, conclude that king David, i.e., the Messiah, must be considered as the subject of this prophecy -- a view which is indeed quite obvious.

From: The Messiah Texts, Raphael Patai [Jewish], Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1979:

The Aggada, the Talmudic legend, unhesitatingly identifies him with the Messiah, and understands especially the descriptions of his sufferings as referring to Messiah ben Joseph.

[Concerning the suffering servant of Isaiah 42, 49, 50, 52, 53]

It is quite probable that the concept of the suffering Messiah, fully developed in the Talmud, the Midrash, and the Zohar, has its origin in the biblical prophecies about the suffering servant.

Some rabbis named the Messiah, "The Leprous of the House of Study," based on Isaiah 53:4 (B. Sanhedrin 98b).

"Elijah . . . says to him: 'Endure the sufferings and the sentence of your Master who makes you suffer because of the sin of Israel.' And thus it is written: 'He was wounded because of our transgressions.' . . . (Is 53:5) - until the time when the end comes." (Mid. Konen, BhM, 2:29)


Nachmanides (R. Moshe ben Nachman) (13th c.):

"The right view respecting this Parashah is to suppose that by the phrase 'my servant' the whole of Israel is meant . . . As a different opinion, however, is adopted by the Midrash, which refers it to the Messiah, it is necessary for us to explain it in conformity with the view there maintained . . . And by his stripes we were healed -- because the stripes by which he is vexed and distressed will heal us; God will pardon us for his righteousness, and we shall be healed both from our own transgressions and from the iniquities of our fathers."

(From S. R. Driver and A. Neubauer, editors, The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters (2 volumes; New York: Ktav, 1969; pp. 78 ff.)

R. Elijah de Vidas (16th c.):

"Since the Messiah bears our iniquities which produce the effect of His being bruised, it follows that whoso will not admit that the Messiah thus suffers for our iniquities, must endure and suffer for them himself."

(in Driver, ibid., 331)

Rabbi Moshe Alshekh (El-Sheikh) of Sefad (16th c.):

"I may remark, then, that our Rabbis with one voice accept and affirm the opinion that the prophet is speaking of the King Messiah, and we ourselves also adhere to
the same view."

(in Driver, ibid., 258)

From: David Baron (Hebrew Christian scholar)

That the generally received older Jewish interpretation of this prophecy was the Messianic is admitted by Abrabanel, who himself . . . interpret[s] it of the Jewish nation . . . "Jonathan ben Uziel interprets it in the Targum of the future Messiah; and this is also the opinion of our learned men in the majority of their Midrashim.”

Similarly another, Rabbi Mosheh el Sheikh, commonly known as Alshech (latter half of the sixteenth century), who also himself follows the older interpretation, at any rate of the first three verses (52:13-15, which, however, as we shall see, contain a summary of the whole
prophecy), testifies "that our Rabbis with one voice accept and affirm the opinion that the prophet is speaking of the King Messiah."

In fact, until Rashi (Rabbi Solomon Yizchaki, 1040-1105) applied it to the Jewish nation, the Messianic interpretation of this chapter was almost universally adopted by Jews, . . .

According to Ibn Crispin, the interpretation adopted by Rashi “distorts the passage from its natural meaning”, and that in truth “it was given of God as a description of the Messiah, whereby, when any should claim to be the Messiah, to judge by the resemblance or non-resemblance to it whether he were the Messiah or not.”

From: S.R. Driver and Ad. Neubauer, editors, The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters (2 volumes; New York: Ktav, 1969)
(available online in abridged form at:

Benjamin of Nehawend, a philosophic Karaite of much reputation (c. 800 A.D.), still believed that Isaiah 53 referred to the messiah (according to Yepheth ben Ali). "Many," Ibn Ezra says, in the middle of the twelfth century, "explained it as being of the messiah", on the authority of a traditional saying of the rabbis.
See also my related paper; a dialogue with an Orthodox Jew: Jewish-Christian Dialogue: Is the Servant of Isaiah 53 the Messiah or Collective Israel?


Anders said...

The first century historical pro-Torah Pharisee Ribi Yehoshua ha-Mashiakh (the Messiah) is the person that Yeshayahu 53 is about. Read a translation according to etymology and comments (“What all of the earliest extant Judaic mss. Say; No Nonsense, No-Agenda, No-Holds-Barred, Deal-with-it, Historical Translation) of every pasuq (“verse”) of Yeshayahu 53 in the above website (History Museum (left panel); Mashiakh (top panel); “Mâshiakh of Tana"kh Subverts Tana"kh to be the Mâshiakh?” )

A logical analysis (found in ( is the website of the only legitimate Netzarim-group)) (including the logical implications of the research by Ben-Gurion Univ. Prof. of Linguistics Elisha Qimron of Dead Sea Scroll 4Q MMT) of all extant source documents of “the gospel of Matthew” and archeology proves that the historical Ribi Yehosuha ha-Mashiakh (the Messiah) from Nazareth and his talmidim (apprentice-students), called the Netzarim, taught and lived Torah all of their lives; and that Netzarim and Christianity were always antithetical.

This implies that the historical Ribi Yehoshua ha-Mashiakh of Nazareth is not the same as the Christian J….
Anders Branderud

Dave Armstrong said...

Can you rephrase all that in English? Thanks. About all I understood is that you don't think Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, or God Incarnate? Maybe I even got that wrong . . .