This outline is based on material found in Isaiah 53: Reasons Why Jesus Is Not The Suffering Servant
Xlibris Corporation, 2007, ISBN 978-1-4257-4456-4
The Text: Isaiah 52:13-53:12
13. Behold, My servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high.
14. According as many were appalled at you–so marred was his appearance unlike that of a man, and his form unlike that of the sons of men.
15. So shall he startle many nations, kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been told them shall they see, and that which they had not heard shall they perceive.
- Who would have believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
- For he grew up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry land; he had no form nor comeliness that we should look upon him, nor appearance that we should delight in him.
- He was despised, and rejected of men [e-shim: “men of high status”], a man of pains, and acquainted with disease, and as one from whom men hide their face: he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
- Surely our diseases he did bear, and our pains he carried; but we considered him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
- But he was wounded as a result of our transgressions, he was crushed as a result of our iniquities. The chastisement of our welfare was upon him, and with his wounds we were healed.
- All we like sheep did go astray, we turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has visited upon him the iniquity of us all.
- He was oppressed, though he humbled himself and opened not his mouth; as a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before her shearers is dumb; and opened not his mouth.
- From dominion and judgment he was taken away, and his life’s history who is able to relate? For he was cut off out of the land of the living; as a result of the transgression of my people he has been afflicted.
- And his grave was set with the wicked, and with the rich in his deaths; although he had done no violence, neither was there any deceit in his mouth.
- And it pleased the Lord to crush him–He made [him] sick. If he would offer himself as a guilt-offering, he shall see seed, he shall prolong days. And the purpose of the Lord will prosper by his hand.
- From the labor of his soul he shall see; he shall be satisfied. With his knowledge, the righteous one, my servant, shall cause many to be just. And their iniquities he shall bear.
- Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the mighty; because he had poured out his soul to death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
Herein we concentrate on showing why Isaiah 53 does not refer to Jesus. In countering Christian claims concerning the Suffering Servant passage it is really sidestepping the issue to discuss if it refers to the coming Messiah or national Israel. Significant though it is to establish this identification the conversation with Christianity is really about their claims concerning Jesus.
In developing the Jesus myth several traditions developed among distinct groups of followers of what was eventually called Christianity. Various strains of tradition were brought together in forming the New Testament. They were not uniform in their message as each told the Jesus story from the perspective of its own community needs. Isaiah’s Suffering Servant played a decisive role in forming the Jesus myth among certain Christian groups. It provided an outline to guide them in describing what they imagined Jesus’ ministry to have been. There is no doubt that the New Testament authors had the suffering servant in mind in developing their respective works. But this does not prove Jesus is the servant. In the traditions coming down to them concerning Jesus they did not fully eliminate the contradictions between the description of the servant and the description of Jesus. As a result, we are still able to get a glimpse of why Jesus is not the servant from their very own writings.
“Behold My Servant”
Some reasons why Jesus is not the servant:
- The phrase, “My servant,” presents a problem for the trinitarian doctrine: servant and master are two separate entities.
- A servant by definition is always in an inferior position to his master.
- John’s Jesus acknowledges: “A slave is not greater than his master, neither one who is sent greater than the one who sent him” (John 13:16). The sending of Jesus would have taken place while the trinity trio supposedly were all equal. If Jesus is an incarnate member of a coequal triune deity he could not become less than equal to the other two parts and still be coequal and of one essence with them (cf. Philippians 2:5-11).
- Moreover, when is Jesus ever called directly “My servant”? In Matthew 12:18 the phrase appears as part of a proof text, not as an appellative.
Can the Messiah be called My servant?
- During the Messianic Era the promised king from David’s line will be placed over God’s flock (Ezekiel 34:23-31). In that day, God the ultimate savior of his people will establish His covenant of peace. How is the Davidic prince, the Messiah, referred to during the messianic reign? God calls him My servant—not My equal.
- God never called Jesus His servant, during Jesus’ lifetime.
- Is My servant a title to be applied to Jesus by God during the supposed second coming of Jesus when he will manifest himself not as a servant but as king of Israel and as one-third of the triune deity of Christianity.
- In the Ezekiel passage the Messiah of Israel is called God’s servant, not his equal. What that tells us is that Jesus is not the Messiah—not then, not now, not ever.
The supposed “two natures of Christ”
Jesus is the god that never was. Some Christians differentiate between what is called “the two natures of Christ.”
- It is claimed that Jesus was fully God and fully man at the same time, but mysteriously interwoven yet separate. Thus, it is said, Jesus could be knowledgeable about some things and ignorant about others.
- Jesus’ statement that “A slave is not greater than his master, neither one who is sent greater than the one who sent him” refutes consideration of this two nature doctrine. This statement says that a slave is of lower status than his master.
- Anyone sent on a mission by another person is of inferior status. In the case of Jesus, this would make his supposed supernatural nature inferior to that of God the Father even before becoming incarnate and even if done voluntarily. It would mean that there was a period of time when the coequality of the triune deity was reduced to a dyad.
- This state of inequality continues presently in that Jesus supposedly mediates between God the Father and mankind (1 Timothy 2:5, Hebrew 9:24), but it is God the Father who makes the final judgment not the “mediator.”
Did the author of Hebrews have Isaiah 53 in mind when he said Jesus “learned obedience from the things which he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8)?
- Why did Jesus have to learn to be obedient if he is God?
- Whom did he have to obey?
- Can equals in any triune deity exercise dominance, one over the other?
- How can God’s servant be none other than one-third of Himself. Those who claim a preexistent supernatural being was incarnate in the form of Jesus cannot escape the question:
- Why did this incarnate being have to learn to be obedient through suffering if in both his humanity and divinity he was sinless to begin with and therefore was already obedient to God?
52:13: “He shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high”
Exalted, lifted up, very high
Rewarding the servant: The servant is to be raised to a higher position in the estimation of those who were previously appalled at the sight of him.
- Does “He shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high” refer to Jesus’ alleged rewards after death in heaven and on earth?
- Some Christians believe that the meaning of these words is to be found in Philippians 2:5-11, which speaks of Jesus’ supposed exaltation in heaven and on earth following his death.
- But why should such a divine creature receive a reward for doing what he was programmed to do from the very start? If he was one-third of God or some sort of a supernatural being makes no difference.
- Jesus is portrayed unlike a mere human who has free will and is capable of making the wrong choices and sinning.
- Jesus had no choice but to do as he was programmed to do.
- In fact, no matter what the temptation placed before Jesus he could not sin, he had no free will.
- The New Testament’s Jesus could not deviate from the alleged preordained divine program.
- Unlike a martyr who has no firsthand knowledge of what to expect for his sacrifice, Jesus, it is said, did have that firsthand knowledge. If Jesus knew where he came from and he knew where he was going, and if he knew exactly what his rewards would be for his obedience to the will of God he sacrificed nothing.
The rest of the story
The fact is that Jesus’ death through crucifixion was no remedy for sin. He did not die in man’s place; his death was not a ransom price paid for all eternity. His death was no sacrifice.
- Jesus’ death was the means by which the New Testament says he obtained great rewards for himself of which he was fully aware they would be his if he allowed himself to be executed.
- Jesus sacrificed absolutely nothing if he was a supernatural being. He knew what his mission on earth was, he knew that his was a temporary death (John 10:17), he knew he would be restored to life with an intacked body, and he knew he was to be well rewarded for allowing himself to be executed.
- As an equal member of the supposedly triune god he rewarded himself for his troubles.
Did the Jesus of Christian theology have free will and could he sin?
- Jesus is described as lacking a basic human characteristic—free will.
- Where there is no free will being sinless is no problem. Free will is an innate quality of the human species not a consequence of a sin nature.
- The presence of free will allows for one to make decisions—right or wrong.
- Adam and Eve possessed free will prior to eating from the Tree of Knowledge. Their choice to partake of its fruit was a free will decision. Their sin was disobedience to God’s instruction. Their ability to choose between obedience and disobedience indicates the presence of free will.
- Whether the Jesus of the Gospels was tempted at various points in his life is not the issue. It is said that Jesus “has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). John said about Jesus: “In him there is no sin” (1 John 3:5). Hebrews states that in his alleged post-resurrection state Jesus is “a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26), but we are here concerned with him while alive.
There are two specific issues involved.
- If Jesus did not sin, why did he not sin?
- If Jesus did not sin, was he truly human?
The New Testament envisions Jesus as a supernatural being who could not sin. Then again it is said that because Jesus was a man, he could be tempted—but because he was God he could not sin. A temptation might be genuine, in that it has an enticement factor. But one man’s temptation leaves another indifferent. It is not simply ability to be tempted that is of concern, but what one’s response to that temptation is. According to the New Testament, Jesus was tempted (Satan’s temptation—Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13) but without free will he had no choice but to reject Satan’s offer.
- Jesus could experience genuine temptations being offered to him, but he would not be tempted to give into them.
- Jesus allegedly had no desire to even consider the temptation. That being the case his physical body might appear to be human but his humanity was deficient in his ability to make free will decisions.
- Without free will Jesus was not in a significant sense a true human being.
52:14: “So marred was his appearance unlike that of a man, and his form unlike that of the sons of men”
Let the truth be told
Although many post-New Testament descriptions of Jesus on the cross paint a gruesome agonizing picture of his suffering the Gospels do not describe his appearance as being in a form unrecognizable as a human being.
- Isaiah’s description is best understood when one views pictures of horrific Jewish suffering during the Holocaust and the contempt of their oppressors toward them.
- That is literal fulfillment of the verse not one that comes from the imagination of Christians contemplating on the agony of crucifixion,
52:15: “So shall he startle many nations”
The Hebrew text
What is the meaning of the word nazah?
- Some Christians maintain that nazah which has the meaning of “sprinkle” carries with it the thought of expiation in verse 15.
- It is thought the verse portrays the servant as a priest who “sprinkles” (that is, spiritually cleanses) the nations. They then claim that this verse refers to the supposed power of Jesus to make “many nations” the beneficiaries of his blood. That is, Jesus was expected “to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17) and have their “hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience” (Hebrew 10:22). However, this interpretation is problematic.
- Both grammatically and in terms of the sacrificial system the correct meaning of verse 15 has no relationship to the priestly sprinkling of atonement blood at all.
- In every other instance where the object or person sprinkled is indicated, the verb is used in conjunction with a preposition (such as “onto,” “upon,” or “before”). This combination does not occur in verse 15.
- The proper rendering of the verb, nazah, in this verse is not “sprinkle,” but “scatter” in the sense of being startled and confused.
- It indicates the astonishment of the nations as they scurry about in shock over the turn of events.
- In sprinkling, one scatters a liquid into innumerable droplets. Similarly, the inhabitants of the nations will be scattered as well.
- There is no reference here to Jesus spiritually cleansing the nations.
52:15: “[K]ings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been told them shall they see, and that which they had not heard shall they perceive.”
What did the kings hear about Jesus and when did they hear it?
Attempting to apply verses 52:13-15 to Jesus is an exercise in futility.
- Some Christians say verse 15 refers to a situation when Jesus returns at his second coming. But, the person of Jesus has already been exalted, lifted up, and made very high by the great homage paid by national rulers. Although many rulers have paid homage to Jesus does this fulfill verse 15? What is it that these rulers were not told that they now saw, what is it that they did not hear before that they now understand?
- Look at the behavior of the rulers of Europe, the kings, queens, nobleman and other rulers to whom this supposedly refers. From a Christian perspective, is it simply reverential acknowledgement of Jesus as a superior being to themselves that is called for in verse 15? Or was there to be an elevated sense of morality, temperance of blood lust, and pecuniary appetite as well? For, in truth, they continued and still continue to support perverse behavior.
53:1: “Who would have believed our report [literally, “what we have heard”]?”
As we enter chapter 53, a change of speakers occurs. In Isaiah 52:13-15 God is the speaker, now in verses 1-8 it is as it were the representative spokesman for the gentile nations who is speaking.
The spokesman declares: “Who would have believed our report?”
- The gentile nations, as expressed through their spokesman, can scarcely believe what they have to say let alone expect others to believe what they are about to tell them.
- These nations, recovering from their speechlessness, are still in a state of amazement at the turn of events they are witnessing. “Then,” as the psalmist writes: “they will say among the nations: ‘God has done great things for these [Israel]’” (Psalms 126:2b).
53:1: “And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
What nation, the spokesman declares, has had God’s “protective arm,” revealed to it as is now obvious for the servant nation, Israel?
- With greatness and glory, God now manifests his judgment upon the faithful servant, Israel, and upon those who reviled them, the gentiles.
- Verse 1 uses metaphors to describe the historical development of the Jewish people.
- The “arm of the Lord” signifies God’s power and is a biblical metaphor descriptive of God’s physical redemption of Israel from the oppression of other nations.
- To whom has the “arm of the Lord” been revealed? It is explicitly stated: “Israel saw the great work that God inflicted upon the Egyptians, and the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord, and in His servant Moses” (Exodus 14:31).
- We read further that the “arm of the Lord” is displayed for the protection of the people of Israel: “Your right hand, O Lord is glorious in power; Your right hand, O Lord dashes in pieces the enemy” (Exodus 15:6); “The great trials which your eyes saw, and the signs, and the wonders, and the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm with which the Lord your God brought you out; so shall the Lord your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid” (Deuteronomy 7:19); and “The Lord has made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” (Isaiah 52:10).
- Thus, on the one hand, the “arm of the Lord” is displayed to Israel for it to have faith in the saving power of the Almighty and on the other hand it is revealed to the nations so that they will have an appreciation of what God will do for the nation of Israel.
- There are Christians who identify “arm of the Lord” with Jesus but this claim is nothing but wishful thinking.
Who is not the servant and who is?
- Matthew misuses the Jewish Scriptures. Matthew 12:18-21 literally applies to Jesus the announcement of Isaiah 42:1-4, which speaks in lofty terms of the servant.
- But what of the verses in this same chapter which speak of the servant as being figuratively blind and deaf (verse 19)?
- This passage shows the servant disobedient and rebellious at times yet still considered as God’s servant.
- When does the New Testament portray Jesus as figuratively blind and deaf, a disobedient and rebellious sinner? It does not and cannot, and still call Jesus sinless (1 Peter 2:22). But then, he cannot be the servant mentioned in Isaiah 42:1.
- A perusal of this chapter shows that Isaiah is speaking of neither the Messiah nor Jesus, but of a people/nation (verse 22) and that the prophet identifies that people/nation as Jacob/Israel (verse 24). In, Ve-hu ‘am bazuz ve-shasu, “But he/it is a people/nation robbed and spoiled” (verse 22), the “he/it” refers to the people of Israel as identified in verse 24: “Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers?”
53:2: “[H]e grew up … a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry land … no form nor comeliness … nor appearance that we should delight in him.”
The futile search for Jesus in Isaiah 53:2
The early years:
- Was Jesus’ apparently humble and inauspicious origin proof that he was the servant?
- His situation was no different than myriads of others living in Judea or Galilee.
- Does the description of the downtrodden rejected servant of verse 2 fit the one of Jesus depicted in the Gospels?
Luke states: “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and in physical growth [helikia, cf. Luke 12:25, 19:3], and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52).
- As Jesus was growing up was he a frail, unsightly child? Was he repulsive?
- In the Gospel, it is asserted that Jesus was tall, wise, and enjoyed popularity even in the years prior to his active ministry. It suggests that his reported handsome appearance, charismatic personality, and wisdom attracted a positive interest from others.
- As the Gospels’ story unfolds, throughout Jesus’ entire lifetime, he is greatly desired by an ever growing multitude of people who come to hear his spiritual message.
- Even if some only superficially admired Jesus and later found him disappointing it would still not match the intensity of the servant’s rejection from a tender age. The Gospels’ description of Jesus simply does not fit the physical description of the servant or the reaction to his presence that is found in verse 2.
The ministry years:
- The Gospels report that there are those who opposed Jesus, but compare this opposition to the alleged popularity he enjoined even while going to his death.
- A number of Gospel stories tell of enthusiastic crowds following him from the very beginning of his preaching and even when he went to be executed.
- These stories contradict the description of the servant found in verse 2.
Christian in search of answers
Some Christians suggest that “no form nor comeliness … nor appearance that we should delight in him”refers not to physical being but to humility. To the contrary, the Gospels describe a different Jesus who was neither a humble person nor was he a loving person. It is easy to love those who agree with you; much more difficult is the ability to love those who disagree.
- Jesus exhibited rabid intolerance of those who disagreed with him.
- He was haughty and cruel in both word and deed (Matthew 15:1-20; Matthew 21:12, Mark 11:15-16, Luke 19:45, John 2:15; Matthew 21:18-21, Mark 11:13-14; Matthew 8:32, Mark 5:13, Luke 8:33; Matthew 10:34-35, Luke 12:49-53; Matthew 23:34-36, Luke 11:49-51; Luke 19:27).
- Was it permissible for Jesus to act as he did because he was allegedly God and therefore could do as he pleased? This is begging the question. The specific issue here is not whether Jesus was a supernatural being but whether he literally fulfilledthe passage in Isaiah.
- Paul claims Jesus “humbled himself” (Philippians 2:8) but apparently this humility did not extend to relations with ordinary people who disagreed with him.
- Did Jesus carry out faithfully the role of the servant as specifically enunciated by the prophet?
- By what authority it is claimed he spoke acrimoniously is not at issue.
- What is at issue is that once having spoken and acted in a haughty and cruel manner the Gospels’ Jesus disqualified himself from being a literal fulfillment of verse 2. This is because in all instances where the New Testament uses Isaiah 53 it alleges literalfulfillment by Jesus not a metaphorical fulfillment (Matthew 8:17; Mark 15:28; Luke 22:37; John 12:38; Acts 8:32, 33; Romans 10:16, 15:21; 1 Peter 2:22, 24-25).
- Another unjustified contention presented is that this verse refers to the Jewish rejection of Jesus’ message at the time of his death.
- If the Gospel reports are accurate, we can assume that outside of Jerusalem his still loyal following was unaware of events in the capital and that even there, besides his secret followers (John 12:42) great multitudes were still loyal.
- On the way to being executed Luke claims that “there were following him a great multitude of the people, and of women who were mourning and lamenting him” (Luke 23:27).
- Overall, the great majority of Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries in the Land of Israel and the Diaspora never heard of him. Therefore, the question of large-scale Jewish rejection of Jesus does not yet enter the picture.
53:5: “But he was wounded as a result of our transgressions, he was crushed as a result of our iniquities.”
Christian renderings of the Hebrew text attempt to convey the message that the servant vicariously took upon himself the sins of the people, and this caused him, and not them, to suffer the consequences.
- This conclusion is arrived at by a distortion of the text. That is, they claim the servant took on the iniquities of others and thereby, allowed their sins to be expiated through his suffering.
- This is a distortion of the meaning of the text that attempts to evade the real reason Jesus was executed.
- A correct rendering of the text reveals that the nations of the world come to the realization that the servant’s suffering stemmed from their actions and sinfulness toward him. (The singular used here for a plural collective community.)
- The realization here is that the servant’s pain is not because of his own sins. He bears the pain inflicted on him by others.
- This verse reflects the nations’ realization that the servant suffered the consequences of their (the nations’) own persecution imposed in order to hide their own iniquities.
Why was Jesus arrested and executed?
Jesus was an apocalyptic revolutionary. His insurrectionist activities brought upon him Roman condemnation and execution. Jesus probably expected divine intervention with God sending His angels to annihilate the Roman’s.
- His execution by a method reserved for rebels is evidence that the Romans considered him a seditionist.
- Certainly, a movement with a messianic intimation and inherent kingship connotations raised concern among Roman officials entrusted with the maintenance of the Pax Roma (Roman Peace).
- John’s Jesus acknowledging that he considered himself a king (John 18:37) was an admission of guilt of a serious offense under Roman law. Under Roman law only the emperor could appoint a king.
- The Gospels’ Jesus did not suffer because of the iniquity of others, but because he challenged Roman sovereignty over Judea.
- Pressing his messianic pretensions was, to the Roman administration of the country, a challenge to Roman rule.
- It was common knowledge, of which Pontius Pilate was certainly well aware, that anyone who claimed to be the Messiah must also claim to be king of the Jews.
- The Gospels’ Jesus challenged Roman rule by the way he is said to have entered into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:7-11, Mark 11:7-11, Luke 19:35-39, John 12:12-13).
- Jesus’ manner of entry into Jerusalem and the accompanying acclaim the Gospels say he received from the people was seen as the commission of an act of treason against the emperor. This assured his arrest and crucifixion. From the moment Jesus was hailed as the son of David he was a marked man.
- The seizure of the Temple courtyard was also by its nature a subversive act against Rome. The Romans could not see Jesus’ offense as solely against the Jewish priesthood. They would understand it as directed against their control over the symbol of Jewish nationhood, the Temple. Pilate had no alternative but to treat Jesus as a political threat.
- Despite the evangelical attempt to exonerate Pilate (Matthew 27:24; Mark 15:14; Luke 23:4; John 18:38, 19:4) by blaming the Jews (John 19:11) and thereby Rome from responsibility for the crucifixion, it must be remembered that this method of execution was reserved for political crimes against Rome. Blaming the Jewish people and their leaders for Jesus’ death was the early church’s response to widespread Jewish refusal to accept the false claims made on behalf of Jesus.
- Jesus was executed for his own challenge to the Roman Empire. He imagined himself to be the Messiah, the king of the Jews, and died for that mistake.
- Jesus’ death was not a vicarious sacrifice for the benefit of mankind in general or for the Jewish people in particular.
- Jesus’ death was the result of his own failure to recognize his limitations. One of the limitations Jesus had was that he did not qualify to be the servant.
53:5: “The chastisement of our welfare was upon him, and with his wounds we were healed.”
The scourging mystery
Referring to the suffering undergone by the servant, “with his wounds we were healed.” Christian claim this refers to Jesus receiving “stripes,” that is, being scourged prior to his crucifixion. But, was Jesus scourged prior to his crucifixion? And, if he were scourged, how did this “heal” anyone?
- It is commonly assumed that Jesus underwent great suffering and blood loss as a result of being scourged by the Romans prior to his crucifixion. This sentiment is based on an erroneous understanding of the Gospels.
- According to Matthew, Mark, and John, Jesus was scourged prior to his crucifixion.
- Matthew and Mark relate that at the end of the trial Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, “scourged and delivered him [Jesus] to be crucified” (Mark 15:15, Matthew 27:26). That is, Pilate scourged him after sentencing.
- John writes that Pilate scourged Jesus in the course of the trial (John l9:1), before he brought him out to face “the Jews” once more (John 19:4-5).
Some Christians have tried to harmonize the different versions by claiming there was a double scourging. But Luke has a completely different development of the scourging narrative.
- The scourging in Luke’s version of Passion events presents a problem in that Jesus does not undergo scourging at any time prior to or after his arrival at the execution site.
- Luke alludes to scourging but there it is offered as an alternative punishment to crucifixion. It would be a beating that would be the full penalty; that is, more like a warning than a sentence. According to Luke, Pilate said: “I will punish him and release him” (Luke 23:16) and “I have found nothing deserving of death in him; I will therefore punish him and release him” (Luke 23:22).
- Scourging appears to have been a customary preliminary administered to those about to be crucified. The condemned, usually stripped naked, was beaten and mocked all the way to the execution site. In addition, he was bound or nailed to the crossbeam (patibulum) either before starting on his way or on arrival at the place of execution.5 He was required to carry or drag the crossbeam all the way to the execution site.6 Such procedures were apparently not followed when the Gospels’ Jesus was led to his death.
- After the Roman soldiers abused and mocked him (Matthew 27:30, Mark 15:19) they “put his own clothes on him” (Mark 15:20, see also Matthew 27:31) and the Synoptic Gospels maintain that he did not carry the crossbeam for most of the distance (Matthew 27:32, Mark 15:21, Luke 23:26).
- In the end, Luke’s Jesus never undergoes scourging, although he allegedly predicts his own scourging: “For he will be delivered up to the gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged him, they will kill him; and the third day he will rise again” (Luke 18:32-33).
The crossbeam mystery
- According to the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus was unable to carry the crossbeam the entire distance to the execution site and the Roman soldiers pressed one Simon of Cyrene into service to carry it the rest of the way (Matthew 27:32, Mark 15:21, Luke 23:26).
- Why was Jesus unable to carry the crossbeam the full distance? It has been suggested that Jesus had become so physically weak from the scourging that he simply could not continue under the weight of the crossbeam. The soldiers, it is presumed, pressed Simon into service to prevent Jesus from collapsing of exhaustion before they could execute him. The theory seems to gain support from the short time that it took for him to die once he was crucified (Mark 15:44, John 19:33).
- How weak could Luke’s Jesus have been when, relieved of the burden of the crossbeam, he is said to have turned to the “daughters of Jerusalem” and to have spoken to them at some length (Luke 23:28-31). But, of course, this is in Luke where Jesus never undergoes scourging!
The Johannine mystery
- According to John’s version of the story, Jesus carried his own crossbeam the entire distance.
- Some Christians maintain that Simon is not mentioned in John because in Johannine christology there is no room for Jesus needing or accepting help from human beings. This is tantamount to saying Johannine christology is derived by rejecting any fact that would deny the making of the Johannine christological myth.
The rest of the story
- John’s claim that Jesus was “scourged” during the trial before Pilate (John 19:1) leaves open the extent of injury incurred by Jesus at the hands of the Romans.
- Generally, the normal Roman thoroughness, when it came to torture, would have left no doubts of torture being inflicted. Jesus would have bled profusely and would have had great difficulty standing on his feet. Yet, Jesus is portrayed as confronting Pilate without any kind of impairment due to pain or discomfort being hinted at in the text (John 19:11).
- It must be assumed that if Jesus was scourged before sentencing, as reported (Matthew 27:26, Mark 15:15, John 19:1) he was not tortured as severely as was the normal Roman practice.
- Furthermore, the Gospels make no mention of any scourging taking place at the site of the crucifixion.
- According to the Gospels, Jesus did not undergo the scourging and suffering that is normally associated with crucifixion and may not have been scourged at all.
Christian attempts to explain away the absence of any mention of the effects of scourging on Jesus are in the nature of afterthoughts to clarify an inexplicable omission.
- Knowing the New Testament propensity to describe a persecuted Jesus, it stands to reason that the evangelists would be anxious to describe a scourged Jesus.
- Surely, the evangelists would not leave it up to their readers to take for granted that horrible physical torture had been inflicted upon Jesus.
- If Jesus was bloodied or injured as a result of scourging, the Gospels would surely have recorded it. That this was not done leads us to the assumption that his trial and sentencing left him unscathed with his outward appearance unchanged—even his clothing remained unbloodied by the encounter. One would have to assume that, at worst, his was a superficial symbolic scourging that left no outward marks.
- There are simply no accounts of a scourged-ravaged Jesus.
- The Gospels themselves furnish proof that this was the case. Normally, the condemned would be bound or nailed to the crossbeam of the cross. In some cases, he dragged it. As the condemned made his way to the execution site he was continuously whipped. But not Jesus!
- Moreover, Jesus was not led naked through the streets. The usual Roman procedure was to have the condemned led naked to the place of execution and being scourged as he went. Matthew (his information derived from Mark) and Mark claim Jesus was scourged; nevertheless, they have Jesus dressed again before he is taken to the crucifixion site. Jesus is finally deprived of his clothing only at the place of execution (Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24, Luke 23:34, John 19:24). Perhaps, on account of Jewish sensibilities concerning public display of nudity, the Romans made a concession on this point, in Judea.
- The Gospel narratives maintain that Jesus was given his own clothing to wear when he was led to the place of execution. They claim the Roman soldiers “put his own outer garments on him” before he was led to the place of execution (Matthew 27:31, Mark 15:20). This unequivocally shows that Jesus was not naked as he walked to the execution site, but was dressed in his own clothes.
- Confirmation that Jesus’ scourging was superficial (if it happened at all) is found in this claim that he was given his own clothes to wear to the execution. On arrival at the execution site the clothes he wore, both his outer garments and his inner garment, were not bloodstained and torn by the whiplash of the blows struck as the condemned marched to his execution. If his clothes were blood-soaked and torn they would have been of no substantial value to the soldiers. The author of John writes:
The soldiers therefore, when they had crucified Jesus, took his outer garments [himatia] and made four parts, a part to every soldier and also the inner garment [khitona]; now the inner garment was seamless, woven in one piece. They said therefore to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall be;” that the Scripture might be fulfilled, “They divided my outer garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” (John 19:23-24; see also Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24, Luke 23:34)
If Jesus wore clothing on a scourged ripped-raw body, the clothing removed from him would be shredded and soaked in blood. For what purpose, except to fulfill Psalms 22:19, would the soldiers divide up such bloodied and totally torn clothing?
- The presumption must be that the clothing he wore to the execution site was in good, usable condition. It follows that Jesus’ physical condition was not greatly altered by what the evangelists call a “scourging.” Conversely, the tale of the parting of the garments could be a fabrication. It could be that there was neither a scourging nor aparting of the garments.
Victims of crucifixion were attached to the crossbeam by being tied or nailed, and then the crossbeam was raised, with the body affixed to it. The crossbeam was then inserted into a slot cut into the vertical beam (starous) permanently set in the ground. There are noGospel descriptions of the crucifixion that mention whether Jesus was tied or nailed to the cross. Information that Jesus was nailed to the cross is culled by some from alleged post-resurrection episodes. But, the claim that Jesus was nailed to the cross is never explicitly stated in the Synoptic Gospels. In Luke 24:39 the allegedly risen Jesus is made to say, “See my hands and my feet,” which can imply the imprint of nails or of rope burns. This verse is the only New Testament passage concerning the crucifixion to mention Jesus’ feet. John 20:25, 27 explicitly mention imprints of nails being present in Jesus’ hands. The presence of “the risen Jesus” in this scene illustrates the fictive mythological aspects of this episode. The question is, on the one hand, to what extent does it reflect an historic description of the means by which Jesus was attached to the cross and, on the other hand, to what extent does it reflect the early church’s mythmaking use of the Septuagint’s version of Psalms 22:17, which says: “They have dug [into] my hands and my feet”?
As mentioned above, the Synoptic Gospels say that Jesus did not carry the crossbeam for most of the way to the execution site. They maintain that following Jesus’ sentencing: “as they came out [of the governor’s palace], they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross” (Matthew 27:32; see also Mark 15:21 and Luke 23:26). This would show that Jesus’ hands were neither bound nor nailed to the crossbeam since it was easily transferred to Simon of Cyrene. Only John insists that Jesus bore his cross by himself (John 19:17).
Not by blood loss
Presuming Jesus was nailed to the cross, did blood oozing from the nail wounds cause his death?
- The Roman method of execution by crucifixion was designed as a punishment to be prolonged in order to serve as a lesson to both the victim and all onlookers.
- Since no vital organ would be pierced crucifixion usually caused a slow death.
- If the victim expired within a short time he would deprive his executioners of satisfactorily meting out the sentence in accordance with their concept of justice.
- Moreover, with a quick execution the purpose of the terror induced by the threat of crucifixion would be somewhat lost on society. Having the victim languish in agony for a number of days was a part of the crucifixion process. Any means of heightening the tortured victims pain which would cause undo shortening of the period spent on the cross would be self-defeating and, as such, avoided.
- Therefore, while nailing the victim to the cross, as opposed to the option of tying, was part of the punishment thought to have been used on Jesus, it did not, in itself, necessarily cause a shortening of the time spent on the cross before death occurred. In crucifying a victim, the Romans would simply not use methods of torture which shortened the time of suffering. Nailing was used because it added suffering, but it was still possible for a person to live for days nailed to the cross.
- Indeed, if nailing the victim to the cross made for a quick death through loss of blood Pilate would not have expressed surprise that Jesus had already died and would not have sought verification of this from the centurion (Mark 15:44).
- The amount of blood oozing from such wounds did not cause the victim to bleed to death.
- Oozing blood would be minimal prior to death because the arms were in an elevated position the blood pressure was very low and the large nails would have sealed the wounds.
- Surely, if there had been any significant blood loss the early Christians would have noted it and the evangelists would have enthusiastically introduced it into their narratives.
- Jesus’ blood was not shed during the process of death by crucifixion to the extent that it was the cause of death.
- It should be noted that none of the possible physical points of blood loss described in the Gospels conforms to that required in the actual shedding of blood sacrificial process found in the Jewish Scriptures.
Did a Roman soldier shed Jesus’ blood?
- John claims that “one of the soldiers pierced his [Jesus’] side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water” (John 19:34).
- According to this Gospel, the Roman soldiers did not break Jesus’ legs because he was already dead.
- Chronologically, John 19:33 establishes the time of the inflicting of the wound in Jesus’ side (John 19:34) as subsequent to his death.
- John’s sequence of events is contradicted in some manuscript versions of Matthew 27:49, which state: “And another man took a spear and pierced his side, and blood and water came out.”
- This addition to the verse places the time of the inflicting of the wound as prior to Jesus’ death.
- However, verse 49 is an interpolation unsupported by many ancient New Testament manuscripts. While this verse addition appears in the Codex Sinaiticus, in the Vatican Manuscript 1209 and in the Codex Ephraemi rescriptus it is omitted in Codex Alexandrinus and Bezae Codices, as well as in some other important manuscripts.
- Its insertion into the text of Matthew reflects an awareness of John 19:32-34.
- While John writes that Jesus was already dead when the soldier pierced his side with a spear and blood and water began to come out of the wound, the interpolated account in Matthew has him speared prior to death. This contradicts John’s sequence.
- Since all the manuscripts contain John 19:32-34, as presently constituted, but are not unanimous on the presence of Matthew’s addition, this addition is generally thought to be a later interpolation and is discounted.
- Therefore, the interpolation in Matthew is not acceptable evidence that Jesus was alive while being pierced with the spear and that he died from the subsequent loss of blood resulting from that stab wound.
- An incident of a soldier piercing the side of an already deceased victim does not constitute biblical blood atonement sacrifice.
- Blood oozing from a wound inflicted after death does not qualify as the shedding of blood required of an atonement offering.
- Biblically, in a blood atonement offering the animal must actually die as a result of blood loss by a properly inflicted wound.
- But, the piercing of Jesus’ body by a spear did not cause his death, nor was it the proper means of slaughter.
- Jesus did not die as a result of blood loss (Matthew 27:46-50, Mark 15:34-37, Luke 23:46, John 19:28-30).
- Jesus’ blood was not sacrificially shed by a Roman soldier’s spear thrust into his side.
Did Jesus fulfill the Torah’s requirements for blood sacrifice (Matthew 5:17-18)?
Under no circumstances can one say that Jesus shed his blood as a sin-offering as would be necessary under the conditions set by New Testament doctrine itself.
- It is not true that “Christ died for sins, once for all … so that he might bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18).
- Jesus did not die as a result of blood loss from any wounds. There was no shedding of blood, hence, no sacrifice!
- Some Christians maintain that Jesus died of a broken heart for the sins of mankind. This position is an error unsupported by medical research or Christian theology.
Where is the Christian’s blood atonement for sin?
- Hebrews 9:22 states that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. It does not say: “Without a broken heart, there is no forgiveness of sins.”
- If Jesus died in any way other than by the shedding of blood, he could not be the savior that is preached in Christian doctrine (Acts 13:38-39, 2 Corinthians 5:21).
- Accordingly, the sins of those who believe in Jesus as their atonement for sin remain unforgiven.
- What the New Testament claims is that it is not just any pre-crucifixion suffering by Jesus that brings “healing,” (atonement). His “wounds” did not bring atonement; it was his death that supposedly achieved this end.
- What is alleged to bring atonement is not the spilling of blood through blood sweating or scourging but rather the shedding of Jesus’ blood in death as an atonement sacrifice for sin. Therefore, “with his wounds we were healed” cannot be a reference to Jesus healing anyone (that is, bringing atonement) at any point in his life.
- What does “with his wounds we were healed” have to do with Jesus? Did he take upon himself the punishment that was due “us”?
- The author of 1 Peter gets it all wrong when he writes: “and he himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, that we might die to sins and live to righteousness; for by his wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
- What supposedly “healed”? Was it the scourging of Jesus or blood loss bringing on death? It is said that Jesus underwent a scourging as part of the preparation for crucifixion, but was anyone “healed” by his “wounds”?
- Isn’t it the Christian claim that Jesus’ death was a blood atonement sacrifice for mankind’s sins? Paul assures Christians: “In him [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Ephesians 1:7). Any suffering Jesus underwent prior to that moment of death does not come into consideration as a New Testament blood atonement sacrifice.
- Not only is scourging not in the category of a blood sacrifice but, in the case of Jesus, it would have been administered prior to the actual crucifixion and the death that ensued.
- According to Paul, it is “redemption through his blood” that Jesus brought atonement. Then, for a Christian there is nothing else that brings or effects atonement, only Jesus’ blood.
- There is no reliance in Christianity on Jesus’ alleged miracles, teachings or suffering prior to death for obtaining atonement, only his blood.
- According to this christology, if nothing effects atonement but Jesus’ blood shed in death (which clearly never happened), then, as stated above, that means that noteven the suffering allegedly undergone by Jesus prior to the crucifixion counts toward anything.
- Therefore, linking “with his wounds we are healed” to Jesus wearing a crown of thorns, or being scourged, or nailed to a cross, has no relevance in an attempt to link Jesus to the description of the ordeal undergone by the servant.
- For Christians “wounds” do not heal sins only the blood of Jesus. The trouble with this belief, however, is that Jesus’ blood was never shed.
Christians translate the meaning of “stripes” in order to allude to Jesus allegedly being whipped prior to his execution. The translation of “stripes” actually encompasses a wide range of physical abuse. “His wounds,” “his bruises,” rendered as “his stripes,” reflects the wide ranging cumulative results of centuries of beatings with fists, clubs, and whips suffered by the servant at the hands of his tormentors. Thus, it represents the very condition of exile itself and the suffering Israel must endure to achieve the spiritual and national regeneration needed to fulfill its role in God’s plan. Israel is often spoken of as “bruised” and “wounded” due to suffering at the hands of the nations, both those ordained by God and those representing the free will excesses of the nations (Jeremiah 30:12-17).
53:6: “the Lord has visited upon him the iniquity of us all”
The pre-Gospel church and its developing Christology
The pre-Gospel church developed its christology by utilizing biblical passages.
- The phrase “the Lord has visited upon him the iniquity of us all” found in Isaiah 53:6 was a significant source for the christological belief that Jesus died for the sins of the world. This unverifiable contention is belied by Jesus’ non-fulfillment of the sum total of Isaiah 53’s prophecy. The New Testament teaches that an innocent sinless Jesus literally took upon himself someone else’s guilt!
The Jewish Scriptures teach something entirely different.
- Only the blood of the sinner will suffice, where blood of the innocent has been shed: “[T]he land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it” (Numbers 35:33). Only the blood of the actual murderer (i.e. the sinner) can expiate the crime. The scriptural teaching has far wider application for “No man can by any means redeem his brother, or give to God a ransom for him” (Psalms 49:8).
- Each individual must personally atone for his sins; his sins cannot be literally transferred to another human being.
- The biblical doctrine is that God does not want innocent human blood to be shed. One person cannot transfer his guilt to another.
- The New Testament doctrine that Jesus’ blood was shed as atonement for sinners is totally inconsistent with the teachings of the Torah.
Isaiah 53:7: “as a sheep that before her shearers is dumb; and opened not his mouth”
The silence that was a bit too loud
Was Jesus humble and silent when he stood before the Jewish officials and then Pilate? In these encounters, Jesus did not show the humility and silence with which Isaiah describes the servant in verse 7.
Before the Jewish officials:
- The alleged encounter between the high priest, the elders, and Jesus is one of vigorous verbal exchange.
- The Synoptic Gospels claim, Jesus acknowledged before the Sanhedrin his claim that he was the Messiah.
- When the high priest asks him whether he is the Messiah he answers in the affirmative. Jesus declares: “I am, and you will see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62; see also Matthew 26:63-64, Luke 22:69-70). Matthew and Luke have Jesus answer the high priest in the affirmative, with a statement similar to that which John uses for Jesus’ answer to Pilate: “you say that I am” (Mark 15:2, Luke 23:3). This is not silence!
Jesus was not silent before Pilate:
- Jesus did not show humility and silence during his trial before Pilate.
- John claims that Jesus even taunted Pilate.
- When Pilate said: “Do you not know that I have authority to release you, and I have authority to crucify you?” Jesus defiantly answered: “You would have no authority over me, unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:10-11).
- John’s Jesus is depicted as skillfully defending himself.
- He pleads shrewdly that his messianic teaching was a nonviolent, “not of this world” movement, one which the Romans need not fear.
- At no time does he humble himself, but, on the contrary, presents a clever verbal defense before Pilate (the one man who could condemn him to death).
- Jesus claimed that his kingdom was not of this world, giving the impression that it would not be in conflict with the Empire. He wanted to convince Pilate that he was not the leader of a seditious movement and that his intentions were peaceful.
- Contrary to what many Christians would have us believe, the Gospels say that Jesus presented a strong defense before the Jewish officials and Pilate. He was not “dumb” before his accusers, Jewish or gentile, and it cannot be said of him that “he humbled himself and did not open his mouth.”
- Jesus declared himself to be a king. John’s Jesus with no sense of humility opens his mouth and declares to Pilate: “You say that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice” (John 18:37).
- It is farfetched to believe that after Jesus declares he is a king that Pilate went out to the Jews and said: “Behold, I am bringing him out to you, that you may know that I find no guilt in him” (John 19:4).
- Jesus’ alleged regal reception upon his arrival in Jerusalem by an enthusiastic crowd could not have gone unnoticed by Pilate (Matthew 21:8-11). Declaring oneself to be a king without being appointed or recognized as such by the emperor could only be interpreted by Pilate as a seditious act and a capital offense the punishment of which was within his exclusive jurisdiction.
The futility of identifying Jesus with the sheep metaphor
There is no literal or typological parallelism between Jesus and “as a sheep that before her shearers is dumb; and opened not his mouth.”
- A sheep led to its slaughter is oblivious to its fate.
- Ignorance is why the animal is silent.
- Jesus was not silent.
- Jesus was supposedly not ignorant of his role or fate and he was not led unresisting and oblivious to his death.
- Jesus complained of his innocence during his alleged interrogation by the high priests who are said to have ordered his arrest (John 18:19-20)—and, in so doing, he made false statements denying he taught in secrecy.
- Jesus argued with Pilate during their encounter and protested his innocence (John 18:33-38, 19:10-11).
- Jesus is also said to have complained to God concerning his impending fate.
- Although Jesus supposedly ultimately agreed to comply with the will of God, in the Garden of Gethsemane he first asked that God not have him die (Matthew 26:39, Luke 22:42).
- It is also said that Jesus cried out in sorrowful disappointment when he was hanging on the cross, asking why God abandoned him (Matthew 27:46).
- This raises a crucial question: Did Jesus not know his death was essential for mankind’s salvation?
The crucial answer:
- He did not expect to die and all supposed self-predictions to the contrary are later editions to the narrative.
The crucial conclusion:
- On examination of the claims made on behalf of Jesus, when they are compared to what the passage says of the servant they are found to be seriously lacking any sort of fulfillment.
- Jesus is simply not the servant.
53:8: “As a result of the transgression of my people he has been afflicted.”
The literal rendering of this verse is: “From the transgression of my people the stroke [nega‘] to them.” That is, because of the transgressions of the gentiles the servant suffered.
- As regards the word lamo, “to them,” grammarians recognize that it is also in a sense singular, “to him” (as it is in non-poetic usage), because it agrees with certain singular nouns.
- As in this verse, lamo, the poetic form of lahem (“to them”), is used often in referring to a collective noun. Examples are, Genesis 9:26 (where it refers to Shem, that is, the descendants of Shem); Psalms 28:8 where it refers to the people of verse 9; Psalms 73:10 (also in reference to “people”); Isaiah 44:15 (in reference to ’el [a god] and pesel [a carved image], which are also to be understood respectively as referring collectively to all false gods); and finally Isaiah 53:8.
- The translator of the Hebrew, into the Greek Septuagint, understood the proper use of lamo when rendering Isaiah 44:15: “That it might be for men to burn: and having taken part of it he warms himself; and they burn part of it; and bake loaves thereon; and the rest they make for themselves gods, and they worship them.”
- Lamo is generally rendered “to him” as it refers to the collective noun, servant, that is, the Jewish people, not a single individual. In such an instance, lamo can be translated in the singular. Although it must always be understood to be in the plural in relation to what numerically constitutes the entity that is given the appellativeservant.
- The plural nature of the poetic form lamo is supported by the manner in which it is used in the Jewish Scriptures. Isaiah uses lamo eleven times: 16:4, 23:1, 26:14, 26:16, 30:5, 35:8, 43:8, 44:7, 44:15, 48:21, and 53:8. This poetic usage especially works well in verse 8.
- Although the subject of chapter 53 is given throughout in the singular, the change to the plural form in verse 8 is fully accounted for when the servant of God is considered to stand collectively for the people of Israel. That the plural lamo in verse 8 refers to the servant as a collective noun excludes any possibility that it pertains to an individual. Therefore, it cannot refer to Jesus.
53:9: “his grave was set with the wicked”
The burial of Jesus
How was Jesus’ grave “set with the wicked”?
- Some Christians connect “wicked” with the two lestai (“thieves,” “brigands”) executed alongside Jesus (Matthew 27:38, Mark 15:27; “others,” in John 19:18).
- Other Christians connect the lestai with, “a company of evil-doers have enclosed me” (Psalms 22:17 [verse 16 in some versions]).
- But, crucifixion was not the punishment for common criminals. Lestai was a derogatory Roman term for insurrectionists, who, by armed action opposed Roman rule. These two men were more likely put to death for opposing Roman rule of the land of Israel and not for being “wicked.” In any case, the Gospels say, Jesus wasnot buried with them.
The point is made by Christians that he was buried in a new empty tomb. As such, he was buried alone and there is nothing in the New Testament to illustrate how “his [Jesus’] grave was set with the wicked.”
53:9: “and his grave was set … with the rich in his deaths”
The burial companions: first the wicked now the rich.
How was Jesus’ grave “set … with the rich in his deaths”?
- Christians identify Jesus as the subject of “with the rich in his deaths” to be in conformity with the Gospel of Matthew.
- It is only in Matthew’s narrative that Joseph of Arimathea is identified as a “rich man” (Matthew 27:57) who laid the corpse of Jesus “in his own new tomb” (Matthew 27:60).
- In Mark he is described simply as “a prominent member of the Council” (Mark 15:43).
- Luke describes him as “a member of the Council, a good and righteous man” (Luke 23:50).
- In John he is “a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one” (John 19:38).
- It is not by chance that Matthew 27:57 specifically identifies Joseph as “a rich man from Arimathea.” Given Matthew’s propensity for adding biblical allusion to his narrative it is no wonder that he alone adds that Joseph was rich and that he placed Jesus’ corpse in his own tomb thereby supposedly fulfilling: “And his grave was set . . . with the rich.”
- The character of Joseph of Arimathea was introduced into Matthew’s Gospel narrative as a rich man in order to show a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:9, which says that God’s servant will be buried “with the rich.” This is but one more example of Matthew attempting to introduce supposed biblical “fulfillment of prophecy” into his narrative. The material peculiar to Matthew is a creation of its author’s own imagination.
- It should be emphasized that despite the claim that Jesus was buried in a rich man’s tomb he was not buried “with the rich.”
- The Gospels make a point of stating that Jesus alone was buried in the tomb (Luke 23:53, John 19:41). Thus, if Jesus was buried in the new tomb of Joseph then he was buried with neither the wicked nor rich, but alone.
- Not only was Jesus not buried with the wicked and the rich he was also not the servant.
53:9: “although he had done no violence”
The violent side of Jesus
The Gospels record a number of instances where Jesus did commit acts of violence.
- Whip in hand, causing a fracas, he attacked the merchants in the Temple area (Matthew 21:12, Mark 11:15-16, Luke 19:45, John 2:15).
- He destroyed a fig tree for not having fruit out of season (Matthew 21:18-21, Mark 11:13-14).
- He caused the death, by drowning, of a herd of swine by allowing demons to purposely enter their bodies (Matthew 8:32, Mark 5:13, Luke 8:33).
Were Jesus’ actions justified?
Biblically, it would not matter if Jesus actions were justified. The question is, “Did this individual literally perform violent acts?”
- All New Testament applications of Isaiah 53 to Jesus presume a literal fulfillment.
- A literal application to Jesus of the phrase “he had done no violence” is not possible.
- The Gospels inadvertently indicate that forms of violence were perpetrated by Jesus.
- By the very fact that an individual committed violent acts, even if they can be justified, he does not qualify as one having done no violence.
- These are acts of violence under any circumstance and if applied literally to an individual that person could not be the fulfillment of verse 9.
- Jesus’ acts of violence demonstrate that he did not literally fulfill this description of the servant as prescribed by the New Testament citations of Isaiah 53.
Christians provide novel reasons for Jesus’ destructive actions, but they still remain acts of violence. All the excuses cannot hide the fact that these violent acts disqualify Jesus from being the servant. One cannot excuse his actions as those of a supernatural being, who allegedly had the authority to do as he pleased. Do what he will, Jesus would still be disqualified from being the servant.
Jesus and his philosophy of violence
Jesus was not adverse to using violence and held no general principle against violent action.
- If Jesus was truly non-violent he could not have uttered his call to family strife and divisiveness. He proudly avowed that his is a mission which will cause discord and disturb the universal peace and bring war to the world (Matthew 10:34-35, Luke 12:49-53).
- Jesus called for his opponents to be brought before him for summary execution. He declared: “But these enemies of mine who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here, and slay them in my presence” (Luke 19:27).
- The use of violence is not always an act of evil. But, in exploring the teachings of Jesus, we are not just dealing with his physical violence, but also with a philosophy of violence.
- When one is a teacher, especially when one is considered an authoritative teacher to his followers whose every word has power to transform into actions how one acts is as important as what one teaches. And if you do violent actions—you are violent!
Words of forgiveness or hypocrisy
Could Jesus have preached violence or hated anyone when he spoke words of forgiveness and non-resistance to wickedness? Did he not say: “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27), “Do not resist him that is wicked; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39) and, alternately: “To him that strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also” (Luke 6:29)? These verses are taken as representative of the extraordinary forgiveness supposedly taught and exercised by Jesus himself.
- However, “turn the other cheek” was not practiced by Jesus himself. Jesus, it is said, preached turning the other cheek, loving one’s neighbor and praying for them, and forgiving those who wrong you.
- But, when did Jesus manifest such behavior in his personal relationships, during his lifetime? Was it his cursing of the Pharisees (Matthew 23), his threat of violent retribution on cities that rejected his message (Matthew 11:20-24, Luke 10:13-15), or his condemnation to death of Jews who would not accept him (Luke 19:27)?
- Jesus himself never turned the other cheek. He never forgave anyone who rejected his claims. He never forgave anyone who wronged or criticized him. He responded to his opponents, not with passive resistance, but by answering criticism with criticism, and by reviling and threatening his adversaries. John’s Jesus, when beaten by an officer, instead of offering quietly his other cheek argues with him (John 18:22-23).
- Jesus displayed irrational hatred. He condemns the Jewish people for things that happened even before the time of Abraham, their father, saying: “[U]pon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you slew between the Temple and the altar” (Matthew 23:35).
- The Gospels’ Jesus irrationally denounced the entire Jewish people for murders neither they nor their fathers committed. He holds them liable for sins in which they could have no part because they were committed even before the birth of Abraham, the progenitor of the nation of Israel.
- Instead of forgiving Judas for betraying him he said: “But woe to that man through whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matthew 26:24).
- Who did Jesus forgive? Jesus only forgave those who wronged others. Whenever an opportunity to personally forgive others presented itself he always declined. Where is Jesus’ non-violence where is his love and forgiveness of enemies?
Jesus disqualified to be the servant
Don’t blame God.
- Perhaps those who believe Jesus was God or authorized by God have no problem with his teachings and actions. However, he still cannot qualify to be the servant of Isaiah 53.
- If this passage is a literal fulfillment by Jesus then there must be total fulfillment by him.
53:9: “neither was there any deceit in his mouth”
A Parable on Deceit
Once upon a time, in a far off city a man entered the city’s largest church and announced: “Destroy this church and in three days I will raise it up.” Some shrugged there their shoulders and said to each other “he’s a madman” others just scoffed and said “why is he disrupting the service?” But others said, “You know, we could use a new building and he seems like an honorable fellow.” Before you could imagine the last group prevailed. The congregation agreed to destroy the building in anticipation of a beautiful new building ready in three days. When the appointed time for the new building arrived the entire congregation stood waiting but nothing happened, the site remained a ruin. “Where is our new building”? They demanded. “Oh, you misunderstood me,” he declared innocently, “I meant that if you executed me, I would be raised up in three days,” although he knew all along that they did not understand his true meaning.
- What would you call such an individual?
- Would you call him a liar, a lunatic, or just simply deceitful?
- Do you have any other description you would use to describe such a person?
After thinking about this parable read the following: “[Jesus said to a crowd standing in the Jerusalem Temple:] ‘Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews therefore said, ‘It took forty-six years to build this Temple, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the temple of his body’” (John 2:19-21). How fortunate that the Jews did not take him at his word.
- The people were led to believe that he meant the Temple in Jerusalem when he actually spoke of “the temple of his body” (John 2:21).
- John’s Jesus certainly knew they misunderstood his meaning. Yet, he did not clarify what he meant.
- Jesus own secret meaning was clearly hidden from those to whom he spoke. His audience did not infer that Jesus meant anything other than the Jerusalem Temple.
- What would you call an individual such as Jesus, a liar, a lunatic or just simply deceitful?
- I know what you could not call him ̶ the Servant who had no “deceit in his mouth.”
53:9: “neither was there any deceit in his mouth”
The issue of Jesus’ deceitful behavior
Is there any indication that Jesus was deceitful to friend and foe alike?
Empty promises to “believers:”
Jesus said: “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children, for my sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the world to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30).
He deceived his disciples promising a hundredfold of material possessions (“houses” and “farms”) in this life to all who left everything to follow him.
- It is obvious from Acts and subsequent Christian history that this would not be so.
- Material comfort does not necessarily come to those who become Christians nor do all find figurative compensation for family among fellow Christians.
- Persecution is also not the lot of most converts to Christianity.
- There is no reason to assume that conversion to Christianity brings a hundredfold increase
in any of these things or the additional promise of eternal life.
Matthew’s Jesus sates: “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:28).
- Jesus’ disciples must have accepted this statement at face value. Thus, they mistakenly believed his false assurance that the messianic kingdom was about to be established.
- When the Gospels’ Jesus assured his disciples that the end of the world order and his own triumphant return to judge all men would occur before the generation then living had passed away (Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32), he used deceit, for he knew that this was not true. In the alleged post-resurrection era he still is quoted as promising a return in the near future, with its accompanying rewards (Revelation 22:7, 12, 20).
Deceitful misleading of “unbelievers”
We have seen above how Jesus misled the people who heard him into believing things, which were completely opposite to what he really meant. John’s Jesus, speaking in a deceitful manner declared: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). The people were led to believe that he meant the Temple in Jerusalem when he actually spoke of “the temple of his body” (John 2:21). As we have noted, Jesus’ own secret meaning was clearly hidden from those to whom he spoke. Jesus’ audience did not infer from his deceptive remark that he meant anything other than the Jerusalem Temple.
John stated that when Jesus appeared before the high priest and the elders of Israel he declared that he was never secretive, but had always been open about his mission and its meaning.
Jesus declared: “I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in a synagogue and in the Temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret. Why do you question me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; behold, these know what I said” (John 18:20-21).
A study of the Gospels reveals that this statement was a falsehood. The fact is that Jesus did not want the masses to understand him and deliberately planned that his message be secretive. The Gospels state that on a number of occasions Jesus demanded secrecy. The Gospels indicate that few, if any, people understood the true meaning of Jesus’ teachings.
Jesus spoke in parables whose meanings were deliberately hidden from those who heard them.
- The Gospels quote Jesus as saying that he did not want everyone who heard him to understand his message and be saved. This is contrary to 2 Peter 3:9, which claims that “The Lord is … patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
- He is said to have taught his disciples: “To you has been given the secret [mysterion] of the kingdom of God; but those who are outside get everything in parables, so that [hina] while seeing, they may see and not perceive; and while hearing, they may hear and not understand; lest they return again and be forgiven” (Mark 4:11-12; see also Matthew 13:13-15, Luke 8:10).
Salvation was reserved for the select few
Jesus claimed that he revealed the meaning of his esoteric declarations (the parables) only to his disciples (Matthew 13:10-11; Mark 4:10-12, 34; Luke 8:9-10). Yet even that was untrue. Jesus knew very well that the disciples did not understand everything he told them (Mark 9:32; Luke 9:45, 18:34) and Jesus said and did things secretively so that the multitudes should not understand him. Why the secrecy? Why not a public proclamation instead? Matthew 12:15-21 attempts to show that Jesus’ appeal to secrecy was a fulfillment of a prophetic utterance found in a passage in Isaiah (Isaiah 42:1-4).
- However, the passage can only relate to what Matthew infers by the most farfetched analogy and the use of secrecy would still disqualify Jesus from being the servant.
- The Gospels’ Jesus demanded that his purported messianic identity and/or ability to cure ailments be kept secret by demons (Mark 1:34, 3:11-12; Luke 4:41), his followers (Matthew 16:20, Mark 8:30, Luke 9:21), and those healed (Matthew 8:3-4, 12:15-16; Mark 1:44, 5:43, 7:36; Luke 5:14, 8:56).
The Gospels state that Jesus claimed that he always spoke openly, yet, he never proclaimed himself publicly as Messiah.
- According to John, he made a private statement concerning his messianic pretentions to a Samaritan woman (John 4:25-26). But, such news from a Samaritan would not be of any consequence to the Jewish people.
- When he spoke to Jews his claims were in the form of enigmatic presentations which involved apparent paradoxes regarding the nature and identity of the Messiah; yet they were given without providing a solution (Mark 4:11-12).
- On a visit to the Temple it is alleged that Jesus was asked to tell “plainly” if he was the Messiah. He parried the question by presenting an ambiguous answer—“I told you but you do not believe” (John 10:24-25).
- As we have seen, the Gospels show that he had only given them hints in parables, knowing in advance they would not understand (Matthew 13:13-15, Mark 4:11-12, Luke 8:10).
- When Peter allegedly declared: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16), Jesus gave specific instructions to his disciples. They were to refrain from disclosing his messianic identity—they were to keep it secret (Matthew 16:20).
Who allegedly raised Jesus?
Was it God?
- Peter alleges that God raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 2:24; 2:32; 3:15, 26; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40).
- Paul also agrees with Peter (Acts 13:30, 33, 34, 37, 17:31; Romans 4:24, 6:4, 8:11, 10:9; 1 Corinthians 6:14, 15:15; 2 Corinthians 4:14; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:10); Hebrews 13:20 and 1 Peter 1:21 also allege that God raised Jesus up.
Was it Jesus?
- John’s Jesus says, referring to his body: “I will raise it up” (John 2:19).
- If Peter, et al, are correct than John’s Jesus is not only deceptive but a blatant liar.
Lying to Pilate
Did Jesus lead a peaceful group?
- According to John 18:36, Jesus said to Pilate: “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews.” Jesus implies that his followers knew his kingdom was not of this world and would not use violence. But, the truth is that they expected Jesus to restore the kingdom of Israel in a terrestrial sense (e.g. Luke 24:21). Even after his death Jesus’ followers are said to have looked forward to a speedy return which would usher in the overthrow of the Roman Empire. His followers are said to ask: “Lord will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6).
- Moreover, just a few hours before his meeting Pilate, Jesus had ordered the disciples to buy swords if they had none (Luke 22:36), and the disciples responded by saying that two swords were available (Luke 22:38). Two swords, which may be practical for assassination.
53:10: “If he would offer himself as a guilt-offering”
The suffering servant as a guilt-offering
Following the initial declaration that it was God’s will for the servant to suffer, the verse is written as a conditional statement. If condition A is satisfied, then the outcome B will occur. That is, the rewards of verse 10 are contingent on the servant’s willingness to offer himself as an asham, “guilt-offering.”
- In a literal sense the verse says, “If his soul places herself [tasim] as a guilt-offering.” The herself is referring to the soul (nefesh) of the servant, nefesh being a feminine noun.
- Grammatically tasim could be female third person (she will place, set, put) or masculine second person (you will place), but the female fits best since nefesh is a feminine noun.
- The verse promises the servant poetically that if his soul is willing to offer itself in the service of God as if it were a guilt-offering he will receive rewards.
- Nevertheless, martyrdom is no stranger to the servant community with many coming to the brink of death and others dying for the Sanctification of the Name of God.
- As the servant’s rewards follow after the meeting of the conditional requirements it is a further indication that the servant entity as a whole will not die as an actual guilt-offering.
- God does not sin and if He lessened Himself to do so He would not be God. If Jesus was an incarnate part of God he had no free will to sin or choose an evil path. He had to die and shed his blood for the remission of sin as alleged by the New Testament. Without the choice provided by free will could Jesus do otherwise than carry out the assignment he was programed to do? If an incarnate Jesus had gone against the wishes of the Godhead the cosmic plans for salvation describe in the New Testament and developed by later Christian theologians and church councils would have crumbled. In other words, as described in the New Testament, Jesus’ incarnate death was not a free will decision on his part but a preprogramed decision decided upon prior to his assuming a fleshly body.
- However, God’s offer is conditional upon a free will acceptance by the servant of his fate here and now on earth. It is not an offer the personal rewards for which are agreed upon in a previous pre-existence prior to the servant’s birth.
Can Jesus be a guilt-offering who literally takes upon himself the sins of those who trust in him?
- The asham, as all other sacrifices, must be perfect, without spot, and without blemish (Leviticus 22:19-22).
- Therefore, the New Testament authors needed to portray Jesus as literally being as “a lamb unblemished and spotless” (1 Peter 1:19) who “offered himself without blemish to God” (Hebrews 9:14).
- Jesus was none of these so the New Testament authors claimed he was unblemished because he was sinless.
- This conveniently unverifiable contention is not found in the Jewish Scriptures. There is no proof that Jesus was sinless, only the claim that he was.
One must address the fact that human sacrifice is abhorrent to God (e.g. Leviticus 18:21, 20:2-5). Biblical sacrifice is animal specific and is not speaking metaphorically of human self-sacrifice.
- There is no support in the Jewish Scriptures for a one-time superlative human sacrifice.
- Jesus’ alleged sacrifice is said to have been a literal self-sacrifice of himself (Hebrews 9:26). But, as a human being, he was unfit for sacrificial purposes and no such sacrificial provision is found in the Jewish Scriptures.
According to Paul, the Torah was in effect until Jesus brought it to an end by his blood shed on the cross (Galatians 3:24-25, Colossians 2:14). There is no mention in the Jewish Scriptures of a perfect human sacrifice bringing the Law to an end. In any case, under the criteria established by Paul, Jesus was not a valid sacrifice under the laws of the Torah. The Torah would be in effect up until the very moment of his death, so his death could not have brought the Torah to an end. Why? As a human he would have been an invalid sacrifice to begin with. Therefore, the effect of Jesus’ death on the sacrificial system would have been zero. Outside of New Testament claims the reality is that Jesus’ death had nosalvific function.
Compare the Torah’s requirements for the sacrificial offering with Jesus as an alleged offering.
- The Torah is specific as to the species, age, physical condition, and manner of application of the blood to the altar of the sacrificial animal.
- All biblical sacrificial offerings have to be physically unblemished with no cuts or deformities.
- But, nothing is said of it being “sinless.” It is an animal, after all.
- As for physical blemishes, Jesus was circumcised and Paul referred to it as mutilation (Philippians 3:2) and castration (Galatians 5:12).
- Jesus is also said to have been beaten and whipped prior to his execution (Matthew 27:26, 30; Mark 15:19, John 19:3). This would also disqualify an offering.
Making the unsuitable suitable New Testament style
- It is alleged that Jesus was spiritually pure and sinless and that his supposed sacrificial death was prefigured in the Jewish Scriptures by images and types (e.g. Isaiah 53, Psalm 22).
- But who says he was spiritually pure and sinless? Who says his death was prefigured in the Jewish Scriptures? Only the tendentiously self-serving authors of the New Testament and their adherents!
But, why do the New Testament authors make these claims when they are not in the Jewish Scriptures?
- The answer is clear: How else can they explain Jesus being completely unsuited as a biblical atonement sacrifice other than to go on the offensive and contend that the biblical sacrificial system was a “shadow” which only prefigured him but did not apply to him?
- Hebrews alleges: “For the Law … has a shadow of the good things to come [and] not the very form [literally image] of things” (Hebrews 10:1, see also Colossians 2:17). But this is a claim unsubstantiated except in the minds of those who unquestioning accept the New Testament as if it were true.
Blood shed and vicarious suffering: The Torah view
- The blood shed is all-important in the symbolic ritual of animal sacrifice done in the Temple, but forgiveness of sin can be obtained without the sacrificial aspect.
- The sin-offering can help make atonement by being part of the Temple ritual, but it isnot required for forgiveness. Only repentance is required.
- Repentance is a turning point of the heart and mind from sin. This is made clear in Psalms 30:2-3; 40:2, 7 and Micah 6:6-8.
- Any suffering undergone by the sin-offering either leading up to or at the time of death itself is not what achieves the atonement.
- Atonement is never vicarious.
- The suffering of one being cannot atone for the sins of another (Ezekiel 18:20-22, 26-28). Neither the servant, nor a sacrificial animal, nor Jesus, can literally take on the punishment of another. They need not and they cannot vicariously atone.
- Only the sinner can suffer for, or repent from, his sins.
- Hebrews claims that Jesus fulfilled that which the animal blood supposedly only foreshadowed (Hebrews 9:12-14).
- Jesus execution simply does not fulfill fundamental sacrificial requirements set by the Torah.
- The crucifixion preparatory treatment, the national origins of his executioners, the fact that he was a human being, the geographic location of his death, the lack of a death caused by a literal shedding of blood respectively would render any potential offering as unfit for consideration as a fulfillment of a biblically required sacrifice.
- If the New Testament is a continuation of what Christians call the “Old Testament,” it must harmonize with the “Old Testament”—false comparisons will not suffice.
- The New Testament authors picked and chose what suited them in order to make it seem as if Jesus was a valid sacrifice and that he willingly offered himself as a guilt-offering.
Did Jesus suffer vicariously for the sins of mankind?
Jesus is often portrayed as suffering vicariously for the sins of mankind.
- No support for such a doctrine is to be found in verse 10. The verse does not say that the servant offered himself on behalf of others. Absolutely nothing is said about offering oneself for other people’s sins.
- The verse says, “If he would offer himself as a guilt-offering,” that is, a figurative expression concerning the servant’s willingness to devote himself wholeheartedly to the purposes of God in order that “the purposes of the Lord will prosper by his hand.”
- Does this use of the conditional mean that if Jesus is the servant he had a choice? God’s promises of reward to the servant are conditional: “If he would … he shall see.…” But, the Jesus of the New Testament did not have this option of free will.
- If Jesus was part of the Godhead incarnate or a supernatural being sent by God there was no risk of absolute failure and defeat. But, he also did not have a free will choice to abandon his mandate from God. If he was the all-knowing god-man Christian mythology claims him to be when it comes to his alleged mission there could be no question as to whether or not he would fulfill his destiny (cf. Philippians 2:6-8).
- Risk is something for mere mortals, possessed of free will who despite God’s foreknowledge of what choice will be made, are left with the final decision. There should be no need for God to promise a reward on condition that Jesus fulfills His wishes (“If he would”). If Jesus is all that Christianity claims he is, then God knew that this incarnate sinless supernatural being would fulfill all that was required of him right on schedule. If Jesus is part of God then he is ontologically incapable of sin.
- There was no reason to reward one who is said to be perfection incarnate and an equal part of the triune deity with having children and prolongation of days. It certainly makes no sense to think God would promise to reward such a heaven bound eternal being with having children and prolongation of days. Such things are promised to humans not to one who is supposedly eternal.
- The very use of the conditional shows that verse 10 could not be referring to Jesus.
Self-sacrifice for others or self-promotion to more honors and power?
According to the New Testament, Jesus had specific knowledge of his mission on earth and his destiny in heaven. For example: John’s Jesus said: “I … came down from heaven” (John 6:51) and “I know where I came from, and where I am going” (John 8:14). Matthew’s Jesus told his disciples that “he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests, and be killed, and be raised on the third day” (Matthew 16:21). It is even maintained that the Pharisees knew of his prediction that “After three days I am to rise again” (Matthew 27:63).
- What he supposedly left temporarily in heaven and his alleged additional rewards on his heavenly return are found in Philippians 2:6-11: Before, “He existed in the form of God”; after, “God highly exalted him,” “bestowed on him the name which is above every name,” “every knee should bow [to Jesus] in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth,” and “every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord.”
- Isn’t it strange to say that God rewarded part of Himself for doing what he commanded Himself to do?
- For this increased heavenly reward, it is said, Jesus knowingly gave up a transitory earthly existence devoid of luxury.
- Where was the sacrifice if he knew exactly what his heavenly rewards would be?
53:10: “he shall see seed”
- The expression in the verse is “see seed” (yireh zer‘a) and appears only here. The absence of a possessive pronominal suffix is a common feature in biblical Hebrew and is understood from the context (e.g. Isaiah 25:11, 59:2, 49:16, 32:11, 33:24, 41:1, 49:22, 65:21.
- Zer‘a, refers to actual physical offspring or descendants (Psalms 22:31, Isaiah 54:3). It is never used symbolically in the Jewish Scriptures.
- Christians claim that “he shall see seed” is symbolic and refers to the increase in number of those who believe in Jesus.
- Christians interpret certain verses in the Scriptures (Genesis 3:15, 38:8; Isaiah 1:4, 57:4; Malachi 2:15; Psalms 22:31; Proverbs 11:21) as referring only symbolically to “bodily seed.” The Christian interpretation is unwarranted, since in each of these verses “seed” is better taken in its usual literal physical sense.
- For example, Isaiah 57: There the prophet castigates certain individuals (not the nation as a whole) for perpetuating the idolatrous practices of their parents. These verses are a scathing denunciation of wicked offspring who uphold the sinful ways of their parents.
- Isaiah calls them “sons of the sorceress, the seed of adulterers and the harlot” (verse 3).
- He then asks: “Are you not children of transgression, a seed of falsehood?” (verse 4), that is, children of parents who live lives of falsehood.
- They are what the prophet has earlier termed a “seed of evil-doers” (Isaiah 1:4), that is, children of parents who do evil deeds.
- The people spoken to in Isaiah 57 were conceived in adultery and harlotry; they are the resultant products of transgression and falsehood. Literally, they are children born as a result of parental transgression, a seed born as a result of parental falsehood. When referring to the sins of the parents, the word zer‘a is used since they are literally the physical children of these transgressors. But, these same children are also the disciples, banim (“sons”), of the sorceress (that is, practitioners of sorcery and divination).
- The word bein (literally “son”) may figuratively mean “disciples” (2 Kings 2:3, 5, 7, 15).
- Zer‘a (“seed”) is never used in this sense.
- For example: “And Abram said: ‘Behold to me You have given no seed [zer‘a], and, see the son [ben] of my house is my heir.’ And, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying: ‘This man shall not be your heir, but he that shall come forth out of your own bowels shall be your heir’” (Genesis 15:3-4). Zer‘a must always be taken literally to mean physical descendants.
- Since zer‘a refers to one’s physical descendants the servant must have children.
- Since Jesus had no children of his own, the promise that the servant “shall see seed” rules out the possibility that Jesus is the servant.
53:10: “he shall prolong days”
The concept of prolonging of days and that of gaining eternal life:
- The concept of a prolonged life cannot be treated as the equivalent of eternal life because in an eternal context, time of any duration is of no consequence. Consequently, one cannot speak of an eternal being as having his days prolonged: “Are Your days as the days of man, or Your years as a man’s days?” (Job 10:5). God must be referred to as eternal: “The number of his years is unsearchable” (Job 36:26). He is the first, He is the last, He cannot be anything else.
- Prolonging the days of one who is already supposed to be eternal would make his life longer than eternity. That is an obvious impossibility.
- Prolonging of life implies earthly mortality, a cut-off date in the future, while the term eternal life refers to immortality.
- The phrase “prolonged life” can only relate to the limited bodily existence in this world, and not to the endlessness of eternal life.
- Can “he shall prolong days” be applied to Jesus in heaven or on earth? If, after his alleged resurrection Jesus returned to heaven to become an eternal heavenly being again, this stage of his existence cannot be appropriately referred to as prolongation of days.
- How can such a promise have any meaning for Jesus, if he is viewed as being a supernatural being of divine substance and whose existence is believed by Christians to be eternal?
- There would be no need for one part of God to assure a fellow member of an eternal triune deity an everlasting life.
- “He shall prolong days,” can also not be applied to the human Jesus, who died young and childless. If the promise of prolonged days is applied to the human Jesus, it is an empty promise.
- Since the blessings of seeing children and prolonging life are only appropriate when applied to a mortal man and not to an immortal being, these blessings cannot be applied to the Jesus of Christian theology
- Some Christians argue that “he shall see seed” refers to God seeing the birth of Jesus and “he shall prolong days” refers to God resurrecting Jesus. That would make these two promises into a parenthetical statement having no connection with the conditional nature of the verse. Their argument makes absolutely no sense!
53:11: “From the labor of his soul he shall see; he shall be satisfied.”
Christian commentators claim that the life’s work of Jesus is reflected in verse 11.
- Certainly, the Gospels’ Jesus was not “satisfied” with what he accomplished during his lifetime; this is indicated by what he said on the cross. There, it is said, he cried out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34).
- The argument that verse 11 refers to the supposedly heavenly Jesus subsequent to his death, becoming increasingly satisfied as his following grew, is of little help since this verse deals with an earthly being.
- If Jesus was an equal partner in the triune deity, he would not have had to ask his “Father” to “forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). He himself would have been able to bear iniquities and forgive sins without invoking the assistance of God the Father. But, then again, the Gospels’ Jesus never forgave anyone who he felt wronged him. He only advised others to forgive.
- Verse 11 is a continuation of the thoughts expressed in the preceding verse. Thus, the pericope suggests that from the servant’s toil and travail on behalf of the purposes of the Lord, “he shall be satisfied” at the outcome of his long struggle. The servant will be pleased with the abundant material and spiritual fulfillments that he will “see” occur.
53:11: “With his knowledge the righteous one, my servant, shall cause many to be just. And their iniquities he shall bear.”
God’s servant will spread the knowledge of His law.
- God’s recognition and acceptance of the faithful servant’s many sacrifices made over the centuries of exile become apparent when he is vindicated as righteous and innocent before the nations of the world.
- Moreover, the servant’s actions on behalf of the nations will eventually cause righteousness to spread among them as well.
Did the teachings of Jesus uplift the nations? Did they become more just or righteous when they converted or forced others to convert, many time accompanied by much bloodshed
- One can certainly point to righteous deeds done in the name of Jesus.
Nevertheless, at the same time horrific harm has been done to large segments of humanity in the name of Jesus. The death toll in bringing the supposed “salvation of Christ” to the world has been staggering.
- Countless atrocities have been committed in the name of Jesus by those professing to be his followers.
- Does Jesus only get credit for the good but is not responsible for the bad?
- Is there tangible proof to support the claim that Jesus at any time bears the iniquities of anyone?
53:12: “I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the mighty”
There is a great divide between truth (Isaiah) and fiction (the New Testament).
To have or to have nothing that is the question. What portion did Jesus allegedly have and when did he get it?
- How is a Christian interpretation of “I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the mighty,” where the servant receives “a portion with the great” to be reconciled with Daniel 9:26: “And after the sixty-two weeks an anointed one shall be cut off, and he shall have nothing [v’ein lo].” The correct rendering ofv’ein lo is he has nothing” or “he shall have nothing.”
- Isaiah speaks of the servant whom he repeatedly refers to as Israel and Daniel speaks of “an anointed one” historically identified with the High Priest Alexander Yannai. Christians incorrectly identify this anointed one as being Jesus.
Understanding the problem Christians face.
Reminder: That which is in any way separate from God is not part of the being of God.
- V’ein lo (he shall have nothing) cannot refer to Jesus’ situation at or after death, for, unlike mere mortal bodies which decay after death, Christians claim that Jesus rose bodily into heaven, where he sits at the “right hand of the throne of Majesty.”
- V’ein lo certainly could not refer to a lack of wealth or followers, for this would not distinguish Jesus from the great majority of the world’s population.
- One who “has nothing” (Daniel 9:26) does not receive “a portion with the great” (Isaiah 53:12), does not rise bodily to heaven (Acts 1:9), and does not sit at the “right hand of the throne of the Majesty” (Hebrews 8:1).
- It is precisely with his death that Jesus was allegedly able to attain his rewards.
- From their respective contexts, it is clear that, if applied to the Jesus of Christian theology Daniel 9:26 and Isaiah 53:12 would have to apply to a post-resurrection period, as well as cancel each other out. Therefore, “he shall have nothing” cannot refer to the Jesus of Christian theology. According to Paul, Jesus came into his greatest rewards only after his earthly death, and, indeed, as a result of that death (Philippians 2:5-11) and John’s Jesus says that “the Father loves me, because I lay down my soul, that I might take it again” (John 10:17).
- If verse 12 applies to Jesus, then Daniel’s statement, “he shall have nothing,” cannot refer to him, for Jesus’ rewards could only have been actually guaranteed from the moment he was “cut off.” To apply these two verses to one individual is self-contradictory.
Jesus’ wealth and power on earth and in heaven
What did Jesus give up in dying a human death?
- Jesus had no wealth or power as a human being.
- Because he was allegedly a supernatural being, he could expect, on reassuming his heavenly role, to exercise his power as one-third of the triune deity.
- Christian theology is saying that Jesus gave up a temporary earthly life as a god-man to return to his role in heaven, where, as part of the triune deity, he reigns as God.
- Clearly, it is unreasonable to say that Jesus sacrificed himself for the redemption of mankind when, by his actions, he knowingly gained more than he lost. As we have seen previously, Paul wrote:
Jesus Christ, who, although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted him, and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the Glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)
Paul also said of Jesus:
He [God] raised him [Jesus] from the dead, and seated him at His right hand in the heavenly [places], far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:20-23)
Where is the sacrifice if Jesus came into the world to do certain works knowing that he could not fail and that as a result would be rewarded for doing what he himself ordained for himself as one-third of the Godhead.
The servant’s rewards for faithfulness to God
In verse 12, God speaks of the servant, who, as a result of his selflessness, is willing to give up all that he possesses in the service of God.
The meaning of sacrifice
The alleged sacrifice of the Christian Jesus is greatly exaggerated. There is a gross misuse of the concept of “sacrifice” where one who is alleged to be a supernatural being knows that by giving up a flesh-and-blood existence, something essentially unimportant to him, he will receive in return a position of eternal exaltation and power.
- Jesus’ death cannot be called a sacrifice. On leaving his transitory human lifespan behind him, Jesus, it is alleged, returned to heaven to once more become part of the eternal Godhead in its proper heavenly setting. Is this what Christianity calls “the Lamb of God,” a sacrificial offering?
Rewarding one’s self for obeying one’s self
- The biblical sacrifice is slain unaware and unknowing and without reward for the service it provides. Why should Jesus be rewarded for his alleged sacrifice, for doing what he himself, as God, wanted done?
- There is no point for God, of whom Jesus is allegedly a part, to say: “I will divide him a portion with the great” as an actual reward to Himself. Such reward can be properly given to one who is all-human, but not to one who is at the same time a supernatural being,
Dividing the spoil with the mighty
Parallel with God’s promise to “divide him a portion with the great” is the phrase, “he shall divide the spoil [shalal] with the mighty.” The term “the mighty,” or “the mighty ones,” refers to the mighty nation, the descendants of Abraham
(Genesis 18:18). The Hebrew word shalal, “spoil,” is the term used for booty of war (Genesis 49:27, Numbers 31:11, Isaiah 10:6), and always means physical wealth wherever it is used. In Proverbs shalal is used to connote an increase of wealth which does not result from one’s personal labor (Proverbs 31:11).
- “He shall divide” indicates that the division of the spoils will be done in an orderly fashion by the governing authorities.
- The entire nation of Israel will share the spoils of war (Zechariah 14:14). “He,” that is, Israel as a national unit, will evenly distribute the spoils of war among “the mighty ones,” all the Jewish people. It will not just be those who actually fought that will partake in the division of the spoils, but the spoils will be equally shared among all Israel (cf. Numbers 31:27, Joshua 22:8, 1 Samuel 30:24-25).
- If Jesus is God, who can be great enough to share the spoil with him? Is it conceivable that one who is God could possibly have only “a portion” comparable to that of mere earthly rulers, or that “he shall divide the spoil” with anyone?
- Even if this could be rationalized, it would then run counter to what is stated in Psalm 2, which Christian commentators claim refers to Jesus.
- In that psalm, God offers, to the person in question, the entire earth for a possession (not a portion) and all rulers are told to give homage to that person (verses 10-12).
- Isaiah 53:12 and Psalm 2 could not literally be referring to the same individual
Jesus and the spoils of war shared with the mighty.
- What portion did Jesus share with the great, what spoil did he divide with the mighty?
- Who are the “great” and who are the “mighty” with whom he supposedly interacted and shared the “spoil”?
- Where and what is the fulfillment?
- Is fulfillment left to the “he’s coming any day now” second coming farce?
- Christians, get over it, he’s not coming back–not then, not now, not ever.
53:12: “because he had poured out his soul to death”
Many have poured out their soul to death
- “Because he has poured out (‘arah) his soul to death” is the reason the servant will be rewarded. This cannot refer to the Gospels’ Jesus if the phrase means to die willingly. Jesus “poured out his soul,” that is, died on the cross unwillingly, saying at the last moment: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34). According to Matthew/Mark, his last words from the cross expressed a sense of frustration, not obedience.
- This final statement from the cross contradicts the assertion that Jesus “learned obedience through what he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8) and that he freely submitted to God’s will (Matthew 26:39, 42; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42).
- In those last moments of life, the Gospels say, Jesus expressed himself in such a way that his death cannot be considered a voluntary sacrificial death made in response to a call from God.
- Jesus went to his death feeling abandoned by God. Jesus’ final words on the cross appear in three different forms: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34); “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46); “It is finished!” (John 19:30).
- Although Luke and John try to give a more positive final statement they are constrained by the earlier Gospels of Matthew and Mark. Only one form out of the three can be Jesus’ last words.
- Many in the servant community have poured out their soul to death some to the brink of death others dying for the Sanctification of the Name of God. In one way or another, the servant community of Israel has “poured out his soul to death.”
53:12: “[H]e was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sin of many”
Reviewing the Christian myth of Jesus bearing the sins of transgressors
It is said of the servant, “And he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sin of many,” but what assurance is there that it refers to Jesus?
- While many people throughout history have been “numbered with the transgressors” few can claim to have borne “the sin of many.”
- In the case of Jesus, there is no proof anywhere that he literally “bore the sin of many.” This is a contention of Christianity that is based on wishful thinking.
- He did not fulfill the rest of the servant passage when it comes to things that can be tangibly observed so why should we expect that he fulfilled the non-tangible?
- There is no tangible proof to support the claim that Jesus at any time bears the iniquities of anyone.
53:12: “[He] made intercession for the transgressors”
Did Jesus make “intercession for the transgressors”?
- It is said that Jesus in his supposed post-resurrection state intercedes with God on man’s behalf and, as heavenly advocate, pleads man’s cause before God (Romans 8:34; see also Hebrews 7:25, 9:24; 1 John 2:1). If Jesus is part of a triune deity in which all three beings are in total agreement with each other and of one essence how can he make intercession for transgressors who follow him?
- The very claim that God (the Father) accepts or rejects Jesus’ petition shows a separation of ideation.
- It shows Jesus to be God’s inferior.
- What is more, an intercessor stands between those he represents and the one receiving the request and deciding on its merit.
- Jesus would in essence be defense attorney and judge simultaneously.
- If Jesus is part of a totally synchronized triune deity then there is no one with whom to intercede.
- But, of course, there is no proof that this intercession is going on. It is solely a non-verifiable contention of certain New Testament authors.
Of God and Israel
As mentioned above a verse by verse explanation of how the people of Israel are the fulfillment the Suffering Servant prophecy can be found in Isaiah 53: Who is the Servant? In answer to those who deny this biblical truth and question how Israel can be called the “righteous one” when the people of Israel have not always obeyed God’s commandments God’s word declares otherwise. This passage describes the culmination of a long historical period and marks the time of the final redemption from exile. Obviously, if Israel as a nation is repentant there is no problem. But, what if that is not the case and Israel does not fully repent?
- It should be noted that God is often merciful and forgiving even when there is an absence of sincere repentance.
- God declares: “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy” (Exodus 33:19).
- The psalmist writes: “But He, being full of compassion, forgives iniquity, and does not destroy; many a time He turns His anger away and does not stir up all His wrath. For He remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passes away, and comes not again” (Psalms 78:38-39).
- The prophet Micah declares: “Who is a God like You that pardons the iniquity, and passes by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He retains not His anger forever, because He delights in mercy” (Micah 7:18).
- Even when Israel is figuratively blind and deaf God still considers the nation as His servant and messenger (Isaiah 42:19).
- Isaiah records that redemption may be forthcoming even when undeserved, for God’s own reasons: “I, even I, am He that blots out your transgressions for My own sake, and will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25; see also Ezekiel 20:14, 22).
- The prophet informs us that in some cases God’s redemption precedes Israel’sreturn: “Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are My servant; I have formed you, you are My servant: O Israel, you should not forget Me, I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, your transgressions, and as a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you…. The Lord has redeemed Jacob, and does glorify Himself in Israel” (Isaiah 44:21-23).
God redeems His people even though they do not deserve this redemption according to strict justice. Divine need is the decisive factor and His promises to the patriarchs are unconditional and still binding (e.g. Genesis 17:7). Thus, God declares to the prophet Isaiah: “And your people, they are [as a unit] all righteous” (Isaiah 60:21).
Individually there is no atonement without repentance. However, in the case of Israel, after causing the nation to suffer for her sins, God forgives for His own sake lest the other nations mock Him (Isaiah 43:25). Thus, God’s redemption is not always dependent on repentance preceding forgiveness. God considers a forgiven Israel as completely righteous, all past misdeeds forgiven and so to speak forgotten by God. So, although Israel has suffered in the past for its sins at the juncture mentioned in the passage, a new era begins.
Copyright 2011 Gerald Sigal
Click here to watch a video presentation Rabbi Michael Skobac entitled: Isaiah 53: God’s Suffering Servant, Why it is Israel and not Jesus.