Critiquing the "Suffering Servant Prophecy"

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Jagella
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Re: Critiquing the "Suffering Servant Prophecy"

Post by Jagella »

1213 wrote:Normally, when Bible speaks of nation, or nation of Israel, it uses female, not male form...
OK, good, we are making progress. The passage you quoted from Jeremiah 31:4,22 personifies Israel as an individual person. Why do you then argue that Isaiah 53 must be referring to a man rather than the nation of Israel? It was not uncommon for Jewish and later Christian writers to represent nations as individuals. Another example of their doing so is Revelation 17:4-6 in which the hated Roman empire is personified as a "whore."

So we have established that at the very least it is very plausible that Isaiah 53 is speaking of Israel rather than some individual man.
Nations are in the Bible usually females, not males.
It appears that you are changing your mind. You were arguing that you thought it unlikely that Israel would be represented as a man, yet you seem to have no problem believing Israel could and in fact was represented by a woman. Why is representation as a woman so believable and as a man so hard to believe?
Even though I respect Jewish scholars, I rather believe what the Bible tells.
Let's read the Bible to see what it "tells." All you need to do is read Isaiah 53 in context. Chapters 52 and 54 of Isaiah are clearly Isaiah prophesying to the nation of Israel. In fact, in Isaiah 54:1 Isaiah is again personifying Israel as an individual person--in this case a woman. But my main point is that if you read Isaiah 53 and the surrounding chapters, then it should become clear that we are being told a prophecy about Israel. If you insist that chapter 53 is a prophecy about some future messiah, then it does not fit the context of what Isaiah is writing. Why would Isaiah write about Israel, then jump to a completely different topic about a messiah, and then immediately go back to writing about Israel?
But where was it said “suffered from the beginning�?
It was you who said in post 7: "...Jesus has been right from the beginning." And you are correct: the bible doesn't say Jesus suffered from the beginning; that's my point. Isaiah is speaking about somebody who has already suffered, and since Jesus never suffered until he came to the earth from the sky centuries after Isaiah was written, then Isaiah could not have been writing about Jesus.
One cannot show even one anti-Jewish sentiment in the New Testament.
Sorry, but you are wrong. There are many New-Testament passages that have inflamed hatred for Jews. For example, Matthew 27:25:
Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!�
Christian have spilled that blood on Jews and their children for almost two thousand years.

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Re: Critiquing the "Suffering Servant Prophecy"

Post by rikuoamero »

[Replying to post 1 by Jagella]
For one thing, this "suffering servant" is referred to in the past tense implying that he was a man who had already lived when Isaiah wrote of him.
Unfortunately for your argument, Ancient Hebrew has no future tense. So what you say here isn't a knock against the passage from Isaiah.
In addition, Isaiah's suffering servant in 53:10 was "crushed by God," something that never happened to Jesus as far as we know.
The NIV says
"Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,"
I suppose it depends on what is meant by "crush". The "cause him to suffer" part seems to be a given with Christians - they claim the crucifixion was a part of God's plan all along.
Does it mean crush like defeating an enemy, like the Allies crushing and defeating the Axis powers?
Does it mean crush like a car in a junkyard?
We are also told in 53:7 "...he did not open his mouth..." which cannot refer to Jesus because he opened his mouth wide all the time!
Christians say v7 refers to the trial, although the verse itself doesn't say that. I'm looking at the gospels. Matthew mentions that Jesus is silent when men give testimony that the temple is going to be destroyed and rebuild it in three days (26:62-63), which is odd, considering Jesus had actually said something like that earlier in Chapter 23.

Either way, it's not outside the realm of possibility for a Jew who is learned in his people's histories and beliefs to deliberately remain silent so as to make sure the "prophecy" comes true.
Finally, if Isaiah 52:13-53:12 predicts Jesus, then why does it nowhere mention Jesus? You would think that if the Christian god wanted to predict Jesus, then he would mention Jesus' name!
There are arguments to be made that it refers to the nation of Israel itself, or perhaps to the king Cyrus.
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Re: Critiquing the "Suffering Servant Prophecy"

Post by rikuoamero »

[Replying to post 9 by 1213]
Like for example Isaiah 53:8-9, I would like to see the explanation that fits it to the nation.
Verse 8
"By oppression[a] and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished."
This very well could refer to the exile of the Jewish people in Babylon. They were defeated in battle, and then by oppression and judgement of the Bablyonian king, they were taken away to Bablyon. As for being cut off from the land of the living, I can see how a people, a tribe of people being taken from their ancestral homeland can describe that as themselves no longer being alive. Such imagery is common in lots of writings.
but claiming it is the nation of Israel is in my opinion baseless and absurd.
You may disagree, but it is NOT baseless. Especially when in earlier chapters, the suffering servant is explicitly named as Israel, the nation.
Isaiah 41:8-9

But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off.�

Isaiah 44:1

But now hear, O Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen!

Isaiah 44:21

Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.

Isaiah 45:4

For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I called you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me.

Isaiah 48:20

Go out from Babylon, flee from Chaldea, declare this with a shout of joy, proclaim it, send it out to the end of the earth; say, “The Lord has redeemed his servant Jacob!�

Isaiah 49:3

And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.�

Indeed, I myself say the opposite of you: I think it is baseless to say that Isaiah cannot refer to the nation of Israel.

So let me ask you a question 1213: why is it that in this discussion, about a so called prophecy, you disregard the explicitly named character, that being the nation of Israel in the personage of their ancestor Jacob, and instead say it refers to someone not explicitly named?
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Re: Critiquing the "Suffering Servant Prophecy"

Post by Mithrae »

rikuoamero wrote:As for being cut off from the land of the living, I can see how a people, a tribe of people being taken from their ancestral homeland can describe that as themselves no longer being alive. Such imagery is common in lots of writings.
Including explicitly of the Jews in exile, in Ezekiel 37.

But possibly the biggest problem with identifying Isaiah 53 with the Jews in the Babylonian exile is the constantly repeated theme - including in those chapters of Isaiah itself - that their suffering was a just consequence of their own sin, idolatry and neglect of the covenant. That's precisely the opposite of what's found in that chapter. However deutero-Isaiah plausibly could, again, be mirroring the themes of the earlier part of the book: The earlier chapters alternate between predicting punishment on Israel for their sin and predicting great glory for them during some future redemption. Deutero-Isaiah does almost exactly the opposite with the servant songs; instead of glory, the servant songs speak of quiet humility and instead of punishment for his own sin, apparently suffering for others'.

And while those chapters speak a lot of 'God's servant Israel,' it's worth noting that none of those specific identifications are found within the four servant songs themselves, besides in chapter 49. And that's an interesting one:
  • Isaiah 49:3 And he said to me, “You are my servant,
    Israel, in whom I will be glorified.�
    4 But I said, “I have labored in vain,
    I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;
    yet surely my cause is with the Lord,
    and my reward with my God.�
    5 And now the Lord says,
    who formed me in the womb to be his servant,
    to bring Jacob back to him,
    and that Israel might be gathered to him,
    for I am honored in the sight of the Lord,
    and my God has become my strength—
    6 he says,
    “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
    to raise up the tribes of Jacob
    and to restore the survivors of Israel;
    I will give you as a light to the nations,
    that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.�
Is that saying that the purpose of God's servant Israel is to bring Israel back to him? Doesn't seem to make much sense. Also besides some brief pseudo-quotations from Babylon etc., from a quick read over ch40-66 yesterday it seems that all of the first-person content comes from God, except for these middle two servant songs in ch49 and 50. What's the significance of that? I don't know, but I think it makes it somewhat questionable to directly apply things from the 'normal' content outside the servant songs to them. The author seems to be subverting earlier Jewish expectations - quite explicitly so in fact, as in 53:1 "Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" - and besides 49:3 pretty much everything else within the servant song sections seems to suggest that they are about an individual man, a different kind of messiah/servant than Cyrus (45:1) or the recognized 'root of Jesse' in chapter 11.


Edit: I should also mention (in a fairly ad hoc manner) that while reading through it yesterday I got the impression of a fairly distinct break in themes between chapter 48 and 49. Chapter 48 ends with God's people being apparently redeemed from Babylon (48:20), and 49 is where the first-person speech of someone besides God first begins, in the 'second' servant song. As it turns out, Babylon/Chaldea are mentioned five times in chapters 43-48, and obviously Cyrus by name in 44/45, but there don't seem to be any such clear identifiers in chapters 49ff. In fact in 52:4 the oppressors named are Egypt and Assyria! Apparently I'm not the only one to have noticed that thematic division:
"Deutero-Isaiah/Second Isaiah (chapters 40–54), with two major divisions, 40–48 and 49–54..." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Isaiah#Summary

Besides 49:3, all of the references to God's servant being Israel occur in chapters 41-48. So again in that light, I'm not sure how validly they can be extrapolated into the later servant songs.

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Re: Critiquing the "Suffering Servant Prophecy"

Post by Jagella »

rikuoamero wrote:Unfortunately for your argument, Ancient Hebrew has no future tense. So what you say here isn't a knock against the passage from Isaiah.
Well, if Hebrew has no future tense, then Isaiah 53 could not be a prediction of Jesus, and I'm right about that!

But surely the Jews had some way of speaking of days to come. For example, Isaiah 53:12 tells us:
Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong...
In this passage the Hebrew word �ֲחַלֶּק־ is translated "I will divide a portion," and the Hebrew word יְחַלֵּ֣ק is translated "he shall divide." So we do indeed have Hebrew words for the future.
Does it mean crush like defeating an enemy, like the Allies crushing and defeating the Axis powers?
Does it mean crush like a car in a junkyard?
I've already argued that "crush" does not fit well the torments suffered by Jesus. If the Bible god wished to predict the suffering of Jesus, then he very easily could have described Jesus being flogged, crowned with thorns, or crucified. Since no such torment is predicted, "crush" is a very poor way to describe the suffering of Jesus. So the "crushing" in Isaiah 53:5,10 is not about Jesus.
There are arguments to be made that it refers to the nation of Israel itself...
And that's what I've been arguing since post 3.

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Re: Critiquing the "Suffering Servant Prophecy"

Post by liamconnor »

[Replying to post 1 by Jagella]

IF the question is whether that passage was written by (Isaiah?) with full knowledge about a God/Man whose death centuries later would atone for sins, then of course not.

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Re: Critiquing the "Suffering Servant Prophecy"

Post by Jagella »

liamconnor wrote:IF the question is whether that passage was written by (Isaiah?) with full knowledge about a God/Man whose death centuries later would atone for sins, then of course not.
Yes, of course of course not. But remember we are debating Christianity, and the absurd is to be taken very seriously in this venue. It is here that snakes and donkeys talk, whales vomit live men, seas are parted with the wave of a stick, and zombies fly. More than anything else, though, we have here men who assure us that it is all so.

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Re: Critiquing the "Suffering Servant Prophecy"

Post by 1213 »

Jagella wrote: … Why do you then argue that Isaiah 53 must be referring to a man rather than the nation of Israel…
Because it speaks of a man and not of a nation. There is nothing that indicates it is about the nation.
Jagella wrote:It appears that you are changing your mind. You were arguing that you thought it unlikely that Israel would be represented as a man, yet you seem to have no problem believing Israel could and in fact was represented by a woman. Why is representation as a woman so believable and as a man so hard to believe?
Yes, Bible refers to Israel or Jerusalem as female normally. But I don’t think there is any part where Bible speaks of Israel as a man. The leader (King) of Israel is male. It is not about how believable it is, I think it is just the literal fact.
Jagella wrote:Let's read the Bible to see what it "tells." All you need to do is read Isaiah 53 in context. Chapters 52 and 54 of Isaiah are clearly Isaiah prophesying to the nation of Israel. In fact, in Isaiah 54:1 Isaiah is again personifying Israel as an individual person--in this case a woman. But my main point is that if you read Isaiah 53 and the surrounding chapters, then it should become clear that we are being told a prophecy about Israel. If you insist that chapter 53 is a prophecy about some future messiah, then it does not fit the context of what Isaiah is writing. Why would Isaiah write about Israel, then jump to a completely different topic about a messiah, and then immediately go back to writing about Israel?
Yes, it is prophesy for Israel, but if you don’t understand it, I am sorry, I don’t know how to help. For me it is obvious. It is about the future of Israel and Jerusalem and how they will have king (servant). I think it is common in literature to talk about multiple matters in same paragraphs and I am surprised if it is difficult for you to understand the matter.

But if we would assume it is about the nation, how would you explain this:

They made his grave with the wicked, and with a rich man in his death; although he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

Isaiah 53:9

How it is true about nation of Israel that she has been buried, not done violence, or not lied?
Jagella wrote:…Isaiah is speaking about somebody who has already suffered…
It is interesting how it seems to be about past, but still at the same time is speaking of the future. Isaiah 53 begins with the question, “whom has the arm of Yahweh been revealed?�. And then it answers to that question. I understand it could be understood it is about some ancient man, “before� Jesus, but I don’t know who would fit to that description. Israel doesn’t fit into it. It could be some of the kings of Israel, but none of them seems to fit to the description.

Interesting thing is that for example in King James translation Isaiah 53:3 begins with “He is despised…�, not “He was despised…�. I think the person who tells the story is telling it as he has seen it happen in future. That is the reason why it seems to use past tense.
Jagella wrote:Sorry, but you are wrong. There are many New-Testament passages that have inflamed hatred for Jews. For example, Matthew 27:25:
Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!�
Reporting what people did, is not hatred against the people.

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Re: Critiquing the "Suffering Servant Prophecy"

Post by 1213 »

rikuoamero wrote: …This very well could refer to the exile of the Jewish people in Babylon. They were defeated in battle, and then by oppression and judgement of the Bablyonian king, they were taken away to Bablyon. As for being cut off from the land of the living, I can see how a people, a tribe of people being taken from their ancestral homeland can describe that as themselves no longer being alive. Such imagery is common in lots of writings.
Please give one example? And is it really so that Jews didn’t protest, when they were forced to exile?
rikuoamero wrote:You may disagree, but it is NOT baseless. Especially when in earlier chapters, the suffering servant is explicitly named as Israel, the nation.
Isaiah 41:8-9
But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off.�
That is not speaking of nation of Israel. It is about Jacob, who is also called Israel. And if the “suffering servant� would be somebody else than Jesus, it would more likely be Jacob than the nation of Israel.

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Re: Critiquing the "Suffering Servant Prophecy"

Post by rikuoamero »

[Replying to post 19 by 1213]
Please give one example?
An example of a writing that describes a people who do not consider themselves alive because they have been taken from their homeland? That's strange, I can't think of an example right now. I'll have to put a pin in this and get back to you on it.
And is it really so that Jews didn’t protest, when they were forced to exile?
Well their army and their king had been defeated, and the Babylonian King was standing there all strong and victorious. They might have thought it best to keep their mouths shut and to start walking when he pointed at Babylon and said "Go there!"
That is not speaking of nation of Israel. It is about Jacob, who is also called Israel.
You quoted just the one example. What about 48:20, where it says to go out from Babylon, and that God has redeemed his servant?

Are you really arguing that in Hebrew writings, the nation of Israel is never referred to as a singular person, Jacob/Israel?
And if the “suffering servant� would be somebody else than Jesus, it would more likely be Jacob than the nation of Israel.
Except if we're talking about the individual Jacob, son of Isaac, grandson of Abraham, and father of twelve brothers who became the ancestors of the twelve tribes of Israel, this then doesn't fit with 48:20, where God exhorts the nation to leave Bablyon.
Neither does Jesus. Jesus not once is said to have ever been to Babylon. However, who DID leave Babylon? The nation of Israel, who we know for a fact were sometimes summed up as a single person and called Jacob, called Israel.
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I condemn all gods who dare demand my fealty, who won't look me in the face so's I know who it is I gotta fealty to. -- JoeyKnotHead

Some force seems to restrict me from buying into the apparent nonsense that others find so easy to buy into. Having no religious or supernatural beliefs of my own, I just call that force reason. -- Tired of the Nonsense

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