"O L-RD, Who are my power and my strength and my refuge in the day of trouble, to You nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, 'Only lies have our fathers handed down to us, emptiness in which there is nothing of any avail! Can a man make gods for himself, and they are no gods? 'Therefore, behold I let them know; at this time I will let them know My power and My might, and they shall know that My Name is the L-RD".
Jeremiah 16:19-21

“Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” – John 1:45

Of all the claims raised by Christians over the centuries, none has stirred up as much controversy as the claim that (a) a great many messianic prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus’s life, and (b) only the Messiah could have fulfilled all of them. For if this claim be true, then the Jew must of necessity acknowledge Jesus as Messiah, or else deny the very Scriptures upon which his faith is based; whereas if it be false, then Christianity is based on a lie. Below are the prophecies generally cited by Christians, along with Jewish explanations of these prophecies:

Genesis 3:15

Genesis 49:10

Psalm 2:11-12

Psalm 22:16

Psalm 110:1

Isaiah 7:14

Isaiah 9:6-7

Isaiah 53

Daniel 9

Hosea 11:1

Zechariah 9:9

Zechariah 12:10

Genesis 3:15. “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” This verse, say the Christians, proves that the downfall of the serpent will come at the hand of the seed of the woman, meaning that the Messiah must be born of a virgin. Obviously this doesn’t prove Jesus – perhaps the Messiah is yet to come and will indeed be born of a virgin – but the argument must be dealt with nonetheless.

It is noteworthy that this is not the only place where the Bible talks about the seed of a woman. In Genesis 16:10, for instance, we find, “And the angel of the L-RD said unto her [Hagar], I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.” No one, of course, claims that Hagar was a virgin when she conceived Ishmael.

Genesis 49:10. “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” According to both Jews and Christians, “Shiloh” here is a reference to the Messiah. This verse, say the Christians, means that Judah will always have the kingship until the Messiah comes; the Messiah must therefore have come prior to the Roman conquest in 70 CE.

The problem is that Judah lost the kingship long before 70 CE, during the Babylonian conquest, and they never got it back. The Maccabees, who revolted against the Greek occupation and restored the monarchy, were of priestly descent, from the tribe of Levi.

In truth, the verse is not a prophecy at all, but a commandment, that from the time that a king from Judah is appointed over Israel, we are forbidden to set over ourselves a king from another tribe. The Maccabees are criticized by the rabbis for violating this command and usurping the throne; the result was that their descendants fell to the same kind of Hellenist assimilation that their forebears had fought against.

Psalm 2:11-12. This passage is cited often by Christians seeking to prove the Trinity. In the King James Bible, it reads, “Serve the L-rd with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” The Christian will contend that the instruction to kiss the Son and the blessing on all who put their trust in him must mean that God has a Son Who is equal with Him in divinity.

The problem is that the verse is mistranslated. The word rendered “the Son” is “bar”. In Hebrew, the word means “pure” and is correctly translated in Psalm 24 (“clean hands and a pure heart”). The Hebrew word for “son” is “ben”. Confusion results from the fact that the word does mean “son” in Aramaic; but there is no Aramaic in any of the Psalms. In fact, verse 2:7, just a few verses before this passage, reads, “I will declare the decree: the L-rd hath said unto me, Thou art my Son [beni]; this day have I begotten thee”, proving that the word “ben” was known and used by the composer of Psalm 2. Verses 11 and 12 should read, “Serve the L-rd with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Desire what is pure, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” This rendering makes it clear that the pronouns in verse 12 all refer to the L-rd, with no hint of a Trinity.

Even if we assume that “bar” means “son” here, that still doesn’t give us a Trinity. G-d has many sons. Israel is G-d’s firstborn son (Exodus 4:22; see also Hosea 11:1). The sons of G-d took wives from among the daughters of men (Genesis 6:1-2). The sons of G-d appeared before His throne, and Satan was among them (Job 1:6; 2:1). Even Jesus says, “Blessed [are] the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of G-d” (Matthew 5:9). There is nothing in Psalm 2 which makes the “bar” any more G-d’s son than the sons mentioned above.

A further point bears mentioning regarding Psalm 2:7. It is quoted in the New Testament in Hebrews 1:1-5, which reads, “G-d, who in sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high; being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?”

There is something wrong with the author’s citation of Psalm 2:7 here, and most Christians read this passage of Hebrews without even seeing it. The problem is that, even if modern Christianity is right about the Trinity, the Father should not be saying to Jesus, “This day have I begotten thee”, because Jesus is supposed to have been eternally begotten of the Father. Nor can it be held that Psalm 2:7 is speaking about the birth of Jesus, as even the King James confirms that the verse is in the past tense (“the L-rd hath said unto me, Thou art my son etc.”).

And what of the end of the passage I just quoted, which reads, “And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son”? This quote is from 2 Samuel 7:12-15, where Nathan the prophet quotes G-d telling King David, “And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men; but my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee.” This cannot possibly refer to Jesus. Why would G-d worry about Jesus committing iniquity? Why would Jesus need mercy, that G-d should have to promise David that His mercy would never depart from Jesus? Rather, the passage must refer to David’s son Solomon. Indeed, Solomon himself thus interpreted the passage, telling King Hiram of Tyre, “And, behold, I purpose to build an house unto the name of the L-rd my G-d, as the L-rd spake unto David my father, saying, Thy son, whom I will set upon thy throne in thy room, he shall build an house unto my name.” Yet the author of Hebrews insists that the passage from 2 Samuel somehow refers to Jesus. Nor can it be held that the prophecy has two fulfillments, because nothing in the context of 2 Samuel 7 even hints of a second fulfillment. (And even if there were a second fulfillment, the aforementioned problems with referring the passage to Jesus would still remain.)

Psalm 22:16. In this verse, it is claimed, King David foretold the Crucifixion in exquisite detail. The entire Psalm is regarded as Christological, as the speaker is complaining of oppression at the hands of the wicked, just as Jesus was executed by the wicked; but verse 16 in particular is used extensively. This verse, in the King James version, reads, “For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.” Could this verse, it is asked, possibly be any more Christological?

As with any passage of scripture, in order to correctly interpret this verse, we must determine who the speaker is. The Christological interpretation depends critically on the premise that the speaker is the Messiah. But nowhere in the entire Psalm is the Messiah even mentioned! There is not the slightest hint that the person whose hands and feet are being pierced is the Messiah. The verse is also mistranslated. The last phrase should read, “they were like a lion at my hands and my feet.” David often used animal motifs in those Psalms of his that mention his being oppressed by his enemies; and the word “k’ari”, which the King James renders “pierced”, is everywhere else rendered “like a lion”. Look in any Hebrew dictionary – “ari” means “lion”, and the prefix “k'” means “like”. Only in this verse does “k’ari” suddenly mean “pierced”. I wonder why.

Psalm 110:1. Christians often try to prove the Trinity by quoting Psalm 110:1. In the King James, this verse reads, “The L-rd said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” Christians will contend that, since there are two Beings called “Lord” here, God must be a collective entity comprising at least two Persons. Furthermore, they claim, based on this verse, that the Messiah must be G-d incarnate.

It should be obvious that neither claim is true. The King James always renders G-d’s name as “LORD” in small capital letters. In Psalm 110:1, the first occurrence of “Lord” is in small capitals, but the second is not. This is because word rendered “to my Lord” is “l’adoni”, which really means “to my master”. G-d is telling the speaker’s master to sit at His right hand. If the “master” referred to is also G-d, then monotheism requires that they both be the same Person. But then G-d is talking to Himself and needs to be put in a straitjacket.

The Christian interpretation of this Psalm has another difficulty. Whoever this verse is talking about will remain seated at G-d’s right hand until G-d makes his enemies a footstool for his feet. But Jesus, at the second coming, is supposed to leave the Father’s right hand and personally make his enemies a footstool for his feet. What Christianity should have is the wicked being destroyed supernaturally just prior to the second coming.

But who would David’s master be, seeing that David, the composer of this Psalm, was the king of Israel? When confronted with the fact that the second occurrence of “Lord” really should be “master”, Christians often contend that the only person David could have called “master” is G-d Himself. But recall that, while most of the Psalms were composed by David, they were played and sung by the Levites in the Temple (and in the tabernacle before the Temple was built). The Levites, of course, would have called David their master, since he was king over them. Since David was called a man after G-d’s own heart, and since the Messiah must come from his descendants, it makes perfect sense to speak of him as sitting metaphorically at G-d’s right hand. He also had many enemies during his reign and certainly ruled in the midst of them (Psalm 110:2). The Messiah, on the other hand, will rule in the absence of his enemies, as they will have been incinerated by G-d (Malachi 4:1-3). David also reigned in Jerusalem, as did Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18; the subject of the Psalm is called a priest after the order of Melchizedek in verse 4) and is granted primacy, like Melchizedek, in that the Messiah will come from his lineage (Isaiah 11:1). Jesus doesn’t seem to have had anything in common with Melchizedek that he should be declared a priest after his order. Christians will object that Jesus is currently carrying out the functions of the priesthood by interceding for us with G-d; but what does it mean for G-d to intercede with Himself? The definition of intercession is mediation between two parties, both of whom are distinct from the intercessor. If Jesus is G-d, then he is not interceding for us; he is G-d interacting directly with us, without benefit of a mediator. In light of the above, it is much more tenable to hold that the Psalm is speaking about David than that it is speaking about Jesus.

Isaiah 7:14. The most well-known aspect of Jesus’s life according to the New Testament is the virgin birth. Mary, it is alleged, became pregnant with Jesus without having had sexual intercourse with anyone, as it is written: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.” (Matthew 1:18) Matthew goes on to say that the virgin birth of the Messiah was foretold by the Jewish prophets: “Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the L-rd by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, G-d with us.” (Matthew 1:22-23) The prophecy referred to is Isaiah 7:14, which reads, “Therefore the L-rd himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

A few things should be readily apparent even without looking at the original Hebrew. First, there is no mention either in this verse or in the surrounding verses that the child Immanuel is to be the Messiah. Even granting that a virgin birth is being discussed (I will take that up later), it appears that this miracle is occurring simply as a sign to the person being addressed. Second, the person being addressed is King Ahaz; for the preceding two verses say, “But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the L-rd. And he [Isaiah] said, Hear ye now, O house of David; is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my G-d also?” It is then that Isaiah says, “The L-rd Himself shall give you a sign etc.” Verses 15 and 16 say, “Butter and honey shall he [Immanuel] eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.” Clearly, then, Immanuel was to be born during the lifetime of King Ahaz; for otherwise his birth would not be a sign to him.

Christians at this point often invoke the doctrine of dual fulfillments, which asserts that a prophecy may be fulfilled two or even many times, as opposed to just once. This doctrine, however, is never sanctioned anywhere in the Hebrew Scriptures. Nothing in the context of Isaiah 7 even hints of a second fulfillment of the prophecy. And if there is a dual fulfillment, and the word “virgin” is being correctly translated, then who was the virgin giving birth in King Ahaz’s time? What land with two kings did Israel abhor during Jesus’s childhood? Were these two kings cut off before Jesus knew to refuse the evil and choose the good? What would it even mean for G-d to not know to refuse the evil and choose the good? Moreover, the sense of the naming of the child is that the woman is giving the name to the child, not that the name is any kind of metaphor; it is universally admitted that Mary never called Jesus Immanuel.

Now for the examination of the Hebrew. The word translated “a virgin” in Isaiah 7:14 is “ha’almah”, which means “the young woman”. You can verify this in any Hebrew dictionary. The word in Hebrew for “virgin” is “b’tulah”. If you look in an interlinear Bible and search for all the other places where “almah” or “ha’almah” appears, you will find that the King James correctly translates it “young woman” or “the young woman”. The word “b’tulah” appears dozens of times and was certainly known and used by Isaiah; if he had wanted to say, “virgin”, he could have.

That “ha’almah” does not imply virginity is conceded by E. W. Hengstenberg, author of the popular book “The Christology of the Old Testament”. In his commentary on Isaiah 7:14, he writes, “Here, as well as throughout this whole inquiry, the notion of a pure virgin, and that of an unmarried woman, are blended together. The former is not indeed required by the etymology of the word, but the latter certainly is” (page 169). On the same page, he writes, “…we do not claim for the word the sense of unspotted purity, but only that of the unmarried state”.

The concept of the virgin birth actually works against the Christian argument, because the Messiah has to be of the tribe of Judah, as it is written, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be” (Genesis 39:10; the word “shiloh” means “him to whom it belongs” and is universally taken to be a reference to the Messiah). Now, while Jewish descent is confirmed through the mother’s ancestry, tribal lineage goes through the father’s, as it is written: “And they assembled all the congregation together on the first day of the second month, and they declared their pedigrees after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old an upward, by their polls” (Numbers 1:18). If Jesus had no human Jewish father, then he had a great supernatural Father but was himself of no tribe and hence cannot have been the Messiah. One might accuse me of nitpicking, since descent from G-d is far better than descent from Judah; but G-d’s word said that the Messiah would be of the tribe of Judah, and I cannot argue with G-d’s word. Some have tried to resolve this problem by saying that since Joseph was Jesus’s adopted father, Jesus’s tribe would be reckoned by Joseph’s ancestry; but there is no scriptural precedent for reckoning tribal membership in this fashion. Scripture is clear that tribal membership is determined by the biological father’s ancestry. (One might just as easily claim that the adopted son of a high priest is qualified to succeed him as high priest, even though high priests must be of Aaron’s lineage [Numbers 18].) Joseph’s ancestry is also far from clear, as Matthew 1 and Luke 3 give conflicting genealogies for Joseph (though both make him of the tribe of Judah). It is clear, therefore, that Isaiah 7:14 in no way foretells the birth of Jesus.

Isaiah 9:6-7. When it comes to proving the Trinity out of the Hebrew Scriptures, no passage is cited more fervently than Isaiah 9:6-7. In the King James version, it reads: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty G-d, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the L-rd of hosts will perform this.” From this passage, the Christian concludes that the Messiah must be G-d incarnate. Is this interpretation correct?

The Christian had better hope not! The child’s ascension to power is mentioned in a continuous narrative following right on the heels of the child’s birth, leaving no room for an atoning death, a resurrection, and nearly 2,000 years of waiting. If the child is the Messiah, then he cannot be Jesus.

Additionally, as is often the case with passages purported to be Christological, there are mistranslations. The verb forms are all in the past tense! The passage should read, “For a child was born to us [yulad-lanu], a son given to us, and the authority was [vat’hi] upon his shoulder, and his name was called [vay’kra] Wondrous Adviser, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. To him who increases the authority, and for peace without end, on David’s throne and on his kingdom, to establish it and to support it with justice and with righteousness; from now and to eternity, the zeal of the L-rd of hosts shall accomplish this.” Isaiah is not making a prophecy, but recounting history. Therefore, the subject of the passage cannot be any first-century person or event. That the verbs in Isaiah 9:6-7 are in the past tense is confirmed by the King James Bible itself, as the same verbs are translated elsewhere in the past tense: “And to Seth, to him also there was born [yulad] a son…” (Genesis 4:26); “Their carcasses were [vat’hi] as refuse in the street…” (Isaiah 5:25); “And the L-rd called [vay’kra] unto Moses…” (Leviticus 1:1). Only in Isaiah 9:6-7 are these verbs translated in the future tense.

Furthermore, people or things that serve to represent G-d or are closely associated with G-d are often given divine titles. For instance, Moses was made a god to Pharaoh, and Aaron was his prophet (Exodus 7:1); Jerusalem is called “YHVH [G-d’s name] Our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 33:16); and Jacob called one of the altars he built “G-d, the G-d of Israel” (Genesis 33:20). Unless we wish to worship Moses, Jerusalem, and Jacob’s altar, we must concede the possibility that the child may simply be a representative of G-d. Many Hebrew names also contain G-d’s name; Hezekiah in particular means “mighty G-d”.

That the New Testament never quotes this verse indicates that even the New Testament authors didn’t take this verse to be a reference to Jesus. This is probably because they didn’t seem to believe in Jesus’s deity. John 14:28, for instance, ends with Jesus saying, “the Father is greater than I”, and Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:3 says, “the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is G-d”. If the reader has ever wondered why Jesus often refers to the Father as “my G-d” (e.g. John 20:17), but the Father never refers to Jesus as “my G-d”, this is the reason. Jesus does say, “I and my Father are one”, in John 10:30, but he also prayed that the disciples would be one, even as he and the Father were one, in John 17:11. The same Greek word, “ein”, is used to mean “one” in both verses and indicates a unity of purpose, rather than a oneness of being. Interestingly enough, after Jesus says, “I and the Father are one” and the Pharisees pick up stones to stone him, he quotes Psalm 82:6, where judges who teach G-d’s law are called gods. This always puzzled me when I was a Messianic Jew; I now understand that Jesus was not claiming divinity, but rather claiming to represent G-d in the same way that the judges represented Him.

The scene of the preceding verses in Isaiah 9 is the recounting of a great military triumph by Israel over its enemies. Verse 3 in a Jewish translation (corresponds to verse 4 in a Christian Bible) reads: “For, the yoke of his [Israel’s] burden and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of the one who oppressed him have you broken, as on the day of Midian.” At the time Isaiah penned this passage, G-d had just delivered King Hezekiah and Jerusalem from a siege laid by the Assyrians under General Sennacherib. The deliverance was accomplished in spectacular fashion: an angel went into the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 soldiers while they slept. When Sennacherib awoke to find his army decimated, he and the remaining soldiers fled to Nineveh, where he was assassinated by his own sons (Isaiah 37:36-38). Chapters 36 and 37 of Isaiah recount how Hezekiah stood firm in the face of Sennacherib’s vast army and his blasphemous words against the G-d of Israel. When all seemed lost, Hezekiah continued to trust in the L-rd, and for this he was rewarded with a miraculous victory. The phrase “as on the day of Midian” indicates the similarity between the event Isaiah is describing and Gideon’s equally miraculous victory over the Midianites (see Judges 7). In that battle, Gideon and 300 other unarmed men attacked the Midianite camp. G-d sent confusion upon the Midianites, so that each one thought that his fellow was one of the attackers; in this manner they slew each other until they were routed.

It is interesting to note that the statement, “The zeal of the L-rd of hosts shall do this”, found at the end of Isaiah 9:7, is found in only two other places in the Bible: Isaiah 37:32 and 2 Kings 19:31. Both of these passages discuss the miraculous deliverance wrought by G-d on Hezekiah’s behalf. The most logical interpretation of Isaiah 9:6-7 is, in light of all the above, not that the Messiah must be G-d, but that Isaiah is recounting G-d’s defense of Jerusalem during the Assyrian siege.

A further point bears mentioning regarding Isaiah 9. Verses 1 and 2 in the King James read, “Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward more grievously did afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” This is clearly in the past tense and cannot apply to Jesus. But that did not stop Matthew from thus using it: “And leaving Nazareth, he [Jesus] came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; the people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up” (Matthew 4:13-16). The translators of the New American Standard Bible understood the problem with Isaiah 9:1-2 being in the past tense, so they simply changed it. In the NASB, the passage reads, “But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on he shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walkin darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.” By rendering the passage in the future, the translators allow the verse to perhaps apply to Jesus. But they didn’t cover their tracks very well; they still have Matthew quoting the passage in the past tense! Matthew 4:13-16 in the NASB reads, “and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was spoken to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying, `The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light, and to those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a light dawned‘”. Matthew certainly had no motivation to put the passage in the past tense, since that precludes its application to Jesus. Matthew’s citation of the passage therefore confirms that the passage really is in the past tense, and the NASB translators intentionally mistranslated it.

Isaiah 53. The prophecy cited most often by Christian missionaries seeking to prove Jesus’s Messiahship is Isaiah 53. (The prophecy actually begins in 52:13 and continues through the end of 53.) In this passage, Isaiah foretells the sufferings of G-d’s righteous servant as a result of the sins of the world. Christians will tell you that this servant can only be the Messiah and that therefore the prophecy must be about Jesus’s atoning death on the cross. Is this true?

The first question one must ask when dealing with any passage in scripture is who the speaker is. The same words spoken by King David might mean something totally different when spoken by Satan. The end of chapter 52 and the beginning of chapter 53 tell us who the speaker is: “So shall he [the servant] sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider. Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the L-rd revealed?” From these verses, it is apparent that the speakers are Gentile kings at the end of days. This is why the first several verses of the chapter are in the past tense; if Isaiah were the speaker, as the Christians claim, the text would be entirely in the future. It is the griefs and sorrows of these Gentile kings that the servant has borne, yet they esteemed him stricken, smitten of G-d, and afflicted (53:4). He was wounded for their transgressions, and bruised for their iniquities (verse 5). These verses could theoretically apply to Jesus, but they could also apply to the Jewish people. For the last 2,000 years the Jewish people have suffered immeasurably as a result of Gentile sins, for the main sin committed by the Gentiles has been the persecution of the Jews; yet the Gentile world has generally held that Israel’s persecution is a divine punishment for our refusal to believe in Jesus. “With his stripes [scourging] we are healed” (verse 5) looks Christian, but it too could apply to the Jews; for if the Jews had buckled under persecution and forsaken their faith in one G-d, the Gentile world would never be taught the truth about this G-d, as it is written: “Thus saith the L-rd of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that G-d is with you.” (Zechariah 8:23)

Moving on, we find, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7) Christians will at this point say, “Aha! When has Israel ever kept silent in the face of persecution?” But the sad truth is that the Jews have historically had very low self-esteem. The Warsaw ghetto uprising during the Holocaust stands out because it is the exception; for the most part, we have simply knuckled under and accepted our fate. “He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.” (53:8) A footnote near the beginning of the verse indicates that it could also be rendered, “He was taken away by distress and judgment: but, etc.” This verse looks Christian, until you examine the original Hebrew. The phrase rendered, “for the transgression of my people was he stricken”, is “mipesha ami nega lamo” and should have been rendered, “through the transgression of my people a blow [or plague] was to *them*”. The servant is here being mentioned in the plural. You can speak about a nation in the singular, but you cannot speak about one person in the plural. As if there were any doubt, look at verse 9: “And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.” The King James translation has a footnote by the word “death” stating that the Hebrew has “deaths”; and the word here, “b’motav”, really does mean, “in his deaths”. (The word for “in his death”, singular, is “b’moto”.) Even the Christians aren’t claiming that the Messiah was supposed to die more than once; the servant therefore cannot be the Messiah.

It gets worse. Verse 10 says, “Yet it pleased the L-rd to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin [or, when his soul shall make an offering for sin], he shall see seed, he shall prolong days, and the pleasure of the L-rd shall prosper in his hand.” Jesus did not see seed. The word here, “zerah”, can only mean biological children; the word that can mean metaphoric or spiritual children is “ben”. Neither did Jesus prolong days; he died at 33! Christians will counter that Jesus in fact did prolong days in that he was resurrected and is now over two thousand years old; however, the phrase here, “ya’arich yamim”, can only refer to an extension of one’s mortal life. The way to refer to an eternal life is “chai olam”. Verse 11 says, “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” By his *knowledge*? Christians universally claim that Jesus justified many by his *death*! Jews, on the other hand, always pray in their synagogues for the well-being of the nations in which they live, even when these nations practice antisemitism; thus, by our knowledge of G-d’s Word we really do justify many.

When confronted with the evidence, Christians will generally rattle off a list of reasons why the servant of Isaiah 53 cannot be Israel. But even if they could conclusively prove that the servant could not possibly be Israel, they would still be in a bind; for all of the above reasons why the servant cannot be the Messiah would still stand. If the servant is not Israel, then we must resign ourselves to the fact that nobody has the correct interpretation of Isaiah 53; it is certain, however, that the servant is not Jesus of Nazareth.

With the rise of Messianic Judaism in its various forms, many Christians have asserted that the ancient rabbis all took Isaiah 53 to be Messianic and that this opinion was not changed until Rashi popularized it several centuries after the time of Jesus. The first question that should come to mind is, if everyone took this prophecy to be Messianic, and everyone knew that the Messiah was going to die for our sins, why did the Jews reject Jesus? With a great stretch of the imagination, I could see their hearts possibly being blinded supernaturally before the Crucifixion, lest they rise up and by force prevent the great redemptive act from taking place; but following the Crucifixion, the Jews should have accepted Jesus in droves, there being no reason for God to maintain the Jews’ spiritual blindness.

Origen, a Church father who lived in the third century, hundreds of years before Rashi, wrote thus in “Contra Celsum”: “I remember that once in a discussion with some whom the Jews regard as learned I used these prophecies [from Isaiah 53]. At this the Jew said that these prophecies referred to the whole people as though of a single individual, since they were scattered in the dispersion and smitten, that as a result of the scattering of the Jews among the other nations many might become proselytes. In this way he explained the text: `Thy form shall be inglorious among men’; and `those to whom he was not proclaimed shall see him'”.

The Church’s mistake in its interpretation of the rabbinic writings is understandable, however. In the Talmud’s commentary on Isaiah 53, the opinion is expressed that one man, Moshiach ben Yosef (the anointed one of the tribe of Joseph), will suffer in the same manner as the servant of Isaiah 53. In the last days, when Jerusalem is under siege by the nations of the world, this man will die as a martyr for his faith, inspiring the Jewish people to repent and to seek G-d with all their heart. G-d, seeing their faith, will then send Elijah the Prophet to identify the Messiah. A Christian who is not familiar with the tradition of Moshiach ben Yosef could easily mistake this commentary for a Messianic interpretation of Isaiah 53; but it is clearly not, as Moshiach ben Yosef is most definitely not the Messiah. (I discuss Moshiach ben Yosef in somewhat more detail in my explanation of Zechariah 12:10.)

Another common error made by Christians is the claim that Isaiah 53 was removed from the haftarah, the weekly readings from the books of the prophets, because the Sages feared that those in the congregation who heard Isaiah 53 being read would accept Jesus as the Messiah. Indeed, Isaiah 53 is not read in the synagogues, while Isaiah 52 and Isaiah 54 are. But is this a result of anti-Christian polemic on the part of the Sages? Hardly. In fact, less than three percent of the Prophets is read in the weekly synagogue services. The portions that are read were chosen because they bear some relation to the Torah portions that are read the same weeks as the respective prophetic portions. In this way, the prophetic portion that is read in a given week complements the Torah portion that is read the same week. Isaiah 53 bears no relation to any particular portion of the Torah, so there was simply no need for it to be included in the Haftarah. That the exclusion of Isaiah 53 was not done out of anti-Christian polemic should be obvious from the fact that Daniel 9 is included in the Haftarah despite its use by Christians.

It should be noted that the New Testament confirms that the Haftarah already existed in Jesus’s lifetime, when the Sages certainly had no reason to fear Isaiah 53. Luke 4:16-20 recounts how Jesus was called up to the front of a synagogue in Nazareth, whereupon he read Isaiah 61: “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the L-rd is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the L-rd. And he closed the book, and gave it again to the minister, and sat down”. If we assume that Isaiah 53 was at this time part of the Haftarah but was removed when Christians began using it, then how was it removed from every Jewish synagogue in the world, overnight, without any dissent or debate? Recall that in Jesus’s day there were synagogues throughout the Roman Empire. Any decision made in Jerusalem would have taken time to trickle through to all the synagogues. And if, as the Christians claim, Isaiah 53 points strongly enough to Jesus that the Sages were afraid that Jews would be swayed to Christianity just by hearing it, then at least some of the rabbis outside the Land of Israel should have been swayed themselves; these rabbis would have continued including Isaiah 53 in their Haftarot to this day. And unless one wishes to accuse all the rabbis throughout the Roman Empire of being so demonic in their anti-Christian hostility that they would conspire together to deliberately blot out a portion of God’s word (a suggestion which just reeks of anti-Semitism), there should at bare minimum have been debate about whether or not to remove Isaiah 53 from the Haftarah. This debate would have been recorded in the Talmud, so that later rabbis could answer students who inquired as to why the Haftarah jumped from Isaiah 52 to Isaiah 54. (In fact, if the Sages had been smart, they would have also removed chapters 52 and 54. Keeping chapters 52 and 54 just begs Christians to ask why chapter 53 is missing.) The only reasonable conclusion is that the Haftarah predates Christianity and that Isaiah 53 was never part of it.

Daniel 9. This prophecy, it is contended, specifically mentions the Messiah and says that the Messiah had to be executed before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. More than that, it is claimed that the prophecy contains a countdown to the exact year that the Messiah had to be executed. I can think offhand of five different explanations of the countdown, using slightly different starting points for the countdown and slightly different dates for the Crucifixion, and some employing a 360-day “prophectic year”, which seek to show that Jesus of Nazareth died at exactly the right time to fulfill the prophecy. Now, the sheer multiplicity of these explanations argues against any of them being right. Luke’s gospel has Jesus explaining the prophecies to the disciples after his resurrection, as it is written: “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27); presumably, this would have included Daniel 9, and the correct interpretation of Daniel 9 would have been handed down by oral tradition through the Apostles and their successors. Every Christian today would thus have the correct interpretation of Daniel 9; since there are, as mentioned, a multiplicity of interpretations in use in the Church, the aforementioned scenario cannot have occurred. However, a more careful analysis of the prophecy itself is needed.

First, I shall state the prophecy as it appears in the King James Bible. (The prophecy is contained in verses 24-27.) “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”

At first glance, this looks rather Christian. How can a Jew possibly reject Jesus in the face of a prophecy like this? Could it be any clearer that the Messiah’s death was foretold by the prophets?

Let us examine the Hebrew text. The word rendered “Messiah” in verses 25 and 26 is “moshiach”, which in modern Hebrew does mean “Messiah” but which in ancient Hebrew meant simply “anointed”. All throughout the rest of the scriptures, wherever “moshiach” appears, it is rendered “anointed”. The priests are called “moshiach”; all the kings are called “moshiach”; King Cyrus, a Gentile king, is called “moshiach” in Isaiah 45:1; and David consistently refers to Saul as “moshiach” even after the spirit of G-d departs from Saul. It wasn’t until around the second century BCE – a couple of centuries after the time of Daniel – that “moshiach” began to be used to refer to the Redeemer who is coming at the end of days. Also, the phrase rendered “but not for himself” is “v’ein lo”, which really means “and he shall have nothing” (the King James lists this as an alternative translation). We see, then, that there is no real reason to suspect that the anointed one is the Messiah or that his being cut off will atone for our sins.

What about the time that this anointed one was to be cut off? Christians will tell you that the word rendered “week”, “shavuah”, could also be rendered “unit of seven”, and indeed it is as common in Hebrew to speak of a week of years as a week of days. Thus far they are in agreement with Jewish commentators. But then they cite Artaxerxes II’s letters to Nehemiah (Neh. 2:1-6) authorizing the rebuilding of Jerusalem as the point at which the countdown was to begin. By secular chronology, this decree took place in the middle of the fifth century BCE (historians differ on the exact year, and dates range from 445 BCE to 465 BCE). Seven weeks and threescore and two weeks is 69X7=483 years; picking one of the dates for Artaxerxes’s letters to Nehemiah and adding 483 years puts you around the time of Jesus’s death. (Those who hold to the date of 445 BCE believe in something called the “prophetic year”. This doctrine, which says that a year in symbolic prophecy is really 360 days, isn’t mentioned or even hinted at anywhere in Scripture [this includes the New Testament]. Nor can it be held that the Hebrew year is 360 days long. The Hebrew calendar is lunisolar, which means it has 6 months of 29 days each and 6 months of 30 days each, for a total of 354 days; but every so often there is a “leap month” of 30 days, so that on average the year contains 365-1/4 days.)

There are two problems with the above exegesis. The first and most obvious is that of the seventieth week. After the anointed one was cut off, the prince who was to come was to make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but break the covenant in the midst of the week, causing the sacrifice and the oblation to cease; and at the end of the week a complete destruction was to be poured out upon the desolate. None of this happened within the first seven years after Jesus’s death, no matter what date you settle upon for his death. However, the High Priest was removed from office, “cut off”, in 63 CE. Nero, the emperor at this time, made an agreement with the Jews not to prevent them from offering sacrifices in the Temple; but he broke this agreement in 66 CE, when the Jewish Wars began. In 70 CE, the Temple was destroyed, along with all of Jerusalem, and the Jewish nation was dispersed. This sequence of events mirrors Daniel’s seventieth week exactly.

It is noteworthy that in both occurrences of the word “Messiah” in the King James, the word is “moshiach”, *an* anointed one, as opposed to “hamoshiach”, *the* anointed one. Christians must claim that the two anointed ones are both the Messiah; but it makes no sense, after having already introduced the Messiah, to refer to him as “an anointed one”. It would make far more sense to say something like, ‘An anointed one is coming etc., and after the sixty-two weeks *the* anointed one shall be cut off and have nothing.” The absence of the definite article proves that the two anointed ones are different people. This fact helps to explain why Daniel wrote, “seven weeks and sixty-two weeks”, rather than simply, “sixty-nine weeks”. The compression of the seven weeks with the 62 weeks is a rather recent development among Christian translators. In the 1611 edition of the King James Bible, the beginning of the prophecy reads, “Know therefore and vnderstand, that from the going foorth of the commandment to restore and to build Ierusalem, vnto the Messiah the Prince, shall be seuen weekes; and threescore and two weekes, the street shall be built againe, and the wall, euen in troublous times.” Other respected translations, such as the New Revised Standard Version and the Anchor Bible, follow suit in so translating the passage that the first anointed one is clearly coming at the end of seven weeks and that the second anointed one is clearly coming 62 weeks later. It wasn’t until 1885 that the revisers of the King James saw fit to change the text so that it appears as if there is only one anointed one. Why was this change made? Because if there are two anointed ones, and the first one is clearly not Jesus (because he came way too early), and nothing special is said about the second anointed one (in fact, it is only the first anointed one who is called a prince), then there is no real reason to suspect that the second anointed one is Jesus either.

In the beginning of the prophecy, where Gabriel says, “from the going forth of the word”, the Sages have held since Daniel’s day that the “word” referred to is not the word of any king, but Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jer. 29:10), given immediately after the inhabitants of Jerusalem were exiled, that the Babylonian exile would end after 70 years. This makes sense: “from the going forth of the word, to restore and to build Jerusalem unto an anointed prince shall be seven weeks”. Which word? The word foretelling the restoration and rebuilding of Jerusalem unto an anointed prince. Secular chronology, as used in the Abington Bible Commentary, dates the issuance of Jeremiah’s prophecy and the exile of Jerusalem at 586 BCE and the rise of Cyrus the Mede, whose decree ended the exile (2 Chronicles 36:22-23), at 538 BCE. Taking 586 to be the first year and counting forward yields 538 as year 49, the end of the seventh week. It is clear, therefore, that Cyrus is the first anointed one.

It should be mentioned here that, around this time period, there is a 166-year inconsistency between secular history and Jewish ecclesiastical history, with the secular dates earlier. Thus, the ecclesiastical history dates Jeremiah’s prophecy and the exile of Jerusalem at 420 BCE and the rise of Cyrus at 372 BCE. I submit that the Jews were there and know exactly when these events took place, whereas the secular historians must extrapolate from the archaeological evidence at hand. Given that the Jews kept detailed genealogical records (I personally know a man, Rabbi Tovia Singer, whose family has been keeping genealogical records since the time of Aaron), it is difficult to see where we could have simply misplaced 166 years of our history; therefore I hold to the ecclesiastical history. Continuing to count forward from 420 BCE and remembering that there was no year 0, we see that the 490th year, the end of the seventieth week, is 70 CE, the year Jerusalem was destroyed. This is the Jewish explanation of Daniel 9, and it is far more consistent than the Christian explanation. (If the reader is Jewish or has been exposed to Judaism, then he/she will recall that the First and Second Temples were both destroyed on the 9th day of the Hebrew month Av, fulfilling the prophecy right down to the day.)

At this point, the Christian should recall that in Matthew 24, when Jesus foretells the destruction of Jerusalem, he makes reference to “the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet”, a reference to Daniel 9. Thus it appears that Jesus agreed with the Jewish interpretation of Daniel 9.

Hosea 11:1. This verse reads, “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.” The reader may be surprised to learn that some Christians take this verse to be Christological, despite the fact that Hosea is clearly doing nothing more than recounting the Exodus from Egypt. (Precedent for calling Israel God’s son is found in Exodus 4:22, where Moses is instructed to tell Pharaoh, “Thus saith the L-rd, Israel is my son, my firstborn.”) Yet Matthew quotes this verse: “And when they [the Magi] were departed, behold, the angel of the L-rd appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: and was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the L-rd by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son”. The passage from Hosea refers so obviously to the Exodus from Egypt that very few Christians quote it today. E. W. Hengstenberg, whose book, “The Christology of the Old Testament”, goes into great detail about passages from the Hebrew Scriptures which are purported to be Christological, is so embarrassed by Matthew’s obvious misunderstanding of the Scriptures that he doesn’t even mention Hosea 11:1. Amazingly, however, some Christians (even some pastors and Messianic rabbis) still quote it.

Matthew really ought to have known better than to have an angel tell Joseph to take the Messiah and his mother out of the Promised Land and into Egypt for fear of King Herod. One does not have to read very far into the Bible to see that G-d does not look kindly on those who seek to return to Egypt for fear of the inhabitants of the Promised Land (see, for instance, Numbers 14). G-d was adamant that we were never to return to Egypt: “But he [the king whom we would set over ourselves] shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the L-rd hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way” (Deuteronomy 17:16). When the Chaldeans took Jerusalem, Jeremiah warned the remnant of Judah against returning to Egypt: “For thus saith the L-rd of hosts, the G-d of Israel; as mine anger and my fury hath been poured forth upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem; so shall my fury be poured forth upon you, when ye shall enter into Egypt: and ye shall be an execration, and an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach; and ye shall see this place no more”. What happened during Jesus’s childhood that made G-d change His mind about Egypt?

A further point regarding Matthew’s narrative bears mentioning. Look at what he does with Joseph’s decision to take Jesus from Egypt to Nazareth: “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.” The prophets, however, never even mentioned the city of Nazareth or Nazarenes. Matthew was either poorly educated or deliberately lying.

Zechariah 9:9. This prophecy reads, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon the colt the foal of an ass.” Christians have generally understood this prophecy to be a reference to the Messiah, and this is one of the few places where the Jews would agree with them. Since, according to the New Testament (Matthew 21, Luke 19), Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey on the first Palm Sunday, Christians point to this verse as a foreshadowing of Jesus. Of course, anyone could ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, not just the Messiah, but let us move on.

One of the interesting features of the Christological interpretation of this verse is that Christians will always quote this verse but will never quote the verse right after it. Zechariah 9:10 reads, “And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen [nations]: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth.” The fact that this verse begins with the word “and” can only mean that whatever event it is describing must follow directly on the heels of the event described in the preceding verse. In other words, very shortly after the Messiah rides into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt, world peace will ensue. This, of course, did not happen immediately after of the first Palm Sunday. Therefore, this verse actually rules Jesus out as a Messianic candidate. Another interesting feature of how Christians use this verse is the manner in which the New Testament uses it. Below are the relevant passages from Matthew 21 and Luke 19. See if you can tell how many donkeys Jesus rode:

  • Matthew 21. And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come unto Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, and brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way.
  •  

  • Luke 19. And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount called the mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying, Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, yet whereon never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither. And if any man ask you, Why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him. And they brought him to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they set Jesus thereon. And as he went, they spread their clothes in the way.
  • These two passages, read side by side, reveal the manner in which the New Testament authors constructed their stories. Rather than seeing the events and then remembering the prophecies, they seem to have constructed the events around their interpretation of the prophecies. Matthew mistakenly interpreted Zechariah 9:9 as referring to two donkeys, a colt and its mother, so he had Jesus do a circus act, straddling both donkeys. Luke correctly interpreted the prophecy as referring only to the colt, so he had Jesus riding only the colt. Matthew couldn’t have been more clear that there were two animals, and Luke couldn’t have been more clear that there was only one. (Mark 11 and John 12 also place Jesus on only one donkey.) Since a stunt such as the one Matthew describes would be a memorable event, it can only be that either Matthew is lying or Mark, Luke, and John are lying (or possibly all four are lying).

    Zechariah 12:10. Another passage used often by Christians seeking to prove the Trinity is Zechariah 12:10. In the King James Bible, it reads, “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one is in bitterness for his firstborn.” “Aha!”, the Christian exclaims. “G-d is being pierced! Doesn’t that sound like the Crucifixion of our L-rd and Savior, Jesus Christ?”

    Well, not really. Even without looking at the original Hebrew, it should be apparent that this text in no way refers to Jesus. For starters, the context of the prophecy is a description of events in the last days, right before the coming of the Messiah. How could the latter-day inhabitants of Jerusalem possibly be guilty for an event that happened nearly two thousand years ago? Furthermore, Jesus was pierced not by the Jews, but by Roman soldiers. (Error on both of these points has led to unspeakable persecution of the Jews by the Church.) And what of the passage, “…and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one is in bitterness for his firstborn”? One mourns for his only son and is in bitterness for his firstborn by grieving over the fact that his firstborn son is no longer in the world. If the Christians are right, and the Jews depicted here are witnessing the second coming of Jesus (“they shall *look* upon me etc.”), then why would the Jews be mourning in this fashion? I might expect to see remorse over their rejection of the Messiah, but not the kind of grief one feels at the death of a loved one. Additionally, this would seem a rather cavalier way to introduce G-d’s death, as even the Christians aren’t claiming that G-d’s death is foretold elsewhere.

    It should also be apparent from the text that it is being mistranslated. “They shall look upon *me* whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for *him*”? This odd phrasing always bothered me when I was a Messianic Jew, and I wondered what it could mean. In Hebrew, this part of the verse reads, “v’hibitu eilei eit asher dakaru” – “and they shall look to me because of the one who was pierced”. This ties in with the Talmudic prophecy that, in the last days, Israel’s sufferings as described in Isaiah 53 will be epitomized in a man called Moshiach ben Yosef, the anointed one of the tribe of Joseph. This person will be martyred for his faith; upon seeing him dead, the Jewish people will be spurred to repentance and such great observance of Torah that their combined righteousness will force the coming of the Messiah.

     

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