"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

By Sophiee

Missionaries love to claim that many Rabbis and Jewish sages have said the “suffering servant” of Isaiah 53 is the messiah. Website after website (and many of Michael Brown’s books) make this claim and even purport to quote these Jewish sources. The only problem is that this is not the truth. We get this misleading and partial quotes ever so often, and once one of our posters (posting name: Jabba) listed a bunch of them in the Isaiah 53 thread late last week.

In my next set of posts I will address many of the sources that are quoted and explain them in context. In this particular post I will give general information on how this missionary nonsense came to pass (they all reference ONE source from the 19th century even though they very rarely admit this).

The original idea that Jews at an earlier point in time used to say that Isaiah 52-53 was about the messiah but “changed” it to the nation of Israel because of the threat of Christianity during the time of the Jewish sage Rashi (12th century CE) is nonsense. The Christians want to think that Jews were so concerned (because Isaiah 53 was OBVIOUSLY about Jesus) that we “changed” the rules to hide it from the average Jew — and some go so far as to say we removed Isaiah 53 from the Haftarah for this reason — and others even say the book of Isaiah is not found in Jewish bibles!

Total nonsense, of course — but let’s start at the beginning. Where do all those quotes come from that say Isaiah 53 is about “the messiah” in Targum Yonathan, El Sheik (Alschich), and so forth?

These quotes come from a book entitled “The 53rd Chapter of Isaiah According to Jewish Interpreter 2 vols. (1876-77)”. The book was the brainchild of a Christian named E. B. Pusey. He came up with the idea for the book which was compiled by two editors named Driver and Neubauer. Pusey wrote a VERY long introduction which in itself contains many, many errors. Pusey was an ANGLICAN PRIEST. This is the source that so many Christians point to as a Jewish source!

Two fellow Oxford men did the translations — which are very selective (as we will see) and often mistranslated. The translations were courtesy of Driver and Neubauer. Driver was also an Anglican priest. These supposed Jewish “proofs” now rebound all over the internet.

Although the title speaks of Isaiah 53, the misquotes often ignore that chapter, and often Isaiah itself, to glean misquotes and distortions from various sources. The internet has site after site “quoting” early Jewish sources who recognize that the suffering servant was the messiah. The only problem is that this is not the truth.

Samuel R. Driver and Adolf Neubauer, created the book at the request of Anglican priest E. B. Pusey (more on him in a minute).. Driver was a was an British churchman and Regius Professor of Hebrew at Christ Church, Oxford. Doesn’t sound very Jewish for one claiming to know all about Rabbinical teachings is he? It gets even better. The Hebrew Chair at Oxford was attached to a canonry of Christ Church — so Pusey became an Priest of the Anglican church. THIS is the source quoted by Michael Brown and other Christians as JEWISH!!!!!

Adolf Neubauer was a sub-librarian at Oxford. Neubauer put the book The 53rd Chapter of Isaiah According to Jewish Interpreters together and Driver translated it into English..

E. B. Pusey (again, a Christian trying to disprove the Jewish interpretation of Isaiah’s servant and the man who asked that the book be created) wrote the original introduction to Driver & Neubeur’s book. In it he claimed that pre-Rashi Jews said Isaiah 53 was about the messiah but Rashi “changed” the interpretation to say Isaiah 53 was about Israel and not the messiah. Pusey the predecessor to Driver at Oxford as the Regius Professor of Hebrew at Christ Church, Oxford — so he, too, was a priest.

In Pusey’s 35 page introduction he defends the work of Raymond Martini from the 13th century. Raymundus Martin (Raymond Martini) was an anti-Jewish Dominican priest from the 13th century CE. Pugio Fidei (Dagger of the Faith) was an anti-Jewish diatribe he wrote (amongst others).

Read the introduction to The 53rd Chapter of Isaiah According to Jewish Interpreter and you will see that Neubauer DID NOT want to include the passages that appear from Martini as he knew they were forgeries. However Pusey insisted that they appear (as he states in his introduction) and so there now appears a text that is claimed to come from the Talmud Sanhedrin, which disagrees with all texts of Sanhedrin, and is IN FACT taken from Martini.

In other words Pusey wasn’t above lying to make his point that the Jews had interpreted Isaiah 53 as being about the messiah. His use of Martini over even Neubauer’s objections shows this.

This issue of falsification and distortion is a common one. The Targum Yonathan is quoted for verse 52:13 but not 52:14 or 53:1.


The Zohar (II 212) is quoted in part but NEVER in full where it would contradict what the quoter is trying to prove. The same could be said about the Ramban (who says that the simple meaning of the passage is that it is about Israel) or the Alsheich who mentions the messiah, but says that the messiah he means is King David. etc etc.

This, then, is the source that proves we Jews changed the meaning of the servant from the messiah to Israel. Hardly bullet-proof and yet time and again we must refute it.

Some background:

1. Isaiah clearly identifies the servant as Israel (there are no chapters in the original document).

2. An early church father, Origen, in 248 CE, speaks of Jews telling him the servant was Israel and not the messiah.

3. Puseys 19th century book states we Jews changed it from the messiah to Israel with Rashi, circa 12th century CE yet many of the quotes he uses as proof are dated long after Rashi as late as the 16th century CE.

4. The book throws in quotes from midrash aggadah, zohar and targum as if they were pshat (plain meaning) without educating the reader to the mysticism, allegory and story telling inherent in the different formats.

5. Apologists will quote a sentence where a source speaks of a messiah without stating they have also identified the servant as Israel (or Moses or someone else) and ignoring the messiah in question is moshiach ben Yosef not David. Nowhere do they explain who moshiach ben Yosef IS.

6. The book quotes Karaites as Jewish sources. Karaites are about as representative of Judaism as Mormons are of mainstream Xianity. Karaites were a Jewish splinter sect which began in 8th century CE in Baghdad. They discarded the oral mitzvot (although they quickly began their own oral tradition). Karaites were considered heretics by traditional Judaism — so it is pretty amazing that Karaites would be quoted in a book supposedly focusing on Jewish sages interpretations of Isaiah 53 — but a missionary will take what I missionary can get!

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