By Benjamin Leon | Missionaries misleadingly assert that the entire chapter 53 of the book of Isaiah refers to Jesus as the “Suffering Servant” of God who dies for the sins of the world. Someone could easily be fooled to believe this argument if Isaiah is read out of context and without a proper translation.
However, it is obvious to anyone reading this text correctly, that Isaiah is telling us how the nations of the world will react when they witness the future messianic redemption of the Jewish people. . (Throughout the book of Isaiah, the Jewish people are referred to as the “Servant of God” and in the singular. (eg: Isaiah 41:8, Isaiah 49:3)
First, they will be astonished, literally covering their mouths at what they see, because they never believed that they would witness the glorious redemption of a persecuted, rejected and despised Israel.
(God kept His promise to the Jews and restored the land of Israel which He swore unto the forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob without the assistance of an intermediary.)
Secondly, they will try to understand why this newly-exalted Israel suffered so much. Originally they believed it was because God had rejected the Jews. Now that they see that this is not true, they will say that the suffering was the result of the transgressions of the nations who persecuted the Jewish people. When translated correctly, this can be seen clearly in the following two verses: “He [Israel] was wounded because of (m’–n) our [the nations] transgression.” Isaiah 53:5 In this verse the Hebrew letter “n” means “because of” or “from.” It is never translated as “for”, which would incorrectly indicate a vicarious atonement. “For the transgression of my people they (lamo–unk) were stricken.” Isaiah 53:8 The word lamo (unk) is plural (see Psalm 99:7) and clearly indicates that this verse does not refer to a single individual.
If Jesus wasn’t the Messiah, who was he?
Many historians and theologians agree that the gospels give a very one-sided picture of Jesus. These scholars disagree with the view that Jesus was God and that he did away with the commandments.
When the historical, sociological, political and theological circumstances are taken into consideration, they conclude that Jesus was merely a human being whose zealous messianic aspirations failed.
The belief that Jesus was God and did away with the commandments was due to the influence of the apostle Paul, and later, the political authority of Constantine and the Roman Empire. They created a religion that Jesus himself would not recognise. It was specifically the dictatorial influence of the Roman Empire that led to the religion’s widespread acceptance and popularity. A careful study of the gospels, which takes into account the prevailing circumstances and the perspectives of the numerous groups that co-existed at the time, also validates this opinion.
Additional substantiation can be brought from the Ebionite Christian sect, who existed as late as the fourth century and who denied the divinity of Jesus and believed they were obligated to keep the Torah. There is evidence that the Ebionites were direct descendants of the original followers of Jesus and were maintaining their original beliefs in a human Messiah. The Ebionites were excommunicated from the Roman church for refusing to accept the non-biblical doctrines put forth in the Nicene Creed.
The adoption of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire accounts for its growth and popularity. The inclusion of many beliefs taken from Greco-Roman paganism, such as the trinity, resurrection and virgin birth, simply facilitated the process.
How could the Messiah come today if there are no longer kings from the tribe of Judah?
Missionaries often quote Genesis 49:10, “The scepter will not depart from Judah nor a lawgiver from between his feet until Shiloh [Messiah] comes.” They want to prove that the Messiah must have already come, since the kingship of Israel has already departed from the tribe of Judah. This argument is incorrect for two reasons:
l The passage actually means that the right of kingship will always remain within the tribe of Judah, up to and including when the Messiah comes.
l If the missionaries’ logic was correct, we would be forced to say that the Messiah must have come even before Jesus, since the kingship of Judah temporarily departed more than 100 years earlier during the time of the Maccabees and the Chanukah miracle.
Missionaries also argue that since all family records were stored exclusively in the Jewish Temple, no one can prove his Jewish genealogy because the temple and the records were destroyed by the Romans. This argument is totally false. The second chapter of the book of Ezra clearly indicates that private family genealogical records were not kept in the temple. In fact, there are numerous Jews today who can trace their lineage to the tribe of Judah and King David.
Benjamin Leon is a member of the Jewish Community in Zimbabwe.