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Who is the Suffering Servant in Isaiah?

Discussion in 'Religious Debates' started by Dubio, May 3, 2013.

  1. Dubio

    Dubio Member

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    I heard it could be Israel. I heard it could be Jesus. Bishop John Spong believes that Isaiah redefined the definition of messiah from a conquering king to someone who would be persecuted in order to prove his worthiness to God. Isaiah did this because he realized through all of the horrible things that happened to the Israelites, there wouldn't ever be a conquering king. What do you think Isaiah meant by Suffering Servant?
     
  2. fallingblood

    fallingblood Agnostic Theist

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    Traditional interpretations has stated that it refers to Israel as a whole. Some Christian traditions see it as Jesus as you stated.

    Going back to earlier Jewish views, I do believe there were some interpretations that it did refer to the messiah. Now, it has to also be realized that we are talking about Second Isaiah here though, so it does make a difference.

    Personally, I think it refers to Israel though.
     
  3. rusra02

    rusra02 Well-Known Member
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    Isaiah' prophecy in chapters 52 and 53 finds fulfillment in Jesus Christ. I believe the Christian scriptures unmistakably identify Christ as suffering for our sakes.(Matthew 8:16,17 and John 12:37,38 for just two examples)
     
  4. Muffled

    Muffled Jesus in me

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    I believe the context does not allow an interpretation of israel. There is not much doubt in my mind that Jesus fits the description of the person in the prophecy.
     
  5. seeking4truth

    seeking4truth Active Member

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    The suffering servant was Jesus. He was the second-Isaiah. He wrote this lament after the Jewish authorities rejected him as their Messiah and tried to kill him.
    You could also say Jesus was lamenting for the Jews knowing that they would suffer for their rejection of him - as they have done.
     
  6. fallingblood

    fallingblood Agnostic Theist

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    Jesus could not be the Second-Isaiah as this work was written long before Jesus was born.
     
  7. gnostic

    gnostic The Lost One

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    Israel.

    I think the Suffering Servant has to do with Israel.

    The Suffering Servant doesn't really start until Isaiah 52:13. BUT, I believed that the Suffering Servant (52:13-15 & 53:1-12) should be read with the rest of the chapter 52 (so that would include 52:1-12).

    The chapter (52) begins with Zion being encouraged to rejoice and then because Jerusalem being released from captivity (52:2), where eventually in verse 4 (52:4) speak of Israel (Jacob and his descendants) living in Egypt (meaning Genesis and Exodus), and of current situation where the kingdoms suffer from oppression at the hand of Assyria, followed by -
    So if you read of Zion's rejoice (52:1-12) together with the Suffering Servant (52:13-15 & 53:1-12), you will come to realise that both of them are talking about similar things, but it all relates to the Israelite (descendants of Jacob) as a whole.

    If Suffering Servant was about Jesus, then why would the chapter change subject from addressing Zion or Israel to something (what some Christians believe to be) about Jesus?

    It doesn't make sense if we accept Christian interpretation that Jesus was the Suffering Servant.

    Now, I don't which chapter in Genesis (but I'm sure someone here will remind me), but I'd like you to recall to the event where Jacob wrestle against the angel or god and win a new name for himself - "Israel".

    So Jacob = Israel.

    And Israel could mean the people of Israel or Israelite, which is the 12 tribes of Israel, hence Jacob's descendants. Or Israel could mean the kingdom, either like when Israel was divided from Judah, or like when all 12 tribes were united into one kingdom under David and Solomon.

    Oh :eek: don't get your panties in knots, ladies. :foot: I'm getting to my point.

    The reason why I mentioned Jacob being Israel is that Jacob aka Israel is named a number of times (and in different chapters) as being the "Servant". For example:
    ...and:
    As far as I can tell, Jacob has never been to Babylon. So this must or possibly mean the times when the Jews were in Exile during 6th century BCE.

    Jacob or Israel (or sometimes both) is mentioned a number times as being "servant" (I don't know how many times, and I didn't count it). So, it is my understanding that the Suffering Servant is Israel.
     
  8. idav

    idav Being
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    Nice and thorough. I believe Jacob is the key and Israel but more specifically the decedents of Jacob. Jesus could count in that respect if any of the genealogies were factual.
     
  9. gnostic

    gnostic The Lost One

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    In Isaiah 53, where it talked about the servant "suffering", I believed that most Christians believed these parts referred to Jesus.

    For instance, according to what I remember of Christian or church teachings, Jesus suffered for their sins, when he was beaten and crucified, in order to save them. Sort of like sin offering. Jesus was atoning for us mere mortals.

    I think that's the main reasons why Christians believed that Jesus was the Suffering Servant. It could be the case.

    However, I believed that the Suffering Servant could symbolize something else, other than the Christian interpretation.

    Now, I preferred to reading narrative (drama or adventure) because I find it interesting. :yes: :yes: I know, I'm addicted to storytelling, like myths. But my point is that I prefer to reading narratives than reading about law, morality or poetry, or in the case of religious scriptures, what they called prophecy. The problem I have with writings of law, morality or ethics is they can be downright boring, :sleep: especially when the scriptures goes on and on about sins...sorry, but I'm not obsessed with sins. And then there are so-called prophecies, which are often confusing, and can mean any number of things; to sum it up - prophecy is open interpretation - and 9 out of ten times, your will interpretation sucks if you're wrong.

    Anyway getting back to my point, is that Moses introduced a law or custom (don't really know which it is...or it could be both) for the Levite to use.

    I am referring to the sin offering...but more to the point - the Day of Atonement.

    Sin offering is way of atoning. And this usually involved the sacrifice of a goat (see Leviticus 3:12-16, 4:1-28 (where either bull or goat being used), 5:2-6; Leviticus 9, 10, etc.)

    The most interesting one is sin-offering where 2 goats were used; see Leviticus 16.

    Here, one goat was offered as a sacrifice to God, while the other goat was to be used as atonement for the sins of all the tribes of Israel. This 2nd goat was the scapegoat. In JPS, it was offering to Azazel:

    Who this Azazel is, I don't know.

    Other translations leave out Azazel, and just called it scapegoat, because Azazel means "scapegoat".

    But anyway, like Jesus or the Suffering Servant bearing the sins of others, so does this scapegoat.

    The scapegoat was to be presented to God first, before sending into the wilderness:

    Am I saying that the Suffering Servant is the goat?

    :no: What I am saying the Suffering Servant bear the sins of his people (Israelite), just as the goat to Azazel did, as form of atonement for the people. The Suffering Servant is a symbol for sin offering and atonement. So is the scapegoat (being the symbol of Israelite's sins) in Leviticus 16.

    In the case of Isaiah's Suffering Servant, I don't think it should be taken too literal.

    Am I making any sense? I do tends to get "sidetracked" or ramble off. :sorry1:
     
  10. steeltoes

    steeltoes Junior member

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    .



    According to Thomas Brodie, the biography of Jesus was basically ‘lifted’ or 'pilfered' from the Elijah-Elisha narrative.



    .
     
    #10 steeltoes, May 6, 2013
    Last edited: May 6, 2013
  11. fallingblood

    fallingblood Agnostic Theist

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    Thomas Brodie would be wrong then. While there are some similarities, but that really means nothing. They were both Jewish, of course there will be similarities. By far and large, the differences outweigh the similarities.
     
  12. gnostic

    gnostic The Lost One

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    I just think that the Suffering Servant is just symbolic representation of Israel.

    Like I wrote earlier, the "Servant" is mentioned a number of times in the Book of Isaiah, and often the servant is linked to Jacob-Israel (read post 7, for the list of references to Jacob=servant). Since Jacob, under the name of Israel, was eponymous to the people, his descendants. Hence, the Suffering Servant could be Jacob-Israel, and Israel is definitely symbol of the Israelite.

    Now if all other references to the word "servant" in the book of Isaiah, even hint at being "Jesus", then I would say Jesus is the possibilities, but I really don't think so.
     
  13. seeking4truth

    seeking4truth Active Member

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    "Jesus could not be the Second-Isaiah as this work was written long before Jesus was born."

    How do you know? What evidence is there that this chapter was not written by Jesus reflecting on and referring to his fulfillment of the prophecies of the first Isaiah and warning Israel of the consequences of rejecting him?
     
  14. fallingblood

    fallingblood Agnostic Theist

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    We have a complete scroll of Isaiah that dates to at least a 100 years before Jesus.
     
  15. steeltoes

    steeltoes Junior member

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    "The passage of 'Isaiah 53' is known for its interpretation and use by Christian Theologians and Missionaries, many of whom identify the servant to be Christ Jesus. Many Christians view the entire chapter, and particularly this passage to refer to the Passion of Christ as well as the absolution of sins believed to be made possible by his sacrificial death." wiki



    Isaiah could be where the idea of a crucified Christ comes from, a source for Christ as a saviour figure.

    What is plausible, that Isaiah 53 is a prophecy or that gospel writers used Isaiah 53 for their own purposes?
     
  16. fallingblood

    fallingblood Agnostic Theist

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    The idea that Isaiah was used to create a crucified Christ simply is not plausible. Mainly because it would make no sense.

    The chapter was only later used to justify the death of a messiah figure.
     
  17. steeltoes

    steeltoes Junior member

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    Denial is not a river in Egypt.
     
  18. fallingblood

    fallingblood Agnostic Theist

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    Denial also isn't looking at the facts and coming to the most logical conclusion.
     
  19. Pegg

    Pegg Jehovah our God is One

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    its pretty clear that the 'suffering servant' cannot be Israel because as the Encyclopaedia Judaica says: “The real Israel is sinful and the Servant [of Isaiah 53], free of sin.” 1971, Volume 9, page 65.

    And thats why Isaiah 53 is 'traditionally' believed to be referring to the Messiah. The child who would be born into the world as the appointed savior. He would be born to a 'virgin' and hence have no human father who could pass on adamic sin to him.
     
  20. seeking4truth

    seeking4truth Active Member

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    "20 When he has finished atoning for the holy place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. 21 Then Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and sending it away into the wilderness by means of someone designated for the task. 22 The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a barren region; and the goat shall be set free in the wilderness."

    This is one of the points which convinces me that Jesus did not die on the cross. The sacrifice which carried the 'sins' of the Jews was NOT killed but went away from the Temple into the wilderness - as did Jesus after his crucifixion.

    Dating of scrolls is not an exact science. Saying that the scrolls of Isaiah that are available have been dated to 100 years before Jesus is not convincing. What methods were used? How accurate and exact are these methods?
     
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