Jewish / Judaism : The Isaiah 9 Controversy, part 1 of 4

Isaiah ch. 9, particularly verses 6-7 are a polemical issue betwixt Judaism and Christianity.
The key question is: does the text refer to the, at the time of the writing, future Messiah and therefore to Jesus-as Christianity claims-or to a person contemporaneous to the times when the text was inspired-as Judaism claims?

Part 1: Introduction and From the Talmud
Part 2: The Targumim and The Midrashim
Part 3: Various Rabbis and Jewish Scholars
Part 4: Another Aspect of this Issue

Isaiah ch. 9, particularly verses 6-7 are a polemical issue betwixt Judaism and Christianity.
The key question is: does the text refer to the, at the time of the writing, future Messiah and therefore to Jesus-as Christianity claims-or to a person contemporaneous to the times when the text was inspired-as Judaism claims?

Part 1: Introduction and From the Talmud
Part 2: The Targumim and The Midrashim
Part 3: Various Rabbis and Jewish Scholars
Part 4: Another Aspect of this Issue

A Jewish gentleman with whom I was dialoguing forwarded me an article written by Rabbi Tovia Singer (of the anti-missionary organization Jews for Judaism). I do not know whether it was ever published in print or online (I received it via email on April 17, 2001]. I will quote, in part, from the text of the emailed article since it provides a very good and succinct elucidation of the controversy involving Isaiah ch. 9.

Rabbi Tovia Singer wrote:

“There is probably no text in the Hebrew Bible that was more elaborately manipulated by…Christendom to deliberately change words of our Hebrew scriptures…
the church vandalized these two celebrated verses and then dislodged them from their original context…
What exactly did the church do with this text in order to make the prophet’s message seem as though it foretold of a future Jesus? To begin with, Christendom took words that were written by Isaiah in the past tense and changed them into the future tense.
Just how did the church accomplish this task without being noticed by masses of Christian parishioners? It wasn’t that difficult as long as the faithful were deprived of any knowledge of the Hebrew language.” [emphasis added]

Rabbi Tovia Singer’s argument might be well spoken yet, it is an argument that jumps ahead quite a ways. First I would like him to explain why the Talmud, Targum, Midrash, Pesikta Rabbati, other Rabbinic writings and individual Rabbis, Jewish scholar and Jewish publications affirm that the text in question is indeed messianic.

The New King James Version renders Isaiah 9:6-7 as:

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will beno end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

The 1960 Jewish Publication Society translation of Isaiah 9:5,

“For a child is born unto us; And the government is upon his shoulder; And his name is called Pele-joez-el-gibbor-Abi-ad-sar-shalom [Wonderful in counsel is God the Mighty, the everlasting Father, the ruler of peace].” [brackets in original]

Now consider the 1978 Jewish Publication Society translation,

“For a child has been born to us, A son has been given us. And authority has settled on his shoulders. He has been named ‘The Mighty God is planning grace; The Eternal Father, a peaceable ruler.'”

What we will now demonstrate is that Rabbinic writings apply this text to a future Messiah while rendering the verse in the present tense or past tense.; they apply it to a future Messiah while rendering the verse in the present tense.

From the Talmud:
Talmud (tractate Derekh Eretz) in a chapter called Perek HaShalom
Talmud-Perek HaShalom 59b,

“R. Jose the Galilean said: Even the name of the Messiah is called ‘peace,’ [as it is stated,] And his name is called…Abi-ad-sar-shalom.(1)”

Footnote: (1) Isa. 9:5, i.e. ‘the Everlasting Father, the ruler of peace.’

Talmud-Sanhedrin 94a,

“The Holy One, blessed be He, said: Let Hezekiah, who hath eight [shemoneh] names, come and mete out punishment to Sennacherib, who hath [likewise] eight. Hezekiah, as it is written, 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 [i] Wonderful, [ii] Counsellor, [iii] Judge,(1) [iv] Mighty, [v] Father, [vi] Everlasting, [vii] Prince and [viii] Peace.(2)” [brackets in original]

Footnotes: (1) Isa. IX, 5. It is assumed that the verse refers to Hezekiah
(2) For this meaning of el, cf. Ex. XXI, 6; XXII, 8

Footnotes to Talmud-Sanhedrin 44a, Soncino edition,

“The customary greeting of Shalom (peace) is held in equal esteem with the name of God (v. Shab. 10b).”[fn] Talmud-Sanhedrin 44a,

“And it came to pass when Joshua was by Jericho that he lifted up his eyes and looked…And he said, Nay, but I am captain of the host of the Lord. I am now come. And Joshua fell on his fact to the earth and bowed down.(1) But how could he do so?(2) Did not R. Johanan say: One may not greet his fellow at night for fear that he may be a demon?(3)-There it was different, for he said: I am captain of the host of the Lord, I am now come, etc. But perhaps he lied?-We have a tradition that such do not utter the name of God in vain.”

Footnotes: (1) Josh. V, 13-14. The fact that, as his question implies, he could not distinguish who the other was, shows that it was night time.
(2) I.e., bow to an unknown man.
(3) The customary greeting of Shalom (peace) is held in equal esteem with the name of God (v. Shab. 10b), and therefore may not be extended to a demon; whilst bowing to a demon is most certainly forbidden.[/fn]

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1 thought on “Jewish / Judaism : The Isaiah 9 Controversy, part 1 of 4”

  1. I do not want to upset
    I do not want to upset anybody.
    The commentary on this webpage is important.
    I am of a devout Roman Catholic background,
    but I dislike putting Jesus' mother Mary
    on an equal footing with God as Mother of God.
    I accept the Trinity according to Shema Israel

    Amand Keultjes (Chobab Ben Chail)
    from Delft, The Netherlands

    PS My family originates from the Rhineland
    and belongs to a group of families
    mainly living in the British Isles.
    Their family names are cognates of Ben Chail.
    We eat black pudding/blutwurst/bloedworst.

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