The Claim: Verses "Referring" to Jesus Are Mistranslated
- Virgin Birth Isaiah 7:14 says that a "young woman" will give birth not a "virgin".
- Suffering Servant The suffering servant in Isaiah 53 refers to Israel... not Jesus
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
In Isaiah 7:11, G-d tells King Ahaz, "Ask for a sign for yourself from the LORD your G-d; make it as deep as Sheol or high as heaven."
Ahaz declines in fear saying, "I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD!" (verse 12)
In verse 14, G-d declares His choice of a miraculous sign for Ahaz: a virgin shall be with child and bear a son.
According to the anti-missionaries the miraculous sign G-d chose was that a "young woman" would get pregnant (presumably in the normal way) and have a son. Really? How is something that happens millions of times every year a miracle?
Yes, the Hebrew of this passage uses the word "alma". Yes, that word generally means "a young woman", however, young women described using this word are virgins. A young woman who is not a virgin is called a naarah. Jacob's daughter Dinah (who is raped by a young man) is described using naarah and not alma.
Between 130 to 350 years before Messiah was born, Jewish scholars translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek... a translation called the Septuagint. They translated the Hebrew word alma in Isaiah 7:14 into the Greek word parthenos. This word parthenos means "a young woman who is a virgin".
Centuries of debate among Jewish scholars record that some considered the child of Isaiah 7:14 to be the Messiah and others to be a messiah (specifically Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz). The same "son" described in chapter 7 is also described in chapters 8 and 9. There are numerous Jewish commentaries that discuss the child especially as he is described in chapter 9. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 94a), the Zohar, Rambam's commentary on Isaiah 9, Rashi's commentary on Isaiah 9, the Abrabanel, Midrash Rabbah, etc all discuss this son in Messianic terms.
In actuality, Isaiah 53 directly follows the theme of chapter 52, describing the exile and redemption of the Jewish people. The prophecies are written in the singular form because the Jews ("Israel") are regarded as one unit. Throughout Jewish scripture, Israel is repeatedly called, in the singular, the "Servant of God" (see Isaiah 43:8). In fact, Isaiah states no less than 11 times in the chapters prior to 53 that the Servant of God is Israel. When read correctly, Isaiah 53 clearly [and ironically] refers to the Jewish people being "bruised, crushed and as sheep brought to slaughter" at the hands of the nations of the world. These descriptions are used throughout Jewish scripture to graphically describe the suffering of the Jewish people (see Psalm 44). Isaiah 53 concludes that when the Jewish people are redeemed, the nations will recognize and accept responsibility for the inordinate suffering and death of the Jews.
This is a common anti-missionary claim. Not surprisingly, there are several holes in their logic:
1) The suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is innocent and guiltless and "had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth". In contrast, Isaiah describes Israel as a "sinful nation, a people weighed down with iniquity." (Isaiah 1:4)
2) The suffering servant of Isaiah 53:3 was not esteemed by Israel ("we did not esteem Him") and yet Israel esteems themselves daily in their prayers:
"Praiseworthy are those who dwell in Your house; may they always praise You, Selah! Praiseworthy is the people for whom this is so, praiseworthy is the people whose G-d is the LORD!"1
3) The suffering servant of Isaiah 53:8 suffers the penalty of the transgression in lieu of "my people," [Israel] "to whom the stroke was due". This cannot be Israel.
4) The suffering servant dies, is buried, and is called rich in His death (verse 9) and yet the nation of Israel [as a "unit" to use the Aish.com terminology] has never died or been buried.
5) The suffering servant of Isaiah 53 serves as a "guilt-offering" (Hebrew: asham). This type of offering is used to atone for willful sin. Can the suffering of a sinful nation serve to atone for their own sins much less the sins of other nations? No!
The suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is not Israel.