Is Jesus the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

In this part (https://answeringislamblog.wordpress.com/2020/07/07/is-jesus-name-god-the-father/), I will address the practice of baptism and whether this supports the oneness/modalist position.

Baptizing them in the Name of Who Exactly?

After his physical, bodily resurrection, and right before his ascension into heaven, the Lord appeared to his followers in order to commission them with the task of preaching the Gospel throughout the world. One of the risen Christ’s instructions to them was to make sure to baptize all who freely choose to become his disciples:

“having gone, then, disciple all the nations, (baptizing them — to the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (eis to onoma tou Patros, kai tou Hyiou, kai tou Hagiou Pneumatos),” Matthew 28:19 YLT

The Trinitarian nature of baptism is quite explicit:

There are a number of scriptural indications for three-in-oneness in the Godhead. Perhaps one of the best illustrations is Matthew 28:19. After Jesus had been resurrected from the dead, He referred to all three Persons of the Trinity while instructing the disciples… It is highly revealing that the word ‘name’ is singular in the Greek, indicating that there is one God, but three distinct persons within the Godhead–the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.6 Theologian Robert Reymond draws our attention to the importance of this verse for the doctrine of the Trinity:

Jesus does not say, (1) ‘into the names [plural] of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,’ or what is virtually equivalent, (2) ‘into the name of the Father, and into the name of the Son, and into the name of the Holy Spirit,’ as if we had to deal with three separate Beings [akin to the Muslim charge of tritheism]. Nor does He say, (3) “into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’ (omitting the three recurring articles), as if ‘the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost’ might be taken as merely three designations of a single person. What He does say is this: (4) ‘into the name [singular] of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,’ first asserting the unity of the three by combining them all within the bounds of the single Name, and then throwing into emphasis the distinctness of each by introducing them in turn with the repeated article.(Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with Muslims [Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon 2002], 7. The Biblical View of God, pp. 118-119)

THE BAPTISMAL FORMULA:

Meanwhile, the nearest approach to a formal announcement of the doctrine of the Trinity which is recorded from our Lord’s lips, or, perhaps we may say, which is to be found in the whole compass of the New Testament, has been preserved for us, not by John, but by one of the synoptists. It too, however, is only incidentally introduced, and has for its main object something very different from formulating the doctrine of the Trinity. It is embodied in the great commission which the resurrected Lord gave His disciples to be their “marching orders” “even unto the end of the world”: “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19). In seeking to estimate the significance of this great declaration, we must bear in mind the high solemnity of the utterance, by which we are required to give its full value to every word of it. Its phrasing is in any event, however, remarkable. It does not say, “In the names (plural) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost”; nor yet (what might be taken to be equivalent to that), “In the name of the Father, and in the name of the Son, and in the name of the Holy Ghost,” as if we had to deal with three separate Beings. Nor, on the other hand does it say, “In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost,” as if “the Father, Son and Holy Ghost” might be taken as merely three designations of a single person. With stately impressiveness it asserts the unity of the three by combining them all within the bounds of the single Name; and then throws up into emphasis the distinctness of each by introducing them in turn with the repeated article: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (the King James Version). These three, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, each stand in some clear sense over against the others in distinct personality: these three, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, all unite in some profound sense in the common participation of the one Name. Fully to comprehend the implication of this mode of statement, we must bear in mind, further, the significance of the term, “the name,” and the associations laden with which it came to the recipients of this commission. For the Hebrew did not think of the name, as we are accustomed to do, as a mere external symbol; but rather as the adequate expression of the innermost being of its bearer. In His Name the Being of God finds expression; and the Name of God — “this glorious and fearful name, Yahweh thy God” (Dt 28:58) — was accordingly a most sacred thing, being indeed virtually equivalent to God Himself. It is no solecism, therefore, when we read (Isa 30:27), “Behold, the name of Yahweh cometh”; and the parallelisms are most instructive when we read (Isa 59:19): `So shall they fear the Name of Yahweh from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun; for He shall come as a stream pent in which the Spirit of Yahweh driveth.’ So pregnant was the implication of the Name, that it was possible for the term to stand absolutely, without adjunction of the name itself, as the sufficient representative of the majesty of Yahweh: it was a terrible thing to `blaspheme the Name’ (Lev 24:11). All those over whom Yahweh’s Name was called were His, His possession to whom He owed protection. It is for His Name’s sake, therefore, that afflicted Judah cries to the Hope of Israel, the Saviour thereof in time of trouble: `O Yahweh, Thou art in the midst of us, and Thy Name is called upon us; leave us not’ (Jer 14:9); and His people find the appropriate expression of their deepest shame in the lament, `We have become as they over whom Thou never barest rule; as they upon whom Thy Name was not called’ (Isa 63:19); while the height of joy is attained in the cry, `Thy Name, Yahweh, God of Hosts, is called upon me’ (Jer 15:16; compare 2 Ch 7:14; Dan 9:18, 19). When, therefore, our Lord commanded His disciples to baptize those whom they brought to His obedience “into the name of ….,” He was using language charged to them with high meaning. He could not have been understood otherwise than as substituting for the Name of Yahweh this other Name “of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”; and this could not `possibly have meant to His disciples anything else than that Yahweh was now to be known to them by the new Name, of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The only alternative would have been that, for the community which He was rounding, Jesus was supplanting Yahweh by a new God; and this alternative is no less than monstrous. There is no alternative, therefore, to understanding Jesus here to be giving for His community a new Name to Yahweh, and that new Name to be the threefold Name of “the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” Nor is there room for doubt that by “the Son” in this threefold Name, He meant just Himself with all the implications of distinct personality which this carries with it; and, of course, that further carries with it the equally distinct personality of “the Father” and “the Holy Ghost,” with whom “the Son” is here associated, and from whom alike “the Son” is here distinguished. This is a direct ascription to Yahweh, the God of Israel, of a threefold personality, and is therewith the direct enunciation of the doctrine of the Trinity. We are not witnessing here the birth of the doctrine of the Trinity; that is presupposed. What we are witnessing is the authoritative announcement of the Trinity as the God of Christianity by its Founder, in one of the most solemn of His recorded declarations. Israel had worshipped the one only true God under the Name of Yahweh; Christians are to worship the same one only and true God under the Name of “the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” This is the distinguishing characteristic of Christians; and that is as much as to say that the doctrine of the Trinity is, according to our Lord’s own apprehension of it, the distinctive mark of the religion which He founded. (The Life, Thought, and Works of Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (1851–1921), “Trinity”; underline emphasis mine)

This is where the oneness/modalists come in with their objection. They argue that in the book of Acts the Apostles went around baptizing folks in the name of Jesus (Cf. 2:38; 8:12, 16; 10:48; 19:5). They argue that this is proof that the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is Jesus, since they are not three eternal divine Persons, but three different modes/manifestation of a single divine Person. The oneness/modalist is assuming that “in the name of Jesus” is an actual phrase uttered when a repentant believer is immersed in water.

Suffice it to say there are major problems with this view.

First, the wording and the prepositions used are not uniform, as the following verses explicitly show:

“and Peter said unto them, `Reform, and be baptized each of you on the name of Jesus Christ (epi too onomati ‘Iesou Christou), to remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” Acts 2:38 YLT

“as yet he was fallen upon none of them, and only they have been baptized — to the name of the Lord Jesus (eis to onoma tou Kyriou ‘Iesou);” Acts 8:16 YLT

“he commanded them also to be baptized in the name of the Lord (en to onomati tou Kyriou); then they besought him to remain certain days.” Acts 10:48 YLT(1)

“and they, having heard, were baptized — to the name of the Lord Jesus (eis to onoma tou Kyriou ‘Iesou),” Acts 19:5 YLT

In light of the foregoing, is the baptismal formula on/into/in (epi/eis/en) Jesus Christ, the Lord Jesus, or simply the Lord?

This brings me to the second problem with the oneness/modalist assertion. The expressions “in/on/through the name of,” “his name,” etc., are used in Acts in reference to the authority/power of Christ, which the risen Lord invested his emissaries with to proclaim the message of salvation and perform miracles:

“and Peter said, `Silver and gold I have none, but what I have, that I give to thee; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (en too onomati ‘Iesou Christou tou Nazooraiou), rise up and be walking.’… and Peter having seen, answered unto the people, `Men, Israelites! why wonder ye at this? or on us why look ye so earnestly, as if by our own power or piety we have made him to walk? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, did glorify His child Jesus, whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, he having given judgment to release [him], and ye the Holy and Righteous One did deny, and desired a man — a murderer — to be granted to you, and the Prince of the life ye did kill, whom God did raise out of the dead, of which we are witnesses; and on the faith of his name (epi te pistei tou onomatos autou), this one whom ye see and have known, his name made strong, even the faith that [is] through him did give to him this perfect soundness before you all.’” Acts 3:6, 12-16 YLT

“And it came to pass upon the morrow, there were gathered together of them the rulers, and elders, and scribes, to Jerusalem, and Annas the chief priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the chief priest, and having set them in the midst, they were inquiring, `In what power, or in what name did ye do this?‘ Then Peter, having been filled with the Holy Spirit, said unto them: `Rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, if we to-day are examined concerning the good deed to the ailing man, by whom he hath been saved, be it known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (en too onomati ‘Iesou Christou tou Nazooraiou), whom ye did crucify, whom God did raise out of the dead, in him hath this one stood by before you whole. This is the stone that was set at nought by you — the builders, that became head of a corner; and there is not salvation in any other, for there is no other name under the heaven that hath been given among men, in which it behoveth us to be saved.’ And beholding the openness of Peter and John, and having perceived that they are men unlettered and plebeian, they were wondering — they were taking knowledge also of them that with Jesus they had been — and seeing the man standing with them who hath been healed, they had nothing to say against [it],” Acts 4:5-14 YLT

“And having called them, they charged them not to speak at all, nor to teach, in the name of Jesus (epi too onomati tou ‘Iesou),” Acts 4:18 YLT

“in the stretching forth of Thy hand, for healing, and signs, and wonders, to come to pass through the name of Thy holy child Jesus (dia tou onomatos tou hagiou Paidos sou, ‘Iesou).” Acts 4:30 YLT

“And to him they agreed, and having called near the apostles, having beaten [them], they commanded [them] not to speak in the name of Jesus (epi too onomati tou ‘Iesou), and let them go;” Acts 5:40 YLT

“And when they believed Philip, proclaiming good news, the things concerning the REIGN of God and the NAME of Jesus Christ (kai tou onomatos ‘Iesou Christou), they were baptized both men and women.” Acts 8:12 YLT

“and this she was doing for many days, but Paul having been grieved, and having turned, said to the spirit, `I command thee, in the name of Jesus Christ (en onomati ‘Iesou Christou), to come forth from her;’ and it came forth the same hour.” Acts 16:18 YLT

The foregoing helps us to appreciate the point of Jesus’ followers commanding their hearers to be baptized in/into/on the name of Jesus.

Individuals were to be baptized as a sign that they were coming under the headship of Christ, in recognition that they were submitting to Jesus as their sovereign Lord who had complete authority over their lives to command them how to live and what to do:

And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Every one that cometh unto me, and heareth my words, and doeth them, I will show you to whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who digged and went deep, and laid a foundation upon the rock: and when a flood arose, the stream brake against that house, and could not shake it: because it had been well builded. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that built a house upon the earth without a foundation; against which the stream brake, and straightway it fell in; and the ruin of that house was great.” Luke 6:46-49 ASV

“The word which he sent unto the children of Israel, preaching good tidings of peace by Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all)— ” Acts 10:36 ASV

“For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” Romans 14:9 ASV

This is further brought out by the following texts:

“And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name.” Acts 22:16 ASV

“because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him: for, Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:9-13 ASV

The aforementioned texts make it crystal clear that the Lord whose name Paul (and all others) called upon during baptism was none other than Jesus whom he/they had to verbally confess as Lord in order to be saved.

This indicates that the phrase “in/into/on the name” of Jesus wasn’t a baptismal formula, but a command to undergo baptism for the express purpose of demonstrating one’s willful acceptance and submission to the sovereign Lordship of Christ.

As such, the texts in Acts concerning baptism provide absolutely no support for the oneness/modalist assertion that Jesus is the actual name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Endnotes

 (1) There is an important variant in the manuscripts in regards to 10:48, since some of the earlier Greek witnesses read the following way:

“So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (en too ‘onomati ‘Iesou Christou). Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.” New International Version (NIV)

Regardless, the point still stands that there is no uniform formula or phraseology employed by the Apostles when commanding sinners to repent and be baptized in the name of the risen Lord.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Jesus’ Name God the Father?

In this post, I am going to address the commonly misused texts by oneness/modalists heretics to prove that the Father’s name is Jesus and that Jesus is the Father, either because he is the human incarnation of the Father or a human being whom the Father fully indwells.

The following passage is often cited as proof that Jesus is the human manifestation of the Father since the Lord claims to come in his Father’s name:

I have come in the name of my Father, and ye do not receive me; if another may come in his own name, him ye will receive;” John 5:43 Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)

If coming in the name of the Father implies that the Father is Jesus then this means that the entire Israelite nation was/are the human manifestation of Jehovah God:

“if my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 American Standard Version (ASV)

“I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back; bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the end of the earth; every one that is called by my name, and whom I have created for my glory, whom I have formed, yea, whom I have made.” Isaiah 43:6-7 ASV

It is clear that being called by Jehovah’s name means that God had set apart Israel to be the one specific people who would be identified with him for the express purpose of making him known to all the nations:

“And now, if ye really hearken to My voice, then ye have kept My covenant, and been to Me a peculiar treasure more than all the peoples, for all the earth [is] Mine; and ye — ye are to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation: these [are] the words which thou dost speak unto the sons of Israel.” Exodus 19:5-6 YLT

“Oh sing unto Jehovah a new song: Sing unto Jehovah, all the earth. Sing unto Jehovah, bless his name; Show forth his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, His marvellous works among all the peoples.” Psalm 96:1-3 ASV

“The beasts of the field shall honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people which I formed for myself, that they might set forth my praise.” Isaiah 43:20-21 ASV

This would further prove that David is the physical embodiment of Jehovah of Hosts:

“And David saith unto the Philistine, `Thou art coming unto me with sword, and with spear, and with buckler, and I am coming unto thee in the name of Jehovah of Hosts, God of the ranks of Israel, which thou hast reproached.’” 1 Samuel 17:45 YLT

David came against Goliath in the name of Jehovah of Hosts, the God of the ranks/armies of Israel. Therefore, if the oneness logic is correct then David must have been the human appearance of Jehovah.

This would also show that the entire Israelite army were the human manifestation of Jehovah!

“And Asa calleth unto Jehovah his God, and saith, `Jehovah! it is nothing with Thee to help, between the mighty and those who have no power; help us, O Jehovah, our God, for on Thee we have leant, and in Thy name we have come against this multitude; O Jehovah, our God thou [art]; let him not prevail with Thee — mortal man!” 2 Chronicles 14:11 YLT

Obviously, not even the oneness/modalist would accept such an interpretation.

Therefore, coming in the name of Jehovah of Hosts can only mean that David and the army of Israel came up against God’s enemies by the power and authority of Jehovah, that Jehovah had authorized them to go up against the hostile nations to defeat them in battle. This is clearly brought out by the following texts:

“Some of chariots, and some of horses, And we of the name of Jehovah our God Make mention.” Psalm 20:7 YLT

Our help [is] in the name of Jehovah, Maker of the heavens and earth!” Psalm 124:8 YLT

Similarly, Jesus’ coming in the name of his Father doesn’t make him the Father, but rather makes him the Father’s authorized Agent, invested with the authority of the Father to represent him and act on his behalf.

This next passage further corroborates this understanding:

“All nations have compassed me about, In the name of Jehovah I surely cut them off. They have compassed me about, Yea, they have compassed me about, In the name of Jehovah I surely cut them off. They compassed me about as bees, They have been extinguished as a fire of thorns, In the name of Jehovah I surely cut them off.” Psalm 118:10-12 YLT

It is obvious that the phrase “In the name of Jehovah,” means that the Psalmist would overcome and defeat the nations that come against Israel by the power and authority of Jehovah, not that he happens to be the human manifestation of Jehovah.

Now pay attention to the following verse taken from this very same Psalm:

Blessed [is] he who is coming In the name of Jehovah, We blessed you from the house of Jehovah,” Psalm 118:26 YLT

Again, in the context “coming in the name of Jehovah” can only mean that the figure in question has been invested with the authority of Jehovah to carry out the work that Jehovah has sent him out to do.

The reason why this text is relevant is that it is ascribed to the Lord Jesus:

“On the morrow, a great multitude that came to the feast, having heard that Jesus doth come to Jerusalem, took the branches of the palms, and went forth to meet him, and were crying, `Hosanna, blessed [is] he who is coming in the name of the Lord — the king of Israel;’” John 12:12-13YLT

This clearly establishes that “coming in the name of the Father” doesn’t prove that Jesus is the Father, but rather that he is his Father’s authorized spokesperson invested with the authority of the Father to speak and act on his behalf, a fact made clear by what our Lord states elsewhere:

“I am not able of myself to do anything; according as I hear I judge, and my judgment is righteous, because I seek not my own will, but the will of the Father who sent me.” John 5:30

“And in the meanwhile his disciples were asking him, saying, `Rabbi, eat;’ and he said to them, `I have food to eat that ye have not known.’ The disciples then said one to another, `Did any one bring him anything to eat?’ Jesus saith to them, `My food is, that I may do the will of Him who sent me, and may finish His work;’” John 4:31-34 YLT

“Jesus, therefore, said to them, ‘When ye may lift up the Son of Man then ye will know that I am [he]; and of myself I do nothing, but according as my Father did teach me, these things I speak; and He who sent me is with me; the Father did not leave me alone, because I, the things pleasing to Him, do always.’” John 8:28-29 YLT

“because I spake not from myself, but the Father who sent me, He did give me a command, what I may say, and what I may speak, and I have known that His command is life age-during; what, therefore, I speak, according as the Father hath said to me, so I speak.” John 12:49-50 YLT

“but that the world may know that I love the Father, and according as the Father gave me command so I do; arise, we may go hence.” John 14:31 YLT

“According as the Father did love me, I also loved you, remain in my love; if my commandments ye may keep, ye shall remain in my love, according as I the commands of my Father have kept, and do remain in His love;” John 15:9-10 YLT

In the next segment, I will address the other texts, which oneness/modalists misuse to prove their false doctrine (https://answeringislamblog.wordpress.com/2020/07/07/is-jesus-the-name-of-the-father-son-and-holy-spirit/).

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 in Jewish Tradition

In this post, I will be citing references from Jewish sources for the specific purpose of providing documentation that the Messianic interpretation of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is anchored in early Jewish tradition itself. This will be done to refute the assertion of certain liberal critics, Jewish anti-missionary polemicists, and Muhammadan polemicists like Shabir Ally that the view of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 being a prophecy of the Messiah is nothing more than a Christian innovation, which the NT writers came up with in order to make sense out of the death of Jesus, whom they erroneously believed was the Messiah foretold by the OT prophets.

The Messiah’s Exaltation

The following references give us an idea of how some of the Jewish sources understood Isaiah 52:13:

d. Yalqut.

1. Who art thou, O great Mountain? (Zech. iv. 7.) This refers to the King Messiah. And why does he call him ‘the great mountain?’ because he is greater than the patriarchs, as it is said, ‘My servant shall be high, and lifted up, and lofty exceedingly’–he will be higher than Abraham, who says, ‘I raise high my hands unto the Lord’ (Gen. xiv. 22); lifted up above Moses, to whom it is said, ‘Lift it up into they bosom’ (Num. xi. 12); loftier than the ministering angels of whom it is written, ‘Their wheels were lofty and terrible’ (Ez. i. 18). And out of whom does he come forth? Out of David.

2. I will tell of the institution (Ps. ii. 7). Already are the words [concerning my servant] told in the institution of the Pentateuch, of the book of the Prophets, and of Hagiographa: in the Pentateuch where are they told? ‘Israel is my firstborn’ (Ex. iv. 22); in the Prophets where? ‘Behold my servant will deal prudently,’ and near to it, ‘My servant whom I uphold’ (xlii. 1) in the Hagiographa, where? ‘The Lord said to my lord,’ and ‘The Lord said unto me’ (Ps. cx. 1, ii. 7). (Yalqut Shim‘oni, 2:571, as quoted in The “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters, translated by Samuel R. Driver and Adolf Neubauer, with an introduction by Edward B. Pusey [Hermon Press, New York: Reprinted in 1969], pp. 9-10; bold emphasis mine)

And:

“I will now proceed to my exposition. 13 Behold my servant shall have understanding. From the prophet’s saying ‘understanding,’ it may be seen that all the lofty predicates which he assigns to him have their source in this attribute; in virtue of his comprehensive intelligence he will attain an elevation above that even of the most perfect men in the world. He shall be high and exalted, and lofty exceedingly. According to the Midrash of our Rabbis; he will be higher than Abraham, who was first of all a ‘high father,’ and afterwards a father of a multitude. He will be more exalted than Moses, who was ‘exalted’ above the exalted ones of Levi (cf. Num. iii. 32), who was a prophet such that ‘none arose like him in Israel,’ (Deut. xxxiv. 10), who ‘saved’ Israel ‘with a great salvation’ (cf. I Chron. xi. 14) when they came out of Egypt, and the report of whom spread into all places until ‘the dukes of Edom were confounded’ before him, and ‘trembling seized the mighty men of Moab, and all the inhabitants of Canaan melted away’ (Ex. xv. 15). But this one will be exalted far above Moses: for when he gathers together our scattered ones from the four corners of the earth, he will be exalted in the eyes of all the kings in the whole world, and all of them will serve him, and will exalt him above them, as Daniel prophesies concerning him, ‘All nations, peoples, and tongues shall serve him’ (Dan. vii. 14, 27)He will be loftier than Solomon, whose dignity was so lofty that he is said to have ‘sat on the throne of the Lord’ (I Chron. xxix. 23), and our Rabbis say that he was king over both the upper and the nether world. But the King Messiah, in his ALL-COMPREHENDING INTELLIGENCE, will be loftier than Solomon. Exceedingly above the ministering angels, because that same comprehensive intelligence will approach [God] more nearly than theirs. For it is an exceedingly high privilege, that one whose nature is compound and material should attain to a grade of intelligence more nearly Divine than that which belongs to the incorporeal; and so it is said of him that ‘his strength is greater than that of the ministering angels,’ because these have no impediment in the exercise of their intellect, whereas that which is compound is continually impeded in consequence of material element in its nature. Accordingly, the grade of his intelligence being such as this, he is said to be ‘lofty exceedingly,’ and his strength to be ‘greater than the angels.’… And when this ‘servant of the Lord’ is born, he will continue to be marked by the possession of intelligence enabling him to acquire from God what it is impossible for any to acquire until he reaches that height wither none of the sons of men, EXCEPT HIM, have ever ascended: from that day he will be counted with his people Israel, and will share their subjugation and distress; ‘in all their affliction’ (Is. lxiii. 9) he will be exceedingly afflicted; and because of their being outcasts and scattered to the ends of the world, his grief will be such that the colour of his countenance will be changed from that of a man, and pangs and sicknesses will seize him (for great grief, as physicians know, by producing melancholy, subjects a man to many diseases); and all the chastisements which come upon him in consequence of his grief will be for our sakes, and not from any deficiency or sin on his part which might bring punishment in his train, BECAUSE HE IS PERFECT, IN THE COMPLETENESS OF PERFECTION, as Isaiah says (xi. 2f.). Truly all his pains and sicknesses will be for us…” (R. Mosheh Kohen Ibn Crispin (14th century AD), as cited by Driver & Neubauer, pp. 101-103; bold and capital emphasis mine)

We not only see how Isaiah 52-53 is cited along with texts such as Psalm 2:7, 110:1 and Daniel 7:13-14 in relation to the Messiah, but we even have one authority admitting that the exalted language used for the Messiah in Isaiah 52:13 goes above and beyond what can be said of an ordinary creature.

The Messiah’s Sufferings

In these next references, the sufferings that are mentioned in Isaiah 53 are specifically said to be that of the Messiah who gladly bears them on behalf of Israel:

R. Hosha‘ya said: “In the future Jerusalem will be a lantern for the nations of the world, and they will walk in her light….”

In Thy light do we see light (Ps. 36:10). This is the light of the Messiah, as it is written, And God saw the light that it was good (Gen. 1:4). This teaches us that the Holy One, blessed be He, saw the generation of the Messiah and its deeds prior to the creation of the world. And He hid the light for the Messiah and his generation under His Throne of Glory.

Satan said before the Holy One, blessed be He: “Master of the World! The light which is hidden under Your Throne of Glory, for whom is it [destined]?” He said to him: “For him who will turn you back and disgrace you, and shame your face.” He said to him: “Master of the world! Show him to me!” He said to him: “Come and see him!” When Satan saw the Messiah, he trembled and fell upon his face and said: “Surely this is the Messiah who in the future will cast me and all the princes of the nations of the world into Gehenna….”

In that hour the nations became awestruck and said before him: “Master of the World! Who is he into whose hand we shall fall, what is his name and what is his nature?” The Holy One, blessed be He, said to them: “His name is Ephraim, My True Messiah. He will raise his stature and the stature of his generation, and will light up the eyes of Israel, and will save his people, and no nation and language shall be able to stand up against him…. All his enemies and adversaries will be affrighted and will flee from him… and even the rivers will cease to flow into the sea….”

[When He created the Messiah], the Holy One, blessed be He, began to tell him the conditions [of his future mission], and said to him: “Those who are hidden with you [your generation], their sins will in the future force you into an iron yoke, and they will render you like unto a calf whose eyes have grown dim, and they will choke your spirit with the yoke, and because of their sins your tongue will cleave to the roof of your mouth. Do you accept this?

The Messiah said before the Holy One, blessed be He, “Master of the World! Will that suffering last many years?” The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: “By your life and the life of my head, it is a septenary of it that I decreed upon you. But if your soul is troubled, I shall banish them as from this moment.”

He said before Him: “Master of the Worlds! With gladness in my soul and with joy in my heart I accept it, so that not a single one of Israel should perish; and not only those who will be alive should be saved in my days, but even the dead who have died from the days of Adam the first man until now. And not only they, but even the stillborn should be saved in my days; and not only the stillborn, but even those to whose creation You gave thought but who were not created. This is what I want, this is what I accept!” (Pes. Rab. pp. 161a-b)

They said: In the septenary in which the Son of David comes they will bring iron beams and put them upon his neck until his body bends and he cries and weeps, and his voice rise up into the Heights, and he says before Him: “Master of the World! How much can my strength suffer? How much my spirit? How much my soul? And how much my limbs? Am I not but flesh and blood?…”

In that hour the Holy One, blessed be He, says to him: “Ephraim, My True Messiah, you have already accepted [this suffering] from the six days of creation. Now your suffering shall be like My suffering. For ever since the day on which wicked Nebuchadnezzar came up and destroyed My Temple and burnt My sanctuary, and I exiled My children among the nations of the world, by your life and the life of your head, I have not sat on My Throne. And if you do not believe me, see the dew that is upon My head….”

In that hour he says before Him: “Master of the World! Now my mind is at rest, for it is sufficient for the servant to be like his Master!” (Pes. Rab. pp. 162a) (Raphael Patai, The Messiah Texts: Jewish Legends of Three Thousand Years [Wayne State University Press, Detroit, MI 1979], 12. The Suffering Messiah, pp. 111-113; bold emphasis mine)

The foregoing citation not only depicts the Messiah as voluntarily taking on the sins of his people in order to save them, it even portrays him as a preexistent figure who has been dwelling in God’s presence right under his glorious heavenly throne!

The next series of quotes are even more interesting in light of the repeated denial of Jewish anti-missionaries that Isaiah 53 is about the Messiah, insisting that it is speaking of the sufferings of national Israel or the righteous remnant within it:

Rabbi Naphtali ben Asher Altschuler also sees Moshiach suffering as an atonement for all of Israel, but adds that we would consider him “hated by God”1

Rabbi Naphtali ben Asher Altschuler:

“…he suffered in order that by his sufferings atonement might be made for the whole of Israel, as it is said of the prophet Micah, that the blood issuing from him made atonement for all Israel. The sickness which ought to have fallen upon us was borne by him: the prophet means to say, When the Messiah son of Joseph shall die between the gates, and be a marvel in the eyes of creation, why must the penalty he bears be so severe? What is his sin, and what [is] his transgression, except that he will bear the chastisement of Israel, according to the words smitten of God [Isaiah 53:4]? Others consider that the passage speaks of the Messiah who is now with the pains of the world to come (as it stands in the Gemara) and endures so the sufferings of Israel. And yet we – it is Israel who are speaking – thought that he had been hated of God. But it was not so: he was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, and the chastisement which was afterwards to secure was upon him. [Isaiah 53:5]1

Ramban says that when Moshiach is faced with the revilings of his oppressors, he will “give no answer, but keep silent and cease not to entreat for Israel”2

Ramban:

“… He was oppressed and he was afflicted [Isaiah 53:7]: for when he first comes, ‘meek and riding upon an ass,’ the oppressors and officers of every city will come to him, and afflict him with revilings and insults, reproaching both him and the God in whose name he appears, like Moses our master, who, when Pharaoh said, I know not the Lord, answered him not, neither said, The God of heaven and earth who will destroy thee quickly, etc., but kept silence. So will the Messiah give no answer, but keep silent, and cease not to entreat for Israel…”3 (Douglas Pyle, What The Rabbonim Say About Moshiach [No publisher listed, Third edition (paperback), 2010], 6. Chevley (Sufferings Of) Moshiach, pp. 49-50; underline emphasis mine)

1 Neubauer, pp. 282-283. (Ibid., p. 49)

1 Driver and Neubauer, (English translation), p. 321.

2 Shaval, p. 89.

3 Driver and Neubauer (English translation), p. 82. (Ibid., p. 50)

And:

The Zohar states that once it was the rituals and sacrifices that removed diseases from the world; now it is Moshiach1

Zohar, Exodus, Vayaqhel 212a:

“As long as Israel dwelt in the Holy Land, the rituals and the Sacrifices they performed [in the Temple] removed all those diseases from the world; now the Messiah removes them from the children of the world.”2

The Yalkut Hadash affirms that while Israel was in the Land, they freed themselves from punishments by means of offerings, but now Moshiach frees us from them3

Yalkut Hadash, nun tet, mishmot:

“… While Israel were in their own land they freed themselves from such sicknesses and other punishments by means of offerings, but now the Messiah frees them from them, as it is written, He was wounded for our transgressions…’ (Isaiah 53:5)4

Midrash Aseret Memrot informs us that Moshiach will make his soul a “corban asham” according as it is written in Isaiah 53:101

Midrash Aseret Memrot:

“The Messiah, in order to atone for them both [for Adam and David] will make his soul a trespass offering, (Isaiah 53:10) as it is written next to this Parashah ‘Behold my servant.’ (Isaiah 53:12)2

Note: in this Midrash above, the word used for “trespass offering” that Moshiach would make of his soul, is the same word in the Hebrew (“asham”) used over and over in Leviticus when the cohen would offer a corban asham on the mizbeach (altar).

The famous second century Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai sees Moshiach in a remarkable light3

Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai:

“The meaning of the words ‘bruised for our iniquities’ [Isaiah 53:5], is, that since the Messiah bears our iniquities, which produce the effect of his being bruised, it follows that whoso will not admit that the Messiah thus suffers for our iniquities, must endure and suffer for them himself.”1 (Ibid., pp. 53-55; underline emphasis mine)

Moshe Margoliot, Shemot, Vayaqhel 212, p. 421.

2 Patai (English translation), Zohar (Exodus) 212a, p. 116.

3 Israel ben Benjamin of Belzec, Yalkut Hadash (Lublin: Kalonimus Kalman, 1647 or 1648), photocopied. Brooklyn, NY, Renaissance Hebrew, 1994. 

4 Driver and Neubauer (English translation; from the later Yalkut, styled Souls), p. 396. (Ibid., p. 53) 

1 Rabbi Menachem Azariah of Fano, with commentary by Megini Shlomo and Yoel Moshe, Sefer Aseret (Jerusalem: Hamad Press Ltd., 1999), part 2, chapter 7…

2 Driver (English translation), p. 394

3 Neubauer, p. 331. (Ibid., p. 54)

1 Driver (English translation), see Introduction, p. xl (words of Shimon ben Yochai as given by R. Elijah de Vidas, 16th century Kabbalist of Safed and pupil of Rabbi Moses Cordovero of Spain). (Ibid., p. 55)

Again:

The idea that it was the righteous in Israel suffering because of gentile persecution against them gained popularity after Rashi, in his Biblical commentary, said it was so. Radak followed suit as did ibn Ezra. On the other hand, we have a great Jewish thinker like Rambam who assigned Isaiah 53 to Moshiach, finding a description of him there. Moshe ibn Crispin lends his voice to that of Rambam and feels that anyone who said the passage referred to Israel is giving the text an unnatural reading. Here is what they say:

Rambam in his Egeret Teman (Letter to Yemen)1  

Rambam, “Letter to Yemen”:

“What is the manner of Messiah’s advent, …thou canst not know this so far as it to be said of him that he is ‘the son of such a one, and is of such and such a family:’ there shall rise up one of whom none have known before, and the signs and wonders which they shall see performed by him will be the proofs of his true origin; for the Almighty, where he declares to us his mind upon the mater says, ‘behold the man whose name is the Branch, and shall branch forth out of his place’ (Zechariah 6:12). And Isaiah speaks similarly of the time when he will appear, without his father or mother, or family being known ‘He came up as a sucker before him, and as a root out of dry earth, etc.’ (Isaiah 53:2). But the unique phenomenon attending his manifestation is, that all the kings of the earth will be thrown into terror at the fame [of] him…that they will lay their hands upon their mouth; in the words of Isaiah, when describing the manner in which the kings will hearken to him, ‘At him kings will shut their mouth; for that which had not been told them have they seen, and that which they had not heard they have perceived’ (Isaiah 52:15)2

Moshe Kohen ibn Crispin complains that some, avoiding the natural, literal interpretation of the text, have said that the prophet Isaiah speaks here collectively (of Israel)1

Moshe Kohen ibn Crispin:

“The expression my servant [Isaiah 52:13] they compare rashly with 41:8, ‘thou Israel art my servant,’ where the prophet is speaking of Israel (which would be singular); here, however, he does not mention Israel, but simply says my servant; we cannot therefore understand the word in the same sense. Again in 41:8 he addresses the whole nation by the name of their father Israel (or Jacob, as he continues, ‘Jacob whim I have chosen’), but here he says my servant alone, and uniformly applies the singular, and as there is no cause constraining us to do so, why should we here interpret the word collectively, and thereby distort the passage from its natural sense? 

… As then it seemed to me that the doors of the literal interpretation of the Parashah were shut in their face, and that ‘they wearied themselves to find the entrance,’ having forsaken the knowledge of our Teachers…”2

Moshe Kohen ibn Crispin continues, saying that to interpret this passage of Israel and not Moshiach is “forced and far-fetched”1

Moshe Kohen ibn Crispin:

“I am pleased to interpret it, IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE TEACHING OF OUR RABBIS, OF THE KING MESSIAH, and will be careful, so far as I am able, to adhere to the literal sense; thus possibly, I shall be free from the forced and far-fetched interpretations of which others have been guilty…This prophecy was delivered by Isaiah at the divine command for the purpose of making known to us something about the nature of the Messiah who is to come to deliver Israel, and his life for the day when he arrive at discretion, until his advent as a redeemer, in order that if anyone arise claiming himself to be the Messiah, we may reflect and look to see whether we can observe in him any resemblance, then we may believe that he is the Messiah our righteousness…”2 (Ibid., pp. 57-60; capital and underline emphasis mine)

1 Neubauer, p. 322.

2 Halkin, p. 8. (Ibid., p. 58)

1 Neubauer, p. 95 (Taken from Bodleian Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, Oxford University, UK).

2 Driver (English translation), p. 95. (Ibid., p. 59)

1 Neubauer, pp. 95, 96, 108.

2 Driver and Neubauer, pp. 99, 100, 114. (Ibid., p. 60)

Finally:

Rabbi Naphtali ben Asher Altschuler expresses his surprise that Rashi and Rabbi David Kimchi also did not apply Isaiah 52:13 through chapter 53 to Moshiach3

Rabbi Naphtali ben Asher Altschuler:

“I will now proceed to explain these verses of our own Messiah, who, God willing, will come speedily in our days! I am surprised that Rashi and Rabbi David Kimchi have not, with the Targum, applied them to the Messiah likewise.”1

Rabbi Altschuler then gives his reasoning for referring these verses to Moshiach2

R. Naphtali Altschuler continues:

“The prophet says he shall be ‘high and exalted and lofty,’ expressing the idea under various forms, in order to indicate that his exaltation will be something extraordinary. It is a proof that the Parashah refers to our Messiah, that alluding to the future Deliverance, the prophet said before, ‘Break forth into joy, you waste places of Jerusalem’ (52:9), and ‘How beautiful on the mountains,’ etc. (52:7), and immediately afterwards continues, ‘Behold my servant shall prosper,’ [Isaiah 52:13] etc.”3

Rabbi Moshe Alsheich, interpreting this passage of Moshiach, reminds us that “our rabbis with one voice” referred it to Moshiach also1

Rabbi Moshe Alscheich:

“I therefore, in my humility, am come after them; [the commentators], not with any sense of wisdom I am about to utter, but merely with the object of applying to its elucidation a straightforward method in accord with the literal sense of the text…I may remark, then, THAT OUR RABBIS WITH ONE VOICE ACCEPT AND AFFIRM THE OPINION THAT THE PROPHET IS SPEAKING OF THE KING MESSIAH, and shall ourselves adhere to the same view…”2 (Ibid., pp. 60-62; capital emphasis mine)

Altschuler R. Naphtali ben Asher, Ayelah Sheluchah (“Hind Sent Forth”): A Commentary on the First Prophets, Book 4 (Amsterdam: Proops Publishers, 1777)

1 Driver and Neubauer (English translation), p. 319.

2 Altschuler, op. cit.

3 Driver and Neubauer (English Translation), p. 319. (Ibid., pp. 60-61)

1 Joseph Wiess, Sefer Merot Hatzovot, Moshe Alscheich (Brooklyn, NY: Nechmod Printing Corp., 1977), Vol. 1, p. 294.

2 Driver (English translation), p. 102. (Ibid., p. 62)

Noted Jewish Christian scholar, Dr. Michael L. Brown cites some additional Jewish sources in support of the Messianic interpretation of Isaiah 53:

“Later Jewish tradition expanded on the suffering of the Messiah. This midrash, describing one of the houses in heavenly Paradise (a Jewish concept), is typical:

… there sit Messiah ben David and Elijah and Messiah ben Ephraim. And there is a canopy of incense trees as in the Sanctuary which Moses made in the desert. And all its vessels and pillars are of silver, its covering is gold, its seat is purple. And in it is Messiah ben David who loves Jerusalem. Elijah of blessed memory takes hold of his head, places it in his lap and holds it, and says to him, ‘Endure the sufferings and the sentence of your Master who makes you suffer because of the sin of Israel.’ And thus it is written: He was wounded because of our transgressions, he was crushed because of our iniquities (Isa. 53:5) – until the time when the end comes.

And every Monday and Thursday, and every Sabbath and holiday, the Fathers of the World [i.e. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob] and Moses and Aaron, David and Solomon, and the prophets, and the pious come to visit him, and weep with him. And they gave him thanks and say to him: ‘Endure the sentence of your Master, for the end is near to come, and the chains which are on your neck will be broken, and you will go into freedom.’7

“And note that the midrash cites Isaiah 53:5 – the text most commonly used by followers of Yeshua to point to his sufferings on our behalf – to explain why the Messiah suffers. It s because of the sin of Israel!…

“The Zohar, the most sacred book of Jewish mysticism, also applies Isaiah 53:5 to the Messiah’s sufferings:

In the hour in which they [i.e., the souls of the righteous sufferers] tell the Messiah about the sufferings of Israel in exile, and [about] the sinful among them who seek not the knowledge of their Master, the Messiah lifts up his voice and weeps over those sinful among them. This is what is written, He was wounded because of our transgressions, he was crushed because of our iniquities (Isa. 53:5)8” (Brown, The Real Kosher Jesus: Revealing the Mysteries of the Hidden Messiah [Published by Frontline, 2012], 10. The Secret of the Suffering Messiah, pp. 140-141; bold emphasis mine)

7. Midrash Konen, from Bet HaMidrash, 2:29-30, as translated by Patai, The Messiah Texts, 114.

8. Zohar 2:212a, as translated by Patai, The Messiah Texts, 116. For Isaiah 53 cited by the Zohar in the context of the atoning power of the righteous, see chapter 11. (Ibid., p. 240)

And:

“The Schottenstein Talmud, an extensive Orthodox commentary being published by the Artscroll-Mesorah, offers this explanation of the passage:

They [namely, those sitting with Messiah] were afflicted with tzaraas–a disease whose symptoms include discolored patches on the skin (see Leviticus ch. 13). The Messiah himself is likewise afflicted, as stated in Isaiah (53:4):… Indeed, it was our diseases that he bore and our pains that he endured, whereas we considered him plagued (i.e. suffering tzaraas [see 98b, note 39]), smitten by God, and afflicted. This verse teaches that the diseases that the people ought to have suffered because of their sins are borne by the Messiah.10” (Ibid, pp. 142-143; bold emphasis mine)

10. The Schottenstein Talmud Sanhedrin 3a (Folios 84b-99a) (Brooklyn: Artscroll Mesorah, 1995), 98a5, with reference to the leading Rabbinic commentaries. The actual text in the Schottenstein Talmud includes the Hebrew of Isaiah 53:4, represented here by my ellipsis. Nothing has been deleted from the text. (Ibid., p. 240)

Finally:

“There is also an extraordinary comment about the atoning power of the death of Messiah ben Joseph made by Moshe Alshekh, the influential sixteenth-century rabbi, in his commentary to Zechariah 12:10:

I will yet do a third thing, and that is, that ‘they shall look unto me,’ for they shall lift up their eyes unto me in perfect repentance, when they see him whom they pierced, that is, Messiah, the son of Joseph; for our Rabbis, of blessed memory, have said that he will take upon himself all the guilt of Israel, and shall then be slain in the war to make atonement in such manner that it shall be accounted as if Israel had pierced him, for on account of their sin he has died; and, therefore, in order that it may be reckoned to them as a perfect atonement, they will repent and look to the blessed One, saying that there is none beside him to forgive those that mourn on account of him who died for their sins: this is the meaning ‘They shall look upon me.’21

“What extraordinary words – and they are the words of a greatly respected, traditional rabbi.

“The Zohar also painted a vivid picture of the Messiah’s sufferings on behalf of Israel. In a passage that just cited Isaiah 53:5, the Zohar relates:

The Messiah enters [the Hall of the Sons of Illness] and summons all the diseases and all the pains and all the sufferings of Israel that they should come upon him, and all of them come upon him. And would he not thus bring ease to Israel and take their sufferings upon himself, no man could endure the sufferings Israel has to undergo because they neglected the Torah.22

“Had not the Messiah taken our place, suffering our behalf, we would have perished long ago.” (Ibid, 11. The Secret of the Atoning Power of the Death of the Righteous, pp. 157-158; bold emphasis mine)

21. As cited in David Baron, The Visions and Prophecies of Zechariah (repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1972), 442, but with my own minor modifications and with my emphasis.

22. See Patai, The Messiah Texts, 116.

Brown also provides a summary of some of the various Jewish sources which have interpreted Isaiah 52:13-53:12 in relation to the Messiah:

1. Targum Jonathan interprets Isaiah 53 with reference to the Messiah, but with a fairly radical reworking of the text, emphasizing the Messiah’s victory rather than his suffering, and with some application of the text to the nation of Israel as a whole.4

2. The Talmud refers Isaiah 53:4 to the Messiah in Sanhedrin 98b; as rendered in the Soncino translation, “His name is ‘the leper scholar,’ as it is written, Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him a leper, smitten of God, and afflicted.”5

3. Ruth Rabbah interprets 53:5 with reference to the Messiah.6

4. Midrash Tanchuma applies both 52:13, speaking of the Servant’s exaltation, and 53:3, “a man of pains and known to sickness,” to the Messiah.7

5. Yalkut Shimoni (a thirteenth [century AD] compilation of earlier midrashic writings) applies 52:13 to the Messiah, stating that the Messiah, called the great mountain according to the Yalkut’s interpretation of Zechariah 4:7, is “greater than the patriarchs … higher than Abraham … lifted up above Moses … and loftier than the ministering angels” (2:571; see also 2:621). Isaiah 53:5 is applied to the sufferings of “King Messiah” (2:620).8

6. Rambam (Maimonides) refers Isaiah 53:2 (along with the “Branch” prophecy in Zech. 6:12) to the Messiah in his Letter to Yemen (Iggeret Teman).9

7. Ramban (Nachmanides), while stating that the text in reality referred to Israel, followed the messianic interpretation of the text found in the Midrash, beginning with the Messiah’s highly exalted state based on 52:13.10

8. Noteworthy also is the oft-quoted comment of Rabbi Moshe Alshech, writing in the sixteenth century, that “[o]ur rabbis with one voice accept and affirm the opinion that the prophet is speaking of the Messiah, and we shall ourselves also adhere to the same view.”11

9. The messianic interpretation of our passage is also found in the Zohar as well as in some later midrashic works, including Leqah Tov, which applies 52:13 to the Messiah.12… (2. Jewish Interpretations of Isaiah 53, pp. 62-64)

4. Cf. the discussion in Samson H. Levey, The Messiah: An Aramaic Interpretation (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, 1974); see further Pinkos Churgin, Targum Jonathan to the Prophets, repr. with Leivey Smolar and Moses Aberbach, Studies in Targum Jonathan to the Prophets (New York: Ktav, 1983); More recently see Bruce D. Chilton, The Aramaic Bible: The Isaiah Targum: Introduction, Translation, Apparatus and Notes (Collegeville, MN: Michael Glazier, 1999). For the text in Aramaic and English, see S. R. Driver and Ad. Neubauer, eds. and trans., The Fifty-Third Chapter of Isaiah according to the Jewish Interpreters (repr. New York, Ktav, 1969), 1:4-5; 2:5-6 (hereafter cited as Driver-Neubauer).

5. Driver-Neubauer, 1:6; 2:7.

6. Ibid., 1:7; 2:9; Alschech’s comments seem to apply in particular to Isaiah 52:13-15.

7. Ibid., 1:9; 2:11.

8. This is the midrash to Psalm 2:6, dealing with the Hebrew word nasakti, interpreted here to mean, “I have woven him,” with reference to Judges 6:14, “i.e., I have drawn him out of the chastisements. R. Huna, on the authority of R. Aha, says, ‘The chastisements are divided into three parts: one for David and the fathers, one for our own generation, and one for the King Messiah; and this is that which is written, “He was wounded for our transgressions etc.”.'”

9. See Douglas Pyle, comp., What the Rabbonim Say about Moshiach (n.p.: Douglas H. Pyle, 2008), 57-58, citing Abraham S. Halkin, Moses Maimonides’ Epistle to Yemen, ed. from MSS, Eng. trans. Boaz Cohen (New York: American Academy for Jewish Research, 1952), 8. For a free online edition of Pyle’s useful compilation, see http://www.moshiachontheweb.com.

10. See Driver-Neubauer, 1:75-82; 2:78-85.

11. Ibid., 1:231-42; 2:258-74.

12. Ibid., 1:10-16; 2:12-16. (Ibid.)

These citations should sufficiently put to rest the rather desperate anti-Christian polemic of trying to rob Isaiah 52:13-53:12 of any Messianic significance whatsoever. The fact is that this remarkable prophecy can only be pointing to the Lord Jesus since he alone perfectly matches the description of the Servant of Yahweh who voluntarily offers his own life as a vicarious sacrifice for the salvation of his people. In the words of the Lord Jesus himself and the inspired Christian Greek Scriptures:

“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

“This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”” John 6:50-51

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” John 10:10-11, 14-18

“The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had: He always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God. Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness. He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death—his death on the cross. For this reason God raised him to the highest place above and gave him the name that is greater than any other name. And so, in honor of the name of Jesus all beings in heaven, on earth, and in the world below will fall on their knees, and all will openly proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11 Good News Translation (GNT)

“For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.” 1 Timothy 2:5-6

“and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood—and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Revelation 1:5-6

“When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.’” Revelation 5:8-10

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude WHICH NO ONE COULD COUNT, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, AND TO THE LAMB.’ And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, ‘Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.’ Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, ‘These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?’ I said to him, ‘My lord, you know.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.’” Revelation 7:9-17

Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! We praise and glorify you for offering your life as a ransom in order to save wretched sinners like us! May the Holy Spirit of God enable us to love you forever since you are worthy of all adoration and honor, O Risen Lord of Glory and beloved Son of God!

Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptural quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

 

The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Major Dilemma

The Hebrew Bible repeatedly commanded the Israelites to only fear and serve Jehovah since he alone was/is their God:

“Jehovah your God you should fear, and him you should serve, and by his name you should swear.” Deuteronomy 6:13

““Jehovah your God you should fear, him you should serve, to him you should cling, and by his name you should swear.” Deuteronomy 10:20

The Old Testament also exhorted the Israelites to only call upon the name of Jehovah, since they were called to be his priests alone, ministering before him:

“‘Now if you will strictly obey my voice and keep my covenant, you will certainly become my special property out of all peoples, for the whole earth belongs to me. You will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you are to say to the Israelites.” Exodus 19:5-6

“Exalt Jehovah our God and bow down at his footstool; He is holy. Moses and Aaron were among his priests, And Samuel was among those calling on his name. They would call to Jehovah, And he would answer them.” Psalm 99:5-6

This is why God’s covenant people were warned not to fear or serve any other being,

“Samuel then said to all the house of Israel: ‘If you are returning to Jehovah with all your heart, put away the foreign gods and the Ashʹto·reth images from among you, and direct your heart unswervingly to Jehovah and serve only him, and he will rescue you from the hand of the Phi·lisʹtines.’ At that the Israelites got rid of the Baʹals and the Ashʹto·reth images and served only Jehovah.” 1 Samuel 7:3-4

“When Jehovah made a covenant with them, he commanded them: ‘You must not fear other gods, and you must not bow down to them or serve them or sacrifice to them. But Jehovah, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt with great power and an outstretched arm, is the One you should fear, and to him you should bow down, and to him you should sacrifice. And the regulations, the judgments, the Law, and the commandment that he wrote for you, you should always follow carefully, and you must not fear other gods. And you must not forget the covenant that I made with you, and you must not fear other gods. But it is Jehovah your God whom you should fear, as he is the one who will rescue you out of the hand of all your enemies.’” 2 Kings 17:35-39

The prophetic writings further command that any Israelite who entices his people to serve other gods besides Jehovah must be put to death:

“In case a prophet or one who foretells by dreams arises in your midst and gives you a sign or a portent, and the sign or the portent about which he spoke to you comes true while he is saying, ‘Let us walk after other gods, gods that you have not known, and let us serve them,’ you must not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer, for Jehovah your God is testing you to know whether you love Jehovah your God with all your heart and all your soul. After Jehovah your God you should walk, him you should fear, his commandments you should keep, to his voice you should listen; he is the one you should serve, and to him you should hold fast. But that prophet or that dreamer should be put to death, because he encouraged rebellion against Jehovah your God—who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery—to turn you from the way in which Jehovah your God has commanded you to walk. And you must remove what is evil from your midst.” Deuteronomy 13:1-5

The prohibition from fearing and serving any other god also includes the angelic army since they are nothing more than God’s servants created to do his will, and who themselves fear and worship Jehovah:

“Therefore, watch yourselves closely—since you did not see any form on the day Jehovah spoke to you in Horʹeb out of the middle of the fire—that you may not act corruptly by making for yourselves any carved image having the form of any symbol, the representation of male or female, the representation of any animal on the earth or the representation of any bird that flies in the sky, the representation of anything creeping on the ground or the representation of any fish in the waters under the earth. And when you raise your eyes to the heavens and see the sun and the moon and the stars—all the army of the heavens—do not get seduced and bow down to them and serve them. Jehovah your God has given them to all the peoples under the whole heavens. But you are the ones Jehovah took and brought out of the iron-smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to become the people of his personal possession, as you are today… You yourselves have been shown these things so you will know that Jehovah is the true God; there is no other besides him… Know, therefore, on this day, and take it to heart that Jehovah is the true God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. There is no other.” Deuteronomy 4:15-20, 35, 39

“You alone are Jehovah; you made the heavens, yes, the heaven of the heavens and all their army, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. And you preserve all of them alive, and the army of the heavens are bowing down to you.” Nehemiah 9:6

“The heavens praise your marvels, O Jehovah, Yes, your faithfulness in the congregation of the holy ones. For who in the skies can compare to Jehovah? Who among the sons of God is like Jehovah? God is held in awe in the council of holy ones; He is grand and awe-inspiring to all who are around him.” Psalm 89:5-7

“Jehovah has firmly established his throne in the heavens; And his kingship rules over everything. Praise Jehovah, all you his angels, mighty in power, Who carry out his word, obeying his voice. Praise Jehovah, all his armies, His ministers who do his will.” Psalm 103:19-21

The New Testament concurs in that it prohibits the worship of angels,

“Let no man deprive you of the prize who takes delight in a false humility and a form of worship of the angels, ‘taking his stand on’ the things he has seen. He is actually puffed up without proper cause by his fleshly frame of mind” Colossians 2:18

Since angelic beings are spirits created to minister and serve both God and those who are destined for salvation:

“Also, he says about the angels: ‘He makes his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.’… Are they not ALL spirits for holy service, sent out to minister for those who are going to inherit salvation?” Hebrews 1:7, 14

“Well I, John, was the one hearing and seeing these things. When I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing me these things. But he tells me: ‘Be careful! Do not do that! I am only a fellow slave of you and of your brothers the prophets and of those observing the words of this scroll. Worship God.’” Revelation 22:8-9

In fact, angels will even be judged by true believers:

“Or do you not know that the holy ones will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you not competent to try very trivial matters? Do you not know that we will judge angels? Then why not matters of this life?” 1 Corinthians 6:2-3

And since Jehovah is the only divine Being that true believers are commanded to fear and serve as their heavenly Lord,

“To you I raise my eyes, You who are enthroned in the heavens. As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, And the eyes of a servant girl to the hand of her mistress, So our eyes look to Jehovah our God Until he shows us favor.” Psalm 123:1-2

It, therefore, comes as no surprise that they are described within the inspired Scriptures as the servants/slaves of Jehovah God:

“After the death of Moses the servant of Jehovah, Jehovah said to Joshua a the son of Nun, the minister of Moses: ‘Moses my servant is dead. Now get up, cross the Jordan, you and all this people, and go into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel.’” Joshua 1:1-2

“After these things, Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Jehovah, died at the age of 110.” Joshua 24:29

“To the director. By Jehovah’s servant David, who addressed the words of this song to Jehovah in the day that Jehovah rescued him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. He said:” Psalm 18

“Praise Jehovah, All you servants of Jehovah, You who stand in the house of Jehovah during the nights.” Psalm 134:1

“Neb·u·chad·nezʹzar approached the door of the burning fiery furnace and said: ‘Shaʹdrach, Meʹshach, and A·bedʹne·go, you servants of the Most High God, step out and come here!’ Shaʹdrach, Meʹshach, and A·bedʹne·go stepped out from the midst of the fire.” Daniel 3:26

“As he got near the pit, he called out to Daniel with a sad voice. The king asked Daniel: ‘O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you are continually serving been able to rescue you from the lions?’” Daniel 6:20

“Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ according to the faith of God’s chosen ones and the accurate knowledge of the truth that is according to godly devotion” Titus 1:1

“Be as free people, using your freedom, not as a cover for doing wrong, but as slaves of God.” 1 Peter 2:16

NOW FOR THE DILEMMA

Here is where the problem lay for the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs).

The JWs teach that Jesus is a god:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god… No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten god who is at the Father’s side is the one who has explained Him.” John 1;1, 18

“The Jews answered him: ‘We are stoning you, not for a fine work, but for blasphemy; for you, although being a man, make yourself a god.’” John 10:33

They further claim that both in his prehuman existence and after his death, Jesus was/is the archangel Michael, the spirit creature assigned to the rulership/authority of Israel:

“But the prince of the royal realm of Persia stood in opposition to me for 21 days. But then Miʹcha·el, one of the foremost princes, came to help me; and I remained there beside the kings of Persia… However, I will tell you the things recorded in the writings of truth. There is no one strongly supporting me in these things but Miʹcha·el, your prince.” Daniel 10:13, 21

“During that time Miʹcha·el will stand up, the great prince who is standing in behalf of your people. And there will occur a time of distress such as has not occurred since there came to be a nation until that time. And during that time your people will escape, everyone who is found written down in the book.” Daniel 12:1

Our Readers Ask . . .

Is Jesus the Archangel Michael?

▪ Put simply, the answer is yes. The custom of being called by more than one name is common in many cultures. The same situation occurs with names in the Bible. For example, the patriarch Jacob is also named Israel. (Genesis 35:10) The apostle Peter is named in five different ways​—Symeon, Simon, Peter, Cephas, and Simon Peter. (Matthew 10:2; 16:16; John 1:42; Acts 15:7, 14) How can we be sure that Michael is another name for Jesus? Consider the following Scriptural evidence…

In view of the foregoing, what can we conclude? Jesus Christ is Michael the archangel. Both names​—Michael (meaning “Who Is Like God?”) and Jesus (meaning “Jehovah Is Salvation”)​—focus attention on his role as the leading advocate of God’s sovereignty. Philippians 2:9 states: “God exalted him [the glorified Jesus] to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name.”

It is important to note that the human birth of Jesus was not the beginning of his life. Before Jesus was born, Mary was visited by an angel who told her that she would conceive a child by means of holy spirit and that she should name the child Jesus. (Luke 1:31) During his ministry, Jesus often spoke of his prehuman existence.​—John 3:13; 8:23, 58.

So Michael the archangel is Jesus in his prehuman existence. After his resurrection and return to heaven, Jesus resumed his service as Michael, the chief angel, “to the glory of God the Father.”​—Philippians 2:11. (Is Jesus the Archangel Michael?)

What this means is that Jesus cannot be the object of fear/reverence and service, since true believers are expressly forbidden from fearing or serving any other divine being besides Jehovah.

And yet the inspired Christian Scriptures that Christ does, in fact, receive reverence and service, since believers are described as his slaves who slave for him:

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of the Christ, so that each one may be repaid according to the things he has practiced while in the body, whether good or bad. Therefore, since we know the fear of the Lord, we keep persuading men, but we are well-known to God. However, I hope that we are well-known also to your consciences.” 2 Corinthians 5:10-11

“Be in subjection to one another in fear of Christ.” Ephesians 5:21

“Slaves, be obedient to your human masters, with fear and trembling in the sincerity of your hearts, as to the Christ, not only when being watched, just to please men, but as Christ’s slaves doing the will of God whole-souled.” Ephesians 6:5-6

“for you know that it is from Jehovah you will receive the inheritance as a reward. Slave for the Master, Christ.” Colossians 3:24

“having known that from the Lord YOU will receive back the gift back in exchange of the inheritance; to the Lord Christ be YOU slaving; the (one) for doing unrighteously, will carry off for self which he did unrighteously, and not is receiving of face.” (The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures https://www.jw.org/en/library/bible/kingdom-interlinear-greek-translation/books/colossians/3/)

“You masters, treat your slaves in a righteous and fair way, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven… Epʹa·phras, a slave of Christ Jesus who is from among you, sends you his greetings. He is always exerting himself in your behalf in his prayers, so that you may finally stand complete and with firm conviction in all the will of God.” Colossians 4:1, 12

“For anyone who was called in the Lord when a slave is the Lord’s freedman; likewise anyone who was called when a freeman is a slave of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 7:22

“Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus and called to be an apostle, set apart for God’s good news,” Romans 1:1

“Is it, in fact, men I am now trying to persuade or God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I would not be Christ’s slave.” Galatians 1:10

“Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus, to all the holy ones in union with Christ Jesus who are in Phi·lipʹpi, along with overseers and ministerial servants:” Philippians 1:1

“Simon Peter, a slave and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have acquired a faith as precious as ours through the righteousness of our God and the Savior Jesus Christ:” 2 Peter 1:1

“Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ, but a brother of James, to the called ones who are loved by God the Father and preserved for Jesus Christ:” Jude 1:1

“To the angel of the congregation in Thy·a·tiʹraj write: These are the things that the Son of God says, the one who has eyes like a fiery flame and whose feet are like fine copper: ‘I know your deeds, and your love and faith and ministry and endurance, and that your deeds of late are more than those you did at first. Nevertheless, I do hold this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezʹe·bel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and misleads my slaves to commit sexual immorality and to eat things sacrificed to idols.” Revelation 2:18-20

Remarkably, the NT goes as far as to describe Christians as being the slave and priests of both God and Christ!

“James, a slave of God AND OF the Lord Jesus Christ, to the 12 tribes that are scattered about: Greetings!” James 1:1

“Happy and holy is anyone having part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no authority, but they will be priests of God AND OF the Christ, and they will rule as kings with him for the 1,000 years.” Revelation 20:6

As if it couldn’t get any more astonishing, true believers were characterized and known for their practice of calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus:

“There was a disciple named An·a·niʹash in Damascus, and the Lord said to him in a vision: ‘An·a·niʹas!’ He said: ‘Here I am, Lord.’ The Lord said to him: ‘Get up, go to the street called Straight, and look for a man named Saul, from Tarsus, at the house of Judas. For look! he is praying, and in a vision he has seen a man named An·a·niʹas come in and lay his hands on him so that he may recover sight.’ But An·a·niʹas answered: ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, about all the harm he did to your holy ones in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to arrest all those calling on your name.’ But the Lord said to him: ‘Go! because this man is a chosen vessel to me to bear my name to the nations as well as to kings and the sons of Israel. For I will show him plainly how many things he must suffer for my name.’ So An·a·niʹas went and entered the house, and he laid his hands on him and said: ‘Saul, brother, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road along which you were coming, has sent me so that you may recover sight and be filled with holy spirit.’ And immediately, what looked like scales fell from his eyes, and he recovered his sight. He then got up and was baptized, and he ate some food and gained strength. He stayed for some days with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately in the synagogues he began to preach about Jesus, that this one is the Son of God. But all those hearing him were astonished and were saying: “Is this not the man who ravaged those in Jerusalem who call on this name? Did he not come here for the purpose of arresting them and taking them to the chief priests?’” Acts 9:10-21

“to the congregation of God that is in Corinth, to you who have been sanctified in union with Christ Jesus, called to be holy ones, together with all those everywhere who are calling on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:” 1 Corinthians 1:2

Hence, if the JW’s doctrine concerning Christ is correct then this means that the NT writers are promoting the idolatrous worship of another god besides the true God, Jehovah, in blatant contradiction to the consistent exhortation and warning of the Hebrew Bible that true believers must avoid reverencing and serving any other divine being besides Jehovah their God.

The only way around this is to conclude that Jesus is no mere spirit creature, but rather he is the eternal Son of God who is essentially one with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and therefore worthy of the same reverence and service that the Father receives.

In fact, this is precisely what Jesus himself proclaimed:

“For the Father judges no one at all, but he has entrusted all the judging to the Son, so that all may honor the Son JUST AS they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” John 5:22-23

And since the divine Son is worthy of the same divine honor that the Father is supposed to receive, it comes as no surprise that the NT writings depict every created being rendering to the risen Christ the exact same worship that is given to the Father!

“so that in the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE should bend—of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground—and EVERY TONGUE should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:10-11

“When he took the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb, and each one had a harp and golden bowls that were full of incense. (The incense means the prayers of the holy ones.) And they sing a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, for you were slaughtered and with your blood you bought people for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth.’ And I saw, and I heard a voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders, and the number of them was myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, and they were saying with a loud voice: ‘The Lamb who was slaughtered is worthy to receive the power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.’ And I heard EVERY CREATURE in heaven and on earth and underneath the earth and on the sea, and ALL THE THINGS in them, saying: ‘To the One sitting on the throne and to the Lamb be the blessing and the honor and the glory and the might forever and ever.’ The four living creatures were saying: “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshipped.” Revelation 5:8-14

JWs, you have a problem!

Unless stated otherwise, all scriptural references taken from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (2013 Revision).