Muslim polemicist Paul Bilal Williams shared an on his blog, and titled the post “Objective biblical scholarship can be quite surprising sometimes…” https://bloggingtheology.net/2017/04/13/objective-biblical-scholarship-can-be-quite-surprising-sometimes/. The image is a citation from an unnamed biblical source. Here is what it says concerning the 4 Suffering Servant Songs, a term that biblical scholarship coined in describing the relationship between Isaiah 42, 49, 50 and 52:13-53:12:
Songs of the Suffering Servant: A set of four poems or songs found in Isaiah 40-55, in which the prophet speaks of a “Servant of the Lord” who suffers for the sake of the people of God. Jewish interpreters typically understood this to refer to the Jews who were sent into exile to Babylon; later Christians claimed that the passages referred to a suffering messiah, Jesus. (The term “messiah” is not used in these passages.)
Williams cited this reference in order to refute the Christian use of Isaiah 53 as a prophecy of the vicarious death, resurrection and exaltation of the Lord Jesus. Williams erroneously thinks that since “objective” Biblical scholarship confirms that Isaiah 53 is about national Israel then it cannot possibly be a prophecy of the Messiah’ substitutionary death for the salvation of sinners.
It is rather unfortunate for Williams that he doesn’t see how the assertions of these so-called objective biblical scholars end up proving too much, since these views basically end up condemning Muhammad as a false prophet (which he certainly was).
1. According to “objective” Biblical scholarship Isaiah 53 is about national Israel:
“Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account. Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the Lord shall prosper. Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:1-12
2. As the readers can see, the Servant is to suffer for the sins of the nations in order to make atonement for them.
3. Both Christianity and Islam acknowledge that Jesus Christ is an Israelite and therefore a member of national Israel:
“An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Matthew 1:1
“When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’” Mark 10:47-48
“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’” Luke 1:26-33
“Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, ‘He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’ This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.” Acts 2:29-32
“When he had removed him, he made David their king. In his testimony about him he said, ‘I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes.’ Of this man’s posterity God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised;” Acts 13:22-23
“the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,” Romans 1:3-4
“They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” Romans 9:4-5
“Brothers and sisters, I give an example from daily life: once a person’s will has been ratified, no one adds to it or annuls it. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring; it does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ as of many; but it says, ‘And to your offspring,’ that is, to one person, who is Christ. My point is this: the law, which came four hundred thirty years later, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise For if the inheritance comes from the law, it no longer comes from the promise; but God granted it to Abraham through the promise.” Galatians 3:15-18
“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel,” 2 Timothy 2:8
“Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.’” Revelation 5:5
“It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” Revelation 22:16
4. As such, Isaiah 53 necessarily includes and applies to Jesus, and therefore establishes that his death was for the express purpose of making atonement for the sins of the nations:
“For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 – cf. Matthew 20:28
“While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:26-28 – cf. Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20
“For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted among the lawless’; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.” Luke 22:37
“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’” John 1:29
“This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” John 6:50-51
“Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over to this chariot and join it.’ So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ He replied, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: ‘Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.’ The eunuch asked Philip, ‘About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?’ Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?’ He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.” Acts 8:26-38
“whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed;” Romans 3:25
“And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” Hebrews 9:27-28
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:21-25
“but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin… My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 1:7, 2:1-2
“In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10
5. Since Muhammad denied the vicarious death of Jesus, and further denied that national Israel would suffer for the salvation of the nations, this means that per the interpretation of Isaiah by William’s own Biblical scholars, Muhammad was a false prophet who stands condemned by the testimony of Isaiah himself.
6. Moreover, according to “objective” Biblical scholarship Isaiah 42 is one of the 4 Suffering Servant Songs that speak of national Israel. As such, Isaiah 42 CANNOT be a prophecy about Muhammad since the latter wasn’t an Israelite and therefore could not be the Servant spoken of by the prophet.
7. Therefore, all of those Muhammadan apologists who claim that Isaiah 42 is a prophecy of Muhammad are either lying or ignorant of the facts established by the same “objective” Biblical scholarship that Williams just got done appealing to.
“Objective” Biblical scholarship can be quite surprising indeed!
All Scriptural references taken from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Holy Bible.