The Theology of Scripture vs. the Pseudo-Theology of Apostasy, Heresy and Idiocy
In the sphere of Jewish evangelism Isaiah 53 is sometimes wrongly called “The Forbidden Chapter” because it is nt included in the liturgical Haf Torah readings in the synagogue Siddur. The reason for its omission is in fact pre- Christian, dating back to the proto-Hasmonean period when Torah reading was outlawed by pagan Selucid authorities so Jews sought broad thematically comparable ritual readings to what the Torah portion or Paroch Ha Shavua would have otherwise been. In fact, the Hebrew liturgical poet Eliezer Ha Kalir incorporated the reading of Isaiah 53 into the Yom Kippur Maqzor for a liturgical reading on the Day of Atonement in the Middle Ages. In Judaism, the actual “Forbidden Chapter” which Jews are exhorted not to read in rabbinic commentary is Daniel 9 predicting the death of the Messiah prior to the destruction of the Second Temple which transpired in 70 AD. Its reading is specifically discouraged because “the time of Messiah’s coming is foretold in it”.
Among Christians, Isaiah 52 & 53 have been called “The Gospel of Isaiah” due to its prophetic foretelling of the sequence of events in the Gospel Passion Narratives concerning the death and resurrection of Christ. Indeed, the revered rabbi and sage Abraham Faraisel admitted the suffering servant of the passage bears an acute resemblance to Jesus of Nazareth and many Jews who have read are astounded in their initial reading of it, at first often thinking it to be from the pages of the New Testament and not from their own Tenach (Hebrew Scriptures). It was not until later in the Middle Ages that another Rabbi, Rashi, interpreted it as being about the vicarious suffering of the Jewish people on behalf of the Gentile nations. More ancient Jewish sources such as the Targum Yonatan saw it as prophetic and about the Messiah. Although wrong this same Rashi however, admitted that the One who is pierced in Zechariah 12:10 whom Israel shall behold and weep over is the Messiah. Moreover Rashi’s view of Isaiah 53 does confirm two truths modern rabbis opposed to the claims of Jewish believers in Yeshua (Jesus) regarding Isaiah 53 which they seek to reject as un-Jewish concepts: the first is vicarious atonement and the second is human sacrifice for sin.
From an academic perspective within the scholarly community however, Isaiah 52 & 53 constitute the fourth and final of the four Servant Songs of the Book of Isaiah which commence in the genre shift in chapter 40 verse 1. The scholarly arguments and considerations among theologians both Christian and Jewish in these Servant Songs are froth with controversy over textual difficulties in various verses and passages, the grammatical number of the word for death in Isaiah 53:9 being among them.
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Paleo-Hebrew: (Before 585 B.C.)
53:9 VYThN ‘aTh-UrSh’yYM QBUrV V’aTh-‘yShYUr BMThYV ‘yL L’a-ChMS ‘yShH VL’a MUrMH BPhYV.
53:9 et dabit impios pro sepultura et divitem pro morte sua eo quod iniquitatem non fecerit neque dolus fuerit in ore eius
King James Version:
53:9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
American Standard Version:
53:9 And they made his grave with the wicked, and with a rich man in his death; although he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
Even translations of the translation into the Hebrew dialect of Qumran (1 Qa ISA) translates verse 9 in the singular as “death” while the Hebrew has it as plural “deaths” with a silent Hebrew letter “yod” before the “vav“; it is “b’mtiv” (his “deaths”) instead of “motov” (his “death“), yet all translators Jewish and Christian translate its meaning into the singular. The question is, “Why?”
This is a valid and important theological question. Unfortunately there are three schools of pseudo theology ““ those of apostasy (Higher Criticism), of heresy (Word-Faith money preaching advocates that “‘Jesus died spiritually”), and of idiocy (King James Only charlatanism, Ruckmanism etc.) who have proposed ludicrous explanations.
Before establishing where the explanation rightly is within the exegetical parameters of text, context, and co-text, let us first demolish the pseudo theology of apostasy, heresy, and idiocy and the reasons why their claims are not plausible.
1. Higher Criticism
The proponents of theological liberalism, taking what amounts to a dialectic approach to source criticism, redaction criticism, and form criticism, are simply propelled to automatically explain the question in terms of scribal error. This is silly.
The ktav tradition used gemmatrial means to mathematically assure accuracy of transmission without “spilling a drop” (as the mishnaic scribes explained it). Moreover, if it were erroneous due to a copyist error in the 7th & 8th Centuries when the Tiberian redactors added the diakritical nikudot (vowel points) they obviously would have corrected it; but instead they affirmed the plural of “death”. Higher critics are apostate, only looking at Scripture as history (in their view of dubious historicity) and literature (in their view of dubious meaning).
Author’s intent is unrelated to divine inspiration in their presupposition and various authors had conflicting intent in the hypothesis they expect others to treat as fact despite the evidence to the contrary. They are concerned only about the Scripture and not with what the Scripture is about. Anything predictive that happened in recorded history is an ex vaticinia interpolation (an after-the-fact insertion designed to make it look prophetic). In the context of the culture and historical setting that produced and copied the text, scribal error is simply not a plausible explanation. There was simply too much care is preserving accuracy and too much opportunity for redactive correction.
2. Word-Faith Advocates
These followers of the lies of hyper-Pentecostal mystics such as E. W. Kenyan, William Branham, Kenneth Hagen, Kenneth Copeland and other money oriented televangelists (whose positions were initially rejected by mainstream Pentecostalism) cite the plural use of “death” to support the view that Jesus died not only on the cross but posthumously in hell ‚ to become of one nature with Satan and being “Born Again” in hell (based on a mistranslation of “Hades” in the King James Bible of Peter’s Epistle). Christ Himself said “IT IS FINISHED” and “FATHER INTO YOUR HANDS DO I COMMEND MY SPIRIT”; He was not committed to hell to be tortured by Satan as the Word-Faith preachers state. Hence, He could not have died multiple deaths.
This concept is present for both Word-Faith heretics and Roman Catholicism (with its on-going sacramental death of Jesus in the Mass) and plainly violates far too many unambiguous New Testament Scriptures such as 1 Peter 3:18, Hebrews 7: 27, Hebrews 9:12, Hebrews 10:10, 12 & 14. All of these Scriptures’ content vociferously present a single death of Christ. Moreover, while a plural term for death as “deaths” in Isaiah 53:9 would serve the interests of propagating the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Mass, the additional problem for Roman Catholicism is that Jerome, in the Vulgate ‚ “” the official Roman Catholic Bible for centuries ‚ “” translates it in the singular. If a multiple death argument could be concluded or even argued for from Isaiah 53:9 we can be sure that educated heretics such as Jesuits would have attempted it long ago. So it is only the argument of uneducated heretics such as the late Kenneth Hagen.
3.King James Only Advocates
The word “idiot” is actually used in the New Testament (“idiotai” in Greek) to describe doctrinally ignorant Christians (1 Corinthians 14:23 where the term is usually mistranslated as “ungifted“). Ruckmanites and many other King James Only advocates believe that the perfect Canon of Scripture is not the original autographs in the original languages but in a 17th Century translation of a translation commissioned by a homosexual king who murdered saved Christians
This of course is not to demean the noble legacy of William Tyndale, the eminent Coverdale or others whose work provided the basis of this translation, but Scripture places the priority not on translation but on the original meaning of the original languages (Nehemiah 8:8). The multiple divorcee Peter Ruckman states that additions to the 1611 Edition of the KJV alien to the original Greek and Hebrew are “further divine revelation” in direct rejection of the caveats of Holy Writ (Revelation 22:18-19, Deuteronomy 4:2, Proverbs 30:6, Matthew15: 9, Isaiah 29:13). Other variants of this absurdity are the British Israelite cults arguing the Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Celtic peoples are the true Jews from the lost tribes. Thus in their view the English language usurps both Hebrew and Greek. Many of these people are anti-Semitic and unable to handle the teachings of Scripture concerning Israel and the Jews.
One woman in Australia was recently incensed that the term “midrash” was taught in the original languages of Scripture but she preferred the English mistranslation “treatise” to avoid anything of a Hebraic nature. In fact a “treatise” (how most English translations translate “midrash“) is an exposition using a hermeneutical interpretation. The same as Jude’s epistle points to the Apocrypha not as doctrine but as a historical exposition of biblical fact, so to does midrash in Chronicles in the writings of Iddo, etc. She was unaware how many conservative Evangelical scholars cite New Testament uses of midrash as explanations of how the New Testament handles the Old Testament, and also of the difference between midrash as a hermeneutic and later rabbinic writing centuries later called by the same name. She also did not know the difference between The Dead Sea Scrolls “Q” coding for names of Qumran scrolls of the Old Testament. etc. and the “Q” hypothesis of a source gospel document for the synoptic Gospels hypothesized by certain source critical scholars. Such rank ignorance is typical of King James Only advocates, most of whom are proven charlatans (such as Gail Riplinger) and few of whom can even read Greek or Hebrew yet misrepresent themselves as having an expertise in source documents they cannot even read. This is indeed “idiocy” in the truest biblical sense.
This kind of idiocy merely seeks to explain that the plural use in the original Hebrew is “corrected” in their beloved King James Version.
But What Is the Actual Explanation of Why Isaiah 53:9 Translates “Deaths” as “Death”?
We must always remember a scriptural text must be read in context and in light of co-texts addressing the same issue. Context consists of the surrounding verses in the passage or pericope. It also refers to Sitz in Leben, that is the cultural setting in which the text was written.
For the believer the co-texts are the citations of Isaiah 53 in the New Testament (such as Acts 8:32-33), and of course other Old Testament passages prophetically describing the death of the Messiah (e.g., Psalm 69). The context is the surrounding verses and the cultural context is ancient biblical Judaism (not to be confused with the later post-scriptural and contra-scriptural Talmudic Judaism).
The literary device used in verse 9 is called “Remes” or a “hint” at a further meaning in the context that is called a “sod” or secret ““ not in the mystical or Gnostic sense, nor later Cabbalistic sense, but in the scriptural sense of “apocalyptic” and “mysterion” (mystery) one of St. Paul’s favorite terms. What the Remes hints at is the term “rabbim” used in the context repeatedly, rabbim being both the Hebrew word for “many” and for “plural” or “plurality”. The Messiah, the text predicts, will justify the many (or rabbim in verses 11-12 for instance). Thus He dies the deaths of others (represented by the criminals in verse 9 which we see fulfilled in Luke 23).
My wife is a math teacher by profession but she is also a qualified Hebrew teacher with a degree from an Israeli university in ancient Hebrew. While I speak Hebrew I do not have her level of expertise in ancient grammatical and nuances and implications of syntax, so she advises me on certain linguistic considerations. Here she points out that there is a double meaning as a literary device for the manner in which the term rabbim is employed in the context. While He dies our death, in the passage of His own personal death in verse 12, it is in the singular in the original Hebrew not in the plural.
This is a plain use of the Hebraic hermeneutic principle of Remes which tells us there is a further meaning in the context that we would not see (the “sod“) without the Remes. The Remes is an irregularity in the text placed there under divine inspiration as a sign or pointer that there is a less obvious but important further meaning in the context. A Remes tells us, “STOP! DIG HERE!” Then you will discover the less than conspicuous true meaning of the text, which in this case is that in order to give us His life He died our death (Hosea 6:2).
My prayer is that our unsaved Jewish friends will stop listening to rabbis and get a shovel and dig their way out of the Talmudic Judaism in which they are trapped and discover what Isaiah 53 is truly about and Who it is truly about. My prayer for theological liberals (trapped in apostasy), Word-Faith connivers (trapped in heresy), and KJV Only advocates (trapped in idiocy) is that they will also get a shovel and dig their way out of the manure in which they have buried themselves.
J. Jacob Prasch