One of the most common–and least enlightening–exercises in religious history is the batting back and forth of biblical verses. Rabbi David Wolpe.
In Part 1 of this series, I looked at one of the most controversial chapters in the Bible, Isaiah 53. For Christians, Isaiah 53 is prophecy concerning Jesus of Nazareth. Jews interpret Isaiah 53 in varying ways, but the dominant Jewish interpretation is that Isaiah 53 predicts the redemption of the people and nation of Israel.
To understand the meaning of Isaiah 53, we need go beyond what this chapter says, and beyond how Jews and Christians have interpreted this chapter. To understand Isaiah 53, we need understand how this text has been used over the centuries. Isaiah 53 has been used in ways that have transformed what the text means.
This is the last in a series of posts here on Daniel Boyarin’s book “The Jewish Gospels“. In this post (actually, I’ll need
two three posts), I will examine the final chapter of his book, where Boyarin provides a controversial interpretation of the “suffering servant” passage found in the Biblical book of Isaiah, chapter 53.
But before we can get to Boyarin, we have a lot of background to cover – so much background, in fact, that I’ll need to devote this post just to the background. In this first post, I’ll look at the way Judaism and Christianity have viewed Isaiah 53. My second post will look at Boyarin’s analysis in the context of the Jewish-Christian dispute over the meaning of this passage.
One caveat: entire books have been written about Isaiah 53, and seemingly none of them agree. Below is my effort to provide a brief but fair summary of Isaiah 53, but it’s probably not as fair as I might wish, and I know it’s not brief!