Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VIIPart VIII | Part IX | Part X


An Introduction to the Talmud

by Dr. Harris Brody

Part IV

For centuries discussion among the religious Jews centered around the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. They acknowledged that the passage speaks of the suffering servant, but they questioned who this suffering servant might be. Secular Jews are usually ignorant that the chapter even exists and religious Jews will not admit to Christians that it refers to the Messiah. Instead, they will quote Rashi's interpretation that the passage speaks of Israel as the suffering servant not Messiah. I put rabbis and others like these on the spot by quoting the traditional rabbis showing that prior to and following Rashi the majority took the view that the suffering servant is Messiah. Orthodox Jews do not accept Rashi's view on Isaiah 53 while almost all Reformed Jews do. Conservative Jews are divided.

Rashi is an abbreviation for a French rabbi, Rabbi Shlomo ben Isaac (1040-1105 CE). Even today the religious Jew reveres Rashi as one of the most rabbinic commentators on the Bible and Talmud. Every page in the Talmud contains Rashi's commentary.

The New Testament teaching of Yeshua, Jesus, as Messiah centers on His substitutionary death based on Isaiah 53. Many rabbinics, including the Orthodox Jews, will purposely misinterpret Isaiah 53 in reaction to Christological teaching. The New Testament, however, bears personal witness that Yeshua, Jesus, is indeed the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 and that He was raised from the dead (Luke 22:37; Acts 8:26-35; I Peter 2:21-25).

We know Him whom we believed, but how do we share our faith to the Jew that Yeshua is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53? What do we do when one openly misinterprets the Isaiah 53 passage because of the Christological tone? We have enough New Testament references that the passage does speak of the Messiah, but what does one do when someone rejects the New Testament references? The typical response that the unbelieving Jew gives to the Christian is "You believe your way and I believe mine, I cannot believe in Jesus because I am a Jew. You have your Bible and interpretation and I have mine" Many Christians become frustrated, and wanting to have the final word they will respond with, "I'll pray for you!" Then there are other Christians who are simply too afraid to witness to a Jew, while others just leave it up to the missionaries. First of all, we need to realize that this same gospel is to go to both Jew and Gentile. In fact, the command is to the Jew first (Romans 1:16). Secondly, each one of us has the responsibility to witness to those around us, to both Jew and Gentile, and to reach them on their own level.

For any missionary or believer to reach those around them they must reach them on their own level. This is typical of the apostle Paul:

"And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some" (I Corinthians 9:20-22).

A further example is given in Acts 21. Paul, as a believer, takes a Jewish vow. Why? Basically, as a Jew he wants to identify with the Jewish people and gain a witness.

The unsaved do not need to conform to the Christian's methodology of ministry, but the Christian does need to reach the unsaved on their own level. Paul took this approach to Jew and Gentile.

Generally, Jews are not interested in hearing what they consider to be a Gentile gospel or a Gentile interpretation of their Scriptures. They believe that they have their Scriptures and Talmud along with its interpretation and the Christian has theirs. How do we break the barrier in witnessing to the Jew? Are we to give up and just pray for them?

The Scriptures teach that we are in the army of God. Each one of us is a soldier. Every soldier must go through basic training to learn the skills needed to be victorious in battle. To be ill skilled is no excuse (Acts 10:7; Ephesians 6:11-20; 11 Timothy 2:3). Peter gives us a battle order:

"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear" (I Peter 3:15).

The word "answer" in the text is the Greek word meaning "apologetics." This teaches us that we are to give a defense of our faith, but to do it with meekness and love. We are to prove, to defend our faith and then let the Holy Spirit convict. We need not only use the Scriptures, but also whatever else we have at our means. We see this taking place in Paul's sermon on Mars' hill. There he found an altar with an inscription to the unknown god. There he told them who the unknown God is whom they ignorantly worshipped (Acts 17:22-34). Paul used what was within his means.

In Part III of "An Introduction to the Talmud" a Talmudic story of a rabbinical disciple was given. When this disciple, Issac ben Judah, found a law to contradict Rabbi Sheshet's law the response was that it was then one law against another law (Zev. 96b).

Many Jews today accept Rashi's interpretation of Isaiah 53 not realizing that there are other Talmudic alternatives referring to Messiah as the Suffering Servant. With the use of the Scriptures and Talmud I point out that my interpretation of Isaiah 53 and other Messianic passages is truly a Jewish interpretation. I bring out that the "Derash" (commentary) of the majority of the traditional rabbis prior to and following Rashi was always that Isaiah is referring to the Messiah as the Suffering Servant. The following are only a few of the many "Derash" quotes of the Messiah as the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 that can be used:

"I will now proceed to explain these verses of our own Messiah, who G-d willing, will come speedily in our days. I am surprised that Rashi and Rabbi David Kimchi have not, with the Targums, applied it to the Messiah likewise" (Rabbi Naphtali ben Asher Altshuler, ca. 1650 A.D.).

"I am pleased to interpret it in accordance of our rabbis, of the King Messiah, and will be careful, so far as I am able, to adhere to the literal sense: thus, possible, I shall be free from the fancied and far fetched interpretations of which others have been guilty. . ." (Rabbi Moshe Kohen Ibn Crispin of Cordova and Toledo in Spain, ca. 1350).

"Our rabbis of blessed memory with one voice accept and affirm the opinion that the prophet is speaking of the King Messiah. And we ourselves shall also adhere to the same view" (Rabbi Moshe Le Sheich, second half of the 16th century).

"But he was wounded . . . meaning that since the Messiah bears our iniquities which produce the effect of His being bruised, it follows that whosoever will not admit that Messiah thus suffers for our iniquities, must endure and suffer for them himself" (Rabbi Elijah de Vidas).

Many Jews do not know the "unknown God" of Isaiah 53. With the use of the Talmud and Scriptures I show that my interpretation is truly Jewish and Biblical. God has given me the privilege to lead many of my Jewish brethren to Messiah Yeshua with the Talmudic apologetic approach.

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VIIPart VIII | Part IX | Part X

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