An Introduction to the Talmud
by Dr. Harris Brody
In Parts IV and V of "An Introduction to the Talmud" we have been discussing Isaiah 53. We took note that Rashi (Rabbi Solomon Ben Isaac, 1040-1105 AD) set forth the view that the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 is Israel and not the Messiah. This was not the accepted traditional view. The majority of the rabbis prior to and following Rashi rejected his view. Today among Rabbinical Jews the interpretation of Isaiah 53 has shifted to Rashis position. This is to avoid any Christological reference to Yeshua, Jesus, as only a Gentile Messiah.
The Scriptures are very clear that Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah and His atoning work is a fulfillment of Isaiah
53. The New Testament was written by Jewish men under the inspiration of God concerning the Messiah, and
what it says about Yeshua's atoning work is an expansion of Isaiah 53. So unless we first establish the fact that Isaiah 53 speaks of the suffering Messiah, Yeshua Messiah of the New Testament may not even be considered by the Jew. To properly defend our faith (I Pet. 3:15) and win the Jew (Romans 1:16), we need to put ourselves on the Jew's level.
We will begin to look at the New Testament along with Isaiah 53 and support it, when possible, with the traditional rabbinical position. The emphasis will be to establish the fact that the Messiah is the Suffering Servant and also that the New Testament is a Jewish book about Yeshua, Jesus, as the Jewish Messiah.
We begin with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-39). He was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah (Acts 8:26-39) and the Spirit of God led Philip to speak to him (vs. 29). Philip heard him reading Isaiah and asked if he knew what he was reading (vs. 30). The response was that he needed help (vs. 31).
The Ethiopian eunuch was evidently black and a proselyte to Judaism, known as a "proselyte of the gate." Normally a heathen of those days would not have been reading the Scriptures. The passage that caused the Ethiopian difficulty was Isaiah 53:7,8, which Luke records for his readers from the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament, LXX):
The Ethiopian questioned whether the passage spoke of Isaiah himself or of another (Acts 8:34). The Ethiopian had an advantage over the modern Jew in that he had at least read Isaiah 53. As discussed in Part V of "An Introduction to the Talmud," Jews do not read this passage today.
It was the Spirit of God that led Philip to speak with the Ethiopian. When we witness to a Jew, we need to let the Spirit of God work. Our first step might be to urge him to read Isaiah 53. One approach would be to ask him to explain the passage. Most likely he would need to go home, read it and research it. This would be a good start. Then we could explain how we understand the passage to be according to the traditional Jewish position.
The Ethiopian proselyte to Judaism was seriously thinking about Isaiah 53. He had questions. In studying at a Yeshiva, I have learned to question my questions as well as my answers. In the Talmud words are often very condensed. From these condensed words comes a need to formulate questions in order to explain the following condensed words. If the right questions are asked, the right answers can be derived. Many Yeshiva students are often frustrated at this rational, but once the principles are learned, study becomes easier. There have been months at the Yeshiva in which we have stayed on a small passage of the Talmud and have not only exegeted it but have truly learned it. Because of this process, Jewish attorneys who have studied Talmud usually make some of the best lawyers.
The Ethiopian questioned as to whether Isaiah 53 spoke of Isaiah himself or of another (Acts 8:34). In like manner we need to get the unbelieving Jew to truly question the passage. Does it really speak of Israel or of the Messiah? Doubt must be placed in a Jew's mind before he will examine other possibilities. The Ethiopian eunuch had questions about the passage. It was then that Philip proclaimed Yeshua, Jesus, as the Messiah of whom Isaiah spoke. Once the fact is established that the prophet is speaking of the Messiah, and we can do that rabbinically, then the question of time and person can be raised.
Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX | Part X
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