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An Introduction to the Talmud

by Dr. Harris Brody

Part VII

In the past three Talmud articles we have been looking at Isaiah 53. The Orthodox Jews are aware of the passage but will say that Israel is the Suffering Messiah, not an individual. However, the Talmud teaches otherwise. Among the secular and non-Orthodox Jews most are not aware that the passage even exists. When shown, they believe it is a passage taken from the New Testament. Many are amazed to learn that it is actually from the Old Testament. They then usually make the statement, "That's what your Bible says," so I show them that I am using the Old Covenant translation The Holy Scriptures: A Jewish Bible According to the Masoretic Text. It is a decent Jewish translation that reads like the King James Version. It can be purchased at a Jewish bookstore and I highly recommend it if you are witnessing to Jewish people. It can be obtained in the English or in the bilingual Hebrew-English. The latter is recommended even if you do not know Hebrew. By learning a few Hebrew words it can be a great help with regard to the Messianic passages. In future articles we will be looking at these Hebrew words. Avoid any other Jewish translation of the Old Covenant except for the one mentioned above.

The Talmud is clear that the Suffering Messiah is an individual. In tractate Sanhedrin98b one of the names of the Messiah is identified as "Shiloh." The reference is Genesis 49:10. Another Rabbi said, "His name is the leper scholar as it is written, Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him a leper, smitten of God, and afflicted." The reference is given to Isaiah 53:4.

The Zohar, a book of Jewish mysticism which is accepted as Talmud Torah, supports the fact of the Suffering Messiah of Isaiah 53. The Zohar purports to be a record of discourses between Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai and his contemporaries of the second century. It is said that Simeon and his son hid in a cave for thirteen years to escape the persecution by the Romans. There they meditated on the mystical aspects of God, on Torah and the universe. Basically the Zohar is a mystical commentary on the Pentateuch (the five books of Moses). One legend says that Simeon is the author. It has also been referred to as Midrash ha-Zohar and Midrash de-Rabbi Shim'on ben Yohai.

The Zohar was written partly in Aramaic and partly in Hebrew. It first appeared in Spain in the thirteenth century being made known by Moses ben Shem-Tob de Leon, a cabalistic writer. He ascribed it to Simeon ben Yohai. When Moses de Leon died, his widow confessed that her husband himself had written the Zohar. There is much debate on the authorship.

The Zohar spread rapidly among the Jews and was regarded as a sacred book. The cabalists proclaimed that such a book could not have been written by any mortal unless he had been inspired by God. The Zohar was then placed on the same level with the Bible.

Enthusiasm for the Zohar was felt by many Christian scholars who believed that it contained proofs of the truth of Christianity. William Postel is believed to be the first. Another, Pico della Mirandola, declared that the Zohar contains Christian doctrines on the Trinity, original sin and the Incarnation. John Reuchlin wrote De Arte Cabalistica, which he dedicated to Leo X. His work was to prove that the Messiah had already appeared. Galatinus, a contemporary of Reuchlin, published De Arcanis Catholicae Veritatis in l516. He showed that the Zohar supports the major doctrines of Christianity. Other outstanding Christian theologians on the Zohar were Alabaster, Gasparellus, and Athanasius Kircher. Better known is Knorr von Rosenroth who wrote Kabbalah Denndata (1677-78). It was translated into English in 1887. In our next article we will look at some of the Zohar references concerning the Messiah.


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


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