To my very good friend who claims to have become an atheist:
I invite you to give me your reaction to Isaiah 53. According to conservatives it was written around 720 BC and, according to liberals, it was written before 400 BC. Regardless of which date is correct, it is still a prophecy which predates Christ by a bare minimum of 400 years.
Jews claim that Isaiah 53 refers to the nation itself as God's servant. I strongly disagree because the servant is to die as a substitute for the nation.
I have copied both the ultra conservative KJV and the ultra liberal RSV which is based on the "best" Dead Sea Scrolls. After comparing the two documents, you must admit that they differ very little and do not differ on any important point. Again the documents have been miraculously preserved over many centuries without significant change.
Whether you understand the substitute death of Christ or not is irrelevant. The fact that all of this prophecy was fulfilled by Christ proves that God inspired it.
1. Isa 52:13 prophesied that the Messiah would be exalted very high. Although this is not significant by itself, when compared to the following texts it is amazing.
Isa 52:13 Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. KJV
13 Behold, my servant shall prosper,
he shall be exalted and lifted up,
and shall be very high. RSV
2. **52:14, written centuries before Christ, prophesied that Messiah would be punished so much that one could barely recognize him as a man. This is proof of divine foreknowledge and inspiration.
Isa 52:14 As many were astonished at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: KJV
14 As many were astonished at him -
his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men - RSV
3. 52:15 Israel's Messiah would affect many other nations.
Isa 52:15 So shall he *sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider. (*NKJ, NAS, NIV)
15 so shall he startle many nations;
kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which has not been told them they shall see,
and that which they have not heard they shall understand.
4. *53:1 Prophecies about the Messiah will not be believed, especially the part about His death, burial and resurrection. As you know, Israel rejected Christ as its Messiah. Atheists and agnostics testify to this fulfillment.
Isaiah 53:1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
53;1 Who has believed what we have heard?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? RSV
5. *53:2 Unlike most kings, Israel's Messiah will come from an ordinary family and grow up in an ordinary lifestyle. Messiah would not stand out among his peers by being abnormally tall, short of handsome.
Isa 53:2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
53:2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. RSV
6. **53:3 prophesied over 400 years before Christ that the Messiah who would eventually be exalted very high (52:13) would first be despised and rejected by his own people. This must be by divine revelation.
Isa 53:3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
3 He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
7. *53:4-6 prophesied over 400 years before Christ that Messiah will suffer as a substitute for the sins of others. This is unusually contrary to previous Hebrew history and thought. Even more remarkable, Messiah's suffering is part of God's plan which is definitely not seen in previous Hebrew thought. This Christian understanding is radically different from every other modern religion.
Isa 53:4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. RSV
Isa 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. RSV
53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. RSV
8. 53:7 prophesied over 400 years before Christ that Messiah would not attempt to defend himself when oppressed. Divine inspiration is evident.
Isa 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.
9. 53:8a is the only textual confusion between the KJV and the RSV. It could easily be reconciled if seen as a description of Christ's illegal arrest and illegal trial.
53:8A He was taken from prison and from judgment:
53:8a By *oppression and judgment he was taken away; … (* NAS, NIV)
10. ***53:8b Again, when compared to 52:13 it is amazing that a prophet would write over 400 years before Christ that Messiah would both be exalted very high and also be killed for the sins of his own people. Divine revelation is evident.
53:8b … and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
53:8b … and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? (NAS, NIV)
11. ***53:9a The same Messiah who is raised as an ordinary person and rejected by his own people will be buried with the rich. Divine revelation.
Isa 53:9a And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death;
9a And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, …
12. *53:9b This part of the prophecy tells us WHY Messiah was buried with the rich. Normally a common criminal would be buried in a common grave with other criminals. Yet Pontius Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent and allowed his body to be taken elsewhere.
Isa 53:9b … because he had done no violence, …
9b … although he had done no violence, …
13. **The prophet is inspired to write that the Messiah will be innocent. Divine inspiration.
Isa 53:9c … neither was any deceit in his mouth.
53:9c … and there was no deceit in his mouth.
14. ****53:10a is the most amazing part of the entire prophecy because Israel did not believe in human sacrifices. Yet the inspired prophet wrote exactly what God wanted him to write even though contrary to his history and thought.
Isa 53:10a Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed,
53:10a Yet it was the will of the LORD to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring,
15. ***53:10b Again, at a minimum of 400 years before Christ the inspired prophet writes that Messiah will be killed, buried among the rich and be resurrected to prolong his days. Divine inspiration.
Isa 53:10b … he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
53:10b … he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand;
16. 53:11a Messiah will know that His sacrifice was effectual --that it had been accepted to redeem mankind.
Isa 53:11a He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied:…
53:11 he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; …
17. 53:11b Messiah will justify those who believe in him by faith --by knowledge of him. That was not known in Isaiah's time. Divine inspiration.
Isa 53:11b … by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
53:11b … by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities. RSV
18. 53:12 is a summary of what Messiah will accomplish many centuries later.
Isa 53:12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
53:12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. RSV