Does Jesus fit or fulfill the Isaiah 53 prophecy?

by Blake Giunta

Introduction

  • Clarifying the question

      Question: Does Jesus fit the prophecy given in Isaiah 53, as the suffering “Servant”?

      The question is not necessarily whether Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecy, but at least whether he fits. The question here might be approached in two ways:

      (a) Did the historical Jesus in fact fit?

      (b) Did Jesus in concept fit?

  • Regarding (a), consider how the suffering servant described in Isaiah 53 appears to play a substitutionary role in paying for the sins of others (v53:8). Establishing that Jesus actually did this is difficult, requiring a defense of theism, the reliability of the apostle’s testimony, and the general truth of Christianity first. By the same token, however, it is similarly difficult to establish that Jesus did not fit these spiritual criterion. As a result, if (a) is the question, one need only consult the secular criterion (e.g. the Servant being rejected by his people [v53:3]).
    • Regarding (b), however, one can establish that Jesus in concept played this substitutionary role, and that he fit the various spiritual criterion in this conceptual way. After all, the concept of Jesus is wrapped up in how he and his death are described by the the early church and New Testament authors. There seem to be two ways in which Jesus, in concept, could fit (b), given that the conditions of Isaiah 53 are sufficiently stringent. Either Jesus’s fulfillment of it was divinely arranged, or an author to some degree invented the conceptual Jesus, perhaps intending to conform him to the prophecy.

  • Debates this question affects

    Reasons given for answering “Yes”

  • v2 says “He has no stately form or majesty”

      Isaiah 53:2 says “He has no stately form or majesty. This is relevant because Jesus too was seen merely as a poor sage from Bethlehem.1 He lacked the glory and trappings of royalty 2

    1. Matthew 13:55-57Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.”
      John 1:45-46Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

    2. During his ministry, Jesus and his disciples depended entirely on the donations of others.

      Matthew 10:9-11— Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support. And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city.
      Luke 9:58 — And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

  • v3 says “He was despised … we didn’t esteem him”

      Isaiah 53:3 says “He was despised … we did not esteem him. This is relevant because Jesus too was widely hated and rejected…

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    Does Jesus fit or fulfill the Isaiah 53 prophecy?