Friday, April 18, 2014

BIG’s Blog: Isaiah the Super Star

With ancient people and civilizations, we only know about them through what other people wrote, or what they wrote about themselves . . . and then, we are lucky if any of the writings still exist.

The good news is that functioning bureaucrats and historians who kept government records and stories of the times from more complex civilizations such as the Hellenistic, Persians, and, of course, the Romans, gave us records that we can see today.

And even in the ancient near-East, little Kingdoms like Judah kept records in their day. And as each Kingdom was intertwined with a specific religious tradition, government records many times became religious records. In the case of Judah, these government records became Rabbinic records, as the citizens of Judah were all Hebrew. Thus, the written records of the historical Isaiah have come down to us today.

Now, what exactly a prophet’s job description is, and what exactly Isaiah did for the government of Judah is unknown . . . but we do know this: because they were prophets, they kept records of what Isaiah and other prophets said to see if, in fact, their prophecies came true.

Today, Isaiah is considered “the genuine article,” and a “major prophet” in Judaism, as well as in Christianity, and even revered in Islam. In modern parlance we would call him a Super Star. Not only were his words recorded in 800 BC in Rabbinic literature, but also they proved prophetic again and again to his own people in his time and shortly thereafter in Judah. And to us today, we look back 1981 years to the events outside the walls of Jerusalem that we commemorate as Good Friday . . . wherein a cohort of Roman soldiers nailed a Jewish carpenter and itinerant preacher to a cross, and in doing so fulfilled exactly the prophecy Isaiah had uttered 800 years earlier.

Isaiah 53: 3 – 7

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.

Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried
our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.

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.

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.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
Yet he opened not his mouth;
like the lamb that is lead to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that is before its shearers
is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.

On a hill outside Jerusalem, Jesus of Nazareth was crucified and died. The records of this were kept by the bureaucrats of the Roman governor and by other eyewitnesses. Even some of the Roman historians commented on the event.

Soon thereafter, much more about this Jesus was written down and it wasn’t too long before some of his followers began to connect the dots that what Isaiah had written 800 years earlier connected exactly to the events of the life and the death of this Jesus.

Which then of course begs the question: who was this Jesus?

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