Isaiah 53: Who is the Suffering Servant?
Aston (Frederick Alfred)
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  1. Frederic Aston was born in Lithuania in 1899, educated at Princeton Theological Seminary, and was an evangelist to the Jews in New York from 1931 until his death in 1972. He was awarded2 a DD by the University of Dubuque in 1946.
  2. Thus, this booklet is simply reprinted by the OBT. It is substantially available on-line at Link, though without the Introduction by W. Bell Dawson, and with a much shorter preface by Robert H Pfeiffer. There is also (very) slightly more text, so it may be a later edition. The source of the text in the OBT edition is not stated, but the on-line version is attributed “This article was taken from the revised twenty-fourth edition, printed by Great Christian Books, Inc., (Wilmington, Delware), 1977”.
  3. The booklet has its own translation of Is. 52:13 – 53:12.
  4. There’s a discussion of two theories concerning the identity of the Servant in Isaiah 53:-
    • The Corporate Theory (Israel, or the righteous element thereof)
    • The Individual Theory (the Messiah, ie. Jesus)
  5. Naturally, the author comes down on the side of the latter theory, and ends with a challenge to the reader.
  6. There is also some discussion of (the ethics of, and the need for) substitutionary atonement
  7. There is some discussion of how the Jews have historically understood Isaiah 53. It seems that Rashi and David Kimhi supported the Corporate Theory, while “the Old Synagogue”, Maimonides and some later rabbis supported the Individual Theory, though naturally not taking the Messiah to be Jesus.
  8. It’s an open question whether the OT really does speak of a Messiah. There are lots of prophetic passages that are hard to understand, and some are picked up on later and many others not. The passage in Isaiah 53 is – superficially at least – less obscure than most, and was no-doubt “in the air” in the first century3.
  9. It seems to me that Jesus consciously modelled himself on the Suffering Servant (or is portrayed as doing so in the Gospels). Thankfully, Aston doesn’t go through the routine of showing how many “prophesies” were fulfilled, and going on about “probabilities” as does some apologetics. It’s not clear (to me, anyway) that crucifixion is obviously implied by the Isaiah passage (though it’s not inconsistent), but there are a couple of “prophesies” that are consciously “fulfilled” in an odd way.
    • The “numbering with the transgressors” (“rebels” in Aston’s translation of v. 12), Luke 22:37.
    • The grave with the “rich” (v. 9) – Aston’s translation removes this reference (which survives in the NIV) on the basis of the Dead Sea Scrolls4.

In-Page Footnotes ("Aston (Frederick Alfred) - Isaiah 53: Who is the Suffering Servant?")

Footnote 1: This is just a brief file-note. I intend to return to this matter in more detail later.

Footnote 2: The OBT booklet doesn’t say whether this award was honorary or not. See Link for the University of Dubuque.

Footnote 3: Footnote 4:
  • Open Bible Trust, 2013
  • Note this link for a reply to the question why Isaiah 53 is not read in the Synagogues: Link. Basically, the Haftorah was added to the Synagogue service when Antiochus Epiphanes forbade the Jews to read the Torah, and the passages – about 5% of the total – were chosen because of their association with the forbidden Torah passages, or with festivals. Isaiah 53
  • For two lectures by Rabbi Tovia Singer on Isaiah 53, see:-
    → Lecture 1: Link (79 minutes), and
    → Lecture 2: Link (also 79 minutes!)
    These are lectures 4a/b of a 24-lecture series, “Let’s Get Biblical” (Link), which seeks to counter the “Jews for Jesus” movement. For Rabbi Singer and “Outreach Judaism”, see Wikipedia: Link.

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  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018

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