DEAD SEA SCROLLS AND JUDAISM VS. CHRISTIANITY

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Many differences between Judaism & Christianity grew from small differences in translation, text transmission, or interpretation. (Updated 2/19/2014)

This page will examine sections of the Dead Sea Scrolls that have significance with respect to the eventual split between Judaism and Christianity.  I begin with this link to Isaiah. The first verse of interest is Isaiah 7:14. On it, if you click on the image, you can select the verses of Isaiah desired by using the location guide along the bottom. There is an excellent description of differences between the Masoretic Text and the Dead Sea Scrolls at http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/31_selections.html. Although there is a strict requirement for precise duplication of Torah Text (which is of paramount importance for Torah Codes arguments), there was no such requirement for the rest of the Jewish Bible (like Isaiah).

Figures 1 and 2. Figure 1 above is an image for Isaiah 7:14 from the first link on this page, Figure 2 below comes from the second link on this page. The words underlined on the gray version on Figure 2 have differences in spelling or word grouping from the Masoretic text. Figure 2 also shows how the Hebrew alphabet appears in Modern and Dead Sea texts.

       Although I have been a Modern Orthodox Jew for the past 26 years as of 2014, I was not always so. I was born into a Jewish home, and but I only had a bar mitzvah in a Conservative synagogue. Our affiliation with Judaism was, at best, for social rather than theological reasons. At the age of 17, I had a friend, Mark Alterman, who tried to convert me to Christianity by using what he said was Jewish scripture from Isaiah 7:14. Using a King James Version (KJV), he claimed that the verse predicted that a virgin would give birth to a child with the name Immanuel, which he translated as “God (El) with us (Immanu).” There is no state of being verb (is) in Hebrew. It must therefore be inserted by the translator, as appropriate, and therein, along with word (pronounced almah) translated as virgin by the KJV, lies an important beginning of the rift between our faiths. To Jews,  the word almah means young woman, not virgin, although most young Jewish women, unless raped, were in Biblical times assumed to be virgins until they wed. However, seven centuries after Isaiah wrote the verse in question, when the mother of Jesus conceived, she was married to Joseph. As for the meaning of Immanel, Jew translate it as "God is with us." This has a very different meaning than God with us, especially when translating the meaning of a person's name. With the verb included, we have the battle cry of Gustavus Adolphus during the Thirty Years War. Without the verb we have the birth of a Divine being, something that would plainly be blasphemy for a Jewish prophet to write about. Note that in the Dead Sea Isaiah scroll, the name Immanuel appears as one word, whereas in the Masoretic text shown under it on the first figure - it is two words.

Figure 3: Comparison of the word for VIRGIN in ISAIAH 62:5 with the word in question in ISAIAH 7:14.

       In Torah there word betulah is used 8 times for virgin (specifically). Almah is used twice for maiden (young woman). Of the two times almah is used, one of them is Genesis 24:43 in conjunction with Rebekah, who was named earlier in the same chapter (Genesis 24:16) as being a virgin. The other usage of almah is in Exodus 2:8 where Pharaoh's daughter asked the young sister of Moses (Miriam) to summon a wet nurse for Moses (the wet nurse, of course, was Jochebed, the mother of Moses). So when the word almah was translated from Hebrew in the case of Isaiah 7:14, there was a presumption made for virginity, although given the context of a warning to Ahaz (who lived 700 years before Jesus), it was a questionable assumption. The Soncino commentary states, "The wife of Isaiah, a wife of King Ahaz, a woman of the Royal Family, or any woman in Judah may have been the young woman of the text."
       Perhaps the real issue should be whether or not the word betulah, which always means virgin, was used in Isaiah for that purpose. The answer is, apparently, yes - in Isaiah 62:5. But what is seen in the Dead Sea Isaiah Scroll? Figure 3 shows how betulah appears in Isaiah 62:5, and how almah appears in Isaiah 7:14. Note, the 5-letter word group in Isaiah 7:14 actually is HAAlmah where the first letter (hey for the HA sound) means THE. Again, the spelling of all words in Isaiah 62:5 is not the same as with the Masoretic text. For example, the first word (For) in the verse has 2 letters (caf and yud) in the Masoretic text, but three letters in the Dead Sea Scroll version (caf yud alef). Figure 2 earlier showed how the Hebrew alphabet itself went through slight changes between the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls and modern Hebrew.

Figure 4: What is Isaiah 9:6 the King James Version is Isaiah 9:5 in the Masoretic Text and in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The divisive issue here is how to correctly translate and understand (in the context of history) the name Pele-joez-EL-GIBBOR-abi-ad-SAR-SHALOM.

The Masoretic text and the Dead Sea Scrolls do not agree on where the 8th chapter ends and the 9th chapter begins. Isaiah 8:23 in the Masoretic and Dead Sea texts is given as Isaiah 9:1 in the King James Version and other Christian translations.  At a Christian web site, the wording in the controversial verse about the birth of a child (Isaiah 9:5 in Masoretic and Dead Sea texts and Isaiah 9:6 in Christian translations) is broken down as follows:

For unto us a child
yeled  (yeh'-led)
something born, i.e. a lad or offspring -- boy, child, fruit, son, young man (one).


is born
yalad  (yaw-lad')
to bear young; causatively, to beget; medically, to act as midwife; specifically, to show lineage


unto us a son
ben  (bane)
a son (as a builder of the family name), in the widest sense (of literal and figurative relationship, including grandson, subject, nation, quality or condition, etc.


is given
nathan  (naw-than')
to give, used with greatest latitude of application (put, make, etc.)


and the government
misrah  (mis-raw')
empire -- government.


shall be upon his shoulder
shkem  (shek-em')
the neck (between the shoulders) as the place of burdens; figuratively, the spur of a hill -- back, consent, portion, shoulder.


and his name
shem  (shame)
an appellation, as a mark or memorial of individuality; by implication honor, authority, character -- + base, (in-)fame(-ous), named(-d), renown, report.


shall be called
qara'  (kaw-raw')
to call out to (i.e. properly, address by name, but used in a wide variety of applications)


Wonderful
pele'  (peh'-leh)
a miracle -- marvellous thing, wonder(-ful, -fully).


Counsellor
ya`ats  (yaw-ats')
to advise; reflexively, to deliberate or resolve -- advertise, take advise, advise (well), consult, (give, take) counsel(-lor), determine, devise, guide, purpose.


The mighty
gibbowr  (ghib-bore')
powerful; by implication, warrior, tyrant -- champion, chief, excel, giant, man, mighty (man, one), strong (man), valiant man.


God
'el  (ale)
strength; as adjective, mighty; especially the Almighty (but used also of any deity)


The everlasting
`ad  (ad)
a (peremptory) terminus, i.e. (by implication) duration, in the sense of advance or perpetuity (substantially as a noun, either with or without a preposition)


Father
'ab  (awb)
father, in a literal and immediate, or figurative and remote application) -- chief, (fore-)father(-less), patrimony, principal. Compare names in Abi-.


The Prince
sar  (sar)
a head person (of any rank or class) -- captain (that had rule), chief (captain), general, governor, keeper, lord, (-task-)master, prince(-ipal), ruler, steward.


of Peace
shalowm  (shaw-lome')
safe, i.e. (figuratively) well, happy, friendly; also (abstractly) welfare, i.e. health, prosperity, peace.

     Thus, as is typical of Christian translations, the child born is portrayed as THE MIGHTY GOD (clearly blasphemy from the Jewish point of view), and someone who brings peace to the world (something that clearly has never arrived on our very  troubled planet).  So how could an accepted Jewish prophet write such words? Here again, the issue is not with the prophet, but on how his words were translated.

      As I wrote above in conjunction with the name Immanuel, there is no state of being verb (is) in Hebrew. It must therefore be inserted by the translator, as appropriate. The Jewish translation of the name (in accordance with the Soncino book of Isaiah) is as follows: Wonderful in counsel is God the Mighty, the Everlasting Father, the Ruler of Peace."

       So who was being described? The Soncino commentary points to King Hezekiah, who  came into power in Judah for 29 years starting in 720 B.C.E. He was one of the few kings who ruled with God in mind. In Second Kings 18:3-8 we read the following about him:

And he did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done.  He removed the high places, and broke down the pillars, and cut down the Asherah; and he broke in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made; for unto those days the children of Israel did offer to it; and it was called Nehustan. He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel; so that after him none was like unto him among all the kings of Judah, nor among them that went before him. For he cleaved to the LORD, he departed not from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses. And the Lord was with him: whithersoever he went forth he prospered; and he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not. He smote the Philistines unto Gaza and the borders thereof, from the tower of the watchmen to the fortified city.

 

       Certainly it is accurate to say about him that the Government was on his shoulder. He ruled the land. By contrast, although the Romans mockingly placed a sign on the cross that Jesus was "King of the Jews," he never held such an office, nor was the Government in any way on his shoulders. Indeed, Hezekiah's reign was so significant that when he was sick and about to die (2nd Kings 20:1 to 11), and when he prayed for restoration of his health, he wasn't just given another 15 years of life, but also a miracle that calls into question the very nature of time and God's ability to control it. Hezekiah (2nd Kings 20:8) asked for a sign of Isaiah's promise of recovery from the illness. Isaiah said that God promised to reverse the shadow on the sun dial of Ahaz. When it happened (2nd Kings 20:11) we can only point to a reversal of time itself or a reversal of the direction of spin of the Earth as an explanation.

       Truly Hezekiah was a remarkable king, one worthy of Isaiah's prophecy in deeds and also in time - Isaiah's own time, 700 years before that of Jesus. However, neither man, Hezekiah or Jesus, brought peace to the world. And Hezekiah's own son, King Manasseh, did evil in the sight of the LORD, sacrificing his own son by fire to the false god Molech (2nd Kings 21:6).  So here we are, about 2,704 years after Hezekiah died, and about 1,979 year after Jesus died, still waiting for the true Prince of Peace who will end war permanently. Yes, Christianity teaches about the importance of inner peace. So does Buddhism with its "Noble Eightfold Path as the way to Inner Peace" (according to EXPERIENCING THE WORLD'S RELIGIONS by Michael Molloy). But inner peace, while the world goes to hell in a hand basket, cannot save the world from destruction. God has given us a truly beautiful world. If it is destroyed through war, it negates the entire value of what He had done in creating it. It is for the Messiah that will save us from that fate that the Jewish people (or at least those of us who care about our religion) have waited for so long.  

       One final note with respect to whether the Hebrew Sar Shalom, Prince of Peace, should really be applied to Jesus. If it is fair to judge him by his words on this topic, he is quoted in the New Testament as follows:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. (Matthew 10:34)

 

Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. (Luke 12:51)

 

       It is beyond the scope of this article to examine all the apologist responses to the above two verses. There are really only two issues to be examined for this particular section of Isaiah Chapter 9. Does the Dead Sea Isaiah Scroll have language that backs the birth of The Mighty God, and does it have language that backs The Prince of Peace? For the latter title, the letter hey (meaning the) appears on the Dead Sea Isaiah Scroll attached to Peace rather than Prince. On the Masoretic text this letter appears with neither word. The Dead Sea Scroll thus is different, and it supports a title of Prince of the Peace rather than The Prince of Peace. It may sound like a slight difference, but it could refer to one peace (as between Judah and Assyria) under King Hezekiah while another battle rages on at some level (as with Philistines inside the borders of Gaza - see above for 2nd Kings 18:8).  So the addition of one letter here in the Dead Sea Scrolls can connote an entirely different meaning than what was accepted before.

        Problems with the name in question do not end with the issue of where to place the indefinite article (the). On the list of word meanings given above by a Christian web site, we see the word Father (ab).  But that's not what's in either the Masoretic text or the Dead Sea Isaiah Scroll. Instead of just this 2-letter word (alef bet with the second letter pronounced vet), there is a 3-letter word, Abi (or Avi) which means my father, or in this case, my Father. The 2-letter word that follow this term is spelled ayin yud. It means until.

       What about the two sequential words shown on Figure 4 that each, apart, mean God (El) and Mighty (Gibbor)? Well, for starters, the same exact two words appear in sequence in Isaiah 10:21, and there the (Jewish) Masoretic text renders the translation as God the Mighty (i.e., The Mighty God). But Isaiah 10:21 brings up another real problem, the word for God (EL) seems to appear twice immediately before Mighty. But, the first EL is not God, but only the prepositional word UNTO (or TO). There is no difference on the Dead Sea Isaiah Scroll for either meaning. So, like the issue of when to insert the state of being verb IS into the interpretation of the controversial name being discussed here, the interpreter gets to make the call. Both Jewish and Christian scholars can make their case based on the next word they see, but they are starting with very different understandings of God, very different histories, and very different prejudices. One thing is certain. Those who do not know Hebrew, or anything about how Jewish names were and are chosen, are at a distinct disadvantage in arriving at the truth through Scriptural studies of the Tenach (known to Christians as the Old Testament). 

       There are no vowel marks on the Dead Sea Scroll Isaiah Scroll. Without them and with what was shown above in the Scroll, the name Pele-joez-El-Gibbor-abi-ad-Sar-HAShalom could be translated as Wonderful (Pele) Counselor (Joez) To (El) Mighty (Gibbor) my father (Abi) Until (Ad) Prince (Sar) of The Peace (HaShalom). While we re-examine the name, it should be noted that when the mother of the famous Nazarene named her child, she called him neither Immanuel, nor Pele-joez-El-Gibbor-abi-ad-Sar-HaShalom. She named him Jesus, which was a common name at the time, with the same meaning as Joshua. In fact, it was so common, that when Jews were offered a man to be pardoned from crucifixion before Passover, they chose the other Jesus facing death that day, Jesus Barabbas. As for the baby being my Father to anyone, clearly Christianity teaches that he was the Son of God, not God the Father.

       There certainly is enough controversy and surprise in what is found in the Dead Sea Isaiah Scroll for us to better understand why its contents were kept from public view for 64 years. 

Figure 5: In the Dead Sea Scroll for Isaiah 10:21, the word EL (alef lamed) appears twice. The first EL means UNTO and but the second EL means God.


Figure 6: In the Dead Sea Isaiah Scroll, there is no space increase apparent between Isaiah 8:22 and 8:23, or between 8:23 and 9:1. The spacing does increase between 9:1 and 9:2 (which in the KJV is between 9:2 and 9:3).

WHICH CHAPTER AND VERSE NUMBERING SYSTEM IS RIGHT? As I noted above, the Masoretic text and the Dead Sea Scrolls do not agree with Christian translations about where the 8th chapter of Isaiah ends and the 9th chapter begins. Isaiah 8:23 in the Masoretic and Dead Sea texts is given as Isaiah 9:1 in the King James Version and other Christian translations. When I wrote my first book (under the pen name Itamar Ben Roffman) pertaining to comparative religious studies, I noted the difference in verse numbering for the Prince of Peace, but I knew nothing about what the oldest copy of Isaiah would reveal. It was kept from public view from its discovery in 1947 (the year of my birth) until September 26, 2011. But now we can see the text. If you thought there would be an obvious division between chapters, you'd be wrong here. As is shown in Figure 6, no such division exists. There is an increase in spacing between what the Dead Sea Scroll offers for Isaiah 9:1 and 9:2 (9:2 and 9:3 in the King James Version), but nobody calls the division there a chapter split. By the way, if you're wondering about my first book, I rejected its conclusions and pulled it from the market about 6 months after it was published.   

Figure 7: ISAIAH 53:9 to 53:12 - Who Is the Suffering Servant?

IS ISAIAH CHAPTER 53 ABOUT JESUS, ISRAEL IN GENERAL, KING HEZEKIAH, SOME SOMEONE ELSE? Over the years I've noticed that almost every attempt by Christians to convert Jews begins with the Book of Isaiah, with Isaiah 7:14 (discussed above), Isaiah 9:5 or 9:6 depending on the chapter and verse divisions discussed above; or with the so called Suffering Servant of Isaiah Chapter 53. This discussion will focus on the 4 verses shown on Figure 7, Isaiah 53:9 to 12. Before looking into any of the Hebrew, a quick glance at the translation offered on Figure 7 shows the following issues:

(1) Isaiah 53:10 speaks of a man crushed by disease. That fits Hezekiah when he was on his death bed until his prayer for a cure was miraculously heeded and he was given another 15 years of life. Note that the Talmud (Sanhedrin 94a) indicates God wanted to make Hezekiah the Messiah. Had he fulfilled his Messianic potential, history as we know it – including the destruction of the Temple – would not have happened. In contrast to Hezekiah, there was no physical disease associated with Jesus in the New Testament, although in Mark 3:21 it states that his family asserted that he was "beside himself." The New International Version renders the verse as:

"When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, "He is out of his mind." Mark 3:21

 
(2) Isaiah 53:10 deals with a man whose days are prolonged that he might see his seed. Unless the Da Vinci Code is more than fiction, there is no indication in the New Testament that Jesus had any children, let along that his days were prolonged so that he might see them. However, the Christian response here is that the seed referred to would be his disciples and/or the spread of his doctrine. Seven hundred years after Isaiah, the Nazarene used a parable about seeds in Mark 4:26 to 34. But this idea, compared to a man in Isaiah's time praying to recover from a real illness in order to see his children, seems like a stretch. Note that when King Hezekiah issued his prayer, he had no children. His son (Manasseh) was born about three years after the prayer.
 
(3) Isaiah 53:8 noted that they made his grave with the wicked. For obvious reasons, there is no known grave of Jesus. But for Hezekiah, we may assume that when 2nd Kings 20:21 states that Hezekiah slept with his fathers, it means that he was buried in Jerusalem where so many evil kings had been buried, including his father, Ahaz. 

ISAIAH 53 HEBREW ISSUES. Again, there are differences between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Masoretic Text. Norman Geisler & William Nix’s "A General Introduction to the Bible", Moody Press, Page 263, sums up the issues as follows:

"Of the 166 words in Isaiah 53, there are only 17 letters in question. Ten of these letters are simply a matter of spelling, which does not affect the sense. Four more letters are minor stylistic changes, such as conjunctions. The three remaining letters comprise the word LIGHT, which is added in verse 11 and which does not affect the meaning greatly. Furthermore, this word is supported by the Septuagint (LXX). Thus, in one chapter of 166 words, there is only one word (three letters) in question after a thousand years of transmission - and this word does not significantly change the meaning of the passage."

 

 

Where does the word LIGHT appear in verse 11? Answer: after the word HE SHALL SEE. The word LIGHT is not on this textual analysis. Note that the extra word is highlighted in a yellow box on Figure 7 above. A comparison of some modern translations is as follows:

 

 

Translations of Isaiah 53:11 with the word LIGHT.Translations of Isaiah 53:11 Without the word LIGHT.
New International Version (©1984)New Living Translation (©2007)
World English BibleEnglish Standard Version (©2001)
 New American Standard Bible (©1995)
 King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)
 GOD'S WORD® Translation (©1995)
 King James 2000 Bible (©2003)
 American King James Version
 American Standard Version
 Douay-Rheims Bible
 Darby Bible Translation
 English Revised Version
 Webster's Bible Translation
 Young's Literal Translation

      The two translations that include light render the full Isaiah 53:11 verse as follows:

New International Version (©1984)
After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.

World English Bible
After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light and be satisfied. My righteous servant will justify many by the knowledge of himself; and he will bear their iniquities.

     The word light is important because it is a common, cross-cultural experience that when people "die" on operating table, and are later revived, they report seeing a light at the end a tunnel or some similar light, often in conjunction with visions of God or deceased relatives. As such, this word makes the experience being described for the subject of Isaiah 53:11 something like that which we will all likely experience when we meet our end.

       A final note on Isaiah 53:11. While the term (spelled yud samech bet lamed) is translated as he will bear or he will carry in all the versions on table above, and while that translation is consistent with other Tenach text, the Google Translate program only renders the term as he will suffer. The difference is clear. Christianity is based on the concept of Jesus carrying or bearing our sins, but the text may actually indicate that the subject (whoever he was) of Isaiah 53:11 would suffer the sins of his countrymen.

SUMMARY OF ISAIAH IN THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS. There are enough differences in texts, and there is enough room for disagreement about what these texts refer to that conversions from one faith to another based solely on Isaiah would seem ill-advised. Normally Jews do not seek to convert Christians (or anyone else) to Judaism, though such conversions are often desired for the sake of family harmony when an interfaith couple wants to get married. Likewise, Christians should refrain from trying to convert Jews to Christianity based on Isaiah's work.

       If all Jews had converted long ago, and none practiced the faith today, it is likely that the Torah would long ago have been as corrupted as the text is Isaiah has been shown to be above. There would be no Torah Code (because it's based on an equidistant letter spacing with exact original text), and nobody left to make clear to Christians what the real religious origin of their faith was all about. Likewise, if everybody were Jewish and Sabbath-observant, critical functions in society (such as power production, transportation, and communications, etc.) would break down. As has been true since the American Revolutionary War (when Haym Solomon funded the Continental Army), a symbiotic relationship of Christians and Jews is in order. When on active duty in the Coast Guard, I always requested leave during the high holidays, and I rarely had to work on the Sabbath. But I also didn't want to see my Christian friends have to work on Christmas, so I always volunteered to go on watch then so they could enjoy their holiday. Perhaps, in the end, this is why God permitted the textual differences and difficulties presented in this article. The world works best when all faiths respect and help each other.