Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Jesus Preaches on Isaiah

 

In Luke chapter 4, Jesus/Yeshua reads from Isaiah 61 and makes a shocking claim about it:

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind,to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

But Jesus’ sermon on Isaiah 61 is recorded in the book of Matthew, not Luke. We know it by another name. It’s the Sermon on the Mount–or at least the first bit of it, the Beatitudes:

Matthew 5:2-12 (English Standard Version):

2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Now here’s the Isaiah passage:

Isaiah 61:1-8 (ESV):

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed meto bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. 4 They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.

5 Strangers shall stand and tend your flocks; foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers; 6 but you shall be called the priests of the Lord; they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God; you shall eat the wealth of the nations, and in their glory you shall boast. 7 Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy.

8 For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.

You can tell that Jesus is preaching on Isaiah 61 from the vocabulary. A number of the words in Matthew’s Greek are the same as those used in Isaiah 61 in the ancient translation of the Old Testament into Greek–the Septuagint. Here’s a good online version (with side-by-side English), and here’s another one.

I confess I don’t actually know what the Hebrew words are here, but I’m fairly confident that Jesus used whichever ones were in Isaiah 61: When Matthew converted Jesus’ Hebrew/Aramaic sermon into Greek for a popular (and not purely Jewish) audience, he very sensibly used the vocabulary that was already in place. That meant using the Septuagint vocabulary.

Let’s look at these words. I notice four major connections in verses 3-6. After looking at them we need to look at the astounding verses 11 and 12.

1. ptochos, “poor.” As they told me in undergrad, it refers to “a crouching beggar.”

Isaiah proclaims good news (euangelizo) for the poor. The simplest interpretation is literal: This means the materially poor. I don’t challenge that interpretation (but see below on ashes!). However, Jesus adds another: spiritual poverty, those who are poor in the spirit. Perhaps this means poor in their own spirit–perhaps broken, hurting people with no psychological resources to cope with life. More likely it means a more literal translation–ptochoi to pneumati, “poor in the spirit,” i.e., in the spirit of G-d.

There is good news for those who come to G-d without spiritual resources of their own–in spiritual poverty. Those who have nothing to offer G-d, but come to G-d anyway, coming for help as beggars to G-d. Blessed, says Jesus, are they; this is the good news (euangelion, or Gospel) announced beforehand by the prophet Isaiah.

(Verses: Matthew 5:3 and Isaiah 61:1.)

2. pentheo, “mourn,” and parakaleo, “comfort.”

Parakeleo has the sense of being called to come alongside the sufferer. The word paraklehtos used for the Holy Spirit in John 14:16 is from the same roots.

What sort of mourning are we talking about here? Maybe more than one. But the mourning of repentance seems to be central. Isaiah 61:3 connects mourning to ashes, the sign of repentant mourning (see Job and Jonah). Blessed, says Jesus, are those who mourn in repentance, for they shall be comforted when one comes alongside them.

(Verses: Matthew 5:4 and Isaiah 61:2.)

3. klehronomeho, “inherit,” and gehn, “earth” or “land.”

Isaiah 61:7 seems to have a primary meaning of again inheriting the land of Canaan–at the return from the exile. There is also a farther-reaching secondary sense, given verse 6: G-d’s people will be priests and ministers of G-d who “eat the wealth of the nations,” and it is in this manner (or due to this) that they will inherit that land. So inheriting the land involves a service to G-d and ministry on the earth with a much broader scope than the land of Canaan.

Not just anyone gets to be such a minister before G-d, but the praus, the mild or meek or gentle. (See also Psalm 37:11.)

(Verses: Matthew 5:5 and Isaiah 61:7.)

4. dikaiosuneh, “justice” or “righteousness.”

If you are familiar with the word “justified” or “justification” in Christian theology, it comes from this word and words related to it, like the verb dikaioo and the adjective dikaios (which is also in Isaiah 61:8); see these three verses in the New Testament referencing justification by faith, for example.

I don’t know that there’s anything wrong with translating this as “blessed are those hunger and thirst for justice.” But there is more here.

There is a sense here of longing for righteousness in G-d’s sight in light of his covenant with men. G-d judges us to see if we are faithful to his covenant (Deuteronomy 27-30). Isaiah 61:8 speaks of an eternal covenant to be made between G-d and his people in which the just/righteous found innocent in G-d’s sight are blessed. Jesus is telling us that the fulfillment of this prophecy is at hand.

(Verses: Matthew 5:6 and Isaiah 61:8.)

Now let’s look at Matthew 5:11-12.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

This is an astonishing claim. Jesus says that the earlier persecuted prophets were persecuted houtos, “in this manner” or “thus.”

In what matter? Thus how? In the manner of being evilly treated “on my account” or “for my sake” (heneken emou).

In other words, this is a claim to be the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. Jesus is saying that he is the reason for the prophetic ministry of the earlier prophets. He is the reason they suffered, he is the reason they prophesied. He is the fulfillment of that prophecy.

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  1. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    The first a series of three theology posts I’ve hammered out.

    • #1
    • February 16, 2020, at 8:40 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  2. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    John, by the way, in John 9 is also thinking of Isaiah 61:1 in the Septuagint when he describes the story of the man born blind. He uses the words tuphlos and anablepo again and again. This case may be a bit different, however, since John is referencing the Septuagint although the original Hebrew may not say anything about the blind. John is referencing the Septuagint, but I’m not sure he’s referencing the Old Testament as such.

    • #2
    • February 16, 2020, at 8:41 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  3. RightAngles Member

    The different interpretations have always interested me as a student of languages. I once read somewhere that the Aramaic word which just meant “young woman” was translated in the King James version as “virgin” (in those days, it was a synonym for “maiden,” but “maiden” can also just mean a young woman). 

    • #3
    • February 16, 2020, at 8:57 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  4. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    The different interpretations have always interested me as a student of languages. I once read somewhere that the Aramaic word which just meant “young woman” was translated in the King James version as “virgin” (in those days, it was a synonym for “maiden,” but “maiden” can also just mean a young woman).

    Yes, I believe I was told that it’s alma, and can mean either; the Septuagint goes with “virgin,” and the NT emphasizes that aspect of the text; but “young woman” is also a meaning in the text referring to Isaiah’s own wife. (Do I remember rightly?)

    I was told that once some well-meaning Bible translators angered Christians by not translating it as “virgin.” I think that was where my old theology teacher at DBU suggested that you can translate it as “virgin” and explain the rest of it in footnotes if you want to peacefully get across the rest of the meaning(s).

    • #4
    • February 16, 2020, at 9:02 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  5. Arahant Member

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    I was told that once some well-meaning Bible translators angered Christians by not translating it as “virgin.” I think that was where my old theology teacher at DBU suggested that you can translate it as “virgin” and explain the rest of it in footnotes if you want to peacefully get across the rest of the meaning(s).

    It is interesting what words people get hung up on. I’ve known a few folks who seems to think that God wrote the Bible originally in King James’ English.

    • #5
    • February 17, 2020, at 1:07 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  6. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    I was told that once some well-meaning Bible translators angered Christians by not translating it as “virgin.” I think that was where my old theology teacher at DBU suggested that you can translate it as “virgin” and explain the rest of it in footnotes if you want to peacefully get across the rest of the meaning(s).

    It is interesting what words people get hung up on. I’ve known a few folks who seems to think that God wrote the Bible originally in King James’ English.

    Yeah, I met one of them at DBU. Gave me a book about the satanic translations.

    • #6
    • February 17, 2020, at 1:11 AM PST
    • 1 like
  7. Arahant Member

    We ought to start an “Of the Debbil” thread just to list all the things we have been told are satanic.

    • #7
    • February 17, 2020, at 1:17 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  8. Stina Member

    Saint Augustine: to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God;

    I like this part (though this whole passage is an absolute favorite).

    From the Bible Project on Jesus’ choice of scripture:

    https://bibleproject.com/podcast/lord-sabbath/

     

    • #8
    • February 17, 2020, at 8:01 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  9. RightAngles Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    I was told that once some well-meaning Bible translators angered Christians by not translating it as “virgin.” I think that was where my old theology teacher at DBU suggested that you can translate it as “virgin” and explain the rest of it in footnotes if you want to peacefully get across the rest of the meaning(s).

    It is interesting what words people get hung up on. I’ve known a few folks who seems to think that God wrote the Bible originally in King James’ English.

    My favorite Texas Governor, Ma Ferguson, once said, “If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for me.”

    • #9
    • February 17, 2020, at 9:38 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  10. RightAngles Member

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    The different interpretations have always interested me as a student of languages. I once read somewhere that the Aramaic word which just meant “young woman” was translated in the King James version as “virgin” (in those days, it was a synonym for “maiden,” but “maiden” can also just mean a young woman).

    Yes, I believe I was told that it’s alma, and can mean either; the Septuagint goes with “virgin,” and the NT emphasizes that aspect of the text; but “young woman” is also a meaning in the text referring to Isaiah’s own wife. (Do I remember rightly?)

    I was told that once some well-meaning Bible translators angered Christians by not translating it as “virgin.” I think that was where my old theology teacher at DBU suggested that you can translate it as “virgin” and explain the rest of it in footnotes if you want to peacefully get across the rest of the meaning(s).

    Well it does put the whole “immaculate conception” thing in a new light.

    • #10
    • February 17, 2020, at 9:39 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  11. Cow Girl Thatcher

    I have always been taught that the Old Testament prophecies were, in fact, about the coming of Jesus Christ. Especially Isaiah. I like to read these things you educated writers know about the translations/confusions. It’s illuminating.

    P.S. When I hear self-proclaimed religious people focusing on all the Satanic symbols that are apparently everywhere, I wonder if they put that much effort into the representations of God’s presence.

    • #11
    • February 17, 2020, at 1:45 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  12. Arahant Member

    Cow Girl (View Comment):
    I wonder if they put that much effort into the representations of God’s presence.

    Not that I have noticed.

    • #12
    • February 17, 2020, at 1:48 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  13. Suspira Member

    It never occurred to me before to wonder if Jesus could speak Greek. Interesting. Also, I thought Jesus and his disciples spoke Aramaic because they were country bumpkins, and that the folks in Jerusalem spoke Hebrew. But going down this linguistic rabbit hole, via Google, has shown me vistas of my vast ignorance.

    Wow. Just when I was thinking I was getting smart in my old age.

    • #13
    • February 17, 2020, at 2:12 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  14. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    Stina (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine: to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God;

    I like this part (though this whole passage is an absolute favorite).

    From the Bible Project on Jesus’ choice of scripture:

    https://bibleproject.com/podcast/lord-sabbath/

    Hey, are those the people who do that cartoony but very informative YouTube series on the Bible?

    • #14
    • February 17, 2020, at 2:30 PM PST
    • 1 like
  15. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    Well it does put the whole “immaculate conception” thing in a new light.

    We may need to get some Catholics in here. I believe at least one clicked “Like.”

    I think “immaculate conception” refers to the conception of Mary, not Jesus. And it was her being conceived without sin, not without the usual marital activity.

    • #15
    • February 17, 2020, at 2:31 PM PST
    • Like
  16. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    Cow Girl (View Comment):
    I have always been taught that the Old Testament prophecies were, in fact, about the coming of Jesus Christ. Especially Isaiah.

    They are indeed. But they’re not only about that.

    Matthew 2:14 and 2:17 talk about OT prophecies being fulfilled in the story of Jesus’ life.

    We tend to think a prophecy must have one meaning, the predicting of the future–and so we think the prophetic meaning wasn’t fulfilled until that future event took place.

    That works for some verses, like in Psalm 22 where we’ve never heard of anyone casting lots for David‘s clothing.

    But “out of Egypt I called my son” in Hosea seems an obvious reference to the Exodus. Why does Matthew throw out Hoseah’s obvious meaning and concoct a new one?

    The answer is that Matthew does not. What Matthew 2:14 and 2:17 actually say is that the prophetic meaning was made full or made complete (this Greek verb). The old meaning was still there, still plain to Matthew and his original OT-reading readers, and it should be plain to us. But the old meaning was never meant by G-d to be the only meaning.

    • #16
    • February 17, 2020, at 2:50 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  17. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    Suspira (View Comment):

    It never occurred to me before to wonder if Jesus could speak Greek. Interesting. Also, I thought Jesus and his disciples spoke Aramaic because they were country bumpkins, and that the folks in Jerusalem spoke Hebrew. But going down this linguistic rabbit hole, via Google, has shown me vistas of my vast ignorance.

    Wow. Just when I was thinking I was getting smart in my old age.

    If you’ve discovered your ignorance, maybe you actually are!

    Yeah, I dunno. I really don’t know. I would imagine many country bumpkins knew proper Torah Hebrew, even if Aramaic was normal. The guys at least were supposed to hear (and read?) the OT at synagogue, right? And Greek might have been much like English today among the country bumpkins of Pakistan and Kenya. Sure, it’s not normal for a whole village to speak it, but don’t be surprised if a few do!

    But let me stay smart here: I don’t exactly know this particular topic; for now, I only speculate.

    • #17
    • February 17, 2020, at 2:53 PM PST
    • 1 like
  18. Stina Member

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine: to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God;

    I like this part (though this whole passage is an absolute favorite).

    From the Bible Project on Jesus’ choice of scripture:

    https://bibleproject.com/podcast/lord-sabbath/

    Hey, are those the people who do that cartoony but very informative YouTube series on the Bible?

    Yup it is.

    • #18
    • February 17, 2020, at 2:54 PM PST
    • 1 like
  19. RightAngles Member

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    Well it does put the whole “immaculate conception” thing in a new light.

    We may need to get some Catholics in here. I believe at least one clicked “Like.”

    I think “immaculate conception” refers to the conception of Mary, not Jesus. And it was her being conceived without sin, not without the usual marital activity.

    Okay then “the Virgin Birth.” The “Virgin Mary”etc.

    • #19
    • February 17, 2020, at 3:05 PM PST
    • 1 like
  20. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    Well it does put the whole “immaculate conception” thing in a new light.

    We may need to get some Catholics in here. I believe at least one clicked “Like.”

    I think “immaculate conception” refers to the conception of Mary, not Jesus. And it was her being conceived without sin, not without the usual marital activity.

    Okay then “the Virgin Birth.” The “Virgin Mary”etc.

    I’m not sure what new light you’re talking about.

    • #20
    • February 17, 2020, at 3:07 PM PST
    • Like
  21. RightAngles Member

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    Well it does put the whole “immaculate conception” thing in a new light.

    We may need to get some Catholics in here. I believe at least one clicked “Like.”

    I think “immaculate conception” refers to the conception of Mary, not Jesus. And it was her being conceived without sin, not without the usual marital activity.

    Okay then “the Virgin Birth.” The “Virgin Mary”etc.

    I’m not sure what new light you’re talking about.

    If the word “virgin” was merely a mistranslation.

    • #21
    • February 17, 2020, at 3:11 PM PST
    • 1 like
  22. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    Well it does put the whole “immaculate conception” thing in a new light.

    We may need to get some Catholics in here. I believe at least one clicked “Like.”

    I think “immaculate conception” refers to the conception of Mary, not Jesus. And it was her being conceived without sin, not without the usual marital activity.

    Okay then “the Virgin Birth.” The “Virgin Mary”etc.

    I’m not sure what new light you’re talking about.

    If the word “virgin” was merely a mistranslation.

    No, it’s a disambiguation. The word alma could be translated either way. (Or so I was told. I know no Hebrew.)

    • #22
    • February 17, 2020, at 3:14 PM PST
    • Like
  23. Suspira Member

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Suspira (View Comment):

    It never occurred to me before to wonder if Jesus could speak Greek. Interesting. Also, I thought Jesus and his disciples spoke Aramaic because they were country bumpkins, and that the folks in Jerusalem spoke Hebrew. But going down this linguistic rabbit hole, via Google, has shown me vistas of my vast ignorance.

    Wow. Just when I was thinking I was getting smart in my old age.

    If you’ve discovered your ignorance, maybe you actually are!

    Yeah, I dunno. I really don’t know. I would imagine many country bumpkins knew proper Torah Hebrew, even if Aramaic was normal. The guys at least were supposed to hear (and read?) the OT at synagogue, right? And Greek might have been much like English today among the country bumpkins of Pakistan and Kenya. Sure, it’s not normal for a whole village to speak it, but don’t be surprised if a few do!

    But let me stay smart here: I don’t exactly know this particular topic; for now, I only speculate.

    I agree. Clearly Jesus could read the Hebrew scriptures. I just didn’t realize Hebrew was no longer a spoken language at that time. At least, that’s what I found on the Internet. So, it has to be true.

    • #23
    • February 17, 2020, at 3:27 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  24. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    Suspira (View Comment):

    I agree. Clearly Jesus could read the Hebrew scriptures. I just didn’t realize Hebrew was no longer a spoken language at that time. At least, that’s what I found on the Internet. So, it has to be true.

    I think Aramaic vs. Hebrew is like good English vs. bad English. Hebrew was spoken; it just wasn’t spoken well by most people.

    • #24
    • February 17, 2020, at 3:33 PM PST
    • Like