Warren Christian Apologetics Center
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Sufficient Evidence Archive

Sufficient Evidence: A Journal of Christian Apologetics is devoted to setting forth evidence for the existence of God, the divine origin of the Bible, and the deity of Jesus Christ, and is published biannually (Spring and Fall).


FROM THE ARCHIVE

 

The Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53

One of the most perplexing questions pertaining to Old Testament studies is the question concerning what has been called the “greatest of all prophetic utterances” (Baron vi) — Isaiah 53. The question is, “Who is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53?” Although this question directs attention to the chapter mentioned, this study will include the last three verses of Isaiah 52, since they form an integral part of the passage.

A study of the above question is most significant for various reasons: (1) scholars are greatly divided as to the identification of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53, (2) the New Testament writers make numerous reflections upon this prophecy, and (3) the issue remains as to whether or not Isaiah’s prophecy is one of true prediction.

Scholars have advanced various theories as solutions to the problem. Some have suggested the collective theory which states that the Servant is a group, the nation of Israel, or some ideal portion of it. Others have advanced the individual theory which says that the Servant is an individual of the past, present or future. Still others contend that the Servant is not to be identified with any chosen single group or individual but that the conception of the Servant is a fluid and shifting one (cf. Hyatt 79). Such a concept is suggested by Torrey when he says that the Servant is “the personified nation Israel, or Israel’s personal representative” (135). I am convinced that the Servant in Isaiah 53 is an individual, and Jesus Christ is the only one who could have fulfilled it.

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Predictive Prophecy as Evidence of the Bible’s Divine Origin

A prophet (prophetes) is “one who speaks forth” (Thayer 553) or one who is “a proclaimer and interpreter of the divine revelation” (Arndt and Gingrich 730). Both writing and speaking prophets of the Old and New Testaments gave people God’s message about how they should live and act, but how were those people to know whether the prophet was speaking for himself or for God? Deuteronomy 18:21-22 answers,

And if you say in your heart, “How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?”— when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.

 [All Scripture references in this article will be from the 1992 New King James Version unless otherwise specified]. The test of a prophecy’s divine origin for us today is the same as when it was originally given: if a prophetic prediction happened or came true, we can know that it came from God. It is common for predictions of uninspired men to “fall to the ground,” but God caused the words of His inspired prophets to hold true (1 Samuel 3:19).

1 Kings 21:19-24. Many examples are found in the Old Testament of prophecies being fulfilled, some of them in a short time after being given, and some hundreds of years later. King Ahab of the northern kingdom of Israel wanted Naboth’s vineyard, so Ahab’s wife Jezebel had Naboth murdered to get it. God sent Elijah to predict the death of Ahab, the end of his dynasty, and the grisly fact that dogs would eat the body of Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel (1 Kings 21:23). Some years passed; then Ahab decided to attack Syria to try to regain Ramoth Gilead. He asked the prophet Micaiah if he should go to war, and Micaiah predicted disaster for Ahab, who was killed in the battle in fulfillment of the prophecy (1 Kings 22:23-38). Several years later Jehu had Jezebel thrown down from a window in the wall, where dogs literally ate all of Jezebel but her skull, feet, and hands (2 Kings 9:30-37). Thus two prophesies were fulfilled, one in a matter of hours and one in some 20 years and in specific, sickening detail.

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The Inexhaustibility of the Bible as Evidence for its Inspiration

Shortly before his death in 2000, I heard Dr. Thomas B. Warren express that he had been reading the Bible for more than seventy years, and he never had done so without being amazed at some “enormously wonderful truth” in it. Professor Warren had a brilliant mind. When tested for the position of an aerial navigator in the United States military, which position he held during World War II, he achieved the highest score that had been earned on this test up to that time. He graduated magna cum laude from Abilene Christian University. He also earned the Ph.D. in Philosophy from Vanderbilt University. He corresponded with some of the most highly recognized philosophers of the twentieth century. He engaged in public debate, before thousands, with some of the most prominent philosophical thinkers of his day. Because of all of this, it would seem that it is not without great significance that a person of such great ability, training, and experience, after so many years, would acknowledge that he was still “amazed” and challenged by the depth of the information contained in the Bible.

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The Foundational Implications of Biblical Inerrancy

Differing views of Scripture are a prime source of division in those nations historically following a Christian perspective. These nations would include Europe, the Americas, and former colonial outposts around the world. Nations with a European heritage were founded by people who believed, overwhelmingly, the Bible to be the word of God and, therefore, true and authoritative in all of its teachings.

Applying Scriptural authority to produce conformity is the normal way followed by those with confidence in the Bible. C. S. Lewis noted:

If I have read the New Testament aright, it leaves no room for ‘creativeness’ even in a modified or metaphorical sense. Our whole destiny seems to lie in the opposite direction, in being as little as possible ourselves, in acquiring a fragrance that is not our own but borrowed, in becoming clean mirrors filled with the image of a face that is not ours. (7)

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