The NT authors thought that Isaiah was describing the crucifixion of Jesus for the sins of the world in Isaiah 53, but the fact is Isaiah is not predicting that someone will suffer in the future for other people’s sins at all. Many readers fail to consider the verb tenses in these passages. They do not indicate that someone will come along at a later time and suffer in the future, they are talking about past suffering. The Servant has already suffered – although he “will be” vindicated. And so this is not about a future suffering messiah. What’s your response?


The tense of a verb in a prophecy does not always determine when it will be fulfilled.  It is the content and the context, not the verb tense which determines the meaning of a prophecy.  This is not mere rhetoric.  It is proved by looking at specific examples of clear and obvious prophecies which were later fulfilled.  For example, there is Psalm 22:16-18. “Dogs surround me, a pack of villians encircles me, they pierce my hands and my feet… They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my clothing.”  Here the prophecy about the crucifixion of Jesus is in the present tense, yet the events clearly lie in the future.  By the way, let me point out that, even in your own question, you use a tense in an interesting way.  You say that “Isaiah is not predicting…”  So, you yourself use a present tense about an event in the past.  In fact, it is rather normal for prophecy to be given in the past tense.  This is called the “prophetic past.”  It is a well-known phenomenon (except to the biblical critic whom you read).  Another example is Zechariah 9:9, which has the Messiah/king riding into Jerusalem in the present tense. Then there is Zechariah 11:13, a messianic prophecy which predicts the price at which Jesus was betrayed—30 pieces of silver, to be exact.  This prophecy, and it is clearly a prophecyis in the past tense. “So I took the 30 pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the Lord.”
By the way, there is no absolute pattern.  For example, Isaiah 9:1 tells us about the Messiah (Isaiah 9:6 shows this) that “in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles.  Also, in Isaiah 7:14, also in the future tense.  “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son” who will be called God-with-us.  We see here that prophecies of the future can be in the future, the present or the past tense.
It is the choice of the prophet, not of the interpreter, what tense to put a prophecy of the future into.  If we look at Isaiah 53, this is about as clear and obvious a messianic prophecy as exists in Scripture.  The prophet describes one who will be despised and rejected, who will be pierced for our sins, who will be silent when accused, and who will later be raised to life.  The prophet, under the inspiration of the Holyl Spirit, is apparently looking at the events of the life of Messiah Jesus from the future. That is his choice.  What other figure in human history does this passage apply to?  Is there any person or nation to which this applies?  The answer is clear.  No! This is a messianic passage, and Muslim critics such as the one you have read are clearly thrashing around for any potential excuse to dismiss this clear prophecy about Jesus of Nazareth, his death and his resurrection.
John Oakes

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