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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Burial of Jesus and the Empty Tomb

Paul says the gospel includes three elements. The death, the burial and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 15:4-“that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures”). For the past 25 posts or so, I have been discussing the Evangelical view of what it means that “Christ died for our sins”. Today I want to move on to the burial of Jesus which Paul says is the second component of the gospel.

Why does Paul include “the burial” of Jesus as part of the gospel? It is the only one of the three elements that he does not say is “according to the Scriptures.” Why does he mention it? I think he does so in order to emphasize the fact that Jesus really died. (Sort of a preemptive strike against the Swoon Theory, i.e., Jesus swooned on the cross and then revived in the cool tomb). Jesus death was an absolute necessity in Paul’s theology and the reference to his burial is the ultimate proof that Jesus had in fact died.

What is interesting is that Paul does not mention the “empty tomb” nor the story of the women who first came upon the tomb on Sunday morning. He does mention that Jesus was seen of Peter, the 500, James, and then all of the apostles. Why does he leave out the story of the women which all of the other gospels include? There could be three reasons: 1) The testimony of women was not highly regarded in the Ancient world and Paul did not feel the need to cite their testimony when he had an abundance of male eyewitnesses to reference; 2) Paul did not know the empty tomb story. It had not been written down yet as I Corinthians was written earlier than any of the four gospels; 3) Paul did not believe the empty tomb story. Even though the stories had not been written down, Paul no doubt had heard them. He had been in contact with all of the early followers of Christ. Why would he not believe them? I think, and this will have to be developed later, that Paul’s view of the resurrection body being a “spiritual body” does not require the tomb to be empty.

So, what happened to the body of Jesus? If the gospels are correct, Jesus died quicker than most do when being crucified. When the guard came out to break the legs of the criminals so that they would die sooner, Jesus was already dead (John 19:33). The Sabbath was approaching rapidly. It would be a disgrace for these dead, naked, bodies to be left nailed on crosses throughout the Passover celebration. Normally, the Romans would allow birds of prey to eat the carcasses of the crucified but the Jews were very sensitive to this type of thing and wanted them buried. So, it became imperative for these men to be dead and off the cross before the beginning of the Sabbath (sundown on Friday).

Here is where the gospels say that Joseph of Arimathea stepped up. Joseph was a member of the Sanhderin and, according to Matthew 27:57 and John 19:38, a secret follower of Christ. Whether the story of Joseph's claiming of the body is true or not is impossible to say. It does seem less likely that Joseph was a secret follower of Jesus as this is mentioned only in Matthew’s and John’s gospel and not in the earlier ones. One would think that this important information about Joseph would have been included in the earlier gospels. Thus, it appears that the claim of Joseph being a disciple of Jesus is probably a later embellishment to the original story.

Whether it was Joseph or some other devout Jew, the bodies were not going to be left up while the Passover was going on in Jerusalem. So, let’s say for the sake of argument that Joseph of Arimathea is a real man, who although not a follower of Jesus is a good Jew and offers up his new tomb as a “temporary” burial site for Jesus’ body. It was getting late in the day and so this offer was taken up by the Romans and the body was placed into the newly hewn family tomb of Joseph. These tombs were expensive and to think that Joseph was going to donate his family tomb permanently is stretching the man’s generosity. Christians have only assumed that Joseph’s tomb was to be the final burial site of Jesus.

The women all watched the burial and saw precisely where Jesus’ body was laid. They came back to the same tomb early on Sunday morning and it was empty. What had happened? Well, Joseph of Arimathea came back to the tomb after the sun went down on the Sabbath (Saturday night) and took the body and disposed of it in the criminal’s graveyard. This was the normal place that the executed would be buried. By the time, the women arrived at the tomb at day break on Sunday, the stone was rolled back and the tomb was empty.

The gospels now record various accounts of either one or more angels announcing to the women that Jesus was risen. In Mark’s account, the earliest, the women leave the tomb afraid and do not tell anyone about their experience. In the other three gospels they run and tell Peter.

Why the divergence in accounts? It could be that the women first coming upon the scene was not always included in the retelling of the Easter story. As time passed and an explanation was needed for why some accounts had it and others didn’t, the gospel of Mark says that although the women were the first ones present at the empty tomb,they told no one.

The question might be raised, why didn’t the women or the apostles check with Joseph of Arimathea to verify that he had not moved the bodies? That is an excellent question and perhaps the key to my view of why the tomb was empty.

Two possible explanations come to mind. 1) The disciples were afraid to approach a member of the Sanhedrin with any questions about Jesus’ body lest they be recognized as one of his followers and be imprisoned. 2) Joseph of Arimathea is a name that came to be used of the Jewish Sanhedrin member that offered up his tomb to Jesus. In other words, the original and true benefactor was not named but as the story was retold, somehow Joseph’s name came to be included. This would mean that the early disciples did not know who precisely owned the tomb and consequently did not know who to ask.

Another important question is: Why didn’t Joseph of Arimathea, or whoever the anonymous benefactor might have been, refute the disciples claim that Jesus had risen as the early Christians began to circulate Jerusalem with the good news (gospel)? The explanation is twofold: 1) The preaching of the early disciples in a large bustling city like Jerusalem really did not attract that much attention at first; 2) Once the crowds got larger after Pentecost, it was too late for anyone to produce a corpse of Jesus that could be identified as his. People were buried anonymously in the criminal graveyard. If the right grave could be located, the body would be so decomposed fifty days after his death, that it would be unrecognizable. (It is also conceivable that Jesus' body could have been thrown into Gehenna, the city landfill where dead criminals were sometimes cremated. Fires were kept burning and the valley became the garbage dump of the city. The dead bodies of criminals, and the carcasses of animals were also thrown there.).

Perhaps the Sanhedrin benefactor did let it be known that he had moved the body to the criminal graveyard but the Christians were already in full motion by then, and they were not going to believe the benefactor.

This is how I believe the empty tomb story originated. It is certainly more plausible than interjecting a divine act to explain it. Next, I will deal with the initial “Jesus sightings”.


  1. That's interesting stuff.

    I remember sitting in church and listening to the pastors make a big deal about two things: the fact that the tomb was sealed and the fact that a guard was placed before it. They always set it up that the tomb was sealed with a mark much like an old wax seal on a confidential letter and the guard was some sort of elite Roman Century or something. This was, of course, a pre-emptive strike against claims that someone came in the night and took the body.

    But if you look at the actual Gospel accounts there are three problems with this. First, of all four accounts the only place where the tomb is explicitly said to be sealed and guarded is Matthew. Second, the account just says that the guard went with to seal the tomb, not that it was left behind overnight (and, furthermore, it's not exactly clear as to what kind of "guard" it was. Actual Roman legionnaires? A couple rent-a-cops? Just some guy?). Third, the women just kind of showed up at the tomb a couple days later expecting to finish the proper burial of the body and weren't challenged. This actually creates an additional problem.

    It implies that two women were expecting to be able to gain access to enter a sealed and guarded tomb to dress the body. That completely destroys the entire argument that there was no way Jesus's body could have been taken out. It's kind of a deal breaker in my mind...

    Given the above paragraph you don't even necessarily need the entire argument given in the original post. But it actually would tie together certain things. First, if the goal was simply to store the body quickly to deal with Passover laws before dumping it out, the sudden absence makes sense. Second, if there really was a seal and a guard, they probably would have had to open the tomb for its rightful owner, anyway.

    Actually, this brings up a further question: why the rush to crucify people the day before Passover, anyway? Why wouldn't Pilate have just said, "Okay, we're going to kill him on Monday?"

    So, yeah, that's some food for thought, I suppose...

  2. I haven't heard this argument before Ken. Everyone was lying, eh..?

    You could have saved yourself some typing effort and reduced it down to one line.

    I guess you can hope everyone is lying, but the evidence supports the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead!

    Obviously, the women didn't go to the tomb thinking they were going to move the stone themselves. They expected the guards to do it for them which is the only reasonable explanation. Additionally, why would Joseph dispose of a body when he specifically had a tomb made ready for the body of Jesus.

    What about the days of mourning that were done in that culture? It was customary to even hire mourners if needed. The days of mourners certainly had not been fulfilled or even done. That was the whole point of the women going up to the tomb.

    Joseph simply threw out tradition even though Jesus had hundreds of following and disposed of the body without their knowledge.

    The arguments all speak to the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

    You are just hoping that it did not happen. I guess you can hope, but if you are in the hope business, it makes more sense to have hope that Jesus did rise from the dead.

    God Bless...

  3. Actually, this brings up a further question: why the rush to crucify people the day before Passover, anyway? Why wouldn't Pilate have just said, "Okay, we're going to kill him on Monday?"

    Assuming that some would-be Israelite prophet was crucified, thus setting the stage for the story as we know it today, my guess would be that PP did not delay the executions due to efficiency. The Romans were models of efficiency and routine. They did things a certain way that worked for them and that was that.

    In this scenario, the executions were scheduled for that day, and even if PP were warned about the whole "dead bodies rotting during Passover" thing, his reaction was probably "we're scheduled to do this thing on x date, we're doing it on x date. just kill them quicker or something."

  4. Dear Dr. Pulliam,

    I think there might be a third explanation for the empty tomb according to Matthew 27:62 - 66.

    The gospel of Matthew tells of the chief priests and Pharisees going to Pilate on the next day, the one after Preparation day, which would have been the Sabbath (Saturday). They tell Pilate to post a guard because Jesus said he would be raised after three days and his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. Pilate agrees with them and sends a soldier with them to seal and guard the tomb. Jesus was buried on Friday afternoon. This leaves Friday night into Saturday morning for anyone to steal the body.

    I’ve always wondered why Jesus didn’t go to the Sanhedrin after his resurrection so that the governing body could verify his claim. After all Jesus did promise the Pharisees and the teachers of the law the sign of Jonah yet he doesn’t show himself to them. And by any calculation Jesus is not in the ground three days and three nights.

    Matthew 12:38-40 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, "Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you."
    He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
    Friday afternoon at dusk - 1 day ?
    Saturday sunrise to sunset - 1 day
    Sunday - according to the gospels he had already risen during the dark - 1 day?
    It is quite a stretch to make this into three days but there is no way to count three nights.

    Friday night - 1st night
    Saturday night - 2nd night
    Sunday - no, there is no third night.

    I agree with you, I think this is a manmade story.

  5. Does anyone ever ask why the Christian writer need Jesus to be raised on the third day? I think the authors of the New Testament mistakenly read Hosea 5 and 6 without the proper understanding of who was speaking in the verses and thought the raising up applied to a person when it applies to the Jewish people (otherwise who is the us?) being raised up.
    Hosea 5:14,15 Hosea 6:1-3
    (The Almighty speaking through the prophet Hosea) For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, like a lion’s whelp to Judah. I will tear them to pieces and go away; I will carry them off, with no one to rescue them. Then I will go back to My place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek My face; in their misery they will earnestly seek Me."
    (The Jewish people respond) "Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but He will heal us; He has injured us but He will bind up our wounds. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will restore us, that we may live in His presence. Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge Him. As surely as the sun rises, He will appear; He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”
    The Almighty is speaking about the future exile of the northern tribes (Ephraim used for the Kings of Israel) and the southern tribes (the Kings of Judah). That is why poetically The Almighty will be like a lion to Ephraim. The 10 northern tribes are carried off, never to be heard of again. The southern tribes will be broken apart, some carried off into exile, but the tribe of Judah, some Levi and Benjamin, will remain. That is why The Almighty is poetically referred to the second time as a lion’s whelp, a young lion who cannot inflict as much harm as a mature lion. Please note the NIV bible purposely changes the wording so that the second lion is a “great” lion.

    It is the Jewish people who have to admit to their guilt of idol worship and return to the Almighty. That is the theme of all of the prophets. Isaiah, a contemporary of Hosea, writes about exile of the northern tribes and the miraculous survival of the tribe of Judah. Isaiah also says it is the Jewish people who must admit their guilt of idol worship and return to the exclusive service of the Almighty. This is the entire model of repentance. Admit you are wrong, correct your ways and you are forgiven.

    Isaiah 53:10 HASHEM (the Jewish way of writing G-d’s Holy Name) desired to oppress him and He afflicted him; if his soul would acknowledge guilt, he would see offspring and live long days and the desire of HASHEM would succeed in his hand. TANACH The Stone Edition

    Please note that there is nothing in this verse about anyone being a guilt offering. The Hebrew word for offering (Korban) is not in this verse. No wonder this was so confusing to me in bible study. I couldn’t figure out how the Jews didn’t see this as Jesus. It didn’t even occur to me until much later that Jesus is suppose to be a sin offering, not a guilt offering. The King James Version goes so far as to change the word for guilt, into sin offering. Did the Christian translators purposefully mistranslate this so that it appears to be about Jesus?
    10 Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering,
    he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. NIV
    10 But the LORD was pleased
    To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
    If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
    He will see His offspring,
    He will prolong His days,
    And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. NASB
    10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. KJ

  6. There's nothing in the TaNaKh about a messiah figure rising from the dead in three days. However, there is a tablet from the area around Damascus (possibly from the Qumran community/authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls/Essenes) dated to the late 1st century BCE that has been dubbed "Gabriel's Revelation". On this tablet the angel Gabriel is speaking to a possible messiah claimant saying that he would rise again after being dead three days.

    Early in the inscription there is mention of both David and Ephraim... Ephraim being a son of Joseph from the Torah, evidencing that the messiah figure is to be a "son of Joseph", much like what the Samaritans believe (with Samaritans claiming to be the authentic descendents of the Northern Kingdom).

    And slight nitpick to the poster above - "Hashem" isn't YHWH's name in Hebrew. HaShem simply means "the name"; and Isaiah 53 follows the theme of the previous chapters of Deutero-Isaiah, with Israel/Jacob being the servant (Isa. 41:8; 44:1; 44:21; 49:3; 52:13). Remember, Isaiah didn't write "chapters". Chapter 53 is not a separate writing or thought from the previous chapters.

  7. Emet,

    I am not a proponent of the idea that his disciples stole the body. While this was a very early Jewish response to the empty tomb, I am not sure it explains much. It doesn't explain the radical transformation in the disciples from a group of scared, confused, men into the bold missionaries we see a few days after they come to believe in the resurrection. It doesn't explain why the disciples would steal the body. What would be the purpose?

    I agree that Jesus did not fulfill the prophecy of Jonah. At best he might have been dead for 36 hours.

    Yes an appearance before the Sanhedrin and a public record of such for posterity would have been the kind of eyewitness testimony that would count for something today.

  8. Ken,

    As per your request (and to preserve my sanity), I won't address your execrable Christian troll (although I think you'd be better off just deleting his remarks) - however, Christians and authoritarians in general have peculiar ideas as to what constitutes evidence.

    Along those lines, I thought you might find
    this interesting. It's a transcript of a lecture given by Louis Feldman, a professor at Yeshiva U in New York, shortly after Passion of the Christ was released. He explains why we know the NT account of Jesus' arrest and trial is a fabrication, as it conflicts with Jewish legal procedures. Even the charge of blasphemy is a later invention, as there is no proscription against calling oneself "God", merely against using his name in vain.

  9. Cipher,

    thanks for the article by Feldman. I found it fascinating. I would be interested in the opinions of our Jewish friends who frequent this blog on the article.

  10. Hi Emet,

    I'm a little unclear about your point on the guilt offering in Isaiah 53. What's the significance of the Suffering Servant (Israel?) being a guilt offering and not a sin offering? I vaguely recall that guilt offerings in Leviticus were for specific sins, whereas sin offerings are for unintentional sins. But my impression is that the Suffering Servant atones for more sins than the description of the guilt offering discusses in Leviticus.

  11. Dear James,

    Isaiah 53:10 is a problem with translation. There is nothing to suggest that someone is a sin offering. Obviously the Christian translators are not familiar with the Jewish offering system. Once you can read Hebrew you will see the many changes and alterations made by Christian translators which try to write Jesus into this section of Isaiah.

    J. Quinton is absolutely correct...

    “Isaiah 53 follows the theme of the previous chapters of Deutero-Isaiah, with Israel/Jacob being the servant (Isa. 41:8; 44:1; 44:21; 49:3; 52:13). Remember, Isaiah didn't write "chapters". Chapter 53 is not a separate writing or thought from the previous chapters.”

    The numbering of the chapters and verses is a Christian system, which is one of the reasons why Isaiah 53 is so misunderstood by Christian.

    Please start with Isaiah 52:10 HASHEM (again thank you J. Quinton) is speaking through the prophet Isaiah to His servant the Jewish people. HASHEM tells the Jewish people to leave their lands of captivity and return to Israel. He is speaking about the end of days when the nations and the kings of the non Jewish nations “cover their mouth in amazement because they cannot believe what they are seeing”. Compare to Micah 7:15-16 “As in the days of your exodus from the land of Egypt, I will show him wonders. Nations shall see and be ashamed of all their might-they shall place a hand upon their mouth; their ears shall become deaf”.
    The final redemption of the Jewish people is more amazing than the redemption from Egypt. Compare Jeremiah 23:5-8.

    Isaiah 53: 1-9 it is the kings of nations speaking...”who would have believed what we have heard”. “...we had no regard for him. But in truth , it was our ills he bore...”The kings realize the truth that their persecution, crusades, expulsions, pogroms, mass murder of 6 million Jews and terrorist activities directed at the Jewish people were their rebellious sins. Isaiah 53: 8 Now that he has been released from captivity and judgement, who could have imagined such a generation? For he had been removed from the land of the living, and affliction upon them that was my people’s sin. Collectively the Kings realize that the treatment of the Jewish people “them” are his people’s sins.

    At the end of days the non Jewish nations realize their gods are false and Israel has the truth of HASHEM. See Jeremiah 16:19 "HASHEM, my Strength, my Stronghold and my Refuge on the day of distress! To You nations will come from the ends of the earth and say: “It was all falsehood that our ancestors inherited, futility that has no purpose. Zephaniah 3:9 “For then I will change the nations [to speak] a pure language so that they all will proclaim the Name of HASHEM, to worship Him with a united resolve.” The Stone Edition TANACH.

    I’m sure this raises even more questions.

  12. Hi Emet. Thanks for your response. I've read about the "individual vs. collective" debate in various places; I wrote my thesis at my divinity school on Isaiah 53. What I was more curious about was your point about the guilt offering in Isaiah 53. Isaiah 53:10 says that the Suffering Servant will be an asham--a guilt offering. As you point out (if I'm understanding you correctly), that's different from a chatat---a sin offering. I wonder what the significance is of the Servant being an asham and not a chatat. I see in Leviticus 5 that an asham was for very specific sins---not coming forward as a witness, unknowingly touching a carcass, accidentally swearing---so could that factor into Isaiah 53's use of asham rather than chatat?

  13. Dear James,

    I’m not sure this will make sense if you are unable to read Hebrew. The Hebrew word in Isaiah 53:10 is guilt, not sin. There are many places in the bible where the word for guilt is used. Sometimes it is as a guilt offering but not always. In this instance, the soul of the person must acknowledge his guilt. When he does, he will live a long life and see his biological children. The Hebrew word for biological children is zerah (seed). According to Christian writings, Jesus had no sin or guilt. He had no biological children and he didn’t live long days.

    The Stone Edition TANACH
    Isaiah 53:10 HASHEM desired to oppress him and He afflicted him; if his soul would acknowledge guilt, he would see offspring and live long days and the desire of HASHEM would succeed in his hand.

    Let’s look at another place in the bible that reflects this same theme. Please compare Hosea 5:14-15 and 6:1-2. I’m using the NIV translation for Hosea so you can see the NIV correctly translates the word for guilt in this section while altering it to “sin offering” in Isaiah 53.

    Hosea 5:14-15 6:1-2 NIV
    For I will be like a lion to Ephraim And like a young lion to the house of Judah
    I, even I, will tear to pieces and go away, I will carry away, and there will be none to deliver.
    I will go away and return to My place Until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face;
    In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me. "Come, let us return to the LORD
    For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us.
    "He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, That we may live before Him.

    In Hosea, HASHEM says that He will afflict the people until they admit their guilt and turn back to Him.

    Also read Jeremiah 3:13 NIV
    Only acknowledge your guilt— you have rebelled against the LORD your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me,' "
    declares the LORD.

  14. Hi Emet. I think I understand your interpretation. I know Hebrew, since I took three years of it at my divinity school, plus I have an M.A. from Jewish Theological Seminary and am at Hebrew Union College right now. But I'm not fluent, and I rely on BibleWorks to help me in my translation (since it defines words for me). But I lack access to that right now, so I'll have to wait before I can see if the phrase in Isaiah 53:10 can mean "acknowledge guilt"--based on seeing how that phrase is used in other passages.

  15. Dear Ken,

    I don’t think the apostles stole Jesus’ body, but anyone, including Roman guards could have been bribed to move it. I question why Matthew included details of a story that leaves a window of opportunity from Friday evening to Saturday morning for anyone to move the body.

    As for the change in the apostles following the supposed resurrection, it is a story written decades later by students of Matthew. It is a man made story. They can give their characters any qualities that they want. Did George Washington cut down a cherry tree, and could not tell his father a lie? I don’t know, but it makes him sound like an honest man.

    I should post this in the section of the Priest and the Rabbi but it is pertinent here too. One of the reasons I like the Torah and the Prophets is that they constantly criticize themselves and point out all of their flaws. What historical group of people write down their every mistake, misjudgement and rebelliousness? If the Jewish people didn’t claim it as their book, I would have thought it was written by an anti-Semite.

  16. Dear James,

    You mentioned the “individual vs collective” debate and I would like to know your opinion on it. Throughout the TANACH and especially in the 4 servant songs, Israel the servant is referred to in the singular and in the plural.

    Isaiah 43:10 "You are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. NIV Witnesses - plural and servant - singular.
    In Isaiah 53:10 it says, “if the soul admits guilt” The words there in Hebrew are soul (nefesh) and guilt (asham) It is the Jewish belief that all Jewish souls are collectively known as one soul.

    It isn’t obvious from reading the English but this concept is very clear when you read it in Hebrew in Exodus 1:5
    “And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already.” King James Version Please note that the New International Version and the New American Standard Bible leave out the inconvenient word soul.

    When you read the Hebrew for Exodus 1:5 it reads, “and all the soul (nefesh -singular) who emerged from Jacobs’s loins were seventy soul (nefesh - singular) and Joseph was in Egypt.”
    Now that reads very strangely in modern English but the Torah is meant to be read in Hebrew. These were a group of people spoken about as a collective soul.

    Please verify this with someone who can read Hebrew and don’t take my word for it. The Hebrew word for soul in the singular is nefesh - nun, fey, shin. Isn’t it amazing that after 3000 years there are still people who read and write in biblical Hebrew?

  17. Emet, I don't need to verify that with someone who can read Hebrew. I said I'm not fluent, but I know how to tell the difference between a singular and a plural noun. As I said, I've taken years of Hebrew.

    On the individual vs. collective debate, I think that there are two servants in Second Isaiah: one is faithful to God, while the other is sinful and hesitant to listen to God.

  18. James, I have not heard of your theory on two servants in Isaiah. Can you tell me more?

  19. I'll link you to a post I wrote on it, Emet. Please feel free to comment:

  20. Shoot, on some blogs, you can actually click on the link I provide.

    The main point I want to toss out in that post is that Isaiah 49 says the servant had a mission to Israel. So, although the servant is called Israel in that chapter, there's a sense in which he's distinct from the nation, since he has a mission to her. He may be Israel in that he's the embodiment of what Israel should be.