Isaiah 53 Across the New Testament

Denys Tymchyshyn – IG @art_tymchyshyn

QUESTION

In Acts 8:26-35, the Ethiopian eunuch or Luke omits “for the transgression of my people he was punished” (NIV) which is the last part of Isaiah 53:8. Either Luke or the eunuch omits the end of the sentence and stops mid-sentence. …do you have any insight into this?

I find it interesting that the other New Testament quotations of Isaiah 53 don’t speak about atonement at all—apart from 1 Peter 2:19-25. But that is talking more about substitution rather than any penal aspect.

RESPONSE

As a young seminarian (mid-1980s), I wrote my M.A. thesis on “The Nature of Christ’s Suffering and Substitution,” arguing for the logical necessity of penal substitutionary atonement theory. It was laden with assumptions, but also offered commentary on key Scriptures that I believed confirmed my case. At the time, I admit that I was puzzled by how little the N.T. made us of Isaiah 53, and when it did, how the apostles failed to interpret the prophet as a prophecy of PSA with sufficient clarity.

Aside from my theological concerns, I was also puzzled by how best to frame prophecy and its fulfillment in Christ. If Isaiah was simply foreseeing the future Messiah, not all of his prophecies concerning the “suffering servant” seemed to apply to Jesus. And the way the NT describes them being fulfilled in Christ seemed to a bit of a leap. Some missed the mark of his crucifixion altogether. Today, I would reframe my typology in the language of “prefigurement.” That is, Isaiah’s prophecies concerning the suffering Jews in Babylon prefigure or anticipate or are shadows of the life and Passion of Christ. The prophecies are not purely predictive but rather, serve as real-life teaser-trailers of a much greater forthcoming fulfillment.

Now to the Scriptures. Let’s double-check all of the N.T. occurrences, which I respond to briefly:

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Brad Jersak

Brad Jersak

Brad Jersak is an author and teacher based in Abbotsford, BC. He serves as a reader and monastery preacher at All Saints of North America Orthodox Monastery. Read More