Isaiah also says this Servant will be “cut off” though “he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth,” then Daniel later says the Messiah will be “cut off” though “there is no legal judgment against him.” These sure sound like the same man. In fact, it sounds like Daniel is alluding to Isaiah’s Servant and predicting that he will be the Messiah. Since scholars agree the book of Daniel was actually written in the 2nd century B.C.E., during a time of Greek persecution, it is quite possible the author had such an allusion in mind. Since Daniel 9:26 is otherwise obscure and strange, but makes perfect sense once linked to Isaiah 52-53, it is reasonable to infer that Daniel 9:26 is a messianic interpretation of Isaiah 52-53. Though the Hebrew employs different verbs in each case for “kill,” they both mean “cut off,” and though the following Hebrew is unclear, the later (but still pre-Christian) translation employed the Greek word krima for “judgment,” which connotes a formal legal judgment, thus clarifying that an unjust execution is what the author of Daniel had in mind–hence a shameful but undeserved death, exactly as Isaiah envisioned.
Maybe this is too speculative. And one might also argue that a man who “brings the Gospel” as the “servant” of God, who is “righteous” and shall be “exalted” yet whose “life shall be made an offering for sin” and who shall bring “salvation” and “redeem” all israel would not be understood as the messiah. As improbable as that may seem, let’s suppose no one saw the obvious. The text of Isaiah still predicts a righteous, innocent man who will bring the Gospel and announce salvation, and yet will be shamed and humiliated and executed and buried as a criminal, but whose death would bring salvation and atone for the sins of Israel. And the same text still predicts that this man will be accounted righteous and exalted by God after his shameful death. Therefore, even if no Jew understood this passage to be about the messiah, it remains undeniable that all Jews would see this passage as predicting exactly what the Christians were preaching about Jesus. Therefore, there could be no stigma attached to a “righteous man” who exactly fit Isaiah’s description, whether he was called the messiah or not. The Jews clearly anticipated such a person, regardless of what formal title they cared to bestow on him.
Either way, it’s unreasonable to believe that no Jews understood these texts to refer to such a man, especially since it says God intends to send out a messenger to deliver the “Gospel” that brings “Salvation,” and that this man will be humiliated with a shameful but undeserved death, and then exalted thereafter. But even in general, Isaiah 52-53 still clearly preaches that a man like Jesus should be revered, that even a man despised and shamed and buried a criminal could and should be praised and exalted–so long as he was wise and innocent, as Jesus was. And this is enough to destroy Holding’s premise that no Jew would see Jesus as worthy of reverence because of his ignoble fate. Quite the contrary: the Jew’s own sacred text says we should revere such a man (so, too, Is. 50:4-9). And that is exactly the point I make.
The same teaching is clearly conveyed in the Wisdom of Solomon, which presents the very same lesson: that a “righteous man” whose “soul is blameless” yet who is thus mistreated “with insult and torture” and wrongly condemned to a “shameful death” (2.19-22; compare Mark 15:29-32) is in fact a “Son of God” (2.13, 2.16, 2.18, 5:5) and will be resurrected (3) and crowned by God (5), while those who despise him will be condemned. This lesson certainly predates Christianity (see Early Jewish Writings Online and Jewish Encyclopedia Online). So this is another example of how Jewish values were primed for accepting the story of Jesus, not rejecting it.
Indeed, the Wisdom of Solomon equates the fate of righteous men generally with a Son of God specifically:
“Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because…he professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a Child of the Lord. He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange…he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his Father. Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life; for if the righteous man is God’s son, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries. Let us test him with insult and torture, that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance. Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”
Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray, for their wickedness blinded them, and they did not know the secret purposes of God, nor hope for the wages of holiness, nor discern the prize for blameless souls; for God created man for incorruption, and made him in the image of his own eternity, but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it. But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they only seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. (Wisdom of Solomon 2.12-3:3)
This plainly says that a Son of God will be humiliated and killed, as the righteous man generally. But then “the righteous man who had died will condemn the ungodly who are living” (4:16) for “then shall the Just One with great assurance confront his oppressors” and “seeing this, they shall be shaken with dreadful fear, and amazed,” and they will say “This is he whom once we held as a laughingstock and as a type for mockery, fools that we were! His life we accounted madness, and his death dishonored. See how he is accounted among the Sons of God! How his lot is with the Saints!” (5:1-5). And so we see again that Jews were already being influenced by lessons and texts like these before Christianity even got started, and we can plainly see how the values espoused here align perfectly with the Christian message about Jesus.