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Dear Father Angelo,

My name is Milena and a few years ago, after a long period of ignorance and disinterest (mea culpa) of everything that revolves around the word Faith, I decided it was time to take a stand on the biggest question in the world: God.

I did not want to be slothful by being totally disinterested in the problem and I felt that I could not be satisfied with a superficial faith, in which we declare ourselves believers more by tradition and by sense of belonging than by conviction. To believe I need to understand (as far as possible). This is why I decided to take up the Bible, the Old and New Testament, and read everything. Let me be clear, I did not take this step as a believer. I expected to grasp contradictions, illogic and teachings too tied to the ancient world that would have revealed to me, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the Text was entirely human, both in form and in inspiration. In fact, at the beginning it was not easy, I seemed to immediately grasp the inconsistencies and illogicalities that I invariably marked with a pencil, and then come back to them, some time later, when (by chance?), the answer I was looking for came up right under my nose. And here what at first seemed illogical to me became instead clear and shareable if read with the right key. Furthermore, the more time passed, the more attentive and passionate my reading became.

In the end I had to change my mind and all my prejudices about this Sacred Text collapsed to the point that I consider it the most beautiful book I have ever read, perhaps the most beautiful that can be written (not so much for the form, but for the substance), and I still consult it often because in addition to giving excellent advice it is an inexhaustible mine of reflections.

In one sentence I could say that I have found more answers than I was looking for.

It is therefore not for a question that I am writing to you, but to find out if in your opinion an answer that “came to my mind” in the face of a criticism that a Jewish boy has leveled at the Christian interpretation of a passage from Isaiah is correct. I will explain.

In Isaiah 53:10 we read, referring to the Servant of the Lord, that “he shall see his descendants in a long life“.

As you know better than me, according to the Hebrew interpretation the Servant in question would be the people of Israel and not Jesus. In particular, as regards this passage the Jews affirm that the term descent (in the Hebrew text literally seed zerah – זרע) would refer to a blood progeny and consequently could not apply to Jesus who, notoriously, had no children, but rather to the Jewish people.

In this way it would seem incorrect the interpretation of those Catholics who maintain that the term descendants must be understood in a broad sense so as to encompass the “almost filial” relationship that Jesus established with his disciples and which in a certain sense continues today.

Now, looking in a Hebrew dictionary, I discovered that the word zerah זרע, as it happens in Italian, can refer not only to sperm, but also to the proper seed (of a plant for example).

So here is the illumination that caught me and about which I ask you for an opinion to understand if I am on the right path: reflecting on this passage, Jesus’ parable of the sower came to mind.

In that parable Jesus explained to the disciples that he is a sower and his words are his seeds, which can only sprout if they find fertile ground in us. At the same time, I recalled that, according to what is stated in the Gospel of John (Jn 1:1-3), all things came to be through the Word, so much so that even in Genesis God the Father creates the light, the firmament etc. simply by saying their name (Gen. 1: 3 – God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light). In essence, the Word is a real means of creation.

I venture a parallel (please correct me if I’m wrong!): just as the seed (understood as sperm) generates the human being to life, in a similar way the seed (of the word) generates the human being to Faith, that is, it creates a new creature. Therefore, it is quite possible to affirm that this creature who was born in faith in Christ thanks to the word of Jesus is the fruit of His seed and therefore is a descendant of him.

In this sense, then, all Christians would be the descendants of Jesus and it would be us who keep alive the power of His Word through the continuous transmission from generation to generation, which is why Jesus may well be the Servant of the Lord of whom Isaiah speaks when he writes “he shall see his descendants in a long life“.

I hope I have not reasoned badly. In case I did, forgive me, I’m still learning.

I thank you again for your helpfulness, for the service you offer and I send my best wishes to the whole community of Dominican Friends.



Dear Milena,

1. I congratulate you on your meticulousness in investigating the words with which God revealed himself and communicated himself to men.

They are the most precious words that can be heard and they are all words of eternal life.

2. First of all, I tell you that the interpretation you have given on the descendants that the Servant of Yahweh shall see in a long life is correct.

3. In fact, through the word the Lord continually generates new children to the Father and introduces the life of God into us.

St. Paul is clear on this point: “Faith comes from what is heard (fides ex auditu), and what is heard comes through the word of Christ” (Rm 10,16) and is perfectly in line with what the Lord said about the mustard seed (Mt 13:31).

4. I would like to make two considerations about your email.

The first concerns who the Servant of the Lord, of Yahweh is: whether he is Israel, as you say, or whether he is a specific character.

Yes, the Jews understand it as a synonym for the people of Israel. And for this interpretation they can rely on Is 49:3: “You are my servant, he said to me, Israel, through whom I show my glory”.

However, it should be remembered that there are four songs of the Servant of the Lord and in them we find the emergence of a very specific person as appears in the first of these four songs, which is found in Is 42:1ff.

Furthermore, often in Sacred Scripture Israel or Jacob are synonymous with both the patriarch and the people, as when it is said that salvation is from the Jews (Jn 4:22): that is, it comes from a member of the Jewish people.

5. But let’s see in order what is specifically said in the four songs found in Isaiah 42:1-4 (5-9); 49:1-6; 50:4-9 (10-11); 52:13 – 53:12).

About the first “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations” (Is 42,1), here is what the Jerusalem Bible says: “In this poem, the servant is presented as a prophet, the object of a mission and of a divine predestination (v. 6, cf. v 4; Jer 1,5), animated by the Spirit (v. 1) to teach the whole earth (vv. 1 and 3) with discretion and firmness (vv. 2-4), despite the opposition.

But his mission exceeds that of the other prophets, since he himself is a covenant and light (v. 6) and carries out a work of liberation and salvation (v. 7).

The choice of the servant is accompanied by an outpouring of the Spirit, as for the charismatic leaders of ancient times, the Judges (cf. Jg 3:10) and the first kings, Saul (1 Sam 9,17; cf. 10: 9-10) and David (1 Sam 16: 12-13; compare Is 11: 1-2)”.

6. Regarding the second song “Hear me, O coastlands, listen, O distant peoples” (Is 49,1), it takes up the theme of the first (42,1-8), insisting on certain aspects of the servant’s mission: predestination (vv 1.5), a mission extended not only to Israel which he must gather (v. 5), but also to the nations to enlighten them (v. 6), a new preaching that shakes (v. 2), which brings light and salvation (v. 6).

It also speaks of his failure (vv. 4.7), of his trust in God alone (vv. 4.5) and of a final triumph (v. 7).

Israel: this word is generally considered a gloss inspired by 44:21 and incompatible with vv. 5-6 which distinguish the servant from Jacob-Israel and where the Servant is sent precisely to Israel, to Jacob: “For now the Lord has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb, that Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him; and I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord, and my God is now my strength! It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth” (Is 49: 5-6).

It is perhaps justified by the ambivalence of the figure of the servant who at times represents Israel and at other times its leader and savior.

7. The third and fourth songs add new clarifications about the person and the mission of the servant.

The third song is found in Is 50,4: The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear.

In this third song, the servant appears more like a sage than a prophet. He is the faithful disciple of Yahweh (vv. 4-5), in charge of instructing in turn those who “fear God”, that is, all the pious Jews (v. 10), but also the lost or the infidels “who walk in darkness”.

Thanks to his courage and divine help (vv. 7-9), he will endure persecutions (vv. 5-6), until God grants him a definitive triumph (vv. 9-11).

Until v. 9 inc., it is the servant who speaks.

Is 50: 6:  I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.

This description of the sufferings of the servant will be taken up and developed in the fourth song (52:13ff).

This fourth song takes up the theme of suffering. The persecutions that the servant will endure with great patience (53,7) are a scandal for the bystanders, but actually they are an intercession and an atonement for sins”.

8. Therefore, in the light of the text, the interpretation that identifies the Servant of the Lord with the people of Israel is certainly present, but it is neither the exclusive nor the main one.

The distinction between the person and the people appears very clear in Is 49:5-6, precisely because this person is sent to save the people of Israel.

9. We now come to the descendants on which you have given your learned and precise explanation starting from the meaning of the word (from semantics).

I present to you the comment made on it by G. Girotti, a Dominican martyr in Dachau and now blessed:

“He shall see his descendants…

The Hebrew text contains more exactly two distinct propositions: he will see a posterity, a progeny, he will prolong his days.

The fruits of the Messiah’s sacrifice are mentioned.

As a reward, first of all he is granted a posterity, an innumerable multitude of men, who through him have been regenerated to new life, so that they are united with him as with a second progenitor of mankind (cf. Rom 5:14 ff.; 6:3).

Thus, the promise made to Abraham was fulfilled (cf. Gen 15:5; 22:17).

This first fruit or prize of the Messiah’s sacrifice is made up of a crown of saints.

10. The second fruit is the following: in a long life, that is, the “Servant of Yahweh” will live eternally blessed. “Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever” (Ap 1,18).

The expression: in a long life, implicitly contains the prophecy of the resurrection of the Servant of Yahweh after his death, because in common usage this expression is not used for the life of the soul alone, but for the life in soul and body.

11. The third fruit consists in the prosperous success which, through the Servant, the will of God will obtain.

This will (Hebrew: consent) is the providential plan relating to the redemption, the salvation of mankind, it is that admirable restoration that embraces men and things, time and eternity, of which the prophet has already spoken several times in the previous chapters (cfr. 2, 4; 11, 5…) and of which he will speak even more clearly later on”.

As I wish you an ever deeper understanding of that Book which contains words that communicate eternal life (God), I gladly remind you to the Lord and I bless you.

Father Angelo