The Marring of the Servant of the Lord


In 2 Parts

The Degeneration of Translations

When we move from the earliest translations of Isaiah 52:14, to the more modern ones, we will notice what I call a Degeneration of Translations. As time moves forward, the translations of this verse become more skewed.

The earliest translation we have of this verse is found in Jerome’s Latin Vulgate. The Vulgate was the Bible of the Western Church for at least a thousand years.

Jerome’s Latin Vulgate (in English)

First I quote the Latin, then various English translations.

sicut obstipuerunt super te multi sic inglorius erit inter viros aspectus eius et forma eius inter filios hominum

As many have been astonished at thee, so shall his visage be inglorious among men, and his form among the sons of men.(vulgate.org)2

In this translation, there is no hint of such disfigurement due to physical abuse. It is simply a statement of what we read later in chapter 53. His appearance and form will not be one of glory among men.

We then come to the first translation of the Bible into English.

Wycliffe’s Bible of 1395

(Wycliffe translated from the Latin. He knew neither Greek nor Hebrew.)

[original wording] As many men wondriden on hym, so his biholdyng schal be with out glorie among men, and the fourme of hym among the sones of men.

[modernized from original] 14 As many men wondered on him, so his beholding shall be without glory among men, and the form, either shape, of him among the sons of men. (But many wondered about him, for his appearance was without glory, or without comeliness, among people, and the form, or the shape, of him, among the sons and daughters of men.)

This is just a restatement of what we see in the Vulgate. We then come to the Bishop’s Bible.

Bishop’s Bible (1568)

Isaiah 52:14 Lyke as the multitude shall wonder vpon hym, because his face shalbe so defourmed and not as mans face, his beautie like no man

This appears to be the first translation that introduces the idea of being deformed, and “not as man’s face.” This translation has strayed from the path of the previous ones.

Geneva Bible (1599)

As many were astonied at thee (his visage was so deformed of men, and his form of the sons of men.

The Geneva Bible gives us a footnote with the word, deformed. It states, “In the corrupt judgment of man, Christ in his person was not esteemed.” Definition of deform is, "to disfigure, mar the natural form or shape of.”

This verse seems to be conveying the idea, that the deformation of Christ’s visage and form, is due to men not esteeming His true person and glory. By not recognizing Him for who he really was, they marred or deformed His true visage and form. It appears English translators have real trouble with this verse.

Brenton’s LXX (1870)

As many shall be amazed at thee, so shall thy face be without glory from men, and thy glory shall not be honoured by the sons of men.

Apostolic Polyglot Bible (LXX)

In which manner, many shall be amazed by You, so the sight of your appearance shall be despised by men and your glory by the sons of men.

One thing most of these seem to have in common, is that it was His glory and beauty as the Servant of the Lord, which was disfigured or marred. How do we go from the visage and form of the Servant of the Lord being marred, to this,

(just as many were horrified by the sight of you) he was so disfigured he no longer looked like a man; (NET)

Just as many were appalled at you — his appearance was so disfigured that he did not look like a man, and his form did not resemble a human being (CSB)

But many were amazed when they saw him. His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human, and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man.(NLT)

Why have these modern, so-called translations, taken such license with the text? I wish I had an answer. But however we got there, it needs to be fixed.

One argument against these more recent translations is the complete absence of its mention in any New Testament writing. What a stirring example of Christ’s humility and suffering would this have been for one of the gospel writers to lay before us. However, it is totally missing. In all four gospels, when describing the abuse and scourging of Jesus, it is never described in the terms stated in these recent versions.

In favor of the earlier translations, is its alignment with Paul’s picture in both 2 Corinthians 8:9 and Philippians 2:7. It is in harmony with Paul’s description of Christ, “emptying Himself,” and how “for your sakes he became poor.” Here, Paul states that it was “for your sakes,” or “on your account,” that He became poor. The Servant of the Lord, the Messiah, allowed His natural visage and form to be marred for the sake of man.

So, how should the verse be read? Remember, we are talking about the Servant of the Lord, the Word of God, the Messiah, who always existed in Glory with His Father. The following is how I believe this verse is best understood, based upon what we have already seen.

As many were appalled and awestruck at You. His outer appearing (glory) was marred on account of man, and His beautiful form on account of the sons of men. [Wishon translation]

When you compare the Glory of His visage and the beautiful form of God in which He eternally existed with the lowly form of a human slave, it can be seen as nothing but a disfigurement. He was disfigured when He emptied Himself of His rightful Glory, and became poor, by taking upon Himself the form of a slave. He was marred by becoming poor for our sakes, so that we might receive the wealth of His Mercy and Grace.

No amount of physical abuse can compare to the marring of the glorious and beautiful form of God, which was His from eternity. This cannot be a description of the physical abuse and beatings He endured at the hands of men, as horrific as it was. It cannot be comparable to the disfiguring of His visage and form by becoming a man, even a slave, who dies a criminal’s death upon a cross.

2Jerome is said to have translated the OT from the Hebrew Masoretic Text. “The Latin Vulgate is an important manuscript because it reflects the Hebrew Masoretic Text of the Old Testament (Tanakh) in 383 AD”