According to Hebrews, “Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses” (3:3). Some have interpreted this to mean that Jesus supersedes Moses, and that the new covenant of Christ replaces the Mosaic covenant. From this Christian perspective, Moses and the narrative that bears his name (Genesis—Deuteronomy) have been superseded by Jesus and the New Testament. However, this conclusion oversteps the bounds of Hebrews’ comparison between Jesus and Moses. For the author of Hebrews, Jesus has “more glory” than Moses, but this conviction does not devalue Moses or the first five books of the Bible.

Hebrews says that Jesus was “faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all [God’s] house” (3:2). The epistle uses Moses as a template of faith for Yeshua to follow, since “Moses was faithful in (ἐν; en) all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later” (3:5). Whereas Moses was a faithful servant in the divine household, “Messiah is faithful over (ἐπὶ; epi) his house as a son” (3:6). Hebrews commends Moses’ faith, but also views Jesus as superior to Moses.

Hebrews’ claim that Jesus holds a higher position than Moses should not be surprising. Indeed, it would be exceedingly odd for Jews who believed they had identified the Messiah not to deem him superior to Moses—and everyone else, for that matter! This Jewish understanding of the Messiah is summarized in the medieval rabbinic text Yalkut Shimoni, which offers a glorified view of the Messiah based on Isaiah 52:13—“Behold, my servant will act wisely. He will be high, and lifted up, and highly exalted.” According to the midrash, this means that the “Messiah will be higher than Abraham… more lifted up than Moses… and more exalted than the ministering angels” (2.338). This interpretation of Isaiah exalts the Messiah, but it does not abolish Abraham, malign Moses, or eliminate the angels.

For the writer of Hebrews, Jesus’ surpassing glory does not relinquish Moses of his own glory. The fact that “Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory (δόξα; doxa) than Moses” (Heb 3:3) assumes the ongoing glory of Moses—the comparison is not a zero-sum game. The rabbinic midrash Leviticus Rabbah (c. 5th century CE) offers a helpful parallel to Hebrews. In a comparison between Moses and Aaron, the rabbis assert that God “placed the glory of Aaron (כבודו שׁל אהרון; kavodo shel Aharon) before the glory of Moses, since it is written, ‘These are the generations of Aaron and Moses’ [Num 3:1]. ‘Moses and Aaron’ is not written, but rather ‘Aaron and Moses’” (Leviticus Rabbah 33:4). The midrash concludes that, in this case, Aaron is worthy of more honor than Moses, but the rabbis would never dream of defaming Moses or discarding Scripture’s first five books. Thus, Hebrews’ notion that Jesus would be worthy of the greatest glory can (and should) coexist with the utmost respect for Moses and his narrative in the Torah. In other words, for Christians, Moses still matters.

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19 COMMENTS

  1. Beautiful wordsmithing, Rabbi Nico (lol). You have the gift of unpacking complex issues using the simplest English. I really thank you for this skill and talent. May God continue to bless you, Dr Eli and the entire IBC family.
  2. Well said! Unfortunately, some believers end up bifurcating the Word of God by wrongly thinking that the New Testament supersedes the Older Testament when actually they together form the whole counsel of God, and the Greek scriptures show God's fulfillment of the Hebrew scriptures through progressive revelation.
  3. A most excellent, clarifying, relevant treatment of weighty details which have broad implications. Thank you for 'glorifying The Almighty' with your works of excellence!
    • Lovely comments, but on the contrary ! Jesus is more than son of God. Is the manifestation of God's glory in human form. So, base on this you would be wrong if you are saying his glory is not above Moses. Base on new testament, is the fulfilment of old
  4. God bless you for good explanations of Jewish history but you need to learn about Jesus Christ / Yeshua Hamashicah as our Lord and Savior which only man forgives all sins that we commit Bruce
  5. You have unpacked this so well as always. I believe that the New Testament is concealed in the Old Testament whilst the New Testament reveals the Old Testament. Thank you for empowering us with lessons that are so much needed in our lives.
  6. Haven't you red that there's one who report you to the father even Moses. Jesus said he had not come to condemned anyone but to give life because he his the life of all men. Old testament is the shadow of the new and Jesus gave us the clearer picture of what has been lost from the bingining
  7. Jesus was a scam created by the early Christian priesthood to try to take over the remaining belief in Temple Sacrifices. NONE of the documentation for the life and words of Jesus has any contemporary validity and the concept was poorly redacted so that the unmarried Mary became a "virgin"
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