Readers of John’s Gospel are familiar with Jesus’ statement at the “time of the Feast of Dedication” (Jn 10:22)—otherwise known as Hanukkah—that he is the “Light of the World.” The Messiah declares, “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (8:12; cf. 9:5). While this declaration reminds us of God’s first creative words at creation, there is another biblical precedent for Jesus’ words. The start of Exodus echoes Genesis’ creation account to present Moses as the Light of the World.

According to Genesis, these are God’s first words to the world: “Let there be light (יהי אור; yehi ‘or)” (1:3). After speaking, “God saw the light—that it was good—and God separated between the light and between the darkness” (1:4). According to John’s Gospel, since Jesus is also the “Light of the World,” he is separated from the darkness so that anyone who follows him “will not walk in darkness” (Jn 8:12). Indeed, the separation between light and darkness at creation underscores John’s assertion at the outset of the Gospel with reference to the Word: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it” (1:5). In presenting Yeshua as the Light of the World, John alludes to the fact that the Messiah was the very first thought in God’s mind.

Yet, Jesus is not the first Jewish savior to be identified as the light of the world. In fact, the most famous birth narrative of the Torah presents Moses as the light of the world all the way back in Exodus. The Bible’s second book recalls Genesis in various ways, and its exposition of Moses’ origins is no exception. After Moses’ mother gives birth to her son, Exodus reads, “And she saw him (ותרא אתו; va’tere oto)—that he was good (כי טוב הוא; ki tov hu)—and she hid him for three months” (2:2). The Hebrew words in this verse parallel the description of God seeing the light in Genesis: “And God saw the light (וירא אלהים את האור; va’yar elohim et ha’or)—that it was good (כי טוב; ki tov)—and God separated between the light and between the darkness” (1:3). Just as God sees that the light is good, Moses’ mother sees that Moses is good. More, God separates the light from the darkness just as Jochebed “hid” (צפן; tsaphan) the child from those who sought to kill him—thereby separating the Mosaic light from the Pharaonic darkness. In John’s Gospel, Jesus recapitulates Moses as the Light of the World and alludes to the fact that, just as Moses saved his people from slavery, the Messiah will save his people from their sins.

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22 COMMENTS

  1. Wow! What a concept! So when John states that “the law was given by Moses, grace and truth came by Yeshua the Messiah”, he wasn’t contrasting them, but stating that Yeshua was on a par with Moses.

    • That’s exactly right, Harry. In fact, I almost included your point at the end of the article, so I’m glad that you commented here. Thanks for reading.

  2. Dr. Nicholas, I like this article for its different perspective . As I see it, Moses and Jesus are different because Jesus existed as God’s son before he was born. He needed to become a man or human, to save all people from sin, so they may have eternal life . Moses is not deity, but a human selected or chosen by God to lead his people out of slavery. There were other very important men and prophets that God chose to help lead, carry out His plans, and bloodlines. I do agree Moses was very special and I do believe he was very protected by God. Moses’ mother had to have special insights to aid in protection of her child to carry out God’s plans. God knows who will be born because He knows and controls the future. We all have free will. In fact Moses in Exodus Chp. 17 strikes the rock per God’s orders at Mt Horeb so water will come out. Numbers chp 20, he is told to SPEAK to the rock but he strikes the rock instead.God rebukes him for not trusting Him. It has a lot to do with totally trusting God ,doing God’s will and walking with Him daily.

    • Thanks for your comments, Judy. Agreed that Jesus and Moses are ontologically different, but they’re not as “different” as we might think — Jesus is the Word in flesh (and therefore has a unique relationship with/as God that Moses did not), but he also recapitulates Moses, who was the second “light of the world” after God’s creation of the first light in Genesis. In this way, Jesus and Moses have a complimentary and contingent relationship (cf. Jn 1:17). Thanks again for your judicious comments, and for studying with us at IBC.

  3. I disagree. Yeshua is the Son of God. He didn’t have an earthly father. He was born of a virgin. Moses wasn’t.

    • Maureen, your disagreement seems not to be with this article; the post never questions Jesus’ status as Son of God, never claims that he had an earthly father, and never challenges the virgin conception. If you are disagreeing that Exodus presents Moses as the light of the world, then you are disagreeing with the author of Exodus. When Jesus says that he’s the Light of the World, he recapitulates Moses, but this does not make Moses divine.

  4. Beware of false prophets. Moses was a man, Jesus the Christ was and is still God. Please understand the Hypostatic Union. Beware of false prophets.

    • Keith, it’s unclear as to whether you read the article before commenting; it never questions Jesus’ divinity, nor does it exalt Moses to divine status.

    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

  5. Maybe I’m stretching the point about the light, but wasn’t that the goal of all the prophets: when Israel had strayed onto dark paths, the prophet’s role was to try to show them the way back to the ‘lighted” path. Sadly, most were not too successful.

    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

    • I had a further thought concerning some of the comments here; Jews take offense that Jesus be compared equal to Moses and Christians take offense that Moses be compared equal to Jesus. Yet both stood before our Creator on Mount of Transfiguration.
      J.

      • Thanks for this comment, Jerry. Yes, the Jesus-Moses comparison seems to be drawing ire from some readers, but such comparison need not be offensive; rather, it should underscore the divine validity of Jesus’ all-encompassing work as savior and light of the world (since Moses filled similar roles beforehand), and it should strengthen the continuity of God’s salvific plan over time.

  6. Thank you for including the Hebrew and the transliteration on Let there be light. My mother said that my first word was light and that I was always pointing out all the lights.

  7. Moses may also be called light but not the light of the world.The commandments of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.…Moses was a light to deliver the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt.who is the light of the world?JESUS OR Moses.remember he said IAM not we

    • Exodus introduces Moses’ birth in the same way that God introduces light to the world (well before Moses receives God’s commandments or leads Israel out of slavery). This presentation of Moses does not diminish Jesus’ superiority in any way. According to Scripture, both Jesus and Moses are the “light of the world,” but this does not make Moses equal to Jesus either ontologically or qualitatively (see Heb 3:3).

  8. It’s not wrong to Compare one to the other. Jesus was ,is and always will be light as God and will lead His people into the light that Gives understanding for our purpose . Moses A a man was chosen to lead Israel out of the darkness of Egypt.

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