Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 2, 2019.
This week’s installment of the Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D. will feature parallels between the great Old Testament prophet Moses and Jesus Christ. Except for King David and the prophet Elijah no other figure in Judaism had as much influence as Moses. Uniquely, God privileged Moses with helping to free the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, safeguarding of the 10 Commandments, and appearance at the Transfiguration of Jesus.
Catholics read the Bible as a unity. The Old Testament prefigures the New Testament and the New fulfills the old. A primary method for studying the Bible is called typology. According to John A. Hardon, S.J. in Catholic Dictionary, “A biblical person, thing, action, or event that foreshadows new truths, new actions, or new events. A likeness must exist between the type and the archetype, but the latter is always greater. Both are independent of each other.” Moses is a quintessential Christ-like figure in the Old Testament and Jesus is viewed as the New Moses in the Gospels. We will focus on three major Jesus is the New Moses: both teach with authority, both perform miracles, and both lead people to a better life.
Sermons on High Places
I used to teach high school Old and New Testament. On the section focusing on St. Matthew’s Gospel the major theme I reiterated to my student was to focus on how Jesus is the New Moses. In fact, the evangelist arranged his gospel into five discourses as a teaching mechanism to recall the five—the Pentateuch. Traditionally, Moses is believed to have written the
Among the countless appellations given to Jesus in Scripture and Tradition, Christ as Teacher accurately describes Matthew’s version of Jesus. St. Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Exhortation Catechesi Tradendae cites from Matthew 23:8, “[Jesus] He proclaims the singularity, the uniqueness of His character as teacher: “You have one teacher,”(25) the Christ (# 8). The Jews thought of Moses as the teacher of the Law so hearing Jesus’ claim as the supreme teacher certainty shocked them.
Both Moses and Jesus preached from mountains. The former taught on Mount Sinai and the latter preached the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. While the teaching of Moses extended merely to the nation of Israel, Jesus’ Good News extended to all the nations (cf. Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus’ teaching did not abolish the law of Moses, rather perfected it. According to Pope Benedict XVI in Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, “In the Sermon on the Mount, he recapitulates and gives added depth to the commandments of the second tablet, but he does not Abolish them (p. 70). Moses received the word of God on stone tablets. Jesus is the Word of God himself!
Another similarity between Moses and Jesus are the miracles they perform. In Exodus 7:14-24 Moses turned the Nile River to blood. Jesus’ first public miracle contains transformation as well. John 2:1-12 records Christ’s turning the water into wine. Likewise, the manna provided in the desert (Exodus 16) finds a greater example in the New Testament in John 6. Jesus tells his disciples the following,
48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; 50 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.
Moses’ other famous “miracles” into sending the plagues on the Egyptians due to the obstinate heart of Pharaoh. Although ultimately saving the Israelites, these plagues devastated their enemy. Jesus’ miracles save without the destruction. He healed lepers, raised people from the dead, and calmed storms. As an instrument of God, Moses performed great miraculous feats, but as the Son of God Jesus’ miracles are greater!
Destination—The Promised Land
The final connection between Moses and Jesus centers on a destination. Living under bondage of Egyptian slavery, the Israelites initially welcomed their freedom. In Exodus 16:3 they lamented to Moses, If only we had died at the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our kettles of meat and ate our fill of bread! But you have led us into this wilderness to make this whole assembly die of famine!” Similarly, Jesus’ Victory over Death brings about the option for entering Heaven— only if we love God and neighbor entirely! Freedom from our sin, initially feels good, however, after some time, like the Israelites, begin to long for the “comforts” that sin provided!
A major difference between Moses and Jesus is that the Promised Land ultimately did not satisfy whereas Heaven will bring ultimate satisfaction. St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote, “In heaven, the soul is certain that she loves God, and that he loves her. She sees that the Lord embraces her with infinite love, and that this love will not be dissolved for all eternity.” The destination Moses’ promised was physical and limited. Our home in Heaven is eternal and everlasting!
The Catechism of the Catholic Church declares in paragraph 128,”128 The Church, as early as apostolic times,104 and then constantly in her Tradition, has illuminated the unity of the divine plan in the two Testaments through typology, which discerns in God’s works of the Old Covenant prefigurations of what he accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of his incarnate Son.” Moses prefigures Jesus in a vast amount of ways besides being a teacher of the Law, working miracles, and freeing from slavery. In the future, I hope to provide a further analysis on how Moses foreshadowing Jesus Christ. For more information about biblical typology please check out the links in the related resources section. Thank you for joining me in this installment of Why Catholic Must Have Bible A.D.D.!