Term Paper: Jesus Christ: The New Moses

Pages: 12 (4264 words)  ·  Style: Turabian  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion  ·  Buy This Paper

Jesus Christ: The New Moses in the Gospel of Matthew

In many ways, the New Testament is a thumbnail version of the Old Testament. Many of the stories and ideas that are first presented in the Old Testament recur in the New Testament. This repetition reinforces the idea that Jesus is the promised Messiah for the Jews, not simply another prophet. In other words, through Christ the stories in the Old Testament find repetition and completion in the New Testament. Therefore, one finds that many elements of Jesus' story are foreshadowed in the Old Testament.

One of the more interesting ways that the New Testament repeats themes one finds in the Old Testament is the way that it links Jesus to Moses. While many modern Christians think of Jesus as a Christian figure, it is critical to realize that Jesus' Jewishness was a very important element in the early church. It was through his Jewishness that he was connected to the culture of his time period, and by being a Jew that he could claim legitimacy as the Messiah. In many ways, Jesus plays a similar role in the New Testament to the role that Moses played in the Old Testament. Moses was the central prophet and patriarch of Judaism. Therefore, in highlighting Jesus' similarities to Moses, one can show how Jesus is not the founder of a new religion, but the continuation of a deep and established religious tradition.

Matthew's Christology

A Christology is simply a study of the teachings of Jesus. Therefore, when discussing the Christology of the Book of Matthew, one is really focusing on how Matthew's treatment of Jesus differentiates itself from other descriptions of Jesus. What quickly becomes apparent when reading Matthew, especially in comparison to the other Gospels, is that Matthew focuses on Jesus' Jewishness. In order to understand why this is critical, one must understand historical Christianity. First, historical Christianity had not yet separated from Judaism; early Christians did not identify themselves as such, instead they identified themselves as Jewish. Moreover, Jesus was strongly identified as the Jewish Messiah, particularly in Matthew. The whole reason that many people, particularly in early Christianity, chose to follow Jesus was because he fulfilled the promises of a Messiah. Therefore, Matthew's Christology focuses on Jesus' Jewishness and how Jesus embodies the Messianic promises.

The goal in the book appears to be to demonstrate how following Jesus is entirely consistent with Judaism. More importantly, Matthew focuses on the fact that, while following Jesus may seem inconsistent with Judaism as it had come to be practiced during Jesus' lifetime and the period of time immediately following Jesus, Jesus practiced Judaism as it was meant to be practiced. In other words, Jesus represented traditional Judaism. In order to do this, Matthew needed to draw parallels between Jesus and the teachings of the Old Testament. While Jesus embodied Old Testament traditions in a number of ways, one of the most meaningful parallels between Jesus and the Old Testament is how Jesus acted in many ways as a new version of Moses, acting as a mediator between God and the people and bringing law to the nation of Israel.

Portrayal of Jesus & Moses in the Gospel

One of the interesting aspects of Matthew's portrayal of Jesus is how Jesus is described as self-identifying in the Gospel. Matthew may have been concerned with establishing that Jesus was the Messiah, but Jesus was not known for consistently identifying himself those terms. Instead, Jesus frequently identifies himself as a rabbi or a teacher.

Furthermore, he is seen by others as a teacher, as well.

This is an important referent to Judaic tradition, which has always placed an emphasis on the importance of the teacher / mentor role. However, throughout the Old Testament one sees the prophet or teacher whose teachings are rejected by the people, and Jesus has his teaching rejected by many, though not all of the people he sought to teach. This helps tie Jesus to Moses. Moses has become such a well-respected patriarch that people sometimes forget about how he was initially treated in the Bible. People did not want to hear his ethical teaching, and he was subject to some rather intense rejection when he attempted to impose ethical rules.

The comparisons between Jesus and Moses are not difficult to make; after all, Jesus repeatedly compares his own teachings to Mosaic Law.

He takes pains to distinguish his teachings from Mosaic Law, but he also stresses the importance of those laws. He uses them as a starting point or building block for his own teachings. In doing so, he stresses the continuity and connection between his message and between traditional Jewish teachings.

In addition, both Jesus and Moses had no intention of being the sole teachers or rabbis. Instead, they both intended that their students take what they had learned and go out and spread the word. Moses specifically instructed Joshua to observe the commandments, thus spreading Judaism. Likewise, when Jesus knew that death was imminent, he instructed his disciples to go out into the world and spread his teachings. In a way, both men were evangelical in their approach to ministry and teaching.

Jesus as the Jewish Messiah

Jesus is so frequently referred to as the Messiah that many people fail to consider the historical and religious origins of Jesus' unique role first in Judaism. In fact, modern day Christians sometimes view Judaism and Christianity as two distinct entities, without a full recognition of the fact that, without Judaism, there would be no Christ, no Christianity, because Jesus was the Messiah that had been promised to the Jews.

The Historical Component

One of the important components of the Messiah is that he is going to be a descendant of Abraham. Therefore, Matthew focuses on Jesus' lineage, being certain to establish that he is a descendant of David. This is interesting, of course, because Jesus' lineage is not traced through Joseph, his earthly father, but through his mother, Mary, a convention that reflects Jewish tradition, though not necessarily religious law. It is important that Jesus be identified as a descendant of David, not because that would have been required of a Christian Messiah; simply being a son of God would have sufficed for that role, but because Jewish Messianic traditions predicted that the Messiah would be a descendant of David.

Jesus' Davidic heritage is very important because of the interrelated ideas of the Messiah and the kingdom of heaven. Modern Christians think of the idea of a kingdom as something heavenly, but the Jews had a tradition of actual kings and the kingdom on earth was intrinsically related to God's kingdom. Therefore, if someone was to be the promised king of kings, it would only be logical for that person to be able to trace lineage to the actual patriarchal kings of Israel. Jesus could do that because he was a descendant of David.

However, while the earthly kingdom of the Jews was connected to the spiritual kingdom of heaven, it would be wrong to suggest that there was no disconnect between the two. Jesus served as a link to bring the heavenly kingdom to the earth. One way that Matthew demonstrates Jesus' heavenly abilities is by demonstrating his abilities as a miracle worker. He is capable of doing things that are supernatural because Jesus is not strictly of the natural. Therefore, he can perform miracles, such as the routine healings and other minor miracles depicted throughout Matthew.

Perhaps the most critical association that Matthew makes between Jesus and the Old Testament is in his referrals to Isaiah 53. Isaiah 53 is often referred to as the Suffering Servant, and Matthew highlights those ways in which Jesus is reminiscent of the Suffering Servant described in Isaiah 53. Even those who are unfamiliar with the Old Testament but familiar with the idea of Jesus would find startling similarities between the Suffering Servant described in that passage, and Jesus as described throughout the Gospels, particularly in Matthew. It is in Isaiah that one first gets the notion of the Servant as the lamb of God, to be sacrificed for the sins of others. In fact, several passages in Isaiah discuss the poor treatment that this Suffering Servant will experience, and they are the same trials that Jesus endures, particularly in Matthew's Gospel. Though not by all, Jesus was despised and rejected by men, just as the Suffering Servant is in Isaiah 53:3. Moreover, Isaiah foreshadows some of how Jesus died; "he was pierced for our transgressions."

While the Suffering Servant passage in Isaiah 53 may not overtly encompass the word Messiah, it is clearly a depiction of a Messiah-type person. The descriptions of this Suffering Servant differ from actual depictions of the faithful who have suffered, like Job. Job's suffering was personal to him; he did not take on symbolic or actual suffering for a group of people. Moreover, his suffering was not globally redemptive; for the Suffering Servant, "upon him was… [END OF PREVIEW]

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