The biblical authors made use of history to creatively and deliberately shape their own stories (1). We find evidence of this in the infant narratives (2), Paul’s radical conversion on the road to Damascus (3), as well as in Matthew’s gospel that presents Jesus as a new and improved Moses.
Portraying Jesus as an improved Moses suited Matthew’s aim. He not only implies that Jesus is clearly important like Moses but that Jesus also transcends Moses (4). Old Testament scholar Peter Enns identifies the following parallels showing this connection:
• Matthew presents the story of Jesus in five discreet sections, each ending with, “When Jesus had finished saying these things …” (see 7:28–29; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1–2; 26:1–2). The fivefold story of Jesus gives a “new Torah” for the people of God.
• Both Moses and Jesus escape a royal decree of mass infanticide (Moses was placed in a basket in the Nile, and Jesus was carried off to Egypt). Moses was hidden in Egypt for three months to keep him alive (Ex. 2:2) while Jesus was also hidden in Egypt to keep him alive (Mt. 2:13)
• Both return to be among their people to deliver them.
• Both endure a forty-day fast before ascending a mountain to bring to the people the law of God.
• Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (a plain in Luke 6) mimics Moses’ declaration of the law from Mount Sinai and presents Jesus as the new mountaintop mediator of God’s Word to the waiting people below.
There are further similarities:
• Moses was hated by the ruling party (Egyptians) and Jesus was hated by the ruling party (Pharisees).
• The favour of God was on Moses as an infant when pharaoh’s daughter took him out of the river and he became a prince (Ex. 2:5). Likewise, the favour of God was on Jesus whereby wise men worshipped him and presented gifts to him (Matt 2:11).
• Through Moses, God feeds thousands with bread (Ex. 16:4), and through Jesus God also supernaturally feeds thousands with bread (Mark 6:31-44; Matt. 14:13-21; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:5-15)
1. Enns, P. 2014. The Bible Tells Me So. p. 106 (Scribd ebook format).
2. Bishop, J. 2016. Matthews Creative Portrayal of Jesus in the Infancy Narratives. Available.
3. Bishop, J. 2016. Luke’s Creative Representation of the Apostle Paul. Available.
4. See Kingsbury, J. 1998. Matthew as Story. & and Allison, D. 1994. The New Moses: A Matthean Typology.