You know, saying that the New Testament trumps the Old Testament is just another way of saying that Jesus is more authoritative than Moses, which is spelled out quite explicitly in the letter to the Hebrews. Consider these verses:
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. (Hebrews 1:1-2)
Jesus has been found worthy of greater honour than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honour than the house itself. (Hebrews 3:3)
Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, testifying to what would be said in the future. But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house (Hebrews 3:5-6)
So when it comes to questions about war, or leadership, or tithing or economics, who’s teaching takes priority?
6 thoughts on “Jesus more authoritative than Moses”
have done a lot of reflecting on this and it is a big chalenge to our view of the bible being “Authoritative”
i like Tom Wrights idea that it is God behind the scripture that gives it authority…. thoughts?
Oh, absolutely. It can only be authoritative if its “inSpired” in the literal sense of the word. The question is, was Jesus more inspired than Moses? The answer should have some bearing on how we read scripture.
I’m surprised that so many (especially some scholars I’ve read of late – but this is the internet) seem to miss the point of the OT entirely, particularly the area of law.
I thought Jesus spelled it out succinctly when he used divorce as an example (Mark 10:5).
Now some I read say that the law was given by Moses, some say by God but I think both miss the intention – it was for the hard of heart.
Most read the OT law and think – wow it’s harsh – allowing people to beat slaves, allowing people retribution through eye for an eye, that sort of thing.
What they miss is that these people were newly freed, no rules, no masters. So God offered them a contract which would provide a system of governance and a way for them to live. Then when they accepted this, he provided the law not to mandate or encourage abuse, but to limit it.
Whether Moses was the author, or God inspired, the law was there for a people who were hard of heart, and we can speculate they would likely have deviated into savagery if not for a rule of law that limited such things.
It is just like the 70mph speed limit on the motorway. It’s all very well driving at that legal limit, but in fog or heavy rain there are still idiots who drive at this speed- clearly not the intention.
It is for this reason that Jesus said he did not come to abolish the law, but at the same time the law does not make one perfect.
The Holy Spirit is supposed to see to it that we don’t just obey the law (70mph at all times) but we are sensitive and humble enough to go beyond the legal requirements (drive responsibly, courteously) and obey the law of our hearts as well.
So in answer to your post Matt, I think the NT actually demands more from the believer, than the OT. Where the law sets a bare minimum standard we should live by, the Spirit dwelling within pushes us to exceed that limit. Where the law specifies our rights and compensations, the Spirit urges us not to pursue those rights or seek compensation.
In the light of the NT, we actually see the OT law as far below God’s perfect standard – and so all those sacrifices offered did not make one jot of difference because the people were still not righteous enough. Even someone who had obeyed all the law and not broken one command would not have been made righteous. Instead, righteousness came because of actions. Righteousness came from doing what God wanted, not simply what he ordered.
Personally, I have come to the conclusion that God often asked people and prophets to carry out his judgement, because he wanted them to intercede and beg for mercy for the transgressor.
There is more than enough evidence for this when you look at Abraham’s intercession for Sodom, Moses’ intercession for Israel, Hezekiah’s plea for mercy. In some cases God actively instructed his prophets to intercede even when they didn’t want to (Jonah and Nineveh) and finally Jesus modelled this for us in his intercession for his persecutors.
This is what I think the OT teaches.
Yes, its the same with tithing. In the Old Testament God instructed the Israelites to give a tenth. In the New Testament God says, you know, you’re blessed when you’re inspired to go way beyond that.
Your comments highlight why it is so important to understand the context of the Old Testament writings. The Old Testament injunctions against worshipping other gods may seem excessively harsh to us. But when its realised that one of the things the prophets were stamping out was child sacrifice that does put a different spin on things. Context is so important.
I think that there is a continuity and a discontiniuity between the testaments. Something like tithing can be Biblical, but not necessarily Christian.
Rob Bell writes that the decalogue was given to the Israelites as a means by which they would become more human again after 300 years of being slaves.
Something can be Biblical, but not necessarily Christian. Yes, that’s it exactly. Nice way of putting it. It’s not enough to be Biblical, we must aspire to be Christ-like, which is of course only possible as we fix our eyes on Christ and surrender to his Spirit.
If we said there was complete discontinuity between the Old Testament and Jesus we’d be Gnostics. But if we said the Old Testament is unchanged by Jesus we’d be Judaizers. There is no way of “balancing” the teaching of the New Testament against the Old Testament without diminishing the significance of Jesus. An authentically Christian interpretation of scripture must begin with the Christian scriptures of the New Testament. The scriptures of Moses are important, but they’re less than fully revelatory.