Jesus and Moses

In response to the questions raised by Jesus’ quotations of “Moses,” including the implications of him becoming human in a specific context: I have struggled to understand this question for a long time. For me, it boils down to the: What exactly did Jesus know and when did he know it? I cannot believe (showing my “milieu” in that comment) that Jesus, as an infant, had memorized the Torah. That being said, did he at some point gain some supernatural knowledge? If so, when did he gain it, and of what exactly did it consist? Because he obviously learned his Bible from somewhere; he quoted it extensively and engaged in formal debate on it at a pretty high level as early as the age of twelve. I assume that he had a teacher, that God didn’t just dictate it to him in his room at night (again, showing my preconceptions). So if Jesus had someone to teach him, does that mean he (at least at first) learned a specific way of interpreting and studying the Bible? And if so, does that mean that he also inherited (at least at first) a vocabulary for talking about the Bible that was already steeped in Jewish tradition.
I don’t believe, as some do, that Jesus was bound to the interpretations of his teachers, whoever they might have been. If absolutely nothing else, Jesus showed the sheer ingenuity and creativity to suggest that he could have come to some pretty amazing and insightful conclusions “all by himself” (whatever that might mean). By purely human standards, and dealing purely with his humanity, Jesus was just really smart. We do know that Jesus “emptied himself.” Does that include of supernatural insight into Scripture? His other miracles suggest that “emptying himself” doesn’t mean that he couldn’t at times do supernatural things; but do we have any reason to believe that Jesus ever jumped completely outside the Jewish way studying and reasoning and “jumped” to a supernatural conclusion? I’m just wondering; I don’t really have a good response for that.
In most passages, with the exception of John 5:45-47 and the possible exception of Luke 20:37, where Jesus quotes “Moses,” I wonder if saying “Moses” was a Jewish shorthand way of saying “the Law of Moses,” a formulation Jesus also used. In that case, he is not making a statement regarding authorship, just using a well-known way of saying “the Pentateuch.” This is supported by the fact that Jesus sometimes put “Moses” in a list with “the Prophets” and even “the Psalms.” (Luke 16:9; 24:44) In the other two passages, Luke 20:37 just shows that Moses was a character in one of the books, and not necessarily their author. John 5:45-47 does appear to assert Mosaic authorship in at least some parts of the Books of Moses, but it is unclear which parts, and it is far from clear that he means the totality of the Books of Moses.


3 Responses

  1. Jesus taught “as one with authority” and “not like the Scribes and Pharisees”. So, obviously, Jesus had something that they didn’t. Luke 2:47 tells us that when he was twelve, “Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.”
    I think that Jesus was actually unfallen–a man as Man should be–and that would allow Him to comprehend the Scriptures perfectly. This seems more like a “natural” consequence than a “supernatural” intervention.
    That being said, does that mean that Jesus knew for sure that Moses wrote the Pentateuch? No. But I do think that somewhere during His fasting and his transfiguration, Jesus could have got a supernatural download. That would explain a lot for me.

    • To latch on to your comment about the transfiguration- Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell us that Moses and Elijah were right there on the mountain with Jesus and even talking to Him— No mention of Moses and Jesus talking about clarifying Scripture… Luke does however tell us they were talking about Jesus fulfilling Scripture!

  2. We also have to keep in mind that the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus at his baptism. From that point on He was full of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1). Jesus will later teach: “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work” (John 14:10). Though Jesus was fully man, His words are the very words of God.

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