Hebrews 3 – Jesus is Superior to Moses

The writer began by proving that Jesus is superior to the angels in chapters 1-2, and not who will show that Jesus is superior to Moses.  Why move from angels to Moses? For most modern readers, angels are superior to humans, so if Jesus is superior to angels, he would obviously be superior to Moses as well.

But it is important to read this argument in the context of first century Jewish Christianity.  For Jews living in the Second Temple period, Moses was the most significant person in salvation history. In Sirach (about 200 B.C.), Moses is described as equal to the “holy ones” or even God himself (as the Hebrew text of Sirach can be translated):

Sirach 45:1-2 …and was beloved by God and people, Moses, whose memory is blessed. He made him equal in glory to the holy ones, and made him great, to the terror of his enemies.

In addition, messianic hopes in the first century sometimes focused on the coming of a prophet like Moses. Hope for a “return of Moses” as messiah was so strong that at least one messianic pretender stopped the Jordan in a re-enactment of the crossing of the Red Sea. Matthew’s gospel is designed to highlight Jesus as a new Moses who goes up on the mountain and gives the people the Law–the Sermon on the Mount!

One might have offered a counter argument to the first two chapters of Hebrews: Jesus might be superior to the angels, but the ultimate servant of God was Moses, who gave the Law.  In the context of the first century, then, our author will argue that Jesus is a superior to even Moses as a servant of God.  Ultimately, this will lead to the conclusion that the covenant which Jesus made (the New Covenant) is superior to that of the Old Covenant made by Moses.  In verse two Moses is compared to Jesus, then he is subordinated to Jesus (verse 3) and by verse 5 he is contrasted to Jesus, negatively.

Moses and JesusThe author of Hebrews makes a “lesser to greater” type of argument. If Moses was faithful in God’s household in the previous age, how is Jesus be superior to him in the present age? First, Jesus is superior because he is the builder of the house.  Here the writer is making the point that Jesus is God, and because God is the designer of the administration that Moses presided over, he is therefore superior to him.

Second, Moses is a servant of the house, but Jesus is the son of the Builder, and therefore heir to the administration himself.  He is of a different class that Moses, beyond servant.  This takes into consideration the first argument of the book, that the angels were servants, but Jesus is the son.  Moses is a servant, but the word here is unique in the New Testament to Moses.  It is not a slave, but an “attendant,” one who “renders devoted service” (BDAG). The LXX uses the word for Moses in Num 12:7 (as well as Exod 4:10 and 14:31).

Moses was a servant of the first class, but he is still a servant of Jesus, and therefore subordinate to him.  What else in Hebrews 3 shows Jesus as superior to Moses?

5 thoughts on “Hebrews 3 – Jesus is Superior to Moses

  1. I think it significant to talk about the fact that where Moses is the house, Jesus is the builder of the house. Jobes points out that the writer of Hebrews uses the word “‘house’ [as a] metaphor for God’s people” (pg. 94). Therefore, it seems that the writer is making the argument that while Moses was a part (a very MAJOR part) of the “house” of Israel, Jesus made the house. Jesus was “the builder” (Hebrews 3:3) of the house, equating him with God, who is the “builder of everything” (vs. 4). It’s kind of a weird way to make a statement about Christ’s divinity, but it is significant to understand how the writer of Hebrews thought about Jesus. It’s important to know that the writer not only thought of Jesus as greater than Moses, but also could see that he was, in fact, God.

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  2. Both Jobes and the author of Hebrews seem to realize that while Moses is perhaps the greatest servant of the house of God, with the house of God being the Israelites. They both believe that without Jesus there is no house at all, without him the Israelite’s would not be Gods chosen people and therefore Moses would have nothing to serve, so just by being a servant of the house, no matter how great, Moses is showing that there must be a creator (Jesus) and that the creator is greater than himself.

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  3. According to the NIV, Moses was a faithful servant in all of God’s house. Whilst Jesus was faithful as the son over God’s house. I think that just the stating that Jesus was the faithful son over God’s house, showed that he is more superior than Moses ever was. Moses was a servant in God’s house.

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  4. It would be prudent to note how Israel still fell short under the direction of Moses as discussed in class (Long 35). Even though Moses had incredible personal experiences with God and acted as a mediator between Israel and God, the Nation still complained and quarreled amongst itself. Israel’s horrible time in the desert was eventually replaced by “rest” upon entering the Promised Land, but not under Moses’ leadership, rather Joshua’s. However, it is through Jesus’ personal sacrifice on the Cross that not only gives Israel, but the rest of mankind “ultimate rest” in the assurance of Salvation and a personal relationship with God that demonstrates Jesus being greater than Moses himself.

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  5. Surprising as it may be, I have never really realized the similarities between Moses and Jesus. Obviously, I know who they both are and what they did, but I never really put the idea of the possible question of who is greater. Looking into this, I can now see why some, especially the early Jewish Christians, would wonder who was greater. After all, Moses parted the red Sea, gave the Law, led the people out of slavery, etc. Jesus, on the other hand, is God in human form, who walked on water, performed miracles, died for our sins, and rose again. We know that these things make Jesus superior to Moses.
    The writer of Hebrews directly states that Jesus has been worthy of greater honor than Moses because Jesus is the Son of God, though both were faithful. He also used the “builder” analogy to show his point. And at the end of the chapter, the writer reminds believers to keep the faith, because like Moses led God’s people out of slavery, Jesus has given us the chance of salvation- but only if we believe.

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