Christ’s Superiority Over Moses – Hebrews 3:1-6

Before we will get to the second passage of exhortation (3:7-4:13; also known as “warning passage”), the author of Hebrews devotes six verse to describe Jesus superiority over Moses (3:1-6).

This passage is tightly related to the previous chapters (i.e., chs. 1-2) through Jesus’ faithfulness as a high priest mentioned in 2:17-18 (Lane, 71; Davidson, 81) and also through the word  hothen (“therefore” or “for this reason” BDAG, 693-4) which looks back to the entire content of chs. 1-2.
In this section (3:1-6) the author directs the attention of his readers to the figure of Moses. He compares Moses and Jesus to show Christ’s superiority, not to show that Moses was insignificant or to minimize his role (Scott, 201; Morris, 31), but  because Moses was of utter importance to Judaism (Lane, 74) and was regarded with high esteem among Jews and the writer of Hebrews as well (cf. the emphasis on Moses’ faithfulness in these verses).
Further, “[t]he figure of Moses as the mediator of Israel’s covenant and cult is of critical importance in Hebrews” (Lane, 73) because it shows contrasts between the Mosaic era/covenant and the New as well as the contrast between the Mosaic cult and the new establishment by God through Christ. Ellingworth states that “[since] the author has demonstrated at length in chap. 1, Christ is higher than the angels, it would seem to go without saying that he is greater than Moses” (194) yet Moses was seen in first century Judaism (or at least in some of it streams) as being superior to angels (Lane, 80; Ellingworth 194) and thus the comparison of Christ and Moses “was not simply a literary exercise that enabled the writer to speak of the excellence of Jesus or to exhibit his own ex-egetical skill. … He [i.e., the writer] chose to acknowledge the faithfulness of Moses because this appears to have been a significant consideration to the men and women whom he addressed” (Lane, 79-80).
            In conclusion to this short introduction we see that it was crucial to the writer of Hebrews to demonstrate that Christ was even superior to Moses – the preeminent figure in Judaism.
A chart will clarify the similarities (cf. Guthrie, 952) and differences between these two persons:
Moses
Jesus
Faithful
Faithful
Appointed by God
Appointed by God
As Servant
As Son
In God’s Houshold
Over God’s Household (as its founder)
Let us now look briefly into this passage.
The author calls the readers “holy brothers”. This is the only appearance in the NT of this term (Gr. adelphoi hagioi). Lane comments that these “‘brothers’ are ‘holy’ because they have been consecrated to the service of God by Jesus in his priestly role as the consecrator of the people of God” (74) and thus we can see a connection to 2:11 being established. We observe further that the exalted Jesus called them “brothers” (2:11). They are sanctified (2:11) by Christ and thus to be called “holy” (cf. O’Brien, 128).
Then the author writes “you who share in a heavenly calling”. This calling can be taken as being from heaven (i.e., God who called) or a heavenwards calling (cf. Phil. 3:14). The major emphasis might not be either one, but both barring their necessary weight for the author of Hebrews. It is God who is speaking and who calls His people to Himself. The readers share in the calling of God and to God.
They are to “consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession”. Hughes observes that  a similar language is employed in 1 John 4:10 were we read “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” The latter part reads in Greek “apestalein ton huion autou hilasmon peri tōn hamartiōn hēmōn” (127, n 11; emphasis mine). Moffat takes the piston (“faithful”) of v. 2 to be the object of “consider” (41); thus the following statement would be made by the author of Hebrews: “consider Jesus (as being) faithful!” They are to consider him “faithful” (v. 2) and are to pay careful attention to the faithfulness of Jesus as just mentioned in 2:17-18 (cf. O’Brien, 129).
The “confession” is the core acknowledgement of Jesus being the Son of God (4:14; cf. Lane, 75). Hughes further maintains that this “confession” is both a creed/body of faith and a public proclamation and witness to the world (129). 
In verse 2 Christ’s faithfulness (the title “Christ” is mentioned for the first time!) is compared to the faithfulness of Moses. Moses was there “to testify to the things that were to be spoken later.” This might well refer to Christ himself (cf. John 5:46; Hughes, 136). For Moses portrayal of being a faithful servant we read in Num 12:7 “Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house” which gives the background for the comparison of the household imagery. The house in Numbers as well as Hebrews refers to the people of God (Hebr 3:6). Moses was faithful in spite of all the opposition he faced by the people (e.g. Num 11:4-6) and by his own siblings, Aaron and Miriam (Num 12:1-2).  
The author turns now to an admonition as a concluding remark of this section. First he clarifies what (or better) who God’s house is: believers themselves! Then, secondly, he states that we are God’s house only “if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” Confidence, Moffat observes, “here as in 4:16 and 10:19, 35 […] denotes the believing man’s attitude to a God whom he knows to be trustworthy” (44). This is the confidence which leads to joy in the hope of God (cf. Rom. 5:2). “Nowhere in the New Testament more than here do we find such repeated insistence on the fact that continuance in the Christian life is the test of reality” (Bruce, 94).
In harmony with Bruce, Hughes makes a crucial observation which for its worth will be quoted at length,
Like Christians in every age, they are face to face with perplexities and temptations. They are exhorted accordingly not to weaken and retire from the struggle, and reminded that only if they hold fast are they God’s “house.” … [A]n admonition of this kind [does not] conflict with the dominical and apostolic preaching that the Christian’s eternal security is dependent not on himself but on Christ and his merits alone (cf. Jn. 5:24; 6:37; 10:27-29; Acts 2:47; Rom. 11:6f.; 1 Cor. 1:26ff.; 2 Cor. 5:18ff.; Eph. 2:8-10). But it does mean that a man whose profession of faith is contradicted by the quality of his life should examine himself to see whether he is a Christian at all (2 Cor. 13:5). Security in Christ does not absolve one from personal responsibility; quite the contrary, for the regenerate man is under total obligation to God. Seriousness in believing should manifest itself in seriousness concerning doctrine and conduct. (139)
“Genuine faith is tied to perseverance” (O’Brien, 136) and we need to see that it is not crucial how we begin our Christian journey but about our faithfulness to Him who is faithful throughout our lives until the end.
Bibliography:
Davidson, A. B. The Epistle to the Hebrews. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark.
Ellingworth, P. The Epistle to the Hebrews : A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids; Carlisle England: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1993.
Guthrie, George H. “Hebrews.” Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Ed. G.K. Beale and D. A. Carson. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2007.    
Hughes, Philip Edgcumbe. A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 1977.
Lane, William L. Hebrews. 1-8. Word Biblical Commentary, v. 47A. Dallas, Tex: Word Books, 1991.
Moffat, James. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews. Edinburgh: Clark, 1948.
Morris, Leon. “Hebrews.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. With the New International Version of the Holy Bible, Hebrews–Revelation Volume 12. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, v. 12. Ed. Frank Ely Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan Pub. House, 1981.
O’Brien, Peter T. The Letter to the Hebrews. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans; 2010.
Scott, Brett R. “Jesus’ Superiority over Moses in Hebrews 3:1-6.” Bibliotheca Sacra. 155.618 (Ap-Je 1998): 201-210.
  

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