The New Torah and Jesus as the new Moses and the new Joshua
PhotoCredit_KUL Heschel Center
Realizing the importance of the Pentateuch to Judaism, Matthew included in his Gospel Jesus’ five great discourses. They correspond to five turning points in the history of the Chosen People. The good news of salvation becomes the new Torah (Pentateuch), while Jesus becomes the new Moses, says Bible scholar Fr. Prof. Dr Hab. Mariusz Rosik in a commentary for the Heschel Center of the Catholic University of Lublin.
In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus as the new Moses brings to people a new Law – the Good News about the Kingdom of Heaven. “The very idea of the five discourses has its profound significance: the good news of salvation becomes the new Torah, the Pentateuch, while Jesus becomes the new Moses – the Law Giver”, stresses Fr. Prof. Mariusz Rosik.
Not only is Christ the new Moses, but also the new Joshua, as similarities between the two abound. “Like Joshua, who dispatched the twelve generations of Israel across the Promised Land, Jesus, the new Joshua, sends His twelve apostles to proclaim the Good News and thus to pave the way to the new Promised Land – the Kingdom of God”, indicates the Bible scholar. Moreover, “in Hebrew the name Joshua is exactly the same name as Jesus”.
The full text of the commentary follows:
Fully realising the importance of the Pentateuch for the Jews, Matthew structures his Gospel to include Jesus’ five great discourses. The very idea of these five speeches has its profound meaning: the good news of salvation becomes the new Torah (Pentateuch), while Jesus becomes the new Moses – the Law Giver. While the first Law was brought by Moses, who received it from Yahweh in the Sinai Theophany, the new Law is revealed by Jesus.
Jesus’ discourses presented in the Gospel according to Matthew include, in succession: the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7), the Missionary Discourse (Mt 10), the Parabolic Discourse (Mt 13), the Discourse on the Church (Mt 18), and the Discourse on End Times (Mt 23-25). Jesus’ five consecutive discourses correspond to five stages or watershed moments in the history of the Chosen People.
Jesus ascending the mountain (Mt 5:1) and reciting the commandment to love God and one’s neighbour, extending to the love of enemies (Mt 5:43-45), is reminiscent of Moses on Mount Sinai bringing the Decalogue to the waiting Israelites. The selection and dispatch of the Twelve for missions to Galilee (Mt 10:1-10), with a clear indication to exclude Gentiles (Mt 10:5), alludes to Joshua’s conquest of Canaan, precisely from Galilee. The number of apostles undoubtedly refers in this case to the twelve tribes settling the Promised Land.
The central Parabolic Discourse (Mt 13), with the Kingdom of Heaven as its principal subject, can be likened by the listeners (and readers of Matthew’s text) with the golden age of the Israelite Kingdom, i.e. the reign of David and Solomon. The small number of exiles who returned to Jerusalem after the edict of Cyrus (539 B.C.), forming a new community gathered around the common cause of rebuilding the temple, may be a situation related to the formation of the community of the Church, in which life is regulated by the principles shown in the Ecclesiological Speech (Matthew 18). The last two centuries before the coming of Christ were marked in the culture of Israel by the appearance of apocalyptic literature.
The verses of today’s Gospel come from Jesus’ missionary speech, which means that Jesus is also the new Joshua. Besides, in Hebrew the name Joshua is exactly the same name as Jesus. Like Joshua, who dispatched the twelve generations of Israel across the Promised Land, Jesus, the new Joshua, sends His twelve apostles to proclaim the Good News and thus to pave the way to the new Promised Land – the Kingdom of God. The Israelites had to fight many battles before they settled in Canaan for good. Similarly, Jesus’ disciples will be persecuted, but need not fear those who kill the body. God has dominion over time and history and even all the hairs of our head are counted.
About the Author:
Fr. Prof. Dr Hab. Mariusz Rosik – Bible scholar, professor of Theology, director and researcher of the Biblical Sciences Institute of the Pontifical Faculty of Theology in Wrocław. He specializes in New Testament theology, exegesis of the Synoptic Gospels and ancient Jewish history. An author of numerous academic, general interest and pastoral publications. www.mariuszrosik.pl www.lumenvitae.pl