Last semester I wrote a paper Jesus as the New Moses in Matthew. One of the resources that came up during my search was James McGrath‘s John’s Apologetic Christology. Since it had more to do with Jesus and Moses in John, I didn’t pay much attention to it.

As I was looking at potential topics for the MA thesis, I put down Johannine Christology as one. Now that Johannine Christology has made it to the final round, I decided to do some reading on it. The potential advisor I sought for this topic pointed me to agent Christology in John. I found that McGrath has a great chapter on that titled “God’s equal or God’s agent,” taken from John 5.

As I have always had an interest in John’s prologue, I decided to read McGrath on the prologue in the section dealing with Jesus and Moses. This quote I found particularly interesting:

John appears to have in mind here in the prologue the Exodus/Sinai traditions in the Jewish Scriptures. Just as in John 3 it is denied that Moses ascended, so here it is denied that Moses actually saw God: Moses, it is implied, saw the Logos, the one who alone can see God.1

McGrath there points out from this text something I was completely oblivious to, even though I’ve heard and read plenty of times that Moses did not actually see God. The idea that it was the Logos that interacted with Moses accords well with what the early Christian writer Justin Martyr wrote:

The Jews, accordingly, being throughout of opinion that it was the Father of the universe who spake to Moses, though He who spake to him was indeed the Son of God, who is called both Angel and Apostle, are justly charged, both by the Spirit of prophecy and by Christ Himself, with knowing neither the Father nor the Son. For they who affirm that the Son is the Father, are proved neither to have become acquainted with the Father, nor to know that the Father of the universe has a Son; who also, being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God.2

McGrath continues:

The difference between Jesus and Moses is thus one of kind rather than degree: the Word spoke to Moses, but became Jesus. Or to paraphrase Johannine terminology, the Word gave revelation through Moses, but appeared on the scene of human history as the human being Jesus. John is thus using traditional Wisdom categories, but has identified Jesus and Wisdom more fully and completely than any other before him, thus altering in subtle but extremely important ways his understanding of Jesus.3

Jesus is superior to Moses because Jesus is God’s Wisdom. This Wisdom is personified as an attribute of God but yet distinct from God (Proverbs 8). It seems that for John, the Logos was one that was distinct from God but also God. With these considerations, it is hard to see how the creeds and the doctrine of the Trinity could not be derived from Scripture.


1 James F. McGrath, John’s Apologetic Christology: Legitimation and Development in Johannine Christology (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 156.[Back]

2 Justin Martyr, First Apology, chapter 63, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers 1, (accessed January 24, 2010).[Back]

3 McGrath, 156.[Back]