Original Research

The prophet like Moses (Dt 18:15–22): Some trajectories in the history of interpretation

Christoph W. Stenschke
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 42, No 1 | a1962 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v42i1.1962 | © 2021 Christoph W. Stenschke | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 December 2018 | Published: 30 April 2021

About the author(s)

Christoph W. Stenschke, Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies, College of Human Sciences, University of South Africa, Tshwane, South Africa


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Abstract

This article traces some of the trajectories of the Deuteronomic announcement of a ‘prophet like Moses’. After examining its meaning in the immediate context, the article first traces references to this figure in early Jewish sources. It then examines how Jesus is portrayed as the prophet of Deuteronomy 18 in the Gospels. What is meant when people ask whether Jesus could be the prophet? Would he himself identify with this figure through word and deed? What implications would such an identification have had for his contemporaries? Why does this designation only appear rarely outside of the Gospels? A further trajectory is the quotation of Deuteronomy 18:15,19 in Acts 3:22–23. What is meant by Peter’s identification of Jesus as the prophet like Moses? What does Peter link with the acceptance and rejection of this prophet? How has Luke altered the text of Deuteronomy in the application of this prediction to Jesus? The article closes with a summary and suggests implications for the understanding of early Christian rhetoric, of Israel’s response and of prophets in today’s church and society.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: This article is placed within the discipline of biblical studies and Jewish studies (for the reception history in early Judaism). An in-depth study of the reception of the Deuteronomic prophet like Moses in Acts 3, where the prediction is explicitly quoted and declared to be fulfilled in Jesus Christ, reveals how this reference functions for the Christology of Acts, its proclamation of the Gospel and its understanding of Israel. Those revering Moses must now listen to Jesus. To reject Jesus means to forfeit one’s membership in the people of God. This challenges studies which do not pay sufficient attention to this claim.


Keywords

Deuteronomy; Moses; prophecy; prophets; Gospels; Acts; Peter.

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