In a previous article, we looked at the Muslim claim that Muhammad was the prophet mentioned in Deuteronomy 18:18. While that article dealt with the immediate issue of the context of the passage and its immediate ramifications in relation to Muhammad, there is much more hidden within this verse. The stage is now set to examine in more detail what God meant when He said He would send a prophet like Moses. Was Moses symbolic of the Christ to come in some way, in many ways, or does he correspond to Christ in a more theologically tangible manner? What about the Muslim claim that it was Muhammad that fit the model of a prophet like Moses?
In the art of Biblical interpretation, one common error is to draw too much meaning out of corresponding passages which narrate Old and New Testament events. For example, both Jesus and Abraham visited the town of Shechem, so can we as Biblical interpreters draw conclusions from this? Of course we cannot. Both Muhammad and Moses have names starting with the letter “M”, but what ramification does this have? Rather than create a litany of commonalities that contain little to no theological significance, only actions that have remarkable allegorical or symbolic meaning should be considered.
If we consider the most substantial connection between Moses and Muhammad, it would be the fact they each brought a systematic set of laws for the respective religious adherents to follow. This assertion has more credibility given the rarity of new ethical constructs put forward by someone claiming to speak for God. While both Muhammad and Moses did this, so too Jesus also brought a new law. Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, He says “You have heard that it was said….but I say to you.” (Matthew 5:27-28) Therefore, it is within this context that the deeper examination of Moses and Jesus must occur.
In order to compare Moses to Jesus or Muhammad, let’s consider the manner in which the laws of God were ratified. It was done so via a blood covenant. Laying out a clearly prescribed set of laws was different than other gods of neighboring territories, whose intentions and expectation were unknown. The covenant that God gave to Israel was more than a well-defined list of religious and civil statutes and ordinances to uphold. Contractually, following of these statutes insured blessings for Israel, while disobedience would lead to consequences. In that most basic sense, the law of Deuteronomy is similar to that law found in the Qur’an.
However, It is the ratification of this covenant that is of primary interest for the purposes of this writing. In Exodus 24, Moses instructed for some bulls to be sacrificed as burnt offerings and then the narrative continues:
8 So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
The covenant was ratified by shedding of blood. Scripture pointed to a new covenant in the future (Jeremiah 31:31-37), but successive generations reconfirmed the covenant that was already in place. When Jesus came on the scene, he informed His disciples that he was the one who would be establishing a new covenant. The confirmation of that covenant was again done by blood, this time His own. During the last supper, Jesus said in Matthew 26:28,
for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.
In this verse, Jesus makes it known that He is establishing a new covenant, sealed with blood, just as Moses had done. By these words, He was “declaring that the covenant of Sinai now passes away in being fulfilled.” [i] Never before had a prophet been so brazen to introduce a new covenant sealed in blood. Only the coming Messiah, God Himself, could do so.
This idea of the blood covenant is so important that Christians, no matter what denomination, celebrate this new covenant when we take communion. It is one of the few religious traditions that can be found regardless of any doctrinal differences. Some churches feel communion is so important, it should be done every week. Other denominations feel communion is so precious and so serious, that months of preparation lead to a once per year Passover communion. Regardless of the method of delivery, or the frequency of occurrence, every church the world over takes time to solemnly remember this important truth; that Jesus was responsible for the new covenant sealed in blood.
So in what way did Muhammad bring a blood covenant? There is certainly nothing that I know of within Islam. So while it is true that Muhammad may have had some random commonalties with Moses, in religious traditions of gravity and consequence, Jesus stands uniquely as “the prophet like Moses.”