[Luke 18:18-20 NLT] (18) Once a religious leader asked Jesus this question: "Good Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?" (19) "Why do you call me good?" Jesus asked him. "Only God is truly good. (20) But to answer your question, you know the commandments: 'You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. Honor your father and mother.'..."

I notice that when Moses was born, his mother saw that he was good (TOV):

JPS Ex 2:2 The woman conceived and bore a son, and [when] she saw him that he was good, she hid him for three months.

It seems that to call Jesus "good teacher" could be taken to put him on par, if only in esteem (?), with Moses.

Rashi comments on the passage in Exodus:

that he was good: When he was born, the entire house was filled with light. [From Sotah 12a, Exod. Rabbah 1:20]

Yet rather than being flattered, Jesus shakes off the compliment and simultaneously makes clear that Moses was a sinner and simply to know the law does not make one righteous.

Is Jesus alluding to Moses and disabusing this ruler of any idealization going on in his mind about him and the Torah's ability to make one righteous?

Related: https://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/100952/in-exodus-22-why-is-the-baby-moses-described-as-tov

  • 1
    טוֹב Strong 2896 is a question of 'pleasant' or 'agreeable' - 'good' only in the sense of 'goodly' - not morally good or righteously good.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 18, 2019 at 21:43
  • @NigelJ Actually, טיב means 'good' as in moral good: as in "the knowledge of good and evil" (הדעת טוב ורע h'addah tov wara). Mar 18, 2019 at 22:13
  • I think both "good and evil" at least do double duty as "beneficial and harmful", but I'm not sure. Good info here: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/100952/…
    – Ruminator
    Mar 18, 2019 at 22:18
  • @SolaGratia 'Good' and 'evil' are not the same as 'right' and 'wrong'.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 18, 2019 at 22:21
  • 1
    'Right' and 'wrong' are simply species of the genera 'good' and 'evil.' Cf. Gn. 44:4-5: "Why have you repaid evil [רע] for good [טוב]? Why did you steal .. etc.?" Mar 18, 2019 at 22:29

2 Answers 2


I don't see how a child of three months can be called 'good' in a moral sense. The Septuagint, in Exodus 2:2, Luke in Acts 7:20 and the writer to Hebrews, in 11:23, all use the Greek word αστειος, asteios, to translate the Hebrew towb.

I am advised that asteios is derived from αστυ, astu, 'the city', and the usual renderings are urbane, civilised or similar. Perhaps 'sociable' is the meaning or 'amenable' (when applied to a three month old baby).

It is written that :

the man, Moses, was very meek, above all the men upon the face of the earth, Numbers 12:3 KJV.

So the description of him as a baby - sociable, amenable - is a matter of disposition of personality, not a matter of righteous morality. And this disposition is still visible in the man when he is aged.

I would suggest that the word applied to Moses when he was a baby is a matter of natural, inherited composure and amenable sociability to other human beings. Pleasant as this is, it is not a matter of righteous goodness.

Had the scripture wished to convey that, there are many other Hebrew words that might have been used and I think we should be guided by the Septuagint and the apostolic writers as to the shade of meaning applicable in this particular context.

  • We do have Moses said to be "the meekest (most amenable?) of men" so that seems to me to be a suggestion with significant support. Thanks! +1
    – Ruminator
    Mar 27, 2019 at 18:33

A couple comments:

“Why callest thou Me good?” said Christ, “there is none good but One, that is, God.” Jesus desired to test the ruler's sincerity, and to draw from him the way in which he regarded Him as good. Did he realize that the One to whom he was speaking was the Son of God? What was the true sentiment of his heart?

-- Desire of Ages, pg 518

The ruler had addressed Christ merely as an honored rabbi, not discerning in Him the Son of God. The Saviour said, “Why callest thou Me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.” On what ground do you call Me good? God is the one good. If you recognize Me as such, you must receive Me as His Son and representative.

-- Christ's Object Lessons, pg 390

I am in agreement with the sentiments above. Christ is not alluding to Moses, but drawing out a confession of Christ's divinity from the young ruler.

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