Reverberations of Exodus

Reverberations of Exodus July 15, 2014

Intertextuality is a buzz word in contemporary biblical scholarship. In New Testament studies, the impetus has come not only from literary critical approaches but from the “New Perspective on Paul,” whose main advocate, EP Sanders, encouraged the study of Pauline echoes and allusions to the Hebrew Scriptures and contemporary Jewish writing.

But there’s more to mine, argues Michael Fox, in the editorial introduction to Reverberations of Exodus in Scripture. In particular, as Michael Fishbane discovered some years ago, there are intertextual echoes and re-echoes throughout the Hebrew Bible. By the time we get to the New Testament, Old Testament events have been imagined and reimagined, acted and re-enacted, repeatedly. 

Fox’s book focuses on one Old Testament pattern: the exodus. Half of the essays examine the reverberating exodus in the Old Testament, and half extend the typology into the new.

The results, as is usually the case with essay collections, are uneven. Helene Dallaire and Denise Morris’s study of exodus motifs in Joshua is thorough and persuasive. Daniel Estes is a good listener to the echoes of exodus in the sufferings and deliverances of the Psalmist. Nevada Levi DeLapp’s essay on Ezekiel as new Moses is among the best in the book, highlighting the inversion of roles in the prophet: Israel comes to play “the part of Pharaoh or Egypt” (69), as Yahweh threatens to bring Egyptian plagues and punishments on Judah (69, fn 54). Other essays are less successful: Joshua Mann’s analysis on Luke/Acts ends up saying little about the biblical text as it rummages through recent scholarship. With several essays, I found myself saying “Yes, but there’s so much more” as the essay came to a close.

Beyond that, another overall reaction: For all their interest in inter-textuality, the authors tend to work with fairly isolated texts. On the one side is the exodus, and on the other is Joshua or Ezra-Nehemiah or John’s gospel. 

What they miss is the cumulative inter-textuality of the Bible. If Joshua and Ezekiel are new Moseses who enact, somehow, new exoduses, then the New Testament allusions and echoes to exodus should reverberate across the whole. When Jesus leads an exodus, he should be understood not just as new Moses but as new Moses-Joshua-Ezra-Ezekiel. By the time we get to the New Testament, exodus doesn’t strike a single note or an octave but a chord that reverberates, sometimes discordantly, throughout the Scriptures from the end to the beginning.

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