Exodus

Sinai and the Saints

IVP has just come out with a new book which could be very helpful to people trying to figure out how to understand the laws of the Old Testament, Sinai and the Saints: Reading Old Covenant Laws for the New Covenant Community by James M. Todd III.

IVP asked me to give an endorsement, and the first half of it ended up on the back cover.  So, I thought I’d include my full endorsement here, for any one who’s interested.

“Many readers of the Old Testament struggle to understand all those random, bizarre, strict, and oppressive laws.  What’s a Christian to do?  Start by reading James Todd’s Sinai and the Saints.  Todd offers his readers engaging stories, provocative insights, and a compelling interpretation that offers a way forward, one that makes sense of the Law, and helps people understand it in light of Jesus and the rest of Scripture.”

Here are the other endorsements that appeared on the back cover:

“The failure to understand the relationships of the old covenant to the new is probably one of the most important areas where Christians need good help–and they will receive good help here.”  – Peter Gentry, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“Anyone grappling with how to approach the laws of Exodus to Deuteronomy from a Christian perspective will find this book an invaluable introduction.” – T. Desmond Alexander, Union Theological College.

I hope you can check it out.

 

I’m my own grandpa: Incest in the Bible and in the Church

Today the topic of my Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy course was Incest, so of course I began class by showing the youtube clip of “I’m my own Grandpa” by Ray Stevens (below).  If you haven’t seen it, it’s hilarious (2 min, 40 sec).

There’s a lot of incest in Scripture.  Shockingly most of the main characters in the book of Genesis and Exodus were either involved in what the Law later condemned as incest or were the products of incestuous relationships–perhaps Cain, definitely Abraham, Sarah, Lot, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Tamar, Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.  If you’re not convinced, check out my table in chapter 6 of Prostitutes and Polygamists.

Incest seems funny when it involves grandpas or British royalty. However, in reality most incest today is tragic, not consensual (as it often was in Genesis and Exodus), but involving sexual abuse in families.  Tragically, incest is rampant in our culture and even in our churches.  But we don’t like to talk about it in church.

The Bible talks about incest a lot, so perhaps we should too?  It’s confusing because all of these examples of incest make it seem like it was OK.  However, in the Law (see Lev. 18, 20) God clearly condemns all forms of incest. And in many instances God declares death to fathers who exploit female members of their family. God takes incest seriously, so should the church.

Today, I asked my class, “What would you do if an elder in your church was accused of sexual abuse by his daughter?  Who would you believe?” Shockingly, these types of circumstances are not unusual.  The first thing to do would be to consult with a trained professional counselor.  I know it’s complicated, but personally, I’d be more likely to believe the daughter than the father.

What would you do if this type of situation happened in your church?

Exodus: Gods and Kings, A Review

Here’s my one sentence review — Exodus: Gods and Kings was better than expected, and less weird than Noah.

In the full review, I address two questions, 1) How’d the film deal with the gaps in the story?  2) How’d the film deal with the biblical text? To read the full review, go to BTS’s faculty blog, here.

To learn more about Exodus the book and Moses the person, check out these other posts:

Exodus: Gods and Kings: What to do when Hollywood gets the story “wrong”? (This post includes the short trailer, the longer trailer is included below.)

Is Moses a Myth? Part 1

Is Moses a Myth? Part 2

The Fourteen Commandments (there are more than ten)

The Ten Commandments Smashed a Second Time

Is Moses a Myth? Part 2

An article appeared in the Guardian last week asking if Moses was just a myth.  I got into an interesting online discussion with a few InterVarsity friends (Jon, Jesse, Tim and Dan), which led to my last blog where I discussed one problem related to this issue (no mention of the Exodus outside the Bible).  The topic of Moses is current since Exodus: Gods and Kings comes out December 12 (see trailer and my initial comments on the film here).  In this post I’ll look at a related problem.

Problem #2 Moses isn’t mentioned anywhere outside of the Bible. 

The only place we find Moses mentioned is in the Bible.  Why isn’t someone as significant as Moses mentioned in other sources, particularly Egyptian ones?

The lack of external validation for Moses is a problem, but not an insurmountable one.  Twenty years ago, we said something similar about David.  We had no external references to King David.  But then the Tel Dan Stele was discovered (1993, 1994), and it mentions “the house of David” only about 100 years after David’s death.  This inscription includes the oldest reference to Israel April 2014 1892David. (Yes, that’s me and Tel Dan Inscription from the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. “House of David” is in white, on the right.)

The biggest problem, however, with this problem is that it is an argument from silence, a type of argument which you probably already know is notoriously weak.  We may never find external validation for Moses outside of the Bible like we did for David, but that doesn’t prove anything.

Mark Chavalas in his article on “Moses” in IVP’s Dictionary of the OT Pentateuch makes many good points about the historical plausibility of Moses.  These aren’t proofs, just points that show the historicity of Moses is plausible.  I’ll mention three.

First, we know from Egyptian sources that many Semites lived in Egypt during this period of time (Israelites were Semites), and some of them were prisoners of war.  On the tomb of Rekhmire we even see laborers making bricks (Exo. 5).  There appeared to be thousands of Asiatics in the Delta region (where Goshen was), very possibly working on nearby construction projects.

Second, there are numerous Egyptian papyri and other sources that mention people named Mose during the period of Ramesses.  Now, don’t get too excited about this.  These almost certainly aren’t references to the biblical Moses, just to the fact that Moses was a name that people used during this period.  Probably not as common as Dave is today, but you get the idea.

Three, we find evidence for Egyptian monarchs importing princes from other lands to be trained, a bit like Moses (or Daniel).  The Amarna Letters describe this practice.  Moses could have been raised in a household that included other non-Egyptians like himself.  While the films The Ten Commandments and The Prince of Egypt make it appear that Pharaoh only had two sons (Ramesses and Moses), most ancient royal households had at least dozens—lots of wives, lots of sons.

We do have one ancient source that mentions Moses a lot.  The Bible.

Now, some scholars say we should ignore the biblical record because they claim it’s biased.  Yes, it is biased, but so is everything else, including the scholars and the archaeologists.  Just because something has a bias doesn’t mean it can be used on some level to substantiate history.  Despite the claims of scholars like Davies who I mentioned in Part 1, a lot of biblical scholars (not just evangelicals) think Moses could have been real.  But those scholars don’t make headlines with their quotes (“Moses Was Real!”—doesn’t seem newsworthy), and they don’t make it onto the Discovery Channel.

I think Moses was real.  That’s my bias.