Exodus in the New Testament

Written by Seth M. Ehorn, ed. Reviewed By Mark L. Strauss

This multi-author volume is a continuation of a series on the NT use of the OT initiated by Steve Moyise and Maarten Menken. While earlier volumes were linked to the Seminar on the Use of the OT in the NT hosted annually in Hawarden, Wales, this one is independent of the Seminar.

After a preface and introduction by editor Seth Ehorn, chapter 1 by Drew Longacre, “Exodus in the Second Temple Period,” serves as an introduction to Exodus, summarizing the book’s contents, key themes, composition history, text, and reception history. Two sections on the text of Exodus get the most attention, with extensive discussion of the Hebrew and Greek texts and their transmission.

In Chapter 2, Jeannine Brown examines Exodus in Matthew’s Gospel. She arranges her chapter around Matthew’s handling of major thematic movements in Exodus, starting with key personages common to Exodus and Matthew: (1) Moses, Israel, and Jesus; (2) Exodus Redemption; (3) Wilderness and Torah; and (4) Tabernacle and Presence. While Jesus is at times typologically associated with Moses, Brown argues that this is only one layer of Matthew’s primary Israel-Jesus typology. She concludes that Matthew views Jesus as Israel’s representative who comes out of Egypt, highlighting the new exodus that brings restoration from exile and covenant renewal through Jesus’s missional death. Jesus is the authentic interpreter of Torah, who teaches a higher ethic implicit in the law (p. 47). The final scene in Matthew (28:20) brings together two key Exodus/Sinai themes: teaching (“obey everything I have commanded you”) and divine presence (“I am with you always”).

In Chaper 3 on Mark’s Gospel, Daniel M. Gurtner examines the four quotations and twenty-one allusions and verbal parallels from Exodus cited in the NA28 and UBS5. These occur in a wide range of contexts, and only a few relate to the exodus deliverance itself. Gurtner concludes that “while Mark may indeed advance a motif of an Isaianic New Exodus [as proposed by Rikki Watts] … his use of the ‘old’ Exodus does not seem to accommodate such singularity of purpose” (p. 60).

Chapter 4, by Brian J. Tabb and Steve Walton, deals with Exodus in Luke-Acts. Like other NT writers, Luke-Acts alludes to texts in Exodus for a variety of reasons. Yet “Luke and Acts also commonly draw attention to major events and themes of the Exodus narrative, including YHWH’s promises to the patriarchs, his power to save his people from slavery, his glorious presence and enduring revelation to Moses at Sinai, as well as Israel’s stubborn rebellion against God and his chosen leaders” (p. 61) For Luke the exodus is not only the paradigmatic model of God’s redemptive activity in the OT, it also points forward to the new “exodus” (9:31) deliverance accomplished by Jesus.

In Chapter 5 Andreas J. Köstenberger examines the Exodus in John’s Gospel. He focuses little on specific citations from the book of Exodus, instead tracing Moses/exodus typology, exodus events and themes, and new exodus imagery from throughout the OT. Some of these include: God’s self-revelation in the tabernacle and the giving of the law being surpassed by God’s definitive self-revelation in the Son; John the Baptist as the harbinger of the new and greater exodus led by Jesus; the depiction of Jesus as the Moses-like signs-working Messiah, providing heavenly manna; and the portrayal of Jesus as God’s ultimate Passover lamb. According to Köstenberger, the identity-defining Exodus narrative “hovers constantly in the background of John’s story” (p. 88).

Chapter 6, by David M. Westfall, examines the references to Exodus in the undisputed Pauline letters (discussing texts in Galatians, 1–2 Corinthians, and Romans). While Paul only occasionally quotes from Exodus, events that occur there, like the covenant at Sinai and the golden calf incident, play a major role in Paul’s theological reflection and examples for exhortation to his churches. Westfall concludes that “Exodus played a deeply formative role in Paul’s theological imagination, providing him with a pattern for understanding God’s new act of eschatological redemption in Israel’s Messiah and the situation of his people in the last days of the present evil age” (p. 126).

In Chapter 7 Seth Ehorn (editor of the volume as a whole) discusses allusions to the exodus tradition in the disputed Paulines (Ephesians, Colossians, Pastorals). While the theme of exodus does not play a major role in these letters, individual texts and Jewish traditions (e.g., 2 Tim 3:8–9) are utilized for encouragement and admonition.

In Chapter 8 on the book of Hebrews, David Moffitt argues that while Hebrews likely quotes explicitly from Exodus (LXX) only two times (8:5; 9:20), Exodus provides narrative elements that help to structure the main contours of the author’s argument. This is especially true in chapters 1–4, where the author’s exodus-generation metaphor serves to shape the identity of the intended audience as those who have been freed from bondage and are now in the wilderness waiting to receive their inheritance. Furthermore, Exodus provides material that influences the author’s belief in the existence of significant heavenly realities, especially the heavenly tabernacle (p. 147). As a creative theologian, the author not only draws from the exodus narrative but also feels free to adapt it for moral and theological illustration (cf. 11:23–29; 12:18–24).

Chapter 9, by Katie Marcar, examines the quotations and allusions to Exodus in the General Letters. While these vary from letter to letter, none of the letters demonstrates a systematic or sustained interest in exodus traditions. James contains only one likely quotation, in a reference to the Decalogue (James 2:11). First Peter makes the greatest use of Exodus. Yet these quotations and allusions are less about the central themes of Exodus than a part of a larger hermeneutical strategy of appropriating Israel’s scriptures and narrative for the church through Christ (p. 169). Exodus material appears only once in Jude, where the wilderness generation is one illustration of those who suffered God’s judgment because of unbelief (Jude 5).

Michelle Fletcher begins Chapter 10, on Revelation, by discussing the unique hermeneutical challenges of the book’s use of the OT. While Revelation is infused with the Hebrew Bible at every level, the OT is never explicitly quoted and Exodus themes are often mediated through earlier Jewish traditions. She proposes to read Revelation “with” Exodus rather than “for” Exodus, using Exodus to give a flavor of the complex way the Hebrew Bible resonates throughout Revelation. Some of the traditions discussed include the divine name (Rev 1:4), manna (Rev 2:17), the Lamb (Rev 5), the Son of Moses (Rev 15), and the plagues of Egypt (Rev 16).

The volume concludes with a review essay by Carmen Joy Imes, who focuses on several common themes, including the indispensability of the book of Exodus for NT theology, the complexity of Exodus traditions, and the challenges and possibilities for future work. This is followed by two case studies, one on “Jesus as a New Moses?” and the other on the source of allusion in 1 Peter 2:9.

This volume as a whole does an excellent job of surveying the scope and significance of Exodus citations and allusions throughout the NT corpus. As such it is a commendable addition to the series. The greatest challenge (and inconsistency) throughout is that while most authors survey quotations and allusions from Exodus in their respective NT books, others focus almost exclusively on exodus themes, such as God’s deliverance, the Sinaitic covenant, obedience to the law, Moses typology, etc. (see Imes’s comments with reference to Köstenberger on p. 203). Indeed, when I first saw this book I misread its title as the theme of exodus rather than the use of the book of Exodus in the NT. For my own research, I was particularly interested in the expansion and transformation of the exodus theme in Isaiah and the prophets, and how the NT writers exploit this motif.

Clearly aware of this challenge, Ehorn says in his introduction, “Following the pattern of prior books in the series . . . contributors have been allowed to work within their own preferred intertextual framework(s)” (p. 3). This, then, is less of a weakness than a necessary observation. Indeed, the diversity of approaches by these authors echoes and recalls the diverse ways the text and themes of Exodus are picked up and developed in Second Temple Judaism and among the various NT authors.

Mark L. Strauss

Mark Strauss is University Professor of New Testament at Bethel Seminary.

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