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Yahweh and Moses in Conflict

The Role of Exodus 4:24-26 in the Book of Exodus


John T. Willis

The interpretation of Exodus 4:24-26 is very controversial. Scholars have treated this text from various viewpoints on the basis of divergent methods or approaches. Two fundamental problems cause uncertainty about the origin and meaning of this text. One problem has to do with the nature of Exod 4:24-26. Another problem is the identity of the persons mentioned in Exod 4:24-26. This book arranges forty-two documented interpretations under each approach or approaches, presenting the view of each scholar proposing his/her interpretation of Exodus 4:24-26 in chronological order. The author presents his own view in the concluding chapter, essentially adopting a redactional, canonical, narrative, rhetorical methodology.


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Chapter II – Early Christian Views 25


Chapter II Early Christian Views From the general perspective of attempting to interpret a biblical text, the normal early Christian treatment of biblical passages is strange and un- convincing. Various early Church Fathers differ significantly between their own positions. Contributors range from Asia, Egypt, North Africa, and Europe from the 2nd to the 4th centuries C.E. The exegesis of the Antiochian School is grammatical and historical, but does disregard the spiritual sense and the divine element in Scripture. Contrariwise, Origen and his associates of the Alexandrian School advanced a threefold un- derstanding of Scripture: (a) a somatic, literal, or historical sense; (b) a psychic or moral sense; and (c) a pneumatic or mystic and ideal sense. W. Walker’s comment: ‘This allegorical system enabled Origen to read practically what he wished into the Scriptures,’1 represents a widespread assessment of most early Christian writers. Extant applications or usages of Exod 4:24-26 demonstrate the diverse treatment of this passage among these thinkers.2 3. Circumcision for Jews Only The Epistle of Barnabas (90-100 C. E.) 9:4 says that in Exod 4:24-26, the angel attacked Moses, and this led to the circumcision of Moses’ son. Barnabas propagates a circumcision-free Jewish Christianity. Barnabas 9 opposes false Jewish trust in circumcision. Barn 9:4 argues that since idolatrous non-Jews are circumcised (cf. Jer 9:24-25), physical circumci- 1 W. Walker, A History of the Christian Church (New York: Scribner’s, 1952) 81. 2 P. Schaff, History of the Christian Church (Volume 2: Ante-Nicene Christianity;...

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