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Jesus Creed

Nice sermon

posted by xscot mcknight

Yesterday we were at Zion Covenant in Jamestown, NY. Brad Bergfalk, the pastor, gave what was for me a memorable sermon on the classic text from Exodus 17 on Moses raising his arms while Israel battled. His points are worth thinking about for the week:
1. Not all of our battles require conventional methods — raising one’s arms in prayer.
2. Sometimes we don’t have the strength to fight battles alone — we need others to hold us up.
3. We need physical reminders of when God prevailed in our lives — the altar Moses built.

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lukas McKnight

posted October 31, 2005 at 12:28 pm

I have restrained from posting some embarrassing pictures of Scot McKnight dancing to Billie Jean, but I, too, posted on this sermon today on my blog. Good stuff, Brad!

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Justin D

posted October 31, 2005 at 1:55 pm

Hmm. Interestingly though, the text doesn’t say Moses raised his hands _in prayer_. It’s amazing to me how our own interpretive traditions creep into our texts :)

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Scot McKnight

posted October 31, 2005 at 2:45 pm

Well, Justin, you’d be standing on that hill alone, for every ancient commentator took it to the praying of Moses — and that is why he created an altar. His prayers obtained what they sought for.

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Justin D

posted October 31, 2005 at 7:47 pm

Not true. Several commentators, but not every commentator. Some examples: have you ever looked at m.R”H 3.8; Mekhilta d’Rabbi Ishmael, Amalek 1; Ep. Bar 12.2-3; and arguably Jn 3.12-15 may also be thinking of something like the Mekhilta. (There are more)
In these cases, the reason Moses lifted his hands was so the Israelites would look to heaven and trust in God who would deliver them (of course, with a Christian twist in Ep.Bar.). No mention of prayer.
Anyhow, if you’re interested I could email you a little paper I put together on this passage a year ago for a presentation (only 3 pgs: sources plus annotations).

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Scot McKnight

posted October 31, 2005 at 8:27 pm

I looked again at Childs, and I think the tradition is clearly, even overwhelmingly, in favor of prayer — with exceptions. Sure, send me the paper at my North Park address. The concern to deny prayer is perhaps overdone, no? If the plea is to look to heaven, then they are beseeching God for protection.
What strikes me as the real alternative to prayer is the Mosaic mediatorship.

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Justin D

posted November 1, 2005 at 12:15 am

Just for clarification, I’m not denying one way or the other. I’m just pointing out that there is an ambiguity, and that different interpreters handled it in different ways. That Moses was praying is one way, that he was pointing to the heavens was another, and there are more.
Regarding Childs, I took a look at the commentary. On my reading it doesn’t seem to me that the data is overwhelmingly in favor of prayer. In his history of interp section Childs (incorrectly) associates it with Moses in the Mekhilta an m.R”H; and though he says Jews and Christians continued to see the passage as a prayer of Moses he lists multiple important alternatives to the view. That’s little data to go on, and not overwhelming IMO. Childs himself rejects the prayer interpretation, and says: “Both Jewish and Christian commentators have been quick to assume that Moses’ stance was that of prayer…However, there is no indication whatever in the text which would confirm this,” and goes on criticizing (p.314-15). His own view seems to be simply that Moses’ “hands are the instruments of mediating power, as is common throughout the ANE,” and that makes sense to me. One could add that he was raising his hands because he was praying, but again, my point (and his) is that it isn’t in the text.
I don’t know whether the concern to deny prayer is overdone–that’s at least not what I had in mind here. What I do know is that it’s just one way of interpreting a somewhat obscure text, though admittedly I would lean away from the “Moses lifted his hands in prayer” interpretation.
By the way, you might have a look at J. Kugel’s _Traditions of the Bible_, p.623-24. He has more interpretations on this text than I do.
By the way, don’t you think prayer is just another kind of Mosaic mediatorship? Or did I misunderstand you?

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Kerry Doyal

posted November 1, 2005 at 10:21 am

Scot, thanks for your consistent respect shown towards pastors and the church. Yes, I know about that “P Bic” slip. That was not the consistent you and you have modled good humility.
I am sure your referencing that pastor’s points was an encouragement to him, as when you use my article.

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