If you've been following a lot of the New Testament scholarship you're aware of the wealth of insights pouring in over the last few decades regarding New Exodus perspectives on the life and teachings of Jesus. I want to share something along these lines from the new book by Brant Pitre Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist. But before doing that in the next post, I thought I'd use a post to summarize some of the New Exodus ideas.
To start, what were the Jews expecting of the Messiah?
If you quizzed people in your church about that question my guess is that the #1 answer would be that the Messiah would lead a popular revolt to eject the Romans and restore the Davidic kingdom. To be sure, this was a part of the constellation of ideas surrounding the concept of Messiah. But the expectations regarding the Messiah were actually much richer and broader, more inclusive and even cosmic in scale.
One of the notions that captures this richer vision was the expectation that the Messiah would be a Second Moses. Moses himself predicted that a Second Moses would come with the expectation of a New Exodus. Consequently, many of the Second Temple Jews believed the Messiah to be the fulfillment of this prophecy:
Deuteronomy 18:15-18As a Second Moses leading a New Exodus the expectation was that there also would be a second giving of the Law. A New Law and New Covenant. More, this New Law would be written on hearts rather than on tablets of stone:
The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”
The LORD said to me: “What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.
Jeremiah 31:31-33In addition, there would be a New Temple. We need to recall that a lot of the Second Temple Jews thought that the rebuilt temple was a bit of a sham. You'll likely remember that when the old-timers saw the Second Temple they wept, for it was only a shadow of its former glory. We should also remember that after the destruction of Solomon's temple the artifacts in the Holy of Holies (like the Ark of the Covenant) were carted off never to be seen or heard from again (until Indiana Jones found them). So in the time of Jesus the Holy of Holies was empty, suggesting that the Shekhinah of God had not returned to dwell among the people. So God was absent. The people were still in exile, despite being back in their homeland. Thus, the expectation was that the Second Moses, who built the tabernacle, the first dwelling for God's Shekhinah, would repeat this feat, building a New Temple that would bring God's dwelling back to earth.
“The days are coming,” declares the LORD,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,”
declares the LORD.
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the LORD.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people."
Ezekiel 37:25-28Even more, in addition to a New Law/Covenant and a New Tabernacle/Temple, the Second Moses would bring the people to a New Promised Land. And here's where the vision really starts to transcend the political. The New Promised Land isn't just about restoring the fortunes of Israel. The scale of the New Promised Land is cosmic in scope. It will be a New Heaven and a New Earth:
They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your ancestors lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. Then the nations will know that I the LORD make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.’”
Isaiah 65:17-18Finally, if there was to be a Second Exodus we'd also expect to see a New Passover meal. Though there is no direct biblical quotation for this it's clear how a New Passover would have been expected in conjunction with a Second Moses and New Exodus. Outside of the bible there is historical evidence, from both Jewish and Christian sources, that the Second Temple Jews were looking for a New Passover, what they called the Passover of the Messiah. (In fact, many Second Temple Jews expected the future Messiah to be revealed during the Passover.)
“See, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight
and its people a joy.
Summarizing all this:
The Jewish Expectation of the Messiah as the Second Moses:Given these expectations, the question readers of the New Testament can ask is this: Did Jesus consider himself to be the Second Moses?
- New Exodus
- New Law and Covenant
- New Passover
- New Temple
- New Promised Land
Do the New Testament writers show Jesus leading a Second Exodus? Giving a New Law and Covenant? Instituting a New Passover? Building a New Temple? And leading us to a New Promised Land?
These questions open up rich and exciting perspectives on the life and ministry of Jesus.
In the next post, thanks to Pitre's book, I'll point to another, less noticed, New Exodus theme in the gospels.