Out of Egypt: Reading Exodus Theologically
On October 14 at 10 a.m., the Sunday class continues its study of the book of Exodus in the Old Testament. This is the twentieth class in the series on Exodus and picks up in chapter 26, as the Lord continues giving instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle.
In addition to being a record of the central event in Jewish history – the exodus from Egypt and journey toward the Promised Land – Exodus also provides a prime case study of the benefits of a utilization of the traditional “four senses” of scripture: the literal, the typological, the moral, and the mystical.
Jesus is the new…
One of the recurring features of the “four-fold interpretation” of Exodus that we are using in the Sunday class is to see how this or that character or event in Exodus prefigures a character or event in the New Testament. We do this based on the patristic insight that the Old Testament is, properly interpreted, a witness to Jesus Christ.
In the September 30 class, this came up in the context of Joshua: Jesus is the new Joshua, who leads his people into the heavenly land of promise, as Joshua led his people into the earthly land of promise. I mentioned then that I had recently seen a series of tweets in which the author (the tweeter?) used typological interpretation of this kind for a number of Old Testament figures, all in 280 characters each. I promised that I would send it along; you can find it here, as “Jesus is the New.”
Augustine, Luther, and the inner life of faith
The Confessions of Augustine of Hippo was written late in the fourth century and is sometimes referred to as the first autobiography. That is, while others had written about their own lives before, the Confessions was a psychological, narrative reflection on the writer’s thoughts, feelings, recollections, etc. over a period of time – even when these thoughts, etc., portrayed him in a light that was not the most flattering. This was a new thing.
In recent years, some scholars have begun to posit that not only was Augustine’s book the first literary exploration of the inner life, but that the Confessions, along with some of Augustine’s other early work, invented the concept of the inner life altogether. Certainly, others had written about their feelings before – the Psalms are replete with self-reflection (and the Confessions is replete with the Psalms) – but the way it was done in the Confessions was new. The idea of a private inner space, an inner world inaccessible to others – this was Augustine’s “invention.”
Phillip Cary is one of the authors who has made the point about Augustine and the inner life most influentially, particularly in his book, Augustine’s Invention of the Inner Self (here). Cary has a related interest, however, in Martin Luther. Cary reads Luther as a critic, if not opponent, of later strains of Reformed thought that would come to prioritize personal feeling over all else, going beyond Augustine’s own innovation.
Cary wrote an academic article making this case, “Why Luther is not quite Protestant” (here), and a less provocatively titled, but more accessible, “Luther at 500: The Enduring Challenge of the Great Reformer” (here). As Cary explains it, Luther’s alternative to putting one’s trust for salvation in good works was not to focus on personal conviction alone, as it would be for some other Reformers, but to rely on the work and saving words of Christ. This is exemplified specifically in the fact that (1) at our baptism Christ puts his seal on us (we are “marked as Christ’s own forever”), and (2) Christ does not lie. The seal is sealed, because God keeps promises, even when we don’t; God is faithful, even when we are not. Thus, Cary writes in the latter article,
Luther’s challenge affects Christian life by freeing Christian love to be love, removing the kind of performance anxiety that makes it about ourselves. … We are holy because Christ claims us as his own through word and sacrament, and Christian love takes root in our hearts because we believe what Christ has done. Luther challenges us to recognize that from the beginning of the Christian tradition, this is always how Christ has saved his people, sanctifying them and giving them to their neighbors in love.
Anyway, I mention all of this because Phillip Cary is giving two lectures at our neighbor parish of Calvary-St. George’s on October 26-27, with the subject Martin Luther, the Gospel & Christian Life. More information about the lectures can be found here.
Yours in Christ,