Posted by: Dan | October 23, 2006

Moses and Joshua in Luke-Acts

I was reading Luke the other day and was struck by the parallels that exist between Jesus and Moses. Jesus, like Moses (only more so), is the great liberator of Israel. Jesus provides the people with a New Torah, he provides them with nourishment in the wilderness, and, ultimately, on the cross, he brings an end to exile and the wilderness wanderings of Israel. Of course, the fact that the bondage of exile has ended is confirmed at the beginning of Acts with the outpouring of the eschatological Spirit.

However, I was struck by this idea: if Jesus, in Luke, is like Moses yet greater than Moses, surely Paul, in Acts, is like Joshua, yet greater than Joshua. After Moses liberated the Hebrews and led them through the wilderness, Joshua conquered the land that God had promised them. However, with Paul as Joshua things are significantly revised. The land is now the world, and the means by which one conquers are radically different. Whereas Joshua conquered by the sword, Paul conquers by the Gospel proclamation — by the sword of the Word. Whereas Joshua conquered by inflicting violence on others, Paul conquers by allowing violence to be inflicted upon himself. Whereas Joshua conquered by force, Paul conquers by serving others in the power of the Spirit.

Furthermore, I suspect that those who wish to appeal Old Testament conquest narratives in order to justify Christian violence today have not sufficiently grasped the way in which Paul's model of conquest completely subverts and replaces any and all violence with cross-shaped living.

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