The Call of Moses -- By: Edward J. Young

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 29:2 (May 1967)
Article: The Call of Moses
Author: Edward J. Young


The Call of Moses

Edward J. Young

Of all countries upon the face of the earth Palestine seems one of the least likely to have produced anything striking or world shaking. Nevertheless, in Palestine there appeared a phenomenon the like of which the world has never seen elsewhere.1 The present day Bedouin of Palestine can hardly be regarded as the bearers of advanced thought and culture and there is not much reason to believe that they differ markedly from some of Palestine’s earlier inhabitants.2 Yet in Palestine the most sublime ideas of God and his love to mankind appeared, and in Palestine alone did the truth concerning man and his plight make itself known. What is the explanation of these facts? How are we to account for the large body of prophets, with their teleological message, their declaration of a Redeemer to come, forming a mighty, evergrowing stream that culminated in the person and work of Jesus Christ?

If we accept the Scriptures at face value we find that they are filled with references to Moses whom they regard as the human founder of the theocracy. It was Moses whom God used to bring his people out of Egyptian bondage and to give to them his unchanging law. “He made known his ways unto Moses”, we read in Psa 103, and this is only one of the testimonies that attributes to Moses the claim that Moses received his commission by divine revelation. Can we today, however, simply accept the plain testimony of the Scriptures as they stand?3 Modern scholarship very largely denies that we can, and we must give some attention to its claims.

The Sinai “Tradition”

In the discussion of these questions Professor Gerhard von Rad of Heidelberg University has taken a prominent part. The last one hundred and fifty years of critical historical scholarship, he tells us, have destroyed the picture of Israel’s history which the church had derived from its acceptance of the Old Testament. According to critical historical scholarship we can no longer regard it possible that all of Israel was present at Sinai or that as a unit the whole nation crossed the Red Sea or achieved the conquest of Palestine. The picture given to us in Exodus, to be frank, is unhistorical.4

The account of Israel’s origin given in the Old Testament, we are told, is extremely complicated, being based upon a few old motifs around which a number of freely circulating traditions have clustered. Both these ancient motifs and the separat...

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