Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Moses called upon God to be their helper; Ant. 2.355-37

When Moses and the people reached the sea, he took his rod and said "Thou art not ignorant, O Lord, that it is beyond human strength and human contrivance to avoid the difficulties we are now under; but it must be thy work altogether to procure deliverance to this army, which has left Egypt at thy appointment. We despair of any other assistance or contrivance, and have recourse only to that hope we have in thee; and if there be any method that can promise us an escape by thy providence, we look up to thee for it. And let it come quickly, and manifest thy power to us; and do thou raise up this people unto good courage and hope of deliverance, who are deeply sunk into a disconsolate state of mind. We are in a helpless place, but still it is a place that thou possesses; still the sea is thine, the mountains also that enclose us are thine; so that these mountains will open themselves if thou commandest them, and the sea also, if thou commandest it, will become dry land. Nay, we might escape by a flight through the air, if thou should determine we should have that way of salvation."

Most scholars agree that the invocation, o despota, is an interpolation. However there are two examples of prayer by Moses in Exod. 17:3-4 and Num. 16:15 where the invocation is missing. It does seem unusual.

There is no claim for divine help on the basis of services rendered or vowed. That is to say, there is no contract in this prayer or the first example of Josephus provided yesterday. Moses acknowledges that they are dependent upon God and that they look to God for salvation. This pattern of prayer can be found in the Psalm 124, 84:9 and 119:153. Moses prays that God might manifest his power: Ps. 77:14 and 90:16.

Lucan writings emphasize the power of God. Luke uses this terminology more often than any other New Testament writer.[i] He does so to demonstrate the truthfulness of the information Theophilus, the High Priest, has heard about God's recent intervention in human history. God's power is evident in the miracles performed by his representatives and is a validation of their role.[ii]

[i]. Luke's interest in power is illustrated by the fact that he uses the noun 15 times in the gospel, 10 times in Acts; the verb 26 times in the gospel, 21 times in Acts; and the adjective 4 times in the gospel, 6 times in Acts. Luke's focus on the power of God is a strong re-affirmation of traditional Jewish monotheism. Perhaps this strong re-affirmation is a response to Jewish allegation that the followers of Jesus had forsaken Judaism by breaching the boundary markers with respect to monotheism.
[ii]. Acts 14:3; 14:8-11.

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