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The Old Testament of the Old Testament: Patriarchal Narratives and Mosaic Yahwism.

Moberly reorients pentateuchal studies from fascination with the history of Israel's religion to a more theological perspective, asking how one can understand the areas of continuity and difference in the presentation of the "God who is revealed in different ways and in different periods of time" (114). Regarding God's name, he pinpoints the apparent contradiction between Genesis 4:26 (people began calling on God as Yahweh) and Exodus 3 (the name Yahweh first revealed to Moses) and questions the theological value of the source critical explanation. M. argues that speaking of Yahweh in Genesis, before the revelation to Moses, simply witnesses to the imposition of a later, post-Mosaic view onto patriarchal stories. Instead, the new meaning of this revelation of the name to Moses was its role in Mosaic religion.

M. piqued my interest by contrasting the religion of the Patriarchs ("ecumenical bonhommie," open, unstructured and nongeographical) with Mosaic Yahwism (sectarian exclusiveness with regard to sacred place, moral and cultic content, marriage, leadership) (99). The relationship between those "religions" suggests a parallel relationship, between the Old Testament (Judaism) and the New Testament (Christianity). Thus the question emerges: How do the old and the new relate to each other? This issue is as important in Jewish-Christian dialogue as in biblical studies. M. finds the language of supersessionism - a vexing problem in Jewish-Christian dialogue - in the historically developmental description of patriarchal religion as paidagogos to Mosaic religion (Alt).

M.'s reading of the Pentateuch demonstrates one way that Jews and Christians could converse, exhibiting continuity as well as difference, and offers a nonpolemical way to discuss concepts such as "dispensation," supersessionism, and Old Testament (for Christians). By demonstrating this relationship of old and new within the Hebrew Scriptures, M. shifts the tension backwards, but one wonders whether adherents of (either) "old" religious system will be as satisfied as their "newer" counterparts. For the exegete, M. outlines some creative paradigms for pentateuchal study; for the theologian, he offers a lucid biblical approach to questions about the relationship of NT to OT, Judaism to Christianity. This stimulating book poses critical challenges for the teacher, the scholar, and students of theology and religion.
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Author:Endres, John C.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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