Sunday, February 8, 2009

Telescoped Scripture Citation in Acts 7:6-7 (In Honour of International Septuagint Day)

In honour of International Septuagint Day, consider God's promise to Abraham as it appears in Acts 7:6-7:

Acts 7:6-7

LXX Gen 15:13-14 (cf. Ex 2:22, 3:12)

ἐλάλησεν δὲ οὕτως ὁ θεὸς ὅτι ἔσται τὸ σπέρμα αὐτοῦ πάροικον ἐν γῇ ἀλλοτρίᾳ καὶ δουλώσουσιν αὐτὸ καὶ κακώσουσιν ἔτη τετρακόσια· 7 καὶ τὸ ἔθνος ᾧ ἐὰν δουλεύσουσιν κρινῶ ἐγώ, ὁ θεὸς εἶπεν, καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα ἐξελεύσονται καὶ λατρεύσουσίν μοι ἐν τῷ τόπῳ τούτῳ.

Gen 15:13-14 καὶ ἐρρέθη πρὸς Αβραμ Γινώσκων γνώσῃ ὅτι πάροικον ἔσται τὸ σπέρμα σου ἐν γῇ οὐκ ἰδίᾳ, καὶ δουλώσουσιν αὐτοὺς καὶ κακώσουσιν αὐτοὺς καὶ ταπεινώσουσιν αὐτοὺς τετρακόσια ἔτη. 14 τὸ δὲ ἔθνος, ᾧ ἐὰν δουλεύσωσιν, κρινῶ ἐγώ· μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα ἐξελεύσονται ὧδε μετὰ ἀποσκευῆς πολλῆς.

Exod 2:22 ἐν γαστρὶ δὲ λαβοῦσα ἡ γυνὴ ἔτεκεν υἱόν καὶ ἐπωνόμασεν Μωυσῆς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Γηρσαμ λέγων ὅτι πάροικός εἰμι ἐν γῇ ἀλλοτρίᾳ

Exod 3:12 εἶπεν δὲ ὁ θεὸς Μωυσεῖ λέγων ὅτι ἔσομαι μετὰ σοῦ καὶ τοῦτό σοι τὸ σημεῖον ὅτι ἐγώ σε ἐξαποστέλλω ἐν τῷ ἐξαγαγεῖν σε τὸν λαόν μου ἐξ Αἰγύπτου καὶ λατρεύσετε τῷ θεῷ ἐν τῷ ὄρει τούτῳ

Acts quotes primarily from God's promise to Abraham in the LXX of Gen 15:13-14 (words in bold print). The words in green are paralleled in Exod 2:22 (the birth of Moses' son Gershom), and the final clause (in orange) draws on God's promise to Moses at the burning bush.

I suspect πάροικον ἐν γῇ ἀλλοτρίᾳ is simply an unintentional substition of a familiar phrase from Exod 2:22 for Gen 15:13's πάροικον ... ἐν γῇ οὐκ ἰδίᾳ.

However, I think the allusion to Exod 3:12 at the end is an intentional telescoping of two distinct promises, and I suspect Luke expected his audience would pick up on it. (Notice the repetition of 'place' in 7:33, the reference back to 7:6 in 7:34, and the extensive attention to the burning bush at the turning point of the speech in Acts 7:30-34.) Instead of promising Abraham 'great possessions' as in Gen 15:14, God tells Abraham that the purpose of the exodus is worship--one of the main concerns of the Stephen speech.
  • This leads to ambiguity about the place of worship: Is it the land (from Abraham's perspective), Mt. Sinai (from the perspective of the burning bush), or, as Greg Stirling has suggested, both: “The implication is that there is more than one holy place…the Temple is holy, but so is Mount Sinai.”*
  • It also suggests--against the majority of Luke-Acts scholars--that Luke combined the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants, since the purpose of both was to worship God "in holiness and righteousness...all our days" (Luke 1:73-75; Acts 7:7).
Unfortunately from the perspective of the Stephen speech, the exodus ended in tragedy because those who were called out to worship turned instead to the idolatry of the golden calf (7:40). They did not listen to the prophet Moses (7:38-39); their descendants refused to hear the prophet like Moses.

In both instances, worship becomes idolatry when God's people refuse to listen.

*Sterling, Gregory E. "'Opening the Scriptures': The Legitimation of the Jewish Diaspora and the Early Christian Mission," Pages 199-225 (here 214) in Jesus and the Heritage of Israel: Luke's Narrative Claim upon Israel's Legacy. Edited by David P. Moessner. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1999.


Isaac Gross said...

I'd always thought of the Septuagint as this big block of material. I read the intro by Hanhart and he pointed out that with different translators, different portions of the Hebrew are translated with varying levels of interpretation. So you can't just say, "Well the the Septuagint . . ." It's not monolithic? Does that sound right?

d. miller said...

That sounds right. However, many of us continue to use the Septuagint loosely for the Greek OT for the sake of convenience.

Kent said...

Logos Bible Software has recently begun work on the Göttingen Septuagint. I thought you might be interested!

Göttingen Septuagint