Title page for ETD etd-12072011-122311

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Pereira, Gregory Cedric
URN etd-12072011-122311
Document Title The application of the Exodus divine-presence narratives as a biblical socio-ethical paradigm for the contemporary redeemed
Degree PhD
Department Old Testament Studies
Advisor Name Title
Prof J le Roux Supervisor
  • Exodus and the Church - evangelicalism
  • Exodus and the Church - socio-ethical application
  • Exodus ethics and society
  • Exodus theology – redemption
  • Exodus theology – relationship
  • Exodus theology - revelation
  • Exodus redemptive presence narratives
  • divine presence
  • socio-rhetorical exegesis
  • theological reflection
  • canonical approach
Date 2011-09-08
Availability unrestricted
God is ontologically omni-present, yet he is spoken of as being present or even being absent. The presence and the absence of God are relational concepts. His presence generally shows his favor and is for the benefit of his people; and his absence indicates his disfavor. But sometimes his presence was for judgment too. The people of God are his people precisely because he is favorably present with them. God’s presence with his people bestows upon them a special position in relation to him, and a blessed future for them.

God is Spirit, and his presence is not limited to visible forms. Many times God’s presence is simply indicated by divine speech. We have seen that God chose at times to reveal himself through theophanies, and these appearances related to humans in different ways. God’s presence in Exodus comes in various ways, and his presence has particular significance. Finally, God revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. For the Christian, Christ dwells with us and within us by his Spirit and through him we have access to the Father (Eph.1:18).

The presence of God is redemptive. Israel was redeemed by the present God, Yahweh; and the Christian has been redeemed by the present God, the Lord Jesus Christ. As Evangelicals we believe that they are one and the same person, and the method of redemption is metaphorically equated in the New Testament. The Christian is empowered by the Holy Spirit and a new creation; two inseparable concepts that give us our identity. While Israel was redeemed as a nation, we are a redeemed people who are individually united in the Church of Jesus Christ; and in our local assemblies we are to maintain and reflect our unity by being a community. As Israel was a nation for the nations, so the Church is a community of witnesses to God’s righteousness and rule for the nations.

Humans are to relate to God as Creator and as Redeemer, because they are accountable to him according to his creation and redemption (or re-creation) principles. Accountability is meaningful only in an ethical context. Man relates to God by acts of obedience to his creation and redemption principles. The chief duty of the Church is to make known the available person, purpose and power of God.

God’s loving expression is his availability for a relationship with man. His self-revelation and gifts are for our benefit. His creation and creative intentions are for our benefit. His redemption and redemptive intentions are for our benefit. More so, we are accountable for the imperative to perpetuate God’s creation and redemption intentions. If they are expressions of love and intended to benefit, then they are ethical in nature. Our response to God and to creation at large must therefore also be ethical in nature.

Our concern in this dissertation is to realize the socio-ethical significance of the Presence in redemption for the people of God, and in particular for the Evangelical Church. Having explored the Exodus texts from a synchronic approach, we have used the final canonical Exodus-narrative of Presence through socio-rhetorical exegesis and theological reflection to derive socio-ethical principles for our contemporary application. These principles are applied for specific contemporary contexts and questions in order to posit ethical social proposals, social responsibility, and social action.

We are able to see how our Exodus pericopes were employed in the biblical Old and New Testaments. Their use in the Psalms, the Prophets and the New Testament reflected an authoritative theological interpretation of these Exodus texts for Evangelicals, merely because they are in the Bible. These Scriptural theological interpretations were a warrant for us to seek a theological interpretation of the canonical texts as the platform for socio-ethical interaction. Because we are so far removed temporarily, socio-ethical transfer from then to now was by no means cut-and-dried. Only through theological reflection are we able to derive socio-ethical principles for contemporary application, at least within an Evangelical Ecclesiology.

Presence is applied theologically under the categories revelation, redemption and relationship. We are able to show how the principles of revelation, redemption and relationship related God and his people in ways that gave them a special identity as a community that must respond in a special and particular way to God and within itself. The people had to be monotheistic. Their response had monotheistic, ethical implications and social implications.

Presence is also applied socially under the categories derived naturally from the Exodus narrative:

  • Israel’s Self-Consciousness as a Community.
  • Yahweh’s Presence and the Community’s Redemption.
  • Yahweh’s Agent in the Redemption of the Community.
  • Counter Forces to the Creation of the Redeemed Community.
  • Covenant and Redemption Undergirds Social Identity.
  • The Socio-ethical Response of the Redeemed Community.
  • Redemption as Social Dialogue.
  • Covenant as Societal Establishment.
  • Covenant and Societal Conflict.
  • Covenant and Societal Self-conscientiousness.

Each of these categories is discussed under the same sub-categories, namely, revelation, redemption and relationship. We are able to derive socio-ethical principles in this way; principles which could be applied in an Evangelical ecclesiology.

Indeed, the Church is the best social context in which these principles are to be applied, and within that context we are able to derive socio-ethical proposals. The Church is posited as a multiplicity of microcosmic communities, all related to God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. We are able to make social proposals for the kind of social responsibilities and actions required within the church community. These socio-ethical proposals must emanate from the social vision of the Church, which is theological and eschatological in nature.

The Church, as an eschatological community, must serve as an example and vision for society at large, recognizing that society at large also has a different and more complex make-up, and that socio-ethical transfer of Christian principles is not simplistically cut-and-dried. We have to find creative ways to translate the biblical imperative in a contemporary social context. This, we will conclude is only possible because we are able to apply it from and in a narratological context. We can however not simply use the same categories of revelation, redemption and relationship in a socio-ethical application.

Ethics in general and social ethics in particular needs to be considered according to categories that were naturally conducive to ethical discourse. But these categories are also to be integrated with the theological categories in such a way that does not strain the ethical discourse. Surprisingly, the ethical categories of God (theological), man (social/political) and land (economic) easily lends itself to be discussed with the sub-categories of revelation, redemption and relationship. In fact, while it is fairly easy to do so under the theological and social/political categories, it is not so easy to distinguish the sub-categories for discussion under economy. We are forced to blur the lines between revelation and redemption on the one hand, and between redemption and relationship on the other.

We can obviously not make proposals dealing with every socio-ethical issue. This is not our intention. We are, however, able to provide a socio-ethical vision for the Church, and thus, to a limited extent, for society at large. Because of our socio-ethical vision, it has become necessary for us to sketch the Church as an eschatological people which is a blessing to the world by its functioning in particular roles; as example (salt and light), evangelist, prophetic voice, teacher, agent, facilitator, negotiator, and partner.

As example the Church is meant to be a pattern for society. The Church, which founds its indicative and imperative values upon the biblical text, can be a blessed pattern to society. As evangelist, the Church alone has the message of redemption, and it needs to share it with society. The best way for society to change is through regeneration. Our first priority is to extend the Kingdom of God in this world through the message of Jesus Christ and then through our godly influence. As prophetic voice, the Church must make known God’s will and ways. It is mainly a voice that speaks to issues of social justice, social responsibility and social reconstruction. Aspects of oppression, exploitation and other injustices must be condemned, and proposals for redress and reconstruction must be made. The Church must entrench democratic values and be the voice that calls for integrity and accountability. As teacher, the Church’s first place of teaching must be on a theological plane. Theological awareness encourages moral and ethical awareness. In short, they can teach on a whole range of issues that encourages good relationship, both vertically and horizontally. The Church can train leaders of integrity. As agent, the Church can act in society on behalf of Government, business and other organizations who have projects that aim at Christian-likeminded outcomes. Conversely, they can also act as agent for the people and community interests. The Church must be the redemptive agent in society. As facilitators, the Church facilitates important co-operations; with Government, business and other organizations. The Church can facilitate socio-ethical debates, forums, workshops, economic pro-active and ecological and environmental projects. As negotiators and partners, the Church can act on behalf of the poor and the marginalized. The rich and the poor are to act according to the tenets of love and justice. The Church can help inculcate these tenets, and to teach tenets of good work-ethic. The Church must be a redeemed people with redemptive aims; all for the glory of their redeeming God.

© 2010 University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Pereira, GC 2010, The application of the Exodus divine-presence narratives as a biblical socio-ethical paradigm for the contemporary redeemed, PhD thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-12072011-122311/ >


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