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Pete Enns & The Bible for Normal People

Yii-Jan Lin- Immigration & the Book of Revelation

In this episode of The Bible for Normal People Podcast, Pete and Jared talk with Yii-Jan Lin about the book of Revelation, it’s historical context, and it’s influence on immigration as they explore the following questions:

  • What is the historical context of the book of Revelation?
  • What genre is the book of Revelation in?
  • Is Revelation predicting the future?
  • What is the connection between Revelation and immigration?
  • How did Ronald Reagan use imagery from Revelation?
  • How does Revelation lend itself to both immigration and keeping people out?
  • What does the whore of Babylon represent in Revelation?
  • How was the Page Act of 1875 influenced by Revelation?
  • How has relating the US to a New Jerusalem been harmful to American’s perception of immigration? 
  • What does the symbol of a wall represent for people?
  • Does Revelation have a purpose for Christians today?

Tweetables

Pithy, shareable, less-than-280-character statements from Yii-Jan Lin you can share. 

  • “There’s imagery that you have to decode to understand.” @janjancl
  • “Thinking about America as a New Jerusalem, you’re suddenly thinking about this vast country as a city and that kind of shrinks the whole thing down into one thing.”@janjancl
  • “If you imagine a city and you’re framing it that way then you also have a wall, then you also have a smaller space, you also have scarcity of resources.” @janjancl
  • “[Walls] have a very particular rhetorical force; it’s a protection, it’s a barrier, it assumes we have control and I think that those are those symbolic meanings that people want when they think about a wall.”@janjancl
  • “Is it really the text that is going to tell us what to do or do we bring a stable sense of ethics to the text? And I would say, for a book like Revelation, and maybe for most texts if not all texts, it has to come from us.” @janjancl

Mentioned in This Episode

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Read the transcript

[Introduction]

0:00

Pete: You’re listening to The Bible for Normal People. The only God-ordained podcast on the internet. I’m Pete Enns.

Jared: And I’m Jared Byas.

[Jaunty Intro Music]

Pete: Hey folks, welcome to this episode of The Bible for Normal People. Our first recording, Jared, in the –

Jared: Quarantine epic.

Pete: Quarantine epic. And we’re like, how many, did we break any laws getting to this studio today? I don’t know. People were out and about.

Jared: We’re pretty close to six feet away though.

Pete: Yes.

Jared: We are pretty close to six feet.

Pete: I hadn’t even thought about that.

[Laughter]

Jared: We are now.

Pete: [Continued laughter]

Jared: There, I just backed up a few a few feet.

Pete: You backed up.

Jared: Okay.

Pete: [Laughter]

Yeah, anyway, and not to make light of it, but that’s it. So, we were like, almost, we were going to stay home and do this from home and do this remotely, which we hate doing, because I have dogs that bark, you have kids that bark. One of those two things.

Jared: Yes, lots of barking basically.

Pete: So were a little bit afraid of that, but then I thought to myself, hey, if that happens, people understand. People are doing all sorts of stuff.

Jared: Well, and you’ll see when our guest had some kids in the background.

Pete: Yeah, that’s pretty cool.

Jared: It’s just the new reality, you know?

Pete: It is the new reality.

Jared: At least we’re not on video conference and our spouses like, accidentally walk in behind us with their underwear or something like that.

Pete: Yes!

[Laughter]

Right, exactly.

Jared: So, right. We’re actually ahead of the curve here, so.

Pete: Yeah. We’re doing pretty well, so enough criticism.

Jared: But today, our guest is Yii-Jan Lin, and she actually goes by JanJan,

Pete: Right, yeah.

Jared: So that’s what we call her in the podcast, but why don’t you give some of her credentials here, Pete, you’re super smart.

Pete: Well, the topic is immigration and the book of Revelation, which you might not think go together very well, but they do. But JanJan is an assistant professor of New Testament at Yale Divinity School, no slouch, and her Ph.D. is in New Testament and she got really interested in the book of Revelation.

Jared: Well, and if you look in her history of the things she writes about, she’s very good about drawing, synthesizing these things that you wouldn’t normally put together in these really interesting, not, you know, sometimes you can kind of say, oh, I don’t know if that really goes, but she’s done her homework and I think it was really good conversation.

Pete: Yeah. Well, and the whole idea of synthesis, I mean, she’s a trained New Testament scholar who is interested in integrating that text with something, let’s say, relevant. You know, and not just, I mean, I shouldn’t say just, but, you know, a lot of biblical scholars, and I like to do this too, we stay, we want to stay in antiquity, but then the question is, well who cares? Right? So, she’s taking this book and talking about how it has informed political rhetoric in the United States and elsewhere, and once you see it, it’s like – oh, yeah. I guess that does come from the book of Revelation. And it affects and has hurt people, and it’s been a little bit toxic, and xenophobic, and violent, and misogynistic, and it sort of rooted in this book and I thought it was just a fascinating study on ancient and contemporary and how those things come together.

Jared: Excellent, well let’s have this conversation with Professor Lin.

[Music begins]

JanJan: Is it really the text that is going to tell us what to do, or do we bring a stable sense of ethics to the text? And I would say, for a book like Revelation, and maybe for most texts if not all texts, it has to come from us. So, it’s not as if I just sit here and let Revelations do its work. It’s rather that I come, and I make meaning out of it. And as a person who wants to be ethical, then this is the kind of interpretation I want to put forward, or point out harmful interpretations that have come from the past.

[Music ends]

Jared: Well hello JanJan. Welcome to this episode of The Bible for Normal People.

JanJan: Hi, thank you.

Jared: Yeah, absolutely. So, we have a lot of fascinating stuff to talk about. Pete and I have been nerding out about it all day here. But before we do that, just, you have this interesting story of starting your academic career, if we can put it that way, in English Literature and then you made a turn to Bible. So, we’re curious, what prompted that turn for you? What was that shift about?

JanJan: Sure. So, yeah, I was in English Literature, and when I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I thought, okay, I’m definitely going to pursue something in academia, and I thought I would be English lit. And I went to the University of Chicago to get a masters, and it’s not really the most friendly place in the world, let’s just say, and I was completely unprepared. So, I got there, I was taking these courses, and I was completely in over my head. I had never read theory before and it was just really a shock. So, at the end of that year I just didn’t want to go on. I didn’t know what to do. And a close friend of mine at the time was enrolled in his master of divinity at a nearby seminary, and at the time, I’m in a different place with my faith now, but at the time I thought, you know, maybe I could really make a difference or have something that feels more immediately relevant to my life, to rhetoric that’s floating around if I did something that, that’s still text based, but instead thinking about scriptural texts and sacred texts rather than in English literature. So that’s when I then got the M.A. in New Testament and then moved on from there.

5:00

So, that’s really the big shift was thinking about, I still want to go on some sort of intellectual journey, but I felt so burned at the time. You know, I might have done things, I might do things differently if I go back now, but I kind of just went to a completely different track in thinking, also in a different way about relevancy of academia. That’s not to say I don’t think literature is still, not, is still relevant or any of those things, but, or not relevant. But yeah, so that’s basically it in a nutshell.

Pete: Yeah, and you have a huge interest in the book of Revelation.

JanJan: Yes.

Pete: Yeah, that’s not a secret.

JanJan: [Laughter]

Pete: So, I question I get a lot from like, when I ask students in an intro course in Bible, like, for those who know something about it,  because not all young people do, even in Christian context, but like, what do you want to talk about, somebody always says can we talk about the book of Revelation because it still is very fascinating.

JanJan: Mm hmm.

Pete: So, can you, just on a real lay level, just give us your take on what that book is about. Like, you know, where might it be set historically, and what is largely the point? Because there are all these different competing camps and approaches to this book, so, what’s yours?

JanJan: Yes. So, I mean, if you are interested in its original historical context, you know, people hypothesize that it was probably written under Emperor Domitian, that it was written during a time where there was some sort of persecution of Christians, that it’s written by a Jewish Christian in imitation of Jewish apocalyptic literature. So, in the mode of Daniel, for example, or passages we find in Daniel and other apocalyptic works that we can find in Jewish lit. And so, that is the setting in which it’s projecting this other vision of what reality really is. What’s the real real to pose that against what might be the reality faced by its original audience, and whether that’s under the Roman empire in some sort of persecution suffering in some sort of way. So that is the historical context most scholars would agree on in terms of thinking about the book of Revelation.

Pete: So, it’s not predicting the future, like, it’s not like reading todays newspaper or something like that.

JanJan: [Laughter]

Pete: It actually has something to do with historical moments, and you used the word apocalyptic and then you said the real real. Can you tie, because that’s really interesting, tie those together.

JanJan: So, I mean, the genre of apocalyptic is, what is it is kind of up for debate, but one thing that it seems to do, so, apocalypse or apocalyptic is something that reveals, right? That’s based on that Greek word. So, revealing something underneath or behind or kind of, just that that’s real beyond what we think immediately is real. So that’s where, that’s why you have something in Revelation where it’s like, it seems like code or its imagery that’s really bizarre, but it’s trying to convey something that says there is a different reality that is better or coming, or any of those things, right, that will replace this reality or that’s actually going on beyond what you see right now. Beyond the Roman empire, beyond the reality that you’re suffering at the moment. So, there’s a revelation of that, and so, that’s where we get that term is this unveiling of something real behind what you’re suffering at the moment. And so, I think that’s the major concern in a book like Revelation where you have a different throne room, a different power seated on the throne, a different judgement and condemnation of things set against Rome, definitely, and placing on that throne, ultimately Christ, right, the slaughtered lamb. And so, presenting a completely different reality to, in a coded way, so to speak, that’s full of imagery and all these things to show what’s really happening. So, it’s a document of faith, really, and inspiring in a particular way, and also kind of a double speak. You know, there’s imagery you have to decode and understand. So, that kind of bleeds into now, more contemporary readings of telling the future and decoding that book. But it in its original context, that might not have been the intention. The intention might have been simply, you know, we know something and here’s a way of expressing it that you can understand that’s not the reality you’re suffering.

Jared: So, one of the things that’s really interesting about the work that you do is connecting. You know, I link in my, when we think about the Bible we often think about the original context and we think about how we use it maybe today to apply to our lives in churches or some context like that, but you’ve done this historical work of connecting how American’s in generations past have used the book of Revelation to talk about immigration.

JanJan: Right.

Jared: And some of the points there. So, could you, just an overview of that work, or maybe connect the dots between Revelation and immigration and how you thought to connect that.

JanJan: Yeah, sure.

10:00

Pete: Yeah, it’s not the kind of thing people would just like, wake up in the morning and say, you know, I bet you there’s a connection between the book of Revelation and immigration.

JanJan: Yeah, for sure. I mean it’s –

Pete: Obviously.

JanJan: Yeah, of course! No. It seems like a leap, right? What would ancient Jewish literature have to do with immigration? Especially, you know, in a 20th, 21st century setting. That’s not something that comes to mind, but it all started with my thinking about, I guess that the hopes and dreams of immigrants and the whole experience of immigration, right? In which you’re arriving at a new destination and you have these hopes that are kind of utopic, right? You feel like you’re going to experience, or there is a talked about hope of experiencing some kind of dream or there’s a vision of something that’s beautiful, wonderful, in which you can leave something behind, or you’re fleeing. So that in and of itself is apocalyptic and as I began to think a little bit more about that and thinking about that kind of framing, the more I thought this really does relate to the language we have in Revelation. And then, when I do the historical research and looking in the archive, that’s when I start finding that there is a shared language, and that language from Revelation is used in describing America, first of all, right, as kind of a New Jerusalem in an apocalyptic way, and as an utopic destination, but also in describing who gets to be in the U.S. or America, and who is excluded, and that kind of rhetoric is also using apocalyptic language from Revelation. And so, more and more of those themes seem to overlap as I looked at what seemed like two disparate entities.

Pete: Yeah, and so, you’re actually saying that’s it’s not just the language is similar, but that there’s really, like, an influence –

JanJan: Yeah.

Pete: Right, on the part of the book of Revelation on how people have talked about immigrants.

JanJan: Yeah, and I mean, I could just pull up one example here. We talk about city on a hill, right? City on a hill is used to describe America and the U.S. in many, many different speeches and that comes from Matthew. That comes from the Sermon on the Mount. But it is apocalyptic in some way, right? It’s talking about some sort of example and shining city, and in Matthew, the context is Jerusalem, that that’s going to be the city on a hill. Now what’s interesting, is that Reagan in his farewell speech at the end of his presidency, goes to talk about city on a hill, which he references all the time in his political speeches. He describes in detail what he sees. And the way he describes it is taking exactly from Revelation 21 almost. So, he’ll say things like, “a tall proud city on rocks, stronger than oceans, windswept, teeming with people of all kinds, living in harmony, if there had to be city walls, walls had doors and the doors were open,” so that’s coming from Revelation 21, I would argue, in which you have Jerusalem, New Jerusalem on firm foundations, the twelve foundations. It’s the nations are walking by, it’s like the kings are entering it, the gates are never shut by day.

Pete: Right.

JanJan: And all of those things, right? So, it starts, it’s very much a borrowing of language from Revelation.

Pete: Yeah, and, I mean, that’s, I had never put those two things together, but to me it’s pretty darn obvious as you describe it. And this is, you said this is Ronald Reagan?

JanJan: Mm hmm, that’s right.

Pete: So, would you, I mean, I guess we don’t know whether he’s necessarily thinking about this connection himself, or whether he’s really heir to a longer tradition –

JanJan: That’s true, yeah.

Pete: Of using this kind of language. It goes back pretty far, would you say?

JanJan: Well, the city on the hill goes back to Puritan days, and it’s kind of brought back to life by JFK and Ronald Reagan takes that up. But I would say that using, maybe not this particular set of elements, but using New Jerusalem as a framing of America has been around since the Puritans were coming to colonize New England. And so, there we have, you know, all sorts of references to building a New Jerusalem and their vision of what they’re establishing in this place they’re going to. So that is an understanding, and really, definitely, an apocalyptic understanding of what their mission entails.

Jared: Is that, is this apocalyptic, you just mentioned the word utopic, and when you start thinking about the immigrant’s vision of America or wherever they’re going to end up, there is this utopia way of describing that.

JanJan: Mm hmm.

Jared: Is that where, is that where this Revelation language comes from is this sense of America as this utopia, this set apart place and so, basically, we’re just kind of paralleling heaven on earth as America, and how many of our politicians through the generations have equated those, I mean, I would guess for often times their own political gain in terms of speeches of what kind of America they see in their future.

JanJan: Yeah.

14:59

Jared: But is that where these connections come from?

JanJan: I think, I think I would say yes. In the beginning, it does come from the very first immigrants. So, we don’t usually talk about Puritans or explorers as immigrants, but they are, right, coming to this. So, they’re framing it as a destination, and they’re viewing it, at least in terms of some of those traveling to the “new world” to make discoveries, and then the Puritans are understanding it in a Christian, apocalyptic sense. They’re very explicitly doing that. Now, as people become established and take over the land that they find and colonize, that rhetoric continues, but who are the immigrants and who are not begins to change, right? Obviously, we have those who are established Puritan communities in what becomes New England, and then others coming in from Europe, right, that starts to change and then as the population of who’s coming now, and who’s claiming nativism, those populations start to change what the rhetoric around Revelation is. So, Revelation is really useful, both in casting an apocalyptic vision of a destination for those first arrivals, right? But then it becomes really useful in talking about exclusion, because then you have the flip side of Revelation, which is also about those who need to be kept out. And so, it lends itself very well to both sides of immigration, and whether a destination or whether it’s part of exclusion as well.

Jared: And if we can keep going on that, because there was this fascinating thing I read that you had been talking about around prostitution –

JanJan: Mm hmm.

Jared: And the U.S. border. Could you say more about that particular example and how it fits in this narrative of exclusion?

JanJan: So, when I think of Revelation in terms of thinking about gender, right, there’s definitely one particular figure that comes to mind and that is the whore of Babylon, right? And she is representative of a kind of corrupt power and danger, and all of these things, and there’s an exoticizing of her in the language, and which is, you know, dressed in these clothes, and she’s part of this commerce and wealth and all of these things. It’s very Orientalizing and I make the connection of that with the first laws in some of the first laws and policies that we have in the U.S. government against immigration, which is the Page Act in 1875, which is prohibiting particularly, Chinese women from entry and understanding any of them as just, by assumption, as prostitutes. And so, as seen as either vulnerable to this, or as a corrupting, exotic female sexuality that’s going to come and enter into something that’s pure, which is the nativist Americans who are on the shore. So, that’s where I draw that parallel between the two.

Jared: And was there, were there examples of the language of that kind of whore of Babylon, or is it more imagery that would have been in the air that you would make that connection with?

JanJan: So I think there, it is less the language that’s being used in Revelation, but more of the kind of Orientalizing, exoticizing, sexualized imagery that you might find in political cartoons, in historic newspapers, in depicting, you know, the threat of the east and eastern women, and also eastern men in this particular way.

Pete: So, okay, so the language of Revelation, it sort of has two angles that you could take depending on where you’re located, so to speak. It’s the vision of the future, and hope, and a fresh start.

JanJan: Mm hmm.

Pete: It’s apocalyptic. It’s the end of an era and the beginning of a beautiful one, but then what do you do then?

JanJan: [Laughter]

Right.

Pete: You know? Like, fifty years goes by, a hundred years, two hundred years, and now the rhetoric of Revelation is keeping Rome out, so to speak, and in anything that, you know, what you don’t agree with, or what doesn’t support your, the social network, the community you’re a part of, that gets, I guess, demonized, really. And you look for those things to keep you safe and separate from the bad people out there.

JanJan: Right.

Pete: And that sounds like it’s very deep in the American psyche.

JanJan: Yeah, and I would say that using the New Jerusalem as a framing of this, the identity of this land, of this nation, has really had this domino effect in every other way we think about people who should be included or excluded, right? So, they’re on several levels. So one, just thinking about American as a New Jerusalem, you’re suddenly thinking about this vast country, right, as a city. And that kind of shrinks the whole thing down into one thing, right, that becomes very unified in identity, and so imagines this unified identity.

20:01

And then it also imagines, if you imagine a city and you’re framing it that way, then you also have a wall, then you also have a smaller space, you also have scarcity of resources, so it does all these things when you start using this metaphor over and over again. So you can play on different fears and concerns that a city has, which, you know, the U.S. really isn’t, right? But it’s a giant country and it has lots of opportunities for people coming in, but when you shrink it into a city, and you think about it as a New Jerusalem, then you have defense, and you have threat, and you have scarcity of resources, and those are all the tropes that are trotted out when you think about exclusion and inclusion. And I think having that metaphor haunt the identity of America leads to a lot of this kind of thinking. I mean, of course there’s also political desires and things like that, but this metaphor then, is very expedient to keep using because you want to play on people’s fears of those who want to come in and invade the city.

Pete: Alright, well, you used the word wall, I didn’t.

JanJan: [Laughter]

Right.

Pete: So, I mean, it’s, I mean, not to polarize things here, but I mean, I guess one of the bigger picture, let’s say, for understanding the rhetoric of building walls today in America, I mean, maybe getting a broader historical perspective on that might be helpful. It’s not, the mentality isn’t a new thing.

JanJan: Right, no.

Pete: Again, it’s baked into our fear of outsiders, our wanting to stay safe –

Jared: Our mythology.

Pete: Our mythology, right. Yeah, yeah.

JanJan: Yeah, I would say so. And I mean, walls have, I mean, this sounds stupid and obvious, but walls have been around for a long time, and they serve very particular purposes, and they have a very, you know, particular rhetorical force. Right, it’s a protection, it’s a barrier, it assumes we have control and I think that those are those symbolic meanings that people want when they think about a wall that we have control of who’s coming in, we know, and there’s some sort of defense so that we are safe. Those are all things that walls, and wall symbolism have meant through the centuries and centuries they’ve existed, when we did have cities that were surrounded by walls all the time. And so that continues to be expedient today to talk about, in terms of our country.

[Music begins]

[Producers group endorsement]

[Music ends]

Jared: Well, with that too, there’s many different ways of thinking. And I’m thinking, because we’re recording this now in the midst of this COVID-19 thing, and I can’t help but think too, of some of the things that are being associated with China or Chinese people –

JanJan: Yeah, mm hmm.

Jared: In relation to that, and then other ways of thinking of, you know, what are we trying to keep out? And there’s probably also, like, diseases and, there’s a lot of theologizing about this. And is this God’s way of dealing justly with our injustices, is this, you know, how is God involved in a lot of this, and I think that’s very, not just Revelation, but comes from, kind of Deuteronomic theology, retribution theology, that if you do bad things, God will do bad things to you and a lot of that comes in the form of disease and other things. So, is that part of this as well?

JanJan: Yeah, absolutely. So, disease and divinely inflicted disease is throughout both Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, and Revelation plays on that as well. And you know, when I started to look more carefully at the text and thinking about cleanliness and disease, it comes out in places that you wouldn’t think. So, for example, in Revelation 22, when you have entry into the city, and the saints are coming, they are called the, blessed are the ones who wash their robes and so they can enter the city.

25:00

And the outsiders are the evildoers and the filthy, right? The filthy will stay filthy. That’s what the text says. So, it’s as if cleanliness is literally next to godliness, right?

Pete: [Laughter]

Right.

JanJan: It is the symbolic nature of righteousness. They have these white, shining robes that they can come in, and also you think about bowls of God’s wrath, and there’s like a three repeated series of plagues that are visited on people outside, or before the New Jerusalem descends, and there’s plague and there’s also these foul, painful sores that break out on people. So it’s, there’s definitely this association of those who are excluded as diseased and not able to enter into the city.

Jared: That’s interesting, because I think it’s an important thing to say, that you, this is in the Bible itself. You know, there are those things that we say, oh, we’re maybe reading that into the Bible, or we’ve put our own things onto or projected onto, but we see in the Old Testament and New Testament and here in Revelation, that that’s actually part of the theology of our Bible is this is how God deals with problems.

JanJan: Yeah, partly, yeah.

Pete: Except for Jesus when he says, no, God doesn’t do that.

Jared: Right.

JanJan: [Laughter]

Pete: [Laughter]

Jared: Yeah, but what does Jesus have to do with the Bible, Pete?

JanJan: Right, right.

[Continued laughter]

Pete: Our diverse Bible, here you go, but –

JanJan: Well…

Pete: But I guess, there is a political rhetoric in Revelation, I guess. Right?

JanJan: Yeah, absolutely.

Pete: And, which is fueled with, by the apocalyptic rhetoric, and you can’t divorce those two things. And, you know, it’s just sort of their way of expressing their faith in that particular context and I think that’s tempting for people of faith to sort of, well, we’ll just do the same thing. Whether it’s instinctive, or whether it’s deliberate, or whether it’s just through osmosis. So, I mean, how can people approach this book of Revelation and, like, take some of this – this is a big question – but to take some of the rhetoric seriously and understand it, but not do that.

JanJan: Mm hmm.

Pete: Right? Like, not do that. Don’t use it to proclaim insider status and others are dirty on the outside, or demonizing people who look different and come from different countries and things like that. Basically, not to be afraid of immigration. Not to be afraid of the outsider coming into your holy space.

JanJan: Yeah.

Pete: How can, I mean, just on a very practical level, if, you know, this is a hard book, but, to help people think about like, what some of those images might mean, how they could be reimagined, transformed for different contexts in different cultures.

JanJan: Yeah, so, I have a couple thoughts on that. So, the first is, it is important to recognize the kind of text that Revelation was in its historical context and keep that in mind. That it is strong rhetoric, political rhetoric as well, as you mentioned, against a particular empire that is Rome. So, there’s some of that that needs to have a role in the way we’re interpreting, to have that knowledge, and to not say, well, there’s an obviously a one-to-one transfer to what’s going on right now, and that obviously applies. At the same time, Revelation is a bizarre book, right? It has things in it that we don’t know what to do with, and many people have tried, and I think that’s what’s fascinating about it. It’s kind of this changeable set of images, that you have, you know, if you look at interpretations of Revelation in scholarship, and then also in popular culture, people have done lots of different things with Revelation. Whether it’s seeing it as a really redemptive, liberative text that really talks about lifting oppression and offering liberation. People have read it as an eco/green text that is about protecting the earth, or having a vision of some sort of redeemed earth and heaven, etc. And then there are other ways to read it, right, which are millenarian, or we have, you know, thinking about end times and things like that, and also in the ways I’ve talked about it in terms of exclusion. So, it lends itself, because it’s so bizarre in its imagery, it’s almost like you can do whatever you want with it, because there’s no stable ground in some sense. So, at that point I would say, okay, is it really the text that is going to tell us what to do, or do we bring a stable sense of ethics to the text? And I would say, for a book like Revelation, and maybe for most texts, if not all texts, it has to come from us. So, it’s not as if I just sit here and let Revelations do its work, right? It’s rather that I come, and I make meaning out of it. And as a person who wants to be ethical, then this is the kind of interpretation I want to put forward or point out harmful interpretations that have come from the past.

Pete: Yeah. That’s, that is a new way of thinking, I think, for a lot of people. I mean, Jared and I are sitting here nodding our heads, but the, just the honest recognition that at times, you have to interrogate the Bible sometimes –

30:01

JanJan: Yeah.

Pete: On the basis of an ethical standard that, maybe we can anchor in the Bible, you know, I joke before about Jesus saying that, no, you’re not, you’re not hurting because you sin. You’re not, the tower didn’t fall on you, you didn’t get some disease because of something your parents did, right? We have that, and maybe it’s a matter of highlighting, I mean, frankly, people say don’t have a cannon within a cannon, or don’t pick and choose. We all pick and choose. We all have a cannon within a cannon, and maybe this is a really good example, the book of Revelation, for not letting it guide our theological discourses for today. You know, Jared, we had Brad Jersak on, you know, a couple of years ago –

Jared: Yeah, Brad Jersak.

Pete: Brad Jersak is an Orthodox theologian, and he enlightened us to how the book of Revelation was, it didn’t make the cut in the cannon until quite late.

JanJan: Mm hmm.

Pete: And after the ecumenical councils, and, so he says the Orthodox church doesn’t get their theology from the book of Revelation. They use it for worship, because it didn’t make the cut early enough. That’s sort of a nice way to get out of it, I think, you know?

[Laughter]

Do you see, like, a fundamental disjunction between how the book of Revelation is really the voice of the disenfranchised and how the rhetoric is used in our context by the group that’s in power.

JanJan: I think, I mean, what do you mean by disjunction?

Pete: Or, no, disenfranchised, you know, in the first century –

JanJan: Oh.

Pete: It’s the people who are getting beaten up by the Romans and looking for some hope to hold onto this slain lamb of God, when they’ve got the Roman economic war machine just down their throats, and temping them to give up on all that.

JanJan: Right.

Pete: But today, that same rhetoric is used by people who are not the powerless, but the very powerful. And I find that to be an interesting kind of juxtaposition that has to be addressed on some level.

JanJan: Yeah. I mean, I think, yes. There’s definitely the use of that by people who are not recognizing that the audience of this kind of literature, I mean, mostly Jews, right, who do not have power, who do not have a domination of the world that they exist in at the writing of Revelation. At the same time, what’s troubling to me though, it kind of takes your question a different way, is that there are also parts of Revelation that mimic Roman empire, right, that take the structure of a throne room and Roman victory, and power, and you know, domination, and then rewrite it as divine. But at the same time, it’s reusing that symbolism, right? So, it’s troubling to me, it’s, I don’t think it’s, you know, that’s where I say it’s like it’s neither/nor.

Pete: Mm hmm.

JanJan: It’s neither fully redemptive, nor fully, you know, let’s smash everybody who doesn’t fit into this picture, but rather, I mean, you can use it in so many different ways. It is both critiquing power, but also re-inscribing it, right? Re-justifying it by its vision of what divine power is and the symbols that it uses. So, I think it’s troubling in that way. And so, again, I think interpreters have to be careful.

Jared: So, in some ways it’s still participates in the systems of imagery that would represent, kind of, I think of like a political system. All it’s saying is, I think of, for some reason I think of Nietzsche here –

JanJan: Mm hmm.

Jared: And his concept of kind of ressemtiment. We’re not really smashing the system of power, we’re just going to resent the people who are powerful now –

JanJan: Right.

Jared: We want to be in that seat at some point –

JanJan: Yes, yup.

Jared: And that’s kind of what Revelation does, it’s just recapitulating it, but now we’ve just switched players, rather than questioning the system itself.

JanJan: Yeah, yeah. I would say so.

Pete: I think what feeds into that is the sense of the persecuted Christian minority in America.

JanJan: Right.

Pete: You know, we’re the disenfranchised, so you know, we want the power back.

Jared: Well that’s what I was going to say, is you know, the problem with having Jesus as the center of our faith and having this narrative of, we want to work on centering the decentered and the disenfranchised is, what happens when you’re in power?

JanJan: Right.

Jared: Like, that’s the cognitive dissonance. And so, my tradition growing up, it didn’t matter, really, I think, I’m going to be careful how I say this, but it didn’t really matter how persecuted or not we were, or how in power or not we were, we had to have our identity be persecuted and the minority –

JanJan: Right.

Jared: Or else the rest of our narrative didn’t make sense.

JanJan: Yeah, yeah. There’s a struggling against that becomes very formative, right? That it has to be part of that.

Jared: Yeah, that’s well said.

Pete: Yeah, I want to get back to what you said before about describing Revelation as using some of the same imagery that the people in power were using against them. And I think that’s a really, really important point.

35:00

I hadn’t quite put it together like that before. I guess that’s an example of, I mean, sort of all theology does that, you know? I mean, isn’t is true? Maybe I’m overstating it, but –

JanJan: I’m going to hesitate and not –

Pete: Yeah, let’s hesitate when we say all. But I see, it’s common that we use the language of the culture we’re in –

JanJan: Yeah.

Pete: To talk about the gospel. Hopefully in a redemptive way, but it seems almost inevitable that, and so, you have here, to me that normalizes the book of Revelation in the sense that I see what they’re doing. Now, I need to be really careful how I use the rhetoric of this book in a different time and place. So, it’s a recognition that all theology is going to have, maybe, one foot in something that maybe it shouldn’t be stepping in, you know?

JanJan: Right.

Pete: And maybe if we interpret God according to American ideals, right, we’re sort of falling into the same kind of, you know, potential just, very problematic way of talking about God, and about the life of faith.

JanJan: Yeah.

Jared: So, are you saying, Pete, because I want to, I think you’ve made this point too, is, in the past, I want to be clear, there’s a sense in which we have to judge Revelation 4, like you said, JanJan, you mentioned we have to bring out own ethical framework to it.

JanJan: Right.

Jared: And so, in some places we have to judge it as, that is not the kind of ethical framework we want to embody and enact in our current time and place. Like, the book of Revelation participates, perhaps, in some unjust imagery of political situations or whatever it is, but I hear you saying, Pete, yes, that’s true – and – we have to recognize that it could do no other in the sense that it’s simply participating in the imagery and symbolism, the representation that’s available to them, the language that’s available to them. Because I don’t want it to come across as, I think and sometimes we create this binary where we say we can, we want to dismiss or judge Revelation in terms of that it just couldn’t possible keep up with. Like, we’re going to call it immoral or unethical in a way that, what do we expect it to be? It was written a few thousand years ago in a context that was very different than we are today, so in some ways we may want to judge it or dismiss it for that, but on the other hand, I don’t think what you’re saying is we can forgive it and just go about continuing to circulate these, maybe, unjust ways of thinking either.

Pete: Right, yeah. Because it’s using the language of, the only language they know, ya know? And we do the same things, we’re sort of human beings.

JanJan: Yeah, yeah.

Pete: But, ya know, most people, ya know, the topic, just talking about immigration again and the political scene. We’re having a pretty sophisticated discussion right now on the book of Revelation and most people who like the rhetoric just see that it’s in the Bible, it’s the word of God, and it’s got to be relevant somehow. So, like, how effective has that been, in your opinion, in either recently, or, you know, over the past maybe, two, three hundred years. Has that been effective? Has that worked for the people in power to continue this kind of rhetoric?

JanJan: Oh, absolutely. I think, I mean, we brought up plague for example, or disease in one, and I’m thinking of the fear of disease in 19th and 20th century rhetoric about immigration, and even, of course, more recently in the current crisis where you have depictions of, for example, Chinese people in China-town as literally embodying malaria, small pox, leprosy, or you know, Irish immigrants as being blamed for cholera and then having imagery that’s very apocalyptic in showing the specter, kind of looming over the country. Or I have a political cartoon in which Chinese people are actually grasshoppers, or locusts actually, but the faces of Chinese coolies and they’re eating up the land. So, it’s using this imagery very politically, right, to say we need to keep these out and using these kinds of images coming from a relation in a very politically expedient way to make that point and to show that kind of danger that’s coming in. And so, I think, I mean, that’s one kind of extreme example, but I see, it’s been politically expedient to use it in other ways. When we think about those who are excluded in terms of wall symbolism, and thinking about how it keeps out, you know, murderers and those who are dogs, so bestializing other people, and that kind of rhetoric too, coming from understanding America as the New Jerusalem. So, I think that’s definitely been very useful in talking about exclusion in a negative way in the last couple of hundred years.

40:00

Pete: Yeah, and, you know, that rhetoric, I guess it doesn’t originate from the Bible in the sense that, I guess we have to treat people like this because the Bible says so. It’s more the Bible comes along for the ride.

JanJan: Right, yes.

Pete: There’s something already there.

JanJan: Right.

Pete: And I mean, what would, can we say more than just hatred or fear, or is that really what it is, is just people are just afraid and they’ll appeal to things that they trust in like the Bible, and they know other people will listen to, to sort of foster that kind of fear, or is there, I mean, I guess we’re getting sort of psychological and sociological here –

JanJan: Right.

Pete: But why do people do that? Why go out of your way to make somebody who looks different than you do, and get God on your side to drive them into the ground?

JanJan: Yeah, I mean, I don’t know if it’s, I guess I’m of two minds. The one is yes, I think it is fear. I think a fear of change, a fear of identity, a fear of a different world than one we’re used to. That’s always gonna be, you know, change is hard. And change makes people really uncomfortable, and unsure, and it’s unfamiliar. At the other side, if I want to be more cynical, I would say that it’s power, right? That you don’t want a loss of power, and you don’t want to be dethroned in the comfortability that you have or in a political sense from having political power and domination of a particular place, and so you use this kind of rhetoric that you know is vastly appealing to a large community of believers, so that, I think there’s two, I mean, obviously more than that. But those are the two that come to mind for me.

Pete: Yeah, so in the face of a threat –

JanJan: Yeah.

Pete: You sort of scape goat. You pin it on somebody else that’s a threat to you like calling it a Chinese virus.

Jared: Well, and when you bring it to the Bible and how we read the Bible too, I think it’s also very difficult for people not to see themselves as the protagonist of all these stories. Like, I don’t know of many people who would look at their own tribe and say, look at how we’ve been a scourge, look at how we’ve been a plague too, and so there’s something, I think it’s sociological or psychological about that, which, for me, again, would come back to the diversity of the Bible, which I think is why the prophetic books are so valuable, because you have this self-critiquing that is often absent in a lot of these examples, JanJan, that you’ve given, and how we use this rhetoric. It’s used as a weapon outwardly; it’s rarely for critical, self-reflection.

JanJan: Yeah, that’s interesting.

Pete: So, I mean, one thing that you’re going to talk about in your book that’s going to come out in the next fifteen years or something, right?

JanJan: [Laughter]

Right.

Jared: Is that a safe time frame?

Pete: Academic books, they take forever.

JanJan: Right.

Pete: But something just caught my eye that you make a connection between immigration and what you call apocalyptic bookkeeping.

JanJan: Right, yeah.

Pete: Right? Which I think is a hilarious way of putting the book of life, and have your name written in the book of life. That’s just a very interesting theological connection. Can you flesh that out a little bit?

JanJan: Yeah, so I have to be honest, that’s the one that I’ve had the least time to look in the archives yet for, but to kind of give it the historical background, there is a theme in apocalyptic literature and also, of course, in Revelation in which you do have these heavenly books and you have, when people are waiting to come into this place in order to gain entry, you need to open the records of everything you’ve ever done. So, either that’s the book of life, or the book of deeds, they have different names. In Revelation, it’s the book of life or the book of the lamb, and there’s actually more than one book that gets open, so I see it as the most bureaucratic passage of the New Testament –

Pete: [Laughter]

JanJan: And books were opened, right? It’s kind of like, you know, if you’ve ever been in an immigration office or seen that kind of thing, it’s very reminiscent. You have huge lines of people, right, and this is like everyone who’s ever died and lived, right? And you have to have these books opened, and then at the end, it’s all kind of arbitrary because they open all these books, the only thing that matters is if your name is in, written in the book of the lamb. And I don’t, I don’t want to be totally flippant here, but it just seems like, oh, a lot of this is mirrored in the way we think about who gets entry and the process of, you know, entry into this country and records and, you know, your deeds and, you know, all of these sorts of things that then become this bureaucratic in and out kind of gatekeeping. It doesn’t always have to be the case, right? Why do we even think about immigration in terms of records? And, you know, of course there are reasons, right, but I think it’s become a very matter of fact way of thinking about it, and I think reading it, cross reading Revelation sort of asks important questions like, why do we existentially believe in this kind of thing? What are the theological groundings of understanding records, recordkeeping and inclusion?

44:54

So, I’m not sure that there’s a one-to-one, right, of book of Revelation inspiring the way we do immigration, but I think there’s a lot of overlap and I think it asks important questions of each other. So, the things we take for granted in Revelation and the things we take for granted in immigration, why? Right? Ask the big questions of why is this necessary and for what reasons?

Pete: Maybe they can each help us understand the other.

JanJan: Yeah, I think so.

Pete: The contemporary scene and the past, right, that’s very interesting.

JanJan: Yeah.

Jared: So, this has been a fascinating conversation. I love how we’ve pinged from various things, plagues and bookkeeping and all kinds of things and related them back to immigration and the book of Revelation. So, before we go, if people want to continue the conversation, kind of like, go a deeper way either with you or other materials, where can people find you?

Pete: Yeah, what’s your house address?

JanJan: [Laughter]

Pete: Where do you live?

JanJan: Well, we’re all in quarantine right now.

Pete: [Laughter]

JanJan: So, you cannot come here. But you can reach me at my Yale email address which is yii-jan.lin@yale.edu. That’s my email address.

Jared: And you don’t mind if people reach out and ask you follow up questions based on what we’ve talked about today, because I think there may be a good amount of questions.

JanJan: Sure, that’s fine. I mean, I can’t promise how quickly I can respond –

Pete: Sure.

JanJan: But that’s fine, yeah.

Jared: Excellent. Well, thanks again so much for being on and sharing your expertise with us.

JanJan: Well thank you for having me.

Pete: Sure JanJan, thanks so much.

[Music begins]

Jared: Thanks for listening everyone. We did want to draw your attention to one thing. Just a few weeks ago, we were able to do a course called “How to Read the Bible (Like Adults)”, so if you want to look into that, you have some free time in this COVID-19 environment, we would encourage you to check it out at https://peteenns.com/course/. We talk about things like how to read the Bible with some flexibility, some wisdom, also the importance of context and genre, so if you want to take this conversation further, learn a little bit more, you can check that out. Again, it’s at https://peteenns.com/course/.

Pete: And a quick shout out to our team that makes this possible. To Megan Cammack, our podcast producer.

Jared: Our audio engineer, Dave Gerhart.

Pete: Community champion, Reed Lively.

Jared: And Stephanie Speight, our transcriber. We couldn’t do it without you guys.

Pete: Thank you, see you folks.

[Music ends]

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Pete Ruins Exodus (part 1)

Pete Ruins Exodus (Part 1)

March 11, 2019

There’s a lot more going on in the book of Exodus than what you’ve seen on the big screen or heard in church. More than a story of deliverance, Exodus is a subtle literary creation that contains many surprises when we read it closely. Join Pete here for Part 1 of this series where he looks at some big picture issues (like “did it happen?”) before walking us through the themes of chapters 1 and 2.

Read the transcript

00:00

Pete:  You’re listening to the Bible for Normal People, the only God-ordained podcast on the internet.  Serious talk about the sacred book.  I’m Pete Enns.

Jared:  And I’m Jared Byas.

[Jaunty Intro Music]

Hey everybody, welcome to another episode of the Bible For Normal People.  Today’s episode is a solo episode.  Not only that, but it’s the beginning of a series on the book of Exodus that I’m calling “Pete Ruins Exodus,” just because I like being that kind of guy.  This is not about ruining anything.  It’s more about digging deeper into something that is familiar to a lot of people.

The story of Exodus has this universal appeal.  But I’d like to take a look at this book from other angles, not ones we might have gotten from Veggie Tales or the Ten Commandments or the Prince of Egypt or something like that.  Because there’s a lot going on.  This is a deeply theological book.  I think it’s just a fun thing to look at.  That’s all.  I just like the Bible and I want to talk about it.  So here we go.

Also, I said a series.  This is a series.  Do not hold me to how many episodes.  I have no idea.  It just depends on how things go.  We’ll see.  It could be three.  It could be 30.  Not 30.  But, it’s going to be something more than just a couple, because there’s a lot going on.  Especially, with the first three/four chapters, those are such thick and rich chapters.  So much information is just baked into these chapters, that I think that it’s well-worth our time to maybe slow down a little bit at the beginning and take larger chunks as we go on.  That’s sort of what I’m planning.

My plan, then, is to, as you’ll see in a second, divide the book of Exodus into sections.  And for each section, drop down into the book and focus on things that, I think, are interesting or important or the kinds of things a lot of people talk about, all for the purpose of helping us understand the theology of this book more clearly, because it is a book of theology.  There’s no question about that.

Now as we get started, there are a couple of background issues that all have to do with history that keep coming up, and I want to introduce them here.  We’ll come back to them occasionally during the course of these podcasts.  But the first has to do with authorship of the book, namely who wrote it, and when.  The bottom line is nobody knows.  Nobody really knows who wrote the book of Exodus.  In fact, most scholars think that is was compiled more than written from various traditions over several centuries and then brought together at a later time in Israel’s history.  That is pretty much my point of view as well.  But it’s not the most important thing we’ll talk about here, because we are going to try to deal on the level of where theology and history sort of come together, and not focus entirely on things like where did the book come from, who wrote it.  Those things are relevant.  We’ll see that in a second.  But it’s not the focus.  But the bottom line is nobody really knows who wrote the book.  To say that Moses wrote it is really a guess because the book’s anonymous, just like Genesis.  They’re all anonymous.  We don’t know who wrote any of these books.

Tradition has Moses, but a lot of work, not just in the modern period, but even going back to Medieval Judaism and even before that, people have picked up that it’s hard to look at a book like Exodus and say, one person wrote this in one sitting at the time of Moses’ life, which might have been right around the 13th Century or something like that.  It’s unlikely that that’s the case.  But this podcast series is not about that.  I’m just throwing it out there because it will come up. 

The other issue is just, the basic(est) issue of historicity, fancy way of saying, “Did any of this happen?”  What I’ll do is, as we go through the podcast, is say things like, “In the logic of the narrative,” because I don’t necessarily want to commit myself to whether things happened or didn’t happen.  I do think things happened.  We’ll get to that in a second too.

Again, defending the book historically is not my point.  I don’t want to defend anything and I don’t want to presume anything one way or the other.  I want to just let the book have its way and talk the way it wants to talk.

Did any of this happen?  That’s a question that’s of some importance, especially for some modern readers, not for everyone.  I think of it this way.  The reason why digging into history is actually more than just interesting, but it’s important, is that, while these texts were written by people at some point in time in the past, and knowing something of context, knowing something of when might help us understand something of why these texts were written. 

I mean, think about this.  Pick a figure like Martin Luther King, Jr. or Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and say, “Yeah.  I want to talk about Martin Luther King Jr.  I want to talk about Franklin Delano Roosevelt.”  Somebody might say, “Okay.  Well, for Martin Luther King, Jr., we have to talk about also just the setting of the 1960s’ Civil Rights Movement.”  You say, “No way.  I don’t—I’m not interested in that.  I just want to talk about Martin Luther King Jr. or FDR.” “Yeah.  He helped America get out of the Depression and he was the president during the Second World War.”  And somebody says, “Hold on a second here.  Who cares? I just want to talk about Franklin Delano Roosevelt.”  You can see how nonsensical that is.  Right?  You have to talk about context because human beings are contextual beings and social beings.  No one’s an island.  Knowing something about the past setting might help us understand the theology of the text, which is really the goal for me.

05:24

Not only that, but you have sort of a triangle here.  You’ve got history, theology and then other aspect is the Bible as literature.  And it is.  We’ll see that too, here in the book of Exodus. 

Think of it this way.  You have a writer living in history who is trying to communicate something of a theological nature through writing.  How he writes the literature, when he writes the history affect how we read the theology.  Those things all hang together.  To just read Exodus without a view towards literature or history, it can really wind up obscuring the message and not helping it very much.

A few more words about history.  Because again, this is something that comes up a lot and so much of this book is an object of apologetic defense.  Did the Exodus happen as the Bible says it did?  Just introduce it here.  I don’t want to get into it too much.  We’ll see things along the way.  But it’s worth noting, first of all, that there is no direct evidence whatsoever for an Israelite presence in the land of Egypt at any point in time.  In other words, there’s just nothing there.  There’s nothing Egyptian, and the only source we have is an Israelite source, the Bible.  We don’t have any musings from other nations.  We don’t have any material, evidence, in other words, archeological evidence.  There’s nothing there. 

There’s evidence for a lot of things that are in the Bible.  But for this big event, we just don’t see much.  That’s at least worth stating.  That doesn’t prove nothing happened.  But it’s at least a fact.  It is a fact that we don’t have evidence.


Now some say, not to get into this too much, but some say, “Why would we expect the Egyptians to talk about this humiliating defeat on the part of a slave population that left Egypt?  They would want to bury that and not talk about it.”  That’s just not true.

What ancients did was, when something bad happened, they didn’t try to ignore it.  They spun it.  I would expect something.  We see this, actually, elsewhere in the Old Testament, vis a vis, other nations and how they talk about things.  We would expect the Egyptians to have spun and said, “Listen, our gods were mad at us.  Therefore, we lost our slaves.  It’s not that we’re weak.  It’s that we were disobedient.”  That’s a common ancient way of handling embarrassing moments.

Plus, you can’t really keep this quiet.  It’s not like no one would have heard of it.  It was pre-internet, but still, the Moabites, the Ammonites, the Edomites, the Babylonians, somebody would have heard of this mass escape of slaves and the economic and ecological destruction of Egypt.

It’s hard to imagine that the silence of Egyptian sources is actually an argument for historicity, which is how some people try to defend.  But I think it just doesn’t work.  Having said that, I think there is suggestive evidence for the fact that something happened, which is sort of my position.  Something happened.

For example, one of the oldest pieces of Hebrew literature that we have comes from the book of Exodus, Chapter 15.  The oldest manuscripts we have of Exodus are a couple of hundred years before Christ.  Nothing really before that.  That’s the Dead Sea Scrolls. That’s the oldest textual evidence we have of anything in the Bible, with a couple of exceptions, but not really relevant for this discussion.

But, Chapter 15, called the Song of Moses or the Song of the Sea—this is considered, by linguists, to be evidence of very old writing on the part of the Hebrews.  It could go as far back as about 1200 BCE, which would make it very old and would make it not long after these kinds of events would have transpired.  Just think about that.  Exodus 15 is a song praising Yahweh for killing the Egyptians in the sea.  That’s really what it is.  “You’re so great.  You’re awesome.  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.” 

Probably Exodus 15 was changed and adapted and added to later in Israel’s tradition.  Probably the Exodus 15 that we have was not all old from the 12th Century, but there are elements of it that linguists say make sense in that time period.

Think of it this way: if someone were to find a manuscript that has a lost Shakespearean play or something like that, we would know instinctively where to put that historically.  We wouldn’t put it in the 19th Century.  We wouldn’t put it in the 12th Century.  We wouldn’t put it in the 21st Century.  We’d put it where it belongs, right in the middle there somewhere.

10:09

We know enough about the development of the English language to know pretty much where things should belong.  That’s what linguists do of Semitic languages like Hebrew and others.  They’re able to see evolutionary developments in languages because all languages evolve.  All languages develop.  You can see signs of that in Exodus 15, along with passages like Judges Chapter 5.  This is the story of Deborah.  That’s another one.  Very often, scholars will look at Genesis 49, Jacob’s last words to his sons before he dies.

It’s interesting.  This is suggestive that the earliest memory we have of the Israelites is something that has to do with departing from Egypt.  It’s interesting.  That’s like the earliest record we have. 

It’s also the earliest record we have of. Yahweh as a warrior, which doesn’t stay that way throughout the whole Bible.  But early depictions of Yahweh as a warrior who rescues his people and beats up the Egyptians.  That suggests that this is a very old memory on the part of the Israelites and it’s not made up after the Exile or something like that.

Another echo of history here is several of the names, one of which is Moses’ name itself.  We’ll get back to that soon enough.  But Moses is almost—it just sounds like an Egyptian name.  You have that element.  Moses, that’s at the end of other names, like King Tut, King Tut Moses.  That’s the full name, which means something like “born of a god, born of the god Tut or Toth,” spelled, pronounced differently, depending on who you ask.

That Moses element seems to be part of an originally longer Egyptian name.  That doesn’t prove anything.  It doesn’t prove the historicity of Moses.  Doesn’t prove the historicity of the Exodus.  What is does indicate, though, is that there an Egyptian memory.  There’s something about Egypt that seems to be real and strong in Israel’s memory that would inspire the writing down of stories like this.

It doesn’t seem like this is simply made up of out of whole cloth. Who would make up, frankly, a story of national origins that goes, “Yeah, we were slaves for a long time and then we escaped.”  It doesn’t seem like the kind of story that you’re going to make up out of whole cloth.  There’s seems to be a real authentic memory of something that has made its way through Israel’s tradition and is now written down.

What some scholars say, and even Evangelical scholars (I shouldn’t say “even”), but just to indicate how relatively broad this way of thinking about it is, a way of looking at this book of Exodus is what some call mythicized history.  If you’re interested, I think I wrote a blog post about this a year or so ago.  You can find it on the website.

But mythicized history.  In other words, it’s history that mythicized.  Something happened, but then the way they tell the story gets overlaid with mythic elements.  I use that word without embarrassment or shame or hesitation, because that’s what they are.  We’ll get into this.  They’re mythic elements that are used to communicate the full force of the impact of the story.

There are ways of telling stories of origins in the ancient world and implying mythic themes is one of them.  We see that in the book of Exodus.  But here’s the point.  The root of it is some historical experience, but that gets told in any mythicized way, as opposed to the opposite, not historicized myth, but mythicized history is what I’m saying.

Others would say (this is really not a view that’s that common anymore that it would be, not mythicized history, but historicized myth.  In other words, it’s something that’s foundationally mythic, and then you just put some names and places attached to it to make it look historical.  That doesn’t seem to be the case.  You’re on pretty safe grounds saying something like, “There’s a historical base, but it’s mythicized.  That’s just the way they told stories back then.”

Again, those are just two preliminary issues:  authorship and historicity.  We’ll get back into all this stuff, no doubt, as we continue this series.

But here, let’s start this way.  The big picture.

Exodus, second book of the Bible.  Got it.  Good.

Forty chapters long and I like looking at books of the Bible from a thirty-thousand-foot view.  When I do that, I see these 40 chapters and I divide the book into two parts.  The first 15 chapters are all about departing from Egypt and then the rest of the book are all about the Sinai experience.  So 1-15 and then basically 16-40.  Most of Exodus happens on Mount Sinai.

By the way, Mount Sinai is really the location of, not just most of Exodus, but all of Leviticus and the first ten chapters of Numbers.  Basically, the center chunk, the heart of the Pentateuch, takes place on Mount Sinai.  About a year transpires in the logic of the narrative.  About a year transpires on Mount Sinai, which means, you’re really slowing down the clock here and spending a lot of time at what happens on this mount, which is an indication to us that this is important.  Exodus is really about getting to Mount Sinai.  That’s really what the story’s about.

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Let’s break this down a little bit further, because this is where we’re going to go with this series.  Chapters 1 to 15.  This is all about the departure from Egypt.  I would say the first four chapters are all about preparation.  It’s about the preparation for the actual departure.  The problem is introduced.  Moses is introduced.  We can sort of see where this is going. 

Then, starting in Chapter Five and going to Chapter 13.  Now we have Moses engaged with Pharaoh and they’re battling and it’s the plague narrative.

Chapters 14 and 15 are the story of the departure from Egypt itself, the Red Sea Crossing or the Sea of Reeds.  We’ll get to that too.  It’s probably Sea of Reeds.  It’s not Red Sea.

Chapter 14 is the narrative version of the departure from Egypt.  Chapter 15 is the poetic section.  That’s one of the older sections of Hebrew literature, as I mentioned before.  You have the preparation, the plagues, then the departure.  That’s the first 15 chapters.

The rest of the book is all about, first of all, getting to Mount Sinai.  That’s Chapters 16 to 18.  They arrive in Chapter 19.  They won’t depart from there until Numbers Chapter 10.  They’re going to be there for a long time. 

Then, the laws—that’s Chapters 20 through 24—20 is the Ten Commandments.  The rest are something called the Book of the Covenant (which we’ll look at some of those laws later on in this series).

Then comes this Tabernacle section.  That begins in Chapter 25.  The last—more than a third of the book is taken with something to do with the Tabernacle.  It’s a bit tedious.  We’re not going to spend 15 weeks on the Tabernacle, but we’re going to spend a little bit of time, because there’s stuff happening there that’s really, really interesting theologically. 

This is the stuff you skip.  If you’re reading through Exodus and you make it past the laws, you didn’t give up and you’re at the Tabernacle section because “who cares,” right?  But the instructions for building the Tabernacle are Chapters 25-31.  The actual building of the Tabernacle are Chapters 35-40.

Sandwiched in-between is the famous episode of the Golden Calf, Chapters 32 to 34.  And we’ll take each of those in turn, obviously, when we get there.

That’s the basic gist of it and, I thought, today, we’ve got a little bit of time.  We can just start off her with Section One and see where we go, because I have no idea where we’re going.  We’ll see where we go.  Who knows where we’ll end up.  Anyway.  Okay.

Section One.  This is about Chapters 1 to 4.  This is about the preparation, as I said.  We’re going to take a little more time here because these are thick chapters.  There’s a lot going on.  It’s not just preliminary stuff to get out of the way.  It’s sets up what’s going to follow.  I think it’s worth paying some attention to.

The big view here (these first four chapters) is that there’s a problem, a big problem.  From the Egyptian point of view, here’s the problem.  The problem is that there are too many Israelites and they might rebel.  The solution is, eventually—well, there are actually three that are attempted.  One is enslavement.  That sort of works, but it doesn’t work.  We’ll look at that in a second.  Another is, you have—the midwives are told (if you’re familiar with this story)—the midwives, these two midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, are told to kill the mail children when they’re born.  That doesn’t work.  Eventually, the third solution is to throw the male Hebrew children into the Nile.

Israel is under threat.  They’re not just enslaved.  They’re actually under threat.  That poses a problem.  Israel’s under threat.  Now another solution is offered.  This solution is, of course, Moses—Moses is called to deliver the Israelites.  We’re introduced to Moses here in this part of the story.

In Chapter One—these are just some things that I think that are worth noticing.  Throughout, I’ll be looking at the New Revised Standard Version if you want to follow along.  That would be fine too.  In fact, I hope you do, as long as you’re not driving.

Chapter One.  Here are some things that I think are worth noticing in the chapter that aren’t always drawn out.  Actually, three in the first chapter.  The first is the introduction of a theme that will become very, very important in the course of this book, and that is the theme of creation.  You can see this already.  It’s hidden a little bit, but not too much.  In Chapter One, look at Verse 7.  It talks about how the Israelites were fruitful and prolific and they multiplied. 

This is echoing Genesis One language because the Israelites are actually doing what they’re supposed to be doing.  They’re in accordance with God’s will by increasing in number, which is exactly the thing that has this Pharaoh freaked out, this unnamed Pharaoh freaked out.  And so he wants to do something about it.  He says, “There are too many.  They might actually rebel against us and join with our enemies and fight against us.  We can’t have this.  We have to keep them under wraps.”  Which is why he enslaves them.  That’s the first attempt.

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But you see, we should not lose sight here of how Pharaoh and Egypt are being posited here by the writer as sort of an anti-god force.  Not just ???? enslavement, but the problem they have is that there are too many Israelites, which is exactly what God wants.  By trying to keep the population down, they’re going against the creation mandate.

As I said, is something that will come up again and again and again in, especially, the first fifteen chapters—actually, no, the whole book.  What am I talking about?  The whole book has this creation theme happening and it’s introduced to you already.  Actually, when they’re enslaved, as an attempt to curtail the population, we read in verse 12, the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread.  It actually backfires.  That attempt to reduce the population actually results in them increasing all the more.  This is an indication of God’s favor.  This is actually an indication of where this whole book’s going.

Egypt’s attempt to hold the Israelites at bay and to squash the Israelites and to squash their god are going to backfire.  They’re not going to work.  This is already hinted at here at the very beginning.

Actually, speaking of Genesis here, this is a connection back to Genesis One.  But there’s another interesting connection here to Genesis, which again, shows us something of the literary style and intentionality of this writer.  Because in verse 10, this is the people saying, “Look.  The Israelites—they’re more numerous, more powerful than we.  Come let us deal shrewdly with them.”  That same cadence, that same language is used in the Tower of Babel story.  “Come let us make bricks.  Come let us build the tower up to heaven.”

Of course, that effort (if you know that story) is squashed by God, because God later says, “Come let us go down and see.”  The divine response also begins, “Come let us.”  As you’re reading this, you see here an echo of the Tower of Babel story.  Again, this is an indication that at some point in the Exodus story, God is also going to have a “come let us” moment.  And that’s called the Plagues and the Red Sea.

It’s not terribly subtle.  It actually jumps out at you when you’re reading this story.  If we’re looking for and even expecting these writers to make these connections to other parts of their story, especially the book of Genesis, oh boy, is Genesis just a wonderful place for this writer to go to draw connections with the story of the Exodus.  If we’re expecting that, we’re going to see it and I think we should just keep our eyes open to all that stuff.

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Creation theme.  That’s a big thing. 

A second thing is women in Exodus are being introduced here.  We have a few of them, especially in Chapter Two.  We’ll get to that.  They’re sort of heroes by undermining the work of this Pharaoh.  You have these two women, Shiphrah and Puah (by the way, who are named and Pharaoh isn’t).  I think one reason why Pharaoh isn’t named, because this may be very distant past memories and it doesn’t even matter who the Pharaoh is, but maybe they don’t remember his name.  But the point is that they do remember these midwives’ names, because they do something pretty good.  They outwit the king and they do so by lying.

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The king says to—the Pharaoh rather—he says to “kill the male children when they’re born” and they’re not doing it.  He says, “What’s going on?”  They say, “You don’t understand, by the time we get there, these Hebrew women are so vigorous, by the time we get there, they’ve already given birth.  These are amazing women.  They just drop kids all over the place.  We can’t get there in time.”

That’s not true.  That’s a lie.  What a lot of my students wind up asking about this story (maybe you’ve asked it too), is why do they lie and why is it okay with God to lie like that.  I tell them, with complete respect, “that’s a very white question to ask.  That’s a very privileged question.”  Because when you’re living in a time where you don’t have power, where you’re disenfranchised, where you’re marginalized, you have no power.  There’s no court to go to.  There’s no lawyer.  There’s no legal system.  If you want to get away with stuff that you know is right, that you know that you have to do, in the face of absolute power, which is the king of Egypt, the Pharaoh, you have to be crafty and you have to lie.  This is not the only time we see this sort of thing in the Bible.  You have to tell stories to people in power to outwit them.  This is really not lying.  This is outwitting.  This is using your wiles and your abilities to think on your feet to allow God’s purposes to go forward.

It’s not a moral issue.  “Oh no.  They’re lying and it’s bad to lie.”  It’s not bad to lie.  Not here.  There’s actually something that scholars study.  It’s called the trickster theme.  This is the theme that appears in many places in the Old Testament, where, just like it suggests, you are tricking other because you’re disenfranchised and you’re out of power and this is what you have to do.

Again, we’re going to meet other women, especially in Chapter Two with Moses’ sister and Pharaoh’s daughter.  You have this group of women in Chapters One and Two who outwit the almighty Pharaoh, which makes him look rather ridiculous, that he’s being so easily outwitted by these women.  I think that’s, in my opinion, the intention of the writer.  It’s not simply—it’s not to elevate women in the abstract, although we can read it that way.  I don’t that’s the intention of the writer.  My opinion—I don’t think it’s to elevate women, as much as it is to make Pharaoh look ridiculous that you have his sister, Moses’ sister, and Pharaoh’s own daughter and these two lowly Hebrew midwives who are slaves, they’re able to outwit this Pharaoh so he doesn’t know what’s going on.  As a result, Moses is drawn into the household of Pharaoh and he grows up there, which will have rather significant implications as the story goes on.

Third thing.  We have the creation theme.  The introduction of women in Exodus.  Also, this idea of drowning the male children in the Nile.  That’s the third of the three attempts on the part of Pharaoh to reduce the population of the Israelites.  It’s only the male children, of course, as is with the midwives.  Here is it with the Nile.  It’s only the males because they’re the ones who go to war.  They’re also the ones through whom the lineage is traced and so if you want to further disenfranchise a people that have, let’s say, a nationalistic or an ethnic identity, the way to do that is to get rid of the men.  The women will become the property of other men, namely Egyptians.  So you get rid of them.  This makes some sense historically.

But the men here are thrown into the Nile.  Male infants are thrown into the Nile for drowning.  We have to think here of how this story will end.  The Red Sea.  Especially the Tenth Plague too.  The Tenth Plague and the Red Sea.  The way many interpreters, especially Jewish interpreters throughout history have read this, is that the Tenth Plague, which is the death of the firstborn, and also the Red Sea, which is the drowning of the Egyptians, that’s sort of tit for tat.  It’s eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth.  “If you do this to my children at the beginning,” Yahweh says, “Justice means it will happen to you at the end.”  That’s the Tenth Plague and the Crossing of the Red Sea.

The plagues as a whole are really, in my opinion, just an onramp to get to the Red Sea episode.  There are Ten Plagues.  They’re rather drawn out.  We’ll get into all that stuff.  It could have been one plague.  It could have been none.  It could have just been “go out.”  Just leave, just part, go through the Red Sea.  But you have this Ten Plagues and it goes on for a bit.  It’s all about building up the tension for that final moment where God finally does what, again, in the logic of the narrative, God finally does what God has been wanting to do, namely, vengeance on the Egyptians.  “You will die because of how you treated my children.”

It’s interesting.  When we get to Chapter Four, we’ll see how when God tells Moses to confront Pharaoh, he says, “Is this what you say?  Israel is my son, my first-born.”   Israel is like God’s child.  “If you do this to my children, then your children are going to get it too.”  It makes sense.  The theology makes sense is what I’m saying.  It may be a little bit gruesome, the violence here, but again, you’re reading the Bible, folks.  We got to get used to the violence.  It’s all over the place.

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Ok, so those are three things that happen in the first chapter and some of these things we’ll come back to, namely the Nile and the Creation theme.  Those things hang together.

In the second chapter, this is where Moses is born.  We’re introduced to Moses.  We’re told that he’s a Levite.  When the Bible gives details like that, it’s probably important, because we’re not given much information about the book of characters, and when we are, there’s probably a reason for it.  But here, we’re told that he’s a Levite.  Of course, his brother Aaron will be the first high priest.  He’s of the tribe of Levi as well.  That’s an important detail for this author because Tabernacle, sacrifice, priesthood, all this stuff gets introduced in the book of Exodus.  The main guy here, Moses, is of that same tribe and nd his brother, Aaron, who will be the high priest.  That’s just laid out there right here at the beginning.

A second thing here in terms of Moses’ birth in Chapter Two, is, as you know, the famous story, he’s put into a reed basket or a papyrus basket as the New Revised Standard Version has it.  And it’s lined with bitumen and pitch to keep it from sinking.  The Hebrew word here for this basket is a rare word in the Old Testament.  It’s only used here and then way back in the flood story to describe the ark.  The Hebrew word is “tevah.”  That’s not irrelevant.  That’s pretty important because what you have is Moses—this is like another Noah, and he’s in an ark and he will be delivered from this watery threat.  As a result, there will be a new beginning for God’s people, just like the Noah story.  He and his family are saved through a threat of water and as a result, they’ll start something new.

We’re seeing the Noah story revisited here, but not just a “what a nice little literary connection.”  The point is more theological that God is doing something new and you know he’s doing something new when he’s saving people through water.  Guess where else in this story God is going to save people through water?  Exactly.  Chapter 14 and 15.  The departure from Egypt.  The crossing of the Sea of Reeds.  You’ve got this water deliverance in this story that actually echoes back to Genesis Chapter One as well.  I’m going to leave that for later, because it’s really clear when you get to Chapter 14 that it’s not just Noah, but we’re going back to Genesis Chapter One in this story.  There are echoes of the creation story itself later on, very prominently when we actually depart Egypt.

You have a reed basket.  Also, as I mentioned before, you have the sister here who puts him afloat and follows the basket and sees where it goes and Pharaoh’s daughter picks it up.  The two of them conspire to keep this infant safe from Pharaoh’s hands.  “I happen to know this guy’s mother.  You want me to bring him back and have her breastfeed him until he’s ready?”  “Yeah.  That’d be great.  Go ahead and do that.”

Three months or so and then he comes back.  Actually, it’s more than that.  It’s not three months.  Actually, we don’t know how long it is.  When he’s ready, he comes back and then he grows up in the house of Pharaoh.  We have these thoughtful women outwitting Pharaoh and finding a way to keep this infant safe, because they’re looking at this infant and for whatever reason, this is a kid worth saving.  At least, that’s Pharaoh’s daughter’s point of view.  Moses’ sister would not have that kind of an issue, but she looks at him and says, “Wow.  This is fantastic.” 

We have these women outwitting Pharaoh again.  Also, the name Moses—I mentioned before it probably has an Egyptian echo to it.  But in the story itself, the writer gives Moses a very different meaning, a Hebrew meaning from a verb, a rare verb in the Old Testament that means “to draw out,” meaning “because I drew Moses out of the water, I’m going to call him Moses.”

A problem with this is that who’s giving Moses this name.  It’s Pharaoh’s daughter, which raises a couple of questions.  Number one:  did she know Hebrew?  The chances for knowing Hebrew, maybe, maybe not.  I think it’s unlikely.  Most people think it’s unlikely.  Why would she bother learning the tongue of the slaves?  They have to learn their tongue, not the other way around. 

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But more importantly, why would she give him a Hebrew name to begin with if the whole point is to keep him safe.  At the dinner table with Pharaoh: “Hi.  This is Moishe.”  You’re not going to do that.  You’re going to do something else.  It’s unlikely that she gave him this name, but here’s what’s happening.  This is the pretty standard answer in Biblical scholarship, if it’s of interest to you.  I hope it is.   This is what is called a folk etymology.  It’s not a scientific, linguistic etymology.  But it’s a folk etymology.  It’s how the Israelites later explain the name of Moses from their point of view.  It’s possible the author may not have understood Moses’ name, maybe few people did.  Who knows?  But at least, the writer intentionally gives this name a Hebrew significance that has something to do with the story itself.  So it’s unlikely that Pharaoh’s daughter named him this, because it would have been rather nonsensical for her to do that.  The name has some historical residences with Egypt.  But from the Hebrew point of view, “who cares?”  That’s not furthering our story.  We’re going to look at this differently and give him a Hebrew etymology, which means “to draw out of water.”

One more thing about Moses being drawn out of water.  Everybody talks about this.  This parallels a much, much, much older story, going back to late third millennium BCE, of a king, Sargon, of a place called Akkad (there’s where we get the word Akkadian from, if that helps).  We have a similar kind of rags to riches story.  He’s threatened and he’s saved by the court and his life is threatened.  But then he grows up in this court and winds up becoming a great king.

The Moses story follows that pattern very nicely, so much so, that scholars typically think, not so much in terms of the Moses story is borrowed from this story of Sargon from a long time ago, but it’s more like a standard way of talking about the origins of a great person, sort of like a rags-to-riches story.  That seems to be what’s happening here, and again, these are the kinds of things have to be discussed when you’re talking about the historicity, like we said earlier, when you’re talking about the historicity of this episode.  These are the kinds of things that you have to really take into account somehow and try to explain.  Again, it may not mean that Moses never lived.  But it may mean that Moses’ actual history, the way we think of it, may not be exactly how the Bible here is portraying it, like where he got his name from.  This is a Hebrew overlaying.  This is not really mythical.  We’ll get to mythical overlays later.  But this is still a legendary or a theologically meaningful way of telling this story that really speaks to the people who are recounting their past and setting a vision for their present and a vision for their future.

If we’re expecting this to be totally distant from history and have no connection with the Sargon story, I think that’s a tough hill to climb.  Using literary motifs from other nations is not unheard of in the history of humanity.  You sort of do that.  You learn how to tell stories from the environment that you’re in.  That seems to be what’s happening here as well.  Moses is already being styled as, clearly, this guy’s going to be a great leader.  Look at how history is beginning.  This is how you tell the story of a great leader in that time.

Then he flees (little Moses) to Midian and he flees there because he was found out.  He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave and he intervened and he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.  Way to go Moses!  Way to not be impulsive!  But you see what’s happening here is that we’re seeing Moses as a grown man.  We know nothing of his infancy except for that little story.  But here is a grown man and he’s doing now what he’s going to be later on.  He’s protecting his people from the threat, from the Egyptian threat.

Actually, this whole Chapter Two that talks about Moses’ flight to Midian is a preview of coming attractions.  We’re seeing Moses do things that he’s going to be doing later on his life throughout Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  He saves a slave from the Egyptians, he protects his own people.  But then the next day, he sees two Hebrews arguing and he gets in the way of them and they say, “What are you going to do?  You going to kill one of us too?”

There’s this whole grumbling and rebellion against Moses’ authority on the part of his own people that pops up a lot.  If you know where this story goes, it pops up a lot in the story of Moses throughout the next few books of the Bible.  We have another example of something is that is a preview of coming attractions. 

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The biggest one is that he flees and where does he flee to?  He flees to Midian, which anticipates the same path that the Israelites will take later on.  He goes to Midian (we’re jumping ahead here).  He meets Yahweh on Mount Sinai and Yahweh says, “Go get the people and bring them back here to worship.”  It’s almost like a trial run, escaping Egypt to go to Midian.  He’ll come back and then he’ll take the people. 

More subtlety, however, this story of going to Midian has another echo of something in Genesis, namely the Joseph story.  Joseph is cast into a well by his brothers, but then sold to the Midianites, who then give them over to the Egyptians.  There’s a Midian connection that brings Joseph to Egypt and there’s a Midian connection here to with Moses that will bring him back to Egypt.  Midian is also, if I remember this right, he’s also one of Abraham’s sons through Keturah named Midian.  There’s something about the ancestors in Genesis that is evoked by the word Midian. 

Another point about this flight to Midian is this is where he’s going to meet his wife by a well.  Zipporah.  She’s the daughter of Jethro, the priest of Midian.  This, again, connects him to these ancestral stories in the book of Genesis, namely Isaac and Jacob.  They both meet their wives by a well.  What is it about a well?  It’s like a bar.  I don’t know what it is.  It’s just where you meet girls or something.  Probably not.  It’s a motif.  It’s the dessert.  You’ve got to drink and you meet people by a well.  But he’s doing it too.  This is a continuation of this theme from Genesis. 

One last point and then we’ll stop for today.  We see here at the end of Chapter Two, I think, a very, very important moment in the story that is worth remembering.  It’s the last three verses of Chapter Two.  I just want to read them.

“After a long time, the king of Egypt died.”

This Pharaoh that had impressed them and enslaved them, he dies.

“This Israelites groaned under their slavery and cried out.  Out of the slavery, their cry for help rose up to God.  God heard their groaning and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  God looked upon the Israelites and God took notice of them.”

The reason I want to draw this out just a little bit is because this is giving us the reason for the Exodus.  Why does God deliver His children from Egyptian slavery?  It’s basically to keep a promise to the Patriarchs, meaning Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  This is who God speaks to in the Old Testament in the book of Genesis, especially, in Chapter 15, where he’s engaging Abraham and he says, “Listen, your descendants are going to be slaves in Egypt for 400 years, but I’ll get them out and I’ll bring them into this land and everything will be fine.” 

This is a promise that God made.  It’s not simply God hates slavery.  Forgive me.  God clearly doesn’t hate slavery because there are salves all over the place.  There are even laws in Exodus about what to do with slaves and how to keep them and how to treat them.  Slavery is not a bad thing.  Not for this god.  Not for here. 

It’s not just “I don’t want slaves and I hear you crying out.  I hear you groaning and I don’t like slavery.”  It’s more “I made a promise to Abraham and I’m going to keep it.”  That is the reason why they’re delivered from Egyptian slavery.

The last verse—I love the last verse here because if I could throw a little Hebrew on you here—in English, it’s rather cumbersome.

“God looked upon the Israelites and God took notice of them.”

But in Hebrew, it’s just a few words.  “God saw the Israelites.  God knew.”

I just love that.  God saw.  God knew. 

This is not taking God by surprise.  God is going to do something.  From here on out, what we’re really going to see is what God is going to do to deliver the Israelites.  Not so much Moses.  But God sees and God knows.  And now something absolutely is going to happen.

[Outro Music Begins]

Alright folks, well we’re going to stop there. That’s not bad, we did half of this preparatory section 1-4, we’ll finish it next time, whenever that’ll be. I have no idea, I’m not planning this out folks, it’s just going to happen by Divine direction I think; it’s just going to happen. But until then, and as always, thank you for listening. Folks, when you press download and then push to listen, we’re very thankful that you’re letting us into your lives. We don’t take that for granted at all, and one last thing, this is important, it’ll change your life. So 3 simple words: Grab. Some. Swag. You can go to our store at thebiblefornormalpeople.com and you can find t-shirts of various colors, even youth sizes, with all sorts of fun little sayings on them and polo shirts, which I have, and fleece hoodies, hats, beanies, all different colors and sizes. We have a lot of mugs, tote bags, and we even have onesies for your babies. We’re actually working on an adult onesie but we’re trying to figure out whether that’s actually legal in the state of Pennsylvania. But if it is, oh boy, you’re going to see adult onesies here on this website. Because, why not? That’s why. Because that’s how we roll, man, and that’s what we do. Ok folks, anyway, thanks again for listening and we’ll be with each other next time. See ya.

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