Sunday, May 02, 2004

Moses's arms and the Cross


Yesterday at Vespers we read the passage from Exodus 17 where Moses stands up on the hilll with his arms extended. When he holds his arms out, the Amalekites are losing. When he drops his arms, the Israelites are losing. Finally, Aaron and Hur stand on each side of Moses to help him hold his arms extended. One might think it is just another strange story from the Old Testament, but look at this interpretation from the early Church (via St. Justin Martyr in Dialogue with Trypho:

Moses is standing up there with his arms in the shape of the Cross, while Joshua saves the people from the Amalekites, to foretell for us that Jesus (Joshua) will save us from sin on the Cross.

Here's what Justin said: "When the people," replied I, "waged war with Amalek, and the son of Nave (Nun) by name Jesus (Joshua), led the fight, Moses himself prayed to God, stretching out both hands, and Hur with Aaron supported them during the whole day, so that they might not hang down when he got wearied. For if he gave up any part of this sign, which was an imitation of the cross, the people were beaten, as is recorded in the writings of Moses; but if he remained in this form, Amalek was proportionally defeated, and he who prevailed prevailed by the cross. For it was not because Moses so prayed that the people were stronger, but because, while one who bore the name of Jesus (Joshua) was in the forefront of the battle, he himself made the sign of the cross. For who of you knows not that the prayer of one who accompanies it with lamentation and tears, with the body prostrate, or with bended knees, propitiates God most of all? But in such a manner neither he nor any other one, while sitting on a stone, prayed. Nor even the stone symbolized Christ, as I have shown.

A note to practicioners of the historical-critical method: isn't it more fun to read the bible Christologically?

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