Exodus from Bondage?

lukeResponse to “Exodus from Bondage: Luke 9:31 and Acts 12:1-24” by Susan Garrett

In her article “Exodus from Bondage: Luke 9:31 and Acts 12:1-24,” Susan Garrett argues that Luke employed a soteriology of exodus, wherein Jesus (and to a lesser extent, through thematic recapitulation, Peter) stood as true Israel and freed his people from bondage to Satan. Central for this paper is the collective memory of Israel, which Garrett suggests regularly drew upon the Exodus paradigm as a source of historical renewal for Israel. Picking up on these themes, Luke cast Jesus’s journey to Jerusalem as the faithful journey of Moses to the Promised Land. Culminating in his passion and resurrection, Jesus leads the better exodus and leads the people of Israel from bondage to Satan. Whereas ancient Israel sought to inherit the land, Luke indicates that only through the formation of the Christian community in Jerusalem—the Christ-follower inheritance of the land—may God’s promise to Abraham truly be fulfilled.

Beyond concerns with the exodus as inheritance, Garrett also traces how the Exodus motif served as a paradigm of victory of cosmic forces, as in Second Isaiah. This theology she also sees at work in Luke, where Jesus’ resurrection and ascension complete his victory over the authority of Satan. The goal of the first exodus—that the people of God would fulfill the promise made to Abraham to worship God “in this place”—is finally completed in Jesus and the church of Acts. Peter’s miraculous escape proves vital for Garrett’s argument here, as she argues that Luke recapitulates (both terrestrially and cosmically) the passion event in the life of Peter. Through Peter’s imprisonment and release, he literarily stands in the place of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, thereby continuing to demonstrate Jesus’ exodus power by freeing his people from bondage. This connects to Luke’s soteriology, best understood as an exodus conception of salvation. For Luke, God freed Jesus, Jesus released his people from bondage to Satan, and the people of God continue to live out that exodus from sin and death.

wilderness-of-judeaOverall, Garrett’s arguments are compelling. Her presentation aptly demonstrates how and why Luke-Acts could present a soteriology of freedom from bondage in the early Church. Especially appreciated was her discussion of how one might reconcile the use of literary/mythic structures in what otherwise generally historical (as problematic as that term might be) accounts of the life of Jesus and early Church (678). Additionally beneficial are the web of connections that she draws out between the Acts 12 narrative and the passion events. The linguistic and thematic connections leave little doubt that Luke intentionally paralleled these two narratives. Answering the questions of which direction and to what extent these parallels influenced one another is obviously dependent upon a host of other positions (on the historicity of the passion narratives, dating, purpose, and authorship of Luke-Acts, etc.).

However, this reader remained somewhat unsure about the type of paradigm which was supposed to be at work. The foundation of Ringe’s view, that a theological rather than a literary paradigm was at work, seems to be shortsighted for two reasons. First, the cacophony of literary connectivity (terms and structures especially) between these passages seems to indicate clear literary parallelism. Second, drawing distinctions between literary and theological aspects seems artificial in the context of Luke-Acts, which was obviously intended to be both. For these reasons, it seems best to think of relationship between the passion and Peter narratives as theologically and literarily in concert.

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