Moses as a third-culture kid—Exodus 2:7-10

Did Moses know that he was a Hebrew? Contrary to some of the movies we see (including my beloved Prince of Egypt!), he presumably did. In many periods in Egypt’s history, Asians could serve in the Egyptian court. Disloyalty to Egypt, however, would be harshly punished. A Hebrew less than fully assimilated in Egyptian culture and too Egyptian to be trusted by many of his fellow Hebrews, Moses was like what we call today a “third culture kid” (like many children of immigrants, refugees, missionaries, diplomats or other cross-cultural settings, and sometimes like children in bicultural homes). (Midianites who met him viewed him as Egyptian, Exod 2:19.)

In some cultures a child can identify with multiple cultures, but Moses grew up in a setting of prejudice where his Hebrew identity would have counted as a liability. So Moses grew up as a Hebrew, but also in Egyptian culture. This experience continued until he grew up (Exod 2:11).

Miriam interceded for Moses when she saw the compassion of Pharaoh’s daughter, offering to secure a Hebrew wetnurse for the child (Exod 2:7). The period of nursing might take two years, and the nurse needed to be one who could provide milk for the child—in this case, Moses’s own mother, who now got paid to nurse her own baby (2:8-9).

Although Moses’s mother was able to nurse him, once he was weaned she had to return him to Pharaoh’s daughter, who adopted Moses as her own son. The new mother also named him “Moses,” commemorating her finding him and drawing him from the water (2:10). “Moses” is not an unusual component of an Egyptian name, but Pharaoh’s daughter may have used a wordplay on the Hebrew words for drawing him out of the water because the child was a Hebrew. (Although the Hebrews lived in close proximity, in Goshen, in state servitude but living in their own mud-brick homes, she may have had to consult with Hebrew servants or others to find the right wordplay.) The providential irony here is that under Moses’s leadership God would someday deliver all his people through water.

Moses thus grew up in privilege, yet was also aware that he was Hebrew. Moses belonged to two cultures, but an event would soon force him to choose one at the expense of the other—in the short term costing him both (Exod 2:11-15).

(For other posts on Exodus, see http://www.craigkeener.com/category/old-testament/exodus/.)

Heritage and mission, Word and Spirit

Luke’s Gospel begins and ends in Jerusalem. His sequel, the Book of Acts, begins in Jerusalem but ends in Rome. Theologically, this is movement from heritage to mission: holding on to the heritage but moving forward into mission. In the same way, we need to be grounded in the Scriptures, so our action will be consistent with all that God has done before us, yet also moved by the Spirit, so we can reach those parts of humanity not yet reached.

Is it all right to call God Allah?

Some people today debate whether it is all right for Christians to call God “Allah.” Those within cultures that speak Arabic (or Hausa or other languages that use this title) have a right to discuss whether there might be inappropriate connotations in some of their contexts (or where it might be against the law). But from a purely language standpoint, nobody else should be debating it.
The English word “God” did not originate as a Christian title. Nor did the Greek word that we translate God, “theos”; that was used for pagan Greek deities long before the spread of monotheism in the Greek-speaking world. Canaanites called their chief god “El” and their gods “elohim” before the patriarchs could adopt these titles for the true supreme God. “Allah” in Arabic is related to the Hebrew term for God. It makes no more sense to prohibit Arabic-speaking Christians from using an Arabic term for God, understood in a Christian way, than to prohibit English-speaking Christians from using the term “God,” understood in a Christian way, even though we recognize that others could speak of other “gods” using the same English word, or that others who believe in one God might have a different understanding of this God. I am not entering into the debate here about what Muslims and Christians mean by God–there are some significant differences. But one either adapts existing language, which is usually how we translate, or uses a new loanword and explains it. (YHWH may be “untainted,” but even biblical terms for God such as Elohim and El and theos are not.)
In English we speak of Saturday without regard for it being named after the Roman divinity Saturn, or Sunday being named for the Sun (deity), or Thursday for Thor or the like. We are often very inconsistent in what we tolerate–usually tolerating more that is under our own nose than what is under someone else’s. What might be more fruitful is getting to better understand and communicate what God is like–getting to know His heart in Jesus Christ.

All about the African empire that the official in Acts 8:27 was from

Official from the African kingdom of Meroë–Acts 8:27. 6.5-minute lecture from Acts scholar Craig Keener. (Part of a larger segment.)

For 23 free lectures on Acts, see http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/DigitalCourses/00_DigitalBiblicalStudiesCourses.html#Acts_Keener. Craig’s Acts commentary treats the passage about this African official in vol. 2, pp. 1534-1596.

Exorcism stories

Although scholars from various disciplines and worldviews explain the experiences differently, there are many firsthand accounts of exorcism experiences around the world. This 10-minute video excerpts material from a larger discussion on spirit possession experiences reported around the world.

It comes from a larger series available for free at: http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/DigitalCourses/00_DigitalBiblicalStudiesCourses.html#Matthew_Keener.