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The Rock Was Christ

How Paul Read the Pentateuch

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Professor, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

ABSTRACT: “And the Rock was Christ.” Some have interpreted Paul’s claim in 1 Corinthians 10:4 as a departure from grammatical-historical exegesis, or even as evidence that Paul gave credence to unhistorical Jewish myths. A close reading of his words against the backdrop of the canon, however, shows that Paul was reading Moses the way Moses intended. In the Pentateuch, Moses identifies the two water-giving rocks in the wilderness with Yahweh himself. Later in the Old Testament, the psalmists and prophets further identify the rock with Yahweh and look forward to a new exodus. In the Gospels, Jesus fulfills Old Testament expectations for that new exodus, with himself as the bread from heaven and water-giving rock. And in 1 Corinthians, therefore, Paul embraces the united perspective of the biblical authors. In drinking water from the rock, the Israelites drank from a type of Christ, who now lives as the thirst-quenching spiritual Rock of the church.

Peter Enns identifies his “aha moment” — when he realized that what he was taught about the Bible and how to interpret it in his evangelical background was untenable — as coming to his understanding of 1 Corinthians 10:4: “They drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” Enns relates how Professor James Kugel explained in a lecture

that water coming from the rock twice — once at the beginning of the wilderness period (Exodus 17) and again toward the end of the 40-year period (Numbers 20) — led some Jewish interpreters to conclude that the “two” rocks were actually one and the same, hence, one rock accompanied the Israelites on their 40-year journey.

To help his readers feel the force of the problem, Enns asserts,

Let me put a finer point on that: no rock moved in the Old Testament, but Paul said one did. Paul says something about the Old Testament that the Old Testament doesn’t say. He wasn’t following the evangelical rule of “grammatical-historical” contextual interpretation. He was doing something else — something weird, ancient, and Jewish.

I am going to argue in this essay that we should regard this moment as an “oops” rather than an “aha.” That is, Enns’s conclusions do not stand up to examination. While the apostle Paul has interpreted the Old Testament in accordance with the intentions of its authors, Peter Enns has not.

Before we look at the Old Testament contexts and New Testament claims of fulfillment, let us observe that Paul does not say exactly what Enns says he does. Enns claims that Paul says the rock moved, and he takes that as conclusive evidence that Paul believed an ancient Jewish myth that was not, in fact, true.1 Note, however, that Paul identifies the rock as Christ, in which case a possible interpretation is that Paul does not endorse the Jewish myth at all but rather says that the people drank from Christ, their rock, and that Christ followed them through the wilderness.

In what follows, we turn our attention to the Old Testament contexts of Exodus 17 and Numbers 20, and move from there to how the ideas developed in the rest of the Pentateuch and later Old Testament writings. We will then consider the way Jesus seems to present himself as the fulfillment of the water-from-the-rock episode, before returning to Paul’s treatment in 1 Corinthians 10.

Water from the Rock in Exodus and Numbers

Michael Morales has persuasively suggested that the whole of the Pentateuch is chiastically structured, centering on the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16, with the two episodes of water from the rock standing across from one another in the literary structure.2 This suggests that Moses, author of the Pentateuch, intended the two episodes to be read in light of one another.3

Given the topic under discussion, it seems particularly significant that the first of these episodes entails Yahweh standing before Moses on the rock that Moses is to strike, from which the water will flow for Israel to drink: “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink” (Exodus 17:6). It is almost as though, by placing himself on the rock that Moses is to strike, Yahweh means to identify himself, in some sense, with the rock, so that when Moses strikes the rock he implicitly strikes Yahweh, as a result of which the people’s need for water will be met.4

Some points of contact between the contexts of Exodus 17 and Numbers 20 are worth observing. For instance, after the water from the rock in Exodus 17, Israel defeats Amalek, and Moses builds an altar and names it “Yahweh is my banner” (Exodus 17:15), the term rendered “banner” reflecting the Hebrew nēs. After the water from the rock in Numbers 20, Israel defeats Arad (Numbers 21:1–3) but then speaks against God and Moses (verse 5), in response to which the Lord sends fiery serpents so that many Israelites die (verse 6). When the people repent, the Lord instructs Moses to “make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole” (verse 8), and the term rendered “pole” in Numbers 21:8–9 is the same as the term rendered “banner” in Exodus 17:15, nēs. The only other place this term is used in all the Pentateuch is Numbers 26:10, making its presence in the contexts that immediately follow the two water-from-the-rock episodes all the more noticeable.

Given the myth of the moveable well that supposedly followed Israel from Exodus 17 until they entered the promised land in Joshua, it also would seem noteworthy that they come to a well in Numbers 21:10–20. In terms of narrative space, Israel has the rest of Numbers 22–36 and all of Deuteronomy before they enter the land. This includes the defeat of Sihon and Og (Numbers 21), the Balaam oracles (Numbers 22–24), and the sin at Baal Peor (Numbers 25), followed by the war against Midian (Numbers 31). So it would seem that they still face some time before they enter the land of promise, which is to say, the Pentateuch itself shows that the rocks Moses struck were not Israel’s only water sources during the forty-year wilderness wandering.

“At no point does Moses indicate that a literal stone or a moveable well followed Israel through the wilderness.”

The two narratives in question, Exodus 17 and Numbers 20, stand in literary relationship to one another, but at no point does Moses indicate that a literal stone or a moveable well followed Israel through the wilderness.

Water from the Rock in Deuteronomy

Note again that the apostle Paul does not, as Peter Enns suggests, endorse the Jewish myth of the moveable well. That is, Paul does not say that the rock from which the water flowed in Exodus 17 followed Israel through the wilderness, giving them water across the forty-year period. Rather, Paul says that Israel drank from the “spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4). Why does Paul call it a “spiritual Rock,” and where would he have gotten that idea? As a step toward an answer for why Paul would refer to a “spiritual Rock,” I make two related observations. First, Paul identifies this “spiritual Rock” as Christ. Second, the KJV and ESV capitalize “Rock” in the phrase “spiritual Rock,” which seems to indicate that these translation committees understand Paul to be calling God the “spiritual Rock,” with Paul then identifying Christ with God.

As to where Paul might have gotten these ideas, I contend that he got them from the Old Testament itself, beginning with Moses. In Deuteronomy 32, Moses calls God “the Rock” five times (all with the Hebrew term ṣūr for “rock,” which is also in Exodus 17:6, whereas Numbers 20:8–11 uses selaʿ):

  • Verse 4: “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.”
  • Verse 15: “But Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked; you grew fat, stout, and sleek; then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation.”
  • Verse 18: “You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth.”
  • Verse 30: “How could one have chased a thousand, and two have put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had given them up?”
  • Verse 31: “For their rock is not as our Rock; our enemies are by themselves.”

Perhaps reflecting the incident in Exodus 17:6, when Yahweh stood on the rock, so that when Moses struck the rock it was as though he struck through Yahweh to smite the rock, in Deuteronomy 32:13 there seems to be an identification made between Yahweh, Israel’s “Rock,” and the “rock” from which they drank:

32:13: “He made him ride on the high places of the land, and he ate the produce of the field, and he suckled him with honey out of the rock [selaʿ], and oil out of the flinty rock [ṣūr].”

Since both terms for “rock” appear in Deuteronomy 32:13, the one from Exodus 17:6 (ṣūr) and the other from Numbers 20:8–11 (selaʿ), it seems that Moses means to reference both passages.

Note, too, the proximity of the “rock” statements to one another in the poetry of Deuteronomy 32 — Yahweh is the rock whose work is perfect (verse 4), and he suckled his people with oil from the flinty rock (verse 13), but they were unmindful of Yahweh, their rock (verse 15). It also seems significant that Moses does not speak of prosaic and historical water from the rock but rather speaks poetically in verse 13 of honey from the crag and oil from the rock. Hereby Moses accentuates the life-giving provision the Lord made for his people, and simultaneously he forges a connection between the identity of Yahweh as the Rock for Israel and the physical rock, struck by Moses, from which water flowed.

I want to point out here as well that teasing out the sophisticated metaphorical and theological implications of the kinds of statements Moses makes does not entail a departure from grammatical-historical interpretation. No, understanding all the fullness of what Moses has written across the Pentateuch demands that we understand his grammatical constructions and the historical meaning of his terms in their literary context. We get at poetic, symbolic, metaphorical meanings by going through grammatical-historical interpretation in canonical context, not by departing from these necessary interpretive controls.

Before moving on to references to the water-from-the-rock episodes later in the Old Testament, we should make two observations on what Moses meant to communicate in the Pentateuch. First, we have no indication that Moses intended his audience to understand that the rock he struck in Exodus 17:6 became mobile and followed Israel through the wilderness all the way to the second incident in Numbers 20:8–11. In fact, the use of different Hebrew terms for “rock” in Exodus 17:6 and Numbers 20:8–11 seems to indicate that Moses did not intend his audience to understand that he struck the same object on the two occasions.

Second, there are indications that Moses meant for his audience, at some level, to identify Yahweh with the rock. Moses clearly distinguishes between Yahweh and the rock, and yet by relating how Yahweh stood before Moses on the rock he was to strike (Exodus 17:6), and then by referring to Yahweh as Israel’s Rock in close proximity to his rehearsal of the water-from-the-rock episodes in Deuteronomy 32, Moses seems to say that Yahweh is the real source of Israel’s provision, the real solid ground and stable shelter. Yahweh is the Rock for his people.

Water from the Rock in Later OT Writings

There are a number of references to the Lord providing water from the rock through the rest of the Old Testament. Consider the following:

  • Isaiah 48:21: “They did not thirst when he led them through the deserts; he made water flow for them from the rock [ṣūr]; he split the rock [ṣūr] and the water gushed out.”
  • Psalm 78:15: “He split rocks [ṣūr] in the wilderness and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep.”
  • Psalm 78:16: “He made streams come out of the rock [selaʿ] and caused waters to flow down like rivers.”
  • Psalm 78:20: “He struck the rock [ṣūr] so that water gushed out and streams overflowed. Can he also give bread or provide meat for his people?”
  • Psalm 78:35: “They remembered that God was their rock [ṣūr], the Most High God their redeemer.”
  • Psalm 81:16: “But he would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock [ṣūr] I would satisfy you.”
  • Psalm 105:41: “He opened the rock [ṣūr], and water gushed out; it flowed through the desert like a river.”
  • Psalm 114:8: “. . . who turns the rock [ṣūr] into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water.”
  • Job 29:6: “. . . when my steps were washed with butter, and the rock [ṣūr] poured out for me streams of oil!”

Note three observations on these texts. First, just as Moses never indicates that the physical stone he struck in Exodus 17:6 followed Israel through the wilderness for forty years, so also later Old Testament authors never indicate that during the forty-year wandering in the wilderness Israel relied upon a moveable well to provide them with water. That is to say, the myth of the moveable well does not derive from exegesis of the Old Testament.

Second, in the same way that Moses identified Yahweh with the rock, later Old Testament authors regularly speak as David does in Psalm 18:2: “The Lord is my rock [selaʿ] and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock [ṣūr], in whom I take refuge.” In the bullet-pointed list above, I included the references to the water from the rock in Psalm 78:15, 16, and 20, and in that same psalm we see the assertion, “They remembered that God was their rock [ṣūr]” at verse 35. Similarly, in Psalm 42:1 the psalmist likens God to the streams of water for which the deer pants, and then in 42:9 he says, “I say to God, my rock [selaʿ].”

Third, these references to the water-from-the-rock episodes in later Old Testament texts often point back to the way God saved his people at the exodus in order to point forward to the way he will save them at the new exodus. In other words, once the two water-from-the-rock episodes in Exodus 17 and Numbers 20 have been narrated, when water from the rock is mentioned in later Old Testament texts, these later authors are contributing to the typological expectation of a new exodus.

I contend, then, that Moses, the prophets, and the psalmists all treat the water-from-the-rock episodes in the same way: Moses narrates the historical events of the exodus, and because he has presented similar patterns of events in the lives of Abraham (Genesis 12:10–20; 15:7–16) and Jacob (Genesis 28–32), while also indicating that the conquest of the land will be a new exodus (Exodus 15:5–10, 13–17), the historical correspondences generate an escalating sense of expectation.5 That is to say, Moses intends his audience to understand that the exodus (including related wonders like manna from heaven and water from the rock) typifies the way God will save his people in the future. The prophets and the psalmists have learned from Moses and been led by the Spirit to understand the exodus and water from the rock in the same way, and thus they too present Israel’s past experience of salvation as typifying what God will do for them in the future.

Moses and the Old Testament authors who followed him did not indicate that the literal stone followed Israel through the wilderness, but they did indicate that insofar as Yahweh was Israel’s real source of protection and provision, he was their Rock. Further, they also indicate that the exodus and God’s provision for his people in the wilderness typify the way God would save his people in the future. I contend that the New Testament authors learned this same perspective from Moses, the prophets, and the Lord Jesus.

Water from the Rock in John’s Gospel

In his Gospel, John everywhere presents Jesus as the one who brings about the typological fulfillment of the exodus from Egypt.6 As part of this, in John 4:10–14 Jesus presents himself as the source of living water. Then in John 6, Jesus is the prophet like Moses (verse 14) who feeds the people in the wilderness in the season of Passover (verses 4–13). Then having miraculously crossed the water (verses 16–21), Jesus identifies himself as the true bread from heaven that gives life (verses 32–33), going so far as to assert, “I am the bread of life” (verse 35).

Whereas the feast of Passover celebrated the exodus from Egypt, the feast of Tabernacles celebrated the way God provided for his people through the forty-year wilderness wandering, when God led his people by the pillar of fire and cloud and gave them water from the rock. These two aspects of Israel’s experience likely inform the famous candle-lighting and water-pouring ceremonies that came to be celebrated in the feast of Tabernacles (cf. m.Sukkah 4:9–5:3). In keeping with this, Jesus not only presents himself as the light of the world (John 8:12), but he also presents himself as a rock-like source of water, only he offers something better than water: the Holy Spirit (7:37–39). In the same way that Jesus is himself the fulfillment of the manna from heaven and the pillar of fire, he is the fulfillment of the rock from which the water flowed.

Thus we read in John 7:37–39,

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

I submit that John intends his audience to understand this statement along the following lines: In the same way that God saved his people from Egypt then provided for them in the wilderness, God is saving his people through Jesus and will provide for them in him until they reach their destination. In the fulfillment of the exodus accomplished by Jesus, however, God gives something better than manna from heaven and water from the rock to sustain his people on their life-journey through the wilderness to the fulfillment of the land of promise, the new Jerusalem in the new heavens and new earth. God gives his people Christ himself as the bread of life, and Jesus gives to his people the Holy Spirit as the fulfillment of the water from the rock.

John has asserted that Christ is the Word made flesh (John 1:14) and that the Word was in the beginning, was with God, and was God (1:1–2). John thus identifies Jesus with Yahweh, and his presentation includes Christ, the one who has promised living water, being struck: “One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water” (19:34). After testifying that he tells the truth (verse 35), John immediately asserts that the fact that the legs of Jesus were not broken (verses 32–33) fits with his death being the typological fulfillment of the death of the Passover lamb in the fulfillment of the exodus pattern of events: “These things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken’” (verse 36).

From the Gospel of John, we can make the same three points about the idea of water from the rock that we have made about this theme in Moses and the Prophets. First, at no point does John present Jesus or any other character in his narrative suggesting that a literal rock or moveable well followed Israel through the wilderness across the forty-year wandering. Second, Yahweh, and in John’s case Jesus, whom he identifies with Yahweh, is symbolically and metaphorically presented as the one who abides with, provides for, and protects his people, and like Moses, John presents the Lord as the stricken water-giver. And third, God’s deliverance of his people at the exodus and through the wilderness typifies the future salvation, which John claims is fulfilled in Jesus.

Given the claims made by Peter Enns, we can engage in a thought experiment at this point. Which is the more likely scenario, that Paul perpetuates what Moses, the prophets, the psalmists, and the evangelist John indicate about water from the rock, or that Paul picks up a relatively obscure Jewish myth7 — a myth unsubstantiated by exegesis of the Torah, unsupported in the Prophets and Psalms, and unattested in any tradition of what Jesus taught — and perpetuates it in 1 Corinthians 10:4?

It is not as though there were no careful thinkers in Paul’s earliest audiences, and it is not as though all his letters were recognized as having been inspired by the Spirit and included in the New Testament. I suspect that if the believing community had understood Paul to be perpetuating that myth, which was in fact false to history, they would not have received what we now refer to as 1 Corinthians into their growing collection of New Testament Scripture.

So what did Paul say, and what does it mean?

‘And the Rock Was Christ’ in 1 Corinthians 10:4

Paul has addressed the identity issues, sexual immorality, and idolatry plaguing the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 1–9. The identity issues manifest in members of the church making themselves notable through their claims about whom they follow, whether Paul, Cephas, or Christ (1 Corinthians 1:12), and in his opening words in chapter 10 Paul continues to reshape their understanding of who they are with his typological application of Scripture. He addresses the Jewish and Gentile congregation as his “brothers,” and he refers to the exodus generation as “our fathers”: “I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea” (10:1). Paul speaks to the church as though they belong to the family of faith.

In the reports that have come to him (e.g., 1:11; 5:1; 7:1), Paul may have heard that some members of the church thought that because they had been baptized and had partaken of the Lord’s Supper, they could engage in sexual immorality and/or idolatry with impunity — or he could be anticipating this unacceptable response. He seems to address this mindset with his typological explanation of what happened to Israel in 1 Corinthians 10:2–5.

Paul’s view appears to be that Moses presented a recurring pattern in which Noah was saved through the floodwaters of judgment, then baby Moses was saved in his ark-basket through floodwaters of judgment, and then the nation was saved through the floodwaters of judgment when they crossed the Red Sea (there are verbal connections between these narratives that signal Moses’s intent to link them).8 The Lord Jesus seems to allude to this “salvation through the floodwaters of judgment” theme when he speaks of his looming death as a baptism he has to undergo (e.g., Mark 10:38–39). Paul explains in Romans 6 that when believers are immersed in water, they are plunged into a symbolic union with Christ in his death, that they might then symbolically rise from the waters with him (Romans 6:1–11; cf. Ephesians 2:5–6).

Thus, when Paul speaks of Israel being “baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” in 1 Corinthians 10:2, he words it this way to highlight the pattern of salvation-through-the-waters-of-judgment that typify Christian baptism. Paul moves to address the presumption that baptism allows one to sin with impunity by rehearsing how “with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness” (verse 5). The point being: Israelites “were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (verse 2), and God judged them for their sin, so do not think that having been baptized into Christ allows for continuing in sin with impunity.

Before we proceed to discuss 1 Corinthians 10:3–4, we must note the thoroughly typological way Paul is dealing with the events of the exodus from Egypt. The Greek rendered by the ESV “examples” in verse 6 and “example” in verse 11 is the root we transliterate to form the English term type. We could just as well translate these statements as follows:

  • Verse 6: “Now these became types of us . . .”
  • Verse 11: “Now these things happened to them typologically . . .”

The point I am trying to emphasize is that just as Moses indicated that the exodus typified future salvation, just as the Prophets and Psalmists learned that view from Moses, and just John presented Jesus as the one who brought the exodus pattern of salvation to typological fulfillment, so Paul applies the exodus and wilderness narratives typologically to the Corinthians. On this point, Paul’s understanding is consistent with that of Moses, Isaiah, Asaph, John, and Jesus of Nazareth.

When Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 10:3–4 of the exodus generation eating “spiritual food” and drinking “spiritual drink,” he clearly has in view the manna from heaven and water from the rock. He seems to refer to these as “spiritual” as opposed to “natural” (cf. the same contrast in 1 Corinthians 2:14–15) because, unlike normal food and water obtained in the usual human way, this food and water were provided through the direct intervention of God. The fact that Paul speaks of the Lord’s Supper in 10:16–21 and again in 11:17–34 fits with the idea that he sees the manna from heaven and water from the rock as prefiguring types of the Lord’s Supper. In the same way that, having saved Israel from Egypt, God provided for them through the wilderness on their journey to the land of promise, so now, having saved Christians through the fulfillment of the exodus in Christ, God provides the Lord’s Supper to sustain his people through the wilderness to the fulfillment of the land of promise in the new heavens and new earth. Paul’s treatment of the Lord’s Supper thus matches the way that the Lord Jesus provided himself as the fulfillment of the manna from heaven in John 6 and the fulfillment of the rock from which the water flowed in John 7.

This brings us to Paul’s explanatory comment in 1 Corinthians 10:4b: “For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” The fact that Paul calls this a “spiritual Rock” argues against the idea that he means to refer to a literal stone that supposedly followed Israel around in the wilderness. That he proceeds to identify this Rock with Christ amounts to the assertion of a conclusion that naturally follows from the premises he has established, and neither the premises nor the conclusion has anything to do with the myth of a moveable well.

Rather, Paul’s premises are those that we have seen in the Law, Prophets, Writings, and Gospels. First, this is a “spiritual Rock” for the same reason the food and drink were “spiritual” — because it is not a naturally occurring physical stone as a source of water but something that results from the direct intervention of the transforming work of God. Second, just as Moses identifies Yahweh with the rock, and just as John identifies the Christ with Yahweh, so Paul identifies the rock with Christ. Third, just as the point of identifying Yahweh as the rock was to communicate his presence with, protection of, and provision for his people, so also Paul asserts that the people of Israel experienced the presence, protection, and provision made by Christ. This affirms the inseparable operations of the members of the Godhead — what the Father does the Son does — and it matches Jude referring to “Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt” (Jude 5).

“The God who saved Israel at the exodus and in the wilderness is the Christ who has saved Christians.”

Paul’s point here is to warn the Corinthians. He urges them not to think, wrongly, that they can sin with impunity since they partake of the Lord’s Supper. His proof against this is that even though the Israelites partook of the type of the Lord’s Supper, God judged them for their sin. Why does Paul assert that the rock was Christ? By doing so, he affirms that the God who saved Israel at the exodus and in the wilderness is the Christ who has saved Christians.

Paul the Biblical Theologian

How would the affirmation of the little-known myth of the movable well have helped Paul to make this point with his Corinthian audience? Would it not have been a confusing distraction from the point he sought to make? Would it have helped him to establish typological identity between Israel and the church? Would it have helped him to warn the church in Corinth away from the sexual immorality and idolatry that tempted them? Would it have helped them to relish their experience of the fulfillment of the manna from heaven and water from the rock as they partook of the Lord’s Supper? Would it have established him in the church as a sound interpreter of the Law and the Prophets, as a faithful exponent of the message of the Lord Jesus? Paul comments in 1 Corinthians 4:6, “I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written.” Bringing in the myth of the moveable well undoubtedly goes “beyond what is written,” and such interpretive moves more likely characterized Paul’s opponents in Corinth rather than Paul himself.

“Christ is the Rock. Let all who thirst go to him and drink.”

The fact that the moveable well would not have helped Paul in any of these ways does not establish that he did not reference the myth. That he did not say it has already done that. Paul did not say something like, “Forty years did he rain bread from heaven for them, and he brought them quails from the sea, and a well of water following them” (Ps.-Philo, L.A.B., 10.7). Paul did not teach that the miracle that happened in Exodus 17:6 kept happening across the forty years in the wilderness because the well from which the water flowed actually followed Israel through their journey. No, Paul did what Moses did. He treated the exodus and wilderness narratives typologically. He identified the rock with God, and for Paul that includes God the Son, Christ. And hereby we see the brilliance of Paul as a biblical theologian. He has succeeded in the task of understanding and embracing the perspective of the biblical authors,9 and the church recognized that Paul’s success was due in no small part to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Further, they recognized that the Spirit had inspired Paul’s writing of what we refer to as 1 Corinthians, as attested by its presence in the New Testament.

Christ is the Rock. Let all who thirst go to him and drink. And those who go to him shall never hunger, those who believe in him never thirst, for what he gives is better than mere water. Indeed, he gives the Spirit. And those who eat this bread and drink this cup proclaim his death until he comes. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

  1. In addition to his blog post, Peter Enns, “‘Aha’ Moments: Biblical Scholars Tell Their Stories,” Pete Enns (blog), June 25, 2014, https://peteenns.com/aha-moments-biblical-scholars-tell-their-stories-1-me/, see further Peter Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005). G.K. Beale responded to Enns in a series of review articles in JETS, Themelios, and SBJT, which were later collected in G.K. Beale, The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism: Responding to New Challenges to Biblical Authority (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008). 

  2. L. Michael Morales, Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord? A Biblical Theology of the Book of Leviticus, New Studies in Biblical Theology (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2015), 23–27. 

  3. For more on chiastic literary structures and how they function, see James M. Hamilton Jr., Typology — Understanding the Bible’s Promise-Shaped Patterns: How Old Testament Expectations Are Fulfilled in Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2022), 331–60. 

  4. Christians have long contemplated how the Bible presents the omnipresent God, who is Spirit, as present in particular places with human forms of expression. For discussion of these accommodations to our humanity by means of anthropological and analogous expressions, see Augustine, The Trinity, trans. Edmund Hill, The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century (Brooklyn: New City Press, 1991), 66, 99, 109–46; John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 99–116; and Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend, vol. 2, God and Creation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 153–59. 

  5. See James M. Hamilton Jr., “The Exodus Motif in Biblical Theology,” in The Law, The Prophets, and the Writings: Studies in Evangelical Old Testament Hermeneutics in Honor of Duane A. Garrett, ed. Andrew M. King, William R. Osborne, and Joshua M. Philpot (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2021), 77–91; and Hamilton, Typology, 254–70. 

  6. For full discussion, see James M. Hamilton Jr., “John,” in John–Acts, ESV EC (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2019), 19–308. 

  7. G.K. Beale writes, “There is, however, only one Jewish reference to this ‘tradition’ that plausibly is dated around the first century AD. Even part of this reference is clouded by textual uncertainty. Thus, it is difficult to be sure what form of the legend existed in Paul’s time.” “Did Jesus and the Apostles Preach the Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts? Revisiting the Debate Seventeen Years Later in the Light of Peter Enns’ Book, Inspiration and Incarnation,” Themelios 32, no. 1 (2007): 32–33. The one reference, from Pseudo-Philo’s Liber antiquitatum biblicarum [L.A.B.] 10.7 is cited below. L.A.B. 11.15 is sometimes cited, but it refers not to the Exodus 17:6 water from the rock following Israel but rather to the Exodus 15:23–26 sweetened waters of Marah following the people. Note, however, that in Exodus 15:27, “they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water,” again showing that Moses gives no indication that the people needed the waters of Marah somehow literally to follow the people. Perhaps Pseudo-Philo simply means to indicate that the Lord provided water for the people throughout their journey. 

  8. See further Hamilton, Typology, 20–21, 111–15. 

  9. I argue that biblical theology is the attempt to understand and embrace the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors in James M. Hamilton Jr., What Is Biblical Theology? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014).