Earlier this year Revd Dr Mark Scarlata, Tutor and Lecturer in Old Testament Studies, released a book titled 'The Abiding Presence: A Theological Commentary on Exodus'. Below, he answers a few questions about it.
What inspired you to write a commentary on Exodus?
I think there has always been something that has fascinated me about the Exodus story, the fantastic miracles and works that God does to deliver his people. There is really no other book like it in the Bible. It has dramatic movement, a gripping plot-line, poetry, law, artistry and God’s glory revealed to his people and to the world. But I think one thing that drew me to the theme of the abiding presence of God was a quote I came across in Moshe Greenberg’s Understanding Exodus. He wrote, ‘It is possible to epitomize the entire story of Exodus in the movement of the fiery manifestation of the Divine Presence.’ It was that fiery presence that I wanted to trace through the whole narrative and see how the biblical authors tied this movement to the salvation of God’s people.
Who is the audience of your commentary?
I think I always tend to write with my students in mind. The challenge was to make this a theological commentary that is more concerned with what the text says rather than the history behind the text. Though I do try to give some insights into scholarly arguments concerning the text, the focus is on the rhetorical nature of the story and what the story is trying to convey. The challenge was to hold back on putting in so many footnotes!
How would you describe the commentary in a sentence?
A theological account of God’s great movement of salvation and his desire to abide at the heart of his covenant people.
Was there anything that you hadn’t seen before whilst writing the commentary that surprised you?
Yes, so many things! However, some of the most unexpected insights came in tracing themes from the Exodus in the New Testament and especially John’s gospel. Each section of the commentary ends with a short piece engaging with the New Testament and I was in awe of how extensive the motifs from Exodus appear in the gospels. I’m not an New Testament scholar, but I tried to make some of the connections between the first great event of salvation and how the incarnation is seen as the second great exodus.
What do you hope readers will gain as a result of reading it?
If nothing else I hope readers will see how relevant the text of Exodus is to both the Old and New Testaments. The hope of a theological commentary like this is to grasp some of the main themes of salvation in the Old Testament and then to see how they are taken up by New Testament authors. I also hope that by offering a (slightly!) more readable commentary it will provide a less threatening way for Christians to explore the Old Testament.
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