We Must Not Test Christ as the Israelites Did and were Destroyed: Pastoral Significance

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“We Must Not Test Christ as the Israelites Did and were Destroyed”:
The Pastoral Significance of Christ as the Object of Israel’s Disobedience

Ardel B. Caneday
Teaching Elder
Christ Bible Church
St. Paul, Minnesota

Noteworthy as it is that the Apostle Paul identifies Christ as the rock that gushed water for thirsty Israelites (1 Cor 10:4), more startlingly, he admonishes the Corinthians, “We must not test Christ as some of them [Israelites] tested him and were destroyed by serpents” (10:9). Of these two mentions, “the Rock was Christ” (ἡ πέτρα δὲ ἦν ὁ Χριστός) receives considerably more attention among scholars than Paul’s mention of Christ in 10:9 (μηδὲ ἐκπειράζωμεν τὸν Χριστόν, καθώς τινες αὐτῶν ἐπείρασαν). This is due in part to the textual history, which shows the seeming anachronism prompted scribes to write variously—(1) τὸν Χριστόν, (2) τὸν θεόν, or (3) τὸν κύριον. Almost universally, scholars accept that τὸν Χριστόν is original because it best explains the other readings as attempts to correct what scribes considered an error. Given the text’s history, some have suggested that the passage means: “We should not put Christ to the test like some of them tested God.”

By labeling Paul’s appeal to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 as “typological exegesis” of “figural interpretation,” exegetes have unwittingly suppressed essential questions concerning the pastoral admonition of verse 9, entailing Christological and the revelational ramifications. I have previously argued that these approaches fixate scholars on hermeneutics rather than the typological prefiguring nature of the Old Testament Scriptures where the discussion should occur. Paul presents his tight pastoral correlation between the Israelites’ testing of God and the hazards the Corinthians face as an admonition to be heeded, not scrutinized for its hermeneutical legitimacy. Were the Israelites contemporaries with Christ? What does Paul convey concerning Christ? Indeed, Christ was portrayed in various ways in and throughout the Old Testament, but Paul asserts that Christ was not only present but also the object of the Israelites’ testing in the wilderness. This is not unique to Paul. Jude makes the same appeal: “Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe” (Jude 5). Likewise, the Preacher makes a similar appeal: “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing instead to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” (Hebrews 11:24-26).

This presentation will address the revelational and Christological assumptions and consequences that govern the New Testament’s pastoral appeals to the tight correlation between the crises Israel encountered and those Christians face. Christ’s presence in both unifies the two.

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