Exodus 3:14: Arguments for Incoherency and Non-literal Methods Open Access

Xie, Zi Wei (2015)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/t435gd61q?locale=en


God's response to Moses' request for His name in Exodus 3:14 has been the subject of fervent biblical debate among scholars and commentators for some time. It is not entirely clear what the Almighty means by "I am who I am." The very use of "I" suggests that the phrase denotes some essence of His identity, but the tautological syntax remains unexplained. Traditional scholarship has tried to "edit" the original text or explain the incoherency of the name as representative of the mystery befitting of a god, but there does not seem to have been any proposals that actively interpret the narrative aspects or figures as part of understanding the divine name. This thesis will argue that non-literal methods not only reveal significant insight about the name but also are functionally appropriate tactics for assessing situations as complex as "I am who I am." After presenting the specifics of these tactics, the thesis then offers an interpretation that integrates the narrative structure of the name as part of the argument. The aim is not to give a definitive solution that solves the time-tested enigma but a meaningful explanation that makes its issues less formidable.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter 1: Progress and Problems 8

1.1: Complexities of the Divine Name 8

1.2: Childs: Philological 14

1.3: Childs: Non-Philological 17

Chapter 2: Arguments for Narrative Elements and the Non-Literal 20

2.1: Narrative and Its Aspects 20

2.2: Incoherency and the P-Response 23

2.3: Metaphor and Symbolism 27

Chapter 3: The Divine Name in Narrative Context 31

3.1: Adam and Abraham 31

3.2: Image of the Burning Bush 36

3.3: Water, Moses, and God 38

3.4: Name Reinterpreted

41 Conclusion 46

Bibliography 49

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