Exodus emerged in Christianity as an essential text in the legitimization and organization of what was initially a loose collection of Gentile and Jewish communities following Christ. Exodus provided critical theological and ethical language to the young religion. In addition to the Ten Commandments, the Sinai Covenant (Exodus 19-20) offered a foundation for supercessionist theology in the New Testament: a new covenant between God and Christ followers (Peter 2:9; Matthew 26:28; 1 Corinthians 11:25; 2 Corinthians 5:17). The deepening relationship of Moses with God offered a model for divine revelation, as exemplified in the 4th century Cappadocian father Gregory of Nyssa’s biography, "The Life of Moses."

Interpreting Exodus, Christians anchored their identity in material worship and pilgrimage to the Holy Land. To this day, anyone can experience Exodus as a materialized reality in one of the oldest, continuously used monasteries in the Sinai desert: Saint Catherine's Monastery (pictured). For centuries, Christian pilgrims have visited the site seeking a spiritual experience by following in the footsteps of Moses and the wandering tribes in the desert. The emperor Justinian built Saint Catherine’s in 527CE next to the holy mountain, Mount Moses (Mount el-Deir or Mount Sinai), where, according to tradition, God delivered the Ten Commandments. Within the monastery complex stands, once again according to tradition, the still-living Burning Bush. Exodus, which describes the moments and locations of Moses’ direct contact with God on Earth, has provided Christians with a means of participating in an enduring divinity and holiness. In several ways and since the beginning then, Exodus has rested at the core of Christian identity.

Content: Dayna Kalleres, Assistant Professor of Early Christianity, Department of Literature, UCSD; and Matthew Vincent, Graduate Student, Department of Anthropology, UCSD

St. Catherine’s Monastery with Jebel Musa (Mountain of Moses, or Mount Sinai) in background. Built by order of Emperor Justinian in 548-565 CE on Sinai Peninsula. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the monastery is one of the oldest working Christian monasteries in the world. Credit: Kenneth Garrett Photography