This Internet publication was formed
in 17. January 2009 year,
i.e., on the day of the first anniversary
of the public defense of my doctoral dissertation.
Wojciech Kosek’s doctoral dissertation consists of an introduction, three main chapters, and a conclusion. The main part focuses on seeking a basic structure of the rite of the Passover, namely:
It is not an easy task to discover the basic literary scheme according to which the last editor of the Book of Exodus logically divided and arranged the text into smaller literary units (pericopes).
In the present dissertation, this task was undertaken based on the following methodological rule:
The most important Person in the Bible is
not Moses, not Israel, not Miriam, not Pharaoh…
The implication of this rule is: when seeking to understand the holy text, one must carefully read every sentence of its present, canonical form, and when the sentence consists of God’s words or when it is a description of God’s acts – one must read it with the utmost care!
So, for example:
בְּלֶכְתְּךָ לָשׁוּב מִצְרַיְמָה רְאֵה כָּל־הַמֹּפְתִים אֲשֶׁר־שַׂמְתִּי בְיָדֶךָ
In the present dissertation, one attempted to find out the division of the Book of Exodus according to the thought of the biblical writer-editor; one made it concerning the first eighteen chapters, which turned out to be (at the narrative level) a description of the successive stages of God’s plan to lead the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt and guide them as far up as the mountain of God, Horeb.
As shown in the detailed analysis: when the text of Ex 1-18 is divided into six pericopes according to the intention of its last editor, the next level of the story appears: this whole text is a description of the covenant, made (cut) by God and Israel in their passage between the halves of the divided waters of the Sea of Reeds.
First, the ancient custom according to which God made the covenant with Abram (cf. Gen 15:17), was considered: it was done by the passage of fire and smoke between the halves of the split animals, the passage of visible signs of God – which is how God established the covenant with Abram. This event seems to be the best biblical source for understanding the analogous passage – of the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud, signs of God going together with Israel between the halves of the divided waters of the Sea of Reeds (cf. Ex 14:15-31).
There is a second source for this understanding of Ex 1-18: the literary scheme of an ancient alliance treaty: ancient peoples (especially Hittites in XVI-XII century before Christ) used to write an official description of a covenant in six literary steps (pericopes), and so does the text of Ex 1-18.
One must note that the four central pericopes (•) are the sequential four descriptions of four successive steps required by an ancient rite of the covenant-making ceremony. Two external pericopes (•) with these four central ones form the whole six-element sequence of elements of the literary scheme used by people to write down covenant treaties in the XVI-XII century before Christ.
These six pericopes form the rhetoric whole named chiasmus – A B C C’ B’ A’ – on the grounds of the main content of each of them, and also on the grounds of the ratio of Hebrew words in forms expressing past events to the sum of Hebrew words expressing events of past or future:
62%, 56%, 35%, (100-34)%, 56%, 62%.
The Passover rite consists of the four main elements of the structure,
each of them connected with one traditional cup of wine.
These four consecutive elements are elements of the ceremonial
of the establishment/renewal of the covenant.
Which covenant in the history of Israel? – the one described above!
The rite of the Passover takes as its model the six-element literary structure
of the Book of Exodus 1-18,
being a treaty of the covenant.
In the Passover, however, the structural elements 1. and 2. become merged;
the same is with elements 5. and 6.
The first part of the Passover makes its participants be real partakers of two simultaneous events: (a) the first two stages of God’s plan of the exodus (the Lord protects His people in their difficult situation of bondage in Egypt; the Lord shows His power by ten miraculous signs), (b) the first element of the ceremonial of the covenant establishment.
This part serves to show three areas: 1/ all good things the Lord had done for Israel up to the time of this ceremony inauguration, 2/ His promises to Israel, 3/ the greatness of the Lord as the covenant contractor.
The first part of the rite of the Passover is modeled on the first two integrated elements of the structure of the Book of Exodus 1-18 – the pericope 6:2-11:10 together with the preceding pericope 1:1-6:1 (it serves as a preparation for the Lord and His people to take the four sequential steps required by the ancient covenant ceremony).
According to rules of writing of covenant treatises, one should list the benefactions given to vassal by sovereign up to the time of the covenant-making/covenant-renewal. It is necessary to note that in the first part of Passover participants enter into the time preceding the 15th day of Abib in Egypt, even though a liturgical form (a liturgical sign) is the story about all mercies of the Lord until the day of the covenant renewal in the times of the temple. This element of Passover ceremonial could, therefore, come from Solomon’s times – because in this part one narrates all marvelous works the Lord had done in the history of Israel until the time of the building the temple, not only these which preceded the exit from Egypt, and without these which took place after times of Solomon.
The second part of the Passover makes its participants be real partakers of two events. Namely, these two events are as follows: a/ the third stage of Exodus (during the supper, the People eat the lamb-Passover, and the Lord kills the firstborns of Egypt), b/ the second element of the covenant-making ceremony (the Lord proclaims the law of the covenant and the People accept it and do everything as the Lord has commanded).
A form of fulfillment of this element is the feast: eating of foods, prescribed by the covenant law, in compliance with the biblical expression: “It shall be for you as a sign on your hand and reminder between your eyes so that the law of the Lord will be in your mouth because with a strong hand the Lord brought you out of Egypt” (Ex 13:9). Originally in the second part of Passover, the lamb was eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, while from the time of the destruction of the second temple – the meal has been eaten without the lamb because there is no longer a place to offer it.
The second part of the Passover rite is modeled on the third element of the structure of the Book of Exodus 1-18, i.e., the law pericope 12:1-13:16, which presents God as the sovereign-legislator. The Lord gives the Passover laws, especially concerning the eating of the lamb-Passover, and the laws of the Feast of the Unleavened Bread, concerning the unleavened bread of Exodus. The literary coherence of this pericope is assured by the basic idea – the laws’ promulgation and their explication on the ground of the history of redemption: 1/ the laws of the eating of the lamb-Passover (incl. Ex 12:29-33!), 2/ the laws of unleavened bread of Exodus (incl. Ex 12:34-39!), 3/ other laws assuring the commemoration of the Lord’s paschal work for Israel.
The third part of the Passover makes its participants be real partakers of two events: a/ the fourth stage of the exodus (the march out from Egypt and the passage through the desert and the Sea of Reeds), b/ the third element of the covenant establishment ceremonial (the irrevocable act of the cutting / making the covenant between God and Israel, made by God and His people in the passage between the halves of the divided waters of the Sea of Reeds – cf. Ps 136:13).
A form of the liturgical fulfillment of that fundamental act consists of three things: 1/. The consumption of the unleavened Afikoman – אֲפִיקוֹמָן (= manna מָן, its bottom אֲפִיקוֹ) as the manna of the exit and the passage upon the bare bottom of the sea, 2/. The thanksgivings for the food and beneficial exodus and the supplications for renewal of exit with the unleavened bread, 3/. The opening of the door as a sign to go off.
The third part of Passover rite is modeled on the fourth element of the structure of the Book of Exodus 1-18 – the pericope 13:17-14:31.
The fourth part of the Passover makes its participants be real partakers of two events: a/ the last two stages of plan of the exodus, excellently performed by God, b/ the fourth element of the covenant establishment ceremonial (They participate in the making-present of the covenant-making and fulfilling its commitments).
Forms of the fulfillment of this element are the hymns of great thanksgiving for answered supplications and for the established covenant, which gives freedom to Israel. The worship of the Lord and the power of His acts are a thematic center of the raised words of prayers and psalms of the second part of Hallel (Ps 115-118) and Great Hallel (Ps 136), songs, hymns.
The fourth part of the Passover rite is modeled on the last two integrated elements of the structure of the Book of Exodus 1-18 – the pericope 15:1-21, together with the subsequent pericope 15:22-18:27. The pericope 15:1-21 is the great hymn of Moses and men, and Miriam and women. It is the hymn praising the Lord-Saviour, the hymn showing His tremendous power and reliability in fulfillment of covenant promises. The stanzas of the hymn (sung just after the miraculous passage of the Sea of Reeds!) show Israelites as already being in the Promised Land! This splendid hymn – together with the next pericope 15:22-18:27 – serves simultaneously to honoring God and strengthening the covenant laws in the memory and hearts of His people. Similarly, psalms and hymns and didactic songs of Passover, and (in some Jewish traditions) singing of “The Song of Songs” record in hearts of Passover participants the law of thankfulness to the Lord as the contracting party of the covenant, as the Husband of Israel.
Analyses of Hebrew texts, led in the present doctoral dissertation,
demanded showing to Honourable Readers in quoted fragments
the words of identical cores.
In the present edition, a way of presenting these words are
different underscores, italics, bold, and their different combinations.
For not few Reader undoubtedly
the distinction of these words through colors will be helpful,
what is accessible in the electronic form on the website of the author of this work
I invite heartily Honourable Readers
to take advantage of this modern form of sharing knowledge.
I invite You, Dear Netizen, to read my book.
It is published by
of The Pontifical Academy of Theology in Cracow,
See on the Internet
I also invite You to read
The Internet Presentation, describing the original rite of the Passover
Characteristics of the content of this page and its keywords:
Dr Wojciech Kosek, Primärritus des Pascha in der Sicht des literarischen Schemas vom Buch Exodus 1-18. Dr. W. Kosek, Dissertation: Literarische Struktur von Ex 1-18; Identität der Struktur mit der literarischen Struktur der Bundesvertrage aus dem XVI Jh. vor Christus, mit der Struktur des Pascha-Ritus. Dr. Wojciech Kosek presents a summary of his doctoral thesis: The Original Rite of the Passover in the Light of the Literary Scheme of the Book of Exodus 1-18, Faculty of Theology PAT – Cracow 17.01.2008. keys: Gott, Buch Exodus, Exegese, Pascha, Liturgie, Afikoman, literarische Struktur, Israel, Rotes Meer, Bund, Vertrag, Hethiter, Seder, cafun, vier Becher, Pesachim, God, Israel, Exodus, Passover, seder, Pesachim, Hittites, alliance, treaty, celebration, rite, Isaiah, Jeremiah, exegesis, afikoman, afikomen, Red Sea, literary structure.