The Spiritual Rock of 1 Cor 10:4,
Founded on Unbiblical Jewish Tradition?

1 Cor 10:1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;
1 Cor 10:2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
1 Cor 10:3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat;
1 Cor 10:4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
In Jewish tradition, there was a literal rock that followed Israel in their wanderings in the wilderness. In the Tosephta, the tradition is related as follows:

"It was likewise with the well that was with the children of Israel in the wilderness, it [the well] was like a rock that was full of holes like a sieve from which water trickled and arose as from the opening of a flask. It [the rock-well] ascended with them to the top of the hills and descended with them into the valleys; wherever Israel tarried there it tarried over against the entrance to the tabernacle”

(Sukkah 3. 11 ff., cited in Strack and Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament, vol. 3, p. 406)

Some Catholics may refer to this Jewish tradition as the probable source that Paul used in this passage in First Corinthians. Let's look at this more closely-

1 Cor 10:1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;
1 Cor 10:2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;

Paul is trying to point out the absolute dependence the Israel had had on God and His servant Moses during the exodus from Egypt-

Exo 13:21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night:

During the day, they were shaded from the intense heat of the desert sun by a large pillar of cloud, and their way was lit at night by a pillar of fire, in both cases the very presence of God Himself. Passing through the Red Sea was a type of the deliverance from sin available in Baptism, Moses being a type of Jesus Christ.

1 Cor 10:3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat;

The word "meat" here actually means food in a generic sense, not flesh. This undoubtedly does refer to the mannah that fell from heaven, a God-given food that nourished the Israelites throughout their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. Without such sustenance, Israel would have perished. They were utterly dependent on it.

1 Cor 10:4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

Not only were the Israelites dependent on God for their physical safety and daily food and water, they were also completely dependent on God for their spiritual nourishment as well. Paul here, in verse four, identifies Jesus Christ as the one who was providing for their needs; the cloud by day, the pillar of fire by night, the mannah for food, the water from rocks, and their spiritual needs. Jesus was their physical, and more importantly, their spiritual foundation stone.

Interestingly enough, Paul appears to be relating events in capsulized form as also found in Psalms-

Psa 78:13 He divided the sea, and caused them to pass through; and he made the waters to stand as an heap.
Psa 78:14 In the daytime also he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a light of fire.
Psa 78:15 He clave the rocks in the wilderness, and gave them drink as out of the great depths.
Psa 78:16 He brought streams also out of the rock, and caused waters to run down like rivers.
Psa 78:17 And they sinned yet more against him by provoking the most High in the wilderness.
Psa 78:18 And they tempted God in their heart by asking meat for their lust.
Psa 78:19 Yea, they spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?
Psa 78:20 Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also? can he provide flesh for his people?
Psa 78:21 Therefore the LORD heard this, and was wroth: so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel;
Psa 78:22 Because they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation:
Psa 78:23 Though he had commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven,
Psa 78:24 And had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them of the corn of heaven.
Psa 78:25 Man did eat angels' food: he sent them meat to the full.
Psa 78:26 He caused an east wind to blow in the heaven: and by his power he brought in the south wind.
Psa 78:27 He rained flesh also upon them as dust, and feathered fowls like as the sand of the sea:
Psa 78:28 And he let it fall in the midst of their camp, round about their habitations.
Psa 78:29 So they did eat, and were well filled: for he gave them their own desire;
Psa 78:30 They were not estranged from their lust. But while their meat was yet in their mouths,
Psa 78:31 The wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen men of Israel.
Psa 78:32 For all this they sinned still, and believed not for his wondrous works.
Psa 78:33 Therefore their days did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble.
Psa 78:34 When he slew them, then they sought him: and they returned and inquired early after God.
Psa 78:35 And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer.

Take particular note of that last verse! Compare it with 1 Cor 10:4. Who fails to see the parallel? There is only one redeemer, Jesus Christ! Is it not perfectly clear that Paul was drawing on this passage in Psalms and not the rabbinic fable or tradition of the Tosephta?

Just how often does Scripture refer to God / Jesus Christ as a rock, or stone anyway? Here are some I have found-

Deut 32:4, 15, 18, 30, 31, 37, 1 Sam 2:2, 2 Sam 22:3, 2 Sam 22:32, 2 Sam 22:47, 2 Sam 23:3, Psa 18:2, Psa 18:31, Psa 28:1, Psa 31:2,3, Psa 42:9, Psa 61:2, Psa 62:2,6,7, Psa 71:3, Psa 89:26, Psa 92:15, Psa 94:22, Psa 95:1, Isa 8:14, Isa 17:10, Dan 2:34,35, Matt 7:24,25, Luke 6:48, Rom 9:33, 1 Pet 2:8.

So I ask you, what need did Paul have to rely on Jewish fables, when he had a positive wealth of Old Testament Scripture to allude to? Clearly Jesus was constantly with His people, leading them, following them, watching over them, the very Rock of their salvation, if they would only come to Him-

Mat 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

Luke 13:34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!

And oh yes, there is that pesky passage in Matthew-

Mat 16:15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
Mat 16:16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Mat 16:17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
Mat 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Isn't it perfectly clear who the Rock of the Church of God is? None other that Jesus Christ! In this passage, Jesus Himself is referring back to all those Old Testament verses, to include Psalms 78:35, which is later recalled by Paul in 1 Cor 10:4. So what then of Jewish fables and tradition?

Titus 1:13 This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;
Titus 1:14 Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.

2 Tim 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
2 Tim 4:4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.



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