|Born||Goshen, Lower Egypt|
|Died||Mount Nebo, Moab|
|Other names||משה רבנו (Moses our Rabbi), Moshe|
Moses (/, /; Hebrew: מֹשֶׁה, Modern Moshe Tiberian Mōšéh ISO 259-3 Moše; Syriac: ܡܘܫܐ Moushe; Arabic: موسى Mūsā; Greek: Mωϋσῆς Mōÿsēs in both the Septuagint and the New Testament) is a prophet in Abrahamic religions. According to the Hebrew Bible, he was a former Egyptian prince who later in life became a religious leader and lawgiver, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed. Also called Moshe Rabbenu in Hebrew (מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ, lit. "Moses our Teacher"), he is the most important prophet in Judaism. He is also an important prophet in Christianity and Islam, as well as a number of other faiths.
The existence of Moses, as well as the veracity of the Exodus story, is disputed among archaeologists and Egyptologists, with experts in the field of biblical criticism citing logical inconsistencies, new archaeological evidence, historical evidence, and related origin myths in Canaanite culture.[page needed][page needed] Other historians maintain that the biographical details and Egyptian background attributed to Moses imply the existence of a historical political and religious leader who was involved in the consolidation of the Hebrew tribes in Canaan towards the end of the Bronze Age.
According to the Book of Exodus, Moses was born in a time when his people, the Israelites, an enslaved minority, were increasing in numbers and the Egyptian Pharaoh was worried that they might ally with Egypt's enemies. Moses' Hebrew mother, Jochebed, secretly hid him when the Pharaoh ordered all newborn Hebrew boys to be killed in order to reduce the population of the Israelites. Through the Pharaoh's daughter (identified as Queen Bithia in the Midrash), the child was adopted as a foundling from the Nile river and grew up with the Egyptian royal family. After killing an Egyptian slavemaster (because the slavemaster was smiting a Hebrew), Moses fled across the Red Sea to Midian, where he encountered the God of Israel speaking to him from within a "burning bush which was not consumed by the fire" on Mount Horeb (which he regarded as the Mountain of God).
God sent Moses back to Egypt to demand the release of the Israelites from slavery. Moses said that he could not speak with assurance or eloquence, so God allowed Aaron, his brother, to become his spokesperson. After the Ten Plagues, Moses led the Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt and across the Red Sea, after which they based themselves at Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments. After 40 years of wandering in the desert, Moses died within sight of the Promised Land.
- 1 Name
- 2 Biblical narrative
- 3 Sources
- 4 Moses in Hellenistic literature
- 5 Historicity
- 6 Moses in Abrahamic religions
- 7 Modern reception
- 7.1 Politics and law
- 7.2 Literature
- 7.3 In Freud
- 7.4 Criticism of Moses
- 7.5 Figurative art
- 7.6 Michelangelo's statue
- 7.7 Film and television
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 Citations
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
Moses' name was given to him by Pharaoh's daughter: "He became her son, and she named him Moshe (Moses)". This name may be either Egyptian or Hebrew. If connected to an Egyptian root, via msy "to be born" and ms, "a son", it forms a wordplay: "he became her son, and she named him Son." There should, however, be a divine element to the name Moses (bearers of the Egyptian name are the "son of" a god, as in Thutmose, "son of Thoth"), and his full name may therefore have included the name of one of the Egyptian gods. Most scholars agree that the name is Egyptian, and that the Hebrew etymology is a later interpretation, but if the name is from a Hebrew root then it is connected to the verb "to draw out": "I drew him (masha) out of the water," states Pharaoh's daughter, possibly looking forward to Moses at the well in Midian, or to his role in saving Israel at the Red Sea.
Prophet and deliverer of Israel
The Israelites had settled in the Land of Goshen in the time of Joseph and Jacob, but a new pharaoh arose who oppressed the children of Israel. At this time Moses was born to his father Amram, son of Kohath the Levite, who entered Egypt with Jacob's household; his mother was Jochebed (also Yocheved), who was kin to Kohath. Moses had one older (by seven years) sister, Miriam, and one older (by three years) brother, Aaron.[b]
Pharaoh had commanded that all male Hebrew children born be drowned in the river Nile, but Moses' mother placed him in an ark and concealed the ark in the bulrushes by the riverbank, where the baby was discovered and adopted by Pharaoh's daughter. One day after Moses had reached adulthood he killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew. Moses, in order to escape Pharaoh's death penalty, fled to Midian (a desert country south of Judah).
There, on Mount Horeb, God revealed to Moses his name YHWH (probably pronounced Yahweh) and commanded him to return to Egypt and bring his Chosen People (Israel) out of bondage and into the Promised Land (Canaan). Moses returned to carry out God's command, but God caused Pharaoh to refuse, and only after God had subjected Egypt to ten plagues did Pharaoh relent. Moses led the Israelites to the border of Egypt, but there God hardened Pharaoh's heart once more, so that he could destroy Pharaoh and his army at the Red Sea Crossing as a sign of his power to Israel and the nations.
From Egypt, Moses led the Israelites to Mount Sinai, where he was given ten commandments from God, written on stone tablets. However, since Moses remained a long time on the mountain, some of the people feared that he might be dead, so they made a golden statue of a calf and worshipped it, thus disobeying and angering God and Moses. Moses, out of anger, broke the tablets, and later ordered the elimination of those who had worshipped the golden statue, which was melted down and fed to the idolaters. He also wrote the ten commandments on a new set of tablets. Later at Mount Sinai, Moses and the elders entered into a covenant, by which Israel would become the people of YHWH, obeying his laws, and YHWH would be their god. Moses delivered laws of God to Israel, instituted the priesthood under the sons of Moses' brother Aaron, and destroyed those Israelites who fell away from his worship. In his final act at Sinai, God gave Moses instructions for the Tabernacle, the mobile shrine by which he would travel with Israel to the Promised Land.
From Sinai, Moses led the Israelites to the Desert of Paran on the border of Canaan. From there he sent twelve spies into the land. The spies returned with samples of the land's fertility, but warned that its inhabitants were giants. The people were afraid and wanted to return to Egypt, and some rebelled against Moses and against God. Moses told the Israelites that they were not worthy to inherit the land, and would wander the wilderness for forty years until the generation who had refused to enter Canaan had died, so that it would be their children who would possess the land.
When the forty years had passed, Moses led the Israelites east around the Dead Sea to the territories of Edom and Moab. There they escaped the temptation of idolatry, received God's blessing through Balaam the prophet, and massacred the Midianites, who by the end of the Exodus journey had become the enemies of the Israelites. Moses was twice given notice that he would die before entry to the Promised Land: in Numbers 27:13, once he had seen the Promised Land from a viewpoint on Mount Abarim, and again in Numbers 31:1 once battle with the Midianites had been won.
On the banks of the Jordan, in sight of the land, Moses assembled the tribes. After recalling their wanderings he delivered God's laws by which they must live in the land, sang a song of praise and pronounced a blessing on the people, and passed his authority to Joshua, under whom they would possess the land. Moses then went up Mount Nebo to the top of Pisgah, looked over the promised land of Israel spread out before him, and died, at the age of one hundred and twenty. More humble than any other man (Num. 12:3), "there hath not arisen a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom YHWH knew face to face" (Deuteronomy 34:10). The New Testament states that after Moses' death, Michael the Archangel and the devil disputed over his body (Jude 1:9).
Lawgiver of Israel
Moses is honoured among Jews today as the "lawgiver of Israel", and he delivers several sets of laws in the course of the four books. The first is the Covenant code, Exodus 19–24, the terms of the covenant which God offers to Israel at the foot of Sinai. Embedded in the covenant are the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:1–17) and the Book of the Covenant (Exodus 20:22–23:19). The entire Book of Leviticus constitutes a second body of law, the Book of Numbers begins with yet another set, and the Book of Deuteronomy another.
Apart from a few scattered references elsewhere in the Jewish scriptures, all that is known about Moses comes from the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The majority of scholars date these four books to the Persian period, 538–332 BCE.
No Egyptian sources mention Moses or the events of Exodus-Deuteronomy, nor has any archeological evidence been discovered in Egypt or the Sinai wilderness to support the story in which he is the central figure.
Moses in Hellenistic literature
Non-biblical writings about Jews, with references to the role of Moses, first appear at the beginning of the Hellenistic period, from 323 BCE to about 146 BCE. Shmuel notes that "a characteristic of this literature is the high honour in which it holds the peoples of the East in general and some specific groups among these peoples."
In addition to the Judeo-Roman or Judeo-Hellenic historians Artapanus, Eupolemus, Josephus, and Philo, a few non-Jewish historians including Hecataeus of Abdera (quoted by Diodorus Siculus), Alexander Polyhistor, Manetho, Apion, Chaeremon of Alexandria, Tacitus and Porphyry also make reference to him. The extent to which any of these accounts rely on earlier sources is unknown. Moses also appears in other religious texts such as the Mishnah (c. 200 CE), Midrash (200–1200 CE), and the Qur'an (c. 610–53).
The figure of Osarseph in Hellenistic historiography is a renegade Egyptian priest who leads an army of lepers against the pharaoh and is finally expelled from Egypt, changing his name to Moses.
The earliest existing reference to Moses in Greek literature occurs in the Egyptian history of Hecataeus of Abdera (4th century BCE). All that remains of his description of Moses are two references made by Diodorus Siculus, wherein, writes historian Arthur Droge, "he describes Moses as a wise and courageous leader who left Egypt and colonized Judaea." Among the many accomplishments described by Hecataeus, Moses had founded cities, established a temple and religious cult, and issued laws:
After the establishment of settled life in Egypt in early times, which took place, according to the mythical account, in the period of the gods and heroes, the first... to persuade the multitudes to use written laws was Mneves [Moses], a man not only great of soul but also in his life the most public-spirited of all lawgivers whose names are recorded.
The Jewish historian Artapanus of Alexandria (2nd century BCE), portrayed Moses as a cultural hero, alien to the Pharaonic court. According to theologian John Barclay, the Moses of Artapanus "clearly bears the destiny of the Jews, and in his personal, cultural and military splendor, brings credit to the whole Jewish people."
Jealousy of Moses' excellent qualities induced Chenephres to send him with unskilled troops on a military expedition to Ethiopia, where he won great victories. After having built the city of Hermopolis, he taught the people the value of the ibis as a protection against the serpents, making the bird the sacred guardian spirit of the city; then he introduced circumcision. After his return to Memphis, Moses taught the people the value of oxen for agriculture, and the consecration of the same by Moses gave rise to the cult of Apis. Finally, after having escaped another plot by killing the assailant sent by the king, Moses fled to Arabia, where he married the daughter of Raguel [Jethro], the ruler of the district.
Artapanus goes on to relate how Moses returns to Egypt with Aaron, and is imprisoned, but miraculously escapes through the name of YHWH in order to lead the Exodus. This account further testifies that all Egyptian temples of Isis thereafter contained a rod, in remembrance of that used for Moses' miracles. He describes Moses as 80 years old, "tall and ruddy, with long white hair, and dignified."
Some historians, however, point out the "apologetic nature of much of Artapanus' work," with his addition extra-biblical details, as with references to Jethro: the non-Jewish Jethro expresses admiration for Moses' gallantry in helping his daughters, and chooses to adopt Moses as his son.
Strabo, a Greek historian, geographer and philosopher, in his Geography (c. 24 CE), wrote in detail about Moses, whom he considered to be an Egyptian who deplored the situation in his homeland, and thereby attracted many followers who respected the deity. He writes, for example, that Moses opposed the picturing of the deity in the form of man or animal, and was convinced that the deity was an entity which encompassed everything – land and sea:
35. An Egyptian priest named Moses, who possessed a portion of the country called the Lower Egypt, being dissatisfied with the established institutions there, left it and came to Judaea with a large body of people who worshipped the Divinity. He declared and taught that the Egyptians and Africans entertained erroneous sentiments, in representing the Divinity under the likeness of wild beasts and cattle of the field; that the Greeks also were in error in making images of their gods after the human form. For God [said he] may be this one thing which encompasses us all, land and sea, which we call heaven, or the universe, or the nature of things....
36. By such doctrine Moses persuaded a large body of right-minded persons to accompany him to the place where Jerusalem now stands....
In Strabo’s writings of the history of Judaism as he understood it, he describes various stages in its development: from the first stage, including Moses and his direct heirs; to the final stage where "the Temple of Jerusalem continued to be surrounded by an aura of sanctity." Strabo’s "positive and unequivocal appreciation of Moses’ personality is among the most sympathetic in all ancient literature." His portrayal of Moses is said to be similar to the writing of Hecataeus who "described Moses as a man who excelled in wisdom and courage."
Egyptologist Jan Assmann concludes that Strabo was the historian "who came closest to a construction of Moses' religion as monotheism and as a pronounced counter-religion." It recognized "only one divine being whom no image can represent... [and] the only way to approach this god is to live in virtue and in justice."
The Roman historian Tacitus (ca. 56–120 CE) refers to Moses by noting that the Jewish religion was monotheistic and without a clear image. His primary work, wherein he describes Jewish philosophy, is his Histories (ca. 100), where, according to Murphy, as a result of the Jewish worship of one God, "pagan mythology fell into contempt." Tacitus states that, despite various opinions current in his day regarding the Jews' ethnicity, most of his sources are in agreement that there was an Exodus from Egypt. By his account, the Pharaoh Bocchoris, suffering from a plague, banished the Jews in response to an oracle of the god Zeus-Amun.
A motley crowd was thus collected and abandoned in the desert. While all the other outcasts lay idly lamenting, one of them, named Moses, advised them not to look for help to gods or men, since both had deserted them, but to trust rather in themselves, and accept as divine the guidance of the first being, by whose aid they should get out of their present plight.
In this version, Moses and the Jews wander through the desert for only six days, capturing the Holy Land on the seventh.
The Septuagint, the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, influenced Longinus, who may have been the author of the great book of literary criticism, On the Sublime, although the true author is still unknown for certain. However, most scholars agree that the author lived in the time of Augustus or Tiberius, the first and second Roman Emperors.
The writer quotes Genesis in a "style which presents the nature of the deity in a manner suitable to his pure and great being," however he does not mention Moses by name, but instead calls him "the Lawgiver of the Jews." Besides its mention of Cicero, Moses is the only non-Greek writer quoted in the work, and he is described "with far more admiration than even Greek writers who treated Moses with respect, such as Hecataeus and Strabo.
In Josephus' (37 – c. 100 CE) Antiquities of the Jews, Moses is mentioned throughout. For example Book VIII Ch. IV, describes Solomon's Temple, also known as the First Temple, at the time the Ark of the Covenant was first moved into the newly built temple:
When King Solomon had finished these works, these large and beautiful buildings, and had laid up his donations in the temple, and all this in the interval of seven years, and had given a demonstration of his riches and alacrity therein; ...he also wrote to the rulers and elders of the Hebrews, and ordered all the people to gather themselves together to Jerusalem, both to see the temple which he had built, and to remove the ark of God into it; and when this invitation of the whole body of the people to come to Jerusalem was everywhere carried abroad, ...The Feast of Tabernacles happened to fall at the same time, which was kept by the Hebrews as a most holy and most eminent feast. So they carried the ark and the tabernacle which Moses had pitched, and all the vessels that were for ministration to the sacrifices of God, and removed them to the temple. ...Now the ark contained nothing else but those two tables of stone that preserved the ten commandments, which God spake to Moses in Mount Sinai, and which were engraved upon them...
According to Feldman, Josephus also attaches particular significance to Moses' possession of the "cardinal virtues of wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice." He also includes piety as an added fifth virtue. In addition, he "stresses Moses' willingness to undergo toil and his careful avoidance of bribery. Like Plato's philosopher-king, Moses excels as an educator."
Numenius, a Greek philosopher who was a native of Apamea, in Syria, wrote during the latter half of the 2nd century CE. Historian Kennieth Guthrie writes that "Numenius is perhaps the only recognized Greek philosopher who explicitly studied Moses, the prophets, and the life of Jesus..." He describes his background:
Numenius was a man of the world; he was not limited to Greek and Egyptian mysteries, but talked familiarly of the myths of Brahmins and Magi. It is however his knowledge and use of the Hebrew scriptures which distinguished him from other Greek philosophers. He refers to Moses simply as "the prophet", exactly as for him Homer is the poet. Plato is described as a Greek Moses.
In Justin Martyr
The Christian saint and religious philosopher Justin Martyr (103–165 CE) drew the same conclusion as Numenius, according to other experts. Theologian Paul Blackham notes that Justin considered Moses to be "more trustworthy, profound and truthful because he is older than the Greek philosophers." He quotes him:
I will begin, then, with our first prophet and lawgiver, Moses... that you may know that, of all your teachers, whether sages, poets, historians, philosophers, or lawgivers, by far the oldest, as the Greek histories show us, was Moses, who was our first religious teacher.
The tradition of Moses as a lawgiver and culture hero of the Israelites can be traced to the Deuteronomist source, corresponding to the 7th-century BCE Kingdom of Judah. Moses is a central figure in the Deuteronomist account of the origins of the Israelites, cast in a literary style of elegant flashbacks told by Moses. The mainstream view is that the Deuteronomist relies on earlier material that may date to the United Monarchy, so that the biblical narrative would be based on traditions that can be traced roughly to the 10th century BCE, or about four centuries after the supposed lifetime of Moses. By contrast, Biblical minimalists such as Philip Davies and Niels Peter Lemche regard the Exodus as a fiction composed in the Persian period or even later to give hope of return to Canaan for a Diaspora community, without even the memory of a historical Moses. Given this possible late composition it would seem that the figure of Moses may be a composite drawn from a number of different sources.
The question of the historicity of the Exodus (specifically, the Pharaoh of the Exodus, identification of whom would connect the biblical narrative to Egyptological chronology) has long been debated, without conclusive result. There were at least two periods in Egyptian history in which Asiatic Semites were expelled from Egypt. One was associated with the expulsion of the Semitic Hyksos at the beginning of the Late Bronze Age. The second was following the commencement of the reign of Setnakhte at the end of the 19th Dynasty. Manetho seems to confuse the two, for instance, in a distorted account reported in Josephus, he supposedly states that Moses was originally Osarseph, a renegade priest, who led a band of lepers out of Avaris (referred to as Raamses in the Bible).(Exodus 1:11) Osarseph, may be a memory of a shadowy vizier, originally from Syria (Hurru), known as Yursu (self-made), who came to prominence as Chancellor Bay just prior to the second event. Pi Ramesses may be the "store city" Ramses mentioned in Exodus, which was the capital of the Egyptian Empire in the 19th to end of the 20th Dynasty of Egypt, giving quite a specific date to the Egyptian part of Exodus.
Some scholars, like Kenneth Kitchen and Frank Yurko suggest that there may be a historical core beneath the Exodus and Sinai traditions, even if the biblical narrative dramatizes by portraying as a single event what was more likely a gradual process of migration and conquest. Thus, the motif of "slavery in Egypt" may reflect the historical situation of imperialist control of the Egyptian Empire over Canaan over the period of the Thutmosides down to the revolt against Merenptah and Rameses III, after which it declined gradually during the 12th century under the pressure from the Sea Peoples and the general Bronze Age collapse: Israel Finkelstein points to the appearance of settlements in the central hill country around 1200 as the earliest of the known settlements of the Israelites.
A cyclical pattern to these highland settlements, corresponding to the state of the surrounding cultures, suggests that the local Canaanites combined an agricultural and nomadic lifestyles, particularly under Aramaean and Neo-Hittite influence. When Egyptian rule collapsed after the invasion of the Sea Peoples, the central hill country could no longer sustain a large nomadic population, so they went from nomadism to sedentism.[page needed] Canaanite refugees from the lowlands seem to have fused with Shasu, nomadic Aramaean elements, using pithoi cisterns for the capture of water, hillside terracing and other elements from the Aegean and Western Anatolian "Peoples of the Sea", living in scattered hamlets and avoiding the husbandry of pigs, suggesting a new type of culture in the region.
However, Finkelstein states in the same book that at the earlier time proposed by most scientists for the Exodus, based upon the Biblical chronology 400 years prior to the reign of King David, Egypt was at the peak of its glory, with a series of fortresses guarding the borders and checkpoints watching the roads to Canaan. That means an exodus of the scale of over 600,000 soldiers described in the Torah would have been impossible.[page needed] This implies a total civilian population, with women and children, of over a million, which would have numbered between a third and a half of the total Egyptian population at the time.
While the general narrative of the Exodus and the conquest of the Promised Land may be remotely rooted in historical events, the figure of Moses as a leader of the Israelites in these events cannot be substantiated.[page needed][page needed] William Dever agrees with the Canaanite origin of the Israelites but allows for the possibility of some immigrants from Egypt among the early hilltop settlers, leaving open the possibility of a Moses-like figure in Transjordan ca. 1250–1200.[page needed]
Martin Noth holds that two different groups experienced the Exodus and Sinai events, and each group transmitted its own stories independently of the other one, writing that "The biblical story tracing the Hebrews from Egypt to Canaan resulted from an editor's weaving separate themes and traditions around a main character Moses, actually an obscure person from Moab." Given the existence of a Moabite king Mesha, etymologically identical to the Hebrew Moshe, it is possible that there was a memory of a culture hero who was associated with the end of Egyptian influence at Timna during the late Bronze Age.[page needed]
The "Kenite hypothesis", originally suggested by Cornelius Tiele in 1872, supposes that the figure of Moses is a reflection of a historical Midianite priest of Yahweh, whose cult was introduced to Israel from southern Canaan (Edom, Moab, Midian) by the Kenites. This idea is based on an old tradition (recorded in Judges 1:16, 4:11) that Moses' father-in-law was a Midianite priest of Yahweh, as it were preserving a memory of the Midianite origin of the deity. While the role of the Kenites in the transmission of the cult is widely accepted, Tiele's view on the historical role of Moses finds less support in modern scholarship.
William Albright held a more favorable view towards the traditional views regarding Moses, and accepted the essence of the biblical story, as narrated between Exodus 1:8 and Deuteronomy 34:12, but recognized the impact that centuries of oral and written transmission have had on the account, causing it to acquire layers of accretions.
Recently Aidan Dodson, M. Georg and R. Krauss all suggest that the story of Moses as a Prince of Egypt may contain a distorted memory of Pharaoh Amenmesses. In texts written after his disappearance Amenmesses "was explicitly denied any royal status – being simply 'Mose' and perhaps also 'enemy'.… Indeed, it has been suggested that Amenmesses' memory has survived in a far more universal way, in that his career was transmogrified into the Old Testament story of Jewish law-giver, Moses." Dodson concludes "…this connection is beyond proof and such a survival of Amenmesses into world consciousness remains but an intriguing possibility".
Moses in Abrahamic religions
Moses striking the rock
|Prophet, Saint, Seer, Lawgiver, Apostle to Pharaoh, Reformer, 'One to Whom God Spoke',[c] 'Our Leader Moses',[d] Leader of the Exodus, Holy Forefather[e]|
|Born||Goshen, Lower Egypt|
|Died||Mount Nebo, Moab|
|Venerated in||Judaism, Christianity, Islam|
|Feast||Orthodox Church & Catholic Church: Sept 4|
|Attributes||Tablets of the Law|
There is a wealth of stories and additional information about Moses in the Jewish apocrypha and in the genre of rabbinical exegesis known as Midrash, as well as in the primary works of the Jewish oral law, the Mishnah and the Talmud. Moses is also given a number of bynames in Jewish tradition. The Midrash identifies Moses as one of seven biblical personalities who were called by various names. Moses' other names were: Jekuthiel (by his mother), Heber (by his father), Jered (by Miriam), Avi Zanoah (by Aaron), Avi Gedor (by Kohath), Avi Soco (by his wet-nurse), Shemaiah ben Nethanel (by people of Israel). Moses is also attributed the names Toviah (as a first name), and Levi (as a family name) (Vayikra Rabbah 1:3), Heman, Mechoqeiq (lawgiver) and Ehl Gav Ish (Numbers 12:3).
Jewish historians who lived at Alexandria, such as Eupolemus, attributed to Moses the feat of having taught the Phoenicians their alphabet, similar to legends of Thoth. Artapanus of Alexandria explicitly identified Moses not only with Thoth/Hermes, but also with the Greek figure Musaeus (whom he called "the teacher of Orpheus"), and ascribed to him the division of Egypt into 36 districts, each with its own liturgy. He named the princess who adopted Moses as Merris, wife of Pharaoh Chenephres.
Ancient sources mention an Assumption of Moses and a Testimony of Moses. A Latin text was found in Milan in the 19th century by Antonio Ceriani who called it the Assumption of Moses, even though it does not refer to an assumption of Moses or contain portions of the Assumption which are cited by ancient authors, and it is apparently actually the Testimony. The incident which the ancient authors cite is also mentioned in the Epistle of Jude.
To Orthodox Jews, Moses is called Moshe Rabbenu, `Eved HaShem, Avi haNeviim zya"a: "Our Leader Moshe, Servant of God, Father of all the Prophets (may his merit shield us, amen)". In the orthodox view, Moses received not only the Torah, but also the revealed (written and oral) and the hidden (the `hokhmat nistar teachings, which gave Judaism the Zohar of the Rashbi, the Torah of the Ari haQadosh and all that is discussed in the Heavenly Yeshiva between the Ramhal and his masters). He is also considered the greatest prophet.
Arising in part from his age, but also because 120 is elsewhere stated as the maximum age for Noah's descendants (one interpretation of Genesis 6:3), "may you live to 120" has become a common blessing among Jews.
For Christians, Moses—mentioned more often in the New Testament than any other Old Testament figure—is often a symbol of God's law, as reinforced and expounded on in the teachings of Jesus. New Testament writers often compared Jesus' words and deeds with Moses' to explain Jesus' mission. In Acts 7:39–43, 51–53, for example, the rejection of Moses by the Jews who worshiped the golden calf is likened to the rejection of Jesus by the Jews that continued in traditional Judaism.
Moses also figures in several of Jesus' messages. When he met the Pharisee Nicodemus at night in the third chapter of the Gospel of John, he compared Moses' lifting up of the bronze serpent in the wilderness, which any Israelite could look at and be healed, to his own lifting up (by his death and resurrection) for the people to look at and be healed. In the sixth chapter, Jesus responded to the people's claim that Moses provided them manna in the wilderness by saying that it was not Moses, but God, who provided. Calling himself the "bread of life", Jesus stated that He was provided to feed God's people.
Moses, along with Elijah, is presented as meeting with Jesus in all three Gospel accounts of the Transfiguration of Jesus in Matthew 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9, respectively. Later Christians found numerous other parallels between the life of Moses and Jesus to the extent that Jesus was likened to a "second Moses." For instance, Jesus' escape from the slaughter by Herod in Bethlehem is compared to Moses' escape from Pharaoh's designs to kill Hebrew infants. Such parallels, unlike those mentioned above, are not pointed out in Scripture. See the article on typology.
His relevance to modern Christianity has not diminished. Moses is considered to be a saint by several churches; and is commemorated as a prophet in the respective Calendars of Saints of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Church, and Lutheran churches on September 4. He is commemorated as one of the Holy Forefathers in the Calendar of Saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church on July 30.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (colloquially called Mormons) generally view Moses in the same way that other Christians do. However, in addition to accepting the biblical account of Moses, Mormons include Selections from the Book of Moses as part of their scriptural canon. This book is believed to be the translated writings of Moses, and is included in the Pearl of Great Price.
Latter-day Saints are also unique in believing that Moses was taken to heaven without having tasted death (translated). In addition, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery stated that on April 3, 1836, Moses appeared to them in the Kirtland Temple in a glorified, immortal, physical form and bestowed upon them the "keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north."
Moses is mentioned more in the Quran than any other individual and his life is narrated and recounted more than that of any other prophet. In general, Moses is described in ways which parallel the Islamic prophet Muhammad, and "his character exhibits some of the main themes of Islamic theology," including the "moral injunction that we are to submit ourselves to God."
Moses is defined in the Qur'an as both prophet (nabi) and messenger (rasul), the latter term indicating that he was one of those prophets who brought a scripture and law to his people.
Smith 1991 describes an account in the Qur'an of meetings in heaven between Moses and Muhammad, which Huston states were "one of the crucial events in Muhammad's life," and resulted in Muslims observing 5 daily prayers.
Moses is mentioned 502 times in the Qur'an; passages mentioning Moses include 2.49–61, 7.103–160, 10.75–93, 17.101–104, 20.9–97, 26.10–66, 27.7–14, 28.3–46, 40.23–30, 43.46–55, 44.17–31, and 79.15–25. and many others. Most of the key events in Moses' life which are narrated in the Bible are to be found dispersed through the different Surahs of Qur'an, with a story about meeting Khidr which is not found in the Bible.
In the Moses story related by the Qur'an, Jochebed is commanded by God to place Moses in an ark and cast him on the waters of the Nile, thus abandoning him completely to God's protection. Pharaoh's wife Asiya, not his daughter, found Moses floating in the waters of the Nile. She convinced Pharaoh to keep him as their son because they were not blessed with any children.
The Qur'an's account has emphasized Moses' mission to invite the Pharaoh to accept God's divine message as well as give salvation to the Israelites. According to the Qur'an, Moses encourages the Israelites to enter Canaan, but they are unwilling to fight the Canaanites, fearing certain defeat. Moses responds by pleading to Allah that he and his brother Aaron be separated from the rebellious Israelites. After which the Israelites are made to wander for 40 years.
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In the Baha'i Faith, Moses is considered a messenger from God who is considered equally authentic as those sent in other eras. An epithet of Moses in Baha'i scriptures is Interlocutor of God.[page needed] Moses is further described as paving the way for Baha'ullah and his ultimate revelation, and a teacher of truth, whose teachings were in line with the customs of his time.
Politics and law
In a metaphorical sense in the Christian tradition, a "Moses" has been referred to as the leader who delivers the people from a terrible situation. Among the presidents known to have used the symbolism of Moses were Harry S. Truman, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who referred to his supporters as "the Moses generation."
Winston Churchill, in his essay called "Moses—the Leader of a People", published in 1931, used the story of Moses to convince the British population of its need for strong leadership, and that "human success depends on the favor of God." He saw Moses as more than a metaphor, however, rejecting as "myth" the assertions that Moses was only a legendary figure.
He described him as "the supreme law-giver, who received from God that remarkable code upon which the religious, moral, and social life of the nation was so securely founded… [and] one of the greatest human beings with the most decisive leap forward ever discernable in the human story." Churchill also noted the relevance of the story of Moses to modern Britain: "We may believe that they happened to a people not so very different from ourselves..."
In his essay, Churchill implied that the Ten Commandments were a primary set of laws, "Here [Mount Sinai] Moses received from [God] the tables of those fundamental laws which were henceforth to be followed, with occasional lapses, by the highest forms of human society."
In subsequent years, theologians linked the Ten Commandments with the formation of early democracy. Scottish theologian William Barclay described them as "the universal foundation of all things… the law without which nationhood is impossible. …Our society is founded upon it. Pope Francis addressed the U.S. Congress in 2015 stating that all people need to "keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation... [and] the figure of Moses leads us directly to God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being.
References to Moses were used by the Puritans, who relied on the story of Moses to give meaning and hope to the lives of Pilgrims seeking religious and personal freedom in America. John Carver was the first governor of Plymouth colony and first signer of the Mayflower Compact, which he wrote in 1620 during the ship's three-month voyage. He inspired the Pilgrims with a "sense of earthly grandeur and divine purpose," notes historian Jon Meacham, and was called the "Moses of the Pilgrims." Early American writer James Russell Lowell noted the similarity of the founding of America by the Pilgrims to that of ancient Israel by Moses:
Next to the fugitives whom Moses led out of Egypt, the little shipload of outcasts who landed at Plymouth are destined to influence the future of the world.
Following Carver's death the following year, William Bradford was made governor. He feared that the remaining Pilgrims would not survive the hardships of the new land, with half their people having already died within months of arriving. Bradford evoked the symbol of Moses to the weakened and desperate Pilgrims to help calm them and give them hope: "Violence will break all. Where is the meek and humble spirit of Moses?" William G. Dever explains the attitude of the Pilgrims: "We considered ourselves the 'New Israel,' particularly we in America. And for that reason we knew who we were, what we believed in and valued, and what our 'manifest destiny' was."
On July 4, 1776, immediately after the Declaration of Independence was officially passed, the Continental Congress asked John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin to design a seal that would clearly represent a symbol for the new United States. They chose the symbol of Moses leading the Israelites to freedom. The founding fathers inscribed the words of Moses on the Liberty Bell: "Proclaim Liberty thro' all the Land to all the Inhabitants thereof." (Levit. 25)
Upon the death of George Washington in 1799, two thirds of his eulogies referred to him as "America's Moses," with one orator saying that "Washington has been the same to us as Moses was to the Children of Israel."
Benjamin Franklin, in 1788, saw the difficulties that some of the newly independent American states were having in forming a government, and proposed that until a new code of laws could be agreed to, they should be governed by "the laws of Moses," as contained in the Old Testament. He justified his proposal by explaining that the laws had worked in biblical times: "The Supreme Being… having rescued them from bondage by many miracles, performed by his servant Moses, he personally delivered to that chosen servant, in the presence of the whole nation, a constitution and code of laws for their observance.
John Adams, America's 2nd president, stated why he relied on the laws of Moses over Greek philosophy for establishing the Constitution: "As much as I love, esteem, and admire the Greeks, I believe the Hebrews have done more to enlighten and civilize the world. Moses did more than all their legislators and philosophers. Swedish historian Hugo Valentin credited Moses as the "first to proclaim the rights of man."
Slavery and civil rights
Historian Gladys L. Knight describes how leaders who emerged during slavery time and after often personified the Moses symbol. "The symbol of Moses was empowering in that it served to amplify a need for freedom." Therefore, when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865 after freeing the slaves, black Americans said they had lost "their Moses". Lincoln biographer Charles Carleton Coffin writes, "The millions whom Abraham Lincoln delivered from slavery will ever liken him to Moses, the deliverer of Israel." Similarly, Harriet Tubman, who rescued approximately seventy enslaved family and friends, was also described as the "Moses" of her people.
In the 1960s, a leading figure in the civil rights movement was Martin Luther King, Jr., who was called "a modern Moses," and often referred to Moses in his speeches: "The struggle of Moses, the struggle of his devoted followers as they sought to get out of Egypt. This is something of the story of every people struggling for freedom."
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Sigmund Freud, in his last book, Moses and Monotheism in 1939, postulated that Moses was an Egyptian nobleman who adhered to the monotheism of Akhenaten. Following a theory proposed by a contemporary biblical critic, Freud believed that Moses was murdered in the wilderness, producing a collective sense of patricidal guilt that has been at the heart of Judaism ever since. "Judaism had been a religion of the father, Christianity became a religion of the son", he wrote. The possible Egyptian origin of Moses and of his message has received significant scholarly attention.[page needed]
Opponents of this view observe that the religion of the Torah seems different from Atenism in everything except the central feature of devotion to a single god, although this has been countered by a variety of arguments, e.g. pointing out the similarities between the Hymn to Aten and Psalm 104.[page needed] Freud's interpretation of the historical Moses is not well accepted among historians, and is considered pseudohistory by many.[page needed]
Criticism of Moses
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Moses' prominence in religious literature has made him a popular target for biblical critics, most of whom question his reputation as a just and compassionate leader, drawing attention to certain passages in which he appears to display a more brutal and unforgiving side. Given his holy status in the minds of Jews, Christians and Muslims, criticism of Moses' life and teachings has been for the most part by deists, agnostics and atheists.
Thomas Paine and Numbers 31:13-18
In the late eighteenth century, the deist Thomas Paine commented at length on Moses' Laws in The Age of Reason. Paine considered Moses to be a "detestable villain", and cited Numbers 31:13–18 as an example of his "unexampled atrocities". In the passage, the Jewish army had returned from conquering the Midianites, and Moses has gone down to meet it:
And Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and all the princes of the congregation, went forth to meet them without the camp; and Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle; and Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord. Now, therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known a man by lying with him; but all the women-children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.
However, some Jewish sources defend Moses' role. The Chasam Sofer emphasizes that this war was not fought at Moses' behest, but was commanded by God as an act of revenge against the Midianite women, who, according to the Biblical account, had seduced the Israelites and led them to sin. Rabbi Joel Grossman argued that the story is a "powerful fable of lust and betrayal", and that Moses' execution of the women was a symbolic condemnation of those who seek to turn sex and desire to evil purposes. Alan Levin, an educational specialist with the Reform movement, has similarly suggested that the story should be taken as a cautionary tale, to "warn successive generations of Jews to watch their own idolatrous behavior".
Some Mistakes of Moses
In the nineteenth century, the agnostic Robert G. Ingersoll wrote a book entitled Some Mistakes of Moses, which was wholly devoted to discussion of the Torah. In the book, Ingersoll commented on the story of the golden calf, an idol crafted by the Israelites while Moses is receiving the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. When Moses returned from the mountain-top, he became angry that his people were engaging in idol worship and ordered the Levites to slaughter the sinners, who numbered 3,000. Ingersoll protested that in Exodus narrative the commandment forbidding idolatry had not yet been passed on by Moses to his people, and that "to inflict punishment for breaking unknown and unpublished laws is, in the last degree, cruel and unjust".
Moses is depicted in several U.S. government buildings because of his legacy as a lawgiver. In the Library of Congress stands a large statue of Moses alongside a statue of the Apostle Paul. Moses is one of the 23 lawgivers depicted in marble bas-reliefs in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives in the United States Capitol. The plaque’s overview states: "Moses (c. 1350–1250 B.C.) Hebrew prophet and lawgiver; transformed a wandering people into a nation; received the Ten Commandments."
Moses appears eight times in carvings that ring the Supreme Court Great Hall ceiling. His face is presented along with other ancient figures such as Solomon, the Greek god Zeus and the Roman goddess of wisdom, Minerva. The Supreme Court building's east pediment depicts Moses holding two tablets. Tablets representing the Ten Commandments can be found carved in the oak courtroom doors, on the support frame of the courtroom's bronze gates and in the library woodwork. A controversial image is one that sits directly above the chief justice's head. In the center of the 40-foot-long Spanish marble carving is a tablet displaying Roman numerals I through X, with some numbers partially hidden.
Michelangelo's statue of Moses in the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome, is one of the most familiar masterpieces in the world. The horns the sculptor included on Moses' head are the result of a mistranslation of the Hebrew Bible into the Latin Vulgate Bible with which he was familiar. The Hebrew word taken from Exodus means either a "horn" or an "irradiation." Experts at the Archaeological Institute of America show that the term was used when Moses "returned to his people after seeing as much of the Glory of the Lord as human eye could stand," and his face "reflected radiance." In early Jewish art, moreover, Moses is often "shown with rays coming out of his head."
Another author explains, "When Saint Jerome translated the Old Testament into Latin, he thought no one but Christ should glow with rays of light — so he advanced the secondary translation. However, writer J. Stephen Lang points out that Jerome's version actually described Moses as "giving off hornlike rays," and he "rather clumsily translated it to mean 'having horns.'" It has also been noted that he had Moses seated on a throne, yet Moses was neither a King nor ever sat on such thrones.
Film and television
Moses was portrayed by Theodore Roberts in Cecil B. DeMille's 1923 silent film The Ten Commandments. Moses appeared as the central character in the 1956 DeMille movie, also called The Ten Commandments, in which he was portrayed by Charlton Heston. A television remake was produced in 2006.
- Moses in Islam
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- According to Manetho the place of his birth was at the ancient city of Heliopolis.
- This title is held specifically in Islam.
- This is a specifically Jewish title.
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- St Augustine. The City of God. Book XVIII. Chapter 8 - Who Were Kings When Moses Was Born, And What Gods Began To Be Worshipped Then.
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It was the prophet's call. It was a real ecstatic experience, like that of David under the baka-tree, Elijah on the mountain, Isaiah in the temple, Ezekiel on the Khebar, Jesus in the Jordan, Paul on the Damascus road. It was the perpetual mystery of the divine touching the human..
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Next to the fugitives whom Moses led out of Egypt, the little shipload of outcasts who landed at Plymouth are destined to influence the future of the world. The spiritual thirst of mankind has for ages been quenched at Hebrew fountains; but the embodiment in human institutions of truths uttered by the Son of Man eighteen centuries ago was to be mainly the work of Puritan thought and Puritan self-devotion. …If their municipal regulations smack somewhat of Judaism, yet there can be no nobler aim or more practical wisdom than theirs; for it was to make the law of man a living counterpart of the law of God, in their highest conception of it.
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[The pilgrims were clearly] animated by the true spirit of the Hebrew prophets and law-givers. They walked by the light of the Scriptures, and were resolved to form a Commonwealth in accordance with the social laws and ideas of the Bible. …they were themselves the true descendants of Israel, spiritual children of the prophets..
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I want to preach this morning from the subject, 'The Birth of a New Nation.' And I would like to use as a basis for our thinking together, a story that has long since been stenciled on the mental sheets of succeeding generations. It is the story of the Exodus, the story of the flight of the Hebrew people from the bondage of Egypt, through the wilderness and finally, to the Promised Land. …The struggle of Moses, the struggle of his devoted followers as they sought to get out of Egypt.
And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.
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- Mann, Thomas (1943), "Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me", The Ten Commandments, New York: Simon & Schuster, pp. 3–70.
- Meacham, Jon (2006), American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation, Random House.
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- Shmuel, Safrai (1976), Stern, M, ed., The Jewish People in the First Century, Van Gorcum Fortress Press
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- Smith, Huston (1991), The World's Religions, Harper Collins
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- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "Moses". Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901–1906.
- The Geography, Book XVI, Chapter II The entire context of the cited chapter of Strabo's work