TAH – Blog Post 16 – What’s up with Tisithen? Discussing the Hellenistic Invention of the Biblical Moses!

DISCLAIMER

The views expressed here regarding the historicity of the biblical figure Moses are based on a particular hypothesis and should be understood as such. These views reflect a specific perspective that posits Moses as a syncretic merger of ancient Bronze Age figures such as Sargon of Akkad and King Akhenaten. But, the story itself of the biblical Moses was simply a literary invention constructed possibly during the Helllenistic Period of Egypt, potentially polished up by Hellenistic scribes, or as a completely fabricated figure altogether. Additionally, the suggestion that a new story was later added to the Masoretic text to legitimize Christianity is part of this particular hypothesis as can be seen with Flavius Josephus’ mission to validate these biblical stories to pave the way for Christianity as well as to help solidify the Israeli people as a separate and distinct independent group that should be identified as such. It is important to recognize that the historicity of biblical figures is a complex and debated topic among scholars, historians, and theologians, and a wide range of perspectives exists within academic discourse. Furthermore, the interpretation of ancient texts and historical events is an ongoing area of study that continues to evolve based on new evidence and scholarly inquiry. Therefore, it is essential to approach these topics with an open mind and an awareness of the diversity of views within the academic community.

Objectives of Discussion

1 – Introduce/Reintroduce the Biblical Moses

2 – Discuss Historical Records, or the Lack Thereof

3 – Discuss the Contrast between Chaeremon and Manetho’s Accounts of Moses

4 – Discuss Comparative Analysis of Alexander the Great and the Biblical Moses: A Study in Hellenistic Influence on Religious Motifs

5 – Discuss the Accounts of the Biblical Moses within the Dead Sea Scrolls

6 – Discuss the Plausibility of the Figure of the Biblical Moses Being Created During the Hellenistic Era

7 – Discuss the Geopolitical Implications of Moses (aka Tisithen, Osarseph/Osarsiph) for the Roman Empire and Christianity

8 – My Hypothesis

1 – Introduce or Reintroduce the Biblical Moses

Birth and Early Life

Moses was born during a time of oppression for the Israelites in Egypt. His story is found in the book of Exodus, where it is described how his mother, Jochebed, placed him in a basket and set him adrift in the Nile River to save his life (Exodus 2:1-4). He was found by Pharaoh’s daughter, who raised him as her own son. Moses was educated in the royal court of Egypt and grew up with all the privileges of a prince (Acts 7:22).

Exile and Call by God

As a young man, Moses killed an Egyptian who was mistreating a Hebrew slave and had to flee Egypt to escape Pharaoh’s wrath (Exodus 2:11-15). He settled in the land of Midian, where he married Zipporah, the daughter of a Midianite priest (Exodus 2:16-22). It was during his time in Midian that Moses encountered God in the form of a burning bush and received his divine call to lead the Israelites out of slavery (Exodus 3:1-10).

Return to Egypt and the Plagues

Following God’s command, Moses returned to Egypt with his brother Aaron. They confronted Pharaoh, demanding the release of the Israelites. When Pharaoh refused, God sent a series of plagues upon Egypt to demonstrate His power (Exodus 7-12). These plagues included turning the Nile to blood, infestations of frogs, lice, and locusts, as well as diseases on livestock and boils on people.

The Passover and Exodus

After the tenth plague, the death of the firstborn, the Israelites were finally released from bondage. Moses led them out of Egypt, and they celebrated the first Passover as a commemoration of their deliverance (Exodus 12). The Israelites, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, left Egypt and began their journey toward the land that God had promised them.

Wandering in the Wilderness

The journey through the wilderness was long and arduous. The Israelites faced numerous challenges, including a lack of food and water. God provided manna from heaven and water from a rock to sustain them (Exodus 16, 17). During this time, Moses received the Ten Commandments and other laws from God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 20), and he acted as an intermediary between God and the people.

Death of Moses

Moses led the Israelites for forty years in the wilderness. However, according to the biblical narrative in Deuteronomy 34:1-8, he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because of an incident at Meribah, where he struck a rock to bring forth water instead of speaking to it as God had commanded. Before the Israelites entered the land of Canaan, Moses climbed Mount Nebo, from where God showed him the land that the Israelites would inherit. Moses died on the mountain, and God buried him in an unknown location.

2 – Discuss Historical Records, or the Lack Thereof

We will explore the likelihood that Moses, as described in the Hebrew Bible, is a historical figure and propose a syncretic perspective that links the character of Moses to previous historical figures such as Sargon of Akkad and King Akhenaten.

The figure of Moses, as depicted in the Hebrew Bible, is central to the narrative of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt and the reception of the Mosaic law at Mount Sinai. However, when we scrutinize the historical and archaeological record, a number of critical issues arise that cast doubt upon the existence of Moses as a singular historical figure.

Firstly, the absence of contemporary Egyptian records documenting the Israelite exodus or the presence of a figure akin to Moses in the court of the pharaoh raises serious questions regarding the historicity of the biblical account. The meticulous records kept by ancient Egyptian scribes make it highly improbable that such a significant event as the exodus, along with the prominent role of Moses, would have gone unrecorded.
Furthermore, the lack of archaeological evidence corroborating the mass migration of the Israelites from Egypt, as well as the absence of material culture or inscriptions directly linked to Moses or the events described in the biblical account, presents a substantial challenge to the historicity of the exodus narrative.
In addition to the dearth of direct evidence, the narrative of Moses exhibits striking parallels to earlier Mesopotamian and Egyptian literary and historical traditions. Notably, the account of Moses’ infancy, set adrift in a reed basket on the river, bears a remarkable resemblance to the Sumerian legend of Sargon of Akkad, who was also placed in a basket and sent down the Euphrates river. The parallels between these narratives suggest the possibility of intercultural influence and syncretism in the development of the Moses story.

Moreover, the religious reforms initiated by King Akhenaten during the 18th dynasty of ancient Egypt, including the introduction of monotheistic worship centered on the sun disc Aten, share intriguing similarities with the later monotheistic traditions attributed to Moses. The convergence of religious concepts and the historical context of King Akhenaten’s reign raise the possibility of influence on the development of the Mosaic tradition.

In light of these considerations, it becomes evident that the historical evidence pertaining to the figure of Moses as described in the Hebrew Bible is fraught with complexities and lacks the substantiation necessary to establish his existence as a singular historical figure. Instead, a syncretic analysis suggests that the character of Moses may have emerged through the assimilation and adaptation of earlier cultural and historical motifs, including those associated with figures such as Sargon of Akkad and King Akhenaten.

The narrative of Moses as presented in the biblical tradition warrants a critical reevaluation in light of the historical and archaeological evidence at our disposal. By scrutinizing the absence of direct corroboration and recognizing the syncretic elements within the Moses narrative, we can gain a more nuanced understanding of the origins and development of this influential figure in ancient Near Eastern tradition.

What are the oldest stories of Moses?

The story of Moses is found in the biblical book of Exodus, which is part of the Torah, also known as the Pentateuch or the Five Books of Moses. The traditional view is that the Torah was written by Moses himself, although modern scholarship suggests that it was likely composed over a period of time by multiple authors and editors, with the final form taking shape during the 5th century BCE or later.

The exact date of the writing of the story of Moses is a matter of scholarly debate, but most experts believe that the earliest written sources for the Moses story may have originated during the first millennium BCE, possibly from the time of the Babylonian exile (6th century BCE) or even earlier. These sources were likely based on oral traditions that had been passed down for generations before being committed to writing.

It’s important to note that the dating of biblical texts is a complex and ongoing area of research, and different scholars may have different views on the specific dates and origins of the texts.

The oldest known writings that are relevant to the biblical figure of Moses are the texts found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. These ancient manuscripts, discovered in the mid-20th century near the Dead Sea, include fragments and sometimes complete copies of various books of the Hebrew Bible, including parts of the Torah, which contains the story of Moses.

Among the Dead Sea Scrolls, the most famous and relevant to the story of Moses is the “Great Isaiah Scroll,” which contains the entire book of Isaiah. While Isaiah is not directly related to the story of Moses, the Dead Sea Scrolls in general provide valuable insight into the textual history of the Hebrew Bible, including the books that contain the story of Moses.

In addition to the Dead Sea Scrolls, there are other ancient texts and inscriptions that indirectly relate to the figure of Moses, such as the Merneptah Stele, an inscription from ancient Egypt dating to around 1200 BCE, which contains what is possibly the earliest extrabiblical reference to a group or region associated with the name “Israel.”

It’s important to note that these writings do not provide a direct account of Moses’ life, but they offer important historical and textual context for understanding the development of the biblical texts and the cultural milieu in which the figure of Moses and the stories associated with him emerged.

The Merneptah Stele

The Merneptah Stele, also known as the Israel Stele, is an ancient Egyptian inscription that dates to around 1208 BCE during the reign of Pharaoh Merneptah, the son of Ramesses II. The stele is an important historical artifact because it is one of the earliest known references to the people of Israel in an extrabiblical source.

Overview of the Merneptah Stele

• The stele is a large stone slab, inscribed with a hymn of victory celebrating Pharaoh Merneptah’s military campaigns. It was discovered in 1896 by renowned archaeologist Sir Flinders Petrie in Merneptah’s mortuary temple in Thebes, modern-day Luxor, Egypt.

• The inscription on the stele contains a detailed account of Merneptah’s military victories in Canaan, including a list of conquered cities and territories. The text is written in hieroglyphs and is considered a primary source for understanding the ancient history of the region.

• The most significant part of the inscription is the mention of a group of people identified as “Israel.” The relevant passage reads: “The princes are prostrate, saying, ‘Peace!’ Not one is raising his head among the Nine Bows. Now that Tehenu (Libya) has come to ruin, Hatti is pacified; Canaan is plundered, Ashkelon is carried off; Gezer is captured; Yanoam is made non-existent. Israel is laid waste and his seed is not; Hurru is become a widow because of Egypt.”

• The reference to Israel in the Merneptah Stele is the earliest known mention of the name in a contemporary historical source outside of the Hebrew Bible. It provides evidence for the presence of a group or entity called Israel in the land of Canaan during the late 13th century BCE.

• Regarding the biblical Moses, the Merneptah Stele does not mention him or provide any direct evidence related to the biblical figure. The stele primarily focuses on military conquests and does not delve into the specific individuals or leaders of the defeated populations.

The Merneptah Stele is a vital artifact for understanding ancient Egyptian history and its interactions with neighboring regions. Its mention of Israel is significant for scholars studying the early history of the Israelites and their presence in the ancient Near East. However, it does not provide direct information about the biblical figure of Moses.

The Dead Sea Scrolls

Moses is a central figure in the Hebrew Bible and is also referenced in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are a collection of Jewish texts discovered between 1947 and 1956 in the vicinity of the Dead Sea. While the Dead Sea Scrolls do not contain a complete, linear narrative of Moses’s life, they do contain references to him and his teachings.

Here are some of the key references to Moses in the Dead Sea Scrolls and their dates:

• The War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness (1QM) – This scroll, also known as the War Scroll, is dated to the late 2nd century BCE. While it does not specifically focus on Moses, it contains apocalyptic visions and depicts a cosmic battle between the forces of good and evil, drawing on themes found in the Hebrew Bible, including the exodus from Egypt and the role of Moses as a leader.

• The Community Rule (1QS) – This scroll, dating to the 2nd century BCE, provides regulations for the community living at Qumran, believed by many scholars to be the Essenes. While it does not directly mention Moses, it espouses a strict adherence to the Law, which is attributed to Moses in traditional Jewish belief.

• The Damascus Document (CD) – This text, possibly dating as early as the 3rd century BCE, is a compilation of laws and theological writings attributed to the Qumran community. Although it does not extensively discuss Moses, it refers to the covenant and the importance of following the precepts given by God, which are associated with Moses.

• The Psalms Scroll (11Q5) – This scroll, dated to the 1st century BCE, contains a collection of psalms, some of which allude to Moses and the exodus from Egypt. These references serve to connect the contemporary community with the ancient traditions associated with Moses and the early history of Israel.

• The Pentateuchal Scrolls – Fragments of biblical books, including those attributed to Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), have been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. These fragments are important for understanding the textual history of the Hebrew Bible but do not provide new biographical information about Moses.

While the Dead Sea Scrolls do not offer a comprehensive biography of Moses, they do provide valuable insights into how the figure of Moses and the events associated with him were understood within the community that produced and preserved these texts. These references contribute to our understanding of the diverse religious and interpretive traditions that existed in the Second Temple period, shedding light on the historical and theological context in which the figure of Moses was revered and reinterpreted.

3 – Discuss the Contrast Between Chaeremon and Manetho’s Accounts of Moses

Here we are going to look at the following figures:
In Chronological Order with a brief summary:

• Osarseph or Osarsiph (uncertain, possibly mythical): Osarseph is a figure mentioned by Manetho in his work “Aegyptiaca.” He is identified with the biblical figure of Moses, though the historicity of Osarseph is uncertain and his existence as an individual separate from the biblical account is debated among scholars.

• Manetho (circa 3rd century BCE): Manetho was an Egyptian historian and priest who lived during the 3rd century BCE. He is best known for his work “Aegyptiaca,” a history of Egypt in which he divided the rulers of Egypt into 30 dynasties.

• Chaeremon (circa 1st century BCE): Chaeremon was an Egyptian philosopher and historian who lived around the 1st century BCE. He wrote works on Egyptian religion and history, and his writings have been cited by later authors such as Plutarch.

These figures lived in different periods of ancient history and made contributions to our understanding of Egypt, Judaism, and ancient philosophy.

Chaeremon and Manetho were both ancient figures, with Manetho being the more well-known of the two. Here are their biographies and the accounts of Moses according to their writings, listed in chronological order:
Manetho (c. 3rd century BCE)

Manetho was an ancient Egyptian historian and priest who lived during the 3rd century BCE. He served as a high priest in the temple of Heliopolis and is best known for his work “Aegyptiaca” (History of Egypt), which was written in Greek and is now lost. Manetho’s
“Aegyptiaca” was a comprehensive history of Egypt from the earliest times to the conquest of I the Great.

Manetho’s Brief Account of Moses

Manetho was an Egyptian historian and priest who lived during the third century BC. He is most famous for his work “Aegyptiaca” (History of Egypt), which is now lost, but some of its contents have been preserved in the works of later writers, especially the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus.

In his work, Manetho mentions Moses, whom he refers to as “Osarseph” or “Osarsiph.” According to Manetho, Osarseph was a renegade Egyptian priest who led a group of lepers and other impure people in a revolt against the Egyptian religion. He claimed to have received a revelation from the god Osiris and led his followers in a conflict against the established order before ultimately leaving Egypt with them. This account of Moses differs significantly from the biblical narrative.
In his “Aegyptiaca,” Manetho wrote about a figure whom he referred to as Osarsiph, Osarseph, or Tisithen, whom many scholars believe to be a reference to the biblical figure of Moses. Manetho’s account of Osarsiph/Moses is known from the writings of Flavius Josephus, who paraphrased and possibly altered Manetho’s original account. It’s important to note that Manetho’s work is not extant, and we rely on secondary sources for his account of Moses.

According to Josephus, Manetho’s account of Osarsiph/Moses describes him as a priest of Heliopolis who led a group of lepers and other impure people in a revolt against the Egyptian pharaoh and established a new city called Avaris. This account differs significantly from the biblical narrative of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt.

Manetho’s portrayal of Moses as a leper and an impure person leading a revolt has been the subject of much debate among scholars. Some scholars believe that Manetho’s account may have been influenced by anti-Jewish sentiment, as well as a desire to discredit the Jewish people by depicting their revered leader in a negative light.

It’s worth noting that many details of Manetho’s account of Moses are questionable due to the lack of direct sources and the fact that we rely on Josephus’s paraphrase and interpretation. Additionally, Manetho’s work has been lost, and we have no way of directly verifying the accuracy of Josephus’s representation of his account.

Manetho’s account of Osarsiph/Moses is controversial and subject to scholarly debate. While it provides an alternative perspective on the figure of Moses, it is important to approach it with caution and consider the potential biases and motivations that may have influenced its portrayal.

Chaeremon (c. 1st century BCE)
Chaeremon was an Egyptian philosopher and historian who lived during the 1st century BCE. He was a contemporary of the famous Greek historian Strabo. Chaeremon served as a priest in Egypt and was known for his writings on Egyptian religion, history, and culture.

Chaeremon’s Brief Account of Moses

Chaeremon also wrote about Moses, whom he referred to as “Tisithen.” In Chaeremon’s account, Tisithen is depicted as a priest and a wise man who introduced various religious and cultural reforms to the Egyptian people. Like Manetho, Chaeremon’s depiction of Moses differs from the biblical narrative and presents him in a different light.

Chaeremon was an ancient Egyptian historian and stoic philosopher who lived around the first century BCE. He is known for his work on the history of Egypt, including his account of Moses, whom he referred to as Osarsiph, Osarseph, or Tisithen. Chaeremon’s account of Moses is of interest to scholars and historians because it provides an alternative perspective on the biblical figure.
In his writings, Chaeremon describes Osarsiph as a wise and charismatic figure who led a revolt against the Egyptian pharaoh. According to Chaeremon, Osarsiph was a priest in Heliopolis who became the leader of a group of lepers and other outcasts who were suffering under the oppressive rule of the pharaoh. Osarsiph reportedly organized this group and, with his leadership, led a rebellion against the Egyptian authorities.

Chaeremon’s account of Osarsiph differs significantly from the biblical narrative of Moses. In the Bible, Moses is depicted as a Hebrew who was raised in the pharaoh’s court and later led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Chaeremon’s version, however, portrays Osarsiph as an Egyptian priest who rebelled against the Egyptian rulers.

It’s worth noting that Chaeremon’s writings have not survived, and much of what we know about his account of Moses comes from references in the works of later writers such as Josephus, a first-century Jewish historian, and Apion, a Greek scholar. These later authors often cited Chaeremon when discussing the history of Egypt and the figure of Moses.

As with many historical accounts from antiquity, it is important to approach Chaeremon’s version of Moses with a critical eye, considering the context in which it was written and the potential biases of the author. Nonetheless, Chaeremon’s account of Moses provides an intriguing alternate perspective on the legendary figure and adds to the rich tapestry of interpretations surrounding the historical and mythological aspects of Moses and ancient Egypt.

4 – Discuss Comparative Analysis of Alexander the Great and the Biblical Moses: A Study in Hellenistic Influence on Religious Motifs

The motif of a leader or religious figure striking an object to release water is indeed a recurring theme in various religious, mythological, and historical narratives. This motif often symbolizes the leader’s ability to provide for their followers and is sometimes associated with miraculous or divine intervention.

Here are some comparisons between the biblical Moses and the lore surrounding Alexander the Great and other figures with similar motifs:

In the historical and legendary accounts of Alexander the Great, there are stories of his remarkable deeds, including the miraculous manifestation of water. One such story describes how, during a military campaign in the desert, Alexander’s army faced a severe water shortage. According to the legend, Alexander used his spear to strike a rock, and water gushed forth, providing much-needed sustenance for his men.

In the Bible, there are several instances of leaders striking objects to release water. One of the most famous examples is the story of Moses striking a rock to bring forth water for the Israelites during their journey through the desert. This event is recorded in the Book of Exodus and is seen as a demonstration of God’s provision and care for his people.

In Greek mythology, the motif of water being released through the striking of an object is also present. For example, the story of Pegasus, the winged horse, involves a similar motif. According to some versions of the myth, Pegasus struck a rock with his hoof, causing a spring to burst forth, which was said to be a gift from the goddess Athena.

Comparative Analysis

The motif of striking an object to release water is a powerful symbol found across different cultures and traditions. In each case, the act is associated with a leader or figure of significance providing for their followers in times of need. Whether interpreted as a divine miracle or a symbol of leadership and resourcefulness, these stories reflect the universal human need for sustenance and the belief in the providence of a higher power or exceptional individuals.
In religious analysis, these motifs are often examined for their symbolic and spiritual significance, highlighting themes of divine intervention, leadership, and the sustenance of life. They also serve to emphasize the archetypal nature of these narratives, illustrating common themes that resonate across diverse cultural and religious contexts.

The historical figures of Alexander the Great, the Macedonian king who conquered a vast empire in the 4th century BCE, and Moses, the biblical prophet who led the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery, have been the subject of numerous studies. However, the potential parallels and shared motifs between their respective narratives have received less attention. This paper aims to explore these similarities, as well as the historical and cultural contexts that may have influenced them.

Shared Motifs Between Alexander the Great and the Biblical Moses as Seen from Alexandrian Lore

Striking an Object for Water

In the biblical account, Moses strikes a rock with his staff at Meribah, causing water to gush forth and provide for the thirsty Israelites (Exodus 17:6). A similar motif is found in the Alexander Romance, a collection of fantastical narratives about Alexander the Great compiled during the Hellenistic era. According to one version, when Alexander’s army was suffering from thirst in the Gedrosian desert, he struck the ground with his spear, causing a spring of water to emerge (Pseudo-Callisthenes, Book II).

 

The Crossing of a Body of Water

Moses is renowned for parting the Red Sea, enabling the Israelites to escape from the pursuing Egyptian army (Exodus 14:21). Similarly, one of the most famous episodes in Alexander’s career was his crossing of the Hellespont, marking the beginning of his conquest of Persia. The Alexander Romance embellishes this event with miraculous elements, suggesting that the waters parted to let Alexander and his army pass (Pseudo-Callisthenes, Book I).

Burning Bush and Divine Intervention

Moses’ divine mission is famously initiated by God speaking to him from a burning bush (Exodus 3:2), marking a key instance of divine intervention. In Alexander’s case, a similar symbol is related in the Alexander Romance, where he encounters a talking tree that prophesies his future victories, echoing the burning bush motif (Pseudo-Callisthenes, Book II).
Additional Shared Motifs: Lawgiver and Empire Builder
Moses is traditionally seen as the lawgiver of the Israelites, having received the Torah from God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 20). Alexander, for his part, is known as an empire builder who established cities and spread Hellenistic culture across his territories. Both figures left lasting legacies that shaped the civilizations to come.

The motifs shared between the narratives of Moses and Alexander the Great, as exemplified in the striking of an object for water, the crossing of a body of water, and the burning bush-like symbol of divine intervention, suggest a degree of cultural cross-fertilization. These parallels may reflect the influence of Hellenistic literary and cultural traditions on later interpretations of the biblical text, demonstrating the interconnectedness of the ancient world.

5 – Discuss the Accounts of the Biblical Moses within the Dead Sea Scrolls

The canonical depiction of Moses found in the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament in Christian tradition) and the portrayal of Moses in the Dead Sea Scrolls reveal both overlapping and divergent features. The Dead Sea Scrolls, encompassing a wide range of texts, reflect a diversity of theological perspectives and interpretations that sometimes align with, and at other times, depart from the canonical representation.

Moses the Lawgiver and Prophet

In both the Hebrew Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls, Moses is affirmed as a lawgiver and prophet. However, the Scrolls often expand on these roles. For instance, the Temple Scroll presents an exhaustive legal code that is said to have been revealed to Moses, much of which is not found in the canonical Torah. This highlights a more comprehensive view of Mosaic legislation within the Qumran community.

Moses the Intercessor

Moses’ role as an intercessor, evident in the biblical text, is also amplified in the Scrolls. Works such as the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice and the Hodayot present Moses as a heavenly intercessor, engaging in liturgical activities in the celestial realms on behalf of the people. This depiction is not explicit in the biblical account and reflects the distinctive theological perspectives within the Qumran community.

Moses and Esoteric Knowledge

One of the most striking differences lies in the association of Moses with esoteric and apocalyptic knowledge in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Several pseudepigraphal works, such as the Apocryphon of Moses and the Heavenly Tablets, attribute to Moses the revelation of hidden wisdom and future events. This portrayal of Moses as a revealer of mysteries goes beyond his canonical depiction and underlines the Qumran community’s interest in esoteric wisdom and apocalypticism.

Moses and the Qumran Community

The Scrolls often present Moses in ways that resonate with the self-understanding of the Qumran community. Moses’ intercessory role, his association with esoteric wisdom, and his enactment of the divine law all mirror aspects of the Qumran community’s self-identity, as a priestly, law-abiding, and esoteric community living in the end times. This aspect gives the representation of Moses in the Scrolls a distinctive communal and contextual flavor that diverges from the more universal portrayal in the biblical canon.

While the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Hebrew Bible share a common foundation in their depiction of Moses, the Scrolls often expand, reinterpret, and contextualize the figure of Moses in ways that reflect the distinctive beliefs, interests, and identity of the Qumran community.

6 – Discuss the Plausibility of the Figure of the Biblical Moses Being Created During the Hellenistic Era

Scholars have long debated the historicity of Moses and the origins of his story. One of the prevailing theories is that the figure of Moses may have been a syncretic creation during the Hellenistic era. The Hellenistic period, which began with the conquests of Alexander the Great in the 4th century BCE, witnessed the blending of Greek culture with the traditions of the Near East, including those of the Jews. This cultural exchange gave rise to a diverse array of religious and mythological syncretism.

During the Hellenistic era, the Jews of the Eastern Mediterranean came into contact with Greek philosophical and religious ideas. This interaction led to the development of Hellenistic Judaism, characterized by the reinterpretation of Jewish traditions in light of Greek thought. In this context, some scholars have proposed that the figure of Moses may have been reimagined or embellished to align with the heroic and mythological motifs prevalent in Hellenistic culture.
One possible explanation for the syncretic creation of the biblical Moses during the Hellenistic era is the influence of the Greek literary tradition. The Hellenistic period saw the flourishing of epic poetry and heroic narratives, often featuring legendary figures endowed with extraordinary abilities and divine favor. It is plausible that the portrayal of Moses as a larger-than-life leader and lawgiver may have been influenced by this literary milieu, with the biblical narrative incorporating elements of heroic storytelling to resonate with Hellenistic audiences.

Furthermore, the syncretic creation of Moses during the Hellenistic era may have been driven by the need to assert Jewish identity and resilience in the face of cultural and political pressures. The retelling and embellishment of the story of Moses as a charismatic leader and lawgiver could have served as a means of inspiring and unifying the Jewish community, especially in the context of the challenges posed by Hellenistic influence and the struggle for religious autonomy.
While the theory of a syncretic creation of Moses during the Hellenistic era presents compelling possibilities, it is essential to consider alternative perspectives on the origins of the biblical figure. Another plausible explanation for the origination of the story of Moses is its development during the Babylonian exile, which occurred in the 6th century BCE following the conquest of the Kingdom of Judah by the Babylonians and the subsequent exile of a significant portion of the Jewish population to Babylon. The Babylonian exile was a pivotal period in Jewish history, marked by the displacement of the Israelites from their homeland and their exposure to Babylonian culture and religious practices.

During the Babylonian exile, the Jewish community grappled with questions of identity, faith, and survival in a foreign land. It was a time of profound cultural exchange, as the exiled Jews encountered Babylonian religious beliefs, literature, and traditions. In this context, the story of Moses may have undergone significant development, drawing from both indigenous Israelite traditions and the cultural influences of Babylonian society.

The Babylonian exile was a formative period for the shaping of Jewish religious and cultural identity. The experience of displacement and the encounter with Babylonian culture likely prompted a reevaluation and reinterpretation of traditional narratives, including the story of Moses. It is conceivable that during this time, the figure of Moses was elevated to a prominent position as a symbol of deliverance and national identity, reflecting the collective yearning for liberation and restoration.

Moreover, the Babylonian cultural milieu provided a rich tapestry of mythological and literary motifs that may have influenced the development of the story of Moses. Babylonian mythology, with its epic tales and divine narratives, could have contributed to the embellishment and enrichment of the Moses narrative, infusing it with elements of heroic and mythic significance. The Babylonian exile may have catalyzed a process of narrative elaboration and theological reflection, leading to the construction of a more complex and multifaceted portrayal of Moses as a central figure in the history and destiny of the Israelite people.

In considering the likely origination of the story of Moses during the Babylonian exile, it is important to recognize the profound impact of this historical period on the religious and cultural consciousness of the Jewish people. The Babylonian exile engendered a deep sense of longing for a return to the ancestral homeland and a fervent desire for spiritual renewal and national redemption. In this context, the story of Moses could have served as a potent symbol of hope and resilience, embodying the enduring faith of the exiled community and its aspirations for a brighter future.

As we examine the plausible explanations for the creation of the biblical figure of Moses, it is evident that both the Hellenistic era and the Babylonian exile offer compelling contexts for the development and elaboration of his story. Whether as a syncretic creation during the Hellenistic era or as a figure reshaped during the Babylonian exile, the narrative of Moses reflects the dynamic interplay of historical, cultural, and religious influences that have shaped the rich tapestry of Jewish tradition and belief.

The origins of the biblical Moses remain a subject of scholarly inquiry and debate, and the exploration of his likely origination requires careful consideration of the historical, cultural, and religious contexts in which his story emerged and evolved. By examining the Hellenistic era and the Babylonian exile as potential frameworks for the creation of the figure of Moses, we gain valuable insights into the complex interweaving of cultural exchange, theological reflection, and communal identity formation that have contributed to the enduring significance of Moses in religious thought and practice.

7 – Discuss the Geopolitical Implications of Moses Needing to be a Real Figure for the Roman Empire and Christianity

Flavius Josephus and the Role of the Roman Empire in Perpetuating Christian Beliefs

Flavius Josephus, a first-century Jewish historian, has long been a subject of scholarly debate and intrigue. In this article, I will present an argument for the case that Flavius Josephus was used by the Roman Empire to establish the accounts of Moses as true in order to help perpetuate Christianity, shedding light on the complex relationship between the Roman Empire and the early Christian faith.

Flavius Josephus, born Yosef ben Matityahu, lived during a pivotal period in history, witnessing the tumultuous events that led to the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem and the subsequent Jewish-Roman War. His literary works, particularly “The Jewish War” and “Antiquities of the Jews,” provide invaluable insights into the political, social, and religious dynamics of the time. It is within the pages of “Antiquities of the Jews” that we find the famous passage known as the Testimonium Flavianum, a reference to Jesus Christ that has sparked controversy and scholarly inquiry for centuries.

The Testimonium Flavianum, found in Book 18, Chapter 3 of “Antiquities of the Jews,” is a brief passage that describes Jesus as a wise man, a doer of wonderful works, and the Messiah. However, its authenticity has been fiercely debated, with many scholars arguing that it may have been later tampered with or inserted by Christian scribes. Nonetheless, the passage has been a focal point for those seeking to understand the relationship between Josephus, the Roman Empire, and the early Christian movement.

To consider the argument that Josephus was used by the Roman Empire to establish the accounts of Moses as true in order to perpetuate Christianity, we must first examine the broader historical context. The Roman Empire, at the time of Josephus, was a vast and powerful entity that sought to maintain control over its diverse territories and populations. The emergence of Christianity posed both challenges and opportunities for the Roman authorities, as the new faith presented a potential source of unity or division within the empire.
It is within this context that the role of Flavius Josephus becomes particularly intriguing. Having been captured by the Romans during the Jewish-Roman War, Josephus ultimately aligned himself with the Roman authorities and became a prominent figure in the imperial court. Some scholars have posited that Josephus, in his writings, sought to present Judaism and its traditions in a favorable light to the Roman ruling class, thereby serving as a mediator between the Jewish people and their Roman overlords.

In the case of the Testimonium Flavianum, it is plausible to consider that the Roman authorities, recognizing the growing influence of Christianity, may have sought to bolster the credibility of the faith by leveraging Josephus’ esteemed reputation. By attributing a positive reference to Jesus within the works of a respected Jewish historian such as Josephus, the Romans could potentially validate the Christian narrative and co-opt it as a means of promoting social cohesion and loyalty to the empire.

Moreover, the Roman Empire’s strategic use of Josephus and his writings to shape perceptions of Judaism and Christianity aligns with broader patterns of imperial propaganda and cultural manipulation. Throughout history, ruling powers have often employed literary, artistic, and religious

My Hypothesis

Flavius Josephus’s Role in Establishing the Historicity of Moses: A Critical Analysis

Flavius Josephus, a first-century Jewish historian, is known for his extensive works that provide crucial insights into the history of the Jewish people. Among his notable writings is “Against Apion,” a defense of the antiquity and legitimacy of Jewish traditions. It has been argued by some scholars that Josephus may have had a vested interest in establishing the historicity of figures such as Moses in order to promote the historical legitimacy of Israel, and subsequently, to bolster the emerging Christian narrative that relied heavily on the Hebrew scriptures. This paper seeks to critically analyze the potential motivations behind Josephus’s efforts to affirm the existence of Moses and the implications of his writings in the context of the dissemination of Christianity.

Josephus’s Defense of Jewish Identity

In “Against Apion,” Josephus vehemently defends the antiquity and authenticity of Jewish traditions against the criticisms of figures such as Apion, a Hellenized Egyptian grammarian. Josephus’s robust defense often relies on the portrayal of Jewish history as ancient and illustrious, with figures like Moses playing pivotal roles in shaping the identity of the Jewish people. While Josephus’s motivations for such a defense may have been multifaceted, it is plausible to consider whether his efforts were influenced by a desire to solidify the historical foundation of Israel, thereby indirectly supporting the emerging Christian faith, which relied heavily on the Hebrew scriptures.

Implications for the Dissemination of Christianity
The Christian narrative, particularly in its early stages, depended on the historical credibility of the Hebrew scriptures, including the accounts of Moses and the exodus. By affirming the historicity of Moses and the events associated with him, Josephus may have inadvertently contributed to the propagation of a historical backdrop that was conducive to the acceptance and dissemination of Christianity. His writings, intended to defend Jewish identity, could have served a dual purpose of bolstering the historical narrative that underpinned the early Christian movement.

Potential Bias and Motivations

While Josephus’s contributions to the preservation of Jewish history are invaluable, it is essential to critically examine the potential biases and motivations that may have influenced his writings. As a Jewish historian writing in the context of Roman influence and the growing prominence of Christianity, Josephus may have been inclined to emphasize the historical legitimacy of Jewish traditions in order to counter external criticisms and assert the enduring significance of the Jewish people. Additionally, the convergence of Jewish and Christian interests in establishing a shared historical foundation raises questions about the extent to which Josephus’s writings may have been shaped by the socio-political dynamics of his time.

While acknowledging the immense contributions of Flavius Josephus to the preservation of Jewish history, it is essential to critically evaluate the potential implications of his efforts to establish the historicity of figures such as Moses. The convergence of Jewish and Christian interests in affirming a shared historical narrative raises intriguing questions about the underlying motivations behind Josephus’s writings and their inadvertent impact on the dissemination of Christianity. Further scholarly inquiry into this complex interplay between history, identity, and religious narratives is warranted to gain a comprehensive understanding of Josephus’s legacy and his influence on the historical foundations of both Judaism and Christianity.

Therefore, My hypothesis aligns with the theory put forth by James Valliant and Warren Fahy, suggesting that Christianity was created by the Flavian emperors of Rome as a form of political propaganda. The Flavian emperors, particularly Vespasian and Titus, are believed to have strategically utilized religious symbols and ideologies to solidify their legitimacy and appease diverse religious factions within the empire. By examining various pieces of evidence, including the writings of Flavius Josephus, the incorporation of religious symbols on Roman coinage, the close association of influential Jewish leaders with the Flavian emperors, and the discernible use of symbolism in early Christian art and architecture, the theory suggests that Christianity was a meticulously engineered religion that amalgamated elements from Jewish, Greek, and Roman traditions to advance the political objectives of the Flavian dynasty.

This hypothesis posits that the Flavian emperors, recognizing the significance of religion as a unifying force within the Roman Empire, took deliberate steps to craft a belief system that could serve their political interests. By intertwining familiar elements from existing religious practices and belief systems, they sought to create a cohesive narrative that could help consolidate their rule and mitigate potential sources of opposition. This theory underscores the intricate relationship between religion and politics in the ancient world, highlighting how the manipulation of religious sentiments and symbols could be utilized as a tool for governance and control.

In essence, this hypothesis contends that the emergence of Christianity was not merely a spontaneous religious phenomenon, but rather a calculated and purposeful construction orchestrated by the Flavian emperors to bolster their authority and maintain stability within the Roman Empire.

Sources

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2. Bickerman, E.J. (1988). The Jews in the Hellenistic World.
3. Chavalas, Mark W., and K. Lawson Younger Jr. (eds.) Mesopotamia and the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002.
4. Cohen, S.J.D. (1999). The Beginnings of Jewishness: Boundaries, Varieties, Uncertainties.
5. Collins, John J. “The Bible After Babel: Historical Criticism in a Postmodern Age.” Eerdmans, 2005.
6. Exodus. The Holy Bible.
7. Finkelstein, Israel, and Neil Asher Silberman. The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Viewpoint on Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001.
8. Garcia Martinez, F., & Tigchelaar, E. (1997). *The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition*. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
9. Gardiner, Alan H. The Kadesh Inscriptions of Rameses II. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975.
10. Grabbe, Lester L. “A History of the Jews and Judaism in the Second Temple Period: Yehud – A History of the Persian Province of Judah.” T&T Clark, 2004.
11. Green, P. (1991). Alexander of Macedon, 356–323 B.C.: A Historical Biography.
12. Harrington, D. (2000). Pseudepigrapha. In J.J. Collins & D.C. Harlow (Eds.), *The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism*. Eerdmans.
13. Hayes, Christine, and John H. Walton. “The Old Testament: A Historical, Literary, and Theological Introduction.” Zondervan, 2014.
14. Kitchen, Kenneth A. On the Reliability of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003.
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17. Morgenstern, Julian. “The Myth of the Hellenistic Syncretism.” Journal of Biblical Literature, vol. 124, no. 3, 2005, pp. 419-441.
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FAQs

QUESTION 1

If we don’t have Aegyptiatica, then how do we know Josephus is telling the truth?

You raise an important point. The lack of direct access to Manetho’s “Aegyptiaca” does indeed present a challenge when it comes to verifying the accuracy of Josephus’s account of Manetho’s writings. Since we don’t have the original work, we cannot directly confirm the veracity of Josephus’s claims about Manetho’s writings.

In the case of Manetho’s account of Osarsiph/Moses, scholars have to rely on the writings of Josephus and other ancient authors who referenced Manetho’s work. Josephus, a Jewish historian, lived in the first century AD and had access to sources that are now lost to us. While Josephus is generally considered to be a reliable source, he was writing with a particular agenda, primarily to defend and promote Jewish history and culture to a Roman audience. Consequently, his interpretation of Manetho’s work may have been influenced by his own biases and the historical context in which he was writing.

Given these limitations, modern scholars approach the account of Manetho’s writings with caution. They critically evaluate Josephus’s interpretations and consider the possibility of bias or errors in transmission. In the absence of the original “Aegyptiaca,” scholars also rely on other ancient sources and archaeological evidence to gain insights into ancient Egyptian history and culture.

It’s important to acknowledge that the study of ancient history often involves working with incomplete or fragmented sources. As a result, scholars use a range of methods, including source criticism, comparative analysis, and contextual understanding, to evaluate and interpret ancient texts. While we may not have direct access to Manetho’s original work, scholars continue to engage in rigorous analysis and debate to better understand the historical figures and events described in ancient sources.

QUESTION 2

Why is it important for biblical scholars to research and study the claims made by the Bible such as the historicity of Moses and why we should question his actual existence?

Biblical scholars engage in research and study of claims made by the Bible, such as the historicity of Moses, for several important reasons:

• Understanding Ancient History: The Bible contains accounts of events and figures from ancient history. By studying these claims, biblical scholars can contribute to our understanding of the historical, cultural, and social contexts in which these events purportedly occurred.

• Contextual Interpretation: Investigating the claims made by the Bible allows biblical scholars to interpret the texts within their original historical and cultural contexts. This approach helps to illuminate the meanings and significance of biblical narratives and figures within the ancient world.

• Academic Inquiry: Biblical scholarship is a scholarly discipline that applies various methodologies to the study of the Bible, including historical, archaeological, literary, and linguistic analyses. Questioning the historicity of figures like Moses is a fundamental aspect of critical inquiry within biblical studies.

• Impact on Religious and Cultural Understanding: The narratives and figures in the Bible have had a profound impact on religious beliefs, cultural traditions, and ethical systems. By critically examining these claims, scholars can contribute to a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the Bible’s influence on religious and cultural developments.

• Historical Accuracy: For many people, the historical accuracy of biblical claims is a matter of significance. By investigating the historicity of figures like Moses, scholars contribute to the ongoing dialogue about the intersection of faith, history, and critical inquiry.

• Intellectual Integrity: Engaging with the claims made by the Bible, including the historicity of Moses, reflects a commitment to intellectual integrity and rigorous academic standards within the field of biblical studies.

• Contribution to Knowledge: Researching and studying biblical claims has the potential to contribute to our knowledge of ancient history, literature, religion, and the development of societies in the ancient Near East.

• In essence, the study of biblical claims, including the historicity of Moses, is important for biblical scholars because it contributes to a deeper understanding of the Bible, ancient history, religious traditions, and the complexities of interpreting ancient texts within contemporary contexts.

QUESTION 3

What are great questions to take into consideration while researching biblical claims such as the canonized biblical accounts of Moses?

When discussing the historicity of Moses, or any biblical figure for that matter, it’s important to ask questions that provoke critical thinking and a deep understanding of the historical context. Here are some great questions to ask:

• What tangible historical evidence exists to support the existence of Moses as a historical figure?
• How do discrepancies between different biblical accounts of Moses’ life and actions impact the historical credibility of his story?
• What are the potential influences of ancient Near Eastern mythology and literature on the portrayal of Moses in the biblical texts?
• Can the archaeological and historical record provide insights into the plausibility of the Exodus story and the events surrounding Moses’ leadership?
• How do the various interpretations of the biblical texts about Moses differ, and how do these interpretations affect our understanding of his historicity?
• To what extent might the figure of Moses be a composite character or a product of later legendary embellishments rather than a singular historical individual?
• What are some alternative theories or historical perspectives that challenge the traditional narrative of Moses and the Exodus, and how should we approach these alternative viewpoints?
• How have scholarly approaches to biblical texts and historical research evolved in assessing the historicity of figures like Moses, and what impact has this had on our understanding?
• What role does faith and tradition play in shaping popular perceptions of Moses’ historicity, and how can we reconcile religious beliefs with historical inquiry?
• How might the historicity of Moses intersect with broader discussions about the formation of ancient Israelite identity and the development of religious traditions in the ancient Near East

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