The Multiple Accounts of Moses
A look into various interpretations of Moses.
There is always more than what is told in a story. Whether it is themes or symbols or simply multiple accounts. For the account of Moses there are multiple accounts including the Bible, Philo of Alexandria, and the Septuagint. The Bibles account of Moses in Exodus is one that many people know and remember. Philo of Alexandria discusses that Moses had a different interpretation of the creation of Earth unlike what is stated within chapters 1-3 Genesis. With Moses’s version of the creation one learns about he lived as well. Also, Philo’s book on the creation according discusses what God told Moses and how becoming a prophet affected his life before climbing Mt. Sinai. Finally, there is the Septuagint; this text is considered the Greek Translation of the Hebrew Bible. This text is very similar but has some slightly different account of Moses’s early life. Through these three texts one is able truly understand who Moses was seen as.
Moses, to many people, is considered to be marvelous. His story, according to Philo’s Creation of the Cosmos According to Moses, contains the account of the making of the the world, with the reasoning behind each act (Philo 47). Phil believes in the foundations of Mosaic Law, which are the words and rules the Israelites live by after fleeing Egypt and reaching Mt. Sinai, and that what Moses exclaims in his rules/ laws is not inconsistent with nature either. Moses is considered the author of the Torah and was one who “had reached the very summit of philosophy” (Philo 49). He was visited and commanded by God to help implement His covenant. Philo claims further that Moses’s wisdom is different than human wisdom which is one part divine and one part natural (Philo 49). Human wisdom was considered something that any man could receive if they studied and became educated on the subject (such as reading and meditating, Moses is something only he could give to people and is considered to begin with him. Moreover, with Philo and Septuagint one can come to the conclusion that Moses’s life and relationship with God is more of a means of the way to reestablish the covenant rather than just freeing the Hebrews from Egypt. To Moses God becomes an astonishment and that it why people marvel at God; the People are following Moses’s actions. With us being the higher species we are able to be amazed and worship a pneuma that is considered greater than the human race: “let us make a human being after our image and likeness… Of the creatures that exist, some share neither in goodness or in evil, such as plants and animals without reason, the former because they do not possess soul and are regulated by a nature without imagination, the latter because they have been excluded from intellect and reason”. (Philo 65)
Mikraot Gedolot is often called the “Rabbinic Bible” in English and includes biblical commentaries as well as Masoretic notes on the biblical text. Nathaniel Helfgot elaborates on the Mikraot Gedolot and the early life of Moses. The Mikraot Gedolot is only applied to small editions of the Torah and includes elaborate commentaries on the stories. It also stresses that the first five books in the Bible, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy are known as the five books of Moses, or the Pentateuch. The Pentateuch is read in the synagogue from the Scroll of Law, which is where the Pentateuch is inscribed and is used for the public to read from. The Jews completed a cycle reading on the Sabbath every three years and remnants of this can be found in the Mikraot Gedolot. Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, known to the world as Maimonides, is one of the most important figures in the history of the understanding of the Torah. Moreover, in the Septuagint it discusses that Moses was met by an angel of God in the form of the burning bush and it is through the Angel Moses was commanded by God to do his work; Moses must believe and listen to the Angel unlike in the Bible how it is directly God (Septuagint Exodus 3.2-5). This later in the Greek Translation speaks of how, like Moses must believe in God without being directly talked to, the Hebrews must do the same and that in doing so they will all be liberated in the promise land (the covenant).
Also, Maimonides refers to Moses as “the most perfect human being” which emphasizes Moses’ influence in the Torah. Also, according to Maimonides, a Jew must believe, “that the entire Torah that we now have in our hands was given to our teacher Moses” (Helfgot 53). This emphasizes that in the Mikraot Gedolot, the Torah insists that the entire congregation must witness the specific sections told. It is important for people to pay particular attention to these sections of the Torah because it explains, according to Helfgot, why Moses lost the leadership of the people. Helfgot asserts that Moses’ mistake was in relying on methods and perspectives of leadership that were ineffective in the new situations. There are many debates between various Rabbis as to whether Moses wrote down the Pentateuch when it was spoken to him, or if Moses memorized what God said to him. These debates are important because it adds to the mystery and legitimacy of the story of Moses because of the differing opinions that still go on to this day about him. This also indicates why people that Moses was not a significant leader because they could not find truth in who he was and the actions he took. Helfgot also implies that God was frustrated with Moses because he did not trust God enough and rebelled against commandment. Moses ruined an opportunity to sanctify the name of God in a time of great need. These reasons and terms of canon, myth, and truth are necessary in contributing to the legitimacy and mystery of whether Moses had a part in writing the Pentateuch and how much of a leader he was.
Richard T. Murphy addresses the authenticity of the claims that Moses had a prominent role in the Sacred Scripture. It states that not all the laws contained in the Pentateuch refer back to Moses. Murphy indicates that the phrase, “The Lord said to Moses” does not mean that it has a Mosaic and divine origin. The Hebrew Bible highlights that Moses wrote something down in a book, but Murphy argues that it does not say anywhere that he wrote the whole Pentateuch. He does not shut down the possibility that he did write something, but argues that he did not have as prevalent a role as many may believe. He also argues that Moses used sources of written documents and oral traditions that he used to help him suit his purposes. This emphasizes that Moses may not have had such a prevalent role in writing and leading as many may think. There are many holes within the Biblical stories such as, “The Lord said to Moses” that can mislead people to think that Moses had a divine connection with God that led him to write the entire Pentateuch. This assumption is significant to this website because it goes to show that there will always be doubt as to whether stories in the Bible were true or are presented in the way that the Bible presents.