Historical Who is Who


Approx 13th c BCE

A central figure in Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions. In the books of Torah in the Hebrew Bible (Tenak) and of the Christian Old Testament, he is the leader and lawgiver of early Israel. Born in Egypt, raised at court, defensive against individual oppression of the Jewish people and collective oppression, he leads them out of slavery (the Exodus) and towards the Promised Land. Key experiences include his hearing the call from God from a Burning Bush and his receipt of the 10 Commandments on Mt Sinai. In Jewish tradition he is also regarded as the source of the Oral Law and is the subject of many Haggadic stories. In the gospel stories of the Christian New Testament Jesus is represented as sharing several Mosaic features (childhood threat, teaching on mountain, pointing to a social transformation ahead). Cumulatively, the moral strictures associated with Moses have been enormously influential for both traditions and for wider Western civilisation.

In Islam Moses or Musa is also important – mentioned 502 times in the Qur’an, which is more than any other prophet. He is part of the successive line of prophets, beginning with Abraham and extending through Jesus up to the final prophet Muhammad, whose life story also emulates that of Moses and is elaborated in the subsequent stories of the Lives of the Prophets.

For some in all three traditions the accounts given in Scripture are regarded as literally true descriptions. For others, again in each tradition their truth is still vitally contagious, but in a symbolically indicative sense. Independent archaeologists and historians and generally inclined to be sceptical regarding historicity in the absence of independent corroborative evidence. That said, for Jews, Christians and Muslims Moses remains a formative figure for ethics and moral education.



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