The Theory of Moses

From WOMBAT Selling (2006) Ch 2, p42 …

Long before I was old enough to really think the matter through, I had been memed, as a small child, with the theory of Moses. The Moses meme went something like this:

Moses was a leader in ancient times and, like all leaders, he needed his people to adhere to his laws. He said that his ten laws or commandments should be obeyed. The reason that they should be obeyed, he claimed, was because they were given to him, privately, on a mountain, by his god, Yahweh. By making this claim, Moses positioned his ten laws with the highest possible authority. They were not his laws, said Moses, but God’s.

This is a very old story that many people, like me, just accepted but have never really updated or thought through properly.

I had never really thought much about the Moses story until I was given an antique gift. It was a heavy Victorian cast-iron desk ornament about half a metre long which was grotesquely dominated by a 50-centimetre high copy of Michelangelo’s Moses supported by two large topped blown-glass inkwells and a generous ladle for pens. It was absurdly out of place on my desk in my small Park Avenue South apartment but I liked it.

Moses lorded over my desk in New York City for ten years until eventually I returned to Australia. Sadly, it was one of the many things that I left behind. But for most of the ’80s I sat and stared at Moses nearly every day. Eventually, I began to think more and more about the theory of Moses.

The Theory of Moses

What is the theory of Moses? This is just one of the five most obvious questions. We cannot explore that question without the other four: Who was Moses? What did Moses do? How did he do it? And, when and where did he do it?

If you do stop to think about this story in the light of evidence available today you might ask yourself for a more plausible version. Since there were no witnesses or evidence of any kind we don’t know whether Moses’ version actually happened. Yet there is much evidence to show that it is very unlikely.

Possible Moses Explanations

In fact, if you think about it, there are many possible explanations that could explain the Moses meme and how he came up with his commandments. Some that have been suggested by other thinkers are:

– Moses sought authority over his people and was clever enough to make up the story to give his laws more authority

– Moses just dreamt it

– Moses might have been euphoric or hallucinating from inhaling smoke from a nearby burning bush

– Moses may have been overtired

– Exhaustion or malnutrition may have impaired Moses’ judgment

– Old Moses may have been suffering from Alzheimer’s or one of a range of infirmities or mental illnesses

– The whole story was invented not by Moses at all but by people who came after Moses.

In other words, we simply just don’t know for certain. However, millions of people who adhere to the Judeo-Christian tradition have chosen to take a leap of faith and to believe the traditional Moses claim.

I suppose a Christian or Jewish scientist could not accept this story as a scientist, but could accept it, on a leap of faith, as part of a religious belief system.

3 thoughts on “The Theory of Moses

  1. Michael, I was hoping for a bit more……you cast doubt on Moses but you don’t offer anything in his place. You take away hope but leave hopelessness. What was your point? How am I better off or uplifted by having read this snippet?

  2. I have often returned to Freud’s Moses and Monotheism book. It demonstrates Freud abandoning all of the characteristics of his faith and family heritage. . What is left for him is an absence of a moral code and values. You called it “laws” to govern, control and get what he wanted done. Science exist, because of natural laws and can help us understand how things happen, but usually not why. We all know the Bible stories are oral tradition, folklore, and myths providing a moral value of truth to help us cope with who we are and why we are here. If we are going to tear down the faith based stories we need to provide both the how and why if we want to be a critical thinker..

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