||Faklen Journal, 7 January, 2000 (No 14, 5th year, pp. 44-46) - Literature Article:
|The Historical Moses
|The theological establishment is being challenged
by this new work, which by means of comprehensive, inter-disciplinary
studies gets even with the prevailing schools concerning the understanding
of Moses, the main figure of the Old Testament.
By RUNE ENGELBRETH LARSEN, M.A., History of Ideas, & History of
Religion, and editor
Moses was not a Hebrew, he was Egyptian, probably his name was Tuth-mosis, and
he was the genuine child of Hatshepsut, the daughter of the former pharaoh, and
he was the heir to the throne in the vast Egyptian kingdom. He was born on
Tuesday, February 8, 1534 B.C.
Such a spectacularly
precise dating is established by Ove von Spaeth in his current book, "The
Suppressed Record", which is the first volume of a planned series of five about
Moses and his time. And which has caused as much amazement and admiration with a
number of scientists and researchers of religion, as it has been met with a
mixture of noisy silence and neglecting shrugs of shoulders by the theological
Ove von Spaeth make his
take-off by the thesis that the widespread dating of Moses is approx. 200-300
years too late, partly due to an error made more than 150 years ago (1840ties)
by Lepsius, the Egyptologist. Lepsius claimed that Moses was contemporary with
Pharaoh Ramses II around 1500 B.C. However, when it was later discovered that
Ramses II was probably living in 1200, the dating of Moses was also removed to
1200, because in the meantime the anticipation of the time of the two persons
being the same had become evident.
Since it was not possible
to find a shadow of a trace of Moses around 1200, the theological consensus was
widespread that Moses, the most important personality of the Old Testament, had
to be - only and definitely - a fictive figure. And furthermore that one of the
most conclusive features of Jewish self-understanding was, thus, to be reduced
to being an odd idea among Jewish priests, who themselves had produced the myth
of Moses without any historical evidence whatsoever.
However, by demonstrating
that Moses and Ramses II are not at all contemporaries and that dating of the
life of Moses to 1500-1400 BC is much more realistic, the jigsaw puzzle pieces
are finding their correct position. And although they at certain moments are
somewhat distorted in the Old Testament - which for instance makes the Egyptian
heir to the throne a Hebrew - convincing outlines of Moses as a historical
person are established.
The theologians are missing the Egyptian factor
"The Suppressed Record" (C.A. Reitzel Publishers, 1999) is a comprehensive and
severe showdown with wide habitual anticipations of the Moses research.
Spaeth says (Danish version, p. 58), heading openly towards a clash with
prevailing theological schools: "Research is being done as if only the
biblically known Moses exists."
And (von Spaeth)
continuing: "... offshoots from the German school (of
theological research) - as well as in the Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian
framework, e.g. "the Copenhagen School", who deprives Moses of any historical
authenticity - (have) avoided to see the Egyptian factor among the most
important elements of understanding of the many claimed textual discrepancies. A
'filter of knowledge' has been created, which automatically is sorting out what
is not acceptable within the prevailing theories; However, critics of those
designate this as committing murder on history. The Egyptian factor has been
better represented by the less partial 'French school', which to a broader
extent has been influenced by Egyptologists ..." ("The Suppressed Record", p.
Thus, von Spaeth's
opinion is especially supported on Egyptian sources as well as Jewish traditions
not included in the Old Testament. These traditions describe among other things
that the "daughter of Pharaoh", in the Moses-narrative, actually seemed to be
pregnant prior to the birth of Moses. It is being noted that Moses was genuinely
royal and was to become a future pharaoh, and that he was crowned as a
crown prince at the age of three. And further that the specific offices and
posts possessed of Moses were simply the traditional tasks of pharaonic princes.
The surnames and features
- presented in the Jewish traditional commentaries, The Rabbinical Writings -
are so very well corresponding with Hatshepsut, who was in power ca.
1509-1487 B.C. This person, "the daughter of Pharaoh" is in the von Spaeth
analysis being the mother of Moses and, thus, not his adoptive mother, as the
Old Testament is suggesting.
However, the Bible is
trying to delete the Egyptian background of Moses; nevertheless it appears in
the text now and then, for instance when the daughter of Jethro talks about
Moses as an "Egyptian" (Book of Exodus, 2:19); likewise, when Yahwe in a fit of
anger says in the face of Moses that he is going to "exterminate" the
Israelites, whereas he intends to make Moses to be "a people greater and
stronger than that" (Book of Numbers, 14:12) - statements hardly corresponding,
unless Moses is belonging to another people than the Israelites. Nowhere in the
books of Pentateuch is Moses referring to "my people" about the Israelites, and
he does not mention Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as his ancestors - while the
Israelites talk about their great leader as "this Moses, who took us out of
Egypt" (Book of Exodus, 32:1).
Egyptian-Jewish Historian wrote (ca. 100 B.C.) that "the Egyptian priests
honoured Moses as a god and called him Thoth" - this could be corresponding to
the well-known pharaonic name, Tuth-mosis. A couple of centuries earlier,
Manetho noted about Moses that "he only took the name of Moses" around the great
Within the 18th dynasty
(ca. 1585-1310 B.C.) and thus also during the times of Hatshepsut, his
title, i.e. "Son of Pharaoh's Daughter", mentioned in the Bible, was
particularly important. This being the fact, because at that time evidently the
women of royal blood carried on the order of succession according to the habits
of the time, while their less royal spouses normally and primarily became
pharaohs by virtue of their marriage. Only three times during the 18th dynasty a
son was born and considered a genuinely royal son, which is the reason why the
designation, "Son of the Pharaoh's Daughter" was used about Moses as a special
emphasis of his right to the throne.
Speaking against being
the legitimate Son of Pharaoh's Daughter is the Old Testament's own narrative
about the pharaonic decree to drown all boys in the Nile, where Moses as is
known to have been put on a vehicle and incidentally discovered and saved by
However, this narrative
is so contradictive that it is reasonable to consider it a deliberate disguise
of the actual events. Why should Moses have been placed on the Nile, helpless
and in danger of being discovered in the area of the pharaonic court, the court
that according to the narrative was seeking the lives of all Hebrew boys? And
the fact that the very daughter of Pharaoh should wash herself in public in the
dirty waters of the Nile, which already at that time could be unhygienic, is not
likely, unless the narrative of the Old Testament might have made a slight
re-written version of something completely different: - an Egyptian ceremony for
a royal child - according to von Spaeth's suggestion. In that case it would be
more than realistic that the very Daughter of Pharaoh made her ritual cleansing
in the sacred Nile, before she received the (her) royal child, who came floating
on the Nile according to the same ritual context.
In myths, this is a
scenario that is universally circulated in slightly different versions: - the
royal child arrives on a ship or a vehicle on the sea or a river. (Cf. for
instance our Danish king Shield or king Sheaf, - or Karna, the Indian sun god's
royal son, Romulus on the Tiber, Sargon I on the Euphrates, etc.).
Ove von Spaeth combines
features from the Moses narrative with the Horus child: The teaching about
Orisis, the mythological, royal god, who, after he passed away, was placed in a sailing coffin - correspondingly described by the Rabbis as "the little ark" on
the Nile. By the help of Isis, the goddess, he was to resurrect in the shape of
Horus, his son with Isis, a royal child bound to become the new king. In other
words - exactly corresponding to Moses ("The Suppressed Record", p. 27).
In texts of non-biblical,
Jewish origin, from which von Spaeth is frequently making quotations, this event
is also referred to as "the holy event on the divine River Nile", and the
daughter of Pharaoh says, "… consequently, I will bring up this child for the
purpose of his succession to the throne".
Kristeligt Dagblad (Danish daily): "Ove von Spaeth lacks a scientific method"
Ove von Spaeth recites numerous other Egyptian conditions relating to Moses, and
the first book of his five-volume work presents a wide selection of arguments
for referring these traces to a whole line of exact names, ideas, themes, and
rituals in Egyptian royal cults. Of course this is not the first occasion that
Moses has been claimed to be of Egyptian origin, or that his time should be
dated to 1400-1500 B.C. - but rarely, if ever, has the dating been so clearly
defined or the implications elaborated in such meticulous detail combining
comprehensive studies in history, Egyptology, history of religions, archaeology,
For a long time the
theological reaction to the challenge - in particular from the so-called
Copenhagen School - was silence. Obviously, a contributory reason for this
was the spectacular statement, which probably caused a lot of theological
hesitation to go deep into the extensive and very detailed references in so
many fields of knowledge. Much more prestige is at stake than immediately
anticipated, because if Ove von Spaeth proves correct even only in the main
features, many years of hegemonic theological perceptions in this field are
simply going to tumble like dominoes.
On November 11, 1999,
more than six months after the book had been published, Tine Lindhardt, the
Theologian, reviewed the book in the Kristeligt Dagblad (Danish daily). However,
the review is revealing that the newspaper had probably not the desire to find a
qualified reviewer, since the dealing with the book bears the notion of lack of
elementary knowledge about the subject, but is taking into use a square
scientific idol, hardly acceptable any longer except than in the simplified text
books of the elementary school.
Of course it is possible
to agree or disagree with the scientific view of "The Suppressed Record". When
Lindhardt, however, maintains that it "lacks scientific method", it is close to
being an unbecoming arrogance in relation to a work, which is dispassionately
combining factual recognitions within many fields of knowledge, while she is
demonstrating low-key "scientific treatment".
"instructs" von Spaeth with the following tautology: "In order for us to say
that something is historically true, it must really have happened", - followed
by her irrelevant and erroneous oversimplifying as if she was correcting a
child: "Therefore, we are selecting between historical facts, which have really
happened, and myths, legends, adventures. The last mentioned may very well be
true to the extent that they deal with some kind of truth in human life, but
they are not true to the extent that they inform us about what has happened".
"facts" are problematic and are being depending on different sources and
interpretations, which again are depending on different, historical as well as
modern situations of observation. A hardcore difference between mystery or
history or fiction or facts may thus be currently removed and sometimes deleted,
which is the reason for the fact that an ordinary assessment separating fiction
from fact, at its best is unnecessarily insignificant. And at its worst,
implying a classical, positivistic, scientific idol, which can be said to be
even more controversial than the von Spaeth hypotheses about the life of Moses,
and thus the poorest argument against these.
about Moses seems to be apparently blindfolded, deliberately inferior
performance, when she says: "Not many sources besides the Bible can tell
anything about him". The fact that she has a book in her hand, the entire
purpose of which is a methodical explanation of a possible relation between the
many references to Moses from sources outside the canon of the Old Testament
(for instance Talmud and Midrash as well as Philo, Manetho, and Josephus), is
apparently irrelevant to her, as is her negligence to consider the relation
between these sources and the Old Testament.
Therefore, the starting
point of Tine Lindhardt appears to be symptomatic for the lack of theological,
factual criticism and discussion, when detailed arguments and painstaking
analyses are being presented contradicting predominant theological trends. Such
a reaction being also known from the strategy of the theological establishment
to (the journal) "Faklen"s philological criticism of the (Danish) Bible
Society's manipulative, but authorised translation of the Bible in 1992. In
general, not only research is to pity - it is a theological admission of
The astronomical-historical angle
Besides Ove von Spaeth's convincing claim that Moses is of Egyptian descent, and
the identification of Hatshepsut as the mother of Moses - of course the most
spectacular about the present book is its exact precision of the birth of Moses
by means of modern, astronomical computation of surviving star data in
accordance with these circumstances.
Here von Spaeth draws a
line to Isaac Abrabanel (1437-1508) the Spanish Rabbi, who in one of his
commentary works reproduces the tradition about a special, astronomical event -
a very rare grand conjunction in a certain section of the sky three years prior
to the birth of Moses. On this background the phenomenon of the sky can be determined and dated to have happened exactly in the course of a certain new
moon in February/March, 1537 B.C.
Peder Moesgaard, D.Sc.,
Professor at the Department of History of Exact Sciences, Aarhus University,
and also Director of the Steno Museum, the Science Museum of Denmark, writes in
his preface to the book, "... from the astronomical-historical point of view I
find the starting point at a specific planetary constellation in 1537 B.C. worth
a trial in relation to biblical research, Egyptology, archaeology, and general
And it is just by the
means of being able to piece the traditions together with these and several
other fields of knowledge that the parts may find their proper place with a
considerable, mutual harmony, used by von Spaeth to date the birth of Moses to
be exactly on Tuesday, February 8, 1534 B.C. In the book this is followed by
such a thorough analysis of religion-historical value in many other fields than
those specifically related to Moses, and which - also irrespective of whether
the next volumes will live up to the present standard - is bound both to
encourage new breaches and corrections for a long time to come.
Rune Engelbreth Larsen, is M.A., History of Ideas & History of Religion,
and Editor-in-chief of "Faklen" Journal ( www.faklen.dk ).
(This article is from the "Faklen" Journal, No 14, 5th year, and is
reproduced by OvS. with acceptance of the writer on January 7, 2000).