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Recasting Moses

The Memory of Moses in Biographical and Autobiographical Narratives in Ancient Judaism and 4th-Century Christianity


Finn Damgaard

The political and social changes that occurred with the transformation of the Roman Empire into a Roman Christian Empire and with the bishops’ new social position as imperial bishops called for new literary representations of the ideal Christian leader. In this struggle, the figure of Moses turned up as a suitable figure intimately connected with questions of authority and power and, related to this, with the risk of dissension and discord. While the portrait of Moses as a political figure was hardly applicable in Christian discourses of the 2nd and 3rd centuries, it became the centre of interest during the 4th century. This new emphasis was, however, no more new than that it actually revived traditions of 1st-century Jewish biographical and autobiographical narratives.


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Part I


2. The Greek Moses: The Biblical figure of Moses in the Septuagint 2.1. Introduction The Biblical narratives about Moses as they appear scattered throughout the narrative parts of the Masoretic text of the Pentateuch from the birth of Moses in Exod 2:1 to his death in Deut 34:12 are too well known for me to repeat their content here. Less known, however, is the way these narratives were trans- lated in the 3rd-century BC translation, the Septuagint (LXX), which was the Biblical text for the majority of Jewish and Christian writers under considera- tion in this study.75 Accordingly, in this introductory chapter I shall present the characteristics of the Septuagint portrait of Moses by examining how this portrait differs from the one given in the Masoretic text (MT).76 By analysing the Septuagint Moses narratives as a translation, i.e. in close comparison with the Masoretic text, I aim to give the reader a better understanding of the particular narratives that were used and rewritten in the writings that will be discussed in the following chapters. As has often been pointed out, to speak of the Septuagint as a unity is an illusion.77 The Biblical books were translated into Greek over a long period by different people unknown to us. In addition, the history of transmission is extremely complex, with the result that we seldom know the precise wording of what was read by the various ancient interpreters although we may, of course, infer some details from their own...

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