Moses in historiography from Hellenistic Alexandria to Josephus

Moses in historiography from Hellenistic Alexandria to Josephus

By Gregory Thomas Johnston

Master’s Thesis, University of Georgia, 2008

Abstract: In Greek and Roman historiography various presentations of Moses have emerged from different political and cultural environments. Hellenistic Jewish authors demonstrate a willingness to stray from the traditional story in pursuit of their polemic objective: to convince Greek speakers of the significance of the Jewish nation in the history of culture. In these stories, Moses is Kulturbringer, responsible for the cultural greatness of Egypt and, in turn, of Greece. Universal historians of the late first century BCE used the story of Moses to shed light on a region and its people which had recently become significant in the struggle for power in the Mediterranean world. Josephus argues instead that Moses was a great legislator on the basis of the greatness of his deeds and that he exceeded Lycurgus, Solon, and Zaleucus in antiquity. Despite Jewish arguments, Greeks and Romans found ways of undermining Jewish claims without denying their reality.


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