Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 10 (2010) - Review

Borgeaud, Philippe, Thomas Römer & Youri Volokhine (eds.), Interprétations de Moïse: Egypte, Judée, Grèce et Rome (Jerusalem Studies in Religion and Culture, 10; Leiden: Brill, 2010). Pp. Xiv+303. Hardcover, € 104.00 / US$ 154.00. ISBN 978-90-04-17953-0.

Recent research has generated new interest in the extrabiblical traditions related to Moses and the exodus. The present volume is the result of a research team of biblical scholars, philologists, and historians of religion working together on the multiple interpretations of Moses inherited from  ancient Mediterranean cultures.

After an introduction by the editors, Daniel Barbu, in “Artapan: Introduction historique et historiographique” sets Artapanus in his context (pp. 3–23). Then, the fragments of Artapanus's work transmitted through Eusebius' Preparatio Evangelica are given in a French translation generously commented in the footnotes (25–39) by René Bloch, Philippe Borgeaud, Thomas Römer, Matthieu Smyth, Youri Volokhine and Claudio Zamagni. The translation is based on that of E. Des Places in Eusèbe de Césarée (1991).

The second part gathers two contributions dealing specifically with Artapanus. In “L'historien Artapan et le passé multiethnique” (43–55), Caterina Moro revives the identification of Artapanus' Chenephres with Sobekhotep IV suggested by Weill and Waddell. This Pharaoh of the thirteenth dynasty was crowned as Kha-nefer-Ra. For unstated reasons, the editors of the volume reject this interpretation. Yet, Moro's contribution appears to the present reviewer as one of the most creative in the volume. Moro seeks to reconstruct the lost source concerning Sobekhotep used by Artapan. Against Manetho, who identifies the Hebrews with the Hyksos, Artapan set the story of Moses in a period earlier than the conflict between Egypt and the Hyksos in order to present Moses as the benefactor of Egypt. Most relevant to the history of the formation of biblical traditions, Moro refers to another of her articles, “Mosè fondatore di Gerusalemme,” where she suggests that the tradition of Moses' Ethiopian campaign arose as compensation when his conquest of Canaan reported by Hecataeus of Abdera was cancelled in the biblical tradition. Not referenced in the bibliography, this article is now published in Atti del Convegno Città pagana–città cristiana: tradizioni di fondazione (Roma, Istituto Patristico Augustinianum, 2–3 luglio 2007) (Studi e Materiali di Storia delle Religioni 75; 2009), 117-31, footnote 48. See also Chapter 1 in I sandali di Mosè (Paideia, forthcoming), a forthcoming monograph on the Moses traditions.

The second essay in this section is “Alexandre Polyhistor et Artapan: une mise en perspective à partir des extraits d'Eusèbe de Césarée” (57–82), in which Claudio Zamagni discusses Eusebius' sources and how he used Alexander Polyhistor and Artapanus.

Part three broadens the horizon with Moses in Hellenistic literature. René Bloch's contribution “Moïse chez Flavius Josèphe: un example juif de littérature héroïque" is a French translation of a chapter from a forthcoming book published by Brill, Moses und der Mythos: Die Auseinandersetzung mit der griechischen Mythologie bei jüdisch-hellenistischen Autoren. The author insists that Josephus amalgamated biblical, haggadic, and Greek elements that can hardly be untangled today. Sabrina Inowlocki-Meister, “Le Moïse des auteurs juifs hellénistiques et sa réappropriation dans la littérature apologétique chrétienne: le cas de Clément d'Alexandrie” (103–31) provides an overview of Jewish authors mentioning Moses and shows how they are recycled in the Stromata of Clement of Alexandria, notably with an interesting discussion of the name Melchi. In a second erudite article “La tradition sur Moïse d' ‘Hécatée d'Abdère’ d'aprés Diodore et Photius” (133–69) Claudio Zamagni challenges the common attribution of Diodorus' fragment on Moses and the Jews to Hecataeus of Abdera by pointing out that the manuscripts of Photius' Bibliotheca that transmit Diodorus Silicus, systematically mention Hecataeus of Miletus, a historian of the end of the fourth century b.c.e. Against Russel Gmirkin, Berossus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus (2006), who argues in favor of Theophanes of Mytilene as the author of the fragments, Zamagni sees no reason to correct the manuscripts. Hecataeus of Miletus visited Egypt before Herodotus and could have provided certain elements transmitted by Diodorus. As for the περί ἱδαων Josephus attributed to Hecataeus of Abdera, it is probably a pseudepigraphic work by Alexandrian Jews. This matter should have important repercussions on future discussions since these two Hecataeus probably straddle the completion of the Pentateuch. Hecataeus of Miletus' report about the Jews would reflect the Judaism of the early Persian era rather than the Judaism of early Ptolemaic times.

The next section, “Moïse et L'Egypte” contains three articles. In “Quelques remarques sur Typhon, Seth, Moïse et son âne, dans la perspective d'un dialogue réactif transculturel” (173–85), Philippe Borgeaud explores the growth of the motif of Typhon and the donkey from the Egyptian Seth, Moses' return from Median to Egypt, until Christ riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. Thomas Römer, "Moïse: un héros royal entre échec et divination” (187–98) discusses the ambivalence of the figure of Moses, in many ways a royal figure, sometimes almost divinized. Youri Volokhine “Des Séthiens aux impurs: Un parcours dans l'idéologie égyptienne de l'exclusion” (199–243) reveals how the demonization of Seth in Egypt from the twenty-fifth dynasty onwards was applied to Moses by Manetho and represents the interpretation of the foundational myth of the Jews according to the tenets of the theology of Heliopolis.

Finally, Matthieu Smyth closes with “La figure de Moïse dans les sources gnostiques” (247–67), an enquiry of the figure of Moses in gnostic sources, where Moses appears as a lying prophet of the creator god and a prophet of salvation drawn from Exod 4; 7; and Num 21. The volume closes with a bibliography (269–93) and indexes of ancient and modern authors and texts.

This is a very insightful volume on the extremely complex matter of the various traditions of Moses. All essays are of a high standard. They contribute to the recovery of the vitality of Hellenistic literatures across the ancient eastern Mediterranean world and to the realization that the nonbiblical traditions are more than muddled versions of the canonical text. Attributing the earliest mention of Moses to Hecataeus of Miletus implies that the biblical version is itself the result of additions, omissions and rearrangements of previous traditions. Hence, the formation of the biblical traditions on Moses is the result of the same creative plurality that prevails during their transmission in the Dead Sea Scrolls. In such a situation, the search for the Urtext is illusory, to say the least. Instead, the practice of mimesis or imitatio, an essential principal of all ancient literary composition, may be brought to bear to recover something of the history of the text: see N. Fernández Marcos, “Rewritten Bible of imitatio?” in Studies in the Hebrew Bible, Qumran, and the Septuagint (ed. P. W. Flint, E. Tov and J. C. VanderKam; Leiden: Brill, 2006), 321–36; J. Van Seters, “Creative Imitation in the Hebrew Bible,” Studies in Religion 29 (2000), 395–409.

The editorial quality of the volume is not always up to the standard one could expect for 150 dollars. Zamagnini's first article is riddled with typos and the translation of Bloch's contribution from the German has a number of barbarisms. The system of references is difficult to use. For instance, to find the full reference to “E. Des Places, 1991” mentioned on page 25, one must look under “Schroeder and Des Places” in the bibliography. On the same page, “J. J. Collins 2000” refers either to the 2000a or the 2000b entry in the bibliography. On page 47, “Weill et Waddell” in the text corresponds to “W. G. Waddell, 1964” in footnote 17, the LOEB edition of 1964 rather than 1940 found in the general bibliography. To Kürt, R. 1987 is attributed the title Gnosis and Faith in Early Christianity: an Introduction to Gnosticism (Harrisburg: Trinity Press), although it seems to be a translation of a volume by Riemer Roukema published in 1999. A translation of Kurt Rudolph's work was published as Gnosis: The Nature & Structure of Gnosticism (Harper & Row).

Phillippe Guillaume, Grub, Switzerland