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Moses’ education

November 2008
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One of the most recent articles on Philo have read recently is the following by the Finnish scholar Erikki Koskenniemi (Helsinki-Finland);

Moses – A Well-Educated Man: A Look at the Educational Idea in Early Judaism,’
in Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 17.4 (2008):281-296.

The purpose of this study is thus to analyze the kind of education Moses is provided in the Jewish texts before Mishnah (p. 283). Beginning with Ezekiel the Tragedian and Artapanus, Koskenniemi finds that Ezek Trag 36-38 presents Moses as getting “a royal upbringing and education”. That is most probably to be interpreted as a ‘Gentile education’, but nothing is said about the content of that education. Ezekiel himself most probably had received his education in some Greek gymnasium, and takes it for granted that Moses received a similar, that is, a goood Gentile education (284). Artapanus, does not argue, but presents Moses as the teacher of Orpheus (3,3-4): Moses is a master in everything, a master even in education. Artapanus also argues that the Gentile sentral aspects of culture, philosophy and religion not are original, but copies of the Jewish ones; hence Moses is the universal teacher of mankind (286).
The Book of Jubilees (pp 286-287)states it quite differently; Moses does not receive a Hellensitic education, but is part of a long chain of Hebrew Fathers, Jubilees is here part of an anti-Hellenistic agenda.
Philo (pp, 287-290), however, takes for granted that Moses received the best education (Mos 1,21). According to Koskenniemi takes Philo it for granted, that Moses received a Gentile education, and also that many Greek philosophers had found their wisdom in the Law of Moses. Koskenniemi also emphaisizes that Philo “uses a greek ideal to emphasize the unigueness of the Jewish Philosophy” (289), hence Moses is also an ‘autodidaktos’.
When one however turns to Liber Antiquitatum biblicarum and Josephus, one finds that they are silent about the education of Moses.

The final conclusion of Koskenniemi is thus that ” The early Jewish heritage apparently had no strong, unified tradition about Moses’ education, but every writer reflects his own view on how a man should be educated”(293). Furthermore, one can also see that “all texts written in Egypt take a good Greek education for granted” while the texts written in Palestine did not deal very much with the education of Moses.


2 Comments

  1. Mike Magee says:

    We are talking here about the Moses who led the Israelites from Egypt around a millennium before these Hellenistic authors had been born, are we not? How then was he supposed to have had an Hellenistic education? Is this a joke of some kind? Assuming it is serious, it supports the idea that Moses was an Hellenistic invention.

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