Moses and Monotheism  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Moses and Monotheism (Der Mann Moses und die monotheistische Religion) is a 1939 book about monotheism by Sigmund Freud, published in English translation in 1939. The book shocked many of its readers because of Freud's suggestion that Moses was actually born an Egyptian, rather than raised as an Egyptian.

Summary

The book consists of three essays and is an extension of Freud’s work on psychoanalytic theory as a means of generating hypotheses about historical events. Freud hypothesizes that Moses was not Hebrew, but actually born into Ancient Egyptian nobility and was probably a follower of Akhenaten, an ancient Egyptian monotheist. Freud contradicts the biblical story of Moses with his own retelling of events, claiming that Moses only led his close followers into freedom during an unstable period in Egyptian history after Akhenaten (ca. 1350 BCE) and that they subsequently killed Moses in rebellion and later combined with another monotheistic tribe in Midian based on a volcanic god, Yahweh. The god of Moses was fused with Yahweh and the deeds of Moses ascribed to a Midianite priest also called Moses. Freud explains that centuries after the murder of the Egyptian Moses, the rebels regretted their action, thus forming the concept of the Messiah as a hope for the return of Moses as the Saviour of the Israelites. Freud said that the guilt from the murder of Moses is inherited through the generations; this guilt then drives the Jews to religion to make them feel better.

Reception

The mythologist Joseph Campbell wrote that Freud's suggestion that Moses was an Egyptian "delivered a shock to many of his admirers". According to Campbell, Freud's proposal was widely attacked, "both with learning and without." Campbell himself refrained from passing judgment on Freud's views about Moses, although he considered Freud's willingness to publish his work despite its potential offensiveness "noble". The theologian Rowan Williams concluded that Freud's accounts of the origin of Judaism are "painfully absurd", and that Freud's explanations are not scientific but rather "imaginative frameworks".

The philosopher Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen and the psychologist Sonu Shamdasani write that in Moses and Monotheism Freud applied to history "the same method of interpretation that he used in the privacy of his office to 'reconstruct' his patients' forgotten and repressed memories."

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Moses and Monotheism" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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