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I know that Moses from the Bible is generally agreed to be a mythical figure and not a real person, especially since no historical sources from places like Egypt or the people of Sinai at the time confirm Moses' existence, but is there any historical figure that Moses could have been based on or any previous myths that might have inspired the creation of Moses?

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The Mosaic myth is composed out of a multitude of older stories:

  • the story of the infant Moses's salvation from the Nile is based on an earlier legend of king Sargon of Akkad
  • the story of the parting of the Red Sea is based on Mesopotamian creation mythology
  • the Covenant Code (the law code in Exodus 20:22–23:33) has similarities in both content and structure with the Laws of Hammurabi
  • the story of Moses's flight to Midian following the murder of the Egyptian overseer is similar to the Egyptian Story of Sinuhe

The Freud hypothesis stated in his book Der Mann Moses und die monotheistische Religion that Mozes is based on 2 historical figures, one of them a member of the court of Akhenaten, is based on no historical evidence whatsoever. From the point-of-view of scholarly consensus amongst Egyptologists, the book is a provocative novelty containing many solid scholarly citations, many undisputed facts, alongside many tantalizing speculations some of which seem likely but unprovable, while others seem unlikely or indulgent.

In addition, Freud could not read hieroglyphs and there is no written record of anyone called Mozes in the court of Akhenaten. "Mozes" by itself is not an Egyptian name, it is only used in addition to a subject, like Toth-msi (literally "created by Toth", which in older works is rendered Tuthmoses, although there is no philological reason to do so).

The reason many Biblical literalists persist in making this connection is twofold:

  • Akhenaten is arguably the oldest instigator of a monotheistic religion in that area of the world
  • according to literalist backtracking based on Biblical chronology, they argue that Akhenaten was the Pharaoh of the Exodus. Other candidates include:

  • Dedumose II (died c. 1690 BCE)

  • Ahmose I (1550–1525 BCE)
  • Ramesses II (c. 1279–1213 BCE)
  • Merneptah (c. 1213–1203 BCE)
  • Setnakhte (c. 1189–1186 BCE)

This hypothesis thus spans a 500-year period and no records whatsoever for any of these pharaos mention anything close to an Exodus. We do know from historical records that the supposed number of Hebrews fleeing Egypt was larger than the entire Egyptian population during the Middle Kingdom.

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  • It would be good if you provided citations for the Egyptologists who form a "scholarly consensus". – Matthew Martin May 12 at 16:28
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Sigmund Freud in his book Moses And Monotheism puts forward the idea that, in addition to being partly based on some of the mythical figures mentioned in Codosaur's answer, the Moses we know today was also based on two historical people. Freud saw two religions fused to form Judaism, both founders having been called by the name Moses. Quoting Freud in Moses And Monotheism: "The founding of two new religions, the first one ousted by the second and yet reappearing victorious, two founders of religions, who are both called by the same name Moses."

According to Freud, one of these two men was an Egyptian and probably a member of the Egyptian court of Ikhnaton (the pharaoh Amenhothep IV). After the Pharaoh's death, the cult on Amon collapsed and this Moses lead the Jews out of Egypt and imposed one god (then Amon) upon them. The other Moses was a Medianite, quoting Freud (op cit) "He [Moses] was the son-in-law of the Midianite priest Jethro and was tending his flocks when he received the divine summons." The second Moses worshiped the god Jahve.

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    There is no historical basis for that assumption. See amended answer. Also, Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten instituted the short-lived cult of Aten, not of Amun. – Codosaur May 8 at 14:22
  • Isn't the wide consensus that Ahmose I is the farao from the book of exodus? – Tom Sol May 8 at 22:33
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    The wide consesus among Egyptologists is there was no Exodus. – Codosaur May 11 at 7:55

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