"Scholarly consensus" sees Moses as a mythical figure?

According to the sources cited in the Wiki article on Moses, “scholarly consensus” has determined he’s a “mythical figure” or a “legendary character”.

My reaction to this was ORLY? I am not one for taking the entire Bible literally, but given that Moses is the major figure in four books of the Pentateuch, which also contain a significant wealth of detail such as place names, the names of cities and other tribes, geographical features, etc. rather than mythical-sounding stuff, I find the idea that Moses is completely fictional to be pretty hard to believe. Plus he shows up again at the Transfiguration. I know historians are probably just going to dismiss the Transfiguration, but Catholics of course do not.

Still, I would like to hear others’ thoughts on this matter. If any Jewish scholars would like to weigh in, I’d like to hear that perspective also.


I think that since the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt in the Exodus was (is) celebrated in such ways as it has been, it is seen as an historical fact. It would probably be a big obstacle to the faith of Jews and Christians (and Muslims?) if it were ever proven that Moses was a mythical figure and not an historical one.

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Some of the stuff I have read claims that the Jewish people are the ones claiming he’s just a myth. I have no idea if that’s correct or not though.

It seems odd for Wiki to take such a strong position on a major Biblical figure because usually they’ll have sources presenting a few perspectives, so I am wondering if this is really a “consensus” or just some bad article writing/ editing.

There appears to be no evidence of Jews wandering in the desert.

No evidence doesn’t necessarily mean evidence of absence. For all we know, it could all been destroyed in some way.


All the evidence destroyed of hundreds of thousands (up to 2 million) of people wandering in an area for decades? This seems to be grasping at straws.

I agree. But like I said, absence of evidence is not evidense of absence.

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Do you allow that it is possible Moses is a mythical figure who did not exist in reality?

I think I could allow that, yes. I’d have some questions that I would want answered, but I think it’s possible to reconcile the idea that Moses might be mythical to my religion.

Thank you for having an open mind and following the evidence (or in this case, lack of) to where it leads.

Which is consistent with the concept of a mythical or legendary figure. You are understanding “mythical” and “legendary” in the common layman’s sense of the words, which implies “false” or “fake”, whereas in scholarship these words have very different meanings and do not imply that. Something can be mythical or legendary, and still profoundly true or significant in the realm of religion.

Mythological does not necessarily preclude being true and historical. It is a term used broadly to describe a particular type of story and does necessarily mean that it is false. It just fits a certain type.

I’ll try to add more when I am not on my phone.


I suspect politically motivated tampering with the Wikipedia text, for the purpose of undermining confidence in Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. These nineteen words, “according to their holy books. However, scholarly consensus sees Moses as a legendary figure and not a historical person,” were added only a couple of weeks ago, on April 9, 2018. I’d like to hear what @Moses613 and @meltzerboy2 have to say about this possibility.

Here is the link to that edit:


Sure, but non-existent still.

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There’s evidence of Egyptian beer making…

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I’ve never studied the Old Testament for any academic purpose, but I do remember the subject of the historical existence of Moses (specifically, how plausible it is that he lived to be 120 years old) once coming up in a graduate seminar. The seminar tutor’s view was that Moses was a composite figure, probably based on three actual historical individuals (each of whom probably lived to about 40). I’ve never looked into it any further, but it may be a worthwhile line of enquiry. By the way, this ex tutor of mine isn’t an Old Testament specialist, so I’m guessing her opinion is based on the weight of scholarship rather than being some novel theory she has come up with herself.

Wiki is very anti-religion…

What would that do to your faith?

It doesn’t do much to mine.

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You need to read some actual Old Testament scholarship about Moses and the Exodus, and not just rely on Wikipedia or NY Times articles. Neither source is scholarly. One of the most balanced articles of the Exodus I have found is this one from “Bible History Daily,” which is a Biblical archaeology site: https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/exodus/exodus-fact-or-fiction/. I will not summarize it because I believe you should read it yourself.

I would also recommend looking up some articles by Bryant Wood and James Hoffmeier. Both scholars present evidence supporting the historicity of the Exodus and Moses, but one of them posits an earlier date than the other.


From what I can gather this is mostly based on a book by two Israeli archaeologists written in 2001. The book claims that the Exodus never happened at all, and dismisses nearly half of the Old Testament as pure fiction because they decided to solely work from pre-existing archeological findings without regarding the most important historical text from the area, namely the Bible.

The problem is, of course, that while archeology is invaluable to teach us about a specific time or place, with regards to things like architecture and technology and the daily life there, it is not well suited to make a large historical narrative as that would be riddled with speculation to fill the gaps.

An example would be the Pre-Historic narrative, which is based purely on archaeology. Everything we “know” is that humans came to be in Africa 200 000 years ago and eventually colonized the rest of the world, but a recent discovery found human remains in Europe dated even earlier than the ones found in Africa. Thus, even the simplest story possible made by archeological evidence alone (people went from X to Y) is shattered by a single new finding. The complex narrative put forth in The Bible Unearthed is undoubtedly on just as shaky ground.

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