Question: Was Moses a real person?

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Question: Was Moses a real person?

Biblical scholarship still holds the possibility of a Moses like figure in history

Some have wondered, based upon findings from Biblical scholarship, if Moses is an actual person from history. His presence during Biblical events is not extremely important to Latter-day Saints. What is most important to Latter-day Saints is that he existed, received the priesthood, and that he gave the keys of priesthood he held to Joseph Smith in April 1836 (D&C 110). Biblical scholarship doesn’t rule out the possibility of Moses’ existence or of a Moses-like figure in history—it only doubts that a lot of the miracles ascribed to him occurred (which is a natural skepticism). Biblical scholars generally see several things that can help affirm some sort of existence. Among these are his authentic Egyptian name (“moseh”) meaning “is born”, the evidence for some form of Israelite exodus, and so on. It has been said that even if none of the traditions of the Pentateuch originated from Moses, scholars would still have to posit his existence since Israelite religion seems a deliberate innovation, not a natural outgrowth[1].

We could simply defend the existence of Moses from his appearance to Joseph Smith but in order to defend against the counter of that vision being subjective, we’d need to provide evidence for Joseph's calling. The most convincing evidence of that calling is that of the Book of Mormon which can be defended vigorously as authentic and has been for roughly the last century[2].

Notes

  1. William H.C. Propp, “Moses” in Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000) 921-22. For more on the historicity of Moses see Richard Elliot Friedman, "The Exodus" (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2017) and William G. Dever, "What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?: What Archeology Can Tell Us About the Reality of Ancient Israel" (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 2001)
  2. Written 20 August 2019. See Brant A. Gardner, “Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History” (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2015); Brant A. Gardner, “Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon” 6 vols. (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2007); John L. Sorenson, “Mormon’s Codex” (Provo and Salt Lake: BYU Religious Studies Center and Deseret Book, 2013); John Welch et al., “Knowing Why: 137 Evidences that the Book of Mormon is True” (American Fork: Covenant Communications, 2017); Noel B. Reynolds (ed.), “Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins” (Provo: FARMS, 1997). We also shouldn't discount the role that other restoration scripture can play. See, for instance, the astounding evidence for the Book of Abraham. For evidence for the Book of Moses see Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, "In God's Image and Likeness" (Salt Lake City: Eborn Books, 2009).