Moses as a Divine Mediator


by Ysmena Pentelow

[Ysmena Peltelow is a postgraduate student working on the M.Litt. degree at the Divinity School of the University of St. Andrews.–JRD]

The aim of this seminar is to discuss the role of Moses as a divine mediator.

The Biblical account presents Moses as an exalted Patriarch whose activity as a mediator is limited to his life-time and may be defined according to the ‘legacy’ pattern. There are one or two passages within the Biblical account which may reflect, or have given rise to, the traditions concerning Moses witnessed to by other sources – Exodus 7:1; 19-24; 34; & Deuteronomy 34.

Josephus’ view of Moses is similar to that found in the Biblical text: Moses is an exalted patriarch, in the legacy pattern. Josephus’ most notable addition, for this subject, is that he provides an account of the end of Moses. On a mountain overlooking Sinai Moses is covered by a cloud and “disappears.”

Philo’s account also reflects a tradition that Moses did not die; that he was ‘taken’ by God. For the most part Philo portrays Moses as an exalted Patriarch, active as a mediator within his own life-time. There are, however, passages which may supersede this, particularly the phrase “For he was named God and King…” (Bk1:28:158).

The Exagoge of Ezekiel the Tragedian may take this a step further. The drama recounts a dream in which Moses is given what appear to be God’s crown, sceptre and throne. This text raises various questions: does Ezekiel present a picture of the deification of Moses or is he concerned with divine commissioning for a specific role? Equally, is the worship offered to Moses here stylistic, and intended to authenticate Moses’ earthly role, or does it reflect a practice of offering worship to Moses? The possibility that Ezekiel reflects a tradition of the deification of Moses may find some support from 4Q374 & 4Q377 (Moses Apocryphon A&C). Both texts connect the traditions of Sinai with that of Exodus 7:1. 4Q377 appears to be concerned with the authentication of the legacy of Moses, although the last few words may reflect a tradition of the pre-existence of Moses. A view that is also evident in the Testament of Moses (1:14). These more highly exalted traditions may reflect a view of Moses as a mediator in the pattern of a principal angel. It is not clear though whether Moses’ activity as a mediator can be seen to extend beyond his own life-time.

Concerning the New Testament: To begin with Jesus is often seen as a ‘Second Moses’- 2Cor 3 & Matt 5-7. Secondly both experience a mountain-top revelation of God which results in some kind of transformation. Thirdly, while their exact nature is uncertain the texts which appear to attest the deification, and possibly worship, of Moses may provide some background for the idea of the worship of an individual who is other than God himself.

(c) 1998
Reproduction beyond fair use only on permission of the author.

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