Jesus as Yeshu from Nazareth
The Traditional Story
The text of Exodus 2 (verses 1 and following) is at pains to assign Moses to a genealogy within the family of Israel—at pains, perhaps, because it then has to recognize that he was adopted into the court of the Pharaoh, given his name by the Pharaoh’s daughter, and raised as Egyptian royalty. It is well known what Sigmund Freud did with this portrait, arguing that the Israelite genealogy was, in fact, a later, pious construction that tried to mask Moses’ true roots as an Egyptian who only subsequently took on the cause of the Israelite slaves as his own.
For the Bible, in sum, Moses is indeed a man apart—apart not only from the people he guides and the land to which he directs them, but apart also, in many fundamental ways, from the kinds of leaders the previous generations of patriarchal figures had been. He remains the permanent outsider, a unique and towering figure.
The familiar name Moses, pronounced roughly Moshe in Hebrew. The final -s in the English comes from the ancient Greek translation of the Bible known as the Septuagint: Mwushõ adds a terminal sigma (õ) because Greek does not permit masculine proper nouns to end in a vowel.
The Book of Exodus offers its own explanation of how Moses acquired his name. It’s a pun based on the circumstances of his discovery in a floating basket.
“Setting out from Kadesh, the Israelites arrived in a body at Mount Hor. At Mount Hor, on teh boundary of the land of Edom, the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Let Aaron be gathered to his kin: he is not to enter the land that I have assigned to the Israelite people, because you [Moses] disobeyed my command about the waters of Meribah. Take Aaron and his son Eleazar and bring them up on Mount Hor. Strip Aaron of his vestments and put them on his son Eleazar. There Aaron shall be gathered unto the dead.’
While Moses was up on Mt. Sinai receiving the “first edition” of the Ten Commandments, the people down below grew impatient and asked Aaron, Moses’ brother, to make them another god to lead them. Aaron instructed the people to rip off their gold earrings, which, the text tells us explicitly and unambiguously, “he made into a molten calf” (Exodus 32:4)—the famous Golden Calf. “These,” the people responded, “are your gods, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!”