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Smiling Through the Cultural CatastropheToward the Revival of Higher Education$
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Jeffrey Hart

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780300087048

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300087048.001.0001

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Moses as Epic Hero

Moses as Epic Hero

(p.35) Chapter Three Moses as Epic Hero
Smiling Through the Cultural Catastrophe

Jeffrey Hart

Yale University Press

This chapter considers Moses as a great epic hero, particularly a Bronze Age hero roughly contemporary with Achilles. The difference between Moses and Achilles, however, is that Moses's story cannot begin in the middle of things due to its ties and relation to monotheism. In fact, Monotheism is at the center of Moses's life, and challenged it from every side—hence, monotheism must be established at the beginning. Moses, like a Homeric hero, dies immortal in fame at the end of the fifth book of the Pentateuch, Deuternomy, in a scene that is as emotionally moving as the deaths of Achilles and Hector. Two eminent scholars—Cyrus H. Gordon and Gary Rendsburg—have argued that the biblical and Homeric epics have common roots in the ancient Near East. This chapter analyzes the ways in which Moses can be viewed as an epic hero, especially when compared against Homeric heroes and epics.

Keywords:   Moses, Bronze Age hero, Achilles, monotheism, Homeric hero, Pentateuch, Deuteronomy, Cyrus H. Gordon, Gary Rendsburg, Homeric epics

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