Visionary Ascents of Moses in Pseudo-Philo's Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum: Apocalyptic Motifs and the Growth of Visionary Moses Tradition
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Orlov, Andrei A.
This dissertation explores the development of visionary Moses tradition from its origins in the Hebrew Bible through pro-Mosaic Second Temple literature and rabbinic texts. It demonstrates that throughout this variegated literature, there is a developing tendency to portray Moses as an apocalyptic seer. In the non-biblical Mosaic texts that were analyzed, Moses' revelation on Sinai and Nebo is increasingly invested with esoteric content, and Moses' ascents are often depicted as heavenly journeys. These revelatory developments have conceptual roots in alternative visionary traditions, notably Enochic lore. The texts investigated contain a discernible thread of dialogue with Enochic revelatory claims; Moses' ascents and revelation were embellished to include speculative elements and motifs typical of Enochic traditions. Pro-Mosaic texts and traditions responded to alternative visionary developments by re-envisioning Moses' ascents of Sinai and Nebo in similar transcendent terms. Moses' presentation in these texts often appears to be a polemical positioning of Moses over Enoch.
The second part of this dissertation considers the place of Pseudo-Philo's Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum (LAB) in the trajectory of visionary Moses tradition. Analysis of the apocalyptic features of LAB reveals the formative role of alternative visionary traditions in Pseudo-Philo's portrayal of Moses. Moses often takes on the exalted qualities of Enoch in the text, including the experience of heavenly ascent, journey to paradise, and esoteric disclosure of heavenly, cosmic, meteorological, protological, and eschatological secrets. LAB not only demonstrates awareness of Enochic tradition; it provides evidence of polemical dialogue with Enochic revelatory claims. This assertion contributes to the deciphering of some puzzling passages in LAB. The investigation concludes that Pseudo-Philo's depiction of Moses' ascents and revelation were re-crafted with apocalyptic characteristics in order to underscore Moses' authority and pre-eminent position as Israel's visionary par excellence. LAB links all truth, exoteric (law and covenant) and esoteric, to Moses.