Questioning the Moses Timeline: Clues revealed in work of murdered playwright Marlowe
On May 29th, 1593, a government informer, Richard Baines, formally charged the famous playwright, Christopher Marlowe, with blasphemy. The complaint sent to Queen Elizabeth I read: “Containing the opinion of Christopher Marlowe concerning his damnable opinions and judgment of religion and scorn of God’s word. … He affirmed that Moses was but a Juggler and that one Herriot, being Sir Walter Releigh’s man, can do more than he. That Moses made the Jews to travel 11 years in the wilderness, ere they came to the promised land to the intent that those who were privy to most of his subtleties might perish and so an everlasting superstition remain in the hearts of the people. That it was an easy matter for Moses, being brought up in the all the arts of the Egyptians, to abuse the Jews...”
A portrait believed to be of Christopher Marlowe, (1564-1593). (Public Domain)
Marlowe had dared to make the sacrilegious statement that Moses was no more than a second-rate illusionist who had succeeded with such tricks because the Israelites were remarkably gullible. Marlowe also didn’t bother to hide his belief that the celebrated tale of forty years wandering in the wilderness was a gross exaggeration. Furthermore, he wasn’t discreet in his claim that the true purpose of the supposed exile was not to build the strength of the Israelites as rationalized in Exodus but was instead a cynical ruse designed to cover-up a deep secret.
Marlowe never had the chance to reveal what that secret might be. He was released from jail after the council adjourned. The next morning, while eating breakfast, he was stabbed to death by an agent of Queen Elizabeth I. The murderer spent only a month in jail - the official story being that the young playwright was just another victim of a common place pub brawl.
Centuries later, another famous writer also dared to take a magnifying glass to the Moses story. In doing so he discovered some of the same timeline inconsistencies hinted at by Marlowe.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832). (Public Domain)
Johann Goethe wrote ‘Israel in the Desert’ partly as an attempt to show how later editors of the Bible had tampered with the story of Moses. At the time, many biblical scholars were busy trying to disentangle the various strands that compose the first five books of the Old Testament attributed to Moses and named The Torah (the Law). Goethe’s writer’s eye convinced him that misleading words had been added to the scriptures. Like an art restorer peeling away layer-upon-layer of paint covering a lost masterpiece he revealed hidden seams and overlapping pigments in the Torah that implied the work of different authors, some of whom were obsessed with religious ceremony. According to Goethe these late and unwelcome additions spoiled the natural flow of the narrative.
The same meddlesome writers had exaggerated critical timescales and shoe-horned their revisionist versions into the ancient sacred texts. Goethe considered the idea that a great prophet had wandered the desert for forty years with thousands of people in tow absurd. It called into question Moses’ fitness as a commander and painted him in a ridiculous light. Goethe concluded that the only explanation must be that the forty years was symbolic; noting other instances in the Bible where the number forty was used symbolically. Remove the corruption of the text, especially the illegitimate timescale, Goethe reasoned, and Moses’ dignity would be restored, revealing the prophet of God as more of a hero and less of a bungler.
Moses and the Israelites. (Public Domain)
To Goethe, Moses’ piousness didn’t compensate for his serious faults. His princely education counted for nothing. He describes the prophet as ‘curt and introvert, and barely able to communicate.’ He was especially unimpressed with Moses’ dismal military leadership; remarking that during the Israelites’ first battle the prophet ‘retreated to a mountain to pray’ leaving others to face the enemy.
Goethe saw Moses as an honest, strong-willed man consumed by his mission of leading his people to the Promised Land. His tragic flaw was a weak personality inadequate to the task. He was at best, incompetent: at worst, foolish. Goethe paints him as a pathetic character forced to lead an unruly tribe through unforgiving desert. A tribe who, though liberated from slavery had been wrenched from the great Egyptian culture and dragged into a primitive life. For Goethe, such a fate was ‘the saddest condition in which an excellent man can find himself.’ He goes so far as to conjecture why the exiled Moses didn’t have the courage to end his own miserable life.
Detail; Moses and the tablets of law. (Public Domain)
Strangely, despite Goethe’s obsession with the subject he never asked the question, why? Why did the interfering Torah editors distort the time frame of the texts? What was their motive?
Goethe was the first to propose the radical idea that Moses had been murdered, but he failed to see the possibility that the interfering editors who so irritated him were the descendants of the very conspirators who had carried out that murder. Their motive in distorting the text was to whitewash the shameful actions of their ancestors.
In contrast, Goethe offers nothing but praise for Jethro. (Jethro is the Christian name for Moses’ father-in-law. In Judaic literature he is more frequently known as Reuel.) Reuel was the high priest of Midian when Moses arrived there as a fugitive wanted for murder in Egypt. Goethe regarded Reuel as a wise, shrewd and natural leader. The Midianites were, in Goethe’s telling, much ‘better educated’ than the former slaves of Egypt and Reuel possessed the prerequisite cultural background and, more importantly, the temperament, to assume the leadership of a nation.
Appalled that Moses couldn’t enforce the necessary discipline to keep order amongst the disgruntled Israelites, Goethe concluded that God’s prophet had been hopeless in meeting the increasing demands of his people and was only saved from the consequences of his inadequacies because Reuel intervened and persuaded his son-in-law to adopt a paramilitary organization to control the increasingly restless mob.
Moses takes his leave of Jethro (Reuel). Reuel is seated on the left, in red. (Public Domain)
Goethe speculated that Moses was finally brought down when two young men, Joshua and Caleb, angered by their foolish, arbitrary leader, assassinated him to spare the people from any more of his dangerous bungling. They were justified, Goethe wrote, because without strong leadership the Israelites could never conquer the Promised Land. He considered the murder of Moses to be a political necessity.
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Freud and the Two Moses
Although he spent nearly forty years researching Moses, Sigmund Freud doesn’t mention Marlowe, and makes only passing reference to Goethe. Freud wished to show that there were two men who went by the name of Moses. The “second” Moses was an imposter who took over the role of leadership of the children of Israel after “first” Moses had been murdered. Unlike Marlowe and Goethe, Freud didn’t challenge the timeline of the Moses story. In KILLING MOSES we remove the false timeline (430 years of bondage) of the Moses story allowing us to see events unobscured by the interference of scribes who had tampered with the holy text to cover-up the crimes of their own ancestors.
Cold Case File
When there are no witnesses to a murder detectives are trained to discover the guilty party by asking who had the “motive, means and opportunity” to commit the crime. There is one character in this ancient murder mystery who fits this bill.
Our prime suspect is Moses’ father-in-law, Reuel, a man motivated by revenge.
Marlowe gave us the means by which the murder was accomplished. He believed that Moses was an illusionist whose acts thrilled and baffled the children of Israel because they were naive in the ways of an Egyptian-trained Magician.
Goethe believed that scribes with a powerful agenda distorted the original stories when they inserted an artificially long timeline into the holy text. Removing that false timeline reveals that Reuel had a perfect window of opportunity to murder Moses.
Reuel had the motive, means and opportunity to murder Moses. Just as critically he possessed the dramatic skills of a magician; vital tools that enabled him to commit homicide leaving the children of Israel unaware that an impostor, his face hidden by a veil, was acting as their prophet.
This article is excerpted from Rand & Rose Flem-Ath’s KILLING MOSES.
Featured image: Deriv; Moses and the Messengers from Canaan (Public Domain), Christopher Marlowe (Public Domain)
Calvin Hoffman, The Murder of the Man Who Was Shakespeare, 1955, 66-67.
Exodus 18:21-25. / Exodus 12:40. / Exodus 34:33-35.
Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism, 1939.
Thomas J. Gardner & Terry M. Anderson. Criminal Evidence: Principles and Cases, 2010, 71.