Moses and the Law Lecture Series Figures from the Old and New Testaments

Moses and the Law

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Gregorio del Olmo

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  1. Gregorio del OlmoGregorio del Olmo

    Catedrático emérito de Lengua y Literatura Hebreas de la Universidad de Barcelona. Introdujo en dicha universidad la asignatura “Biblia y Literatura Comparada”, la cual dictó durante diez cursos (1994-2005). Licenciado en Teología por la Universidad Santo Tomás de Roma, y en Ciencias Bíblicas por el Pontificio Instituto Bíblico de Roma. Licenciado en Filosofía y Letras por la Universidad Complutense de Madrid, y doctor por la misma universidad. Es además doctor en Teología por la Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca.

    Se ha especializado en lingüística semítica noroccidental (hebreo y ugarítico), así como en lingüística semítica comparada, campos en los que ha contribuido con alrededor de doscientos trabajos y media docena de libros. Ha dirigido el Instituto Interuniversitario de Estudios del Próximo Oriente Antiguo y el Departamento de Filología Semítica de la Universidad de Barcelona. Fundador de la International Association for Comparative Semitics y de la revista Aula Orientalis, de la que es director. Entre 1996 y 2002 dirigió la Misión Arqueológica de la Universidad de Barcelona en Siria.

    Es autor de libros como La vocación del líder en el antiguo Israel (1973), Interpretación de la mitología cananea (1984), Diccionario de la lengua ugarítica I y II (2 vols., 1996 y 1998, con Joaquín Sanmartín; traducido al inglés en 2004), Mitos, Leyendas y Rituales de los Semitas Occidentales (1998), La Biblia Hebrea en la Literatura Moderna (2000), Questions de Linguistique Semitique. ‘Racine’ et lexème. Histoire de la recherche (2003, traducido al inglés en 2008), Incantations and Anti-Witchcraft Texts from Ugarit (2014, con Ignacio Márquez Rowe) y Studies in Common and Comparative Semitics (2015). También es editor de media docena de obras, entre ellas Mythologie et Religion des Sémites Occidentaux (vol. I y II, 2008).

    Es miembro honorario de la American Oriental Society y ha sido galardonado con la Medalla del Colegio de Francia y el Premio Menéndez y Pelayo del Instituto de Estudios Catalanes.

The character of "Moses" is presented in the Jew Bible, and is without doubt transformed into an epic figure, as the heir of a tradition religiously inorganic received from his elders, and as participant of his people's completely deteriorated social-political situation. He will be the person responsible of rebuilding everything by becoming a total leader: military, social-politic, religious-prophetic, with two main sides to be developed: the liberation of his people of their alleged slavery in Egypt, and the social structuring of the Jewish nation based on legal codes that configures and distinguish it. The chronicle of his biography and acts is contained in the four last books of the Pentateuch: Exodus-Deuteronomy. Curiously, Moses ends up trapped in a chronicle of his life full of epic splendor and without any possible rival within the entire Bible. It draws attention the fact that the Bible hardly cites Moses, nor the Sinai where he meets God: The Psalms, as well as the Sapiential Books ignore him. Even the Major and Minor Prophets only mention him half a dozen times in their late writings, and sporadically. He, who is regarded as the prophet par excellence by Dt. 18:15, 18; 34:10, is basically cited in these writings due to this second side we have mentioned: as a ruler.

It is the "Law of Moses" what withholds his name in the Bible and for the history of his people, beyond the biblical chronicle. The law is relegated to the "past", including its glory and misery, and makes the Bible, the Bible of David, a character present in all life aspects and historical conscience of Israel, the ideal paradigm. The eternal "present" on the other hand is from Moses who received the "word" from Yahweh, passed word of mouth until finally written, as the Jewish tradition maintains. From here, Moses becomes the great shaper of Judaism, if not its incubus. This community in theory lives by the Law of Moses, which is meditated day and night. At the same time, his figure as creator of the Jewish "law" puts Moses as one of the main figures of the entire history of Humanity. Thomas Mann analyzed this universal role of Moses in his novel Das Gesetz, where he makes him state when speaking to his people: "Take them! Oh blood of my father, and preserve them in God's tabernacle! But what is written within them should be considered as sacred thing regarding what you do and cease to do. Because in them the eternal and holy alliance with the Lord is condensed, the cornerstone of all decency and good behavior, and God himself has written them with a small graver. He has written them in your own language, but with signs that if needed will allow for their translation into other languages of the world, as He is the God of the entire Universe. These are his words, and although his words may be directed to you, oh Israel!, they are universal... Anyone who infringes the divine laws, from now on will feel how their heart freezes, because the laws are written with his blood and flesh, and they will learn that His Word has value".

It is complicated to tell apart the person from the character in the "Epic of Moses" that the Bible offers us and that is further reinforced by the Jewish tradition, which makes him so sublime and untouchable that only the "kiss of God" could take away his soul. But within this "historic" avatar, we can also find a condensed and irrefutable "code of conduct" he supposedly authored by divine inspiration, and which can be considered a historical milestone in the rationalization of human procedures, and whose validity has permeated our own culture.