Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Moses and Monotheism is a psychoanalytic interpretation of the biblical story of Moses and the Jewish exodus from Egypt and a reconsideration of the subsequent history of the Jews and their religion in the light of this interpretation. The argument proceeds in a manner familiar from Sigmund Freud’s other writings. In an almost conversational tone, he leads the reader from one point to the next, anticipating and answering questions and objections, gently introducing psychoanalytic concepts to illuminate the story. From time to time he admits that every doubt that has occurred to the reader has occurred to him as well, but that the credibility of his interpretation depends less on the proof of its parts than on the coherence and plausibility of the whole.

The book consists of three essays of differing lengths and complexities. Essay 1, “Moses an Egyptian,” is a mere ten pages, while essay 2, “If Moses Was an Egyptian . . . ,” is thirty-seven pages long and broken into seven untitled sections preceded by an introduction which links it to the first essay. Essay 3, “Moses, His People, and Monotheist Religion,” is longer still and far more complicated in form. Its eighty-three pages are divided into two parts, the first of which begins with two prefatory notes, followed by five titled sections: “The Historical Premiss,” “The Latency Period and Tradition,” “The Analogy,” “Application,” and “Difficulties.” Part 2 of the third essay has its own preface, “Summary and Recapitulation,” followed by eight sections: “The People...

(The entire section is 644 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Bakan, David. “Moses in the Thought of Freud,” in Commentary. XXVI (October, 1958), pp. 322-331.

Gay, Peter. Freud: A Life for Our Time, 1988.

Jones, Ernest. Sigmund Freud: Life and Work. Vol. 3, The Last Phase, 1957.

Robert, Marthe. From Oedipus to Moses: Freud’s Jewish Identity, 1976.

Van Herik, Judith. Freud on Femininity and Faith, 1982.