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The Moses Mystery: The African Origins of the Jewish People Hardcover – October, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Despite the misleading subtitle, the principal thesis of this work by Greenberg, a trial attorney and president of the Biblical Archaeology Society of New York, is simply that the monotheistic religion of ancient Israel originated in the Aten cult of ancient Egypt. While Yahwism in some ways resembles Atenism, the claim that Yahwism derives directly from it is probably incorrect. For instance, Yahweh is in origin no benevolent sun god like Aten but rather a god of thunder, cataclysm, and war. Greenberg makes other less defensible claims, for instance, that the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 are really Egyptian dynastic chronology in disguise. He energetically pursues this very speculative proposal throughout the entire book. One has the feeling, though, that the author decided in advance what his conclusions would be and organized the sketchy archaeological and literary data to prove it. Dense with footnotes and complex in its reasoning, the book presumes a good background in ancient Egyptian history; it is for specialists, not for casual readers. For academic libraries.?James F. DeRoche, Alexandria, Va.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Greenberg is a senior trial attorney with the Criminal Division of Legal Aid in New York City and president of the Biblical Archaeology Society there. Emphasizing the absence of archaeological evidence of early Jewish history, Greenberg argues that "the refugees departing Egypt during what later became known as the Exodus were native Egyptians, devoted followers of the pharaoh Akhenaten." Moses, he suggests, "was the chief priest of the Aten cult" ; when Akhenaten died, Moses fled and then "attempted a military coup . . . to restore the Aten cult to the throne," ending in "a negotiated truce that guaranteed the insurgent army safe passage out of the country." Scholars will question at least some aspects of Greenberg's research, and given his stress on timelines in Egyptian and Jewish history, one could view his study as closer to it could have happened this way than it did happen this way. But it's a "hot" subject, and Greenberg's publisher hopes this work will appeal to students of (and opponents to) Afrocentrism. Consider cautiously. Mary Carroll

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 308 pages
  • Publisher: Birch Lane Press (October 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559723718
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559723718
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,451,034 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gary Greenberg is the author of several highly-praised books on biblical history, including the popular biblical classic "101 Myths of the Bible: How Ancient Scribes Invented Biblical History." His works have been translated into many languages. His most recent book, "Who Wrote the Gospels? Why New Testament Scholars Challenge Church Traditions", will be released by Pereset Press in June 2011.

He is President of the Biblical Archaeology Society of New York and a Fellow of the Jesus Project, an organization of biblical scholars concerned with issues related to the "historical" Jesus. National Geographic Television's Science of the Bible series retained Greenberg as a consultant to the series and featured him in a documentary on the story of Cain and Abel. He has also been a guest on numerous radio and television shows, including Tony Brown's Journal on PBS, and proved to be a provocative and entertaining speaker and skilled debater.

He is a member of several scholarly organizations, including the Society of Biblical Literature, the Archaeological Institute of America, the Historical Society, and the American Research Center in Egypt. He has published articles in several scholarly journals, including the Journal of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities, KMT, and Discussions in Egyptology and has presented papers at several scholarly conferences, including the annual meetings of the International Society of Biblical Literature and the American Research Center in Egypt. His essay, "Did Pre-Gospel Christians Believe Judas Betrayed Jesus?" has been posted on the "Bible and Interpretation" web site at

Catholic Biblical Quarterly, one of the most respected scholarly journals, in reviewing his previous book, "The Judas Brief: Who Really Killed Jesus?", wrote that Greenberg has "a keen eye for the ways religious and political motives have shaped the story of Jesus' arrest and execution, and acceptance of certain historical elements of canonical accounts . . . Greenberg presses important historical questions and rightly insists on fresh consideration of the evidence.

David Noel Freeman, one of the world's most respected biblical scholars and editor of the Anchor Bible Dictionary and The Anchor Bible Project, described Greenberg's biography of King David as "a worthy addition to the library of first-rate and challenging books on King David."

Library Journal said about his "101 Myths of the Bible", "Placing these texts into their historical, political, and geographical setting, Greenberg is able to separate much historical fact from biblical fiction."

Book reviewers in the nation's press have described his earlier works as "fascinating and thought provoking" (Today's Librarian), "guaranteed to raise hackles and lively debate" (Denver Post), "ingenious" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), "intriguing and controversial" Multi-cultural Review, "a riveting read" (Florence SC News), "a must read" (The Tennessee Tribune), "will make for lively dinner table discussions" (Spokesman-Review), and "will make you think" (Green Bay Press-Gazette). The New York Times said that he "seems to delight in a game of scholarly 'gotcha.'"

He maintains a web site at

Greenberg holds a Juris Doctor degree from Seton Hall University School of Law and a B.A. degree from Brooklyn College, where he majored in mathematics. Greenberg works for the Legal Aid Society of New York City and is a well-known criminal defense attorney.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 61 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 23, 1998
Gary Greenberg's research and analysis of biblical history is interesting but not new. Much of what was presented has already be speculated by the english scholar Gerald Massey who wrote extensively on the orgins of Jewish ancient history and the relationship of that history to the ancient Kemet people during the late 1800's. Gerald Maasey's work was banned in much of the United States. He wrote the following books: Book of the Beginnings Vol 1 and 2 Egypt: Ancient Light of the World Vol 1 and 2 Historical Jesus and the Mythical Christ These books have ben republished by A&B Books (Brooklyn) and Black Classic Press (Baltimore). Gary Greenberg does probe deeper into the theory by making comparisions between the Old Testament and what is know of the various Egyptian Dynasties. Much deserve propers are given attributed to the ancient pharoah Ankhaten, the first true contributor to monotheism. He and his followers gave the world the 42 Negative Affirmations of Ma'at which were precusors to what is known today as the 10 Commandments. Unless you have a thorough background in Ancient Egyptian history and religion, his dissertation could be very difficult to follow. As a prerequisite to reading the Bible Myth, I strongly urge the novice to read Anthony Browder's Nile Valley Contribution of Civilization. Using modern text book and teaching techniques, Browder provides an excellent foundation to allow you to decipher much of what Greenberg is presenting. Other scholars who has done an enormous amount of research in the these areas are: Josef Ben-Jochanan African Origins of Western Religions Civilization or Barbarism We, the Black Jews Chiek Ante Diop Precolonial Black Africa African Origins of Western Civilzation
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Steve Reina VINE VOICE on May 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Who was the historical Moses?

Using writings from the second century BCE Egyptian priest of Thoth Manetho and some deductive reasoning, Gary Greenberg thinks he's found him.

Best known for his fascinating book 101 Bible Myths, Greenberg an attorney and amateur biblical scholar is always good reading and can always be counted on for providing interesting speculation in answering bible mysteries. His strength is bringing solid legal reasoning to biblical speculation and his weakness is bringing solid legal reasoning to biblical speculation.

This book is an excellent case in point for showing the limits of using legal reasoning to comprehend bible mysteries. Greenberg builds his case that there really was an Exodus and that it really did take place in Egypt by showing similarities between ritual practices in Judaism and those in Egyptian religion (for example, circumcision and not eating with foreigners). However circumcision was practiced far and wide in antiguity including the fijians and samoans of Polynesia, some peoples in Australia, and even among the ancient Assyrians and Phoenicians. Likewise, variant dietary practices are known and have been known not only in the west but the east as well.

Next, Greenberg looks to Manetho a second century BCE priest of Thoth assigned by Ptolemy II to write a history of Egypt from its inception to the time of Alexander the Great. In writing his history, Manetho recounted an Egyptian version of the Exodus wherein he called Moses by the name of Osarseph and placed him around the time of Ahknaten, the renegade Pharoah who suppressed all but his religion of Atenism or sun worship.
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25 of 31 people found the following review helpful By philip dragonetti on March 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
There really IS a lot of mystery about the biblical Moses. For example,...Why did Moses even GO into the desert for 40 years????? It never made sense to me.
Mr. Greenberg postulates a reasonable answer to my question.
He postulates that Moses was the High Priest of Pharoah Akhnaten's new monotheistic religion,...Aten worship. Historians know that the old Amun worship was persecuted by Pharoah Akhnaten,...and when Akhnaten died the Amun priests returned to power once more and persecuted the Aten worshippers,...probably enslaving them.
According to Greenberg,..(in MY words) Moses went into the desert for the same reason that Ayatollah Khomeini went to France for 15 years,....Both had religio-politico reasons for being a persona non grata in his homeland.
And BOTH, after their periods of exile, RETURNED to their homelands,...but here is where their experiences diverge. Whereas the Ayatollah succeeded in re-establishing himself at home and became prominent once more,...the opposite happened to Moses. Moses returned to Egypt, where he used to be High Priest of the Aten Monotheitic religion, but faced hostility and failure, the extent that he once more had to leave Egypt,...this time taking his people with him saying "Let my people go."
Greenberg goes quite deeply into Egyptian history showing how the biblical Moses existed at the very same time that Akhnaten. He also mentions the lack of archelogical evidence to support the biblical story of a "Hebrew" people from Palestine having been enslaved in Egypt.
This is a very interesting book with lots of historical back-up.
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