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Moses, Charisma, and Covenant

David C. Rapoport
The Western Political Quarterly
Vol. 32, No. 2 (Jun., 1979), pp. 123-143
DOI: 10.2307/448172
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/448172
Page Count: 21
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Moses, Charisma, and Covenant
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Abstract

The study is an analysis of the Hebrew Bible's description of Moses' political career and his unique status first as "liberator" and then as "the founder" of Israel's charismatic and legal traditions. Its principal argument is that through Moses the Sinai Covenant became Israel's ultimate source of legitimacy. Charisma and law were perceived as being derived from it. Their common purpose was to sustain and strengthen loyalties to the Covenant. Modern conceptions of charisma and its relations to law and custom stem from Weber who ostensibly based his view on Biblical phenomena. But Weber misconceived the unique position of Moses, misconstrued the importance of the Covenant, and confused derivative with ultimate principles of legitimacy in Israel's political life. Consequently, the typology Weber developed for examining analogous political phenomena was seriously flawed. The essay concludes with brief suggestions as to how a better understanding of the Biblical view of Moses might help illuminate charismatic experiences in the contemporary democratic and Marxist traditions.

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