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Paul, R.A. (1994). Freud, Sellin and the Death of Moses. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 75:825-837.

(1994). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 75:825-837

Freud, Sellin and the Death of Moses

Robert A. Paul


An examination of the actual arguments put forth by the Biblical scholar Ernst Sellin regarding the hypothesis of the murder of Moses, upon which Freud is supposed to have based his own analysis in 'Moses and Monotheism', reveals that Sellin's theory, which differs widely from Freud's, contains many features which ought perhaps to have appealed to Freud, most notably, the depiction of the deed as a graphic scene of oedipal violence and primal scene imagery. In exploring why Freud might have chosen not to use Sellin's reconstruction of the death of Moses, the author proposes that his version allowed, as Sellin's did not, for an analogy between Israelite history and the typical course of an obsessive-compulsive neurosis; and that the value of the latter lay in its providing grounds for hope that psychoanalysis itself might survive a period of 'latency' in the wake of Freud's impending death. In addition to speculating about Freud's motives, the author seeks to give a good exposition of Sellin's ideas, which despite their importance to Freud's thought remain relatively unknown or misunderstood in psychoanalytic circles.

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