Caught in the crossfire of early modern controversy: Strabo on Moses and his corrupt successors

Henny, Sundar (2018). Caught in the crossfire of early modern controversy: Strabo on Moses and his corrupt successors. Intellectual history review, 28(1), pp. 35-59. Taylor and Francis Group 10.1080/17496977.2018.1402440

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The Greek geographer Strabo described Moses as a charismatic leader who had instilled in his followers a simple form of worship and an unconventional form of government. Subsequent generations of Moses’s successors had exploited people’s awe of the sacred, however, in order to erect a superstitious and
tyrannical hierocracy. John Toland’s Origines Judaicae (1709) relied heavily on Strabo’s testimony in its denunciation of superstition and priestcraft. Strabo’s passage on Moses was well known, not only to Toland but to Christian apologists who – since the sixteenth century – had used it to defend the account of Moses in the Old Testament. Yet, by the eighteenth century, Strabo had been transformed from a quasi-Christian authority into a historical liability to orthodoxy. Attending to the often-neglected reception of Strabo, this article uncovers continuities and discontinuities in ideas of superstition and priestcraft through the writings of Isaac
Casaubon, Philippe de Mornay, Hugo Grotius, and John Toland. It argues that the reception of Strabo in the early modern period demonstrates how his Geography became increasingly caught in the crossfire of religious controversy.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of History and Archaeology > Institute of History > Recent History

UniBE Contributor:

Henny, Sundar Markus


200 Religion > 270 History of Christianity
900 History > 910 Geography & travel
900 History > 930 History of ancient world (to ca. 499)
900 History > 940 History of Europe




Taylor and Francis Group




Sundar Markus Henny-Renold

Date Deposited:

21 Jun 2018 09:39

Last Modified:

22 Oct 2019 18:50

Publisher DOI:





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