"Modern scholars' consensus" is that:

However, in the key episode of the Transfiguration, as written in the synoptic gospels, it is recounted that Moses and Elijah appeared to Jesus, and they were conversing. Similarly, in many verses Jesus refers to Moses, indicating perhaps that he actually existed, as we would not expect Jesus to lie (although the argument could be made that he was talking to the Hebrews in their own terms, i.e. assuming the myth of the Exodus, if it is a myth).

All mentions of Moses in the Catechism seem not to discuss his historicity, treating events as if they happened. There is however the same treatment for Adam, which we know the Catholic Church does not dogmatically claim to be a historical figure. For instance, Adam's entry in the Catholic Encyclopedia (with Imprimatur) reads:

To what extent these chapters should be considered as strictly historical is a much disputed question, the discussion of which does not come within the scope of the present article.

However, when it comes to Moses, the Encyclopedia states:

To deny or to doubt the historic personality of Moses, is to undermine and render unintelligible the subsequent history of the Israelites.

This seems to be a more stronger case for historical reality. Thus, the question: does the Catholic Church declares as dogma of faith that Moses actually existed? I see that some christian denominations do not consider Moses to have been physically there in the Transfiguration event (whilst still not necessarily denying his historicity).

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    I think this question is intimately related to the Church's attitude to scripture.
    – aska123
    Commented May 21, 2018 at 13:19
  • The current Wikipedia page does not have a section called "Historicity", and I'm not sure exactly what part of the article you are referring to. Perhaps you could change your link to one of the permalinks that contains the parts you're referencing? Commented May 23, 2018 at 0:43
  • @Thunderforge What! That was changed! Almost like censored! Amazing. I will check this. Outrageous!
    – luchonacho
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 8:07
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    Looking at the edit history, it looks like it goes through pretty frequent changes, so I don't think it was a deliberate attempt at censorship and was more likely part of regular improvement efforts of the article. I've suggested an edit to use a permalink to today's version of the article, that way it won't become outdated should further changes to the article occur. Commented May 23, 2018 at 14:08

1 Answer 1


Yes, Catholics must believe in the historical reality of Christ, Moses, Adam & Eve, et al.

Modernist heretics dispute their historicity, but magisterial teaching (DZ 1997) unequivocally says that Moses authored the Pentateuch (first 5 books of the Old Testament), by answering the following question in the negative:

Question 1. Whether the arguments accumulated by critics to impugn the Mosaic authenticity of the Sacred Books, which are designated by the name Pentateuch, are of such weight that, in spite of the very many indications of both Testaments taken together, the continuous conviction of the Jewish people, also the unbroken tradition of the Church in addition to the internal evidences drawn from the text itself, they justify affirming that these books were not written by Moses, but were composed for the most part from sources later than the time of Moses?

Reply: No.

The same Pontifical Biblical Commission affirmed that at least

The first three Chapters of Genesis contain narratives that correspond to objectively real and historically true events (rerum vere gestarum narrationes quae scilicet obiectivae realitati et historicae veritati respondeant), no myths, no mere allegories or symbols of religious truths, no legends.

If Moses were fictional, how could a fictional character author anything, let alone something that contains "historically true events"?

Also, the Catholic Encyclopedia isn't a magisterial document. Imprimatur simply means "let it be published," and nihil obstat means "nothing prevents [it from being published]." It doesn't make the publication an official magisterial pronouncement of the bishop(s) who gave the imprimatur and nihil obstat.

  • As far as I know, the CC does not pronounces infallibly about the actual existence of Adam and Eve.
    – luchonacho
    Commented May 22, 2018 at 13:47
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    @luchonacho Adam & Eve's existence is infallible teaching Catholics must believe. See 5th session of the Council of Trent (on original sin), canons 1-4; cf. Rom. 5:12-19. To deny Adam's existence would imply denying the existence of Original Sin.
    – Geremia
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 0:25
  • Infallibility refers to issues of faith and morals. Faith refers, by definition, to things that are outside the scope of science (you have no faith that the Earth has one moon; that is a scientific fact, but you have faith in the Trinity, which is beyond science). As long as the historicity of Adam and Eve can be demonstrated to be false (just like the creation of the earth in six days), they are not issues of faith anymore. As such, whatever the Church had said about it in the past, it is, ontologically speaking, not related to faith, and thus beyond the infallibility criterion.
    – luchonacho
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 8:10
  • At least since St. Augustine the Church has adopted the view that science cannot contradict Scriptures (i.e. the Book of Nature and the Book of Scriptures cannot contradict each other). To blindly propose as infallible something which can be demonstrated false is to break that relationship of harmony. In all its attempts to reconcile science and faith, the Church would not argue for A if science says B. The scope of faith must be clearly demarcated.
    – luchonacho
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 8:16
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    The Bible is supposed to be taken as a collection of historical accounts. So, everything in it happened. At least, our faith is to be built upon that. Commented May 23, 2018 at 20:52

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