A Tale of Two Diagnoses: Moses the Barbarian, and the Schizophrenic

In some of the standard portrayals of the religious mythologies on offer about the history of the world, one of the more prominent in the Abrahamic tradition will be the tall tale of Moses and the parting of the Red Sea.

The Guardian in a half-decade-old, approximately, article reported on the Ridley Scott film Exodus: Gods and Kings. In it, he examines the fable in a theatrical context. The protagonist, Moses, of course, was played by Christian Bale, who, as an independent-minded actor, spoke on the character portrayal of the Old Testament Patriarch.

Looking at the overall characterization of Moses, Bale considers Moses, as per acting out the non-historical figure, both barbaric and, indeed, schizophrenic; now, this may feel offensive to some sensibilities, but, if we examine this from a more direct and modern analysis rather than some arcane and esoteric theological hermeneutics, we can see the ways in which this may fit the image.

Bale stated, “I think the man was likely schizophrenic and was one of the most barbaric individuals that I ever read about in my life… He was a very troubled, tumultuous man and mercurial. But the biggest surprise was the nature of God. He was equally very mercurial.”

God reflective and Moses, or Moses mirroring Yahweh, the, obvious, conclusion comes from the characterizations as not caricatures but as honest assessments of the content of character — vices and all.

Naturally, these comments, how ever brief, provided a contextual skepticism of the film as not accurately portraying things; barbarism and schizophrenia untreated becomes less plausible than literal alterations in the natural operations of the ancient world, not ancient in scientific deep time but old in terms of recorded human history within pseudohistorical religious purported holy texts.

Ridley Scott had some words, too — the director. He concluded, “You can’t just do a giant parting, with walls of water trembling while people ride between them… I remember that feeling, and thought that I’d better come up with a more scientific or natural explanation.” This seems as if a remark from a modernist perspective and, in fact, not so much as a perspective inasmuch as a factual analysis.

What’s more probable? An individual with the power and grace of the creator of the universe, or a barbaric schizophrenic in the ancient world.