Does Jude 9 quote the Assumption of Moses? — the Testament of Moses?
Some critics claim that Jude 9 quotes the pseudepigraphal book called the Assumption of Moses when it refers to Michael, the archangel, in a dispute with Satan over the body of Moses.
But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” Jude 9 (NASB)
The purpose of this article is to answer the question, “Does Jude 9 quote the Assumption of Moses.”
Claim of Three Early Church Fathers
Three early church fathers say that Jude 9 refers to the Assumption of Moses. For example, the early church father Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 155–220) says that Jude referred to the Assumption of Moses when he wrote these words,
“When Michael, the archangel, disputing with the devil, debated about the body of Moses.” Here he confirms the assumption of Moses.
Another early church father, Origen (A.D. 185—254), writes this about Jude’s statement in his De Principiis,
And in the first place, in the book of Genesis, the serpent is described as having seduced Eve; regarding whom, in the work entitled The Ascension of Moses (a little treatise, of which the Apostle Jude makes mention in his Epistle), the archangel Michael, when disputing with the devil regarding the body of Moses, says that the serpent, being inspired by the devil, was the cause of Adam and Eve’s transgression.
But notice that Origen refers to the book as the Ascension of Moses and not the Assumption of Moses. It does appear, however, that these two names refer to the same book.
According to Edwin A. Blum, the early church father Didymus of Alexandria (A.D. 309/314–398) also states that Jude 9 referred to the Assumption of Moses in his book “In epistolas canonicas brevis enarratio.” However, this author does not have access to the reference.
In summary, this means three early church fathers state that Jude 9 and the Assumption of Moses refer to the same event. But it is important to notice that they wrote about one hundred years after Jude was written. Therefore, how did they conclude that Jude quoted the Assumption of Moses or that the Assumption of Moses quoted Jude? Which one came first?
Assumption of Moses Does Not Contain the Statement
Additionally, we do not know if the early church fathers had personally read the Assumption of Moses or had even heard about it. The reason for this last statement is that the only edition today of the Assumption of Moses is missing any reference similar to Jude 9.
The only copy of the Assumption of Moses that exists is one single Latin manuscript which is dated after A.D. 500. That leaves open the question as to when it was actually written. Sadly, one-third to fifty percent of the text is missing andcJames H. Charlesworth, a leading authority on the Pseudepigrapha, states that the existing copy of the Assumption of Moses does not contain any such reference to Jude 9. Here is his comment,
Some influence by the Testament of Moses on a number of New Testament passages has been suggested. Those most often cited are Jude 9, 12-13, 16; 2 Peter 2: 13; Acts 7:36-43; and Matthew 24:19-21 (with parallels). Jude 9 refers to the story of the dispute between Michael and Satan for the body of Moses, an account that does not appear in our text. That the episode was contained in the lost ending of the Testament of Moses or in a cognate work, properly called the Assumption of Moses, is possible; but our present information does not warrant any positive conclusion. (The relation between a Testament of Moses and an Assumption of Moses will be discussed below.) Jude 12-13 utilizes nature metaphors reminiscent of Testament of Moses 10:5-620 and Jude 16 describes opponents in language similar to a number of passages in our document. In both instances, however, the contexts are quite different. Nevertheless, the strongest case for possible knowledge of the Testament of Moses by a New Testament writer is with the letter of Jude. The other proposals are not compelling. The possibility exists that some New Testament authors were familiar with the Testament of Moses, but it would be better to say that both the Testament of Moses and certain New Testament texts show familarity (sic) with common traditional material.
James H. Charleswort’s point is that the existing copy of the Assumption of Moses does not contain any reference to the subject matter of Jude 9. He further makes the point that it is possible both Jude and the Assumption of Moses copied from another source. Therefore, this opens the door to uncertainty.
Even if Jude 9 and the Assumption of Moses refer to the same event, we can trust the book of Jude since it is the inspired Word of God. We must remember that the pseudepigraphal book called the Assumption of Moses is not inspired, but Jude 9 is inspired. We can trust Jude 9 to be accurate. 2 Peter 1:20-21 teaches that all Scripture was written by the Holy Spirit and 2 Timothy 3:16-17 states that all Scripture is inspired by God. Jude 9 can be trusted.
For more information read pages 393-395 written by Albert Banes, Barnes Notes. Baker Books. 1996.
1. Clement of Alexandria, “Fragments of Clemens Alexandrinus,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. William Wilson, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 573.
2. Origen, “De Principiis,” in Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. Frederick Crombie, vol. 4, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 328.
3. Edwin A. Blum. Jude. Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Regency Reference Library. 1984. vol. 12. p. 391.
4. James H Charlesworth. The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Doubleday & Company. 1983. vol. 1, p. 924.
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