Devil and the body of Moses, the
Here is an illustration -- Biblical or non-Biblical? -- to
expose the evil men against whom Jude writes. Michael the archangel, in
disputation with the devil about the body of Moses, is content to leave the
issue in God's hands: "The Lord rebuke thee".
The parallel passage in Peter runs thus: "Presumptuous are
they, not afraid to speak evil of dignities (glories); whereas angels which are
greater (than they?) in power and might, bring not railing accusation against
them before the Lord" (2Pe 2:10,11).
The modernists have a field day here. Without any evidence (in
fact, against the evidence, as will be seen by and by), they assume that an
apocryphal work, 'The Assumption of Moses', was already in existence and that
Jude was alluding to it in this place.
What are the facts about this mysterious writing? All that is
known definitely about it is that a few short quotations are made from it by
some of the early fathers and that one or two of them (Origen, Clement of
Alexandria) assert that Jud 1:9 quotes or alludes to it. This piece about the
body of Moses is not included in any of the known quotes, but a marginal
addition to a Jude manuscript has come to light which is probably from 'The
Assumption of Moses', and it reads thus: "When Moses had died on the mountain,
the archangel Michael was sent to transfer the body. But the devil resisted,
wanting to cheat, saying that the body was his as master of the material (man),
at any rate because he (Moses) had killed the Egyptian (Exo 2:12), having
blasphemed against the holy man and having proclaimed him a murderer. The angel,
not bringing the blasphemy against the holy man, said to the devil: 'The Lord
There is a common assumption by the critics that the
Assumption of Moses precedes Jude and is quoted by him. Yet the evidence points
to the opposite conclusion, for Peter states that this encounter between angel
and "devil" took place "before the Lord", but in the quote just given "the
archangel Michael was sent" (ie from God). So it looks very much as though the
Jude passage was misunderstood by this apocryphal writer and by him was blown up
into an imaginative and theologically absurd story.
The correct and thoroughly satisfying explanation of Jud 1:9
gives the coup de grace to any idea of dependence on The Assumption of
An unmistakable clue as to the meaning is given in the words:
"The Lord rebuke thee", which are a straight quote from Zec 3:2: "And he shewed
me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan
standing at his right hand to resist him. And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord
rebuke thee, O Satan... is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Now Joshua
was clothed with filthy garments..." (vv 1-3).
The background to this prophecy is the attempt on the part of
some who returned from Babylon to get themselves included in the priesthood of
the new temple (Ezr 2:61-63). Lack of unimpeachable genealogy led to their
exclusion "until there stood up a priest with Urim and Thummim" to give a firm
divine decision. Evidently, in reaction from this, the men so excluded retorted
against Joshua that by the same token he was disqualified from being high
priest. Where were his true high priestly robes?
In the Zechariah vision, these grumblers are the Satan. Joshua
is vindicated not by the Lord's angel, who himself is content to await divine
decision, but by Yahweh Himself. Joshua is given new robes, and there is set
before him (in the breastplate -- so the Hebrew text implies) the stone of
decision belonging to the Urim and Thummim (v 9).