The Agora
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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 rebuke thee'."

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 Moses.

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).

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