Questions from the Grab Bag 2019 #2

B., in Shreveport, asks:

Jude 1:9 talks about the Devil and Moses’s body but I can’t find that in the Old Testament. What gives?

Mark Riser – Apologist responds: That is an interesting question, B. Let’s look at what the half-brother of Jesus, Jude, wrote. “Yet Michael the archangel, when he was disputing with the Devil about Moses’ body, did not bring an abusive condemnation against him but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” (Jude 1:9, HCSB). You won’t find that in the Hebrew Scriptures, but Jude is making a reference to another work. That work was a first-century called The Assumption of Moses. There is only one manuscript, a Latin translation dated around four hundred years after the original was written. The Assumption of Moses is known as a pseudepigraphical work. These are works written which take the name of a famous figure from Jewish history but were composed after those individuals were dead. The book purports to contain secret prophecies told to Joshua by Moses. Although it was never considered as part of the biblical canon, this book was mentioned by several early church fathers.

In the context, Jude is writing to the church about teachers which had infiltrated the congregations and were abusing the church with false teaching about money and sex (does that sound familiar?). Jude tells the church to contend for the faith in verse 3 because of these people. The reference to Moses is the fourth example cited by Jude of rebellion against God’s authority, commands, and messengers. What more stern a rebuke could there be than, “The Lord rebuke you!”? Satan and those false teacher, though they will lead some astray, will face God’s judgement and wrath for their sinful rebellion.

The use of a pseudepigraphical quotation in the Bible may seem strange to us. However, how many times have we heard the story of George Washington chopping down the cherry tree? The story is meant to convey the virtue of honesty. But, we know the story is false. It was concocted after the death of our first president. It is merely an illustration. Likewise, the story of Michael and the Devil is an illustration that Jude’s readers would have known about and made sense to them. Once we know the background, it can make sense to us as well.

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