The Missouri Baptist Convention has published a new resource called The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith. The 275-page book is available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon, and in print from the MBC. But we also want to make each of the 16 chapters available online. This post features the last portion of Chapter 9: Where Does Jude Get This Story?
Yet Michael the archangel, when he was disputing with the Devil in a debate about Moses’ body, did not dare bring an abusive condemnation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 9 HCSB)
The death of Moses is recorded in Deut. 34:1-7, but there is no mention in this passage of Michael and Satan disputing about Moses’ body. There are many Jewish traditions about the death of Moses, but we should always approach non-biblical embellishments with caution.
In Jude’s day, however, there is an apocryphal writing called The Assumption of Moses that records a conflict between Michael and Satan. According to this account, Satan argues over the body of Moses because Moses has killed an Egyptian overseer (Ex. 2:11-12). Satan evidently argues his right to the body because Moses is a murderer.
We should not assume that Jude has erred in quoting from an apocryphal book, nor should we declare The Assumption of Moses divinely inspired because Jude quotes from it. It may help to remember that Paul cites Greek poets and sayings without suggesting their work is authoritative (Acts 17:28; 1 Cor. 15:33; Titus 1:12).
“Jude did not intend to put a canonical stamp on Assumption of Moses simply because he cited it,” writes Thomas Schreiner. “He viewed this story as true or helpful, or he believed it was an illustration of the truth he desired to teach.”