Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. — Jude 9

This event is not spoken of anywhere else in the Bible, as is commonly known. Some early Christian theologians said that this story came from The Assumption of Moses, although that part does not appear in the manuscripts that we have today.

Wikipedia says,

An alternative explanation is that Jude is compounding material from three sources:

General Jewish traditions about Michael as gravedigger for the just as in the Apocalypse of Moses

Contrast with the accusation by Michael of Azazel in the Book of

Contrast with the angel of the Lord not rebuking Satan over the body of Joshua the High Priest in Zechariah 3.

This explanation has in its favour three arguments: (1) Jude quotes from both 1 Enoch 1:9 and Zechariah 3. (2) Jeshua in Zechariah 3 is dead - his grandson is serving as high priest. The change from "body of Jesus" (Greek spelling of Jeshua) to "body of Moses" would be required to avoid confusion with Jesus, and also to reflect the historical context of Zech. 3 in Nehemiah concerning intermarriage and corruption in the "body" of the priesthood. (3) The example of Zech. 3 provides an argument against the "slandering of heavenly beings", since the Angel of the Lord does not do in Zech. 3 what Michael is reported to do in 1En1.

One would also, in this interpretation, need to explain how "the angel of the LORD", who is clearly God Himself in Zechariah 3, became Michael the archangel.

Does Jude affirm that this event happened, or does he reference a well-known tradition to make a theological point, without necessarily affirming that it is historical? Is there any evidence in the text to support either position?

Thank you.

  • @curiousdannii Although the question seems like a duplicate of the one that you linked to, I do not believe that it is, because, while that question asks about which event Jude 9 is referring to, I am asking whether or not that event actually took place. God bless. – CMK Dec 17 '18 at 1:04
  • The change from "body of Jesus" (Greek spelling of Jeshua) to "body of Moses" would be required to avoid confusion with Jesus - No, quite the contrary, it wouldn't. – Lucian Dec 21 '18 at 21:21

The problem with any statement about the ancient document, "The Assumption of Moses", is, we do not have a copy unless it part of the Testament of Moses that is lost. Probably the last one third of the Testament of Moses is lost and the Assumption of Moses (it is speculated) may have been part of that; alternatively, the assumption of Moses may have been a separate document that is now lost. Therefore, what it contains is pure speculation. Nothing in the Testament of Moses speaks of such a dispute between the Devil and the archangel over the body of Moses.

Now to the other part of the question about the factual nature (or otherwise) of the material in Jude 9. Regardless of its source, whether borrowed from elsewhere or not we observe the following.

  • The material appears written in a simple matter-of-fact way using simple indicative speech forms.
  • The language does not appear highly symbolic nor apocalyptic in nature.
  • The incident in verse 9 is very brief with almost no details given.
  • If it is factual, the incident is one of the extremely rare places where events are described that involve supernatural dialogue with no human interaction.
  • Some have disputed the identity of the archangel Michael but this does not influence whether the incident is factual or not.

Given the above, I see no reason to understand anything else than a simple reading of the text that appears to record some historical events, however, fantastic they may appear to modern minds.

  • Thank you for your answer. I understand your points, but I think that one could object to the first three in the following manner: Concerning the first point, authors do this with pagan characters (I myself recall from memory reading many commentaries wherein Christian writers mention an event in pagan mythology without making it clear that the event is fictional or that it comes from a pagan myth). Secondly, the language does not seem symbolic if it is assumef that the story is true, but if it is fictional and used to make a point, then the language might be understood to be symbolic. – CMK Dec 17 '18 at 12:48
  • Finally, the account would be brief with almost no details given if it was a well-known tradition, which early Christian theologians affirm. We might do the same thing with Robin Hood, for example, today. – CMK Dec 17 '18 at 12:54

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