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What Is the Assumption of Moses?

Does this mean that the Assumption of Moses has biblical importance? What do we know about this book? And why does it matter that we know about the contents and existence of the Assumption of Moses?

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Published Apr 15, 2020
What Is the Assumption of Moses?

Moses was not assuming anything in this pseudepigraphical book, referenced by church father Origen in the third century AD. Also known as the Testament of Moses, this book, written under a false name, supposedly has prophecies that were related to Moses and Joshua. However, some have conjectured that the Testament of Moses and the Assumption of Moses are separate works.

Now, we only have a poor translation that dates to the sixth-century AD and does not contain large portions of the original text.

The Bible does contain references to non-biblical books throughout Scripture. For instance, The Book of Gad, the Book of Judgment, etc. And it appears that the Assumption of Moses gets a shout out in a New Testament book known as Jude (Jude 1:9).

Does this mean that the Assumption of Moses has biblical importance? What do we know about this book? And why does it matter that we know about the contents and existence of the Assumption of Moses?

Why Does the Bible Include Non-Biblical Books as References?

I remember, back when I did a number of book reviews for ECLA, that one book I had reviewed contained a poem by an Islamic poet. This book was a Christian devotional, and the poem was simply placed underneath a chapter heading, to segue the readers into a certain topic, but many reviewers bashed the author for using a non-Christian poem in the book.

If an author of a devotional cannot use other references, why do we see these in Scripture? Does that mean that the Bible is endorsing non-Christian sources?

Not necessarily. We do have to keep in mind that referencing other sources shows that other eyewitnesses also saw the same events in which the author is describing. This explains why Luke did meticulous research for Luke and Acts, to show that outside resources also witnessed the same miracles and extraordinary circumstances.

So, Jude does not necessarily endorse the Assumption of Moses, but he does make mention of it.

What Do We Know about the Assumption of Moses?

Because we have only one mediocre copy, from the sixth-century AD, we don’t know as much as we would like. However, from what we can read of the remaining text, this is what we do know:

We have the Latin translation, discovered in the 19th century, but have surmised the original contained Greek. We also do know that Moses certainly did not write this work. It belongs to a body of text known as the pseudepigrapha. Pseudepigraphal works come from authors who went under a false pen name (such as Thomas, Mary, Moses, etc.), to ease readers into false doctrines and prophecies without arousing suspicion.

The book attacks the Hasmonean Dynasty, which came out of the Maccabean revolt. This kingdom lasted for 80 years after the Jews had thrown off the oppressive rule of Antiochus Epiphanes IV. Most likely, because of the negative view of the dynasty, a writer of a Jewish sect known as the Essenes likely penned the book.

The Assumption of Moses also contains a number of “prophecies” given to Moses and Joshua that foreshadow Babylon, the Hasmoneans, and even possibly Herod the Great. But considering when the authors wrote this, most of the “prophecies” would have already happened.

Why Does the Assumption of Moses Matter?

At first glance, it may seem like a topic we can simply throw to the curb. After all, we only have fragments of the original, it came from a false author, and many of the so-called prophecies had happened by the time they’d written the book. Doesn’t that discount the book completely?

Not necessarily. First, we do have to realize that a biblical writer, Jude, does give a nod to this book. That meant that Jude’s audience would’ve seen cultural value in the book.

Second, the book can give us insights into the Essene’s take on the Maccabean revolt and the events that took place thereafter. Because we don’t know a whole lot about the Essenes, we can peer through a historical lens by reading this book.

And lastly, like any work of the pseudepigrapha, the Assumption of Moses reminds us about the need for discernment.

Many false prophets and false teachers will try to sway us, and the world, away from the truth of Scripture (Matthew 24:24). Now, more than ever, we need to know what Scripture says and weigh what these teachers say against it. If they come up short, we should pay no heed to their teachings.

©Pixabay/jeffjacobs1990


Hope Bolinger is an acquisitions editor at End Game Press, book editor for hire, and the author of almost 30 books. More than 1500 of her works have been featured in various publications. Check out her books at hopebolinger.com for clean books in most genres, great for adults and kids. Check out her editing profile at Reedsy.com to find out about hiring her for your next book project.

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