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Zechariah, Jude, and the Body of Moses


From David Baron’s commentary on Zechariah, an interesting note concerning the book of Jude: its reference to the body of Moses, and reference to Zechariah 3.

My only previous acquaintance with Jude’s mention of Michael and the devil arguing over the body of Moses (Jude 9), was a passing comment from an online Bible teacher  who noted this passage as possible support for Moses being one of the two witnesses in Revelation 11 (uncertainty concerning whether Moses actually physically died).  But for more in-depth consideration, David Baron addresses Jude 9, its possible meaning and reference to Zechariah 3:1-2:

And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of Jehovah, and Satan standing at his right hand to be his adversary. And Jehovah said unto Satan, Jehovah rebuke thee, O Satan; yea, Jehovah that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee : is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?

Some of the church fathers, including Origen, state that the quotation in Jude is from an apocryphal book, the title of which is “The Ascension,” or “Assumption of Moses.” Yet Baron observes that no such account is to be found in our partial fragments of these works, or any indication that such exists in the parts of the book that are missing, that we no longer have.  Here it is possible that the early writers were thinking of other legendary accounts of contests between Moses himself and the Angel of Death, whom he put to flight when he came to take his soul by striking him with his rod, on which the ineffable name Jehovah was inscribed. In the end (so one legend proceeds) “God Himself, accompanied by Gabriel, Michael, and Zagziel (the former teacher of Moses), descended to take Moses soul.  Gabriel arranged the couch, Michael spread a silken cover over it, and Zagziel put a silken pillow under Moses head. At God s command Moses crossed his hands over his breast and closed his eyes, and God took his soul away with a kiss.”

Another way to understand “the body of Moses,” though, is an allegorical sense — contrasting “the body of Christ” (that is, the Church, the New Testament age believers) with “the body of Moses” (unbelieving Jews).  Support for this view includes the point that by the time Jude was writing, the Jewish church had become quite antagonistic and hostile to the Church of Christ and heavily focused on Moses as its teacher, “a claim which might well be admitted as true in the most real sense of the Jewish Church in the days of Zechariah (C. H. H. Wright).”

Whether the “body of Moses” in Jude is to be taken allegorically or not, David Baron emphasizes that Jude certainly had the passage of Zechariah in mind:

1) the use of the formula ‘The Lord rebuke thee’

2) Jude 23:  “pulling out of the fire” — reference “the brand plucked from the fire” (Zechariah 3:2)

3) “the garment stained by the flesh” — reference the “filthy garments” in which Joshua is first seen.

For further consideration of this question — sources cited by David Baron: 

Dr. C. H. H. Wright, Zechariah and his Prophecies; and Dean (Henry) Alford’s commentary note on the passage in Jude.

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