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Here is an answer from the book “Wrested Scripture” by Ron Abel. I hope you will find it useful.
"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."
This verse is cited to prove that the devil is a personal superhuman being.
- It is generally taught that the devil is concerned with souls or humans, but this devil is concerned with the body of Moses. Why should the devil want custody of a corpse?
- It is sometimes argued that the devil wished to lead Israel into idolatry through veneration of the body of Moses, but this conjecture must be rejected for lack of Scriptural support. It is also argued that Jude alludes to an apocryphal writing "The Assumption of Moses"1 but there is no certain evidence that Jude wrote his epistle later than the apocryphal work.2 Some critics suggest that Jude refers to the "Targum of Jonathan" but this work makes no reference to the devil or to any contention concerning the body of Moses.
- There are two lines of evidence which indicate that the devil of this passage is human and not superhuman. Jude and 2 Peter have so many similarities that Jude 8, 9 can be read as an amplification2 of 2 Peter 2:10, 11, 12. It is clear that the description in Peter's account is about humans, therefore the same must be true of the parallel account in Jude. (See footnote 2a, and cf. Jude 16, 19.)
- The second line of reasoning seeks to show that "the body of Moses" is Joshua the High Priest in the time of Ezra and Zechariah, and that the devil is the group of disaffected priests debarred from priestly office. It is evident that Jude quotes Zech. 3:2 from the following similarities:
|An angel of the Lord
||Michael the archangel
|The LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee
||The Lord rebuke thee
|a brand plucked out of the fire
||Pulling them out of the fire (vs. 23)
- The children of the priests were debarred from priestly office because they were unable to provide proof of descent. (Ezra 2:62). It can be inferred that this disaffected group was the devil. The priests would likely turn on Joshua. "Then what of you as High Priest? Where is your priestly attire?" (No doubt lost during the Babylonian captivity). Hence the angel's remark: "Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment." (Zech. 3:4). Jude alludes to this event in attacking the would be corrupters of the Faith.
- The "body of Moses" likely refers to Joshua the High Priest. The Greek word "soma" can be translated "slave" as it is in Rev. 18:13. Compare Heb. 10:5 with Psa. 40:6 where the allusion is to the binding of slaves to their masters by the piercing of the ear. (Exod. 21:2-6); also Rom. 6:6 where "body of sin" means "slave of sin". Joshua the High Priest was Moses' servant (slave) in a figure, since he served the law which Moses gave.
- The text extant as quoted by early "Christian" writers reads as follows: "Moses having died in the mount, the archangel Michael is sent removing the body. The devil therefore, wishing to cheat him, withstood him saying, 'The body is mine as lord of all material things' or because of his slaying of the Egyptian blaspheming against the holy man and proclaiming him a murderer. The angel, not enduring this blasphemy against the holy one, said to the devil, 'God rebuke thee!'" H.W., "The Apocryphal Associations of the Epistle of Jude", The Testimony Magazine, (June 1964), Vol. 34, No. 402, p. 188, 189.
- There are further reasons for rejecting the claim that Jude quotes from "The Assumption of Moses". These are as follows:
- Nearly every verse in Jude has its counterpart in 2 Peter. (It can be inferred that Jude wrote after Peter since Jude 17, 18 is taken from 2 Peter 3:2, 3.) Peter's equivalent phrase to "the devil" in Jude's account is "railing accusation against them" (2 Peter 2:11), thereby indicating that the "devil" in Jude's account is plural, and not singular, as it is in "The Assumption of Moses".
- The contention alluded to by Peter is "before the lord" (2 Peter 2:11), whereas "The Assumption of Moses" locates it on top of the mountain where Moses died.
- If Jude were alluding to the apocryphal work, then this argument would be pointless. How is the self-restraint of a mighty angel in refraining from rebuking a superhuman devil a reason why a "servant of Jesus Christ" should "earnestly content for the faith once delivered unto the saints"? (Jude 3).
If you want to come to grips with what the Bible really teaches, why not take the free online Bible study course available on our website,www.thisisyourbible.com? This course will give you a background in the major themes of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. As with everything we offer, there is no cost to you other than your time and effort. You will also have a personal tutor to whom you may pose questions either from the course itself or those questions which come to you as you read the Bible.