Assumption of Moses

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The Assumption of Moses is a Jewish pseudepigraphical text which describes prophecies made by Moses and given to Joshua. No major denominations of Judaism accept any part of the text as canon.

The manuscript has no title, but it is most commonly referred to as the "Assumption of Moses." This is a misnomer, however, as Moses dies a normal death according to the Torah. The book is also sometimes referred to as the "Ascension of Moses," which is also incorrect. Occasionally, it is referred to by a more accurate title, the "Testament of Moses," as the work describes his final testament to Joshua.

The author of the Epistle of Jude seems to have alluded to the Assumption of Moses, which helped to weaken the epistle's status as canon.

Personal

I read the R. H. Charles translation on 2021-01-07 to better familiarize myself with the Jewish apocrypha and to see if I could understand why the author of the Epistle of Jude would have mentioned it.

Status

This book is in the public domain. I do not own a physical copy, but I have read it.

Authorship and Dating

The author doesn't identify himself, so it's an anonymous work, but it does purport to record a final dialogue between Moses and Joshua just before Moses's death. No historians, or even any major Jewish sects, accept the work as a genuine recording of Moses.

If the book were genuine, it would have to be at least 3,500 years old, but scholars assign it a date of no older than 1-100 CE based on the events it describes.

There are no original manuscripts in existence and the only surviving copy is dated to around 500-600 CE. It is an incomplete manuscript written in Latin, probably translated from Koine Greek (due to the occurrence of Greek idioms appearing literally), and scholars assume that it would have been originally written in a Semitic language like Hebrew.

Content

The book begins with Moses "predicting" what will happen to the Jews after the exodus up until the destruction of the temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem and the reign of Herod the Great and his children. Next is some apocalyptic writing which is too fragmented to really understand. Then, it "predicts" the persecution of the Jews, includes a hymn about Yahweh rising up to slay all their enemies, and there is a fable about a Jew who would rather kill himself and his children than leave his religion. Before the text is cut off, Moses tells Joshua not to be afraid of the impending terrible events. The remaining text is lost.

One interesting thing about the book is that it references Gehenna, something that only appears in New Testament books, although, I assume this was originally written in Hebrew as "sheol."

Review

Good

  • There is something nice that can be gleaned from the fable of Taxo. Although the book describes him something akin to leading a death cult where he's willing to kill himself and all his children rather than convert to another religion, there is something romantic about the idea of believing in an idea so strongly you're willing to die for it.

Bad

  • Jewish literature is lousy with self-hate, and this book is too. The "prophecy" says that Jews will be horribly persecuted, but that they'll deserve it because they're not pious enough.
  • It's clear the author lacked an understanding of cosmology. The hymn in chapter 10 suggests the sun has horns that can be broken off, the moon gives light and can be turned entirely to blood, and that the stars are on a celestial dome.
  • In the book, Moses says that Yahweh has a signet ring on his right hand. Seems a bit garish!

Ugly

  • Like many so-called books of prophecy, the prophecy found within is nothing more than a re-telling of history presented as thought the person writing it knew what was going to happen beforehand. In short, it's all lies.
  • Like many other Jewish prophecies, this one has its share of murder porn. The author depicts Yahweh violently slaying all the enemies of Jews. However, unlike many other books, this author gives a fairly specific date for when Yahweh will murder the gentiles. Spoiler alert, it didn't happen.

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