Proving the Assumption of Mary: Part Two, The Assumption of Moses

In part one of this series, we saw the descriptions of Enoch and Elijah's assumptions in both the New and the Old Testaments. 

Elijah's Assumption into Heaven is confirmed in the New Testament at the Transfiguration, where we see Moses and Elijah with Christ in Heaven. The story of Elijah's assumption into Heaven riding on a fiery chariot (2 Kings 2) is well-known, but what about Moses' assumption?




But wait! How can it be that Moses was assumed, if Scripture tells us that he was buried? Moses' burial is described at Deuteronomy 34:5-6:

So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord, and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-pe′or; but no man knows the place of his burial to this day.

Wait, he was buried, but "no man knows" where? That's a curious statement. The same Israelites who kept the bones of the Patriarch Joseph for hundreds of years and then carried them for another 40 years in the desert (see Exodus 13:19) -- they just lost Moses' bones? Not likely. 

How can Moses be buried AND in Heaven? The Epistle of St. Jude 

The Devil Rebuked (The Burial of Moses) by William Blake
There's a funny little passage in the New Testament in the Epistle of St. Jude:

But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, disputed about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” (Jude 1:9)

What's going on here? Why are St. Michael and the devil disputing over the body of Moses? What's this referring to? 

First off, the devil has a claim on Moses' body because is a murderer. This occurs at Exodus 2:11-15, where Moses kills an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave. Remember this scene?

 

The Archangel Michael, therefore, is disputing with the devil to reclaim Moses' body for Heaven. This serves, therefore, as one account of how Moses entered into Heaven. 

But that's only half of it. St. Jude is citing this episode from another source. What other source? The name of the source just happens to be ...

The Assumption of Moses, also called The Testament of Moses or The Ascension of Moses (Analepsis Moseos)

[Interestingly, St. Jude cites elsewhere from another Apocryphal work from another assumptee: Enoch]

The Assumption of Moses is a well-known ancient text. It's not part of the Jewish or Christian canons of Scripture. Instead, it's part of the Jewish Apocrypha. It includes prophesies of the events of the First Century AD. It was likely written around the First Century AD, as well. 

A complete copy of the manuscript hasn't survived to the present day, though its existence is testified to by many ancient writers including Origen. Our most complete copy of the work was found in the 1800s inside a 6th century manuscript by Antonio Ceriani in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan.

So, what does The Assumption of Moses tell us about the assumption of Moses?

As I wrote above, several ancient authors wrote about the contents of The Assumption of Moses. They describe Joshua seeing two Moseses when he was taken up: one with the angels and one honoured with burial in the valley.(1)(2)(3) 

Conclusion

On the one hand, it's clear that Moses is in Heaven from the account of the Transfiguration. On the other hand, it's clear that Moses' assumption into Heaven is an ancient tradition, known to both Jews and Christians. 

Nevertheless, we are left with a riddle. How did this all happen and what does it mean? The Mystery of the "Two Moseses" will likely remain a mystery -- as well as the ugliest pluralization ever -- until all things are unveiled. 

BUT ... It all points to something very interesting about Mary's Assumption. 




Footnotes:
(1) This opinion is shared by Origen, who asserts that in a certain uncanonical book mention is made of two Moses' being seen, one alive in the spirit, the other dead in the body. In Libr. Jesu Nave, Hom, ii. 1: "Denique et in libello quodam, licet in canone non habeatur, mysterii tamen hujus figura describitur. Refertur enim quia duo Moses videbantur, unus vivus in spiritu, alias mortuus in corpore."

(2) Evodius, a contemporary of St. Augustine, has the same gloss, derived from the same source: "When he ascended the mountain to die, the power of his body brought it to pass, that there should be one body to commit to earth, and another to be the companion of his attendant angel." Augustin. Ep. 158 (ii. p. 426, Ben.): "Quamquam et in apocryphis et in secretis ipsius Moysi, quæ, scriptura caret auctoritate, tunc cum ascenderet in montem ut moreretur, vi corporis efficitur ut aliud esset quod terræ mandaretur, aliud quod angelo comitanti sociaretur." 

(3) Another legend, traced to the same origin, recounts how at Moses' death a bright cloud so dazzled the eyes of the bystanders that they saw neither when he died nor where he was buried. Caten. in Pent. ap. Fabric. Cod. Pseud. Ephesians 5.T. ii. (p. 121.)

For more, check out this link.





18 comments:

  1. There's one problem, no one was bodily assumed until the Resurrection of Christ, the theological Tradition confirms this. The gates of heaven were closed until the Pascal Mystery had taken place. Then, we see, in Matt 27:52 that "the dead arose and appeared to many." If there was any time when an assumption of an OT saint took place it would have been then. However, we still have the problem of the dogmatic tradition, based upon Scripture, which has not proclaimed that any other saint, besides the B.V.M. has been bodily assumed into heaven. And so, the Assumptions of Enoch, Elijah, Moses and even St. Joseph (whose tomb and body were never found either) are pious speculations on which the Church has not made a declaration. It must be noted also, according to the dogmatic tradition that Mary holds a "Unique" place in this order, exalted above the thrones of Enoch, Elijah, Moses and St. Joseph, as Queen of Angels and Saints, Queen of the Universe.

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    1. Thanks for your comment! I definitely agree - Mary is not just one among other "assumptees"; she was assumed AND crowned. However, the bodily assumption of Elijah is explicit enough in Scripture (2 Kings 2) to establish the exception to the rule. All of these assumptions into Heaven, though preceding the Resurrection of Christ chronologically, are nevertheless held to be consequences of it, i.e. the first-fruits of the resurrection.

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    2. One difference is that Enoch ["By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God had taken him."] and Elijah did not die, and are traditionally believed to be in a "Heaven" that is NOT the Beatific Vision, but some sort of Earthly Paradise like the Garden of Eden. In fact, it is speculated that the "Two Witnesses" of Revelation are Enoch and Elijah.

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    3. I really appreciate your comment, Howard! It is an interesting topic: how far into Heaven were Enoch and Elijah allowed? Appearing as he did alongside Jesus at the Transfiguration, it appears that Elijah is witness to some sort of theophany, if not the Beatific Vision, itself. I think we need to keep in mind that the assumptions (or translations) of Elijah et al. were exceptional. God gives the normative path to Heaven through Christ's Resurrection, but He is nevertheless free to act outside of His order.

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    4. For Unknown Commenter: If as the Gospel says [Some] arose after the Resurrection and appeared to many" it would be strange were they to have to die again. Yes, Lazarus did die twice, OK. When Moses appeared at the Transfiguration, he appeared with an assumed body, like the angel Raphael did in Tobias. Perhaps, he was one of those who arose after Christ rose. But the Gospel say that these were in Jerusalem. Certainly Saint Joseph was among them. Again, this is all opinion. There are traditions that Saint John rose after his death in 100. And others too. Elias, on the other hand, has not died yet, nor is he in the beatific vision. He is with Henoch in what the Book of Ecclesiasticus calls Paradise, referring to his "translation."

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    5. Haha, yeah, poor Lazarus! Thanks for your comments, Brian!

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  2. First how did the apostles recognize Moses by a painting or a photo? But in revelations we are told that Mary fled into the desert before adam was born so she did not inherit originals sin. We like her are born immaculate but we inherited adam's sin quickly. the old statement says Swindon (Created) wisdom played with souls of men as God created the world so there were others
    created by God's paternal thoughts before Adam. I could go on in the same vein St Gertrude was told to pray when she enquired how should pry for those you asked me tp pray for? Jesus said, "Pray that all that was in my mind when I created them comes to pass".

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    1. Thanks for adding your thoughts, Mike! That's an interesting question - how did they recognize Moses? Art of the Transfiguration and Moses provide us with some insights. For example, Moses is often depicted with the stone tablets in paintings of the Transfiguration. Also, Moses' face was shining following his descent from Sinai. At the Transfiguration, surely his face was shining again? Also, Michelangelo depicted Moses with horns, haha! That would have been a pretty recognizable feature for Peter and the witnesses to the Transfiguration!

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    2. Michelangelo depicted Moses with horns due to a Latin mistranslation of the verses talking about his radiant face.

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  3. Moses was not assumed. God had his angels bury the body of Moses so the idolatry prone Israelites would not worship the body. His appearance at the Transfiguration was spiritual.

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    1. Are you saying, then, that St. Michael lost his battle with Satan over the body of Moses, cf. Jude 1:9? I'm betting on St. Michael on this one!

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    2. No, no. Saint Michael won of course. Satan wanted the body of Moses so to lure the Israelites into worshipping Moses. Michael said no and hid the body from the devil: "The Lord wills it!"

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  4. Moses' "horns" depicted in art mean to signify his divine illumination on Mt. Sinai...

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  5. Who can prove from the literal sense of Scripture (in the account of the Transfiguration) that Sts. Peter, John and James were seeing Moses and Elijah in resurrected bodily form or apparitional form? It's impossible. There are no examples you can give to show this either from OT or NT. In Gen 18 the three "Angels" whom are called "Lord" by Abraham "appear" to have bodily form, but, Angels do not have bodies, but only can appear in bodily form (see St. Thomas Aquinas tract on Angels in the Summa Theologiae).

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    1. That's why the verse from Jude, depicting Saint Michael wresting control of Moses' body from the devil, is so important. It serves as proof of the bodily assumption of Moses. Not only that, the Jewish text which St. Jude is citing, entitled the Assumption (or Ascension) of Moses, is further proof of this tradition. There's also the typological correlation that both Moses and the Ark were assumed into Heaven, just as the New Moses and the New Ark, Jesus and Mary, were both assumed/ascended into Heaven.

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    2. Interesting Scott. Without citing a particular authority (there must be some) I was of the opinion that Michael HID the body of Moses, at least until after the resurrection of Christ. After that, his body was assumed. As far as the Book cited by Saint Jude, are you saying that this book has the ark of the covenant being "assumed"? This makes no sense, as the figures (even the ark) were fulfilled in Christ. He is the Lawgiver, the Bread of Life, and the Eternal Priest, which the The Ten Tablets, the Manna, the rod of AAron prefigured in type. Why would the shadow by "assumed"? There is no Real Presence in the ark. It was a figure, that has been superceded by the Reality. In Apocalypse the ark of the Testament is Jesus: "And the temple of God was opened in heaven: and the ark of his testament was seen in his temple, and there were lightnings, and voices, and an earthquake, and great hail. (ii:19). This is all symbolic as there is no physical "temple" in heaven. It was man-made and destroyed in 70 AD. There are no figures in heaven; how could there be? Yes, the Lamb is seen by Saint John, but to symbolize the resurrected Christ with His glorious wounds, appearing thus "as it were slain."

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    3. Thanks for your reply! There are some proofs of Moses' bodily assumption, through the intervention of St. Michael, apart from the reference in Jude. (1) Moses appeared alongside Elijah at the Transfiguration, which shows that Moses is wherever Elijah is, which is some sort of heavenly reality. (2) The appearance of Moses is not distinguished from that of Elijah, who we know was assumed bodily. (3) There's no distinction made in Scripture, at least that I'm aware of, that distinguishes between the various of assumptions as being bodily or non-bodily; therefore, all assumptions would be alike, i.e. like Elijah's.

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    4. I wanted to answer you separately about the assumption of the Ark. We know the Ark was assumed into Heaven because it actually appears in Heaven at Revelation 11 (and is then described as a woman in Revelation 12), just as Moses and Elijah do at the Transfiguration. The typological purpose for the double assumption of (the shadows) Moses and the Ark is the double assumption of the New Moses and the New Ark, Jesus and Mary. Does that make sense?

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