(Jude 9, 14-15) Why does Jude quote the Assumption of Moses (v.9) and the Book of Enoch (v.14-15)?

CLAIM: Jude cites from both the Assumption of Moses (v.9) and the Book of Enoch (v.14-15). Neither of these books are canonical (inspired Scripture); they are pseudepigraphic (uninspired books outside the Bible). Critics argue that either Jude believed these books were Scripture, or the book of Jude is not Scripture itself.

RESPONSE: A number of points can be made.

First, the NT repeatedly quotes non-biblical sources as truthful. Paul quoted Cleanthes and Aratus (Acts 17:28) and Menander (1 Cor. 15:33). He affirmed the statement of Epimenides, writing that his “testimony is true” (Titus 1:12-13). The non-believing Caiaphas makes a correct prediction about Christ’s death (Jn. 11:49-53). Paul refers to “Jannes and Jambres,” which were magicians, who were not mentioned anywhere else in the OT (2 Tim. 3:8). He also quoted words of Jesus, which were not contained in the four gospels (Acts 20:35). This shows that some non-canonical sources can contain truth in them.

Critics state that this isn’t comparable, because Jude records that “Enoch… prophesied” (Jude 14). This, they argue, speaks to inspiration. But this can hardly be true. After all, Paul himself called one of the Cretans a “prophet” (Titus 1:12), and John records that the unbelieving Caiaphas “prophesied” as well (Jn. 11:51).

Second, the OT repeatedly quotes non-biblical sources as truthful. For instance, the OT refers to the “Book of the Wars of the Lord” (Num. 21:14), the “Book of Jasher” (Josh. 10:13; 2 Sam. 1:18), the “Acts of Solomon” (1 Kings 11:41), and the “Annals of King David” (1 Chron. 27:24). The Jews obviously had canonical books (which were inspired), and they had historical books (which were uninspired). However, these books still contained some truth. Pagan prophets sometimes speak truth (Num. 24:17). At one point, God even speaks truth through a donkey (Num. 22:28)! Truth is truth—no matter where it is found.

Third, Jude does not assert that these books are inspired Scripture—simply uninspired truth. Jude does not say that the entire book is true, but a part of the book is true. This would be similar to a modern day preacher citing a line from an atheistic scientist or philosopher. While the atheist’s book is not entirely true, it does contain true statements. Jude’s argument does not hang on these apocryphal passages; instead, we could back up everything that is written elsewhere in the OT.

Fourth, Jude does not quote these books verbatim—but adapts these verses. We should note that Jude adapts these citations at certain points to correct them with the Bible’s teaching. He doesn’t quote them wholesale.

Fifth, most likely, Jude’s audience (or enemies) were citing these books. Jude probably chose these works, because his opponents were using them. In a sense, he is saying, “Even my opponents would agree with these statements about Satan’s power (v.9) and the judgment of God (v.14).” J.D. Charles paraphrases Jude, when he writes, “For even (your own) Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying… Seen as such, vv. 14-15 would be not so much a citation of 1 Enoch due to Jude’s elevation of the work, as it would be an allusion adapted for Jude’s theological and literary end, an allusion which bears authority due to others’ high regard for Enoch.”[1] Charles bases this paraphrase on the opening word of verse 14 as being translated “even” (kai), rather than “also” (NASB, ESV) or “now” (NET). This is also the view of Norman Hillyer,[2] Douglas Moo,[3] and Michael Green.[4]

Let’s look at each passage.

“Assumption of Moses” (Jude 9)

Jude writes:

(Jude 9) But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’”

Small portions of the Assumption of Moses still exist today, but Jude was quoting from a portion that is now lost. Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Didymus of Alexandra all claimed that Jude is referring to the Assumption of Moses.

The OT explains that God buried Moses in the land of Moab, “but no man knows his burial place to this day” (Deut. 34:5-6). Moses was buried, but he shows up bodily at the Mount of Transfiguration (Mt. 9:1-8; Mt. 17:1-8; Lk. 9:28-36). Elijah appeared bodily at the Transfiguration, and his body was taken directly to heaven, too (2 Kings 2:11). If Moses’ body was taken to heaven (Jude 9), then this would make sense of him showing up with Jesus at the Transfiguration.

The notion of deferring a rebuke to the Lord is not unique to the Assumption of Moses. This concept is found in Zechariah 3:1-2: “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2 The LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” Jude’s point is this: If a powerful archangel like Michael didn’t rebuke Satan, then neither should you!

“1 Enoch” (Jude 14-15)

Compare Jude with 1 Enoch:

(Jude 14-15a) It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, 15 to execute judgment upon all.

(1 Enoch 1:9) Behold, [God] shall arrive with ten million of the holy ones in order to execute judgment upon all. He will destroy the wicked ones and censure all flesh on account of everything that they have done, that which the sinners and the wicked ones committed against him.

A few observations can be made:

First, Jude corrects the apocryphal text. Jude does not state that there are “ten million” holy ones coming with God—like 1 Enoch states. Instead, he writes that “many thousands” come with him. He probably took this from Deuteronomy 33:2, which states that God came with “ten thousand holy ones.” He corrects the portion of 1 Enoch that is not accurate in favor of the biblical text.

Second, Jude’s citation can be found in OT. Jude’s words about the coming judgment of God can be taken from canonical OT books. Everything that 1 Enoch states can be supported in canonical Scripture:

“For behold, the LORD will come in fire And His chariots like the whirlwind, To render His anger with fury, And His rebuke with flames of fire. 16 For the LORD will execute judgment by fire And by His sword on all flesh, And those slain by the LORD will be many” (Is. 66:15-16).

“Behold, the Lord GOD will come with might, With His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him And His recompense before Him” (Is. 40:10).

“You will flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him!” (Zech. 14:5).

“He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints” (1 Thess. 3:13).

“He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (Mt. 24:31).

Third, Jude probably cites Enoch, because his enemies were using this book. If his enemies were citing 1 Enoch, Jude may be using their own book against them. This would be like a Christian apologist citing an atheistic author in a debate against an atheist. Instead of citing Scripture, Jude could be using their apocryphal book against them.

[1] Emphasis his. J.D. Charles, “Jude’s Use of Pseudepigraphical Source-Material as Part of a Literary Strategy.” New Testament Studies 37: 144.

[2] Norman Hillyer, 1 and 2 Peter, Jude. New International Biblical Commentary (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1992), p.257.

[3] Douglas Moo, 2 Peter and Jude. NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), pp.272-274.

[4] Michael Green, The Second Epistle General of Peter and the General Epistle of Jude (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Leicester, UK: Inter-Varsity/ Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), pp.192-193.