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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Are Some Books Missing from the Old Testament?

Don Stewart :: Does the New Testament Quote as Scripture Writings That Are Not Presently in the Bible?

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Question 11

Does the New Testament Quote as Scripture Writings That Are Not Presently in the Bible?

There are quotations and allusions found in the New Testament from books that are neither part of the Old Testament, nor part of the Old Testament Apocrypha. They are found in the books that have been rejected as Scripture by all; the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. What are we to make of such citations? Why would the inspired writers quote these non-inspired sources? Why are they part of Holy Scripture?

To answer these questions, we need to understand how these sources are being cited by the biblical writers. We can list these citations as follows:

  • Example 1: The Story of Michael Disputing with the Devil Over Moses’ Body

    In the Book of Jude, we have recorded the story of Michael the archangel disputing with Satan over the body of Moses. Jude wrote:

    Yet Michael the archangel, when he was disputing with the Devil in a debate about Moses’ body, did not dare bring an abusive condemnation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 9 HCSB)

    While Michael the archangel is named in the Old Testament in the Book of Daniel, he is not mentioned in the books of Moses, Genesis through Deuteronomy, and thus is never associated with arguing over the body of Moses. Indeed, there is nothing in the Old Testament that says there was any dispute over Moses’ body. The Bible says that God, not Michael, buried Moses. We read the following about Moses’ burial in the Book of Deuteronomy:

    He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day. (Deuteronomy 34:6 NRSV)

    This is all that the Old Testament Scripture has to say about the burial of Moses. This being the case, where then did Jude obtain his information? Is his information credible? Does what he said contradict the Old Testament when it says God, not Michael, buried Moses’ body?

    Jude May Have Cited a Work Known as “the Assumption of Moses,” or “the Testament of Moses”

    There are a couple of possibilities as to where Jude got his information for this story. It is often suggested that Jude is citing from a lost portion of a work called, “the Testament of Moses,” or another work known as “the Assumption of Moses.” There is uncertainty as to whether these are two separate works or one work with two different names. It is possible that the Testament of Moses was originally written shortly before the time of Christ and then later rewritten with another title, “the Assumption of Moses.” It is also possible that we are dealing with two separate documents since many stories about Moses circulated during the time between the testaments. The evidence is simply unclear.

    The Testament of Moses is thought to have been written between 4 B.C. and A.D. 31. While part of this work still survives, the portion that contained the episode with Michael and the devil no longer exists. The fragment of the text that does still exist breaks off in the middle of the sentence before Moses’ death and burial is explained. However, some early Christian writers, who had the entire document intact, tell us that this episode was contained in this ancient work. The problem is that they call this work, “the Assumption of Moses.” Therefore, we are not certain that they are referring to the same document.

    From the writings of these early Christians, we can seemingly recreate the main points of the story. In reconstructing what the text may have originally said, we discover that the devil disputed with Michael over Moses’ body. The devil attempted to deprive Moses of the honor of being buried by Michael the archangel. When Moses was a young man, he had killed an Egyptian. Thus, the devil considered him to be a murderer. Therefore, the devil assumed that Moses’ body belonged to him. This led Michael the archangel to rebuke the devil, who, according to the story, was silenced by the rebuke and fled the scene. Moses was then buried in peace by Michael, the chief messenger of the Lord.

    It is possible that Jude cited from one of these written works; the Testament of Moses or the Assumption of Moses. If so, then Jude cited from a work which is not part of Holy Scripture and was never assumed by anyone to be part of the biblical text. However, Jude would be citing the truth of the statement that was contained in the work without endorsing everything written in it. This is not inconsistent with the biblical doctrine of divine inspiration. It is the final product which is guaranteed to be without error. The biblical writers were free to quote sources apart from the canonical Scripture. In doing so, the Lord protected them from recording error. Thus, we may have an example here of a writer citing a non-biblical source that contained a truthful episode. How, and where, this non-biblical source obtained this information is not known.

    Jude May Have Had Another Source for His Citation

    However, there is another way of approaching this question. The early Christians tell us that the story of Michael disputing with the Devil was contained in another written work. They however, call it “the Assumption of Moses,” rather than “the Testament of Moses.” Consequently, we do not know if these are two separate documents or one document with two names. There is not enough information to be certain. What we do know is that the only manuscript that exists of “the Testament of Moses” does not contain the story of the Devil arguing with Michael over the body of Moses. Therefore, we have no real, firsthand evidence that this work contained this story.

    Whatever the case may be, none of these Christian writers say that Jude directly quoted from any apocryphal work. All they tell us is that a certain written work contained the story in which Jude refers. This is not the same as saying that the source of Jude’s citation was this written work. None of these writers tell us where Jude got his account because nobody knows where Jude derived his information.

    Therefore, we should not necessarily assume that Jude ever saw the document known as the Testament of Moses or the Assumption of Moses. It is certainly possible that Jude and the writer of the document had some type of older source which each of them used. This ancient source could have been oral or written. We just do not know. Yet, what we do know is that Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would supernaturally protect His disciples from error.

    Jesus said the following:

    When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (John 16:13 RSV)

    This being the case, the truth of the statement is not in question. How and where Jude obtained his information is something that we cannot answer. Obviously, there had to have been some sort of special revelation to someone to tell them of this episode which happened in the unseen world of angels and the devil.

    The Account Is Not Contrary to Scripture

    Something else needs to be emphasized. There is nothing in this account in the Book of Jude which is contrary to the teaching of the rest of Scripture. The Bible says that the Lord buried Moses. The fact that He may have done it though His angelic messengers does not contradict this. Indeed, that Michael would have been one of the angels who carried out Moses’ burial is also consistent with what we know about him as well as the ministry of angels.

    The Bible says that angels are ministering spirits who do the work of the Lord. The devil seemingly wanted to claim Moses’ body for himself. It is possible that the devil did not want to allow Moses to have the dignity of a proper burial. It is also possible that the idea was to make the body of Moses into an idol to be worshipped by the people. This may explain why it was necessary to bury Moses in a secret spot where nobody would know the location. We just do not know the motives of the various participants in this episode.

    There is something else which should be noted. When Jude cited the phrase, “the Lord rebuke you,” he was citing words which were used elsewhere in Scripture to rebuke the devil. We read the following in the Book of Zechariah:

    Next I saw Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, with Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan, “May the Lord rebuke you, Satan! May the Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you!” (Zechariah 3:1-2 NET)

    Here the Lord Himself rebuked Satan by using the same phrase that we later find in the Book of Jude. Thus, the wording we find in Jude is consistent with that which is taught elsewhere in Scripture as to how to respond to the devil; it is the Lord who rebukes him.

    Therefore, we find that Jude says Michael the archangel thwarted the devil by using the phrase, “The Lord rebuke you.” Michael, one of the leading angels, found it necessary to rebuke the devil using the authority of the Lord, not his own authority. The lesson for believers is obvious. If Michael had to rebuff Satan by appealing to the authority of the Lord, how much more is it necessary for us to do this? This is the point of the citation. Again, we emphasize that this story is consistent with the rest of the teaching of Scripture. Therefore, we should accept it as true though we may not know where Jude derived his information.

  • Example 2: Jude Seemingly Quotes from the Book of Enoch

    There is a second instance in the Book of Jude where we have a possible citing of a non-biblical written source. Jude quoted the patriarch Enoch in writing about the return of Jesus Christ. He said:

    Now Enoch, the seventh in descent, beginning with Adam, even prophesied of them, saying, “Look! The Lord is coming with thousands and thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all, and to convict every person of all their thoroughly ungodly deeds that they have committed, and of all the harsh words that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (Jude 14,15 NET)

    This seems to be a citation from the Book of Enoch. Yet, the Book of Enoch was not actually authored by the biblical character Enoch, but is actually a forgery. Why would Jude, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, quote from a work that is a forgery?

    It Is Possible They Each Cited an Older Source

    There are several ways in which this problem can be addressed. First, it is possible that Jude is not citing from the Book of Enoch, but rather from a common source that he, as well as the writer of the Book of Enoch, had access. Indeed, some have argued that the quotation is similar but not the same as found in the Book of Enoch. There are some minor differences between the two statements.

    Jude Cited One Correct Statement Without Endorsing the Entire Book

    Even if Jude is citing from the Book of Enoch, he is not treating the entire writing as divinely inspired, or for that matter, even true. All he is doing is citing one statement from this work. Thus, what we have is Jude citing a truthful statement in a written work which contains truth mixed with error. There is nothing in his citation that indicates Jude believed the Book of Enoch to be divinely inspired.

    Again, whatever the source of Jude’s quotation, he was protected from error by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we can be confident that Enoch the patriarch actually made such a prediction.

    There is one last point we should mention. Jude says Enoch prophesied about the coming of the Lord. This verb, to prophesy, is used some twenty-eight times in the New Testament. However, on only two occasions, Mark 7:6 and First Peter 1:10, does it refer to predictions found in the Old Testament canon. All of the other references are to prophetic utterances which did not find their way into the canon of Scripture. To the New Testament writers, prophesying was not limited to canonical Scripture. There were valid prophetic utterances made which were not recorded in the Scripture. Therefore, it is consistent with the rest of the Bible that Enoch could make a valid prophetic utterance, which was not part of canonical Scripture, but could still be true.

  • Example 3: Paul Cites the Names of Pharaoh’s Sorcerers

    When Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy, he mentioned the names of the two men who opposed Moses. He said the following:

    And just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these people?who have warped minds and are disqualified in the faith?also oppose the truth. (2 Timothy 3:8 NET)

    “Opposing Moses” seems to refer to the magicians of Pharaoh who opposed Moses when he performed miracles in the presence of the leader of Egypt. Paul says their names were Jannes and Jambres. When Moses and Aaron delivered God’s message that Israel was to be allowed to leave Egypt to worship God in the wilderness, the Pharaoh refused. Moses then performed a number of miracles in front of Pharaoh. We are then told that Pharaoh summoned his own miracle workers. The Bible says:

    Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts. (Exodus 7:11 NIV)

    The names of these men are not recorded in the Old Testament, yet Paul mentions them when writing to Timothy. How then did Paul know the names of these magicians of Pharaoh? Where did he derive his information?

    There are a couple of possibilities. These names could have been handed down as part of Jewish oral tradition. At the time of Paul, there was a large body of oral tradition which had been handed down by the Jewish people. His information could have come from this tradition.

    It is also possible that Paul had some written source which mentioned these names. The names of these two men are mentioned in a number of ancient sources, though the spelling of their names vary. In the Targum of Jonathan, an early Jewish work which comments on various portions of the Hebrew Scripture, they are named as the men who opposed Moses.

    The early church Father Origen mentions a book titled Jamnes et Mambres. This book may have been composed before the time of Christ and could have been the source of the names which Paul used. A pagan writer, Pliny the Elder, who lived in the first century A.D., knew the name Jamnes as one of the magicians of Pharaoh.

    Therefore, Paul, in mentioning these names, shows that he is familiar with the current Jewish tradition about the identity of the individuals who opposed Moses before Pharaoh. However, the source in which he used, which contained these names, is not known.

    While the names of these sorcerers are not recorded in the Old Testament, there is nothing that prevents their names from being accurately passed down or recorded apart from Holy Scripture.

Observations on These Passages

We can make a number of observations about these passages that cite information which is not found in the canonical Scripture.

  1. The Sources Used Are True, but They Are Not Scripture

    From the information available, we can conclude that Paul and Jude obtained accurate information from either oral or written sources that supplemented stories recorded in the Old Testament. There is nothing that indicates that they believed there were other written sources of divinely inspired truth, only that other ancient sources contained accurate information about Old Testament sayings and events. The fact that a New Testament author adopted either the ideas or certain phrases from a particular source certainly does not mean that the author considered that source divinely inspired.

  2. This Is Similar to Other Citations Found in Scripture

    That Jude and Paul cited these statements and events which are not found in the Old Testament Scripture can be compared to other New Testament citations. For example, we find that Paul cited from a number of pagan sources.

    In the Book of Acts, we read the following statement of Paul:

    For in him we live and move and exist. As one of your own poets says, ‘We are his offspring.’ (Acts 17:28 NLT)

    This is a citation from a heathen poet Aratus; not from a biblical source. Yet, the quotation is cited to illustrate a point that Paul was making. Paul is certainly not advocating the divine inspiration of entire work from which he quoted. He is merely using the quotation to illustrate his point.

    In another place, Paul wrote to Titus and cited the writer Epimenides. He said:

    One of their own men, a prophet from Crete, has said about them, “The people of Crete are all liars; they are cruel animals and lazy gluttons.” This is true. So rebuke them as sternly as necessary to make them strong in the faith. (Titus 1:12,13 NLT)

    Again, Paul is citing the truth of the statement; not the canonical status of the writing.

    Elsewhere, he wrote to the Corinthians and quoted the writer Menander. He said:

    Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15:33 HCSB)

    The fact that Paul cited these pagan writers does not mean that he considered their works authoritative ? it merely means that they made some truthful statements he could use to illustrate a particular point he was making. Consequently, we should not attribute divine authority to a particular writer, or writing, merely because the Bible cites it.

    In a somewhat similar manner, Paul and Jude cited truths which were not contained in the Hebrew Old Testament. In doing so, they were not declaring that the sources they were citing were divinely inspired of God; only that what they said was true. Furthermore, as far as exact sources these New Testament writers cited, we simply do not know what they are. Yet, what we do know is that the Holy Spirit, the ultimate author of the words of Scripture, guided them to record correct information.

Summary - Question 11
Does the New Testament Quote as Scripture Writings That Are Not Presently in the Bible?

There are three places in the New Testament where information is supplied about words and events which occurred during the Old Testament period, but are not found in the Old Testament. Jude cites the story of Michael the archangel disputing with the devil over the body of Moses. Jude also refers to a prophecy made by Enoch about the Lord coming with countless numbers of His holy ones. The Apostle Paul cites the names of two of the magicians that opposed Moses before the Pharaoh. None of this information is contained in the Old Testament. Therefore, the question arises as to where these biblical writers derived their information.

The sources are uncertain. The citations in Jude are possibly from books that are of questionable value. A writing known as “the Testament of Moses” or another work known as “the Assumption of Moses” may be the source of the story of Michael and the devil. The apocryphal Book of Enoch may be the source of the citation from Enoch.

However, it is by no means certain that Jude used either of these sources. It is likely that he had some accurate oral tradition, or some other ancient document, which recorded this information.

There is, of course, the possibility that Jesus taught His disciples about these things on some occasion. We just do not know. Yet, what we do know is that the information is guaranteed to be accurate because the Holy Spirit, the ultimate author of Scripture, made certain that the human writers were guided into all truth.

Likewise, Paul’s naming of Pharaoh’s sorcerers could have come from some accurate oral or written source. Clearly, the names Jannes and Jambres were familiar to the Jews as the men who opposed Moses. Again, no matter what the source of information may be, the real issue is the accuracy of that information. The Bible, being God’s divinely inspired Word, always provides inerrant information about whatever subject in which it speaks.

What Are the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha? (Enoch, Jubilees) ← Prior Section
What Conclusions Can We Make about the Old Testament Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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