The Apocryphal Book the Assumption of MosesJude 9- 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.Catholics will refer to this verse and claim that it is quoting a non-canonical scripture called the Assumption of Moses, in an attempt to disprove the principle of Sola Scriptura (The Bible only for doctrine). The logic for this I assume to be the following:
If the Bible quotes from a non-canonical book, then the Bible is validating the authenticity of that book, as inspired of God to the same level as the Bible itself. Consequently, any doctrinal teaching in this book not taught by the Bible itself, must in any case be just as inspired as the Bible, thus validating the authority of Catholic Tradition. By this logic, Sola Scriptura is proposed to be disproved, since an extra-biblical book is then assumed to be the "inspired word of God" on a par with the authority of Scripture.
So what of this logic, and what proof is there that the Jude 9 quotes this non-canonical book? Well, it was claimed by early church writers- Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Didymus that Jude 9 is a quotation from the book of The Assumption of Moses, yet interestingly enough, there is apparently no surviving portion of that "pseudepigraphical" book containing the passage, that exists today from which to validate or even investigate that claim.
In spite of this, lets consider the matter some. Note the following verse from the Bible-
Zec 3:1 And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.
Zec 3:2 And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?
I would propose first of all that Jude 9 is quoting from, or referring back to the similar passage in Zechariah, since this is the only two places in the Bible that exact phrase *The Lord rebuke thee* occurs and the general circumstances are similar in both cases; the words are spoken by the Lord to Satan.
Now, let's assume for the moment that the "Assumption of Moses" did contain a very similar, if not identical phrase as Jude 9. Is it not reasonable to assume that perhaps it was also a quote from Zechariah? Zechariah is dated to about 500 B.C. Jude is dated to about 80 A.D. The Assumption of Moses, written by a Pharisee, is estimated to also date to the 1st century A.D. Is it just possible that both Jude and the Assumption of Moses were quoting from the exact same source- Zechariah? I think it is at least a possibility, but at a minimum, there is apparently no existing proof that Jude quotes the Assumption of Moses.
But let's go even one step farther, for the sake of argument, and assume that it could be proved that Jude did in fact quote from the Assumption of Moses. That does not in and of itself automatically make the Assumption of Moses canon, or even inspired, and from what I can determine, only fragments of it still exist.
Virtually all the books considered over time to be apocryphal (by both Catholics and Protestants) can be expected to contain at least some truth in them. And they may even have some accurate historical accounts of Jesus or the disciples that did not make it into the canon. There are many parallels and similarities between canon and the pseudepigraphical books, but these books were generally rejected because of obvious flaws of one kind or another in doctrine or content that are apparent to virtually all Christian readers who have studied them. They are worth reading and studying, but they are not considered by the Christian community as a whole to be "the infallible word of God".
So a quote in scripture of a deuterocanonical / apocryphal book, while it might be considered by some to be weighty evidence for canonicity, it would clearly not be the only proof necessary. Of note is the fact that not a single apocryphal book in existence today is quoted by name in any of the accepted New Testament canon. Jesus Himself quotes from several Old Testament books identified by name (Lk 4:17-20, Lk 20:42, Lk 24:44), to illustrate the point. That kind of validation is lacking for the Assumption of Moses and every other apocryphal book. So, upon examination, I fail to see how there is any proof to bolster Catholic Tradition here, or how this case in any way undermines or disproves the principle of Sola Scriptura.
The Catholics, in this instance, are citing a nonexistent passage from an incomplete fragmentary book and taking the word of early church fathers as proof. It appears to me that they are trying to prove Tradition from tradition, which on the face of it appears to be absolutely no proof at all.
The Apocryphal Book of 1 Enoch-
Another case is Jude 14-15, which appears to be a quote from 1 Enoch, which is also known as the Apocalypse of Enoch-
1 Enoch 1:9 And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of His holy ones to execute judgment upon all, and to destroy all the ungodly; and to convict all flesh of all the works of their ungodliness which they have ungodly committed, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.
Jude 14 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,
Jude 15 To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.
First it should be noted that Jude is quoting Enoch himself, not from a book of Enoch. Second, there is apparently some question as to the exact dating of both Jude and 1 Enoch. Jude is by a single author, and is estimated by scholars to have been written from the mid to later half of the 1st century, while 1 Enoch was apparently written by several authors over a time period from about 200 B.C. to about the middle of the first century. This does seem to allow for at least the possibility that 1 Enoch is actually quoting Jude.
While the two passages are clearly quite similar, this type of similarity is apparently not all that uncommon between Canon and apocrypha. But this does not make the case for unbiblical doctrines. This passage in Jude is not the only one to speak of the return of Jesus for the purpose of judgment. The book of Revelation, for one, speaks to this event quite clearly, so neither Jude nor 1 Enoch reveal anything new in this regard. To make their case, the Catholic must authenticate unbiblical doctrines, which by definition neither have, nor require, the support of any canonical scripture.
I think the point the Catholic tries to make is that Canon owes it's very existence to tradition and that tradition predates the scriptures.
2 Th 2:15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.
Paul here clearly states that tradition (small "t") can be passed on either orally or by the written word. It is not uncommon for the Catholic to blur the differences in tradition and Tradition. Every sermon ever given qualifies as tradition. The Bible itself is tradition. But is that the same as Tradition (big "T" Catholic style unbiblical doctrine)? No it is not. The Roman Catholic Church claims Tradition stands on its own, without any support from the Bible, as an inspired source of the word of God equal to the Bible. There is a major distinction there that must not be lost in any discussion.
I expect that much if not all of the Gospel message of the New Testament was oral tradition before being reduced to writing. Both Jude and 1 Enoch could be quoting from this oral tradition, rather than one from the other. In any case, this does not validate Roman Catholic Tradition, since the topic of both passages introduces nothing new in doctrine. The only thing that may be considered "new" is that the passage is attributed to Enoch. Since Jude recorded it, I believe it to be true. That Jude may be quoting from 1 Enoch does not make the rest of 1 Enoch canonical or even inspired. I am willing to accept that there may be true doctrines and historical accounts in some of the apocryphal books, but scripture quoting from those portions (assuming it does) does not in any way validate the completely unbiblical Roman Catholic doctrines of Tradition.