Archangel Michael contends with Satan

“Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!'” – Jude 9

Although there’s no exact parallel with this verse in any known literature of the period, the belief that the Archangel Michael disputed with Satan over the body of the Prophet Moses and that, after the dispute, Moses’ body was assumed into heaven, was a widespread one in both ancient Judaism and early Christianity. St. Jude, in this verse, doesn’t explain what he’s talking about, so it’s clear that he’s assuming his readers already know and assent to the truth of the story. One well-known written testimony to this belief is a late 1st century BC/early 1st century AD book called the Assumption of Moses.

This verse is of particular importance because St. Jude uses it in his letter to establish and defend doctrine. The individuals whom he is writing against are apparently claiming the ability to revile celestial powers; Jude points out their arrogance and error by authoritatively calling upon this oral tradition which records that even the Archangel Michael was humble enough not to rebuke Satan himself but only to call upon God to do so.

For comparison, here is the wider context of this verse, in which St. Jude includes some references to events that are recorded in Scripture:

“But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves. Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.” – Jude 5-11

We can see that St. Jude references the traditional story of the Archangel Michael contending with Satan no differently than he references the Scriptural stories of Sodom and Gomorrah, Cain and Abel, the Prophet Balaam, and the rebellion of Korah; he clearly regards them as having equal truth, authority, and status.

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4 comments

  1. David,

    I think this post is an excellent example of Scripture pointing to Tradition outside of the Bible. My husband and I have had a discussion about this passage on more than one occasion. At the time, we were puzzled as to why St. Jude spoke about this matter of the Archangel contending with Moses when it was no where to be found in the O.T.

    Now, as an Orthodox Cathechumen, I am no longer perplexed by such a passage in Scripture.

  2. Darlene,

    It's definitely a very interesting example of extra-biblical traditions in the New Testament. St. Jude's letter has a few interesting ones, like his quote from Enoch, which I'll be covering soon.

    I've actually seen this passage and the quote from Enoch used by atheists who were trying to show that the Bible was inconsistent and contradicted itself. Little did they know, right? Things like this really do seem to come together and start making sense when you become Orthodox.

    Thanks for your thoughts on this.

    David

  3. So, in other words, St. Jude was against invoking Angels for the purpose of being delivered from the evil one, and rather advocated praying to God alone, as Saint Michael did: so why do You then, as an Orthodox, invoke Angels and Saints on such occasions? Hmmm? :-\

  4. Lucian,

    1. Where in the text do you see any indication that St. Jude was opposed to asking the Angels for their intercessory prayers?

    St. Jude's argument is against individuals rebuking the demons themselves — he advocates calling on God to rebuke the demon for us.

    2. When have you ever seen Orthodox invoke Angels and/or Saints to rebuke demons?

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