There has been little new light in recent years on the
question of the history of the text and biblical and patristic citations of the Ass. Mos. This material has been
carefully sifted and evaluated by earlier scholars of this
book. Difference of opinion has arisen concerning the extent
of the dependence of the NT writers upon the Ass. Mos. It is
plain beyond doubt that Jude made use of the book, but it is
seriously open to question whether a vague similarity of
passages on the Ass. Mos. and the NT, especially in the
Gospels and Acts, implies a dependence of the NT upon the Ass.
Charles has stated the case for Palestine, probably more
exactly Jerusalem, as the place of origin of the book. No
recent scholar has deviated from this well-founded argument.
Concerning the date of composition judgement has oscillated
between the early date of the first half of the first century
A.D. and the period of the revolt of Bar Kokhba in 135 A.D.
With one exception modern scholarship has taken the earlier
date, generally confining it to 6-30 A.D. Zeitlin's preoccupation with the Bar Kokhba period leads him to place the
Ass. Mos. in that era, and in so doing he ignores all the
facts which point strongly to the earlier date
The issue of the authorship of the Ass. Mos. is one of
the knottiest aspects of this study. It is presumed that
the book speaks for one party or sect of the plethora of
political and religious groups of first-century A.D, Palestine. The problem is rendered difficult because of the lack
of sufficient and unambiguous evidence of a distinct party viewpoint in the Ass. Hos.« because of the number of closely
allied but differing parties of this period, and because
these parties underwent change in received doctrine with the
result that it is often impossible to ascertain which era or
doctrine is definitive for a given group. Charles maintained
that the Ass. Mos, represents an old Pharisaic viewpoint.
The Sadducees are not a live option because of their denial
of the super-natural. The Essenes are also eliminated because of their position with respect to the Temple and
animal sacrifice. To this may be added the fact of disparity
of messianic expectation. Several of Charles' minor points
of objection to Essene provenance are not well established
(i.e., Essene denial of pre-existence of the soul), but his
general thesis appears not to be overthrown by the discoveries of the Zadokite Documents in Cairo or the recent finds
near the Dead Sea. It may still be asserted that the Ass.
Mos. differs from the Essene group on the points of their
attitude to the Temple, animal sacrifice and Messianlsm.
But conclusions in this area must be cradled in caution
because so much new information is being brought to light
almost daily. It is becoming increasingly clear that the
rise and development of Jewish parties in the two centuries
before and after Christ is a very complex phenomenon, and
definite conclusions are difficult to achieve.
The identity of Taxo has proved to "be a vexing problem.
This cryptogram has produced a wide variety of opinions,
most of them highly speculative, Charles himself changed
his mind about this figure and accepted Burkitt's solution
which posited that Taxo represents Eleazar who was martyred
under Antiochus Epiphanies. This theme of the Jewish martyr
dying with his sons re-appears in Josephus' writings but
there it is reported to have taken place in the Roman period.
It may have attained the status of a minor epic, and the
author of the Ass. Hob, appropriated and idealized this
figure for purposes peculiar to apocalyptic.
The present Latin text has been examined carefully by
Charles and his predecessors who have pronounced it to be a
manifestly crude Latin version. It is demonstrable that a
Greek version lay back of the Latin text, Greek fragments
of the Ass. Mos. have been preserved (Jude, Origin and others),
and many of the solecisms of the Latin text become explicable
on the basis of a prior Greek version.
Not since Hilgenfeld has any scholar held to a Greek
original of the Asa. Mos. It is now universally recognized
that the book was originally written in a Semitic language,
either Hebrew or Aramaic. The controversy arises between
the proponents of these two options. Charles opted for a
Hebrew; original, and his arguments for and reconstructions
of such an original demonstrate the work of a first-class
logician and linguist. However, he is too certain of his
case, for some of his arguments against an Aramaic original
permit exception. He himself admitted that many ,of his
Hebrew reconstructions could be paralleled in Aramaic.
Therefore it appears safer to assert that the Ass. Mos. was
probably written in Hebrew, but any attempt to state this
positively on the basis of a second version is burdened with
difficulties which render positive conclusions precarious.
Charles did little work on the theology of the Ass. Mos.,
limiting his treatment to a few remarks on such items as
Moses, Israel, the messianic or theocratic kingdom and good
works. In the present study a new approach was made which
examines in greater detail the theological elements of the
Ass. Mos., and places this theology against the contemporary
Jewish scene of the intertestamental period. The doctrine
of God in the Ass. Mos is close to that of other apocalypses
of this general age. It has a strongly transcendental view
of God, and this is involved also in a modified dualistic
Weltanschauung. Further, the Ass. Mos. has a pronounced
deterministic view of history; God is sovereign over men and
things, but not in such a way as to compromise human responsibility. A curious note in the hook is the stress on grace,
not law, particularly in the covenant relationship between
Yahweh and Israel. The eschaton occupies a large place in
the Ass. Mos. It signalises the end of history, the redemption of ethnic Israel, and the utter destruction of her
enemies, the Gentiles. In opposition to the general trend,
the Ass. Mos. is non-messianic, perhaps even anti-messianic.
God alone will bring about the eschaton and will rule in the
Golden Age which is to take place in heaven, not earth.
Contrary to most current apocalypses, the Ass. Mos. has a
simple conception of angels and demons. It evinces none of
the complex scheme of angels and demons that are found in
Daniel, Enoch and others. As to the author's attitude to
Moses, the title of the book is an indication. The last
third of the book is a long panegyric to the numerous
qualities and functions ascribed to Moses. This was probably
written with a view to assuring good circulation of the book
by using the name of one of Israel's most illustrious heroes.
The conclusions of R.H. Charles have frequently been
the focal point of discussion in this thesis for the reason
that his work on the Ass. Mob» is the most comprehensive in
English. It was imperative to deal with his studies more
than with those of any other writer. While the evidences
in some crucial places have suggested conclusions either
differing from or modifying those of Charles, his main arguments have stood the test of time and re-investigation.
His general thesis as to date, author, identity of Taxo,
and language has been verified, and his critics have been
found not to have materially damaged his position.