Published in print February 1985 | ISBN: 9780198261773
Published online April 2009. This work is made available by Oxford Biblical Studies Online. See http://oxfordindex.oup.com/view/10.1093/obso/9780198261773.003.0012?rskey=qDCJ63&result=1&q=St%20Gelasius
The Assumption of Moses
The Assumption is preserved only in an incomplete Latin version, which has survived as the underwriting on a single quire of a 6th or 7th cent. palimpsest in the Ambrosian library at Milan (Cod. C73 Inf.). This palimpsest contains on other quires the Latin fragments of Jubilees and also fragments of an anonymous heretical commentary on St. Luke. The text was published by Ceriani in 1861 in the first fascicle of his Monumenta Sacra et Profana. Although the first three lines of the Assumption are unfortunately wanting, it seems that the work started at the beginning of the quire. But at the end the text breaks off in mid-sentence, and there are no means of knowing how much has been lost.
The MS itself gives the work no title. The common title, ‘The Assumption of Moses’, was inferred by Ceriani from the fact that Gelasius of Cyzicus, in his Collection of the Acts of the Council of Nicaea, quotes i. 14 and explicitly attributes it to the Assumption, 1 a work independently proved to have been known in the early Church from references in other patristic writers and from the ancient lists of apocryphal books.
Nevertheless, the identification is not certain. The lists mention a ‘Testament’ of Moses as well as an ‘Assumption’; and ‘Testament’ is a description that fits the contents of our fragment very well. Moreover, the lists all place the Testament before the Assumption. A variety of possibilities is therefore opened up. Three of them may be stated: (1) that our fragment is indeed the Assumption, as Ceriani inferred, and that the Testament either has been lost or is Jubilees under another name (this last hypothesis will explain why the fragments of Jubilees were found in such close proximity to our fragment in the same palimpsest); (2) that our fragment is the Testament and not the Assumption, and that Gelasius's ascription of i. 14 to the Assumption is due to confusion on his part between the two (in this case it is the Assumption which has been lost); and (3) that the Testament and the Assumption, originally two distinct works, were at an early date combined and subsequently circulated as the ‘Assumption’, and that it is the opening of this combined work which has been preserved in our fragment (this was Charles's view).