Assumption of Moses (Testament of Moses)


The document entitled the Assumption of Moses or the Testament of Moses by modern editors is extant in one poorly preserved sixth-century Latin palimpsest discovered by A. M. Ceriani in the Ambrosian Library of Milan, and published in 1861. It is estimated that between one-third and one-half of the original work has been lost. The titles Assumption of Moses and Testament of Moses are known from ancient lists of apocryphal books. Ceriani originally identified the manuscript as a copy of the Assumption of Moses on the basis of a Greek quotation attributed to that work by Gelasius Cyzicenus which corresponds to the Latin text of 1.14. Others, observing that the Latin manuscript takes the form of a testament and does not mention Moses’ assumption, suggest instead that the manuscript is a copy of the Testament of Moses. Due to the fragmentary nature of the evidence, neither identification can be regarded as certain.

Provenance and Cultural Setting

There is no doubt that the Latin text was translated from Greek; according to the current scholarly consensus, the Greek version was itself a translation from a Semitic (most likely Hebrew) original.Most scholars conclude that the document was completed in the first half of the first century C.E. because the death of Herod the Great is mentioned (6.8-9), but no reference is made to the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. However, since chapter 8 seems to refer to the persecution under Antiochus IV, the reference to Herod in chapter 6 is often regarded as a later modification of a text that was originally composed around the time of the Maccabean revolt (ca. 167 B.C.E.).

Current State of the OCP Text

The text presented here adds the standard chapter and verse references, but in all other respects is identical to A. M. Ceriani’s 1861 edition of the Assumption of Moses. Because the Latin text is fragmentary, occasionally illegible, and in some places, obviously corrupt, printed editions of the Assumption of Moses necessarily involve varying degrees of conjecture and emendation. Readers who wish to conduct detailed study of the Latin text of the Assumption of Moses should also consult J. Tromp’s recent critical edition.


Print Editions

For further bibliography, see DiTommaso, Bibliography, 731-33 or click here to search for material on the Assumption of Moses on the BiBIL database.

Sigla Used in the Text

. . . Ellipses were used by Ceriani to indicate missing or illegible text. Each period stands for approximately one letter.

Ceriani’s edition of the Assumption of Moses is in the public domain. Before using this or any other OCP text for another purpose, please click on the "copyright and permissions" link in the "Help and Information" menu at top to read the policy on re-use and re-publication.