Did Moses write the last chapter of Deuteronomy?
In the vein of redaction criticism, it is commonly claimed that Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy 34 is impossible or implausible, because it records Moses’ death. The difficulty, most claim, is that someone (i.e., Moses) would record the details of his death before he actually died. It’s cryptic at worst; weird at best. Imagine writing your own obituary and knowing the exact circumstances surrounding your death.
But in fact, it seems that that is what happened, according to Deut 32:48-52. And I am not the only one to hold this view (see, for example, this detailed article by Bill Barrick, who also argues for Mosaic authorship of Deut 34). This section (Deut 32:48-52) begins by stating that Yahweh spoke directly to Moses. There are two commands he gives Moses in this speech: 1) go up Mount Nebo, and 2) die there on the mountain. He further provides Moses the reason for these commands: his sin at the waters of Meribah-kadesh (cf. Num 20:1-13; 27:14). In fact, this judgment against Moses had already been given to Moses a number of times already. So even before Deut 34, there is evidence that Moses already knew of his impending death and the reasons for it.
Furthermore, there is nothing logically dissonant in Deut 34 that would indicate that Moses did not write it. If we assume that Moses received divine revelation throughout the majority of his time as the prophet of Israel, why wouldn’t we suspect that this divine revelation continued until the end of his life? “It’s just weird” doesn’t seem to justify appropriating just this chapter to a later writer or redactor. A future full-length article may be warranted to flesh out my view on this and respond to appropriate objections to this view, but if divine revelation was a major part of Moses’ ministry as prophet, I don’t see a problem seeing Moses as completing Deuteronomy shortly before his death. That Moses claiming himself to be an incomparable prophet in Israel’s history as being prideful seems to me a misunderstanding of what pride actually is.
Having said this, however, there are some who would claim that a non-Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy has bearing on the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy. I am not of that persuasion. I want to affirm that, in my mind, I don’t see any inconsistencies with someone advocating a non-Mosaic authorship of Deut 34 and at the same time accepting its inerrancy and inspiration. But just to be clear, to answer the question to begin this post, yes, I believe he did write his own obituary. But he had done much weirder things as Yahweh’s prophet.