Jude is a short book of the New Testament of the Bible, consisting of 25 verses. The author is commonly believed to have been the Apostle Jude (or Thaddaeus). However, as verse 17 implies that the Apostles are already dead, the authorship and date of composition are uncertain. The book may have been written as late as AD 100.
The text is a warning to its recipients against teachers promoting doctrines leading to immorality. Some scholars suggest that the teachers were proponents of Gnosticism. A distinctive characteristic of this letter is its use of citations from the Assumption of Moses and the Book of Enoch, works classified as Pseudepigrapha.
Condemnation of false teachers (5-16)
Among the apostles there were two who bore this name,
(1) Judas (Jude 1; Matt. 13:55; John 14:22; Acts 1:13), called also Lebbaeus or Thaddaeus (Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18); and
(2) Judas Iscariot (Matt. 10:4; Mark 3:19).
He who is called "the brother of James" (Luke 6:16), may be the same with the Judas surnamed Lebbaeus. The only thing recorded regarding him is in John 14:22.
The author was "Judas, the brother of James" the Less (Jude 1), called also Lebbaeus (Matt. 10:3) and Thaddaeus (Mark 3:18). The genuineness of this epistle was early questioned, and doubts regarding it were revived at the time of the Reformation; but the evidences in support of its claims are complete. It has all the marks of having proceeded from the writer whose name it bears. There is nothing very definite to determine the time and place at which it was written. It was apparently written in the later period of the apostolic age, for when it was written there were persons still alive who had heard the apostles preach (ver. 17). It may thus have been written about A.D. 66 or 70, and apparently in Palestine. The epistle is addressed to Christians in general (ver. 1), and its design is to put them on their guard against the misleading efforts of a certain class of errorists to which they were exposed.
The style of the epistle is that of an "impassioned invective, in the impetuous whirlwind of which the writer is hurried along, collecting example after example of divine vengeance on the ungodly; heaping epithet upon epithet, and piling image upon image, and, as it were, labouring for words and images strong enough to depict the polluted character of the licentious apostates against whom he is warning the Church; returning again and again to the subject, as though all language was insufficient to give an adequate idea of their profligacy, and to express his burning hatred of their perversion of the doctrines of the gospel." The striking resemblance this epistle bears to 2 Peter suggests the idea that the author of the one had seen the epistle of the other. The doxology with which the epistle concludes is regarded as the finest in the New Testament.
(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)
From: Home Bible Study Commentary by James M. Gray
The writer of Jude, evidently not an apostle, calls himself a "servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James." Which James? There were two whose brother he might have been, the son of Alpheus and the brother of our Lord, and the general opinion is in favor of the last-named.
1. The first division is the salutation, 1, 2. Notice the Revised Version: "them that are called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ." Why kept for Him? How much this suggests as to HIs coming glory and the part believers will take in it?
2. The object follows, 3, 4. What is that object as stated in verse 3? Notice that according to the Revised Version the faith delivered to the saints was delivered "once for all." "Faith" here is to be taken in the sense of that body of Christian doctrine which forms the substance of the truth concerning "our common salvation." It is used synonymously with "Gospel." This was delivered to the body of the church, at the beginning of its history as a complete revelation in itself (Revelation 22:18, 19). It is a sacred deposit to be preserved in its integrity, defended and earnestly contended for. The necessity for this defense is seen in verse 4. "Foreshadowed" in that verse should be "forewritten," i. e., the false teachers referred to had been predicted as coming in among the flock. Our Lord had spoken of them, and so had all His apostles. The nature and outcome of their teaching as suggested by "lasciviousness" is particularly noticeable.
3. The third division deals with the false teachers, and we have first, a revelation of their punishment (5-7). From this their position as professed disciples would not save them any more than it saved the Israelites brought out of Egypt, when they afterward sinned against light (5); or the angels referred to in Peter's epistles and Genesis (6); or Sodom and Gomorrah (7). Do not fail to observe the class of sins prominent in these instances, especially the two last-named, and their relationship to "lasciviousness" already spoken of. While the erroneous teachings were intellectual, yet their power was augmented by carnality of the grossest kind.
4. the description of the teachers follows, (8-13). Observe in verse 8 that they not only defile the flesh but speak evil of dignitaries, by which may be meant both civil and ecclesiastical superiors. And there is a strange illustration in verse 9, that throws light on the burial of Moses recorded in Deuteronomy. Why that mystery? Why should God have buried Moses, and kept the place a secret? Why should Satan have desired possession of that body? Did his fore-knowledge of what should take place on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mt. 17) have aught to do with it? And further, shall we say with some, that Moses in the flesh is to be one of the two witnesses named in Revelation 11, and did Satan seek thus to frustrate God's purposes concerning the last days? And then the contention of Michael, how that brings to mind the teaching in Daniel concerning him as the prince that stands for Israel!
What a bearing all this has on the teachings of the New Testament about the dominions, and principalities and powers of the air (see Ephesians 6). Further analysis of these teachers is afforded in verse 11. With what three Old Testament individuals, each conspicuous for his self-willed and rebellious spirit, are they compared? How strange that such could have any standing in the Christian church were it not that we discover their successors at the present day. Read verse 12 in the Revised Version. "Spots in your feasts of charity," should be "hidden rocks in your love-feasts."
These "love-feasts" were the Christian gatherings on the first day of the week for the "breaking of bread," and the presence of such would-be leaders in those assemblies suggested the perils of hidden rocks to mariners. What care were required to avoid disastrous contact with them. "Feeding themselves without fear," should be, "Shepherds that without fear feed themselves." It is characteristic of the heretical teacher that he is thinking of himself rather than the flock. Six terse descriptions of these teachers may be given as follows: Visionary, 8, 9; Ignorant, 10, 11; Deceptive, 12, 13; Ungodly, 14, 15; Selfish, 16-18; Schismatic, 19.
5. The description of the teachers is followed by a reference to the foreknowledge of them (14-16). There is a quotation from Enoch in verse 14, on which we say a word.
There is an apocryphal book in which it is found, but it is thought to have been of a later date than Jude, and that its author probably quoted from our epistle. How interesting to learn that Enoch, before the deluge, had his mind carried out in the Spirit to the Second Coming of Christ! And how perfectly his words agree with the later prophets, concerning that event! The True Church in Contrast.
6. The reference to the false teachers gives way to a description of the true church in sharp contrast with the false (17-25). It begins with a caution (17-19). To which of the apostles is he here referring, do you think? How does he describe these ungodly persons who have found their way into the visible Church? That word "sensual" is in the margin of the Revised Version, "natural" or "animal."
It is a case of unregenerated Christians with whom the Church is still plentifully supplied. The caution is followed by an exhortation (20, 21). "Build," "pray," "keep," "look," are the four corner posts defining the possessions of the Christian life. What is peculiar about the exhortation to pray? In Romans 8 we have revealed that the Holy Spirit prays in us, but here we are to pray in Him. Are these contradictory teachings? Is it not true that the Holy Spirit is our life, and also our spiritual atmosphere? In what are we to keep ourselves according to this exhortation? Does this mean God's love to us or our love to Him? How better can we keep ourselves in His love to us, and the consciousness of our love to Him than by building ourselves up on our most holy faith, and praying in the Holy Spirit?
What do you suppose is meant by "looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life"? In the light of the previous teaching about the appearing of His glory, may it not refer to that? The exhortation is followed by instruction concerning soul-winning (22, 23). The Greek text, especially in verse 23, is obscure, but the teaching calls for compassion on our part, and an effort to save the sinner while hating the sin.
7. The benediction and ascription follow. What two things is God able to do for believers in His Son? No wonder that we should ascribe unto Him through Jesus Christ "glory and majesty, dominion and power throughout all ages." Supplemental Jude is particularly a Scripture for these times, and has been called "a preface to Revelation," as it shows the drift of the apostasy which makes the awful judgment of the book to be necessary.
R. V. Miller points out how it refers to all the more important articles of the Christian faith. (a), The Trinity, inasmuch as we have God the Father, (v. 1), Jesus Christ the Son, in several verses, and the Holy Spirit (v. 20); (b), the Deity of Christ, Who in half a dozen verses is called LORD; (c), the historicity of the Old Testament, whose miraculous events are used to illustrate the teaching and give point to the warnings as though they were actual occurrences (vv. 5-11); (d), the existence and power of a personal Satan against whom even the archangel himself dare not bring a railing accusation (v. 9); (e), the existence of angels and spirits (vv. 6, 7); (f), the certainty and fearfulness of future retribution (vv. 6, 7, 13;; (g), the Second Coming of Christ (vv. 14, 15).
1. How is the author of this epistle distinguished from some others? 2. Name the seven main divisions of it. 3. How is "Faith" (v. 3), to be understood? 4. What different ideas are suggested by the "mystery" in verse 9? 5. What was said in the lesson about verse 14? 6. Name the four corner posts of the Christian life? 7. What makes this epistle particularly applicable to, or useful in, these days? 8. What seven important articles of the Christian faith does it emphasize?
The present subject will be treated under the following heads:
I. The Author and the Authenticity of the Epistle:
(1) Jude in the Books of the New Testament;
(2) Tradition as to the Genuineness and the Canonicity of the Epistle;
(3) Difficulties Arising from the Text;
(4) The Relation of Jude to the Second Epistle of St. Peter;
(5) Vocabulary and Style;
II. Analysis of the Epistle;
III. Occasion and Object;
IV. To Whom Addressed;
V. Date and Place of Composition.
I. THE AUTHOR AND THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE EPISTLE
(1) Jude in the Books of the New Testament
In the address of the Epistle the author styles himself "Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James". "Servant of Jesus Christ" means "apostolic minister or labourer". "Brother of James" denotes him as the brother of James kat exochen who was well-known to the Hebrew Christians to whom the Epistle of St. Jude was written. This James is to be identified with the Bishop of the Church of Jerusalem (Acts 15:13; 21:18), spoken of by St. Paul as "the brother of the Lord" (Gal. i, 19), who was the author of the Catholic Epistle of St. James. and is regarded amongst Catholic interpreters as the Apostle James the son of Alpheus (St. James the Less). This last identification, however, is not evident, nor, from a critical point of view, does it seem beyond all doubt. Most Catholic commentators identify Jude with the "Judas Jacobi" ("Jude, the brother of James" in the D.V.) of Luke, vi, 16, and Acts, i, 13 -- also called Thaddeus (Matthew 10:3: Mark 3:18) -- referring the expression to the fact that his brother James was better known than himself in the primitive Church. This view is strongly confirmed by the title "the brother of James", by which Jude designates himself in the address of his Epistle. If this identification is proved, it is clear that Jude, the author of the Epistle, was reckoned among the Twelve Apostles. This opinion is most highly probable. Beyond this we find no further information concerning Jude in the New Testament, except that the "brethren of the Lord", among whom Jude was included, were known to the Galatians and the Corinthians; also that several of them were married, and that they did not fully believe in Christ till after the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 9:5; Galatians 1:10; John 7:3-5; Acts 1:14). From a fact of Hegesippus told by Eusebius (Hist. eccl., III, xix, xx, xxii) we learn that Jude was "said to have been the brother of the Lord according to the flesh", and that two of his grandsons lived till the reign of Trajan (see, however, BRETHREN OF THE LORD).
(2) Tradition as to the Genuineness and the Canonicity of the Epistle The Epistle of Jude is one of the so-called antilegomena; but, although its canonicity has been questioned in several Churches, its genuineness has never been denied. The brevity of the Epistle, the coincidences between it and II Peter, and the supposed quotation from apocryphal books, created a prejudice against it which was gradually overcome. The history of its acceptance by the Church is briefly as follows:
Some coincidences or analogies exist between Jude and the writings of the Apostolic Fathers -- between Barnabas, ii, 10, and Jude, 3, 4; Clemens Romanus, Ep. xx, 12; lxv, 2, and Jude, 25; Ep. ad Polyc., iii 2; iv, 2, and Jude, 3. 20, Mart. Polyc., xx, and Jude, 24 sq. It is possible, though not certain, that the passages here noted were suggested by the text of Jude. The similarity between "Didache" ii, 7 and Jude, 22 sq., does not seem to be accidental, whilst in Athenagoras (about A.D., 177), "Leg.", xxiv, and in Theophilus of Antioch (d. about 183), "Ad Autol." II, xv, there is a clear reference to Jude, 6 and 13 respectively.
The earliest positive reference to the Epistle occurs in the Muratorian Fragment, "Epistola sane Judæ et superscriptæ Joannis duae in catholica [scil. Ecclesia] habentur." The Epistle was thus recognized as canonical and Apostolic (for it is Jude the Apostle who is here meant) in the Roman Church about 170. At the end of the second century it was also accepted as canonical and Apostolic by the Church of Alexandria (Clement of Alexandria, "Pæd.", III, viii, followed by Origen), and by the African Church of Carthage (Tertullian). At the beginning of the third century the Epistle was universally accepted except in the primitive East Syrian Church, where none of the Catholic Epistles were recognized, nor the Apocalypse.
This remarkably wide acceptance, representing as it does the voice of ancient tradition, testifies to the canonicity and the genuineness of Jude. During the third and fourth centuries doubt and suspicion, based on internal evidence (especially on the supposed quotation from the Book of Henoch and the "Assumption of Moses"), arose in several Churches. However the prejudice created against the deuterocanonical Jude was soon overcome, so that the Epistle was universally accepted in the Western Church at the very beginning of the fifth century (see CANON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT).
In the Eastern Church Eusebius of Cæsarea (260-340) placed Jude among the antilegomena or the "disputed books, which are nevertheless known and accepted by the greater number" (Hist. Eccl., II xxiii; III, xxv); he incorporated all the Catholic Epistles in the fifty copies of the Bible which at the command of Constantine, he wrote for the Church of Constantinople. St. Athanasius (d. 387) and St. Epiphanius (d. 403) placed Jude among the canonical and Apostolic writings. Junilius and Paul of Nisibis in Constantinople (513) held it as mediæ auctoritatis. However, in the sixth century the Greek Church everywhere considered Jude as canonical.
The recognition of Jude in the Syriac Church is not clear. In Western Syria we find no trace of Jude in the fifth century. In Eastern Syria the Epistle is wanting in the oldest Syriac version, the Peshito, but it is accepted in the Philoxenian (508) and Heracleon (616) versions. Except among the Syriac Nestorians, there is no trace of any ecclesiastical contradiction from the beginning of the sixth century till the Council of Trent, which defined the canonicity of both the proto- and deutero-canonical books of the New Testament.
(3) Difficulties Arising from the Text
The wording of verse 17 -- which some critics have taken as an evidence that the Epistle was written in the second century -- does not imply that the recipients of the Epistle had, in a period that was past, received oral instructions from all the Apostles, nor does it imply that Jude himself was not an Apostle. The text ton apostolon implies only that several of the Apostles had predicted to the readers that such "mockers" as are described by the writer would assail the Faith; it is not separation in time, but distance of place, that leads Jude to refer to the scattered Apostles as a body. Nor does he exclude himself from this body, he only declares that he was not one of those prophesying Apostles. The author of II Peter, who often ranks himself among the Apostles, uses a similar expression ton apostolon humon (3:2), and certainly does not mean to imply that he himself was not an Apostle.
Many Protestant scholars have maintained that the false teachers denounced in Jude are Gnostics of the second century. But, as Bigg rightly says: "It is not really a tenable view" (op. cit. infra). St. Jude does not give any details about the errors denounced in this short letter any more than does St. Peter, and there is no ground for identifying the false teachers with any of the Gnostic sects known to us. There is nothing in the references made to false doctrines that obliges us to look beyond the Apostolic times.
The use made of apocryphal writings, even if proved, is not an argument against the Apostolicity of the Epistle; at most it could only invalidate its canonicity and inspiration. Verse 9, which contains the reference concerning the body of Moses, was supposed by Didymus ("Enarr. in Epist. Judæ" in P. G., XXXIX, 1811 sqq.), Clement of Alexandria (Adumbr. in Ep. Judæ), and Origen (De Princ., III, ii, 1), to have been taken from the "Assumption of Moses", which is unquestionably anterior to the Epistle of Jude. Jude may possibly have learned the story of the contest from Jewish tradition. But, at any rate, it is evident that Jude does not quote the "Assumption" as a written authority, and still less as a canonical book.
As regards the prophecy of vv. 14 sq., many Catholic scholars admit it to be a loose and abbreviated citation from the apocryphal Book of Henoch, i, 1, 9, which existed a century before St. Jude wrote. But here again St. Jude does not quote Henoch as a canonical book. There is nothing strange, as Plumptre remarks (op. cit. infra, 88), in Jude making use of books not included in the Hebrew Canon of the Old Testament, "as furnishing illustrations that gave point and force to his counsels. The false teachers, against whom he wrote, were characterized largely by their fondness for Jewish fables, and the allusive references to books with which they were familiar, were therefore of the nature of an argumentum ad hominem. He fought them, as it were, with their own weapons." He merely intends to remind his readers of what they know. He does not affirm or teach the literary origin of the apocryphal book, such is not his intention. He simply makes use of the general knowledge it conveys, just as the mention of the dispute between Michael and the Devil is but an allusion to what is assumed as being known to the readers. By no means, therefore, does either of the passages offer any difficulty against the canonicity of the Epistle, or against the Catholic doctrine of inspiration.
(4) The Relation of Jude to the Second Epistle of St. Peter
The resemblance as to thought and language between Jude and II Peter, ii, is quite sufficient to make it certain that one of the two writers borrowed from the other: the hypothesis that both writers borrowed from a common document must be put aside, as having no support whatsoever. The question remains: Which of the two Epistles was the earlier? The priority of II Peter, as well as the priority of Jude, has found strong advocates, and much has been written about this intricate question. The following arguments, however, lead to the conclusion that the Epistle of Jude was the earlier of the two:
It is not uncommon for St. Peter to throw a light on the more obscure passages of the Epistle of Jude, or to interpret the more difficult passages. At one time he puts them in a shorter form or uses more general terms; at another, while adducing in general the same arguments, he adds a new one or omits one or another used in Jude. This shows that St. Peter had probably read the Epistle of St. Jude. Compare especially II Peter, ii, 12, with Jude, 10. This may also be confirmed not only by II Peter, i, 17, compared with Jude, 13 -- where St. Peter doubles Jude's comparison and puts more strength into it, whilst Jude has more similitudes -- but also by comparing the style of both, for, whereas the style of Jude is always the same, that of St. Peter differs somewhat from his usual way of writing, and the reasons for this change seem to be the matter he writes about and the influence of the Epistle of St. Jude.
Finally, is more probable that St. Peter has embodied in his work the text of Jude's Epistle than that Jude should have included in his writing only a part of St. Peter's Epistle. If Jude wrote later than Peter and found the same state of things, why did he omit the remaining questions, e.g. the doubts about the parousiæ? Or why should he, in order to combat the same heretics, give only a summary of St. Peter's Epistle, omitting entirely the strongest arguments?
(5) Vocabulary and Style
The vocabulary of Jude proves that the author was a Jew, saturated with the Old Testament, using Hebraisms, yet acquainted with the koine dialektos -- the "common dialect". Thirteen words found in Jude do not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. Some words of the new Christian dialect appear in Jude as well as in the Pauline Epistles, but literary affinity or direct quotation cannot be proved. The style, although sometimes poetical, always evinces the severe and authoritative tone of a man of Apostolic rank, held in high honour.
II. ANALYSIS OF THE EPISTLE
Address and good wishes (vv. 1-2), occasion and purpose of the Epistle (3-4).
(b) First Part
He inveighs against the pseudo-teachers; describes their life and errors (5-16). They will be severely punished, as is evident from the severe punishment of the unbelieving Israelites in the desert (5), of the wicked angels (6), and of the inhabitants of Sodom (7). He mentions their wicked teaching and life (8), and opposes the modesty of Michael the Archangel (9) to their pride (10). He foretells for the heretics the punishment of Cain, Balaam, and the sons of Core, for they have imitated their errors (11-3). Enoch has already prophesied the judgment of God upon them (14-6).
(c) Second Part
He exhorts the faithful (17-23). They must remember the teaching of the Apostles, by whom they had been warned of the coming of such heretics (17-19). They must maintain the Faith, keep themselves in the love of God, and wait for life everlasting (20-21). What their behaviour should he towards Christians that have in any way fallen away (22-23)
A most beautiful doxology (24-25).
III. OCCASION AND OBJECT
The Epistle was occasioned by the spread of the dogmatico-moral errors amongst the Hebrew Christians; pseudo-doctors "are secretly entered in", who abuse Christian liberty to give themselves over to intemperance; moreover "denying the only sovereign Ruler, and our Lord Jesus Christ" (4).
Jude's intention was to caution his readers, the Hebrew Christians, against such depraved teaching, and to exhort them to keep faithfully the teaching of the Apostles.
IV. TO WHOM ADDRESSED
The dedicatory address runs as follows: tois en Theo patri hegapemenois kai Iesou Christo teteremenois kletois (to them that are beloved in God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called). Which are the kletoi, or "called", becomes manifest from the context. They are not all the Christians of the whole Christian world, but those of a particular Church (vv. 3, 4, 17, 22). Several commentators think that St. Jude's Epistle was addressed to the same churches of Asia Minor to which St. Peter's Epistle was written. This opinion, according to these commentators, is to be held because in both Epistles the same errors are condemned, and also because Jude (v. 17) appears to have known II Peter, and shows that the prophecy of the Prince of the Apostles has been verified. But we have already proved that the second argument is of no value (see above I, 4); as for the first, there are two objections:
the errors condemned in the Epistle of St. Jude and in II Peter may have spread in countries outside Asia Minor; we find in Jude several reasons for believing that the Epistle was addressed, not to the Gentile Christians of Asia Minor, but to the Hebrew Christians of Palestine or of a neighbouring country.
V. DATE AND PLACE OF COMPOSITION
It is difficult to state the exact time at which St. Jude wrote his Epistle. But the doctrines against which he inveighs, and the looseness of morals or the so-called antinomismus, seem to indicate the end of the Apostolic age. Jude seems on the other hand to have written before A.D. 70; otherwise in vv. 5-7 he would have spoken of the destruction of Jerusalem. In those verses St. Jude mentions the different punishments of prevaricators, and therefore in this exhortation to Hebrew Christians he could not have passed over in silence so dire a calamity. Moreover we have shown that the Epistle of St. Jude was written before II Peter, which latter was probably written A.D. 64 (65). Therefore St. Jude must have written shortly before 64 (65).